Level of engagement when writing

While doing a stream of consciousness recording last night, I began talking about my novel-in-hiatus, as well as another project, and some valuable insight emerged. I started talking about the new approach I undertook to rework another old manuscript.

Several weeks ago, I sat down with a notebook to brainstorm ideas to develop an early draft of another book (I plot or plan a story to have a good foundation, the skeleton and muscle, so to speak. Once that exists, the fleshing out and dressing up can occur more spontaneously). I made the decision to be methodical, clinical, and, most importantly, dispassionate as I worked. This approach helped. I’d write something down and was able to coolly and logically say, “that’s good,” “no, that’s not right,” or “this has potential and could possibly work.” At one point, I remember becoming excited about an idea, the old “yes! That’s awesome! I’m really — ” Disengage, my analytical brain said, be more workmanlike, and I listened.

This was an interesting process, not being emotionally invested. It’s because of that investment that I believe I (and other authors) flame out. In my case, I put the characters in my hiatus novel through the wringer; it’s emotionally and psychologically grinding. It’s exhausting for me because I became so invested in their world and their “lives.” I believe I have to be emotionally invested if the story is going to have any semblance of legitimacy or plausibility. That insistence on my part may be detrimental, along with an annoying perfectionist streak that only appears when writing.

I write third person omniscient; that fly on the wall, observing events and characters, but also possessing the ability to jump inside their heads. I see what they do, but at the same time, know their motivations, and what they think and feel (physically and emotionally). It’s a lot of baggage. Not for me, personally, but when writing, I’m carrying theirs all at once. I’m the porter, the bellhop, weighted down with however many characters’ burdens, machinations, doubts, fears, etc. That takes big shoulders, but even so, I have to shake that off and take a break (and none of them tip!).

Still on the hiatus novel, it’s not like when I was doing the earliest draft, when the ideas came fast and furious and I just wrote them down. Now, it’s the hard work, rewriting. A lot of good came out of the rewrite, but it’s become a much more complex story. It’s draining. I was on a writing high when working that early draft, filled with yeah, this is good! enthusiasm,  (for what it was, it was okay). I didn’t have the long-term investment like I do now with this incarnation. I went deeper, into the heart and soul of it, burrowing down into its core. I realize I’ve been working on it for so long, with so many detailed notes, it’s become difficult to approach this novel dispassionately. I may have to detach myself from it in order to complete it, but even that’s a balancing act.

I used to see the advice of “write for yourself.” If I follow that, I can always let the novel lie and die. After all, I know how the story ends.

Utilizing audio in your writing

I was going to write a post about my grand plans for adding an external monitor to my work space. It’s a nice one, but it’s not working out the way I wanted or hoped. All that effort comparing models, price, etc. wasted. Perhaps it’s just a period of adjustment.

I was beyond pleased the other night when I discovered some items for the novel written out on a couple of legal pads. I’ll be adding those things today and also wanted to take a look at another chapter that needs notes crafted into actual, readable, prose. I have some recordings about that chapter that I’d like to revisit, I just have to find them.

Perhaps I mentioned this before. I use a digital recorder in my writing process. This started with the episode guides. I’d watch an episode, taking handwritten notes, then I’d dictate those notes into a recorder. The episode was fresh in my mind, and sometimes, I’d recall something that I hadn’t written down, or an inconsistency, plot hole, or call back to an earlier episode. I didn’t plan on keeping any of those recordings, but they were fun to listen to because of the looseness. They were quite raw, occasionally filled with obscenities, rants, and laughing jags. I’ve saved most of them. Alas, very early ones were deleted due to the first recorder I was using not having capability of file transfer. I honestly didn’t think I’d be saving them. I lost well over two hundred entries.

On that first, inferior, recorder, I also began making notes for various works in progress. This novel, surprisingly, wasn’t one of them. I didn’t think I’d dig it out of the trunk and do anything with it. How wrong I was. With the purchase of a better recorder (stereo, Mp3 files, and USB transfer), not only was I making my episode guide recordings, but I started talking through the novel. There were a lot of things that needed to be changed, developed, or sorted out, and using the recorder was a way to do that. It quickly became apparent that I’d need a second, dedicated recorder solely for the novel. Purchase made.

recorders

I usually do those recordings at night, over a drink or cup of tea. Hit record and start talking. For parts of the story that were nebulous, stream of consciousness rambling eventually got me to something substantial and concrete. And since it’s recorded, I can listen back, and it settles in my subconscious, so the next recording is more to the point, more focused (and, sometimes, parts are worded exactly the same). I resolved two major issues using this process. The number of files was high, but eventually I got it. Unfortunately, transcribing all those files can be overwhelming, especially when some run up to forty-five minutes. Some, however, are a concise two or three minutes; a quick note to add something to a scene, or dialogue.

Part of the reason I like using a recorder is because it’s immediate; think it, speak it, and it’s there. Although I’m a fast typist, I would still lose things. Another benefit is emotion or enthusiasm. I find that when I’m immersed in a dictation, emotion, vocal inflection, and tone of voice for the characters in a given situation come through. Angry, confused, delighted, sorrowful, it’s there. And the beauty of it is, I can listen back to those files and hear what I intend to convey in the written word. My stories have plot, of course, but they are also very character driven, and tend to have a lot of layers. This method helps in those areas as well. It’s also useful to read a chapter into one and see if the writing has the right flow and rhythm, and gauge whether the words make sense and are accessible to readers.

For me, reorders are as essential a tool as pen, paper, and computer.

 

Reading, writing, soon to be reviewing

Unfortunately, other things kept me from getting much writing done the last two weekends, but things are looking good going forward; pesky, specific errands are out of the way and my calendar is clear. In fact, last night, lying in bed, I had a thought that would make for a good sentence in a paragraph I had written earlier in the day. I got up, grabbed a flashlight, and made for the next room, where I jotted it down on a legal pad. All that for one sentence. Thing is, I knew I’d forget it if I didn’t make the effort. So many words, sentences, and paragraphs have been lost in the past due to inaction. I used to do a great deal of ‘head’ writing while lying in bed back in the day. Thankfully, I’ve moved away from that, it’s only occasionally that I have an idea in those moments. I’ve successfully retrained my brain to avoid thinking plot and character developments when I should be catching zzzs.

I’m also in the process of reading a fantastic book. I honestly haven’t been this engrossed, excited, or blown away in a long time. I’m enjoying it so much, I slowed my pace to make it last. Of course, I had to order another title or two by the author right away, convinced I’ll need another fix sooner rather than later. I’m holding off on saying anything about the title until I do a review, although I’ve mentioned the book and author on Twitter.

Hoping I get at least a little writing in tonight, then, back to reading.

My subconscious strikes again

I’ve been toying with an idea for a possible novella. Over the weekend, I hit upon an idea for a scene and  started thinking it through, jotting notes, fragments of conversation, etc. Last night, I started to wonder why that new scene focused so much on a particular thing.

This morning, it dawned on me. I realized the story had an underlying theme that could be summed up in one word. One word, that can be applied in various ways. It wasn’t my intention. All I set out to do was write a straightforward horror story, leaving subtext, complexity, and deeper meaning to my novel.

But that’s not the way my mind works. This isn’t the first time this has happened either, but it’s been a while since I’ve had a new idea, so it seems a little foreign.

My subconscious always seems to be miles ahead of my conscious thought when it comes to writing. I often have difficulty catching up to it, but when in synch, the words can’t stop flowing.

Still in a writing rut

I haven’t done any work on the novel. I considered working on another idea, a horror novella, something lean and mean. Different. I made some notes one day, but I didn’t like the direction it was going. I need to think about it some more. I did, however, mock up a fairly decent cover that conveys horror/suspense. That counts for something, right?

I finally managed to get another book review out. It’s posted to my YouTube channel or you can find it here on the website under Podcasts.

“Whatever happened to that Silver Brook redevelopment plan? Wasn’t someone going to revitalize the resort, make the area shine again?” Connie asked.

“It was a disaster before it started. Herb Fenley and Lou Klaussen approached me about it. They were looking for investors. I turned them down, I know a dog when I see one. Then they promised me the moon and the MIlky Way. Exclusive listings of luxury condos and a handful of mansions they had planned. I told them Silver Brook is a limbo, a no-man’s land. Nobody would willingly live there, at least, nothing human.”

“Rob, don’t start that shit —”

“I’m not starting anything,” he soberly replied, and she thought he paled slightly. “The whole project fell through when Herb Fenley disappeared…during an excursion to Silver Brook.”

 

Books and non-books

Checking in with a quick update. With the reissues out of the way, I have some time I can devote to other things. One of them is reading, something I haven’t done much of over the years. Yes, years. The problem was I couldn’t find books I liked. Except for horror, I’m not much of a genre reader, and I gave up on contemporary fiction somewhere around 1992 (literary fiction that seemed only to meander and thrillers that were too formulaic). I read some 18th century plays, a penny dreadful or two, then basically gave up reading altogether.

But I wanted to read. Something new, different, that I would potentially like, rather than something I’d want to throw across the room or complain about wasting my money on. I finally found some authors that filled the void, Ray Russell and Charles Beaumont. Both 20th century authors and Chicago natives (curious, that), who wrote horror and weird fiction. Russell’s works tend to have invisible layers. When I’m finished reading, I find myself sitting and thinking and those layers slowly start to become visible. Many stories are like little puzzle boxes that, surprisingly, can have more than one resolution.

I’ve started to read the first of three Beaumont collections. I’ve read three distinctly different short stories and they were all good, ranging from horrific, to fantastically whimsical, to slightly gritty and depressing. An interesting observation I’ve made is that Russell tends to be careful with language, meaning he doesn’t usually use curses or obscenities. If he does, it’s rare and rather mild. Beaumont will use expletives more liberally, but not gratuitously, they feel right for the situation. I really want to savor these Beaumont stories, so I’m only reading a few at a time, and I have one other Russell book to read. Reviews will be forthcoming. Russell’s tend to take more time to review because I have to think about them more, and oftentimes, as I’m thinking, I hit on another aspect I hadn’t considered before. Those invisible layers again.

That’s the good news. The bad…I haven’t been motivated to write. I have ideas, I have notes, I have a pile of things that need to be addressed. But, damn it, the motivation isn’t there. I’m considering making some changes. Handwriting some things, moving to a different work area, something, anything, to jump start the process. Maybe I’ll become so frustrated and angry with myself, I’ll start working again out of sheer spite. Here’s hoping.

Hyperlink ToC bookmarks in LibreOffice that don’t fight with Calibre

NOTE: UPDATED WITH VIDEO 6/24/18

If you read e-books, you’ve seen it. The Table of Contents at the beginning of a book, listed in blue. Tap or double-click a chapter name and voilà, you’re there. Nifty, huh? If you use Word, you know how to create that ToC, or can readily find out how, because instructions abound on the web. Heck, even KDP explains it somewhere. But what if you use a Mac and LibreOffice? You’ll find nothing helpful on Amazon’s KDP site because a) they’re indifferent to Mac users, b) they’re indifferent to LibreOffice users, and c) they’re indifferent to Mac users who utilize LibreOffice. What to do?

You could save your ODT file as a DOC or DOCX, which kind of defeats the purpose of using Libre if you ask me. Not so very long ago, KDP used to tell Mac users to hand code all the HTML, good luck! Now their not-so-helpful help entry merely says to use hyperlinks and bookmarks. Which brings me to the crux of the matter.

I use Calibre to create an EPUB from an ODT file. I never created that active ToC because I didn’t know how, didn’t have time to learn, and didn’t have the inclination to wander the web trying to find out how. Yesterday, however, through some semi-useful information found on the internet and a lot of trial and error, I figured it out. There may be a better and faster way, but this seems to work and is fairly simple. Continue reading

Parted ways with CreateSpace

I’ve been busy of late, so I haven’t had time to blog much. I did want to say that as of a couple of weeks ago, I’ve officially parted ways with CreateSpace. I’ve mentioned my reasons in other posts; title suppression, delays in customer service responses, and weak site security. It was unfortunate, because I really liked the swift turn-around when it came to ordering proofs and their end product. My understanding is KDP Print books are of the same quality, so, fingers crossed.

If truth be told, CreateSpace’s website was a bit old fashioned looking and will bounce you to sections you’ve already completed. KDP is streamlined and quick, I’ll give them that. I only wish I had more control over how things list on the dashboard and could set preferences. I’ll be able to test the entire KDP Print process, including ordering, in the next few weeks with the last guide re-issue. From what I’ve read, the method for ordering proofs from KDP seems unnecessarily complicated. Place order, receive an e-mail, order within a set window on Amazon…odd.

I’m still not sold on IngramSpark books. I dislike the thinner paper stock and heavy black of the text. I’ve seen others say they like the crisp, dark ink coverage, but I think it makes the book look cheap. That’s just me, of course, although I just recently read a traditionally published book and the ink was no where near as heavy, it was more in line with a CreateSpace book. I do like having IngramSpark for wide distribution. I’m planning on a hardcover edition for the novel and their pricing isn’t bad, all things considered.

I updated all files and metadata for the first five episode guide e-books and the print re-issues are out for them as well. I’m cruising through the changes for volume six and will release both editions around the end of June. I’ll say here, I won’t be continuing the project. It’s incredibly time consuming and there’s little to no interest. There are other things that need my attention. I’ve had some great ideas for the novel the last couple of nights while shaping late chapters. I’m looking forward to diving back in.

I need to focus

I finally got the third edition print versions of the episode guides out in the retail wilds. I was really just procrastinating, but the KDP Print uploads went off without a hitch. Received the IngramSpark proofs yesterday and, no surprise, I’m less than impressed with the quality. I considered a podcast/video about it, but deleted what I recorded. Maybe I’ll do one in future. I’d like to get the last available guide re-issued but can’t quite muster the enthusiasm to make those changes.

Since the guide project became a black hole that merely sucked my time and resources into a void of nothingness, I’m not continuing. Energy could be better spent on the backlog of novels and novellas I have.

I bought a microphone for audio recordings and think I’ve found the best settings and set-up. Still need a windscreen, but I’m making due for now. I rambled on for quite a bit last night on a new book review and still need to do a bit of editing.

More importantly, I need to focus on my novel. I kept telling myself if I just got those re-issues out of my way, I could dive back into it. Truth is, I find more distractions so I can continue procrastinating, like doing book reviews or anecdotal videos about writing.

So here’s my plan: get the last completed guide out by the end of June. The book review I mentioned is almost done, so I’ll post that in the next week or so. Another book I wanted to review I need to re-read. Since it’s a horror novel, I can always aim for a Halloween timed review. What’s that leave? Work on the damn novel. Here’s hoping.

 

Getting closer

I’m finally nearing the end of this re-issuing business of the episode guides. I’m in the process of making changes to the manuscript for number five and am over the half-way point in re-proofing volume six. Things seem to be on schedule and it’s looking like I’ll finish around the time I expected. Then I can finally get back to the novel.

There’s still so much that needs to be done. I may have to start listening to my files again to fully immerse myself in that world and the characters’ lives. A thought recently occurred to me though; why is it, when I envision a certain character’s home, I always see it in very dim lighting? Always. Then I thought, I see a lot of this story that way. Maybe because of its setting, my mind is ascribing an appropriate sepia tint to things.

Well, onward. The sooner I get these last books re-issued, the sooner I can dive back into it. I’ve been pulled in so many different directions of late; resolving the CreateSpace issues, transferring to KDP, learning the IngramSpark curve, adjusting to Photoshop, using D2D, creating a Twitter presence, fine-tuning this site. I’m exhausted just reading about all that.