Category Archives: Writing

Books Need Soundtracks Too

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Music just goes perfectly with writing, though sometimes searching for the right songs to match the feelings or the tone of a section of the novel can be time consuming.  Or perhaps it can be a time wasting or stalling tactic occasionally as well.

I’ll even confess that sometimes when I’m typing on the laptop, I’m singing along with the clicking of the keys.  Well…not if I’m writing at a cafe or coffee shop, that would just be weird.  But if I’m at home, then who’s to judge, right?  After all, Graham’s a pretty understanding cat.  At least I think he is if I’m understanding his looks correctly.

For example, tonight he was laying on my lap facing away from me as I wrote, enjoying some cuddling time and somehow managing to stay asleep, even during those times when I tried to shift to keep my tookis from falling asleep.  Then, when certain songs from my iTunes came on, of course I had to sing along as they fit the mood of the sections I was working on.

These Days by Rascal Flatts went over fine with my tiny audience.  He actually seemed to flip his tail to the beat, smacking it against me on beats 2 and 4 of each measure.  What can I say, my little guy is gifted.  His eyes stayed closed, his head stayed down, and he might as well have been asleep.  Except for his tail that seemed to be enjoying the entertainment that was going on around him.  But then…

He must not have cared for Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt (don’t judge, it came on, it continued to fit the mood and yes, I just happen to know the words).  His head perked up fairly quickly into my rendition of that one and he gave me a look I can only say displayed frustration and disappointment.  It’s amazing the thoughts that animals can portray without words, isn’t it? And, in case he thought that his point hadn’t been made strongly enough, he then hopped off my lap and trotted out of the room.

I may have taken it slightly personally (how else can you take your non-paying audience walking out in the middle of song number two?) but I’m sure he just had someplace to be.  The sun was no longer shining through the office window and the tile at the back door was probably warm and calling.  That’s what I’ll tell myself anyway.  And I just kept singing away, and didn’t take out my moment of humiliation on any of the characters in the novel.  They all survived to the end of the chapter and will live to see another day.  So it’s been a good day for everyone…

The Quest For The Artistic Life

The Simpsons - Matt Groening

The Simpsons – Matt Groening

Okay, I didn’t win the Powerball drawing…  But I’m sure you’d probably assumed as much.  I didn’t buy a ticket anyway, so I wasn’t overly surprised that I didn’t win.  I guess I’ll just have to remain a starving artist for a little while longer.  And I think I can handle that…

Whenever I take a break from writing, my mind wanders onto other forms of art and I wonder what it would be like to try something else as well.  There are a couple of canvases in the garage that have just been waiting for someone to create something more visual with them.  Of course they’ve been waiting long enough that the tubes of paint beside them have all gone dry, but there’s probably someplace around this county where I could find more.

Or there’s photography.  Getting outside, wandering the hills and snapping black and white pictures of dilapidated buildings, waterfalls, rocks and who knows what else…  Feeling the cold breeze on your face and hands as you compose the right shots.  That would be invigorating.

Where’s all of the time in life to create everything that can be created?  To indulge in the creative passions in life?  I’m so jealous of the people who seem to have 48 hour days to achieve so much as I watch the word count on my novel slowly grow each day.  But it’s getting there…

I’m actually about ready to start composing my query letters to send to agents, and trying to put the right description on a single page letter.  Something to grab their attention and avoid the dreaded slush pile.  So we’ll see how long that writing assignment takes…

Maybe for one of my future novels, I’ll be able to create a painting to be used on the cover (I’d love to see that future me telling my agent that and see how hard that person tries to avoid laughing and hurting my feelings).  After all, I couldn’t even color in the lines when I was in kindergarten.  But who wants to stay within the lines anyway?  That’s not being creative.

But it’s words that I love to play with, and words that I want to create with.  So hopefully one day there will be stacks of books that I’ve written, sitting out, forming its own sense of art.  And then I’ll try all of the other styles.

But to have the time to do all of that, I just may have to win the lottery.  Wonder where they sell tickets around here…

 

More Than Words

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As I’ve been writing this novel, I started paying attention to the words that I used on milestone numbers.  Word 50,000 was ‘chocolate’ – and I think that was the only time that word has been used in the novel.  Word 60,000 was ‘stupid’.

I’m surprised by this.  I thought these words would be something commonplace like ‘and’ or ‘the’ or ‘transcendental’.  Okay, don’t worry, I’m not serious about the last one.  Or maybe the word would be the name of one of the characters that the main character interacts with the most.  A ‘Marla’ or ‘Dan’ or ‘Kelli’ perhaps.  But no, for my novel, it’s ‘chocolate’ and ‘stupid’.

Considering that the novel is about a man dealing with love (or the search for it anyway), his past, present, and potential future, I guess the word ‘stupid’ could be something that comes up fairly often though.   We’re all stupid when it comes to love.  At least we are at times.  And we really should be.  Life is far too short for us not to take chances and go for what we want.  Putting ourselves out there can make us feel like an idiot.  Being honest with someone about our feelings can be awkward and make us feel goofy and foolish.  But that’s okay.  It’s better than okay.  It’s life.

So maybe my novel is realistic if my main character is going to have moments of stupidity.  It’s true to that life.  And, just maybe, it’ll have some parallels to the life I’ve been living.  When all is said and done, we’ll have to see how much of my life you’ll be reading about.

Hmm…  That should make reading the eventual reviews quite an experience…

Keepin’ on…

Helping hold the hat in place on a windy day...

Helping hold the hat in place on a windy day…

Before anything else, I have to tell you that a weekend without a new episode of The Walking Dead just doesn’t feel like a complete weekend.  Just sayin’…

I’ve been pretty wound up lately with politics, current events, and everyone’s opinions and ideas about it all that I needed a mental break from it all today. Maybe I should run for mayor to start a political run of my own to make a difference, at least in this little part of the world, but not today…

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when your cat wakes you up. Not by jumping on you or by tapping you repeatedly in the face with a furry paw, but by turning on the television. And not just the TV.  Somehow Graham managed to turn on the satellite box this morning and I found him in the living room watching infomercials and looking longingly at the remote control.  If he knew which combination of buttons would tune in Animal Planet, I think this morning’s quirky start could turn into a daily event.

But he’s just been getting a bit stir crazy. We’ve had high winds for the past couple of days and, no matter how much he wants to go outside to play, when the fences, trees and plants still in their pots are blowing across the yard, a twelve-pound cat just doesn’t stand a chance. And, this morning, when he finally pushed his way out into the front yard (helpfully losing about a point of excess fur along the way), the UPS truck pulled up just then, chasing him back inside. Talk about bad timing. And on the last attempt, he made it out under my car before he just couldn’t take it any more and made a mad dash to the door, leaping over a rolling purple mum on the way. Let’s just say it’s windy enough that if I was a kid, I’d be grabbing a sheet and climbing up on the roof to see how far it could take me.  It’s still tempting…

I guess I must be getting a bit stir crazy too. And Graham has always fed off of my emotions ever since he was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. I should really video us watching a Detroit Lions game together. We start out on the couch but then, before long, I’m up pacing the room trying to “calmly” explain to the coaches how to run a slant route or just what a defensive line stunt is, and Graham’s attempting to cross from the far side of the living room through the dining room to the kitchen without ever touching the floor. I get excited, he gets excited.  If I get a bit too worked up, he turns into the living embodiment of the Tasmanian Devil.

But for now, I’ve got to stay focused. I’m hoping that I’ll be starting to send out my query letters to agents, peddling my novel to all of them, before the grass is covered with snow.  But that means getting these finishing touches done soon.  And, when things happen like completely removing an entire chapter – like just happened the other day – it’s definitely a slower, more challenging process.  But it will be worth it.  Because I believe in it and I love the story.  So I have faith it will be published one of these days and finding its way into people’s hands.

Then I can start planning that book release party and start meeting people, shaking hands and kissing babies.  After all, I think it would be interesting to list in my bio on the second novel – “In his part-time, Drew works as the mayor of —— in Fayette County”.  Or…maybe not.

Make-A-Wish

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Hey everyone…

Just wanted to share a quick post with you this afternoon about something that’s on my mind…

A couple weeks back, Brett Taylor from Bleacher Nation held a blog-a-thon on his site to raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation – 38 straight hours of blogging to raise over $26,000.  Hard work for a great cause.  As a fan of his blog – it’s all about the Chicago Cubs, something incredibly near and dear to me as I went to my first game in Wrigley before I could walk and have been a complete diehard fan ever since – I was more than happy to help out and force him to miss out on some much-needed sleep to support Make-A-Wish.

Then, after some time went by, it kind of faded from my mind as things tend to do.  Other things happen, the present takes priority over the past (well…in some cases anyway…). And yes, I forgot about it and moved on.  Until this afternoon that is.

It’s such a simple thing, but it simply turned my mind around.  I took Graham outside for a little walk and headed down toward the mailbox.  Inside was an envelope with my name and address handwritten on the front.  How often do you see that anymore?  Maybe once a year you receive a wedding announcement or graduation announcement or an invite to a niece or nephew’s birthday party written out in pen and dropped off in the mail.  But it’s rare.  So this caught my attention.

Inside, there was a simple piece of paper – not even a full sheet of paper -with the Make-A-Wish logo and a picture of a child with a bright, energetic smile.  Beside the picture was a handwritten note of thanks from Ashley.  It was just a few sentences, but, more-so than any computer typed message ever could have, it made clear how personal it really is to be involved in projects such as these.  And it motivated me as well…

It’s long been my goal to have the proceeds from the first novel I wrote to go toward helping battered women and children receive the help they need to get a fresh start in life, and to know that children in horrible situations will be given the opportunities to achieve everything they possibly can with their lives.  So…the longer it takes me to write, and publish and get my writing out there, the longer before anyone is impacted by my goal.  I can only imagine the smiling faces on handwritten notes sent out to thank others for what they did to change a life.  And I hope that those of you reading today will be a part of that dream when it eventually comes true.

I love supporting great causes, but in the meantime, my own isn’t quite there yet.  So…I need to make sure that I’m cranking out 1,000 words a day and really pushing myself to reach that goal.  So I’d better get to it.  After all, Chapter 38 won’t write itself….

Word #50,000

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

I’ve done it.  That one huge milestone that’s been in my mind from the very beginning as I write a novel – reaching the 50,000th word.  And today’s the day that the goal has been reached.  And the first thing that comes to mind is “Whoo Hoo!!”

I don’t know why 50,000 is such an important number for me.  It’s not like I’m finished yet.  And it’s not like there aren’t a lot more words yet to be added.  Sure, word 60,000 and 75,000 will deserve their own pats on the back, but 50,000 just means something special to me.  It pretty much means that the rough draft is completed and now “all” that’s left is to take the bones that have been created and flesh them out.  It’s time to add depth and beauty and the parts that really make you laugh and cry (hopefully, if they’re done right anyway).  It’s time to take the story and make it complete – the version that it’s going to be in forever and ever (hopefully on bookshelves all over the world).

If you’re curious, the 50,000th word is “them”.   Sure, it’s not going to mean a lot to you out of context to you like that.  You’d need to read word 49,999 first.  And word 49,998.  And probably the sentence before that, the page before that, and the chapter before that.  But it’s not ready for all of you to read just yet.  So I’m just giving you a taste and a tease with “them”.  Curious yet…?

The only problem is that I haven’t written this novel from beginning to end.  So there are sections that I need to find the right place for.  Entire chapters don’t have a permanent home yet.  They’re there on the page, but they can’t get comfortable where they’re at yet because they’re going to be on the move.  Once I figure out where they belong that is.  But the words are flying now that I have most of the story complete (in some shape).

Now that there are 50,000 words, I can really picture it in book form.  And I love that.  Now, I just need to quit slacking, get back to it and add the rest of the words that are waiting to join the story.  And dream about the tens of thousands of people I hope will be reading it someday…  After all, creating it is an accomplishment in itself.  But, if a book gets written on the laptop and no one reads it, does it really make a sound…?

 

Novel Revisions & U-Turns

imageI have no fear of the blank page.  I think it’s exciting to start a work of writing from the very beginning.  And, considering that I can already think of my next four novels off the top of my head, I’m not at all worried about writer’s block.

But I think where the true “work” of writing comes in is right about where I’m at with my current novel.  When so much has already been written, yet so many things have changed about the story since it started and it’s time to edit, delete and re-write.  And for me…deleting out sections that are no longer going to work is massively painful.  But, unfortunately it’s necessary.

I’ve always been one of those people who gets excited by reaching certain landmarks.  If I’m making a 500 mile trip, there’s something about knowing when you’ve made it 200 miles, or 250, or 300.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that gets you through the rest of the drive.  As I’m writing, I love reaching 10,000 words in my rough draft, then 20,000, etc.  It’s exciting to see the progress.  And it’s a horrible feeling to see a thousand words completely removed.  It’s like making a pit stop for gas and caffeine and then getting back on the highway and realizing twenty minutes later that you’re heading the wrong way…

My current novel in progress has three main characters.  Four if you consider…well…that’s hard to explain but it’ll make sense when you read it.  One other character wants to be a main character but sorry, not gonna happen, no matter how much you pout about it.

I thought in the beginning that I had a pretty good idea about the direction everything would take and just how it would end.  Umm…wrong.  My writing is always character driven and sometimes….well sometimes those characters  take you in directions that you didn’t expect.  That’s why I never outline what I’m planning to write.  What’s the point?

I love the ending of my novel.  I’ve already written the last chapter and it was a complete rush to type it in.  But, unfortunately, there are other sections that no longer fit with that ending and need to be chopped.

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That’s kind of what it feels like.  But, if everything stayed on course and went like it was expected to, it wouldn’t be the same story.  So I love my characters just a little bit more for taking me on a a little more scenic route than I’d planned.  And for getting me all the way to the coast instead of letting me stop at “America’s Largest Ball of Twine”.  It’ll all be worth it in the end.

I just want to be able to whine and complain about it for a bit as a way to stall before I use that delete key and start re-writing.  Then, I’ll be curious to see if my first readers like the direction I take them.  Or if they’ll be back seat drivers and simply ask  “Are you sure you’re going the right way…?”

 

How To Write A Novel

imageLately I’ve been reading so much, and spending so much time working on my own novel, that my mind is everywhere…  Reality has been pushed aside by the fictional world and my imagination has been running rampant.  Add that to my every night dream-fest, and I’m waking up each morning wondering where I am and am in a state of disbelief that I have to do such mundain things as pay bills, go to the grocery store and do laundry.  I’m not complaining a bit.  For a writer, it’s amazing to be able to be completely immersed in that world of imagination and creativity.

Reading is inspiring when you’re writing.  Some books are so bad that you can’t help but think “Mine is way better than that.  I’m definitely going to get published!”.  Others are so good that they push you to work harder and do better.  Then there’s How To Write A Novel by Melanie Sumner.  I received a copy for free through NetGalley in exchange for a review and am more than happy to do so…  First, the usual description so that you know what the novel is about:

Aristotle “Aris” Thibodeau is 12.5 years old and destined for greatness. Ever since her father’s death, however, she’s been stuck in the small town of Kanuga, Georgia, where she has to manage her mother Diane’s floundering love life and dubious commitment to her job as an English professor. Not to mention co-parenting a little brother who hogs all the therapy money.

Luckily, Aris has a plan. Following the advice laid out in Write a Novel in Thirty Days! she sets out to pen a bestseller using her charmingly dysfunctional family as material. If the Mom-character, Diane, would ditch online dating and accept that the perfect man is clearly the handyman/nanny-character, Penn MacGuffin, Aris would have the essential romance for her plot (and a father in her real life). But when a random accident uncovers a dark part of Thibodeau family history, Aris is forced to confront the fact that sometimes in life—as in great literature—things might not work out exactly as planned.

Written from the perspective of a girl who’s 12.5 years old, and who is continually keeping up with the plan of writing a novel in 30 days, it’s a kick in the tookis, motivating me to work harder, faster.

Okay, so I know that it wasn’t actually written by a kid.  And I’m sure it took much longer to finish than a month.  But it’s still motivating.

This novel is all about characters.  About the way they think and react to what life throws at them.  It’s grounded in reality, what’s normal, what’s possible and what we do in response to life’s setbacks and challenges.  And in that way, it’s universal.  And it’s extremely well written – enough so that I flew through it in just a few days, even with real life intruding.  It’s a fun read, but more than just mindless entertainment.  It makes you think, and makes you feel for the characters, especially the 12.5 year-old narrator.

Now that I’ve finished it, I need to look to see what else this author has written.  After all, we’ve got to support the talented writers out there!

But, first I think I’ll write a few hundred more words on my novel.  I can’t let myself fall too far behind a non-existent fictional kid, right?

So…back to work!

 

Why did the…?

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It’s been a crazy week in Fayette County. Not only did I find out that Graham, the world’s most interesting cat, absolutely LOVES sauerkraut (a revelation that’s also surprising in that it hasn’t caused any issues or surprises on the carpet), but I also had some issues on my way to and from work.

I actually drive across the Mason Dixon line each day. And it’s like a magic line you can physically see as you reach it… Instantly, as you pass over it heading south, the paved road turns to a mishmash of potholes held together with dirt and a prayer. One day this week, as I hit the edge of this line – literally – and wound around the corner, a chicken crossed the road in front of me causing me to slam on my brakes. When an old joke plays out in front of you to start your day, you know it’s going to be an interesting one.

Then, the next day, I had to watch out yet again… Don’t let anyone tell you that turkeys are flightless birds. They’re only ‘mostly’ flightless. This means that they can actually get up to around five feet off the ground when they try to cross the road. And this one managed to get just high enough to only need a slight boost from my car’s roof as it flew overhead, it’s feet tapping and scratching their way across the metal over my head before it was gone into the trees on the other side of the road. We even got a good look at each other from only inches away, and I think it probably saw as surprised a look on my face as I saw on his.

But the good news is that I wrote the final chapter of my novel this week. That doesn’t mean that I’m finished (there’s still work to be done in previous chapters before I can claim to be finished with the rough draft) but the end is now in sight. Especially when the actual ending is all typed out.

The story didn’t end as I had originally planned, which is completely fine with me. I love it when the characters become real enough that they begin to make their own decisions. I know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quit writing Sherlock Holmes when Sherlock started taking control of the books and was telling him what should happen. It frustrated him to no end. But I love those moments when the characters exceed the level of mere thoughts and start being complete enough to surprise me. And I love where they took me this time. No one has actually read this novel yet (which is a major change from the process of how I wrote my first one and had wonderful, continuous feedback). So I’m curious to find out how this one will be received. And anxious. As scary as it is to put something so personal out there to be read, that’s the ultimate goal of writing. For people to read the story and hopefully be completely taken along over every page. To laugh with the characters, to feel pain with them, cry at times, and feel for them through the decisions that are made, whether they’re right or wrong.

My main character surprised me. And I’m happy that he did. It made the ending so much more rewarding to write than I ever expected. So now I need to get it finished quickly to start to get the reactions from readers.

After all, if the Mason Dixon line is my own personal Bermuda Triangle, who knows what other wildlife will be out there just waiting to throw themselves in my way to stop me… Gotta live life to the fullest if I’m living on borrowed time. Because, as far as I know, Bigfoot can’t fly. And he’d make a pretty big impact on the hood of my car. Maybe I need to just call in sick tomorrow and write! You know, just to be safe…

Productive Slacking

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I used to love taking any classes in school that involved essay answers rather than memorizing facts and figures.  Being able to use your own thoughts and explain an answer through words was always far better than trying to point out the medulla oblongata on a blurry photocopy or explaining how you determined the mathematical answer for ‘x’.  It took an ability to explain yourself and communicate in an effective way.  And it took imagination, especially when comparing and contrasting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with another work when you avoided reading Chaucer entirely because he gave you a headache.

In college, when papers were due, I used to hang out in the computer lab with everyone else, filling up the appropriate number of required pages with my opinions, thoughts and findings, just like everyone else.  But, because my brain just happened to work in that way, I could finish quickly and have extra time while all of my friends were still working.  So, while they were stressing through page after page, I would sit at a computer I the back of the room playing Tetris.

Why the college computers had Tetris programmed on them I have no idea.  But it kept me entertained while I waited.  And, it became a tradition that people would print out copies of their papers and bring them back to me to review in between games.

I would review the drafts, scribble notes and comments, scratch out sections that didn’t work, add things I thought were necessary, and pass them back for the next draft to be typed in.

At first it was just friends – the guys I played football with, the guys who lived in my dorm, classmates that I studied with, etc – but it soon expanded to anyone who might be in the lab at the time.  People would bring their pages to me with a pleading look and I’d enjoy reading though them and editing and revising.  And it simply became a habit.

I guess they must have gotten decent grades on these papers because they kept coming back.  And I kept getting better and better at Tetris.  But, as I look back,I wonder if I should have at least charged for my services instead of doing it out of the kindness of of heart.  If I had a nickel for every word I fixed, every dangling participle I removed, or incorrect version of ‘there’, ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ I fixed, I might have been able to afford to get out and enjoy those days a bit more.  Though I wouldn’t have had the high score on Tetris.

And you’ve gotta have priorities…