Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just a quick update

About 500 words yesterday, and maybe 1,200 the day before. It's spring break, so I try not to keep glued to the computer when the family is home. And for some reason there's a hell of a lot more errands this week. Just an end of the month thing, I guess. And I have to run over to the cable company in an hour and it's going to take all afternoon. I know it.

But the story is going well, now. At last. When I do get to write, it just feels a lot better than it has.

And really, that's all I have to say today. Oh, been reading a lot too. I'll definitely be bringing a book to my afternoon errand. Because damn. It's gonna b a long one.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Someone a Lot Smarter than Me (6)

"I write 2,000 words a day when I write. It sometimes takes three hours, it sometimes takes five."

Nicholas Sparks

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eight Rules

These are ubiquitous. You see them all over the Web. But they're worth repeating.

Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing A Novel. They sure sound like Vonnegut. If you're at all intrested in writing you've probably already read them. But think about them for a minute. Even though they're couched in Vonnegut's well-known cranky, humorous style, they make a lot of sense. And since this is my blog, not Vonnegut's, I'm adding my two cents worth from time to time, in italics.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. (You'd think the goes without saying. You'd be wrong. I read one recently where the nicest thing you could say about the main character was she was scornfully stubborn. She had a lot of worse traits, and even that was not the book's biggest problem. Literally the worst book I've read in my 56 years.)

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. (Similar to a rule I came up with as an amateur actor - Every part in every play is a love story. The trick is figuring out what your character is in love with, and playing it with that intensity.)

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible. (At first blush this sounds silly. But think about it. It makes total sense.)

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of. (I have a friend who keeps falling in love with his characters and protects them by not letting anything bad happen to them. Makes for dull reading.)

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia. (Like the song says, "You can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself.)

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quick Update

Wrote the whole chapter yesterday – 1,800 + words. Oh, and they didn't suck. Can they be better? Of course. That's what the second draft is for. But they did NOT suck. So that's good.

Throw in the two blog posts, here and on the Island Time blog (telling the tale of woe that was my St. Patrick's Day flat tire) I think I was safely over 3,000. That was a productive day.

I expect less today. Going to school to read a chapter to the kids this morning, and have to take Millie to work around noon, that's a chunk out of the day. I'll get something this afternoon, in all likelihood.

But when you've had a day like yesterday, it builds. You feel like you can do anything. I'm feeling so virtuous after yesterday that I sit down knowing I'll accomplish something. Confidence is not a bad thing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What I Don't Have To Do Today

Today I don't have to write the best chapter ever written. I don't have to write the best chapter I've ever written. I don't even have to write the best chapter I've written yet in this book.

Hell, I don't even have to write a good chapter. Ideally I'd like to, but I'm not holding myself to that.

Today I just have to write a chapter. And not even the whole chapter – I try to write a thousand words a day minimum. My chapters are running between 1,700 and 2,200 words. So all I have to do is write half a chapter, and it can suck. I hope it doesn't and don't believe it will. But I give myself permission to suck if that's how it turns out.

All I have to do is write.

Although for the record, I give myself this permission every time I sit down at the keyboard, and that last chapter was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. Maybe there's a connection there. I'm not inclined to explore it. I'm just going to write.

I'll make it the best chapter I've ever written on the second draft. That's a different project for another day. Today I just have to write it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Someone a Lot Smarter than Me (5)

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." – William Faulkner.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Another Opening, Another Show

The school musical opened last night. It bears mentioning here because after two and a half days of working on the program plus the usual running around – including an ill-timed 24-hour loss of DSL service (is there ever a good time to lose your connection?) that required a half dozen phone calls and two trips to the ISP's office – I can finally get back to work.

Just opened chapter 10 with a pretty decent sentence. "Phil was driving through Kentucky when Fran screamed."

That oughta get the reader's attention.

Work work work. And if you happen to be on St. Croix and enjoy musical theater, you could do a lot worse than gettng out to Good Hope School to see Mirette. Enjoy the show, and especially enjoy the 20-page program!

UPDATE: 2,004 words today, which is double what I try to do in a day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


No writing this week, at least not on the book. Not because I'm stymied or "blocked" (I don't accept the notion of writer's block, but that's another blog.)

It's because I got volunteered for putting the program together for the school musical, "Mirette."

It wouldn't be too bad, I could knock it out in no time if I was using a pagination program. But who has a thousand bucks for a copy of XPress? Not the school, which supplied me with the Word template they use.

Word's a good program (even if it is made by the hegemoniacal bastards of Redmond, Washington) and it can do a lot of things, but other than word processing, it does them half-assed. So It's a lot more laborious than it otherwise would be if I were independently wealthy and could bu whatever software I wanted.

And it doesn't hep that the kids, being kids, wrote a bunch of stuff for their program bios that isn't very helpful.

But be that as it may, the show opens tomorrow, and they expect programs. So I'm not getting up from the computer today except for coffee (and the resultant bathroom breaks) until it's done.

Then I can get back to work on - you know - work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Better Already

Having a much more productive week, thanks to the decision I came to over the weekend to jettison half of Bones to get on track.

It's hard to say whether it's going so much better today because it was the right decision, or because I made a decision. You know what I mean?

It really was the right decision, but sometimes the fact that you've decided something, anything, is really the important factor. It gives you a renewed sense of purposes, like "Alright, now I know what I'm doing so let's do it!" Something like that. I'll leave it to the psychiatrists to sort out.

All I know is I'm back on the road with the kids and for a change I'm not struggling to put two decent sentences together. Between that and the earlier decision about focusing the perspective better, I'm finally feeling good again about this story, which has given me more trouble than either of the previous two.

Update - 900 words today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

When You Get Lost on the Road

You're driving down the road, a long drive. You have a general idea where you're going. Everything seems fine 'til you come to the proverbial fork in the road. Like the guy in the poem you look down the road in both directions as far as you can see, and you pick one on a hunch and start driving.

That's what I did. At first I thought the road I'd taken would get me to more or less the same place as the other, but pretty quickly I wasn't so sure. Then I began to wonder where it would take me, and now I've finally realized, too late, that this road doesn't go anywhere at all.

When you've taken a wrong turn you have two choices. Look for a bypass that will get you back on track, or stop, turn around and go back to the wrong turning and start over. You lose time that way, but what else can you do? Where you are isn't going to get you anywhere, it's a dead end. So you turn back.

This weekend I realized that's where I am with Bones. I've been driving down the wrong highway – literature-ally, if not literally, the story is about a road trip, after all – for the last few weeks. I made a wrong turn, introduced two characters and a new situation that seemed full of promise, but are going nowhere.

At first I figured if I just plowed ahead it would take me eventually to where the story needs to be. But it hasn't. The last couple of weeks I realized that the first half and the second half go together like a Ping Pong table and a killer whale. Not at all. I've been desperately searching for a way to turn off on a side road and make my way back to the highway that is the original story idea.

And now I understand there's nothing to do but turn around, go back to where I made the mistake, and start over.

That means I'm jettisoning about half of the 38,000 words I've written. And once I made the decision, I relaxed. I know it's the right thing to do.

There's no guarantee, of course, that the other 19,000 words are going to get me anywhere worthwhile, but at least I'm back on the right road. There was some decent bits and three interesting characters in the stuff I mucked out. They may show up again someday, in a story where they fit. In this case, none of the material served the story, and sometimes you just have to have the guts to accept your losses and move on.

So Dan and Brian, no last names given, the two gas station robbers who were hounding the kids and haunting my dreams by not carrying their weight, are gone. So is Gina, the girl from the carnival. And I'm breathing again. I can see the story again.

I've actually done something like this once before, with Gladys. I started with a great premise, at least I think it is, and started writing. But after six chapters and about 17,000 words, I realized that while the writing was good,maybe the best I've done, it had nothing to do with the story. It was a lot of really well written throat clearing. So I scrapped them, all 17,000 words, and started over. There was nothing left but the main character's name, the year (1718) and the town where the story starts, Hampton, Va. And the story took off.

So I'm happy to be back on track and now see the first draft being finished inside two months.

Being willing to go where your characters take you is one thing. But throwing a roadblock in their path (Dan and Brian) for no reason, just to see, and let the roadblock take over the story, makes no sense.

I'm back on the path.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Too Happy?

I had a great childhood. I have to admit it. And that's apparently a real handicap for a writer.

You read it all the time, about writers – or visual artists, I suppose but I don't know much about them – who had these disastrous childhoods, tormented by crazy or abusive parents, or orphaned, stifled in poverty or burdened with disease, or all of the above and more and worse. And they wring frm the marrow of these awful backgrounds the stuff of their art. They smehow distill truth from their miserable circumstances.

That's not my case at all. I had great parents, and while I'm sure at some points along the way must have been unhappy, I really don't remember anything like that.

My childhood memories resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, while most successful writers' youths apparently were more like a series by Edvard Munch.

I find myself trying to write difficult scenes about people with troubled backgrounds in hard situations, and I'm completely lacking the pschic angst necessary to make it work. I like – I admit it! – happy endings, or at least fitting endings, where even if the protagonists don't get what they thought they wanted, they get what they need. I believe in that.

I lack the cynicism, the world weariness, the bleak outlook, to paint the world black. It's just not in me.

So I guess I'll just have to make it up. Which, after all, is what writers do.