Well, I went through the memo pad files on my Palm tungsten handhelds this evening, looking for more material on Ad Astra, but when I realized that I had some notes from even longer ago, I thought that I had to share them first. I’ll try to edit for a bit of clarity when I can, but these will generally be very rough, just what I managed to type down at the time. Please reply with questions in the comments about anything that intrigues you, and I’ll answer in more detail if I can, or speculate otherwise.
This first memo I don’t honestly know where it’s from, but it could be from Polaris 2010:
How to write
worldbuilding – know how things work and where things are
map of dystopian ontario – civilization around hydro plants, cancer pollution zones
writing a story in 24 hours – with prompts from strangers and libraries
outlining a story before starting the first sentence
have to be willing to kill characters off, even if you like them and they don’t want to die
two characters running around a building in opposite directions but not meeting
to master the art of outlining… Or not?
character driven writing – know their skilllsets, and then make them go beyond
appendectomy with a spoon and first aid training
wars and the aging of characters – retconning your history
computer tools – custom dictionary spell check, massive internet research, excel file for character bible, search and replace, macros for italicizing ship names
chinese font issues – pdf submissions
preparation details that don’t get into the book – lots of them
helps you live in that world
the grist mill – after being in one when it was working, the feel was wrong, needed to rewrite
tinker’s plague, triangular trade deficits, drove some of the plot
writing programs – ms word with all auto functions turned off, simple good manuscript format
old wordperfect to export to word
acer laptops on the bus!
Compose by hand if that works best for you
use whatever submission guidelines the editor wants
starting to use google docs, for different computers – legal ramifications?
don’t publish online until you’re ready to submit
backups by self-email? whatever works
how detailed an outline? point form versus breaking into chapters?
good sense of where to put chapter breaks (can always change later)
again, use what works for you – put in dialog or not.
post it notes on a huge piece of paper, very rough notes ‘X has to die’, not how or why.
all postit notes are at the start or the end, none in the middle. 10 postit notes in the same scene.
‘I knew that every chapter had to end with a cliffhanger.’ 100 chapters!
by chapter 60, I knew I needed to write the outline
chapter length – floating ten page? after 10 pages, look for a logical breaking point. (how long you’re likely to be sititng waiting for the doctor.)
‘I want people to miss the bus if they’re reading my stuff.’ (‘my friend missed his stop’)
Do a timeline of your universe? if you don’t, you’ll wish you did.
but don’t spend too much time on it at the expense of writing.
universe doesn’t come into existing until the second book starts.
the scene that was supposed to be a throwaway…
styrofoam head freak out – everybody asks about it.
there is a history to your characters. Let the readers know that the characters didn’t just pop into existence on page 1
let your character give a short lecture on history. ‘how do you know all this?’ ‘I paid attention in history class.’
character driven versus plot driven. Do you know in planning stage? Is it what kind of writer you are?
Manipulate your character – pushes and pulls
write what you want to write
have fun with it, be patient with yourself
These next two were definitely from Polaris:
beta readers – paramedic friend, not a doctor yet but can tell me when a character Is going to die
google can be useful, but you have to learn what reliable domains are
cross-check websites, hit an actual library.
war autobiographies, some good detail but not so much big picture, they don’t know what else was going on at that time , in other theaters etcetera.
go to wikipedia – DO NOT LOOK AT THE ARTICLE, but look through the sources. (and be careful about topic click drift)
maps are fabulous – google street view for the win!
where do you stop, too much detail? when it leads to exposition overload.
But have lots of little tidbits for throwaway lines – better to be sparing than to give too much and show off.
beta readers – where’s the plot?
3 weeks spent at tv tropes, hehe
being too educational?
need to set the scene, otherwise it’s a written down play
confused classical paganism with neopaganism – spell was given in hebrew, didn’t seem to fit.
grocery stores in colorado -her friend lived in texas, whoops. (13 years ago,)
csi – can’t even hold the equipment correctly. *rants about computers and MRIs*
Even professional writers miss details – wrong canadian prime minister in WW2
human target – wrong quebec monastery, portrayal . ann green cables reboot in the modern day?
When is fade to black an option? (whenever it’s not critical to the story.)
role playing research quick – playing a doctor – ‘going to the hospital’
the mel gibson dislocation routine
drownings, people don’t recognize it in real life, because how it’s portrayed on tv isn’t right.
the salt can be a bit off, as long as it’s not glaring.
canon wikis, memory beta includes everything, not very critical.
gender issues in TOS – censors had a large influence on canon.
who demoted number 1 from captain?
teenage chars can make stupid decisions that adults can’t get away with.
characters need to really be teenagers, not twentysomething called 16
‘new adult’ genre emerging – in the melrose place/college no man’s land age bracket
only one new vampire sale in the past 6 months – vampires among the amish, so look for a twist that good.
Most of world mythology still untapped
breaking idea – naveli at school?
3 things not to give to a 13 year old girl – cigs, beer, and Twilight
And finally, one more recent. At Wizard World 2011, the Toronto Can’t Stop the Serenity screening had a table, and a bunch of toys and props that people could take pictures of themselves with in exchange for a donation towards Equality Now. I donated to thank them for keeping an eye on my suitcase Sunday afternoon, and didn’t get pictures taken of myself with anything, but I did go leafing through a big wallet with Serenity’s papers, and made the following notes on them:
The serenity papers
firefly class cargo ship
ID required: malcolm reynolds
licenced for cargo
transfer certificate – name! (if changed)
external characteristics (pictures)
declaration of non-standard cargo space!
minor violations and infractions
trader’s guild membership
nav beacon licence
limited salvage rights
restricted salvage rights
crew and passenger roster
I have to say, I find the idea of a spot on Serenity’s papers for Mal to declare the non-standard cargo space to be just hilarious… on the other hand, it could be an Al Capone-like tactic on the part of the Alliance. If an inspection discovers a ‘non-standard cargo space’ that’s not in the papers, then he could get ticketed for it – even if he’s not even smuggling anything inside just at that moment.