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Author Topic: Notes from Borderlands Boot Camp  (Read 17435 times)
Ed
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2008, 01:26:54 PM »

Thanks for the clarification, Ed.

I guess the key point is not to merely know this stuff, but to internalise it and use it. And that comes from sitting down and doing the wordage, and then thinking hard about it afterwards when you come to redraft it. Bit by bit, some of the rules become instinctive and then one can really start to concentrate on story.

Derek

Yep, but I don't think there are many writers who regularly put out a perfect first draft, so it's not something we should get hung up on trying to achieve, IMO. One of the focuses of the weekend (one of the stated aims) was to make us all better editors of our own work. And that in turn translates into us being better writers, I think.

No doubt you do internalise stuff with experience, but I remember reading SK's On Writing and being surprised by just how much of his writing he edits out and chops up. Dunno if it was him or another famous writer who said they generally over write a novel by 50 to 100% and then edit it back to something sensible. So there's hope for us all yet. grin

I think that's one of the benefits of writing short stories - they get you into good habits that save you a lot of editing later. At least I'm hoping that's the case when I knuckle down to writing a novel sometime this year.
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2008, 03:06:27 PM »

So, did they say anything about story? All this talk of the finer points of the art, what about they key point - which is to tell a decent tale.

I guess we all know that conflict is the key. That and sympathetic characters. Put the two together and you've got the makings of real page turner.

But damn it ain't always easy.   undecided

Any hints and tips in this area (either from BC or from anywhere - and anyone!).

Del
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« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2008, 03:14:41 PM »

Thanks Ed. It's just a writing friend was questioning whether there could be a limited omniscient. I agree with you, it's possible to get too bogged down. The story needs to be told in the way the story needs to be told imo.
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Ed
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« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2008, 03:41:57 PM »

Thanks Ed. It's just a writing friend was questioning whether there could be a limited omniscient. I agree with you, it's possible to get too bogged down. The story needs to be told in the way the story needs to be told imo.

Oh right - yep, a limited omniscient is limited to what a particular character can see, feel and know - the narrator knows whatever the character knows and nothing more. It's a valid and often used point of view. Broad omniscient is the God point of view, where the narrator knows absolutely everything about everything and everybody. Oblique, or 'Fly on the wall', or reportorial, point of view is where the narrator is in the room and watching events unfold, but is not privy to the thoughts and emotions of the players - made famous by Hemingway. Can be very effective, but can also come across as cold and distant.

Narrative points of view are very interesting tools to play with, I think. In the story I submitted to Borderlands, the narrative starts out in a broadly omniscient viewpoint - chaos unfolds, then there's an abrupt end (a grand pause, they called it) and the narrative switches to a very limited omniscient PoV, because the MC is at this point unable to move and blind. Until attending the camp, I wasn't sure if it was OK to do. Turns out it was, because 'it worked' - still broke a few rules along the way, though.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
Ed
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« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2008, 03:49:10 PM »

So, did they say anything about story? All this talk of the finer points of the art, what about they key point - which is to tell a decent tale.

I guess we all know that conflict is the key. That and sympathetic characters. Put the two together and you've got the makings of real page turner.

But damn it ain't always easy.   undecided

Any hints and tips in this area (either from BC or from anywhere - and anyone!).

Del

They touched on these issues, but the bottom line was to tell the story in a linear timeline and rely on your characters to progress the plot - good stories come from good characterisation. It all goes back to the old adage of 'give your MC a problem', I suppose.

The next section of notes I was about to go through is about plot, which Tom Monteleone talked about as being separate from 'story' - plot being the movement through story. Maybe something in there will answer your question smiley
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2008, 03:56:00 PM »

Thanks again for that, Ed. I found a Wiki article about it too, which says pretty much what you said. Only you said it better! afro
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Ed
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« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2008, 06:10:45 PM »

#Plot

Apparently there’s a difference between plot and story – must admit I had thought of them as parts of the same thing. Plot is the movement through the story. A ‘plot engine’ is the thing that all the characters are involved with finding/stopping/having – whichever it may be. This drives the story forward through how the characters interact with the problem. In a ‘forced plot’, the writer plots by convenience – making things happen just because they need them to happen. Bends the characters’ actions to suit the story.

A prime example of this is the ‘idiot plot’. It’s cold and dark out, there’s an axe wielding psychopath on the loose from the neighbouring mental hospital, so your characters decide to go out for a walk in the woods. Murderous hijinks ensue. Trouble is, in order for the plot to work, each one of them is required to be a complete imbecile. They make all the wrong decisions, which results in false drama.

The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction must make sense. You can’t measure written stories against cinema – they are two very different mediums.

Good plots work on dramatic tension – putting characters in positions where they have to change – making them confront problems.

Incidentally, Tom Monteleone mentioned that he used to write nothing but sci-fi, but in sci-fi stories the concept is the story, which usually features clichéd characters (who don’t matter) that interact with ‘an idea’, so once you run out of ideas, you’re stuffed as a sci-fi writer.

Plot consists of a beginning, middle and end. You can start ‘in media res’ (in the middle), but you must cover the start before the end. Likewise you can start at the end, but you must cover the beginning and middle at some point. I’d say that’s pretty obvious, TBH.

Resolution – good stories make a point and leave readers with something to think about. Reading the story should be an adventure for the reader – make it challenging – don’t choose the easy route for your characters because it’s easier to write. Make life complicated for your characters. Put them in conflict. Force them to make decisions.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
Ed
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« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2008, 05:29:30 PM »

And finally...

#What Publishers Want

Use good grammar. If you don't know your way around grammar, buy a copy of 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' or 'The Elements of Style' and read and inwardly digest until you do. Editors want manuscripts that are damn near perfect to start with.

They want good, linear stories with smooth transitions between scenes, places and points of view. Avoid non linear plots unless the story calls for it. Make sure any flashbacks are relevant to the story.

Editors are looking for clear and unique voices, with a good rhythm - a good steady interchange between narrative and dialogue.

Above all, editors are looking for any reason they can find to reject your manuscript - not reasons to accept it.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2008, 08:03:10 AM »

Ed, would it be alright with you if I copied some of these notes of yours to another writers' forum (small, private one) - with full attribution, of course?
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Ed
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« Reply #24 on: February 17, 2008, 10:10:41 AM »

Yep, that's fine, Delph - thanks for asking smiley

I did a fair bit of audio recording, too, which contains some gold. Unfortunately the sound quality isn't up to much, but I might make them available at some point in the future. I've already posted pdfs of each of the edits of my story in the crit group, along with what each instructor had to say about the story in an audio file (decent quality), but I don't want to put that on general release yet, because I've apparently got a good chance of placing the story at a high end print market.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
delph_ambi
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« Reply #25 on: February 17, 2008, 10:30:29 AM »

Many thanks, Ed. Appreciated.  smiley

I'd love to hear the audio stuff at some point.
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Ed
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« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2008, 05:32:23 PM »

I've just received an e-mail from a friend I met at Borderlands Bootcamp - his name's Richard Payne, and he'll hopefully be joining our crit group in May. He wrote a great zombie story for the boot camp. I think you're going to be hearing a lot more of his name in the future. Anyway, Richard has just returned from the World Horror Convention, and brightened my day by sending me this:

***

Ed,

I thought you'd like to know that F. Paul Wilson specifically 
mentioned you and your story on a WHC panel. He didn't mention you by 
name, but he said that he'd just been to the Borderlands Bootcamp. He 
then said that it was okay to break storytelling rules if you stayed 
in control. Then he said that, "There was this guy who wrote a story 
at the Bootcamp that was breaking the rules, but the story was going 
on and on, and it was simply brilliant!"

It was clearly your story that he was referring to, and I thought 
that you'd like to know that he said it to a group of professional 
horror writers.

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Kewl, huh? smiley
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #27 on: March 31, 2008, 10:46:36 PM »

 afro Very cool!  Have you found a different market to submit that one to yet, Ed?
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Ed
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« Reply #28 on: April 01, 2008, 03:08:25 AM »

Nope, not yet - I was going to ask him for suggestions on where else to send it, but haven't got around to it yet.  smiley
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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