Writers – lets pool our resources… the revisit.

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About six months ago I suggested the pooling of writers’ knowledge in an attempt to create a sort of go-to page for any writers who were struggling with details of a particular concept. True, Google and Wikipedia can provide facts, but I still believe there’s little substitute for direct experience. Alternatively, some writers may have thoroughly researched a theoretical subject (who has direct experience of star drives, or ancient Greek rituals for instance?) and added their own spin. They may be worth consulting.

I’ve added the names of willing volunteers to my page ‘Writers who have offered their knowledge,’ my own included.  If you feel that you are able to assist other writers in their endeavours, please step forward. As stated below, we’re not trying to rival Wikipedia… just offer some helpful advice to other writers.

Here is the original post from mid-2013;

Some time ago I posted Jack versus Einstein– a post that discussed whether it was better for a writer to be an expert, or a Jack of all trades.

Whilst I’m quite happy to be the latter, it occured to me that many of us will still have some knowledge of a subject that others may find difficult to research. If I was to include a scene in my next book where a character baked… for example… cupcakes, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking. Alright, sure… Google would probably be my first port of call, but there’s only so much you can learn from trawling websites. Some scenes need the personal touch that only an experienced friend can provide.

This idea popped up whilst I was leaving a comment for Setsu (Hello and thanks for the follow!), an expert in martial arts. I wish I’d known Setsu when I was crafting my scene in ‘A Construct of Angels’ that involved a swordfight between Michael, the constructed angel and his Anakim foe, the self-styled Damocles. Instead, I had to trawl the interweb for sword-fighting techniques, finally chancing upon a gentleman who had written a book on sword-fighting and who was able to give me a few pointers.

Later, when I was writing a couple of triage scenes for the same book, I was lucky enough to be able to send the relevant passages to a paramedic I’d met in York. I’d done most of the research about the (serious) injuries on-line. He returned them with complimentary notes, but suggested some useful improvements – most likely stuff that I wouldn’t have found on-line.

So, what do you all think about this; listing what you consider yourself to be fairly good at?

Perhaps you’re not expert, but we’re not writing reference books here. We just need enough to craft a scene that is reasonably accurate and fairly thorough. I would be the last person to consider myself ‘expert’ in anything. I’m sure that I share that feeling with many of you (aren’t most writers self-doubting introverts, after all?). But I have amassed a fair bit of knowledge of a few disparate subjects in my twenty-five fifty years on Earth (who changed that line?).

So why not put that knowledge to good use?

For instance, I may be in a position to advise writers who are struggling to craft a scene that requires knowledge of *takes deep breath* quantum physics, or starship design – both subjects I love (yeah, I know. I’m a Geek. I admit it). I also love geology, cosmology, and a few other ‘ologies’ that I won’t bore you with here.

This is my proposal; Could you help a writer who was stuck for some details? Would you be willing to answer questions from other writers? Could you spare some time to read through some extracts and help them on their way? Could you at least point them in the right direction?

We could all benefit from this – and write better and stronger stories as a result. Think of this as a long-term project. It may not be something that would benefit your current WIP, but can you be sure that it might not come in useful for the next one?

So, to kick off, I’ll list what I can offer to other writers. If I can’t answer questions on these subjects immediately, I have a good stock of reference books to hand.

Here goes…

I have a good knowledge of;

Cosmology (star formation, beginning and end of the universe).

Quantum Physics (atoms, particles, energy and radiation).

Starship theory (drives, environments, construction).

Theory of time travel, plus cause and effect.

(Dare I say this?) Rocket Science.

Planetary behaviour including some aspects of geology and geography.

Some World War 2 history, mainly European Theatre.

And on a more day-to-day basis;

Mechanical engineering.

Vehicle mechanics, some military strategies, aircraft behaviour.

Chemistry, physics, engineering.

Movie-making (scene construction to post-production).

Factory production-line techniques.

.

Perhaps you could add to the list and we might build a healthy database of subjects that would give our writing that ‘expert’ touch.

It doesn’t matter if your knowledge overlaps with that of another writer – we all know different facts about similar subjects. List what you know, and a writer who is stuck can always throw out a question to more than one ‘expert’…someone is bound to know the answer.

If this is successful, ‘experts’ might be able to advise on single scenes (like my sword-fighting scene) and tidy up the facts a little.

I read recently how many film-makers are simply ignoring physical laws for the sake of drama (don’t get me started on ‘Independence Day’ – although I still love it, or ‘Armageddon’ – which drives me craaaazy).

Let’s be better than that.

Let’s get it right. 😀

.

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Writers; Lets pool our resources – what do YOU know about?

9 Comments

riesp books

Some time ago I posted Jack-versus Enistein – a post that discussed whether it was better for a writer to be an expert, or a Jack of all trades.

Whilst I’m quite happy to be the latter, it occured to me that many of us will still have some knowledge of a subject that others may find difficult to research. If I was to include a scene in my next book where a character baked…for example…cupcakes, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking. Alright, sure… Google would probably be my first port of call, but there’s only so much you can learn from trawling websites. Some scenes need the personal touch that only an experienced friend can provide.

This idea popped up whilst I was leaving a comment for Setsu (Hello and thanks for the follow!), an expert in martial arts. I wish I’d known Setsu when I was crafting my scene in ‘A Construct of Angels’ that involved a swordfight between Michael, the constructed angel and his Anakim foe, the self-styled Damocles. Instead, I had to trawl the interweb for sword-fighting techniques, finally chancing upon a gentleman who had written a book on sword-fighting and who was able to give me a few pointers.

Later, when I was writing a couple of triage scenes for the same book, I was lucky enough to be able to send the relevant passages to a paramedic I’d met in York. I’d done most of the research about the (serious) injuries on-line. He returned them with complimentary notes, but suggested some useful improvements – most likely stuff that I wouldn’t have found on-line.

So, what do you all think about this; listing what you consider yourself to be fairly good at.

Perhaps you’re not expert, but we’re not writing reference books here. We just need enough to craft a scene that is reasonably accurate and fairly thorough. I would be the last person to consider myself ‘expert’ in anything. I’m sure that I share that feeling with many of you (aren’t most writers self-doubting introverts, after all?). But I have amassed a fair bit of knowledge of a few disparate subjects in my twenty-five fifty years on Earth (who changed that line?).

So why not put that knowledge to good use?

For instance, I may be in a position to advise writers who are struggling to craft a scene that requires knowledge of *takes deep breath* quantum physics, or starship design – both subjects I love (yeah, I know. I’m a Geek. I admit it). I also love geology, cosmology, and a few other ‘ologies’ that I won’t bore you with here.

This is my proposal; Could you help a writer who was stuck for some details? Would you be willing to answer questions from other writers? Could you spare some time to read through some extracts and help them on their way? Could you at least point them in the right direction?

We could all benefit from this – and write better and stronger stories as a result. Think of this as a long-term project. It may not be something that would benefit your current WIP, but can you be sure that it might not come in useful for the next one?

So, to kick off, I’ll list what I can offer to other writers. If I can’t answer questions on these subjects immediately, I have a good stock of reference books to hand.

Here goes…

I have a good knowledge of;

Cosmology (star formation, beginning and end of the universe).

Quantum Physics (atoms, particles, energy and radiation).

Starship theory (drives, environments, construction).

Theory of time travel, plus cause and effect.

(Dare I say this?) Rocket Science.

Planetary behaviour including some aspects of geology and geography.

Some World War 2 history, mainly European Theatre.

And on a more day-to-day basis;

Mechanical engineering.

Vehicle mechanics, some military strategies, aircraft behaviour.

Chemistry, physics, engineering.

Movie-making (scene construction to post-production).

Factory production-line techniques.

.

Perhaps you could add to the list and we might build a healthy database of subjects that would give our writing that ‘expert’ touch.

It doesn’t matter if your knowledge overlaps with that of another writer – we all know different facts about similar subjects. List what you know, and a writer who is stuck can always throw out a question to more than one ‘expert’…someone is bound to know the answer.

If this is successful, ‘experts’ might be able to advise on single scenes (like my sword-fighting scene) and tidy up the facts a little.

I read recently how many film-makers are simply ignoring physical laws for the sake of drama (don’t get me started on ‘Independence Day’ – although I still love it, or ‘Armageddon’ – which drives me craaaazy).

Let’s be better than that.

Let’s get it right. 😀

.

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One year on from my first post – and look what’s changed!

12 Comments

100th post

A few days ago, WordPress sent me a reminder that I’d just published my 100th post – and I was taken aback.

I suddenly realised that it has been almost exactly one year since I first created my first ever post; The best rejection letter ever?

And what a lot has happened in those twelve months – just look at the stats;

Last July                                      This July

1 post                                            100+ posts

2 WP followers                             235+ WP followers (update?)

20 Facebook followers                 900+ Facebook followers

no Twitter account                        475+ Twitter followers

No eBook published                      eBook self-published

No paperback                                 Paperback very close to completion

.

This is all part of spreading the word, of building an author platform – and it’s looking quite good, IMHO.

Along the way, I have met some very talented people. Some of them are constantly beating a path for the rest of us to follow, whilst others are still following their aspirations to publish. Many are very, very close to that first eBook or printed book.

Then there are the non-writer bloggers who post recipes, amazing photographs or offer philosophical insights that leave me thinking ‘wow…’

I have learned a great deal since last July. Back then I had just exhausted my 102-strong list of UK-based Literary Agencies and whilst I’d received some encouragement along the way (notably The best rejection letter ever?), I was no closer to being published.

At that time I was on a knife-edge, wondering if I ought to begin querying US-based agencies – but electronically. I could never have afforded the postage costs. I was already several hundreds of pounds down (I still am) and further investment would have crippled me financially.

And then I began hearing, via Facebook and WordPress, about self-publishing. I was (at first) curious – and then intrigued. I wanted to know more.

The seed was sown. As the rejection letters continued to trickle in, I decided to learn all I could about creating and publishing an eBook, just in case none of the agencies picked up my book. They didn’t – so I launched myself into the world of ePublishing. The rest, as they say, is history. Very recent history – and something I could not have done without help from fellow bloggers.

Capture

Sharing – it’s the best part of blogging! It makes the lonely business of writing feel a lot less…well, lonely. We all get to read about other people’s experiences on a daily basis, both the good and the bad. Most notable is Ryan Casey’s runaway success with his short stories and novels and Michelle Proulx’s difficult journey with the publisher iUniverse. Both authors have flourished, but their experiences contrast greatly. But even bad experiences can teach us all something. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

What’s most encouraging is the great feedback that I’ve received. Every comment makes me want to post again…and again. I love seeing that little orange star at the top of my dashboard. It’s encouraging to know that someone had read and ‘liked’ my words. But even more heart-warming is that little orange speech bubble. Whatever I was about to do, whatever words I had in mind…they get sidelined as I click on the bubble to see the message that has been left.

A blogger once remarked that comments are addictive. They were right. I love them! They have delivered support and encouragement in so many different ways. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave me feedback.

I wonder if my second year of blogging will be as fascinating and thrilling a ride as the first?

See you all in July 2014!

Keep blogging (especially Shay Starcaller)!

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Post Script;

What I hadn’t expected – and this came right out of the blue as I was preparing to post, was this;

Capture

I really had NO IDEA that I’d been with WordPress for so long.  It’s true that I’ve chronicled my writing endeavours as far back as 1999 (see The Homeworld Saga), but that was all retro-written just to document where my modern writing began to coalesce properly.

But four years?

Wow…

Time does fly when you’re having fun doing what you love the most!

See…for I have Scrivened!

5 Comments

Mattox MS

I’ve now successfully used Scrivener to compile, complete and sell a short piece of work (15,000 words) as well as continuing to construct a complex novella about Valkyries and I’m pleased to report that I found it to be a very helpful writing tool.

I have no doubt that the seasoned Scrivern-ers amongst you will be nodding sagely, as I am telling you something they already know – that Scrivener is very, very useful to writers.

But if I tell you why it was so useful, then perhaps the reason for my praise will become clearer. The screen shots below might be the first you’ve seen of Scrivener, but for the old hands they will be all too familiar (in a good way).

Simply put, Scrivener allows the writer to build their manuscript chapter by chapter, or in  the case of the novella, scene by scene so that the story can be built in sections. Ideal for Planners, but also useful for Pantsers like me. 😀

If you wanted to be this organised in Word, you’d need either a dozen separate Word docs or you’d have to put up with scrolling / word searching / constructing a table of contents in order to hop back and forth between research and story…and back again.

Scrivener screen shot

As the Scrivener scenes / chapters are filled, they can be linked together (compiled) at any time to form one temporary document which can be read straight through. This will also provide a word count for the whole project (visible at the bottom of the Valkyrie document above). The document can then be dismantled with a single click and you can go right back to working on individual scenes / chapters. Or the whole project can be exported in multiple formats at any time. This has an added bonus – it keeps projects free of all those irritating little formatting errors that Word documents accumulate…errors that make eBook formatting into a nightmare.

Scrivener screen shot2

Additional folders can be created ad infinitum, depending on the extent of your research. Templates of characters and their relationships (not shown here) and settings, geography and history can be placed in named folders, ready for instant access.  Images can also be added into the binder – see the last item in the binder above – plus video and audio files.

This is particularly useful to me; I use an Acer Netbook for my writing. It’s an Intel Atom device that grinds to a halt if more than half-a-dozen documents are opened at one time – something I would need to do if I was to have all my research and reference images to hand. But by using Scrivener, I can now keep all my information in one place – and it’s all accessible from a single folder with a single click. Plus, having everything close at hand keeps my Windows taskbar clear of multiple documents.

Scrivener also allows the writer to create folders relevant to the chapters close at hand, in the preferred order and with multiple sub-folders. I’ve tried this using Microsoft and find myself having to include numbers as part of the folder names to prevent them from being sorted alphabetically.

Although my Scrivener trial period hasn’t ended, I’ve now gone ahead and purchased it. At £34 (about $50), I’m convinced that it will be an invaluable asset to me. All my future projects will now be created in Scrivener, only becoming Word documents at the very end.

asifthebes thumb

If you’re interested, Scrivener is available as a trial download from here;

(Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Literature and Latte. I’m merely pointing the way for you.)

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