Three Act Structure, and why my second act might be the problem…

So a few months back my alpha reader (hi mum!) had a look over the first sixteen chapters or so, and told me some things. The first 9 chapters or so were great, but then it started to… nothing. It went back and forth, doing all kinds of things but none of them leading in a discernable direction.

I’ve been working on it, hacking out all the little side-trips to find that direct route… I think it’s working nicely, and I’m itching to get out those chapters and wave them around again, see what people think of them. Great great, good good.

Now I think I’ve finally worked out exactly what the real crux of the matter is, the problem. That first bit that my reader liked? That was the First Act, the set up for the story, where the lead character gets dumped in the mess and promptly buried up to his neck in it. This bit worked because it served that purpose admirably.

The second part that didn’t fare so well? Well it perfectly coincides with the end of the First Act, and I think it had fallen victim to the dreaded Second Act syndrome  without me even knowing that was a thing (dun dun duhhhh). The Second Act was supposed to show:

  • the protagonist taking direct action to fix the problem they’d been dumped in
  • which should have made things worse
  • and then with a bit of a struggle seemed to work…
  • but NO! disaster! now things are twice as bad as they were before!
  • the protagonist tries more things, and comes under pressure to grow/change
  • etc blah blah…

So when my character should have been rapidly charging off down this very deliberate path, instead they were doing all these little side-quests, like finding a drink (important, but not exactly driving the plot).

I’ve since lost a lot of my enthusiasm for the three Act system (see why here), but the lesson is that each part of the story has to pull its weight, and serve its purpose.

SO! I’m continuing on my edit run, but now I’ve got a plan: take that T101-meatsack-of-a-second-act and hit it with small-arms fire / the delete key, until nothing but gleaming steel cybernetic organism remains.

Have you written your story with any specific act structure in mind? Beginning Middle and End at least? Is the middle sagging like mine is? (hey, the story I mean).

In other news, watching a tiny baby eat solid food can be pretty damn entertaining, even over facetime

 Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

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Booky book book, thing about books and writing. And noodles.

It’s reallllly late, but I need to write a blog post because I’ve been writing one every day for the last three days and I don’t want the good times to end. *face hits keyboard*

So ummmm… Ooo! I made sexy noodles today. That’s what I’ve called them ever since my wife asked me what I was cooking one day, and I answered “Sexy, sexy noodles.” They’re actually not bad, more like a home ramen dish than anything else?

Sexy Noodles

  • 1/2 an OXO chicken stock-cube
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (Okay, I know we’re starting to get a bit salty, but that’s what makes it so good)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • H2O of the boiled variety
  • Noodle cakes (big bag of instant noodles in individual cakes, sans flavouring)
  • Broccoli
  • 1 slice kraft cheese (full fat, because decadence is full-fat plastic cheese*)
  • Mystery meat (not in the sense that you shouldn’t know what it is [you really should] but mystery in the sense of anything goes… Beef? Slice it up! Bacon? SURE! Chickens feet… ehhhh probably not so much)

Chuck a pan on the stove. Not a huge pan, since this is a one-person recipe (pretty big person though, especially if you add a bowl of rice to finish the soup off). You want to dissolve the stock cube in jusssssst enough boiling water that the noodles could technically submerge in there.

Dump in the sauces and oil, stir it up. Should be brown and smell nice.

Next is the mystery meat. It goes in now so it’s fully cooked by the time the noodle cake goes in. Did I mention this whole thing takes less than ten minutes? Yup, speedy AND artery-warming/clogging/hardening goodness.

As soon as the meat is defrosted (you can totally chuck it in whilst frozen, so long as it’s in small enough bits), it’s broccoli bombs away! Don’t worry about de-frosting that either, or giving the greens much time to cook: veggies are best before they go too soft anyhow. You want to wait only until the stove has got things boiling again and then…

NOODLES! Chuck them in, and sort of… slide them under the broccoli and meat. Wait a few short minutes and you’re done.

Dump everything out (including the broth!) into a big, deep ramen-style bowl.

Find the noodles with your chopsticks / fork, and fish them up to the oil-globby surface.

Place the slice of cheese on top of the noodles, so that the heat starts to melt it.

Now slurp that sucker down!
Hah, my first (and possibly last if the oil and salt does its magic) cooking class. Let me know if any of you actually try this.

I also started reading a book about an American assassin. It’s called American Assassin, and it’s written by *goes to check* Vince Flynn. It’s not a bad book actually. It has pages and things. Seems a bit pulpy, with all the usual ingredients thrown in there (harder-than-hard guy with a vengeance streak, check. More passports than you can fit in a safe deposit box, check. Blonde Bond-girl one nighter, CHECK!) but it does have some good points. Namely the character motivations and back-stories are good. The thing is damn near laser crispy too, so easy to follow and it whips along at a cracking pace with zero redundant info-dumps. Mmmmm laser cooking. I bet you could make mean nachos with a laser…

Anyway, that’s me for now. Let me know what you’re reading / cooking at the moment.

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester
*Decadence can also be eating nutella direct from the tub with a spoon

Posted in Food, Reading | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Put the pen down…

FOREWORD: This is a post I actually saved as a draft on my phone more than half a year ago, but never got around to posting. I was expecting the arrival of my daughter at the time, and had just finished the second re-write of my story…


 

Red line editing

Seems the best course of action when you’ve just printed out some two hundred and thirty double sided A4 pages of manuscript is to just read through them. Sure, you can make a few brief red pen notes here and there, but really you just want to zip through it like a reader might, getting a feel for flow, plot consistency, etc.

I can’t put the damn pen down. I just can’t. I’ve spent all evening to get through the first hundred pages, because I’m editing with a comb that started out like splayed fingers, but is now so fine-toothed that light itself couldn’t escape.

Tomorrow I’m going to allow myself ONE comment per page. Try to wean myself off the red pen madness.

Do you ever struggle to just READ your own stuff?

In other news, baby clothes are tiny and awesome. Who knew?

Baby clothes

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester


POST-SCRIPT: These massive slabs of notes are still sitting on my shelf, and only 40% of the edits have yet been incorporated… It’s slow going, but I’ve got to keep-at-it if this book-baby’s ever going to get born!

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DC Comics making “just for girls” line… a good thing marketed poorly?

I’m EXTREMELY pleased that DC Comics are trying to get girls into reading their stuff (I’m hoping my little Magpie daughter will take an interest when she’s older), but I wish they’d market it a little differently…

“Just for girls?” So they’re basically saying: “our regular comics aren’t suited to you, you need special pink sparkle versions of things.”

This becomes a problem when boys at school will say, “that’s not real DC, that’s the stupid girl version.”

It also, once again, precludes young boys from liking or getting to know about girls and girl things, setting them up for a perpetuation of the current cave-man state of affairs…

Still, pretty cool that they’re bothering at all.

Here’s a better run-down from Chuck Wendig at his blog Terrible Minds.

What are your thoughts on gender divisions in the marketing of creative works? Is there a better way, or are these just a fact of life?

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

Posted in Childrearing, Reading, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Writing Treasure Hunt – Initiating hanky panky. Wow, awkward.

This here Writing Treasure Hunt is going to be a recurring segment, where I find hidden (writing-related) booty to plunder, and share it with ye. Yarrrrr!

On the subject of booty, the treasure I’ve unearthed this time around is about, well, just that. It’s a post about getting your characters from A to B in the romantic sense, and by “B” I mean coitus. Intercourse. Rumpy pumpy. The beast with two backs.
Ahem. Let’s begin, shall we?

The article is written by fellow writing blogger Fiona Quinn, and is based on research about attraction and physical intimacy, of which there is apparently a checklist of “Twelve Stages.”

What this neat, short, and very simple blog article puts forward, is a way of acknowledging the steps that many people go through in the start of an advancing relationship. It walks through from the first “checking out”, past the eye contact, the first exchange of words, and into the hand contact, hand to shoulder, hand to waist, hand to hair/head, kissing… and yeah you get the idea.

In real life, I’ve not given this stuff a lot of thought. I’ve always just winged it (wung it?), which:
a) doesn’t lend itself to writing believably on the topic
b) falls short of doing my characters justice by letting their relationships develop organically (read: gradually)
c) might go some way towards explaining my hit-and-miss track record

I don’t think I went through each of these steps every single time in my own pre-marriage adventures (such as they were), but I’m sure that most encounters were some kind of subconscious, mutant version of it. Following these steps precisely (when writing) isn’t the point either; for me this is still a very useful tool, because it gives a discrete sequence as a kind of “gold standard,” that I can then shoot-up all-to-hell and ignore completely.

How is that useful? Because by thinking about what the expectations might be you can figure out where the friction, the awkward screw-ups, the heart palpitating: “what the hell am I doing here?” moments, and all that fun fiction-writing stuff should go. This part (for me at least, as a non-romance author) is the real reason I’m including the love interest scenes in the first place, and the only way I’m putting actual sex scenes into my story is if it serves a central plot or character development purpose. It’s about ramifications, not titillations (though romance genre writing probably has a big dose of both)

Also, with the sequence: if a writer wants to mix up the order that’s fine. At least by giving it some thought, we’re not going to leave readers scratching their heads. Him? With her? No way… I’m sure I’ve read books or watched films that left me thinking the love interests weren’t developed properly (or much at all… I’m looking at you, James Bond)

And now I hear some of you saying that for Daniel Craig, steps three through eight miiiiiight not be strictly necessary… and to that I say: fair enough, but it’s hard to put that kind of thing on paper (without perhaps stepping into graphic novel territory). Until then, believability is king, and all the “rippling”s and “shapely”s in the world aren’t going to make up for some actual chemistry.

What are your thoughts on developing relationships in fiction? Is some kind of structure necessary, or just a “feel” for what works? I know Harlequins and other bodice-rippers tend towards the formulaic. Or do you just wing it, and maybe get this stuff right after your beta readers have had a fogged-up-glasses read-through?

So anyway, share in the bountiful writing treasures at the link above. Yahrrrr!

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

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Writing on iPad, strangely satisfying

Sooo, I bought an iPad for purposes of Facetime with the (currently overseas) wife and kid. Yes, I know there’s Skype, but my family seem to find Facetime simpler.

Anyway, since I’ve got the thing I decided to see if Pages (apple’s word processor app) was as good as I remembered from my train-commute days.

Well, apparently it is. Now I’m tappy-tapping away on this little mini bluetooth keyboard and making pretty neat progress.Ipad with bluetooth keyboard for writing

Cool things about it so far:

  • Pages seems better than the Microsoft offering for synchronising. It was just easier to set up and less conflicts / hang ups (YMMV)
  • Pages seems better than the Microsoft offering for starting in the place you left off. It does this very intuitively, quickly, and consistently
  • Pages seems better than the Microsoft offering for scrolling through: much smoother and easier to do (and thus faster).
  • The screen is plenty big, much nicer than trying to write on a phone, but not as awkward as a laptop
  • Bluetooth keyboard seems to never need charging… I’ve charged it maybe once since I bought it. I would like these same batteries to be in everything, thank you.
  • The whole thing folds up tiny
  • Can be used during take off and landing (although I haven’t tried using the bluetooth keyboard for this)

Whether this will equate to a swiftly finished edit or not… well GTA V coming out for PC this week sure as hell hasn’t helped me much with putting the hours in, but I’ve certainly found the bit of writing I have done to be much much much MUUUUUCH more convenient.

Oh, and my other excuse for a lack of progress last week: I had a brilliant few days out in the bush, camping and four wheel driving with some good friends up in the hills about five hours out of Sydney.

Beautiful sunset in the bush Delicious campfire cooking Panorama of the Barrington tops

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it anyway.

So what’s your favourite on-the-go writing system? Napkins? Leather-bound scribbling tomes? A laptop?

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

Posted in Outings, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gamergate has spread into SFF. Time to Don my SJW shiny armoured suit

SadPuppies_3257433bSo, Gamergate has migrated across mediums and had a go at ruining the Hugos: the world’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy awards.

If you’ve missed the news, read about it all here.

Sad Puppies, a bunch of privileged older-generation white men, have gamed the voting, perhaps because last year women and LGBTs (or people including them in their work) won a fair proportion of the awards.

The question I have is… why? It’s such a pathetic scaredy-pants reaction to the changing world we live in, the IMPROVING world we live in. SFF becoming more inclusive doesn’t mean there’s ever going to be a shortage of scantily clad alien babes and laser-gun battles. Boobs aren’t going away, and neither are explosions. A few more of the boobs might have brains behind them, or (heaven forbid) fancy other ladies, and a few more of the explosions might be made by protagonists of colour, but that’s about it.

A bit of recognition going to minority voices isn’t going to steal away all your privilege, oh, unless you’re a crap writer to begin with (BURRRRRRN).

I feel sorry for the nominees, because everyone will just vote “No Award” this year.

Why won’t these dinosaurs just die already?

Signing off in rage. Feel free to add your comments (for or against) below.

D.R.Sylvester

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How It’s Gone So Far, and My NEW WRITING SPACE!

Not bad.

I’ve been busy enough that the time has flown by, and we’re almost at the one week mark. I’m getting stuff done, which is a cool feeling after how busy the last 5 months have been (sorry little Magpie daughter!)

Your comments were digested after much rumination and were IMMENSELY helpful; the lack of reply was down to my blogging/gaming PC being dismantled since Saturday (more on that later). Now that I have the chance to acknowledge you properly, thank you all. If you’re ever in Sydney I owe you a beer.

SO WHAT ACTUALLY WORKED?

1. Facetime has been excellent
(remind me to write a post about how buying an ipad has been the best reunion with iOS imaginable), allowing my technologically challenged wife and infant daughter to talk / squeak-and-wave-arms at me. It has also been fantastic for my writing, since I also bought a tiny bluetooth keyboard for it.

2. A good night out. Or two. Or three.
I had a pretty good one on Friday, with a late stagger back through the rain, but there were no spirits involved (unless you count soju, which for this one you really shouldn’t: chamisul is only about 20% ABV). The company was true. There was late night snacking.

On the Saturday I LANned at a good mate’s place and we bashed Diablo whilst consuming tasty Korean beef and drinking James Squire.

Monday night I had a bottle of mead with friends over dinner.

I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging…

3. A routine
The simplicity of: get up, get washed, get tea, answer email, walk dog, get coffee, do work, cook rice, etc. etc. This has been great for feeling relaxed, and it doesn’t matter so much what time you start, just so long as you go through the same routine.

So all in all, I’m doing good now. I maybe-just-possibly had one sadface moment when my Tim Minchin Youtube playlist rolled over onto White Wine in the Sun. It was the line about passing the baby girl around the room like a puppy at a preschool. The damn funny-guy caught me off guard.

Ahh well. No plan is perfect.

So, with my new computer parts installed, a new computer desk to put everything on, and finally the problem of where I’m going to do my writing (in a noisy, distracting-ful house) HAS BEEN SOLVED!

TADAAA!wpid-20150325_131931.jpg

After months of debating whether to de-crapify my garage, build a tiny office-closet under the stairs, put me in the laundry room, get a backyard-office-cube thingy, or even a caravan (really?!), we stumbled upon the most obvious solution of all: move the furniture around in the bedroom, and put a compact desk in there. This is an awesome solution for several reasons:

1. Nobody uses the bedroom during the day anyway.
It’s an empty, unused, lockable and secluded space except during sleeping hours, which makes it perfect for writing.

2. It costs nothing and requires no modifications to anything.
I bought a new IKEA desk, because I didn’t want an old ugly desk in our nice bedroom: I wanted something that hid the cables, was compact, was white like everything else in there, etc. The thing is though, I didn’t have to buy anything, I could have just simply moved my desk and hey-presto, writing lair complete.

3. It forces you to keep a clear and clutter-free workspace
Nothing encourages work like a neat and tidy desk, free from distractions (with the exception of perhaps trinkets and pictures, because I needs my trinkets). Nothing encourages a neat and tidy desk like your wife having to look at it every morning and judge you, with her judgiest judgement face. It’s a synergistic effect, with guilt feeding into productivity, and synergy is good apparently.

How is your writing space looking for you, and what’s working / what’s not?

Anyhow, that’s me for now. Looking forward to getting a lot of writing done this weekend since I’m locked away in a foreign country (work trip).

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

Posted in Thoughts, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

This is going to be a Long Seven Weeks…

Baby's foot, Dad's handThis is going to be a long seven weeks.

I’ll try to avoid being overly sentimental while writing this. Not likely to succeed, so uh… consider yourself forewarned.

For the past fourteen months I have been with my wife all day, almost every day. She works (or worked: she’s now a full-time mum) from home, as do I. I’ve gone for the occasional night with the guys, and business trips here and there, but for the most part it’s been around the clock.

We’re not one of those couples that rattle around one another (not that I’m knocking those, they’re great too; sometimes fighting is part of the fun. I’m just talking about us though). We’re like a freaking BMW, or a Swiss watch or something, only without the fancy price-tag. Smooth running, low maintenance.

We walk the same way to get coffee together every morning, weekdays and most weekends. We try to beat each other at spotting the first feral rabbit in the park. We laugh about dumb shit. A lot.

For the last five months we’ve had a daughter too. I have absolutely no complaints, she’s awesome. Everything is pretty rad (hate us if you want).

But now they’ve gone to Korea for a few short weeks. They’ll be back soon enough, and I’m even going to join them over there for a while in May. Great.

But you see, the thing is, after dropping them off at the airport this morning (without a tear in sight), I realise that I actually needed them to be here. It’s not just that I’m missing them, but that I feel something is utterly wrong in this picture. Does not compute. No comprende. Computer says no.

They were a shield: an excellent protection and support from anxiety. Anxiety surrounding my work, and adult life in general.

*Haha! Oh D.R… You and your adorable first-world-problems*

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a trend: I’ve been growing angrier, more cynical, and more suspicious. When driving. In public. Forget waiting for old-age, I’m already considering taking up residence on the porch with a shotgun and a bottle.

So I realise that I’m probably gearing up for a bender tonight when I finish work. It’s something that happened last time we were apart as well. What I’m deciding though is that I’m definitely not going to do that. Not. This. Time. There won’t be any ludicrous consumption of alcohol. There won’t be any staggering, vomiting or aggression.

Because damn it I’m supposed to be an adult. A father.

So my question to you all is this: – what’s a good way of letting off some steam, something that doesn’t involve leaving a scorched crater for a hundred kilometres* in every direction? So far the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack seems to be some help…

Thanking you in advance.

D.R.Sylvester

 

*Definitely not to be taken literally. May contain hyperbole.

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Weekend Writing Warriors #7

I’m back with another snippet for this WEWRIWA (Weekend Writing Warriors) thing.

To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

Image

This scene is from just before my 5th & 6th WeWriWa snippets, where Roger is just hoping to get to his holiday in one piece, but a navy blockade has other plans.


Claxons blared, and radar-blips rose from the enemy line like bees from a rock-smacked hive.

“Missiles inbound,” warned my ship’s computer, “So if you’re not too busy, now would be a good time to prevent our destruction.”

“Very well, battle stations!”

“With what crew? If you’ll recall, you marooned everyone, which makes me a one-droid-show: loading, shooting, steering, stoking-”

I banged my fist on the holo-deck, and thought fine thenIf you want something done right

I laid both hands on the wheel and flexed my neural implants, until suddenly I was the ship, seeing the stars and feeling the cold of space around me.


That’s it for this week’s eight. Looking forward to checking out what everyone else has posted!

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

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