Archive for September, 2010


Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I'd like to tell you the story about how and when I knew I wanted to write. I'm sure my story is very much like yours. I mean, there can't be that many different ways a person is drawn to this endeavor, n'est-ce pas?

Didn't the writing bug also bite you that one day you left middle school right after lunch due to the flu and on the way home you were abducted by aliens? Then, after being gone several years, they returned you back to the exact time and place they took you? And you were pretty much none the worse for the experience except for the curse they laid upon you: the ever-present desire to write novels but without the ability to construct a plot that would hold a reader's attention for more than half a latte? Didn't that happen to you too?

Here I am, more than seventeen years after my abduction, and I'm still living with this issue. I may someday fill you in on what happened during those intervening years, but not right now. Suffice it to say I spent a good chunk of it writing non-fiction. I certainly figured out how to write words good . . . but then I made a naive mental leap. I assumed this meant I could write a novel. "You're a great writer!" my imaginary friends would tell me. "You should be able to write a book without any problem at all."

If by "without any problem" my invisible pals meant "with lots and lots of problems," then they were spot on. Simply being able to write good is not the same thing as telling a good story. For a number of years I had an uneasy feeling this was the case. Fortunately, two very non-imaginary people, Jack and Jill, took a look at my work and pointed this out to me. They each employed a constructive manner using plenty of terms that couldn't possibly terminate a friendship.

As I prepare to give this another go tomorrow, the second month of PBWQ, I'm hoping the story structure I've worked and reworked over the last four to six weeks or so pays off. Otherwise I'm calling those aliens and demanding my money back.

Comments Off on Storytelling
Posted in On Writing |

The Succinct Synopsis

Monday, September 27th, 2010

If you're one of the two-to-four people playing along in the First Annual PBWQ, then you should be painfully aware that the end of the first month is upon us. Have you spent it planning? Plotting? Writing? Sleeping? Or did you do what I did and wasted too much time making a synopsis that looked a wee bit too much like the final product?

Productivity-wise, I had a pretty good week. In spite of the fact that I had several nothing-at-all days, the (essentially) two days I was on were good ones. As I mentioned in my PBWQ update yesterday, I decided this week to visualize the entire storyline as a series of bullet points. So instead of writing a long and winding synopsis like so:

At this point the protagonist decided to fix a bowl of cereal. He had been up all night trying to figure out how he was going to get out of his current predicament. He decided to talk things over with his buddy right after breakfast. His buddy always knew what to do.

I ended up with something quite a bit more succinct:

  • o Bob eats breakfast.
  • o Buddy helps out Bob.

It's easier to read, understand, edit, manipulate and discourages the fluff that tends to creep into my synopsizing. Which is another way to say: it's virtually darling-proof. If you're taking the whole just-the-facts-ma'am approach, you're not creating little literary gems all over the place. If a bullet point doesn't fit, out it goes and no one cares. It's refreshingly clinical. I wish I'd thought of it fifteen years ago.

Posted in On Writing |

Running out of Time

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

As of the time of this writing, we're now about an hour and a half into the fall season in the northern hemisphere. (And did you catch that full harvest moon last night?) This means September is almost over. This also means the first month of PBWQ is almost over.

Month One, for me, meant pure R&D. It was about "getting it together" and pretty much nothing else. I've plowed forward into dense forests before only to find myself completely lost and out of energy. I swore I wouldn't let that happen this time around. I was going to do my homework and have the clearest blueprint ever before writing Word One.

Overall, I am happy with the progress. Things feel like they're coming together and, in spite of the fact that I don't have everything completely nailed down yet, this still feels right. I managed to spend some time on it even while out of town the last several days.

Let's just hope this translates into a good story. Because all the planning in the world isn't enough to make a book actually enjoyable.

Posted in Progress |

Staying Motivated

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Think about your dream job. I mean your all-time, number-one, could-do-absolutely-anything-you-want dream job. If you can't think of one right off the top of your head, don't worry. Here are some ideas I pulled out of my newspaper's classified ads for you:

  • WANTED: Man or woman, age 21 to 129, to taste-test new chocolate candy recipes. Twenty hours per week. $120K/year and up.
  • GREAT OPPORTUNITY: Are you a real go-getter? Because we need someone to go get our coffee. Up to two hours per week. $1,750/hr.
  • NEEDED: Highly-motivated individual to stress test beach chairs in the Bahamas. Travel expenses and per diem included. May be required to test beer and/or margaritas up to 10% of the time. Starting rate: $6,000/month. Winters off.

While your dream job sounds kind of nice, let's face it: sooner or later every job becomes a job. You may find it incredulous that anyone could tire of tasting chocolate or fetching coffee or even sitting around on the beach. But sooner or later it happens.


Posted in Musings |

Twenty Minutes

Monday, September 6th, 2010

post image: Twenty MinutesI find it ironic that I frequently find myself lacking any sort of ambition when it comes to doing the thing I want to do most: namely, drink beer. Er . . . wait. No, I mean write. I mostly want to write.

Most of the time it's because I'm too dejected to write anything. Storylines hit brick walls. The brain goes numb. Everything I've done for the past six weeks is crap. I know I need to keep at it if I'm going to knock down those walls, reignite the brain, or turn the crap around. But it can be really difficult to harden myself to the task at hand. I think Gimli summed it up best during his orc-chase with:

"Well, let us go on," said Gimli. "My legs must forget the miles. They would be more willing, if my heart were less heavy."


Posted in On Writing |

PerBoWriQua 2010 Begins

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

We've all either participated in (or at the very least heard of) NaNoWriMo. Last year was my first go at it and all I felt when it was over was, "I don't want this to be over!" Though I'd added 64,000 words to my manuscript, I still wasn't anywhere near finished.

After thinking about it, I really began to feel like a month just wasn't enough to really pull it off. Not for me, and probably not for most of us. It felt more like a three month project:

Month 1: Planning, Outlining, Researching, Synopsizing, etc.
Month 2: Fast and Furious Writing from the Heart.
Month 3: Somewhat Slower but No Less Furious Rewriting with the Head.


Posted in Progress |