Flipped Books


I read a couple of months ago, where people have re-written classic books, like “Wuthering Heights” from another character’s point of view. I remember struggling through David Copperfield, a woefully oppressive book full of pro-communist rhetoric, and finally getting through to the end. I absolutely hated it. And most people who’ve read David Copperfield have said the same thing.

Dickens will be forever remembered for “A Christmas Carol”, which had moderate Communist overtones. Let’s leave your politics out of books, please! How would you all like it if I forced you to endure my polemics for long periods of time? Probably not. So I keep my politics to a minimum. You should do the same.

But then it struck me… Copperfield, from Uriah Heep’s point of view? Could be interesting. But – alas, it would require me re-reading David Copperfield.

I love classic books. I had hardcover edition Reader’s Digest classics at home growing up, and read them all. I don’t know if it was my habit of reading every book I laid my hands on that turned me into a writer. To my knowledge, every one of my sisters, my mother and even my dad all tried writing novels. And to my knowledge. I was the only one who completed them.

what else could I flip? 20,000 leagues under the sea, from Conseil’s point of view? I mean, he stole the book. Or Journey to the Center of the Earth, from Hans’ point of view?

I suppose if I had limited ideas, I’d give it a try. Right now, I’m swamped with projects that wait in the wings. But hey! If you’re a writer and you’re struggling for ideas, flip a book for practice!

The Story I Never Wrote


Years ago, being a Star Trek fan, I once got a big jump start on a novel I was writing. I had Commodore 64 VizaWrite, or some program like that (seriously, I cannot remember – we’re talking 1984 or so…) I had conceived of a way to fix:

  1. The huge inconsistencies in Star Trek novels
  2. The massively inaccurate way Romulans were being portrayed in Star Trek Novels
  3. The unaccounted for absence of my favorite class of vessels in Star Trek
  4. One Star Trek novel where my favorite class of vessel finally made an appearance, but was changed for some incomprehensible reason.

Let me explain, and we can resume our vastly more interesting lives uninterrupted after this.

The official TV Bible (I hate that term being used for anything BUT the Bible) for Star Trek recounted the Romulans as being a cross between the Romans and the Japanese Samurai. The most popular Star Trek novels out there depicted them as an opporessive, totaltarianistic society without honor – and other Star Trek authors were jumping on ship with that depiction. Since the Romulans were my favorite, I was irritated beyond means. “This is not how Roddenberry depicted them – everyone’s in love with Diane Duane’s description of some other species.” John M. Ford’s Klingons were REMARKABLY consistent to the TV show, and indeed, may have led to the decision to make the Klingons part of the Federation.

So, the problem was, everyone was crazy about the race Diane Duane created – but the problem was, they were so inconsistent with being Romulans, they quite simply couldn’t be Romulans.

So, my novel had the Romulans being two distinct races – the Rihannsu, Diane Duane’s completely puzzling and woefully un-Romulan Romulans, and… The Rom, the ones we saw on TV – Vulcans, who still had their emotions.

My favorite Star Trek ship of course came after I got the Technical Manual around 1977. My imagination went nuts as I looked through it, and I saw, at the back pages of the space ships, a MASSIVE beast – the Dreadnought.

Every Star Trek movie I kept waiting for a Dreadnought. Every novel, I waited impatiently for the appearance of the Dreadnought. I gave up on Star trek around 1988 or so, got rid of all my novels. But still, there was only one novel that featured a Dreadnought. And the author changed them.

What, are you kidding? These things are COOL!.

So, I had started on writing a Star Trek novel that showed the Rom essentially overthrowing the Rihannsu, and almost wiping them out in the process. Good riddance. Meanwhile, the Dreadnought project is rescued from oblivion by increasing tensions with the Romulans, and as they engage in a sneak attack against the Federation, you have groups of cadets jumping into these massive warships, sitting in Space Docks around the galaxy, firing them up and turning them on in a race of time, trying to figure out how to fly these powerful monsters, stay alive, and defend the Federation during a massive attack by the Romulans.

And my Commodore 64 stopped working. So it never got written!

But at least, I can buy a couple of Enterprise model kits, and kitbash them into a Dreadnought.

 

Reading a bad book


I remember my wife got some free books from someone, and she brought them home. She took what she wanted, I took what I wanted. One was a horrible, horrible book, apparently about people from the center of the earth kidnapping and killing people from Australia, and the hero just happened to be descended from Aborigines.

Horrible book.

But I couldn’t put it down.

To this day, all I recall is that I finally, about a third of the way, just threw the thing into the trash. It was the only way to break from it.

Because I couldn’t stop reading it!

I wanted to hang onto it, so that someday I could figure out how to write a book like that. not the horrible part – that part I figured out in my first few attempts – but the “Couldn’t put it down” part.

I’ll never know, because I threw the thing away, and dumped coffee grounds on it, to keep myself from picking it up.

I’ll always wonder. I see why he got published. I hope the publisher and his agent told him, “You know, this is truly a horrible book in every way. Just pathetic. But you’re really mastered the ‘can’t put it down’ thing.”

But I’ll always wonder how he did it.

Read Deadlines


Read my screenwriting books, highlighting them then copying over the highlights into Evernote. The books on writing fiction will have to wait, because I’m being paid to write movies right now.

check.

I need to read screenplays and scripts more, so I can let all that soak in, and help me write better.

Check.

finish my master class classes with Aaron Sorkin.

Check.

Write 7 pages of script a day.

check.

Exercise, so I don’t turn into a blob of jell-o behind my desk.

Check.

Work a 9 hour a day job.

check.

Get 1667 words a day into my novels.

check.

sleep.

Okay, now that just ruined everything. Suddenly I don’t have time for everything.

Here’s where time management kicks in. You have to become disciplined for all this. There’s only so much writing time in the day until i’m a success, and can leave my job and move to Woonsocket or Exeter or Coventry or Foster/Glocester, or Jamestown or Newport. Or Portsmouth or Tiverton or Little Compton.

THEN I’ll have 8 hours a day I can write, and things will be great. I can now free up 8 hours a day, not having to do my day job any more.

And of course, by then… i won’t need to read all that!

How to read a how-to book


Many of us read how-to books. I think that some fiction writers who couldn’t hack it simply bought 5 books on writing novels, and did the thesaurus thing and wrote their own book on writing – thus securing their living from the would-be writers!

So, you read the book. A month later, you’ve lost everything you’ve learned.

So, you find out about underlining, and highlighting. Probably from a friend whose a Christian, because Christians are ALWAYS underlining things. it’s a habit they get from trying to learn their Bibles, which have about 53,000 verses in them. (If you’re a Christian, I don’t have to tell you about underlining stuff…)

Then you underline a bunch of things. it helps fix things into memory, but… much of it will be forgotten.

Here’s the third step. If you type it out, you’ll remember it. I type it into Evernote. YeS, I know i can take a picture of the page and Evernote will convert it. But that left out typing it! And that’s one of the keys to remembering.

Putting it into Evernote or Onenote is the next key. Now, using keywords or tags, you make it easy to find them again. That’s much faster than pulling the book down off a bookshelf, and flipping through it to find that quote.

Let’s just say you finished Save The Cat. And you’re trying to remember who it was that said something about the pluses and minuses. You can find it quicker by looking in your save the cat tags in Evernote.

Evernote or Onenote can really revolutionize how you do things.

Setting up a Writing Office


Of course, since this is what I’m working on the most right now, this is what I’m writing about. You, the reader, probably don’t have to worry about this. But it may be fun to learn what goes into a writing office?

Signs. Right now, with only my wife and the cats, I don’t need a “video conference” sign to put on my office door. But with my hoped for dream of relocating to Rhode Island (since Bigfork Montana apparently has far too many grizzly bears), I may end up at some point with family staying with me. “Writing” and “video conference” signs are a must for that situation.

You CAN’T interrupt a writer when they’re writing. The scene they’re working on will break – and NEVER return. There’s too many words in a Screenplay to recover the train of thought. And for novels, it’s about four times as many words. I’m sure that Stephen King has a sign on his office that says “writing”.

The best a writer can do is try to write a different scene. It’s never going to come out exactly the same.

What else? Desk. My wife found a new desk for me at a reasonably priced antique shop. Then she found a office chair/book case deal. A couple of lamps and a Chinese art painting by J. Cheng, at thrift stores and Craig’s List.

Book shelves are important. I have two of them. One we got off of Amazon, but it’s the shoddiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. What they show in the ad and what they send you are two different things! So, we’re going to have to shore it up with some bits of wood to keep it from, well, falling in on itself.

Coasters. You don’t want to ruin that new desk, do you? Office Depot, or Zazzle. I was hoping Zazzle would have regular coasters, but the ones they have are the soapstone type. You can get printed on it whatever you like. And if you’re stranded in the arctic, now that coaster doubles as a Kudlik! But I think my wife has something more classy looking than a stone coaster with printing on it.

Beat Board. I know, there’s NOTHING worse than a really nice fancy shmancey office with cherry furniture and gold trimmed lamps… and a cork board stuck on the wall. But yeah…Scriveneer will get you into thinking “Cork board”. And if you write screenplays too, you’ll wither and die without one. And since I’m slowly adapting my screenwriting template to more of Save The Cat, the cork board is a must-have.

Now what? Pens. Tul pens. Click pens with or without gel, medium or fine point (I’m going to go with fine, because I can’t remember what mine was). The only thing with a Gel pen is, if you go that route, and you need to highlight something you wrote in Gel, Highlight it first. THEN write the text. No smearing.

Colored Pens. You’ll need them for the beat board. And for all those books you keep buying from the Writer’s store.

Colored highlighters. Must have. See above.

Drawer organizer. For all your pens.

Compass, protractor, or ruler: For underlining things with the colored pens. Want a free ruler? Go to the nearest Model Train show. There’s always a NTSA rep standing by with free rulers with “Stop, look and listen!” on them. It’s a campaign to save lives at railroad crossings.

Pen Cup. It can be a coffee mug, or a dedicated pen cup, like from a desk set. If you’re an eclectic kind of person, you can even just find a used Mah Jongg set and use the die cup for it.

Clock. You don’t need it, but it gives the office class.

Binders. I’m going to use Zazzle to make binders for my scripts. Or you can get plain white ones. up to you. But I think it will be great in the future to look back at scripts I’ve written, with a printed cover.

That’s it for now!

How to Write a book


Wanna write a novel?

A lot of people do. A lot. And most people can’t get off the ground with it.

Here’s what you need. “It’s about a guy who…”

Okay, finish the sentence, and start. Go to literatureandlatte.com, and buy Scrivener. It’s going to take a little bit to learn to use it and tweak it your way.

Use the three act novel template. Ready.. set… go.

Add 7 chapters per act. Add seven scenes per chapter. What you don’t use, get rid of. What you need more of, add.

Go to your cork board. Start labeling scenes. “Scene where Bedelia kills her dad”. Whatever. Label at least four scenes today.

Tomorrow, open a scene, just one, and start writing.

“IT was a dark and stormy night” or whatever. Where. When. Who. What. Why. how. Drama, drama, drama.

I then carry a notebook around with me (I’m thinking enviously of the new Tul notebook system…), and I’ve made it a practice to put a date in the upper right corner of the page, and write a dash in the margins, for checking off.

Now I stare at blank paper. WRITE the first thing that comes to your mind. This is called brain storming. You have more ideas in there than you know what to do with. I lived in New Jersey for two years, and in just those two years as a boy, I probably have enough fuel to fill a dozen books. So, I think about the topic of my novel, and start writing stuff. If I was writing a whodunnit, it would probably be icepick, wood chipper, freezer, columbo, water, fuel, burlap, tarp, death (etc.)

Now, look at your brainstorm stuff the next day. If you look at my brainstorm list, you’ve got the plot of the whodunnit right there!

If you understand the three act structure, then you’ll know how your book works. The murder happens early, chapter 2 or three. You’ve got to set things up in one. Then act two, the plot thickens, etc. Act three, the detective is getting threatened. Next to last chapter, unmasking of Colonel Mustard. Last chapter, the denouement (winding down).

Start writing. Use Scrivener to write whatever scene you’re seeing in your mind. Then open the little window showing your word deadline. Set it to 1667. That’s how many words a day you need. You won’t make it the first week. But as you become accustomed to it, you will. I often go to full screen mode with just the word per day counter showing.

No kidding, if you do the 1667 words a day, in two months, your novel is done.