Matt Lichtenwalner

Mobile mapper for TomTom - roaming the US and Canada constantly. Maybe a bit of art and/or writing here and there to spice things up.

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A long time ago, Mark and I had a discussion about movie creation methods, and he said something that I've been thinking a lot about recently as I start to put this book together.
The basic idea was this: There are films that are written, like Gone with the Wind. They're lovingly crafted because there is a story that is crying to be told. Then there are movies that are engineered. Think of any Steven Seagal movie ever. There's a formula to be followed and at the end of the line, you have a "movie" (or in my case, a book) that should be some level of popular based on prior data.
Of course I want my book to be more Gone with the Wind and less Steven Seagal. The problem is that my personal tastes and (I think) writing skill are far more Seagal.
Hell, even as I'm starting to put the book together, the skilled writers among you may have already noticed that there's a sort of assembly happening. Here's the setting points I want to get across. Here's the character development points. Here's what I don't want the book to be.
Not one mention yet of the story's plot. No thought yet to the timeline. Well, not enough thought to put it down on paper anyway.
It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if this turned out a little more engineered than written, but I suspect a good deal of how well I will feel I did will be wrapped up in how far away from the engineered end of the spectrum I manage to get.

3/6 '16 5 Comments
Have you written a book before? If not, use ALL the crutches you can reach. Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. There is such a thing as a second novel after all.
Oh, and I've never _finished_ writing a book before. Started a bunch over the years.
I like what Shelle says she's going to do: write write write. Finish a draft. No matter what. THEN edit.
Me 3. I've signed up for Writechain as well now. It kinda reminds me of the mindset for NaNo, but with the focus shifted to longevity. Seems like good stuff. I guess the proof will be in the pudding. :)
Absolutely agree. Still, I have done so much reading (especially over the last 3 years) that I don't want to make all of the _obvious_ amateur mistakes.

Going to be tricky doing the one while avoiding the other, but there's only one way to find out if I can...

Going to just try writing for 1/2 hour today. Been too long, and I need to do more blogging. If I try to keep the time limited, maybe that will help get me to just do it and not procrastinate.

More Thoughts on the Patch Book

  • It's the 80s. I really want to create the feel of the 80s in the book. A lot of books that I read 'hold up' really well when compared to t.v. shows. Part of the reason is that there isn't much that provides a sense of the time period. I want to fix that in my book. Reading the Jack Reacher series and the Harry Bosch series of books both have small things: more smoking of the characters, and the use of pagers, for example that denote the era the book takes place in, but even those aren't huge. They don't pull you as the reader into that time period. It's more like stage dressing. For the 80s? I'm thinking about description writing - clothes, hair styles, etc. More zeitgeist-y stuff like opinions on drug use, people slowly becoming aware of AIDs, breakdancing.
  • It's Detroit. Here again, I want to give a real sense of the setting. Not just some light "it's a major metropolis" feel like SO many books do. The Dresden Files start to cover what I'm thinking. But there's a catch, and that is:
  • Patch is not a rocket surgeon. It's too tempting for many first time authors to make their Mary Sue characters 'perfect'. They think of the right answers just in time. They do the right thing whenever facing a challenge. Yes, Patch originally was based (very loosely) on a teenage me, but I want him to be more compelling than that. One way I hope to do so is by making him far from perfect. He'll have many faults, starting with the simple concept of him not being a genius. No, I don't want to make him a mindless brute, but he's just not always going to put 2 and 2 together perfectly. He will be more in the "If at first you don't succeed, break shit."  mindset. Well, later in the book anyway. At first, he'll be more of a scared runaway teenager mindset. Which brings me to the idea:
  • Patch is just a scared, inexperienced kid. There's a ton of YA coming of age stories out there ever since... well, since way back, but I think that the combination of the ubiquity of access to the internet and the Harry Potter books have created a boom in this particular niche. This book won't be within the genre. At least, it won't be in the genre as I currently understand it. It will be graphically violent. It will involve characters making bad choices and having to live with the consequences. It will be... rough. While most of the YA stuff I see out there wants to believe itself most of those things, my sense is that they tip the hat in that direction and then run the other way.
  • Depth of character will be important. I kinda hinted at this in my previous post about this theoretical book, but I wanted to bring it up and think about it again. Whether the character is Patch, one of the villains, a random npc, Patch's motorcycle (which he will first encounter here), or the local diner, depth (and arguably breadth) of character will be important to me. I really don't want a superficial/fleeting feel to things. That seems like a clear sign of an amatuer writer. The trick (it may be obvious, but I want to get it down in black and white) will be brevity while creating that depth. I do not want to be grotesquely verbose in order to create non-superficial characters.

Thoughts on How I Want to Write It

  • Write fast, revise often, and get good feedback. I'm listening to a lot of writing and self publishing podcasts. One theme that seems to come up frequently when the people being interviewed are surviving on their writing money is the way that they have removed the illusions of the 'traditional publishing world'. An example? Authors who create a series need to write fast. While I really want to avoid my first book having the "Holy crap - he clearly wrote this for NaNoWriMo!" feel, I do want to come up with a process where I could (if I love writing long form as much as I think I will) produce rapidly. This combo (fast, but good) seems to be best done by doing two things:
    • Writing consistently, and fiercely. In truth, I'm thinking of taking a bit of the NaNo mindset here by writing for an hour every day, or at least 5 days (to give myself a 'break' weekly). Maybe more, depending on how my drive holds up.
    • Reviewing / editing a lot. When I listen to these interviews, you can hear what isn't being said. The authors will gloss over things like the editing process. Or rather, how they talk about it tells me volumes.

Ok, I actually want to write more (and maybe I will later tonight) but time's up so I have to put the pen down.

3/5 '16 3 Comments
Re: Just do it ... I have been thinking about this post and about your email, and the conclusion I came to is that I needed to kick-start my own writing.

I think #WriteChain would be good for you - you set an accountability challenge, pick a place to post your results (they're fans of twitter) and then do what you said you were gonna do.

More details about the above ...
Hey, this was really interesting.

One of my challenges, on the rare occasions when I attempt fiction, is to listen to the characters and step away from perfect person itis. My lawful good background makes this tricky. I might perhaps be better at it, now that I've seen 45 years of how good people do bad things and vice versa.
That is exactly the idea for me: even good people fuck up. Sometimes even for "bad" reasons. Sometimes on purpose.

I think a big part of the book will be illustrating Patch thinking in black and white when the world exists in shades of grey. That will arguably be the biggest way I will show his lack of maturity. The character will remain someone who sees the world in binary terms (even well into adulthood) but it will be a bit more glaring here in his youth.

As usual, I have roughly 9,873,407,654,870,923 ideas for projects running around in my head. I will sometime record voice notes for the different ideas while I'm working (it's tough to write while driving, but a voice memo...). Sometimes I even have the focus required to transfer those voice notes to written notes in Google Keep. (Side note: I LOVE me some Keep. If you like Evernote, but want something faster/simpler, I can't recommend it highly enough.)

Anyway. One of the myriad of project ideas that keeps floating to the surface (especially when listening to writing focussed podcasts) is that of writing a Patch novel. It would be a kind of 'origin story' - telling readers how he comes to be the character than many of you already are familiar with. But he's still young. He's probably in his late teens at the start of the book. By the end? He's a werewolf vigilante.

It's the 80s. With the whole DARE campaign (and others of its ilk) in high swing, drug 'pushers' become his primary source of income.

With that basic structure in your mind, I've been working on a list of things that I would like to incorporate into the story. These aren't plot points, or story arc, or... well, they're just elements that I think would help to make my story stand out. In  most cases because I haven't seen these elements anywhere else.

  • Patch won't know he's a werewolf. This is usually an element (in most of the wereworf stories I've read anyway) that is glossed over. The character will say something like "I keep waking up with blood on my mouth the morning after the full moon. Holy shit! I'm a werewolf!". Except here's the thing: If that was to happen 'in the real world'? There's no way you would assume you're a werewolf. Werewolves don't exist. You would come up with a large number of (perhaps even more terrifying) reasons, but you would not think you were a werewolf. I kinda love torturing Patch, and this is likely to be a good source of material for that.
  • The audience won't be able to say for certain if Patch is a werewolf or not. If I write it correctly, Patch will come up with reasonable enough explanations for things, or there will be enough 'evidence' that maybe he's just really fucking nuts. Well, he is, but maybe that's all that he is. Maybe.
  • Patch won't know what he's doing. He's a kid. He'll be up against some very bad human beings. Things won't go well. He'll make a LOT of mistakes. Again - most stories I read, there's a training montage, and suddenly our hero is bullet proof. Ummm... no.
  • The villains won't be 2D. This is one which I have seen done well elsewhere, but it's important to me. Mostly because I've never accomplished it properly elsewhere. I've always written about Patch as an outlet for my... aggression. As such, I didn't really want to think too much when it came time to write. That tends to have meant very generic bad guys. This would be a serious effort and thus a little thought/planning is well called for. This brings me to:
  • Life is not black and white, but almost entirely shades of grey; Patch, in his youth and ignorance, however, only sees black and white. Again with the idea of realism in the characters, I want to make young Patrick into the brash "I know what's right, dammit." sort that I was in my youth. He's got a lot to learn in a lot of different senses.

There are a bajillion more, but this is a start for the list. Of course now that I'm trying to think of the long list that has been in my head all day, I can only come up with 5.

2/20 '16 4 Comments
Ugh, Keep. I liked it until it started auto-deleting everything I added to it, a few seconds later. No explanation, no leads, no support, crickets.
Thomas Boutell 2/21 '16
Whaaa? Auto deleting? I hadn't heard / experienced anything about that. That would absolutely be a deal breaker (obviously).

So let me make sure I understand what you're experiencing: You enter a new note, return to the list ('saving' the note) and then it's gone?

Nothing like that with old/existing notes?

My inner rebel doesn't want to go with Evernote, but if this starts happening, I may have to reconsider.
Matt Lichtenwalner 2/21 '16edited
Like, I add things to a list, and those items disappear a few seconds later. True for old and new lists. Kept happening after I tried uninstalling from my Android to see if it was a sync issue; my desktop just kept doing it. I'm done with any software that has no proper support and eats my work!

I'm not sure why going with the Googleplex is rebellious. Not that I have a big problem with the Googleplex, my whole life is in Docs.
Thomas Boutell 2/21 '16
Oh, the Googleplex itself is pretty far from rebellious, but in the 'note app' spectrum, Evernote seems to be the clear dominant.

Sorry to hear about your headaches. I'm going to be a little extra paranoid now.