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I quit my job after nearly 14 years with the company.

It was time. I wasn’t happy there, despite my best efforts. Fortunately, my lovely partner is in a position where we could afford to do so. So I broke one of the cardinal rules of novel-writing: Don’t quit your day job.

Things are much better. Been knocking things off the life list, doing some freelance work when I can find it and, thankfully, I’m writing again after sitting at the 3/4 mark for half a year. I’m told that’s normal; I don’t know how it can be. But I’m not going to dwell on it. Ever forward.

So I’m walking the dog the other day, after the most productive day of writing I’ve had in six months, and I’m pensive.

One of the things that has been bogging me down is knowing that my plot intentions seemed to be Read the rest of this entry »

No matter what our plans or best intentions, life somehow always has a knack for getting in the way.

It was a tough summer. A lot of stuff went wrong. A lot of sh-stuff got in the way. Life’s been handing me a lot of lemons lately, and I’m rather sick of drinking lemonade.

Nevertheless, I managed to make some good progress on the story and work my way through a number of difficult chapters that I’d been avoiding.

I’d be lying if I said that all of the life challenges this summer hadn’t influenced the story. Amazing how that happens. I always figured I’d dream up a story and write about it. I never realized how much the course of life, or love, or hopes and dreams would play into the crafting of said story.

Just as this blog is chronicling my process of writing this novel, so has the novel become a private chronicle of what transpired throughout the course of writing it.

No, it’s not becoming autobiographical. But there are enough reflections of the happenings of my life throughout the telling (at least in this draft) that I think it will almost serve as a sort of chronology for the time I spent writing it. Just to me, of course. I’ll be the only one who knows which bits were pulled from reality and which ones sprang from my mind.

I think I like knowing that.

My workflow has been sporadic. Some of my writing days were spent actually writing. Some were organizational, retracing the scenes of my outline and restructuring where necessary. Some days were just spent editing, when the words weren’t flowing but the story was still captivating. I’ve been told I shouldn’t do that. But hey, it’s better than ignoring the story completely and feeling like a failure at the end of a “writing” day where I didn’t write anything really.

This, however, I found most interesting. In the thick of the lifeload of crap that was being thrown my way this summer, where things had completely hurtled out of my control and I was cast adrift in a perfect storm of happenstance, misfortune, and bad timing, I found respite in an unlikely place.

At times, it seemed the only sense of control I could conjure up came from when I was writing.

It never really occurred to me how empowering the crafting of a story is. After all, it’s mine. Really, truly, wholly mine. I drive the story, I drive the dialog, I drive the action. MINE!

The next time things go south in my life, I’ve got to remember that. When I’m feeling out of control, I should spend more time at my keyboard: more time in control. Win-win.

When life hands you lemons, write.

Many writers whom I respect have said they “don’t believe in writer’s block,” and I, with a head full of great ideas that I never seem to have enough time for, have always been inclined to believe them.

They cite the inability to write as being indicative of another issue, such as disclarity of plot, an unexamined character need, a loss of love for your original idea, or perhaps the rising demon of self-doubt. And if the words weren’t flowing for me, I would pair it against this backdrop, search for the delaying speed bump, work through it, and inevitably agree that indeed, writer’s block does not exist.

Well, if whatever I just went through wasn’t writer’s block, I don’t know what is. Read the rest of this entry »

Writer’s conferences are a double-edged sword. On one hand, you expose yourself to other writers’ sagacity and experiences that you would not otherwise encounter, expanding your horizons and possibly giving you a fresh perspective.

On the other hand, you also open yourself up to the sob stories, tales of woe, and harsh realities of the writing and publishing industry, which can snatch the wind from your sails faster than a slaughtered albatross.

The conference at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop was of the first kind.

The one this past spring in Badgerland was of the latter.

So many of its speakers and attendees were quick to relay the “truths” and statistics that serve only to muddy the waters of creative process: the unlikelihood of finding an agent, the slim chances of getting published, the even slimmer chances of your first book selling well (and the likelihood it will be your last), and of course, the absolute impossibility of ever making a living writing fiction.

One of those painful tidbits is looming large these days. Read the rest of this entry »

Fine, so I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be.

It’s been just over two months since my plotting workshop and the big, hearty boost it gave me. Despite being all gung-ho and “I can take on the world” after it concluded, naturally, that wore off after a bit. No longer spending every minute of every day thinking about my novel, surrounded by interested and helpful writers might have something to do with that. Just as,  I’m sure, going back to work and taking care of a home and having to cook and do laundry and walk the dogs and tie my shoes all played their part.

But I’m really trying not to point to excuses or get down on myself for the modest gains I’ve made. The success lies in that I’ve kept at it, writing at least some notes 2-3 times each week, and writing 5-10 pages every couple of Fridays. Yes, the time I spend at my keyboard is productive all right, I just don’t spend it there often enough.

Nonetheless, I’m making progress. More importantly, I’m making process. After toying with an outline for several weeks after the workshop, I was getting frustrated at not getting any words on the page and still not having every little detail figured out. Finally, I said “to hell with it” and I started actually writing the first third of the story, since that part had the clearest milestones already in place.

It was the right choice. The day I stopped outlining and actually started writing, I pounded out over 10 pages. Pretty good ones too, for a 1st draft.

So, lesson learned. Work the outline as best you can. When it starts to piss you off, start writing. Lets you feel productive again and keeps the muscle flexing. Gives your characters being. Flushes out more of the story. Makes the milestones feel closer together and more congruent. Gives you a sense of urgency.

It’s Friday. Back to the story.

I’m going to do this.

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