Friday, August 31, 2018

Guest Blogger: John C. Bruening. One Man's Roadmap

Happy Friday to all of you, and welcome to the first of what I hope will be many guest blogger posts. Over the years I have met a number of talented writers, and I’m fortunate enough to call them all friends. We writers are a unique bunch who have chosen this crazy profession because we are passionate about telling stories and entertaining through our words. 

One such writer who is passionate about storytelling is John C. Bruening, the author of Midnight Guardian: Hour of Darkness, a New Pulp adventure book set in 1936 in Union City. John's descriptive settings, and on-point dialogue has set the standard for which all New Pulp stories should be told. I believe that anyone craving a high-adventure story should treat themselves to Midnight Guardian: Hour of Darkness, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. 

I was thrilled when John agreed to be my first guest blogger, and I gave him free-range to talk about his writing procedure and give some insight to his creative process.
So, without further ado, I present John C. Bruening. 

One Man’s Roadmap
By John C. Bruening

First of all, thanks to Chuck Millhouse for inviting me to step in and contribute to his Stormgate Press blog. If you haven’t read any of the books in Chuck’s Captain Hawklin series yet, you really should check out at least one. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Okay, having done that, you might wonder how Chuck does it – or how any other writer goes from a blank page to a complete novel. I can’t speak for Chuck’s process, and to the best of my knowledge, there is no “best way.” There are as many ways to craft a story as there are writers, and as long as the job gets done and the end product is engaging and entertaining, who’s to say what’s right or wrong?
Some writers prefer to start typing with just a fragment of an idea and see where it takes them. For these folks, building characters – and building a story around those characters – is a very organic, exploratory exercise. There’s something to be said for this approach. From beginning to end, it keeps things fresh and surprising, and the writer is continuously open to the kind of unexpected twists and turns that can make a story interesting.

I am not that writer.

Don’t get me wrong. As a writer and a reader, I like well-developed characters in a story with unexpected turns and surprises. But I’ve never been the kind of guy who’s comfortable just winging it. My great fear is that I’ll burn up precious time following paths that could potentially go nowhere. Before I even get started, I need a fairly clear sense of where it’s all going. I need a map. I need a plan.

For me, that fragment I mentioned a minute ago is the beginning of a more structured process with a couple middle steps. The fragment is the seed of an outline – a series of separate and distinct paragraphs, each one describing dialogue, action, interaction and other plot developments. Generally speaking, each of these paragraphs becomes the blueprint for each chapter of the story.

For long-form fiction, I tend to follow the classic three-act structure. Entire books have been written about this, and there are plenty of places online where you can find a good explanation of what it is and how it works. The three-act structure actually goes back thousands of years, and it has become a widely accepted guide to tell the writer what needs to happen at certain points along the way to create the tension and resolution that make a good story.

Again, I’m not suggesting this is the only way to build a story. There are others. But the three-act structure is an approach that has worked for some of the greatest storytellers, novelists, playwrights and screenwriters in history. I’m not about to question their methods or their success.

So once I have twenty or thirty (or more) paragraphs in an outline that takes the story from “Once Upon a Time…” to “The End,” I’ll start expanding on the paragraphs. This is where characters start talking and doing stuff. This is where decisions and actions and reactions and consequences start to push the story along to The End. I might take a couple brief detours along the way – because some of the coolest stuff can happen on the detour – but I can save a lot of time and avoid frustration if I keep at least one eye on my destination.

When I get to The End, I have a first draft. It’s usually a mess, with plot holes and continuity problems and a guy named Bill on page 43 whose name mysteriously changes to Steve on page 127. But it’s a first draft, and most writers agree that the first draft is the hardest part of the process.  

At this writing, I’m finishing the first draft of the second book in my Midnight Guardian series. It already looks a lot different from the outline I started with a few months ago. And I can already tell you that things will change even more by the time the final draft is completed and the book is published. But that evolution has been manageable because the map I drew at the start of the journey helped me get where I wanted to go.

This is what works for me – or at least this is what has worked for me so far. But I’ll make this point one last time because it’s so important: the process I’ve described above is just one man’s approach. I’m the last person to suggest a right way or a wrong way. For those writers who prefer to wing it, more power to you. I admire your courage to take that kind of leap.
At the end of the day, if you have a good story, it doesn’t matter how you tell it. What matters is that the story gets told.

John C. Bruening is a fellow Ohioian and resident of Cleveland. He has been a professional writer since the 1980's working in Journalism, editing, publishing, marketing, advertising and corporate communications.
John's works can be found on his Amazon Author page and through the Flinch Books Facebook page

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Branding Yourself as an Author

Over the past month I have been working hard to “Brand” myself as an author, more than I have in the last several years. I’ve worked hard honing my writing skills, but putting myself out there as an author, selling myself and my books is a different story.

So, I’ve been communicating with other independent publishers and making my presence known. It’s not an easy thing to do. For an independent writer/publisher to make an impact with today’s readers is like pulling a tooth out of a shark. You constantly have to be promoting, which takes away from your writing time. I’ve made a promise that when I’m writing on a new project I keep clear or promoting. There has to be a time and a place.

But IF you want the reader to become aware of you, you have to get in their faces (nicely) and remind them of the little guy trying to entertain through his art. The fact is, there are so many good independent writers out there its hard make people aware of you. One way to do that is to set up at book expos, or conventions that focus on the genre you write and sell your books. I’ve started to book shows, if you’ll notice on the sidebar of this webpage I’m listing my appearances, and I hope to grow the list over the next couple of months.

Another way to build a following (or awareness) is to share the exposure with other writers. In order to do that, you ask a writer to become a guest blogger on your website, with hopes he or she will bring over some of his fanbase and they will discover you from the other writer’s appearance. In turn that guest writer will be exposed to your followers with hopes of increasing their exposure. The community of independent writers are good at helping each other out - we aren’t against one another, we are thrilled to help each other and share in the wealth and are excited when one of our fellow writers succeed.

On Friday, August 31st, this website will host the first, of what I hope will be many, guest bloggers. This will give a chance for authors to grow their awareness and in turn bring new eyes to my website and my books. It’s all part of building my brand, and getting myself out there among potential readers. I hope you’ll join us.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Independent for Twenty Years

About this time twenty years ago I was nearing the end of writing my first book, Keepers of the Past: The Dark Frontier Saga Book I. I KNEW nothing about publishing then, I mean nothing. But come to think of it, I didn't know a hell of a lot about writing either. Or editing, or marketing or anything that came along with being a self-published writer. It took me A LOT of years to figure it out.

I became an "Independent Writer" in the day when not many people were doing it. There are many reasons for that. Back in the day you needed to drop some hefty cash to publish a book, and I wasn't rich, (I'm still not) and everything I did in those first few years of publishing was tough. I thought about throwing in the towel and just writing fan fiction. But I wanted to be more than that. I kept writing, I kept learning the craft, I kept teaching myself.

Have I had missteps along the way? I sure as hell have. It took me a long while to figure things out (I never do anything fast). Editing was an issue... sure some of my early stuff is questionable, and I went back and did some new edits and I'm very proud of what I've done. I'm super proud of what I publish now, and even more so since I figured out my writing style.

My first book, is no longer in print, I cringe when I look at it. The story deserved more, (I am planning on a complete rewrite of the book one day soon)

I'm a sage in the world of independent publishing, the old guy who's been around for a long time. If it wasn't for the onslaught of Print on Demand, I don't know where I'd be. Maybe working freelance for someone, maybe signed with an agent, or publisher, who knows. I keep trying and keep sending things out, but at this point I'm still happily an Independent and I plan on staying that way. If I even get picked up my a publisher, I'd self publish.

Peddling my stories is something I love to do, I get excited if one person likes what I've written. BUT like all things in my writing career I've taken things slow. Maybe because I was frightened people would take me serious, or I wouldn't be excepted or I thought my stuff wasn't good enough. There are many many reasons. But I've played it safe for far to long. I've done as much as I can promoting on the internet, and I need to get out there and meet potential readers, and build a bigger audience. I need to expand.

So I'm happy to announce that I will be out and about next year (And some in 2018) setting up and meeting readers who love books and letting people know I have something to offer. It's time to push forward and center myself on my craft and the joy of reading.

I hope to see you out there.

Order Charles' Books from Amazon