Unmasking the Real Story Behind Shrouded Witness

Late last year I completed and published Shrouded Witness.  Each book always has its own challenges. But writing this book was truly unique and pushing me beyond all limits. And now, I can share it with you why this was.

Challenge 1: Beyond Genres

This work is based on a C.Wright Mills-like sociological framework such as found in The Power Elite.  But there also histographical elements such as Herodotus and Ibn Khaldun.

The whole thing is wrapped up in a science-fiction tale about an imaginary planet (Wolyraf) and an organization that watches the planet’s happenings from the shadows recording it all. So on one day, the true narrative of what had taken place is revealed.

Challenge 2: The Framework

The book is loosely organized around ten topic units which are presented through a series of challenging interviews, short stories, and reflections. All of the units do not have to be read in order. However, it is helpful to read the entire unit.

Doing this reminded me somewhat of The Martian Chronicles and A Canticle for Leibowitz.

There is a bare-bones overall story arc. Originally it was not there. but the main character goes through a journey of personal growth. That he completes it at all and comes out alive is the main ending.

Challenge 3: Dealing with The Great Doubt. 

In my next book Spiritual Storms, I will talk how Project Managers can be overcome with loss of confidence and lack of faith in overseeing their projects. This book is unusual, in that the Great Doubt made a visit, making me question if there was an audience for such a truly original book. On reflection, it seemed like something that would be helpful for those that wanted to take a step back and get insights on studying a society. So I continued on to completion.

Challenge 4: How the Book Came About

In a previous blog, I talked about “Waverly” and how it was “disruptive fiction.” It clearly did not fit into any work that I was writing or had planned. In time, I decided that a book of short stories was needed on the operating of various societies. “Waverly” is included in this work.

Challenge 5: The Characters

There are four overall characters, Peter Lachmere (interviewer and freelance reporter), the mocking voice of the nameless organization, the nameless organization itself, and the Knowledge Lawn (the mother of all information databases storing what is happening on the planet.) Everyone else basically appears for an often contentious interview and disappears back into the shadows. And between the ten interviews and the numerous short stories, there are many characters and situations.

Challenge 6: The interviews

Imagine that you are interviewing someone. You don’t know when it will take place. You likely be snatched against your will to get to the interview location. Once there, you don’t know if the interview will turn ugly fast or not. You cannot rely on anything being told to be partially or totally real. The whole thing may be a well-crafted, elaborate lie to entertain some unseen audience. Still, each meeting seems to have some element of truth. The whole thing is a sort of mental sumo wrestling. Writing ten different interviews was a good challenge.

And there you have it. I hope that you give it a look when seeking something to read.

Thank you Pixabay for the image.

Writer’s Choice: Revealed vs. Uncovered Works

Introduction
“Sometimes a work is revealed and other times it is uncovered.” I wrote that in the Introduction of Missed Landing. But did not go into any explanation on what that meant. That is remedied here.

Revealed Works
Through dreams, ideas that pop suddenly into your head out of nowhere, or by the grace of your benevolent muse, a story begins. Time is spent writing down and expanding the epiphany. So the writing process for this is much more of following a quest or living a dream. Writing these types of works are generally very quick. Examples of this in my works are Killing Thoreau and Ghosts vs. Robots. Both started with a brainstorm and were fairly fast to write.

Uncovered Works
Other works are like a block of marble. You have to work and keep changing until the beauty inside is revealed. These works can be much harder to write especially is using a factory rather than a craft approach. But if completed can be more satisfactory than a revealed work. Personal examples include Saving Eddie and Missed Landing. Both went through multiple iterations until a framework was discovered and it just felt very right. This process included extensive editing, constant deliberations, various explorations, and much patience.

Whatever writing approach that you use, have fun with it. And enjoy the rare opportunity of expressing an interesting thought onto the digital page.

Writing Choice: Craft or Factory Approach?

[This is the first blog since Writing and Stuff (a collection of all the blogs on this site) came out in March. This free work has been downloaded in over 60 countries. A copy can be found at Smashwords.]

Looking back
This is my fifth straight year of being an independent author. It has not always been an easy road. One of the dynamics has been choosing between two completely different writing approaches. This blog covers what took place and what I learned.

2011-2012: The Factory Approach
During this time, I was a new author with a backlog of books. I wanted to get out as much as possible. So I came up with the factory approach which entailed the following:

1) Tracked on a spreadsheet the five phases for each book. This is Writing, Editing, Illustrating, Final Edit, and Publishing. Note there was not a Planning Phase. I color coded the status for each phase such as Underway, Done, or Planned.

2) Made an estimate on number of words for that book and tracked.

3) Had a 10,000 word status metric.

This was a successful approach in one sense. I was able to simultaneously edit and write multiple books. At the height in 2012, I published 8 books and 2 stories and a total of 185,000+ words total.

2012-To Date: The Craft Approach
But something was clearly missing. In the middle of one book, I decided the factory approach took away the fun and impacted the quality. It was coming from a viewpoint of scarcity rather than abundance. It led at times to writer’s shanks.

So in 2012, I switched to a “craft approach.” The rules were simple:

1) Work on no more than two books at once. But only one at a time.

2) Set no expectations on when things will get done or what are the next steps.

3) Allow more time to plan a book.

4) Accept that conscious failure is an option.

5) Be patient and allow disruptive fiction to happen,

6) Include time to try a story from different perspectives and styles. Choose the best combinations.

In the end, I find this more rewarding and the writing quality has improved. In 2015, I wrote five books (one a rewrite of short stories) and 129,817 pages. As a result, meatier. richer, and fewer books.

As a part-time author, you have to decide which perspective works for your circumstances and temperament. if undecided, try both and learn from the experience. I have gained so much for having done the same.

Good luck with your Writer’s journey!

Why not Transition to a Full-Time Writer?

Introduction

Recently, a colleague asked “Since you are so happy writing, shouldn’t you be doing it full time when you ever retire?”

I answered when that day ever arrives, I would consider it  but would not likely to do so. This seems like a great topic for a blog.

Why full-time writing is a better option:

A full-time writer in theory would have the following advantages:

  • Some feel that this makes their efforts more real and gives them a higher status.
  • They can dedicate more time to their works or produce more works in a shorter time period.
  • They can do a deeper research on a topic.
  • They can take advantage of various social and online resources that part-time writers cannot.
  • It may be more rewarding in other ways for a few of us.

Why part-time writing is a better option:

A part-time writer in theory would have the following advantages:

  • Writing is seen as special and not as a job.
  • A part-time writer can do pretty much a full-time writer can in terms of output, research, and using online resources. It just takes longer.
  • Writing in smaller time periods keeps things fresh.
  • They have more time to do other things.

The advantage and disadvantage of this choice are different for each person depending on economic circumstances, personality, desire to write, self-discipline, and writing topics covered. Also, what may be a clear path to choose one day may look like a bad selection the next.

So reflect on what will work best for you. Because writing is always a journey, an ongoing process, and never a single point in time.

How Writing with Patience Yields Rich Fruit and an Accidental Book!

Introduction

It has been several months since I have produced a blog. I was getting Missed Landing out the door, and started on what will be the second edition of Simply Business/IT and that is when I got into deep trouble.

The Trap of a Scarcity Viewpoint

I thought it would be nice to add a new short story about business leadership and pirating, It was to be called Command & Control. Write it in 2-3 weeks and all would be good. But the writing did not yield itself to a timely completion. A first draft from one character’s viewpoint was initiated. Then a second draft was rewritten from another character’s worldview. Things were looking dire. The self-imposed deadline was not going to be met. And there was much more still to write in this story.

The Trap of Impatience

So due to an imaginary deadline and pre-conceived notions of what this story should be like, an impatient mind might think they were in trouble and scrap the work completely. That is what would be the likely outcome for some writers. But I took a different approach and came from a viewpoint of abundance and patience. I decided to split the two efforts:

  1. Complete the editing of Simply Business/IT without the story. This should be published in a few weeks.
  2. Take as much time as needed to write Command and Control. By doing so, I decided to transform the story into a book, and did a third rewrite with a new opening and making each of the previous rewrites into separate chapters. It has been going swimmingly ever since. And an accidental book came forth.

So the Lessons Learned are:

  1. You never really know what journey a work will take you on.
  2. Patience and dropping of pre-conceived notions on outcome or schedule will yield better and stronger results. Just write and write some more without expectations.

What a great way to start 2016. Wishing you nothing but success on your writing journeys!

The Mother of all Writing Crises: Disruptive Fiction

Introduction

Recently, I rode on Amtrak recreating Edgar Allan Poe’s last trip northward. (As covered in Saving Eddie.) Amtrak has a Writer’s Residency. However, I like writing when the mood strikes without conditions.

As discussed earlier, I enjoy using a steno pad when writing in the air or traveling by rail, This time was no exception. What came forth was an over a four thousand word work called tentatively Waverly. The title is a nod to Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels which includes Ivanhoe.

Two Types of Disruptive Fiction

This new story became a case of disruptive fiction of which there are two kinds.

The first type is a work that is so unique that it immediately catches your attention. Q by the Wu Ming Writers’ Collective is one possible example.

But the more interesting area is fiction that disrupts your writing schedule.

Questions Concerning Disruptive Fiction

The following are some of the questions that Waverly brought to the surface and their resolution to date:

  1. What do I do with it? It is too short to be part of a book. I don’t have a new short story collection planned to place it. It could easily grow into a series of related stories. (Which would be a first for me.) So right now it is my experiments folder. There is a strong possibility that it is never released.
  2. Do I want to publish this now? There is too much that I am already working on such as finishing up Missed Landing and second edition updates to Simply Business/IT and Transitions 1.  (Each with one new story.) So the earliest that this would be published is 2016.
  3. How do I classify it? Is it a simple story, a political fable, a fictionalized guidebook for the ruling elite, science fiction, or something else? Again, I am not sure yet. With rewrites, it could be expanded and go into many different directions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, even if you think things are settled with your writing schedule, ideas may unexpectedly spring forth that may need exploring. Sometimes I put things on the side and other times I switch and make this a primary focus. The latter path includes Saving Eddie, Killing Thoreau, Ghosts vs. Robots, and now Missed Landing.

But that is my story and I am sticking to it. Which will YOU choose when a creative idea wants to disrupt your writing life?

How I Wrote my Way out of Trouble with Missed Landing.

Recently, I completed the first draft of Missed Landing. But it did not always look so certain that I would get there. I knew that Missed Landing was a different type of book. So it was a higher bar to overcome.

Several months back, I was approaching my draft success metric of ten thousand words. The results were far from good. I was experiencing a new form of the writer’s shanks. The writing was okay but it was missing something. Some other writer may had kept  going.  But I stopped, reflected, and knew that drastic changes needed to be made. So what did I do?

  1. Brainstorming. I thought of what I wanted to include in the story. This included seven different aspects that were all used eventually.
  2. Writing from scratch. I kept the existing chapters and started to write them over completely. Once done, I took the best of the old and new content which made a stronger story.
  3. Change the time frame. Doing the work as historical fiction was hampering progress. Making it in the science fiction genre gave more flexibility and made plot possibilities unlimited and more likely to happen.
  4. Make it more emotional. Capturing more what the characters were feeling instead of only experiencing made it a more powerful and memorable book.
  5. Kept going and never lost faith in the process and myself. I never stopped believing that there was good story to tell and just kept pushing myself and the writing.

As a result of the above, I came out with a stronger more satisfactory book. Never give up expressing yourself. Inspiration is just around the corner.

 

5 Ways your Children Can Help you Become a Better Writer.

Introduction
Though the many eons of the written word, there are many examples of authors writing stories for children they knew. This often included their own children and relatives. The world is indebted with some great literature as a result.

But there is a question that ends up as part of my “mental traffic” from time to time. That is does being a parent help make you a better writer? If so, is this is still true if you do not write children’s stories?

Based on my experience, I would say an emphatic YES!

Five Ways How Children Positively Impact your Writing.

Some of the reasons for saying this include the following.

1.You have a ready test audience. Reading stories out loud is a tremendous laboratory. Children’s reactions will let you know if a story is on target on not. Obviously, don’t inflict on them the first drafts , very adult stories, and other faux pas or they may never forgive you.

2. They want to hear new and some old stories. This is a great opportunity to push the creative juices to the fullest. It may initiate a chain of brainstorms that may result in something completely different.

3. You have to explain things simply and clearly. This means use of examples, humor, strong mental images, and more. Explaining things in many different ways helped tremendously in thinking how to describe a scene to my reader.

4. They can help characters come alive. Children are great in exploring situations in stories. Asking questions such as What if this character did … They also have a strong sense whether words spoken are true to a character or not.

5. You can determine quickly the needed images to create for a work. The scenes that get the greatest reaction likely need an illustration to go with the text.

All of the above helped in putting down in writing an always changing special bedtime story/meditation called “The Floating Bed” that is part of In Small Doses 2. It was a culmination of multiple night time renditions each a little longer and a little more detailed.

I would be interested I hearing how your “little reviewer(s)” helped your writing.

Eleven Ways Why Missed Landing is Different from my other Works

Introduction
I am in the process of wrapping up the first draft of Missed Landing. It ran into serious issues early on. (But that is a future blog topic.)

This completes a sort of “historical fiction trilogy” that started with Killing Thoreau on Walden Pond and followed by Saving Eddie. It is an enjoyable task to make the quirks and currents of history presentable.

Eleven Differences
This book is different than anything else that I’ve written. There are eleven major differences than my prior works. These include the following:

These differences include:

1) Timeframe. Although the work alludes to the past, it is set at some indefinite date in the future. (Originally it was to be 1940-1970s.)

2) Use of an unreliable and far from omniscient narrator. We clearly have a character here that has access to a vast but incomplete database. Also, she has memories of how rosy the past was. But how are false memories from tales from her mother and how much is real?

3) Life-defining issues. The lead character is grappling with overcoming loss, discerning what is truth and myth, and finding her place in the world. These are more mature themes than I have dealt with in the past.

4) Fake quotes. Each chapter starts with a snippet from an imaginary book that sets the mood.

5) Chapter titles that ask key questions. And the body of the chapter attempts to answer that query. And with each answer, we are closer to unraveling the truth.

6) Writing about a topic that I knew little about. Ballooning is an area that I haven’t delved into before so there was a lot to ramp up on. (Just like characters, the Calvez Brothers had to do.)

7) Most of the characters discussed in the book are deceased or presumed dead. And that makes it challenge for the protagonist to gather information. As the investigation gets underway, only one living character is interviewed.

8) The book uses an interesting mix of the future and visible signs of the obsolete past. Although everything is online, government offices, in-person tests and universities with physical campuses, and ballooning itself are also available if needed.

9) Ties to the late 1960s. The Gaul University protests and what happened to the Calvez brothers clearly has its antecedents with incidents of this turbulent time. This is discussed.

10) The use of triplet brothers as characters. Originally it was supposed to be twins but writing about the former was more.

11) Having a rich protagonist. The main character can purchase anything she needs except peace of mind. But she can obtain the needed tools that move her closer to reaching it.