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Writing

(Old) Thoughts on Writing

I’m getting back into writing more these days, trying to finish a story that I started more than twenty years ago.

Why its taken so long to get this far is a little complicated.

I write about the world that I created for AD&D, the roots of the world reach back to when I was 13, even then I was a detail kind of person. As I built countries and races and nations and people I needed to know more about them. I slowly filled several spiral notebooks to satisfy this curiosity.

Then stories started to fill other notebooks. Mythologies, people, laws, history, I needed a how and why to help make the AD&D campaigns feel more alive and real.

Slowly the game helped me flesh out the details over the skeleton, and writing added more still.

Then I left home and all of those notebooks went into the bottom of my duffel bag to Japan with me. The writing continued when I could find time to write, and the games continued as I found people interested in playing. That wasn’t easy. I am something of a work-a-holic and so work took more and more time away from all of that, and then I got married and after not too long I got Milady Kim interested in playing. And so the growth of the world continued slowly as I gathered a few more players. It also began to refine as I grew older and had a deeper pool of experiences to draw upon

Then I got my first computer, a Commodore 64, which at that time was cutting edge, and working on new material took a back seat to putting all that I had from several old ragged notebooks onto a small army of disks. And then I was spending more and more time at work because I was assigned to writing technical procedures and that required I work on a PC. Once again Milady Kim showed me wisdom. Why have work on one computer, and my writing on another, when they couldn’t talk to each other.

So, I jumped onto the PC market, back when the 386SX-16 was the screamingest thing running. And when I wasn’t working on work at home, I was putting everything from the Commodore into the PC. Yes, from writing it all in notebooks, to typing it all into one, then another computer. It took a long time, and in that time my writing matured with me, and so when it was finally all in the computer it was all started over from scratch, so writing that started in my teens took me through my twenties and thirties to bring into full flow and continuity.

The longer I served the more “official” writing that I did, and officialese and fantasy are never really compatible to me, and it would take a week or so off just to get back into the fantasy-writing swing and about that time I’d get a few good days and go back to work.

Then I’d get sent somewhere and I was back to my traveling notebooks. I’ve scribbled ideas in several countries, sometimes in decent rooms, in tents, outside where I could find a space to sit, in ready rooms, on aircraft, you name it. And when I got home it would all have to be transcribes again into the computer.

Now I’m transitioning from service, very soon to retire and so I write almost nothing official anymore, and the writing is flowing back into me. No more short declarative sentences in a style known as officialese. Richard Marchinko describes military communication as: “Redundant, bureaucratic military nomenclature, either in written nonoral or nonwritten oral, mode, indecipherable by non-military (conventional) individuals during interfacing configuration conformations.”

I can hear you all already saying WTF? Well, I included that to show you the difference in mindsets and the problem is causes me to get my head right to write in either form.

Now that I’m writing almost exclusively in the fantasy mode now, a few hopefully short, observations.

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A story is a lifeless thing if you don’t have characters that you can relate to, and you have to be able to relate to them on a personal level. I am a sentimental guy, and I have written about characters literally from cradle to grave. And there are times when I get very misty-eyed relating their passing, or great or terrible moments in their lives. A character has to be a 3d flesh and blood creation, or you’ll write flat stories about flat people.

I am not a first draft writer, I write and get as much down as I can and what ends up n the page as draft is really rough, and then I go back and smooth until it flows as best I can and then I move along and do more. This is first draft, sorry about that, it won’t be pretty writing.

To write you have to get yourself into writing mode. Music is good for this. Stephen King blasts AC/DC when he writes. I listen to music that fits what I’m writing. Jerry Goldsmith’s Patton soundtrack for Battles, Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever for death scenes, Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing for Love scenes, just as a few examples. I guess there are method writer’s just like there are method actors, and to that degree I am one of them. I have to feel something to write it, or it sits lifeless on the page.

You need support to write. I rely on my family to help me tune my writing, to point out places where I wasn’t in the grove so to speak. But you also need those around you to be with you in what you do, and there I am one lucky bastard.

Write and let the story take you to the end. I can’t do outlines, I try and as I write I end up at the destination I was aiming at, mostly, but the trips is a lot different than I had programmed. Its like a road trip, you know where you need to be at the end, and you can program the stops, but what you see along the way eventually takes over and rules how you’ll go and what you see along the way.

© 2009 – 2020, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

By Tim Boothby

Curious about just about everything and occasionally irascible. Disabled veteran, retired from the US Air Force. I work as a photographer specializing in events such as conventions, weddings, group photo shoots, head shots, and just about anything involving people. I also dabble in writing, fantasy and occasionally science fiction, but I'm not necessarily shy about sharing opinions and philosophy about the world around us.

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