Writing Influences and Other Things

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Who are my writing influences, you ask?  Well, there are quite a few.  I have listed some in previous posts and I hope to find more as my journeys continue.

I have been on a bit of an older genre of authors kick as of late. I just finished all but a couple series of Edgar Rice Burroughs and I am currently going through H.P. Lovecraft’s work.

But if we jump in the way back machine, there’ll be some staples, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Heinlein, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey and Frank Herbert.

In the middle, some of my favorites were Daniel Keys Moran, John Steakley, Christopher Hinz, William Gibson, Joan D. Vinge and David Gerrold.

And currently, I have a tendency to read:

Steven Brust (http://dreamcafe.com/)

P.C. Hodgell (https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/p-c-hodgell/)

Joe Abercrombie (https://www.joeabercrombie.com/)

Jim Butcher (http://www.jim-butcher.com/)

I am also looking forward to read Carrie Vaughn’s (http://www.carrievaughn.com/) Martian’s Abroad.

One of the biggest influences on me writing wise has been and probably always will be is Roger Zelazny (https://www.fantasticfiction.com/z/roger-zelazny/). The flow of his stories always grabbed me and shoved me through the pages.  He covered Sci-Fi and Fantasy. He also blended them together in a way that I haven’t come across anyone else having done.

Another of the biggest influences on me would be C.J. Cherryh (http://www.cherryh.com/WaveWithoutAShore/). The biggest universe I have ever come across in story is her space series. It spanned hundreds of years and multiple planets/systems.  And the stories wouldn’t necessarily connect. I have yet to come across a ‘world’ as large as hers.

So if those weren’t a clue, (or possibly confusing) my first book will be in the Sci-Fi genre. It’s pretty much heaped up with a lot of the things that I like and some of the things that I think are missing from Sci-Fi.

So, yay for influenza! Or influences I mean. Yeah not the other thing…

Writing My First Novel, the Matilda Pt. 3

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One of the big differences I have found between screenplays and novels has to do with building the world itself.  In screenplays, it is generally recommended to leave these sorts of things open, aka not too heavily defined.

The simple reason is due to the collaborative structure of a movie or show.  The screenplay is just one piece of the whole story, almost the outline as it were.  I haven’t written a stage play but I assume that the differences are similar.

A novel is the opposite of this.  More knowledge of the places the character goes to is required.  More detail is needed for the sights, the sounds, smells and so forth that the character experiences.  Even the characters themselves.  I just had an interesting idea, a short story told from the angle of smells only.  Hmm….

Well anyway, back to where I was going.  Before my grand excursion into this project, I had written screenplays and short stories only.  A short story also requires less knowledge, structure and detail.  The most extreme example of this being Flash Fiction (a story told in 100 words or less).

I was used to being sparse with things.  As I mentioned previously, I needed more locations, more people and so forth.  But they all had to fit into the world.

In many cases, characters are easy for this.  You can take a bare bones character and stick them into any world with some variations.  An easy example is Sherlock Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle http://www.arthurconandoyle.com/.  He was made contemporary by Benedict Cumberbatch but still the same character, or House by Hugh Laurie.

But the world itself was a different matter.  I had a certain ‘world’ that my characters fit in but keeping that ‘world’ consistent was the key.  My friend Darrell Hardy had written heavily about world building in general and I found it incredibly useful (http://www.darrellhardy.com/category/world-building-2/).

This was especially true during my rewriting phases.  And I mean phases.

Writing My First Novel, the Matilda Pt. 2

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So I had the idea, a rough outline, characters and setting.  How could it be difficult, you ask?

The main writing I had done for years was scripts, which are a completely different format.  That was a rough lesson to learn under a deadline.

I had the outline right?  Well the story moved quickly away from where I thought it would go.  I had to look at the outline more as guidelines of what could happen.  It forced me to rethink the entire process.

It was during this period that I was beginning to feel hopeless about how it was going to turn out.  I didn’t actually know where the story was going.  My initial ending was nowhere in sight. I turned to other authors to see how they dealt with this and the message was always the same, “Keep writing.”

So I kept writing.  This is when I figured out I didn’t have enough names in my ‘bible’ both characters and places.  Names are not easy for me to come by.  This made the experience all the more frustrating as the self-appointed deadline loomed larger.

I was running out of time.  What I was writing was not going in the direction that I expected.  Every time I had to create a new character or place, I had to eat up time to come up with a name.  But this is when ‘IT’ happened.

I had always heard that some books write themselves or that characters talk to the authors.  Robert E. Howard (http://www.rehfoundation.org/)  even mentions something like this in regards to Conan.  As I am pounding away at my first book, I didn’t expect to feel something like this.

But I was wrong.  A minor character appeared and offered a name.  This character, which didn’t exist in the ‘bible’, reappeared and gave me the character’s motivations.  This character kept coming back and offering pointers and directions to go in.

This interaction made the writing process fun.  It made it more of an adventure for me as the writer.  It gave me the motivation to keep plugging away at it for the next five months and actually get it done.

I owe it all to a fictional character.

Motivations on Time in Writing

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As I mentioned in a previous post, a friend of mine had successfully completed writing a novel in 30 days multiple times.  But she had chosen not to publish.

This made me wonder, were there examples of a published author who could write a book in 30 days?

My wife bought me the definitive James Bond blu-ray collection (at the time).  It had hours of extras including interviews with Ian Fleming (http://www.ianfleming.com/). In one of these interviews he had mentioned that he wrote his first book in a thirty day period in Jamaica.  This was the case for each and every novel he wrote.

Well!  Now I had two examples to motivate me that it could be done and be done successfully.

Forward Ho!

Writing My First Novel, the Matilda Pt.1

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Working on my first novel proved to be much more difficult than I had expected.  At the same time it has been an incredibly rewarding experience.  It took me roughly six months to complete the first draft.  Each step was in many ways more difficult than the previous one.

So why did I decide to write it?  As I mentioned previously, I had always wanted to write one.  A friend of mine had been doing the famous http://nanowrimo.org/ so the opportunity was there.

Truth be told, what did I have to lose except for time over a 30 day period?  Of course, it took quite a bit longer than that but I didn’t know that at the time.

If it was terrible, would it all be worth it?  I believed that it would be no matter how awful it might be.  I could finally say that I had completed a goal that’s been following me along for years.  A life accomplishment is a pretty big deal.  Besides, I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone if it was inherently unreadable.

But what would I write about?  Here in lay a bit of the rub.  I had a bunch of ideas that had been fomenting their way through my skull for years.  You might even see pieces of them in the short fiction section.  But there was one idea I had that had been festering away as an idea for a science fiction TV show.  I had already created most of the show’s bible (main characters, setting, ship design, et al.)  This seemed the best place to start.

The future was bright!

Lessons in Writing

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I have finally gotten around to writing my first novel called The Matilda.  Writing a novel has been one of those things that I have wanted to do since I was a wee kid.

Now, to be honest, I have written plenty of stories throughout my life.  I even wrote a probably the longest thing I had ever written prior to this book back when I was 12.  I worked hard at it and was incredibly proud of it.  My grandfather was one of the first to read it and he laughed and laughed.  I don’t think I had ever seen him laugh so hard before in my life.

Now he wasn’t laughing because of spelling mistakes, grammar or any of the other things that I would have expected.  No, he laughed because of how it was written.  He got an entirely different meaning from the words than what I had intended.  I was a bit heart broken in response.

It was quite the learning lesson.  I bucked up and went back to reread it with what he had told me on the top of my mind.  And where I had thought I had written the greatest adventure story, I found to my dismay that I had written quite the brutal and strange comedy.

But, you know what?  I actually enjoyed my story that much more.  With a simple change in how to interpret the wording, I had two stories for the price of writing one.  I reread it many years later and it was a weak tale, adventure or comedy wise, but the lesson stayed with me.  Sadly, this story was lost to time.

Understanding these nuances helped immensely in my writing of scripts for short films and short fiction.  And it continued to help me in writing my very first full length novel, The Matilda.

I’ll talk more about that journey in later posts.

Activation of wetware in progress…

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Welcome everyone to jongraylang.com, the website of the fiction writer, ukulele playing fencer, Jon Gray Lang. A.K.A. yours truly.

This is the next step in my adventure in writing. This is the blog that I will use to document my travels through this adventure.

I’ll be leaving bread crumbs made from the short stories that populate my mind, my thoughts on the writing experience, news about my work as I strive forward.

I am sure that along the way, there will be missteps in formatting, writing and other things with no name and I apologize now for these inevitabilities.

I am sure that I will share bits about my journeys through music, madness and mayhem.

Now back to making this thing work, A.K.A. me.