I Was A Middle Aged Writer

July 22, 2010

Opening Lines

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 2:05 pm
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I hang out over at Magical Words and a recent post on Beginnings by Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent at The Knight Agency, got me thinking about opening lines.

I’ve always been big on getting opening lines right. You have very little time to catch the attention of your audience, be they consumers or editors or agents, and get them to continue reading. Sometimes the first sentences can mean the difference between a sale and getting the book put back on the store shelf. One of my own personal rules has always been, interest your reader in the first couple sentences; firmly hook them in the first paragraph. Now, the rule is a little subjective. Sometimes I use three sentences, sometimes I have the hook slowly insert over two paragraphs, but the idea is to get the reader to keep reading. In screenplays, the rule is to have something that grips or interests the viewer, something that makes them sit up and take notice, within the first five pages, which they say is approximately the first five minutes of the film.

This is the best advice any editor, agent, or author can give a writer and it’s one of the best pieces of advice this humble and hopeful novelist can give. I’ve been writing for a while. I’ve had a lot of practice writing novel beginnings and the one thing I’m always told when I’ve had people read the beginnings of my stories is that they can’t wait to read the rest. This is what you want. And if the opening shines, not only will it hook a reader, but it’ll stick in the memory of the reader. Some of my favorite novels also had some of the best openings.

It’s a skill that takes some practice, but if you can get this one down you’ll be that much closer to getting your novel sold.

And just for fun I’ll toss some of my own beginnings out here:

“Servos whined and jet retros flared as Ahlia Jensen’s Battle Suit pirouetted in a dizzying one-eighty to face the Palantine class suit that had just blasted by.”
–Rogue 5—

“It was a small room, more of an antechamber than a real room. It made Kel’s back itch just between the shoulder blades, the place where an assassin’s knife might slide.”
–The Dagger’s Champion—

“Micah Rhiannen stood in the middle of the sparring room, padded staff held loosely in one hand and the butt of one end resting on the floor behind her heel.”
–One Who Calls Gods—

“The Starflare tore into the atmosphere of Sargassi far faster than any Hopper had a right to.”
–The Darkling War Saga: The Darkness Between—

“Ryak slid his sword as silently as he could from its sheath; its weight reassuring in his hand.”
–Huntsmen–

D

June 27, 2010

Been A Long Time Since I…

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 5:20 pm
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Updated the ol’ blog. I’m still alive and kickin’. The busy months are slowing down a bit so I can now get back to writing. Since I last updated, we (meaning me, my wife, and a couple of our friends and business associates) have taken the next step toward filmmaking. It was only a matter of time and we’re now in the script writing and planning stages. We have multiple cameras to work with and should be able to get at least a teaser/trailer worked up by this fall/winter.

For my part, this will mean getting the script(s) done and discussed and all that jazz. Still, I’m giving myself time to finish my novel. Theoretically, if I worked non-stop on just the script, I could have it banged out in a couple weeks or so. However, I have my own irons in the fire and they’re blistering hot, so to speak. I’m not going to drop one for the other. Therein lies the slippery slope of regret. So, I’ll be splitting my time between my personal work goals and those of the production company.

As much as the idea of making films is fun, I am a writer first and foremost. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. If either writing gets me noticed it’s worth pursuing. However, my first love and desire is for the novelist moniker. Sure, the film biz could possibly make me more money overall if we actually make a name for ourselves, but in a market that’s virtually flooded with hopeful filmmakers and script writers, a market that’s also flooded with the occasional bad egg that will put you down to build themselves up in the eyes of the big producers (I’ve seen it before pretty much first hand), it’s a lot more likely that I’ll make a modest living writing novels first. Then again, who knows what the future holds for our fledgling production company?

So, if it comes down to one or the other, I’m pretty confident which of the two paths I will ultimately choose. If my novel writing begins to suffer I’ll have to take a step or two back to get back on track. I love my friends (in that purely platonic way, guys), but I won’t let my own dreams suffer for what other people around me want. I’ve done it for far too long already. I’ll help them achieve their goals, but if it stands in the way of mine I’ll have to bow out, at least temporarily. An editor’s deadline waits for no man or indie film.

The other thing that will make up my mind is that we have to make something of this. We have to make money on it or it’s just a hobby, and my hobbies are now taking a backseat to my goals. This is just the way it is. I’m nearly 40 and I have to start thinking of ways to do things like send our daughter to college when she’s ready, or heck, help pay for her pre-school or music lessons or dance lessons or whatever it is she might want to pursue. Because I don’t want her to not follow her dreams, whatever they may end up being. And in a capitalist economy, that calls for money. Sad, but true.

Anyway, I’m a little over halfway through with revisions and then I’ll be sending the revised manuscript back out to people who’ve expressed an interest in reading it. Then I’ll probably read through it again myself and see if there’s anything I’m not happy with, wait for comments, and if there aren’t any more I’ll start scouring the countryside for an agent. Gotta be someone that’ll take this off my hands and give it a good home in the hands of a publishing company. I’m confident in my abilities. Been writing for far too long not to be.

I’ll be splitting my time with a little one hour long film script that hopefully will turn out to be a nice bit of psychological horror mixed wonderfully with a bit of a noir-ish investigation. If we pull it off it could be the start of a great venture.

Fingers are indeed firmly crossed.

D

April 12, 2010

“My” Sci-Fi

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 6:56 pm
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Greetings,

Today I’ve decided to talk about the type of sci-fi I enjoy. It’s the same sci-fi I like to write. And that’s space opera. Not what they call the “New Space Opera,” but space opera as defined by the following description:

“adventure science fiction set in outer space or on distant planets, where the emphasis is on action rather than either science or characterization. The conflict is heroic, and typically on a large scale. “

However, this does not mean that I want wooden characters. I want fully fleshed out characters, characters with depth. The characters have to be the driving force of the story.

I think that there’s some confusion about just which is which subgenre. The “New Space Opera” is an attempt, I believe, to add hard science into space opera and it frankly doesn’t work for me. There’s a place for hard science, it’s called Hard Sci-Fi, as defined thus:

“characterized by rigorous attention to accurate detail in quantitative sciences, especially physics, astrophysics, and chemistry, or on accurately depicting worlds that more advanced technology may make possible. “

However, once again, this is not to say that I don’t at least want some realism in the story. The basics are fine though. The vacuum of space is deadly with no protection and an object in motion will remain that way until acted on by an opposing force, be that running into something or retro/attitude thrusters. A black hole is something you don’t want to get caught in the gravitational pull of. I’m not all that interested in knowing that Bob is on a planet that has an extra four hours in the day or that the gravity is 1.6 instead of Earth normal and therefore everything he does is more exhausting. It’s alright if it’s there, but it should be there for flavor and not detract in the slightest from the story itself. If he’s on a planet where it’s the middle of the night and he’s used to being awake during that time because that’s the time he’s used to for his daylight hours, then I don’t have a problem with him not being able to sleep, unless it starts becoming distracting to to the enjoyment of the story.

I don’t need to know how a technology works to have fun reading the story. I don’t need to know that it’s theoretically possible for the technology to work based on our still limited science knowledge today. In my humble opinion, this is why it’s called fiction. Lightsabers work and kill people, hyperdrives can go 1.5 times past light speed without making them travel back in time, lasers cut nice cauterized holes in the unprotected and make them quickly dead, ships explode (at least until the oxygen is eaten away) in the vastness of space. Folding space tech and wormhole generators are commonplace.

These things are what’s actually made me run for the romance genre recently. Unless I want to go and find used copies of the more traditional space opera sci-fi written in the past, I’m reading sci-fi romance. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with ’em, unless you have embarrassment issues over the romance aspects or some puritanical religious issues. Nearly everything I’ve picked up that’s new space opera novels are part of the “New Space Opera,” much of which I feel I need a degree in the above listed “quantitative” sciences to get. I don’t get that with sci-fi romance. I get the story first. The basics are still there, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story itself and bog me down in minutae.

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison

Truer words… This is why I write the type of sci-fi I do. Because I’m not finding it. And if the publishers are pushing the hard science angle, then I’ll write it for Romance publishers. I’m not a big fan of the EU (extended universe) novels for Star Wars or Star Trek or Battlestar. I don’t really want to read the same universe. I want something fresh. I want a different setting. I want space battles, heroes, villains, lasers, FTL travel, wormholes, singularity generators, terraforming, space explosions, planet killers, aliens, mayhem, and perhaps a happy ending or two. I want good and evil AND shades of gray (yeah you can also use an “a”), I want three dimensional characters, heroes that are also real people who may not always do what’s right to survive.

In essence, I want space opera.

The “New Space Opera”

I’ve read some of this lately and a story shouldn’t have me saying, “bu-wha…?” and wanting to chuck the book out the door. It shouldn’t make me feel stupid or that I’m underpriveleged because I didn’t have the time or money to go and earn a degree in quantum physics so that I could understand the book. I actually hate that I can’t even look up the term “space opera” anymore to find the types of stories I want to read.

There’s a veritable minefield of hard science space opera novels out there nowadays. And of those, a great number of novels that leave me feeling unfulfilled for my fiction fix. I’m just now starting to delve into the sci-fi genre after years of reading fantasy and I’m a big fan of the classics of the space opera subgenre. However, I’ve already seen/read Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar and Farscape. There’s been some decent EU novels in those settings and I’ve read some, but I want new settings now.

And a side note: A story doesn’t have to move slower than molasses in a cold house in winter to have political intrigue or span multiple novels. I’m actually testing novels before I buy by getting library copies first. And it’s a good thing. I’ve picked up a couple novels that I would have wanted my money back on if I’d bought them.

Still, I have stumbled onto some good stuff while trying to sift through the chaff, so to speak and foremost on that list has been Alastair Reynolds’ novels. To date he’s done a fantastic job of adding some hard science elements without giving me the ??? moments. He’s good at explaining just enough without taking it too far and killing the story at the expense of explanation or description. I found his Minla’s Flowers short story in one of those “New Space Opera” anthologies. Truly a needle in a haystack. Minla’s Flowers was actually the only story in the anthology I did like. So I found his Zima Blue and other Stories anthology and liked every short story in there. So, I took a chance on Revelation Space from the library. Now I have Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap coming from Borders (I will support a writer I like by buying their titles). I await them with bated breath. I have an older trilogy coming from them as well by CJ Cherryh. I didn’t test this one first, but some of the negative reviews from Amazon actually helped me decide to get it. 😉 We’ll see.

So anyway, other than a rambling description of what I like in sci-fi I guess I’ll end with this:

There’s a place for every type of sci-fi and fans for every type as well. And if you can’t find the type of sci-fi you’re looking for, write it. And if one type of sci-fi publisher isn’t buying what you want to read it’s not what’s currently the trend, find those that are and run with it.

And if anyone wants to add their favorite space opera authors here, let me know what you like about them and I’ll look them up. I’m in the market, so to speak.

D

February 19, 2010

Second Draft Begins

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 5:27 pm
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Yes, I finally got some feedback on the Rogue 5 novel and I’m beginning the rewrite. It’s been slow going getting started. It seems everything in life the past couple weeks has been attempting to keep me from continuing. It’s actually beginning to make me angry. I need some meditation or something. Maybe some time to myself. Every time I start I have to stop to do something else unrelated to writing.

The feedback was good and found a couple plot holes I’ll need to fill in. Good feedback is hard to come by sometimes, but essential. Often the writer is too close to the work and can’t always see the forest for the trees. So it’s nice when you can hand the manuscript to a reader who can point out the places that may not make sense or the weak spots in the prose. Once you have yourself an agent and editor it’s a bit easier, as these people will be able to help on that, but starting out, you really do need a good beta reader or proofer — someone you can trust to give you good and constructive criticism.

Now if only I can push away distractions I can actually get this second draft written. I’ll keep my readers posted and hopefully I’ll get this thing done soon. I need to start on the next project.

D

December 29, 2009

Starting Another Work

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 5:36 pm
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So I’m starting a new project. It’ll be slow going for a bit until we get through cleaning for New Year and prepping for January Christmas with out of town relatives, but I’m going to be tracking my progress again. It’s a Sci-Fi fantasy novel. Should be a one shot with possibilities for expansion added in.

In truth, I’ve already started it, but I’ve come to realize that the tracking I did on the last novel really helped me keep going. I started hitting the keys on this one during Thanksgiving, but set it aside for when I had more time to work on it. The first thing I’ll probably be doing on it is write up a good brainstorm on not only the world, but the villains, magic system, plot, everything. It’s going to need a lot of structure as far as that goes. I want to make sure the magic and the pantheon is worked up and at least makes enough sense that it’s not broken. The other thing I need to do is read Daily Life in Medieval Times. I’ll need at least a passing familiarity with a medieval setting beyond that found in an RPG. It’s going to be a higher magic type world, so there are likely conveniences I can use to fudge the lifestyle, but I do want to at least mimic a medieval setting.

However, I have another novel I need to work on and I may try to juggle them both. The other novel is an Urban Fantasy and unfortunately it sounds like UF is an easier sell in the current market. The market just seems flooded with UF to the point where I can’t pick up a book lately without discovering that it’s first person urban fantasy, usually with a female lead. Before anyone gets up in arms over that comment, keep in mind that I don’t mind them in general. I rather enjoy Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series and Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage and Skinwalker books, but I get tired of the same thing over and over again. And many of them are. The same, that is. The voice is the same, the writing’s the same, even many of the terms are the same. Jayne’s been picking some up from the library and really it just seems to be SSDA, same sh*t, different author. Change a few things, file off the serial numbers and you have a new novel. And they’re all selling. It makes me not want to touch first person urban fantasy with a ten foot pole unless I have something really “wowingly” (yes I know that’s not a word, but I’m channeling my inner Joss*) different. I just see an eventual future where peple are going to start seeing the same things I’ve noticed and get tired of the genre. I’d rather work on something else and plan for that eventuality.

So, I’m going to a setting that has been in decline for quite some time. I don’t know why I’ve suddenly been drawn to working on Science Fiction. It’s certainly not a desire to go with the underdog, though I’ve never been one to do anything the easy way. It’s not necessarily that I want to single-handedly champion the genre and try to bring it back into a golden age, but there’s just some strange appeal of working in something that’s not currently waterlogged, so to speak; something that’s not already saturating the market.

I walked into a local bookstore recently and checked the shelves. I was stunned that just about the only Sci-Fi I saw there were Extended Universes (BSG, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc). I remember a time when there was a lot of original sci-fi and sci-fi fantasy out there. I saw very little. This bothered me a bit because my finished (well, sort of finished) piece is sci-fi. I knew there was a lot more sci-fi titles in Romance and that’s what my novel qualifies as, but I started to wonder about mainstream sci-fi. I asked around (though I really should have known) of people in the business. I wondered if perhaps it was just the store in question. I was told that yes, the sci-fi genre has been in decline for easily 10 years. In a way it bothered me and it also got me to wonder if I should even try. I mean, if the publishers aren’t picking up much sci-fi then it’s that much more difficult to get published. But my stubborn streak now won’t let it go. I think I can write some quality sci-fi (focusing on space opera and fantasy aspects of course, I’m not big into hard science) and with a little luck get it published. I like the challenge, oddly enough.

And hey, it’s all about revolution. What goes around comes around. Sci-Fi was big once. Fantasy took center stage for a while. Now it’s Urban Fantasy. Who knows, perhaps it’s time for a resurgence of the sci-fi genre. It’s worth a shot anyway.

And so yes, you will be seeing another tracking session on here soon. One that will hopefully help me get another couple novels finished in the new year.

D


* Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and about a bajillion “Jossisms.”

December 16, 2009

Holiday Writing Woes

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 12:26 pm
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So, happy holidays to anyone reading. I decided to write a bit about my current inability to write. I know that sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but it’s true. The holidays are always busy for me and I have difficulty focusing on just one task, as I typically have many different tasks to deal with at the same time. This is frustrating for me because it feels like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing (writing) and feels like I’m not getting anything accomplished.

I know what would help me write, but I can’t really start another word count tracking session, which worked phenomenally well for Rogue 5, while I’ve got so many other things to do. However, I may have to do just that starting tomorrow. I don’t like spinning my wheels. I need to finish the gift I started for my wife and got other gifts to make as well before the Christmas deadline. It’s just frustrating when I feel like I can’t get the writing done. What makes this all worse, is that it gets so cold in the house that I don’t feel like doing any of the work because I don’t take to cold well.

Ah well, enough whining for me. Gotta get that cake made.

I’ll update as time permits.

D

October 21, 2009

Update, But Not

Filed under: writing — danielrdavis @ 3:24 pm
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Insomuch as I don’t have much information to update with. The novel is still in the first draft. I haven’t received any feedback from my proofers yet, which is sad, but understandable. People have lives. I’m just getting antsy. I wanted to have this done and at least looking for an agent or publishing company to send it to by the end of the year. At this point it’s still possible, but I’d have to get feedback soon. I can’t wait to get this finished and ready!

In the meantime I’m trying to get myself reacquainted with an old novel I was working on so I can finish the first draft on it as well. It’s a dark urban fantasy and if it’s a hit it could become a serial. At least, that’s my hope. My wife wants to see this one done next so that’s what I’m going to do.

The script I was revising is polished, finished and finalized and they’re trying to get it picked up by a major motion picture company. Our collective fingers are firmly crossed. The script is sweet now. It feels like a quality piece. HBO Films has offered to pick up distribution if the film gets made, which is a major plus in my book. It means it at least garnered enough positive attention to warrant an offer. I would love to see it funded by a major studio! Not only would it give me and my writing some exposure, but would give Blood and Guts Production and Shane Michaels some exposure as well, not to mention exposure for the Ohio indie film industry. We’ll see how it goes.

And really, that’s about it on the writing front. Stay tuned….

D

September 10, 2009

And Just Like That…

Filed under: writing — danielrdavis @ 1:54 pm
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The first draft is complete! I finished the first draft of my novel yesterday. 87,429 words, 211 pages, Courier 12 point. It’s done! Now the “fun” begins. I get to go back through and find all the things that make me, and other readers, cringe. I get to send it to proofers and have them tear it apart and send me all their opinions. Then, I get to start rewriting the whole thing. But, it’ll be much better because of it. There’s not a soul in the writing world who is so amazing that they don’t need editing. If they think that, then they especially likely need editing. Me, I know I’m a good writer. However, I’m not pretentious enough to even presume that everything I put on paper is the purest gold. Everyone needs quality editing.

I both dread and can’t wait for revision suggestions and opinions. I want this thing to be the best I can get it. Rewrites are needed. I can see stuff now that needs fixed as I’m rereading the thing. The story’s great. Now the tightening begins. With diligence I’ll see this thing tight and finished before November. With luck I can find a place for it before it gets too cold, and perhaps someone willing to give me an advance so I can buy some heat this winter. We have fuel oil…it’s expensive…space heaters only do so much…I’m tired of freezing in the winter. Seriously.

To those who expressed an interest in proofing for me, the beast will hit your inbox shortly.

I’m one step closer to my first finished manuscript. Stay tuned.

D

August 24, 2009

Rewrites Done, Novel Next

Filed under: writing — danielrdavis @ 1:49 pm
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Greetings,

The recent rewrites of the script that isn’t mine, but is are now finished.  I’ve not heard word on whether there are any more needed, but I do know there will likely be a third minor rewrite (called polishing), in the future.  I say “isn’t mine, but is” because when I was originally handed the script it was not much more than a 50 page outline with some good ideas, but some bad ones too.  It was an interesting premise, but was a skeleton in many regards.  In a couple months I’ve built a solid foundation around it and fleshed it out greatly with the things needed for good storytelling.  It’s definitely a quality piece of work now and I’m hoping others will feel the same.

On that note, I was told that the producers have a meeting with Paramount to pitch the film.  Should all go well we may see the script picked up by one of the big companies on the block.  The work is much more solid now and, fingers crossed, it’ll gain some attention in the mainstream market.  I’m especially hoping that the revisions I’ve been doing on it will get notice as well and perhaps push some interest my way.  It would be a great thing to have Paramount contact me asking if I want to work on a script for them.  A great thing indeed.  I want people saying, “where the heck did this writer come from and why haven’t we heard of him yet!”

Until I hear back from Shane I’m moving back to my novel, working to get the final words added into the first draft.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get it finished by the end of the week.  I’m guessing, barring snags, I’ll be able to send it out to my proofreaders by the weekend.  I think I have a good mix of proofers, some like SF, some like Romance, some like both.  It’ll be interesting to see what the feedback is like.  My sister in law loved the first 20 pages I gave her.

Speaking of, we heard a piece of news on the personal front that our sis in law is pregnant.  Awesome!  I’m sure my bro will make a great Dad.  Like me, he had a good teacher.  We wish them all the best of luck and I’ll likely be either the cool uncle or the crazy one.  The one that teaches the bad habits, makes monsters for movies and has all the cool toys hanging on walls.  I’m sure in a few years the kid will want to watch Uncle Dan and Aunt Jayne making monsters, just like our daughter does now.

And that’s it for the news of me for now.  Tune in next time where hopefully I’ll have good news on both the script and the novel.

D

July 8, 2009

Rogue 5 Word Count

Filed under: writing — danielrdavis @ 10:59 pm
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Got 4,626 words today. I’m drained. I was saddened earlier with everything I had to do to my characters, nearly crying. I did get teary though. The final scenes are shaping up nicely. Last chapter coming up and then I add a couple scenes I wanted to add and do my rewrites, then send it to people for feedback. I’m SOO close!


72254 / 80000 words. 90% done!

July 9th, 2009

And with a resounding HOORAHH, it’s finished. Sort of. The last chapter was 3,281 words and was a fun one to write. The last three chapters are gonna be those “just one more chapter!” chapters that people will not be able to put down! I’m very confident that this book’s just going to kick major butt! It’s a great read and I think people will enjoy it. Now I have to add 3 more scenes and then do edits. After I do my edits I send it to folks who will hopefully give me feedback, then more edits, then I go to look for either an agent or a publisher. I actually fully plan on having it done and sent off by the middle of next month. Yep.

So, the MS so far is 75,535 words and I’m sure it’s going to hit 80,000 once I get the extra scenes added and do my edits. It’s 182 pages now and should top 200 after scenes and edits. It loses about 20 pages if I change the font to Times New Roman, but that shouldn’t bother it too much. Guess it depends solely on the size of the font they use during printing.

I am completely and utterly pumped up! I can’t wait!

75535 / 80000 words. 94% done!

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