Friday, April 28, 2017

Story Trumps Facts / Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Apr-2017

Earlier this month, at the constant urging of a few co-workers (grin!), I started watching the TV show Prison Break on Netflix.

Spoilers for Prison Break coming, so be warned.  If you have any inclination of watching the show, do it now.  In fact, much of what I'm about to say is a culmination of the first four episodes (I am currently through season 1 only) so at least watch the first few episodes and then we can still be friends.

Okay, ready now?  Good.

As I watched the first few episodes--this came about even after the first one--I noticed a glaring discrepancy when it comes to writing about those with type one diabetes.  Jodi Foster's movie Panic Room portrays type one diabetes completely wrong.  I won't dissect why here, but on Prison Break the main actor, played by Wentworth Miller, goes to prison.  As he is brought in, he informs them he has type one diabetes.  Now, the show doesn't give a minute-by-minute account of his day, but it is implied that he gets tested once a day and also receives a shot then (once a day) if needed.


I have two children (and a wife) with type one diabetes.  At best, he would need a cell next to the infirmary, because managing diabetes is a constant battle.  But it wouldn't fit the premise of the show, so be it.

The second glaring discrepancy is in Miller's tattoos.  He has the prison map (and then some) all over his body.  Sorry, prisons meticulously document and photograph tattoos of all inmates.  It's possible they wouldn't know what the massive tattoo was, but again they'd have documentation on it.

Okay, this being said, the show is great and well-worth watching.  This is a case where story trumps facts.

In my third book in the Shadowkill trilogy, a team of ex-military infiltrates the White House, using its protective measures against the good guys.  I have definitely taken liberties with the story.  I've never even been to Washington DC, and one can only gain so much information from Google Maps without making someone in the NSA nervous.  But again, story trumps facts.  I make it feel as realistic as possible without dragging one down into the weeds with useless facts.

Does it work?  Time will tell.

Back to Prison Break.  The show is interesting, and even with some minor discrepancies when it comes to life in prison to add on top of it, one sees past it all.

Are there cases where you need the facts first?  Of course.  But don't get caught up in the weeds of research before telling your story.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Expanding On Publish A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Apr-2017

Lastly, for the third week in a row, my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the third axiom: publish a lot.

I need to clarify and expand on "publish."  It should really be publish/submit.  If you send a story off to an anthology, a contest, a small or medium press, or one of the big publishing houses--or in any case where you are passing along your story for publishing consideration, then you are moving the story along the path of publication.  That is submitting.

If you decide to indie publish, it's a matter of uploading the document and hitting publish--okay, okay, there's a bit more to it than that, but in a nutshell that's all there is to it.

Where is the editing process?  The cover art?  The formatting?  For now, don't worry about it.  We're keeping it simple.  One can find themselves stuck in the weeds when it comes to writing/publishing advice.  Now, I'm not a major bestselling author (so what do I know, right?), but I have been indie publishing since April 2012.  If you take into accounts the other aspects of publishing, from writing (and finishing) novels/short stories and sending them off to agents, we're talking a timeline of 1994 when I completed my first novel.  I studied query letters and agents, and did that whole ball of wax.

The bottom line is that I kept the stories moving.  Not all of them, mind you.  There are stories that have sat in the virtual trunk, and even novels that hadn't been looked at for decades.  But, by and large, I kept working.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Expanding On Write A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Apr-2017

Again, here's my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the second axiom: write a lot.

How much is a lot?  That depends largely on the writer themselves.  Five hundred words for you in a day may be the max, while someone like Brandon Sanderson or Dean Wesley Smith can crank out several thousand.  Even Stephen King had, in his definitive book On Writing, said he wrote two thousand words a day, everyday.

Do you have to write two thousand words?  Can it be less?  Or more?

Again, it depends on you.

My suggestion is to keep track.  Either on a piece of paper or on a spreadsheet, write down the number of words you write in a day.  One can even use a calendar, then at the end of the week add up the total words in the week.

Keep in mind, each writer is different.  Are there days you'll write zero?  Of course.  Will there be days where you'll crank out two . . . three . . . or even four thousand?  Or more?  Yes.  For me, when I'm on a roll, the words gush out like a tidal wave.

The key to all this is to write as much as you can.  I'm a father of three and a husband to a former cancer patient.  A lot is on my shoulders.  But I still carve out a few minutes here and there to write.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Expanding On Read A Lot / Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Apr-2017

First, let's begin with the full text of my simple advice for writers:
Read a lot.
Write a lot.
Publish a lot.

Let's dive into the first axiom: read a lot.

What do I mean by it?

Well, as writers, we must read.  Musicians listen to music and architects study buildings.  Now, I remember listening to a podcast once with Brandon Sanderson, who said that his reading time goes down when he's in the middle of working on a big project, but that doesn't mean that prior to his publishing success that he didn't read.  He read a ton.  Hence his great success.

I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I'm behind the eight ball when it comes to reading certain books, be it classics of science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, etc.  But I read.  I do read a lot.  I sometimes read multiple books at once.  But I'm a slow reader.  I had purchased the five-ebook box set of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series years ago, and it honestly took me roughly a year and a half to get through it.  Now, I was reading other books between, but it still took me a while.  I also read across various genres and story lengths.

But one could expand the "read a lot" into movies and TV shows as well.  As a writer, I can watch a TV show (or series) and figure out what the story is doing at any given point in time.  I then incorporate it into my own writing.

The point of all this is to simply state that one can absorb the elements of storytelling in ways other than reading (or listening to) a book.  TV shows and movies can also fill this role.