Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Ebbs and Flows of Daily Writing

Scott D. Parker

I wrote last week about momentum and immediately followed it up with two 3,000-word days for a 6,000-word weekend output. Momentum was moving. Monday was back to a basic grand, but Tuesday was a personal best: over 4,000. And that was a workday. Man, the words were flowing and the story was just chugging along nicely.

So, I thought to myself, if I can keep this up, I can easily have this thing finished in August. True, 4,000 words is a prodigious output for a working guy like me, but I got it done. I went to bed on Tuesday with visions of grandeur.

The Wednesday hit and it was like I was going in slow motion. The. Words. Just. Did. Not. Flow. It was like pulling teeth. For the first time in days, existing books on my bookshelf started to look more interesting than the scene I was writing. The iPad was there...did I have any plays on Scrabble? What’s the latest news on …well, anything? I turned aside all distractions andI managed nearly 2,500 words, but it was a slog. I opted for writing a number of smaller scenes versus one larger one. It enabled me to keep making progress.

More than anything, the Easy Tuesday 4,000/Difficult Wednesday 2,500 was a reminder that each day is a new writing session complete with obstacles to overcome or smooth sailing to ride. Those visions of grandeur was, on Wednesday, turned to delusions. This writing thing can be as easy as or as hard as it wants to be.

The key for me was to keep moving forward. Keep writing. And I kept the words of Joelle’s post from last Sunday in my mind as well, especially her third point: Repeat this phrase—“I will get to THE END.” And frequent commenter, Dana King, also made an incredibly salient point [my italics]: "Woody Allen once said 80% of success is just showing. In writing, that means finishing the book. Writers are often terrible judges of their own work, if only because they are the only person who knows what they wanted the book to be; everyone else takes the book at face value." That is an incredibly obvious point but one that I've missed way too often.

I showed up this week, in the easy times and the not-so-easy times and, by Friday, I was rewarded not only with 17,000 new words on this novel-in-progress, but I have achieved a 9-day streak of writing more than 1,000 words a day. Most importantly, however, is not the streak of 9 but the streak of 47. That is the number of consecutive days I’ve now written. (It’ll be 48 by the time this post goes live.)

I have a paperweight on my growing manuscript that has an inscription by Benjamin Disraeli: The secret of success is constancy to purpose. I’ve had the weight for years and only now, in the summer of 2013, am I really understanding what it means with writing.

The progress continues...

How are y’all doing with your writing projects?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reading Widely is Cool

By Steve Weddle

First, I'm teaching this class on submitting stories to magazines. You're allowed to sign-up now.

Second, fellow Team Decker member Jon McGoran has this cool eco-thriller out this week. DRIFT

Now back to our regular programming, already in progress.


Monday I had to drive a truck across the state and move big heavy manly things because that's the kind of truck-driving, manly guy I am when I'm driving a truck like a truck-driving tough guy that I am all butch and stuff.

So I lathered on some extra hemorrhoid cream and got my lumbar pillow and vitamin water and set off like the strong brute I am.

I don't usually listen to the FM radio, except on special occasions, which this was. The tagline for this one station, the only one that would come in for more than a minute, was "We play anything . . . and lots of it."

What an odd selling point. Can you imagine? One minute you're listening to Fine Young Cannibals and the next it's Lynyrd Skynyrd and then Billy Joel and then The Wallflowers.

("I turned the engine, but the engine wouldn't turn." Howzat? Because, if you turn a thing, then the thing is turned. Maybe you mean that you turned the key in the ignition, but the engine refused to "turn over," as the folks say. A real mechanic person probably can explain this. I'm just a truck-driving man, myself. (Which reminds me of the major problem in Paul Simon's "How Can You Live in the Northeast?" In that song, he sings the following: "We watched the fireworks, until they were fireflies." Now, I think in most places, fireflies come out at dusk. Before dark. That's why you can run around and catch them without impaling yourself on a fence post in the darkness. So I think it probably starts out with fireflies at dusk, then fireworks when it's completely dark. So you watch fireflies until there are fireworks, maybe. Because fireworks tend to be more beautiful in complete darkness. Like pop songs.))

Recently we've been talking on the internet about how YOU YES YOU should read more [people not you]. Which is probably a good idea. I don't think you need to require that you read two women for every man or one minority for every majority or anything like that. I just think it's a good idea to read widely. See, I like living in a world where folks are well rounded. But I don't think it's something that we ought to limit to just the sex or skin color or creed.

I love, love the idea of reading more different various authors.

And I also love the idea of reading more different various types of books.
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Sci-Fi and Noir and Cozy and YA and Historical Romance and whatever the hell else you come across. Even this fancy "Literature" stuff the college kids are going on about. And non-fiction. Maritime histories. Bios of Hollywood cab drivers. Deer Hunting with Jesus. Hell, read widely.

I don't do this enough, but I'm usually damn happy and surprised when I come across something I wasn't expecting. Like Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower book. Or Jenny Lawson's Bloggess book. Or Katherine Graham's autobio.

Reading a serial killer series and a mob enforcer and a crooked cop trilogy all together, if each author is a different race/religion/sex/etc-- can be one kind of diversity, sure.

But, like the radio station that will play "anything," it's a limited kind of variety.

The radio station never played anything by Bartok, Cheech & Chong, or Loretta Lynn. It never played a World Series game. It never played a twenty-minute spoken word essay from David Sedaris.

Speaking of music, Rosanne Cash's memoir has gotten good reviews.

I think reading authors who are different than you are is a great plan. So is reading books you don't normally read.

Feel free to post your OUT OF THE NORM reading selections.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Sean Duffy Novels


A few years ago I wrote some book reviews for the Toronto Star newspaper. I figured I liked it when my books were reviewed and I wanted to ‘give back’ as they say (and I got paid).

But I discovered I’m a terrible book reviewer. I only wanted to review books I really liked and I only wanted to write positive reviews. I figure there are enough negative reviews at Amazon and GoodReads and other places online and sure, they serve a purpose and all that, but writing them is just not for me.

Which brings me to Adrian McKinty’s “Sean Duffy novels.” Or the “Troubles Trilogy,” as it’s sometimes known. These books are terrific. If I was still writing reviews for the Star they’d be raves, Luckily Jack Batten has reviewed the books very positively (if too briefly) for the Star.

So, I’m not going to try and write a review, I’m just going to say the first two books in the series are terrific and my sources tell me the third is on its way and it will be every bit as good.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Mid-year report card: what I've liked

Half of the year has passed so here's a brief run down of some far.

Favorite novel published in 2013: Low Down Death Right Easy by J David Osborne - As good as his prior novel was this one is even better. Lean, mean, and pared down to its essential (and dangerous) parts, LDDRE is marks the arrival of one to watch.

Favorite novel coming up in 2013: The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell - I mean c'mon, it's Woodrell. Woodrell hasn't had a novel out in, what, years. The wait isn't so bad when the result is this good.A stunning first person narrative that would make a perfect reading double feature with Stephen Graham Jones' Growing Up Dead in Texas.

Favorite novel published prior to 2013: Kind of the Perverts by Steve Lowe - I've written about this one already but I'm still surprised at how much I liked this one, and how much I want to read it again.

Favorite album: Get Up! by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite - By far this is my favorite album of the year. I've listened to it easily a couple of hundred times and continue to love it. Kick ass blues for the new millennium.

How about you? What are you reading and what have you liked?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I am the world's worst writer

By: Joelle Charbonneau

Yesterday on twitter, I was having a discussion with a friend who’s writing a novel.  She was about ready to chuck the book and start over with a new idea because she thought the book sucked.  NOOOOOOOO!!!!!  I jumped up and down, set my hair on fire (no, not literally, but you get the idea) and told her not to.  Why?  Because every writer thinks their story is worthless at some point in the process.  We all think the book is boring and that the characters are completely unbelievable.  Yep….we all think we are the world’s worst writer and that we should just stop writing now and save ourselves and the entire reading population the agony of continuing with our current project.

We all suck. 

We all think we can’t write.

We all want to give up.

Writing isn’t a magical experience.  No one sprinkles an author with fairy dust or waves a wand, which makes all the words on the page crackle with excitement.  (Although, if anyone ever discovers that fairy dust exists, feel free to send some my way!)  Every writer has a different process and voice.  But the one thing that is the same is that we are all plagued by self-doubt.  And there’s only one way to combat it.  You have to refuse to give in.  You tune out the voices that tell you not to continue the story and you sit down and write.  You add words to the page.  You push and pull and drag your characters forward even when you want to cry with frustration because you think your writing is crap.  Because chances are it is better than you think.  And even if it is crap—well, you can fix it later.  But only after you’ve written the entire story and reached the magical land of THE END.

I wish I could offer some sort of potion you could drink to make the middle-of-the book-author-doubts disappear.   Since I wasn’t all that great at chemistry, the only thing I can do is offer a few thoughts about what to do or not do in order to keep moving forward.

1)   Remind yourself that EVERY author thinks they are the world’s worst writer when they are writing a book.  And not just a book…EVERY book.  We all think we suck every time and that someone is going to finally figure it out and kick us to the curb.

2)   Safeguard your work until you are ready to get other opinions.  Don’t show your pages to people while you are in the period of self-doubt.  Nothing they tell you—positive or negative—will help.  Trust me.  If you are in the down spiral of doubt, you will assume all positive comments are offered because someone is just being nice and the negatives are the reader’s way of telling you to give up now before you embarrass yourself further.  Yep…the doubts will get worse no matter what the feedback.  Giving your pages to someone else during this phase is your subconscious’s way of looking for a reason to give up.  And you aren’t going to give up…are you? 

3)   Repeat this phrase—“I will get to THE END.”  Now say it again.  One more time.  Write it on a sticky note and tape it to your computer.  Make a promise that you will give yourself a fabulous reward if you reach the final words of your story and stick to the pledge that you can’t have whatever that thing is until you get there.  You will get to the end, but only if you keep moving the story forward.

4)   Find me on Twitter or Facebook.  Tell me when you are struggling and I’ll do my best to push you back in front of the keyboard.  When you are done at the end of the day, I will cheer.  We can all use a cheering section!  Let me be yours.

5)   Celebrate every day that you don’t give into the “I am the world’s worst writer” doubt.  Because you know what—each time you defy that internal critic and put words on the page you are proving that you are something  very important.  You are a writer.  And, whether the words are good or bad, writers write.   And we get to The End.  Because every story needs an end…and if you’re like me, no matter how much you think it sucks, you really want to know how your story will turn out.