New and Modified MP3’s

Kathryn has been writing music which I am now using in my audio readings.  I have replaced the music in the first two chapters with snippets from three of the songs she has composed.  I have also posted my reading of chapter three, …Warns the Ruling Circle,…, which also uses Kathryn’s music.

I also added mp3’s of the songs Kathryn completed.  She is working on several others, and I look forward to sharing them with everyone when she is done. 

All the updated content can be found at http://gods-among-men.com/blog/books/book1

Kathryn’s songs are called, At The Lady’s Behest Main Theme, I Remember Marcus, and I Remember Marcus Reprise

I did not add sound effects to the recording of chapter three.  I did, however, tweak the voices of Tara and Morel using some of Audacity’s cool features.

OH…MY…GOD!

Altering every instance of when either Tara or Morel spoke was a royal pain in the @$$.  Morel came out ok, but Tara’s voice isn’t right.  I tried (with limited success) to modify my voice so it would sound more feminine.  I find the results underwhelming, especially considering how long they took to achieve.   I doubt I shall ever mess with voices that way ever again.

The posted text of chapters two and three are a little different than the readings at the moment.  The reading are actually a little more up to date.   Minor edits in various spots made certain sentences less of a tongue-twister

Now I am going to do a read through of chapter five, Through Persuasion and Force,…, which Kathryn will be recording soon.  Till next time, have fun and party down.

New and Modified MP3’s

Kathryn has been writing music which I am now using in my audio readings.  I have replaced the music in the first two chapters with snippets from three of the songs she has composed.  I have also posted my reading of chapter three, …Warns the Ruling Circle,…, which also uses Kathryn’s music.

I also added mp3’s of the songs Kathryn completed.  She is working on several others, and I look forward to sharing them with everyone when she is done. 

All the updated content can be found at http://gods-among-men.com/blog/books/book1

Kathryn’s songs are called, At The Lady’s Behest Main Theme, I Remember Marcus, and I Remember Marcus Reprise

I did not add sound effects to the recording of chapter three.  I did, however, tweak the voices of Tara and Morel using some of Audacity’s cool features.

OH…MY…GOD!

Altering every instance of when either Tara or Morel spoke was a royal pain in the @$$.  Morel came out ok, but Tara’s voice isn’t right.  I tried (with limited success) to modify my voice so it would sound more feminine.  I find the results underwhelming, especially considering how long they took to achieve.   I doubt I shall ever mess with voices that way ever again.

The posted text of chapters two and three are a little different than the readings at the moment.  The reading are actually a little more up to date.   Minor edits in various spots made certain sentences less of a tongue-twister

Now I am going to do a read through of chapter five, Through Persuasion and Force,…, which Kathryn will be recording soon.  Till next time, have fun and party down.

Killing Your Darlings

Supposedly it was William Faulkner who first coined the phrase “kill your darlings”.  It is a vivid image, one designed to convey the emotional intensity that occurs while editing your work. 

Most first drafts suck.  Buried in the trash are the occasional gems.   Sentences and paragraphs that the writer loves.  Turns of phrases, character moments, little jokes and lushly written imagery.

But when writing turns to editing, nothing is safe or sacred.  Sentences that sparkle are the ones you want to save.  But sometime they just don’t fit.  They slow a scene down, or make no sense without including garbage you need to eliminate.

Inevitably, a good editor must delete sentences they love, paragraph they adore, and even characters they desperately want to keep.

The first time this happens is traumatic.   For me, my third chapter is the one which felt like a knife fight.  To this day if I need to make major modifications to something, I say to myself, “well, it can’t be as bad as when I edited chapter three”.  So far that remains a true statement.

I sometimes save parts of scenes, ones I like most, but which simply must go.  I copy them out and put them somewhere where I can find them.  The idea is that, someday, I may want to mine those scenes for ideas or phrases. 

The truth is I almost never look at those saved excerpts again.  More and more, I rewrite scenes from scratch, deleting whole pages of existing material.  What remains of the original text is worked into new material as appropriate.   

The result is better scenes, better chapters, and a stronger work. 

Yes there will be future edits, and more darlings will no doubt die.   But the result is a story I believe is objectively better.   It is worth a few (hundred? thousand?) deleted sentences to achieve that goal.

New Chapters Are On The Site

I have recently posted what I expect will be the final versions of chapters one and two.  I have also posted the version of chapter three I am submitting to Alex, a friend who is helping me get these drafts into final form.   A near final version of chapter four is also on the site.  Chapter five will be reviewed by the Magic City Writer’s group on August 11th.   After I incorporate their suggestions I will post that chapter online as well.

I would go into more detail.  But I am tired and want to write a little on chapter six before going to bed.

Writing Crutches

I am currently finishing the latest editing pass of …Warns The Ruling Circle…, chapter three of Gods Among Men. I have reached the point in my editing process where I listen to the recording of the writers group meeting where the chapter was reviewed. In the middle of the recording is a point about how I keep using the passive voice in my writing.

This relates to my long standing war with grammar. I am, at best, poor at spotting these types of problems. I have to use a dictionary or do research on the web to define “passive voice”. Even then, the definition is a just a string of words to me. I recognize each word, I can tell the definition is well formed and clear, I get the basic concept, but a clear grasp of the details never crosses into into my consciousness.

Mind you, I am not a stupid man. I am a computer programmer. I read and understand highly technical books and articles loaded with technical jargon on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I don’t really understand something like:

form of “to be” + past participle = passive voice

Here’s what I do get: Does a sentence sound awkward and ill-formed or not?

For example, “Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” sounds to my ears like an awkward phrase. It is an unnatural way to ask the question. It has the same content as “Why did the chicken cross the road?” which is clear and more natural. I know, intellectually, the awkward sound of the first version comes from the fact it is in passive voice. I know this because the web site I copied it from says so. Had the website not explained this I would never have been able to identify the problem, I would have just known there was a problem.

Listening to recording of the writers group meeting, I realized that the passive voice creeps into my writing as a writing crutch. The passive voice is not grammatically incorrect, but it does detract from the content of the writing. Often, the passive voice is a lazy way to say something.

As I write, particularly on my early drafts, I tend to focus first on plot and character. Style is a matter of polishing the final work. Rewording a sentence to avoid the passive voice takes more time and effort. Rather than take that time, make that effort, I unconsciously lean on the passive voice over and over. Over time, using this writing crutch weakens my characters and erodes the story.

This is not the first time I found myself relying upon a writing crutch. The use of the “ly” words is also a crutch. (Angrily, sleepily, madly, stoically, happily, sadly, etc….) These words are a lazy way to establish a mood or emotion. Often they can be left out without changing the content of a sentence, letting the context establish mood and emotion. Sometimes descriptions are needed instead. For example, “What do you want,” she asked angrily. versus, “What do you want?” she asked, her hand clenched in a fist.

When I discovered I had an problem with overusing and abusing “ly” words I declared war upon them. I began scouring my writing for every instance and replaced as many as possible. Sometimes I couldn’t, but I did manage to reduce the problem to an acceptable level. Now I try to avoid “ly” words in the first draft, which makes my editing process shorter and simpler.

With regards to the passive voice problem, I am now declaring war on the “to be” verbs. (Is, are, am, was, were, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being.) This lets me focus on a well-defined set of words that are often the hallmark of the passive voice. When I find a sentence with one of these words I will examine it to see if I can rewrite it without a “to be” verb. Often I won’t be able to, but just as often I will discover a more natural, less awkward way of expressing the same idea. At the very least, I believe the practice will make me a better writer.

I admit, this approach is a gimmick. It isn’t a true substitute for understanding grammar. But, since I don’t really understand grammar, I have to rely on gimmicks to help me improve my skills. It may not be the best approach, but it is a technique that has worked well for me so far.