Learning to Dig Revising.

Now that I’ve started to get into the new project, I have to say that I’ve noticed a definite change in my writing and how I approach it.

When I was younger, I never really thought about how long a particular novel should be – the bigger, the better, right?

Well, that was before I wrote the first draft of The Holy Fool – all 160,000 words of it. Then I actually tried to read through it and figure out what was actually going on. There was a lot of talking; I’ve discussed before about how much I get into dialogue. There was plenty of scenery and descriptions, as well. Was there action? There was a little bit of it, at least.

That’s when I started getting the advice that you shouldn’t try to write books longer than 100,000 words. Yeah, there was some people who wrote longer than that, but how many people tried to do that as first time writers and managed to get published? Not many, as far as I heard. And I’m at the point of my life where getting published is the main thing.

So, I cut and cut. I started eliminating entire subplots, killing off characters before I met them so I wouldn’t have to write about them. And it was fun, brothers and sisters. It was fun slicing and dicing all of those unnecessary words and leaving the story clear and easier to read. Learning how not to write stuff is just as important as how to write stuff.

When I saw that I had either temporarily or permanently removed 5,000 words-plus from my first draft of #4, I was not depressed in the slightest. All of those missing words just gives the story more room to roam as it grows.

Keep writing, everyone.

Advertisements

Writing Journal, 7/30/2017

Wow, a bit of a jump in activity this week of 7/23-29/2017. These totals are going to be slightly different that what I presented the past couple of times.
Total words added to my new project (#4): 2,237.
2,262 words reviewed for editing.
2,950 words cut and reserved for future reinsertion.
3,259 words cut for use in possible future sequel.
Days writing: 6 out of 7 days writing fiction*.
* = Does not include blogging work

As I said, a bit of jump in activity. I have the interest in the project to move my pace up; I just need to make sure I can work it in to a schedule that has school in it. Really looking forward to this week (and the cuts have given me an idea for a topic for today, too).

Liegois Media on Facebook (now with #WAW)

You might remember that I’m putting out or sharing themed content on my Facebook page Liegois Media. I should have mentioned last week that I’ve added a new category to #WritingQuoteMonday, #TBT, and #SciFiSaturday. Wednesday’s on FB for me are #WritingAdviceWednesday or #WAW. There’s one up there today; take a look if you are interested.

Starting the Publication Search

After a couple months of procrastination (watching movies, watching soccer matches (#SoccerIsLife, fam), browsing Facebook and YouTube, getting back into writing mode, watching the calendar for the start of the school year, starting this blog), I’ve started to get serious about publishing options for my Project #3, The Holy Fool, which I talked about a bit ago.

For right now, I am in full-on investigation mode. Today I signed up with Writer’s Market online to see potential listings for publishers and agents. Back home years ago I bought a print edition of that book, but it didn’t work out at that time. Now with the new technology, I’m hoping to make a more scientific search that might produce better results.

I’ve also taken a look at a few pay to publish companies. They have been very friendly and thorough with their contacts with me and descriptions of their services. To be frank, with my wife starting her own business and us trying to stay on a budget, the amount of money they are talking about is just too much for me to consider.

I’m also now taking a look at Amazon’s self-publishing services. I’ve just taken my first look at the site right now and have been soliciting some advice about how well it works from my friends and people in my online writing groups. Right now, the Amazon option looks like the surest bet to actually have a book published.

My goal is to have the Holy Fool published in one format or another by next year. The events it covers take place in 2008, so having the book published 10 years after those events would make good sense from a marketing perspective, I believe.

If any readers have an opinion on which areas might be good options for agents or publishing, feel free to contact me in the comments.

If At All Possible, Simplify The Story

This week proved a piece of writing advice I’d heard previously from multiple sources and one I’d not considered for a while. It came up as I was continuing to work on my next project. Basically, it boils down to the advice in the title of this post.

Now, it’s going to be interesting how I tell this story. I’m trying to avoid spoiling the book I’m working on, or revealing too much about it. This will be a stimulating challenge.

Basically, my main character is planning on working in the same profession that his father is. He decides to stay in that profession at first, but then decided to take a different path in life. In my first idea of the plot, I had him joining another organization in the same profession (OK, the “same profession” is college football.

Last week, however, I had a brainstorm idea. Why am I puttering around with having him join another team when he can join his dad’s team? Even though the MC and his father don’t always see eye to eye, he knows his dad is the best there is at coaching football. If he really wants success, why wouldn’t he just work with his dad, no matter what conflicts there are?

Immediately, this plot change did more than just one thing. In the game of chess, for example, a move that accomplishes more than one thing simultaneously is always going to be a good move, and it often times is the best move. So does this plot change. For example:

  1. It immediately cuts down on the complexity of the novel. Instead of having my MC play for a coach who would be another character, I have him work directly for his dad. This cuts down the number of characters and settings that I would have had to add otherwise. With this reduction in complexity, I can now keep the plot simple and devote more time to the key characters and their conflicts.
    For example, I originally intended this novel to cover the span of five years. By reducing this time to a single year, I was able to increase my focus on exploring my MC and his motivations as he prepares for adult life. In addition, I immediately had material for a longer series if I am so inclined (I am).
  2. It raises the stakes of the story by increasing the friction between the MC and his father. The MC doesn’t approve of how his father has behaved, especially toward his mother, but he’s willing to work with him because he believes he’s a good coach and that he will help get him to where he thinks he wants to go – an NFL contract. The father doesn’t approve of the MC’s personality or his views on life, but he thinks he can bring the MC around to his way of thinking. Also, he knows his son is a good player, and he always needs good players.
  3. It raises the stakes of the MC’s decision to eventually leave the sport. Instead of quitting on/betraying his father in an abstract sense (and his brother, one of his teammates on dad’s team), it is a direct betrayal that in their minds threatens team goals. When the MC makes his choice and breaks with his father and brother, it’s going to have a far greater impact.

So kids, whenever you get around to writing your story, make sure to simplify, simplify, and simplify when it comes to the story and its characters.

Writing Journal, 7/23/2017

OK, let’s go to the tote boards and see what the week of 7/16-22/2017 yielded.
Total word differential (words written minus words cut from manuscripts): 2,185 all on my current project (#4)*.
Days writing: 3 out of 7 days writing fiction*.
* = Does not include blogging work

Glad to see the growth. Now I need to truly pick up the pace to something I sustainable both now and when I get back to teaching in the fall. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth continue.

EDIT: 3:05 p.m. 7/23 – Not that I have any reason to lie about my word count totals, but if anyone wants me to post screenshots of my totals, I can certainly do that.

Reading Like a Writer, Continued; The Dialogue 

Over the week, I’ve been going over this idea I had about what I notice in other people’s writings, what I skim over unless I make an effort to pay attention, and what I’m automatically drawn to reading.

As I started to review some of the books that I’ve read over the years, there’s a couple of items that I tend to skim over, such as extended descriptions of movements, like the setup of a battle or a location, and the physical description of some characters if they are extended. The one thing that always catches my interest, however, the thing that always inspires me as a writer, is dialogue.

The minute I start reading about people verbally interacting with each other, it starts to spark my imagination. This interplay between people tells me about who they are, how they relate to others, and the world they live in. Reading dialogue in a story immediately tells me whether the characters are going to be people I want to get to know.

As you might figure, I immediately find myself attracted to writers who do well with dialogue. Doug Adams and Stephen King did pretty well at the art of having their characters speak. I also remember reading On Writing by King and him saying that some guys had talent writing dialogue (Elmore Leonard) and some didn’t (Lovecraft). I mean, read this:

‘You wear your shades at night,’ Chili said, ‘so I’ll think you’re cool, but I can’t tell if you’re looking at me.’
Raji put his glasses down on his nose, down and up. ‘See? I’m looking the fuck right at you, man. You have something to say to me fuckin say it so we be done here.’

  • Be Cool, Elmore Leonard

I’ve also come to be impressed with Cormac McCarthy’s dialogue, as well.

As I wrote different works of fiction, I was surprised that one of the positives that people pointed out about my writing was how I handled dialogue. Now, however, maybe it might not be much of a surprise.

Writing Journal Entry 7/16/2017: The Reckoning

Once again, it’s time to total up the embarrassment that is my work product this week (7/9-15/2017)

Total word differential (words written minus words cut from manuscripts): 1,264, all on my current project (#4)*.

Days writing: 2 out of 7 days writing fiction*.

* = Does not include blogging work

That’s… better, but not really good? As I said, I took a long break from writing before this blog got started. Now, to make it a far more productive week ahead.

Do I read like a writer?

As I’ve begun to revive my interest in fiction writing, one of the things that I have begun to analyze more closely is how I read other people’s writing, specifically fiction.

This might sound weird at first. “What does how I read have to do with how I write?” Our boy Stevie King always said that the only way that you could be a good writer was to read a lot and write a lot. But how does the way that you read affect how you write? I’ll try to explain this concept as I understand it, or at least how I would define it.

In the photo I included with this post is a book by Jeff Shaara, one of the writers I got interested in several years back. I’d seen the film Gettysburg on TV, then decided to check out his dad Michael Shaara’s book that the film was based on, The Killer Angels. From there, I learned his son was writing a ton of historical fiction books, and I’ve been reading them ever since. Jeff Shaara does historical fiction, almost all of them based on past American wars. It’s a topic I’ve long been interested in, so I was all over those books.

It was just a year or so ago, however, as I started to analyze how I write and put together scenes, that I started examining the writings of other people. I realized how much I skimmed over scenes when I read because the level of detail just bogged me down. Shaara is a pretty good example of that.

What I am trying to do is be more of a writing reader, analyzing how my favorite authors take care of scenes and see if I can incorporate some of those skills in my own work. Although, it has also made me see that maybe I write the way I do because that’s what I prefer in storytelling. If I don’t like to read through massive, overly detailed descriptions, maybe that’s just not my style as a writer.

On a related note, I took one of those “What type of writer are you?” quizzes where you input your writing and they described what writer you most resemble. I took it twice; the first time, it told me I resembled Arthur C. Clarke, and the other time it said I wrote like Agatha Christie. Guess I’ll have to strategically read a few of their books over again…

 

While you’re here, don’t forget…

To check out my Facebook page dedicated to writing, also called Liegois Media for lack of a better name. Like I’ve said previously, it’s where I’m sharing quotes, stories, pictures, advice and other stuff about writing I come across online.

As part of a way to make things more fun, I’ve started to have a couple of theme days throughout the week. I’ll list the ones I’ve established so far:

  • Monday – #WritingQuoteMonday (starting next week)
  • Thursday – #TBT (stuff about classic writers)
  • Saturday – #SciFiSaturday (occasionally #SciFiFantasySaturday; self-explanatory)

If any of you have any ideas for other days, I’m totally open to them. I’ll try and think of a couple more on my own. 

Feel free to visit and browse around.