Writing Update: December 21, 2016

This post is about 650 words. 

It’s been a heckuva writing year.

snoopy

As 2016 comes to a close, I realize that another milestone recently passed: one year since I sat down at the keyboard to start writing again. REALLY writing, not just short notes or simple ideas that, if I’m honest, were never going to amount to anything until I took the process seriously.

I really hadn’t been taking the process seriously. Well, not for awhile at least. More than ten years ago, when the dark realities set in, I set aside another novel that I’d been writing tinkering with for years and years, starting back when I was a naïve, fresh-faced college grad with fantasies delusions about the Great American Novel. I had reams of paper manuscripts and files of all the important nouns (people, places, things). But along the way, I lost the spark. Or I became a glass-half-empty guy. Or family and work and life took priority. I stacked up a number of obstacles before myself and simply decided to get off the path: I returned to the road more traveled (apologies to Robert Frost).

That was a damn shame Continue reading

Tighten Up Your Writing #3

This post is approximately 400 words. There’d be 25% more, if I hadn’t…tightened up my writing. Yeah, that’s right: bad jokes and math on this writing blog.

Many of the writing questions I’m asked are in the category of “Where do ideas come from?” which usually elicits a response about “mommy and daddy ideas that love each other very much.”

But I also get quite a few inquiries about mechanics, which to this grammar nerd, is pretty cool. We can all put words on paper in a coherent order, but it’s challenging to do it crisply and succinctly. Especially the first time.  I rarely deliver a sentence that completely satisfies me after the first writing.

kneading

It’s like making dough: you can put the ingredients together, but if you don’t massage that lump, it’s not going to taste right. As someone who’s reviewed thousands of pages, I know that many people are satisfied with the lumpy dough of first drafts. I get it. There’s that impatience factor. But just as people are discriminating about pizza joints, so they are about books. They’ll stop coming for sub-par sustenance.

Not stopping at one draft is the key. The following examples demonstrate various ways to change up your thinking as you work through the editing process. Compare my lumpy messes to the dough I’m putting in the oven (he said, reconsidering his analogy). Continue reading

Writing Exercise #4

This post is approximately 650 words, and there might be swears. I wrote this piece in August and forgot to post it!

This is just me, writing as far as I can after starting with nothing. No ideas, save for what popped into my head right before I sat down. No plan. The only goal is to write until the baloney runs out.

Usually, writers will recommend that you can’t write effectively unless you sequester yourself in a quiet room with no distractions, whether visual, auditory, or Internet-y. You need to be focused, wholly devoted to the art that is splashing upon the page as dripped by typing fingers than can usually concoct a better analogy than this.

But for this exercise, I’m sitting in the living room, which is our primary communal area in the house. Scout our dog is continually dropping a slobbery ball on my lap. Benji keeps running over, updating me on his play using non-verbal sounds. Sam is sharing Internet memes. Kirsten and I are talking about her work day. Hopefully, she’ll confirm that I’m actively participating.

If you care to read beyond this introduction, I can’t promise you’ll read anything particularly compelling. I might not even review it before I post this. I’m hoping at the very least, it’s grammatically correct (as far as my character goes). Perhaps most importantly, this entire post will be at least 500 words, which is more than I wrote yesterday. It all adds up. It all counts toward the improvement of my writing. Read on, if you dare; send feedback, if you care.

BTW, I wrote this introduction during the writing that you are about to read. I’m sooooo not a linear writer.

BTW2, the computer died in the middle of this, but it didn’t kill my momentum.

*     *     *     *     *

The world is full of good people. You know the ones. The neighbor who cuts that shared bit of lawn between your houses. The mom of your son’s teammate who offers who drive him home after baseball practice. Even that person who opens the door when your arms are full of groceries.

I used to be one of those people. Continue reading

Writing Update: December 4, 2016

This post is about 350 words. 

kermit writing.gif

It’s been about three weeks since my last writing update, where I mentioned that I’d uploaded the first two chapters to this website. Since then, I’ve finished up* the next three, though I’m not sharing them yet.

*As always, when I say, “finished up”, there’s a big disclaimer about reserving the right to go back and tweak them as needed. Or to change things based on revisions to later chapters. Or to fix things that have woken me in the middle of the night. Or when I realize I’m having the same delusion as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

OK, so rambling aside, I’m satisfied that FIVE chapters are ready for reading. They have cohesion and flow, and each considers the length of the ones before (i.e. I don’t have a 3,000-word chapter followed by one that’s 10,000 words). They have transition and connection to each other, so they are no longer five separate pieces. They feel like the first act of a three-act story. And that’s about 20% of the book completed, which feels pretty good. But….

Continue reading