During this exercise, you will be forced to explore the feasibility of your story. You will have to face plot problems head on and work them out. You will discover nuances to your story that you haven’t yet considered. You will open new characters and log them into your character document. You will give yourself research assignments.
Last Friday, I was elated receive a highly anticipated package in the mail. I worked open the end of the cardboard box and upended it. The contents spilled into my hand.
After years of agonizing, I have finally decided to self-publish my debut novel, Allied Zombies for Peace. Self-publishing makes me nervous. Print on demand presses constrain no one from publishing their work, whether it is good or poor. Hence, readers often think of self-published novels as sub-par. There is truth to this.
Get ready to roll up your sleeves; its time to put some real elbow grease into your story structure. By now you have a good idea of what your story is going to be. You have probably been working on it in your head even when you are away from your word processor. The more you think about your story, the quicker you will find ways to add twists and turns to the plot and nuances to the characters. But it is essential to put your ideas down on paper.
Even the best writers say, “Write what you know.” It’s an old mantra that writers hear all the time from key note speakers at writing conferences. Although it is important for you to write within the spectrum of your experience, it is also important to write a compelling story that convinces readers of the legitimacy of setting, feasibility, and character sincerity. Research then becomes essential.
By now you have a living story in your head. It’s scratching and clawing from the inside, trying to get out. To this point, you have barely dipped your pen in the inkwell by writing a logline and theme. You have started to organize your approach by putting together a story canon. It’s now time to craft a story skeleton upon which you can later hang all of the necessary organs and flesh (in some cases quite a gory endeavor). Time to add to your treatment document.
Living as a writer, whether you are published or not, writing great novels or spending evenings to help those in need to buy papers online, has many perks. The greatest of which, in my opinion, is the constant and unstoppable parade of stories in your head. Now that you have reached the point where you…
Now that you have an effective logline written for your novel, it’s time to breath life into your idea by giving it a clearly defined theme. You might be thinking, “Theme? Come on, Craig, I’m not writing one of Aesop’s fables.” To that I say, not so fast. There is a strong argument for theme. Read on to find out more.
Several people have asked me through this blog where they can get this or that project on which I have participated. First, such requests flatter me. Thank you so much for showing interest in any of my projects. It is an honor to find that you have enjoyed them.
Responding to the request, I thought I would post a listing of everything that I have released over the years that is free. By free, I mean you can download anything on this list without paying for it. But some of these projects are attached to mild requests for donations. Should you want to dotate a little, bless you. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the show.
Do you want to write a novel? I think I can help. I have decided to post a series of articles I have written that share a method I use to write novels. Admittedly, every novel seems to come from a different place and I employ as many techniques as I tell stories. But this method has worked for me many times.
I guarantee that if you follow this approach, you will end up with a finished novel. To put my money where my mouth is, I demonstrate every article in this series by developing a story right in front of your eyes. By reading this series, you will see a new Craig Nybo novel bloom from inception to completion.
I expect to hit the world with Allied Zombies for Peace as my debut novel. This story follows a group of civil rights activist zombies as they march in the 1968 Veteran’s Day parade in Columbus, Ohio. When parade officials place the Allied Zombies for Peace, a civil rights group, behind the Ku Klux Klan for the fourth year in a row, sparks ignite. Add in a tough as nails Vietnam Vet contingent and a group of Nam war protestors that call themselves the New Revolutionaries for Peace and Love, and you have a bomb on your hands with a spark-spitting cannon fuse. When everything explodes into bedlam, the “Veteran’s Day Parade Massacre” becomes a benchmark event in civil rights history.
I just put the master CD for Zombie Sing-a-long: Whistler and the Children (Part 1) in the mail. I am completely excited about this new record. I had a blast writing the songs and recording them down at mediaRif.com studios. I especially enjoyed collaborating with friends on this project. A shout goes out to them.
As I prepare the final tracks for the second Zombie Sing-a-long record, I have to look back on this project, put my hands on my hips, and shake my head a little bit. The record offers 10 new zombie related songs and part 1 of a story called Whistler and the Children (read by Nate Peck). On the surface, Zombie Sing-a-long: Whistler and the Children (Part 1) comes off as just another record out in the already noisy independent artist community. But for me, this record represents an interesting journey.
This concept album follows the story of post zombie apocalyptic long-haul trucker, Whistler, as he gets more than he bargained for when he attempts to loot an abandoned big box store in the zombie aftermath. He discovers that a group of children, lead by a kid named Dutchy, have holed up in the store. Before he knows it, Dutchy and his half-pint followers knock Whistler cold and intend to steal his tractor-trailer to strike out on their own. Whistler must free himself and rescue the children before they fall to the appetites of hundreds of flesh-eating zombies.
Breaker Z follows a band of long-haul truckers as they come to the defense of a little, Southern Utah community against an onslaught of zombies.
This novel has been an interesting experience for me. Originally I intended it to be a short story to be read on an album, interleaved with songs about the undead. But as I put together character sketches and a plot outline, I soon saw that it had more weight than I had expected. This project, as a short story, left too much unsaid. I decided to say it.
I’m closing in on finishing the first draft of Breaker Z. The MS sits at 26,500 words this morning, much too long. I’m definitely going to have to get jiggy with the delete key. I’m absolutely dreading the second draft of this novel. The text is riddled with notes to punch in plot and character elements throughout the story.
Slink hung around for another fifteen minutes and watched the band set up. He noticed Craig sitting at an empty cocktail table and jabbed one of his tentacles in his direction. “What’s up with your front man?” Slink asked Kill, one of Craig’s Russian handlers.
“Stage fright,” Kill said, not able to help flexing the boulder sized muscles in his upper arms as he drew Craig’s bass from its case and placed it on a guitar stand near center stage.
A friend of mine approached me a couple of months ago and asked if there was any possibility of getting Funk Toast, an band I used to play with, back together for a reunion show.
I was delighted to discover that the guys were in fact interested in getting together for old times sake. So we started rehearsals immediately. Needless to say, catching up with these guys on a musical basis has been a blast. By the way, Should you like to attend the show, we will be playing for one night only at the first annual SLC Nerd Event to be held here in Salt Lake City, UT on March 24th, 2012.
A pair of sliding doors hissed open. Oz entered the big dance hall. “We’re a go,” he said.
The rest of the band sat on the stage in various positions, some laying on their backs, looking at the ceiling, some sitting on the edge of the platform, legs dangling over the edge into the pit. The band appeared as if not a word had passed between them since Oz had gone to Slink’s office to negotiate.
“What did I miss?” Oz asked, his tone laced with sarcasm as he spotted Rob, the guitarist, lying on the floor, propped up onto his side with a crate of something heavy, drool pooling on the floor beneath his open mouth.
“Rob snores,” Keith said.
The members of the Funk Toast Band knew that playing the Pan-galactic Prom Show Gig brought with it unpredictable danger. But they had grown tired of repeatedly playing on the postage stamp sized stage at Dirk’s Freaky Lounge back in White Lake City on the planet Polidrus. So when Slink Arrowheart, the prom show’s production manager, had offered the band enough credits to fund their next record and all travel expenses for the Beatlejuice leg of their tour, as a band, they decided to take the risk and pick up the gig.
First drafting a novel feels like getting inside a coal miner’s cart, releasing the brakes and letting her fly. After an extremely involved story and character scoping process, I fling words out as quickly as I can. In the heat of frenzied right-brained writing, I slap down bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, horrible spelling, and even some pretty atrocious metaphors.
Apart from weak verbs and wordiness, nominalizations yield ambiguity. The above sentences confuse readers. Who wrote the novel? Who ran with the bulls? Who proposed the toast and who filled the glasses? Who pulled my finger? Who bakes the bread? Effective sentences feature strong subjects, strong verbs, and, most often, strong objects. Replacing the subject of a sentence with a nominalization destroys that sentence’s potency.
Zombie Sing-a-long II sits in the lowest branch of a tree, ready to drop. The songs sound good, mixed and mastered–with the exception of a couple of solos that must yet be laid into the mixes.
Funk Toast–of which I was a member–a 90’s funk band based in Salt Lake City, is getting back together for a reunion show. I’m proud of the songs we wrote together back then. I still play with most of the guys from this band. When a friend asked us if we’d like to perform a reunion concert, we jumped at the chance. A few other original members decided to jump on board to make this a reunion of 8 original members of the band. The show, to be held on March 24th at The Complex in Salt Lake City, will take on a comic book convention persona. Gangrene Productions is producing the event, entitled SLC Nerd. It’s going to be a blast. I hope you can make it out.
I play in a band called Rusmonster. Mostly, Rustmonster produces pirate themed rock. We haven’t come out with new material for a while. However, lately, we put together a new EP that includes a couple of new songs and some live material. You can download it for free here. Enjoy. By the way, feel free to leave a donation for the band should you like the material.
Writing a novel feels like rolling a boulder down a hill all by yourself. At first it takes a lot of grunting and swearing to get the thing moving. You might even need to make a lever out of a hickory post and find a small stone to use as a block to get the thing in motion.
Elegant prose employs active voice. Passive voice causes writing to slog along at a boring pace. It make prose flaccid and uninteresting. Passive voice can also cause confusion between participles and their antecedents.
Whoa, baby. I’m stepping back. Without using a bunch of grammar terms and turning this article into a lecture from Mrs. Brickwell with her horn-rimmed glasses and annoying chalkboard squeals, let me try to explain the difference between active and passive voice.
When it comes to writing, less is more. It’s far better, especially in subsequent revisions of your story, to get acquainted with the delete key rather than to flower your text with weighty paragraphs filled with adjectives and, even worse, adverbs. I tend to skip unnecessary paragraphs of description when reading stories—so many lost words.
2011 was largely a lazy writing year for me. I polished the final draft of Allied Zombies for Peace, produced 1 new first draft manuscript of an unnamed novel, and him-hawed my way through about 60% of the 2nd draft of another manuscript. I spent a lot of days not writing.
Pathetic, that’s what I say. I know I could have done better and I’m mentally autoflagellating as I write this memoir entry (if you don’t know what autoflagellation means, you’d better look it up so that you don’t think that I’m being overtly foul).
Thanks for reading. Always remember that I am grateful every time you visit. Remember to get out there and do something creative. And when you finish a project, send it to me, I’d like to see it.
Allied Zombies for Peace pits the undead, in the form of a zombie civil rights group, against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1968, Columbus Ohio Veterans Day parade. The entire novel takes place over a 42-minute time period. It was a riot to write; I giggled all the way through it. You can listen to the first 3 chapters if you like by clicking on the play button below.
Breaker Z takes place in a fictional town called Rattler City, nestled in a real place called Apple Valley, located in Southern Utah. As I thought about what Rattler City might look like, I decided to take a look at satellite photos of Utah towns. I picked a portion of Fillmore, Utah upon which to model Rattler City. Fillmore is its own entity, not connected to other communities by suburban sprawl—and I really do have a friend in Fillmore. I picked a 12-block portion of Fillmore and made it into the Rattler City compound, where most of the action takes place.
To write well, it takes practice and continued education. Just like any other skill, no matter how good you get, there’s always someone better. For example, when I read anything by Ray Bradbury, I am both inspired and discouraged. I’m constantly baffled by the richness of his metaphors and the advanced language he uses. For most authors, pushing the language as he does comes off pretentious. But with Bradbury, it all flows beautifully, like music.
Long-form work requires extensive character backgrounds, world exploration, and a good plot road map. I did no such research before diving into Breaker Z. Hence, I’ve been forced to do this research on the fly. During first drafting, I often write notes in the manuscript. These notes might say, “set up this weapon earlier in the story,” or “these two characters must meet in California in act one,” or “I’ve decided to change this character’s name to Steve, change it all the way back,” or “research how to rebuild a carburetor before filling out this description,” and on and on. These quick notes allow me to move through first drafts without getting hung up on the details. I’m writing plenty of notes in Breaker Z as I go.
Although all of the songs for Zombie Sing-a-long II have been written. Although I have been working hard engineering, adding and subtracting musical parts where needed, sprucing up bits of the instrumental and vocal performances, and mastering, there is still no story. And without a story, a concept record like Zombie Sing-a-long II can’t stand up.
Orwell’s Big Brother comes to mind sometimes as I research for writing projects. The patriot act allows the government to monitor the Internet activity of individual American citizens at will. Conspiracy theorists feel that this enables the government to access information that, if leveraged correctly, can be used to control the population of the United States.
When it comes to creative projects, I’m really just a 2-trick pony. I love to write stories and I love to compose music. I’m not alone. I know a lot of creative people, most of them with better chops than me, who reach into more than one honey jar.
Good music, the kind that thumps along so hard that you can’t help but start dancing, whirls out from a core of rhythm and repetition. Once a good song gets under your skin, it doesn’t leave you. You sing along; you move your feet; you smile and settle in for the ride. Developing any skill, writing being no exception, is like letting a good groove get into your soul and dancing along.
I intended to release Zombie Sing-a-long II in time for Christmas. I even announced that I aimed to send it out into the world by the time the easy listening station stops belting out it’s more than 25 versions of Little Drummer Boy. But I am facing a problem—perhaps a good problem, perhaps a bad…
I’ve been working hard on the new album, Zombie Sing-a-long II and I couldn’t help but let you in on some of the fun. This record will be a concept album that tells the story of a group of trucker/zombie hunters who come to the rescue of a little town called Rattler City, tucked in the womb of Apple Valley, Utah. Think Shawn of the Dead meets Smokey and the Bandit.
As I wind down on the end of Zombie Sing-a-long II, I find myself facing a problem that rears its head on occasion; the closer I get to ending a project, the less I feel like working on it. Part of my mind says, “you can stop, you’ve earned it; after all, you’ve finished most…
Every time I sit down to write, I feel a horrible sense that I’ve forgotten how to put two intelligent words together, let alone a full narrative. This feeling is amplified when I take a break between projects, then sit down and roll up my sleeves to start a new story. Recently, as I began…
On the coat tails of his first zombie themed album, Zombie Sing-a-long, Craig Nybo stands poised to release a companion collection of songs and stories in the spirit of the undead. Unlike Zombie Sing-a-long’s campfire guitar/singer approach, Craig has rolled more instrumentation and music genre into his second contribution. Pulling friends from Rustmonster–a band with…
My remarkably talented friend, Mike Terrell, has agreed to draw the book cover for Allied Zombies for Peace. It’s all in his hands. I respect his capability so I’m going to stay out of his way. As far as the cover goes, he’s the guy with the skills so who am I do tell him how to draw it. I gave him a synopsis of the book and answered a few questions that he thought were important. There is one absolute when it comes to Mike’s art: it will be incredible. I can’t wait.
Many writers, me included, employ strange rituals to settle into the writing mind. It’s not a matter of summoning dark or light forces by disemboweling chickens and chanting absurd limericks in long dead languages. It’s more a matter of using markers and actions to get into the writing mindset.
A couple of months ago, a good friend of mine, and fellow production rat, asked if I wanted to participate in making a short film. This excited me because I admire Scott’s production skills. I wrote a script and gave it to him. He decided it had the right stuff and that he was going…
My favorite songwriter of all time, Joe Henry, just released a new record; it’s called Reverie. Every time I listen to this guy, and his work should definitely be listened to through headphones, he inspires me. He uses stark metaphors in every phrase of his lyrics. He writes from a personal place, expressing passions that…
I had the privilege on Saturday to play a fun show with some good friends. The event was called Pirates vs. Bigfoots. A few hundred people turned up, quite a compliment. I’m thankful when people are kind enough to show their support. This show, and other shows like it, have prevented us as a band…
We have come to a place in pop culture where being a geek is all the rage. With Comicon, Dragoncon, super hero movies, 2 new Star Trek joints (one up and coming), and other countless outlets for nerds, all created with precision, talent, and marketing prowess, the powers that be have perfected the art of packaging geekdom in blazing color. They’ve shrink-wrapped it. They’ve put it out into the main stream.
As I near the end of writing songs for Zombie Sing-a-long II, I have to give kudos to all of the cool people who have lent a hand. From the beginning, I intended the Zombie Sing-a-long project to be collaborative. When I started Zombie Sing-a-long I, I went through my facebook friends and extracted a…
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