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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Book Flashback

Many professional writers and editors will tell you to start your book in the middle of the action. Begin somewhere interesting and fill the reader in as you go.

I could say that's what I did yesterday. I started in the middle of my story on purpose. I would be lying.

After I posted, I remembered I didn't just start writing a book. First, I wrote a short story. So here's a flashback.

The part about scenes is accurate. Most of my writing "career" has been rewriting TV shows for my own enjoyment.

Being a sci-fi fan, I've watched some pretty poorly written shows in my time. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century springs to mind (no offense, Gil. I love you). Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was another. I watched it on reruns. Wow, was that show poorly written! I guess no one cared about character consistency back then. These were TV shows with a great premise, but no funding, no backing and no viewers. In the 80's, I taped every episode of every new sci-fi show because I knew they wouldn't last more than eight episodes and I wanted them all. Mann and Machine showed real promise. Cancelled after six episodes. Yes, I have them on a 25 year old VHS tape.

Because I liked these shows, usually for the characters, I helped them out by rewriting them so they were good. Believable. Cancel-proof. That was what I thought, anyway. I was young.

This means I have files full of potential scripts for Buck Rogers, Star Trek (not that Star Trek needed rewriting. I just wanted to write for them), Kindred (turns out Aaron Spelling used a role playing game as the model and then did what he always did and turned it into Beverly Hills 90210 with vampires. Sigh), The Legacy (that was a real stinker but I wrote my favorite script off that show), and several others no one but the hardest-core geek would recognize (Hi, Eric!).

Before I wrote my first book, I saw the movie, X-men. I loved it. Being familiar with the genre and the history of Phoenix/Jean Gray, I went home and wrote the next installment, little realizing that was their plan.

I did research. Type B though I am, if I care enough, I will apparently do research. I found a map of New York and studied it to set the tone and figure out how normal people would move from place to place in New York (my villains used trains). I couldn't find Westchester on the map and I didn't have Internet at the time, so I got some of the geography wrong, but I kept writing until I had a completed short story, not just a string of scenes. It's 42 pages long. It took me two weeks. Being who I am, I used the Xmen cast and added three of my own characters. If I live long enough, I may write them a story all their own (I have some scenes already!)

So, that Friday in July of 2003, when I sat down at the computer, I had a little, tiny bit of success under my belt. I was thinking, If I can finish a short story, why can't I finish a real story? Sure, it's longer, but I like books, not short stories. I can do this. All I have to do is not stop until I'm done. That's not hard.

It was hard. Some days I hurt from hunching over the keyboard and not blinking for hours at a time. I couldn't stop thinking about the book. My friends wondered if I'd died. I gave them chapters to read so they'd leave me alone and let me finish. My critters (a whole other cast back then) learned that computer time was NOT play time. They adapted.

I guess I'm saying, sometimes you start with something small and work up to something big. Dave Ramsey uses this theory for his debt snowball. It applies to writing, too.

At least, it did for me.


  1. Hello Sis - please feel free to include the names of the short-lived hard-core geek SciFi shows and see if I am really that big of a geek (it's probable).

  2. Ah, Eric, how about The Flash, Mantis, Earthstar Voyager (only the pilot movie was made of that), and Space Rangers, which made it four episodes and also had a great cast and a great premise?


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