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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old November 16 2013, 04:47 PM   #31
Christopher
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Re: Writing questions

I think the reason I prefer not to write out of sequence anymore is because I often make discoveries along the way that can take a character or a subplot in a new direction or flesh it out more fully. If I wrote later scenes in the same plotline first, then I might have to change them to fit the new ideas. So yeah, like Greg, I prefer to approach each distinct plotline linearly.


DonIago wrote: View Post
This begs the question...what was the sentence?
It's on p. 236 of The Buried Age, and it goes:

On stardate 37175.5, at 0537 hours shipboard time, Data was alone in the quantum physics laboratory on deck 7, sector 03, compartment 02 of the U.S.S. Portia, conducting simulations on the use of the Jahn-Teller effect to modify the Cooper pairs in the Bose-Einstein condensate of a standard Starfleet transporter Heisenberg compensator unit in order to minimize disruptive interference between its quantum waveform and that of a Manraloth stasis field’s fringe zone of positional uncertainty.
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Old November 16 2013, 05:00 PM   #32
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Re: Writing questions

^ I remember that sentence!

Christopher: Trust me, I know all about getting stuck on that one sentence and paragraph. If I'm smart, I'll just flag it and move on, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I spent most of yesterday morning on a single two-page scene . . . .

It should be noted that I'm mostly talking about strategies I've developed for dealing with tight deadlines. If you're just writing for fun, or have the luxury of spending years penning the Great American STAR TREK novel, you can probably take a less disciplined,more improvisational approach.
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Old November 16 2013, 09:02 PM   #33
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Re: Writing questions

My method is pretty much a linear approach, like Greg's and Christopher's, for all the same reasons they've already cited. I write at the detail level from word one, as Christopher does. I've been told by the editors and by other authors that my outlines tend to be longer and far more detailed than most Star Trek authors' outlines. I use the outline to work out the mechanics of my story and the logic of my action sequences, and I devote the manuscript phase to finding the right words to capture those moments.
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Old November 16 2013, 10:57 PM   #34
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Re: Writing questions

More than you want to know: I actually have a set of abbreviations to indicate what needs to be added later.

FP = First Person. As in: We're screwed, Kirk thought.

DESC IF NECC = More Description If Necessary (or if time allows).

PHYS = Insert bit of physical description or stage business. "He swallowed hard and poured himself another drink."

ADJ or ADV = Adjective or adverb, obviously.

RXN = Reaction. Which means I need to remember to describe a character's emotional reaction to what's happening.

I mark them with asterisks, as in *ADJ, so I can use the Search function to find them later--and so I don't forget to flesh these parts out before I deliver the ms.
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Old November 17 2013, 02:36 AM   #35
Sho
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Re: Writing questions

^ Reminds me a bit of an anecdote Moore shared about the TNG script writing process, where technobabble was often included as TECH initially, to be substituted later by interns and/or science advisers.

La Forge: "Captain, the tech is overteching."
Picard: "Well, route the auxiliary tech to the tech, Mr. La Forge."
La Forge: "No, Captain. Captain, I've tried to tech the tech, and it won't work."
Picard: "Well, then we're doomed."
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Old November 17 2013, 02:53 AM   #36
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Re: Writing questions

I'm details first on the manuscripts, but my outlines are nowhere near as detailed as Dave's. I use them to work out the broad strokes of the story, and then fill in the specifics in manuscript, often adding new scenes, characters, and elements that weren't part of the outline. It helps to have that spontaneity, and being in the thick of the story lets me discover problems and opportunities that wouldn't have occurred to me in the outline stage.
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Old November 17 2013, 02:54 AM   #37
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Re: Writing questions

Sho wrote: View Post
^ Reminds me a bit of an anecdote Moore shared about the TNG script writing process, where technobabble was often included as TECH initially, to be substituted later by interns and/or science advisers.

La Forge: "Captain, the tech is overteching."
Picard: "Well, route the auxiliary tech to the tech, Mr. La Forge."
La Forge: "No, Captain. Captain, I've tried to tech the tech, and it won't work."
Picard: "Well, then we're doomed."
Pretty much the same idea, yeah, but I eventually have to provide my own TECH!
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Old November 17 2013, 02:55 AM   #38
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Re: Writing questions

^ Clearly, you need some tech for teching.
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Old November 17 2013, 02:56 AM   #39
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Re: Writing questions

Desert Kris wrote: View Post
I'm not a pro by any stretch, some thoughts occurred to me while reading my way through this. Starting the characters off in the middle of an action sequence is a good idea. It is in keeping with the "show, don't tell" philosophy. Action sequence doesn't have to mean battle sequence, just a series of dangerous events or a challenging hazard to overcome or there's an urgent countdown the characters are racing to beat.

Depending on if you are writing for an audience or just for yourself, you might consider that you don't have to introduce all the major characters at once, in a single scene. Particularly with the introductory story. Consider the two newest ST movies. ST Into Darkness does have an opening sequence that catches us up with all the characters, but the better example is how we see all those characters trickle into the positions we're familiar with throughout the first film. The first 20-30 minutes we get heavy emphasis on Kirk and Spock, then characters are added little by little. Build up a new cast gradually, if you intend to have it available to readers. It's a kindness to your reader to not overwhelm them with too much all at once.
Thanks for your reply. I agree with your advice. I have started off with a few characters that were needed in the first scene and then added people when it made sense throughout the story.
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Old November 17 2013, 03:11 AM   #40
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Re: Writing questions

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Beginnings are tricky. You want to give the reader what they need to know without bogging things down. I'm not sure there's a one-size-fits-all solution, but a couple of tips:

1) Consider what the reader needs to know NOW, in just this scene, as opposed to overloading the first scene with lots of elaborate backstory that may or may not be relevant at the moment. There's an old writers workshop cliche that most books can be improved by lopping off the first chapter or prologue and there's some truth to this. It is good that you, the author, know all about the culture and biology and personal history of your alien first officer, but don't feel obliged to try to cram it all in the first scene. Especially if the ship is on fire!

2) Consider what your Point-of-View (POV) character is going to be noticing at this moment. If the ship is under attack, chances are the captain isn't going to be rhapsodizing about the lustrous auburn hair of the beautiful yeoman, or musing about his troubled childhood on Alpha Centauri. That alien warship that's bearing down on them right now? That's probably got his full attention. Feel free to describe it in detail.

3) In general, start with broad strokes. You can fill in the details and nuances as the book goes on.

4) As a rule, I try to at least sketch in the setting by the second paragraph or so. I hate having bodiless voices talking in a void. Let us visualize where we are.

5) As a STAR TREK writer, you have the option of being able to quickly set up the basic situation via a quick Captain's Log entry. "Stardate 3284.4. We are responding to a distress signal from a Federation colony near the Klingon border . . . ." Just keep it short and to the point. Don't go overboard trying to explain 100 years of interplanetary politics. (My log entries are seldom more than one paragraph long.)

Hope that helps.
Thanks for your reply!

1. I think I have done OK with that. I start off with a battle scene and don't go into a lot of detailed back-story. I have a few scenes of back-story here and there in the story. I think I need a few more short scenes to get to know my crew, since they are all new I think I would like to have some back story come in the form of them telling stories and getting to know one-another.

2. I need to describe my enemy ships better. They are an existing enemy seen onscreen.

3. I think I have done that, but I will of course watch for that on re-reading it.

4. I have mentioned where the characters are, but I need to add more description and make it vivid. One of the writing books said the location is a character, make it come alive.

5. My story spans several months and I know it's not necessary to drag the story along by explaining everything that happens between the big events. I have used a few Captains logs to let the reader know what has happened and how much time has passed and they are not very long. I like using them and I think it feels very Star Trek.

Thanks again for your post and the advice!
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Old November 17 2013, 03:18 AM   #41
BrentMc
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Re: Writing questions

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
Beginnings are tricky. You want to give the reader what they need to know without bogging things down. I'm not sure there's a one-size-fits-all solution, but a couple of tips:

1) Consider what the reader needs to know NOW, in just this scene, as opposed to overloading the first scene with lots of elaborate backstory that may or may not be relevant at the moment. There's an old writers workshop cliche that most books can be improved by lopping off the first chapter or prologue and there's some truth to this. It is good that you, the author, know all about the culture and biology and personal history of your alien first officer, but don't feel obliged to try to cram it all in the first scene. Especially if the ship is on fire!

2) Consider what your Point-of-View (POV) character is going to be noticing at this moment. If the ship is under attack, chances are the captain isn't going to be rhapsodizing about the lustrous auburn hair of the beautiful yeoman, or musing about his troubled childhood on Alpha Centauri. That alien warship that's bearing down on them right now? That's probably got his full attention. Feel free to describe it in detail.

3) In general, start with broad strokes. You can fill in the details and nuances as the book goes on.

4) As a rule, I try to at least sketch in the setting by the second paragraph or so. I hate having bodiless voices talking in a void. Let us visualize where we are.

5) As a STAR TREK writer, you have the option of being able to quickly set up the basic situation via a quick Captain's Log entry. "Stardate 3284.4. We are responding to a distress signal from a Federation colony near the Klingon border . . . ." Just keep it short and to the point. Don't go overboard trying to explain 100 years of interplanetary politics. (My log entries are seldom more than one paragraph long.)

Hope that helps.
Greg Cox wrote: View Post
"As the angry aliens converged on the landing party, Kirk wondered how the hell things had gotten so out of control . . . ."

Although I'm talking less about seguing into a flashback and more about beginning the book with a flash-forward teaser.

In either case, my instinct would to be include a "Twelve Hours Later" header anyway, just in the interests of clarity and avoiding confusion. Sometimes the brute force approach is just what the job calls for. You don't want to be so subtle you confuse the reader . . . .
I have a few scenes that star with "Three weeks later." I have thought about switching some of them to dialogue, such as having a character say "It's been three weeks since the attack."
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Old November 17 2013, 03:22 AM   #42
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Re: Writing questions

BrentMc wrote: View Post
I have a few scenes that star with "Three weeks later." I have thought about switching some of them to dialogue, such as having a character say "It's been three weeks since the attack."
Talking purely as a reader here, but keep the "Three weeks later" headers. Including things like that in the dialog almost always feels forced IMO. Like the characters both actually know the info already, but know they have to tell the reader as well.
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Old November 17 2013, 03:33 AM   #43
BrentMc
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Re: Writing questions

Defcon wrote: View Post
BrentMc wrote: View Post
I have a few scenes that star with "Three weeks later." I have thought about switching some of them to dialogue, such as having a character say "It's been three weeks since the attack."
Talking purely as a reader here, but keep the "Three weeks later" headers. Including things like that in the dialog almost always feels forced IMO. Like the characters both actually know the info already, but know they have to tell the reader as well.
Thank you for your opinion.
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Old November 17 2013, 03:44 AM   #44
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Re: Writing questions

Defcon wrote: View Post
Talking purely as a reader here, but keep the "Three weeks later" headers. Including things like that in the dialog almost always feels forced IMO. Like the characters both actually know the info already, but know they have to tell the reader as well.
You know, I used to think that, but I've noticed that sometimes real people do repeat things to each other that they already know, to refresh their memories or make sure they're on the same page, or just to reminisce. It's not easy to do in fiction without sounding forced, no, so it shouldn't be used unless you really know what you're doing, but it does happen.
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Old November 17 2013, 04:04 AM   #45
Sho
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Re: Writing questions

I was going to reply that I can remember some situations where using that specific phrase was something I or other real world people have done, e.g. "It's been three weeks. Don't you think that's enough time to get over it and pull himself together?" or similar. But yeah, the basic sentiment of remembering to check whether real people would actually say a particular thing (or just if you think the character would, for that matter) I think is a good one.
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