Archive for June 2013

Gas Masks and Epic Scenarios   1 comment

memaskclub

This could translate well into written text

There are many ways to write about things; to sit and dream up stuff that makes your toes curl or your heart race, or you can mix it up. I’ve had many an experience, and sometimes I like to test the limits of fun within a specific atmosphere. Jamaicans for the most part (in a club situation ) are pretty laid back. People sip their drinks and dance to music, but there aren’t any women raving on the countertops doing shots and diving face first into a tile floor. I mean i’ve seen girls at the club giving lap dances in skirts so short everybody knew Victoria’s secret, but other than that, it doesn’t get much further out there.

Me and a friend were trying to rally some people up for a Harlem Shake video vibe that night, but the crowd was a bit dead. We wore the gas masks anyway.  I wish someone had taken a picture of me dancing with a girl in the gas mask. I can only hope.

To me sometimes this is the real meat of writing interesting things, testing your own mental borders in both the real and unrealistic world. Dancing with three girls while wearing a gas mask and trying to swallow liquor give you some future creative leeway.

yes, those are twin rifles hidden in her lace stockings

yes, those are twin rifles hidden in her lace stockings

I mean what’s the story of this girl here? Is she some would-be-assassin, a horny girl looking for a guy, or a human cyborg? Even more important, who is the dude beside her dressed like a  fireman street crossing warden hybrid? These kind of things are fuel I gather. Fuel that makes certain books more palatable, because you have reference points, images and moments that you can copy, expand upon, or twist however you want.

Since i’ve jumped back on both the blogging and mentally creative gravy train since I just dropped a novel, Sex Drugs and Jerk Chicken these things have been coming to mind more often. But if you live an epic life, you can write about epic things. Or if you have epic reference points, you can make epic allusions.

I think the point expression is simply to express, to flow through the ins and outs of your own mind, make sense of the raging maelstrom of memories circumstances and data you’ve gathered in your life, regurgitate it in a readable form, and then let the chips fall where they may.

This is an aspect what motivates me to write sometimes, whether i’m writing from the perspective of a Japanese woman (I wrote a story called Misses Cats) or if i’m fiddling with a new concepts. Images, sights  and sounds are the fuel, my mind the channel, and my fingers the weavers of the fabric of my creations.  So, at times I guess its good to be the guy in the mask, or the guy raging behind a model paid to pretend she’s a statue.

mrrager

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Novel Anatomy part 2: Holy Creative characters Batman!   Leave a comment

I felt like writing this after  a conversation last night. I was lying on my bed, it was about five in the morning and I was chatting with a friend who lives in Europe. She was the first person to finish my book Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chickenand I was eager to hear what she thought about it.

I was curious because what i’ve realized with writing is that, when you create a universe, people will take inferences from things you didn’t even realize were there. They will find tidbits and character motivations that somewhat mirror their lives, they’ll be searching for and analyzing data that (even though you wrote it) feels new and strange to you when they explain it back to you.

A big part of getting creative is doing stuff that’s a little out there in the first place.

Now, my book is a multi-character narrative following three different guys with different personalities. There is Tony, Winston and Bishop. Most novels don’t have multiple character narratives and with good reason. Layering the nuanced perspectives of different people takes time, a very dynamic understanding of your own writing skill or messages that can’t be contained through the lens of one individual.

So, as i lay there, picking my friend’s brain about the book, I noticed that many of the things I tried to portray through the characters translated well in the text. For example, Tony is a very handsome guy who seems to be floating through D.C, hooking up with girls without (seemingly) having much perspective. His personality is reflected heavily through the scenarios he finds himself in, and the way he deals with people through conversation. This is way he is best portrayed, a savvy conversationalist. On this blog and others, i’ve spent quite a bit of time writing actual conversations, and I found that fortunately for me, I can write reasonably good dialogue. I’m not sure how good, but I know my book has tons of dialogue, and so far no one has been complaining about sappy speeches and terrible grammar.

The point is, for this character his essence are held in these situations and they are heavily dependent on two things:

1. How believable these scenarios are

2. How believable the conversation is

Now, I wasn’t thinking about this at all as I wrote the book (I mean, who would?) but now looking back, these are aspects of the development that I think might be quite important.

I was pleased with a few things my friend told me. Firstly, she said my book had a “very believable situations involving people from different cultures.” My personal experience in D.C was quite multicultural, but to me that was normal, so I didn’t think about it as I was writing. In the book there are Asian-Americans, Anglo-Americans, African-Americans, Ex-patriots  Caribbean people and more. Since i’ve personally lived in Japan and the States (and i’m always hanging with mixed groups), I guess that reflects naturally in my writing and i didn’t realize how much it would add to this “world” I created in Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken

My friend also mentioned that my writing was “tactful” because there are several sexual scenarios in the book that could make certain people blush. She explained that it was interesting to read about these sexual situations with varied descriptions and words. It gave it a different feeling, she said. She laughed and told me she had to look up the word “coitus” (which is a fancy schmancy was of saying ‘sex’). I’m not sure if my writing was tactful, but it certainly wasn’t erotica.

Bishop, the unhappy trust fund kid, also came off mostly the way I wanted him to. Through his character, I wanted to show that sometimes when you lose faith, you can become darker and more jaded. This is what happens to his character progressively throughout the book. It also seems that most people are rallying behind Winston, who is the most tortured character in the book. The more I heard her explain what she felt, the more I realized that the essence of what I wanted to get across was working.

This makes me feel that the function of the book at the very least, will serve a purpose. I’ve had only three people read it completely, but the reviews have all mirrored quite interestingly and these are different kinds of readers.

I’m just thinking out loud here, writing what comes to my head.

cheers

   

Posted June 29, 2013 by marcusbird in Uncategorized

Novel Anatomy part 1: How to be a ten page a day writer   3 comments

   

flabs

This is maybe what ten pages a day looks like after a while

No, you don’t need a Black Sabbath album, a vial of coke, a magical leprechaun muse and a mountain of skittles to write ten pages in a day each day. In fact, I’ve discovered there’s only one thing you really need: clarity.

I’ll illustrate.

More than once I’ve had ridiculous, high energy bursts of writing that resulted in me writing 10-35 pages in a day. Yes, I’ve written a max of 37 pages in a day (not that I can repeat such Herculean feats often). Whenever I’ve had these sorts of days, it wasn’t so much about being “in the zone”, it was more about being extremely clear about what I wanted to write, with a burning intensity to get it out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the process of writing takes some plotting and planning and chewing pens or pencils and wandering around wearing tweed (possibly plaid) trying to find inspiration in your environment. But if you are very clear about what you want to write, there is nothing really holding you back.

So, I noticed this in two instances.

One instance was when in 5 days I wrote 120 pages of a sci-fi manuscript that had been eating at me for a while. The story was so clear in my mind that I didn’t do any research, didn’t write down any plot or do any significant character development. I just sat and wrote. Idly, I said to myself “if I do 20 pages a day, I’ll have two hundred pages in ten days.” So logically I started the process (in them thar days I didn’t care much about such  things as “limits” and “burnout”)

But the story (which revolves around some super human kid with powers and such) was so clear in my head that I didn’t even need to take a break. Every scenario from the introduction and the first few chapters were already in my head. So I just wrote. I did twenty pages the first day, and then did an average of twenty-five the next few days. When I hit 120, I realized I ran out of plot! So I had to stop, and think.

Now, the point isn’t the fact that I stopped, it was that I used up all the clarity that had made me so speedy with the writing.

Another time, I wrote 105 page manuscript in 11 days. It was a sordid emotional affair:  me breaking up with a girl and releasing my angst in written prose. Again, I was super clear on what I wanted to write, and had a burning intensity to get it on paper which resulted in a novella.

So do you have to break up with a girl to write ten pages a day? Hellz no.

Recently, when doing the final legwork for my latest novel Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken  I had a few ten page days and a few two page days. The ten page days were always days when I knew

(a) exactly what I wanted to write in extreme detail

That’s it.

You can make it happen pretty easily too. Of course we don’t all have those burning ideas raging in our minds that make us lose sleep, but we can create the same result without the seemingly candy-fueled rage.

Say you want to write a few chapters. Each chapter is five pages. All you need to do is write a paragraph or two describing the sequence of events and then importantly, what people talk about, where they go, and how they react. This builds “environment” which you don’t want to think about when you are writing. Once this is done, what tends to happen is that as you write, you focus less on the plot and more on the visuals and the dialogue or whatever, and you get the chapters done and have time to review etc. All you need is a piece of paper and a marker. (i like markers because they squeak when I write). How much description you write is relative only to one thing; how clear the idea already is in your mind. Sometimes you are 70% there, sometimes you are only 15% there. The more info you give your brain, the easier it will be to flow come writing time. I have examples of both below.

SHORTDESC

That is  pretty simple description, but you’d be suprised how long I had been puzzling this beforehand. I “sort of” knew what I wanted to write, but it was killing me. After I wrote this, I was able to quickly write a draft of the chapter and then fiddle with it for a while till i had it where I wanted it. That piece of paper translated exactly into SIX written pages. But that was a chapter where I kind of had a relative idea of how I wanted to shape it. Let’s say you have a more complex idea. No worries! As the French would say, ce n’est pas problem ici mon ami!  Simply repeat the process with more details as shown below.

longdesc

That page has material for two chapters. What I did was illustrate to myself how these two characters met, how they might hookup, little things they might talk about or what she might tease the character about (in this case the character is Tony). That translated into one 7 page chapter and  had the meat for another 6 page chapter. So two written pages with light description translated to 21 pages. So let’s say you just did enough for two chapters. Six plus seven equals… voila! Thirteen pages.

Now maybe you have a shorter chapter or a longer chapter or whatever, but this is the basic principle through crazy observation that i’ve learned. Once it is clear, or you make it much, much clearer, it is much, much easier to write. We all have different writing styles, but its much easier to write about the ” Man bleeding from his ears after the bomb went off in the deli he had been going to as a boy which happened to be the same place he met his girlfriend who went to join the army but loved talking about Norman Rockwell paintings after they made love” versus “some guy who got injured in a bomb blast”.

The first description gives you a lot more fuel for the proverbial fire because you can start making different connections and leverage your writing based on those things. The second leaves you in the chair, pen in hand staring at the bird taking a crap on a branch outside your window.

Which path will you choose?
   

Writing potion in a massive Ocean   Leave a comment

For what seemed like the hundredth time in a few days, a person called my name. I was hanging out at a local drinking hole, my mind still a bit tired and fried from the sleepless two weeks leading up to my online book launch.

My friend looked at me in the eye and said, “So, how is it going?”

Unsure what he was talking about, I replied, “How’s what going?”

“The book thing,” he said.

“Oh that,” I answered.

I said “Oh that” not because I forgot I released a book recently, but i’m actually trying to figure out a plan. What is the next step after releasing a book if you aren’t a famous celebrity or selling a “how to do X thing” ebook? I’m not sure yet,  and i’m trying to figure out how relative brand equity works.

The internet is chock full of similar advice from authors who are reasonably successful, but they all repeat the same thing with no technical details but everyone basically says:

1. Write a good book –> I mean, really?

2. Have a good book cover –> I mean, really?

3. Use Social networks —> this is starting to feel repetitive.

i’m not being negative, but I find that this sort of information is topical. With all the talk of messing with Amazon sales rankings, using Google SEO and keywords, building author platforms and blogs, increasing web traffic and doing PR, being a writer is an entirely new ball game.

I’m not sure if I can sit back and simply say “Write a good book.” I’m sure there are tens of thousands of good books out there, but no one reading them. You need bodies behind you, people in the trenches with your book in their hand. These people need to love what they read, and be very willing to share this with other people.

I’ve already figured this all out, which is why i’m sort of in a mental grey area now. I’m pleased with how my online book launch went, and it was cool briefly popping up #75 on a small bestseller list. But how do I keep it consistent? How do I get to the envious 100 downloads (or more) per day? Is it blogging frequently? Getting an agent? Making a viral youtube book trailer video? I have no idea.

This, I think is the hardest part of being a creative, is that you can’t really “see” certain end results because you don’t know what will stick. There is so much data out there, that trying to process it all and make sense of it can be overwhelming.

At the very least, i’m going to experiment with a few things. I’ve never shot a book trailer, so I’m thinking of how to make an interesting one for my book. Possibly that can get me some sales.

Also, my brand equity is based on me being a sort of “cool dude who wanders around and makes videos”. I’ll have to figure out how to translate that into the book brand.

Shaping who you are in the public eye is one thing, but at the end of the day people need to sit down for six to eight hours and read your book, and then deliver the verdict. So i’m giving myself a week to get some reviews. I’ve received two on Amazon already. (one five star and one four star)

Hopefully if i hit five to six reviews and they are all positive then maybe i’ll start figuring out a bigger brand strategy.

so yeah, at this point in time I really cannot predict the future. I think my book has potential, but i feel like a little fish in an ocean trying to get the attention of a cruise ship passing by.

hopefully that vibe will change soon.

Neil Strauss Retweet!   Leave a comment

Wow, today had a really “epic” moment. I recently penned an article about personal fears and writing and I explained how two books by Neil Strauss (The Game) and Chuck Klosterman (Killing Yourself To Live) helped to give me some perspective on that whole thing. The article is here: http://bit.ly/17cN9xv Today I saw that Neil mentioned me on twitter! (Neil Strauss is a seven time, New York Times best selling author)

straussyHe gratiously gave me a small message (i’m hoping/assuming he read some of the article) and a retweet to his 81,000 followers! I’m hoping this is a good sign of things to come. neilstraussretweet

   

Hit the top 100 Bestseller list!   Leave a comment

I’ve been doing a load of research on web SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and trying to figure out how to index my book in searches properly. It took me the better part of a week to decide what words to use as my keywords (we only get seven) and I had no idea how Amazon would index the book. I launched the book four days ago, and already it’s the NUMBER TWO search after typing in “Sex Drugs” .

numbertwokeyword

Also, according to a little birdie (my sister) she said my sales ranking leapt from 36,000 to 27, 000 meaning that something is starting to happen in the Amazon machine (that i can’t explain). Two days ago if you typed in “Sex Drugs and ” the name of my book wouldn’t show at all. Does this mean that the Amazon algorithms consider it a possibly good book? My sister said yesterday the book showed #75 on the Urban Life bestseller list, so the book is now a bestseller!

From what i’ve read when you hit the top 100 of any bestseller list, Amazon tends to push the product more. I’ve enrolled in Kindle Select and hopefully the mixture of the two scenarios will bring some interesting results. I only have 47 sales, but I want to see if hitting the list really does affect what happens to your book through Amazon’s algorithms.

   

First book review!   Leave a comment

Got my first review of Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken online and it is pretty swaggerific I must add. I’m starting to feel legit 🙂

 

bookwormrev

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