Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Can Ramble More Than Jeff Can

by Robison Wells

Jeff blogged yesterday, which I guess means that I have to actually post something today. Dang him.

However, following in his footsteps, I'm going to talk about a few shows that I've been watching, some computer-related issues, and then I'll ramble for a bit and quote a big section of my book. This blog will be non-cohesive and bulleted for reasons that I will explain with the first bullet.

  • I love me some Twitter. I was a little late to the game, not joining until this June, but I adore it. It's ideal for my kind of blogging: I never have much to say, so when I blog here on Tuesdays I have to take a couple little thoughts and stretch them into something big and bloated. But, on Twitter I can just spit out my quick little comments without all the fluff.

    The downside is that (as you'll notice from recent blogs) Twitter has ruined me. So, even now that I'm not restricted in word count, I have blogging ADD. Hence the bullets. Therefore: on to the next bullet.

  • Yesterday Jeff mentioned Mozy as a potential back-up program. I was recently pointed a different direction, and I'm in love with it. It's DropBox. The basic gist is you download it onto all your computers, and it looks like a regular folder on your desktop (or in your documents, or wherever you want to put it). But when you add things to that folder, they're not only saved online, they're instantly and automatically put into the Dropbox folder on all your other computers! So, if you are working on a laptop or at work, and then you want access the same documents at home, you just save it in your Dropbox (which is exactly as easy as saving it anywhere else), and WHOOMP! There it is.

    Now, unlike Mozy, DropBox is not designed to back up everything on your computer. However, also unlike Mozy, DropBox is FREE. You can store up to two GBs.

  • I was given a copy of The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook, by Weston Elliott, and I have to say that it's pretty handy. The book is nothing but a hundred pages of forms and worksheets, all designed to help you develop your story. The first section begins with WorldBuilding, and asks you to fill out information on all sorts of subjects: settings, topography, government, religion, magic, architecture. (Obviously, this section would be a little more relevant to setting-heavy genres, such as speculative or historical.) There are also pages for creating maps, and a ready-to-go character bible where you can fill out all sorts of info about each and every character in your story.

    The second half of the book is less worldbuilding and more plotbuilding. There is a large section for developing conflict, and then space for timelines and even a chapter-by-chapter outline. And, at the back, charts for tracking your progress and, eventually, your submissions to agents and editors. It's a very cool little book.

    I look forward to using this for later books. (Unfortunately, by the time I received it in the mail I had already created much of this stuff on my own for my current novel.) The real benefit from this type of book, I think, is in the brainstorming phase of writing: with all the detail in the book, it prompts you to ask questions that you might not have thought of before, and maybe you'll hit on some interesting new ideas. And, if you fill out all the worksheets, your world can't help but be fairly-well fleshed out. (This book should appeal even more to new writers who haven't gone through these processes before. It would be invaluable to someone who wants to write but doesn't know where to start.)

    My only wish is that there was an electronic version. While I know there are many people who still use pens and pencils (as archaic as they are) I don't think very well without a keyboard in front of me. Still, I look forward to trying this out later.

  • On a completely different topic, I've been watching me some television. My thoughts about the new fall shows are these:
    • The Office has been surprisingly disappointing. I don't think there have been ANY real belly-laugh moments in the first two episodes. It's amusing, but off. Hopefully it will get better.

    • Community had a weak start, but the second episode was great. I have a hunch that this will be my new favorite comedy.

    • Modern Family is screwy. It's like a couple of moderately-talented sitcom writers decided to do Arrested Development fanfic. There are moments of absolute hilarity (like all the stuff with the dad shooting his son with a BB gun as punishment) but much of the rest falls a little flat. And, holy crap, it ended with a non-ironic group hug. I thought that we, as a society, had moved past that kind of sentimental sitcom nonsense.

    • FlashForward has the potential to either be pretty okay, or really really crappy. The gist is this: everyone on the entire planet loses consciousness for two minutes, and they have visions of exactly what they'll be doing six months from now. The pilot reminded me a bit of the first season of Heroes, setting itself up for long-term storytelling, building toward the season finale to answer everything. Here are the problems: (1) for the most part, none of the future visions are really that exciting. We'll be building all season to nothing particularly interesing. At least Heroes was building toward a nuclear explosion. Here, on the other hand, are a few of the FlashForward visions: "I'm at work and I'm in danger!" "I'm reading the newspaper!" "I'm cheating on my husband!" "I'm in a meeting!" They'd better step up the tension a bit, methinks. (2) the fact that they completely glossed over the deaths of hundreds of millions of people--as they lost consciousness while driving, or while swimming, or whatever--indicates that the show doesn't really care about the details. By the end of that first day (when, again, MILLIONS of people died, fires ravaged the city, etc) one of the main character FBI agents was surfing the net, planning his wedding. For that matter, once the FBI agents got back to the office, the show decided that the world was completely back to normal. There were no late hours that night for either the cop or the ER doc. WHAT?

    • My favorite new show is on the military channel: Special Ops Mission. It's a reality show/game show of sorts: they take an experienced Army Ranger, give him a high-tech paintball gun, and give him some bad guys to shoot (who are also ex-military guys with paintball guns of their own). It's exceptionally rad.

    • As for Heroes, my wife and I were holdouts. Even when all our friends have given up on it, we kept with it, hoping it would eventually redeem itself. We gave up at the end of last season (we didn't bother watching the final two episodes). I haven't given it a try this year.

  • As I've mentioned, my new book is now in its third draft, and I've started getting a little bit of reader feedback. The general consensus: it needs to be grittier. My mom (and my writing group) told me I need to swear more. (Don't worry: it'll still be all PG. Well, PG-13 for violence, probably, but PG for swearing. I'm too sweet and innocent to know any really bad words.) (My mom, on the other hand...)

  • Tomorrow the high temperature is in the fifties, and there's a possibility of a dusting of snow in the valley on Thursday. This is because Mother Nature loves me. Man, I'm so ready for crappy summer to be over.

  • Erin and I got The Manchurian Candidate (1962) from NetFlix this week. It is such an awesome movie. In particular, I'm amazed at how current it feels. Even though it's black and white, the subject matter and the writing are every bit as applicable to modern politics as they were to McCarthyism (Iselinism in the movie). One of my favorite things about the movie is that, while telling an awesome political story, it never really comes to a pointed conclusion: yes, it shows us how terrible the McCarthy-style communist witchhunts were, but at the same time it shows that the communists were plotting to take over the country. Also, they leave several enticing clues about a possible mystery that they never conclude; one of my favorite parts of the movie is watching for this strange undercurrent--deeply involving the main character--that is never even addressed, let alone resolved. Everything about this movie is awesome: the wacky dialogue, the tight plot, the innovative visuals, Angela Lansbury as a crazed incestuous mother. Go and rent it.

  • I think that's all.

  • Nope! I forgot this last thing: at the UVU Book Academy last week, several people said they wanted a copy of my humor presentation, but no one has emailed me for it. If you were one of those people, leave me a message in the comments and I'll shoot it over to you.

You're hereby cordially invited to follow me on Twitter. All the cool kids are doing it.


At 9/29/2009 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you liked the workbook! I'm working on an E-Version, I'll let you know as soon as I can figure it out! :)

At 9/29/2009 5:45 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Rob, you've sold me - I'm going to get one of those workbooks myself! Sounds helpful.

You should be glad you stopped watching Heroes. The finale last year was even worse than Season One's and ends really poorly.

One question about the online depositories: Does it worry you that the contents are basically available to the owners of the service? I see where it's nice to have it on multiple computers (I just email stuff to myself in Gmail for the same effect)

Sorry I didn't get a chance to say Hi to you at the conference - I think I saw you once, hanging out at the cool authors table. At least I got to pal around with Stephanie. =)

At 9/29/2009 5:46 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Man, Rob, you can ramble with the best of them. Rambling, rambling, rambling, (sing along.) I use Drop Box too. Both it and Mozy are free for the first two gigs--which is great for me because I am cheap! use Mozy to back up all my important folders and drop bix to share files.

I just finished your ms too. I agree it needs to be more edgy. But I'm not sure more swearing is what it needs. Just finished "I am Not a Serial Killer" by your evil twin and it was very edgy, but I don't recall much swearing. I'll talk to you more at the next critique group.

At 9/29/2009 5:56 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Well, when I say it needs more swearing I'm mostly joking. There were a couple of notable instances where I pulled my punches and it came across very poorly (ie. "son of a gun"). But yes, I think it's more of an issue of tension.

I look forward to your comments!

At 9/29/2009 5:57 PM, Blogger TJandMaryBronley said...


I didn't get to attend your presentation but was interested in it. Sorry, I guess my priorities were out of order or something. I'd love a copy of your presentation though.

At 9/29/2009 7:50 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

Congrats on the progress on the WIP. That's always good news right? And as for edgier/grittier, I'm loving that kind of thing.

I saw you at the UVU too but you WERE surrounded by all the cool kids. Would love a copy of your presentation though.

Thanks for the heads up about dropbox. Sounds pretty useful! I've also really liked Weston's workbook. Pretty handy!

At 9/29/2009 9:21 PM, Blogger pwells said...

Dear Rob,

What the #@$%!

Love, Mom

At 9/29/2009 10:52 PM, Blogger numberonedashnerfan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9/30/2009 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I would love a copy of your humor presentation. I really enjoyed the conference. It was my first one.

At 10/01/2009 3:57 AM, Anonymous Susan Corpany said...

Hey Rob, I'll trade you your humor presentation for mine. I was wondering who was going to teach the humor class. I have a presentation I'm doing here in Hawaii at the Volcano Arts Center.

You can send it to me at

At 10/02/2009 6:19 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Just a forewarning, Rob's humor presentation didn't really follow his powerpoint. In fact, he fast forwarded a few times and stopped at particular slides and said, "this is just dumb" and continued with something else. So it was entertaining ;)


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