To Back Up or not Back Up. Are you protecting your work?
It seems so basic and obvious a question that we don’t talk much about it nowadays. But backing up our work is important. W. Bryan Miller, author, proofreader, and programmer, gives us his take on the idea.
How do you back up your files? Have you ever lost an important doc? Please share!
Well, it’s done. The last scene needed to complete the manuscript for book three of my Papilion Trilogy, Berserker, is done. All that’s left to do it to blend the snippets into the main story, to diligently consider the beta readers’ feedback I received (some of which is still on the way), and then hit the last rounds of editing.
I won’t lie. I felt like giving up. This has been the toughest year in writing yet, and there were more than a few periods when I felt like walking away. It’s tough to be a writer, tougher when resources are financially out of reach, when human resources are scarce (reviewers, beta readers), and when Life keeps getting in the way. Discouragement and lack of motivation were constant enemies; we wrestled a lot.
When I started The Purple Morrowfour years ago or so, I had one book in mind. I purposely wrote a simple story, being that it had a complex theme : exploring self-doubt and loss and what it takes to move on, in a fantasy context. That grew to two books—Wolf’s Baneliterally became the bane of my existence for 2 years, and Berserker—well, yeah. I was often two hairs shy of losing it more than once. … …Funny how the book titles see, to reflect my mental state at the time of writing…
Anyway, the end is in sight. Berserker started as a writing challenge : write a million words in a year. I started out great—in two months I had about 50k or something. But then I hit a block and let the manuscript sit. I worked on other things while periodically going back and adding to it. But there were challenges, the main one being: How to write a satisfying trilogy ending? Some people have been faithful, reading all the books, they are invested in the characters and what’s happening to them, screaming at the end of book 2 and rabid for more–
Don’t you sometimes feel that writing the ending of a story is tough? So coming to writing the ending of a trilogy…
I was afraid of screwing it up.
Actually, I lied. I haven’t written the ending yet. But I will. I’m waiting for the editing to pull the story threads together to inspire the right ending in order to satisfy my readers. Fingers crossed.
Anyway, I guess this is a thank you to everyone who has read my books, who has motivated and encouraged me with their comments and feedback and support. Know that you played an important role in getting this project finished. 🙂
So, back to work! Still lots to do but at least now there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I’d love to hear your writing stories, both good and bad. Are you struggling, or riding the wave of success? Tell me about it 🙂
So at last, a short story! It’s been a while since I’ve posted one, primarily because most places I submit to don’t accept work that has been published, even if it’s on a blog. However, at just over 1000 words, Falling Free is shorter than the requirements of those same magazines and so seems like a perfect candidate to (hopefully) entertain you.
A quick note: this story was intended to be the inspiration for a graphic project, which is why it is so heavy on visuals and tone. Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think below. 🙂 Please enjoy.
I am nearly dead from running. Stone slaps the soles of my feet, the pitter-patters echoing and filling the surrounding void. A barren land, it’s a world of grey mountains on the left, black mountains on the right; a slate-grey sky above. Not a tree, or shrub, or blade of grass anywhere. White clouds straggle across the sky. Or are they ghosts? I can’t tell.
I hear him behind me, the madman who drove me to this place. Once across the threshold, I’d tried to block him out, had thrown the locks and bars in place. But he is stronger than me, smarter, too. I’d jumped aside and hit the road running just as the door burst open and the first traces of his sickness swept into the void. That smell—the sickness—I know it well.
I hear him beating the path. He’s furious and fast. He comes on with ease, as though a native of this world and immune to the pain burning my torn-up feet; not afraid of this land with no roads or any living thing. Just greyness and stone. And…
Wait, there’s something up ahead.
Skidding, I change course, take the corner around a boulder. I head for whatever it is.
Maybe a way out?
He’s angry. Bellowing, he too rounds the corner, spitting rocks in his wake as he takes the hairpin turn. I sense his eyes zero in on me. He’s coming.
The ground suddenly gives way to a valley. I speed down the slope, putting my hand down when I almost tumble to the bottom where a collection of rocks wait to tear me to shreds. Once over them, I scale the other side. Streaks of blood stain the surface. Hands shredded, knees bleeding, it doesn’t matter. I can’t let that madman catch me.
I haul myself over the edge. Safe in the other side, but don’t know for how long. I pause to catch my breath. The dark spot in the distance is closer. Nothing between me and it.
“Hello, my name is Constance. Do you want to play?”
It’s a little girl about seven years old. She wears a pink dress, and her wavy brown hair is tied back with a white bow. She smiles. I’m shaken by her innocence. A single white light in this darkening grey world. She holds out a hand. I take it.
What’s a kid doing out here alone? I look around but there’s not another living soul anywhere.
“Uh…where’s your mother?”
Constance crumples to the ground. Blood pools on her candy-pink dress. She coughs once, smiles again, and then is gone. Cackling trickles into my head.
It’s the madman.
He always ruins whatever he touches.
I take off, heading for the spot in the distance. The closer I draw to it, the more the world changes. Ghosts spring out of the ground, each one bright and bursting with life and hope like the girl, caricatures of ‘the good life’: a mother dressed in a blue and white dress and a flowery apron holding her baby. Her name, Aviva, and the baby, Elan. But upon taking my hand, they too collapse having succumbed to scarlet blotches spreading like weeds across their chests. Others, Hope and Mercy, two frolicking puppies, also fall to jagged, red polka dots. Each death triggers the maniac’s laughter. It pricks the inside of my head like a million fingers running nails across a blackboard. It’s too much. I’ll crack.
…he’s changing me…
…making me like him.
Other ghosts appear, this time familiars. Friends, family, colleagues. Girlfriends.
‘Get your lazy ass off the couch and get a job!’
I remember that one: Lucy. My last and greatest love. But like the madman, I have a knack for drawing out the worst in those around me. To this day, I doubt she knew that her presence had kept the Darkness at bay, or how much thicker and deeper it became after she left. I’d tried to block it out. It still took everything I’d had not go mad. And now, here she was in my world of grey, still hateful, still angry. Yelling.
Like the Madman. He screams at my back, his fury pushing me towards the quickly approaching spot. The black patch looms–yawning like an open mouth. Now I don’t want to go. I want to run back to the valley, through the mountains, all the way to the exploded door and, finally, into the world of color and caricature beyond.
Just what am I doing here?
At the spot, the madman pulls back. I drop to my hands and knees. His laughter fills my head; it’s rapid, hitting hard like a Gatling gun. The stone is cold under my hands, chilling me like I’m kneeling on an ice rink. Gasping and hacking, I can barely breathe.
God, I’m utterly broken.
The chasm’s on my right. The madman on my left. He stands so tall I can’t see his face.
He squats. I can’t look at him. Shaking takes over my arms, then my torso and, finally my legs. He leans in so his lips are against my ear.
“I never meant to catch you,” he says.
“Wh-what?” I lick my lips. Maybe I can talk my way out. “What do you want?”
He stands. Puts his hands in his pockets. Sighs.
“No!” I’m screaming now. “I don’t want to—“
He nudges me with the tip of his foot.
Am struck by the fact that now there’s no need to run. No need for strife.
No Darkness trying to drive me insane.
The madman did me a favor.
He did the thing I could not.
I am free.
But falling free.
I laugh, only a little surprised by the rising notes—bordering hysteria.
I laugh harder, the sound becoming familiar, as though it had been hiding so deeply and for so long within me that I’d forgotten it was even there. Until the madness pried it loose, setting free a raging, powerful beast.
I want to see the face of my killer.
I look up
As I fall down.
Through the gathering mists
The haze of oncoming unconsciousness opening the door to
I mean, who decided to curse the humble writer with the necessity of creating such a diabolic thing? I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys writing them, and most people I speak to don’t know how, or struggle to get something decent on the page.
There’s a lot of information out there on how to write one. My issue has always been not knowing how to organize my ideas. What do I include and what do I leave out? When an editor someone asks for a 1 page synopsis and my book is 75k words, how do I whittle it down without missing something important???? Isn’t everything important???
Well, yesterday I gave the thing another shot but only because I had to. Someone had posted that a publishing company publishing big names was accepting submissions and guess what? They require a synopsis.
So, I searched the Internet and found some great articles, which I will list later. The difference this time, I think, is that these articles broke down the process step by step, added essential bullet questions to focus the thought processes, and added a checklist to be used before the final draft. I pulled what I needed from them and then started to build the synopsis. Cutting the manuscript from 75k to 1.5K was actually much simpler than expected once I applied the tips/notes to a synopsis I’d written years ago. I ended up with something that is the closest I’ve ever had to a decent synopsis.
But that’s just the beginning. Some of you know that I don’t lay out my stories from beginning to end before I write them. My stories and books are exploratory for me, and I like setting out with nothing more than the barest of information to see where I end up. I rarely take notes, and if I do I almost never look at them again. They serve mostly to answer some problem or to clarify an immediate issue. Some people like a cluttered desk, I prefer a cluttered creative mind. To me, once something goes down on paper, the idea loses their luster. So I just take things one step at a time, teasing and developing threads and inspirations as they come. That said, retracing my steps and making sense of what essentially came from chaos is a major challenge, and that’s where the synopsis is a game changer.
It’s amazing how a story that was crystal clear when it was written can fade over time. As I wrote the synopsis for The Purple Morrow, the foundation of the trilogy became clear to me again. As I responded to the questions about the characters’ main conflicts, wrote summaries for the key players and their motivations, defined the stakes, and wrote about how the story concluded, it was like digging through mud and laying hands on a precious stone. In fact, I was relieved to know that despite being born of clutter, the overarching plot and subplots were clear throughout the three books. For example, I was able to see their birth and growth from book 1 to 2 (Wolf’s Bane). Also, the process revealed plot-lines that need development as well as outright plot holes that needed to be dealt with in book 3 (Berserker).
So, what do you think? What’s your take on synopsis writing? What resources have you found helpful? You can post links below to help others visiting the page.