The Course Books Journal corresponds with the Course Books Series written by Rick Austinson. More information about the series can be found at:
Monday, December 20, 2010
Editing your completed or semi-complete work.
As I cast about for something to write about today, I noticed what windows I had open. At the moment, I’m working on editing a short story for book 4 in the Course Books series. So let’s talk about that.
Today I’m going to review a good character-building tool that I’ve been using for some time. This is the “Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test” a web page created some time ago and actually recently updated. I’ve known about it for a few years now, and like to run the test on characters every so often just to get an over-all feel.
Well, I’ve linked repeatedly to my own personal wiki, I figure its about time I explain why. A wiki can be one of the most powerful tools available for series writing, expecially genre fiction where you want to have a lot of details.
Today, I’d like to discuss something near and dear to my heart: Back to the Future.
As writers, we can learn a lot from movies. Some movies are pretty lame, sure, some are only awesome because of good cinematography and bug-budget special effects(things we cannot copy in writing). But many movies have exceptionally good writing, and that is something we can learn from.
I won't be doing this very often, but as I craft this new series I think every now and then I will post a short segment. I don't even know where this scene is going, but it'll be somewhere in the Consecution Books:
The sci-fi genre takes a lot of flak for comparing space travel to seamanship. While most of this is just overworked humorists looking for something to rib, a few people take it as actual criticism. Unfortunately, this is pretty unfair.
Yes, today is the 69th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, I’m pretty sure you all knew that. I hope you did, anyway. Now that the important history bit is out of the way, let’s learn how we can use events like this in our writing.
I think one of the key factors that puts good, believable world-design above the sort of stuff that barely makes into Saturday morning cartoons, is, in fact, economics. And I don’t mean a fictional in-world economy, I mean thinking with economics.
In part one of this series, I talked about initial planning. Today, we’re going to rip into outlining. I’ve talked about outlining before, but today we’re going to take a look at my own personal process.
With 2010 winding to a close and 2011 on the horizon, it’s time to set a few goals for the next year. The Next Progression, first volume in the Consecution Books series is almost done, and 2011 seems like the right year for the second book to be written. So, as I write it over the course of the next 13 months, I will also be taking you through my process, so you can get a look inside what I do.
So I originally sat down to night to spill out the last 10 or 15 pages of my latest novel, but it occurred to me that I hadn’t made a post today and I’m not really in the mood to start 2-3 hours of writing after the day I’ve had. So instead I’m going to discuss the topic of chapters.
In the continuingsaga of world-buildingtechniques, today we’re going to sit down and take a look at building fictional government systems. This is actually not that hard, since real governments are so mind-bogglingly stupid that you pretty much can’t make your fake one seem any worse.
Specifically, we’re going to discuss a particular method for quickly and easily building a deep, multi-faceted character. Sort of a cheap-and-dirty shortcut, if you will. For the purposes of this exercise we’re going to be building a character here on earth, just as a shortcut.
Detail is what separates good writing from bad. Most of the time, we go with the “there is no right or wrong way” mentality, but this is one area where that’s not true. Detail is simply better than no detail.
So you’re working on the next big novel, it’s full of awesome swordfights, princesses being rescued, and dragons enjoying ketchup. Great. So how do you measure your progress. I too am working on a novel, its called The Next Progression, and it deals with the continuation of the Course Books which I have mentioned a few times here.
To all of you struggling writers out there, I would like to use today’s entry to offer you a few words of encouragement. I’ve been talking about outlining and world building, but today I just want to tell you the secret to writing.
Yesterday, I touched briefly on the concept of creating a fake religion for your story world. We will go over more world-building techniques later, but today I am going to talk about critiquing.
The best resource for writers is other writers. Even if its just a friend you bounce ideas off of, or an older mentor, you need to give and receive critiques to be a better writer. Having counseled many young writers over the years(and even ran a creative writing club) I can say with great confidence that knowing how to give constructive criticism is vital.
As you produce your fictional world, sooner or later you will also need a belief system. This one sounds crazy, but realistically the citizens of your fictional world are going to create a religion. Author of the Gust touches briefly on the wacky ninja religion invented for that series, a religion that seems to focus primarily on performing rituals at a series of shrines. Their culture is filled with an endless array of ritualistic practices, driven by a series of documents referred to as simply sacred scrolls. Though it is not a primary story element, the series builds on the religion all through the three volumes. In the third book, the primary antagonist invents his own series of scrolls that allows him to cease control of a large portion of the ninja population. This is especially infuriating for the main protagonist, who has seen the original scrolls and knows exactly what the ninja religion is truly based on.
Now, this is the sort of thing that takes a lot more thought than most people realize, and a lot more effort than a lot of writers are pulling to put out. This is why so many books, even in the fantasy genre, manage to be set on earth. The theory is that having your book about wizards going to school in a castle take place on earth, this will be a lot easier and more believable than building a second world. All of my books to date have been set in the same second world, I’ve even created a massive wiki to help keep track of all the details.
One vital element of any good fantasy setting is, of course, magic. It’s basically what separates the genre from realistic fiction and action/adventure. Not that it really matters, most genres are so closely lumped together these days that the libraries don’t even bother separating them. My book(which, technically, is both sci-fi AND fantasy, at the same time) is on the shelf between a whole mix of genres. Author of the Gust frequently gets mistaken for fantasy, despite including no magic(and sort of technically being sci-fi, kind of).
So I talked last time about the importance of outlining, today we’re going to approach character creation and development.
Now, once again, a major novice mistake lies in the lack of planning. I have had quite a few beginners insist up and down that the “best” way is to just start writing the character and see how they turn out.
Today I’m going to talk about craft, specifically the first part in a series on how to write a novel.
A common rookie mistake is to just “start writing and see where it goes” I myself am guilty of this novice move, as are probably every other author you’ve ever read. (If you haven't read any of my books yet, maybe start?). It’s a common misconception, but you will invariably end up writing yourself into a corner, or just loosing the plot all together.
Well, I’m fairly big on logging important dates and times, now I’ve finally found a system that will do it for me. Pity I didn’t think to do this until I was roughly 95% finished with my series, but then I have always sworn that The Course Bookswill never end.
As of today, we are about two weeks from book 3of the series being available for purchase. Just working on getting the Library of Congress Control Number at the moment, I have jumped through more hoops on that front…