Tag Archives: research

And behind door number three…

If you’re not interested in the creative process and how I get from “idea” to “book,” you’ll want to skip this one.

So.  I have had a storyboard on the wall for book two in my trilogy for, maybe 18 months, maybe longer. It started off with only three cards, but as I thought of stuff, I would pin it up there to deal with later (when I was smart) instead of writing it down somewhere to lose (when I was dumb), or more likely, assuming I’d remember it (when I was flat-out stupid).

That’s just a small portion of the board, but it shows that some of them are scribbled by hand, some printed, some on colored cards (meaning I am not sure about them, but maybe they will take me somewhere), and post-its show up there, too, although they sometimes get knocked off so I really prefer cards with push pins.

Still, not enough cards to write a book, or even a brief synopsis, because they are isolated scenes with no connective tissue, no major mile markers to guide me, just a general idea that this scene probably will fall in this part of the book (beginning, middle or end).

The time has finally come to build this story.

But I couldn’t find the spine of the story.  What kind of story is it?  I know what happens in it, and the big huge revelations that explode everything to hell and back, but in Blake Snyder terms, I couldn’t figure out if it was door number one, a Golden Fleece or door number two, a Whydunit.  And from my experience plotting the first book in the trilogy, I knew that as soon as I understood what kind of story it was, at least some of the pieces would suddenly start falling into place.

I kept reading/skimming story breakdowns in Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies and could see elements in both Golden Fleece and Whydunit that fit my story, but neither was a clear winner.  So, I whipped out the colored index cards and decided to put the story elements that fit Golden Fleece on pink cards and story elements that fit Whydunit on blue.

And it still felt kind of murky. (See?  It even looks murky there, and that’s not because I adjusted the settings in iPhoto to make it look murky.  Okay, it is because of that. Sue me.) Anyway.  This tried and true process still wasn’t giving me answers.

BACKSTORY: I might point out that when I was looking for the structure of the first book I read through every Snyder-genre in Save the Cat Goes to the Movies, and dipped back into Save the Cat, too. (I say Snyder-genre because he redefines genre in a way that is amazing and is what truly opened my eyes to structure, but honestly he should have used a different term because genre is something tangible and defined.  His interpretation is something new and not really “genre” at all, and if I just left “genre” hanging out there, you’d wonder if I’m totally insane, not knowing if I’m writing a romantic comedy or a horror or a science fiction novel, right? What Snyder actually isolated is about structure and elements of plot that certain story-types have in common, not truly genre.)

Okay, so I was almost to the end of his book thinking, “This doesn’t work. I thought it worked; I thought he was brilliant; this doesn’t work for my new story.”  And then I hit the last section–Superhero–and like a flash of Hollywood dazzle and special effects, the elements were there, this was the story I was writing.  What’s more, as soon as I recognized that, many other story pieces made sense.  Ideas and scenes I already knew I was going to write were right there in the superhero structure Snyder outlined, and suddenly they were fleshing out and I was able to connect them better and the whole thing started taking shape.

Which doesn’t mean it got easy.  It just means it finally started revealing itself to me with logic behind it, not just floating in the primordial ooze that my muse hands me. /BACKSTORY

Okay, then.

So, here I was again, struggling to find the right Snyder-genre, waiting for the pieces to suddenly click into place, and it was staying vague and if-ish and maybe this and maybe that and, haven’t I been here before?

Oh yes.  I have. Indeed I have.

Exactly here before.

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, the answer was right in front of my nose.  Intellectually I had already decided I knew what this story was not. It wasn’t another superhero story, because, duh, I didn’t want two books in a row to have so much structural in common, plus, we’d already established that part of the bigger three-book arc, plus–

I was wrong.

And as soon as I recognized I was wrong, look what happened.

Behind door number three–

Answers started coming faster than I could write them down.  Yellow cards started piling up. Until now I feel like I just was dealt the winning hand in the championship round of Texas Hold ‘Em.  Read ’em and weep, boys.  Read ’em and weep.  (Okay, nobody can read my handwriting including me, but still.)

Which doesn’t mean it will be easy.

But it just got fun.

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Filed under Analog, Index Cards, research, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing, Writing Process

Sometimes, I'm just lucky.

I’m gathering together resources about Ireland.

I did not set out to write about Ireland, and actively resisted it, truth be known.  I’ve been to England, Wales and Scotland and so feel far more comfortable writing about them. But this book, it keeps pointing me to Ireland, and well, okay, where the muse leads, I must follow.

So.  If my trilogy sells, I will need to know more about Ireland. Hopefully a research trip will be in order. And so I’m gathering up my old faithfuls, a couple of new ones, and digging out what I already have.

When it comes to the UK, I love the Rough Guides. The Rough Guide to England is my favorite travel guide ever, but you first need to understand how we travel. We rent a car and drive. We seek out villages and out of the way places and stay in inexpensive B&Bs and eat in pubs. So the typical travel guides that only hit the most popular spots don’t work for us on the whole.

But this is truly a guide for readers. Very few pictures, lots of text. History, trivia, and a bit of attitude.  I love it, but if you want lots of pictures you’ll need a different (or additional) guidebook.

And yes, I have ordered and received my The Rough Guide to Ireland.

I’ve also ordered an Ireland (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE) and (remember, the driving?) an Back Roads Ireland (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL BACK ROADS) which looks to be wonderfully inviting.

Yum.  I’m already tasting the soda bread and whiskey, and hearing the gentle Irish brogue in the music-filled pubs and…

And the lucky part? I knew I’d collected some books along the way, and I finally dug this one out, the Illustrated Guide to Ireland (Readers Digest).

Not quite a coffee table book, but this is a lovely, large hardcover that is filled with details and illustrations. I am sure we paid the listed $35 for it when we bought it, but it’s now bargain priced on Amazon, and I highly recommend it, whether you’re an armchair traveler or planning a trip of your own.

And why am I lucky? Because I had that on my shelf, the one with rave reviews, including the one from an Irish woman who concludes, “If you only buy one book on Ireland, buy this one.”

That was sheer luck, picking up this book.  Luck o’ the Irish?

And finally, because I can’t end a post on travel without a picture, here’s a pub where we ate in Dartmoor.  I guess the Irish pics will have to come later, after I’ve actually been there? Yeah, that’s a plan!

What are your favorite guide books?

How do you travel? First class or steerage? Fine hotels or B&Bs with the loo down the hall?

Tell me about it. I love to talk travel (and research)!

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Filed under Books, Dartmoor, research, Travel, Writing

Sometimes, I’m just lucky.

I’m gathering together resources about Ireland.

I did not set out to write about Ireland, and actively resisted it, truth be known.  I’ve been to England, Wales and Scotland and so feel far more comfortable writing about them. But this book, it keeps pointing me to Ireland, and well, okay, where the muse leads, I must follow.

So.  If my trilogy sells, I will need to know more about Ireland. Hopefully a research trip will be in order. And so I’m gathering up my old faithfuls, a couple of new ones, and digging out what I already have.

When it comes to the UK, I love the Rough Guides. The Rough Guide to England is my favorite travel guide ever, but you first need to understand how we travel. We rent a car and drive. We seek out villages and out of the way places and stay in inexpensive B&Bs and eat in pubs. So the typical travel guides that only hit the most popular spots don’t work for us on the whole.

But this is truly a guide for readers. Very few pictures, lots of text. History, trivia, and a bit of attitude.  I love it, but if you want lots of pictures you’ll need a different (or additional) guidebook.

And yes, I have ordered and received my The Rough Guide to Ireland.

I’ve also ordered an Ireland (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL GUIDE) and (remember, the driving?) an Back Roads Ireland (EYEWITNESS TRAVEL BACK ROADS) which looks to be wonderfully inviting.

Yum.  I’m already tasting the soda bread and whiskey, and hearing the gentle Irish brogue in the music-filled pubs and…

And the lucky part? I knew I’d collected some books along the way, and I finally dug this one out, the Illustrated Guide to Ireland (Readers Digest).

Not quite a coffee table book, but this is a lovely, large hardcover that is filled with details and illustrations. I am sure we paid the listed $35 for it when we bought it, but it’s now bargain priced on Amazon, and I highly recommend it, whether you’re an armchair traveler or planning a trip of your own.

And why am I lucky? Because I had that on my shelf, the one with rave reviews, including the one from an Irish woman who concludes, “If you only buy one book on Ireland, buy this one.”

That was sheer luck, picking up this book.  Luck o’ the Irish?

And finally, because I can’t end a post on travel without a picture, here’s a pub where we ate in Dartmoor.  I guess the Irish pics will have to come later, after I’ve actually been there? Yeah, that’s a plan!

What are your favorite guide books?

How do you travel? First class or steerage? Fine hotels or B&Bs with the loo down the hall?

Tell me about it. I love to talk travel (and research)!

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Dartmoor, Ireland, research, Travel, Writing

Making time.

Many years ago I picked up a used book, How to Be a Successful Housewife Writer, by Elaine Fantle Shimberg.  At the time I was rather taken aback by the word “Housewife” right there in the title, because it was a word that was offensive to me, the idea that you were married to a house, of all things.

Excuse me while I take a few deep breaths.

All right. Moving forward…

One of the most important ideas I carried away from that book was the need to actually–hold on now–

Make time to write.

Sounds simple, I know, but at the time  I was so busy with activities, being a mom and being in various organizations, and don’t forget Jazzercise!  (I did say it was many years ago; don’t look at me that way.) But here in her book she not only stressed ditching those commitments, but gave a list of questions to ask yourself about them.  Questions like, “Why did I join?” and “Is that still valid in my life?” Because for many of us, commitments are things that we don’t reconsider; we just add more on top of what we already have.  We join a group and take on responsibilities and we form friendships and people are depending upon us, and it’s habit, and…

We have many reasons for continuing to do the things we’ve always done, but are they important reasons?  Do we still feel a driving need to do this thing, or is it just something we’ve done for a long time and don’t know how to stop? Don’t know how to start saying no?  Don’t know how to withdraw?

At the end of that year I refused all offices and let everybody know I wouldn’t be involved in those groups the next year. I took back my time and put a priority on being able to actually write.  Not in snippets of time here and there, but in long hours without interruption.

Not only that, but I began to “write” while I was doing other things, those things I couldn’t avoid.  I edited what I’d written that week at swim meets on Saturdays.  I carried research materials, highlighters and post-it notes with me so that I could research when I had snippets of time.  During stressful events in our lives there are times when we don’t have the emotional or physical energy to create, but could fill this fifteen minutes or that hour with research or organization or plotting or world-building. Sometimes just having a list of the various things you don’t know enough about to write, a list of characters who need names, or a blank index card to make new lists on, can not only move your writing project forward, but can ease the tension in the pit of your stomach by giving you a part to play in the process of writing, even when you aren’t actually putting words on the page.

I’m finding that today making time to write is still an issue, but a different issue.  Making time to write doesn’t just mean having time to sit in front of a computer screen.  It means making myself read for fun so that I can be inspired by wonderful books other people have written.

It means that sometimes I have to put the books aside, pull the earbuds out of my ears and take a shower or take a walk or drive in the car without the radio, to allow my story to talk to me instead of keeping my mind filled with distractions.

It means having time to mull, to stew, to gnash my teeth.  It means having time when I’m not being talked to, pulled at, questioned.

It means being still.

It means moving.

It means being in place so that when the words suddenly spring forth or the idea materializes–I can actually go sit down and do the work. (Or at the very least, it means always having something handy so I can whip out a moleskine and dash off the ideas before they flit away.)

It’s too easy to stay too busy.  We have so many things that must be done, demands that are fair and just.  Spare time is hard to come by.  And then when we have it, we have all these other commitments, things we’ve always done….

And that brings me back to Shimberg.

If you’re a writer, you do not put writing in a “spare time” category while you do less important things just because you always have done them.  You make writing one of your core commitments, and push those other things into your “spare time.”

I did that years ago. I eliminated a lot of social and community activities. And I have never regretted it.  I simply consider myself blessed that I could do so.

On the other hand, my body wishes I’d kept up with the Jazzercise…

Okay.  Maybe not.

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Filed under Books, Women, Writers, Writing, Writing daily

Pooks in the 21st Century

I have not been interested in eReaders.  I didn’t want a Kindle, a Sony, a Nook. I assumed I’d wait for an Apple reader which will be vastly superior to anything before it, and cost a lot more.  BUT– suddenly, at 6:00 on December 23rd–I changed my mind. Sam ordered my Kindle with overnight delivery, it arrived on Christmas Eve, and I quite like it.

No, it will never replace “real books” for me. It’s not a good substitute for books with color illustrations since it’s black and white only. [BTW, the Nook has color book covers in the strip across the bottom, but the text of the books themselves is black and white, so even though it touts “color” it’s used in a limited–but pretty-way.] But as I’m surrounded by so darned many “real books,” many that I’ve never gotten around to reading, this became more and more tempting, and now that I have it, I’m very glad.

Here are some reasons why.

ONE: Their customer service/tech support ROCKS. If I were more tech-savvy I wouldn’t have needed to call to get help with an upgrade.  The minor issue with my account that caused my first book purchase not to go through was a nit, quickly settled, but still, it required a phone call.  So here is the deal.  First call, Christmas Eve in the evening. Less than one minute wait. Polite, informative, fast. Second call, Christmas night. Polite, informative, chatty, fast. And yes, I’ve had enough issues with various tech support entities in the past decade or so that I will totally be influenced by good tech support, so am mentioning this right up front.  A million Kindles were mailed during the Christmas season, maybe more, and most of them were probably opened and activated on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Even so, each of my calls was answered in less than a minute and handled extremely well.

TWO:  Space saving. The “too many books” issue.  Sam has encouraged me to get an eReader of some sort to get rid of some books. And suddenly, that idea seemed very comfortable to me.  Mind you, many of the books I have aren’t available yet, and it would also mean buying them again, but this is starting at a place of, not buying as many new books in paper form.  There will always be books I want in paper form, the ones I love, the ones I want to be able to see on my shelves, friends both old and new. But I also have more books than I want to admit that I bought and haven’t read.  Someday I will.  But, somehow I never am in the right mood to read that particular book and these many, many books just get moved from one stack to another, from one box to another. My Kindle will eliminate most of that, because it holds thousands of books, and for two other reasons, which follow.

THREE:  Too damned easy. While my Kindle was out of sight overnight Christmas Eve, waiting to be a “gift” the next morning, I went online to buy a book or two to put on it.  I didn’t want an empty Kindle.  I also wanted to have a few books on it so that when I passed it around Christmas day, people could see how it works.  I almost bought a book, but realized I wasn’t sure if it was a book I wanted to read right this minute, and there might be something else I’d rather have instead and–I noticed the “sample chapter” option.  I downloaded the first chapter free and figured people could see how it works, and I’d read later and decide whether to download the entire book.  Which led to me downloading 7 or 8 sample chapters (they’re free, why not?) which totally tickled me, that I was already loading up my Christmas gift which I haven’t even received yet. So in some cases I’m going to actually save money by not buying a book at all, because I am pretty sure that some of these sample chapters are going to end up like these stacks of books, waiting for me to get around to reading them, until I lose interest.  Or I may start reading and say, “Never mind,” and delete. Money saved is a good thing. Space saved and trees saved are equally good or even better things.

SIDEBAR:  In case you aren’t aware, the Kindle works wirelessly.  You don’t have to hook it up to a computer. It has a wireless connection straight to the Amazon store that will allow you to purchase and download books wherever you are in the world. Dangerous, when you consider the impulse shopping that could result, when one click, and you have a new book on your Kindle 60 seconds later.  (I seem to have subverted that by impulse-downloading sample chapters, instead.)

FOUR: Free books. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Complete Adventures of Peter Pan are public domain books I got from the Kindle store.  The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, The Celtic Twilight, A Popular History of Ireland, also public domain books I got from the Kindle store. I found about ten last night that I downloaded as potentially helpful research sources for my trilogy. And I’ve discovered that I can import other books that I downloaded elsewhere into my Kindle so they are at my fingertips, too. ALSO, Kindle has many free books that are recent.  I have no idea how and why that is negotiated and wonder what the author and publisher get out of it, but for example, I downloaded two free books that I would not have bought anyway, The Crossroads Cafe by Deborah Smith being one of them, and also being the book that my sister is now going to buy, having started reading it yesterday on my Kindle. There are a lot of free books available that are recent. Since I’m not looking for casual “oh this might be good” reading–no time for that–I just skimmed through, but a lot of people could really go to town finding all sorts of good stuff to read for free.

FIVE: Girl Scout Cookie books. When I sold my first book, one of Sam’s friends asked me where it would be for sale and said he’d go buy three or four.  “Three or four?” I gasped.  He said, “Well, when people around the office are selling girl scout cookies I always buy several boxes. It seemed like the least I could do for you.” The idea was sweet but kind of astounding, that he was going to go buy several romance novels that he would never read, because he knew me.  Many years later I was at the Austin Film Festival and Callie Khouri was on a panel where she urged people, “Support the kind of movie you love. Opening weekend is so vital. Even if you don’t have time to go see it, call the theater and buy a ticket or two, or buy them online. Don’t pick them up, don’t use them, but let your support help the good movies have good opening weekends.”  Whether you subscribe to the “Girl Scout Cookie/Callie Khouri” philosophy of supporting writers and books and movies or not, if you know many writers, you may do something similar.  You buy books because friends wrote them, even though you may not want to read them. Or because you’re invited to a book signing. Or for other reasons. And then you end up with these books making you feel guilty because you aren’t reading them. (Okay, maybe this doesn’t happen to you, but it does to me.) Now, most of those book purchases are going to go on my Kindle.  Then I don’t have to see them taking up space on my bookshelves. Plus, they will often be much cheaper.  So I can support writers and the publishing industry I love w/o gaining weight or adding to the piles of books in my office. I call this a win.

SIX: Adjustable font size. Yes, my eyes appreciate the fact that I can enlarge the font.

SEVEN:  And more about public domain books. This is more specific to me as a writer and researcher.  I mentioned those free, old public domain books I downloaded. I have a number of those on my bookshelf right now that I downloaded from Google Books and then printed. Downloading them to my Kindle may be a halfway house.  I may skim, read, etc. and if I find one that’s going to be particularly helpful that I want to highlight, post-it, mark up, then print it out anyway.  But having all of these on this device in my purse is going to be very handy, because there are many times when I am away from home that I would like to be able to choose between reading a century-old history book, a novel, or something else to pass the time. Believe me, sometimes I have four or five books in my shoulder bag for that reason–because I’m not quite sure what I’ll be in the mood to read, or how long I might end up being gone. So I may end up printing out some anyway, but I have some on my shelf right now that I never would have printed out if I’d had a better way to peruse them first. And the Kindle is going to be much easier for me to use that way than my computer, and that will vary for other people, but for me, it’s already proven itself so.

EIGHT: The keyboard at the bottom. I haven’t used it much yet, but it will be easy to make notes, etc. as I’m reading because there are real keys at the bottom. They are tiny, but spaced widely apart so that I can type in information as needed. I like that a lot and it will end up being important.

So, bottom line, after about 24 hours, I’m very pleased with my Kindle. Whether or not you’re interested, or think they’re worth the money, or want to wait to see what Apple might come up with, or wait for later generations is up to you. You may decide a Sony or a Nook is more to your liking.

But I’m more than thrilled with my choice.

I’ll probably post pics later, but for now, here is a pic I found on the intertubes.  There are several “covers” that rotate through when it is powered down.  These are two of them. It will give you an idea of screen image, until I can find something better.

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Filed under Books, Kindle, Writers, Writing