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Shifting Paradigms

Approaching Life, Five Subjects At A Time

That Time When Something Clicks

In a previous post, I have discussed the writing advice that Neil Gaiman gives on a regular and extremely straightforward basis.  I have to confess that I have only briefly read one of his works, but I have been absolutely smitten by his interviews.  So when I heard that he was releasing a book (“The View from the Cheap Seats“) that contains a selected number of his speeches, lectures, and other non-fiction (which was two days before it was to be released), I went ahead and pre-ordered it.  I am about 70-ish pages in and it is really a great read.

So far, he has been discussing a lot of his mentality when he wrote certain stories.  In particular there is a great article he wrote for the release of “American Gods” in which he remembers something that the author, Gene Wolfe, told him:

“You never learn how to write a novel, you just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.”

BOOM!

For someone, like myself, who has always understood that you learn the basics of a particular skill to the point of mastery and then you gain specialization by further practice of concepts within that skill…this completely melted my mind.

I have always felt that I lack the basic concepts and such of novel writing, but now I am starting to question the questioning of myself.  And the idea makes complete sense to my brain.  And it really helps me understand why certain stories seem to need to be told differently and that there is no strict one way to write a story.  After a while, I would imagine, that the experience of having written a multitude of different stories would give an author a lot of different tools to make writing a story “easier” to write, especially if it is in the same series of books.

I wanted to share that with all of you, as it really got my brain into a much better place for writing and will definitely help me to focus a bit better on whichever story I am writing and have a better sense of how to practice my writing.

 

SEE YOU LATER!!!!!!!!!

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Bleh…Back Pain

I had a golf lesson almost 2 weeks ago that was really good and I spent an extra hour or so at the range, since it’s free with the lesson, to really make sure the feeling I was working on would get further worked into how my body feels it and how my brain perceives it.  The only issue was when I tried to get out of the truck after the 90 minute ride back.  I almost doubled over in pain, literally, cause I couldn’t stand up without really bad pain in my back.  I figured it was just over exertion and that I probably should have dialed it back a bit, seeing as how I’m not in the best of shape.  I was right about the over exertion, and it’s taken me 10+ days to get past it.  Hoping that things go well for the next couple of days, so I can get out and work on my short game in the coming week.  I’ve picked out, with the help of my coach, a swing that I feel I can emulate (Gary Woodland), and a methodology to go about working on my short game.  So I’ll work with that and go from there.

On the writing front, things are going well.  Still working on nailing down the way I want to revise my story.  I think I was talking about how I sent in my prologue to the editor, and she sent back her thoughts.  I’m working on putting that into the entire book, which I have been doing in the way of overhauling my outline and doing some mental scene work.  My mental scene work is comprised of daily mental exercises about how I would write a particular scene.  I’m trying to, first, mentally change the way I approach scene-making so then I can just naturally go and do it without having to then do another total revision.  I feel like if I can just concentrate more on the action at hand, while incorporating the elements of plot at the story level, as well as the different character levels, I should have a pretty good thing going.  I’m really hoping to have this first revision in place for the cruise in September.  Really, I would like to have it done before the end of August so I can take a 2 week break and then head to the Writing Retreat with revision in hand.

Make sure to take care of your spine…

See you later!!!!

 

I’m Not Dead!

Hey Everyone!!!

 

Just wanted to drop a line and let you all know that I didn’t leave or die or anything like that.  I’ve actually been spending a great deal of time going over the notes from my critique and that has pre-occupied my mind enough for me not to have enough time to write out a blog post or two, when I normally would have enough time.

I am really excited to be on the list to Beta read a new book by a friend of mine, Traci Loudin (www.traciloudin.com) .  I have Beta read for her in the past, for the book that she currently has in publication, “The Last of the Ageless”.  I wasn’t able to spend all the time that I could have on it, due to my mom’s failing health, but was really excited to see that she has a new book that she just finished her 2nd pass on and I will be able to help her with that in August, right before the new WoW expansion comes out.

Between now and then, I am hoping to finish off the first full revision of my “Sand People” book, and get that out for editing for hopes of getting that out for queries to publishers and/or agents.  If I don’t get a lot of traction on it, I may end up self-publishing it.  But I also hope to be able to take some different writing with me to the Writing Excuses Cruise and Writing Retreat, in September.  I haven’t decided what I want to work on next.  So many exciting possibilities at this point, that it will just take some time to figure out which one to do next.  At least now I know a little better how to deal with writing rough drafts and the revision process.

In fact I wrote a Google+ post about it, that I want to re-share here:

 

LESSONS LEARNED
————————————-

I just want to preface what follows with the following: I love working with an editor. They are a great source of wisdom and they are working with your best interest in mind. I love my editor and would recommend her in a heartbeat to any serious writer. She has taught me the greatest lesson that I have learned to date.

——————————————————————————

So, I initially sent in the first 50 pages of a story that I have been working on, for critique to a professional editor. The critique notes were copious and really good. It took me a solid 3-4 weeks to not just digest them, but distill them and have enough of an idea in my head of how to proceed, so that I could make a revision just to the prologue of the story.

I then sent the prologue out to a bunch of friends and family to see what they thought, and they all really liked it. So I sat down and began to start working on the first chapter or so…and I got the sense that I should send the revised prologue back to the same editor for analysis.

Got the notes back on that, this morning, and I was right to do so. I am both relieved that I did, but at the same time I’m like, “I don’t wanna revise it again!!!!!! You can’t make me!!!”

Never again will I ever complain about writing out the rough draft of a story. Just write the stupid thing and get it done. It will make sense to no one but yourself and will need several revisions and a bunch of polishes just to get it to the point of being beta-reader worthy.

Have fun with your rough drafts. Explore your world. Explore your characters. Explore the great story ideas you came up with. But just know that the revision process will take you a lot longer to complete than the original rough draft will. At least for probably the majority of us.

And that’s okay. The revision process will make us better writers and, hopefully, will reduce the number of revisions needed as we write more and more stories.

Neil Gaiman had it right in his Nerdist Podcast. And I knew he was right when I heard it for both the first and the 1000th time. A lot of the time we just need to experience it for ourselves to ingrain it. But if you’re the type of person who can ingrain ideas without the need for experience, then hopefully my experience will make you a better writer.


 

Thanks again for frequenting my little neck of the woods!

See you soon!!!

So I Did An Interesting Thing…..

I have been thinking about how to push myself beyond my comfort level, in an effort to not be on the sidelines so much, in terms of my writing. So I did the thing that I would normally not do.

I put my writing out there to be professionally critiqued and evaluated.

Yep, I sure did.  I carefully went through a list of like 20-30 editors, scaled them down to 2, and sent emails to each of them, querying their interest, their methodology, and their availability.  I then didn’t think anything more of it for a week or so, and went through the emails that I received from each, and then decided on one and before I had a chance to think about it, I quickly got 50 pages of “Sand People” together into manuscript form, and sent them off before I could think twice about it and get too gun-shy and not do it.

So hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I should get the pages back and see where I need to go.

I am still working on the end of “Sand People” and decided (with a bit of impromptu inspiration) to work on exploring the protagonist for “A Knock at the Door”.  This all happened because a acquaintance of mine’s husband is a professional musician (stand-up bass) who collaborated with a young lady named Kelly Koval, and my friend posted a video of one of their songs.  I was immediately enthralled with the song, and it really set me in the mood to write for a bit and explore the main character a bit and write a few pages as part of an early scene in the story.  Mind you, I haven’t even outlined the book yet.

Here’s the video to the song.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

 

See you all soon!!!

A Life of Adjustments

In my area, about 5 minutes from my house, we had a new library open in February.  Fast forward a month and a half later, I finally was able to go and get my library card and feast my eyes on this newest repository of librams.

But I didn’t just go to feast my eyes, but to begin a small change in my weekly schedule.  I am going to be spending 4-5 hours, one day a week (for now) to work on my writing.  I did realize that this will take some time for me to get to the point where I can have a full 5+ hour sitting.  Today I achieved about 2 hours, and got about 1200 words written.  What I may do, once the production line gets going, is to have Fridays be either a day for revisions or pre-planning, or whatever.  For now, though, it’s a nice concentrated block of time where I am out of the house and its distractions and can treat it a lot like NaNoWriMo, where I can just pump out word counts to help catch up on the week.

If I can ever find a photo of the interior that isn’t on Flickr (cause I don’t want to have a Yahoo account), I will try and post it.  It’s very light and airy and there are a TON of places to sit and write.

Alrighty, that is all for me, for now.  I am off to read some more of Dan Wells’s new book, “Blue Screen”.  So far so great.

See you later!!!!!

Endings: Both Small and Large Scale, in Writing

Yesterday brought about another “Brain Wrinkle” day, where I discovered the meaning of an axiom that is often used and not always very well explained.

Case in point:  You will get some authors that will tell you that when they write books, chapters, scenes, or paragraphs, that they normally write with an end in mind.  But what is hard to get one’s mind (more to the point my mind) wrapped around, is how an end is brought into the equation.

To me, when I start to think about putting the outline of a book together, I always start with ideas, in combination, that I want to pursue.  Then I think about POV(s), genre, age of reader, and then any new concepts I want to explore that will help stretch my abilities a bit farther.  Rarely, though, do I think about how the book will end.  In fact, I have a very hard time thinking about the end until I have written a few chapters, perhaps even the first half of the book.

Now, this creates some inevitable problems, all of which CAN be fixed with a bit of effort.  But I would like to think that as I progress in my skills as a writer, that I am able to catch a bit more of these problems and nip them in the bud, so that when I go to do my rewrite of my rough draft and turn it into my first working draft of the manuscript, that I won’t need to be so “in my head” as I’m writing it.  That I can just go through it with more instinct, rather than having to stop at every paragraph to make sure that I am getting the things included, that may have been missing or just needed to be changed as I came up with better and more ideas to push into the story.

This brings me to yesterday when I had an interesting moment that helped to bring all these things into perspective.  Sometimes, as the moment occurs, I either get strings of dialogue or narrative that jump into my head as I am writing a scene.  I write them down in a notebook that is dedicated for note taking and idea forming, for each book I write.  I am currently in the midst of slogging through about 10-15 thousand words that just have to be written, so I can get to the ending.  It’s not all slogging, but a good deal of it is. But I started to write down some dialogue, and that opened up another couple pages of note taking that made me have to go add some notes to my Master Sheet (I’ll explain this in a future post).  Of course this meant that I would have to go back and either change or add something to what I have already written, and that, in turn, creates a bit more for me to need to do in my first pass of rewriting.

The more of these “moments” that I have, I am convinced that my brain will eventually work out the processes needed to assemble a book in a more cohesive and easier way.  I know that the first pass at “Sand People” is going to take some time, and while I am looking forward to getting to that point, I also know that it is going to require a bit more work to get it done, because there are a decent number of additions and changes to the first 1/3 of the book that will require more of my brain to get it done.

I am also hoping that as I continue on, that I will have a better sense of the steps it takes to go from the beginning of a story to its conclusion, and how to structure it better.

 

Alrighty.  That is all for me, for now.

 

See you soon!!!!

2016 Reading Goal

Just a quick post, today, because I am still really tired from this whole Daylight Savings Time thing which did nothing but upset the apple cart, that is the sleep I crave on a nightly basis.

Also, I blame books.  But mostly Daylight Savings Time.

Books are almost always at the root of all late night shenanigans that may (or may not) occur, after my wife has safely passed out.  One thing I am realizing about my goal setting, is that I am fairly ambitious.  I have tried, and failed splendidly, to do the goal of 52 books in 52 weeks.  In fact, I don’t think I ever broke 40.  So what did I do this year, in light of the fact that I have less time to spend reading and knowing full well that I have never read more than 38 books in any year?  I set a goal of reading 40 books, of course.

*facepalm*

January was innocuous enough.  In fact, I had 4 books read in the first month.  And then February came and went with 2 books read.  *sigh*  Luckily, though, I have already read 3 books, this month, and still have another half of a month to deliver.

But all the reading is eating in to my writing time a bit too much and my goal of getting a manuscript out to an editor before the new World of Warcraft pre-xpac patch arrives, is slowly fading before my eyes.

I think I need to resign myself to 1-2 books a month, and if I read more than that…great.  But this “forcing” myself to read book after book is cramping my style a bit.

So I think I will just read what I want, when I want, and without the need to set a hard goal/deadline to read things, for the rest of the year.

There.  Was that so bad, Joe?

Sheesh.

 

Talk to you all soon!!!

Success, Fear, Procrastination, and Self-Confidence

As I always do, when I write a blog post, I try to choose a picture that shows either the level of depth that I intend for you, the reader, to get out of what I have written, or it just accidentally fits.  The latter is one of those moments.

Throughout my life, I have been involved in various potential career possibilities.  For the first 20 or so years, I just ambled through various jobs to make money or keep myself entertained.  The first career that I thought I wanted to pursue was that of a professional golfer.  I was good, but inconsistent.  And it wasn’t until 20+ years later that I understood why I couldn’t get to the level that I wanted to.  Once I progressed past a certain point with my first coach, he couldn’t help me anymore because I had passed his ability to teach.  He was great at fundamentals, but he had a problem in his own swing that he couldn’t fix.  And I was too unsure of what to do that I allowed myself to get blown around like a leaf in the wind, going from what I thought was one good coach to another and avoiding great coaches, thinking myself not worthy enough of their time and talent.  And once my shoulders gave out, I was forced to leave the game that I had no intention of leaving.  I then turned to an obvious career.  The field of Internet Technology, and specifically being a Network Administrator.  I was raised on computers from the time I was four years of age.  So, I breezed through 4 months of classes, earned my certification, and was immediately placed in a job for a small company with about 20-30 users.  In retrospect, the best thing for me to do was be a part of a good team, get an all-around education in the field and earn my stripes in the field.  But I was cocky and I did my job quite well.  But I was also missing any further credentials, as well as a college degree.  Not having a degree ended up with me being given severance pay for the last half of my 1-year contract with the company.  The money gave me the opportunity to get one of my shoulders repaired and take some time to consider what I wanted to do with my life.

It was about this time that I rediscovered my faith in God and decided to dedicate myself to what I felt he wanted for me.  This involved some time with a traveling youth ministry organization, and, ultimately, studying to be a priest.  For 5 years I tried to do what I felt like God wanted for me.  All the while, though, I was playing golf whenever I had free time.  Over the summers I would spend time out in Arizona, taking lessons with a coach who I found out later was even worse than what I had dealt with prior.  Again, I settled for what was less than what I wanted.  During my time in seminary, though, I, on two occasions, came down with an undiagnosed ailment which turned out to be physically symptomatic chemical depression.  I was useless a couple months at a time.  When it happened the second time, thankfully I had already earned my degree in Philosophy.  I was only in my first semester of major seminary and the Diocese I was studying for were really good to me.  We decided to take a break from my studies and see if God wanted me elsewhere.

I ended up moving to Arizona 7 months later.  I stayed with the same coach who I couldn’t seem to get any kind of results with, dated a woman who turned out to be a liar and a cheat, but eventually ended up finding the woman that I would marry, moving to Canada to live for 7 years.  The rest is somewhere in my blog posts, but there is something that I never quite understood about everything that I have gone through.

Aside from doing everything I could to make sure that my relationship with my, now, wife would have the best possible success, and up until I found my current golf coach, I have settled for less than what most people would think they deserve.  On the outside, it might appear that I do the best I can to make my career choices successful, but on the inside I feel like a fake.  It’s like I feel I don’t deserve these things.  The cat, in the header, is a lot of how I feel from day to day, week to week.  That one of these days/weeks/months/years, something will finally click and I will be released from my cocoon and emerge as the person that I want to be.

It’s a constant struggle to know that you not only have the ability, but also the means to pursue the things in life that bring you the most enjoyment.  Just don’t ask me if I take advantage of either the means or the ability.  The answer will most likely vary on either the day, or the time of day that you are asking me.

Most people will suggest, from time to time, that this is merely residue from my depression. That it still “haunts” me from time to time.  They might be right.  But I know they are wrong.

You see, I fear success.

Yes I said that.  I fear succeeding.  I fear that I might eventually be really good at what I am doing.  Whether it is golf, writing, or whatever I turn my attention to.  I fear it, because it might cause a change in my life that I don’t want to have happen.  I like spending time with my wife.  She’s my best friend.  We’ve never had a fight in the 10 years we have known each, because we are always talking.  We are open and honest with each other about everything.  There are no secrets between us.  And I like it that way.

So why would I want to have that change?  Because being successful at golf or writing mean that I have to now include more people into my life that don’t have a place in it, currently.

So now, you may wonder, why I keep at my golf and my writing?  Well, for golf, the answer is easy.  I lowered my expectations of what I want out of it.  Even though I know that I could probably achieve a level better than where I was at any point in my life, I lower the expectation because I have to.  I can’t be successful at everything and maintain the balance in my life that I, and I am sure everyone who lives and breathes, want for my life. So I allow my successes to be on a much smaller scale.

But my writing doesn’t seem to present the same issues as golf would.  I can spend a couple weeks every year doing book tours, and spend the rest of my time writing (and playing golf).

But I need to change my level of expectation to match what I feel is commensurate with my desires.  To put it plainly, I need to set goals like I would with golf.  In golf, you can set very tangible goals to pursue with outcomes that are fairly predictable based on the amount of practice that I put in.  The outcome is predictable because there are median levels of expected outcome that a person with a fair level of ability and a good work ethic should maintain.  And if you set your bar low for achievement, you simply meet your goal and move on to the next one.  And that’s what I need to do with my writing.  In order to get the maximum value out of the time being spent, I need to set my expectation lower so that I, in turn, actually have another goal to reach.  This is opposed to the all or nothing goal that I most likely have for myself.  That’s a lot of pressure to try and withstand, rather than just taking things one step at a time, one goal at a time.

One day I will turn into a beautiful writer.  Sometimes that day is today, other times it’s still a worthy goal to pursue.

Continuing Education

On an interesting note, this June is the 25th anniversary of my graduation from High School.  Sort of.  I did graduate, according to the norms and guidelines set forth upon my entrance year into the Public High School System, which required me to have 20 credits to graduate.  Back at that time, you only attended 5 classes per day and not the 6, 7, or more, that teenagers do today.  But as the years went on, the school system changed around me to the point that in my senior year, and incoming freshmen needed 24 credits or more of classes to graduate.  I didn’t have to, and I even had 21 credits.  So I had what I needed to graduate.  But!!!  I didn’t earn a diploma.  As it turns out, I failed the last 3 years of English, while only going to summer school to get the credit for 2 of those years.  I had had enough of schooling and just decided to let it be for a bit until I realized that job applications looked more favorably on those who had a High School Diploma or a GED.  So I went and took the GED and passed with flying colors in half the time allotted to me to complete the test.  This, I am sure, nauseated all of my former teachers as well as my parents.

To even be involved in the literary industry in any way, must have my former English teachers spinning in their graves (may they rest in peace), as I am sure none of them could have anticipated how my life would turn out.

But having not really payed attention much in class (aka, I never really read much, if any, of the assigned reading and more than likely failed to participate in any of the book discussion), has left me with a bit of a hole in my education as it pertains to the craft that I am wanting to master.  So from time to time I will take a class in writing or read a book on the subject.  I have learned a lot from this, but occasionally I find things that I have no idea how to do that seem really trivial.  For instance, Scene Structure.  I know, basically, how a scene is supposed to work, but I feel like I have a lacking in my ability to “craft” scenes that really operate well within the context of the entire story.  And not being able to write scenes in the way I want, I really feel like I am at a disadvantage with my every day writing habits.  I don’t have any real way of creating scenes around the outline of my book, or just in practice to help advance my writing ability.

As in all things I encounter that I am unaware of, I am going to attack it with vigor and find the best way, for me, to get better at the things I feel I am not as good at.

Interestingly, this is the one skill in life that I am grateful for having gone to college for.  I learned that if I didn’t know something that not only did I have a skill set to find out about things, but also the ability to learn something completely new and be able to adapt it to how I operate.

And, yes, graduating from College probably also made my old teachers spin just a little more in their graves.

 

See you soon!!!!

 

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