Just how *do* you begin to write a book?

How do you do it?
guest post 
by

Greg Kiser

Getting Started

Think of a high
concept.  For me, that’s the ability to
tap into the internet with your mind. So you can surf the internet the way you
peruse your own memory today. 


Try to remember
the lyrics to a song.  Might take a few
seconds, then you remember.  You find
that information in your brain, obviously. 
Sort of a local hard drive, to use computer terms.


Now imagine you’re
transparently tapped into the Global internet 24×7. Try to remember the lyrics
to a song.  They’re there instantly.  Feels like you found them in your brain, just
like before. But you didn’t.  You found
the words on a server in Germany.  Doesn’t
matter, all transparent to you.

Characters make a great story. 

For me, anyway,
it’s all about the characters.  I’ll give
a book 50 to 100 pages.  By then if I
haven’t connected with at least some of the characters then I generally won’t
finish the book.  Unless, maybe, the plot
is just a killer, like The Da Vinci Code, or something like that.  Preferably, I’m looking for the protagonist
to blow me away because most of the time you are reading from his/her point of
view.


But occasionally
it’s enough if the antagonist is blowing me away, such as the Hannibal series
by Thomas Harris.


Now, you put
together a novel that has two or three characters that I can identify with?  Or more? 
That’s a novel I’m not going to put down.

Character driven plot – rare gems these days

They make the best
TV and movies too.  Think about Breaking
Bad – hell yes the story is outstanding.  But the cast, the cast!  Walter, Jessie – sure.  But also Hank, Skylar, the various
villains.  So you don’t mind when they
switch scenes because the cast is great so all of the subplots are intriguing.

Confidence is key

Just know that if
you get in front of the keyboard at the right time of day for you, then you’ll
write.  Think about your characters,
where the story is going to go.  You
don’t have to have it all planned out. 
It doesn’t have to be the next Da Vinci Code in terms of plot
development.  It just has to flow, to
take on a life of its own. 


Don’t start off
thinking about how the hell you’re going to write a 300 page novel.  Just start off and let the journey
occur.  Think about it and make your
characters come alive and write their thoughts and lives and then let the
interactions occur and you’ll be amazed and surprised and hopefully delighted
by the results.

Conflict

OK – so you have
the high concept.  Now what? Well, you
have to have conflict.  For me, I created
a moral dilemma between the protagonist, the ‘monster’ Cheslov, and a local
politician who thinks he has a direct connect with God. 


Next – ratchet up
the tension at every opportunity.  I made
my protagonist an ex-Navy seal so he could pretty much deal with anything.  Made Cheslov part wolf, paranormal.  Then went into detail explaining how screwed
up the politician is, he’s hooked on drugs due to his wife’s death, etc.  Keep ratcheting up.


Then create an
outline – and write, write, write to fill in the outline.  Don’t worry about adjectives or effect or the
best dialogue or even grammar/punctuation.

First Draft

My initial draft
took 3 months to write.  Then finishing
the novel took another 3 years.
Oh – and don’t let
ANYBODY read that initial draft.  It will
suck, indeed.


I finished the
first draft and put it down and thought – hey, this has got to be one of the
best books EVER.  The agents will be
beating down my door when they get so much as a whiff of this manuscript!  So I set it aside and took a little
break.  Felt like I was on top of the
world.


A month later I
opened the manuscript and started printing and reading (you must print and read
to get the full effect.  Not good enough
to read a word doc directly from the computer. 
Better yet, print and read out loud to understand how the dialogue
really sounds – helps avoid unrealistic speech. 
Example:  “What is up with that”
quickly becomes “What’s up with that” when you’re reading aloud).


Anyway, I started
reading and was horrified at how bad it was. 
Thus started the 3 year polishing cycle.


Creating the
initial draft is the hardest. The initial overall idea of what your book is
going to be about.  Who are the
characters, what’s the high concept, where will the conflict come from. 


Once you get past
that and start writing, it gets easier.


And once you get
that initial draft completed – then it’s fun. 
Truly.  From that point forward,
you only need to polish.  

Polishing

Keep it Direct, descriptive, colorful, REAL

BAD:  Jim had worked hard his entire life.
GOOD:  Jim worked hard his entire life.

Avoid the word “suddenly”
Surprise and
startle the reader through your action, thru events, by an action occurring
unexpectedly. Don’t surprise and startle by using a time related adverb.

BAD:  She was suddenly hit in the knee by a ball.
GOOD:  The golf ball struck her knee at one hundred
and two miles an hour.
BETTER:  The golf ball
struck her knee doing over a hundred miles an hour with the force and
indifference of a mechanical bull.

NOTE:  There is
no ‘BEST’ in writing.

Pay attention to points of view (POV)
Put the reader
inside someone’s head and then leave them there.  Being inside someone’s head is VERY
INTERESTING because face it, we’re all voyeurs at heart.  Within a few sentences in every chapter, the
reader should know whose head they’re in. 
Whose POV.  And don’t switch
around within a chapter without a white space separating paragraphs. 



“Said” nearly always works.

Dialogue is your
best character development tool.  Keep it
simple, no need to state the obvious. 
Let your reader fill in the blanks.


BAD:
“What time should
we leave,” Fran asked.  She wasn’t sure
about the color of his tie.  Funerals
required a certain degree of somberness. 
Jim glanced at his
watch.  He thought about five o’clock
traffic on the cross town.  He didn’t think
they should take a chance with that mess. 
“We should split in half an hour,” he finally replied.


GOOD:
“What time should
we leave,” Fran said.  Wow, was he really
wearing that tie to a funeral?  Staring
at his watch now. Come on, this isn’t a hard question.  We need to leave soon, that’s the point.
“We should split
in half an hour,” Jim said slowly.
Fran nodded.  “Fucken A we should.”

Pay attention to your words
Blond is a hair
color.  Blonde is a person who has blond
hair.
Passed refers to
distance.  Past refers to time.
BAD:  He ran past the barn.
GOOD:  Running at break-neck speed, he passed the
barn.
BETTER:  He ran at
stomach-cramp speed, passed the barn. 
Clutched his gut and ran some more.

Great Edit Searches with Microsoft Word

One of the great
challenges of writing a novel of any length is the fat fingering.  Misspelled words are easy to find.  But basic mechanical mistakes are harder.  My final draft had about 80,000 words and I
swear to God, every time I read it I found some small mechanical issue.


I finally got
smart and figured out some universal searches that helped.  A LOT.
The following
special characters should be entered into the ‘Find and Replace’ box, ie not
the search field.


NOTE:  in most cases you can use ^$ for “any letter”
or ^^ for “any character”.  The advantage
of ^^ is that you would also pick up numbers.


^$^p
This is “any
letter” followed by a paragraph mark. 
Will find any sentence at the end of a paragraph you forgot to end with
a period.


^^ Z
This is “any character”
followed by a space then capital Z.  Do
this ^^ A thru ^^ Z.  This will find any
sentence within a paragraph you forgot to end with a period.


^$ .
This is “any
letter” followed by a space then a period. 
Finds any sentence you inadvertently inserted a space before the period.


.” ^$
Period, double
quote, space, “any letter”.  This will
occur normally but this can also help find where you used a period instead of a
comma for dialogue.

And finally…

Just pick your gem every few days and polish for a few minutes.  Hear someone say something funny at the mall,
consider a tree limb in a park and how you might describe it, smell a familiar
smell and let your mind run – all of these ‘experiences’ … feel them and bring
them back into your novel as you polish and make it shine and breathe life into
it.



That’s the best part.  Oh, it’s so hard to get that gem established
at first.  But once you do, it’s your
gem.  And it may never sell, it may never
make millions of dollars – but it’s your gem and you can publish it and you can
get it in print and you can show your friends and one day your children and one
day, many years from now, you’ll read that work as a different person, as an
older person.  You’ll wonder who wrote
that?  



You’ll be amazed all over again.

inSyte is a paranormal-thriller that according to Perry Crowe of Kirkus Reviews, is equal parts Crichton, Clancy and King.



It’s Tampa Bay and the year is 2020. Ex-Navy SEAL Mitch “Double” Downing discovers how to tap into the internet with his mind. His new inSyte provides transparent access to the sum of all human knowledge recorded since hieroglyphics. More than mere information – Mitch can see into men’s hearts and be all places at all times (easy in an ‘always on’ surveillance society with fourth generation tweets). Sort of like God.

If knowledge is power, Mitch just became the strongest man in the world.
But inSyte has ideas of its own as the software exposes a politician’s “divine” plan that will unwittingly slaughter millions of people. Is killing the man the only way to prevent Armageddon? The politician’s daughter would probably disagree. And she happens to be the love of Mitch’s life. Losing Kate would be too damn much collateral damage.
At the center of the conflict is a wolf-like killer who will stop at nothing to murder the ex-Navy SEAL. And Mitch must come to grips with inSyte’s dark side – a dominating addiction that soon controls his thoughts and places him on a steep slide to self destruction.

Buy from Amazon:


Greg Kiser is happily
married to a wonderful and inspirational wife, Serena, and has two beautiful
children – Miller and Grace.

Greg graduated from Southern Polytechnic University
in Atlanta with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Greg also earned his MBA from
the University of South Florida. He is currently a Director at Cisco, a high
tech fortune 50 multinational corporation.

Greg has written extensively for fortune 50 high
tech firms in describing next generation networks and painting pictures of the
true evolution of technology for the consumer.

Email – gkiser@cisco.com
Blog – http://gregkiserinsyte.blogspot.com/



Click below for excerpts
He watched a flock of seagulls move
across the sky. A dirty gull in the lead carried some morsel in its mouth that
the others wanted. They swooped and turned and pecked at his tail until he
dropped the scrap. It landed in the water and was devoured from below by a
school of pinfish.

He smiled at the silly selfish birds. They were like people in their behavior
and conviction that the entire group should starve before merely the strong
should eat. Responsibility therefore fell upon the truly bold to take what they
deserved. Any real mother and, indeed, true creator would be pleased to observe
the strongest of her children satisfying their appetites.

Predation, after all, is not violence. Merely the act of survival. To filter
sick, weak animals from the herd is a vital part of any healthy ecosystem.


Mitch felt an impact like a stick of dynamite
going off in his shirt pocket followed by somebody swinging a sledge hammer
into his back. He reeled sideways and dropped. Adrenaline flooded his body like
a heavy drug as his central nervous system fired out of control and the outside
world was transformed into a macabre slow motion picture show. A strobe light
flicked off and on like someone beating a drum in his brain.

Then the pain stopped and he lost his eyesight and his world went perfectly
quiet.

The world didn’t go black, more like a white out on a winter mountain. He felt
like he was sliding down a soft hill, falling to whatever awaited him at the
bottom.

He saw a shape and as he began to pick up speed he knew someone somehow shared
this odd journey. He was conscious of his heart the way you might be conscious
of your hand if someone held it. He knew who was with him.

“I’m coming to be with you,” he said.

“Son, I’m not ready for you to come home just yet,” his mother said with a
translucent smile.

“Not sure I have much choice, here,” he said.

“You always have a choice. About everything. It’s up to you if you’d rather
live or die.”

“How is it up—“

“And it’s not just you, now, is it? Goodness, no. You’ve got your friend out
there who can’t make it through this without you.”

It was important for him to get a point across. He knew this was fleeting and
he fought an overwhelming sense of urgency. “Mom, I still have so much to
learn. But I’ve learned a lot, haven’t I?”

His mother’s spirit smiled and her aged eyes looked weary. “Not enough, I’m
afraid. You don’t belong here. Go back and help your friend and you’ll see. God
has special plans for you, son. Special plans. You will learn so much.”
He thought about trying to slow his descent. But the temptation to close his
eyes and accept the fall was overwhelming.


Why am I
here?” Mitch asked again.

“You are a most impressive young man. Of course, they told me you have this
ability. Somehow you know things you are not supposed to know, yes?” Cheslov’s
eyes widened in reproach. He reached beneath his coat and removed a long cigar.
Snipped the tip using a guillotine cutter that looked like a worn, hungry
mouth. Lit it up with a battered, gunmetal Zippo. Leaned back in his chair,
took a deep drag. Exhaled a thick, hot, blue stream of smoke.

“Which is why you find yourself here. In my home.” Cheslov’s face saddened.
Then he continued, as if explaining to a child. “I am sorry, young friend, to
have to say this to you. That this is not a place a man wishes to find himself.
This is not a room from which people live to see a new day. No, my friend, this
is a room in which people take their last breath, see their last light. Hear
their last sound.”

Mitch remembered a long ago camping trip.

Cheslov smiled warmly down at him. “Why were you meeting the Deter bitch?”

Mitch said nothing.

Cheslov raised the cigar cutter to his face and a raven eye peered through the
opening. He smiled as he slid the blades together. “What was your intention?”

Mitch started the process of extracting himself mentally from his surroundings.
He ran number patterns through his head to take his mind beyond the pain and
the possibility of what the lunatic might do next. There was only one place
this was heading.

Of course he wouldn’t answer any of the lunatic’s questions. The best strategy
to resisting interrogation is to simply not provide any information at all.

“Where is the file?”

Once you start to give up information, even about minor unrelated topics, it’s
hard to stop and easier to give up important information. The answers to the
current questions didn’t matter in the least. The only thing that mattered was
to protect Kate. At any cost.

“With whom have you shared it?”

Mitch said nothing.

Cheslov walked to the head of the bed and slowly examined Mitch’s fingertips.

“You wear your micro on your index finger. Painted with green resin. Quite the
fashion statement. To whom have you sent the file?”

Mitch said nothing.

Cheslov grasped Mitch’s left hand and held it the way a man might hold the hand
of his son. Mitch felt a softness to the giant’s touch.

“Why do you not answer? Are you afraid?” Cheslov gazed down at him with a not
unkind expression. The giant’s thick, dark eyebrows rose as if trying to coax
Mitch to speak.

Mitch said nothing.

“I’ll ask you once more,” Cheslov said and a note of sadness crept into his
voice. The hesitant father who does not wish to punish but is left no choice.
“You have nothing to gain by continuing your silence. And quite a bit to lose.
Yes, quite a bit.”

Mitch stared at the overhead ceiling. Focused on the intricate wood carving.

Cheslov spread Mitch’s fingers.

Mitch said nothing.

“Tell me. With whom have you shared the file?”

Mitch said nothing.

“Enough of these games,” Cheslov said.


Advertisements

One thought on “Just how *do* you begin to write a book?

  1. Hi Louise~

    Thank you for subscribing to my blogspot and for your sweet comment 🙂 Nice to meet you there and at the MOA forum over at Amazon. I had a great time reading your blogs here.

    When I think one thing about my writing, readers will find something different and it always then proves to me how subjective any story is. I thought my work was more character driven, and yet the plot, itself, seems to be more the ticket for readers thus far. It is so interesting how that works.

    Like

Anything you want to say about this post?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s