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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The genre system – is it good enough any more?

12 Comments

digitalart, freedigitalphotos dot net

I’ve been browsing through the ‘Blogs I follow’, trying to keep up with all the discussions, concerns and new releases and I’ve been seeing a lot of posts where authors are grumbling (quite rightly IMHO) about the trouble they’re having with squeezing their novel into a genre category.

And it’s not surprising. For instance, on Wikipedia, there are currently 80 genres and sub-genres listed under fiction alone. Yikes! My own novel,  ‘A Construct of Angels’ would currently fit into the horror, romance, Urban fantasy, religious fantasy, thriller or mystery categories.

There are How-to-Write books on the market that happlily suggest that writers should choose a genre and write within its boundaries if they want to sell. But why should we have to work within such restrictions? We’re not aiming towards library shelves. Some of us aren’t even looking towards bookshops any more. The electronic age has changed all that.

In these days of indie eBook publishing, with sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres sprouting up, the whole idea of ‘genre’ feels overloaded and outdated. Of course, to declare that, an alternative is needed and here’s my (fledgling) idea;

Wouldn’t it benefit both readers and retailers if some sort of ‘tick box’ or a graphic system was introduced where the elements of the book can be highlighted (or illustrated) by a sliding colour scale such as we have with rated domestic applicances (in Europe at least)?

.

energy rating

.

I experimented with a few variations on this theme and didn’t find them to be flexible enough as I was still having to insert genre labels. It was colourful, but no better in terms of classification. Perhaps you could see a way to make it work.

So I tried a pie chart instead. This is a simple chart, created using ten subjects that are most relevant to my debut novel  ‘A Construct of Angels’;

CoA pie chart

Note that I said the ten most relevant subjects – there are others that I could justify adding in there, but ten is plenty. Perhaps ten is too many and five would suffice. Who knows? This is all hypothetical and open for discussion.

BTW, for you with your magnifying glasses against the screen, there’s only 0.5% sex in the story. 😀

In an ideal world, the catergories would be listed from most relevant to least relevant, top to bottom, thus;

CoA pie chart sort

This arrangement should make it easier for the potential buyer to interpret. They would be free to scan the top two or three subjects and decide if the story is for them or not. They might still be swayed if their favourite genre was listed as number four or five – something which wouldn’t happen if the book had been listed under ‘Thriller’ when they prefer to read about religion- or horror-based stories.

I don’t think it would be too difficult for an algorithmist like Amazon to feed the percentages into their version of Deep Thought deep in the heart of Amazonia and begin to categorise the books in this way.

As I said, this is all hypothetical.

Do you think the time has come for the library shelf-based genre categories to be given a shake-up? Perhaps you have a fledgling idea that leaves my suggestion eating dust.

If so, please share! I would be happy to eat humble pie chart. 🙂

.

keep calm plus author inside

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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