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Reconstruction May 24, 2010

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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Following on from my previous entry – Deconstruction, what am I doing with all the feedback?

With regards to the structure of the book and how a lot of the first story arc is not irrelevant, I have purchased some small speech cards. I have written each scene onto the cards. Nothing too descriptive, just something to jog my memory. I know the ins and outs of the story, do I decided I don’t need big descriptions of the scenes and what i want them to achieve. Not yet.

I am going to lay them out on the floor so I can physically see my book. I Would love to have a white board or a pin board to do this, but lack of space prevents this. So I am commandeering the floor! Jason suggested a good starting place for the story, so I will look at that, see if I agree or not, and remove the rest of the story cards which don’t fit.

I am going to keep them, however, as they are important to the back story. If I find an oppurtunity to slip in some back story, I will have the needed scene card to use.

Once I have cut down the number of scenes I will then look at the scenes. I will look at where the reader comes in, and where they exit. What does the reader get from this scene? How does it advance the story? What happened to the character in this scene? I am also going to research a bit more. I know there is more work to be done at this stage, I just have never done this type of exercise before, so it will be a good learning exercise for me.

In regards to character? Jason suggested looking at The Hero’s Journey, a theory I am aware of.  I have read The Hero with a Thousand Faces a couple of times. I find it fascinating and inspiring. For some reason I didn’t really apply such basic knowledge and ideas to my work. Or, perhaps I thought I was, but it wasn’t until someone pointed out the lack of character development that I realised I hadn’t. Hard to tell.

So, I have now used the Hero’s Journey diagram to plot out the big events in my story and have numbered them. For each number I am putting in notes about the characters involved, my 3 MCs – Jarred, Martin and Cindy. Such a simple idea and it has provided fertile ground for my imagination to work with the characters again.

I imagined things Jarred would need to do to grow as a leader, to take the decision-making process away from Martin and put it on Jarred. I worked on events which would break Cindy out of her frightened shell to re-take her power.

And for Martin, the suggestion that he would be great as an antagonist made me work on his story some more, give it more sinister ideas and allusions. His involvement in the whole campaign has become deeper and more involved. Which I like quite a bit.

The final major piece of feedback to work out is the motivation. Why does this story happen at all? Why does the Company attack its own? And this is the biggest problem I am facing. I have a few suggestions, a few ideas, but nothing which is making my jaw drop in astonishment.

I am torn between a few ideas. Political, corporate take over, secrets, revenge. This is something which I will put in the slow cooker to simmer for a while.

Again, thanks to Jason for the work he did for me. Totally awesome.


Deconstruction May 23, 2010

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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Through a fortuitous chain of events and people, my manuscript for my science fiction novel ‘Bow Shock’ found its way into the hands of Jason Fischer, Live Journal. He so very kindly offered to critique my novel and provide some feedback. AS he said to me, it would be tough love. There is no point having a critique just saying – yeah that’s nice, I like that bit. Personally, I wanted someone to look at the work and say – that doesn’t work and why. That doesn’t work and why.

That’s not to say I can’t also receive feedback to say – that worked really well. We all enjoy positive feed back and hugs.

The critique was emailed back to me while I was away. Something to look forward to with excitement and trepidation upon my return, a feeling which was delayed due to lack of internet.

At the top, I would like to say a big thank you to Jason for doing this for me. It is very hard to break into being a published author. Any help and guidance you can get is awesome, and I totally appreciate what he has done for me. The feedback he has given me is fantastic. It has given me renewed energy to work on my manuscript to make it better and stronger.

So, on to deconstructing my manuscript, and what I need to do. I wrote this story with 3 story arcs. The arc of my MC Jarred leaving his job and going to his new job on a frontier world in a small mining village, being attacked and escaping; the second arc of the return journey to reap revenge and rescue the hostages; and an introduction to each chapter of Jarred, a former history teacher getting a bit drunk and presenting an impromptu history lesson in a bar. These story arcs ran parallel in the book and would be included in each chapter.

(The following books in the series did not follow this convention)

I wrote like this as a sort of challenge to myself. I saw this style of story telling in a tv show and wanted to give it a go. I enjoyed linking parallel arcs with each other throughout the book.

It doesn’t work. The journey to the planet and setting up of Jarred in his job, a whole lot of wasted air. The story didn’t start UNTIL he reached the planet. There is no point in writing all those words of a novel if you don’t start at the start, so to speak. You need to recognise where the story starts and what is back-story. Back story can be used later, but it will bore the reader to read through the whole thing. There is no reason for the reader to care.

Next, my main character – Jarred Leraar. I like him, and perhaps my like of him may cloud my view of him. This is why an independent reader is great. Throughout the story, Jarred does nothing. He does not change as a character. He ends the story pretty much the same way he starts it, pretty much powerless. Sure, he escapes a pirate attack, manages to get back and help out the people of Dekkett, the mining village he once worked in, but as Jason pointed out, it was pretty much one of the second MC’s, Martin, who did all the work, all the saving and drove the plot.

Now, while I do like the character of Martin, he is not the one meant to be driving this plot. He does have his own agenda, his own mystery. And after Jason’s comments regarding Martin, and the motivations of the story, I have plans for Martin. Darker plans.

But back to Jarred… I need him to take control. He needs to make decisions. He is Captain of the ship Ter Vitas because he bought the ship with his money. But that is not making him a leader. He does not LEAD the group. This is an aspect I need to change for him in this book.

And the biggest piece of critique given was the motivation for the whole story. Saying that here seems a bit harsh, it implies Jason didnt like my book or something. But no, I agree with him. I originally wrote this book during National Novel Writing Month. You dont really have time to think of everything, and when I was writing it I thought – Tax Break! Save Money! Avoid Tariffs! And let it go at that.

In reality? This isn’t good enough. When you have a universe to play in, a simple tax dodge is lame, pure and simple. I need to find a reason, a GOOD reason, why a company would attack itself in such a way. This is proving to be the biggest issue to come out of the critique.

What am I doing about this feedback?

… to be continued…

2 blog shout outs May 19, 2010

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This is a quick shout out to a couple of blogs I found this week and am now following.

Open Book is a blog about book stores in Melbourne. Its a concept I never really thought of. There is a book store in the shopping mall I work in, there is online book stores, and not much else in my scope. So to see a blog about book stores, and the different kinds out there. Go have a look.

The second blog I have found is the Clarion Blog. I love this concept, 6 weeks of short story writing camp, with established writers and authors and legends in the genre. I applied for the two Clarion South’s so far held in Australia. My first application was rejected, and rightfully so, in hind sight. My second application made it to the short list before, it too, was rejected. Again, I can see why, but darn it! I would so have loved to have gone.

So for now, I will keep up on both blogs, and keep plugging away.

I have had my manuscript assessed and a 6 page report sent back to me. I will discuss this shortly when I have digested it and come up with a battle plan.

Writing Symbology and Deities May 16, 2010

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I have just returned from my honeymoon. Yes, I got married. Eloped, actually. Awesome that we pulled it off. All our family were happy, surprised, and happy again.

I mention it here because of the wedding band my (now) wife gave me on the day. Or respective wedding bands were a secret from each other until they were put on to our fingers. For my wife I gave her a Claddagh ring with emerald and diamond.

In return she gave me a ring with Ogham Script. The script reads – “A Blessing on this soul”, which is great. But what makes this ring fantastic as well, as my wife explained, is Ogham Script, according to Celtic Legend, was created by the God Oghma. One of his portfolios is being God of Writing.

I talked about Symbols and icons and totems for writing back in this post – 6 weeks to form a habit, 12 weeks to show health benefits. I think having an external focus can be inspiring to a writer. The small dragon that I have as my writing totem, the hat I wear so others will see – Matt is Writing.

And now, the woman I married, shows her support and faith in me, but giving me a wedding band which has a link to a God of Writing.  I didn’t even know there was a God of Writing.

It encourages me to have this support, and this belief from someone in my abilities. I have talked before about self-belief and such-like. So to have such an important item given to me like this? Awesome.

I have done some small research into writing Gods, which ancient societies would associate writing to which deity. With the 9 Muses of Greek Mythology, it is a toss-up between Calliope, the muse of Epic Poetry whose symbol was a writing tablet, or Clio the Muse of History whose symbol were scrolls. Both are relevant to being writing deities.

Hermes was associated with High Literature and messages in Greek mythology; Thoth was the God of Scribes and Writing in Egyptian mythology; Ganesha from Hindu mythology is associated with Writing and Building, arts and sciences.

Julia Cameron speaks of the creator within, your inner child as being a divine creator. Tapping into that well of creativity inside yourself is a divine act.

This is a blog about writing so I will not try to stir controversy with talk about region. I have my beliefs. They are mine. They may not sit well with others, but that is fine. They are my beliefs, and they work for me.  I will say that in all cultures with a belief in gods and deities there is always a Great Creator, a god that started it all, created life.

When you write, you are creating. The lives of characters are in your hands, in your creative mind. What trials you put them through you get to decide. If you write genre fiction there is a great deal of world creating that YOU, the writer, get to do. In a way, you become the god of your own fictional creation.

This idea sits well with me. And to also link to other gods around the world of writing and creating, I like this.

To have a wedding band on my finger linked to a Celtic God of Writing. This sits very well with me.