Writing questions

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by BrentMc, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Although in prose, you don't really need to do a TV style "N Hours Earlier" flashback. Since you're writing from a particular character's POV, you can have them think about how they got into the situation and have their reflections form, or at least preface, the flashback. Prose fiction isn't always written in linear time.
     
  2. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    "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 . . . .
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yeah, personally I do prefer to keep the chronology as clear as possible. But nonlinear chronology is a tool in the kit, one that other writers do use.

    Heck, look at any book written by Margaret Wander Bonanno in the past decade. She tends to write in a stream-of-consciousness manner that jumps all over the timeline.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I've edited Margaret. She keeps you on your toes. And I mean that in a good way! :)

    And the book in question, Preternatural, ended up being a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, so obviously it can be done to great effect . . ..
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
  5. Tiberius

    Tiberius Commodore Commodore

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    Oh, I've got a question.

    When it comes to planning, how in-depth do you guys go? Do you just have a brief overview of the scene, or do you include things like neat ideas you might think of, lines of dialogue, etc?
     
  6. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Good question.

    I start out with a twelve to fifteen page outline that gets run by CBS before I ever start writing the book. Ever after all these years, I still go back and forth on how much detail I should work out in advance. The more detailed the outline, the faster and easier the later writing goes, but, on the other hand, I don't want to spend days working out every beat of an elaborate action sequence only to get a note from the licensor saying "cut the snowmobile scene." Oops.

    Later on, when the time comes, I may sit down and outline an individual chapter in more detail, especially if it's a complicated scene with lots of moving parts. I tend to do most of my plotting on index cards: I scribble down cool ideas and snatches of dialogue on the cards and shuffle them until I get them in an order that works. (Invariably there's one or two cards that get thrown out because they just don't fit with the rest.)

    Also, I will often do a VERY rough draft just to get the structure down, then go back and flesh it out later. In general, I tend to write in layers, building the skeleton first, then adding the muscles, the skin, and the cute little freckles in that order.

    My rough drafts often read something like this:

    "Kirk beamed down into the alien temple, which was DESCRIBE. He turned to face NAME, who brandished a CRYSTAL/METAL/BONE scepter at him. Hordes of alien SOMETHINGS descended from the COLOR sky. (WEATHER? TIME OF DAY?). "Watch out!" Ensign REDSHIRT shouted, just before he was VERBED by a COLOR blast from the scepter."

    Okay, that's probably a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. I want to get a solid foundation laid before I start sweating the details . . . .
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Hmm, that's very different from the way I work. I operate at the detail level from the start. I often get stuck for quite a while trying to figure out the details of one sentence or paragraph before I can move onto the next. There's a scene in The Buried Age that starts with a very technically detailed sentence from Data's POV, and it took me 20 minutes of online research and contemplation to write that single sentence (which, actually, was over 75 words long) before I could move on to the rest of the scene.

    Just in general, I'm very linear in my approach. I usually have to plod through from start to finish, both on the scene level and the whole-work level, although I will go back and add or rearrange things later. Sometimes, in recent works, I've written subplots out of order as a timesaving measure -- get through the stuff I'm ready to tackle before going back to sort out the trickier parts -- but it doesn't come naturally to me. Oddly, when I was just beginning to write back in high school and college, I routinely wrote scenes out of order just as the inspiration took me, but since then I've gotten far more linear.
     
  8. DonIago

    DonIago Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This begs the question...what was the sentence? :)
     
  9. Tiberius

    Tiberius Commodore Commodore

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    Cool, thanks for this. I had a bit of a giggle thinking about sentences such as, "Man, Ensign Ricky got verbed by that Klingon so adjectively!"

    But another serious question to follow on...

    When you have your outline set, do you right it from beginning to end, or do you write out of order. Maybe a bit in the middle first, then a bit towards the end, then the beginning... And if you do it that way, do you find opportunities to set up a payoff so you can put the lead up to it? For example, you might decide it would be a good idea to have Chekov shoot a gun to save the day (I know, original), and then when writing earlier scenes include a bit about Chekov training at the phaser range, even though your original outline for the earlier scene might not have included any mention of Chekov's practice?
     
  10. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    In general, I prefer to write in a linear fashion from start to finish. Unless . . . .

    Sometimes, if I'm cutting back and forth between two parallel plots (the away team on the planet and a concurrent crisis on the ship, for instance), I may decide to just stick with one set of characters and focus on them for the time being, rather than mentally switching gears every other scene. You don't want to lose momentum, especially if the away team scenes are going well and you're making steady progress on them.

    Then you go back and do the shipboard scenes later . . . .

    (I did this a lot with my DC Comics novelizations, which involved a zillion characters and subplots and settings. "Okay, today I'll do all the bits with Wonder Woman on Paradise Island, and put off all the outer-space scenes with Green Lantern until next week.")
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.


    It's on p. 236 of The Buried Age, and it goes:

     
  12. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    ^ 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.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
  13. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    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.
     
  14. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    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. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  15. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^ 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."
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.
     
  17. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Pretty much the same idea, yeah, but I eventually have to provide my own TECH! :)
     
  18. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^ Clearly, you need some tech for teching.
     
  19. BrentMc

    BrentMc Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  20. BrentMc

    BrentMc Commander Red Shirt

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    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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