Writing Journal/Random Notes, 12.24.2017: Better, not up to par

As the holidays are upon us and the New Year beckons, I have the penultimate Writing Journal/Random Notes of 2017. The results of last week were… well, just look:

+2.354 words written.

Days writing: 5 out of 7.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words): 3 out of 7 days.

Overall, an improvement over last week. I have all but gotten through the scene that seemed to go on forever. Now, I am getting into the last stretch.

Last night, I hit the 80k word mark for my project. The current overall stats for that:

Current length of first draft: 80,011 (as of the beginning of today).

Current goal for first draft length by Dec. 31, 2017: 83,500-85,000.

[85K is doable if I have the best writing run of the year. Since I’ve got this entire following week off, I have to think it is possible.]

Planned length of first draft: 95,000-99,999.

So… I’m looking forward to the writing run of the year to finish up 2017 in style. Next week, when I do the end-of-year writing journal, I think that I will have to have a follow-up or final tally for at least the last four months (since I began my new writing goal) to see what sort of performance I came up with during that time.

Random Notes:

  1. It’s going to get harder to be productive the closer I get to the 95,000-99,999-word limit I have in mind for the project. Right now, I still have three vital scenes to write and two other vital scenes to rewrite. Whether I can fit them into the space I have is going to be an interesting thing. There is a good chance one of the subplots I had in mind for the book might be totally cut or drastically reduced to make it in. However, I really believe in this hard and fast rule on the word-count limit, both for commercial viability and the ability to tell a story that is not going to drag excessively.
  2. Being able to do that and be true to the 500-word a day rule will be another interesting challenge. What I might have to wind up doing is talking into account cutting several “first draft” scenes, if they are not suited for the story that has evolved.
  3. Don’t ask me about those query letters. I need to get out more.
  4. Since I do have the week off, I might be able to run a midweek blog post for once.

That’s about all for now. Happy holidays and more later.


Writing Journal/Random Notes 12.17.2017: At least I can analyze my writing failures better

Well, this week’s writing session turned into what, for me, was a bomb. And I was at the end of the week, just staring at the screen, watching the time go by, like (inserting The Last Jedi-appropriate reaction picture here):

Reax Hamill84

The stats:

+1,801 words written.

Days writing: 5 out of 7.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words): 1 out of 7 days.

Well, I always say it could be worse – I could have gone three years without writing like I did back home years ago.

Some background: I am currently working on a book with the working title The American 9. My intention is for this book, a sort-of coming of age/rise of a sports idol story that finally harvests my obsession with soccer into something of use. I’ve talked about it before.

Based on past research, I should be shooting for a book somewhere in the 80,000-100,000 word range. This is where I stand on the first draft today (I’ve not posted these numbers before):

Current length of first draft: 77,657 (as of the beginning of today).

Current goal for first draft length by Dec. 31, 2017: 85,000-90,000.

[At this rate, that goal might be ambitious. But if I have two good last writing weeks of the year, 85K is doable.]

Planned length of first draft: 95,000-99,999.

[Not so much this week, but it’s a good title for a regular feature so I don’t want to junk it] Random Notes:

  1. As the title implies, I do have what I consider to be a good idea for why I boinked out so harshly on the writing output. Since I rededicated myself to a writing lifestyle, those valleys of not writing have been fewer and far between.
    In putting together this novel, I’m trying something I have not previously done. Instead of writing the book how it will be read – that is, from beginning to end – I am assembling the book like a mechanic. I am installing all of the vital, most interesting scenes first, and then considering whether I need to add in the other scenes later.
    This week, I came across a scene that I considered to be vital – the last soccer game D., my main character, has with his old Sunday League team, after he has gone off the college and the other main members of the team have drifted off into other interests. I believed it was a vital scene, because it helps him begin to reexamine whether he made the right choice to play college football near his hometown rather than go to England and try to succeed as a soccer player there.
    The only problem is that writing the scene became a slog. It just didn’t feel like the action was flowing, although I did not include the entire scene, but rather only the times when D. scored goals for his team.
    What I needed to remember is that if I feel like I’m writing garbage, especially in the first draft, I just need to type the garbage and move on. Everything gets fixed in the revisions. I forgot to do that this week, and the above is the result.
  2. In case anyone’s interested, my leg that I talked about hurting last week is slowly improving. I can now walk normally, but climbing stairs is still problematic. Thankfully, it’s a non-issue where writing is concerned.
  3. My winter break starts Thursday evening. I honestly could care less about any presents, but I am looking forward to ending 2017 on a good writing tear. More and more I am finding myself in front of a computer writing than anything else.
  4. This will be the only post here today, but I am working on another blog post that might come out midweek if I get ambitious [ha-ha].

That’s it. Going to schedule some posts for the upcoming week and getting a better writing day in so I can get out of that scene…

You Ever Get That Sinking Feeling…

…when you open up the file for your book and what you notice is that about 1,500 words are missing from the work that you’ve done over the past three days or so?

And you have been saving versions of your novel, but you realize that all of those saves are missing the 1,500 words?

And the only consolation you have is that still leaves you with a little over 76,000 words not deleted?

On top of all that, I believe I pulled something in my thigh missing a step down the stairs and have been hobbling around all night?

Yeah, it’s been one of those days. Now I’m going to see if I can get my 500 words in today and keep it going. If you feel like telling me any similar horror stories that you’ve had, feel free to do so in the comments.


Leisure at The New Roman Baths (First sharing of poetry on the site)

As I promised, I decided to do more and share some actual writing with you, stuff I thought wasn’t doing any good just sitting in my hard drives.

A few years ago, I decided to try and dive into some poetry. Since I have no conscience, I decided now would be a time to share some of those I am not absolutely embarrassed by with you, the reading public. Enjoy or not, I’ll understand either way. 🙂


Leisure at The New Roman Baths

Ames, Iowa 6/10/2012

Everyone in America,

Are you ready for the same old thing?

Summer’s here and we’re required to hang out

at the aquatic park funland of the nation.

Not required to get cancer baking in the sun,

Even if the preteen boys do that by accident and the teen girls do it on purpose.

Iowa girls don’t get their tan from a bottle, for sure.

Now that I’m tucked into a corner of the park, I see how the facilities

Are designed to separate people from their cares and their money.

There are the outdoor pools for the city kids, and indoor pools for emo kids who want to stay out of the sun.

I do that, even though I’m not emo.

There’s plenty of fun food that puts out a siren song to kids and adults;

The foodies are pretty much screwed, however.

Hot dogs, corn dogs, chili dogs, burgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, chicken and beer

(whiskey and vodka are too un-family friendly, beer and skinny wine cooler are upscale enough).

All of these things inhaled by betrunked and bikinied bodies pleasing, lumpy, and lumpily pleasing, that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

Looking past the bodies, I noticed how the entire compound was just a string of pools –

Big cool pools, superheated whirlpools with sweating pale men, long simulated chlorine rivers with nothing alive but tourists and bacteria, tunnel chutes of water that shoot streams and humans with equal velocity, even beach pools with enough sand for those who missed that unique grit in their shorts.

I take in the pools, swimsuited singles making conversations, the food sand snack shacks, the T-shirt and curio stands, and I think,

“Where have I seen this before?”

And, it comes to me.

The Romans.

The Romans, of course, with their bathhouses of old.

These weren’t places just to wash up; people went there to bathe, swim, steam, soak, whisper, gossip, pronounce, shop, eat, idle, sport, rendezvous (often with the other gender)

I looked around the faux woodsy cove and realized that they had rebuilt the old Roman baths right there in Wisconsin.

They’d added a lazy river and a wave pool and subtracted the courtesans,

Which made the sporting gentlemen sad, I guess.

2,000 years after the Romans, it was the same swim.

Does it say anything about America and its people? Maybe.

But just think if they could bring this to Vegas – they could really cut loose.

Writing Journal/Random Notes 12.10.2017: I made my quota, at least?

It sort of feels like a lost weekend for me – I sort of bugged out a little, but it was a good weekend. Luckily, thanks to a decent writing weekend (remember when I said I shouldn’t depend on those, ha ha), I managed to make my quota. As always, the totals:

+3,561 words written.

Days writing: 6 out of 7.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words): 4 out of 7 days.

Well, there’s some weeks that I would have died for this type of writing week – the ones where I didn’t meet my quota, that is. 🙂

Now for the Random Notes:

  1. I do appreciate the writing groups on Facebook that straight up allow you to promo your sites and exchange likes and subscriptions with each other. If you are one of those guys that ran across me on one of those pages, I’m glad to see you and let me know what you thought of the site.
  2. The more I looked at those sites, the more I got envious of the authors that have actual products (i.e., books) to hawk on their sites. I never was a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I want to make one now. I want to have something set up by next year to be selling one of my books – likely The Holy Fool – in some format so that people can read it and I can get some actual cash from it. I don’t care whether it would be an e-book or whatever. That is a goal I plan to meet.
  3.  I liked posting one of my writings on the page last week. I’m going to try to make that more of a thing. I never considered myself much of a poet, but I might post some of my feeble attempts at the art form here, as well as some other random writings and essays as well. Especially stuff I don’t think I could ever monetize. 🙂
  4. Hit the 75,000-word mark on my current project, The American Nine. Good times. As I think I mentioned, I am shooting for a book of just under 100,000 words (which I think is my new hard limit for the books I am writing). I was hoping to have a little less than 90,000 words by the end of the year. With being in mid-December, I am now at over 77,000 words. I think my plan is doable.

That’s it for now; more later.

Ummm, Actually: A quick note.

I had a good idea for the next blog, but I wanted to take some time to develop it a little bit (maybe write it ahead of when I want to publish it, like I suggested to myself).

Plus, I felt like I did my due diligence today by getting in a Writing Journal/Random Notes post (I think I’m going to make that a regular thing now every week), plus a piece of my original writing, so I don’t think I’ve left any readers I have empty-handed.

So, that idea will wait. For those who subscribe to me, I’ll make sure to check out what you are writing in a day or so. I so appreciate anyone who takes the time to do that for me.

Writing Journal/Random Notes 12.2.2017: Below quota again, but not horrific

All right, so I put out this post late tonight, but hopefully anyone watching what I do was interested (I think?)

I’ll post the week’s stats below, but I think yo can guess from the title what you will see:

+2,693 words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words): 4 out of 7 days.

And what can I learn from all of this, kids?

Consistency is my friend; hoping for a “big weekend” to make up words isn’t usually effective. It just puts too much pressure on me to come up with something interesting.

On a somewhat unrelated tangent, I need to try and write these blog posts and get them done on Saturday and have them ready. Procrastination is not my friend.

Also, if you didn’t see it, I put out something of my own writing here earlier today. I felt compelled to write it after a soccer game I attended a few years ago, and used it as a “sample essay” for some of the college composition classes I taught. I just felt like sharing it to anyone that might be interested.

More later.

Joining The Men In Red

I decided that this was the best time to present some of my original writing. This was me for me – something that is a passion for me that I can’t escape.


Joining the Men in Red

“People think that football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

  • Bill Shankly, Manager, Liverpool FC (1959-1974)

It was the flare lighting up at my feet that finally pushed me over the edge. From my vantage point, I never really saw who had sparked it off, just two figures quickly shuffling away from the floor of the stadium two rows below me as the flames of the white-hot magnesium fuel seared my retinas. It was the second half of the match between the visiting Columbus Crew and La Maquina Roja, the Men in Red, Chicago Fire SC. As first that flare and a second one started to burn two sections to the right, the Section 8 crew, the most loyal Fire supporters, were in frenzy as they prayed in song to the boys on the field to keep their lead alive. As the smoke crept over the northern Harlem End stands, we began singing The Song.

Every great soccer team has one song or chant that is absolutely theirs, one that defines their team and which no one else uses. There’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” for Liverpool (although Celtic FC borrow it sometimes), “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” for West Ham United, and “La Roma Non Si Discute, Si Ama” [Roma is not to be questioned, it is to be loved] by AS Roma. Despite standing up for an entire hour straight, despite singing so loudly over that time I was seriously wondering whether I’d be able to talk the next day, I joined in the singing, at the top of my lungs, of Our Song:

Late last night, while we were all in bed,

Ms. O’Leary hung a lantern in the shed,

And when it tipped over, she winked her eye and said,

“There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!”


At that moment, everything could and might be going to hell all at once. But I was absolutely at peace with the world and my place in it. I belonged and was part of something greater than myself.

Looking back, soccer has been a growing passion with me, a sport I always loved but only slowly getting its hooks into me over the years. As a kid, I played Y soccer as a kid myself, and for an abortive adult league in my town for a season back in the late 90’s. My one regret now is that I never attempted to join my high school soccer side. I had heard about the Chicago Sting of the old North American Soccer League, but I couldn’t have picked out any of their players if they’d shown up in uniform. Then there was the 1994 World Cup in America, and the founding of MLS, but it was still far away from me. I heard about the Fire’s founding, its success with the MLS Cup its first year and the U.S. Open Cup in later years, but it was difficult to see them on television, even on cable. However, that improved, as did America’s interest in the game. I also started becoming connected to the club online.

By the summer of 2012, I was deep into the culture of fandom with the Fire, following their every move online, keeping updated on where they were in the standings, and slowly acquiring whatever Fire gear I could. I had finally seen them play an exhibition against the great Manchester United in Soldier Field, but I had yet to see the Fire in their real home, in a league match. I decided to change that with a game that June, with my son Jake and friend Tim in tow.

After three hours of speeding through miles of Illinois farmland and a few more miles of urban Chicagoland sprawl, Jake, Tim, and I knew we were getting close when we entered suburban Bridgeview and started to see the Fire badge on more than a few local bars. Finally, we saw the stadium, Toyota Park, rise out of the ground as we made our final approach.

I loved the excitement in my son’s eyes as we took a walk around Toyota Park. The stadium’s design was a blend of American and European stadium design, a horseshoe of seating around three of the four sides of the field, with overhangs covering the seating along the sides. We’d be in the uncovered Harlem end at the north end of the field, right next to the goal.

As Jake and Tim and I wandered around the red brick exterior to find where the main gates were like the Iowa rubes we were, we saw a flash of gold and black in one small section of the parking lot. As we walked up to it, we realized that it was the small area of the lot dedicated to the visiting tailgaters cheering on the Columbus (OH) Crew. Black and gold flags flew over trucks, cars, and buses as they chowed down on tailgate burgers and dogs and broke out into the occasional song. As a U of Iowa fan (and later alumni) for 30-plus years, the idea of those colors being the opposition colors left me with a vaguely befuddled feeling. I was glad I was wearing red and had suggested my son and friend do so as well.

After a quick trip to the Fire gear shop and picking up our tickets, we made our way through the turnstiles into the stone entryway of the stadium. The views of the field were excellent – most of the nearest seats were no more than three feet away from the field. We saw the number displays honoring past Fire players and staff, and the banners honoring past MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup wins.

Across the field, I can see the Columbus fans filing into their small section and starting singing even before the game. The Section 8 boys and girls weren’t ready yet, but we could see the fans gathering their signs and banners that could cover an entire section of seats and getting them ready for the game. We had to move to another section because “the band was coming in,” and sure enough, we saw a group of fans setting up drums and horns in the middle of the section.

I knew stuff was getting real right before kickoff when I saw a guy climb on top of a red metal platform in front of the stands. These were the chant and singing leaders, hollering at the tops of their lungs as they led us through the Fire’s song catalogue. After we ripped through the National Anthem and kickoff happened, we started singing:

Vamos, la maquina roja/esta noche/tenemos en ganar……

[Let’s go, the Red Machine/this night/we win]

The Fire scored the first goal of the night in the fifth minute. As a roar went up from the Section 8 stands, we hoisted a massive banner with the logo CF97 (referring to the Fire and their founding date. The founding of the club actually happened on the 126th anniversary of the actual Great Chicago Fire) over our heads until it covered the entire section. We had a second chance to do it about 10 minutes later, so we took it.

Within 10 minutes, I could already feel my voice getting strained. Tim eventually had to take a few breaks from singing – he had to work the next day and didn’t want to be unable to communicate with co-workers. Jake kept yelling his head off, though, but he needed at least a couple of sodas to keep going. It must have been exhausting for the chant leaders, too – there were about five different people who took turns up on top of the platform during the match.

It started getting desperate around the second half. We had one of our players sent off and were a man down; then they scored on us to make it 2-1. As we continued to chant and sing, we kept watching that clock tick down closer and closer to the 90th minute, willing the game to end with the 2-1 score.

It was right in that mode that the flares dropped and The Song rang out from the stands for a solid four minutes. As we cheered them on, we were no longer just a crowd, but a whole community with our own little culture of the Fire.

Finally, after five minutes of extra time after the official 90, the whistle blew and the Fire was the winner. As we sang in celebration, the Fire players and coaching staff walked toward our section and gave us a round of applause from the field.

That day, I was able to celebrate a sport, a team, and a city that I loved, with a group of people that made it OK to do so. It’s not going to be every day that I am going to be able to make it out to see the Fire, but every time I do, either there or at home, I feel part of a greater soccer community. For me, the Fire has become more than a club; it’s become part of home.