All posts by kdrall@yahoo.com

On Streamlining, November 19, 2017

To me, writing gets the words down, akin to that of an artist sketching out a rough shape on paper, but editing is what takes an idea and turns it into a story. I’m not just talking editing about dotting the eyes or crossing the T’s, I’m talking about Streamlining, Trimming the fat, or, to put it in ugly terms, murdering your babies.

 

What I mean by all of this, is chopping out ANY scenes that don’t either advance the plot, the characters, or the world.

Does a character exist to advance the plot or are they inconsequential? Is an action scene needed, or just fluff? Is it worth it to describe someone’s actions, or would such common day mundane activities easily be formed in the reader’s minds?

Lastly, can a whack of words be combined into a single phrase?

I’ve also noticed that my manuscripts are NOT the only ones requiring such actions.

Let’s do an example of what Streamlining means to me. A fellow had asked if I could go over their manuscript to see why it wasn’t being accepted. After only three pages in, I realized that it was more comments of what could be done than the actual story. Stopping, I emailed him, and we reviewed together, going over much of it in a direct message. After asking permission, I was allowed to use the following points, which I’ve edited much of. I hope this shows my process of streamlining, and maybe, helps you too.



Geoffrey walked into the house and closed the door. Removing his boots, coat, hat, and gloves, he hung them in the closet. Feeling hungry because he hadn’t eaten since the morning, Geoffrey walked down the hall, turning on the lights. He stepped around the furniture and the toy cars and legos and dolls that his kids had left out. Trying to be quiet, Geoffrey walked on the tips of his toes down the carpet, onto the hardwood, and onto the tiled floor of the kitchen.

Opening the fridge, Geoffrey searched for food to eat, and finally, after a while, decided on some leftover meatballs and spaghetti in a yellow circular Tupperware, and opening the lid, grabbing a fork, he fed himself the cold food, making a face in disgust at the taste of cold pasta.


Writer: So what do you think?

Me: Honestly?

Writer: Yes, please.

Me: It’s 135 words to say he went to the kitchen and ate.

Writer: But I wanted to show that he was really hungry, and to also show that the house is a mess, and he has kids.

Me: … Okay, so let’s show that. Let’s cut the fat. Do we really need to say he removed all those clothes?

Writer: But, that’s what he took off.

Me: What’s a word that can say all of that at once? Thesaurus time!

Writer: gear, outerwear, um

Me: So let’s use that. Is it important for him to hang his clothes, or throw them over a chair? We know from previously that he’s meticulous about hanging things, so maybe we can skip it. Also, a trick when writing resumes is to start with a verb to show action. He’s in a hurry, let’s go with that.

Writer: Um, okay.


Hurrying into the house, Geoffrey closed the door and shucked his outerwear and boots.


Me: Shucked? That’s awesome. It gives the feeling of peeling an oyster! I love it!

Writer: Wow, thanks. I didn’t think it would work.

Me: What’s next? How about his travel down the hall?

Writer: what do you mean?

Me: It too, can be simplified. We can just call all the debris on the floor in one word, and we can show the light is on by saying something like in the cast light of the overhead lamps, or even ignore it completely.

Writer: ok

Me: and lastly, how important is it to say what Geoff is walking on? Does it impact the story any?

Writer: Um, no.


Stepping lightly, he avoided the spilled toys that filled the hall as made his way to the kitchen in an attempt to satisfy his gnawing hunger.


Me: Gnawing hunger! Now you’re making it desperate. Let’s look at the final part.


Opening the fridge, Geoffrey searched for food to eat, and finally, after a while, decided on some leftover meatballs and spaghetti in a yellow circular Tupperware, and opening the lid, grabbing a fork, he fed himself the cold food, making a face in disgust at the taste of cold pasta.


Me: After a while? Blow that away. There are other words to use, and do we need to know about the dish the pasta is stored in?

Writer: No

Me: Is there also a way we can relate to the reader why Geoffrey suffers disgust at cold pasta?

Writer: Hold on! I think I have something. BTW, do you have another word for fed?

Me: Shoveled?


Opening the fridge, he spied some leftover meatballs and spaghetti. Grabbing a fork he shoveled the cold pasta into his mouth, cringing at the greasy feel cold sauce and starch left on his tongue.


Me: Wow, can you combine it?


Writer:

Hurrying inside, Geoffrey closed the door and shucked his outerwear and boots before stepping lightly around his kids spilled toys. His gnawing hunger drew him to the kitchen, where he found some leftover meatballs and spaghetti in the fridge. Grabbing a fork, he shoveled the cold pasta into his mouth, cringing at the greasy feel cold sauce and starch left on his tongue.


Me: 63 words, less than half of the original, and far more poignant.

Writer:… I have some editing to do.

Me: Have fun.

 

So, that’s one example. I hope it helps. Don’t forget to offer to beta read. Sometimes, helping others is the best way to learn.

 

 

Icons of Canada October 26, 2017

It’s been almost two weeks since Canadian music Icon and activist, Gord Downie, went to Fiddler’s Green, and while celebrity deaths normally don’t affect me beyond a dismissive comment of, “Oh, that’s too bad.” This man’s passing has left me feeling that our great country is just a little empty.  While not a big fan of The Tragically Hip growing up, (They were just, there, everywhere, a part of music), the band meant more to me the older I got, until I could often be found listening to their music at work (Pun).

It set me to thinking about other Canadian Audio Icons to me, and by that I mean those Canadians who entertained me in an audio platform during my formative years. When a single post from Twitter user @nutshellversion asked: Have you ever eaten popcorn and gotten a kernel stuck in your teeth for so long that you’re just like this is it, this is my life now? I paused for a second, and reflected.

Suddenly, it is an autumn Sunday. We’ve just made it back from church. Outside, the air is crisp, cool, but not see your breath, but a cold that dries you out and slowly leaches into your bones, while the earth and rotting leaves are moist. The sun is coming in through the large kitchen window, and the house itself smells of a combination of a burgeoning woodfire, and chicken hot-dogs cooking away on the old, wooden-handled cast iron skillet.

We are all in the kitchen, hungry, excited about enjoying the last few hours of our weekend before we are forced to prep for school or work, we are pattering on about our favorite songs, our plans for Halloween, when the radio squeaks to life, and we grow quiet as the opening strains of the Vinyl café filter into the air, and the late, great, Stuart Mclean begins to spin his tales about Dave and his little record store, or the fast and eclectic speaking of Lorne Elliott, going Madly off in all directions, or the comedy gold of John Morgan, Luba Goy, Roger Abbott, Don Ferguson, and of course, Sergeant-Major of the RCMP, Dave Broadfoot of the Royal Canadian Air Farce as they dressed for their skits and performed them in some routines that have become engrained into my consciences.

Maybe, Norm Macdonald has been invited to the stage, or the cast of This Hour has 22 Minutes is on the television behind us and Cathy Jones, Greg Thomey, Mary Walsh and Rick Mercer are attacking politicians with self-deprecating humor, or an old episode of SCTV has somehow found its way on instead. Maybe Mom wants more levity, and asks Dad to put on Bob & Doug McKenzie’s The Great White North, and the voices of Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas playing caricatures of us all are threatening to soak each other with beers from their sabotages six-packs.

Then I was back in reality, staring at my keyboard. A smile played at the edge of my lips, my fingers hovered, descended, and typed out the following lines as I remembered all those icons of Canadian comedy playing through my mind. I had a story to tell, one that was partly based on truth.

 

“A roll of floss failed to dislodge said kernel. For two days it dug deeper until it cut its way free, and all the while I tasted butter.”

When the response was, “This would make a terrific short story.” The rest came easy. Easy enough to turn into an almost 400 word adventure of semi-autobiographical adventure.

 

I must have channeled something from all those years ago, because I was immediately followed by a gentleman, the ever encouraging Brian Hagan (@windsmith) ( http://windsmithcity.com/ ) who is starting his podcast. He plans on reading one of his own shorts per episode, and then will read a guest short.

Mine is to play in the debut show, this Sunday, the 29th of October, 2017.

 

To all those who inspired me, thank you. I raise a glass of maple syrup, and pour a fifth onto the curb for those who have left. Thank you. I hope I do you proud.

 

 

 

 

 

Music as a Muse

If I had one thing to praise social media about, it’s that it lets me be closer to those who’ve inspired me. I’ve already talked to a few of those who are responsible for Genmos, and have mentioned them glowingly.

Now, I want to focus on another source of inspiration, the one that helps me to focus, that can drive my emotions, that can leave me smiling or get me pumped for a grand climax, a source that can bring images to mind, or help clear it so I am a blank slate.

I’m talking about, music.

It’s not uncommon for me to write while songs are blasting from speakers or squeaking from headsets. Even when I work on construction sites, I look forward to listening to certain tunes, (Where it’s allowed and deemed safe enough) and I keep a collection of my favorite CD’s burned to my phone so I can play them to help keep my attention on the tasks at hand.

 

So, in my works by others, I am adding a section, Notes to inspiration, where I will be paying dues to those musical artists who have inspired me to no end.

WRITEVERSARY, August 18th, 2017

Exactly one year ago today, a journey fifteen years in the making took its first step. Ink freshly laid began to dry, and GENMOS: Gathering Storms was officially signed to Thurston Howl Publications.

It was a sign to me, a sign that my work was not in vain, a sign that someone other than me and a few close friends felt I had any talent with the written word, a sign that someone had faith in a group of characters birthed from an active imagination.

In short, today is my Writeversary.

I didn’t consider myself a professional and published author until early in the new year, when I received a cheque for Tooth, Claw and Fang, and word that my other short, A Voice Not Spoken, was published, but today celebrates the start of that journey, the signal that all my work and enhancement over the years was not for naught.

It inspired me to keep going, to keep improving, to say thank you to all those who encouraged me, all those that still do, and to say a not-sarcastic thank you to those who doubted me, because you too, inspired me to grow.

It’s been an amazing first year. I was scared at first, worried that something would happen like it had twice before, that GENMOS would be dropped, or lost in some reorganization, but as the weeks passed and my publisher and editors communicated with me, my confidence grew. I began to submit short stories in the hopes that the signature was not a one-time fluke, and I was rewarded for my efforts.

FurPlanet Productions, Scary Dairy Press,  Multifarious Press, Siren’s call publications, and, of course, Thurston Howl Publications, again and again, have proven to me that I CAN write. I can Wordcraft.

 

THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU, and to ALL WHO OFFER THEIR SUPPORT. I could not have done this alone, I could not have done this without beta readers, editors, friends and family that offered honest, sometimes scathing, criticism. You have helped to mold me into something that I am proud of.

Now, I haven’t achieved any success by lying back once the ink finalized the deal. Gathering Storms underwent drastic changes (for the better) and I busied myself by writing and submitting short stories to token paying markets in an attempt to raise some finances to support my craft and in an attempt to get my name out to other markets. I joined the Furry Writer’s Guild and met many cool people who were willing to help. I entered into social media and built websites, engaged in hashtag games, been interviewed twice, and even built my own word game on twitter, #Words2Show.

Over the last 52 weeks, I wrote 26 short stories, edited others in my reserve pile, made 46 submissions, endured 29 rejections, am still awaiting word on 7 of those attempts, released 5 stories Pro Bono, and earned 10 more signatures from various presses.

The number of rejections might seem high, but considering that’s still a 21% success rate, I’m ecstatic. That’s a 1 in 5 ratio of victory, which means I’m doing SOMETHING right after all these years! Here’s hoping that next year will see NOBILIS: Seedling released (Also from Thurston Howl Publication) GENMOS Book 2 completed, signed and released. I’m hoping to finish rewriting one, if not two of my other works, and I’m still working the short story market.

I’m not giving up, not now, and I’m glad I never truly did.

 

For all those doubting themselves, doubting their use of words, doubting their scribbles and notes and plots, don’t. I’m proof that perseverance can pay off. I’m proof that hard work, good, strong effort, a willingness to listen and improve, CAN make your dreams come true.

Thank you for sharing my first year’s journey with me. I hope to have many more, and I would love it if you were to join me and follow alongside.

Thank you.

How Does Your Garden Grow, August 5, 2017

I see writing, being an author, as not unlike being a gardener. A manuscript is something that is fluid and organic. It starts with an idea, a germination, becomes a scribble, a seedling, something taking root.

From there it sprouts and grows, branching and expanding wildly until the first draft is complete. It is a feral plant, crazy and twisted. Then along come the edits. Each revision is an act of pruning, of taming, of carving. A cover is chosen, a placard giving name to the creation. A synopsis, a summary, become the instructions of care. A genre becomes a genome.

And the reader? They are the consumers, they digest the fruits of your labors.

Maybe, just maybe, from there, another idea sprouts or encourages a pruning and shaping elsewhere. Encourages the beginning of someone else’s topiary.

A short becomes a Bonsai project. A novella, a well kempt shrub, a novel, a majestic tree, towering and imposing. Flash fiction, ornamental mulch and pebbles.

I encourage you to take root with your ideas and begin farming your words. I encourage you to reap your harvests and share what you sow. There are so many of us starving for intellect. Do not hesitate to show us your creations.

I, for one, want to see how your garden grows.

Log Lines: Saying So Much, With So Little. July 20, 2017

 

I can honestly admit that I was ignorant for so long on the importance of a logline. I’ve KNOWN about them ever since high school, where my Drama teachers read log lines of various movies to us, but I forgot how important they can be to the creative process.

 

I used one on my successful pitch for Genmos, and have written another for each story I have penned or submitted in the last year. I use them in plotting, not just for the overall story, but for EACH act of a short, or EVERY chapter of a novel.

They are vital to me, a simple examination, but each log line I write has helped me to better my writing, helped me streamline, and in some cases, eliminate.

What is a logline?

It is a one-to-two sentence summary of a work that provides both a brief summary of a story. Think of the blurbs you see on Netflix, which you’re trying to find a program to chill to. Those are most often log lines. The singular comments in an old TV guide would be a perfect example too.

 

Now while there are several ways to write a logline, I use the “Who-Does-What-Against-Who” method or the “When” method.

Both are pretty much the same thing.

Tell WHO the story is about, without naming the protagonist. Give some quirks, some history, something to make them different from just, a dude.

Tell who or what their PRIMARY ANTAGONIST OR THREAT is.

Tell what their CONFLICT / PLOT is.

How about an example.

A former thief leads an eccentric band including a blind monk and an enemy robot, on a mission to steal plans for a powerful imperial space station.

Right away we see WHO: A former Thief, an eccentric band including a blind monk and an enemy robot

We see the antagonist: Imperials

We find out the plot: Steal plans for a powerful {} space station

Guess the movie?

Star Wars, Rogue One.

 

Okay, let’s play again.

This time I will enter a bland log line, then spice it up.

Cop hates dude, they fight.

SNOOZE

Now, without telling names, let’s add characteristics.

When he’s targeted by a small-town sheriff, a former Green Beret and Vietnam vet reaches his breaking point and launches a guerilla response.

Protagonist: former Green Beret and Vietnam

Antagonist: small-town sheriff

Conflict: launches a guerilla response.

Guess the movie? RAMBO: First Blood!

 

I Can NOT STRESS how important log lines have become. I encourage you to go ahead and try a few. Use your imagination. If you can create an epic logline, you can create an epic story.

If nothing else, it will help you focus on your overall goal.

Don’t Knock Yourself Out While Writing Combat, June 26, 2017

One thing I’ve enjoyed about the internet and social networking is that it allows writers to interact with each other and spread ideas. While normally mute, and one who likes to observe as people help each other out, I have spoken up recently whenever a request for help writing combat scenes comes up, seeing as I have some combat training.

Every time I pitch in with my ten cents, the answer is always the same: Give a motion, an environment, and a conclusion.

A fight is a flurry of motion, a movement of arms and legs, projectiles and fists. A fight is a surge ahead and a falling back, an ebbing and a rising. What better way to describe a battle of brawn and might, than transform it into something that seems almost organic?

The environment sets the stage, gives tension or humor, enhances the reader’s internal viewing of events.

A conclusion wraps everything up nicely. It can be a tie, a defeat, a rout or a total victory, but let the reader know how it finishes.

Are you still nervous? Don’t be. Tolkein made some of his most epic battles last only sentences. As a writer, you don’t have to describe every blow and wound in gory glory, you just have to convey the terror, the chaos, the techniques, and give the reader a sense of the scale.

For example, let’s look at a fist fight between two burly guys in a bar. They are both heavy set, drunk, and their hits are wide, made difficult by impairment.

Short form: They swung at each other like clumsy apes. Each punch was wide and long, powerful but uncoordinated. When one blow landed, the sounds of impact echoed about the bar, shocking those who stayed to watch until one of the contestants succumbed to his wounds and slipped to the floor, unconscious.

Boom. Done. Nothing fancy, but hopefully well described. The reader can get an image of the two fighters, and a sense of the force of the impacts. Let’s break it down.

They swung at each other like clumsy apes. Each punch was wide and long, powerful but uncoordinated. (They have strength, but have trouble aiming. There’s your motion.)

When one blow landed, the sounds of impact echoed about the bar, shocking those who stayed to watch (There’s your environment)

until one of the contestants succumbed to his wounds and slipped to the floor, unconscious. (And a conclusion.)

Now, let’s take a lithe warrior, a fast striker, who hides in the shadows.

Short form: He leapt from his concealment, becoming visible only long enough to strike before fading into the shadows. His aim was true, his blow, lethal, and his victim’s life was extinguished in passing.

Again a motion, and environment, and a conclusion. Hmm, see a pattern there?

What about a fight, where we need to focus on one character who is a strong fighter, but their side still loses the battle?

Simple.

How does that character move? What is going on around them? Conclusion.

She swept through the enemy ranks, her blade grew slick with the blood of her foes, but despite her best efforts, the enemy’s superior numbers overwhelmed her allies, forcing her and the remaining survivors to retreat.

Sounds pretty epic, doesn’t it?

You want dialogue? Let’s enhance the last battle.

She swept through the enemy ranks, her blade grew slick with the blood of her foes. She felt like she was winning, but the sounds of the bugles from the rear announced differently.

“Retreat!” came the massed call, which only caused the enemy to surge forward again, and it was too much, even for her, the mighty dancer, to handle.

“Fall back!” She screamed, yet even then, fought to prevent a rout. It was futile, as the ranks broke. Desperate to save her own life, she turned and ran for the safety of the hills.

So there you go, combat can be simple. Just convey the motions, the environment, and give the readers a conclusion. If you want to get more into it, than by all means, do so, but it doesn’t have to be a two-chapter long war either.

 

June 17, 2017, BACK on a track (of something)

So there’s been a delay in the blog. That can happen from time to time, especially whenI’m busy with editing and writing.

The result:

Nobilis: Seedling JUST FINISHED its alpha editing!

YAY!

Thanks to THP and crew (Including editor Hypetaph) Seedling now reads even smoother and is a piece to rival any matinee sci-fi that’s out there.

 

It’s also less Rapey. Which is something I never thought I would write. Yes, there was one change, an attempted F on M rape, a role reversal. I wrote it about fifteen years ago, and at the time I thought it was funny.

Looking back on it, no.

So I’m happy with the changes.

 

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting some advice from what I’ve learned over the last year, my first year as an actual, professional author.

I hope it helps someone, anyone, in the future.

Why Anthro? April 17, 2017

Since GENMOS: Gathering Storms was officially published on the last day of March, I’ve been busy running campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, and via the libraries, and while I’ve received good levels of interest, I’ve also often received looks of confusion when the words “Furry” or “Anthro” pop up in conversation.

For those not in the know, Anthropomorphism is defined as “The showing or treating of animals, gods, and objects as if they are human in appearance, character, or behavior:” (1.)

“Furs” or “Furry” is the subgenre of Anthro that directly relates to animals. Now, before you go off in a tiffy fit, take a deep breath, compose yourself, and then ask, “Am I a furry, or a fan of anthropomorphism in general?”

The answer is, most likely if you are reading this, YES.

Modern media has long adapted you to be at least partly familiar with the anthro world. Have you ever enjoyed a Disney flick where animals act with human characteristics, laughed at Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig, cheered when the Ewoks helped the rebellion during the battle of Endor, enjoyed the antics of Thomas the Tank Engine, or encouraged the Ents to defeat the evil Orcs, or utilized plants to destroy hordes of undead? Than congratulations, and welcome to the Anthro Genre.

So why did I chose to write my first novel as an Anthro(Furry) adventure? Several reasons. As I have already implied, I have been massively influenced by the anthro genre my entire life, and as such, was reading a glut of furry webcomics when the idea for the Genmos formed in my mind. Also, by casting my characters as not-quite human, I’ve been able to demonstrate all of their human traits and quirks in a much clearer light. All of their flaws positive qualities, desires and emotions are made that much more tangible thanks to their distance from the ‘norm.’

Now I leave you with a challenge: Grab a paper and a writing implement, and for one day, just one, write down everything you see that is “Anthro.” You may be
surprised by just how prevalent the influence of the genre is, without ever realizing it.

 

“Anthropomorphism” Cambridge Dictionary. http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/anthropomorphism (April 17, 2017)

Thomas the Tank Engine http://www.thomasandfriends.com/en-ca/ )

The minimum Word Count. . .March 18, 2017

When I talk in public, I am long-winded, take forever to get to the point, and sometimes my ramblings never even make sense.

When I write, I attempt to be smooth, quick, and efficient.

That’s why one of my biggest pet peeves, is the minimum word count.

I know why it exists, especially for commercial reasons. People don’t want to invest in your story if it’s too short to build character and relations, they also want enough words to make it worth their while to post your works.

That being said, I have come to dread the minimum limit. Over the years I have crafted a multitude of stories, some of them no longer than 1,000 words in length. I eagerly peruse the writer’s classifieds as I search for a place that they may call home.

Often, though, I am stopped by such limitations.

My style of writing has become this.

Plot and plan.
Overwrite( often to the maximum word count and beyond)
Slice and dice( trim the fat off that M%$#r F%$#r until it’s so skinny, Jack Sprat would be envious.)
Proof.
Submit.

Yet, some stories that I create, refuse to even achieve the minimum once my overwrite is done, forcing me to do the opposite.

Plot and plan.
Underwrite
Add Bulls$#@ until it’s long enough.
Slice and Dice
Add more bull
Slice and dic-
F$#@1 it. Submit.

That’s why I adore when I see a story requesting a maximum only. It’s such a relief.

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