The Captain and the Lady Fair

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How I Write

How I Write

Writing this book

I am writing this to encourage others that may have a story in their head that wants to be told.
I had the idea for my book for several years. I would think about writing it then put it aside in my head as there was so many other things to do. The images I had scenes in my head that got so strong I couldn't ignore it anymore. I used word but I could have used Open Office which is free and works the same. I sat down and started banging the keys. I don't type so it was slower than most people would do it. I let the scene play in my head and I tried to keep up. One chapter lead to another. It sounds so easy, but it can tire your back and make you say bad words when a scene just doesn't feel right. I learned a few tricks over time that helped me. Here they are, but first let me say that everyone is different. Do what works for you even if someone else says it is the wrong way. The only wrong way is not to write at all.
1 Find what works for you as to place and time for writing. For some it is a regular schedule in a place set up to write that is quiet. I have the TV or music playing all the time. Once I went to the library for quiet and it drove me nuts and wrote nothing.
2 Write a chapter ( or two ) then check for spelling punctuation etc. I found that if I printed it out, I found more. I started printing out chapters as they were done to proof them. I printed it double space, single sided, punched holes and put it in a binder ... BACKWARDS! Holes on the right side so I went through the pages from the back of the notebook I put it in. I could make pencil marks for corrections on the printed page. For adding text more than a word or two. I would put a number on the page where the insert would go, then wrote the addition on the blank page on the right. More insert got a new number. If I needed more space, I added a blank note book paper.
3 Give it time. Some days I would write for 2 hours, some 16 or more. It takes time but it all adds up even if it is only 30 mins. When I was done with the rough edit of a chapter, I would ignore it. After a few weeks if I was really driven I would go back and look at it with fresh eyes that time gave it. If I re read it too soon, I would miss things because my mind added it, even if it wasn't written down.
4 Writers block. I can't say I had writers block in the sense of nothing came to mind to write, But a few chapters gave me fits. I learned the hard way, that for me, if I was trying to start the chapter in a particular place with a particular character I would be stumped. As soon as I changed the place and or character, the flood gates open.
5 Warning  You characters will drive what you write, if the character wouldn't do something you can't force it or it will bug you until you fix it. In a short time the characters become alive for you and they want to do their own thing. Try to live with it. If you don't, they will keep you up at night. :)

It has been months since I looked at the first chapters and I know I need to add some descriptions or improve on some, such as the description of the airship Lady Fair. Soon I will be doing that.

Do what ever works for you ! Just do it.

Now to drive English teachers and scholars nuts.

I have read books forever. I used to read anything that didn't move. Even read and re-read cereal boxes. When I figured out that there are more books out there that I can ever read I narrowed down my reading to Sci-Fi and Fantasy. ( Please don't use syfy.. that's a wresting pay actors nothing scripted not reality channel )

I have seen the genres change from the pulp days when the story line was simple and weak but filled with the description of a machine or spaceship and how it worked. Now you can write 'faster than light drive' or even FTL and everyone thinks Okay got it. Now it is more about character, story line, and subplots. This is a good thing.

There are two things that I have run into that people act like they are concrete rules and makes them sound so educated to spout them. 

1 Show don't tell.

2 Active vs passive voice.

If I were to go through my novel and make everything 'show' and no 'tell' my book would be about three times the size. It would also be a waste of space especially considering that a printer bases part of the cost on charges per page. That would mean the cost of the book and then the cost to the reader would skyrocket. On ebooks, that is a non-issue, but print matters.

I think for a description of a scene there is a good case for just describe the room or what ever that the character is working in. This also brings the issue of POV. First person is okay but I am not a fan of it. Second person was big in the 19th century but faded because it was very distracting in a long story to say the least.

Third person is the most common and the one I prefer. In the third person the writer can choose to be unlimited ( knows and tells thoughts ) or not. I prefer not to know a characters thought but be like all the other characters in the book and base my thoughts on what is seen or said out-loud. So far so good. Back to the show don't tell... depending of what is happening show can slow things down, Tell, showing what the characters see, speeds thing up. If a scene is tense with people waiting for action to happen, then show is great. it slows things down, makes the reader as anxious as the characters. They feel the mood as the characters do. Faster action such as a gun fight needs to be faster paced. shorter sentences and tell not show. Some things I have read some books that have taken page after page for less than a two minute action. Gee thanks for showing me you can write a lot of words but that should have been one or two paragraphs and done. Dragged out does not seem real to me.

To sum up show, don't tell, should be broken. Just make the tell fit but for someone to scream foul at the first tell, tells me he is a technical geek and not a reader for pleasure.

Speaking of technical geeks. That brings us to passive vs active. Not that long ago, no one cared if something was passive or active. When people talk with each other, they pay no attention if using a passive or active sentence. Mixing the two is common in conversation. I am not saying people are dummies but most readers wouldn't know a passive sentence if it smacked em between the eyes. They don't care either. I belonged to a book writers group. You read your work for 10 minutes then others made comments. good, bad or indifferent. Most often a printed copy of what you were reading was passed out. out of 12 people, as the comments went around the table the comments were pretty good about the action, tension, and characters.. until one spoke up with, passive sentences in there, you need to fix those. Why? The normal readers where happy only the English major had a problem. He was also the only one to jump on show don't tell.

If you plan on going through a big name publisher, yep their editor is going to jump on it and demand it be 'fixed', although I have heard they are easing up on that. Self publish for yourself and the common reader, I say don't sweat it. ( there are a few publishers that don't sweat the passive voice. )

You can hire an editor/proofer and ask them for feedback on the story flow. Does it give a good read even with the passive and tell. They most likely will come back with, yes it was a good read but.. and tell you where a tell might serve better if made a tell.

My editor/proofer ( bless her heart ) Hit me up with some areas that description slowed the pace. I explained it was on purpose to slow the scene to make the reader anxious for what is happening just as the character was. That I had also used sentence length or description or not to control the pace. Slower scenes with characters connecting or being serious with each other I slowed, Action scenes I made fast, just like the action.

She came back to me and said. It worked and she hadn't noticed until I pointed it out.

What is the total of all this, if you are writing for yourself and for people to have a good read. Do it your way. Maybe put a disclaimer on the jacket. "English majors and English professors buy at own risk. Contains passive voice and sections of tell. Get over it."