Making Writing Choices: Multiple Genres and Forms

Somewhere in your writing career, whether conscious or not, choices are made about the type of writer that you will be. This article talks about writing multiple genres/forms. (Cross-genres writing would also support some of the same reasons.)

Multiple Genres

There are many reasons to publish in multiple genres. These include the following:

1. You are the brand. Your marketing can focus on your capabilities as an author rather than selling being a “niche player.” These capabilities include trust in the quality, consistency, vision, and daring nature of the work.

2. There are more possibilities to write about. And in the process, the writing is likely to become less stale. You can explore a theme, technique, viewpoints in different way across genres. This can result in a more comprehensive look at a topic over time and building up your craft with more tools. You are less likely to run out of writing topics.

3.You are in good company. Some of the best writers that lived wrote in multiple genres. H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov among others. So you are not alone and you can learn from their experiences.

4. It refreshes you. Once the mind gets going on what to create, it can be quite thrilling to think about different mindsets, worldviews, characters, and timeframes. If you do not let yourself get overwhelmed, you are in for an enjoyable ride

Multiple Forms

Novels/Novellas, Short Stories, Poems, and Essays are just some of the writing formats. What are the benefits for writing in multiple genres.

1. It makes you a better writer. Novels/Novellas are good for developing character, themes, places over different times, locations, and situations. Short stories require a fast “ramp up/down” in the telling of your tale. And they also allow covering interesting topics not worthy of a full book. Poems are wonderful for watching the unfolding of feelings, description, rhymes, colors, and ambiguity.

2. Others have done this.Roald Dahl, Samuel Clemens, E.B. White, and William Shakespeare are just some of the names on a very long list that wrote in different format over their career.

3. It supports an experimental mindset. You can use the particular framework of a format to dabble and dabble again in your “writing laboratory.”

This can only be a starting place on this interesting area. For me, I have always been interesting in many different subject areas which bleeds over into my writing. This includes writing about history, art, science, writing itself, fashion, IT, business, sociology, computers, marketing, sports, spirituality, and a lot more. It can get daunting on how to classify these works. Is the Corporate Intent Series business fiction, dystopian sci-fi, a thriller, a mystery, computer-oriented or a feminist-oriented work? I have enjoyed writing the three short story collections because they permitted covering some topics that would never get covered. And in Musings, I released for the first time just a few of the poems that I created.

I am having a lot of fun in the process. I wish you the best on your writing journey and hope that you make some insightful self-discoveries

Creating Blogs on Two Different Topics in One Day

Sometimes I write two blogs in one day. One is technically inclined and the other one is on writing. If you are doing this as well, here are some strategies and guidelines you can follow.

1. Do the hardest one first.  For most people that would be the technical blog . This may be due to the research or planning involved in creating the blog. After completion, you should have a sense of accomplishment that will drive you to write the other one.

2. Do the one that will energize you first. For me, doing a technical blog on best practices and encouraging people to be proactive is invigorating. After completing it, I ride easily on the wave of energy to complete the second non-technical one.

3. Do two topics that complement each other. This may take some creative effort. But writing two related topics allows you to cover the whole spectrum of a subject and build off each other.

4. Do the easiest one first.  You can get this out of the way quickly and dedicate all of your focus on writing the harder blog.

If you are doing this as well, let me know what works for you. Happy Blogging !!!

Assessing the In-Progress Health and Productivity of a Written Work

Introduction

In the modern world, there are immediate feedback mechanisms telling us how healthy something is while actively using an object. This includes “dummy lights” and gauges in various moving vehicles, dashboards for computer applications, and more.

But what can the poor writer do to assess the health and productivity of the piece that they are writing? Some of the challenges of doing this are discussed below.

Project Management

The discipline of project management can answer thoroughly these questions:

  • Are all the tasks needed to publish a written work completed?
  • Were they completed on time?

This is useful if you have external publishing commitments to meet rather than self-imposed deadlines. But it may limited in judging the health of the work itself.

Personal Health

Checking your blood pressure, weight, and frequency to raid the medicine cabinet may give useful guidance on your personal well-being. Health factors could contribute to the quality of your writing. But at best, it is an indirect measure.

Those Darn Metrics

Many writers measure progress in words written per day. There are millions of articles on this topic.  This may be a good measure of productivity depending on your writing style and consistency. I find that I average 1500-3000 words a day and have gone faster depending on the book and topic. Ghosts vs. Robots was written at 4000-5000 words a day due to the energetic nature of the subject. A more emotional work like Saving Eddie may just be 500-1000 words a day.

What I am beginning to find more useful is analyzing the scenes written per day. I try to write one scene in a book in one sitting.  (A scene would be something like taking a trip in a time machine. If may be part or the whole chapter.) Writing it this way in “one take” makes things become self-contained, consistent,  and continuous. If I can get one-two scenes done a day, that is considered successful.

Yes But What About Quality/Health?

So far I have talked more about productivity than quality. As noted, quality/work health is a hard thing to measure in any endeavor.

Many have proposed some key objective measures. This  could be such factors such as number of grammar mistakes, vocabulary level, readability level, number of mechanical problems, consistency and type of style, compliance to writing formulas and techniques, genre rule compliance, character development and uniqueness, use of surprise elements, number of overworked clichés, freshness of approach etc. But while some of these measures can be objective, others would require sophisticated computer rules to detect and weigh.

A simple test may be to read aloud to five prospective customers and see their reactions. Alternatively, let them read it on their own and evaluate it. Lacking an audience, a periodic self-evaluation after putting a work aside may help.

In the End

When all is said in done, metrics will get you only so far. Metrics may not look at a work holistically, review its subtlety, or analyze it at multiple levels simultaneously. Trust yourself. Trust your writing process. And don’t stop creating.

Writers as Sociologists

In Sociology, one learns that societies are bound together by a series of ongoing and dynamic relationships each with their own set of rules. Societies have also interesting subcultures which may operate in opposition to and be hidden from the larger world.

Rather than studying worlds, writers create them. From a blank page, they build societies and subcultures with very clear sets of expectations on how members treat each other. These norms may be written down or stay in the writer’s head just under the surface. When a rule is revealed or violated can add drama to a story.

As a person moves between societies whether as a transient or more permanent member, they go through a process of assimilation, learning what is desired of a good citizen. So it is in a story where we are introduced to a character in a new situation. Through their eyes, we assimilate and conform to their world’s expectations gradually as well. In the Amazi Series, I captured the immigrant process in 1890s America but with a steampunk twist. Creating such a work could not be done without an intensive study of the time macroscopically including economic trends. You see the characters over time dealing with basic needs such as housing, language, social acceptance, work, leisure, new technology, and love. Along the way you learn how people thought and acted at the time.

One thing that can be jarring is working on two series at the same time with different sets of rules. For me, it would be tough dealing with The Corporate Intent Series (a dynamic and sometimes violent world which is no holds barred) and Olivia Plymouth Series (a much safer world where certain things cannot happen) at the same time.

One interesting writing exercise is violating the rules in the early edits. This gives insight into what is possible for a character or a scene. Then the later edits return to what is expected. This is what I have done in the Olivia Plymouth Series. The original version of the current book was darker and more violent. But leaving the book like that wouldn’t be an Olivia story.

So the next time when you are thinking of creating a world of fire-breathing plants or flying puppies, perhaps crack open a sociology book to learn how a society really works. Study subcultures of the past and present to learn the rules of the page. The result will be a richer work.

Organizing Olivia Plymouth

Introduction

The two Olivia Plymouth International Traveler and Fashion Consultant books and one story have been my best-selling series to date. These were originally created in the early 2000s and sat on the shelf until 2012.

I  always envisioned writing four books for the series. This blog concerns the effort to create and distribute the last two books.

Challenges

The challenges being faced are:

  • Planning two books at once.
  • Capturing continuity across the series.
  • Developing the overall story arc.
  • Organizing the book bibles.

This is the first time that I have planned two books at once. I just recently completed the following process and started writing.

Planning two books at once

This was fairly easy to do because

  • It is one continuous story with two distinct phases and emotional feels.
  • There is a logical break in the story to end the third and begin the fourth book.

Continuity and story arc

Fortunately, it is fairly easy to resume work. There are some things that greatly helped:

  • An “odds and ends” idea list for both books.
  • 3000 words of Book #3 written between 2004-9.
  • A Book Three Bible that had the chapter names revealing the plot direction.
  • The prophecy from the Story that told what was to happen.

The next step below also helped as well

Organizing Olivia Book Bibles

Since creating the last Corporate Intent and Saving Eddie books, I use Wikidpad to build a story bible and track the creation/publication progress.

The software can be downloaded here:

http://wikidpad.sourceforge.net/

I re-read the above works and then created a wiki of key characters and places. This is invaluable for these reasons:

  • Capture key sentences from previous works to be reused or rephrased.
  • Note items to be added to the last two books for continuity.
  • Unanswered questions or topics from previous books to be explored.
  • Key hyperlinks and research topics are organized.
  • Handy to use as a project planner and tracker.
  • Got me quickly into the “Olivia Plymouth mindset.”

The amount of storage for this information — 400 K.

Did the above make a difference? I will know when the books are completed in 2015.

References

More on the series can be found at the link below.

 https://sites.google.com/site/hallettgermanfiction/series-books/olivia_Plymouth

https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/1730

http://wikidpad.sourceforge.net/help/

Encountering and Overcoming Writer’s Shanks

Introduction

There seems to be a lot of articles on overcoming writer’s block. But I see next to nothing on overcoming writer’s shanks. A shank in golf is a bad mishit. The same thing can happen to writers. They undergo a dark night of the soul where everything written seems wrong, bad, forced, or some other means of being unsatisfactory. I went through this briefly while creating In Small Doses 3 (a collection of short stories).

How I Overcame the Shanks

It took awhile. But the following things helped me return to “the usual level.”

* Have faith in yourself   

You alone know what you are capable of. Things are always changing and eventually inspiration will come back. This is not the time to get depressed or angry.

* Throw nothing out

At a later point of time, you may see that your content was not really that bad or just needs some minor changes. This is what happened with ISD3.

* Keep writing

Try writing on something you are comfortable with. Soon you should regain your confidence to tackle again the challenging topics.

* Rest and Recharge

Take a walk, watch a movie, plant some seeds. Whatever it takes for you to rejuvenate. You may have been pushing yourself too hard.

* Celebrate every small victory

Be kind to yourself. For every time you get one step closer to being on track celebrate. It will keep reinvigorating you.

*Remember

And once again you are happily writing full steam, briefly write down your “shanks period” and what you did to overcome it. So there is no next time or it occurs for a shorter duration.

Please share if you have encountered the “writer’s shanks” and how you overcame it!

Eight Reasons Why Saving Eddie is Different

I recently completed Saving Eddie, a fictionalized paranormal retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s life. This is different from any of my other books for the following reasons:

1) It crosses genres. The book is a biographical mystery with romantic and paranormal elements. It attempts to seamlessly merge these elements together.

2) It uses unique plot devices. It is based on Arthur Rimbaud’s idea of a “season” covering the key periods in Poe’s life. The book is mostly told through two imaginary journals including one of Edgar’s mostly unknown real-life brother Henry. Henry also  is deciding throughout the book when would be best to save his brother’s life.

3) It provides a different perspective on Poe’s life. There are many different books on this great author. But few are written from the perspective on why he could so clearly describe the ideals of beauty and the depths of human madness. It provides a theory on the disastrous consequences of his being constantly in debt. Some of his lesser known works are also highlighted.

4) It is well-researched. Diving into primary resources as well as visiting many of the places where he resided made this the most researched book that I have done to date.

5) It uses lengthy chapters. Typically I write short chapters. However, in this case, a chapter was written for each “season” of Edgar’s life. Using the “one long take” approach allows the reader to better understand the ups and downs of that period.

6) Use of unreliable narrators. The two journal writers in the story are caught up with their own emotional biases and may make misleading judgments. Along the way, you watch them both grow.

7) A preview copy and cover was released early. It had the most downloads in the shortest period of time of all my book samples.

8) It is not a retread. Another author could have made this a rehash of Killing Thoreau with time travel. But I decided to go into unfamiliar and more challenging territory instead.

This was a highly satisfactory experience that I hope you have as much fun reading as I did creating,