If a book falls in the forest

If a person writes a book and no one reads it, is it still a book? Depending on your reason for writing, your answer will vary.

I write for a variety of reasons – relaxation, brain exercise, practice my craft, gottagetthatdamnideaoutofmyhead – but I primarily write because I want to entertain people. It’s a need written in DNA, and a novel is the current medium in which I choose to satisfy it (I’ve also dabbled in flash fiction, a novella, pitched a comic series, and currently have two tabletop game ideas I’m exploring).

Looking at it from that perspective, I won’t find success until my writing is in someone’s hands, whether physically, digitally, or in the not-too-distant future, displayed via holographic projection. Said another way, what I’ve written is not really a book until someone reads it. It’s simply a interesting story, perhaps an exercise, occupying a similar paradoxical state as Schrödinger’s cat.

I imagine people protesting on my behalf: Don’t sell yourself short! There’s value in the experience! Simply finishing is a major accomplishment! All these things and more are true. They have value, and I appreciate the sentiment.

But they’re not the things that bring me to the keyboard. However…

It’s funny, as I write this I’m reminded of something from my childhood, a phrase I learned watching classic MGM movies:

Which brings me to another perspective. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees what you have written/sculpted/painted. You might be a working for an audience of one. You might be working for an audience of none. The very magic – the miracle, if you will – of creation is worthy in and of itself. “Art, for art’s sake,” as the roaring lion reminds us.

Perhaps that is truly why we write or pursue other creative endeavors. The muse will not be denied. The art cannot be contained. That, too, is written in DNA, perhaps scratched and scrawled deeper than a need to entertain.

In the end, it doesn’t matter which reason is more meaningful to you, if either are. However, I think it’s important to consider and decide, because much happiness, stress, and sadness comes from artistic pursuits. Understanding what brings you to your creative workspace will help ensure you keep returning.

I’ve decided both are important to me. I began this post intending to take a position. Share an opinion. But when it comes to art, opinions like criticisms hold less value than the work itself. No one is going to include the phrase “opinion, for opinion’s sake” in their logo.

Good luck to you in your writing, and to its paradoxical existence in the world.

–Mike


© Michael Wallevand, July 2021

Word Casualties #7 – WTH?

The latest collection of typos for which I’ve invented humorous definitions.

We all make mistakes in our writing that cause us to shake our heads when we discover them later. Why not have some fun with them? Here are a few of mine, which must have been spawned by some level of intoxication on my part…

CASUALTIES

converstation – synonym for talk radio

reboob – When you take another look at, well, you know.

expenseive – colloquialism for pouring money down the drain

transformance – used to describe superb acting that takes the craft to another level

belibubble – the delicate membrane that separates the possible and the unbelievable

mispellebtion – describes hwo you type afder a few cocktalis

seasonaling – the magical tinkling of bells at Christmastime

strengthing – that, you know, whatever-it-is at the gym that you lift and it’s heavy

destainement – instead of taking you into custody, they just cover you with so much filth that you’re afraid to move

trainsformation – locomotives lined up on the parade grounds

CORRECT SPELLINGS

conversation

reboot

expensive

transform

believable

??? – I’m as confused by “mispellebtion” as you are

seasonally

strengthen

detainment

transformation

Hoo boy, there were some doozies in there. I share this to remind you that no matter how much you write, tpyos will always plague you. Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, July 2021

Difficult Story Choices #2

I knew it was coming.

I didn’t want to admit it. I figured if I kept these parts in the book, eventually I’d find a way to make the passages work.

But the writer knows. You know when it’s not going to work long before you concede the reality.

And then about a week ago, I wrote this note which sealed their fate: “Repurposing these words to the Elf would move the Dragon to Samor Book 2; at which point all the other Dragon stuff could be moved out. I’ve been struggling with their purpose for a while.”

Even then, it took a few more days before I started yanking stuff from the manuscript. I once again followed the advice of Stephen King, who was borrowing from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch:

Murder your darlings

It wasn’t the first time I’d removed an important character. In Tildy’s book, I removed a knight when I saw that he was undermining Tildy and the witch before I’d established just how capable these women were. I also talked about another difficult decision here: Tearing down one of your primary set pieces. In this second example, I was able to rework the text to overcome my concerns. As for the first, I moved the knight into Tildy’s Book Two, and I like him better there.

My Dragons followed the knight’s example and departed for a future book. It’s the best of both worlds. I improve the book I’m writing, but still get to return to characters I’m invested in.

Now, 6,000 words lighter, Samor’s first adventure no longer features them, aside from acknowledging their place in the world of Malthreare. But here’s the thing: “features” is too strong a word. Their passages were on the page, but they weren’t incorporated in the story. Samor’s adventure, which meandered and morphed considerably over the last year, didn’t see those Dragons anywhere along the way. Even the sections where they appeared, and there were three, were loosely connected at best. I’d previously tried to force an appearance with a new section, but rejected it almost as soon as I wrote it.

I was like a seamstress making a coat, but one with more pockets than was practical.

In hindsight, it reminds me of the Eagles in Lord of the Rings. They’re introduced, but not used again until the end, though they would have been very helpful shortening Frodo’s journey. In my draft, the Dragons didn’t drop from the sky to join a battle or save Samor. One showed up near the end of his adventure, said some vague things, and then she disappeared.

It wasn’t satisfying. I wasn’t doing them justice.

Being completely honest with myself, and therefore you the Reader, the Dragons were in the book for nostalgia. I’ve wanted to write a book with Dragons since I was a kid reading Dungeons and Dragons Endless Quest books and playing the Dungeon board game. When I started writing Samor’s story 20+ years ago, the scene introducing Dragons was among the first I wrote. When I returned to him and started his story largely over from scratch, that scene was one of the ones I transferred.

What my writer’s brain had come to realize was this: the Dragons were important to me, but not to the book. To quote another writer, Alfred Bester is known to have said, “The book is the boss.” The book wasn’t accommodating or accepting their presence.

That’s OK. As much as I want to write a book with Dragons, my primary goal is to write a good story. They weren’t contributing to that, so they had to go. Simple as that. The book is the boss.

Don’t be afraid to murder your darlings. It’s very likely your writer’s brain will have accepted their loss long before the rest of you does. And if you’re writing more than one book, perhaps there’s a way to have your cake and eat it, too.

–Mike

Like what you just read? Here’s another short post about a difficult decision in a manuscript.


© Michael Wallevand, July 2021

Word Casualties #6 – Despair & Hilarity

Another collection of typos for which I’ve invented humorous definitions. Today’s list is from a horror writer I was editing a couple years ago. Like other renowned works of horror, it’s filled with despair and hilarity, which are two great tastes that taste great together.

CASUALTIES

drakenss – male duck butts

damnotion – a new idea that a person has, but does not like

ensalved – a victim covered with a soothing ointment.

Santanic – 1) describing the rituals used to bring about the return of jolly ol’ St. Nick. 2) describing the rites used to conjure a Mexican-American guitar legend.

inferal – a wild, rabid conclusion

maleviolent – ferocious attacks by men

inquickity – doing evil things at a rapid pace

revolvting – used to describe something hideous and disgusting that slowly turns

sarrow – the sadness of pirates, me hearties

CORRECT SPELLINGS

darkness

damnation

enslaved

satanic

infernal

malevolent

iniquity

revolting

sorrow

Drafts are drafts because they’re imperfect, and we shouldn’t sweat too much about tpyos. Enjoy your writing while it’s flowing from your fingers and fix the errors later!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, July 2021

Editing Exercise – Help that stumbling sentence

My various lives (personal, work, writing) have been busy for the last couple months, so blogging took a back seat for a bit. However, while doing some writing over lunch, I was struck by an idea that led to this post.

Many writers will tell you not to stop for proofreading or editing while you’re writing. I generally agree. It interrupts the momentum, and in many cases, drives that wonderful idea right out of your head. Anyways, a little separation from the act of writing and the act of editing is a good thing, especially when you’re looking to be more objective.

But sometimes, a clumsy sentence keeps stumbling through your brain until you put it out of its misery fix it. Today, I wrote such an example.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling of people propelled them forward at greater speed to the dining hall.

If that sentence were a person, it would be trying to keep its balance while blundering down a hill. Let’s take a closer look. “Forward” is redundant since in the greater context of the passage it’s clear they were going to the dining hall.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling of people propelled them at greater speed to the dining hall.

“Propel” indicates a force to the motion, so “at greater speed” is unnecessary.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling of people propelled them to the dining hall.

“Of” is unnecessary in this context. It reads the same without it, though changing “people” to “crowd” is more evocative.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling crowd propelled them to the dining hall.

Much smoother. I only eliminated 5 words, but I believe my sentence-person is now surefooted in their descent of the hill. Are there other ways to tighten up that sentence? Of course! Spending a few more minutes, I could probably rework it completely. There’s also a case to be made for the addition of words to add flourish or pizzazz! Either way, that’s what the editing process is for: get the idea out now; refine it later.

For now, I’m happy with the change and I’ll let it simmer. You can do the same. With a few simple cuts, a tortured sentence is no longer a tongue-tangled torment for your Readers. Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, June 2021

Word Casualties #5

A fun bit of self-deprecation based on typos I’ve found in my manuscript. Rather than immediately correct them, I’ve collected them for your enjoyment and added humorous definitions. If you can’t guess the intended word (ahem, not surprising sometimes), further down you’ll find the correct spellings. If you enjoy the list, more can be found here.

CASUALITIES

  • Enchancement – a possible improvement; a magic spell that might work.
  • Consiren – the klaxons at a prison
  • Unstanding – describes one who is sitting down
  • Diffanta – difruity soda I disometimes drink
  • Definity – the assuredness of knowing something will last forever
  • Writh – a ghost missing its front teeth (this word must have lost its E to the next entry)
  • sarcasme – the fancy British spelling of ‘sarcasm’
  • Vommunication – drenching another person with the gagging vehemence of your words
  • Catapostrophic – exceptionally poor use of apostrophes
  • Legilimate – mind reading done to determine a person’s authenticity

CORRECT SPELLINGS

  • Enhancement
  • Considering
  • Understanding
  • Different
  • Definitely
  • Writhe
  • Sarcasm
  • Communication
  • Catastrophic
  • Legitimate

Tpyos happen to the best of us. Better to have a little fun than to dwell. 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 this!

© Michael Wallevand, March 2021

Eight Seconds To Sidewalk – Writing Exercise

As I prepared to write about hitting 100-post mark, I stumbled upon this other post from three years ago: Flash Fiction: An exercise in editing. If you’re unfamiliar with the style, the post will give you a quick understanding. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait here.

In the post – which you may or may not have just read – I’d promised to share an example. Now, three years later, here it is. It’s about 550 words and a quick read.

Eight Seconds To Sidewalk – 2009

Tom opened his eyes. He saw the top of the skyscraper falling away from him as he plummeted backwards toward the street below.

He was falling. Falling! He only had a few seconds to figure out why. He wouldn’t have time to be angry. Or regret the things he hadn’t done. He wouldn’t even have time to panic, though somehow he didn’t feel like he could if he wanted to.

He was always logical, figuring things out. His brain told him to sort this out. He needed to know why this was happening. It mattered. For some reason, it mattered. And it was mattered that he knew who was responsible.

Continue reading

100 posts already?

That’s like, a hundred little stories, which feels like a nice way of restating it.

Congratulations on writing 100 posts on The Lost Royals!

This notice surprised me in my WordPress app the other day. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve written that many posts or sent some 50,000-words into the Internet ether.

That means I’m posting about every two weeks, which is more frequently than I expected (although when I look at the history, my schedule is more erratic than that). And I’m getting 30 views per post, which isn’t much if you’re a commercial website, but for a guy who’s just creating a little content to give people a peek behind the writer’s curtain, I’m happy with the results.

Data and metrics are fine and all (is this guy an English major?), but I went into this website project with different goals:

  1. Updating people on book’s writing progress
  2. Marketing the project
  3. Giving myself another creative outlet when the manuscript needed a break

To these ends, the website has succeeded. Beyond that, it’s been fun, which is often a better motivator than anything else.

However, it can be challenging, too. The writing style is different, and unlike the manuscript, it needs to be polished now. Well, polished-ish. None of that writing and rewriting for a year stuff I’m doing in the book. Similar to the book, some days it feels like work; on others, it’s a pure creative pleasure.

What’s he been writing about?

Continue reading

The book is done

…well, the first one.

Fingertip sketch - greenIt’s been four years – almost to the day – since I sat at my keyboard and began bringing Tildy to life.

Four years since my finger drew this simple sketch on my phone to imagine what it would be like to see a girl with wings.

I had few goals, and some quantitative ones were unmet. I more than doubled my target word count and it’s taken twice as long to complete as I wanted. But these are less relevant to me than Continue reading

Author’s Journal – 12-03-19

On Writing

In his book On Writing (which I highly recommend), Stephen King talks about a question he’s often asked. I’m going from memory, but the gist of it is this:

Question: How many days a week do you write?

King: Every day, except holidays and my birthday (btw, that’s a lie because I write those days, too – but no one would believe it).

And while I’m nowhere as dedicated as King, yeah, I write on those days, too. Here’s what happened over my Thanksgiving vacation.


1. I finished up some editing and the last of my punch list items. The punch list was a series of questions I had around consistency, timing, and other details I’d lost track of. The editing centered around plot holes or other things I discovered during my complete read-through.

I’m down to one last fix, and then the draft is final. I spent a few hours on that last item and I think I’ve nearly conquered the problem I identified. Continue reading