The second edition of my book, Boyhood Adventures, will be launched very soon. I am reserving 20 copies for those willing to promise to post a review on Amazon after having read it. Please reply to this post if you would like to be among the twenty.
Countdown to 2nd Edition
Page Publishing is working on the cover design for the 2nd. edition of Boyhood Adventures. I’m very excited about the pending launch of this new book. I think I’ve improved the humorous aspects of the work, as well as increasing the dramatic tones. I will post the enhanced cover image as soon as I approve the final version. I would appreciate feedback from my followers.
Recently I decided to write a second edition of Boyhood Adventures. I was unhappy with much of the self-editing I had done and there was much I wanted to add to the book. Battling the forces of procrastination and writer’s block, I finally submitted my project for professional editing and publication. I chose Page Publishing to work with me on this and, so far, I am very pleased with them. To date, the text has been edited and formatted to my satisfaction. There is a bit of art work being processed and that will take another 3/5 weeks to complete. After that comes the cover design, then final approval for publication.
I’ve learned some great lessons by paying attention to TV and screen writers’ methodology. What I’ve learned has helped me – I hope – to improve the quality of my own books. Most importantly for me – and my readers – I’ve made two significant observations:
- Action shows begin with action! In the gool-ol’ days, movie goers expected to see the movie begin with the title, and the names of the stars they came to see. Then they munched on their popcorn while enduring the obligatory tribute to writers, musical artists, cinematographers, and producers. At length, the viewer knew the movie was about to begin when they saw the name of the director displayed on the screen. Today, viewers expect an immediate onslaught of dramatic music and sound effects designed to blast the ear drums of elderly folks like me. They do this, of course, to heighten the intensity of beginning an action movie. The viewer loses control of the popcorn (50% of which now ends up underfoot on the theater floor). It’s time to buckles up! The credits now displayed are almost invisible as viewer attention is focused intently upon the ebbing intensity of action on the screen.
- Dramatic TV show writers work their artistic craft by skillfully conjoining episodes with an ominous and opaque backdrop of suspense. Something sinister is brewing in the background. It’s an adjunct to the main plot, but viewers are enthralled by it; almost distracted by the dark shadow of intrigue that threatens to upset the apple cart. The viewer is given just enough information to realize that something ominous and unsettling will – at some point – rear its ugly head to obliterate lesser concerns. The viewer will enjoy a satisfying conclusion to the episode, but will be left in suspense, wondering when the mystery of the ominous specter will be resolved. A skilled writer will keep this foreboding monster alive through two or more seasons of episodes.
Fortunately, I’m at a stage in my current writing project that I can implement that which I’ve learned about these two important lessons. Converting a blank page to an enthralling episode is not easy, but the challenge of doing so is an enjoyable task.
Some very intelligent and talented people, in the world of literary arts, have offered advice on the subject of thinking ahead when writing a novel. I agree … and I disagree.
In the long term, I know where my story is going … precisely. But, in the short term, I often have no clue what PFC Fines (my gunner) is going to say next.
I’m currently working on Wings of Valor, a long novel on the subject of combat helicopter aircrews set in the Republic of South Vietnam circa 1965-68. Because the story is based on personal experience, I know exactly where t’s headed. I know the ending. I know which characters will be on stage during the final scene. But there is a great deal of filling between the outer layers of my Oreo cookie. Some of that filling is atmosphere, some of it will be ambient sound, and, of course, there will be an abundance of dialog.
My writing style makes limited place for intricate planning of character dialog. While I may find dialog context or content will require carefully structured composition at times, for the most part I feel it unnecessary.
Casting myself as Lee Farmer, the main character, I am often surprised, or moved by that which is said by another character. Lee may find a statement amusing, insulting, or born of ignorance. He may entertain unspoken thoughts about something said. He may find a statement to be amazing, amusing, or offensive. He may be offended, aggrieved, or discomfited.
So, for me, and my writing style, thinking ahead has its place in literary art, but not an extra-large place when it comes to character dialog. Too much planning makes Jack a dull boy, and takes the risk of writing a dull story.
I consider myself something of an closet chef. As an adult leader with Boy Scouts of America since 1979, I have charred more than a few “first pancakes” while camping. Even at home – in my own kitchen – getting the griddle perfectly prepared for pancakes is a challenge. Experience helps, but the first pancake often becomes a sacrificial lamb.
Thus it has been with my very first book, “Boyhood Adventures.” I enjoyed writing it because it was so reminicent of my early childhood in Texarkana, Arkansas. But, I made the mistake of rushing it into publication. I failed to employ a professional editor. I made goofy mistakes incumbent on first-time writers. I struggled with a re-write for a year, trying to correct typos and enhance character, all in an effort to get it just right. And … I think I was finally close to finishing it. Notwithstanding, a kind mentor, Beth Hill, sympathetically laid her virtual hand on my shoulder, and said, “Let it go, Aaron. It’s time to move on.” Hmm; seems like my wife has offered similar counsel … more than once.
So, while it wasn’t a ceremonious burial at sea, and while there was no playing of TAPS; no honor guard detail firing a 21-gun salute; I decided to follow good advice, and chalk it up to a lengthy practice exercise. And, surprisingly, I feel okay with it. I learned a great deal along the dusty, rocky road to oblivion. Above all, I have learned to accept a charred pancake when I see one. And, I have learned to listen to good, sound advice.
I’m not sad, actually, to see my first pancake tossed into the literary garbage can. I’m not elated … but I’m not sad. Finally, I’m released from flogging a dead horse. I’m free to be fully engaged in my next project. And this “second pancake” will benefit from all I’ve learned as a fledgling writer. With new hope, I strive for a pancake better than the first; golden brown on both sides. At least, that’s the plan. It will, no doubt, fall short of a best sellers list – again – but the lessons learned on my first book will enhance the second. Truly, I have come to find joy in writing, free from fear of imperfection.
Now I embark on a book much more important to me: Wings of Valor. I have aspired to writing this book since I returned home from Vietnam in September of 1968. And, even though I lived the experiences I’m writing of, I am nonetheless deeply engaged in historical research.
My deadline for submitting Wings of Valor to my editor will be 13 March 2016. I hope, once it’s published, the few fans/followers I have will receive it well.
On Friday 5 June I checked in to Valley Care Medical Center in Pleasanton, California, for back surgery. I had no idea how recovery would effect my creative flow as a writer. Throughout June and July I found myself bereft of inspiration or even desire to write. All my energy went to physical therapy.
Only recently have I begun to feel my creative flow return; what a relief. The excitement of writing has returned. When I’m really on a roll, I find myself having dreams about the projects I’m working on. I may see one of my characters do or say something I can’t wait to put in print.
In the end, I’m very happy to be writing again. It feels great.
I have to keep reminding myself, when absorbed in my world of creative writing, that my reader needs to know, at the outset of character action: WHY? For example: “Why is it so important for three 8-year-old boys to be outdoors after dark, driven by a quest for adventure?” As the omniscient story-teller, I am acutely aware of character motivation. But my readers are not omniscient. If I don’t let my reader in on the secret, the story falls in the chasm between BOREDOM and CONFUSION.
For Dennis and Lee (characters in Boyhood Adventures) the motivation is evasion of that which they perceive as adulthood doldrums. Frank’s motivation (another character in the book) varies greatly from his two best friends He just wants to be a member of the crew. As boys, their perception of life is limited by their immaturity; something any parent can understand. The boys see their parents as being trapped in the snare of hum-drum living; without fun or excitement. While boyhood motives are simple, sharing them with the reader can be a complex endeavor. Establishing motive is not a thing I can simply blurt out with a megaphone. If I do it right, it will be artful, entertaining, and – on a really good day – embellished with humor.
One of the trickiest things about creative writing is assuring that each character has a voice separate and distinct from others. My writing style, in Boyhood Adventures, makes me the omniscient story-teller, sharing a story about three eight-year-old boys seeking adventure in Texarkana, Arkansas, in 1953. Writing dialog between the three boys is a bit like walking through a swamp littered with patches of quicksand: one misstep, and I’m sunk up to my ears. With all three boys the same age, the challenge is amplified.
Such is the nature of my writing style. I chose it. I have to live with it. And I have to make my character voices work for my readers. It’s one thing to write, “he said – she said.” But if “he” and “she” use precisely the same grammar, exactly the same wordage, or all-too-similar clichés, well … that’s asking my reader to work a little too hard to accept the characters as being distinct individuals.
Most every day is the same for me. I spend the first fifteen minutes in scripture study. Then I read something from the book of the day. This morning, that book was The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig.
I suppose it fair to expect my more educated colleagues to disapprove of my idea of an educational textbook. I fully realize that Chuck’s book probably wasn’t included in the textbooks recommended at better universities. But I can’t afford to study at Stanford or BYU, so I get my text books from Amazon. And I have to say, for this humble story-teller, Chuckey hit the nail on the head. I felt as though he had me in mind as he offered advice to “aspiring writers.” Every morsel seemed like manna from heaven. Well, maybe not from heaven, as his vocabulary is less than reverent. But his advice is sound and timely.
I suppose education is a matter of accepting the fact that study is endless. While universities must pick and choose textbooks that sustain their syllabus, my personal educational process is, “…cram as much learning in my cerebral cortex as humanly possible.” I may not agree with every point of doctrine I read as I study, but I must sample it, consider it, and decide whether or not to incorporate it in my professional paradigm. Today, my time with Chuck Wendig was well spent. Irreverent, but well spent.