Writing Journal/Random Notes 4.30.2018: Things happened, but who am I kidding?

Well, the last full week of April wound up being a bit of a flop:

+1,074 words written (blogging).

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 0 out of 7 for  total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 1 out of 7 days.

Yeah, it was like that.

I guess I could say that I had life things come up, etc. Which is true, in a sense. More behind the scenes stuff is happening, but you know how I tend not to get into too many personal blog details here. Once things begin to sort themselves out, I’ll probably talk about it briefly. None of it will affect the blog, though.

Right now, I’m kind of in a situation where I’m waiting on a lot of things – some of them writing-related, some work-related, some personal-related. There was one point last Tuesday where I was waiting on at least five different people to contact me about various things. I told my wife about that and she said “Welcome to the club.” (She runs her own consultancy firm.)

Also, I’ve gotten to a point where I’m in the lagging part of revising some projects. That is, I’m looking at them and sighing because I’m not quite sure where to go with them, or at least, what the next step should be.

Anyway, since I’ve spent longer on this than I intended, let’s get into Random Notes.

  • Quick update on where I am with writing projects:
    • The Holy Fool – now in “pre-publication.” That’s about as specific as I can get for now, but I will update everyone as soon as events merit it.
    • The American Nine – In second draft format, with at least two deeper revisions pending. Due to my need to keep the draft under 100,000 words, I think I have ideas for two other books that would make this a trilogy.
    • We Can Be You… – finished looking over the rough draft and making cuts to overly long scenes. The rough draft is now somewhere around 30,000 words – I’m now considering finishing it and shooting for a 90,000- word manuscript, with other material that was part of the book being part of two later sequels.
  • I want to thank everyone who has been visiting my blog recently, especially those that visiting this recent post. It’s nice to see people visit – feel free to comment as well.
  • In case you are wondering, the Volume I posts involving the Writer’s Biographies cover my life as a kid getting interested in writing, and Volume II includes my time as a younger writer, before the recent revival and production of my interest in writing. If there is a Volume III to those Biography pieces, those would cover what has happened with my writing in recent years. However, I think there might be at least a couple Volume I and Volume II posts left to write, too. [EDIT: I have created a new category, Biography, on the right-hand side of the blog. All of the Writer’s Biography posts can be found there.]
  • Depending on circumstances, I might be able to put together another midweek post as well as the regular journal entry.

That’s it for now. I’ll write some more later.

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A Writing Biography, Volume II, Part 4: Reviving An Old Writing Project

As a kid, I took my music seriously.

When I was into rock and roll, I really dived deep into the history of the music, especially Sixties and Seventies rock. I grew up as a little kid starting to hide my interest in heavy metal and punk from my mom, who thought the music just a little harsh for a kid my age to get into.

By the time I was off to college, the alternative rock and indie rock surge was all around me and I truly got into that. Nirvana was one of my biggest bands and I still remember driving in a car when they announced Kurt Cobain killed himself. One of the things that I did admire about Kurt was how he promoted and discussed his musical influences, the musicians not only from the Sixties and Seventies, but the underground rock acts of the Eighties that helped pave the way for bands, like his, like Black Flag, The Minutemen, Husker Dü, The Replacements, Dinosaur jr, and many others.

In the years since then, I’ve expanded my musical interests into many other genres and styles, but I still appreciated music made by people who believed in authenticity and emotional honesty. From that love of the music started to come the origins of an idea.

What if I wrote about a fictional band from that 1980’s era of underground rock? What if I was able to put together a whole fictional history for that band, make it my version of some mix of Nirvana and Sonic Youth? And like Sonic Youth, what if that band had overcome personal and professional adversity to make it to widespread fame by the 1990’s?

So, I started writing a book, several years ago (closer to the beginning of this decade than the end of it). I got into the origin of the band, spouted off a lot of word salad about the meaning of music, and the effort petered out after I got somewhere around 35,000 words. I’ve talked before about how I used to work; that was one of my creative casualties.

So, after I got finished with the first draft of The American Nine this year, I was sort of puttering around and decided to take a nervous look at what I’d produced and see if there was anything worthy of getting on with. My verdict:

  1. I was very happy with the characters I’d produced, especially the band members. All of them had different personalities and had different reasons to come to the music, but that mutual interest and respect drew them together.
  2. It was way long-winded, back in the days when I never worried about word counts except for the time or two I tried to do NaNoWriMo. Managed to cut down what I had to just over 30,000 words without too much trouble.
  3. Even with those cuts, I think I’m still going to have a book that’s not going to be able to fit under the 100,000 mark. I have the feeling it might fit more into a series – a trilogy, actually. If I do a trilogy, the ending of the first book will have to take some planning, but I think the rest of it is coming together.
  4. I think this is something that could work.

So, that’s my initial impressions of the new project. The advice that I would give you today is that even a project you think didn’t have potential might look better after some time away from it. Don’t ever throw away mistakes – you’ll never know when they’ll be, as Bob Ross once said, happy accidents.

 

Writing Journal/Random Notes, 4.22.2018: Consistent but a little quiet

So, I was checking my writing totals, and… they’re not too much different from last week – a little lower, but pretty consistent. Those totals:

+899 words written (blogging).

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 4 out of 7 for 150 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 out of 7 days.

And there we go. Not much to say about them, but some context with the numbers:

  • All the written words are in blogs, which I started counting recently. It’s probably going to be a while until I get out of the revising mode and into brand new draft writing.
  • My revising has been on both my projects and a beta read for a member of my local writing group, Writers On The Avenue. I’m hoping to do more of this for people.
  • This summer, I’m hoping some members of my group will be willing to beta read The American Nine. However, when I send it to the group, I will have to emphasize the fact that this material could be considered TV-MA, NC-17-type material (to be fair, romance novels are getting pretty explicit nowadays). Writers who prefer to write about religious or Christian themes are likely not going to get into the material, which I totally understand. Maybe I need to put this on the manuscripts when I email them out?
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OK, then! Random Notes time:

  • For those interested in my actual writing, including fiction, poetry, and nonfiction work not written specifically for this site, I’ve added a new category to the blog, My Writing. Just click on the handy folder link on the right side of the blog (or this link right here) and it will take you right to those pieces, if you are curious about them.
  • Real life often seems up in the air right now. I tend not to discuss a lot of personal life stuff here, but right now it appears that there is much waiting around for things to happen. Two big events are the fact that the last of my two kids will be graduating from high school in two years, and the fact that my wife is currently running for office. (Most of you probably wouldn’t be affected because it’s just our local legislative district, but here’s her site if you’re curious.) As a result of these and a few other things, I’m in the situation of having no idea what my life will look like two years from now. It’s an intriguing situation.
  • I’ve got a couple of blog post ideas coming up – another one on my series of posts about revising, and getting into what that revived book project I was reconsidering looks like. You’ll probably see those within this week.

That’s it for now; more later.

100th Post

I wasn’t quite sure I would make it this far. Remember how it all started?

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Well, it got on track after that.

 

As much as I have claimed to be, or aspire to be, a writer, for a good portion of my life, I don’t believe that I lived up to that claim fairly well. There was a time when I started a blog, several years back, on Blogger. Don’t bother looking for it; I wrote it under an Internet handle, never ID’d myself, and took it down years before my kids ever got into middle school.

 

As I’ve discussed, consistent writing and myself until very recently have not been close companions. Such was the case with the infamous first blog. I’d post happily every day for a week or two, then just forget about the whole thing for another two weeks. I’d post about every eccentricity that came into my head and got into the bare bones basics of HTML programming to get everything looking nice. And I didn’t even realize that pretty soon there would be a lot of options for plug and play blogging before too long.

 

I have to say that I like the ease of operations of the WordPress platform for what I do a little more than what Blogger had for me. I like the ease of me being able to cross-post to other social media platforms and its ease of use. I also like being able to track and follow other blogs as well, but I forget if Blogger had anything similar except for RSS readers.(NOTE: If anyone has a suggestion as to whether I should change up the design of the site, let me know. I might keep it this way for a little longer.

 

I think this blog has become a symbol of the type of focus that I wanted to bring to my writing at the start of this process. I stayed modestly ambitious yet strongly focused on what I wanted this blog to be. I might occasionally spout off on my personal social media about things that bother me on a political level, but I’ve decided to keep this page largely free from politics, although there are a lot of political elements and themes to my books. I’ve kept this dedicated to the writing craft and my journey as a writer, and it has been liberating to try and filter my online presence so that I’m not so much in the muck of the political and cultural combat. That’s even though the main characters of my recent books would certainly have something to say about the issues of the day.

 

I’ve also stayed consistent with my writing. Even though those weekly writing journals seem to make up a large portion of the past 99 blog entries, they’ve been important in many ways. They have been personal celebrations of how well I was doing on my writing as well as personal postmortems on how things could have gotten better. I said from the beginning that this was as much of a way to track my own progress and output as a writer as it was a way to reach out to other writers, share my thoughts and, eventually, promote my own fiction. Even though sometimes it has only been a weekly blog about what I wrote that week, it was more consistent that any writing I’ve ever done up to this date.

 

I’m proud of that, and I’m also proud of making it to 100 blogs. I’ll be looking forward to my one-year anniversary on this blog and the next 100 blogs, for starters.

Writing Journal/Random Notes 4.15.2018: Next steps

Hmmmm, the free WordPress media library helps out quite a bit when I’m stuck for picture ideas.

Anyway, to the weekly totals:

+1,413 words written (blog).

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 4 out of 7 for 150 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 out of 7 days.

That’s… somewhat more impressive than what I was expecting, considering that I was taking some break time after finishing the rough draft and first revision for The American Nine.

Just a few Random Notes, then:

  • This isn’t going to be too long, to start off with. I’m getting on with some work projects that have to finished up by this weekend. There’s some other odds and ends, but that’s about all I’ll say on the subject for the moment.
  • Anyway, I previously suggested that I was considering new projects, or some revived projects. That is coming into clearer focus, giving me more projects down the pipe than what I thought I had. The one project I had in mind seems to be more of a revival than a new project. However, I think I am going to wait and give that project its own entry and attention.
  • It seems like I’m waiting a bit for new news to come out about me and movement on certain fronts. However, long wait times are par for the course when it comes to books.
  • This is blog post #99 for me on Liegois Media, so I will do my darnedest to get out a special #100 post sometime this week. It will probably be a retrospective, but I’ll likely save the choicest recollections for the one-year anniversary blog post this summer. 🙂

That’s it and done – more later.

Microsoft Word and Google Docs: Moving from one to the other?

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I have to estimate that I’ve used the same program, Microsoft Word, for my writing for at least the past 25 years. I’ve loved it; it’s been great to store files, build worlds, edit my work and others, and do writerly stuff. Honestly, couldn’t complain about it.

Usually I leave re-posts or shares of articles on writing to my Liegois Media Facebook page or my Twitter feed of the same name. However, this article (How Google Has Quietly Revolutionized Document Editing), got my interest.

During the past three years, I’ve found myself using Google Docs more and more in my teaching environment. On a personal level, I’ve found it to be useful to be able to edit and comment on a document at the same time that another person (usually one of my students) is working on the same document. Obviously, this is an advantage in working directly with a student, or students who are working on a group writing project. It’s also been easy for me to access files, etc. – other than the fact that the Internet can sometimes go down in a school district and leave students and faculty alike twiddling their thumbs.

However, the article goes over a lot of the advantages of being able to open multiple file formats in the Google Docs app, even PDF files. With me even dealing with older Word files, this is an obvious advantage. However, it appears that Google has gone even further with this. From the article:

On [last (:))] Wednesday, Google introduced another update to Google Drive that makes this sort of quick, collective document markup even easier. Now you can comment on Office files, PDF documents, and images in Drive’s preview pane—without even having to fully open the file in Google Drive. For dedicated Drive users, it’s an added level of convenience that can shave a few precious seconds off your workflow. The move also further the negates the need to pay for other traditional productivity tools like Acrobat Reader or Microsoft Office Suite, the latter of which offers a useful real-time collaboration feature. And indeed, it is a strong play against Microsoft Office, which is still the reigning document format and productivity suite, particularly among enterprise clients. Microsoft, it should be noted, has been focusing on the other end of Google’s equation, upping its OneDrive cloud storage efforts in order to lure customers away from Google, Dropbox, and other cloud services.

And, the money quote:

Google is eliminating the need for distinct file types, making it easier to sign or edit documents regardless of the applications you have downloaded on your phone or desktop. It’s a novel idea, really—just being able to open a file, work on it, and not think about “what” it is.

As simple as Microsoft Word is, and how many writing projects I’ve saved in .doc or .docx formats, I don’t believe that I will stop using that program any time soon. However, this new item seems intriguing.

Any ideas where your loyalties lie, readers? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

Writing Journal/Random Notes 4.8.2018: A lull before the new action

It was a slog this week. Here it is:

+0 words written.

Days writing: 0  out of 7.

Days revising: 3out of 7 for 300  total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 3 out of 7 days.

Well, I did say I was going to take it easy this week.

Is it good news that I’m just getting antsy if I just take time off? Maybe that’s for the best. I think that I really don’t know what to do with myself when I am not working on a project, which is such a better feeling that just sitting on my butt for years at a time.

So, what am I doing? I read through one person’s work in my writing circles; now I’m going to do another one of those, although that process will take longer. I want to keep poking around on The American Nine, even if I don’t do too much with it at the moment. There’s at least two or three projects I could revive that I still have passion for at various levels.

I want to keep writing, even if it’s rubbish. And that’s a good feeling.

[UPDATED: I also went to my Facebook writing groups to get their input on the question I asked before of whether to count my blogging writing toward my writing totals. General consensus is that it should be counted. So, as of the next writing journal, those totals will go into the count.]

Random Notes!

  • Going to get at least another mid-week post out. It’s one of those that’s been hanging around for a while, so I’ll be happy to get it out the chute.
  • I think I have social media posts covered until… the end of the month? So, that’s a good feeling.
  • I’m dealing with what I think is a pinched nerve in my neck. I might have to consider changing sleeping positions, writing positions, etc. It will be nice when this sorts itself out or my new chiro does.
  • I will talk eventually regarding what The Holy Fool’s publication status is. Right now… it appears there’s some movement on that front. As soon as there’s product, you’ll be the first to know, faithful readers.

That’s it for an admittedly boring week! I’ll have more to read about later, promise.

 

A Very Quick Note…

I’ve now finished the first revision of my project The American Nine.

(Well, not now – it was a few days ago. Anyway…)

I consider that first revision to be a success. I believe I took care of all of the major continuity issues that I was facing due to some changes mid-rough draft, and I shaved somewhere around 1,500 words from the manuscript with very little effort to get it under 95,000 words. (To be accurate, 94,619, at last count.)

I have the feeling that I am going to take the advice I have seen writing coaches give in print and let the project sit for a while. I am thinking that will be until at least the end of this month. As I’ve written recently, revising is a big deal. Before I even think about showing this project to any agents/publishers, I want to put it through a thorough process. That would include:

  • At least two major edits where I take a long look at the manuscript and consider whether anything needs to be added or removed. I believe if I think something needs to be added, however, I’ll have to wind up taking something out in return. Such is life, and such is keeping a manuscript under that wonderful 99,999-word mark.
  • At least one more revision to recheck for continuity errors.
  • Reviews/critiques from other writers, especially later in the process when I’ll be editing and proofreading.

What’s going to happen until then? I believe I’ll go ahead and read through some manuscripts fellow writers have given me to review, and get my comments back to them as I can. Work appears to be somewhat hectic for the next couple of weeks, with a longer break at the end. It’s getting closer and closer to the end of the school term, for sure.

A couple of questions:

  • Should I start to count my blogging toward my overall word count for the week?
  • Should I count revising other people’s work toward my revising count?

Go hog wild with your advice in the comments or wherever.

On Revising (Part 2)

How often should you revise your work before it goes to a publisher or agent?

My advice on that is this; pick a number that seems reasonable, then add at least two more to it.

One of the things that I noticed about software is how they keep putting out new versions of older programs. Windows 1.0 becomes 5.0, Firefox is 1.0 first, and now, I believe, it’s on to 42.0 or something of that nature. (I remember a joke in Douglas Coupland’s novel Microserfs, his study of Silicon Valley tech culture in the early 1990’s, where coders call their kids 2.0. That’s still one of my favorite books of my 20’s.)

Inspired by this, I decided that whenever I write manuscripts, I will stick to this numbering format to keep track of which versions are which. With The Holy Fool, I am now technically on version 3.6. That reflects four revisions of various levels and depths from the original rough draft.

As far as your work goes, I think there should be a reasonable medium between the one revision that kids might reluctantly do for a school project and the 20 different revisions that happen to some Hollywood movie scripts. (Part of the reason behind the latter situation is that those often have multiple authors).

I think that four revisions is a decent number, a good minimum if you are doing the primary work of revision on your own. Each of those revisions should have a different purpose, as well. You should never try to do everything in a single revision, or you could easily lose track of problems you have with the manuscript. Here are different types of revisions that I go through on my projects.

  • Word count. There are plenty of writing advice articles on how big your manuscripts should be. The general consensus is that genre books and most fiction should be under 100,000 words or less. If you haven’t been watching your word count, that could result in a lot of sentences, paragraphs, or even scenes and chapters that have to depart from your work. You might think it’s impossible to cut a 160,000-word manuscript down below 100,000, but trust me, it is possible.
  • Continuity issues. I remember a scene from the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando where a car is trashed rolling onto its side, Arnold rolls it right side up, and he drives away in a perfectly maintained car. You want to avoid similar silliness, which can come from calling one thing by two different names or having one thing in two different places. I changed the name of a soccer club halfway through my rough draft, so I wound up having to change pages of description. It was worth it, but you have to be meticulous when you do it.
  • Big ideas. Is your main character unlikable? Do you need to give more or less background on your story? Are there subplots that are just fizzling out? This is where your heavy lifting happens.
  • Editing and proofreading. Basically, all the mechanics, grammar, and formatting. (I actually consider this to be part of the separate editing process, although I include it here just so people remember that you have to do it.) If you can get a good reader to help you out with this, it is a part of the writing process that truly benefits from another pair of eyes.

I’ll get into the ins and outs of those different processes in a later post. For now, just keep in mind that revising is truly the heart of the writing process and the most complicated part of that process. It’s not something you’ll be able to knock out over a long weekend, that’s for sure.

Writing Journal/Random Notes, 4.1.2018: Special Easter Edition, yada yada…

OK, Spring Break for me has been a lot of time at home, but a relaxing time. Also, it’s been a great time to get revising done. To the weekly totals:

0+ words written.

Days writing: 0 out of 7.

Days revising: 5 out of 7 for 600 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 out of 7 days.

A slight improvement on the number of minutes revising, but one extra day I decided to screw around on. So, what does that mean for what I have been working on?

As it turns out, I am almost finished with the first revision of my rough draft. This is simply me reviewing the work for any continuity errors, such as what might occur when I change the names of people or organizations halfway through the book.

I’m also looking for the ability to cut any unnecessary wording or sentences. I think I’ll have to run that revision piece soon, because the only thing that comes close to writing something cool is cutting out an entire paragraph of material and realizing that I didn’t need it.

OK, let’s move on to Random Notes:

  • We are hosting Easter this year, so it might be a little bit of chaos today; that’s why I wanted to get this post out early. There will be some other posts this week, I am hoping.
  • I was glad with my progress during Spring Break, as I hadn’t expected to not only finish up my first draft, but get well into my first revision as well.
  • As for this week, it may be a situation where after I finish the first revision of the work in progress, I may let it sit for a week or so before taking another look at it. I am now tempted to pick up work on another WIP that I started thinking about last year to pass the time.
  • I’m not at the point where I feel I can announce anything, but… I did plan to have The Holy Fool published at some point this year. This is going to happen. When things get more solid, I will let everyone know and I’ll give people the opportunity to pick up a copy. I think it is past time for me to publish something if I am going to insist on calling myself a writer and continue to write a writing blog.
  • Somewhere last week I hit the 50-subscriber mark to this blog. Thanks to everyone that follows me and who is keeping up with what I’m doing; I appreciate all my readers.
  • There is a good chance that this April will see the 100th post on this blog. I’m surprised it’s gone this far, but proud that I’ve stuck with it like I have.

That’s it for now; more later.