Works in Progress
[00:00:31] John is still working on a draft a story for Battletech. He's slapping the words down. In June John reported he wrote 11k words (actually, it was over 17,000). He's also writing a second draft of his Bricklair short story.
[00:01:06] Eric is in the midst of his Don't Wake Up rewrite. He is trying something new this time, editing with different colored pens. He picked up a pack of Uniball Vision Elite pens in Green, Purple, Blue and Red.
I feel like a 12yo school girl!
Eric is using Red for anything that he needs to cut from the story. Green is character conflict, and Blue is for the prose he likes. He noted that Red is the predominant color so far. He's enjoying the colored editing, and thanked John for inspiring the idea. Eric is using "dots" to note the spots of good character conflict or good prose. It allows him to keep a tally of the number of conflict points on the page.
Conflict is where the character is revealed.
He's looking for the conflict that denotes action. Action reveals character and on which empathy with the reader is found.
[00:03:12] Mike had a light week with the holiday and didn't get much writing done. The rough outline for the next section of the content marketing book is done. He decided to split the book into three sections (rather than the two he originally planned on), and the book will include a tips and tricks section at the end. This resolves a problem Mike was having for all those miscellaneous things he couldn't fit into the other sections.
[00:03:59] One of Mike's goals was to write every day in July, and Eric hasn't let Mike get away with anything on this. On the 3rd, Mike remembered he was supposed to be doing daily pages every day and had the dilemma of whether or not to go back and try to catch up. So he decided not to do them.
There's a rule to this, Eric informed us. You can do this, but next month, Mike will need to double his word count.
What's Happening Online
Eric came across a list of books in Gist based on a tweet from Robert P:
Would be nice to read a well written fantasy novel that wasn’t rape-y or teen boy mentality softcore porn. Any lady authors I should peep?
— Robert P (@rbxbx) May">https://twitter.com/rbxbx/status/604492988065169408">May 30, 2015
The beauty of Gist is the ability for multiple people to revise and collaborate on this list of books. By pushing it out there, Robert allowed other people to comment and edit the list. By clicking on "revisions" on the right, a viewer can see all of the changes made to the document.
You start looking at the power of revisioning. You can start seeing the power in editing."
It was interesting to Eric how Robert was using technology to answer a question he had. This reminded Eric of Clay Shirky's Ted talk on Github.
What happens when a new medium puts a lot of new ideas into circulation?
[00:08:39] In Episode 12 we talked about what makes YA (Young Adult) YA. Mike found an article about Darren Shan's experience with writing YA. Why you can't behead the protagonist's mother when writing horror for teens taught Darren that while beheading a character in YA is acceptable, it just can't be Mom. If it's Dad, no problem, but mothers are sacred.
[00:10:18] John was listening to some other podcasts (all one-star ones, no doubt), and he kept hearing about Beat Sheets. Curious, John looked up what Beat Sheets were all about and came across Larry Brook's Beat Sheet Basics 101.
It breaks down like this:
make a list from 1 to 60. These are all going to be scenes, and you can add and delete as necessary.
At scene #1, entitle it, “the opening.”
At scene #2, entitle it, “the hook – if that didn’t happen in scene #1.”
At scene #12, entitle it “First Plot Point.”
At scene number 20, 21 or 22, entitle it “First Pinch Point.”
At scene # 30, entitle it “mid-Point.”
At scene #36 or 37, entitle it “second Pinch Point.
At scene#44, entitle it “the Lull.”
At Scene #45, entitle it “Second Plot Point.”
It's a nice template to use to outline your story, for those plotters out there.
[00:12:00] Eric heard "podcast" and "hobo", and he remembered a podcast recorded by a pair of vagabonds who recalled their stories.
Mike also mentioned recordings of hobos he found: Hobo Conversations and Interviews
[00:13:16] Eric is doing a beta read for an author friend. The novel is a cowboy/western romance novel. He is about halfway through. He isn't a connoisseur of romance, but the characterizations are good and it's well-written.
[00:14:10] John finished Texocalypse Now and is reading a third book The Dark Knight in the Apocalypse Weird. It has moved from Los Angeles filled Zombies to a future filled with Terminators and Hunter Killers.
[00:15:29] Mike got about halfway through (R)evolution by PJ Manney. He wants to put the book down for a while.
One thing that bothers Mike is when a character has all the resources he or she needs to solve the problem. In this case, the protagonist has the ability to create alternate identities, move money, have plastic surgery. Eric likened it to Mission Impossible. The thing that bothered Mike the most is the use of a hacker who can access any system with little to no problem.
"We have a hacker for that" is such a cop-out.
As techies, this drives us crazy.
Eric asked how Mike might fix this writing flaw. Instead of using a hacker to break into the system, it would be more likely that the character could break into the building (where he once worked) or to use social engineering to trick someone into divulging the needed information.
The hacker just becomes a device in the plot. In the movie Sneakers, there are all sorts of social hacking done to obtain the access they needed. Your best bet is to break into a manager's office and pull open the drawer to see what is written on the post-it note stuck in there.
The hacker as device doesn't build empathy for your characters. An author should, instead, think of where else data might be located. Are there backups? Where are the backups stored? Off-site storage? At the manager's house?
As a broader suggestion, Eric brought up what to do with books you read that have major plot problems. If you're reading a physical paperback, you can grab a pen and mark up the story, adding your own comments and ideas to solve the plot problem in the book. See if you can fix the problem.
What do you do when you don't know about a topic? John suggested that perhaps the author is unfamiliar with hacking, and as techies, we know social hacking is much more effective than the brute force hacking people are familiar. But someone who doesn't know that may not be able to credibly write that scene.
Answer? Ask online. Sites like Quora have experts in any field who are willing to answer questions. When you're writing something technical or historical, there's always someone who can answer those questions.
Tech Focus - Draft
[00:22:39] In our last episode, Mike mentioned Draft. Draft is a collaborative tool for writing and editing. Eric posted a short story he wrote called White Van.
Each edit of the work can be displayed to allow everyone collaborating on the work to see the changes made to the document over time. All of the changes are shown between the revisions. Each of the 14 or 16 changes are displayed, and the author of the document can see all of the changes. The author has the option to approve or ignore each change. The site also has the ability to let users comment about the writing.
Everything is contained in a single page. Draft allows you to publish to the outside world, for example: Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, and Box. You can also save the file to your computer, FTP it (file transfer) or even email it. There are also places to publish like Blogger, Wordpress, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Buffer, Twitter, Basecamp, MailChimp and others.
The interface is okay. Some things are unclear where they are located, but once you grok how Draft is built, it makes a lot more sense. For example, comments are only displayed in edit mode and you need to enable them to be displayed. Comments generally stay where they should be, although there may be a problem with long comments. Additionally, it's sometimes hard to see who made specific changes.
Draft would be useful to collaborate on a short story. It would probably be difficult to work together on a longer document. A lot of the features are similar to sharing work in Google Docs albeit without the side-by-side revisions. Blog posts would also be good for writing blog posts, especially when multiple bloggers work together on pieces.
"It's a strong tool. There's a couple little things I'd like to see changed in the user experience, but overall I was impressed."
Eric threw down a challenge for our listeners to post some stories in Draft and sharing some invites to let us check it out.
John was really hoping Draft would include a tree-view allowing users to see a long document like Scrivener does - where chapters can be put together into folders and sections.
"Draft would be a perfect tool for a group of writers who want to self-critique each other's work."
We talked a bit about the [Destructive Readers() subreddit again, and how Draft could be used if it weren't in the charter that documents be listed in Google Docs. Eric got another review on his piece submitted to Destructive Readers. It wasn't as harsh as the first review, but had good points. Eric gave a shout out in thanks to that reviewer.
Draft is available for $3.99 a month or $39.99 for a whole year. There are additional features available in the subscription version. Draft's full feature list.
Ambient Sounds for Writing
Mike asked what the environments in which we write are like. Silence, noise, explosions in the sky or just Shia LaBeouf screaming "Do it!"?
Eric likes to listen to music when he writes, but Mike gets too distracted when listening to music. Podcasts actually work better for Mike when he's writing.
But here are several apps to get you in the mood if you like the ambient sounds of working in a cofee shop:
(Number stations are radio broadcasts where a list of numbers are read, presumably by spy agencies, that are picked up and decrypted by deep undercover agents.)
[00:36:09] ###Write What You Know
One of the "rules" of writing is to "write what you know". That's not necessarily writing what your experiences or background are (if everyone followed this rule, science fiction and fantasy would be really sparse genres). Instead, it is about writing about your emotions and what you know about your needs and fears. That's where you learn to build your characters. Your experiences and emotions will play into how they act and feel.
Digging into your heart and soul to determine what scares you or drives you, and how that reveals your character. You can use that in creating your characters and how they reveal themselves to the reader. Getting deep to the place where you write the best stuff is scary. Bringing yourself to that depth to evoke emotion can be terrifying.
You don't need to be a "suffering artist" to find that place, however. In Sylvia Plath’s First Tragic Poem, she describes a horrible tragedy that came from a not-so-terrible event. Sylvia had drawn a pastel still-life, and when her grandmother tossed her apron on the art it smudged. The sense of loss she felt about it became a poem about a seemingly more terrible event.
Writing that Pays
Escape Artists is an organization that produces several podcasts including Podcastle (fantasy), Escape Pod (science fiction), and Pseudopod (horror). Now, Escape Artists is launching a new quarterly ezine called Mothership Zeta, and the editors of the magazine are looking for authors!
From the Mothership Zeta site:
But right now we’re close to opening for fiction submissions for issue 1! From July 12-25 we will be looking for your stories that: are original, are up to 6000 words long, and manage to hit the “fun” button that we’ve long asked for in Escape Pod.
We are offering $0.06 a word (pro SFWA rates) for new fiction and $30 for flash pieces (up to 1000 words). We will have more information next week, when it’s time to submit!
What is speculative fiction?
Speculative fiction is a lot like science fiction, but most people think of science fiction as something like Star Wars or Star Trek where there are robots and spaceships. Speculative fiction doesn't necessarily need to go that far. It can be something very much like our real world, but where "what if" has been asked. Speculative fiction tries to answer that question.
Mike was reminded of Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. In this book, there is a black market for alien artifacts. Everything else in the world is the same as it is now, except in this little area near the alien crash site.
Eric asked if White Van, his short story, would be considered speculative fiction. John thought the story could be if it were longer if it answered a question about the world. Mike saw it more as a thriller.
[00:47:02] John is still working on the same things as last time. "Second Verse same as the first.
Mike will continue to not understand Eric's writing and completely miss the point.
Eric is going to continue to do multi-colored edit with his Uniballs.
For the record, at this point the podcast degraded into the conversation of three nerdy 12 year olds, especially once Eric realized what he said about his colored Uniballs.
We are live on iTunes and we would love your reviews! Right now we can only get 5-star reviews, but we would love our listeners to go out and write us an honest review.
To sweeten the deal, Eric is going to have a contest for Typehammer reviews. At different times, Eric is going to pull a random reviewers' name from the iTunes reviews and that reviewer can win a prize.