Failure, etc.

It_s one of the god_s great gifts that men get to carry their favorite toys with them everywhere.As the master of setting goals that are far too lofty for my, and sometimes any sane human’s, abilities, I am used to eating crow. Whenever I hear someone use the words “failure is not an option,” my response is, “Oh, yeah? Hold my beer.”

Conventional wisdom is that a writer needs to write every day. Since I stopped working for other people and decided to write full-time, I took that advice seriously — and because my eating now depends on my writing, I took it to the nth degree.

Then I suddenly looked up (with exhaustion) and realized that I hadn’t taken a day off in over a month. That wasn’t such a big deal back in the days when I worked two or three jobs at once. I’m pretty sure that between 1992 and 1998, I didn’t take even one day off. But that was way back in the 1900s. Even though I’m still in perfect health and as strikingly handsome as ever (there are some people giggling right now who really need to stop), I also went from walking between 14 and 20 miles a day to sitting on my butt typing five or six hours a day for a month. I hit burn-out mode a lot easier.

So, all that to say that I bit off more than I could chew with the push for 10,000 words a day for a week straight. Now the question is, what to do with a setback?

The answer is, not a damned thing. It is what it is. I beat myself up for a day or two, and thought about applying to be someone’s secretary. But, my dream is still my dream and if it’s ever going to happen, it needs to be now.

I’m going to take one day off every week. No social media, no blogs, no writing, nothing. Well, except for notes about my WIP that pop into my head constantly. But, that will be a few quick scratches in my notebook and then putting it out of my mind.

I still believe in the story I was working on. The world needs more slightly goofy, barely sexy superheroes. Right? And, now I have way over half of it written! I’ve never pushed out that many words in that amount of time – so in the end, it was a pretty amazing experiment. Despite its abject failure.

Failure’s always an option – sometimes it’s just inevitable. What happens afterward (after a little pouting) is what’s important. I hope.

RW WR

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Day 5

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You ever set out to do something insane, and realize half-way through exactly how insane it is? I couldn’t post last night because I didn’t want to touch another key.

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I have a Yeti microphone and Dragon set up on my laptop… I may see what I can do with that today. About a year ago, I was working with it and had gotten pretty good at saying my punctuation (period) But (comma) it’s been a while and will take some getting used to again (period) (new paragraph)

I took some time to sit by the beach this morning and watch the sun come up and read more of the Robert Crais book I’m working my way through.

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Now, I’m ready to knock myself out again. Bring it on. Oh, and I was right about appreciating the very detailed outline – I’m definitely going to do that in the future when I have more than a few days to write.

RW WR DP

Days 3 and 4

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Where’d 3 Go??

As anyone who knows me will tell you; if the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, I’m foreman of Satan’s Public Works crew.

I had a set back yesterday morning when I woke up panicking about money. So, I took one of the short-stories I’d written and just needed to edit and spent about five hours taking care of that and getting it up on Amazon. It paid off… a little. Today I had my largest number of page reads on KPD since I started putting stories up, but very few of the reads were from the new one. Go fig. That makes six stories up. Maybe when I get to 45 or so, I can pay my bills.

Anyway, after all that work on something else yesterday and a few hours running into Boston to get bookshelves for my office today, here is my word count –

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I’m only about 6,000 words behind. Doable. And I still have a little time to work tonight.

One great thing I’m getting out of this is something I’ve tried to cultivate every time I failed NANOWRIMO – which I always do. It seems that I’m developing the ability to explore. I’ve never really done that before.

I had a character show up that I hadn’t planned for. Her name is Henrietta. She’s a bartender and everyone calls her Henri — and I can’t use her. The love interest’s name is Hector and the names look too close. So, I’ll keep her but try to come up with another name I like. I need a female bartender for my noir series – so Henri’s going to live there.

I had neuropsych testing done earlier this year and the doctor told me that my thinking is very linear and rigid. She actually said, “I’m not a career counselor, but if I were, I would probably tell you that being a writer’s not a good idea. Graphic designer – something like – much better.”

Being a stubborn jerk (actually, a stubborn jerk who spent almost $100,000 on a writing degree and has never, ever wanted to do anything else), I decided to ignore her and just figure out workarounds for my shortcomings.

 

RW WR DP

 

Day Two

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Ok, I was setting out to expand the outline today. I didn’t do so well. Even keeping the expansion scant, I got too much into writing the story and made the outline of each chapter way too big. Dialogue would jump into my head and come out my fingers. My usual chapter is about 1,600 words, and the outlines for a few of these chapters are over 1,000 words. So I wrote about 10,000 words just to outline 14 chapters. Insanity. I might as well just start writing the book.

I’m sure I’ll appreciate the over-work over the next few days, but it was frustrating today. So I exported the outline into Scrivener…

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did a little writing to give myself a head start on tomorrow…

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At least I know exactly what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and how everyone will react when it does. Tomorrow is the first of the massive writing days.

Wish me luck,

RW WR DP

Day One

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It’s the end of day 1, and I’m wiped out. My brain is jelly. As for using the software, I ditched that idea around six hours ago. It is sooooooo detailed that there’s no way I could finish in two days. It will be great when I’m trying to suss out characters and stories in the future, but since I’ve been living with these people in my head for a few years, I feel I already know them well enough. I didn’t ditch the Outlining Your Novel stuff altogether though. It’s actually the backbone of my outline.

I plugged it into an Excel sheet. She tells you approximately when the major points of your story should happen for the most impact.

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I know that there are people out there who feel that takes some of the art from storytelling… I say bullshit. It actually capitalizes on the wisdom of tens of thousands of years of storytellers.

I decided that I want the novel to be about 70,000 words. My chapters run between 1,600 and 2,000 words. That just seems to be the usual rhythm of my arcs. So, I had Excel tell me approximately in which chapters I needed this important stuff to happen. Below you can see – Inciting Incident at 12%, Key Event at 20%, and it goes on. Then I added blank chapters between them and filled them up. To keep the timeline straight, I highlighted each chapter in green, different shades for each day.

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I decided that the best way to tell the story is from a mixture of two different POV’s. I’ve never done this before. Every other chapter is highlighted in red. That’s the First Person POV of Zach. The other chapters are Third Person through either Hector’s or Savage’s POV, depending on who best advances the story. Below is the entire thing. Seven days, a lot of danger, a love story line with a happy ending, etc.

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Then, eyeballs burning, fingertips aching, shoulders cramping, I moved on to the next step. I split-screened this very skimpy outline with Outlinely and dove in on the expansion.

 

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I got to the end of Chapter 8 and my brain and ass cramped. I have to stop for the day. I should be able to expand the other 36 chapters tomorrow. Woohoo. I know I can do this!

RW, WR, DP

Book in 12 Days

IMG_0646Ok, I sat at the beach and wrote all this in my notebook yesterday, was going to type it up when I got home, and post it. Unfortunately, I finally talked my roommate into watching Stranger Things and we ended up binge watching six episodes. No more work was done. So, here’s what should have gone up yesterday — be warned, because of what I have planned, I won’t have time to edit, so the next 13 posts will be a little rough around the edges.

Book in 12 days Experiment

As a scattered nut-job with ADHD, one of the biggest fears I have is that something will slip through the cracks. There are so many things I want to do and so many things I’ve started (and not finished) that it seriously makes me queasy.

I think I’ve finally gotten myself relatively organized with Evernote, Asana, and Scrivener. They are my outer-brains and help free up room and reduce chaos in the brain that’s rattling around in my skull.

Right now all I have to do is write. I should be blowing this thing out of the water – and compared to my past performance, I am.

In the last three weeks, I’ve released five stories on Amazon. They’ve all been rattling around my Scrivener files for a couple of years, but still. That’s an infinite improvement over the past. But, I’m starting to bump against another problem.

I have so many things I want to work on that I can’t decide what to do next. That leads to paralysis. I’m equally passionate about all of them, under all my pen-names. There’s no easy way to choose.

So, here’s what I did. I assigned them all a number, 1 – 25 (told you the list was out of control) and used a random number generator to pick for me. I got number 23.

Thats a full-length superhero novel. It will take some world building and a whole lot of firming up. There are definitive scenes I want to include, definite plot points, etc. But 80% of the book is hazy. Since there’s no Magic 8 Ball for story structure (maybe I should invent that), I’m going to turn to the next best thing.

I’ve been listening to I Should be Writing for ages and have so much respect for K.M. Weiland’s advice. I snapped up her outlining book & workbook ages ago. I’ve read through them, discussed them with my writing group, and even made a meticulous Scrivener template from it. Have I ever actually outlined a whole book with it. Hell, no.

The day her companion software came out, I grabbed that too. I installed it immediately, played around for about an hour, then got dressed and left for work. I hadn’t touched it since until last night.

Now, I’m going to challenge myself publicly (autocorrect tried to make that “public alley”). I will plan, write, and edit my Superhero book in 12 days. I will be accountable to whoever is reading this. Even if I’m yelling into a void here, I’m going to act like there are thousands of you watching.

If you are reading this on my own personal or writing advice blogs, you probably won’t want to read the book when it’s done. Though it’s not erotica, there are some pretty graphic sex scenes that are integral to the plot – I’ll let you decide. The random generator picked an NSFW title.

If you are reading this on a page with bookcovers featuring shirtless men – I would like anyone who wants to beta-read the book to get in touch with me – I’ll let you know about the content then, to see if you are comfortable with it. I ask that anyone who wants to sign up be able to read and give notes within three weeks of getting the book. I mean, hell, if I can write it in less than two… Surely someone’s willing. I doubt I’ll have to set a limit, because nobody knows me under that name. (Or this name, depending where you’re reading this.)

I’ll break the days down like this…

August

24 – Work through detailed outline process using KM’s ‘Outline Your Novel” book, workbook and software.

25 – continue outline. I’m giving myself two days with the outline, because the software is insanely detailed and I’m factoring in my learning curve. Hopefully, when it spits out a Scrivener file, the story will be told and I will just have to write it. Fingers crossed.

26 – Sept 1 Write 10,000 a day

Sept

2 and 3 Edit and add in ideas that occur to me after scenes are already written – you know that always happens.

4 Final edit – where I make my computer read it to me and I tweak dialogue, etc.

5 Send to beta-readers

I’ll blog about the process — in broken, almost unintelligible sentences probably. And, I guess this will be my review of the ‘Outlining Your Novel’ software too. She recommends up to three months for the outline. I just checked the ‘created’ date on the file I made when the idea hit me, 8/16/14. I think that’s long enough to be rattling around in my head.

Since this is going out on three blogs,

RW, WR, and DP

Discrimination and Resourcing Humans

My day job is… well, it’s not my dream job (because that would obviously be more authorly stuff). I resource humans in an Human Resourcing office. One of my coworkers is looking to “borrow” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) graphics to use in an upcoming EEO training he has to give. Knowing how much I love horrible writing, business or otherwise, he just sent me this picture he found here– and I’m begging him to use it.

Religious discrimination

Lessons from the first year of running a writing group

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First of all, join a writing group. If there’s not one in your area, start one. What’s the worst that could happen? Nobody shows up? If that happens, you’re no worse off than you were before. But, the more probable thing is that you will end up meeting great people who inspire you. I started Dorchester Writers almost a year ago and I thought I would share a few of the things I’ve learned about interacting with a critique group – and a few things specific to running one.

The first thing is to set down ground rules. We usually have two to five people ready to submit work each week, so they’ve worked for us so far: Here is a clip from our submission guidelines

Submission guidelines

We have never put a cap on the limit of submission for the week – and I would like to never have to.  In order for that to be the case, please read the following guidelines. (If you have a looming deadline and want to submit a longer piece, let me know and we will definitely work with you.)

  1. Roughly 10 pages a week. Less is fine and if you occasionally go over a page or two so you don’t drop us out in the middle of a scene, that’s fine too. But keep the ten pages in mind.
  2. Double spaced. We need room for notes.
  3. Your name needs to be on the document… somewhere.
  4. Page numbers. It makes referring to different parts of the work much easier.
  5. Submit by Tuesday night. We need time. Some of us work two jobs and need the~ 48 hours to give everyone’s work the attention it deserves.

I’ve learned a few things in the last year, through my mistakes and the mistakes of others, hopefully this will be of use to someone out there.

Always start with what you like about the work. I know, this is a no-brainer. But, when you meet with the same people every week for a year, you tend to get comfortable. That comfort is great, but don’t forget that even though you might think, “They know I like their work,” people still need to hear it every now and then. Though submitting your work to other people gets easier over time – I almost threw up the first few weeks when I posted to our Google Drive folder – people still need encouragement.

Never, ever use the phrase, “This is how I would write that.” It might not get you a physical slap, but know that I am beating you with a stick in my mind. You’re not writing it. Throwing out the occasional, “Maybe you could do this…” is more acceptable, but the best thing to do is to explain what your issue is with it and offer suggestions if they are asked for.

Don’t speak out of frustration. Always take a deep breath and say, “Cool, thanks for pointing that out and I will definitely give it some thought.” Consider what the person is saying.

Consider the audience. This goes both ways. If someone didn’t understand something, you need to take a minute to figure out why. It could just be them and your work is fine – or you may need to rethink something. If the majority of people in a group have an issue with something, give it even more thought. We all come from different cultures with different slang. It is quite possible that you can just look at someone after a critique and think…

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… I know I do sometimes.

This also means that not everything someone else writes is going to be to your taste. Critique the work on its merits and let it go.

Pet grammar peeves.  We all have them. It’s fine to mention them – and then let it go. Everyone in my group knows how much I despise adverb abuse and when a character “feels, sees, hears,” etc. I don’t bring it up in the group any more, but when I hand their pages back to them, all instances of those things are circled. They know how I feel, they know the reasoning… I don’t need to harp on it or bring it up in every meeting. That’s just annoying. Oh, and thankfully, every time I accidentally mess up something like that, they circle it. Have I mentioned – we have a really good core group of writers.

Don’t dominate the group. It is not the Suzy or John or Raul show… it’s a group that everyone needs to get something out of. We meet for an hour and half a week, spending an hour on one person’s story is not fair.

Granted, this falls on me as much as the writer. It’s my job to move things along… but so I can more easily do that without being rude, keep the good of the group in mind.

If you are in charge of making sure the group stays on track, don’t do what I did here.

Don’t waste our time. If tons of plot holes have been pointed out in your manuscript, don’t keep submitting the same thing with the same gaping wounds – it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Rethink your work – rewrite your work. These things may feel like your children, but they ain’t. I don’t care that you’ve been thinking of this story since you were three; if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We’ll be happy to help you brainstorm – but you have to be open to changing things.

As a side note, if your story has an obvious agenda – political, social, etc. – you really need to remain open about the fact that you might be too close to the subject to see holes in the plot.

Administrator – You won’t (and shouldn’t try to) please everyone.  I am the least leadery type leader to ever put a group together. If I can do it – anybody can. There is no way a venue at a specific time will be good for everyone. We are all busy and meshing schedules with a group of random people from the general public is impossible. Sometimes you just have to make a decision, stick to it, and see how things shake out. Obviously keep a somewhat open mind about these things and test which way the wind is blowing every now and then – but ultimately, you are in charge and need to act like it. If you have rules and they are working – enforce them. If they aren’t working – rethink them. You will have at least one or two people who are mainstays in the group that you can discuss this with.

Last year we decided to all go celebrate the oncoming NANOWRIMO with a few drinks, so we went to a pub across the street from our usual meeting place. We had a good time and a few people mentioned that they would like to have the critique meetings there at the bar. I didn’t think it was the best idea, but the bartender was pretty cute, so I went along with it. It took three months, but the general consensus eventually shifted back to holding the meetings at our usual coffee shop. Be flexible when necessary.

People will come and go, especially if you use Meetup to put the group together. When someone joins the group, be welcoming and do everything you can to make them feel comfortable. Remember how nervous you were? They are as nervous as you were and they are walking into a fully formed, already functional group. Do not make them feel like they’ve walked into a clique of some sort. Pay attention to them and make sure the group welcomes them.

On the flip-side of that, it’s ok when people leave. You and your group will not be to everyone’s taste. It is better to have a small, reliable group of people who all know each other’s writing styles, and that will form in time.  As long as you were as welcoming as you could be to newcomers, if they leave, it’s not on your head. If there is correspondence with the person after they leave, thank them for giving your group a try, wish them the best of luck in finding a group that fits their needs (and mean it), and for the sake of your and everyone else’s sanity, the final thing I’ve learned…

Don’t take anything personally! Ever!

Farther Than I’ve Ever Gone Before

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I’ve finished the first draft of my first novel. I’ve worked fitfully for years, started hundreds of projects, and never gotten this far. So, what was the first thing I did when I was done? Slammed my head down on the desk.

The book is too short to be considered a novel and that pisses me off.

I’ve thought of scenes and plot lines I could go back and insert, but most of them seem contrived. Instead of going back to the beginning and starting the second draft (adding all of the things that popped up along the way that needed to be foreshadowed, reworking the things my writing group said didn’t work… well, some of those things, etc), I just froze.

Don’t get me wrong – I know the story is nowhere near publication ready, but I’m one of those people who feels great trepidation about the initial writing, but can edit like the wind. I love going back over my work and making it better, so the second and third drafts will fly by.

I remember some advice I’ve read a few times, “So, you’ve finished your first book? Great! Now, throw it away and write another one.” At the time, I was flabbergasted. But, I now understand.

I went to school to learn how to do this – but there are things they didn’t teach us in school. I would have to argue, some of the most important things were left out. Can I have my $60,000 dollars back now?

STRUCTURE! That’s not taught. I went into this knowing my beginning, my ending, and the middle where my character changes (something I learned from fellow writers, not school. I would tell Ms. Weiland that the check’s in the mail, but I’m still paying on my student loans.). I added more conflict and worked out the three act structure and wrote the book… and it’s not enough,

Luckily, this is the digital age and a 150 page book can work very well as an e-book, so I calmed down a little. I’m going to go over this thing a few times, put it up for sale on Amazon and not ever think about it again. It essentially introduces characters that I would like to use in the future, tells how they came together, and why they are the way they are. That way, when I want to have them solve a mystery in the future, I can just jump right in without all the background and have this as a free book that points readers to those books.

Writing the wrong book has given me a much better perspective on how to write the right one. I like this novella (damn) and I love the characters. That makes me want to share it instead of trashing it, but I’m not putting much stock in it.

Now it’s time to sit down and write another one.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering – renting office space away from my house for writing was the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Writing is a Job

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Not my fingers, btw

 

 

I’ve been playing around with this writing thing for a while now. (“a while now” in my vernacular means “25 years”) I even went to school to get all learned up on how to do it. I’m finally about to complete a novel that I finished by only writing a chapter a week. It’s taken six months (plus aforementioned 25 years).

I looked at the word count and realized that if I’d worked on it for just two hours a day, I could have written the entire first draft in two weeks. WTF? The crazy thing is that when I actually sit down and write, it’s not hard – not at all. The hard part is the actual sitting.

I have a few things going on. I sell quilt patterns online, which some days is quite lucrative. One day last week I made over $300. This is just from my already having done the work and just kicking back. It’s that elusive ‘passive income’ that they talk about on late night television – and it didn’t cost my life’s savings or my dignity. Those patterns will continue to exist and will continue to make money even if I never acknowledge their existence again.

As you might imagine, this makes me want to make more patterns. But, it also makes me want to write because ebooks would act in the same way and, frankly, that’s what I’d prefer to be doing. So I sit at home and look from my sewing table to my writing table, torn between which one to do… and I do neither. Instead, I sit and feel guilty while I binge watch TNG or Doctor Who, yet again.

Anyway, all that to say that I finally pulled the trigger on an idea I’d been wresting with for about six months. I noticed that when I get to my office in Boston in the mornings, there’s no ambiguity. I walk in the door and my brain knows what it’s there to do – what my goals for the day are, the order I complete my work in – everything is rote. I decided I needed to take my writing out of my sewing, Netflix watching, and reading area and give it a place of its own.

I just took on a second job. I went yesterday and rented a desk in a shared office a few blocks from my house. I’m committing twenty hours a week to writing. If with two hours a night and a few extra hours on the weekend, I can’t come up with at least one piece of salable fiction by the end of summer, I’ll give up on thinking I can do it and find another dream. I’ll still write for fun of course, but…

And to any ‘pure art’ people out there, if life has taught me anything, it’s that ‘money’ is not a dirty word. You can love something and expect to make a profit on it.

So, the line-up of stories I have sketched out dictate that I write under three names. One for paranormal, young adult, and general fiction, one for a possible series (I only have one of these books plotted so far) that would sell much better with a female author’s name – most of my quilting customers already think I’m a woman, and one for stuff that should never be tied to the other ones for decency’s sake.

I’m going to start pushing this stuff out and getting it out to ebook sellers and see where it leads. Realizing that instead of being the guy who starts stuff, I am someone who is actually capable of finishing something, makes every morning feel like Christmas morning. Now it’s time to finish a whole bunch of stuff.

And with everything separate, I will be able to enjoy relaxing again instead of feeling guilty about it.

I’ve decided to take the words of Ron Swanson – from whom all wisdom flows – and run with them…

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