Writing Update: Oct 1, 2018

This post is approximately 400 words, which is about 4 words for every day since I last posted here.

This probably isn’t the first time I’ve said this: it’s hard to keep a blog going (especially for me, a person who likes unfocused research and differing outlets for creativity). Given the choice – as many writers are – I’d rather spend the time on the manuscript than the blog. Honestly, I didn’t do much of either kind of writing over the summer.

From a high school graduation and sending a kid to college, to lazy weekends at the lake, to re-discovering Warhammer modelling, to getting a wife and second son off to school, well, there have been a distractions a’plenty.

Work’s been crazy, too. Some of it good, some of it (checks Corporatespeak Thesaurus) sub-optimal. More on that for some future date. Beyond that, current politics in America are distracting as hell, but I’m certainly not touching that tonight.

That’s a long list of factors, and some would rightly name them excuses. But c’est la vie.

Since I’m being candid, I’ll delve into the real reasons for the slump. Writerly self-doubts aside, I’m at a tough chapter. Tildy, our hero, is finally confronting the Big Bad of the story. Conflicts that were set up earlier in the book must now be resolved. Our hero is caught beneath love and vengeance and fear and self-preservation. As usually happens at this point in a novel, ALL hangs in the balance (until the next book).

And so I’ve been stressed and somewhat panicked and a teensy bit uninspired. I walked away, albeit temporarily. At nearly 170,000 words, there’s a lot hanging over me to manage.

Today, it is October 1, a turning point perhaps. The weather has cooled, and there’s that Autumn inspiration in the air. Can you feel it? I always have. It’s the promise that comes with change, with transition. I find myself re-energized and in need of the distraction that creativity always brings. Oh yeah, and to finish this draft of the novel.

To paraphrase sentiments from other writers, “If you can step away and still come back, you’re probably on to something.” Here’s hoping.

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like it!

© Michael Wallevand, October 2018

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An illustratration [sic] for the importance of proofing

This post is approximately 600 words, some of which are likely misspelled because that’s what happens when writers talk about typos.

Holy lexicon, do I hate misspellings. When it comes to my own writing, I’m a firm believer in self-flagellation. And I know there’s a special place in dictionary purgatory for self-proclaimed grammar perfectionists and those people who allow typos into published books.

Regardless of how much you’ve typed, or how fast you do it, typos are a way of life. When it comes to typing, I’m a cheetah with 30 years’ experience: bursts of speed followed by periods of rest and reflection. If I’m particularly inspired, I probably reach 120 wpm.

kermit-writing

My skills aren’t perfect nor to I claim them to be. To counter this, I’m a ruthless spellchecker. No, that doesn’t mean I frequently click the button in Word, although that is like having a second set of eyes on your work. I mean that every few paragraphs, I pause to reread what I’ve typed, reviewing for spelling, grammar, flow, pace, and content, among other things. Then I type a few more paragraphs and reread the whole thing again.

You’re probably beginning to develop a picture of my (often annoying and exacting) work ethic, which means we’re about two or three paragraphs from it biting me in the rear.

Even for WordPress items, I’m often writing them in Word, rereading, proofing, and editing constantly as I go. I do this even after I’ve pasted (what looks like) the final copy into the post editor. I preview my text and give it another run-through or two. Using this method, I catch 99.9% of the potential typos I make (that sounds like an unverifiable statistic and possibly hubris, for which I will likely be punished in the form of many typos here). It works very well, nonetheless.

Until that query email I sent.

I researched and researched, finding literary agents’ submission requirements on their websites and Twitter. I found examples of what others had done. I wrote my query. Then proofed and rewrote and edited and rewrote. Finally somewhat satisfied, I pasted it from Word into an email, rechecked and edited again, typed the subject line, and sent it. I liked it well enough that I copied it for my next query, ensuring that I changed any pertinent agent information. I copied the subject line, too.

And that’s when the spellchecker caught the typo. In. The. Subject. Line.

Dammit.

writers-block-1

I had typed “An Illustratrated Children’s book”. Look at it. LOOK AT IT! By the black hand of Delosh, how did I miss that? Did I forget to hit the spellcheck button one last time? But even now, knowing full well it’s spelled wrong, weirdly, deceptively, it still doesn’t look that wrong. I have seen far more egregious errors. Perhaps that’s what bothers me the most.

Fortunately – mercifully – in her rejection response, the agent didn’t mention that the SECOND word she read had been misspelled, nor did she gently remind me of the importance of proofing your submission before sending it. It was the first time I’d appreciated a form letter response.

I probably spend a disproportionate amount of time checking my work compared to the time spent writing, and while I’m OK with that for now, I am relaxing my standards a smidge. You should, too. Chasing perfection is the relentless pursuit of imperfection. And we have more important things to do, like writing great stories.

–Mike
Click for more self-flagellation about typos.

© Michael Wallevand, January 2018


Michael Wallevand is a Senior Product Manager at Thomson Reuters, managing Integrated Marketing Solutions for FindLaw, the world’s leading provider of online legal information and law firm marketing solutions. He has developed products that have generated a hundred thousand unique pieces of content, whilst using organic and paid advertising to drive traffic to attorney websites across the US, UK, and Canada.

Writing Update: Dec 12, 2017

This post is approximately 700 words.

On December 10, 2015, overwhelmed and underwater in life, I sat at the keyboard to begin writing the first book in The Lost Royals series. It had been years since I’d seriously written, but I recall how quickly the inspiration blossomed again.

Two days ago, the second anniversary passed by, unremarked. When I realized this today, I knew I needed to refocus myself.  Of late, my head has been so far up my own rear end with responsibilities and disappointment and anger and frustration and regret, that I’d taken my eye off the ball. Off the work. Instead taking the opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come – as I’d done last year – I simply forgot about the date.

But at least I did some writing.

My intellectual side knew it wasn’t a big deal, but my emotional side Continue reading

Things I Did After Sitting Down To Write This Morning

This post is approximately 400 words, and likely sounds familiar to other writers.

Since the dawn of humankind, storytellers have been shaking their fists at the sky, cursing the suddenly important things that got in the way of the work. I believe they shouted something like this:

O, procrastination! Thou art a foul contra-muse who plague-eth my writing time and sendeth me on unnecessary and irrelevant paths.

That might not be a direct quote from writers of yore, but I think it’s pretty close (I’ll probably start using it myself). To be clear, I’m not talking about the demands of daily life (e.g. human interaction, food, or taking out the frickin’ garbage because you can smell it from the other room). Rather, I’m talking about those things that should be put off until the writing session has concluded. BUT OMG, THEY SUDDENLY CANNOT WAIT! THE WORLD’S FATE DEPENDS ON THAT THING BEING DONE RIGHT NOW!

Bad writer.

Stitch spray

It happened earlier this week. As annoying as it always is, Tuesday was particularly disheartening because I’d taken a week off and it was one of my writing days. Consequently, my output for the day suffered.

But not all was lost. I’ve worked to make up the time and the experience gave me the topic for today’s blog. Check out my list of obviously world-saving endeavors:

  • Got coffee
  • Checked Facebook
  • Watched cool acoustic version of Take On Me by a-ha
  • Listened to Prince’s I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
  • Polished and scheduled blog post
  • Reviewed website stats
  • Added formatting to older posts for consistency
  • Got more coffee
  • Researched WordPress Premium
  • Chastised self
  • Took notes for writing this post
  • Put this post idea aside for a couple days (finally on-task!)

Morning well spent, eh? Oh, well.

Many of these things are important to the job – especially coffee – but most could be done outside my scheduled writing time. I do have some tricks that keep my train of thought from derailing, but they failed me on Tuesday. I’ve been doing writing of one form or another for twenty years, and still, I am plague-eth.

As you see at the end of the list, however, I pulled my morning out of the nosedive. But it took awhile and more effort than it should have. I consider this post a visual reminder that it will likely happen it won’t ALWAYS happen and those days are good indeed.

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like it!

© Michael Wallevand, October 2017

Writing Update: Oct 15, 2017

This post is approximately 450 words, and I originally just wanted to share the clever t-shirt I’m wearing.

Choosing a t-shirt to wear is a bit of a ritual for me, and while that might sound like hyperbole, I do put a ridiculous amount of thought into it (‘ridiculous’ being a relative term, used to compare myself to regular people, who might be making sartorial decisions, whereas societal fashion plays almost no role for me).

Today’s selection is Call of Snoophulhu, a mash-up of two writers: H. P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu) and Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts). It tickles me, although most people don’t get it.

Call of Snoophulhu

This morning I realized I have a number of literary-themed t-shirts and it surprised me. It shouldn’t have, considering that friends and family enjoy buying things like that for the writer in their lives. Additionally, I like to organize things and should have made the connection. But I’d missed the fact that I have at least five shirts in this category.

In that vein (did you see this segue coming?), I realized I have two connected scenes in my story, but I’d forgotten to help the reader see how they’re related. When it comes to writing, I’m sometimes inconsistent with that. On one day, I can’t see anything but the interconnectedness of things, some of which span chapters or books. Other days, I’m so close to the writing that I can’t see the forest for the trees. That idiom is particularly appropriate today as I realized I missed a key opportunity to connect one scene to the climax of my book.

An important person in Tildy’s life comes to help her, seemingly out of nowhere. It felt a bit deus ex machina, and that annoyed me (ever since I’d learned about that theatrical device in a Greek history class, I’ve been hyper-aware to its use in any story, mine or someone else’s). I’d already established that the character was hiding in a tree near her, waiting for an opportunity to help. Tildy even passed by the place, but I never actually wrote any indication of this or gave any clue to the reader. Alas, for the brain of a writer. This morning’s task is rectifying that oversight (i.e. connecting one scene to another for the reader).

Sometimes, connections like this are part of the writing plan in your head (architect); you’ve grouped things together and you’re presenting them in a logical fashion. Other times, they come naturally (gardener). Editing and re-writing is a great way to find those opportunities you’ve missed.

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like it!

© Michael Wallevand, October 2017

Get back to writing, you!

This post is approximately 550 words. Most of them from more than a year ago.

Not a week passes where I don’t see a meme or social post chastising writers who aren’t writing. Sometimes I think, “Yes, thanks!” and others, “I can’t look at that damned manuscript for more minute.”

Misery writing

I found this unfinished post and thought I’d share. It captures my thoughts from a time when I’d been struggling with the work of writing, yet I felt like I was climbing out of the rut. Since those times are safely in the rear-view, I thought this post would be a nice reassurance for writers in ruts of their own.


I’ve discovered that longer and longer breaks are occurring between writing attempts. The fear is that eventually, there will be no more attempts. For someone who enjoys writing as much as I do, this is, of course, unacceptable.

We all have personal responsibilities or weights that drag us down or roadblocks in our way. I started identifying a few of mine. I’ve had a diminishing community of writing people around me. My friend and one-time collaborator has given up writing to focus on a different enterprise. I’m no longer engaging with writers on Twitter. My blog has remained dormant. I seem to know fewer people making serious attempts to write on a regular basis. When weighty things force your head toward the ground, it’s difficult to see the sunrise ahead.

But things are changing. Finally. Though I say this feeling surprised at the amount of time that’s passed since I was serious about writing. I’m discovering the hidden talents of coworkers. My wife and son have written intriguing stories this last year. I’m doing more writing at work, allowing me to flex the important parts of my brain whilst shaking off the rust that’s collected on my fingers.

Certainly, you need to write to write. It’s a stupidly obvious statement. But it is true. The more you write, the more you can write (he says, making another stupidly obvious and trite statement). And to accompany that, you need to surround yourself with discussions about writing, about creation, about art. You need read and read and read. And read some more. You need to create an environment for yourself where, even when you’re not writing, you’re writing. When done correctly, I’ve found the ideas flowed like exhaled breath to the page, effortless and natural.

So, all of that said (he says, using a terrible segue and allowing for another parenthetical aside), I come to the inspiration of this post. I love to hear writers talking about writing. I consume every word as a morsel of inspiration. Last summer, I read a blog post by one of the writers of Community, in which he tells an expletive-laced story about going to write for the show. I can boil it down to “writing is re-writing”, but that’s not as much fun to read, if you like vulgarity.


It usually gets better. It sometimes gets worse. But you guarantee the latter when you’re not sitting down to write. Which result do you prefer?

Apologies for the distraction. Get back to writing, you!

Doctor Who writing

 

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this from Michael!

© Michael Wallevand, September 2017

Sanding down the rough spots

This post is approximately 500 words.

I speak regularly with others about writing, many of whom love the idea, but don’t have the desire. As such, it can be challenging to find common ground – common understanding, I should say – when we talk.

I’ve found that analogies are helpful and I’m always looking for a good one. Today, as I wrote and re-wrote a chapter-end that I lamented about nearly a month ago, it occurred to me that sanding wood might be a strong analogy.

If you had woodshop in school or you’ve done a home improvement project, you’ve likely done a bit of sanding. I’m not much of a craftsman, and I always have rough spots on cut wood. So I’d sand-sand-sand-sand-sand, and then feel the spot. Sand-sand-sand-sand-sand, feel the spot.

sanding

I learned early that focusing only on the one spot Continue reading