Weekly Writing Blog
Alan is an established writer of over 25 years. His weekly blogs offer writing tips and best practices, phobias, techniques and more.
His Science Fiction and Psychological Crime Thrillers always have a Romantic Twist.
"Why do I always put a romantic thread in my plots?
I have often asked myself that question and on the surface it's easy to explain: There is nothing more powerful than the sacrifice of love. It is pure art; sits poised on the tip of a painter's brush, begging to be revealed. Just try describing an awesome sunset in less than 1000 words.
However, if I dig a little deeper I discover myself within the canvass. That is, in the end, what writing for me is all about."
... (Alan R. Graham) 2017
everything and anything that has to do with his love of writing
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Oct 7th, 2017:
"One hurricane after another, this year, and we in Belize are just entering the most prevalent period - October/November. The picture on the left shows the sort of stuff I have to drive through to get into town for supplies - where's the road? Am I about to drop into a deep gully or ditch?
Heavy rain keeps me in doors. So my writing doesn't suffer. Plenty to do, one novel nearing completion and a synopsis for my next already written.
I'm still chasing agents for two of my novels, while two fresh, new novellas are with Kellan Publishing and New Concepts Publishing, the houses with whom I am already under contract. Never a dull moment. Just praying that this year Belize escapes the onslaught of another hurricane. My thoughts go out to all those who suffered in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida... And now, New Orleans!"
Sept 13th, 2017:
"Following my last post, below, nattering about how I ground to a halt trying to complete a sequel to my last published novella "Right of Human", I am now up and running again. Sequel done!
To keep myself from having that problem resurface, I am now working on two books at once. It is something I often do; it keeps my mind focused if I begin to slip or tire. I can jump from one to the other without having to walk away from my desk and not return for a week.
While editing the sequel I am expanding a recently completed novella "From Where Tears Come" to a full blown novel. Its content and style are unique, so I feel it warrants being given the full treatment as a stand-alone epic as opposed to a quick read snatched from the Romance bookshelves. Also, I am not faced with the daunting task of beginning a new novel - half of it has already been written and edited."
August 12th, 2017:
"So I ground to a halt literally pages from the end of my sequel "Righ of Human Revoked. It's just not as much fun knowing what is supposed to happen - and must happen - as opposed to letting the characters create the story. I got bogged down.
As a quick fix and to avoid obvious anxieties, I turned to an old story I had written many years ago and never submitted, as it was too long for a short story and too short for a novella. Quite simply, it is my all time favourite science fiction romp: Time travel gone completly awry.
A week later and I was back in editing heaven, churning out a fast paced, humorous and thrilling tale. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon as a Kindle ebook, with a release date of 16th August. Happy reading."
July 16th, 2017:
"There are many styles of story telling. Two stand out: The formulaic plotter, such as Dorothy L. Sayers; the pantser, such as Stephen King. I am a proponent of pantser. Life is never cut and dry. I let my characters build their own personalities, their own quirky mannerisms and chase their own dreams. My technique is to simply build the world around them.
It is usually clear when reading a story which style the author has used. In giving free rein to a character, detail evolves - a mole on the back of the neck suddenly appears half way through the second chapter. Formulaics will describe a character's features only once; a necessary style for such meticulous and detailed material as a crime or detective thriller - otherwise it could take years of re-hashes to get it just right.
Dialogue in pantser style is often more natural, driving a scene rather than the narrator. An editor once sent corrections for one of my manuscript back to me that were grammatically understandable, however the sentence she was editing was dialogue and the character wanted to say it like that: "My friend and me".
Formulaic writing is a business rather than an art form. It is tedious and often lacking spirit. Writing on the edge of your seat, pantser style, is like watching a movie that goes on for a whole month. It is fun to write because you have no idea what is going to happen next; you don't even know the ending. You want to keep writing because you want to know what happens next.
However, a tip, be warned: Characters tend not to describe detail, they are all about thoughts and feelings. Having completed the first draft or 'skeleton' it is then your job to enter the detail, a balancing act, the greatest challenge; just enough, relevance being the key. If the colour of the curtains says nothing about the evolving story or personality, then don't put it in.
July 4th, 2017:
"I'm just starting out on the main draft of the sequel to "Right of Human", most main characters still in the game. I've never written a sequel before - I'm slightly concerned about the daunting task ahead.
Normally, I just let the characters run ammock and I simply follow them around as they make up the story. However, this time, I've had to write a synopisis. I need to know exactly what happens - start to finish.
Coggi is no easy character, and this time she falls in love, a true romance. I'm dreading how she will handle it. Then a terrible sacrifice made by someone else in love.
Get your copy of "Right of Human" to get up to speed. Now available at Kellan Publishing. Click on the image of Coggi for a link to their bookstore.
The sequel, "Right of Human Revoked" could be out as soon as September, if I don't get writers block or fall out with Coggi..."
June 15th, 2017:
"Now for something completely different (with the greatest resepect to Monty Python). I have been longing to let my narrator go nuts - get involved - not be just an observer telling a story. In this one I think I made progress.
He has sarcasm and whit, but is still sensitive. He is not me. He is a long time friend of mine, or an amalgamation of many who lived with me back in those days - 1982 Venezuela. Find the synopsis at Three Thin Lines to Insanity
Don't ask me why. I had to write this story. It involves so many parts of my 40 years of experience living in so many different countries around the world. It is my mini biography - however a very clean cut version. She, Sylvia is adorably twisted in all the right ways.
Will I dare to blow my cover and write about what I really got up to - of course? Yes. My next piece of work "From Where Tears Come" is a 're-living' of two people's lives, in almost semi reality; mine and hers - the narrator: a devil called Pain!
Yet to be presented to publishers.
Please comment below. I love to hear feed back. I'm at my witts end just like every other writer on the block. Talk to me!
June 5th, 2017:
"My latest book release, Right of Human, was not an easy story to tell. Originally drafted in September 2016 as a short story, the lead characters were all I had, with a word count of 9,000.
Having had various short stories rejected I decided to play bold - I resolved to take my story to a new level: Hyper-fiction, being various viewpoints of the same event, each with a different outcome. I took the most devasting scene in the story, where the android must be told she is not human, and copied the first half in as the opening scene.
In December of that year I submitted it to Kellan Publishing. They liked it but wanted a higher word count. Perfect, I thought. Now I can develop a history surrounding their plight, build up some minor characters and add interactions I had previously rejected as too indepth for a short story.
One month later Kellan Publishing accepted my story, then a novella at 27,000 words. Not one word did I change from the original dialogue in the draft between the two lead characters - the sisters, Xandra and Coggi. But I sure had fun developing some of the other androids.
It was released just two weeks ago. Now available at Kellan Publishing. Click on the image for a link to their bookstore.
May 28th, 2017:
"Dilemma..! Oh no. Just finished editing my latest novella "From Where Tears Come" but I have a terrible problem: It should be a novel.
I know this point has been raised before by many, and I have always sided with those who say, 'Word count is not an issue. Write your story so it fits comfortably in your mind'. Great. Well, now I'm the one with the problem. Not so easy to brush off when you are the other side of the fence.
Why do I think it should be longer? It's a saga, the life story of a woman, from the age of twelve when she runs away from home up to her final love affair at age 60. It is not a story, it is many stories. It doesn't fit with what I have written before: Boy meets girl. No! Girl meets many boys, but stays secretly in love with her first, through many breakups and marriages.
If I were to take my own advice I would have to agree. It runs smooth, it is beautifully tempered, edited without a hitch. Don't mess with it. So..?
I can't. It has to be a novel. I need an agent. Help!"
May 10th, 2017:
"Inspiration for stories comes from the funniest places. I already blogged about "Right of Human" and the animal that gave me the idea for that one. Here are some more:
I met a woman for about 5 minutes. she was an American tourist on vacation here in Belize. Instantly a story emerged, as if she were subconsciously willing me to write about her. I never told her. I never met her again. The story is pure fiction, although two of her traits are paramount to the plot.
I'm sure this one happens to many writers. Yes, I woke up one morning with a sort of semi-awake dream still buzzing about in my head. I was at an outdoor function trying to buy something at a kiosk. I was fumbling about in my pocket for some money and as I extracted one dollar note after another, a woman beside me was counting how much I had. This dream went on to become one of the clinching scenes in a romantic drama that finds the two main characters falling in and out of love for each other over the course of 50 years.
An older gentleman I had not known for more than an hour invited me to his house that same day. He introduced me to his wife, a beautiful woman half his age. What's going on here? CLICK!
None of these inspirations seem remotely connected to a story. They are simple anecdotes that some how magically turn themselves into enormous themes in my head.
They then drive me to start writing, with immediacy, often having to stop what I am doing and half run for my laptop. The characters tell me what happens next, I follow their lead. Once the skeleton is written, it's my turn - to develop personalities, visualize their world and manage the book to completion.
Odd? Authors! Tell me if you have experienced the same..."
May 2nd, 2017:
"Here I am again. And I was thinking... I mentioned in my Bio that I'm always looking for new forms of writing. Well, I think I've just found out why.
Of the four novellas I have recently completed - and a fifth under construction - I have realized that none of the narrators is the same person, their styles quite different. That may be seen by music producers and book publishers a detriment as they are looking for followers of their stars.
However, it occurs to me that just as there are different characters in different stories, why not the narrator, too? He/she is just as integral to the plot. They are not me! I work within a narrator's mind as if an office space; I am not they.
They do not have my personality, often look at life from a different perspective, may have a sense of humor or may be quite cruel and harsh. Another thing! As they are not me, they tend to wander off out of sync' with chronology, as if dreaming, and I am there simply to pick up the pieces of their process.
I have taken this concept to the extreme in my latest work-in-progress, "From Where Tears Come". It stands in complete contrast to my latest release "Right of Human", which is dialogue driven and where scenes are carried over by characters.
I'm still wondering ...
April 20th, 2017:
"OK, so enough of the tears, Alan. This is what I get to look at through my office window every day: one of a pair of toucans released here last year, now free as a bird. Tears of joy!
So back to writing and first, why I like the genres science fiction and psychological thrillers. I love all things scientific, I like to understand how things work. Out here in the jungle you have to be a Jack-of-all-trades, cos there ain't no one gonna drive an hour and a half out of town, through quick-sand savannah, marshes and rainforest to service stuff that's broke. Besides, you need a 4x4 to get out here (mine's a Land Rover Defender, of course). No! I'm the plumber, mechanic, electrical engineer and IT guy around here.
Psychology? Yummy. My love of it has to do with romance. When I was a young lad I didn't listen, I acted intuitively, selfishly, even. I didn't realize there was a difference between sex and love. Slowly, as I grew up and relationships came and went - in rather a hurry, I might add - I began to study myself inwardly looking for faults, for things I could fix. And I began to listen.
To women, mostly: Magnificent creatures, complex and extraordinarily astute. Men, by comparison, seemed simple and mono-dimensional.
Example: My latest novella "Three Thin Lines to Insanity", still in editing phase, is about a woman who had been locked up in a basement by her mother when she was a child, and all she had was a TV to stare at. She grew up creating her whole life from the screen, thinking she was a master chef, a dive instructor, a psychologist and an impressionist painter, to name just a few. The guy who falls in love with her knows something of her troubles but can't help himself; she is absolutely delightful - and then there are those three, incredible thin lines either side of her mouth.
Candles spontaneously burst into flames when she smiles, coconuts fall from trees, windows shatter, dogs go silent and pace-makers explode. You can just imagine what kind of madness is heading his way..."
April 14th, 2017:
"I must start by saying I'm shy. I could blurt out in my sleep a million reasons why I love to write about people falling in love, but some of them run really deep, come from childhood tradgedies and failed affairs. So please be gentle with me. let things happen on their own. I'm sure I will loosen up as the weeks go by.
To warm up, first I will tell you about an awful memory I must carry with me for the rest of my life: My darling Coggi. As I write tears are streaming down my face. She does this to me every time I think of her - which is daily. I'm here to tell you the truth and it hurts sometimes. Ask any of my friends on Fb.
Coggi is one of the lead characters in my latest novella "Right of Human" published by Kellan Publishing. Xandra is the other, her half-sister. However, in reality, Coggi was inspired by a beautiful creature whose picture appears alongside this blog. Her name is (oh shit, no... WAS) Mona - my darling Mona. I am Xandra. I was the one crying, 'I love you, sweetheart'.
Mona came to my rehab and release wildlife sanctuary as a baby, no more than six inches long. She sat on my head or my shoulders and simply refused to understand that she was a coatimundi. While others came and went, formed a huge band of 60 and counting over the years, Mona believed she was human and refused to integrate.
In my story the orbiting space station is my home. I live in a house high on a hill that overlooks the rehab cages and the foraging grounds of the free band. Mona ran with them occassionally but never far from the house. She was human and belonged by it, as far as she was concerned. Try as I might to explain to her that she was not human, she refused to agree. She was very like Coggi: curious, cheeky, playful, obstinate; but most of all she was super intelligent with a huge heart.
My novella is packed full of truths, some painful. But worse was to come. There is a eulogy at the beginning of "Right of Human" in loving memory of Mona. I can't go on, not right now..."
Copyright: Alan R. Graham - 2017.
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