Thursday, August 28, 2014

Brainstorming in the Writng Process

When I was in the corporate world, I participated in a number of brainstorming session. When I started writing, an author suggested brainstorming ideas for novels. I had never brainstormed by myself and wondered about that advice. Then I gave it a try.

Here’s what I learned. The process can work with one person. When I’m planning a new novel, I often use walking time to brainstorm. I carry a pad of paper and a pen and jot down ideas as they come to me. Like with brainstorming in a group, no idea is a bad one. Just get it down. Then I can go over these later to pick the ones I will incorporate into my novel.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Police Role Playing

I had a chance again this week to be a role player for police training. Four new police officers were in training, two with previous law enforcement experience and two brand new to the police world.

My scenario was to be a person who had been fired from my job, not allowed to take my personal belongings and had come back in to break into my old locked office to reclaim my personal stuff.

As a mystery writer I then embellished the basic scenario by adding that my employer had been stealing things from my desk and I had returned to retrieve a thousand dollar engagement ring that was in my desk and that I needed to give to my fiancée.
Needless to say, I got cuffed and arrested all four times. Sigh. One more taint to my law abiding reputation.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Editing Process

Okay. Now the rough draft is done. On to editing. Some writers rewrite as the go, but I prefer to get a fast rough draft completed and then go through numerous editing passes.

Editing pass number one: I read through the whole draft to get a feel for what I’ve written, correcting any content errors along the way.

Editing pass number two: Now I really focus on readability. How can I write things more clearly.

Editing pass number three: On to punctuation, grammar and word choices.

Editing pass number four+: I go through and search on certain words I use too much such as “about” and change or eliminate.

My final editing pass is to read the manuscript out loud. Now I catch things that my eyes have skipped over before.

Then the manuscript goes to my wife, my first reader. After she give me comments, I make another editing pass.

Next, on to my critique group. Once all those comments have been incorporated, I make another full editing pass. Now I’m ready to submit it to the publisher.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Research Trips

One of the things I enjoy about writing is taking research trips. These have included an Alaskan cruise (the setting the fourth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder) and visits to Venice Beach, California, (location of Senior Moments Are Murder).

We just returned from a two night stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. I have a manuscript that takes place there, and it addition to a nice vacation at the hot springs, I wanted to check on several of the scenes I had written. Good thing. I discovered a major error. I had an important scene where my protagonist goes down to the Colorado River. The problem: the place I used didn’t work because of a small impediment: I-70 runs along the river with no way over or under the freeway at that point. By walking around, I found a pedestrian bridge that crossed the freeway and ended up in a lovely park, Two Rivers Park. With some minor editing, I can now set it right.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Daily Writing Goals

Much like writers all have best times of the day to write, we all have different ways of setting daily goals. I’m a morning person so I write my new manuscripts in the morning and do editing, social networking and administrative tasks in the afternoon. I have tried a number of different approaches on setting daily writing goals.

Sometimes I try to accomplish a certain number of words a day. Other times I’ve set page targets or completing a chapter. The important part for me is merely writing every day. The only time I don’t write is when we have family functions or are visiting our kids and grandkids. Then I put writing aside.

For the most recent manuscript, I wrote at least a chapter a day. This ended up having fifty chapters, and with various family activities, I completed the rough draft in two months. Now I’m on to my many editing passes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gun Shoot

Last Saturday members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America spent part of the day at a gun range in Colorado Springs. For mystery writers this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about weapons and experience shooting different types of guns.

We used three semi-automatic handguns, a revolver, an automatic rifle and a shotgun. Before shooting, we learned safety rules: 1. Point down range, 2. Finger alongside not on the trigger until ready to shoot 3. Gun is always loaded.

Some interesting statistics given by the instructor on one shot stop with various handguns:

22                    3%

25                    24%

32                    60%

38 special        63%

350                  70%

9mm                83%

45                    90-95%

I ended up with a nice bruise on my right shoulder from the shotgun and even hit the target a few times.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Operation North Wind in World War II

I always thought the Battle of the Bulge was the last major offensive by the Germans on the western front in World War II. In writing the biography of my friend, Ed, a World War II infantryman during Operation North Wind, I learned something new.

For Operation North Wind (Unternehmen Nordwind), Hitler gave orders to destroy the American forces in the Vosges Mountains.

As the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge stalled, Hitler went back to one of the rejected earlier plans. The fighting in the north had pulled Patton’s army to the Ardennes, so the new attempt at attacking the allies occurred in the Alsace region on December 31, 1944, one hour before midnight.

With the movement of Patton’s troops to fight in the Battle of the Bulge to the north, the lines of the Seventh Army were spread thin.

For the second time within the month of December, allied command was surprised by a ferocious German attack, this time on New Year’s Eve. Earlier, the British had been able to intercept and break the code of radio communications from the Germans. This worked very well when the Germans were in French territory. But after the German forces withdrew into Germany, they relied on wire communications rather than wireless that could be intercepted.  The allies had lost surveillance of a number of German units but did pick up hints of a buildup opposite the American Seventh Army. Other evidence included increased refugee movement toward the west and a break in German radio silence on New Year’s Eve.

Dissent also existed within allied command. With some of the initial signs of a buildup of enemy troops, Eisenhower had given orders to General Devers of the Sixth Army Group to retreat if attacked. He wanted to avoid another situation as in the Battle of the Bulge where the Germans had surrounded allied troops in Bastogne. The Sixth Army Group consisted of the US Seventh Army under General Patch and the French First Army under General Lattre de Tassigny. Patch had the unenviable position of defending a front of over 125 miles with six infantry divisions. Within the Seventh Army, General Haislip’s XV Corps made up of the 44th, 100th and 103rd Divisions had thirty-five miles along the Vosges to defend.

De Gaulle became aware of Eisenhower’s direction to Devers to be prepared to fall back and strenuously objected, since he did not want to give up Strasbourg, which had been recaptured by the Allies. Strasbourg lay on the French side of the border, but had been a contested city for years between France and Germany. De Gaulle knew that if the Germans retook the city, numerous French citizens would be slaughtered for defying the Nazis. Strasbourg remained second only to Paris as a symbol of the rebirth of France after German domination. De Gaulle threatened to pull the French troops out of the alliance if Strasbourg were not defended. This led to a meeting between Churchill, Eisenhower and De Gaulle. Churchill sided with De Gaulle that Strasbourg should not be given up. A repercussion was that de Gaulle lost his trust in American command, which played out years later in his independent attitude, refusal to join NATO and hostility toward the United States.

The initial advances made by the Germans early in January, 1945, in Operation North Wind were stopped, and from then on, the Allies made the advances.