“Plots have I laid!”

Whew!  Finished the ‘script’ that I’ll be using with my Powerpoint slides in twelve days at my presentation on Creative Writing & Self-Publishing at Ohayocon.  I’ve much ground to cover, and – since I’ll be a little drunk – cannot allow myself to get side-tracked, so I’ll have a written script in-hand to keep me on the rails.  I’ll likely as not tweak it a little, but that’s one less thing to fret over.

Have to work a short shift tomorrow (ironically with the woman who’ll be starring in the music video I need to finish) so perhaps I can take all my hand-written direction notes for what I’m provisionally calling “Lightning Across Clearest Blue” and type them up and get them to the rest of the team.

What?  Work on ‘Cursed Hearts’?  Never heard of it.

Slide 1 (Title)

Good afternoon and thank you for coming! What it being Friday and a rather niche subject, I’m actually surprised we have as many as we do, but, it’s for the best, everyone here is because you’ve a keen interest in the subject!  [SMILE!]  So, let’s begin.


By way of introduction, I’m Clayton Barnett. I started writing and publishing just a little over three years ago, starting with visual novels. [pause and look]  Allow that to sink in for a moment:  for the first 46 and a half years of my life, I only wrote what my teachers and bosses told me to.  Suddenly, I’ve six commercial works, scripts for graphic novels and webcomics, two more traditional novels underway, the script for an hentai manga, and the direction notes for a live-action music video.  All this with a full-time day job, plus a wife, children… the whole catastrophe!  If a middle-aged ofay such as I can do this, Lord knows you can, too!


Slide 2 (Objectives)

What we will accomplish here is very simple: an overview of how to get your fantastic ideas out of your head and into others’.  I’ve given a variation of this talk to local schools, but I’ve re-ordered things – saving the best for last – because we’re otaku and thus just a little bit better than everyone else!  [It’s true!]


Slide 3 (Media Types – blank)

How are you going to reach someone else’s mind? I’m going to quickly lay out the main ways, and later drill down on print and ebooks.


Slide 4 (Media Types – traditional)

Going from simple to complex, we’ve traditional printed books, graphic novels and manga (adding the complexity of either you or one+ having the ability to draw), and videos and movies. The latter for me is a work-in-progress:  I’m the assistant director, as it were, of a joint venture between 3-AR and Star Art Works, Studios.  That project will likely end up involving a dozen people.  But!  It’s a challenge!  It’s something new!  I’ll come to that, later.  Promise!


Slide 5 (Media Types – all)

With the advent of modern electronics, we have these. Again, from simple to not so:  making an ebook out of what you’ve submitted as a physical book is little more than clicking on one button.  If you’ve a website – and for authors, I highly recommend WordPress – just upload your story, there.

While I am aware of webcomics – this is an example of WebToons; very popular, I’m told – I’ve not done it myself, so I cannot speak directly to it.

Lastly are visual novels, which require not only writing, but learning to code, having at least one illustrator, someone to do music and sound effects… challenging, but not impossible. Like an idiot, it was of course visual novels where I started!  [pause and gesture] Live and learn!


Slide 6 (MT – Publishing)

This just reiterates what I’ve touched on: the complexity that you’ll be facing when changing the world, one mind at a time.  Oh, and don’t worry about taking notes about much of this:  I’ve handouts for anyone that wants them!  Especially about what comes next!

Are there any questions about Media Types? Cool!


Slide 7 (Intro to Publishing)

As I’ve given a couple of talks at previous Ohayocons about making and marketing visual novels – if you attended those, thank you! – I’m going to focus this talk – espicially this part of it – on print and ebooks.

As I know nothing about Apple formats, even if they’re in the next slide, most everyone else in the world will be looking for PDF files. If you can beg, borrow, *cough* torrent, Adobe Acrobat, please do so.  I found when making my book for children, Henge’s Big Day!  it was indispensible.  But, for a traditional book, it’s rather like using a pile driver to hang a picture frame:  waaay more power and features than I needed or understood!

For my first book, I was very pleased to use the – free! – software called Blurb by BookWright. Essentially dragged and dropped my Word file into the interior and cover-art onto the cover-tab.  Three bucks and a week later, I’d a proof copy in my hand.

Oh, yes: there’s also Nook Press by Barnes and Noble.  While it was a hoot to walk into their Easton store and pull up “The Fourth Law” on their kiosks, their formatting is a little kludgey, so I’ve not used it, since.


Slide 8 (Blurb)

This is a screenshot of Blurb: again, mostly just drag and drop.  Made things fantastically easy.  They say it’s good for non-traditional books, as well, but after spending two days trying to stuff my childrens’ book into it, I went with Adobe Acrobat.


Slide 9 (Next step)

So you’ve got your fantastic work in the right format and want to sell it! Next step?  My experience with Nook was OK.  I’ve used CreateSpace three times now to upload to Amazon, with very positive results – their support staff are wonderful!  Having never used it, I cannot speak to iBook Author and Apple, but I imagine it works just fine for the latte and neckbeard crowd. [Look]  Stop it!


Slide 10 (CreateSpace)

While I used Blurb for T4L and EFL, and Acrobat for HBD, in all three cases I used CreateSpace to package them and get them onto Amazon. As you can see, it steps you through very methodically.

[Discuss each green check mark]

This screenshot is actually a bit old, as EFL is available on Kindle. As I mentioned earlier, it was basically “do you want your book available for download?” if so, click here.

Anyone have any pertinent questions about publishing?

[clasp hands and smile] Alright:  now the fun stuff!


Slide 11 (Creation 1)

As I said at the beginning, about four years ago, I’d not written anything: not a page, not a paragraph. Where do stories come from?  I’m only now developing an hypothesis [point].  In August of 2014 I watched an anime music video that for a few seconds had this image in it.  About a month later, I listed to an interview with Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at UT-Knoxville, about artificial intelligence.  In a spirited discussion with two others, he tossed out the line, “why not program them to love us?”  That and this image, curled up in my mind.  And waited.

A month after that, on November 3rd, I got an email asking if I was doing anything for NNWM:  the challenge to write a story of at least 50k words in one month.  In… in a moment that’s difficult to describe, that line and this image combined in my head.  Twenty three days later, I’d the 56k word draft of The Fourth Law.

That part about the combination is, I think, the key: even when I was a design engineer, there never was a moment where a design or invention just came to me.  It was always a matter of taking what was already there and putting it together in a way that no-one had before.  Telling stories is, I think, much the same.  I could talk for an hour about this, but we’re pressed for time, so let’s move on!  I’ll be more than happy to keep going at the bar once we’re done here!

Pantsing is a term I learned from the NaNoWriMo community. It comes from the term ‘seat of the pants.’  The point is that there are two extremes of creative writing:  one person will spend a month and write 15k words of outlines and notes before they get anywhere close to actually making a story.  The other extreme, of course, is you just make shit up as you go.  That’s certainly where I began:  the opening scene of T4L is a woman I didn’t know walking in a rocky desert I knew not where!  As my later works are getting more complicated, I do take notes as I go, but I still don’t really know what’s going to happen when I sit down and start typing.  Still, most of us will find ourselves somewhere between these extremes.

World building: it’s nice to have a place called home.  Tolkien could write stories about Middle Earth that added to what he and his readers already knew.  Similarly other writers as well:  it saves time and mind-power to not have to invent an entire world for each of your stories.  Mine are in a post-American world, about ten years from now, I call MC.

I mentioned a second ago about notes: once I realized Lily Barrett worked in an orphanage, there was no way I could keep the names of fifteen kids in my head.  Similarly, what are your characters wearing?  If they leave for work in a dress they’d better not be biking home in jeans!

Which is a nice segue – what do those weigh? – to notes about space and time. Whether set in the real world or one you make, you must pay attention to locations; I am not walking to Cleveland in an afternoon!  If a reader catches a fail like that, they will come to doubt the rest of your story!  Most of the action of EFL takes place in Waxahachie, TX, Knoxville, TN, and Huntsville, AL.  I actually know people in two of those three cities, and it is my responsibility to get the details right.  Arial view of Google Maps was a best friend for several days.

Slide 12 (Creation 2)

I learned from a Hugo and Nebula award winner that the best place to start a story is in the middle: the reader has no idea what’s going on, but wants to find out.  When you’re a ‘pantser,’ so do you!

My very first effort, OTC Kocchi, is about a pharmacy tech and set in the pharmacy department of a teaching hospital of a university. At the time, I was a pharmacy tech in the pharmacy department of a teaching hospital of a university.  I would just imagine my characters coming along with me during the day as I did my job.  In the evening, I’d write down what I saw.

Speaking of writing: when you’re writing, write!  Do not worry about spelling, grammar, structure, anything!  There will be time for that later.  On the next slide, as a matter of fact.

If you can, add a challenge or layer of complexity to your story. When I wrote OK, I deliberately disciplined myself by writing as if I’d be submitting it to the Bishop’s office for an imprimatur; so in that work, at least, no sex before marriage and what talk about religion there is is sound.

[grip podium, smile] OBVIOUSLY not what I tried to do when writing Hot Rod!, the script for an hentai manga! Three sex scenes, in two chapters, between Rod and Vanessa; implied incest with his younger step-sister! [wave hand] Delicious!  [look around] Where was I?

Perhaps my most important point, and if you’ve seen my VN panels, you’ll remember this one: you must set a deadline; a hard deadline.  “I’ll work on it when I have time,” means you will never finish and publish.  Never.  For T4L, it was NNWM.  For EFL, it was the 40 days of Lent the following Spring.  OK, some years back, had to be finished as we’d commited to sell it at Ohayocon.  Defiant had until the end of Summer of this year.  You will NEVER find time to write!  You must MAKE time!


Slide 13 (Editing)

When I finished T4L on November 26th, it was about 56k words.  It was awful!  Just awful!  I see things as if I’m in a movie theater, then I write them down.  And that was the problem:  “then.”  This thing happened THEN this other thing THEN this person said this THEN this other….  Since the final, published, version was something like 52k words, it’s obvious I used ‘then’ about 4k times!  Much better now, though.

What ever software you type your story out on, make sure you avail yourself of spell and grammar check. Even then, you will make mistakes, and you will not catch them.

Getting a proof copy – about $3 – is worth ten times that.  To hold a physical copy in your hands… will show you two dozen more mistakes you made.  [head example]

The more pairs of eyes you can get onto your story, the better. I’ve made my wife suffer through all of mine, again, catching what I did not.  And [laugh] when I handed the proof of T4L to my youngest daughter, she flipped through it for a minute and handed it back. [point]  “There are no page numbers in it!” [drop book, facepalm]


Slide 14 (Q&A)

So let me sum up quickly before your questions, and yes, I promise to meet you at the hotel bar right afterwards, you’re all here because you’ve a story to tell. AND more than that, you want others to read that story.  Finally for the first time since the invention of the printing press, anyone can write, edit, and publishing your story, potentially reaching millions, for less than five dollars.  So do it!  Write it!  Publish it!  Change one mind!  Change a million!  What are you waiting for?  Thank you.


Slide 15 (Milo)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s