Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Writing a pitch with the LAYER system – part 1

I have a week to hit my publisher with a detailed pitch for a 10.000-words story I hope will be the first of a new series. So today I spent some time doodling on a notebook while I was waiting in line at the supermarket. This is something I learned over thirty years ago, from a series of articles by Piers Anthony. Be able to write anywhere, and use your dead time.

As I have a limited time (I’d like to mail te proposal by the weekend), I decided to try and use the Plot Gardening method by Chris Fox – I got the book of the same title a few days back (as you know I collect books about writing), and it looks like it might be my sort of thing.

In particular I am trying to apply the LAYER System, as outlined by Fox, that requires me to define

  • Lead – the hero of the piece
  • Antagonist – the main antagonist
  • Yard – the setting
  • Engagement point – where it begins
  • Return – how it ends

This is the basic set-up to get a viable story on the way.
Once this is done, I’ll outline the story – the request is for as detailed outline as possible – and wait for the publisher to tell me how much he likes my idea.
Hopefully.

I am still in high seas where the reasons of the characters are concerned.
But I’ll work that out as I add more layers to the cake.


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The first book of 2020

Last night I splurged 8 of my hard-earned dollars to acquire the first two tiers of the latest Humble Bundle, called 2020 New year, New You – a grab bag of titles on a variety of topics, good as fuel for new year’s personal resolutions – self-help books (from time saving to meditation to retirement plans) and cookbooks (a book of slow cooker recipes!), writing handbooks and a thesaurus, books about bucket lists and other wonders. These sort of bundles usually capture my fancy, because they feel like going through a bookstore filling a basket with stuff that makes me go “wow, that’s interesting!”
My 8 bucks contributed to help a charity (in this case, Every Child a Reader), and bought me 16 very different books.
I was particularly interested in the cookbooks, in the memoir by a former undercover detective, and in the writing handbooks.
The first I started was therefore David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist.

Continue reading


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Hamlet, James Bond and Rick Blaine

A new book in my ever-growing collection of volumes about writing, Hamlet’s Hit Points is somewhat different, because it is a book at least nominally aimed at game masters willing to improve the structure of their roleplaying scenarios, upping their game. But in laying down the foundations of a system to structurally map stories, Robin D. Laws manages to create a tool that works for games, for fiction and for movies/screenplays.

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Bookshelf archaeology

51jAwNDM1rL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I was looking for a book, and I found two.
I did some digging on my shelf for Damon Knight’s classic Creating Short Fiction. As I mentioned, I started talking about short fiction with my friend Claire, and I wanted to check out if Knight’s book held some momentous secret I had forgotten.
For the uninitiated (but then, what are you doing here), Damon Knight was one of the greatest short story crafters in the field of science fiction – he is the author of To Serve Man, that was adapted in what is possibly the most famous episode of The Twilight Zone – and he also was an editor and critic. He was one of the founders of the SFWA, and of the Clarion Workshop.
He is the man that, as a critic, defined the idiot plot.

His writing handbook focuses on short stories, and it is quite good all things considered. It was originally published in the early ‘80s, but it is still well worth a look. Continue reading


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76 pages in 12 hours

But in the end I did not make it.
I went through a ferocious bout of insomnia, and when I finally could not stay in bed any longer listening to the wind outside, I got up, fired the PC up, and wrote a book.

Screenshot from 2018-05-01 17-39-09

Not a big book. A short handbook for writers.
Ten thousand words – 76 pages in paperback.
I uploaded it on Kindle about two hours ago, and then as I was at it, I also prepared a paperback copy. It will be on sale in two or three days – in Italian.

Well, OK, I cheated – I had the notes for my courses and workshops here on my hard disk already, so I only had to pick the bits and pieces that I needed, and fit them together, and then add a few examples, and create a cover.
And now I have my own writing handbook – very short on theory, but with lot of exercises, and a quirky approach to prompts, character creation and worldbuilding.
Nothing too original, admittedly – but original enough to be unique on the Italian market, as far as I know.
And hopefully it will serve as a good advertisement for my forthcoming workshops.

And really, back in the days when I created my folk-horror series, I was used to write a story, create a cover and publish the ebook over a weekend.
In the last three weeks I’ve published three ebooks.
Looks like I’m on my way back to the old standards.


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Jake Bible on being prolific

four-weeks-cover-finalYou know me – I love (and sometimes hate) writing handbooks and books about writing in general. I have a huge collection and the fun thing is, there is a nugget of wisdom even in the most trite and blah of the How to turn yourself into a novelist books.
I especially like books written by authors I respect and whose fiction I love: Lawrence Block, Holly Lisle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rachel Aaron, Chuck Wendig…
Or Jake Bible.
And I just got his Four Weeks to Finished, that is the sort of agile, no-nonsense book I expected from him.
If, as it looks, I’ll have to ramp up my production in the next weeks and months in the hopes of keeping my house from being repossessed, I know Jake Bible is the one that will provide some solid facts and a working method.

So, while I read the book (there go my carefully-planned writing schedules), you take a look at Jake’s page – and check out his podcast, while you are there.