Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Evolution of Man

About three months ago, I took all my notes for my most recent science fiction book, RAGE, and started turning it into a true novel.  At that time, names like Jonas Vega, Eli MacKenzie, and Victoria Donovan were just names.  They were the ones that survived the culling, when I trashed all the rest of the possible names that, to me, sounded like absolute rubbish.

Despite spending quite a bit of time on outlines and character development before working on the novel, the characters were nothing more than names on a list.  There was a picture of their faces in my mind, but they had yet to speak their first word on the page.

Then I started writing.

How is it that characters that had never lived until a few months ago suddenly have their own voices?  How is it that characters that were just names on a list three months ago are suddenly telling me how to write their next dialogue?

I recently finished RAGE and finally did a review of the book, cover to cover.  I was amazed how many times I stopped reading, furrowed my brow, rubbed my chin with concern, and said to myself, “He’d never say that!”

I firmly believe that books evolve, rather than “get written” or “are created”.  I do an outline for every book I write, but so rarely do they take the same path as I intend.  It’s not because I’m fickle (though I am), it’s because the characters take me places I would never have guessed even months before.  As they evolved in the story, they told me what should come next.  I had to cast aside my preconceived notions about the characters and listen to what they had to say. 

It’s amazing how much insight they had into themselves!

I’m very glad that RAGE is done and I hope my beta reader and editor appreciate the work.  I’m also glad I managed to shut up and listen to my characters.  I often think they’re way smarter than I am.

And yes, I managed to turn this blog about writing a book into an argument about “evolution” vs. “creationism”.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Working an Atrophied Muscle

I recently read that writing is a muscle like any other.  You have to exercise it like any other.

Two months ago, I might have looked at that person like they were crazy.  Writing is a skill that you develop over time.  If you've followed any of my blog so far, you know that my skill set has improved drastically from college until now.  It's not a muscle that atrophies if unused.  It's a skill like riding a bike.  You never forget how to ride a bike.

Have you ever tried riding a bike after not doing so for a few years?

Go buy yourself a helmet, you're going to need it.

I wrote the Brink of Distinction series during a deployment from 2007 - 2009.  Since then, I've worked on a lot of outlines and developed story ideas, but haven't written more than a few paragraphs for any actual novel in the past three years.  I had tons of great story ideas, but that was a large part of the problem.  Every time I thought it was time to start a book, I couldn't focus on JUST ONE IDEA!  My flights of fancy meant that I was thinking about Fantasy while writing Science Fiction.  It just didn't flow.

That all changed early this year, when I finally settled on a single book idea.  Having seen a large upturn of cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Soldiers who had redeployed from either Iraq or Afghanistan, I realized that the story "Rage" needed to be told.  Despite the futuristic turns, the issues are very realistic.  Anyone who's ever worked with a charity realizes that any publicity is good publicity, even when it comes in the form of futuristic PTSD.

When I started writing, I realized that writing, to my dismay, really was a muscle.  I'm not a brain surgeon (if I was, I sure as hell wouldn't be worried about sales on my latest novel), but there is certainly a part of the brain associated with writing ability.  And my poor part of the brain had shrunk.  The good ideas still existed, but the writing felt awkward and heavy.  Well, heavy handed... it's supposed to be a 1960's slang "heavy" topic.

Forcing myself to write the chapters, however, quickly also made me realize that like any muscle in the body, you have muscle memory.  If I don't run for a few months, running sucks.  But do it a few times, and your body starts to remember the motions on how it's supposed to go.  Writing was the same way.  Write for a couple weeks, and suddenly my mind remembered how to build sentence structure and formulate dialogue.

Now, I am proud to announce that "Rage" is only 12 chapters away from being completed.  That may seem like a lot, especially in a 49-chapter book, but considering I'm writing two chapters a day, it means I'll be done by next weekend.  Then the book goes to the editor and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I hope you all take the time to read "Rage" when it officially comes out.  There's a lot of heart and soul in the book.  The whole novel can best be summed up by the story's tagline: "It's hard to civilization when you're no longer civilized."

Look for "Rage" to be released either late October or early November 2012.