Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In defense of ignorance

OK. It's been awhile. I've been ignoring my blog and my writing.

Usually, I would say that is inexcusable. But I have a good excuse this time. I really, really do. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been on the road for work (not a good excuse), and going through the process of finding a new job (that's the good excuse).

For the last 17-plus years, I've been a sports reporter. I've never done anything else. Now I'm stepping away from the struggling newspaper business (and floundering newspaper I work for). I'm anticipating this to be a good move for me, even if I'm leaving my comfort zone.

But from my personal writing (and this blog's) standpoint, that should be a good thing. Gone will be the days when I'm too burnt out typing a half dozen stories during my workday to type on my novel or short story or whatever happens to be the WIP du jour. That leaves me jonesing to write, which means my only outlet now is my personal stuff -- a.k.a. the stuff I actually want to write.

I apologize for leaving for so long. And I apologize even more profusely to my muse, who has to feel pretty damn neglected right now. But the blog posts should come more regularly, and my routine of fiction writing should get back into the swing, too.

But maybe not right away. I've got a big move in front of me, a house I have to get ready to sell, and a start to a new career to worry about. So forgive me if the daily updates don't come back fast and furious right away. There's still a bunch on my plate.

I've appreciated the feedback I've gotten since the first couple of posts were slapped together. I hope those blog followers stick around, or at least come back when things fire up again. Just hang with me though this little rough patch, and I promise everything will work out.

Remember: It's not you, it's me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back and forth

I hate tennis.

Well, I don't hate it, but I'm starting to really not like it very much with my writing. I'm going through this rewrite, and I'm starting to feel like I'm smackdab in the middle of a tennis match.

I make progress going forward with some changes, then I find myself going back to a previous chapter for more tweaks, then back forward again. I'm making changes, and I feel like they're improving the thing, but it doesn't feel like I'm getting anywhere.

It's not going around in circles. It's going back and forth. The thing about tennis, is that the ball doesn't go anywhere. It's stuck in that one rectangle the whole time. The only time people cheer, is when that ball finally gets past one of the guys hellbent on keeping it in that rectangle. Right now, that's how I feel. I want to bust out of that rectangle.

There are frustrating things in all phases of a work in progress. But I just wish this WIP was heavier on the progress and a little less on the work.

But I'm almost done with the rewrite. That will most definitely be progress. I'll keep plowing forward, and the key is to not lose focus on the big pictures. Sooner or later, I'll be off of this damn tennis court.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rewrite takes its toll

It's been 10 days since my last post. It seems like 10 years.

Well, maybe that's just how much I've aged in that time. In the past 10 days, I have been enlightened, distracted, overjoyed, embittered, intoxicated, and even bit by a spider. And all of that came about either during or as a result of my current rewriting process.

It's getting to be a bit of a wear on the constitution, to be sure. The problem is that I don't really like second-guessing myself, but it's imperative that I do so. As a newspaper reporter, I hack things out, give it one tidy run through and POOF it's out of my hands. Then I'm on to the next story.

This is much bigger, much more involved, and much more important to me than some story about a hockey coach I crank out in 30 minutes. My writing is me, and I don't want to screw it up. I don't know if my story is better or worse. Obviously, I think it's better - now anyway. Back to the newspaper stuff, I'm used to getting done and it's right the first time and that's good enough. Now, that's not good enough, and it's a little of an adjustment for me.

I've made great headway, and I should be closing in at wrapping up this draft some time in the near future. And then I'll give it to some buddies to read and rip to shreds. But for now, I'm still plowing through.

I've heard time and time again that writing is the easy part, but the rewriting and editing are the parts where the novel really gets done. Sure, it's true. But it's still annoying sometimes.

Whenever I used to see one of those quotes about editing or rewriting, I used to think 'Wow, tha'ts pretty cool.' Now all I think is 'Oh, shut up, Faulkner. Like you had it rough.'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Zone in

I was cruising through my Twitter feed earlier today, and there was one post that summed up pretty much everything that got me fired back up on my work in progress.

The post was from the always quality feed of @AdviceToWriters, which posted this quote from the great Jack London: "Don't write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story rather than dissipate it over a dozen."

I am not surprised that Jack London said something better than I could, and this is a great point. Multi-tasking is something wonderful - when you've got to, say, conduct an interview for work on your cell phone while you're driving to another interview and you're writing out a grocery list when you're stuck at a stop light. It's not so wonderful (at least for me) when it comes to my creative writing.

When I spread myself too thin, then my writing gets thin, too. I like having juicy hunks of stuff for the reader to take a bite out of, and that takes concentration. So I have to get down with the blinders on dive into one project. I can't have your feet in two different swimming pools and expect to get anywhere. Actually, all that accomplishes is making me look stupid.

I've posted recently that I got some new ideas while working on the new novel. All I've managed to do with them was write them down, but I haven't really written on them yet. Now I know that I'm not going to work on those until this draft is all finished.

Distractions can be a real pain in the ass. And I include Twitter on this list. Don't get me wrong, I love reading what my followers have to say, and I love retweeting the stuff I find particularly insightful/funny/unbelievable/just-plain-honest/etc. But I KNOW I spend too much time on there - time that could be spent editing/writing/rewriting/sleeping.

There is no way to get rid of all distractions, and I doubt I'll stop looking at the internet while I go through the process of wrapping up this second draft. But just because you get distracted doesn't mean you have to lose focus.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Out of the Blue

All I've been doing lately in regards to my vexing/fantastic/rough/fancy work in progress is rewriting, editing, rewriting, editing. I've been so focused on just zoning in on making this second draft one that somebody other than me can actually read, that I was astonished with a developement today.

I got ideas for other stories. Yes, that's right. PLURAL. Meaning more than one idea.

I have no idea where they came from, or which crack in my brain they wriggled out of, but all of a sudden they were there. And that left me scrambling.

As far as ideas go, I can't speak to how anybody else works. I don't ask people where they get their ideas, because the answer is always the same: Nobody knows. Likewise, I don't know where my ideas come from, but when they arrive, they pop into my head and jolt me awake like a fire engine blasting down your street at 4 a.m. At first I'm bewildered and confused and don't know what the heck is going on, and the next thing I know, I'm in a haze trying figure out what the hell is going on.

As a writer, I am prepared for this sort of thing. I carry my lil' notebook around everywhere I got for various jottings and for just such an occasion. But getting everything down is a different story.

Ever have a dream that is so vivid an dreal, but when you wake up it's completely gone? You can't remember anything no matter how hard you try? When I get an idea for a short story or a novel or whatever, that's my biggest fear. I'm so scared I'm going to lose everything before I get it all down that I just start scribbling away furiously in the hopes that I don't lose one drop of that idea that just started overflowing.

In any event, the moral of this story is that I was shocked that all of my concentration on creating my second draft produced a couple of what I think could be very solid stories. I'm always stunned at the peculiar times inspiration hits, but I'll take it.

It's not only going to be editing and rewriting tonight. Add some outlining and creating to that list, too. I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taking names

I didn't know how to tackle the editing and rewrite of my first draft. However, after figuring out a way to go about it that fits my style, I've come to one good, determined conclusion.

I'm going to kick this rewrite's ass.

Pardon the language, for the faint of heart out there, but I really don't know another way to put it. I'm bulling forward and hammering away at more than just laptop keys. I'm sharpening my story and my characters and all that other stuff, and I feel ultra-positive about how the rewrite is going just three days into it.

I'm tackling at least one chapter a day, and just finished a session where I hammered out roughly 4,000 words. Of course, some of those words were typed back in September, to be sure. But any writer that uses words as their guide will now that few things are more fulfilling than crusing through a couple thousand words in less than an hour. I may be rehashing some stuff that I've already typed and edited and resigned myself to liking (for now), but getting all those words out is good for the ol' psyche.

The best part? It feels great to be writing again, and it feels pretty good.

So it's full steam ahead with the rewrite, and I should have this sucker rattled off and (hopefully) coherent within a month.

At least that's the goal, and I don't know anything that should keep me from getting through my 22 chapters in 22 days. I mean, I just said I was kicking ass. What's going to get in the way of someone kicking ass?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Now that's a little more like it.

After another rock-em, sock-em frantic bout with editing, I'm back into my comfort zone - writing again. Well, this is a little different I guess, since technically what I'm doing it rewriting.

The last couple of days has been spent (when I wasn't at my real job) furiously editing. The most recent session gave me three solid treks over and under and straight through my work in progress, where I already lopped off more than 8,000 words. I cut those suckers due to a number of reasons - from mere editing to content purposes to just plain spite.

Now with a stack of papers covered in marks, I opened up a brand spanking new file and started typing all over again. My flashlight into draft No. 2 is the beat up hard copy of my poor little first draft.

I don't know if this is how everybody (or anybody) goes about knocking out the second draft. There may be more efficient ways, but nothing motivates my writing more than that blinking cursor with nothing behind it.

To me, it's not the same just going into some old file and making the changes, highlighting and deleting and all that other pains-taking stuff. It's a rewrite, so I'm starting all over.

It's not a start from scratch. I've got some pretty good guides: The hours I spent typing the first draft; the hours I spent editing that sucker; the hours I spent sharpening the story and these characters and, of course, my idea.

It's a marathon, not a sprint, but I feel like I'm hitting my stride again.

Friday, April 9, 2010

All fired up again

I know that editing is a major part of any writing process - whether it's in my writing at the newspaper, working on my novel or short stories or whatever. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I've learned throughout this process that I am a much more efficient writer than I am an editor, from the standpoint that my writing is a more free-flowing thing. I can hammer it out and get it down and it's out there. Editing is completely different, as I'm reading over sentences and paragraphs over and over trying to get them to flow and fit.

I buried myself in editing marks and slashes and lines pulling words and fragments this way and that, and I started to think it was hopeless. That this stupid WIP wasn't going to amount to anything, and that I wasted the better part of the last year trying to dress up a dog turd.

Then I took a step back. Worked on other things: Wrote a couple of short stories, bounced other ideas around my head for other novels, etc.

After I finished my first draft, I took roughly six weeks off to completely separate myself from it. Once I dove back into it, I fell in love with it again and did a lot of work on the editing front. I got frustrated with editing because I wanted it to be as free-flowing and easygoing as my writing had been. That's just not the case.

I took another breather, and it's given me a whole other wind to work on it. This re-write and round of edits is going much, MUCH better than the last one, that's for sure. Now I know what to expect and I'm ready for it. I just hope my WIP is ready for it, too.

I'm not saying that this is what every writer should do, but I am saying that it certainly helped me.

Patience is not one of my virtues. But I'm going to have to learn to use it if I want to seriously become a writer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Major Surgery

I'm working on edits of my good ol' work in progress, and I have discovered that I'm in need of an operation.

A few of my characters need work. And by work, I mean they need to get completely sliced out of the book. So somebody hand me a scalpel. I'm going in.

I had thought of the prospect of this, sadly, when I was writing the first draft. However, that's not the way I work. I had the idea worked out before hand, and when I'm writing, I charge forward bowling over everything in my path. Sometimes, that includes the common sense of "That really should get changed." I don't make changes when I'm writing, since I save that for the editing process.

But now I'm at the editing process, and this is no small task. There are a couple of characters that just don't fit, so I think they've got to go. On the other side, there are a couple of characters that really need to be involved more - that I think are more important and need more face time.

I am a pretty liberal editor, and that helps. When it comes to my WIP, my hacking and slashing would make Jason Voorhees blush. But this is a major undertaking, chopping people out of a story. I have to make sure I do it right.

I've talked before about how the editing is a painstaking process. Now my next few sessions are going to be filled with removing these characters and patching it up. My vision is better without them, but as with all surgeries, this is probably going to take time before I'm completely happy with it.

I just hope there aren't any scars. But if there are, I hope they look cool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More reading options

Since I've been reading so much, I figure I might as well offer up a couple of other good resources I've stumbled upon.

I read fiction almost exclusively, but these are from a list of books to help your writing. They're both very good, and they have been helpful in the past. That's why I read them again. I may have mentioned them before, but I repeat myself at times. Especially when I have good things to say.

The first is ZEN AND THE ART OF WRITING by Ray Bradbury. This one offers tons of help on getting the most out of your writing, which is something I've really needed help with lately (in case you've missed my previous post). I had forgotten how good this thing is.

The other is WRITING TO SELL by Scott Meredith. This one goes over everything, plotting, character creation and all that good stuff. It's a very good resource and a good starting point for writers that don't know how to go about tackling their projects.

Every time I read these, I pluck something out that I can use. They're short, but they're like text books. You can keep learning and learning as long as you're willing to keep wringing them out.

Of course, I can't have a post like this without mentioning ON WRITING by Stephen King. If you haven't read it, stop reading this post right now and go to a bookstore or and purchase it this instant.

If you're reading this sentence, you have 1) Read ON WRITING; 2) don't take orders from the likes of me; or 3) are just plain sneaky.

No matter which option describes you, I still like you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time to shake up the bag

Writer's block is something I used to laugh at. Now it's something I stub my toe on. I still write, to be sure, but I don't like anything that I'm writing these days. I don't know if it's because I am busy with my real job as a reporter, because I hate my job as a reporter, because my good ideas are all locked away in hibernation, or because I simply am out of my groove. Whichever way it's going down, my writing/editing time has turned largely into a sighing/swearing time.

And whatever the reason, it's frustrating. The days of yanking a piece of paper out of a typewriter with loud ZZZZZZIIIIPPP! might be gone for me, but the act of highlighting a giant chunk of text on my laptop screen has the same, dizzying affect.

One positive of this whole thing is that my reading has shot through the roof. Since Jan. 1, I've read 14 books, and am halfway through No. 15. That has me cruising (unintentionally) toward roughly 60 books this year. I try to read between 40 and 50 each year on purpose, and I'm blowing that pace right out of the water.

These two things are no coincidence, methinks. Subconsciously, I feel like I'm trying to dig up whatever I can out of these numerous books, furiously flipping through pages to find the switch for that light bulb over my head.

I'm so tired of the frustration, that I've decided to jounce the limb a little bit to see if this slump can get knocked to the ground. And I'll do whatever it takes.

I'll change my routine to write during different times of the day. I'll write without looking at the screen for an hour and then check out what I've got when I'm done. I'll write groggy from just waking up in the morning. I'll write groggy with sleep late at night. I'll write drunk. No matter what happens, though, I won't quit.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Something's gotta give...or does it?

This is insane.

I apologize for the lack of blog posts as of late, but I'm trying. I'm really trying. It's just that getting bogged down with a bunch of other crap, and this has been put on the backburner. And it drives me nuts.

I'm busier now than I was during the holidays, and that's saying quite a bit. As a sports reporter, the holidays are loaded with tournaments and all kinds of stuff to fill one's plate. And then there's the shopping. And the traveling. And the family stuff. And I was working on a novel.

But the aftermath of the new year has been that I have less time than I did in November and December. And that's a problem from this blog's standpoint.

The reason this bugs me so much is because there is nothing that makes me happier than when I'm writing or working on something I've written, or working on this blog. I'm a happier person when I'm writing and blogging regularly. I can feel the difference.

I can't add to the 24 hours in a day (I checked. That number's pretty set in stone). So I have to prioritize things. It's tough juggling this stuff, but I gotta do it. There is still time to do all of the things that I want to do, but I have to spend more time on the things that stop me from losing my marbles.

So expect to hear more from me than you have lately. Even if the ramblings get a little berserk.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Going in reverse

I'm a mess.

I've finished one run through of edits on the ol' first draft (or would it be a second draft now?), and I feel like I haven't really gotten anywhere, except more confused.

Starting up the editing process from Chapter 1 all over again had me feeling a little confused, but I wasn't ready for the rewrite quite yet. Or didn't feel ready. I know that the dang thing will certainly need to be rewritten, at least one more time, but I don't know if I've got the right direction to do it right now.

And I've tried, trust me. To me, it seems a little counter-productive to write a bunch of stuff, only to highlight it all and smack the delete button. After two hours of that, when I'm left with nothing but my same old work in progress, and that damn blinking cursor staring at me.

So I'm going to do what I always do when something frustrates me. I'm going to slice it up one more time. I'm editing this bastard again before rewriting, but I'm doing something different this time around. I'm not starting with Chapter 1 and plowing through my story again. I just did that.

This time, I'm starting at the end, and rewinding. Last paragraph first, and working my way backwards.

Hopefully, this gives me a different perspective on things, and it helps me out of my mini-funk here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Painstaking Process

A great comment was left on one of my other blog posts recently. Good ol' Angie Kate said that editing is much less fun and much more time consuming than writing, but equally necessary.

She's right, of course, but I wish she wasn't. I'm not a big fan of the re-writing, because it seems like it takes gobs and gobs of effort and concentration to produce a couple of ounces of tangible, realized outcome.

However, in the early stages of my editing/re-writing of my work in progress, I've begun to realize the dividends. Polished copy is much (so much) better than that rough, thorny stuff I first threw out there when I was hammering out the first draft.

There are the points where I'm really ticked at myself for writing what I see as a rotten sentence, and it takes me 45 minutes to rehash the mess around it. Like that one rancid sentence infected all the other ones around it, and now I have to send in the clean-up crew for the whole dang paragraph. Sigh.

Sure, the process is painstaking, and I totally (and I mean totally) agree with Angie Kate's assessment, but I'm still going through it with as much zeal as I can. I don't like it as much as the writing, but I know that it's making me a better writer in the long run.

It took me a little bit to warm up to it, and I'm not exactly cozy yet, but I see the importance. So I'm teaching myself to love it. After all, I know I'll be more happy with the overall project when I go back and read it again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Opening the drawer

The first draft of my first novel is officially out of the drawer now, and going through this first round of edits has brought on some realizations.

First and foremost, there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) of "I wrote this?" moments. And that can be both good and bad. Sometimes it's "Ugh, I can't believe I wrote this!" Other times it's more fulfilling "Hey. Wow. I wrote this."

I haven't decided which one of these I get more out of. While I like the good stuff, and it's good for the confidence, the stuff I don't like probably produces more. It opens up more re-working and (hopefully) improving what I've done.

I haven't decided if I like this process. Re-writing and editing is a completely different animal than writing. It's more pain-staking, and it's a real thinker. I stare at a sentence or two for long periods of time, contemplating better ways to tell the tale. It's tough.

When I write, I just sit down and write. Now I'm being critical of my own work, and I have to make sure that I'm the biggest critic. That usually isn't a problem, but I have to be conscious of everything. When I'm writing, I could pretty much close my eyes and go sometimes. Now I'm sitting a couple inches away from my screen, moving the blocks around.

The thing I'm most proud of is that I was able to leave this thing in the drawer for as long as I did. Eight weeks I stayed away from this thing. I was ultra-proud to have finished the first draft, and I think I've got a good story.

Now I'm making it better.