Sunday, 30 June 2013

Filter Words Explained by Kittens.

I hear you saying it. What in Hell are Filter Words?

They are bad words, my friend, bad words. No, not like that.

Filter Words are words that you want to be rid of when you're editing. Once the story is straight and you are streamlining your delivery. They're the nasty words that don't need to be there.

I know this isn't helping. Hold on. I'll let the kittehs explain...

The one Filter Word that everybody has heard of is 'very'. You shouldn't use it. I was very hungry should be I was famished. You shouldn't be very anything. It is not eloquent, and we are about the words, and eloquent they should be.

So at the end of the draft, wherever you choose to do it, get out the find tool on the word processor, and find all the examples of very. And try to get rid of them. Make the work more eloquent. And it actually works. But there are many other Filter Words...

Do your characters look at things? Of course they do. Shut up. But, do you need to tell your reader that?

Bill stepped out of the trailer and looked at the reddened moon as it dropped below the horizon...


Bill stepped out of the trailer as the reddened moon dropped below the horizon.

See what I'm saying?

Little Timmy decided to have some bacon and went to the store.


Little Timmy went to the store to get bacon.

Jane Austen, angry at her mother for naming her after the author, noticed the way the blood splattered when the neck was punctured with a knitting needle.


The blood splattered as Jane Austen punctured her mother's neck with a knitting needle, for naming her after the author.

 It seemed to Nettie, that it was humid.


It was humid.

Mostly, your Filter Words are Filler Words. In the examples above, you can see that what the Filter Word is saying, is already implied by the rest of the sentence.

So in the last piece I finished I went through the document looking for them. There were lots. I mean lots. These are just some to watch out for:

Thought; Saw; Heard; Look; Watched; Seem; Feel; Decide; Feel; Notice;

There are plenty to watch out for.

Monday, 24 June 2013

How in Hell do I plot?

I'm a natural born pantser.

It works for me. At least for shorts. I can just about pants a novella. If I have to.

I pantsed a novel. Yeah, the really worked out for me...

So I had to plot my next novel. Yeah. That simple. I didn't know where to start. So I went on a journey.

The Idea.

My ideas, like many, have a tendancy of turning up in the middle of the night. I'd be staring into the darkness when something pops up... 'hm... I don't know... maybe a cop (on the edge) trying to get revenge for the death of their partner...' then I think, 'okay, but what's the hook... why should I write it?' moment of clarity...
The moment of clarity.

... 'and they're all tree elves... like in FernGully.'

Genius. Then I sit on the idea for a couple of days. See if I still like it.

Development - the pre-PC scribbles...

A few days later, out comes a pen and pad. Hell yeah. A pen and pad. Nothing beats actually scribbling shit down.

Page 1: Protagonist details, Three act plot. One small secretary note pad page will contain everything about the protagonist that I can think of at this point, and the plot. One page. Cop (on the edge) must have cool name. Jake? Yeah, Jake's good. Hard. Like he is. Needs a surname. Something more FernGully. Pixiemus. Jake Pixiemus? Love it. Crack addict? Nah. Meth. More believable. Drinks? Check. Smokes? Check. Age? 35. Awesome.

Plot? Partner killed off screen. Pre-book. Pixiemus is a mess. Tracks the organisation that are responsible, and finds out they are pixie-civil-war-re-enactors-from-Mars, who are turning harmless, leaf-juice into a zombie making serum. Pixiemus's family all get zombified, and he must save them all, the forest people, and the world!!

Nailed it.

Page two, next character... and so on.

Get out the Spreadsheet...

...shit's about to get real.

Shit isn't real unless you have helicopters and explosions.
Tab one. Characters. Line by line, painstaking developed characters get listed, their traits, characteristics... and I still don't know if I'm going to use them.

Tab two. Act One. Where the act starts and finishes. Jake Pixiemus, cop (on the edge), married, wife children, fallen angel after the mystery surrounding the death of his partner, Max PinkPettal. Ends at Pixiemus discovering the true identity of the killers.

Tab three. Act Two. You get the picture.

Once all acts are written out in this format, I go back a act one, and fill in everything between the beginning and the end. Something like 20 - 30 plot points. Pixiemus is in trouble at work for vomiting on the Queen's shoes when he was on security detail at the parade. Runs a desk during the day. Follows leads at night. Gets in the way of his family life. That sort of thing.

Start writing.

The word splurge. I start following my plot points like a rat on cheese. But things change. They always will. So once I've started writing? Let the juices flow, um, creatively.

Change the plot.

I find that if I try to stick to the plot points I have laid down my story doesn't grow organically. And basically, it's dry. So. I have my initial plot points in the first column. Then the next are the points as they grow. And each time I writing, that second column get thicker. I write what I have written - so extremely briefly it's miniscule - write down where I'm going. What's changed. Things that suddenly come to mind.

And the third column? Sub plots. Nobody likes to see dead plot lines. Even in the intriguing world of meth-head pixies that ride hedgehogs, someone, somewhere will want to know exactly what happened at the birthday party for little Jimmy Figleaf.

Write 'em down, and tie 'em up.

And finally?

I plot what I'm going to write next time. Just get the gist of where I'm going in my head, so that in moments of thought, I can ponder how that will go. Then when I'm at the keyboard? The hard works already done in my head.

More word splurge.

And that's where my journey took me. It works for me. What works for you?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Devil's Hand is Coming...

The Devil's Hand: Book 1
Crossing Guard
Mark Taylor

The Hand is the man who does jobs. A right-hand man, so to speak. He sorts out problems, finds things that have been lost, or taken. 

Even the Devil needs one.

Angela's days are interesting, yet unfulfilled.

Someone's coming that going to change all that.  

Genre dancing, The Devil's Hand, a pentalogy of novelettes is coming soon. Book 1, Crossing Guard, to be released on Amazon soon...

Friday, 14 June 2013


Yesterday I wrote. Today I am a writer.

Writers: Go back and read what you have written, discarded and forgotten.

"Sucking in the smoky goodness, he reached around and gingerly felt the bullet wound." ~ Smoky goodness? Really? 

I have been working on a polish job on one of the first pieces I ever wrote. It is a short, a mere 2K, and, to be honest, isn't too bad.

One of the first works I ever submitted, I was short listed (much to my panda loving creamy delight) but beaten out by the competition in the final round.

I was naive.

"My name, Mr. Jingle, is Fourhorse." ~ Subtle.

I tossed the story aside, placed it in a folder that I would not look at again and dismissed it. It had been rejected, therefore it has no merit.

Then, when reminiscing, I stumbled on it, read it, and to my shock and horror it is actually pretty damn good. I mean, not 'publishable' good, but it held what I struggle with days (especially with novel writing) it was fresh. I always try to keep my work fresh of course - but that is fresh to the reader - this was fresh to me.

It poked me in a way that I had not felt since...

Lolz the dark side.

Anyway. Enough spurious references. So I'm tinkering with it. I'm applying experience.

" the stranger danced and pirouetted between the Security Detail that was trying to contain him..." ~ Apparently my hero needs to be skilled in ballet.

So. Back then I numbered my short stories. This is numbered 5. The fifth story I wrote after I decided to write. So the experience I am applying is countless more shorts, I've edited others, I've got novels under my belt.

So what did it need?

It needed polish that only my experience can give. Removal of repetition. Flourishes of style. (Stop laughing at the back!)

Rinse and repeat.
Eventually - and it didn't take much - I ended with a pretty damn reasonable story.

One that was now 'publishable' good.

So the moral of this post - if there is one - is never throw it away. Never say never. Delve into your box of crusty oldness and read. You might find something in there just waiting to be discovered...

Did I just quote Justin Beiber?


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

DRM. Hm.

First of all, this is sort of a self publishing post.

So I'm looking at publishing a story on kindle. I'm looking at the ins and outs of it and within the pre-read documentation I'm told that I will be asked if I want to use DRM within my publication. So what does DRM mean?

To me - and I'm pretty savvy on electronic media - it is the piece of software that stops you from just straight
up copying electronic media. Games have it. Kindle books have it. I have seen in the press that it (particularly in gaming) has caused some 'issues', but nothing that has affected me personally.

From a Kindle point of view the company line is:

You may choose, on a per title basis, to have us apply DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology which is intended to inhibit unauthorized access to or copying of digital content files for titles. DRM is a one-time option. This setting cannot be changed once selected. 

Okay, fine. Dig a little deeper.

With DRM in place on a title you cannot remove that title from the Kindle and read it on another e-reader. I know. I tried when I was looking at e-readers. Okay, fine. I know this technology can be circumvented, and whilst I do not claim to have looked at the legalities of it, I will assume that it is illegal to remove DRM through 3rd party software.

Now I hit a wall. Very few people seem to be touting the benefits of DRM. Except Amazon, that is.

So I'm beginning to wonder if I should use it at all.

Then (sort of unrelated) I find that Amazon have to ability to delete books from your Kindle without notice. It appears to have happened a couple of times. Orwell's 1984 was one (presumably because the Eiffel Towered sized I in Irony fell on someone). The reason? Someone started selling it against copyright on Amazon and they did what they had to, to put it right. It was sold to you illegally, we're taking it back. Amazon refunded the owners. But is that the point?

In my ambles around internet land one site referred to it as Amazon breaking into your house and taking books you had bought from them, leaving their value on the bookshelf.

The new Amazon E-Ninja.
Used to bring copywriter thugs to justice...!

It's a point, isn't it?

Now the internet is one big vacuous rumor mill, and the suggestion is that DRM free titles cannot be deleted remotely. As I said, rumor.

So the plus side, apparently, is that people can't remove e-books from Kindles unless they, um, know how to use Google. Which protects me, the author.  Sort of.

The downside? Well, that's not actually for me to judge. If I want to buy a book for myself and trust Amazon not to randomly decide they don't like me and wipe the thing (which, believe it or not, I do)  there don't appear to be any. The only 'downside' is that I cannot take my Kindle books and use them on other readers. But I did by Kindle Books. Not PDF's, or Nook, or whatever.

Food for thought. 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Genre! Genre! Genre!

I'm genre jumping.

All over the place.
This is what Google Images gives me for Genre Bending.
Don't ask.

I'm writing vampires! Serial killers! Beasts from Hell! Angels! People on Safari! (what?) Bouncers of sex clubs! Mob bosses!

And, well shucks, when they're not killing each other, flying free through the cosmos, or zipping 'twixt dimensions, by gosh, they're fuckin' each other.

Yeah, I know what you were looking for...

Most of my published shorts are horror. My first solo novel is horror/thriller. My collab novel with Charles Day, horror. My series of novellas, horror/comedy/romance (comorrance?). My second novel (currently in the pipeline), comorrance/bizarro (bi-comorrance?).

So my question is this:

Should it be done?

Clue: The answer is, HELL YES!

Growing as an author is kinda important. What you may lack in world-building at one point in your career, you will make up for at some point. And without growth, there is no improvement. And without improvement there is no... well, improvement. And we all like to get better at things, don't we?

I can say that my writing is changing. I've just written 15K without killing anyone. On 'camera' as it were. And anyone that has read my shorts know that's a feat for me.

See, I kill people every, oh, 30 or 40 words usually.

I'm writing people that like each other. People that care. People with personalities. (Not just mutilation fodder). I have started building worlds.

I am growing.

I'm sure the origin of this was poetic, something about growth.
Yet I just see irony. Sweet, sweet, irony.

And I can't grow staying in one genre.

And on another note, just because I felt it was time to say it:

Thing is, and I'm sure some of you are thinking this, is what makes me qualified to say this? When did I last publish? What makes me right? And you are quite right to say that. Where's the evidence?

(Apart from 1: Trust me, or 2: Shut up it's my blog.) 

I've made changes to the way I write over the last couple of years. I was prolifically writing shorts and flash. Most of my time for that has fallen away to novels. The first novel was a slog. The collab was easier, but still hard, but the third seems to be spewing over the page with relative ease (at least, compared). I have even managed to start working on a few (only a few) shorts.

Trying to get back on the horse.

Consequently I intend to put some other posts here as well as this here writing advice. You know.

Genre Jump.