Random thoughts on writing…

Caveat Emptor…

This is the way ‘I’ do things. I’m not saying it’s the right way or the wrong way. It’s the way that works for me. YMMV, etc.

I guess my philosophy is do the best I can, but don’t be afraid to fail. And I’ve been told I’m more of a ‘storyteller’ than a writer…

Which is one of the reasons I do the amount of research I do. I want the story to be ‘right’…

For example, even thought I know a pretty good bit about guns, if I’m going to write one into a story, I do the research to make sure I get it right. Sometimes, the research takes me down some rat holes that I really don’t need, especially when the ‘good idea fairy’ gets in cahoots with the muse and goes, “Hey, this would be a neat addition to the story.” Ummm… No, it wouldn’t. And it’s going to be one sentence, maybe two, in the novel.

I don’t do infodumps even with the research, because I like to let the reader build the character visualization and descriptions of the ‘world’ they inhabit in their own minds. To me, that gets the reader more involved with the story and vested in the story line.

And speaking of story lines, I have had characters take off in directions that leave me going WTF? Where did that come from… Sigh. I’ve also had ‘minor’ characters that won’t go away, moving up the story hierarchy, or ‘demanding’ a supporting story line of their own. Sometimes that has some interesting impacts… sigh

We had a discussion last night after dinner about beginnings, endings, and the great swampy middle… The beginning is usually pretty easy, the ending can be easy, if you already know where the character(s) are going to end up.

BUT… How they get from the beginning to the end can be ‘interesting’, to put it mildly. More than once, I’ve rearranged chapters, or rewritten them after I moved them in the order of appearance and had to ‘fix’ issues that created, but it (at least to me) made the story better.

Which brings me to another point, I can’t just churn stuff out to ‘get something out there’. And I don’t write linearly, I jump around in my writing, depending on what the muse is giving me that day. And if I get hung up on one story, I have others that I’m also doing, although there is one ‘primary’ story at any given time.

The other thing I try to do is listen to my readers. Sometimes that ends up being a novella, or a short story, like the Rimworld- JACE story, or the one I’m currently working on for John Cronin’s backstory.

Which brings me back around to research. There are significant differences between writing current fiction and military science fiction. Current fiction is easier to research, since you’re looking up things that exist. Science fiction is predicated on ‘guesses’ or extrapolations of what potentially can exist and be useful in the future.

The other thing is looking at existing or newer technology and extrapolating from research being done in those fields. As an example, I’ve never read a novel where there is a good description of ‘how’ all the people on a colony ship are supposed to survive once they get to their planet, (Not saying they aren’t out there, I just haven’t run across them). So I looked at emerging tech and came up with containerized housing, unfold the ‘container’ multiple times and tab ‘A’ goes in slot ‘A’, etc. the second container would contain essentials that don’t fold flat, e.g. kitchen, bathroom/fresher, furniture, etc. Those containers would be tractored onto the colony ship, stacked how ever high it would be necessary, since those ships will probably be assembled in space, etc. Once at the planet, the pair would be tractored down and (some assembly required) become a functional, furnished housing unit.

Lastly, I rely on my alpha and beta readers, along with my commenters to keep me on the straight and narrow, so to speak. They don’t sugarcoat their comments, tell me truthfully when things work, and when they don’t. I would say they are the ‘unsung heroes’, laboring in the background, and all they get is a free book for their trouble. But John Q. Public reaps the reward for their work.

The other thing is conversations with other writers, both informally and through panels and breakouts at Cons. The ability to bounce ideas off other writers is a great help, and it does help you keep your sanity… more or less… 🙂


Random thoughts on writing… — 11 Comments

  1. I have determined that my reading and writing gifts don’t work well when generating stories, but are GREAT at writing reviews. But we DO have (at least) one point of commonality:

    I have spent LOTS of time researching semi-trivial aspects of a story. That tends to happen in two cases:
    1. Something I read REALLY interests me! As an example, I was reading “Do No Harm” the other day (it’s in the 4HU) and I encountered a term: Molecular Gastronomy. I figured it was just something invented for the story, but I checked it out, and BEHOLD! there really IS a field of study called Molecular Gastronomy! So, that’s one.
    2. I encounter something I’m pretty sure, or absolutely positive, is an error. This seems to happen MOST with firearms, but it can occur in other areas as well. When I hear of a transaction that involves a commercial silencer being sold for $75, and it’s NOT from a druggie who just stole it from some poor schlub’s house, I HAVE to make a point that those things are expensive, and restricted, and no firearms dealer is gonna do that deal for such a paltry amount of cash. I also get a burr under my saddle when a legitimately acquired AR-15 is hidden in a trunk to avoid arrest by the state patrol, and a standard 1911 is loaded with .44 magnum.

    So, while it may take you a long time to get it right, I appreciate it; and, it also saves you from having some nasty reviewer smugly point out your error in print.

    Keep on keeping on!

  2. Thank you for letting us not only see the process of writing, but letting us contribute to the process.

    Again, thank you.

  3. There are a lot of authors out there who engage in magical thinking when they write. You don’t, and that’s important

  4. Writer? Sanity? Are you claiming there is a real world relationship there?

  5. However you do it, it works, and keeps us coming back for more. While my writings have been primarily private (and nowhere near as extensive as yours), the rabbit trails are sometimes more interesting than my original purpose. To me, anyway.

  6. Story tellers are great, Hemingway, Steinbeck were described as story tellers and they could really tell a story. Good old W.E.B. Griffen aka Butterworth had several series I really enjoyed when he was in his prime, same story over and over but at times great at times mailing it in but what the heck? We don’t have to read everything, at least that’s the way I am rereading your Grey Man series but I don’t connect with SiFi at all anymore however I am delighted there are others who do enjoy it.

    As for research and believability for me that is crucial and I abandoned the Reacher stuff years ago because of the way he treated guns, maybe his books have improved but in one case where the guy threw away his rifle and pulled out his pistol because Reacher was closing with the bad guys in a field and night and knew he would have to fight at close range.

    I recently tried an author who had bad guy snipers doing a lot of killing and the good guy avoided being killed from over a thousand yards away when he heard the report of the rifle and ducked and I threw the book down and started cursing. I also stop reading and use my computer to research maps and events and I enjoy finding out the author is right and my perception is wrong, that’s called learning something new.

    Please keep on telling stories and I will enjoy reading them, I have been a decent reporter, good report writer, a bit of a story teller after the fact, and wanted to write fiction but that is a gift I just don’t have however I am a good reader so I have that going for me.

  7. Pat/OldTex- Those are EXACTLY the things I try my damnest NOT to screw up, for just the reasons y’all state.

    John- It’s a two way street! 😀

    LL- You don’t in your books either! Which is why I like your stuff! 😀

    Carlton- Loose connection… VERY loose… 🙂

    Rev- Yeah, sigh… Hours lost, for nuggets that will never see the light of day… LOL

  8. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who gets stuck in the mire of the middle. I’ve got one story I’ve been playing with for a while. I written the beginning and the end. But the middle bores me. And if I’m bored writing it… the readers will get bored, too.

  9. JMI- Yep, that’s the problem we ALL face… sigh Either that or write a 4000 word short with a beginning and ending and nothing else…

  10. How to colonize a planet:
    1. Scout: Popup tents, small vehicles with built in generators. MREs and bottled water. Spaceport plotted and beaconed.

    2. Prep: Modular tents, large vehicles, dedicated generators. Cooking trailer, ROWPU water, latrines. Dirt roads. Scouts prospect for resources. Spaceport prepped.

    3. Assembly: Earthmoving equipment, prime power generators. Prefab buildings. Water treatment and sewerage prep. Gravel roads. Construction printers assembled and prepped. Mining and quarrying begins. Farm plots surveyed. Spaceport completed.

    4. Construction: Construction printers build according to programming, using locally available materials and some feed stock. Water and sewer completion. Solid roads with utilities. Farm lots prepped.

    5. Occupation: Colonists arrive. Towns occupied and completed. Farms occupied and completed. Political squabbling begins in earnest.

    Fun fact: prototype building construction printers are already a thing. https://www.aniwaa.com/house-3d-printer-construction/

  11. I cannot find the quote, but Terry Pratchett once said something to the effect that one should be careful about the small characters your create because they tend to take on a life of their own.