Beginning

Earlier I wrote about my challenges in my approach to wring my second novel and my adoption of a new method for creating the third. Today I finished the first scene of Leaving Darkness, my second working title for this project. “Let Me Help” was the first, but that seemed too, uh, “blah.” sunriseThere is still plenty of time to land on the final title, but I’ll return to this in a bit, as the title itself holds more significance than I had realized before.

The beginning is an important part of a novel – maybe the most critical. The challenge is in creating the hook by teasing the story in a few sentences to engage the reader to want to read more. While there likely have been studies performed to validate my theory, I suspect that many times novels are not read past the first chapter or even scene, having not proved to the reader why they should invest their precious time in assimilating several tens of thousands of words more.

My first draft beginning is as follows:

Lowell Ferguson sat in the cab of the Kenworth assigned by the company, eyes fixated on the flier that claimed the unattainable.

This had been an especially difficult week in the darkness. How he came into possession of the piece of paper he cradled in his slightly trembling hands itself was an odd coincidence.

I have introduced the main character, his occupation, and his struggle in the first sentence and conveyed his failure to overcome and his resistance to try another road that promises resolution but ends up failing to deliver. The second sentence reveals he suffers from depression and the third shows his reluctance to attempt to take initiative to solve his issue, supporting the first sentence.

The other element, one that I am continuing to learn and understand its significance, is the interaction with the title. Leaving Darkness implies the main character will succeed in his struggle, and indeed that is the outcome, sorry to spoil the ending. The power of the story, however, is how the main character reaches that goal. Let Me Help conveys none of that, and thus fails as a title.

Of course, all of this is one person’s opinion, somewhat (all right, heavily) biased. I am involved in a peer-editing group that provides feedback on writing style and content. When the time is appropriate to solicit feedback (likely when I’ve finished the first chapter) I’ll gain insight as to whether my perspective is on track or not. As I have written before, one of the pleasures I get from writing is the learning that accompanies the projects. Realizing the benefit of implicitly weaving the title with the beginning sentences of the book to help create that hook is just another self-taught lesson on the #indiewriting journey.

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Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

shutterstock_574193302

Recently there has been much in the press about Congress “taking away” the Internet privacy of United States citizens. Internet Service Providers can now intercept and sell usage data. There is quite an uproar, and a push for the “necessity” of using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services to keep privacy intact.

Much of this has elements of perhaps not “fake” news but certainly overblown sensationalism. This is a prime example of what we refer to in the infosec industry as spreading FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Read closely, friends – nothing has changed. There was a law passed to enable restrictions that would have gone into effect late this year; that will not happen now. Your privacy online is the same today as it was yesterday.

I, like many writers, enjoy writing when the mood hits. That may mean taking out a notebook on a bus or bringing a laptop to a coffeehouse or bar for a drink and a session of keyboard-pounding. I use a cloud service so that my content is synchronized across devices automatically. Use of the public WiFi comes in quite handy.

“But I thought using public WiFi is insecure, and to never do so?”

Well, yes and no.

I do use a VPN service on all my devices, not because I am afraid the government is spying on me or that my ISP is selling my web surfing habits on the open market (I buy aluminum foil to protect against those threats). No, I primarily use my VPN to mitigate risks of Man in the Middle attacks at public WiFi spots.

My fundamental philosophy about information security is it is risk management. Perpetuating FUD does little to help the problem. Do people not drive at all because of the risk of getting into an accident? Of course not, they mitigate that by ensuring brakes are inspected and operating effectively, driving at a safe speed commensurate with conditions and skill, stay focused (no texting and driving, applying makeup, binge watching, and so on), and choosing routes wisely. Does this mean they will never have an accident? No. But they have reduced the chances substantially.

The same applies to cyber. Understand the risks, then mitigate to a level acceptable to your risk tolerance. Yes a VPN service will help protect your privacy if an ISP opts to sell traffic information, but navigate through the FUD and make your decision a risk-informed one. And stock up on aluminum foil.

(Image shutterstock #574193302)