WIP Wednesday #4: Am I a Novelist?

Work in Progress

When I began writing Descriptions of Heaven, though I did intend to one day become a novelist, I never intended this narrative to be of book-length. The thing grew from a single scene into a story composed of chapters. It, in fact, unintentionally took the place of a book I was writing about a son dealing with the decline of his mother’s health due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Descriptions of Heaven 3D image black background.

Even with this book published, I had never been quite certain that I legitimately was a novelist, since my first book is what many call a novella. However, I have come across writing just as short as my novella where the publisher calls it a novel in the blurb and foreword. So I was either a novelist who wrote a little novel (novella) or a short story author who wrote a long short story.  Either way, my book was published as a standalone piece, just like any novel—big or small. Yet, I still kept asking myself, Am I a novelist?

Novelist contemplating©2004-2019 wredwrat

When asked what I do all day, my default answer is no longer “I’m a writer” or the only sightly less vague “I write books.”  Instead, I’m more apt so say “I’m a novelist” (though saying I’m a short story author is equally true, short fiction work isn’t a part of my quotidian practices).

There are two primary reason I’ve embraced the term novelist:
1) Recently, a friend on my Literary Fiction Writers Facebook group, during a discussion about the demarcations between a short story and a novel, pointed out that the real difference isn’t word count, but structure and flow. Novels and short stories are extremely different in that respect. While I’m not willing to discount word count as playing a central role in their difference, I’m apt to agree that rather small word counts can still be structured as novels. Descriptions of Heaven has under 35 thousand words, but it is structured as a novel and does not flow like a short story.
2) I have to admit that in this past six months I’ve become much more focused on my novel-in-progress, spending less time on my short fiction, which I often used to write, edit, and submit in lieu of working on my novel. Not only did my computer go kaput, as I explained in a previous WIP Wednesday post, making this kind of productive “distraction” less available, but I’ve also been spending every free day I have novel-writing for as long as I feasibly can. While it’s often not as much as I want, I can honestly say I am spending large chunks of my weekdays writing a novel.

©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist
©2016-2019 TheGraphicNovelist

So, there you have it. I have already written one little novel, and most Tuesdays through Fridays I spend my hours after breakfast until lunch writing my next novel. I am a novelist, both a published and actively working novelist.

Real talk time: I think a lot of novelists suffering from impostor syndrome or whatever, suffer a lot not because their book is too small, but because they don’t write as much as they can. No one should spend all their time writing, and in your life there are likely other things that take precedence over creative work. But a lot of us have the time—have in fact painfully carved out some small hours to focus on creativity—and yet we feel like impostors because we haven’t developed a good writing habit, thus we don’t use the time as we should. Consequently, we don’t feel like writers, let alone novelists.

The truth is, I haven’t developed a consistent habit of getting back to the desk after lunch. I can’t even blame it on a honey-do list, since I don’t let chores distract me anymore. My problem is that writing’s been going so well that I often finish my intended writing goal for the day or complete a long scene before the hours I’ve carved out for myself are used up. So I often stop writing because my brain feels like it needs a reset or some time to think about what’s next (yeah, I’m not a huge plotter).

On the one hand, I don’t mind these breaks because I’ve felt productive and hit my goals. On the other hand, I want to make a living as a writer—as a novelist—and in order to do that, I’ll probably want to be putting out a book every other year. Stopping for scene changes isn’t going to cut it.

Maori Sakai writer's life

© Maori Sakai

Here’s four things I’m doing to try and keep it going:
1) During lunch, I don’t turn on the radio or watch any TV. This lets my mind linger on my work, keeping me in my novelist zone or at least letting me transition back there faster.
2) I just get right back to the desk after my break and write. It’s been years since I’ve had to be in a mood or needed the Muse to write. So why I think I need to be calibrate my brain for the next section of my novel, I don’t know.
3) If I don’t have so much as a bullet point on a sticky note or general idea of what comes next, I’ll let myself go on a walk and think about it. I write when I get back. This isn’t something I want to become a habit since I won’t be going on walks come our long Midwestern winters, so I’ll only go out for a walk after serious creative thought. If nothing comes, I’ll let myself head out into the neighborhood for an hour or so.
4) I’m building a habit by writing every day I can, starting as early as I can and staying at it until 3:00pm if possible. Yet there’s this thing called real life that gets in the way sometimes of that good habit, so I’ve been trying to write daily regardless of the time. If needed, I’ve started at 11:00am, which is really late for me. I’ve even resorted to writing in the evening if I didn’t get a chance to during the day. While it cuts into family and reading time writing so late, it also shows my commitment to making a living from my books, continues to build my writing habit, and literally gets me a few pages closer to my goal.

This book is getting done. And, while I am a novelist, it’s forming the habit of novel-writing that’s going to let me someday be a career novelist (and occasional author of short story collections).

author novelist short story writer

© Elias Stein

 

Do you consider yourself a novelist whether you’ve written a novel or not? Or a poet, even if you haven’t made a collection of poetry? What are your writing habits like? Are your habits working or can you improve upon them? Let me know in the comments below.

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WIP Wednesday #3: Adapt

Work in Progress

My computer broke.  It became extremely slow of a sudden. I did manage to finish typing up chapter 7 before the thing became unusable, giving me disc error messages when I boot it up.

errormouse.jpg

I’m not terribly upset. Yes, I need a computer to type and edit, but I really don’t miss the internet. I’m actually enjoying the extra hour(s) of book reading now that I must wait until a work day (like today; I was called in) to do anything online. I already refuse to own a smartphone. I really don’t want to deal with the constant presence of social media in my pocket. And the computer that went kaput is also the same one that for years didn’t have internet, functioning as just a useful word processor. I was forced to add  internet functionality back to it when my tiny laptop with a half-broken screen finally died. The truth is, I’ll probably get the thing fixed come winter. Maybe. The Spring and Summer months are really the worst months to be staring at screens anyway.

unplug and go outside

I spent over a week typing up chapter 7. I ended up with 71 double spaced pages with 21,577 words. My novel is now past the 100 thousand word mark. Chapter 8 was written before chapter 7, so I took a weeklong break to just read, which corresponded nicely with my computer going to shit.

During this break, I also contemplated what to write next. I thought I knew where I wanted to go. In fact, I still want to go there. But there’s been this character, Kimmie, who has been sitting in my mind since the beginning, and I wasn’t sure if there’d be enough room to squeeze her in and flush her out like I wanted. I’ve toyed with cutting her out altogether. But this book is a “cast of many,” and so I never entirely snipped her out and, in fact, mentioned her in the last chapter, basically daring myself to find a way to give her some page time.

I DARE YOU

So I was sitting in my library, thinking about how to start the next chapter, and this big old monologue from Wesley formed in my head. I had problems with it though. The first problem was that it simply didn’t feel right for the next chapter. Though maybe it could be slipped in somewhere, I couldn’t imagine where exactly. The second problem was that chapter 8 already had a heavy dialogue-only section toward the end. It would make a good beginning of a chapter, but not a good start to the next chapter.

The idea of Kimmie’s displaced narrative suddenly bumped up against this monologue, and I could see thematic resonance. While I still couldn’t start the next chapter with the monologue, it could certainly follow Kimmie’s section just fine. And once I had set the monologue behind my other character’s story, I realized I had a new chapter—an extra and previously unplanned chapter.

With this extra chapter squeezed in, will my book fall apart under its own weight?

heavy

No. I don’t think it will. In fact, Wesley’s monologue will be a great segue into chapter 10. It’s an accident of inspiration, and the novel will adapt to fit it. Just like I’ll adapt to only having access to a computer when at work on the weekends. My experience of the sunny months will be better without a computer in my house. My novel will be better with this extra chapter nestled happily into the middle of the story. Everything will adapt just fine.

 

 

Dreaming Your Characters

Dreaming Your Characters

It finally happened. I’ve heard of it from other writers, but I’d never had the experience myself before now.

I dreamed my characters.

Not only that, but I was writing them. It was an odd, but thrilling experience.

dreaming woman

When we dream, our brain does this thing we call sleep spindles. As tuck.com describes them: “sleep spindles are sudden bursts of oscillatory brain activity . . . that occur during stage 2 of light sleep. These brainwaves are called sleep spindles because of how they look when printed out on an EEG reading.”

Scientists have linked these sleep spindles to areas of the brain that have been used during the day. So if you do a task for a prolonged period of the day like sewing, teaching a class, shooting hoops, mindless factory work, or writing then your brain “practices” this activity at night in your sleep, giving you sleep spindles in the exact same area of the brain.

Those who sleep talk are oftentimes acting out their sleep spindles. My wife, for example, is a frequent sleep-talker. She is almost always teaching, admonishing kids to quit goofing around, or gabbing with other educators in her sleep.

I imagine that since I’ve been writing even more each day than last year, that my brain has been spending ample time exercising my writing muscles while I sleep.

Dream Catcher

Here’s the thing about sleep spindles and your sleep talking dreams: you shouldn’t be able to remember them. It’s only your rapid eye movement (REM sleep) that you remember. These are typically the more exciting dreams where you’re trying to find something, accomplish a task, get somewhere, are maybe flying, or (if it’s a nightmare) trying to get away from something. In fact, when we talk about dreams and dreaming, we’re almost always talking about REM sleep.

So, while I’ve been brain spindling it up with an increase of 2 to 3 more hours a day at the writing desk this year, it’s still surprising to see my characters come to life in my dreams. While it’s most likely that I was in REM sleep, just the manner of my dream makes me wonder if I hadn’t somehow managed to remember a sleep spindle dream. If I did, then my writing sleep spindles look pretty cool.

sleep spindles

I won’t give every detail, but here’s the gist of the dream: I was dreaming about two of my characters—the two which are the principle characters of the current chapter I’m writing.

Jazzy and Miles were at a white wrought-iron table in an outdoor cafe, and Jazzy was being offered alcohol. I wasn’t in the dream, but I could hear myself narrating what was happening in exactly the same manner that I hear myself think when I write. The scene had to do with whether Jazzy would accept the alcoholic drink or not due to her Christian beliefs which don’t forbid alcohol but do frown on it in practice.

Then my dream switched to a scene with Maha and a more minor character. It’s a parallel scenario with Maha at a wooden table in at a bar and restaurant in the heart of Delhi. In this scene, Maha is having the same issue, except her Islamic beliefs don’t allow her to drink alcohol at all. I again hear my voice narrating the scene and the actions. Like with Jazzy, I can see my character fully, both from a distance and up close. Her face is troubled because she’s in a delicate situation of appearing rude if she doesn’t accept the drink but will be sinning if she does.

Then, suddenly, a line comes to mind that has to do with Miles back at the previous scene. The dream jumps over to Jazzy and Miles who are sitting at the same outdoor table. This one beautiful line flows out of me so intensely that I see it being written in my handwriting at the bottom of the scene below their table. I don’t see my hand, I just see the words appearing in my unique chicken scratch. After this, the dream goes immediately back to Maha’s dilemma, and I wake up right before I’m about to narrate what she decides to do.

Note: neither of these exact scenes appear in my book, but the characters I envisioned do exist in my mind. What was so cool was that they appeared exactly as I picture them. In fact, they seemed even more vivid and lifelike in my dream than they do when I’m writing their story. They looked much more human. The sweat on their brows, the pores on their faces were all clear when the dream was examining them closely.

It was a crazy positive experience that tells me I’m doing something right. And that thing is writing. If I’m writing enough in the day that I spend time writing in my sleep, this means I’m really giving myself over to the thing that I want to do with my life, which is bring a book into existence through words in my mind being transferred onto a page.

Let me know if you’ve ever dreamed about your characters in the comments below.

book and brain

Notes:
All photos except the sleep spindle graph are from Pixabay. The graph is from Goodnights.rest
I also want to make it clear that sleep spindles appear to do more than help us learn. We’re actually still learning about them. Sleep has always fascinated me, and I think sleep spindles and the unconscious processes of learning are some of the most amazing aspects of unconsciousness—even more interesting than REM sleep. What I’ve written above is what I remember about sleep spindles. So do your own research to see what’s new and what other studies might have to say in agreement or opposition to sleep spindle learning.

WIP Wednesday #1: 90K in and Counting

Work in progress

INTRO TO WIP WEDNESDAYS

I’m starting a new blogging segment I’m calling WIP Wednesday. This is WIP Wednesday #1. I don’t plan to post every single Wednesday but occasionally will be writing about my latest work-in-progress on Wednesdays.

This year I’ve been posting weekly about my dialogue challenge, and I’ve found setting a blogging goal related to my creative writing is a great motivator. This isn’t that exactly. Unless I’m doing a weekly post, an occasional update on my next WIP isn’t going to really motive me not to procrastinate if for some reason I am procrastinating. Instead, I hope this new segment will be more topical in nature, letting people know some aspect of what I’m working on as opposed to what I used to do pre-dialogue days, which was only really post when a story of mine was published somewhere.

Since I’ve already been posting like crazy about the dialogues, expect my WIP Wednesday posts to be mostly focused on the novel. Though there will probably be WIP posts about the dialogues once they are ready to be compiled into a short story collection, but I wouldn’t expect any such posts in the near future.

Reedsy Wordcount
Image Source from reedsy’s great article on word counts.

 

WORD COUNT

For my first WIP Wednesday,  the focus is going to be on word count.

I just did a recount of the latest drafts of all the chapters in my novel-in-progress, and I’ve got 89,191 words typed up. Now I write everything by hand and only a small portion of the chapter I’m working on is actually typed up. Using a conservative estimate, I’m without a doubt over 90 thousand words.

When I began writing I feared that my book would be too short to count as a novel. I worried I didn’t have enough to say—enough words—to tell a novel-length story. After all, I write lots of flash fiction and my debut book was a novella of less than 40 thousand words (at least after my editor got through with it).

cutting a book down to size

 

The goal for my current WIP was at least 80 thousand words. I tried to focus on just writing—not word count—and repeated the mantra, A story will be as long as it needs to be, whenever anxiety about my novel’s length cropped up. Truth be told, I failed to brush away my worries and instead have been keeping track of my chapter’s lengths. Here’s the current breakdown:

Prologue: 623 words
Chapter 1: 17,082 word
Chapter 2: 10,943 words
Chapter 3: 8,359 words
Chapter 4: 6,404 words
Chapter 5: 10,034 words
Chapter 6: 5,389 words
Chapter 7: 4,647 words typed (This is the chapter I’m currently writing.)
Chapter 8: 25,710 words

Now that I know I’ve reached the magical 80 thousand, I feel relief because I have certainty that this work is long enough and, with more to write, will stay long enough even after editing. I believe I have something like four more full chapters left to write, including the one I’m currently writing. So I can calculate the average of my completed chapters (not the prologue or chapter 7) at 11,989 words. At only 4 more chapters, that’s 47,956 words left to write if I hit that average. Add this predicted total chapter length of the next 4 chapters to my completed chapters and we’ve got a 132,500 word book.

I have no way of knowing right now if I’m going to be spot on, way short, or a lot longer than this guess. At the lowest, my chapters should be 5 thousand words. I’ve read in places that 5K is a good word count for chapters in most books for adults. As you can see, my chapters are all above 5 thousand words. I think 5K is a good chapter length myself, but that’s not how this book decided to structure itself. It’s perfectly possible that I could end up with four 20 thousand word chapters to finish off my book or, much less likely, end the book with four 5 thousand word chapters.

Isn’t over 100K words too long for a novel?

According to this reedsy article, my book is likely to be a little on the long side for literary fiction. 80 to 100 thousand is the sweet spot. And while the sweet spot is a good place to be because it’s more likely to be accepted by agents and publishing houses, it’s also shorter than I hoped my novel would be. You see, while I fretted about reaching that magical 80K, I felt my book needed to be bigger. It might be best to remember that the sweet spot exists for a reason, but it’s also good to remember the mantra, A story will be as long as it needs to beAnd I always felt this story needed to be longer than the minimum.  Ideally, I really wanted it to be at least 120 thousand words.

Why break the “rules” of novel-length, especially when it’s your first novel?

That’s a great question? The simple answer is the same as my mantra. But it might also have to do with genre; though to be honest, I really don’t know. To me, my book is literary fiction. But a friend of mine said the book I’ve described to him is a systems novel, a genre of both literary and speculative novels.

I don’t know if he’s correct or not, but one trait that some systems novels have is bulk. Word counts in lit fic systems novels are often way larger than my guesstimate of 130K. So if my friend is right, then maybe the word count this thing is bound to be is closer to correct for its genre (though the mantra takes precedence IMO over any other correctness criteria). My friend is smart, so he’s probably right. But whatever the genre, I feel like the more words for this particular book, the better. You can look up articles on systems novels and, after the book out, decide for yourselves if it’s one, and while you’re at it, you’ll probably make a decision on how you feel about the long chapters in my book.

endless book

TL;DR Announcing a new blogging segment: WIP Wednesday. I’ll be posting these occasionally. My current WIP, a novel, is at 90K words and could get past 130K words. This is long, but it might be the right word count for the book’s genre, a literary systems novel, if it’s even its actual genre. In the end, A story will be as long as it needs to be.


Share a little about your WIP in the comments and don’t forget to drop a link to your website so we can follow you.

The Melania Dialogues

The Melania Dialogues

I really don't care, do you Melania Jacket

This week’s dialogue is actually dialogues, with an -s. That’s because this week’s dialogue is comprised of several different back and forth conversations, all of them starting with the phrase “I don’t care, do U?” Yes, a parody Melania Trump is a speaker in all of these dialogues.

I’ll be sure to type this one up soon, that way I can try and land a publisher for all you hungry, hungry bookworms out there who are just ready to take a big old bite of The Melania Dialogues. To help satiate you until then, here’s the first couple lines from dialogue 1:

—I don’t care, do U?

—I don’t know, Melania, seven jelly donuts for breakfast seems a bit much.


As I write and publish my stories, sometimes I get the feeling that some of them just go together. Outside of the dialogues, I actually have three other short story collections coming together. I don’t talk about them  very much  because they aren’t something I’m actively working on on purpose. When I write a piece of fiction, it either feels like goes with one of these future short story collections or it doesn’t.

Basically, anything odd and fantastical goes into one collection. Anything I write within a certain spectrum of tones that also takes place in SD, NE or IA gets placed in another collection. Then there’s the last collection—my newest collection idea. This one is harder to define for me. There’s pieces that definitely don’t go into it. There’s not a theme or a style that really defines it, but certain stories feel to me like they feel fine next to each other in a folder, so I’m sure they’ll feel fine being bound together in a book someday. I still have a computer folder with lots of pieces that still haven’t found a home together, but that’s okay. Someday they might get some mates written for them.


Last week wasn’t the best week for novel writing. I was super sidetracked by short fiction. I guess I just don’t want these shorter ideas to go unwritten. My wife though said something to urge me to get back on track. She said, “I love, love reading short stories . . . from authors I know already because I love their novels.” Well-said, wifey-poo. Well-said. My productive procrastination ends tomorrow!

is this my novel-in-progress

Demon Zone

Demon Zone.jpg

Three DemonsSource

This week (today, actually) I’ve written a Halloween dialogue: Demon Zone.

Mark the doors with the sigils of the moon, of the red red river, of the biting chains. Empty dawn of its fire. Let dusk sink eternally into crepuscular paralyzation—hypnagogic, terrifying.

Thus begins the shouting match of the demons. Blood, horrible sights, and terrifying beings culminate in a conversation of violence where any talk of beauty or peace is muted.
cannibalism

Yeah, I’ll be sending this piece out pronto. Though it might end up getting published as a poem. I say this because for a dialogue it’s awful unconversational. I just couldn’t imagine a bunch of demons who sit around and shoot the shit (well, actually I can imagine that; it’s just not how I was inspired to write this particular dialogue). “Demon Zone” does resemble a prose poem. It’s perhaps more prose than a dialogue like “Insults Two by Two,” but it’s certainly poem-like enough to get published as one. Which is fine. A poetic dialogue. A dialogical poem. Tomato, tomato.


I have enough dialogues (and drafts and drafts of dialogues) that next week I’m breaking out a file box for it all. I don’t need the old drafts, really, as everything is saved in digital form. But I like to keep these as backups and for posterity or whatever.

The only other file box I have like this is full of Descriptions of Heaven stuff. Lots and lots of DoH stuff. Seriously, every draft was like a whole little book. I can’t imagine what my WIP, a novel, will fill. Two? Three file boxes? Yikes! I better invest should I ever see any on sale.

File Box


Notable life news: As some of you know, for a while my best friend, Mike, lived with my wife and I. We had a huge combined library and liked to chat about books, physics, and life. Well, we still like to chat, but nowadays we do a lot of that chatting here at the hotel (where I typically do my blog posts). He lives at the hotel now where both he and I work. It’s pretty awesome. For me anyway. Mike doesn’t seem to mind it much either.

One of the reasons he moved in with us was so we could work on a video project together. The project is Mike’s baby. I wrote for it, completing two scripts. While I never expected the same level of output (I write constantly; he writes sparingly), when no scripts were forthcoming from him, the project was pretty much red lighted.

Well, after revisiting the idea and steering our thoughts in a new direction (one which he and I both feel is a better direction) we may be starting the project again. Maybe. We’ll see. I do feel confident enough to actually write about it here because Mike is working on a script. I am in a state of squee about this, since I really think this collaboration could be fun and educational for both of us.

For me, this is a yellow light. I want to see Mike actually complete something for this project before I dive back in. Luckily, I was able to repurpose one of my scripts for a creative nonfiction piece (edited and sent out to potential publishers last week). If Mike manages to stay focused on our project, then come the new year when this dialogue challenge is done, I’ll green light my script writing again.

Scentless Dreams

Scentless Dreams

I’ve been waking up at 3a.m. all week long. It’s horrible because inevitably I end up falling asleep at some point for at least an hour-long nap. I’d rather not nap and just write straight through till lunch. I again woke up at 3 in the morning today, but I work my two 16-hour shifts today and tomorrow, so no napping for me. Maybe this will let me reset my circadian rhythm.

Last week was also my days at the gas station. That is not a way I want to spend my evenings. There’s nothing fulfilling for me in that line of work. If there were opportunities for meaningful personal growth there, I sure couldn’t find them. Yes, I could work my way up in management, but is that truly fulfilling? For me, not so much not at all.

I have now exactly what I want: time to write.
I’m not desiring much else. Perhaps just the elimination of the stressors of student debt. That’s my next goal, but I’m not working another job to reach it. I’ve only got one life, and I’m not wasting it slaving for money. I don’t mind making money, but I’d rather make it doing something that challenges me in a way which makes me grow as a person.


Listed as the story of this week for my weekly writing challenge is Scentless Dreams, a story concerning a talking dog who asks a group of kids to share their fish.

child and talking dog

 

 

About the author:

About the Author

May I have my fiction with a side of meta?  🙂

Today’s post is both to announce the title of this week’s dialogue for my weekly dialogue-only writing challenge and also to make an announcement.

First the dialogue. . . . The dialogue-only story for today is a bit of a meta piece wherein two characters are discussing the author: me.
I hope it’s clear from the artwork exactly where this story is going. Truth be told, this is the only piece I’m worried about getting into the book. It feels to me like it might be an even more problematic piece than Insults Two by Two. It’s not so much the content for About the author: but how I want to use the story in the book, which is something I also feel is terribly obvious.

Well, despite my worries, I’m still putting this one down as my next dialogue. It may be meta, but it’s a fictional story through and through.

kill the writer

Now, a little bit about me, the author.

As some of you may know, I have been writing full time for a about three years now. I work weekends at a hotel. Every Saturday and every Sunday I come into work at 3am and leave at 11pm. That’s sixteen hours a day, back to back. In other words, I’m putting in a thirty-two full time job hours in two days.

This doesn’t cover my bills. I’ve been okay for 2.5 years, but with my wife’s student loans recently coming due, an unexpected increase in monthly repayment for both of our loans, and the loss of rent from two roommates, it’s become tough. So instead of wasting my time building a platform for Patreon, I went and got a job.

I will admit, I did see this coming. I actually started working a sales position with an online company but didn’t make any sales in two months. I liked it since I set my own hours and worked from home. I liked that it was incoming calls. I liked everything, except for the fact that nobody wanted to buy what I was selling, even if it would help their own businesses. Beings I only got paid on commission, that job got kicked to the curb early last month.

After applying all over the place and having to turn down positions that would require weekends (and not pay enough to make up the difference of losing my hotel income) I have landed a job at a travel center. You know, one of those gas stations that serve as a home away from home for truck drivers.

Truck drivers are a huge part of my life. Father, grandfather. Great grandfathers. A huge portion of the hotel’s clientele. So, yeah, this will be my job four days of the week. It won’t necessarily cut into my writing time, which I tend to do in the morning. But it will cut into my family life (my social life is pretty insubstantial). I don’t really like my family time being cut into (don’t like it at all in fact), but I can use that to my advantage.

What advantage? Well, for one, the constraints of a second job will certainly eliminate the illusion of boundless amounts of time. I believe a second job will force me to set a ridged schedule. Right now my writing schedule looks like this: WAKE UP —> EAT—> READ —> WRITE UNLESS IT’S TOO NICE OUTSIDE, THEN JUST KEEP READING OUTSIDE —> LUNCH —> SHOWER —> HANG WITH THE WIFE, etc.

As you can see, my writing schedule has recently been more like a loose suggestion than a rigorous routine. I function better as a routine guy. I used to go to a cafe and write daily. Then I became poor and my routine was gradually broken.

Now that I won’t have the luxury of five full days of unstructured time, I’ll have to treat my writing more like a job. Or a passion. Because, hell, it is my passion. I can blame my love of books, stress, the online sales position, or sunny weather on not putting my writing first, but really when it comes down to it, the reason is me. I know I need structure and scheduling. I am more productive with it than without it. That’s why I went to the coffee shop even though there were far more distractions there than at my house—the coffee shop gave me a routine.

writing routine cartoon

In the end, even though I’ll be losing time doing the things I love for the cash I need, I know that this will actually make my writing output increase quite a bit. I’ll admit that I’m going to miss all the relaxation, romance, and routine I’ve built around evenings with my wife. The truth is, we don’t know if we’ll be able to emotionally handle it once the school year starts since she teaches from 7am to 3pm and I’ll be working 3pm to 11pm. She already loses me all weekend to my job at the hotel. But we do need the money, and this will help me cement a daily writing routine. Yeah, I’m being a glass half-full kind of guy. But I think working six days a week will motivate me to write better and write more so I don’t have to hold a day job. Though I’d rather hold a job and write than not need a job but be pen and paperless. If anything, I think this summer of too much free time has taught me to stick with a schedule—a rigid one, even if it’s totally artificial.


Thanks for reading, bookworms. Leave a like or comment and let me know if you have a writing routine.

 

 

 

Digesting Disillusionment

digesting disillusionment

I bought a cool backpack on my summer vacation at the end of last month. It really came in handy for hauling around water bottles and any little things my wife and I happened to purchase.

Hemp backpack

Today I brought it to work for the first time because my best friend wanted to borrow my copy of Against the Day since his is in one of a dozen tubs of books in a storage unit temporarily. Of course, I obliged.

Normally I bring a canvas messenger bag to work. In it I store my planner and usually a folder or two. It’s fairly thin, though I can easily squeeze in one, sometimes two novels. But if you’ve ever seen Against the Day, you’ll realize that it’s a thick book, at not quite half a million words (about a Descriptions of Heaven’s worth shy of the half million actually). So, I thought this was a great time to use my new backpack. And while it made carrying Against the Day much easier, I totally forgot to transfer the folder I keep my latest handwritten dialogue in over to it from my messenger bag.

The reason I’m telling you this? Well, I didn’t get a chance to type up the dialogue I wrote. In other words, I wrote it, stored it, and haven’t thought about it since early in the week. And now that I’m at work from 7am to 11pm on the last possible day to announce the completion of my next dialogue, I have to admit I’m only guessing at the title. I think it’s Digesting Disillusionment. Although I might be a little off. So, just to clarify, it’s the working title. So if it changes or is published by somewhere under a slightly altered name, you know why.

So, with that said, leave your comments, questions, and stories about your own writing mishaps below.

disillusioned bride

In this dialogue, a woman drunkenly snapchats her friends while wearing the wedding dress from the wedding that never happened. A friend goes to visit, but the ex-bride-to-be won’t open the door.

Personal Update

Callout31

When I accepted the opportunity to have Descriptions of Heaven published by Harvard Square Editions (rejecting two other small press publishers who wanted the rights to print the manuscript) I set aside a new novel I was working on at the time. I set it aside so I could devote my full attention to, at first, editing my debut and, later, marketing my book.

After Descriptions of Heaven came out, I wrote the first drafts to half a dozen short stories or so. As I like to say, all these story ideas were backed up, blocking the creative pipeline. That pipeline is a little clearer now, and I’ve begun work on my novel-in-progress again.

I’ve been working on the novel in the new library. The old library was one of the small bedrooms and did have the advantage of a small balcony where one could enjoy a book and a view. However, long-term plans finally reached fruition when my best friend, Mike Convery, moved in. I believe he owns more books than I do. So, Libby and I moved out of our large bedroom and into a smaller room, which had until then functioned as an office. I rather like our new space. It’s cozy and, for some reason, I sleep much better there (my love of tight spaces perhaps?). There’s an entrance to an attic bedroom too from the new library. Since Libs and I gave the room over to a communal space, it opened that bedroom up for her sister to move into last month, just in time for Abby to begin her first year of college classes here in Sioux City.

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My writing desk is now located in the library since there’s now no dedicated office space. I must say I don’t mind writing while surrounded by all our books (sans those piled in our respective bedrooms, plus a sole bookcase—built by my great grandfather—that sits in the living room, filled with matching hardcover classics).

As some of you know, I spent most of my summer writing at the Blue Cafe. I will admit, between sorting and shelving books, vacationing with an artist friend in Virginia, and a belated honeymoon with my wife, I did not make it much to the cafe during the months of July and August.
Sept7writingdeskAnd, as you can see, my desk is lined with post-it notes. They’re organized and essential to have for reference while writing my novel. I simply cannot take all the notes with me to the cafe. If I wrote my first draft on a computer rather than by hand (the pile of paper on the left is the hand-written manuscript) I could use the sticky notes function. However, there’s another reason that I must write here at the desk: the cafe is open only three hours during the day. Yes, I spent most of my summer writing short stories during a measly three hours. With so little time actually writing, I found myself editing at home, reading on the porch, and going on frequent walks and picnics with my new wife—all time spent well in my opinion.

But now it’s crunch time. I’m back to writing from morning until early afternoon, usually six hours (including a short lunch). The first thing I am doing is reading through what I’ve written. I have about seven chapters typed up. I’m now reading through those chapters, doing light editing as I go. At the time of composing this blog, I’m in the middle of chapter 4.

Ah, but what about those short stories? Will they be seeing themselves in print soon?
To answer that question, I’ll say that I still plan to go to the Blue Cafe once a week. You’ll find me there on Thursdays (the only weekday Mike works, which leaves me a little too lonely—I work best in a “studio setting” with the presence of others nearby). At the cafe I intend to work on my short fiction and other non-novel writing, submitting it and editing it, maybe even writing new stories should the impulse to compose be strong enough.

Some days I will also spend time on other writing-related work. But not every day. As much as I like the fantasy of a hermetic life of writing, my reality is that I have a lot more in my life to fill up my time. I write, yes, but I also do most of the household cooking, take on the major cleaning projects, keep the houseplants alive, and am essential to shopping excursions. I am a bit of a den mother—even the new members of the household have that figured out already.

I’d rather my plate be emptied of some of these duties (essentially the cleaning, as I do love cooking), that way I’d have more time for reading and studying. But, really, I don’t have any concrete complaints. My new roommates have picked up some of the chores. My cooking is now appreciated by more than just Libby and myself. I’ve found I have plenty of time for great conversations with Mike that only supplement my enjoyment of art and books. Somewhere along the line about an hour a day has opened up for me to begin studying Latin again—which is a joy for me because I’m not a natural when it comes to languages, and I love the mental challenge.

So things are going well. They’re going great. I have more time than ever to work, learn, and play. My house is full of people I love. My blind dog has more sets of hands to pet her than ever before. And my next novel is well under way.
Spet7Selfie

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