Sunday, April 27, 2014

Some nuggest of wisdom from Joe R. Lansdale

A series of thoughts on writing by Joe R. Lansdale
For the entire article, click here: www.joerlansdale.com/writing.shtml
 Here are my humble notes:
- the next day I start all over by rereading what I wrote the day before.
- Three to five pages is what I work for, but I don't fight it if I get more. I rarely get less. I can't remember when I got less, but it happens
- read a little before I write. It can be fifteen minutes or an hour.
- Reading is the fuel, and you have to fill up the tank constantly.
- These suggestions work for me and have worked for many others and might work for you. And they might not. But to find your method you have to experiment.
- I also think that writing books haven't done much for me. Two have helped, and only for certain things. The first helped because it had the idea of writing only one page a day. That became three to five for me.
- Do I write for money? Yes and no. I write because I love to write, but I write with the plan to get paid. I pay bills by writing.
- You should write to be paid and start in the best market possible. Have faith in yourself. If it doesn't place where you like, go down the list.
- Seeing something in print you're proud of spurs more creativity and more checks. You need both in this life. Starving and being paid poorly does not make you an artist.
- For me writing is a passion, not an obsession. One is good and fun, the other feels a little like you're stalking yourself. I have to have things in my life other than writing to love the writing. I think if all I had was writing it would consume me. Not the life I want.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Striking the Right Balance

I originally thought of titling this blog post as "Finding the Right Balance", but chose not to because finding assumes you know what you did to get there. Whereas striking to me seemed more like a metaphor for playing music and knowing when you've hit the right note.

Like most of you, I struggle with balance. The demands on our time can be overwhelming; if it's not your job, your spouse, your kids, home ownership, or just the desire to flake out in front of the TV and watch an episode of Supernatural because you feel like it. And there are those days when you feel like you've struck the right balance, done just enough of everything to make everyone happy, including yourself!

And there are those other days where you can't get to everything and can't make everyone happy, including yourself. You can't linger on those days. Reset yourself and focus on the next day perhaps starting with the items or people you couldn't get to.

With my writing projects, I feel the same way. I can spend a narrow window of time writing and really feel accomplished whereas another time I can spend hours struggling and end up giving up, questioning if I have what it takes to be a writer. Keep both of those kind of days in mind. Savour the good ones and work your way out of the tough ones.

Just keep writing, keep those fingers moving on the keyboard and you'll find your way.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A few thoughts on tackling second drafts

There's the notion that you'll clean everything up in the second draft. I'm writing the second draft of my novel Spirit Quest and I'm finding that it is indeed when you clean everything up, but I never expected to be cutting so much material and rewriting. Perhaps this effect is due to the NaNoWriMO process, which I treated as getting 50,000 words on the page.

I've had a secondary character push herself to the forefront of my story and demand to be cast as a co-protagonist. Rewriting the early part of the story, she fit more naturally into the story and seemed like the perfect character through which to introduce the supernatural. One of my alpha readers also raised this issue as a concern as the main protagonist doesn't really come into play until chapter 3 and is first seen through that secondary character's pov.

I'm not really fighting the process. It's evolving and I'm writing my way out of it. I never expected the second draft to be as volatile as it is. As this story is meant to be the first in a series of novels with these recurring characters, it's actually added more fun to the concept in that it doesn't all have to revolve around one character and each character can shine at different points in the overall story structure.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Writer's Fragile Confidence

Most writers are in a state of gloom most of the time; they need perpetual reassurance.
- JOHN HALL WHEELOCK

If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time doubting yourself. You'll have good day and bad days. Some days the Muse will sing and you'll feel great and every word your write seems like gold. Other days (and sometimes usually the next day), you reread your stuff or try writing something new and you feel like it's garbage, amateurish stuff.

And it's okay to feel that way. The above quote reminds us that we do need reassurance. But, does that always need to come from someone else? When do we be confident enough in our writing? Sadly, I don't think I'll ever be that way.

It's taken years for me to take criticism and listen. Confidence is something completely different. There's always that lingering doubt in my mind about my writing. There's that impish little devil on my shoulder stabbing with his pitch fork telling me I'm not meant to be a writer. I don't have to listen to him, but I do hear that voice, that doubt.

Non-writers have no idea the angst writers go through when they put their work out there. I've sent off the first forty pages of my novel to a circle of friends and I'm terrified of what they'll think. What if they think the last 3 months of work is crap? What if they tell me that I should quit the writing thing?

The one thing I can say for certain is that writing is in my blood. It's something I can't escape, something I can't not do. I enjoy doing it as well as struggle with doing it, but I can't see myself not doing it. Maybe I'll get some negative feedback, but I'll roll with it. Their opinion is not going to change what I want to do. It might be an indicator of my progress as a writer and might highlight what I need to fix. I won't give up. I might not have a hell of a lot of confidence, but I'm damn persistent!

The only thing I can do is keep writing...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting that chapter right

I'm currently working through the early chapters of my second draft of Spirit Quest. The first one works quite well, but the next couple kind of limp through. Especially the second chapter. The tone of this chapter was a bit too light-hearted. I wanted it to be a day-in-the-life of our protagonists, but it turned out to be a bit too slapstick.

I tried rewriting it and streamlined the characters. The scene originally had one protagonist and four secondary characters. Then I thought about these secondary characters, realizing that they didn't add much to the story beyond their appearance. And their appearance, in some places, was just to make sure that my protagonist wasn't talking out loud to herself. I trimmed that down to one protagonist and two secondary characters. The flow was better and I felt the scene really tighten up. But, I couldn't get the right feel, it seemed a little too comedic. And early on in your story, you want to reinforce the style and comedy wasn't were this story was going.

I came back to it and decided to pull it. I rewrote another chapter in a different setting with similar secondary characters, but it spiralled away on me and will probably be used as a short story at some point.

I rewrote the scene again and decided to pull in my other protagonist. That chapter was finally the right fit, or at least I hope it is. Who knows what'll happen to that chapter by the time I finish the second draft. The chapter is multi-purpose, in that it introduces us to both of these characters and gets them to meet each other and leaves seeds for them to establish a relationship.

I find it interesting that readers will never see the other versions (or perhaps will in short stories). And can't help but wonder what kind of cut scenes from our favourite books we'll never get to read?

If a chapter doesn't feel right, try coming at it from a different angle, or character. Review the characters in that chapter. Do they all serve a purpose? Are they all really needed to keep this scene going? Will they ever appear again in the story? And if that doesn't work, put the chapter aside and re-write it from scratch. That's what we writers are supposed to be at, right?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 Writing Goals

Looking back at my 2013 goals, 2013 was still a pathetic year for reading. And that will be second biggest goal of the year.My primary goal this year will be to clean up my first draft of SPIRIT QUEST.

By the end of February – prepare my submission package for Spirit Quest
[   ] Revise synopsis
[   ] Polish first 10,000 words

Longer term goals for 2014
[   ] Complete the Second Draft of Spirit Quest
[   ] Read 2 books/month

Continue Blogging
[   ] Writing blog (twice a week)
[   ] Marvel 1980s blog/tumblr
[   ] DC 1980s blog

Continue to pursue writing grants
[   ] Ontario Arts Council - WRITERS' WORKS IN PROGRESS (February 18, 2014)
[   ] Toronto Arts Council (June 16/2014)
[   ] Canada Arts Council (October 2014)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A look back at 2013

Yes, it’s that time of year again, where I self-indulgently look back at the year that was 2013. The year ended with a whimper as I was sick for most of December with a variety of ailments that led me to believe I was someone’s science experiment.

In contrast, the year started off well as I attended the Borderlands Boot Camp in January. I learned a hell of a lot from F. Paul Wilson and Douglas Winters and met a great gang of writer folks. Unfortunately, I felt the experience overall was a bit of a downer and really tested by confidence as a writer, which is something that I constantly struggle with. The amount of time I spend second guessing myself and my talents is startling. But, I know I’m not the only one that feels that way.

I took me a considerable amount of time to recover and I think I’ve built myself up stronger than before. And this resurrection of sorts was great timing as I prepared a pitch for the San Diego Comic Con comic creator connection event in July. While I didn’t find a suitable artistic match to go forward with my comic book idea, it did teach me a lot about the art of the pitch.

And that experience paid off as I built up the courage to pitch to a Del-Rey editor at the San Diego Comic Con. A few months later, I received an email from the editor asking to see my novel. So that submission package has been my focus for the end of the 2013.

I worked on the plot for Spirit Quest and hammered out 50,000 words during November’s NaNoWriMo. It wasn’t the most beautiful prose, but it was a great exercise to work through the swirling story ideas I had.

And for the past month, I’ve been tightening up my synopsis for Spirit Quest and fleshing out characters. I’m really looking forward to 2014 and using it to make a leap in my writing career.