Where to find ideas, The five step method, Step Five

Step 5 – Recycle but don’t be boring;

Recycle good ideas, that’s how series are born.
A. Figure out why the idea was a good idea?
1. Why did it resonate with you and/or audience.
2. Can you expand on the points that makes the idea resonate with the audience? That’s even better if you didn’t use all those points in the old story.
3. Can you use the good idea in a story that will  resonate with the audience of another genre?
4. Can you mashed up the good idea with something that is going on now, or other not so good ideas?

B. Is the good idea, that you used before, bordering on cliché?
Make the recycled idea the opposite of the cliché (the weak do not inherit the earth, they mine the garbage pit that earth has become, sell the valuable recycled material and leave for another planet).

C. Use the idea in another story, but tell it from the point of view of another character.
1. Tell the story from the villain’s point of view. Explain why the villain made the decisions she did from her point of view.
2. Tell the story form the view point of a character that doesn’t understand the good idea behind the story or what’s going on.

D. Change the hero the idea was destined for to a hero that lacks the critical knowledge needed to over come the idea’s obstacle.
1. Change the critical features of the hero, her; height , weight, skills, luck, abilities, gender.
2. Don’t forget to explain why the hero didn’t know the critical knowledge.

E. Don’t be a hack.
1. Don’t be lazy or predictable, don’t repeat the same idea, plot, story line, over and over.
2. Do incorporate current events with your good but used ideas.

Stay strong, write on.       Professor Hyram Voltage

Where to find ideas, The five Step Method: Step Four, Sources

Steal like an artist.
Get some old issues of Wired Magazine. Issues before their writing turned into the equivalent of sound bites. Issues of the magazine where they talked to people, about people, and what the people did. You the writer have to come up with why the person did what they did. Autobiography are good to but remember that famous people will not tell you about the dirt. About the pile of bodies with knives in their backs that they are standing on. Bodies that they had to go over to get to where they are. There’s always someone in front of you, someone better than you. It’s your job to fill in who and how they knifed their way to the top.

One story I remember was about a guy who repaired used video slot machines he bought from Russia and sold them in his eastern European country. He hired people to redesign obsolete parts that the maker of the video slot machine was too cheap to do. His rebuilt machines were better than new machines. As time went on he sold the refurbished machine with the latest games on them to people in other countries. Then he started teaching other how to refurbish the machines to save on shipping cost. I liked the part where the US and European cops showed up at his factory and he didn’t expect it. How could he not see it coming? What was the guy thinking or not thinking? That a big gambling company (could there be Mob connections?) that made the machines would let him horn in on their business and not get revenge?

Can’t find back issues of Wired magazines? Then go to a used book store (or on line if you have too) and get several different copies of trivia books. Trivia adds realism to your story. Throw a few bits of random trivia in your story and it makes it sound like you really researched the story’s back ground. Mash trivia pieces up and try them as story ideas.

Also get a bunch of the Bathroom Reader books. You don’t think that works? In one of the books there was a foot note that a Russian prince taught the French to eat meals in courses. A barbaric Russian teaching the French how to eat, what an idea. What a story idea for a Steampunk story. Dinner with the mad Russian. Tell them you heard it here first.

Quote; Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized.  Rod Serling.

So go out and get emotionalized. And ideas do stink.

Stay strong, write on.     Professor Hyram Voltage

Where to find ideas, The five step method; Step Three Getting Help

Round up the Posse

Stop and think for a second. Is an author the best person to ask the “Question” how do you come up with ideas? Back in the bad old days, maybe two years ago, authors that made their living writing books came out with a book once or twice a year. That’s coming up with one or two sets of ideas a year.

If you want to know about coming up with ideas ask a cartoonist that does a daily cartoon or a daily web comic author. They have to come up with a good idea every day. Every day, including Christmas.

So what do cartoonist do?

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame talks about how he was one of, if not the, first cartoonist that put his email address where readers could send him stuff. Did it work. Things would happen in my office at work that couldn’t happen anywhere else and would appear in the Dilbert cartoon within days of happening. And I know the secretary that was sending him the incidents that were occurring in our office.

Johnny Hart of B.C. fame had a group of friend that would get together and kick around ideas. There’s no rule that your posse can’t be your friends.

Sergio Aragones will go set in a park in his home town and people watch. He makes up reasons for why people act the way they do. Or he will imagine the reason why he would act that way. Then he goes home and works till 3:00 AM drawing cartoons.

Rules for a posse;

  1. Be upfront, tell them they are not getting paid for their ideas.
  2. Tell them that no one can own an idea.
  3. Feed your posse, and I don’t mean limit it to intellectual stuff although that does help. Having a good story to tell your posse will get them in the mood to share. It doesn’t have to be a free lunch. Chips and a six pack will do sometimes. Chocolate is always good. Pizza every now and then is great.
  4. Dedicate a cartoon, story, book, to a member of your posse (it doesn’t have to mention that they gave you the idea for that story, it could be for all the ideas they came up with in the past). Getting your name in a book is a big deal for some people. Naming a character after one of your posse members can be more hassle than it’s worth (what if the next story requires that character to be killed off).
  5. There is no shame in asking for help. There is shame in ignoring those who are trying to help you. Interact with your posse, praise your posse.
  6. If worst comes to worst, use the ideas they give you. If they are really bad ideas then take the worst couple or dozen ideas and mash them up.

But I’m really stuck and don’t have time to round up a posse right now, you say.

Then power through with whoever you can find. Years ago I went to an author signing at a mystery book store (long gone and badly missed bookstore). The author that day use to write jokes for Bob Hope (very famous comedian, they named a street after him in Palm Springs). I asked him where he got his ideas. He told me about the time he and the other writers were flying on an airplane with Bob Hope to give a USO show to military personnel. The plane was diverted. Mr. Hope came down the aisle of the plane. While he walked down the aisle he tore up the jokes for the show. He said, “These jokes won’t work for the new location. Write me some new jokes.”

They were on a military airplane. A slow, noisy military airplane. No movies, no in flight music, (no iPods either), no cell phones in those days, no information about the place they were going to. What did the author do? He wrote jokes. They might not have been good jokes but he wrote jokes, he talked to the other writers and rewrote the jokes. Of course Mr. Hope would kick the jokes back wanting better jokes. They did what took weeks before the trip, in a couple of hours, but they wrote jokes.

So put Ghost Riders on the Victrola and round up your posse partner, we got a story to write.

Stay strong, write on.       Professor Hyram Voltage

Where to find ideas, The five step method; Step Two

Capture them.
Ideas are elusive and fleeting. They will not wait around till you’re ready for them. They are here, then gone. They’re worst than Pokemon Go prizes. Ideas have legs and they run, fast.
How do you capture ideas, you write them down. Make a list of ideas as they come to you. Become a list making fiend. Authors tell budding authors to carry a note book. Don’t just carry one, use it. Use it as soon as you get an idea. Even if the idea is not useable in the story you’re working on, write it down. There’s a reason it got your attention, your interest. Don’t let that idea get away.
I have listened to many authors talk at book signings about the folders and file cabinets they have full of newspaper chippings, magazine articles, and notes jotted down when they woke up in the middle of the night. I have not heard of them using one of those hundreds or thousands of squirreled away ideas for a novel. So I challenge you to not only write down any ideas that stumbles into you, but to review your lists of ideas. It doesn’t matter if you review them weekly, monthly, or every couple of years. What you will find is that an idea you wrote down years ago is now ripe, ready to use. It may have needed the world to be in the place it now is to be a “good” idea, but it is now ready for you. Or you are ready for it.
I have heard many authors talk about how some idea, some incident, haunted them for years. The idea stewed in the back of their mind. Then something happened and the idea turned into a great novel (with a ton of work by the author, these things don’t write themselves). It may be that a new idea mashed upped with the old idea.

What good is making lists of ideas? If you have a friend that is a gossip taking out your list of ideas and writing something down will stop a gossip in their tracks. Gossip depend on rumor and hear say. If you document who said what about whom, the gossip will get cold feet, if they’re smart.

Turn off your music player, take out the ear buds. Listen to what is going on around you. Pay attention to the world around you. There are lots of crazy things, crazy ideas going on around you. Look, listen, and write them down. You have grown up trying to shield yourself from the noise and craziness around you. People gossiping about relatives, about other people at work are handing you ideas on a silver platter. You’re a writer now. Listen, adsorbs, and write down what is going on around you. Adsorb the craziness so you can put it in your story. You are not a spectator at a Roman circus, you are a gladiator. Your pen is your sword. Keep it sharp, practice, and slay them.

Stay strong, write on.               Professor Hyram Voltage

Where to find ideas, The five step method; Step one

Step 1. Open up.

It’s not that simple. Time and time again, both as a writer and professional, I have seen ideas brushed away, tossed aside, ignored. Like “Casey at the bat” the ideas presented were just not right. These ideas were lovingly, honestly, presented after a lot of hard thinking.

I do not know if the person rejecting the ideas had an agenda, wanted an idea that was a fully formed story, novel, or even a book series. Weather she wanted the idea to come with a muse attached ready to get down and write her a story, or what. I do know that in a profession setting where we were brain storming ideas that we would get two types; one type wanted things done his way or no way. He would constantly bring up reasons why ideas presented by others would not work, even though it was a ground rule that no one would say anything negative about other inputs or ideas in the session, and management would not let us throw the bum out. The other type was the budding manager that kept pushing off topic ideas, ideas that would get more people working under him which would get him a pay raise, a better parking space, a promotion.

Don’t be one or both of these. Except any and all ideas.

Before you ask for ideas;

a. Determine why you want an idea. Is it for a book, a short story, a series. Are you suffering from writers block. Have you written yourself into a corner and need a way out. Write down the reason you need an idea. Then open up to the fact that you may need several ideas. You need an idea for the story, an idea for the character, an idea for the world, and most importantly you need an idea for the villain.

b. Determine your restrictions on the idea. Figure out the box the idea must fit in. Does the idea have to fit in a happy story? Does the main character have to be female? Does the setting have to be on an island on a water covered planet? Does the villain always have to be a scientist form a desert planet that wants to drain the water from this planet and take it back to his planet?

Write any idea given to you down. When you ask someone or a group for ideas write the ideas down. It shows you value their input. Ask questions about the ideas they put forward. It show you care about the effort they are putting into trying to help you. (Even if the ideas are in right field). Give complements to those who are giving you ideas, even if you think the ideas are useless. Feed those giving you ideas. Cookies can generate ideas. Chocolate and creativity go together.

Go over the list of ideas that people gave you afterwards. Don’t blow any idea off. Make a two column list of the ideas. Draw a line from an idea in column A to an idea in column B. Write a couple of lines about a story that could be developed from the two ideas. Think “Pride Prejudice and Zombies.”

Remember out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom and pablum. You’re going to get some of both on you when looking for ideas.

Turn off your cell phone and look around you. The ideas are out there, they surround you. They may not feel right, but they are there. And the idea that feels the worst may be the best one.

Ideas are priceless, don’t waste them.

Stay strong, write on.             Professor Hyram Voltage

Finding ideas, be open to them

I have worked with many authors, screenwriters and as an engineer with technical professionals in trying to find ideas.

The biggest problem I found working with these people was that they would reject out of hand idea after idea. Ideas that I took and later wrote stories using them. (Never let a good idea get away. They may be free but they can be the most valuable thing in existence.)

Why did the author blow off, what were to me, good ideas (and they often were generated by other people)? Did the author have a hidden or subconscious list or set of requirements of what the idea must be. Did the author expect that the right idea to come fully formed, ready to write a whole book about, with the muse tagging along to urge the writer along.

It ain’t going to happen. It takes more than one idea to make a book, many more. You may write a book without the muse ever showing up.

  1. Remember it’s your book, not the muse’s.

2. Remember, no fantastic idea ever survives the first draft. Ideas mutate. Good ideas mutate like the Hulk. They also turn green and go bad. Think Swamp thing.

If you’re looking for an idea get your preconceptions on the table. Make a list of them. If you’re writing a book about X then make a list about X, what it should be, its size, shape, weight, personality, attitude. If you’re looking for an idea, know what your looking for. “I need an idea for a character” is too broad. “I need an idea for an adventurous, female, addicted to chocolate, with relationship issues” is headed in the right direction.

I’ve been in meeting with people that had an agenda they were pushing and kept pushing ideas that seemingly had nothing to do with the problem we were brainstorming. He wanted to redesign the power supply but the meeting was about poor radar range. Never did figure out if there was a part that he couldn’t get for the power supply and there was a production problem or did he just want to hire another engineer so he could get a pay raise and a better parking spot. He couldn’t convince us that a better power supply would give us more radar range.

If your after ideas collect them. The ideas may not seem to be good at the time but later they may click together and be the answer. If you collect ideas go back over the collection later. Ideas on a list don’t do you any good if you never look at the list.

Open up. A closed mind or a mind with too many restrictions will never find new ideas.

Lay your requirement (cards) on the table. Don’t keep hidden agendas.

Listen to everyone. Take notes and go over the notes later. Mash things up.

3. Remember, out of the mouths of babes and engineers comes the wisdom of the ages.

Stay strong, write on.            Professor Hyram Voltage

2000 words an hour, is it possible?

I’ve read a book called 2,000 to 10,000 How to write fast, … . The title of the book refers to the number of words an author can write in an hour. I’m having trouble making 1,000 words an hour.

Now 1,000 words an hour is 17 words a minute. Many typists can type 100 (200 or more) words a minute so it’s not a lot of words. The book makes a point that to get to 10,000 words a hour you need an outline. I have an outline. The outline gets updated often. The outline helps, but I don’t follow the outline like a railroad track, which causes the outline rewrites.

One thing that will slow you down is research. I was writing a scene today where the army was about to break in and the spies did not have the tools to break into a safe to get to the secret plan for concurring the world. So the spies have to steal the safe and run from the army. The safe plays a minor part in the story and gets mentioned many times. Calling the McGuffin a safe, a generic name, is boring. Boring the reader is bad, boring is the death of your book. So it’s time for research. How much does a safe weight (a lot), what type of safes were made in that time period (not a lot). Wiki to the rescue. Hey there’s a company that pioneered the development of safes in England. That’s where my villains happen to be. In the time period of the story. Click on a couple of pictures of old safes and I got some details (color) to add to the book.

Warning there are people out there that will jump all over your case if you mention that the safe was a Diebold. Why because Diebold did not export things until 1887 and those things were mostly bank vault doors and fixtures. Safes are too heavy to transport over seas and the British government would have purchased a safe made by a British manufacturer. No one will ever give me credit for getting it right, but lord will they jump on me if I get it wrong.

I’m getting 3,000 words out a day on a good day (those days are few and far apart). That 3,000 words includes research, spell check (which can take an hour a page, not so much the spelling but ensuring that the word I used is the right word, looking up the definition), a possible rewrite, and going back and checking that what I wrote matches to the part that came before it.

A novel is about 80,000 words. Make that 100,000 for a fantasy/science fiction novel. At 80,000 words, and averaging 2,000 words a day, that’s 40 days. Add a few days for weekends, to go watch a movie, visit friends. Not an impossible goal. Now to keep the extraneous things from interrupting the writing, and if El Nino doesn’t flood the place I may have the book done by years end.

Stay strong, write on.    Professor Hyram Voltage

Uploading a kindle book

The book is up.

To upload my book I did not use a program like Scrivener or an editor program to convert the book file into Mobi format. I just loaded the .doc file into the Amazon Kindle converter and let it rip.

Before loading the file into the converter I made the file as simple as I could (no special formatting or characters in the file text. Use the style settings like H1 and body text style to control how your texts looks). I used Libre Office to write the book and saved the file as a .doc file.

Problem 1. You have to set the margins and the first line of a paragraph indent using the ruler bar at the top of the screen in Libre Office or the Amazon converter program will mess the results up. The Kindle converter program outputs right and left justified text (proportionally spaced text) and if there are spaces in front of the first word of the first line of a paragraph then the first line of the paragraph will be indented unevenly (the space gets proportionally spaced making things very ragged). You will have to go back and make the first line of very paragraph indent to the ruler setting with no spaces in front of the first word (in the original .doc file). I have not found a way to do this in mass. I had to do the first line of very paragraph one at a time (all 150 pages of single spaced text). Whatever you do don’t input a file with proportionally spaced text into the Amazon Kindle converter.

Problem 2. Libre Office has the habit of sticking spaces between words in a different (its default) font in your text. I had to highlight all the text and convert it to the font I wanted to use (Times New Roman).

Why Times New Roman, because other computers (mainly Apple computers) do not use the same fonts as Windows computers. When a Apple computer reads your file and does not have the font you used it will choose a bad looking font to display your words. Windows computers are not quite as bad at doing this. Times New Roman looks OK on both types of computers. Guru after Guru says use this or that font, but have they checked that the font will look good on a windows computer and a Mac computer (iPad or whatever)? I think the only thing the reader will notice is if you use a serif or sans serif font (the serif is the little foot at the bottom of each letter. This text is in a serif font; Times New Roman). Serif fonts are easier to read. Be good to your reader.

Problem 3. I write fiction and did not have any bullet points in the words of my file. I have no suggestions on how to handle that problem. The Amazon Kindle converter does not like bullet points. It does not like you hitting the return button twice or more times.

Problem 4. What size of font to use? I use 16 point font size. For a Kindle book it doesn’t matter. It seems that the converter changes the font size to a standard size. I use 16 point font for ease of reading. I don’t think a bigger font size will increase your file size or increase the cost to transmit your file. The reader can always change the font size on their reader.

Problem 5. What file type should you use? I now use .docx file type for the input to the Amazon Kindle converter. I read somewhere that the .docx file type works better. It seems to convert faster and did not have as many problems (but that may be do to learning how to avoid problems).

The book; The Daemon Boat is now on Amazon Kindle.

Stay strong, write on.              Professor Hyram Voltage

More writing with drip irrigation

To squeeze more time out of the week I installed a drip irrigation system to water the garden. It took three days of hard work in the sun. The water feed line and a conduit for the electrical control line were installed in the ground back in the spring.

Lesson one. (It’s a big one) don’t mix parts or supplies from different manufacturers. I read this in a article off the web and it explains many of the problems I had in the past. That did not stop me from buying a Orbit brand hole puncher (it was cheaper) and using it on DIG brand tubing. It did not work. I had to go back to the hardware store and get a DIG brand hole punch.

We ran out of splices for the big tubing. Ran down to get a couple more couplings from the small local hardware store. All they had were made by another manufacturer. My friend stopped me from getting them. They were made by a name brand, but not the DIG brand we had been using. He checked closely and found the diameter of the big tubing the small hardware store coupling were made for was .12 inches different from the DIG tubing I had been using. Don’t mix material from different manufacturers.

Lesson two. Don’t over engineer the project. My friend wanted to run six electrical valves and one hundred feet of white plastic PVC pipe to feed the drip tubing.

The big drip tubing is easier to handle and change than White PVC. I used only one electrical valve and it was plenty. In ten minutes I have water coming out the bottom of the containers.

Lesson three. Be careful punching the hole for the bards (1/4 inch feed lines). Out of 120 drip lines (holes) I had three that leaked where the bards were installed.

Lesson four. The dripper or end of the drip line has to be up against the plant so the water goes to the plant’s roots. The water from the dripper goes straight down not sideways. The plant can dry out with plenty of water going to the container.

Stay strong, write on.               Professor Hyram Voltage

Book cover design

The cover is one of those little thing you have to do as a self publish author.

I watched several YouTube videos. I looked at several sites that offer cover designs services. Bookbaby.com listed their cover service at around $600.00. Standoutbook.com listed their cover service at around $495.00.

Using these numbers as a guideline I watched more YouTube videos. Odesk got mentioned several times so I flipped a coin and decided to try Odesk over the others I had found.

Odesk is now upwork.com. Posted an outline of what I wanted as a job offer. Got back a range of bids to do the cover. One was way high. He did good work but the book is barely a novel in length. The payback for the cost of the cover from Bookbaby.com or Standoutbooks.com could take years if the book ever makes any money.

I offered to pay $250.00 for the job, about half of what it would cost at the other services. I got six bids back. I looked at the work each bidder has done for others. I chose the one that had done book covers before in a style similar to steampunk book covers on Amazon. The artist also had done covers with females on the cover. Since I was thinking of having a female on my cover that was a plus. Another bidder has only males on the cover of her works. One had never done a book cover before.

So I chose a person that had done book covers before and they were in a style similar to steampunk covers. The person was a little over the $250.00 offer. I think the artist added the cost of what upwork.com takes as their share/cut to the amount I offered. Simple right. No. I agonized over choosing an artist.

I had a definite image in mind of what I wanted for the book cover, but I am open to suggestions from the artist. I am easy to get along with.

Waiting for the first trail images to come in.

Stay strong, write on.     Professor Hyram Voltage