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

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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 on that focusing only the one spot led to more uneven places on the wood. Perhaps I sanded too far down or accidentally used a different grit paper. To check my work, I would place my hand a few inches before the sanded spot and run my fingers over the entire surface, beginning to end, feeling for consistency. Sand-feel-repeat.

I do the same thing in my writing, though I’m unsure the two things are connected. Maybe unconsciously.

The aforementioned chapter-end was a single paragraph of about 120 words. Mechanically, that’s a rather simple thing to edit, but as I tweeted in May, it wasn’t a great end to the section, much less the chapter. It certainly didn’t make me want to immediately start reading the next chapter, and I’m the goram author.

Each time I touched it, I went back a few paragraphs and re-read the whole ending. Edit-read-repeat. It’s a technique I’ve used in all my writing for years, including the piece before you now. Here are three benefits I appreciate:

  1. Maintains consistent feel and tone: You don’t want heavy emotional passages accidentally transforming into happy scenes.
  2. Ensures word variety: If you used the word ‘bewildered’ in paragraph 7, you wouldn’t want it to repeat in paragraph 10.
  3. Prevents a surprise plot device: You probably don’t want your ending to include something that comes from nowhere or to have accidentally removed a key point for which your reader needed resolution

However, both sides of my analogy share a similar danger: that of removing so much, the piece is reduced to something unusable. While it might be easier to salvage a mangled paragraph than a block of over-sanded wood, in either case, I’m usually inclined to scrap the affected part to start over.

The current evaluation of my chapter-end is what led to this quick blog post. I’m finding myself close to the point of starting over. I have three little mysteries that don’t feel like they’re compelling enough together, and none are strong enough to stand alone.

Time to get back to some literary sandblasting.

sandblasting

For future you and me: it’s the end of Chapter 18. When you’ve eventually read that and this, let me know what you think.

–Mike

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

© Michael Wallevand, June 2017

Writing Is Pre-writing

This post is approximately 400 words.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “writing is rewriting”. This is absolutely accurate. I’ll probably write a future post on this, but for now, I wanted to establish that I am talking about something different here.

writing thinking2.jpg

When the hours of the day are comprised of varying combinations of family, friends, work, and other activities, writing time can be limited. Precious, really. The last thing you want to do is take that jewel and toss it down the drain.

Many writing efforts are like that. If you’re a writer like me, you’ve logged hundreds of hours staring a blank screen, jaw and fingers slack. It’s frustrating to think you’re squandering that rare opportunity to conjure some magic from a keyboard.

But what if you could take that wasted time and expend it elsewhere? Continue reading

Writing Update: March 12, 2017

This post is approximately 600 words.

Last night, the clock on my computer screen read 11:48 pm. Including the last two hours, I’d spent six or seven hours yesterday working on Chapter 14, a 4000-word section which in hindsight, should have had a working title of “The Long Walking Chapter Full Of Exposition”.

I required this chapter to do a lot of heavy lifting for the story: the one being told in the current book, but also in the greater overall tale I wanted to tell throughout the series.

My characters began to understand that there was more going on than a simple adventure story filled with monsters. Additionally, readers needed to know that our heroes had just one choice for sanctuary, but the destination might be only slightly less perilous than the wilderness. I had backstory about the place and needed a thorough-enough depiction so I wouldn’t have to keep describing it (I’d rather establish a scene early and as we go on, allow readers to recall as little or as much detail as they wanted to enjoy the story). We also meet two secondary characters and a few tertiary ones.

Oh yeah, and I needed to continue the character development of my three heroes. Whew.

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The Last Shard (modified image of Devils Tower)

Continue reading

Tighten Up Your Writing (or not?) #4

This post is approximately 400 words.

calvin-resolutionsIt’s the first day of a new year, which generally means resolutions and other pledges of life changes, blabbity-blah. I usually don’t hold to such traditions, uh, mostly because I forget my New Year’s promises before January ends. But as an idea formed in my head this morning, it occurred to me I might be writing such a post.

Yes and no. This post does contradict other guidance I’ve given about reducing words during a rewrite. But as with most other advice in life, just because you CAN do something, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Forsaking context or intent for the sake of brevity is an excellent way to deliver a quick read that readers misunderstand. That’s why I’m going to show the other side of word reduction. 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