Transformative Paraphysics: Summary

This evening I finished the initial chapter-by-chapter synopsis of Transformative Paraphysics. It clocked in at around 6,200 words. The original LFBD synopsis was upwards of 10,000 words, but I think I have a better handle this time on my shorthand, where to expand and where I don’t have to. Much like doing the LFBD synopsis and writing the actual novel, problems seemed to solve themselves as I was writing it, and things happened that all either made thematic sense or suggested ways that they could when actually written.

I’m going to release the synopsis to a few beta readers who are interested, get some feedback, address weaknesses and issues, then drive it to a conclusion. After that, I start actually writing.

Really looking forward to delving back into that particular stream of mind that creates details out of pure nothingness and puts it on a page!

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Weapon of the Week: Beretta Over/Under 12 Gauge

Beretta is an Italian gun manufacturer that has been in business since 1526. 1526! They make everything from tiny, super-concealable, relatively inexpensive .22 pistols (I have one) to high end shotguns. That’s what we’re looking at today. Every year, my employer takes the entire office on a ski resort trip for two days. One of the activities is sporting clay shooting. The resort (Seven Springs) uses the most excellent Beretta 12 gauge over/under shotgun. Mechanically, they are very cool, with the first pull of the trigger firing the upper barrel and the second firing the lower.

But really, these things are more like works of art than weapons. Take a look:

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Pittsburgh Pic of the Week: Schenley Park

The big battle in the middle of LFBD takes place in Schenley Park. It’s a fantastic urban park with all kinds of areas, and I’ve included a few pictures below to help you visualize it.

Here’s one with a dog. I’m pretending it’s Babd:

and finally…

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Writing Software and Writing a Novel: Magic

This morning, I was struck by one of the similarities between working on both a well thought-out software project and a well thought-out novel, and why it feels like magic.

When you’re designing a piece of software (I mean the information design and architecture, not the visual design), you can’t foresee every possible implication and use of it. You can take a guess. But at some point, you have to apply what you know as well as you can, trust the process that got you this far, and just write the thing. You’ll encounter problems along the way, little details that you didn’t consider, but you’ll work your way through it. Then, you launch.

Here’s a practical example. At work, I wrote a task management system, because the ones we had available didn’t meet my needs, and we weren’t allowed to use popular third party systems. Now, about a year later, about 1,000 Googlers use my software to manage their projects and day-to-day tasks. They think of ways of using the software that I never considered. They have needs that the original design didn’t take into account. They show up at my digital doorstep asking for features that will help them do a better job.

Here’s where the magic happens.

Quite often, I’m able to go into the existing software and add the feature with very little work. Here’s this problem I had never considered (I need the software to do something it doesn’t do), and yet the solution presents itself as soon as I look at it, nestled nicely within the original architecture and design. I write it, and launch a new version. The software is better than it was before, and it’s because of a collision between good design and the real world. When that happens, it feels like magic.

What it actually is though, is a good original design.

How does this relate to writing a novel?

Well, right now I’m in the synopsis stage, where I write a fairly detailed synopsis of each chapter, following the story beat cards that I detailed Writing a Novel: Part 1.5 post last time. As I add detail at this level, and later on when I go to write the actual book, problems pop up. Things I hadn’t considered at the story beat level. Somehow, almost like magic, those problems resolve themselves. And when they resolve themselves, it’s in ways that actually make the story stronger. The feeling is exactly like the “new feature” feeling when writing software.

When either happens, it’s a rush. Like you won something.

Like magic.

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Writing a Novel: Part 1.5

Way back when I started this blog, I wrote a “Writing a Novel” series of posts. In step 1, you got your concepts, characters and images together. In step 2, you wrote a summary of each chapter. That’s how it worked out for me when writing Lincoln, Fox and the Bad Dog.

Now that I have my Step 1 materials in place for Transformational Paraphysics, I found that I had a gap before hitting Step 2. I had everything I thought I needed, but as I was planning the pacing of the book I realized that I needed more action in key places. The plot, while interesting, logical, etc., necessarily had a non-action based resolution. Well, there was some, but not enough for a good literary/adventure novel climax. This book is not supposed to be some moving pastorale, so I needed a change. Well, not really a change — I just needed more. The story itself was solid from a character and theme perspective.

I need a B Plot. LFBD did not really have a B Plot. It was a straight-through story. TPOAP has a different pace, and the action isn’t always being driven externally. A lot of it is the team figuring stuff out, which can be a little boring if done wrong. Enter the B Plot. I found something that made sense thematically, spurred off as a logical consequence of the A Plot, and had tie-ins throughout the story.

The problem now was in exactly how to weave the A and B Plots together. It wasn’t necessarily straightforward.

So, I’ve found myself at Writing a Novel: Part 1.5. Before I was able to start the chapter summaries, I needed to make sure that everything worked and that the right pacing was maintained. I try to maintain an even/odd cadence of chapters where we do Action, then Rest, then Action, then Rest, etc. It doesn’t always work that way, and maybe leading up to big Action you have two Rests.

I knew all of the story beats of the A Plot, and all of the beats of the B Plot, so I used one of my favorite organizational tools (Trello) to write each one out as a movable card (check the software to see what I’m talking about). I made two lists, one for each plot line. Then I made three more lists: Act I, Act II, Act III. Then I started putting the cards into the acts and shuffling them around until it all made sense.

As I did this, the great thing happened where opportunities started to present themselves. Like “Oh, if this happens after that, then this person could go _________ and it would be awesome!”

With all of the story beats for both plots nicely interwoven on the Trello board, I was able to start writing up the chapter summaries with confidence.

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Weapon of the Week: American-180

This thing is hilarious. It’s a machine gun that fires .22LR at up to 1,200 rounds per minute. Just, stupid stupid stupid. Rimfires are unreliable, and I get that they’re better than nothing, but still. Look at this:

From the Wiki article (which I usually don’t quote but this shit is funny):

“…testing demonstrated that automatic fire could penetrate even concrete and bulletproof vests from cumulative damage. However, the target would have to remain still for an improbable amount of time to allow the cumulative damage to amass in the same area to achieve this.”

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Dog Pic of the Week: Schipperke

These are great dogs, and they remind me a lot of my favorite: the rat terrier. Schipperkes are small (11-18 pounds) but not annoyingly miniature. They’re feisty, brave, intelligent, shttps://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/ef/0f/40/ef0f4019f35a98f9214ad473afbf76ea.jpgocial and full of personality. The first pic makes them look like one of those dangerous attack-type dogs, but the second shows how sweet they are. And a huge bonus: they are sometimes referred to as “LBD” — Little Black Devil. The denizens of the LFBD universe would be proud!

 

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Pittsburgh Pic of the Week: Something Rotten

Pittsburgh has a thriving theater scene with a nice number of high quality local troupes (PMT! CLO!). Something Rotten did the second stop of their post-Broadway tour in Pittsburgh and I had the chance to see it earlier this month. I love the music and the book — it’s so funny. I just learned that one of the writers also wrote Chicken Run, which I consider a cinematic masterpiece (not joking). Mind blown.

Here’s a shot of the show:

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New working title for “The Inversion Mechanic”

I stated in my last “Writing Process” post that I didn’t really like The Inversion Mechanic as the title of the next LFBD book for a variety of reasons. I’ve found that I end up with a bunch of impressions in my head, and that they don’t end up with detail until they either come out of my fingers through typing or my mouth through talking. When I’m at this stage in the creative process, typing is too slow and “permanent” for me to really workshop things. I need to talk it out.

I also can’t allow worry or the editing impulse to kick in yet, so I can’t really talk it out with anyone else. Even if I trust them completely and believe they are unbiased, etc., some part of my brain will still be tuning my outputs toward them, and I don’t want that. I need to talk it out with myself.

So, I hitched up the dog and went outside to “walk the grounds.” It’s about 1/8 of a mile to walk the perimeter of my property and with time for wandering and dog-sniffing, it only takes a few minutes. But that was all I needed. As I walked, I talked through the major points of what happens in the book. Similarities emerged among threads that I hadn’t noticed before.

I said a bunch of stuff, trying out how things sounded and how they felt actually coming out of my mouth.

By the time I was done, I’d settled on something. I don’t think it’s perfect, but I like it a lot better than The Inversion Mechanic. It’s more in keeping with the offbeat nature of LFBD. Not sure how it will market, but I like it and for now that’s what is important.

The new working title is:

Transformative Paraphysics and Other Alchemical Phenomena

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