Motivations, Inspirations, Imaginations…And Characters. A Journey Care Less and Content

Strolling

Foreword

You know how it goes. You have this idea for a topic, and you start off. Then some allied aspect else occurs to you, which begs to be added on, which in turn leads you off down an interesting lane and somehow the original topic is behind you, round a bend somewhere and you are there, scratching you’re head wondering ‘So?… How did I get here?’

The intention was to write about World Building and how the one which formed out of my work was a place I liked to revisit, just to be there. Then the theme became something else. Here was another writer wandering through This, That and The Other. For no other reason than ‘Just Because’….

The books which are part of the post are not mentioned because there is no intention to publicise them. You’ll find enough information in earlier posts. The subjects of this post are creativity, inspiration and motivations. Anyway back to that start…

The Beginning

Sometime ago I promised myself ‘Tone down on the politics. Concentrate on the writing. Be at one with your creativity,’………………..

The next day……

Back on the soapbox or picking fights on Facebook. Will I ever learn?

Learn what? To desensitise myself against thing which get under my skin? Remove some part of me?

Well, maybe not picking on an easy FB target and ridiculing them. Maybe ‘They had it coming. Taste of their own medicine. See how they like it,’ Are not worthy and mature reasons, perhaps those sentiments border on excuses. Weighing down someone’s ‘one liner’ with three paragraphs of International Relations Theory and History? Maybe that’s showing off a bit. Overkill much?

I tell myself my political and social comments should be addressed to Word Press where generally the standard of debate is higher.

The fact, though, the political part of me, is one reason why I write fiction as I do; the challenge being to try and tone down the preachiness. A character sounding off on some political issue in the middle of an action episode sounds ‘odd’. A lesser character taking up half a chapter on observations on an injustice just spoils the narrative and detracts from the plot.

Yet there is nothing wrong with placing your opinions or views in a narrative, the characters will let you know if they think you’ve been too wordy. Those lesser characters’ two or three lines of conversation will suit just as well.

On reflection my views were one of the driving forces and at the same time a bit of a challenge to fit in neatly. I loathe the latent misogyny trying to slither back into our cultures. Thus was more than happy with Three Strong Women characters appearing. Prejudices on the grounds of race, religion, adult consensual choices tend to be a red flag, so those who embrace any or all of these prejudices would truly hate my trilogy. Sometimes a mischievous part of me nurtured on Facebook would snigger while whispering ‘If anyone hates this part. Good…they got it coming,’.

Another motivation and this is not criticism just personal taste, I did not wish to read anymore grimdark or ‘gritty’. The real world had enough of that for me. Happy endings and good folk running rings around bad folk was my intention.

In addition is a little fantasy of the whole trilogy being on a public forum where I would wait for the inevitable feeble whinge that is it is all ‘woke’, whose users are such easy targets…. (Ah but there I go again. Looking for confrontation)

Yet as I go treading into more dangerous and delicate yet related ground; it has been an observation that there is more than one way to receive criticism or even ire for portrayals of characters outside of your own social, ethnic, political, belief system grouping. This observation, and the word is stressed comes from reading commentary from those whose group is portrayed, in a sympathetic or positive light and yet is perceived by the commentator as not being the correct portrayal. My own conclusion is in this fraught world where colonialism, in the European sense has died out and the old Cold War alignments disintegrated and social norms are altering it is for many people or peoples essential their group are portrayed accurately and in a balanced, mature context. Of course my get out clause being; ‘These books take place in a Fantasy World. Not this one,’, though human natures being what they are it is unlikely this response would be seen as satisfactory. Never mind… ‘You can’t win them all,’ . And anyway folks this is a world of my characters and they led me through allowing me to explore (or was that witness?) all manner of the possibilities.

Characters eh?

One advantage, or salutary warning is once you let your characters in on the act and they start to influence you, the pace of writing picks up until the creative or speculative processes reach a velocity which leaves all caution behind. In a very paradoxical, maybe cussed mood, the lack of sales encouraged me and them onwards. We reached the ‘What The Heck’ Stage, followed by ‘C’mon Rog’. We just have to go this way, you know parts of the back story have been building to this. Remember the sub-text kiddo,’. This of course led to other directions for taking the main narratives too.

Maybe the final result would seem to some a vainglorious mash-up of genres, sub-genres and styles. And there would be no argument from me. In my defence this is what happens when the driving forces within you set the imagination in movement and in turn you feel confident enough to let the narrative take control.

Should the whole work come to public attention and there is consequential criticism of the plot line, characters and result, let it be so.

For I had far too much fun putting the whole together to regret. (apart from those stupid persistent typos and a few instances of getting the names wrong- sometimes you can be too indie).

And now I am learning restraint and economy on a monthly Blog Battle*, which is as much fun being very instructive, while keeping my interaction of Face Book to a minimum.

*

BlogBattle

https://bbprompt.com/

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Microsoft Word Actually Being Useful in Self-Editing

Editing. Outside assistance

I have to be one of the world’s worst in this department of the writing process. People finding mistakes in my spelling or syntax or questioning punctuation is bad enough. When anyone suggests even in the most friendlies of tones that there could be improvements in a character or plot line then hopefully visible warning beacons start to flash and they will drop the subject. Should someone be unwise enough to try and be critical then if they are lucky they just get the cold treatment. As my wife says ‘You’ll not be told’. And I won’t.

Except in the case of one short-story (unfamiliar ground for me) where without the valuable help and patience of Rachael Ritchley the story would have never flown.

Visit Rachael’s site. It’s a treasure trove for writers of Fantasy and Rachael does not only write YA Fantasy she creates the most amazing covers

Rachael Ritchley

So back to me ‘n self-editing

My fault. My problem. But enough of these quirks,  introspections and possibly controversial comments. Let us away to the practical.

One of the issues with self-editing is that no matter how diligent you are, there will always be tendencies to:

(A) Overlook a mis-spelt word because Word recognises it as another word eg.  You have written a passage in which you character makes an entry in their Diary, only for you to find when the book is out in the public domain the character appears to have been writing on the walls of a place where milk products are made.

(B) Lose control of those indefinite or definite articles when you were sure you had them in the write place.

(C) Forget at night time when you final shut down your device to intone the mystical chant which will ward off the evil cyber-pixies from sneaking in and make typos in your precious work.

(D) Not notice that sentence is a tad too long and those commas or semi-colons don’t hack it for you.

(E) Somehow fail to notice that the piece of prose which in your mind is brilliant, is actually in the cold light of reading by someone else to be incomprehensible.

(F) Possibly be guilty in the eyes of one grammar sect or another of an act of punctuational heresy.

Now aside from (E) & (F) which are unavoidable even to the most astute and gifted writer, the others are the banes of writers who insist on ploughing their own self-publishing, self-editing  furrows (or according to some of a harsher outlook- digging their own graves)

So never mind about all the blah-blah about holes in plots, lack of character development, structure of narrative etc which truth be known are but mere opinions what about those aforementioned pesky practicals? Which despite what you might consider to be your most diligent efforts still sneak in?

Well, let us away to the Word Toolbar. Normally for a writer a nightmare jungle, that truth be known has been designed with a heavy weighed favour for business presentations and academia while having no notion of  how to assist in the artistic process.

I knew there was some function which read out written copy because while typing out at a goodly rate I used to accidentally hit a combination keys and someone would start speaking at me. (Apparently it’s Alt+Ctrl+Space…how the heck could I hit those accidentally????)  However by stubborn diligence this was tracked down to ‘Review‘ and thence ‘Read Aloud’

Screenshot Review Read Aloud

Once ‘Read Aloud’ is clicked on, at whatever word your cursor is on, away will go the narration.

Overview and Observations

The voice reproduction is not very robotic. If fact the voice word per word is very human. The narration would not pass muster on an audio book, but never mind that is not its purpose. So let’s look at a breakdown on the process:

The speed of the narration is designed for the listener to pick up on errors or questionable phrasing so you will notice ‘things’ . Each word is highlighted as it is spoken, thus you can pin-point the pesky problem. Though the narration does not stop so you have to be swift if you want to amended it there and then. Go the A and click to stop the narration or use the set of tools which will be visible on the right side of the screen; you can change the voice, and speed- the latter is not recommended, it is not subtle.  Do not try and amend without stopping as the amendment will be at where the narration is and not where you want it.

Pronunciation is nearly flat of accent, but is overall very good. Some words can sound quirky (Eg: ‘Squirrel comes out as ‘Sk-wi-rell’), contractions might result it the word being spelt out in single letters, along with any sounds you may write such as ‘Hmmm’ (‘H-m-m-m’), others however the programme has no problem with. If you are writing Fantasy or SF you might well find a whole new dimension to those place and character names.

It will read as it finds, thus is very good at alerting you to something your hearing picks up but your reading speed missed. Pesky typos are exposed in their oddities and those definite or indefinite articles are shown to be in the wrong place. The programme does not appears to have universal sensitivity to punctuation, but there is a definite pause when coming to a ‘full stop’ , this is very useful when it dawns on you that particular piece of prose is far too long as one sentence.

As it is a programme you will have to accept your characters are going to sound somewhat soulless; although there is one slight benefit to this. If their intent, emotions and individuality still come through then you know you are on the right track!

A flat and soulless read can be very useful in picking up on one of those oversights as highlighted in (E). The writer on hearing something narrated back to them in this fashion will have ‘Uh?’ moments and revisions will start to form in their mind. Thus prepare yourself for a 1,000 word extract collapsing while crying out ‘re-write’ ‘re-write’ . As you know these re-writes might be conducted at haste and contain their own ‘issues’, ‘Read Aloud’ will point those out to you too.

One final thought, aside from self-editing books this system would be very useful for those very long blog posts, the pitching letters, book summaries and blurbs, for all of the above reasons.

My Own Experience

Having become familiar with the basics, my own method is as follows.

I work one chapter (on average 2000 – 3000 words) at a time. It is advisable to conduct a review in smaller ‘chunks’ so you can keep track on the errors/problems and revisions arising.

To repeat. When the narration highlights an issue I click on ‘A’ to stop the process and conduct the revision there and then, before clicking back on to continue. Some writers might find this disruptive and prefer to have a notebook and pen at their side to record the error then tackle a group of problems in one go.

I also use this system on reaching a part of the narrative which (1) I know was rushed because it was only a link between two important parts, or (2) there is a complex interaction. These might have already been cleansened of any errors in typos, syntax, wrong word, punctuation etc however listening to a flat narration has often given me a broad picture insight into whether the intended basics of the extract have worked.

Currently I have found the average number of words reviewed each day is approaching a minimum of 5,000 which take me about 1 hour per 5,000. These figures of course are very individualistic and should not be taken as any you should aim for. They are simply an observation, each person will have separate targets and outputs.

Conclusion  

I have to say, for once Word produced a most useful aid to the overall writing process. This is recommend to anyone embarking on self-editing in its entirety. It would also be useful for anyone looking to send their work to a professional editor or beta-reader, after all their job is challenging enough without having to confront those items highlighted in (A) to (D)….items in (E) & (F) are between you guys.

Try it with a small portion of writing first and see if it works for you.

Have a good re-write