A Writer Writes

If you’ve been following Twitter much in the last few days you’ve probably seen this article by Stephen Hunter saying that a writer has to write very day or quit now. It’s a great idea in theory, but what about the real world.

Full disclosure: When I wrote my first novel I wrote every day. For the next seven, I didn’t. The idea of building the habit of writing is important, but saying you have to write every day or you’re an utter failure who shouldn’t bother continuing is unrealistic.

After two months of not skipping a single day working on my most recent novel, I skipped a day last week. We had to spend the night in the emergency room because my partner was having breathing troubles. Spending the night with her was more important than writing every day.

I finished the book, still at the hospital, two days later.

You have to make allowances for life.

If you ask me, the only two things you have to do are you have to write, and you have to finish things. It can be a novel, an article, or even a blog post. What it is doesn’t matter. What matters is that you write it, write regularly, and you get things finished.

Expecting people to meet unrealistic goals is ridiculous.

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Pulling it All Together

As I write this I’m coming into the final stretch on Doc Vandal book 4, Giant Robots of Tunguska. Everyone’s in a bad situation, even the characters who don’t realize it, and it’s time to pull all the threads together.

Some writers plan everything out with a detailed outline so they know exactly what’s going to happen next: I’m not one of those writers. I have a rough outline and I know where I want all the pieces to end up. What I don’t know is exactly how they’re going to get there.

It’s also where I go back and look for any dangling plot threads I need to tie up. This would be a ton easier if I could just stick to my outline, but I can’t. The story I end up with is never exactly what I planned.

However, not knowing exactly where I’ll end up and how I’ll get there helps make the writing fun. It’s like reading the book to find out what happens, only much slower.

 

The Making of a Cover

After reading this Lit Hub post on cover design, I thought it would be interesting to share the the process involved in making the cover of the first Doc Vandal adventure, Against the Eldest Flame. The big thing was that I wanted a cover that really felt like it would have been perfectly at home on a newsstand in 1937. That meant no obvious CGI figures or backgrounds; the cover needed a painted look. I’ve put the journey behind the fold because there are a number of images here.

Continue reading “The Making of a Cover”

Why Doc Vandal isn’t Doc Savage

When you’re writing a character inspired by another, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of writing a copy instead of an homage. Yes, Doc Vandal is very clearly inspired by Doc Savage; he’s an almost superhuman super scientist who lives near the top of the tallest building in New York with a handful of aides and fellow adventurers. The key lies in how you differentiate the new character.

With Doc Vandal, it all started with one simple statement: Doc Savage lives in our world, Doc Vandal doesn’t. Doc Vandal’s world is deliberately more fantastic than Doc Savage’s. Doc Savage has an assistant named Monk Mayfair who is often described as apelike. Doc Vandal’s oldest associate is a silverback gorilla.

On it’s own though, a change like that is little more than filing off the serial numbers and maybe turning up the volume.

Use your inspirations as a foundation. They are theĀ beginning, not theĀ end. Doc Vandal fills the same role in his world as Doc Savage does in his, but the two characters got there in very different ways. What’s most important though is to find your own voice and tell your own stories.

Also, remember it’s been eighty years since the 1930’s. Doc Savage and his team were six white males, and that’s just not something that would work today. Not only does a modern audience expect a more diverse cast, but limiting your characters that way artificially limits your story space. A wider range of characters offers a wider range of story opportunities and any writer would be a fool not to take advantage of that.

 

 

Air Pirates are GO!

It’s launch day. Air Pirates of Krakatoa is now live in the Kindle store. It’s been a long slog, over two years since I finished the first draft, but it’s available now.

This was the one that really determined the direction of the series; so much so that I went back and revised Against the Eldest Flame so that it fit better with the sequel. Characters found their own voices and their world opened up.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

 

About Writing Pulps

In the old days, pulp writers were incredibly prolific, often pumping out a pulp novel of anywhere from forty to sixty thousand words in a week. That’s even more impressive when you realize this was done on manual typewriters, and any author who wanted to hit deadlines pretty much had to get it right on the first draft.

Eighty years later, we have it much easier. Word processors have eliminated the need for retyping entire manuscripts. With programs like Scrivener we can organize everything and even write out of order.

That’s great for all of us who want to express ourselves as writers, but how does it relate to the pulps.

One reason the pulps read at such a breakneck pace is because they were written at a breakneck pace.

Now you could go out and get a manual typewriter and give yourself a tight deadline and see if that produces the same effect, but most of us aren’t going to do that. What you can do is give yourself the freedom to go crazy.

Take that first draft, and whenever things start to slow down throw in a wild threat that you make up on the spot. Throw both yourself and the characters off-balance. It may not work in the long run, but that’s the advantage of technology; if it doesn’t work, just kill it in the rewrite.

That’s part of how I write Doc Vandal — When I don’t know what to do I just have something giant and mechanical smash through the wall.

Enjoy everything you write. If you don’t, how can you expect your readers to?