A change in projects is a new chapter in one’s writing life. A new chapter can even be a return to something left off or set aside. And so my page has turned once again.
After a year of working on a new novel, it’s time to return to the one I let rest: The Brick. I’m in an editing phase where I’m both making structural edits and, for parts that don’t need major rewriting, working on cleaning up details and adding better descriptions, all while looking up any questions I had set aside for “later research.” There’ll be even more intentional line-by-line rewriting in a future draft, but first I need all those questions answered and major structural changes to be completed.
I’ve also been having fun filming for YouTube, but not so much fun editing videos. It seems that after a couple of crashes where I was forced to reinstall Windows, my computer no longer wants to cooperate when trying to edit videos. The software is the same and the amount of memory available is actually more than pre-crashing, yet there’s all sorts of issues arising that weren’t there before. So what I’m filming is raw and unable to be edited for the moment. Perhaps in the future I’ll get some of these stabs at vlogging edited and up on the internet.
In lieu of YouTubing, I gazed questioningly upon my dormant Instagram account that I had created through my Facebook author page and decided it was time to wake it up. Nope, my few existent Insta posts weren’t done on an app, but from a web browser, using Facebook’s business suite thingy. I’ve had a smartphone for only around a month.
Yes, I finally joined the masses. I started with a used hunk of junk that had belonged to my sister-in-law. It was pretty broken, like I couldn’t hear anyone unless I had them on speakerphone. I got this smartphone for a trip to San Francisco, using it to get San Fran public transportation apps and for a secondary map app (which came in handy when the compass for the map app on my wife’s phone went on the fritz).
And now I have downloaded my first social media app: Instagram.
M original intention was to advertise my “Hello, Author” interviews on Instagram through crossposting on Facebook. Turns out Facebook is finicky as fuck about crossposting. Posting to Instagram using FB’s business suite on web browser wasn’t going to work in a headache-free kind of way.
So I got the Instagram app.
And what I’ve discovered is that there’s a huge book-loving and Insta-writing community. I like it. Plus there’s every opportunity to use it as a creative outlet.
When I was young I filled notebooks full of poems. These days, I don’t write much poetry. But I wrote a poem about dating during the pandemic. This isn’t from personal experience, but observation and extrapolation helped me along.
While I didn’t intend it, I actually published my interview with Elizabeth Ellen on the same day my poem came out. Normally, I don’t bother making a blog post about the interviews, but since it came out on the same day, I thought I ought to explain. The Junction didn’t say exactly when my story was being posted online to read, so it was just a coincidence that the day I got my Ellen interview up was the same day my poem came out (though the poem must have come out after I got the interview up since I didn’t see anything about“For When No One Does Social Distancing Anymore” until this morning).
My office flooded. Water came through the wall of a basement shelf in the storage room and streamed into my office. It was a mess that took days and industrial fans to dry. The carpet looked only mildly damp, but the reality I didn’t realize until later was that the matting underneath actually soaked up gallons and gallons of water. Perhaps that’s good, since all of that liquid could have pooled in my office, wreaking even more havoc in my little writerly world.
The office is now set to right, and has been for some time. For whatever reason, this setback kept me from scripting and filming Youtube videos for a while. Before the flooding, I had plans to upload something monthly. Well, months passed, and I hadn’t even uploaded what I’d shot and edited of the deluge. Perhaps it was the flooding combined with the stressors of COVID, the lead-up to the election, the attack on the Capitol, plus personal life issues that made me put off this supplemental project, which is truly just for fun and tangential to my writing. What I didn’t put off was Hello, Author (my author interview newsletter) which I had began working on in early December and launched in January. While it’s also quite fun, Hello, Author also brings immediate value to the writing community and those whom I interview. And that’s more important to me than making videos for myself.
But if you’re interested in seeing what I’ll be creating (I’m a newbie, so please be forgiving!), do check out the video, liking and subscribing while you’re there. Future videos will include monologues, writing vlogs, my publication journey, and dramatic readings of my work. And who knows what else. Once I get going, I’m sure the ideas will stream forth like water from my basement wall.
Thanks for reading my blog and watching my Youtube videos. Keep it creative, Bookworms.
One of the things I enjoy most about writing is when things grow beyond what one initially planned. This makes whatever you’re working on feel more fleshed out and is perhaps even where the depths of your narrative are located.
I’m currently writing a novel I’m titling Charlotte in the Mouth. I’m so super excited about this book, and even more excited because I recently began the penultimate chapter of part 1. I’m calling it part 1, but really it’s all the chapters following a particular character as an adult. These part 1 chapters were the initial conception for the book. The novel stands alone fine with just them.
It was only after I began writing the book that an originally unrelated image floating around my head solidified into a second major character that absolutely needed to go into this book. When I get to this character, I’ll be writing part 2, though both parts will alternate once I put them together. This second part not only will help my little book become much more fully fleshed out, but I can tell it’s adding a layer of depth that wasn’t in my original conception.
So that’s it. Two parts and I’m done! Right?
Well . . . one of the things I enjoy most about writing is when things grow beyond what one initially planned and when the story of its own accord decides to bud and grow further from the already unexpected branches of plot, character, and theme. I guess I’ll be giving an update about not only part 2, but also part 3.
I’ve been working hard to create something for the benefit of the reading and writing communities I interact with. The fruit of these efforts launches officially today. “Hello, Author” is my new newsletter of author interviews.
I also want to thank everyone who follows here and elsewhere, everyone who reads my work, everyone who cares about what I write. Hopefully this endeavor works as a way to give a little something back to all of you. ❤️ 📕 ❤️
I haven’t written anything since August. Partly because I haven’t really had any blogging ideas and partly because when I have tried to write something timely, I’ve received error messages making me unable to complete or publish a post. I’m hoping that I can actually write and publish what I want to today. I’m using my work computer to draft this which, while not ideal, might help me pin down the origin of the error message (it seems like it might be my computer).
Since I last updated, novel writing went super well . . . until it didn’t. I think the culprit was stress related to the U.S. election. Whatever the cause, by the end of fall my writing felt distracted and the amount I managed to pen during my writing hours seemed like a drip from a faucet that had previously been on full flow. I carried on, holding out my creative cup to catch the paltry sustenance. And I’m glad I did because I needed to be ready for when the water was turned back on.
I can say it feels like a dam of pent up creative ideas has burst. And I’m going to ride this wave because my career depends on it. Remember how my last post was on prioritizing your core life goals? Well, I’ve felt quite the shift in my goals. Maybe it’s a realization that the publishing industry wants to publish people who are more than just writers, so I need something substantial beyond writing books and blog posts. But, really, I think it’s the zeal I get from interacting with other writers online, be they denizens of the Authortube sphere or fellow Lit Fic authors in my Facebook group. The social isolation has likely shaped this realization. Though a similar realization was likely to arise even without the pandemic-imposed isolation.
There are various projects in the works. I don’t want to dump all of them here at once, so I’ll be drippling them out over the next several weeks. What I want to address is how this post and my last post aren’t contradictory even though I’m adding enough stuff to my plate that I’m going to need an hourly planner.
My life goal is to be a writer. But I need to be a writer in 2020’s, not the 1980’s or even 90’s. The field has changed, the reality is that the markers of success have evolved. Traditional publishing isn’t everything. And while I’ve already dipped my toes into the various aspects of the defining feature of today’s world (THEINTERNET), I haven’t committed to it in a way that has done anything more than brought me some limited exposure. I want to build something. Something for writers and readers. Something that I can call a central part of my career.
I’m sort of in love with my ideas. Infatuated with the work I’ve set before myself. It aligns with my core life goals because those goals have shifted . . . just a little bit. I no longer feel like I’m in survival mode, but I feel like I’ve shifted to a “Let’s get thriving” mode. And what I’m setting up to create is something I can take with me anywhere, even if other large and life-changing events should come along. In fact, being that what I’m building will be a core part of my career, it might make any changes or unexpected additions to my life easier. I’ll have a sustainable core that is a part of my writing and the writing community even when changes in life’s circumstances inevitably happen. And that’s just awesome.
Do tell me how you’ve been surviving, thriving, and what your plans for 2021 look like.
As I’ve gone through my writing life, I’ve changed my process again and again. I don’t think any one process has ever been perfect. And that’s okay. The creative process should evolve, molding both to the project and adjusting to the constant changes in one’s own life.
I’ve written in coffee shops. I’ve composed stories at the breakfast bar in a trailer house, my roommate mixing me large glasses of Red Bull and Jägermeister, as I scribbled stories out onto blank paper. There was a time I even wrote while livestreaming on Twitch.
Sometimes my creative decisions were driven by the Muse, the bursting forth of prose in an endless flow that couldn’t stop for days and weeks at a time. But most of my decisions were for the sake of motivation and accountability. Writing in a coffee shop made me feel accountable because I was there, in a single place away from distractions. The environment of home with its chores and potential entertainments was not available, so I could focus on my work. Writing while live online helped me finally finish my book (click here to watch the moment I finished the zero draft of my novel).
But my process had to evolve. The coffee shop regulars – awesome people though they are – became a distraction as they chatted with me often enough that I found it hard to get into the flow. Twitch was instrumental in boosting me through the final sections of my novel (I was only making progress on short fiction at the time). But even minutes before I finished with my zero draft, my beard got insulted by troll in the chat 🧔. Twitch was endless distraction, sure, but at the time I needed accountability – eyes on me watching me write – more than I needed to be left alone.
I’m done with coffee shops and I’m done livestreaming. At least for now. And, to be honest, probably forever. One of the best things I’ve done in my life is to quit worrying about the side projects and to deep-focus on the core of what I want to be doing and who I want to be. The answer to the what and who of such self-introspection will be different for everybody, but for me, I want to be a novelist who knows about literature.
This isn’t to say that someday I won’t return to creating AuthorTube videos or can’t foresee myself delving into other creative or educational projects. I will if I feel I’ve mastered the essential things first. I value expertise. Always have. But I’ve never prioritized the pursuit of expertise until now.
I think that most of us do find it easier to check our email, boot up a video game, binge a bit of our favorite TV show, check the notifications on all of our social media accounts. I get it. The easier thing is always going to give us immediate satisfaction. Though it’s a short lived satisfaction, for sure.
At least you can spot those kind of distractions. But the easier things don’t always look like rest and relaxation. They sometimes look like work. Uou have to ask yourself, is what you’re doing really leading you toward your goal? Do the things you spend your time on align with what you most value, with the vision of your core life goals? You might argue that having a successful blog or YouTube channel is going to help you sell books when you finally write them. That may be true, but if it’s a book writer you want to be, are you spending 6 hours a day at the writing desk and 2 editing your videos? Are you spending an hour maintaining your author platforms and 4 at the writing desk? Or is it the other way around? Is the mastery you’re acquiring actually in line with your goals or is it a distraction? Is the way you spend your time an inverse of what you truly want?
Only you can answer that question.
I’ve had the rudiments of this blog post in my head for a while now, but I only got around to typing it today because I just finished the second chapter of my slice of life novel, freeing up some time for this. Yes, my devotion to my goals is extreme enough that I’ll even put off writing a little blog post in order to prioritize the core of my goals, making sure that they get done daily. That they get done first.
I know that my life is “blessed” in many ways. Though my job leaves me poor, it usually allows me 4 days a week that I can devote to writing. My handicap with technology – my inherent Ludditism – has actually made a life free of distractions easier. For around a decade I didn’t watch TV. For even longer than that I lacked any kind of video game console. After high school I never played a computer game. To this day, I do not own a so-called smartphone.
Yet, even with these advantages (advantages for me and my particular goals at least), putting one’s time toward the hard work of gaining mastery is not easy. Not at first, at least. Even for me, there’s so much that can please immediately, it’s rather a wonder that I ever managed to complete 3 books, 1 of which was published.
My process will evolve again as my life changes, as opportunities open and close, as my creative needs change. But right now, I have a great schedule that works for me. I found I love to-do lists but don’t do well when I try to micromanage by the hour. I’m not saying this schedule is what you should do; rather, I’m sharing it so that you can see how I prioritize writing and literature, which are the things important to me.
After breakfast: write my slice of life novel until lunch After lunch: revise my brick of a novel (usually until 2 or 3 o’clock) After writing: study literature (currently studying the history of literature) After studying: do chores After chores: play (most often I like to dive into my antique dictionary collection, find and catalog obsolete and archaic words I think are interesting; I believe play – something relaxing and fun for you – is important after working hard) After supper: exercise (in the summer, this means a walk) After exercise: read
As you can see, this schedule prioritizes writing first. Right now I have the new novel I’m writing and the draft manuscript of a novel I’m editing, so it’s easy to split these projects with a lunch break, giving me 4 or more hours of new writing and 2 to 3 hours of revision time. This is perfect because I find I can always sustain attention on fresh writing much longer than on editing and revision work.
My schedule prioritizes literary studies second. This is important to me and something I’ve wanted to know in more detail for a long time. So it’s the second major thing I do in my day after writing. If there’s one thing I’m unhappy with in my schedule, it’s that reading comes last. But I’ll be honest, I often get satisfied after a while of fun with my dictionaries and still have time to read before supper. Reading is like playing for me; some people might claim it’s my default mode. And of course there are occasional social calls and nights when reading is cut short to watch a movie or show with my wife. Yet after days, weeks, and months of a schedule prioritizing my core life goals, pursing them will be an established habit, a routine of success.
I am by no means a successful novelist right now. I am not an expert on literature or even what I’d consider knowledgeable. What I am though is one who gets that I’m not going to form a good habit, let alone succeed in my core life goals, if I prioritize my notifications or choose to continually says, “I’ll watch just one more YouTube video.” And, in fact, I’m just starting to understand that I won’t probably reach my life goals if I say “I’m going to do this other thing one or two days a week” or decide “I’ll spend just a few hours a day on this” instead of the core thing I desire, the actual books I want to write, the real knowledge I want to have. I will write all the hours I can first. I will study for as long as I can. Everything else comes after that. Nothing comes instead of these primary, essential, core goals.
So, what are your core life goals? What have you been prioritizing? Have they been the same things?
Summer finally breezed in on the 21st, and maybe with days of exceptional heat, I’ll actually feel like staying inside long enough to hop on the computer. I’ve probably only used this electronic contraption a handful of times since I last updated my website back in April. I admit, nice summer days may simply not permit me to touch so much as a smartphone. Reading and writing (pen & paper) outside is wonderful. And while I’ve spent much more time reading than writing, my time hasn’t been entirely unproductive (and I truly don’t consider reading unproductive; it just isn’t writing).
I managed to get through the minor planned edits of my brick of a novel. I still have a small pile of sticky notes on my desk with major edits that I need to tackle. After completing those smaller edits, I realized I needed to let it rest longer, so I set it aside for all of May and June here and am only now starting to feel that I could potentially begin to grapple with The Brick again soon; though I’m not keen about screen time when it’s nice and sunny out, with the high contrast option I can at least see the screen outside. And, like I mentioned, the potential of weather in the upper 90’s might drive even me indoors.
I finished (sort of) typing up my remaining dialogues . . . at least the ones I could find. Unfortunately, a few pieces went missing during the move. It’s likely that they’re in the house somewhere, but misfiled somehow. I’m not terribly worried. My wife has encouraged me to put off publishing a book of my dialogues until I have at least one more novel out in the world. The marketing makes sense to my mind; a collection of shorts is less likely to be bought and read than a novel, I believe, and I’ll have more luck getting a short story collection in bookstores if I have a publisher who is already selling my other book(s). When I feel like tackling the dialogues again, I’ll either need to find my missing stories, rewrite them from scratch, or write entirely new dialogues. Even if I do find the missing ones, it is possible I’ll write new dialogues while leaving some of the ones I wrote during my weekly challenge unpublished. Not all the dialogues came out great, which is fine for something like the writing challenge I gave myself.
This spring I’ve gardened, finally finished setting up my library, and have given myself quite the to-do list for the first summer in our new home. And today I finished the outline for my next book. This is the first time I’ve outlined a novel. Descriptions of Heaven and The Brick both had notes with sentences and images, but little in the way of plot. For this book, I wanted a detailed outline; it’s a slice of life or day in the life piece following a young woman looking forward to a romantic connection. (Let’s call this new WIP Slice of Life for now.) While I’ve read that day in the life kind of books are frequently plotless, I felt that such a book needed to account for the order of events in a way that my other books, which cover large sweeps of time, did not need. Of course, I haven’t started writing the book yet, so this former “discovery writer” is about to discover if plotting will work for him or not. (I do expect it to work, BTW). If anything, finding that I’m not set in my process, but am flexible depending on the needs of the work, makes me hopeful that I can write more than one kind of book: tightly plotted or loose and digressive.
Let me know what you’re working on this summer, be it writing or roofing.
All photos from Pixabay or remixes from Pixabay unless otherwise stated.