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.
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.
It seems that a lot of people are finding life hard right now. They’re stuck at home, can’t socialize, and many have other worries (lost jobs, long lines at food banks, bored children who can’t hang with their friends). This event—caused by the novel coronavirus, a biological entity spreading as a sickness known to the world by the name of COVID-19—as a sociological phenomena has affected me mildly. So I’ve been putting off writing anything about it here on my website (though my personal journal is full of reflections).
Capture from a video of my niece’s dolls social distancing in the yard.
One of the things that social distancing has taught me is that I don’t socialize. It really hasn’t changed my social life whatsoever. The biggest social difference is that I’m no longer meeting up with Mike for our working meetings (we’re creating scripts for a literary YouTube channel we hope to get off the ground at some point). Although this itself doesn’t feel odd, since we only started doing them about 3 weeks before #SocialDistancing became a thing.
My wife, however, has been feeling the changes more acutely than I. She’s a school teacher, so she’s been working from home, doing Zoom video meetings regularly. Iowa law does not currently allow virtual learning to count toward minimum hours required each school year. So my wife’s district has been creating voluntary homework. It’ll be corrected, but not graded, for those students who choose to do it (AKA for those kids whose parents make them do it).
I must say, having Libby at home has been generally nice. While different, it does not feel particularly novel. After all, she is home pretty much all day during the summer. Summer just came early, while snow still kept repeatedly gracing the ground with its annoying clinginess. #FuckSnow #MeltAlready
We also happen to live in one of the few states without a mandatory stay-at-home order (and I work in Nebraska, which also lacks blanket pandemic measures). So things don’t feel as locked down as they probably do elsewhere in the country. The hotel I work at has slowed down quite a lot; it seemed the summer construction season was ramping up early before the virus appeared on our shores. Nevertheless, we’ve been holding our own. Also, because of our status as a housing facility, I think we’re considered essential business, so it’s likely that even if Pete Ricketts began implementing draconian measures to help save the lives of citizens under his governorship, our business would continue to operate as long as employees were staying healthy.
So if there’s financial hardship headed my family’s way, we’ve yet to see it. With the stimulus check landing in our savings account last week, we’re actually coming out ahead.
I think the most stressing part of all this (outside of the copious amount of hand sanitizer and bleach water I’m using while at work) is seeing the president attempt to rewrite history, push conspiracy theories, cut off funding from WHO, and (most recently) make a call for citizens to rise up against state governments (specifically of Democrat governors; Republican led states doing the same thing aren’t the target of his presidential tweets).
This is highly distressing. It simply boggles my mind how such a horrible human being and incompetent “leader” can possibly be in charge right now. With another weak Democratic candidate as the only option left (well, I guess we’ll see if the unofficial write-in-Bernie movement gets serious by the time November rolls around) I’m afraid it’ll be four more years of the Orange Buffoon. Hopefully his transparent ploy to save the economy by duping people into thinking it’s okay to get back to normal before the transmission rate gets close to zero (the Fed guidelines are only asking for a 2-week downward trend, which isn’t what health officials had suggested as a sign for reopening the economy). Of course, without adequate testing, there’s no way to know for sure if any place is ready. Is the trend really down or are our testing supplies in such inadequately short supply that we’re guessing based on wholly incomplete data? But the Liar in Chief continues to think the public and reporters are too dumb to realize that we don’t have enough tests. Only his ardent cult followers believe him and whatever tumbles out of the screen from Fox News (#fauxnews).
And by the time this scheduled post goes up, who knows what other insane set of alternative facts or devastating decisions that Trump, the Great American Traitor, will let issue forth from his frog’s mouth.
Politics were slightly less stressful for me the first three weeks of social distancing at the beginning of March because I didn’t have time to catch more than a handful of soundbites on the radio. Why? because I was writing. Yes, I was actually writing quite a lot. I found a publisher for a piece called Christ Abyss and so began the process of taking a draft, adding and editing until it turned into a short novella or novelette. I sent it in to the transgressive publisher on the 31st, though I suspect it could have been better (a beta reader got back to me only recently with some great suggestions), but that was the deadline. I don’t know if you’d term it a dark fantasy or horror fantasy or an anti-heaven tourism novel, but it’s not written for righteous among us.
Whatever it is, it had my full attention for those three weeks—despite being just about done with draft 1 of my novel and having just downloaded new software for editing the video footage I filmed for a “Write with Me” style YouTube video.
Order of events: I wrote the damned novella, took a week off from everything except our new Nintendo Switch (okay, this is the other biggest change that the coronavirus has thus far brought to our lives; I haven’t owned a gaming system since 2005), and then finally finished draft 1 of the novel last Thursday. Yes siree, the zero draft I completed on December 3rd has finally been fully transferred into an edited digital first draft.
My goal was to write a sorta bigger book (no Moby Dick, but hopefully something bigger than the standard 80K). I thought I would probably hit somewhere between 120 to 126 thousand words for my first draft. My hope was to then expand this during my edits, adding scenes, better detail, etc. Then, in all likelihood, I would see it trimmed back down to about the original length after my future publisher’s editor got done hacking it to pieces revising it.
My final word count came to 173,499 words. That’s over 47 thousand more words than I expected to get. And I’d love to see this word count even higher when I get to work on draft 2. I don’t think I will see it rise more than 5 or 10 thousand words, but if for some reason I managed to add enough to get my #FutureMasterpiece above the 200K word mark, I’ll treat myself to a fancy steakhouse dinner (assuming the local steakhouses find the means and meat to reopen after America gets its herd immunity—I mean its mass vaccinations).
My next task is to dive back into the remainder of my unedited dialogues. I’m sure that I’m waaay behind where I should have been with these, but that’s the writing life for ya. You get creatively distracted. You get bogged down by life or lifted away into a book (when will I learn that I can’t read fiction in the mornings if I want to get any writing done?). Your muse sometimes says you must muster your writerly might for more material matters (for example: an alliterative blog post).
I also don’t know how attentive I’ll be on my AuthorTube channel; whatever pleasure and practical gains I get from it can’t compare to the simple act of writing & creating story. On top of that, it begins to look nice enough out for sitting around outdoors in the evenings with a book. Maybe I’ll make a goal of one video a month for now (though don’t hold me to it). Other than putting off the unessential, I’ve also taken some stabs at starting a new novel. The proper way to begin is eluding me. What I think I need to do is actually sit down and plot this book. I’ve never plotted before. And since my attempts at not plotting this thing have petered out, it’s time I take the plunge into the twisty waters of plotting. Wish me the best of luck! #WriteOn
[An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that requiring online education was illegal in Iowa. This post was updated to reflect more accurate language around virtual education in this state.]
Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
My own word portrait is both homage and fanboy imitation. Of all her writing, it’s these prose vignettes I turn to again and again for their charm, wit, and ironically vague exactness. It’s my hope that my Lit Nerd homage would at least please this patron of the arts. I know that it pleased Zak Block and the others at Squawk Back. It’s a good feeling when you’ve written something that you know needs to live up to that which it’s making direct nods to and someone believes in it enough to print it when they certainly could have published anything else. So thank you Squawk Back for believing my own Word Portrait to be of literary merit, even if it’s only homage and imitation of the literary giant I’m writing about.
The whole issue is free to read online, so go check it out to discover some of the coolest writing out there on the net.