Friday, November 30, 2012

Dane F. Baylis, the author

Just a Quick Note

Tomorrow, Saturday December 1st, kicks off the Fifth Annual Plot Writing Month (Who knew?)! So here's a link to the Plot Whisperer blog on the Blogger network. If you're anything like me you look for all the help you can. I figure a month of exercises involving the mechanics and art of plot writing is worth it. So, give it a look and use what you need, I know I'll probably be spending a good deal of my down time in there over the next 31 days. Let me know what you think if you decide to give it a try? I would really appreciate the chance to share impressions and ideas with anybody who has the time!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Knowing What You Write.

I was thinking about one of those cliches we all hear when we're starting out and so much about the art and craft of writing seems couched in the arcane.  Like when that first horrifying instance of writer's block creeps in and panic takes hold sending us running to a teacher, or friend, or a local writer's group to admit, "I just don't know what to write!" Frequently the answer we get back is, "Just write what you know."

But what does that mean? Surely no one in the science fiction genre knows what it's like to actually pilot a dimension hopping star cruiser or wield a light saber. Does a crime story author have any experience with 'whacking' one of his rivals? Or does someone inventing characters to populate medieval London really know what every day life there was about?

Of course not! But everyone of these people has been able, with a little (or a lot) of research and speculation, combined with some sincere soul searching, to understand the real essence of a well told story, the emotional makeup of the characters. Arriving at this destination is more a journey within than without.

We have all looked up and wondered what it would be like to traverse the galaxy and how awe inspiring it must be. Few of us have lived any time at all who haven't, at some point, found our selves consumed, if only for a moment, by an anger that has made us consider hurting someone, maybe only emotionally, but still, that can be an even more vicious hurt. What child has never pretended to be a king or princess or swashbuckling swordsman? Who among us has never loved and lost or loved in vain?

Right there is the essence of writing what you know and what your readers will know and relate to. That which kindles your fire or saddens your heart has the emotional possibility to touch your audience.

For a much better expression of this, from a novelist with a proven track record, click Nathan Englander, and remember that writing what you know is knowing what to write.

For other of my favorite links check out my Procrastination Lane list on the upper right of this page. Good advice, places to find ideas and, oh yeah, some of it is just for losing a little time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You Probably Already Know This

Just started a digital subscription to Writer's Digest Magazine. If you've been in the writing community for a while then you're undoubtedly familiar with this publication. If you're new to the terrain I would highly suggest you become familiar with it. The savings over the news stand price when ordering it by snail mail or as a .pdf download is significant. The tips, resources and just plain morale boost you can get from a source like this is invaluable. Writer's Digest is a great place for keeping up with a constantly shifting industry, keeping you in touch with changes in publisher policies, personnel and needs. Couple that with an incredibly dedicated support staff that is willing to take time even for an analog intellect like mine and you have a stupendous combination.

Combine all of this with an upgraded subscription to Writer's Market and you have an even better deal. This is the digital version of the well known Writer's Market books that come out once a year. The advantage to this is they are constantly updating the information you find between the print covers. That and access to webinars and a ton of freebies and...well you can probably surmise, I am really enjoying this thing. Craft, markets, how-to's and some really easy to read and follow advice, check it out if you haven't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Longhand Thing

The author, Dane F. Baylis
So, a couple of days until Thanksgiving. Looking forward to family and food and avoiding anything to do with Black Friday. Actually, because of the nature of my regular job I have a few days off and more than enough to do to fill them. Right at the top of the list is write. That involves a rewrite of an existing short story that's been laying in my files gathering dust and waiting for me to unclutter my mind, then there's the one I mentioned in an earlier post that just came out of rough draft into first typed draft and, finally, finding a conclusion for one that is still being put down in longhand.

I mentioned that I write my rough drafts in longhand before, remarking on how it was a method that slowed me down and made me listen to my characters speaking in their own dialect and syntax. It is also helpful for those messy moments when I'm just not sure which way a plot or character should evolve. Taking the time to commit to pen and ink means that I also have the space to try out different approaches and themes without worrying about sending something into digital limbo or just plain mislabeling an extension and having to plow through file after file until I find v1 or v2 or v infinitum (I am truly an analog mind in a digital world at times). I can make copious notes in margins, change colors, underline, bracket or cram tentative corrections and adjustments above and below existing lines while also having the terrain to change location, or time, or the color of eyes, shirts, hair, the heroine's sneakers and always be able to flip back and forth in short order to get a feel for these modifications.

As a rule I use one of three media for this. 8 1/2 X 11 inch yellow lined pads, the good old fashioned wide rule composition book or a buff covered, unlined notebook (this last I reserve for more general note taking, journalising and poetic composition). I try never to be without at least one of these and can actually be found carrying a mixed few with the addition of a small sketch pad and set of pencils. This last is because there are times when the words aren't there yet but a quick sketch of a scene, character or idea can keep it fresh and sometimes even trigger a line of thought I didn't realize was in my head.

So, if any of this seems like something useful to you then give it a try. Just having the freedom to continue a project without having to get back to your studio or worrying about battery life or plug-in stations can be a real liberation. You see or hear or feel something that you either know has an immediate use or that feeling of latent energy and out comes the pad and pen before it escapes. Snippets of conversation, that setting you were trying so hard to conceptualize or just the gentle fragrance of flowers or food on a momentary breeze, captured in a second and ready for use later.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jimmy Kelley Rides Again

Yes, this is me, although with slightly less facial hair!

So, just finished the first typed draft of a new short story. I say first typed because I am one of those who still longhand's my roughs on yellow pads. I can carry them with me pretty much where ever I go without worrying about them. As I still have a day job that can be pretty tough and dirty a laptop is just too expensive an item to risk. The other advantage is that it forces me to concentrate on the voices of the characters as I listen to how they speak in my thoughts. As most of what I do is driven by dialogue and character development the enforced focus is very beneficial.

Street scene in So. Boston. (Southie)

The latest short is another foray into what has been dubbed 'geezer noir' and involves a recurring character of mine, Jimmy Kelley. Jimmy is most definitely an anti-hero in the mold of George V. Higgins character, Eddie Coyle, though significantly less tragic. Jimmy is a product of the streets of South Boston and the Massachusetts correctional system. He's nobody's fool but at the same time he has an innate sense of fair and unfair that propels him into situations and scenes like an aging force of nature. Not to be underestimated as some kind of street corner tough, Jimmy rules his world with smarts and violence.

As always I am working on the next while polishing the last and always looking for homes for the lot. As things progress I'll keep this page updated with the successful and not so successful. It's all part of the learning and living!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Called On Account Of Rain





                         Chasing Inspiration

                                           Caravaggio, “The Taking of Christ”

Took the day, a wet, gloomy Saturday, and, in the company of the most wonderful M., escaped to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (aka, as everything else is these days, by its acronym LACMA). One of the best things we have done, for ourselves and as a small contribution to the wider community we share, has been to become members of this and a number of other museums and like organizations. The range of exhibitions can at first, as with any major metropolitan area, seem absolutely overwhelming but, by concentrating on featured artists, periods or media we have been able to really focus on and enjoy a number of fine shows.



                                              Stanley Kubrick, Self Portrait

Presently there is a double offering of Caravaggio and Kubrick being featured. Two men in two very different times, one portraying his faith and fall through painting, the other attempting to show us his take on the foibles and failures of his age through the motion picture. Caravaggio lived a dark and tormented life in his time, while Kubrick chronicled the very real threats and fears of his time. Both were rebels and at times outcasts but neither can be denied the visionary genius of their creativity and legacy.

In this atmosphere of discovery and amazement how do you not find something, even if only a latent kernel, to nurture or prod your muse? Looking at these so different media and styles and engaging in conversation with total strangers who share with you a commonality of their appreciation of the moment, how do you not compare your world, and how you perceive it, with theirs?

The next time the door to the store house of ideas and dreams seems barred to you, go to a museum. Stop worrying about how you’re going to finish that painting, or the next scene in that script, or whether or not the ending to that short story was the right one. Go and soak your heart and soul in the knowledge that each of us struggles, some of us mightily, but in the end it might be a bump start from the past that gets you moving toward your future again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Troglodyte Returns!

Greetings from the Left Coast and here we go again,

Back from an extended sabbatical (sort of a literary walk-about). The entire landscape changed on the way and I am once again playing techie catch-up...when I left computers were just being touted as God's gift to the writer and marketing meant getting a lot of postal glue on your tongue. Now everything is the platform, FB, Twitter, Blogs, Linked-in and still finding time to sit down at this keyboard and translate my longhand scrawl into digitally stored and transmittable media.

Along the way I will make mistakes (one of the advantages of advancing years is being able to say oops and mean it!) but I invite you to bring them to my attention. As blues legend Buddy Guy says, "If you stop learning, roll it up and go home". I have never stopped, nor think I could, so it will be nice to see you along this road.

I have posted a couple of poems on FB and am fairly active there so if you wish I am always looking for interesting Friend requests. Other things going on right at the moment are a short story out for competition and also a sixty page poetry manuscript in the same temporary limbo. Several other pieces of short fiction in various stages of completion (are they ever, finally complete?). I tend towards gritty and at times downright dark. Dialogue is my strong point and I try for a believable range of characters in age, gender and personality. Anyway, this is the opening salvo as it were and I'm hoping to make of it something that will invite you back repeatedly.

Again, hello and thanks,

A good way to kill a little time at Montana de Oro In San Luis Obispo.
Dane F. Baylis