On Outlining: The Discography…?

anime piano

I’ve complained about outlining before, both here and elsewhere…even in high school I disliked outlining, if only because I knew even then that I was a pantser writer and that whatever outline I created would be thrown out within the first couple of pages.  It always felt like a waste of time.  So previously here, I talked about swallowing my pride and stubbornness (and working against my long-ingrained pantsing style) and giving Meet the Lidwells! a solid outline.  It’s working out well so far, I think.

Especially since I came to the conclusion that in order for me to have a solid story, I needed to give it a solid backbone.  And considering this story is about a band, what would be more solid a backbone than said band’s discography?

If you think about it, a band’s discography does tell an interesting story.  Take the Beatles, for instance.  From the prologue-worthy “Love Me Do” to the first peak point at “She Loves You” to the end of Act I with A Hard Day’s Night; the conflict of fame versus creative evolution in Act II (with plot peaks of Rubber Soul and Revolver) and climaxing at Sgt Pepper; the conflict of creative outlet versus personal evolution with The Beatles and the recording of Let It Be, climaxing with the creative peak of Abbey Road.  And finishing the story with a bittersweet denouement; the band breaking up but their legacy lasting far into the future.  [Hell, they even have a song called “The End” that works as a closing epigraph.]  It’s no wonder they have so many books written about them.

Read any music biography and you’ll see similar backbones.  Each band or performer has their own life story with climaxes and low points, successes and failures.  These are actually great books to read if you want to learn this sort of storytelling.  [Off the top of my head and looking at my nearby bookshelf, I would definitely suggest reading Johnny Marr’s Set the Boy Free, Bob Mould’s See a Little Light, or Carter Alan’s Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN for a taste of a rock bio with a lot of plot peaks and valleys.  Those are but three of the numerous books out there; next time you’re at the local bookstore, take a peek at their music section and take your pick.]

These are also good books for how to tell a story in a format other than straight prose.  The current popular style of rock bio seems to be in the form of an ‘in their own words’ text; most if not all the dialogue is from recorded interviews, but without the interviewer’s words or point of view.  The flow of the story is usually chronological, from the band’s creation to their demise (or alternately to their present iteration); it behaves almost exactly like fiction does.  The only difference is how the story is presented.

A Division of Souls Ending, Director’s Cut

As promised, here’s what I call the “Director’s Cut” of the ending of A Division of Souls.  This one’s been in my head for at least two years.  And yes, this was written to fit Failure’s “Daylight”, as expected.

I actually thought about writing a prose version of this ending for the book, but it would have just been extraneous.  It’s a completely visual segment anyway.  So, using my dusty and woefully underused BA degree in film, I decided to instead write this in screenplay form.

Hope you enjoy!

[SPOILERS AHEAD, OBVIOUSLY.]

Continue reading “A Division of Souls Ending, Director’s Cut”

Am I a Professional Now…?

green-apple-books
Our local bookshop…where my trilogy is available in e-book form!

Don’t laugh; I’d been asking myself that question since September 2015, when A Division of Souls first went up for sale online in e-book form.

Can I call myself a real professional writer at this point?  Well.  Depends on who I ask.  And I’ll get positive answers, indifferent answers, negative answers, ‘you’re not there yet’ answers, ‘oh bless your heart’ answers, pedantic answers, and everything in between.

I’ll be honest — I haven’t asked anyone that, and I don’t plan to.

Sure, I’ll ask people for their opinion on works in progress.  That’s what beta readers are for.  I’ll ask for creative advice if it’s needed and/or warranted, because I want the end result to be done right the first time.  I’ll definitely ask for advice about self-promotion, because it’s one of my weaknesses.  I’m doing all the homework expected of me to make sure I’m doing it all correctly when it comes to the legalese and financial stuff.

But I decided pretty early on that asking someone else about my professional status is kind of self-defeating.

Again, I came to this conclusion by comparing my own writing career to that of a musician’s.  I understand that particular field reasonably well because of my lifelong obsession with music and my willingness to read all kinds of music bios and academic texts (and meet the musicians if possible!) to learn even more about it.  I find that putting my writing life into this kind of perspective has made my choices so much easier and less painful.

But my point being:  Sure, why the hell not call myself a pro now?

  1. I’ve got three completed novels out, released through well-known, respected independent avenues.
  2. I’m already working on my fourth, with future books at pre-planning stages.
  3. All parts of the production have been done by my own hand — editing, cover art, formatting — mainly because I wanted to do it that way.  I want to learn the business.
  4. I’m still learning the fine art of promotion, but I’ve already done a lot of homework on it and am now acting on it.
  5. Same with the legalese and the economics side of it.  Both are definitely daunting, but I’m willing to learn so I can do it right.
  6. I’m now attending conventions not just as a fan, but also as a panelist.
  7. I set myself some high standards from the beginning, so as to not make my work look like I’d thrown it together at the last minute.
  8. Importantly: I know I’m not a commercial writer.  I tried writing that way, and it didn’t pan out.  I’m fine being a college radio author instead of a Top 40 radio author.  In fact, I kind of prefer it that way.
  9. Most importantly:  This is a life-long career goal of mine.  I’m duty bound not to do it half-assed.

Sure, it’s all DIY, but it’s a professional-level DIY.  This is me being inspired by the American punk bands of the early 80s putting out their music on their own, passing out cassettes or starting labels like SST and Taang and Alternative Tentacles and Ace of Hearts.  They were never going to hit the charts during their heyday, and they usually had a small following…but they had a STRONG and loyal following.  They also all had a very strong bond with each other, like an extended family.

Once I realized the writing field works in almost exactly the same way, I knew I could do succeed as a professional author.

An indie author, but a professional one.

And I’m fine with that.