About My Book

Learn more about my first book, Six Pack: Emergence.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lessons Learned in Editing Process

I'm going through the draft of my first book for the third time and find that, each time I read through it, there are a lot of things I can do differently.

Some helpful advice I've gathered from other writers was about showing, rather than telling, readers what is happening. That would be the difference between "Joe Blow was angry" and "Joe Blow slammed his fist on the table." I've had to rewrite a lot to get more material to be shown rather than told.

Other advice concerned head-hopping, which some may find annoying if you write from the omniscient point of view. True, there are several popular novels that utilize that tactic, but for some, it can be difficult to follow the story. I found myself using third-person limited for my book, as I had several points of view I wanted to get across. I will say that, in reading my draft, third-person limited was more effective than omniscient.

Another piece of advice was that it's best to use the word "said" rather than adjectives such as "shouted," "exclaimed" or "retorted." As the advice went, one can tell how somebody is saying something by the words in the quote. That's not really different from how I have written for newspapers, in which "said" is the word most commonly used with quotes, with few exceptions.

Of course, how literary works are written has changed over time. Who knows, there may be a time in which omniscient point of view becomes more popular.

In the meantime, I can tell you that I have edited 24 chapters of my first book with six more to go. I will promise you this: Once I've finished that editing, I will tell you more details about the book, not just teasing you with things.

I won't be doing any work tomorrow, because I'll be attending the Weird Al Yankovic concert. Gotta have time for fun, after all. Also, there's a writer's group in Wichita, and I'm seriously thinking about attending a meet-and-greet with authors that will take place a week from Friday.

I'll have more on Thursday about writers who influenced me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Top 10 Superpowers... Because Every Blog Needs a Top 10 List

So because my book will be about teenagers acquiring superpowers, I thought I'd have a little fun and encourage some reader input at this place. I've put together my list of top 10 superpowers that I would want to acquire.

I'm having a little fun with this list, though. Everything needs a little humor, even something as serious as a superpower. Let us begin.

1. Flight: Oh, come on, you all know how much you loved Superman because he could fly! Hey, if you could fly, you wouldn't have to worry about any other mode of transportation. Just up, up and away, and you're there!

2. Telepathy: It would be hard for anyone to keep a secret from you, if you could read their minds. Every politician on the planet would have to tell the truth around you, ditto for every corporate CEO and special interest group spokesperson.

3. Telekinesis: No need to physically move something, because you could just look an object, thinking about moving it, and it's done! How easy it would be to move furniture around. Of course, you'd have to look at what you want to move, so you couldn't just sit on the couch and get a snack without going into the kitchen.

4. Super strength: OK, so with this, you could easily move furniture around, too. And if your car got stuck in a ditch, no need to call a tow truck!

5. X-ray vision: No way anybody could hide something from you -- well, unless they put in a lead case, of course.

6. Super speed: Not quite as cool as flight, but it still means you have less worries about needing other forms of transportation. As long as your shoelaces stay tied, anyway.

7. Ability to control metal: It's Magneto's power, what more do you need to know?

8. Intangibility: Why bothering opening a door, when you can just walk right through it? With that said, you'd have to control it well, or you'd keep falling out of bed (through bed?).

9. Teleportation: Again, not as cool as flight or super speed, but still a fun way to get to where you want to go quickly. And a good way to avoid a rushing crowd that wants your autograph.

10. Super hearing: Nobody would ever talk behind your back again, would they?

So what would be your top superpowers?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Figuring Out How to Sell Yourself

As I continue to learn more about the world of publishing and what it takes to get a book considered by an agent, I learn that comparing your book to similar works, but describing what your unique take is, can be useful to give agents an idea about your book and if they are interested.

Because my book is about teen superheroes and aimed at young adults, I've had to do plenty of research beyond the books I have read or am most familiar with. One thing I've read is that you don't want to declare your book to be the next version of whatever popular title happens to be a hot commodity, so I've had to go looking at other titles to which my book may be similar.

With that said, my inspirations (which I'll talk more about in the coming weeks) came more from TV shows I discovered and people who write at websites about current topics, along with a few works of fiction. Figuring out how to tie every influence together is the difficult part, especially because I'm not the best when it comes to promoting myself.

This is where the challenge lies for me. I have to become better at something that really isn't my style -- talking myself up. I've had that task before whenever I searched for jobs, but this is a little different. I have to find a way to sell myself and my work, finding out what works agents have promoted, all while not trying to make my work sounds like "the next big thing."

I'd like to know more about what others have learned about promoting their works and what they have found to be the best ways to get an agent's attention. By all means, tell me what about what have you learned as you have had your writings published, or attempted to.

In the meantime, I can tell you that I've fine-tuned 13 chapters of my first book, with a few more to come today. The second book's first 10 chapters are finished (first draft, of course) and I plan to start Chapter 11 tomorrow.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Writing Inspirations: Greg Weisman

I've been fascinated with superheroes for as long as I can remember. I especially liked it when they teamed up. Naturally, I became a fan of the likes of the Justice League, the X-Men, Teen Titans and The Avengers.

Along came an animated series about another teamup of superheroes, Young Justice. That was when I learned more about Greg Weisman.

For those unfamiliar with Weisman, he's had much involvement with creating and writing animated series. He's one of the people who created the 1990s Disney syndicated series Gargoyles, he supervised production of The Spectacular Spider-Man, and most recently, supervised production of the first season of Star Wars: Rebels. It was Young Justice that made me appreciate his talents as a writer and creative mind, though.

One of Weisman's trademarks as a writer is how he understands what teenagers go through. Teenagers have a lot of ideas, they are curious about the world and what awaits them, but they can struggle with issues ranging from learning from mistakes to finding acceptance from other people. Weisman made the main characters of Young Justice more than just teens with superpowers or special talents, but people that teenagers, young adults, and even older adults can relate to.

Weisman takes his own spin on probably the most popular teenaged superhero in the DC lineup: Robin. Dick Grayson brings the most experience among the group of teens (always referred to as The Team), but it becomes clear early in the season that Grayson's experience means he's not the best fit as the leader. Although Grayson initially accepts this, we get enough hints that he really wants to hold that leadership role.

The teen who inherits the leadership role is Aqualad -- a character who Weisman delivered a vastly different interpretation from what emerged at DC Comics. Instead of putting Garth, the individual most comic book fans know as Aquaman's protege, in the role, Weismen created Kaldur'ahm, a black teen who has a calm demeanor and acts rationally, but sometimes has his doubts about whether or not he makes the right decisions.

The rest of the teens bring their own personalities and issues to the table. Wally West, aka Kid Flash, is a wisecracker who acts impulsively and is often eager to impress the ladies. M'gann M'orzz, aka Miss Martian, is a caring individual who is eager to be part of The Team, but her eagerness to please becomes an issue, and she harbors insecurity about who she really is. Artemis Crock is introduced as Green Arrow's new protege after Speedy (Roy Harper) chooses to go solo as Red Arrow. Artemis can be quick with a quip, but sometimes worries about her family relations and how The Team might react if they knew more about them. Superboy is a clone of Superman, who looks forward to meeting the Man of Steel for the first time, but with Superman uncomfortable around him, the teen clone broods and must learn to deal with his anger and resentment.

In each instance, Weisman hits on a trait that most teens can relate to. What would people say if they knew more about me? Who do I look to for inspiration? What happens if I'm rejected? Anger, insecurity, and the desire to be in charge are feelings that any person deals with in life, so Weisman's writing allows the characters to speak to more than just teenagers.

Weisman joins his creative staff in bringing another element to the table, regarding how to advance a plot, often by dropping subtle hints of future developments in early episodes of the series, that play out much later. As I went through all the episodes, I was amazed to see how many teasers of what was to come down the road were right in front of me, but weren't made obvious on first glance. It's a good element of storytelling that can be difficult to pull off.

Young Justice was the series that inspired me about which book idea I should pursue, that being a group of teenagers who gain superpowers. I actually had plenty of experience around teenagers, what with having covered high school sports for so many years. Weisman's writing reminded me about the complex issues teens deal with, how those issues can still confront people in adulthood, and how they make for a character one can relate to, regardless of the situation the character is in.

I'll talk more about Weisman later, as I have bought two of his books, Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam. I'm planning to do a review of the former soon.

In the meantime, for those who have been thinking about writing young adult material, Weisman's material is a good place to look for inspiration and ideas about what teens are like, and just as importantly, a good place to look for how a plot can advance and how loose ends can be tied up.

You can learn more about Young Justice at the Young Justice Wiki, and you can visit the Gargoyles message board, where Weisman responds to fan questions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

So What's Really the Plan Here?

OK, so earlier, I said I'd do blog updates every Thursday, but that's not entirely true. There will be times when I post on other days of the week, mostly to let people know where things stand as I venture into the world of fiction writing.

On Thursdays, I'll focus on more in-depth writings, talking about people whose writings or productions inspired me, and reviewing a few books I have read, some which you likely know about, and some you may not be familiar with. I also plan to review a few shows I've watched -- be warned that I am a comic book geek, so I'm going to be talking about shows related to that genre.

On other days, when I get the chance to post, I'll talk more about other topics, ranging from relevant topics of the day to things I've noticed as I've gone through the writing process.

I'll give you an update on where my book writing is at: I have a trilogy in mind, with the first book having gone through a first draft, then a second draft, and now being fine tuned. I have also started the second book while some ideas are fresh in my mind. My plan is to fine tune the first book over the coming weeks, while I think about agents to approach. In the meantime, I'm tackling the second book with the first draft of chapters written on Sundays.

I will say that I've found plenty of advice on how to tighten writing. One thing I've noted as I've edited my first book idea, is that you find a lot of fat to trim.

More to come later this week.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Twitter Account

I set up a Twitter account that will tie in specifically to my fiction writing journeys. Will put up links to my blog when it's updated. You can follow that account at @sixpackwriter .

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Start of a New Journey

And so we begin a new journey.

Here, you're going to get a glimpse into my mind about whatever topic comes to mind, but most of them will have something to do with the fiction I am writing.

I do plan to share more details over time, but right now, am holding back a bit. Hey, I do need you a little bit in suspense, don't I?

There are a few hints I can drop for you about what the book will be about, by talking about some of the subjects that have held interest to me through the years.

* I'm a comic book geek. I've been one for longer than I've wanted to admit, but I've learned to embrace it.

* I've been fascinated with superheroes with superpowers, and can appreciate how they've been made to be more than just people who can fix everything in the blink of an eye.

* I've gained a greater appreciation for American history and how events have shaped the United States.

* I've become more interested in the First Amendment and what it's all about (and I suppose that's natural for someone who has written for newspapers for many years) and about how important dissent can be to shaping a society.

* I'm a noninterventionist when it comes to foreign policy and believe we sometimes get too wrapped up in the need to feel "safe."

* I'm highly skeptical of narratives and "easy answers" to problems society faces.

* I've had plenty of interest in science fiction, even as I'm not the sharpest person when it comes to understanding everything about science.

* I've found plenty of inspiration from several writers of TV shows, movies and books.

You'll learn more about my thoughts about these subjects, and there will be times I'll tell you about how they influenced my fiction writing. You might also learn what was the inspiration behind the blog title.

As I wrote at my previous blog, I plan to put something up every Thursday.

Hope you enjoy this new ride with me.