49,851 Words on the Wall

I’m so close.

The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. The classic goal is to write a brand new fiction novel. However, being a rebel is encouraged, it is really the writing that is the point. I am currently 149 words away from the word count goal, after having written 6166 words today. Out of respect for those that have far less time to give to this task, and because its fun to win with a crowd, I will hold off on writing the final words until tomorrow night at my local Final Push gathering.

It feels great to be able to finish again, and to be more open about writing as a passion for me. This manuscript will still need lots of work to get into publishing shape, but I am so pleased with the ideas that I let myself explore and how I can feel the bits of structure pulling together. In its current form it is a complete story, though it does have tangents and a few loose ends, I think people could follow it from point A through to Z. And while I did have a structure and plot worked out ahead of time, there are some exciting shifts in the narrative, the mythology of the city, and that is part of the magic of NaNoWriMo for me. As far as it has come since the beginning, this is the version of the story that I am the most excited about sharing and publishing next year. The work is almost done, and the work is just beginning. Now to go find some ice for my fingers.

He Writes, She Writes, Rewrites

Hi there, it's been a while. I've been meaning to write here, but keep getting sidetracked. Don't worry, it's mostly been good stuff. August is a bit of a fresh start for the year for me. Since my wife is a teacher and her district starts school very early in the month, back to school has a different meaning in our house. It is amusing to see all these sales going on and warnings about the first day of school when she has already been in class for a few weeks. 

I usually go along with her to the office stores to see what's on sale, help her pick out a few supplies and see if there is anything I could use for the home office and house. This year my great find was some long clear zipper pouches that are just the right size for organizing USB cables, chargers, pens, and pencils and help me make some sense out the chaos that drawers for technology and stationery can easily descend into. 

But what about the writing? 

It's been happening. Maybe a bit more slowly than I would like, but it has been happening. And at this point, it's all about the rewrites, massive painful, and exciting rewrites.

Hasn't this novel been tinkered with enough? Can't I just polish what is there and make it tighter, fix any plot holes, correct the typos and put this baby to bed?

Well, yeah I could. But I think this is going to be so much better if I rewrite it. 

It was hard to come to this decision, I really, really didn't want to chuck out so much hard work, I thought that things were going in the right direction and I could shift gears. However, I've simply learned too much this year to let myself be satisfied with how the work was turning out. I've learned too much about myself, about the structure of story itself, about the regrets of other writers, and about what I want from my life as a creative person and a business person. 

I am not throwing out all the old ideas, but I have decided that revising what is already there would be both slower and less productive than rewriting the book, scene by scene, as I add in some very new elements, and weave it all back together, the whole while trying to embrace some fundamental ideas about plot, structure, and style. 

I think it will be worth it, and I'm not sure where that puts me for my intended release of early 2019, but I'm so excited how the scenes are turning out now. It's been a long journey through the years to this point of saying out loud that I want to be a writer and admitting that to myself and my family, but I think a little bit longer is still the right answer, even if is a painful one. 

Happy Writing!

So You Want To Write? Blog Challenge: Prompt #3

So you want to write? Part 1

The Challenge this week is to give writing advice, specifically your best advice. I’m going to approach it from the point of view of thing things I would have like to know when I was younger, and what I think would be helpful to those that are already writing today.

To the younger me: Three bits of advice of take to heart.

Read the Things You Want to Write.

The first step in writing is reading. While I think there are few absolutes when it comes to writing, this is one that I feel applies across the board. While you can learn from everything you read, if there is a specific style or genre that calls out to you as a writer, immerse yourself in it. If you want to write science fiction adventure stories, read them. If your aim is to publish science fiction novels, read the bestsellers. Even if you don’t like the bestsellers those are the books that are making money. It’s not being a sellout to analyze and learn what is making sales. Some of that is timing, marketing, etc, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what sells. Then, when you sit down to write, it is a conscious decision to write in that vein or not. If you are unaware, you simply don’t know if what you want to write is similar to what the bestsellers are writing.

Write Every Day and Keep it Organized

Journal, brainstorm, write a scene, write out the idea for a scene, whatever you have to do, GET WORDS ON THE PAGE. Yes, you should have a goal in mind and set deadlines, and get better at your craft, but if we can get over that first step of making writing a habit, all the other parts will come more easily.

And while you are writing all this stuff, keep it organized. Give yourself time to take all those scraps of character ideas, possible blog posts, a story beginning and organize them in a sensible manner where you can find what you need later. That way, when you are in the mode to actually get work done, you will be able to dive in faster and not lose your focus because you have to organize the mess.

Submit Your Work aka Ask to Get Paid

Isn’t this about writing advice, why so much talk about business and money? Well, I am assuming that you want to the time to do this, so the more you can get paid for the work, the more seriously you will take it. Also, you are going to get rejected. It will hurt, but the sooner you can learn to just accept that is how the game goes, the better. If you are lucky, some of those rejections will come with the reasons why.

Submitting your writing is asking for feedback. If they accept it, awesome, you’re doing well. If nobody accepts it, take a look at your submission, Did you follow the guidelines? Is there an error that you missed in the first paragraph? You can even totally sidestep the industry, but even if you self publish you are getting feedback. In that case it will be in the form of sales, reviews, and maybe even some offers. However, if you never put it out there, you will have no feedback. And since you are me, I know that you actually want your work to mean something to others, so look for all the feedback you can get. (But do always consider the source.)

That’s it for now, keep an eye out for part 2.

Blog Challenge: Prompt #1

As part of the continuing blog challenge I will be writing fiction from prompts. The first prompt challenge is:

"Write a story including the following three elements: A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger." *Full post here.

For those of you that don’t know what a writing prompt is, in essence it is a short bit of text or an image which you use to inspire writing. Most people use them as a way to get out of their comfort zone and explore different styles of writing. They can be viewed as the writing equivalent of playing scales for a musician. In my case, I write my prompt response in one sitting and don’t allow myself to research anything. Sometimes I end up with a scrap, other times I end up with a short story or something I can weave into a bigger story later.

Prompt Response

“As you can see clearly in the picture here, the eyes of the spider are emeralds, and the ring itself seems to be made from a mixture of gold and silver known as electrum.”

Doctor Hartwright paused and hoped nobody noticed him shudder. Normally his work on Egyptian antiquities had him looking at birds, feathers, grass reeds which were pleasant enough to look at. The ever present scarab beetle was still slightly repugnant to him, but he could admire the beauty of the craftsmanship. However; this particular specimen confronted him with a rather lifelike spider, far too lifelike for his tastes. He had never liked them, something about the way they moved, and all those spindly legs.

“Now, the scarab beetle is known as a symbol of royalty, but the craftsmanship of this design indicates that the ring was made for a very rich person. Perhaps not royalty, but most definitely a high ranking official in court. It is a mystery which we have yet to unravel.” The professor noted the sound of chairs squaring as students leaned forward. This was why he had gone into this field, and why he loved teaching. They might be insufferable at times, but watching them light up with the same excitement he felt when he pored over the hidden knowledge of the past was what kept him going.

“For you see, the photographs theses slides were made from are all that we know about the ring. Shortly after they were taken, the ring went missing. There are some clues we have found in other sites that give us the slightest inkling about when it was made, but that is all.” He looked over the now alert students.”Perhaps one of you will be the one to learn of its secrets.” He turned the lights on and watched students blink and start to gather their books.

“But only if you pass your classes. Papers are due next Friday. Do well and you might actually get to see more than pictures. Do very well and I might even recommend you to help with future curations.”

Hartwright turned off the projector and gathered his own papers into a leather satchel. While he did not like looking at the ring, it did fascinate him. He was bad sad for and jealous of the students that made their way to the exits. So many discoveries had already been made, and he had been there for a few, but he knew there were more things hidden in the sands, and across the world.

He thought about all the artifacts that had made their way around the world; stolen, sold, displaced, lost, far from their ancient home, as he walked to the parking lot. He was getting old, but maybe he was still young enough for one last adventure.

The plane ticket was in his satchel. It was sent by an old friend, Jem Helmdall. A recent construction project had uncovered some promising finds already. Construction was halted and they were in the process of obtaining permits to increase the excavation site. The local experts would be pushing their way to the front, but Jem had connections, and was pushing hard to have his old friend along for the ride.

But with finals coming and retirement looming over the next year, Doctor Hartwright wondered if it was worth upending his life and plans. He could get a sabbatical for sure, but what if there was simply nothing there?

He was still turning over the decision as he saw somebody standing in front of his car. The stranger had a long coat and gloves, and though it was brisk, he seemed overdressed. Hartwright slowed down and clutched his satchel. The man was shorter than him, but younger, fitter, but he did not look like a student. Was he a new faculty member? The professor began to approach, but the stranger pulled a cellphone from his coat and started cursing immediately, then began kicking at the car. Hartwright stepped out and yelled at the stranger, momentarily forgetting his fear and worrying about his car.

The stranger noticed him and held up a finger, listening intently to the phone. Hartwright found himself waiting and irritated, but also realized that he had never been in a fight in his life. He began to back away and the stranger held up his finger again, and mouthed, “wait,” before returning to the phone call.

Hartwright didn’t want to turn his back on the man, and felt his legs trembling as he sped up, still moving backwards. The phone call apparently over, the stranger nodded, then began walking towards him. The terrified professor turned to run and walked into a column in the parking lot. He scrambled to get up but the man was on top of him, pressing his shoulders down with a firm grip.

“Please, I don’t know what you want, please, You can have my phone, I have money-“

“Doctor Hartwright, my apologies. I am not here to hurt you.” The stranger helped him up, and the professor let out the breath he was holding. “Quite the contrary. Jem sent me here. I’m your bodyguard.”

THOUGHTS: So I don’t actually do prompts as often as a lot of my other writing friends do, but I have been doing more lately. I used to be rather antagonistic to them, but they are growing on me. This particular prompt seems to have made me write a sort of Indiana Jones scene. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook.

Why I write: How writing has changed from something I do to part of who I am

It's funny that I don't actually think that much about why I write, but honestly I don't. I think about what I want to write, how I want to make my writing better, what I would like to happen with it, but why do I put myself through this? But this is the first part of the blog challenge I mentioned here so let's have at it.

I guess that fact that I don't think about it that much speaks to how deeply ingrained the compulsion is to keep doing this every day. The writing I do on a regular basis moves between two major types: My general thoughts about what is going on in my life where I used the writing to sort those thoughts out and make decision, and fiction which explores the the reality of nature and my relationship to that reality, which I suppose I use to help make my way in the world, but on a grander or more philosophical scheme. 

I often encounter people who when asked how long they write they say something which amounts to basically when they learned to put letters on a page. With a few exceptions I feel this is just not really the case. My personal answer would be that while I have been making fictional stories for much of my adult life, I feel that I have only moved from making it an interest to a real solid pursuit in the last year or so. I can credit my wife being an English teacher as a big push to consider literature and writing more seriously, as well as reaching out to other people who write and having it become a more social part of my life and something that I am involved with on multiple levels every day. I don't just write, I talk to other people about it, I read their works in progress, I get jealous and on the better days I turn that jealousy into motivation. I attend writing events (and help host some, here's looking at you nanowrimo). So even when I am not writing myself at the moment, it is now a constant topic in my life. 

My current work has changed immensely from its conception years ago. It started as a basic concept: an angel that feels helpless in his role and is on the verge of damnation, but for the right reasons. It now has taken that germ and become an exploration of religion in general (and in a large way particularly gnosticism) technology and how it shapes our thinking and beliefs, as well as a philosophical dive into the idea of creation, death, and how we deal with being small people in a very, very, big universe. 

And the exploration of writing and reading has led me into some very interesting and strange places. I don't think I would have found somebody like my friend over at https://thewritingkennel.wordpress.com if I had not made such a big place for writing in my life. In the past I don't think I would have sought writers out and I certainly think that in my naivety I wouldn't have spent so much time talking to somebody who writes stories so far out of my chosen genres of science fiction and urban fantasy. 

So I guess the answer is pretty simple now: I write because I have to, to help me make sense of this world, and to hopefully make people question their own relationship to this shared reality that we have all created. I am a writer because I write, yes, but also because it is something which has seeped into every aspect of my life, brought me friends, challenges, victories and heartache. 

And I feel pretty damn good about that. 

EDIT: One of the other writers participating in the challenge put together this OneTab link of all the participants so far. Check 'em out when you get a chance. 

Here I go again...with a little help from my friends?

Writing, music, cooking and just being creative; whether it's making a story or crafting an omelette, creativity  has been important to me for a long time. I imagine it is to most people, but some of us pursue it a bit harder, sometimes to the point of obsession. Thankfully I've always had company in talking about my interests, but not always in their pursuit. 

That's why I am happy to say that starting in June I will be embarking on a blog challenge with Amanda McCormick at the helm (Thanks to you and everyone over at our little slice of weird on discord) and a mix of people of all ages and levels that have one thing in common: the compulsion to write. 

And we have explored that compulsion largely alone. As connected as the world is, writing can still be a very solitary thing. Will people like my work? Am I wasting my time on this when there are so many other important things to do? Am I getting better, worse? And couple the doubt with procrastination and you get blank pages, and broken promises.

So I'm glad to get started (again) I'm not sure where the journey will end up this time, but I'm sure I will learn something along the way.