Plotting and planning and Hilda

Yes, dear reader,

I’m still here. And let me explain about the title of this post.

Plotting

plottingI’ve taken up this ‘plotting’ thing many writers are dedicated to. It means you sit down and first work out how a story will go before you get it going. I’ve found there are advantages to it. It takes the surprises and blind spots out of many parts of a story. That may sound brilliant but having the surprises taken out of a story isn’t so good. I like my surprises. They’re part of the fun, the shock and the journey I take together with the victims I write about. Of course I didn’t mean that; they’re my valued characters who unfortunately end up in places and situations of ‘interest’.

Planning

BoringNow this is something I might need to look into. I’m always working on a bunch of stories. At the moment I think it’s 5 or 6. Planning might actually help to get some insight on where I am and what I should do.

Planning however is boring and takes time. Time I can use better, like for writing. Or perhaps plotting, which also eats up quite some time. I have yet to find a convincing argument for planning, so let’s leave it at that and move on to the most interesting part of this post.

Hilda

Hilda The Wicked WitchThe Hilda stories are those that will never be planned or plotted.  N-E-V-E-R, do you hear me?

Hilda’s adventures are, in a way, my own adventures. The best kind, where magic, life and fairy tales come together. Is there a better combination?

I love this witch and her circle of family, friends, acquaintances and other people who hang around for some reason or other. I’m proud of her. I have a large canvas picture of her hanging from my wall.

There has to be a benefit to plotting and planning because so many people do it. Some stories however aren’t meant to be plotted. They are travels to uncharted lands, over trails so far undiscovered.

In a few days I’ll find out if the plotting business will work for me. Then Nanowrimo starts, and I’ve done a lot of figuring out for that. Plotting. And planning, if you will, although that’s just minimal.

We’ll see how it works. Or not.

 

A shift in the way I write

Yes, dear reader,

I am aware that this post might not be as intriguing as one about a new book but this is something so different and new I want to tell ‘the world’ about it. This is about writing. Yes, I needed to add that, didn’t I?

Writer’s Café

Writer’s Café used to be my ultimate writing tool. It runs on every PC platform, Mac also. I wrote a lot using that program and I’ll defend it until the very end. But at times something comes along that just stuns the words and paragraphs out of me. And one of those times happened last week. It’s called

pandoc markdown

Right, what is markdown? Markdown is a way to ‘format’ flat text. In formatted text one uses italics, bold text, and even underlined text. With a plain text file like you make in Notepad or vi that’s not possible. Unless you use markdown. Markdown comes in several flavours, LaTeX is a famous one. I use pandoc. It’s less versatile than LaTeX but that makes it much easier to learn and use. How does markdown stuff work?

Suppose you want to write something in italics in this text way. You simply put asterisks around the text. So *italics* becomes italics. This also works with bold, you just add 2 asterisks: **bold** becomes bold.

You can also add a code for e.g. a chapter header. Simply put # in front of it. E.g. #Chapter 1.

Advantages

The main reason for this is the ability to write anywhere, on anything. If I am on a PC I can use a plain text editor to write. When I have my Android tablet with me I can write the same stories without having to worry about converting it to some other system and lose something in formatting. Even if I copy a text file to my office iphone I can simply carry on with the story.

But what about creating real files for books?

That is where the real power is hidden. It requires a lack of fear from the dos prompt (or x-terminal in Linux) but making a Word .docx file from all the chapter text files is simple (note that I saved all the text files with an .md extension, for clarity):

pandoc *.md -o story.docx

That will collect all the *.md (md stands for MarkDown) files in alphabetical order and create a Word document called story.docx.

This is how that looks on my Linux machine:

Create it:
paul@Kelutral:~/BTSync/Schrijven$ pandoc *.md -o story.docx
Show it’s there:
paul@Kelutral:~/BTSync/Schrijven$ ls -l *.docx
-rw-rw-r– 1 paul paul 50908 aug 4 16:55 story.docx

Even more magic is there: you can create an epub from those files the same way:

paul@Kelutral:~/BTSync/Schrijven$ pandoc *.md -o story.epub
paul@Kelutral:~/BTSync/Schrijven$ ls -l *.epub
-rw-rw-r– 1 paul paul 55257 aug 4 16:58 story.epub

Do you need a webpage that shows the first 2 chapters? Just feed pandoc the names of the first 2 chapters and let it do the legwork:

paul@Kelutral:~/BTSync/Schrijven$ pandoc DeJongeHeks01.md DeJongeHeks02.md -o story.html
paul@Kelutral:~/BTSync/Schrijven$ ls -l *html
-rw-rw-r– 1 paul paul 22509 aug 4 16:59 story.html

There we are. No problem. Creating a PDF, a Kindle file, all that works with pandoc.

Maybe all this looks complicated and scary for those who are used to using nothing but Scrivener or Word, but I thought it worthwhile to show you there’s more out in the world than those programs. If you like to be versatile then this is worth looking into.

Sometimes I don’t write.

Yes, that’s right, dear reader.

There are times I don’t write. This doesn’t mean writing isn’t on my mind though. Last Sunday afternoon I discovered a problem in a story. Something crucial was missing and I had no idea what the crucial part was. Staring at the screen did nothing crucial for me or the story so I decided to do something drastic. I went outside for a walk.

treesThis is not a hazardous thing because I live in a nice area. These trees for instance are between the front door and the spot where I usually park my car.

I picked a good moment of the summer Sunday too because it wasn’t raining at that moment, and even many clouds had better places to go so I found myself facing sunshine. Very uncommon in these areas lately although I am not complaining.

After about 15 minutes I was wandering through my favourite forest (because it’s so close to home that I can walk there easily) and at a certain point I had the choice to go left (where I had never gone) or right (where I usually go). I went left.

To my surprise I came upon a small lake. I had never seen that before! Amazing how lakes suddenly appear when you turn left. The soil around the lake had suffered from the rainfall. The sound of my shoes was interesting, to say the least. The water that seeped into my shoes was less interesting but colder, probably to make up for the difference.

BerenklauwOn the way back home I came across this fellow.

It’s a Heracleum sphondylium, commonly known as hogweed or cow parsnip, and a big one. It was as tall as I am!

I left it there as it looked happy where it was.

Incidentally in Dutch this plant is called a Bear claw.

The last special thing I encountered was this colourful bench in a park. Whoever the artist (or artists) was or were did a great job on creating something joyful! 

bench

Scifi, fantasy and portals

Food for happy thoughts.

Recently I read a post online that made me happy. The post dealt with things that are often seen as bad things in scifi and fantasy writing. One of the ‘bad’ things discussed was portals.

Why are portals considered bad?

Probably because they are easy. Portals can just be there without any further explanation. No one knows how it got there, nor who built it. The fun is to figure out if it still works, how it works, and how to get yourself out of the mess once you went through it.

Why do certain critics insist that writers should come up with other, more credible bits of equipment to get their characters into trouble? It will only add to the size of the book because the whole thing needs to be explained, invented, put into place, made credible. All that will draw the attention away from the actual story.

Of course, at times coming up with a new way to go from one place to another can be bunches of fun, but then that whole experience should be part of the story.  No such thing needed with a portal. Bam. It’s there. We’re in trouble Now what?

 

My own portals.

Seriously, I love portals. I’ve used one in Francis and Frankie for instance. And the times that Hilda and William travelled from Fairyland to ours and back, for instance in The Wytches Roone, that didn’t happen because of well-defined physics and other particle storm entities. Portal. Get them there and make the story happen. The titles I mentioned up here were fantasy stories. My Scifi story “Wanted: hero” also uses a portal to get to another planet. No space ships, no FTL-drives (Faster Than Light, another thing mentioned on the article I referred to). Without portals many stories would not have happened, and I’m not just referring to my own stories here.

A famous portal.

Sg1 stargate frontDo you remember the first Stargate film? What else is that star gate but a big, old portal? An entire network of them even!

As the series went on, the origin of the star gate was divulged, little by little. A great way to do this because it gave the people writing the series time to come up with credible parts to make this sound plausible. For me they did a great job with that.

(And since I’m a book lover: did you know that there are books published about the Stargate universe? Really! Follow the link and be surprised if you’re a fan and didn’t know about this yet!)

Gimme my portal and no one gets hurt.

Portals. I love them. Because they’re so convenient and versatile. How do you feel about portals in fiction (and film) to move to other places, other times, other worlds? Heck, maybe I’ll write a book called Portal World some day. I can see interesting things happening in such a place…

Did I stop writing books?

Absolutely not, dear reader.

My bookmaking adventures are not on hold, not have they stopped in any other way. The reason for my silence on this site is that I’m working on a Dutch book, and for Dutch news I have my Dutch site. Which, when you think of it, makes sense.

Over on Facebook I am slowly revealing the cover of this Dutch book. Each day I post a new picture of it, in which more and more of the cover is shown. Yesterday’s version looks like this:

puzzel11

If you want to keep up with the revelation, you can follow me on Facebook if you want. I usually post the image to Google+ as well if you feel better there.

The image over the book cover is my cat Grimalkin. Her name might sound familiar, because she and her brother are named after the cats who live with Hilda the Wicked Witch and her partner William. (I’ve added this tidbit for your convenience.)

The book is about my home town Cuijk which everyone has heard of, of course. Everyone living near here, that is.

lilyMarin
This however does not mean that I am not doing anything in the English book arena. I’m working on Hilda 18 and 19, and also I am adding words to the new Lily Marin novel which is going as slowly as the first one.

Lily keeps surprising me with her complexity. It’s great to write about her and to go on adventures with the Masked Woman, but for some reason she doesn’t make all this very easy. Things with her and Billy go well though, and this book also will come to a good end.

The last project I would like to mention here is the sequel to Wanted Hero. I’m currently reworking that and at the same time writing it in Dutch. This has proven to be a good way to do this kind of work as I think about the text. Many original English parts are replaced by much better English parts.

That is the news from me for now, and I will definitely report back in soon. The gaps between me checking in have gotten too large, for which I apologize.

Wishing you a wonderful day,

Paul

 

Language battle.

Language battle.

Dear reader,

english nederlandseAs you may know I write in two languages. English and Dutch. Usually not at the same time, but sometimes it happens. Now (not as in at this very moment, but lately and still) I do that. I write in Dutch and English at the same time. This is because of the sequel to ‘Wanted: hero‘. Yes. There will be a sequel. I wrote most of the draft text during last year’s Nanowrimo. In English. And now I am writing the text again, in Dutch. No, that’s not merely translating, it’s literally writing it because of the many difference between the two languages.

Word play, double meanings, expressions, those are language items you don’t simply translate. You write them again. This in turn means that I rewrite much of the English text again as well though.

Question from a fictitious reader: how does that happen? Didn’t you already write the English version?

Answer from the writer: yes, I did. I wrote the English first. I write the same sentence or paragraph in Dutch, which makes me think about the sentence and remodel it to Dutch style, grammar and spelling. Occasionally the sentence will come out much better in Dutch than in English which in turn makes me adjust the English sentence so it’s more like the Dutch one. And voila (which is French and means look there, since we’re on the subject of languages anyway), the English is rewritten.

I have found this a fabulous way to duplicate a story into Dutch. It makes me reconsider the English original, which in turn can make me change both English and Dutch a few times before it’s just right. Things like that take time. Lots of time. But in the end they’re worth it.

This post appeared on my Dutch blog earlier. In Dutch. Click here if you’re interested to see it. 🙂

 

Nanowrimo. Day 13. Not all is bad luck.

Nanowrimo. Day 13. Not all is bad luck.

Dear reader,

NaNoWriMo 2015Let me give you another update on the progress of this wrimo. A wrimo is a person engaged in Nanowrimo – this for your learning pleasure. You can now say you learnt something today (unless you already knew this fact).

At the moment of writing this blog post the story in total stands at 53164 words. 37404 of those have been written this month as part of the aforementioned crazy dash of words. Honesty demands me to state that I am not at all confident in the validity of the chapters I wrote before the current one and the one before that (being 17 and 16. If you paid attention you know why I state the numbers this way). For that reason I enlisted the help of a good friend who will have a look at the potential or possible garbage that came out of my fingers and had to pass through the keyboard. We’ll find out how much damage I have wrought, even though I shouldn’t worry about that as this is nano. Not something that should immediately produce a decent piece of text.

Friday-13 black catBut as I said up there somewhere, not all is bad. After all it is Friday the 13th, which is a good day. It means the weekend is close.

And I just discovered that I have written 1.9 million words since I started keeping track in April 2013. Is it therefore a miracle that I am on my third keyboard since then?

Well, it’s time for me to return to Sabas and Reny, who managed to get themselves locked up somewhere with a group of others and they’re trying to find a way out. Wouldn’t you if there was no food and water around, and all you have is what you carry with you? Which is about enough for another week?

Have a great Friday 13th, and if you are ever out looking for a cat, please go to a shelter. There are lots of lovely cats there who are looking for their golden home. And from the bottom of my heart: consider a black one. They’re really lovely and no, they don’t mean bad luck. Black cats are magical. Just ask Hilda and William. Or me.

signature

My book road map.

Dear reader,

Sometimes people talk about road maps for what they are planning to do. Perhaps it is an idea for me to do something like that, although you shouldn’t be surprised to see something like this:

roadmap

First of all there is the next book in the series of Hilda the wicked witch. Book 17. It’s written and sent to Carol for editing, so that should not be away too long.

Next in line is November’s crazy event again. Nanowrimo. For that I have planned to write a sequel to “Wanted: hero”, in which Sabas and Reny will explore more of the world where Sebastian was dragged into.

I’m currently writing Hilda’s 18th book, which is approaching the halfway mark (although with the witch it’s always hard to tell where that actually is). To make you curious: Hilda and William will take to the sea.

Book 19 for Hilda is already planned and a topic’s been set for it. That can change (as it did already) but I feel that the one I have for it now is quite good. For this one I’ve planned that we meet a character from a previous book again but this character won’t play a major part in book 19. We’ll also meet a mythical creature…

Does this make you curious? Jump with anticipation? Mutter because I don’t write fast enough? Good!

A good day so far

Dear reader,

So far today has turned into a good day, despite some not so wonderful news yesterday.

I have started writing a story that plays in my hometown of Cuijk. It goes well, and this afternoon I got on my bicycle and pedalled over to the library where I sat myself down and wrote more on that story. Here’s the view from where I sat:

cuijk library

Perhaps you can’t believe the joy I had sitting there. The street you see crosses a street called Aleida street and that appears in my story.

That is not all I did. I finished all the final edits on Hilda’s 16th story and I have started to compile the actual books for the story. The cover is already made, the e-book is as good as done and I am working on the paperback for whom likes the real books instead of a file on their e-reader. For the paperback I may change the backside from now on but I’m not yet certain. Time will tell.

Next to this the rework of Hilda’s 17th story is going on, as well as writing book 18 of the Wicked Witch. If you think that I am bored I implore you to think again. Have a wonderful weekend from me, a Holy Bejeebus from William and a Crappedy crap from Hilda!

Output

Dear reader,

People sometimes ask me why I am having such a high output of books compared to many other writers. Publishing a book per year is a nice amount, 2 per year is really good, but I have an average of 3 to 4 books per year so far.

printing-pressI think it is because I started writing actual books quite late in life. There are so many stories inside me and I want to put them ‘out there’ before I can’t do that any more. That is not something I’m focussing on, but it is something that can happen to the best of us at an age too early. Look for instance at Sir Terry Pratchett who passed away far too soon while battling a disease that in the end did all it could to keep him from creating.

There is of course the possibility that I will live to be very old and write as long, like Harry Bernstein whose most productive years were his nineties. If I knew that to be the case I might not write so fast and furious, but who knows when his/her end approaches? I’m not taking any chances, so I keep writing at the pace that feels good for me.