Thursday Thoughts: A Book About Nothing (contains spoilers)

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I have time to reflect on the process of writing a book. I am reminded by this iconic scene in pop culture:

[Two men sit across from each other drinking coffee in a diner]

“This should be the show.”
“What should?”
“This.”
“Just talking?”
“Just talking.”
“About what?”
“About nothing.”
“Nothing?”
“Nothing.”
“You want to do a show about nothing?”
“Everybody’s doing something. We’ll do nothing.”

It never is about nothing, though. Even the most mundane events are something, but who wants to watch or read about mundane events? (I see that no one has their hands raised.)

When writing fiction, something has to happen. And not just one thing. In The Lord of the Rings, the trip was not uneventful. They were chased, attacked, pursued, captured, and trapped. They needed to venture through caves, haunted woods, got caught in snow and floods, and fought their way through armies. It was one thing after another, and it felt like the whole Middle Earth was against them*. And they only lost one, and he wasn’t even part of the original group. Pretty good story, huh?


[inaudible]
What’s that?
[inaudible]
They lost two? Well, you can’t count Gandalf—
[inaudible]
Because.
[inaudible]
Just because. It’s magic.
[inaudible]
Then don’t read it then.
[inaudible]
No need for that language…

The reader has already bought into the premise that the characters will encounter difficulties and problems they will have to solve to survive. That’s why they are reading your story, right? Your characters have to get into jams—and out of them. If they don’t, the story ends.

Things have to happen on a regular basis. Too much time between events or not enough suspense will lose a reader. Too many in a row will exhaust them (The Fast and Furious, anyone). How many crises is too many to have on an adventure? And if your protagonists keep finding ways to solve them, does it become unbelievable? There is a fine line between believable and ridiculous —even when you suspend your disbelief.

When it comes to believability, science fiction has the majority of nit-pickers. There are great writers who research and employ experts in order to get the science (or potential science) right. I don’t write technical science fiction. I don’t enjoy reading overly technical stuff either and I’ll skim over those parts. So, how do I explain my technology to a reader?

Q: “How does your Faster-Than-Light drive work?
A: “You press the green button.”
Q: “Then?”
A: “You get there fast.”

How many times do read read about or watch a main character dangle precariously off a cliff or building and still feel tense, knowing that they are going to get out of this alive . . . or will they**? Can you kill off a main character? Sure, but you have to do it in a way that moves the story forward—and not in the first chapter.

Also, have all the good (and bad) tropes been used***? Is there anything truly original or is everything just a variation of a previous story. I found myself having to go back and change something I previously wrote because I’ve read a published book with the same idea. The same book that’s now in the hands of my editor. Yeah, there’s stuff in there that I swear I thought up all on my own. Really.

Readers read to escape. Writers write for much the same reason and to entertain, of course. You can’t entertain with a book about nothing, can you?.

-Leon

*Spoiler alert: It was
**Spoiler alert #2: They do.
***Spoiler alert #3: Yes


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

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Oh, pick me!
C’mon, space stuff!

NaNoWriMo Last Day: Yikes! Better get a move on.

I use the NaNoWriMo site to update my progress. It does keep track of many different statistics:

Hey, I did have a few good days.
January? My last novella* took 6 months. This one in 3? I’ll take it.
I was close on Day 1
Yikes! But I did write 330 words this morning

OK. Back to work, only 31248 left to go . . .

*Speaking of my last novella, I did receive it back from my editor, so I have to start reviewing that one as well.


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Not ready to purchase yet?

Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free eBook of your choice.

Oh, pick me!
C’mon, space stuff!

Throwback Thursday: Returning to Roots

As I mentioned on Sunday, I will be scaling back my posts this month as I participate in NaNoWriMo, so I’ll offer up this little blast from the past today:

NaNoWriMo Update: ~ 2400 words and 5 cups of coffee.

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Time Machine Tuesday: My Very First Post

As I mentioned on Sunday, I will be scaling back my posts this month as I participate in NaNoWriMo, so I’ll offer up this little nugget in the meantime:

It’s been a year since I joined WordPress. I had a blog on my previous website, but it was getting very little traffic. I have enjoyed meeting other writers and reading their wide variety of creations. I have slowly grown my readership and have made meaningful connections with many other bloggers.

So, on this one year anniversary, here is the first post I offered up to WordPress readers:

Day one of NaNoWriMo Update: ~ 1000 words and two cups of coffee.

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Thursday Thoughts: Cruisin’ at 30 000 (words that is)

I did my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge in November. The goal is to write 50000+ words in one month. I didn’t think that I would accomplish this since I am a slow writer, but it did get me started writing longer works.

Most of my creations are poems or short stories. I joke that I write short stories because of my attention span, but my stories seem to come to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later. Deciding to write a novel definitely pushes me out of my comfort zone.

When I read, I’ll often skim over longer descriptions and dialogue that I deem unnecessary (no offence to my fellow authors). Sometimes I am forced to go back if something doesn’t make sense, and my reading habits are usually the culprit.

So, I write how I read. Just get to the point and move on.

My novel started as a continuation of one of my short stories. At the end of November, I wasn’t even close, but I was pleased with what I had written up to that point. My characters were developing through their actions and words, there was suspense at the end of each chapter, and I had a good idea what the ending was going to be.

Sometimes I can write quite a bit in one sitting, other times, not so much.

I hit the 30 000 word mark last month. It’s been slowly creeping ahead ever since. The problem is that the ending is written, the characters have had their adventures and adversities. They have solved their problems (oops, spoiler alert…). The story in essence is finished.

So now I go back to fill in descriptions I feel are necessary, not for boosting word count—ok, maybe a little—but to create an engaging story for the reader. I am also going over the dialogue, trying to make it informative while keeping it realistic. Sometimes I find that extended speeches by a character seems unnatural, as most people need time and breaks to formulate their thoughts. I personally am not usually a prolific conversationalist, so that may have a lot to do with it.

I guess the question is: Would you like to read a novella or a novel?

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Tuesday Tirade: Yet Another Aggravation Courtesy of Amazon.

Everyone likes free.

Free books bring readers into your world, and introduces them to your writing at no risk. Sure, they may have to sign-up for my newsletter—depending where they have heard of it, but that’s marketing.

The first place I published my free sample eBook was on KOBO (now Rakutan-Kobo). It was pretty easy and it allowed you to set your price to free—no questions asked.

Then I did the same for Amazon/KDP. Not as easy and the lowest you could set your price was $0.99. I did some research and found many self-publishing sites that recommend you set your Amazon prize to “Perma-free”. I thought that this was a good idea to be able to get the book into the Top 10 of certain categories (that took another line of research).

I searched: Perma-free, permafree, and permanently free on the KDP site with no luck. So, back to the other publishing sites to discover that all you have to do is notify Amazon of a lower price elsewhere and they will match it.

Done. (Wait for it.)

Nope. After several months, I just happened to notice that the book was back at $0.99. Long story short:

It’s happened four times, and each time I email I get the same cut and paste message: I’m sorry that you have been facing this issue. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We need a little time to look into the problem with technical team.

The last time I received this message: Thank you for your information on pricing. From time match prices elsewhere online, including free promotions. Unfortunately we’re not able to accommodate your request since competitors have your book over the $0,99 as shown on the picture below:

 What was the picture? My full volume. At its full price. Not the sample book…

Arrgh.

There are lots of free books on Amazon. I wonder if they have the same problem. At least it gives me something to write about.

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Weekend Wrap-up: June 12

Just a quick recap before I start my day:

From my blog this week

Thursday Thoughts: Poem to Story – One of my poems inspired a short story.

Weird Wednesday: June 9 – Cartoons and Aliens – Conspiracy theory anyone?

Tuesday Tirade: The Trouble with Teens (the numbers, not the kids) – Math mayhem

Music Monday: What Goes Around Comes Around – Disco comes back, but not the bellbottoms. Whew!

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Weekend Wrap-up: June 5

I’ve been trying to write everyday. At least something. Blogging helps because it gives me a schedule of weekly topics. My main writing project, a continuation of one of me short stories into a full length novel, moves ahead like a sputtering car, slow but sometimes jumping ahead in spurts.

If I’m stuck, I will often just write the dialogue, then go back and fill in the thoughts and descriptions. I go back to previous chapters and see where I can elaborate; I am in no danger of having to pair down my word count.

I try to keep track of details, so that I don’t contradict what happened or repeat myself. You would think that since I am writing it, I would know what has already been said, but things slip by.

I had a good writing day yesterday, not on the novel, but on a short story. I saw a writing prompt for a contest on Reedsy and I instantly had an idea. I actually took one of my NaPoWriMo poems and reworked it into a story. I almost got in 1000 words, which is the minimum length. OK, about 70 words were from the poem, and I used 10 words from a line from one of my lyrics, but I’m counting them.

I also came across a fun prompt (see Fibbing Friday below), so there’s a few more words for the tally.

From my blog this week

Fibbing Friday: Complete the – I stumbled upon this prompt in the afternoon and couldn’t resist

Weird Wednesday: June 2 – The Survey returns and CartoonsThe Day Before continues, and an unscientific survey

Tuesday Tidbits: Longevity – What’s the oldest thing you own?

Music Monday: I’ve Heard That Song Before – Sound familiar?

Second Chance Sunday: Blog ‘Bout Book Blogs – A long lost post I found

Here are a few other blogs I have enjoyed:

playgrounds and graveyards / poem-hubris – Shawn wrote 2 poems in response to the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC.

Today’s #Photograph 3/Jun/21 – Stuart always has some wonderful photographs


Tuesday Tunes 59: More Seventies – The greatest decade in music? Maybe not, but there were a lot of great songs.

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Weekend Wrap-up: May 28

Quick! How many days in May? August? What about March? Can you instantly recall that information? You are lucky. I sure can’t. If you are like me, you had to start to recite: “Thirty days, has September, April, June…” and once you eliminated those ones, you came to the answer of 31.

Did you know if you put your fists together with your index fingers touching, starting from the left, each knuckle is a 31 day month and the dips are all 30 (except for that weird February which I can never remember what year is a leap year). Sure you have knuckle left over, and you have to point with your nose, but hey, it works.

I can recall many facts when I watch Jeopardy, many more if I have recorded it and press pause (not to Google, just to think). When I comes to math, I wish I was able to recall certain facts without resorting to tricks. I suppose mathematicians and scientists have a good memory and are able remember and recall what they learn instantly. Same goes for musicians. There’s an upcoming post in there – if I remember to write it. Now where was I…?

From my blog this week

Free Book Friday: May 28 – Review Copies

Thursday Thoughts: NFTs – WT#? – Should I jump on the NFT bandwagon?

Weird Wednesday: May 26th – Cartoons – Another The Day Before

Tuesday Tidbits: Life Lessons Learned From Exercising – Deep thoughts? Maybe?

Music Monday: You Oughta’ Tune – Yer Makin’ Me Cry – Autotune: Yay or Nay? Plus a song that makes me cry.

Here are a few other blogs you should visit:

Shards of Broken Glass – What did you collect as a child?

Stop and smell the roses? You should.

Short Story Collections – Free books courtesy of Stevie

Questions for Americans – The snacks are different. Not just the accents.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Laughter is the Best Medicine – The health benefits by Sally Cronin

Send me an email!

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.

Weekend Wrap-up: May 22

I was able to get get back to my weekly blog schedule this week. I would like to plan out my posts better, but I’ll admit, most of the time, it’s a night before or morning of routine. Like right now…

I do keep a running Word doc with my ideas and thoughts to build on. Recently I had tried out a program called Shaxpir which I wrote about here: Tuesday Tune-up: Writing Tools / Programs. I was having some difficulty logging—Oh. You’re not done reading the linked post yet? Sorry. I’ll grab a coffee then…

Done? Great!

As I was saying, I was having some difficulty logging in and accessing my work, and the support that I was getting was substandard. Finally, Someone on a community board offered a solution that worked. Now the task is to remove my content—which thankfully did not have much new material—and delete the program.

Speaking of support, here is an update on my Wattpad vs. Inkitt experience (see this week’s Free Book Friday for context). I was having difficulty in Inkitt creating single spaces between my lines of poetry because each ‘Enter’ key stroke created a new paragraph.

After posting on the support forum, I received a response a week later, which did not work, and I haven’t heard anything since. Several other writers in the community offered solutions, with the same result.

I had abandoned Wattpad many months ago, but decided to give it a try. Experiencing the same issue, I emailed their support staff, and received an answer the same day, which worked! Want to create single spaces? Shift + Enter. Ta-Dah!

Wattpad: 1 Inkitt: 0

Have a great weekend! Here’s something else to read:

From my blog this week

Free Book Friday: May 21 – Reading & Writing Sites – A new promo, plus my thoughts/questions on Wattpad and Inkitt.

Thursday Thoughts: Aroma Therapy – Smells. Yes, smells.

Weird Wednesday: May 19th – Cartoons and Rhetorical Questions – Just what it says. Is it funny? I think so.

Tuesday Tirade: ROI – I rethink my reviewing strategy.

Music Monday: Riviera Galliard – I finally record one of the first pieces I wrote for classical guitar. It only took [cough] years.

Here are a few other blogs you should visit:


Twitter: Why do I bother? – Do you like Twitter?

Thoughts about letter writing – When was the last time you hand-wrote a letter?

The Anti-TBR Tag – Everyone has a “I won’t read that, list.”

Bags For Life Or Bag For The Week? – Plastic shopping bags. Do you still have them?

Still looking for some readers to go over my NaPoWriMo book:

Send me an email!

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of four books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and The View from Here, his first science fiction novella.