Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 19

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From several years ago... an alternate idea for a business card logo.  Basically a ship's head sails and the four-pointed star that figures into the Stone Island Sea Stories.

The last time I was here, I diverted the train of thought to editng and said one could look at editing from two different vantage points.  Who edits?  and What gets Edited?  So let's take a look at the "who" of editng.

I think the most important people involved in the editing process are the writers themselves.  The writer knows more of what is going on in the story than anyone else, and whether they dig deep into the self-editing process or evaluate and apply suggestions, corrections, or changes, provided by others, their editing inputs are more valid, more authentic than any others.

At the same time, being so deep into the story may cause a writer to be unaware of particular problems.  In the early stages of Beyond the Ocean's Edge, there was a rather extensive flashback sequence.  Somewhere the beginning of a chapter, the story flashed back to the point at the end of the previous chapter, and over the next several chapters, slowly brought the story forward to the point where it had flashed back.   To me, it was simple.  I understood it, probably because I had purposely written it that way.

But one of my early readers mentioned she was having trouble following the story at that point.  I realized I could do three things concerning her confusion.  One, I could ignore it and attribute her confusion to the fact she is a blonde.  Two, I could go through that section of the story and try to emphasize the fact that we had indeed "flashed back." Or, my third choice was to rewrite that section in straight forward, chronological order and eliminate the flashback sequence.  I opted for the latter.  If the flashback confused one person, it would more than likely confuse another.  Would I be able to strengthen the indicators of it being a flashback without it being to much of a strain to the flow of the writing and the story.  Easiest, I thought to just take the flashback aspect out.

That's why it's always a good idea to have other sets of eyes go over one's work.  They might discern problems we would not.  I call those we can get to do this, early readers.  And in my mind I see them as first readers (alpha readers), critique partners/critique group members, or beta readers.  Ideally, any of these should at least give you general feedback on the overall story.  Hopefully an early reader will tell you if the story, or a particular portion of it works... or if it doesn't work.  Hopefully they willl be able to tell you what it is specifically that does or doesn't work.  And they may also point out consistent grammatical, spelling, or composiition problems.  However, we should not expect an early reader to do a full blown edit, finding and correcting every single error or needed change.

I see first (alpha) and beta readers as those who end up reading one's story, primarily because they want to.  Perhaps they've become aware that you are writing or have just written something, ask if they can read it, and you agree.  Or you value their opinion and feed back, ask them to read it and they agree.  (And yes, there are those who will do early reading for a fee.)  In my view, the difference in whether one is a first (alpha) or a beta reader depend upon when they read the work.  I see a first reader reading the first draft or a very early revision, and perhaps helping with ongoing revisions and the polishing process.  To me a beta reader is one who would read a more finished version of the story, perhaps as one prepares to submit to agents, acquistion editors, or is about ready to self-publish.  A beta reader should help the writer verify the work is ready to go on to the next step.

Critique partners/critique group members end up doing much the same, but generally it is in exchange for you reading and critiquing their work.  It may be a one on one exchange with a single individual or a group effort where each reads and critiques work by a number of others.  And of course one's own work will also be critiiqued by the group as a whole.

Once again, I see the efforts of early readers to be more of a general nature, to look at and give a broad feedback to the entire story.

Next time we'll look at those individuals we can actually call editors...
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

On With The Story

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"Helm, Steer Between Them," cover art for Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story

When it comes to posting excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories, I've now reached the end of the first half of the second book, Sailing Dangerous Waters.  The following is from Chapter Thirteen, "The Diplomatic Voyage."

               It was a quite crowded table at supper that evening.  Smythe was aboard, on his way to pay an official and diplomatic call upon the Independent Lands government.  In effect, his was a “state visit,” as he was in all practical sense the governor of Stone Island.  Gibbons was along as well, for he had been nominated and confirmed as the island’s representative to the Joint Council.  Doctor Robertson had elected to return to the mainland aboard Island Expedition, rather than waiting for the merchantman that had brought him.  The doctor had also agreed to temporarily represent them in the Unity Congress.
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            “I would be intrigued, sir.  I am grateful you hold no animosity for succeeding with Mr. Morgan when you did not.  I am touched that you would consult me in your present case.  But unless we are urgently needed below, let us gain a little of the cooler air first.  I too may have reached my mark with the captain’s excellent wines.”
            On deck it was indeed cooler.  There, shipboard tradition prevailed and the more junior individuals moved to the lee, leaving the windward portion of the deck to Pierce and members of the official party.
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 18

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Hard to see, perhaps, but an example of some ediiting I did in Darnahsian Pirates: The Third Stone Island Sea Story.

Apologies for not having posted much in this series of thoughts for a while.

Seems to me that sometimes we can get caught up in the various things connected with writing, and neglect the actual act of doing so.  We can theorize, dissect, suggest, or evaluate to the point that we get very little actual writing done.  Perhaps the best overall advice would simply be to write.  Don't worry about how or what comes out.  Getting it down on paper (or in your computer memory) is the first and most important step.  Once it really exists, it can be revised, corrected, edited, rewritten to make it better.

If we write on a regular basis, whether it is everyday or on some sort of schedule, we'll eventually reach the end of our #WIP.  (For those that may not know, that's work in progress, what we are currently workin on.)  When we reach that conclusion, we may have a handful of pages, dozens of pages, or perhaps hundreds of pages, depending upon what we are working on.  Short story, novelette, novella, or a full length novel.  And when we do finish we have what most people refer to as a first draft or a rough draft.

There are some fundemental truths about first drafts that we should be aware of.  First of all, in their own right, first drafts are perfect.  They do what they are designed and meant to do.  They allow, permit, or perhaps force you to take those abstract story ideas floating around in the vacuum between your ears and convert them into a real concrete story.  Something that actually exists, whether on paper or in a computer memory system.  A first draft provides something to work with as you go forward.

On the other hand, it is almost universally recognized that as a first draft, your story is in the worse shape it will ever be in.  Some individuals insist that "all first drafts are crap."  As I've mentioned before, I don't believe in absolutes with regards to writing, so I'll stop short of saying that.  Some first drafts might well be total garbage, but I believe others may be a bit more polished, even in that initial state.  It all depends on the writer, how he or she approaches the writing process, or whether or not they make any corrections/changes while writing it.

Regardless of how bad or how good a first draft is, it is inevitable that it will need some work before being ready to send out to the public.  The one exception might be those who write as therapy, who will finish something, set it aside or even delete it with no intention of sharing it with anybody.  Typically, though, if we are going to share it, even as something sent to friends, let alone publish and put out on the market, we'll want to improve, revise, rewrite, and polish our #WIP and make it the best we possibly can.  For simplicity's sake, let's group all these processes into the single heading of editing.

I believe we can look at editing in two different ways.  Who edits? And, what get's edited?

Next time I'll take a look at who edits.
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Continuing the Story

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Just realized I haven't posted for a while.  Now, if I were to follow the pattern I've established, I'd be posting another installment of "Thoughts on Writing."  But today the mind isn't up to the task so I'll go for another excerpt from the Stone Island Sea Stories.
This brief peek comes from Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story, Chapter Twelve, "At Sea Again."  In it you will find mention of voting, coincidentally on the day the United States is slated to certify the votes of the Electorial College.

Nothing to do with the post as a whole, but the day prior to New Year's Eve, we had epic amounts of snow.  Warmed up and is nearly all gone now.

(Previously, the schooner, HMS Island Expedition had been in dry dock.  It has just been refloated.)
              Even though the crew now berthed aboard the schooner, they were not as self-sufficient as when at sea.  Meals were not prepared aboard, and Pierce and several of the officers still dined at the Colony Building.  As eight bells struck, ending the afternoon watch, Pierce grabbed his hat, shut the door to his cabin and hurried ashore.  He had been active enough throughout the day that his appetite was sharp, whetted by the thought of another of Mrs. Packingham’s delicious suppers.  He looked forward to the well-laid table, convivial conversation, and the usual informality of a meal presided over by Harold Smythe.
            That late afternoon found many of Island Expedition’s officers apparently desiring the same thing.  When Pierce arrived at the Colony Building, he heard sounds of conversation, bursts of laughter, and occasional but ineffective calls for quiet and restraint.  It was a happy and even boisterous group that he joined.  Other than those on watch, all of the schooner’s officers were there.  Also seeking the pleasure of the meal and enjoyment of such a good natured company were several of the community’s leaders and other guests of some importance.
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            “But surely they are not eligible, sir.  Nor would I think any in His Majesty’s Service, even those at this table would be allowed the privilege.”
            “Nonsense, sir!  Vespican citizenship was granted us all.  Specifically it was granted to you to obtain your release.  If any amongst us should have a say in deciding our future, it is you and your crew.  You are as much a part of this colony, this potential eleventh Land, as are the rest of us.”
            “True enough, Captain.  Do you forget the advice I offered in Brunswick?”
            “That was, Doctor?”
            “To regard yourself as a Vespican while here and an Englishman while there.”
            “Oh, I do remember, sir.  However, I have always applied it internally, allowing it to guide me past any divided loyalties.”
            “But don’t you see, sir,” offered Hadley, glad to be at supper here and not aboard, where tradition demanded he not speak unless addressed by the captain.  “If we are Vespican while here, it is our privilege, even our duty to help decide the colony’s destiny.”
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

A Bit o' This, A Bit o' That

Hi Everybody!
Hope everyone who celebrates the day had a great Christmas.  With the current situation regarding Covid, etc, I imagine many of us had a more subdued but still meaningful celebration.

If snow is required when you wake up Christmas Morning to be able to say it was a White Christmas, we did not experience one this year.  Yet on Christmas Day, not long after it grew dark, the snow started falling and we woke up this morning to three or four inches, depending upon the accuracy of the calibrated eyeball, on the ground.  But as it does so many times around here when it snows, it's warm, relatively anyway, and it's starting to melt.  Great for making snowmen, or like the family down the street, an igloo.  But it's harder to shovel.

Earlier today, looking East from in front of our place

Still, by noon today it seemed that nearly everyone in the neighborhood had walks and driveways cleared, or were in the process of doing so.  I think much of that is because it's a Saturday, the day after Christmas, and nearly everyone is at home.  During the week we'd be more likely to see several places go for days before being cleared.  And there are those folks around who have snow blowers and will clear more than just their own areas.  Our neighbor did the main sidewalks on both sides of the street from corner to corner.  And our other neighbor, the one with whom we share a driveway shovelled most of that.

My current snow clearing unit.  Bought it last year, just in time for the season's final snow fall.

I ended up doing the upper portion of our part of the drive, our front walk, and cleared out an area along the curb in case we need to park one of the vehicles out there.  Nice to have that wheeled snow shovel/plow.  It still can be a lot of work, especially when it's a heavy wet snow, but I'm simply pushing it; I don't have to lift and throw.  And I can angle the blade to one side or the other and keep pushing it farther out of where I'm cleaning.  Had next door not already done the sidewalks, there is a chance I would have went several houses to either side of us.  Maybe even from one corner to the next.

Looking more to the NE, from the same spot as above.

For the last few months, most of my posts here have either been excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories, or my "Thoughts on Writing,"  I haven't talked much about my writing progress, nor have I mentioned much about what I'm reading.  Writing wise, I think I've mentioned that I finally reached "The End" with Darnahsian Pirates: The Third Stone Island Sea Story.  Since then I've done a fairly intensive self edit and have had a fellow Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers member read it.  He didn't find much if anything to complain about regarding the actual story, but he did discover and mark a lot of typos, spelling errors, missing punctuation and the like, all of which I have updated in the original computer document.  Late last month/early this month I contacted another member who does editing and is knowledgeable in formating for the various self-publishing platforms, to see if she would be interested in helping me get this third story ready to go.  We agreed on a price that I see as very reasonable when compared to what some folks charge, and we have started the process.  At this point we aren't far along, but it's the Holiday Season and I imagine she is busy with other things at the time.  She passes it along to a friend and another fellow member who basically does a critique/first/beta read and leaves her comments and suggestions.  Then the editor gets it back, adds her comments, marks things that need to be corrected or changed and sends it back to me.

At that point of course, I have the choice of following along with the suggestions or disregarding and keeping it as they are.  In most cases I find I bow to the suggestions or try to incorporate the changes.  But on occasion I end up standing my ground and leave it as it was.

Current thought is that we should have it done and ready to go in a month or two.  My project now is to come up with the cover art for it.  Since both covers of the previous books were at night, I'd like to do something that's in the daytime.  And I want it to be something based on a scene, an instant from the story.  So I've been wracking my brain trying to remember a particular event or scene that takes place in the daytime, and that is something I can paint reasonably well.

I think I've rambled on enough for now.  Hopefully I'll get back to this is a day or so and mention a little of my latest reading excursions.
Happy New Year!
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

A Stone Island Christmas

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A year ago today... Coco's under the Christmas Tree!

How fortunate that my occasional posting of excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories coincides with our fast approaching celebration of Christmas and the point in the stories where it is celebrated on Stone Island in 1804.  The following is from Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story, Chapter Eleven, "A Holiday Interlude."

              This was the third Christmas celebrated during Island Expedition’s voyage and the second since their arrival on the island.  For Pierce, it was his first here, having spent the previous year’s feast, amiably detained in Brunswick, New Guernsey.  While he understood perfectly well the effects of being in the Southern Hemisphere, it felt strange to mark the occasion of the Lord’s Birth on a warm and sunny summer’s day.  He held long cherished childhood memories of dampness and cold, perhaps even the fall of snow, and the warmth of family, a roaring fire, and a sumptuous meal inside.
            That Tuesday was given over entirely to the Festivities of the Season.  Religious celebrations occupied much of the morning, conducted by the same Vespican Reformed Episcopalian who had led the memorial services for those lost against Hawke.  Pierce attended, not so much out of any spiritual obligation, but out of a sensed social requirement.  Yet it was good to once again hear the familiar story of travelers, a lack of lodging, and the Birth in the Stable.  How remarkable he thought, that even here the story was so remarkably the same.  He noted that a few names, primarily of locations differed, but in all, it was the same story he had heard every year of his early life.
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            At last he reached the tables groaning with food and piled his plate high.  He moved out of the way and stood momentarily, looking for a place to sit.  Then he saw Smythe and Doctor Robertson waving to him.  “Join us, won’t you, Edward?” said Smythe.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 17

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"Effects" automatically added to a pic taken late 2016 or early 2017, before we had the house painted.

The last time I talked briefly about coming up with character names.  So far I've looked at using recognizable, what we might think of as common (or relatively common) names.  But if we write or include some degree of science fiction and/or fantasy in our work, we may find we need to invent names, both for characters or places.

Sometimes we can use alternate names, those that are real but not used in everyday life.  In the Stone Island Sea Stories, in the other world, America becomes Vespica.  Vespica being a rework of Vespucci, as in Amerigo Vespucci.  Here he contributed his first name to the newly discovered continent.  There, his last name entered into history.

I selected "Triton" as the equivalent of Britain and decided it would be Grand Triton, rather than Great Britain.  Kent lent its name to the kingdom at the heart of the Unified Kingdom, becoming Kentland.  There the people, and most in the Independent Lands of Vespica speak Kentish, rather than English, although one would not notice a difference, other than for regional dialects or accents.  I go back into histoy a ways and thus Pictland equates to Scotland, and so on.  France is Gallicia, Spain, Cordoba, and so on.

The primary Vespican Original People in the stories are the Kalish, with the same based on the Salish Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest.  I simply chose a different first letter for the name.  (And after the fact I realize there are people in the world with the last name, Kalish, but it is simply coincidence.)  The name for the Kalish Dream Chief Shostolamie came about in an effort to match the overall sound of several place names within Washington, such as  Snoqualamie, Snohomish, etc.

Sometimes we just have to make up names, and especially as we near the end of the third Stone Island Sea Story, there are a lot of completely invented names. I've found that crossword puzzles, word find puzzles, and even web addresses (URLs) can be of help in finding or coming up with names.  That's because the spacing between words is different or non existant and we see things from a different view.  As an example, in stoneislandseastories(dot)com, we find the words, ton, tone, land, lands, seas, east, astor, and tories.  It might be possible to combine some of these to come up with a new place name or even the name of a character.

We can also spell things backwards to come up with a name, or we can rearrange letters or syllables to arrive at a unique name.  One of the places mentioned in the latest story is called Masig, and it is simply a rearrangement of Sigma.  Sometimes when I've come up with a name via these methods, I've further refined it by dividing it into  separate words, altering a letter here and there, all to make it a little more pronouncable.

As a final note, I've found that when inventing names (or other words), it's a good idea to write them down so as to have a reference as to how they are spelled.  It's very possible to forget and spell it differently everytime it's used.  By the way, the same can be said of regular names we might use.  It's possible to spell many names or similar sounding names in different ways.  Is it Newberry, Neuberry, Newbury, or what?  Is it Glenn or Glen?  Clemens or Clemmons?  I think you get the picture.  (Some years ago I read a book by a fellow member of Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers.  It threw me for a loop when a character named Eric was suddenly identified as Erik, or perhaps Erick.  It took me a while to realize it was supposed to be the same individual.)

Hoping everyone has as good a Christmas/Holiday Season as possible, and that the New Year is better for us all!
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Moving Right Along

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Here's an short excerpt from Chapter Ten, "Overhaul" from Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story.

             The next day, with work underway, Pierce sat at his writing table and updated his journal and added to the continuing letter to Evangeline.  It had been so long since he had seen her.  Since those treasured moments had occurred so long ago, did he remember them, or did he conjure images and sensations to keep the memories alive?
            He sipped at his ever present coffee, put his pen down and closed his correspondence.  Then he packed his writing materials and other miscellaneous possessions so they could be taken to his temporary lodgings.  He locked the small chest and dropped the key in his pocket.  As he left the cabin, voices filtered through the open skylight.
             “Damn, Joe, ye’d think we was careening the barky now!  Never seen so much bilge!  This ashore!  That ashore!  Strike that below!  Off load this! Off load that!  Off load yerselfs as yer at it!”
            “Aye!  Might as well careen her.  And not to take all damn year!  We’ll be two, just gettin’ the shit outa her.”
            “Knock it off, ya louts! D’ya need the captain t' hear ya?”  Campbell’s voice flooded below.  “On the quarterdeck at that!  Now put your backs into it!  Heave!”
            Pierce considered yelling through the skylight.  It would give the grumbling seamen a start to know he had heard them.  Further, it might add to the mystique of a captain being aware of everything happening aboard his ship.  But he recognized their tone and knew it was typical seamen’s grousing.  While they crudely and at times profanely complained, they also were quite willingly going about their work.  Despite their apparent dislike of the move ashore, he knew that they saw it as a change and a chance at adventure.  There was nothing dangerous in their tone.  Still he was thankful that Campbell, the duty bo’sun’s mate had happened by and put an end to it.
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 16

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This year's Christmas lights

Looks like I'm slowing down on posting as of late, both with the excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories and the ongoing "Thoughts on Writing."  So today I'll try and remedy that and at least get something posted to one of them.

One thing that is often discussed amongst writers is the naming of characters.  In doing so, there are several things one needs to consider.  First of all, names should match the setting of the story in both time and place.  Here in the US, common first names of today are not the same as those of fifty years ago.  If you are writing a story set in the 1960s, you'd want to use first names of that era and not names common to the present.  Last names should match the ancestory of the character.

Some of the character names in the Stone Island Sea Stories have been with me since I wrote the earliest version of what became those stories over half a century ago.  Since many of my characters are British, I wanted last names that reflect that.  Even as a high schooler I realized that many if not all of our presidents were of British or at least Northern European descent.  So I chose the last name... Pierce... of a lesser known US President.  I also wanted a timeless but fairly common first name, and here I looked into the Kings of England and ended up with Edward.  So, Edward Pierce it was and is for the primary, main character.  I used the list of President's for several other characters as well, including (both) Captain Jacksons and Marine Sergeant Lincoln.

Early on I determined that a major secondary character would be known by an alias and never bothered to determine his real name.  Of course, Smith or Jones would have been a little too obvious, so I went with Smythe.  I think his first name of Harold came from a local individual who sometimes did handyman type work for us.

Sometimes I put a lot of thought into a character's name.  At other times it's whatever pops into my head at the time, particularly with relatively minor characters.  Sometimes I want a character to say, "Hey Dobbs!" instead of , "Hey you!"  I have found, however, that I need to make a list of these names as sometimes I have reused the same name for a different character.  (By the way, having two different Captain Jacksons was intentional.)

Maybe it's just me, possibly a result of Naval service, but I tend to focus on last names more than first names.  Over time I've found that I select last names from classmates, friends, shipmates, fellow writers, and sometimes I've even randomly chosen names from the phonebook.  At one time I also used names from signers of the Declaration of Independence.

When I do determine a character's first name, the process can be much the same and from the same selection of individuals.  If I used a particular friend's last name, I try not to use his/her first name along with it.  And I try not to match the personality and appearance of a character with either of the real individuals who may have inspired his/her name.  Many first names are from the family.  Granville Jackson shares a first name with my maternal grandfather who had that as his middle name.  Glenn Lewis Carlisle names match the first names of both my grandfathers (and an uncle), while Carlisle if for a onetime shipmate while in the Navy.

That looks like enough for today.  Next time I'll look at making up names, especially important if one writes Science Fiction/Fantasy, or has even a bit of it in their writing.