Thursday, August 09, 2018

You Can Be a Winning Writer

I have a little piece on commitment in this new book. It's full of short inspirational and educational pieces that can give you a boost when you need it.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

New flash up... 100WordStory (actually a 100-word essay).

Monday, January 22, 2018

Maybe it should feel like work

After a predictably rough holiday season, with more personal and political gloom in the air, I've started writing a new story. For the past several weeks it's seemed like I didn't know what I wanted to read or write, so this feels like a breakthrough of sorts. We were driving past a house that had a widow's walk on the roof, and that made me think of "The Turn of the Screw," though a brief search of the text suggests the strange man in the story appears atop a tower, not on a widow's walk as such. Anyway, that, in turn, made me think of the framed narrative, in which the narrator recounts a story someone else told him. It's also a device H. G. Wells and other old-school science fiction authors often use, and I decided I wanted to try it to tell a ghost-type story.

Also, checking my records, I saw that I had received some rejections recently that included invitations to submit something else. I used to get so excited about those; now I sort of think, "meh, maybe, if I get around to it." But today I responded to a few of those. (It also depends on whether I have something to send, but in this case, I did.)

My point here is that I do not feel particularly inspired or energized by any of this. It feels like something I have to do, or ought to do, because I'm a writer.

But maybe that's how it's supposed to feel. I should know by now that inspiration and joy and energy are only sometimes part of the writing experience. Just as often it feels like going to the dentist. And maybe that's how you know that you've truly taken on this vocation.Whether you're rewarded or not, you do it, because that's what you do.  

It's a new morning...meh.

Friday, December 15, 2017

From 20 minutes a day to 68k (almost) words

Today I finished the first draft of my new novel. It's on the short side, but my first drafts are always short. Next draft will likely be too long, and then we'll do the accordion thing for awhile and then some people will read it and I'll fall apart and then pull myself and then the novel back together. 

Then we'll see.

The point I would like to make today is that I started this novel back in late January (I think) by writing 20 minutes a day. At the time, 20 minutes seemed like an eternity. Like it would never be over. I didn't even make myself put words on the screen, though usually I did--I just had to sit there and think about the novel.

At some point late this summer, I realized I could finish a draft by the holidays if I wrote 500 words a day. That seemed doable, so I did it, and sometimes did 1,000 with two writing sessions per day. 

As many, many people have observed, writing in 2017 was goddamn hard. And I'm as inclined to beat myself up for low productivity as anyone. I'm here to say that even little bits and pieces, created and assembled on a regular basis, can come together quicker than you might think.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


New (to us) kitties, Bennie (top) and Jett. Adopted last Saturday from the Peninsula Humane Society. We went catless for too long...

Monday, August 07, 2017

The bigger picture

From the Meiss Trail near South Lake Tahoe.

Even in tough times, it's always worth renewing and recharging.
Happy midsummer.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Yet more proof that there is no single process for writing a novel

While I was writing my first novel, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for books on "how to write a novel." Most of them concentrated on the early stages, like getting inspiration, while offering tips on how to find time and/or make a habit of writing, so you could produce the seemingly vast quantities of material required to constitute the finished product.

This was well and fine, but I already had inspiration. And, at that time anyway, I had enough time and self-discipline to create enough material. What I wanted to know was something like--how do you build a plot? Do you outline or not? What if the outline changes every day? How do you know if some thread is worth pursuing or not?

The short answer to all these questions, I discovered later, is "Don't worry about it." Not only does everyone have a different process, I suspect that everyone has a different process for each book. There are many maps; all can get you home.

For example, in the past, I've thought it a bad idea to show my writing group (or anyone) chapters as I wrote them. I thought it best to wait till at least one full draft and probably one revision was done, so that I knew what I was doing before receiving critiques. I didn't want to spend all my time second-guessing and revising; I needed to keep moving forward.

But now, here's why I think the opposite can be true. When you are still planning and plotting and inching forward, chapter by chapter, showing people chapters as you go can give you a good idea of what's coming across, what's interesting, what's likely (though not necessarily) going to cause trouble, which characters they "get" and which they don't.

The risk with this approach is that you may want to immediately start revising the previous chapters based on this feedback. And then you'll never write more than fifty pages--rather, you'll write the same 50 pages 20 times and then (if you're me) collapse in frustration. 

But if you can just *take note of* the feedback, say in something called a "notebook," and keep going, that feedback can provide guidance for moving forward. Not absolute direction--you are not handing control of your manuscript over to anyone else--but guidance. What do you need to keep an eye out for as you move forward? What *might* this interesting but still-unformed character turn into and contribute? What plot twist might readers absolutely never accept unless you do it extremely, extremely well? In the early going of my latest venture, this has proven extremely useful. Maybe it wouldn't have been for another novel, but for this one, I think it's only helping. And the encouragement to keep going is damn essential.

This is all to say, as many have said before me, there is no one way or right way to write a novel. Whatever keeps you moving forward is what you need to do.