Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Serendipitous Rabbit Trail

Scott D. Parker

The internet teems with rabbit trails. But sometimes, those rabbit trails can lead somewhere you never knew you wanted to go.

You know what I’m talking about. You go to the internet to look up something you need to know. You either find the answer right off the bat and sign off or, more likely, you find your answer and then see something else. You click on that other link which leads to yet another website. Before you know it, you’ve killed half an hour. Or more.

Recently, via Black, I read about the passing of Aaron Allston. As much as I like Star Wars, I was unfamiliar with his name. I glanced at his birth date, gave myself a few moments to see if I really knew his name, realized I didn’t, and then moved on.  

Cut to a few days later. I’m reading through yet another list of articles at Black Gate and saw the cover of something called Doc Sidhe. It’s a Doc Savage pastiche. I had never heard of that book but, it being a Doc Savage-type thing, I quickly clicked on the link to read the entire article. Fancy my surprise that Doc Sidhe was written by Allston who, to me on that day, was the writer who had just passed away. Imagine my surprise.

Just wait. It gets better. Liking what I saw on the cover of Doc Sidhe, I followed the rabbit trail over to Amazon. My thought was to buy the ebook. I searched for “Doc Sidhe” and found only the paperback. No ebook. On a whim, I clicked on Allston’s name and there found the end of my rabbit trail.

I’ve gone on record regarding my challenges of, to date, getting an idea for a book from initial spark of imagination to a manuscript. I’ve proven that, once I have the idea and the structure, I can bust out a book. But I’ve been having imagination issues. Which is why I've started reading how writers do their thing.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the following book on Allston’s Amazon page: Plotting: A Novelist's Workout Guide. Hey, thought I, that’s kind of something I could use. Intrigued, I sent a sample to my Nook. Opening the Kindle-only ebook, I read the first page:

Do any of these statements sound familiar?
  • "I come up with good ideas, but I can't develop them into complete novels." [Yes! That’s me!]
  • "I'm going along fine with my novel, and then it just stops. I can't get it moving again." [Again, yeah!]
  • "I know what happens from start to finish, but I can't figure out what it's really about." [Sometime, yeah.]
  • "I know what's supposed to happen and what it's supposed to mean, but my story is just not working." [Still me, a bit]
  • "My novel is missing something and I can't figure out what it is." [Sure.]
If any of the above applies to you, Plotting: A Novelist's Workout Guide can help.

Next thing I did? Immediately went back to Amazon and bought the ebook. Forget this sample thing. I knew I wanted this book.

And, so far (about 19% percent in--biggest peeve of Kindle = no page numbers!) I am already learning things, annotating like a crazy man. Better still is how Allston is taking all the instructions he writes about and creating a novel-in-progress, showing exactly how all of his instruction applies to real, live story.

I’ll report on this book when I finally reach the end, but, so far, it’s a excellent purchase. It's exactly the book I needed right now. And I owe it all to serendipity and, of course, to Mr. Allston. May he rest in peace. Thank you for writing this book.

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