Monday, December 17, 2012

Is Procrastination Your Problem?

Here's how to beat it.

Tools required:


1 Kitchen timer
1 Planner

Why procrastination?


I want to start you off where I started. With putting things off.

I had the problem in the beginning of college. I really put things off. I started drawings at three in the morning before they were due. I woke up at six before class and finished them--barely. I dreaded studio. I skipped class. I missed deadlines and had to beg my instructor to give me extensions, citing "bad breakups" and relationship problems as my excuse. I felt like a failure.

A straight-A student in high school, I was now getting C's. And it was a downward spiral. The worse I did, the worse I felt, the less I tried, and the more I put off.

I went to see a counselor, who recommended a book called, The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore. I won't be cliche and say this book changed my life. I will say it started a spark that has turned into an inferno. At the suggestion of this book, I changed one little habit, and it showed me that I could change any habit.

I'm not trying to advertise the book, so I will give you the secret--don't worry, it's not so much of a secret that I'm risking copyright violation by telling you.

The Secret to Beating Procrastination

Schedule the fun


Schedule the things you do for fun, not the work. Don't put "file taxes" or "finish term paper" in your planner. Instead, write in "hang out with friends," "go to the beach," or "read a book." Write in everything you want to do. Be good to yourself. Procrastination comes from feeling like work is eating away at our lives. Never let work eat away at your life. So schedule the fun part of your life, not the dreaded part.

Here's what will happen.

After you schedule in the fun, you will realize just how much of your day is taken up by the good stuff. And you'll be like, "oh, crap, if I want to go to the beach with my boyfriend on Thursday, read a book on Wednesday, visit my little sister tomorrow, and take two hours just to write in my journal tonight, then I don't have time tonight, tomorrow, Wednesday, or Thursday to write my term paper."

"Hmm. We'll I'm not doing anything right now..."

Okay, so maybe it's not that easy. But it's almost that easy. Once you guarantee that you're getting all the time you want for yourself, your relaxation, your friends and loved ones, your health, and your well being, you'll "hate" your work a lot less because it won't be competing with these things. In fact, you might even start to think it's fun. But there's still one more step.

Limit the work


"What? This is crazy! It's counter-intuitive! You're telling me I'll get more work done by scheduling fun things and limiting work?" Yep. I am.

But it has to be done intelligently. Procrastination is the fear of starting, wouldn't you agree? In order to completely obliterate that fear, we have to make starting really easy.

Here's what you're probably thinking: "As soon as I sit down at that desk, eight to twelve hours will be forcibly ripped from the fabric of my life, taking with it whole chunks of my soul. I will not enjoy a millisecond of it. In fact, those eight to twelve hours--possibly more--will be exactly equal to a hundred billion years in purgatory. Hell, I'd rather do the time in purgatory."

Am I right?

No wonder you're putting off siting at that desk. So here's what you do. Get out that kitchen timer and set it for fifteen minutes. Fifteen. That's all you have. Wow, you might not even be able to turn on the computer and open the word document in that much time. Or how about those taxes? It'll take thirty minutes just to track down all those envelopes and loose forms.

See what's happening? Now you're aware of all the hurdles. All that time, you had been trying to start your taxes, when in reality, you should have been just trying to track down the forms. When you have such a short time, you start thinking about things in smaller chunks. There's an old saying: how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time, baby!

So you do whatever you can in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes! That's shorter than your average shower. You can definitely do fifteen minutes. But--as soon as that timer goes off, you stop. STOP! Do not write another word. Put the pencil down and step away from the desk.

Now go reward yourself. Watch a TV show or eat a candy bar. Or jog if that's your thing. Call up a friend. Pat yourself on the back. You've just started.

Be really good to yourself in the beginning. You'll work up to thirty minutes on the timer, less rewards, and eventually you might stop using the timer altogether. I still use my kitchen timer, although I just enter in the amount of time I've allotted to work. Like right now, I have twelve minutes left (out of two hours) to finish this blog post.

Another great thing to do is keep track of all the time chunks you've worked. Make a chart, and give yourself rewards when you reach thirty minutes, or two hours. You'll start wanting to put in the next fifteen minutes, rather than dreading putting in the full ten hours.

That's how you beat procrastination. Take back what it's been stealing from you, then cut it into little pieces.

Thanks for reading,
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Tour of Tularosa

For those who've read Entanglement, I thought it might be fun to share a little more of Aaron's world. Today, I want to give you a tour of Tularosa, the fictional Southern California city in which Entanglement takes place.

Is Tularosa a Real City?


Sort of. Tularosa is basically Santa Barbara, my hometown, but I wanted to change a few things so I went with a different name. "Tularosa" is actually the name of a light salmon color according to the Ace Hardware paint department:D

I've always wished I could visit the fictional worlds in books, actually see the places. That's the frustration of reading, isn't it? The magic is only in your mind. So...I can't show you digital photos of Aaron's Tularosa, but I can show you the real place that was my inspiration. Below are a few of the actual locations I pictured when I wrote Entanglement. How do they match up with what you pictured?

1. Arroyo Beach - where Corona Blanca High School has their bonfire after the volleyball game in the first chapter. This is where Aaron first meets Amber, races Clive out to the buoy, and sees the vial sink to the bottom. This is also the same beach where Aaron and Buff ditch class to meet Tina and Amber later in the book, and where (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Aaron later dives to recover the vial. (END OF SPOILER ALERT) I know, helpful right;)

Arroyo Beach--or Hendry's beach--is where my friends and I used to hang out and throw frisbee our senior year.

2. Outside the Pelican nightclub, where Clive and Dominic push Aaron's car off the pier. In Santa Barbara, there isn't actually a nightclub out on the pier, but it should be right about where the blue shop is. Right now, you can get fish and chips there.

3. Mission Ridge - that hill of expensive looking houses with ocean and city views. That's where Amber lives.

I had the chance to see inside a few homes like these while interning with an architecture firm. The views are unreal.

4. The Arlington Theater - where Aaron and Amber go to see a modern remake of All Quiet on the Western Front. In Entanglement, there hasn't been a major war since World War I (because of the discovery of halves in 1935), so it's still called the Great War. Because of this, the war holds a more prominent place in history.

I hope you enjoyed the tour! If you haven't yet read Entanglement, you can glimpse a few of these spots in the first three chapters:)

Thanks for reading!
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Behind Entanglement: The Premise

Just wanted to let everyone know I've guest posted today on fellow blogger and book reviewer Dianne's blog, Oops! I Read A Book Again. I talk about how I came up with the idea of Entanglement and a bit about the research that went into writing the novel. Dianne has been a huge supporter during the first few weeks the book has been out, so make sure to give her lots of support by trafficking her blog. Read the post here. Enjoy!

Until next time,
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why Every Writer Should Major in Architecture

“How long did that take you…fifteen minutes?”
“Your drawings hurt my eyes.”
“If I was in your building, I would want to kill myself.”
“To be honest, I hate your project.”

These are comments we architecture students routinely heard during the bi-monthly critiques at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design—and we were an easy school. For the first three minutes, you sold your design to a panel of six judges. For the next twenty-seven, they attacked it.

I didn't know anybody in college who worked as hard as the architects. We measured the time since we last slept in days, not hours. Without exception, everybody in our studio pulled an all-nighter before the crit—and for many, this was their second in a row. Or their third.

During crits, I remember people breaking out in tears, to which the judges would just raise their voices and claim they’d never make it as architects. Occasionally, you’d get a good review. Not praise, never praise, just distracted conversation amongst the judges until the thirty minutes were up. But a good critique was poisonous. A good critique could do serious damage…because of what would happen the next time.

A good critique got to your head, and you’d start feeling cocky. You’d act cocky, and the second you walked up there two weeks later, you’d look cocky. They could smell it. And they’d be on you like hyenas.

So we learned a few things. Keep your damn mouths shut. Just smile and nod. If you had to speak, thank them for their advice but say nothing else. And we learned the inevitable: no matter how good your project was, they would always find something to criticize.

During my first three years, I thought it was because they were big meanies and they wanted to hurt my feelings. But during that last year, I learned the truth. They would always find something to criticize because there always was something to criticize. In other words, no matter how perfect I believed my novel—I mean architecture project—was, there was something about it that sucked. Or at least, something that could be improved.

When I realized that, I started listening to my instructors. I took the critiques to heart. I started going back and making “perfect” projects even better. It was like I had crossed the sound barrier. Suddenly, with no ego to get in my way, there was no limit to how good I could make something given enough feedback and enough iterations. Let me show you how it works with some simple math.

Some Simple Math


Quality builds on itself, wouldn't you agree? It’s easier to edit something that’s already written than it is to write something from scratch. Revision is cumulative. It works like interest. Let’s say each time you edit, you make your project 20 percent better. Now let’s say you do ten revisions total. You’re final product is 200% better than the original, right? 20% x 10 = 200%. Wrong.

The law of Accelerating Returns


It works on technology, it works on finance (compound interest), it works on architecture. And it works on your book. After ten revisions, your work is over 600% better. Try it yourself on a calculator. Enter 1 x 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.2…etc. Each time you revise, you’re taking all your prior work and investing it in the next revision. It’s just like investing money. You wouldn't give your retirement fund one year to grow and then take it out and say, “that’s long enough,” would you?

Now, I know it’s weird to talk about writing in terms of percentages, but the same concept applies. It must.

So here’s my challenge:


When you’ve gotten your project—whether it’s a paranormal thriller or an addition to the Guggenheim—as good as you can make it, go back and revise it again. Huge leaps will come only after you push past the limitations of “perfection”. From this point forward, you will amaze yourself with your improvements.

Perfection is not a destination. It is a process.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Structure of a Scene

"Structure?" you say. "Never heard of it. I start my scenes where I feel like it, make whatever I feel like happen, and end them when I feel like it. I mean, that's what all author's do, right?"

Not the published ones.

There's one basic structure that every writer needs to know--and master. Thankfully it's pretty simple. Here it is:
  1. Goal (stated or implied)
  2. Action (usually taken by the hero)
  3. Opposition (hero encounters resistance)
  4. Disaster (the cliffhanger)
All these things, and as little else as possible, need to happen for a scene to be a scene. For your book to read like a novel. Essentially, your hero decides to do something, takes action, encounters resistance, and fails. Or succeeds--only to uncover a deeper, more unsettling problem at the end of the scene. Think of murder mysteries where the detective finally gets the witness to talk, only to realize the criminal is, in fact, way more insane and twisted than he could have imagined.

Let's examine this four part structure in a scene:

“In the woods, you say?” said the deputy.
“I can show you where,” said Aaron.
“A body?”
“Justin Gorski’s, there’s a hole drilled through his head. They’re going to hurt Amber next,” said Aaron, fearing what they might have already done to her.

Although Aaron hasn't stated outright that he wants the deputy to investigate the body, it's pretty obvious that he does. Or at least he needs his help. We've established Aaron's goal, the first part of the scene. See Laura's post, Character Goals: Why they are Essential to any Good Book for why and how to give your hero goals. In our scene, Aaron has also taken action. He's in a police station asking for help, so we've also nailed the second part of a scene.

The deputy scrunched up his eyebrows. “How old are you again?”
“I’m eighteen.”
“Are you jealous or something? Where’s your half?”
“There's a body,” Aaron repeated slowly. “Casler murdered Justin Gorski, and he’s going to hurt Amber next.”
The police officer regarded him for a moment then rubbed his sleep-deprived eyes. “You're going to have to give me more than that,” he said. “Our community values the contributions of Dr. Selavio. I can’t start a criminal investigation based off a crack-pot story from a jealous seventeen-year old.”
“Eighteen,” said Aaron.

So we know Aaron's goal, and he's taken action toward achieving it. Now we have the opposition: the officer resists helping him. The third part of a scene. This part can go back and forth, with your hero trying and retrying, only to be met with more and more difficult resistance. Sometimes, the resistance can turn violent. You know the drill.

“Maybe you should spend some time with your half,” said the deputy, and his eyes flicked to the picture frame on his desk.
Aaron followed his gaze to a photo of the deputy’s half and their kids. A normal family. Except something in the picture was off.
Aaron glanced at the other photos behind the deputy, also of the same woman, then back to the one on his desk—and he felt a chill.
In each photograph, the deputy’s half had the same blank look, like there wasn’t anything behind her eyes.
The officer saw where he was looking and twisted the picture away from him. He stood. “Let me show you out, Mr. Harper.” 

Notice what happens here. Not only does Aaron fail to enlist the deputy's help, but he also realizes that there's something much more sinister going on. I'll let you read the book to find out what:) This is the disaster, the cliffhanger, the fourth, and most important, part of your scene. The part that makes your readers turn the page.


What next?


Your hero has an emotional reaction, reflects on things, and comes up with another goal. And the cycle repeats. I told you it was simple:)

For an in-depth study of scene structure, read Scene and Structure, by Jack Bickham. In my opinion, he is the absolute authority on the subject. 

Also make sure you check out my YA thriller, Entanglement, to see how this scene plays out.

Thanks for reading!
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Author's Secret to Snappy Dialogue in Action


As promised, today we're gong to apply the three step method to improve some bad dialogue. If you haven’t already, check out An Author’s Secret to Snappy Dialogue, the prelude to this post where I introduce the method.

But first a disclaimer: what follows does not represent my actual thought process in revising any portion of Entanglement, rather it is a simplification intended to illustrate a strategy's possible effectiveness. I want to stress that it is merely a tool, and like all writing tools, should never be your sole consideration in any writing decision. Also, the explanations may be overly complicated, and you may disagree with my reasoning or the method itself--so I invite any criticism, comments, or questions you may have to what follows!

Okay, let's get started. Here's the bad dialogue:


“Tell me the truth. Are you his half?” said Aaron.
“I don’t know,” said Amber. “I won’t know who my half is for another week.”
“Don’t you think it’s weird that he thinks you’re his half?”
“He doesn’t think he’s my half.”

The problems:


Aaron and Amber are stating their thoughts directly, which people rarely do, and then are not addressing each other’s implied meanings. Let’s use our method to make this better. Let's start with the first line.

“Tell me the truth,” he said. “Are you his half?”

This line implies an accusation, so in reality, Amber would be disinclined to give him a straight answer. Instead, she might try to be cryptic. The literal response, “I’m too young…” turns into, “I’m seventeen,” a simple statement that implies the same thing. Okay, let’s take a look at the next line:

“Don’t you think it’s weird that he thinks you’re his half?”

Let’s make this line more indirect. One way to do this is to state evidence rather than conclusions. So this line becomes, “Why is he making a collage of your face on his wall?” This also implies that there’s something weird about it. On to next line:

“He doesn’t think he’s my half.”

Since we changed the previous line, this line is now a response to Aaron’s implied meaning rather than his direct meaning, so it’s already better. But we can still work backwards on this one and make Amber’s line indirect as well. Now she’ll say, “he’s a family friend.” This implies that he’s not her half, but it also completely ignores Aaron’s implication that there was something weird about the relationship—and the collage. Instead, it’s as if she responded to Aaron saying, “why is he so close to you?” Remember, characters make their own interpretations of other people’s meanings, and if they don’t want to address something, they won’t. But rather than say, “I don’t want to talk about it,” Amber sidesteps the question by addressing only one of the concerns Aaron implied, but not both. You can play tricks like this because ignoring someone’s implied meaning is believable while ignoring a direct meaning is less so. Let’s add a few more lines to this and some body language and see the final result:

“Tell me the truth,” he said, “are you his half?”
“I’m seventeen,” she said.
It wasn’t even an answer. “Why is he making a collage of your face on his wall?”
“He’s a family friend,” she said.
“Who happens to be obsessed with you?”
Amber smoothed her fingers slowly through her hair then let it swish back, fanning Aaron with the smell of her vanilla shampoo. “Isn’t that what boys do?” she said.
“The sick ones.”
“Maybe I take cute pictures,” she said.

In the final product, Aaron and Amber appear to be snapping out retorts. A lot of the meaning of the conversation is implied, rather than directly stated, giving us the sense that there's a lot more going on underneath the words--which there always is.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, help me out by sharing this post with a friend using the button below. And don't forget to check out Entanglement to see the actual snippet of conversation and many more like it.  Or you can start reading it for free here!

Dan Rix, author of Entanglement


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Author's Secret to Snappy Dialogue

Another installment of Writers Wednesdays.

Let’s start with three truths:


  1. When real people talk, they almost always imply things rather than just state them outright.

    When you said: “Careful, there’s a cop up there.”
    You actually meant: “Slow down, you’re going too fast.”
  2. When real people respond, they rarely respond to the literal meaning of your words. They respond to what they think you meant.

    When the boy says: “What time is it?”
    The girl says: “Quit worrying. We’ll be on time.”

    She doesn’t say, “It’s four o’clock.” Instead the girl responds to what she assumes the boy means, which is, “I’m really worried about being late.” Notice that one line of dialogue will have different answers in different situations. Here’s another answer to the same question.

    “What time is it?”
    “I’m sure they’re fine. They’ll be home any minute.”
  3. People interpret those implied meanings based on what THEY’RE thinking about—or worried about—which is usually only loosely connected to what the other person just said. Here’s another example.

    “Let me show you how to do it.”
    “Buzz off. I’m not stupid.”

What this means for the writer


Ever heard of that saying, “93 percent of communication is nonverbal?” The truth is, people are seeing body language, hearing tone of voice, and interpreting based off past events—then sending out their own equally complex messages. As a writer, though, you only get to use the words—the leftover seven percent. And therein lies the problem. If you write as if your characters are just using words, readers will feel like your dialogue is only 7% of real dialogue, or superficial. Seems insurmountable, doesn’t it?


The Solution


Write dialogue as if the rest of that nonverbal communication is there. It’s easier than it sounds. Here’s the three step method I use:

  1. For every piece of dialogue in your book, ask yourself, what could this be implying? There will be many answers. The more askew they are from the original line, the better (within limits, of course). Choose one.
  2. Have the next character respond to the implied meaning, not the actual statement. Think back to our “what time is it?” example.
  3. Better yet, make that response you were just about to write down the implied meaning, and work backwards to an indirect statement.
On Monday, I'll walk you guys through an example of dialogue between Aaron and Amber and show you how I got to the final result using this method. So stay tuned! Make sure you subscribe to the blog so you don't miss that post (you'll see the "follow by email" widget on the right sidebar, along with a few other options).

11-26-12: The post is up! Check out An Author's Secret to Snappy Dialogue in Action.

Thanks for reading!
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

P.S. If you haven't already, take a look at the first three chapters of Entanglement

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spooky Action at a Distance (Quantum Entanglement)


So what is this thing called quantum entanglement? Since it’s the premise of my YA thriller, Entanglement, I figure it’s time to shed some light on this eerie phenomenon. In Entanglement, every human is born with a soul mate—their half, as it’s called in the book.

Picture this: 


The moment you’re born, halfway around the world someone else is born at the exact same time. You and this person share a subtle telepathic connection that appears to travel faster than light. If one of you dies, the other feels it instantly…and follows shortly. The two of you are soul mates. An entangled pair.

As it turns out, this is not far from the truth. In reality, subatomic particles can—and do—become entangled all the time. Theoretically, humans could too. Entanglement was discovered around 1935, to which Erwin Schrodinger commented, “I would not call [it] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics.” Albert Einstein didn’t believe it and called it “spooky action at a distance.”

Here’s how it works


We’ll start by shining a laser at a crystal, so it splits into two different beams. It might look something like this:


Now let’s go down to the subatomic level. Imagine a single photon hitting the crystal and splitting into two different photons. Just like the light. Now imagine one of these photons came out spinning like a top. Because of conservation of angular momentum, the other photon would have to be spinning in the opposite direction. Make sense? Their total angular momentum must add up to zero.

Now let’s let these photons travel a few billion miles away from each other, and let’s take another look at them. They’re still spinning in the exact opposite directions, because nothing has interfered with them.
But now we have a problem. Photons are so small that the laws of physics get kind of hazy at their scale, and it’s really more accurate to say they’re spinning in all directions at once. They haven’t really decided yet which direction they’re spinning, just that they’re opposite. Each one is like a coin that is still flipping in the air. It’s both heads and tails at the same time. But that’s no good.

So we reach in and stop the photon from spinning. It’s like we’re slapping the coin against our palm to freeze it in heads or tails (I’m using heads and tails now to describe spinning one direction versus the other). But this is where it gets really sticky.

Remember that other photon? How it had the opposite spin? Well it still does. A second ago, both photons were spinning in all directions at once. But now that we’ve stopped one photon at tails, the other one—even though it’s a billion miles away—instantaneously takes on heads.

Somehow, the one photon communicated its “collapsed” state to its other half faster than light, across any distance, and through whatever obstacles, thus violating relativity. It’s as if they were connected at a more fundamental level, through a hole in space, perhaps, or via another dimension. That's where the term entangled comes from.

No one yet has come up with a good explanation.

Creepy, huh?

If you want to see it in humans, check out Entanglement on Amazon, or read the first 3 chapters for free. And if you enjoyed reading this, hover your mouse over the “share” button below, and you’ll see a few options for sharing this blog post with friends. Share it with a few friends and help me get the word out!

Thanks for reading!
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Premise

Let’s start off Writers Wednesdays with the big one. Premise. The word has lots of definitions, but mine is essentially this: the core idea of your story.

When revising, some writers choose to wordsmith, others add and delete scenes, and the brave ones go to work on their characters. Admirable, I agree. But something is being overlooked here.

Premise.


I think it’s time to go to work on that big idea. The truth is most people treat their book idea like a quarter from the tooth fairy. They don’t know how it got there, and even though it won’t buy a stick of gum they’re out there bragging about it, getting it framed, and showing it off to all their friends. This is the first mistake. Don’t settle for the tooth fairy’s lousy pittance and spend the rest of your writing career defending an unsalable idea.

The myth: “It just came to me.”

The truth: “You came up with it.”


And you can come up with a better one. Let’s take charge and make ideas, rather than taking whatever quarter’s tossed at us. But how? Creativity can’t be forced, you say. You’d be surprised. But before we get to how, though, let’s look at what. Here’s a few good premises:

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling: A school of witchcraft and wizardry, boarding school style.

Gone, by Michael Grant: In an instant, everyone over age fourteen vanishes.

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher: A girl who committed suicide has left behind a series of tapes blaming thirteen people.

You’ll notice something in common. A premise often fits nicely into the space of a single sentence. But I missed stuff, right? Harry Potter is also about good and evil, magic, and coming of age. Yeah, but those aren’t unique ideas. Hogwarts is unique, and that’s what sold the book. Likewise, suicide is a bland premise. Jay Asher added spice.

A premise is what’s different about your idea. Books are full of ideas, but there should be one main idea in your book that has never been done before, or at least never been done quite like yours.

Here’s how.


  1. Gut-wrench factor. What twists your insides into a knot? What events stick in your mind long after they’re over? Identify a story or event in your life that gave you that hollow, unsolved feeling. Something you had to stay up at night thinking about. Distill that down to its essence, and ask yourself, what about this makes it hard to swallow? Then put that in your book.
  2. Simplicity. If it takes over thirty seconds to describe it, it’s too long. Slim it down. Just keep the bare essentials. If, after you’ve whittled it down to a sentence or two, you find there’s nothing of substance left, then you’re writing the wrong book. Start from scratch and come up with a brand new idea. It’s like losing your last baby tooth. You’ll feel liberated.
  3. Instant Appeal. When you describe your premise in a sentence, people should go “ooh, I want to read that.” Practice the art of mixing. Take our Horry Potter example—boarding school + Magic = 400,000,000 copies sold.
  4. Try. If you will take some time and try to think of something good, you will. The moment we assume creativity is out of our control, our brain assumes it’s off the hook.

So before you write another word of your book, I urge you to reexamine your premise. Is it strong enough? Will it create “buzz” in the publishing industry, have editors using words like ‘high-concept’ and ‘big book?’ Will it get you a $2,000,000 advance?

If your premise lacks strength, no amount of character development, plot twists, and writing skill will make up for it. If, on the other hand, your premise is a bombshell, you might find editors, agents, and readers sweeping all your other shortcomings under the rug.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this, share this post with your friends by clicking the "share" button below.

Dan Rix, author of Entanglement

Come on, all you have to do is hover your mouse over this button! You know you want to...

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Revision: Aaron and Amber's First Conversation


So how did our star crossed lovers Aaron Harper and Amber Lilian meet in Entanglement? The answer is nine different ways--depending on which draft you read. Believe me, there were plenty of embarrassing attempts at flirting before our stars got cool (many of them so pathetic they simply couldn't be reproduced here).

Below is the evolution of the opening 100 words of Aaron and Amber's first contact through nine rough drafts.

Draft 1 – At a party


“Hey there pirate.” A girl was standing next to him.

Aaron set his drink down and turned to see Amber, who was pouring cherry juice into a cup. She was looking at the puffy frills around his neck and wrists with a teasing smile. “Nice shirt.”

Aaron’s heart gave an extra loud thump, like it was trying to jump out of his throat. He picked up his drink again, and didn’t know what to do with it, so he raised it in her direction like some kind of toast. “Hey,” he said, tossing his head back and taking another sip of his wine.

Draft 5 -  At a party after a fight (Aaron had given Amber a fake name)


“Robert?!” Amber had been walking behind Aaron, and she stopped. “Hey, where did you go?” She looked curious.

“Um—” Aaron’s phone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out. Buff was calling him. He silenced the call.

“People are talking about you,” Amber said. “Jason thinks you go to Laguna Blanca, but he doesn’t know you.” She looked at him quizzically. “But Tina said you go to Santa Barbara and that you snuck in.”

So Aaron had been ratted out.

“Then it’s probably a bad idea to be seen with me, right?” Aaron glanced frantically behind him. He couldn’t get rid of the feeling that everyone was looking at him now.

Draft 7 – At a party, Aaron waking up after getting knocked out


Aaron started climbing to his feet, the tips of his fingers itching for Clive’s throat, but he felt a hand on his knee.

“He isn’t worth it—trust me,” said the girl, and she held out a big glass of water. “Are you thirsty?”

Aaron looked closely at her for the first time, and her bright green eyes caught him by surprise, as if they were lit from behind. He shook his head, and she set the cup down.

“By the way, I’m Amber Lilian,” she said, as if that settled things. Aaron noticed her nostalgic smell, like she had just been to the beach. Sunscreen mixed with Vanilla.

Draft  9 – At a bonfire after a volleyball game


Amber Lilian was way more than just pretty, he realized, when she finally glanced up at the sound of his approach, the gleaming whites of her eyes warning him not to take another step. Caught in the girl’s predatory stare, Aaron felt his pulse quicken as he covered the last few feet.

“I need to talk to you about your boyfriend,” he said, sitting next to her.

She eyed the narrow gap he’d left between them and, without a word, edged away from him.

He tried again. “You know, that guy in the hoodie—”

“Why are you even here?” she said, interrupting him. “You guys lost.”

Writing is revision

The truth is I couldn't have written the final draft unless I had gone through each of the earlier drafts. There are no shortcuts. For the writers here: revise lots. Small improvements multiply over time. You'll get to the good stuff, but you have to wade through the garbage first.

Living is revision


And this is for everyone else: revise lots. Small improvements multiply over time. Cut out a bad habit. Start a good one. Go right now and set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier. Spend the extra fifteen minutes reading, jogging, or doing a hobby you've neglected.

The difference between a flop and a bestseller might be one more round of revision. Don't let the difference between your life and the one you want be one more round of revision.

Thanks for reading!
Dan Rix, author of Entanglement
danrix.entanglement@gmail.com

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this or you enjoyed Entanglement, invite a couple friends to join my blog via email or Facebook. It's easy! Just hover your mouse over the share button below, and select Gmail, Facebook, or any method you want.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Let me start by thanking you...

It's not easy to dedicate any amount of time to reading blogs. Let me be the first to say that even a second unaccounted for is rare these days, and that you're here at all is something of a miracle. I'm grateful. If I have a few of your seconds, my goal is to make them count. What is your goal?

First off, let me do away with pretenses. I'm writing this blog to promote my young adult thriller, ENTANGLEMENT. It's the single thing in my life (besides the people I love) that I am most proud of. And I want to share it with you.

I also want to add value to your life. Here's what's most valuable when you're reading: Something that causes you to change your life. I think you know what I'm talking about. Something you read that gives you a good laugh, makes you smarter, happier, wiser. Gives you a new perspective. Something that sets the course of your life in a new direction. That's valuable. Change is always better than stagnation. When was the last time you changed?

This brings us to an important point. Nothing anybody writes is valuable in and of itself. You make it valuable by doing something with it. Reflecting on it. Taking action. Using it to inform your next decision. Sharing it.

You make all of this valuable.

Here's some things you will find in my blog: 

  1. Writing tips. I am a writer by profession, and I love to talk about the stuff. Get me going on character flaws, scene structure, or the five different types of sentences (more on this later) and you'll have some trouble shutting me up!
  2. Personal development strategies. Writing is a tough job, and no matter how brilliant you are, you can't succeed as the same person you began as. You must grow. And growth hurts. But let me tell you this, you WILL succeed at anything you desire if you are willing to become the right kind of person. And you can become anybody you want. For everybody I know, including myself, it's the want and the willing that needs work, and on those fronts I hope I add some inspiration to your life.
  3. Everything about my books. If you like my books, then you've come to the right place to find out anything and everything about the worlds, characters, plot, and my struggle that exists. Sometimes a book isn't enough, and there's separation anxiety. I've been there.
I'll leave you with this tidbit. Quantum entanglement, the weird as hell phenomenon my book, ENTANGLEMENT, is based on, is real. Here's the Wikipedia article (the same article Aaron surfs outside Arroyo Beach Cafe in chapter eleven), and here's a Stanford University article. Entanglement has stumped a lot of the smartest people on Earth, including Albert Einstein, who called it "spooky action at a distance" and in his day dismissed it as ridiculous because it violated the theory of relativity.

In 2012, quantum entanglement was demonstrated over a distance of 143 kilometers. Here's an article about it.

Thanks for sitting through this,
Dan Rix, Author of Entanglement

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this, invite a couple of friends to join the blog. I would be grateful.