How to keep things straight (or maybe not-so-straight)

Today I’m excited to have Jim Webster here with a guest post.  His book, Justice 4.1, releases today from Safkhet Publishing, and it sounds like a fantastic read.  But don’t take my word for it – here’s the blurb:

When a journalist is shot down in a backward area of Tsarina, Haldar Drom of the Governor’s Investigation Office is sent to investigate.  He uncovers a hidden medical facility dedicated to the production of Abate, a drug used for population control, as well as evidence of the implantation of pre-created embryos in women brought to Tsarina for the purpose.  He also discovers a deeper plot with far-reaching political ramifications.  A senior member of the Governor’s family, Doran Stilan, is running a personal feud with the major pirate/Starmancer Wayland Strang.  Indeed, he begins to suspect that Stilan may even be angling to take Strang’s place.

The medical facility is destroyed after it is attacked by mercenaries hired by Strang, and Drom has to travel off world to untangle the threads of the conspiracy.

Arriving back on Tsarina, he has to deal with a failed Starmancer attack, punish the guilty, and arrange for Doran Stilan to get what’s coming without undermining the position of the Governor.  To do this, he’ll need skill, know-how, and a whole lot of luck to ensure that the guilty face justice.

Talk about an action-packed book!  That’s a lot of things to keep track of.  With that in mind, here’s Jim to tell us a bit about how he keeps everything straight (or not-so-straight) while writing:

Plotting!

Kay asked me how I keep things straight and tie up the loose ends with my books.  It’s a good question and if I ever come up with a reliable system, I’ll share it with her.

At the moment I sort of do it as I go along.  The mechanics are simple.  When I write a book I start at the beginning, work my way through and finish at the end.  I don’t have any written plan or formal structure; the most I aspire to is to have a handful of episodes that the book must pass through.  Sometimes I even know which order the episodes must occur in.

The reason for this is I know myself too well: if I wrote the fun bits first, I’ve never get round to doing the linking bits that join them together and make a book.

justiceSo when you’re writing you have to be aware of the whole book, not just the section you’re working on.  Let’s say that the story is based round the search for a criminal.  Initially the crime occurs at night.  Later on when I’m half way through the book, I might realise that because of what I’ve written and the way the plot is moving, it would make more sense for the crime to happen during the morning rush hour.  So I go back and change things.  Later on still, I’m confronted with the problem that somebody who should have seen something, didn’t.  How can I make it reasonable for them to have overlooked something?  So I might go back and have the crime happen in driving rain (which explains their inattention, but might throw up other issues) or I could get imaginative.  Perhaps they never noticed because they were preoccupied by something else?  The guard never noticed because she was chatting up the good looking young man who was cutting the grass, or the driver didn’t see the incident because he was trying to avoid a collision with another vehicle.

Immediately the imaginative options spawn other possibilities.  The potential romance between the guard and the gardener can be a running theme in the background, or perhaps can throw a light on the way society works on this world, where everybody would be shocked that someone in a position as respected as a gardener would even exchange words with a guard.  With the potential collision was it engineered by the bad guy to ensure people didn’t look?  Or is the gardener the tool of the villain, or perhaps he’s the villain himself.  Let these possibilities spin outwards, throwing off even more possibilities.

Perhaps the most important thing I find is to stop and think.  My best tool for working through these complications is to just put a jacket on and walk for a few miles.  By the time I’ve got back I’ve been able to think through a lot of the possibilities.  Don’t be afraid to ask yourself ‘what if’.  Also when you’ve got your solution, don’t be afraid to act as devil’s advocate and try and find the weak points and the problems.  If you don’t tackle the weak points and problems, the reader will find them and for the reader they could spoil the book.  But tackled positively, a weak point might just be a source of inspiration, a jumping off point for even better ideas.

The ‘tying up of loose ends’ happens later.  Write the book.  Read the book.  Store the book in a quiet corner of the hard drive and ignore it for three months whilst you do something more interesting.  Read the book again and suddenly you’ll spot all sorts of problems and gaps you’d never noticed.

Finally, send it off to tough beta readers or even better an editor.  The flapping loose ends you never noticed will so irritate them they’ll make sure you know about them.

About Jim:

I live in South Cumbria, which is as nice a part of the world as any to be honest. Too old to play computer games and too young to watch daytime television. I’ve got a wife and three daughters, no dress sense and a liking for good cappuccino.

To make a living I sort of farm, sort of write and sort of help out where I’m wanted. I suppose one day I’ll grow up and do something properly.

You can read more about Jim and his adventures on his blog.  He also hangs out on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and you can find his books at Amazon (and Amazon UK) and Smashwords.  You can also find out more at Safkhet Publishing.

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.

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11 thoughts on “How to keep things straight (or maybe not-so-straight)

      • Roger says:

        Apparently the only nails I’m going to see are the ones in my coffin if I don’t begin the spring clear-up of the garden. I keep telling her it’s still winter but my believed is always right. I can’t argue; she knows where I sleep.

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        • Kay Kauffman says:

          Apparently I need them in my glasses; maybe that would keep my lenses from popping out. Today one dropped in the snow I was trying to shovel off muly steps. If I’m lucky, I might find it this spring before we move. I’m not holding my breath, though.

          I’ve only had the glasses about six weeks. The other lens has come out twice already. I am not impressed.

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          • Roger says:

            you should buy cheap ones like me. I’m always losing them, sitting on them or dropping them on the road when I’m on my bike. I once broke a pair, forgetting I had them on I tried to put my crash helmet on. There were tears.

            Like

          • Kay Kauffman says:

            I’m not normally prone to accidents involving glasses. I’ve had my last pair for a good eight years and the only reason I replaced them is because I stripped the threads on one of the screws. Now I’m back to wearing them till I can get the new ones fixed.

            Maybe I’ll get lucky and find the lens when I get home. (I’m not holding my breath, but it never hurts to think positive.)

            Like

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