Writing As A Parent #1

This post is approximately 200 words.

Sometimes, a writer needs absolute silence. No distractions.

Sometimes, you’re so inspired, the words just flow and you can power through the sounds of kids, wrestling dogs, or the television.

And sometimes, you need the wisdom to hand the computer over to forces greater than yourself.

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The smart writing parent saves and closes the manuscript, leaving a copy for the child whose artistic inspiration cannot be contained.

Ben was quite cuddly this morning, covered in several blankets, and pressed as close to me as a hibernating baby bear looking for warmth from his mother. He watched me typing for fifteen minutes before becoming interested in the computer himself. He loves drawing, whether with crayons or on electronic devices. I was still waking up – and he’d broken my concentration (though I wasn’t unhappy about it) – so I let him do this thing.

We spent some time together, doodling and such, which was a more enjoyable morning than putting him in front of the tv so I could get back to work. He eventually took a break, and now I’m back on the job, happier than I started the morning.

One additional note, I learned some new functionality, including the discovery of more emojis than I’d ever care to use.

–Michael

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© Michael Wallevand, May 2016

Tighten Up Your Writing #1

This post is approximately 400 words. Originally published by Michael on LinkedIn.

marktwainThere’s a saying attributed to Mark Twain that goes something like this: “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”

The original quote, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” is attributed to Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher.

I like the Twain version better, though perhaps something is lost in the Pascal translation. But the spirit of the message is clear: writing concisely takes time. Today, most of us can pound away at the keyboard at lightning speed, conjuring sentences from seemingly randomly-placed keys. The imperfect text results from something being lost in translation between head and hand.

And that’s OK. Compare that sentence to what I originally wrote:

  • FROM: The result is often less perfect than it sounded in our brain because something has been lost in translation between head and hand
  • TO: The imperfect text results from something being lost in translation between head and hand

I’m not in love with the rewrite, but I’m not targeting perfection for this post. Now review another sentence I just revised (I’m eliminating the FROM/TO labels to better illustrate sentence length).

  • Take a look at how that last sentence was originally written.
  • Compare that sentence to what I originally wrote.

I eliminated several words in my rewrites and I believe the new sentences flow better.

  • Not only are my rewrites shorter, but I eliminated several unnecessary words.
  • I eliminated several words in my rewrites.

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Here are other examples and possible rewrites:

  • Today may be the day I pursue the creation
  • Today may be the day I create
  • A company with an interest in this subject
  • A company interested in this subject
  • As a way for the customer to explore expansion in this area
  • The customer can explore expansion in this area

Some words were simply unnecessary; some made the sentence drag; and some were too passive. With practice, these things can easily be culled from your sentences. I’m at the point where I often catch these things as I type. But I’m still finding them in my writing.

And that’s OK.

  • Over time, these types of things are easier to identify and can be culled from your sentences.
  • With practice, these things can easily be culled from your sentences.

Yep, still happening.

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–Michael

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My Wagon Is Draggin’

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This post is approximately 400 words. Weirdly written, stream-of-consciousness words.

The title is a synonym for being exhausted. Not to be confused with a dragon wagon, which is a concept I’ve been trying to fit into a story for years. But I digress before I’ve begun.

The household was restless last night. My wife caught whatever cold our youngest has. Our big dog, Atticus, seemed to be rotating his body on our bed in time with the hands of the clock. The smaller dog, Scout, scratched her bed regularly, looking for comfort. I’d moved 800 pounds of retaining wall bricks, so I had some complaining muscles that I forgotten were muscles.

This morning, I was in a fog. Honestly, it lasted most of the day. I buried myself in reporting at work, which meant minimal human interaction (i.e. fewer people to question whether I’d been replaced by a malfunctioning mandroid).

Can you tell I’m a bit punchy and sleep-deprived?

So, the point of this post is this: when your brain’s in a fog and you’re in the middle of writing a book, how does a person put forth the creative energy to work on the manuscript? Continue reading

May 14 writing update

This post is approximately 400 words.

Sometimes the writing can be an obsession. You’ve hardly enough brain power or typing ability to keep up with the flurry of thoughts racing across the vision of your mind’s eye.

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And sometimes, you need a break. Maybe not from writing in general and certainly not from creativity. But another outlet, perhaps.

For me, this occurred in late April. I’d been writing pretty consistently for four months: through the holidays, through one of the busiest and most stressful points in my corporate career, and through those long Minnesotan winter days when we all go a little stir crazy.

I was happy with my progress, which had been more satisfactory than most other writing periods in my life. Still, I needed to take a step back.

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Six out of nine ain’t bad. Wait…is that a MySpace logo? Six out of eight.

I found that starting on the marketing – the social presence – of the book series was an excellent way to keep my writing and creative energy going. I now had outlets for blogging and photography, for sharing inspiring landscapes or thoughts on books. When there are too many distractions or I’m walking a dog, I can still be doing things to promote the project. It also allowed me to put into practice many of the things I’ve learned about digital marketing over the last ten years.

It’s a welcome distraction, but hopefully, not too much of a distraction from the most important part of the project: the book itself. At 72,000 words, that’s quite an investment of time. I’d hate to derail myself by spending too much time away. Believe me, every day away from the manuscript makes it that much harder to return.

Fortunately, the words for the first book are still flowing, as are ideas for the next books in the series. Honestly, that’s the greater danger: the excitement of a new project when the current one has its luster smudged a smidge (more on that in a future post).

For now, my time on the project is split between the manuscript and things like this website, which I’ve soft-launched until I’ve finalized all the details. Expect more updates like this: May 31 is my deadline for the first draft of book one.

–Michael

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© Michael Wallevand, May 2016

Reveal Just Enough Detail

This post is approximately 600 words. And if you’re not familiar with these sculptures, there is artistic nudity when you follow the links. 

prisoner-atlasTwenty years ago – almost to the day – I was at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy, the museum that famously displays Michelangelo’s “David“. And while I was in awe of this 17-foot masterpiece, it was not his familiar form that stayed with me after I left.

It was this piece, known as “The Atlas”, one of Michelangelo’s four Prisoners done in the non-finito, or unfinished, style. To me, these seemed most representative of his philosophy about sculpture: that every block already contained the figure, he just had to chisel away the unnecessary marble. Some claim these works are the best representation of Michelangelo’s sculpting prowess, though this might not be immediately evident compared to the seeming perfection of David.

But you’re not here for an art history lesson, so let’s segue into the point for this post.

I left the museum with an understanding that Michelangelo revealed only enough of the figure for it to come to life (though whether a tour guide said it or whether I was brilliantly struck with inspiration, I’ll never know. Feel free to guess.). That thought has stayed with me for twenty years and it’s a philosophy that I’ve applied to my writing.

I love to write. I’m often verbose (this is one of the reasons I start each post with a message about word count – it keeps me in check!). If I could indulgently describe a scene or a character in a thousand lush words, I would. But I think that does the reader a disservice. I want to provide just enough detail to bring the story to life in your mind. If I write too much, well, I feel like I’m taking away too much of your imagination, which I think reduces a reader’s enjoyment of a book.

I’m not alone. In his book “On Writing“, Stephen King says something similar about his characters:

…if I describe [my complete mental picture], it freezes out yours, and I lose a little bit of the bond of understanding I want to forge between us. Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

As an example, let me describe a mountain range at the edge of sight: its jagged outline and snowy peaks; the evergreen treeline that marks the highest point at which foliage can grow; or the treacherous recesses that are but dark wrinkles upon an ancient gray face. I could go on and on, depicting the clouds that obscured the tallest peaks or the shadows they cast upon the insignificant hills below, but there comes a point where your interest fades. You get it. There are mountains in the background. They are imposing and old and magnificent. You don’t need me to zoom in until we’re so close we can see the shiny flecks of mica in the granite.

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So here’s the deal: you bring your imagination and I’ll bring the right number of words, and we’ll meet in the lands of Empyrelia, each of us with our own vision of the world around us. Work for you?

A picture might be a thousand words, but you don’t need a thousand words to form a picture in the reader’s mind. Sometimes less is more. The successful writer finds the balance.

–Michael

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© Michael Wallevand, May 2016