Bob Mayer's Blog
March 5, 2015
Do you write narrow, broad or both?
I���ve been struggling with my work in progress, Chasing the Son, and about 4 in the morning I realized a problem I���m having is I���m writing too narrow and linearly on a story that is actually broad and spread out over place and time.
Here���s what narrow writing is:
Here���s what broad writing is:
-multiple occurrences at the same time
Note both are conflict driven, but in broad writing, the conflict is more character based, while in narrow writing, it���s more action based.�� (all conflict should actually be both)
Neither are wrong. And a good book usually has both. In fact, I started this book out broadly. I begin by describing the low country around Charleston, then go into some history and by page three get to a character, then finally show character in action. Some would say not the greatest opening, where there needs to be that great hook on the first page and action. But I���ve written plenty of books like that. My subconscious obviously feels differently about this book and I have to trust it. Of course, that was my subconscious. The key is to move it from there to my conscious which is what I think finally happened at 4 in the morning. I���d gone from broad to narrow and it was bothering me.
We���re running a Write on the River workshop this weekend with four people attending and the key to it is focusing on process. What each writers process is and how their minds work. I really focus on this now after a quarter century of writing. I constantly surprise myself by not really understanding my process and having to work on it and refine it. So today I have to dive back in Chasing the Son and expand the story rather than move it forward as I���ve been doing. I need to add more texture and characterization so the reader understands the motives of the characters and why the action is happening.
By the way, Jen has been working on covers as we rebrand the Green Beret series. We���re breaking the books apart. The six original Dave Riley stories are one subset. But the books where Horace Chase comes to the forefront, will now be another subset. Even though Dave Riley is present in Chasing the Lost and Chasing the Son, these books are somewhat different. To brand them differently, we���re redoing covers. What do you think?
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: author, Book Writing, Craft, Writer Resources, writing
March 3, 2015
Yes, we all say it, but a perusal of blogs, articles, and conference schedules show a focus on eBooks, social media, marketing, promotion, formatting, cover design and much less on learning the craft of writing. Everyone is asking ���How, in this flood of content, can I sell books?��� And the answer is indeed: Write Better Books.
The key to being discovered is to have readers searching for you. Gather a fan following. That doesn���t happen by having a ton of followers on Twitter or Facebook. It happens by having a ton of readers, eagerly anticipating your next title to come out. Ultimately that is going to be what separates out those who succeed as writers and the vast majority who won���t over the long haul.
In light of that, I���m introducing Craft Tuesday. I will blog about various aspects of writing and also discuss examples from media, both print and screen. I will present a classic form of the novel, but also talk about how I view story telling to be changing. I���ve really seen a change in this in the last decade, especially in terms of narrative structure, timeline, and point of view. I���ve always believed in rule breaking, but I have three rules of rule breaking:
Know the rule. Breaking a rule we don���t know is just being dumb.
Have a good reason for breaking the rule. When I run Write On The River workshops here, I never say ���You did it wrong.��� There is no wrong. What I ask is ���Why did you do it that way?��� Often I get a blank stare back. It means the person just did it, without a good reason. Have a good reason for breaking a rule.
Take responsibility for breaking the rule. If it works, you���re a genius. If it doesn���t, you���re a mere mortal. Failure is the start point for future success.
Great writing is an art that comes out of craft. Which can be learned.
Some of the material presented comes out of The Novels Writers Toolkit. I started writing that over 20 years ago and have been updating it ever since. In this blog, I will be updating the excerpts for the next edition of the Toolkit.
Something I���ve picked up in the last several years is that a writer must study, refine and perfect their own process. This is the creative and practical way in which we write. It���s rooted in our psychology. I often tell writers that since we sit in a dark room by ourselves and write, we need therapy. It���s a given. But it���s true. We must understand our own thought process; and how we funnel that into our creative process.
I know a #1 bestselling writer who has the imagination of a rock. That���s not to say she���s dumb. She���s actually very, very smart. Just not imaginative. So part of her process is to compensate for that lack. She spends a lot of time studying her setting, but beyond her setting, she spends a lot of her time interviewing people and listening to their stories. And her story comes out of their stories. I don���t judge the right or wrong of that; it���s her process. It���s worked well enough to propel her to #1 on the NY Times list.
I tell people I can plot anything. What I mean is I can take a bunch of pieces and pull them together into a coherent plot. So I don���t overly worry about knowing exactly what will happen down the line. The longer I���ve written, the more I trust my subconscious. It means putting things in that manuscript that I really don���t know why they���re there. But I leave them. I���ve learned in my process to not edit those things out. Because later, down the line, it���s probably a piece I will need to build my story and make it tighter. So that���s a part of process I���ve taken something out of my subconscious and work with consciously. The more our process becomes conscious, the better we will work.
Process also includes point of view, which we will discuss. Another key to process is knowing what part of writing is our weakness, and then working to make it much stronger; I believe our book is only as good as the weakest part.
So let���s start there. What is your process as a writer? The following questions will help define it:
When I start a story, what is the moment of conception? I call this the original or kernel idea. Is it a person? A place? A theme? A story?
Do I understand my theme/intent for what I���m writing?
Why am I writing about this theme/intent? Why is it important to me?
Why is it important for me to write a story others will read?
What point of view do I write in? Is it the POV that supports my best writing? What POV scares me to write in? Might that be the best for me?
How do I research a story? What does that say about my imagination and my process?
What���s the weakest part of my writing? How can I make it better? Compensate for it?
What���s the strongest part of my writing? What is it compensating for and hiding from me? Remember, our greatest strengths are built around our greatest weaknesses.
How much outlining do I do? Do I outline plot? Character? Both? Neither?
How much rewriting do I do? What is the focus of my rewriting?
Don���t worry if you can���t answer all of these. I���ll be blogging about all of it as the Tuesday���s go by. And if you���re in a rush, buy the Toolkit and Write It Forward, and they���ll give you insights into the answers to these questions. Feel free to answer some in the comments and I���ll do my best to also comment.
The Write on the River workshop coming up this weekend was sold out a while ago.�� The next one is 27-28 June; or if you can gather three friends we can schedule a special weekend.�� Check out Write on the River.
I���m looking forward to this journey with you over the next months! Nothing but good times ahead.
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Art, author, Bob Mayer, Craft, writer, writing
February 24, 2015
Yes, today is the day Nightstalkers: Time Patrol is live.�� This book marks a turning point because the Nighstalkers transition in this story into the Time Patrol and from here on out that will be their mission.�� The next book will be out in August and it’s Time Patrol: Black Tuesday.�� I’ve already picked the dates for the next two books after that:�� Time Patrol: Ides of March and Time Patrol: Valentines Day Massacre.
Time travel has always fascinated me, especially if you accept the premise that if its ever invented, then it exists now.�� I’m merging the world and theories I invented in my Atlantis series into the Time Patrol:
Hidden deep beneath the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the Time Patrol, a secret agency charged with protecting the world���s timeline from the evil forces who wish to alter it. When the Patrol disappears without a trace, only twelve short hours are left before all life on Earth ceases to exist.
Enter: the Nightstalkers. Summoned to find the Time Patrol, the Nightstalkers��� elite covert operatives begin to notice rifts in their own worlds. And when they realize one of their colleagues has vanished into thin air, the mission gets personal.
From battling krakens and Valkyries to breaching the mythical Bermuda Triangle, the Nightstalkers must risk everything to defeat the malicious forces manipulating time itself. But if they lose, it won���t just mean the end of the world���it will mean the total destruction of the past, the present, and the future.
Brimming with sci-fi action, Time Patrol continues bestselling author Bob Mayer���s pulse-pounding Nightstalkers series.
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Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Amazon, Kindle, Science Fiction, time travel
February 23, 2015
When It Changed.�� From Nighstalkers: The Time Patrol published tomorrow!
It had changed for Foreman, closing in on 70 years of service, in February 1945 in an area called the Devils Sea, off the coast of Japan, in the waning days of World War II. The event was after he and his pilot were forced to ditch because of engine trouble. Minutes later the rest of their squadron simply vanished into a strange mist in that enigmatic part of the world. No trace of the other planes or crews were ever found.
Then it was reinforced in December of that same year, the war finally over, on the other side of the world, when he begged off a mission because of the same premonition he���d had before the Devils Sea flight, and watched Flight 19 disappear from the radar in an area called the Bermuda Triangle.
He���d determined then and there, that he had to know the Truth.
So he���d gone from the Marine Corps, into the short-lived pre-cursor to the CIA, the Central Intelligence Group in 1946, then morphed with it into the CIA, where he moved upward, and, much more importantly inward, into the darkness of the most covert parts of various branches whose letters and designations changed over the years, but their missions grew more and more obscure, to the point where he���d outlived and outserved all his contemporaries so no one in the present was quite sure who exactly he worked for any more or what his mission was.
If he worked for anyone at all.
Not that anyone really cared.
He was now known as the Crazy Old Man in the covert bowels of the Pentagon and by some other names, associated with bowel movements.
How crazy he was, some people were about to discover.
Cleopatra���s Needle pierced the sudden downpour with the relative indifference of granite, having faced the many depredations of time in its 3,500 some-odd years of existence. However, just one hundred years in New York City���s weather has done more damage to the hieroglyphics on the four faces of the obelisk, particularly the southwest corner, than over three millennia in Egypt���s much drier climate. It wasn���t the rain as much as the acid pollution rising from the city, some of which came back down in the rain.
Edith Frobish hated the rain, for more than just the damage it did to the Needle. Still, she paused, as she always did, to look at the ancient Egyptian monument set, strangely, in Central Park in the middle of Manhattan, in the middle of New York City, far from its origin. The fact the obelisk had nothing to do with Cleopatra VII (yes, there were six before that one, but none had achieved her fame/infamy so only the historically finicky who added the number���count Edith among those who did) was a trick of historical ���publicity���, more notoriety, that Edith would never understand. Why name something for someone who had had nothing to do with it, other than ruling briefly a thousand years after the Needle was commissioned by the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, good old, Thutmose III? He was considered the ���Napoleon of Egypt���, expanding the Empire to its widest breadths, but did anyone remember his name? Nope. But they remembered Cleopatra, seventh with that name. Plus, few knew or cared there had been six Cleopatra���s before the one who���d bedded mighty Caesar, then not-quite-as-mighty Marc Antony, and then had a date with a snake.
Was it just because she���d snagged and shagged two notable Romans? Edith found such an idea misogynist in the extreme. Which shows that despite her brilliance and degrees, there was much she didn���t know about the real world.
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Area 51, Science Fiction, time travel
February 22, 2015
When It Changed for Moms from Time Patrol published in two days, on Tuesday
It changed for Moms by figuratively traveling into her past, both in place and time. She was already in the place, having made the drive of tears back home. She was sitting on the front porch of the abandoned shotgun shack where she���d grown up in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. Interstate 80 was to the south, across the flat plains, but so far away that no sound traveled from the eighteen-wheelers racing across the middle of the country.
There was no other house in sight, just slightly undulating miles and miles of fields, and despite all the years since she���d left, Moms still had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. It had started when she���d entered Kansas and grown stronger every mile she drew closer to ���home���. The house was empty, long deserted. Her younger brothers never came out here, smarter than she was, understanding some memories only brought pain.
It seemed Moms was a masochist, going back to her roots in order to remember.
But sometimes, going into the past is necessary in order to move forward.
There are variations on that, such as changing the present in order to move forward, which Moms was soon to be discover.
And what are your thoughts on this possible cover for the next book in the series:�� Time Patrol: Black Tuesday?
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Area 51, Kindle, scienc fiction, time partol, time travel
February 21, 2015
When It Changed���� from Time Patrol�� published next Tuesday
It changed at Area 51 deep inside the sprawling complex set in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada, because many problems on the cutting edge of science, physics, the weird and the wonderful, started at Area 51. But this time not in the labs where scientists tested the outer boundaries of man���s knowledge, occasionally traveling from genius to stupid at light speed (literally sometimes) and requiring the Nightstalkers to clean up their messes, but in the repository of the results of all those tests and so much more: the Archives. If the Ark of the Covenant was indeed found by some Indiana Jones type character, it would have been stored here and it would have fit right in with many of the other weird and wonderful and frightening items gathered from around the world and hidden away deep under the sort-of-secret-but-definitely-most-secure facility in the Continental United States.
Even though the CIA had acknowledged the place existed (it was on Google Earth now for frak���s sake), that didn���t mean they were holding an open house any time soon.
It changed with Ivar, or rather the sudden lack thereof, of Ivar. Which, considering Ivar���s recent history and what had happened during the ���fun in North Carolina���, might not be as strange as it seems.
But Ivar, and Doc, who was with Ivar, at least initially, were both physicists, and they understood the law of entropy (or thought they did) and knew when something was taken away, something was returned in kind (or thought they knew).
At least a distorted law of entropy, which Doc would come up with later. Sort of.
If there was a later.
Nightstalkers: The Rift
It changed at the Ranch, outside of Area 51, on the other side of ���Extraterrestrial Highway���, but still pretty much Nowhere, Nevada, known to only a few as the headquarters of the Nightstalkers, in such a small way, that it was only because Eagle had a hippocampus twice that of a London cabbie and the resultant phenomenal memory, that it was noticed at all. Noticing didn���t mean awareness though.
Which meant Eagle was going to have to learn something new.
If he was given the time.
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Amazon, Area 51, Kindle, Science Fiction
February 20, 2015
When It Changed (from Time Patrol) published next Tuesday
It changed for Nada, team sergeant of the Nightstalkers, the most experienced member of the team, a man who���d stared death in the eye and French-kissed the grim reaper (figuratively, although stranger things have happened on Nightstalker��� missions), with the irritating voices singing the It���s a Small World whiny tune echoing in his head as his niece Zoey tried to spin their teacup faster and faster.
Definitely down a rabbit hole of dubious merit.
They���d gone from hell to a deeper hell, was Nada���s estimation, walking from It���s A Small World to The Mad Hatter���s Tea Party. He was not the type of person Disneyland had been designed for and he was a bit disappointed Zoey was attacking each new ride with such zest. Of course she was just a kid, but still. He expected better of someone who shared his bloodline.
As they spun about, Nada wondered how small the world really was?
And why did Disneyland bother him so much and on a much deeper level than irritating songs?
Little did he know, he was about to find out the answers to both.
And the answers were not good.
Very much so.
(Meet the Nightstalkers):
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Area 51, Nightstalkers, Science Fiction, time travel
February 19, 2015
���I wish I could cry, but I cannot. If I could forget the tragedy, perhaps I would know how to cry again.��� Mary Graves. Survivor, the ���Donner Party���
The “First Relief” made it over the mountains 168 years ago; the rescue of the Donner Party which had been trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains since the previous fall.
When people hear the ���Donner Party���, the first thing they think of is cannibalism. That was part of the final event, a result of a number of preventable cascades. By the time this group resorted to that extreme, they had made enough mistakes that we���re not going to spend much time on that aspect. In another book in this series, we���ll cover another event where cannibalism played a role, Flight 571, the Andes Plane Crash, but that was a very different scenario. To me, the most important aspect of the Donner Party catastrophe were the homicides and the way the group fell apart because it is an ominous portend of what happens during catastrophes that needs to be taken into account.
The Donner Party is key because it���s a study of group dynamics or rather, how group dynamics don���t work. Few of us understand how quickly the veneer of civilization can be torn away from people. Soldiers who���ve served in combat zones can attest to this phenomenon, especially among civilians who aren���t trained like the military. In zones such as Bosnia, the Middle East, and other places, the barbarity into which apparently ���ordinary��� people can quickly descend is frightening, and that is the lesson to understanding the catastrophe that was the Donner Party, because something similar can happen rather easily in future disasters. Turn the power off for a week in a large locale with no relief in sight and the results will be terrifying.
The Cascade Events leading to this catastrophe, as laid out in the quick read, The Donner Party: Leadership Failure were:
1.�� The Mexican War�� (Most Americans don’t remember this war, but percentage-wise it was the bloodiest in our history; I cover it in Duty, Honor, Country: West Point to Mexico)
2. Choosing to Follow a New Path (relying on only one sentence in a book by a stranger, the Donner Party made a decision to try a short cut; the Hasting Cut Off)
3.�� Failure to Make Decisions (time and again, the Donner Party received advice not to follow the Cut Off; they ignored it all)
4.�� A Lack of Clear Leadership
5.�� Crossing the Wasatch and then Resting at Pilots Peak (my first Winter Warfare in 10th Special Forces, we conducted it in the Wasatch, the very place the Donners tried to cross the Rockies; enough said)
6.�� The Tipping Point (when they left the first old man to die alone on the side of the ‘trail’, that was the beginning of the end; recognizing these critical tipping points is essential in our lives!)
7.�� Starvation, Freezing, Homicide and Cannibilism (the number of homicides in the Donner Party surprised me, along with the murder, and eating, of two Native Americans who came to them for help).
The purpose of the Anatomy of Catastrophe books is to learn from the sacrifices of those involved in various disasters in our past; this will help similar catastrophes in the future.�� The Donner Party hits home today as I sit in a house with no power, the temperature is below zero, and Cool Gus is looking rather scrumptious.�� Not– we’re well prepared here since we followed what I wrote The Green Beret Survival Guide.�� Here is a free post on Surviving a Power Outage and the key is preparation.
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: catastrophe, rescue, survival, west
February 18, 2015
WHEN IT CHANGED�� (from Time Patrol) published next Tuesday
It changed for Scout, now eighteen years old and almost two years past her first encounter, run-in, kerfuffle, whatever, involving the Nightstalkers, with a whiff of bacon. She���d only smelled real bacon outside the confines of her home; never inside. Inside it was always fakon, vacon or one of the other imposters. If you gotta fake it, Scout had always reasoned, ever since she was old enough to reason, which had been pretty dang young, then isn���t imitation the sincerest form of flattery and one should go with the original? Her rail-thin Mother, who counted each calorie as if they were mortal sins, did not see things that way.
Thus the mystery of the odor permeating the house.
For a moment Scout lie in bed wondering if perhaps it was wafting in from the old house next door, the one with the barn where she stabled her horse, Comanche. Out of the old stone chimney. People with a barn and a stone chimney had to eat bacon.
But in this relatively new house with its fake gas fireplace, with Scout���s Mother ruling the kitchen, with the aroma of honest-to-goodness real bacon filling the air, Scout questioned reality.
That���s a good trait, one the Nightstalkers had found valuable in the past and would need in the future.
If there was to be one.
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Area 51, Kindle, Science Fiction, time patrol, time travel
February 17, 2015
WHEN IT CHANGED�� (from Time Patrol) published next Tuesday
When it changed, Roland, stone cold killer, otherwise nice guy, and weapons man for the Nightstalkers, had the stock of a sniper rifle tucked tight in to his shoulder with a righteous target approaching and that made him happy. Neeley, a usually stone cold killer from the Cellar, was in overwatch, with her own sniper rifle, and she was acting wonky and that made Roland unhappy, since he liked her, and ���like��� for Roland was the equivalent of rabid devotion in a well-trained attack dog. However, it all balanced out and mattered little since he was in combat mode and feelings were of no consequence to him in that mode. There was only the mission.
Roland was a man who could live and flourish in the here and now.
That���s a rare, and valuable, trait.
It was going to get a lot more valuable.
Filed under: Write It forward Tagged: Area 51, Kindle, Science Fiction, time travel