Human Illumination – Writing Exercise

This post is approximately 450 words. Just a little something I wrote to see if I could capture my ideas.

In the city, there are lights to illuminate you

A thousand, a million

They cast you in their glows.

Others see you; you see yourself:

A combination of flaws and perfection,

Truths, and the lies that we tell ourselves,

That others interpret.

And while some lights go out, they are but few.

There are always more.

The darkness that falls upon you is scant,

If you are ever shadowed at all.

People never see themselves by the light of a single source.

And they never truly disappear;

Though perhaps they are never truly seen.

In the country, where there are fewer lights

A handful, a dozen,

Few and far between.

Defined as much by the darkness between them,

As by their shine.

Each precious in its illumination,

Though less stark in contrast,

And we all are deemed the same

In the same light

A single one extinguished has a meaningful impact

In what people see; how people see you.

You might lose yourself in the night,

Or reveal only those parts of yourself you wish didn’t exist.

And yet, when there is naught but darkness around you

You can see the brighter universe.

Take comfort knowing that light can never be extinguished,

And you will never truly disappear into the black,

Though it remains a reminder

That there are never enough stars to conquer the night.

 

Closer still, the horizon glow:

A welcome promise of light still existing.

Few or many, free to embrace.

They will shine upon us,

And we will be grateful to be seen,

Even if we do not always accept what we show.

This sprang up from the simple idea of using lights as a metaphor for people. We often see ourselves differently because of others. We might be surrounded by people, yet alone. The loss of people in your life could be more impactful, depending on where you live.

As a person who’s lived in rural America and her suburbs, I’ve experienced many of the things described above. If I may be so bold, read the text again and see if you recognize similar events in your own life.

The purpose of this post is not about wowing you with artistic imagery or showing off my poetry skills, diminutive as they are. I’m sure similar things have been created before. It’s an example of what can be done in about thirty minutes (including some minor editing and re-organization). Thirty minutes to exercise your writing brain. We all have time for that.

–Mike

PS: Click for more examples of writing exercises

 


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

© Michael Wallevand, August 2019

Advertisements

Difficult Choices #1

This post is approximately 550 words. It had been longer, but…difficult choices were made.

Phew. It’s been more than four months since I posted Tighten Up Your Writing #6. The final draft editing continues apace, which is the primary reason I haven’t been blogging.

Well, that and the Gears 5 Tech Test over two weekends in July.

Anyway, today’s update is about a choice I’d been debating a few months. Jack, aka Trusted Reader 16 and one of my most enthusiastic contributors, had given me the same feedback each time I provided new chapters: Some were too long.

He was right every time and I followed his suggestions.

After his latest round of feedback, I literally tallied up the word counts of every chapter and put them in a spreadsheet (hey, I’m a data guy).  A few hit 6,000 and two were on their way to 8,000. In most cases, every scene within a chapter was connected and followed a theme. I did my job well enough that the chapter titles fit all the pieces within.

And yet, those were some long chapters. I’d recently set a target of 3,000 to 4,000 words to keep the reading effort light, while also making it feel like the story kept moving. I was missing the mark. It reminded me of reading when I just want to get to the end of a chapter so I can take a break. Fortunately, I’ve yet to receive that criticism from my Trusted Readers.

I had a difficult choice to make. Do I break up the big chapters?

Murder your darlings

Continue reading

Tighten Up Your Writing #6

A 370-word post in which we realize that things in the past are not happening “now”.

Spaceballs now

Right after Christmas, I finished my mid-draft, which represents the complete book before I check for plot holes, inconsistencies, and other mechanical issues. It’s the first time I read the story straight through and it’s the first time I print out the manuscript to give it a thorough redlining.

I also use blue and green lines, and a yellow highlighter, so perhaps I need a new term.

It’s a time when you sit back and try to enjoy the story (I did!). This additional distance means you’re seeing things you couldn’t when you were nose deep in the writing (oh boy, did I!). I discovered my overuse of the word “now”, which is an odd writing choice when the verbs of the book are all past tense. If you’re not a grammar nerd, it’s the difference between “We walked now” and “We are walking now”.

After Control-F’ing the word (trying saying that in mixed company), I found far too many instances. I was using it as an unnecessary adverb, a way to transition into a new sentence, or as an awkward conjunction. Here’s a list of all the ways I used it. Continue reading

Asking Your Customers Questions

This quick post is approximately 350 words, and I typed it with one hand whilst eating a tasty quesadilla.

Fridays are quesadilla days at the Eagan Thomson Reuters office. I dig ‘em. On Friday, the chef was out of green onions, which was fine. As he was serving up my food a few minutes later, he asked me a question. Would I be interested in sautéed onions or mixed peppers as an alternative ingredient? Some days when he’s out of onions, he’s thinking about other ways to serve his customers. I believe my response was a dignified, “Oooh! Onions!”

20181221_123957.jpg

These two crumbs are all that remain. I even ate the to-go box.

He graciously thanked me for my feedback and we both went about our workdays. With that simple question, he found a way to solve a problem, while also improving the service he could provide to customers. For me, I like that he cared enough to ask my opinion, but I also get the satisfaction of influencing the deliciousness of a future meal.

Writers should have a similar mindset. True, much of what we do is for ourselves, and we have the right to be as selfish as we want in our stories. However, we also need to keep a portion of our brains on our readers. Our customers. That is, unless you don’t intend to have anyone read your story, which sounds like zero funs.

Readers have myriad desires when it comes to reading a book. They want to enjoy it. They want new experiences. They want to be surprised, but they also like to figure things out before your protagonist. Perhaps they want their spirits lifted after a long day or feel the melancholy tugs of nostalgia.

You don’t need a person to read an entire chapter or even a passage. It’s terrifying: I know (here and here). But it’s not very scary to ask a friend or family member, “Hey, what do you think if I did ____________ in my story?”

I believe you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the experience. So will your trusted person.

–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, December 2018

Music and the Muse

This post is approximately 900 words, most of them song titles and artists.

Writers want to evoke specific emotions within the reader, which sometimes means you have to feel them yourself as you write. On those days when the Muse is with you, and She’s of generous mood, it’s easy. You’re typing as fast as thought, and you laugh or you cry as you experience those terrible, wonderful, breathtaking moments with your characters.

It can be draining. There’s an emotional, and often physical toll. It might even make you reconsider your next venture to the keyboard because you just don’t have the strength.

Sometimes, you need a little help. Or, Muse forgive me, other inspiration. For me, it’s music, although it can also be art, books, or even a stick. Heck, I write about it all the time – click for more posts that discuss inspiration.

But I digress. I often listen to music as I write, generally preferring songs without lyrics (i.e. movie soundtracks). However, when I need a stronger emotional inspiration, I put on some of these songs. I might even listen to one track on repeat, letting my mind drift into the story. Maybe I’m in the car; maybe I’m taking a walk. When I’m finally in the right frame of mind, I start writing. When it works, oh man, it works. When it doesn’t, well, it’s gotten me to the keyboard, and even a bad day of writing is better than one without any writing at all!

Without further preface, here’s a partial list. You’ll find love and loss, sadness and melancholy, anger, hope, and heroism. Maybe you’ll discover some new tunes, too!

Continue reading

If You Do Not Make The Time To Write

This post is approximately 500 words, and it has something for writers and data geeks!

Make the time to write.JPG

The Summer of 2018, I started to get worried. I was 2 1/2 years and 170,000 words into the book. Writing wasn’t starting to feel like the all-consuming (in a good way!) thing it had been. I talked about this back in my October 1 Writing Update, and how I felt I was getting back into the rhythm. I had decided to make the time to write because I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t been. As you’ll see below, it still took some work.

This is going to sound weird, but sometimes I had to remind myself that I was writing a book. How does a person forget about 170,000 words? Sigh.

20181214_124744.jpg

To fix this, I needed to 1) have a reminder and 2) shame myself a bit. A daily alarm or BUJO had had limited success: I’d just snooze away the reminder or turn the journal page. I’m a visual guy, and my memory is heavily dependent on reminders right in front of my face. In late June, I started tracking my daily writing in a notes widget on my phone’s home screen.  Now, several times a day, I could see how much I was writing. Or as was the case for a long time, how much I WASN’T writing.

Because I’m data guy, I turned my tracking sheet into a chart (but just for this post). Correction, an embarrassing chart. These are all the days my fingers were typing away. Continue reading

Writing Update – 3 Years In

Three years.

December 11, 2015 is more of a ceremonial date because I’m not sure how much writing I did at the start. Did I sit down and type, “Tildy sat up so quickly her head swam” – the first sentence of the first chapter – that first day? I don’t think so. I’m pretty certain I didn’t have her name yet. If memory serves, I started with the prologue, which has a boatload of too much historical context in it.

I recall thinking about a new direction for my story over the Summer of 2015. I started parts of it twenty-five years ago and I still liked much of the world I’d created. However, I needed to inject something into it: something to make it appeal to a broader audience and something to reinvigorate myself as a writer.

I wondered what kind of books the real world needed. It occurred to me that we could use more stories with empowered female characters, and they had to appeal to girls and boys. As simply as that, I was running, sprinting, in a new direction.

The writing came suddenly. One day I wasn’t writing; the next day I was.

superman_typing

Three years later, and more than a thousand hours of effort, I’m coming up on 190,000 words, which is about 100,000 more than I intended. I’ve also removed characters, places, and scenes to cut another 30,000 words. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bit more culling to do. Continue reading