No sequels…? That’s two sequels!

About a year and a half ago I started on a book, a flat run write it in thirty days book…

Well, that book has changed a few things for me.

First, as I’ve already announced I’m involved in my first successful team up. Sariah Anne, a talented young artist created a cover for me. (link)

Second, in the process of working on the Kickstarter campaign I really pushed myself to develop this whole social media presence thing. The Kickstarter is closed now, but its legacy lives ono in my website and social media plan.

Then there was the Kickstarter itself. It didn’t fund, but you know what? That won’t stop me. Like they said in Serenity (link), “…You can’t stop the signal…” The book is still coming out, just not quite the way I planned.

Speaking of not quite the way I planned…

The biggest thing (for me) to come out of this book is the sequel that was never supposed to happen (but really has to!). When I started the story in 2015 I told myself I was going to ‘break the pattern’. The story was a one off, a straight forward story that I would write, publish, and be done with. Well… when I picked it up to start editing I realized sequels were not only possible, but at least one was necessary for me to reach closure on the story.

I started the second book as a NANOWRIMO project in 2016 and as I’ve started the editing process on it I’ve realized that another sequel is necessary to really explain some of the things in the book. If I’m going to really finish this generation of the family’s story a ‘sequel’ is necessary and can only be done in a certain way.

I use quotes because the ‘sequel’ isn’t really a sequel. It also isn’t a prequel. It is a parallel. It is also going to be a story that stretches me as a writer.

In Johnson Farm I introduced a character, Jamie. She’s one of the people that helps the hero figure out what he has to do. She’s also a character with a secret and she’s really not willing to tell anyone…

She won’t tell anyone (yet), but I as the author have to tell someone (the reader). Fortunately I tend to favor a ‘close third’ perspective. I am not writing the series first person, but I’m close enough that the characters thoughts bleed into what I’m writing. And that is why this one is going to stretch me… To pull off the third book I have to write the parallel story at least in part from the point of view of a 14 year old girl (God help us all…).

A different gender? A different language set? A different way of thinking from the protagonists I’m used to? Yep, I’ve got to master it all for the story to work…

So here we are dear reader, on the brink of a new story that will stretch me to new heights as a writer. If I can get away with it…

Wish me luck dear reader, and see you next post (I hope…).

 

Postscript…

Next post probably means next week as my wife will be defending her doctoral dissertation on Friday…

1000 words? 10,000 hours? Doing what needs to be done.

 

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There are writing teachers that tell me I should write 1000 words a day to get a book written. Sometimes I do less. Sometimes a do more (NANOWRIMO…).

My wife likes to cite Malcom Gladwell who tells us you need to do something for 10,000 hours to reach proficiency.

This is probably true, but what about beginners luck? What about natural talent? As a writer would the 10,000 hours include the time I spend thinking about my story or just the time I spend with pen to paper or fingers to keys?

The realities…

The reality in writing (and life) is it’s a bit of both. Sure, if you churn out 1000 words a day you’ll eventually churn out enough words to make a book. Actually if we take the NANOWRIMO target of 50,000 words you should churn out 7.3 books per year at 1000 words per day. But… they probably wouldn’t be good books.

There is more to be done than hitting a word count to make a good book, just like there’s more to being a Super Bowl quarterback than playing with your ball…

Similarly, 10,000 hours flogging a keyboard doesn’t make a book, not any more than flying coach for 10,000 hours makes you a fighter ace.

The reality is you do need to write if you want to be a writer. And 10,000 hours working on anything should make you better at it. But, it’s not just an arbitrary time or word count that leads to success. It’s the effort and learning that matter. Effort and learning usually take time. How much time isn’t easily dictated (or determined).

The truth…

Everyone is different. Every story is different. That means everyone has a different path or process to achieve success (the differences may be slight but they exist). Every story, painting, sculpture, football game, business deal, potato crop, or (insert your own item here…) has its own unique requirements and needs its own attention.

Today’s project might need 1,000 words and 10,000 hours. The next one might need 2,000 words and 3,000 hours. The one after that might need 550 words and nine months…

Each project we do and each goal we achieve changes us and helps us grow. Each one also has its own challenges and quirks. To succeed dear reader you will need to learn and deal with each project as itself, not as some predetermined quota. You need to do this every time.

During the next three months I will be working heavily on finishing a novel (My NANOWRIMO project from last year). I will also be stopping in the middle to write the sequel (My NANOWRIMO project this year). I’m not sure how often I will be getting to the blog in that time. But I will be here from time to time.

Until next time dear reader…

Success in all your good endeavors, no matter how long they take (or how many words…)

All things change (and I’m ok with that)

A year ago I had been out of the hospital for two months; I was newly diagnosed as diabetic; and I had just made some decisions… I was dropping the pretense of looking for some other job and embracing the fact that I am by nature a writer. I decided I really needed to get going on publishing. I also decided to get serious about attempting a NANOWRIMO project; writing an entire 50,000+ word novel in one month. It was a turbulent, scary time and I didn’t know what was to come.

Today, this year, I stopped at my local mega-mart to pick up a prescription… I actually know the pharmacist personally at this point. I have finished that NANOWRIMO project. I have ‘beat’ diabetes in that I no longer need insulin. I am struggling to adjust to the fact that I’m 30lbs lighter than when I went to the doctor six months ago (a full 100lbs) below my high point. And, I have a book out.

It really is a different year from last year.

I took a look around the mega-mart because they’re doing one of those “open while we’re remodeling” numbers and I wanted to see what’s new. I realized things are actually kind of new for me too. People are starting to accept that I’m actually self-employed (having books on Amazon helps). My wife is proposing her doctoral dissertation this week (I once thought I would be the one to have a doctorate). This year my ‘big question’ for NANOWRIMO is: can I actually write a 50,000+ word sequel in one month?

Things have changed a lot. Not all of the changes have been what I wanted or planned, but things are actually coming out for the better. The secret is I have chosen, and do choose, to do what I believe is right; to the best of my ability. That includes accepting the fact that I don’t do everything right; learning to do better; and actually doing (even when it isn’t easy). The other secret is the desire to be more than you are; to learn what you are and what you have the potential to be; and then honestly, actively striving to become.

Nietzsche wrote that if God didn’t exist it would have been necessary to invent him. I believe that he does exist (we can save the God is a she debate for another day). I believe he does understand us and has a plan for us. I also believe that coming to know who and what we are, and what we can do (and need to do), is a personal journey. It is not something anyone can, or should, compel anyone else to do. It doesn’t work that way.

So, yeah, my wife is getting the PHD I thought I would be getting; the bakery is inexplicably where the meat counter used to be; and I’m about to start the sequel to a book that wasn’t supposed to have a sequel. I’m ok with that. I am more than I was. I am growing and becoming what I can be.

With all the noise and strife in our world dear reader, with all the change and ‘stuff’ thrown at us every day, don’t forget the real human rights and the real opportunities to make good choices and become more than what we are.

Until next time…

Um, where did they put the magazine rack? …and my notebook? …and…

The story goes on (and on the road)

There are times when you have to ask yourself “What do I do now?” There are times you have to ask yourself “How did I get into this?” At the moment I’m asking myself both these questions.

I’m asking myself those questions, but not necessarily answering them…

I am answering a question today though…

I’m answering…

What the heck is going on?

The catch is I’m not actually answering that for my self! Parts of that answer readers of this blog already know. I’m dealing with life and trying to get two books out by the end of the year. The rest of it I can’t satisfactorily answer for you now because I’m in the middle of answering it for myself.

Instead I will answer what’s going on for the central character of my NANOWRIMO novel Johnson Farm. This is something that I’ve mentioned by name here for months. I’ve been working on it for months: writing, editing, dreaming, scheming and pulling my hair out; but it isn’t until now that I’m really working up the courage to share it with any one.

So…

The story of Johnson Farm…

It all starts when his great uncle dies… Johnathan Johnson is dragged out of his ‘normal’ life to go to the funeral of a man he’s never met, in a place he’s never been. That’s where the mysteries begin…
At first, John is fairly sure about his life. He knows what he wants and wants to do. He knows how his parents will disappoint him, and why. Then, on a farm in ‘darkest’ Idaho, John discovers that people aren’t always what they seem, that their motivations are more complex than he thinks.
Dad starts acting more like a sulky classmate than a father. His uncle Harley, who Dad refuses to talk about, is leaving hints and causing mayhem. And Uncle Theo, who everyone agrees is near perfect, seems a lot less than perfect to John.
Out of anger and then curiosity John sets out to explore and find answers. In the process he’s introduced to the grandparents he never met; the friends he’s always looked for; the girl that’s always looked for him; the fight that he has to win; and the accident…
Near the house sits ‘the coop’ which his father and uncles almost worship but will never speak of. By the pond is a stone that has no business there. In a bed lies the girl and her dream. Each is a clue and a door, but once John walks in can he get back out?

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

Don’t be afraid of questions. Don’t be afraid of answers. It’s the not knowing that gets you.

The Baloon Is Going Up…

There’s an old joke in the aviation community “Don’t drop the airplane to fly the radio.” They never told me what to do if I’m trying to fly more than one airplane…

As of this writing I am less than a month out from the publishing my first chainmail project book; in the middle of a short story collection; and I just finished the paperwork to hand off my NANOWRIMO novel Johnson Farm to the people who will hopefully be creating beautiful cover art for the book which I intend to have out in the fall. This is good stuff. I’m learning a lot. Unfortunately I’m learning different things with each book, that makes things complicated.

Tracking multiple projects and keeping moving on multiple projects is a challenge. Keeping track of multiple projects with new stuff going on is even harder. It would be really easy to turn back to the parts I already know and do well. I could do that and keep spinning my wheels on stuff. I would be working on a book, but would I really be progressing.

Among the things I want people to take from this blog is to keep moving forward and keep growing. This week I need to take that advice myself. So, I tell you dear reader the same thing I’m telling my self. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. I know it’s painful some times. But, if you’re going to make it to a goal you have to find a way to go forward.

It does get better dear reader. We get better and grow stronger. We can grow to do more than we’ve ever done.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Remind me…

Why did I think it was a good idea to release a book on April Fools Day???

Yes, you get to choose… so choose wisely

Today I finished my second edition pass on my NANOWRIMO novel Johnson Farm. The first time it went from 238 pages to 247 and grew by 2000 words. At the end of the second pass it has shrunk back to 238 pages and it is 1500 words shorter than the original first draft. This wasn’t just verbal wondering, both steps had to happen for the novel to work the way I want it to.

The same thing applies in almost everything we do. We have to make choices, the best choices we can. Sometimes the choice isn’t all that happy, or nice, but we still have to make it. We have to make the best choice we can even when the options suck.

The key to this, the way we make the best choice, is to know our goals and values. We need to be honest with our selves about what we want and what the outcome of our choice will be. When we do that we can make the best possible choice.

Sure, I could leave that little gem of prose in the novel. But, it slows down a scene that I want to be fast paced. Sure, I could ignore that little detail. But, does ignoring it cause a problem later. Sure I could leave out that bit of exposition. But will that confuse the reader?

The same thing applies in real life (gasp!) outside of fiction. Sure, I could return that phone call right away. But somebody just ticked me off. I might want to calm down a little first. Sure, I could ignore the call completely. But what if ignoring it fouls up one of my own projects?

No, this isn’t easy. In the last 24 hours I’ve had to make choices about my novel (a work of love); my chainmail book (which is hopefully funding another project); a training course I’m planning (which isn’t quite ready but needs to go now); and going to visit my mother (who slipped into a coma yesterday). None of it was easy. But, if you know your goals and values; if you can make a reasonable guess at the results of your choice; you can make the best choice possible.

Sometimes it’s making the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it’s making good better. Either way be honest with yourself. Be true to who you are and what you believe; then the choice you make is the best one you can make. Then it is the right choice for you and your situation. No one can take that from you.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

Well… That’s up to you!

Let the revisions begin!

Ok that title’s a slight miss statement… the revisions, and the new year, have been going on for a week.

In addition to the usual beginning of the year stuff, this is the month I’m starting to do the editing for the novel Johnson Farm (The one I wrote as a NANOWRIMO project in November). The first draft of 58201 words (in 238 pages) really did come through in 22 days writing time, not counting Sundays. And I really did need to back away from it for a month before I started editing.

I think every writing project has it’s own quirks and challenges. So far this one has a real pattern in that I can predict which scenes will need more revision/editing based on which characters are involved. If my young hero is more or less on his own, or has one family member to contend with things go pretty well…

Unfortunately his father and his father’s two brothers are in the story…

For some reason when you put two or more of those characters in the same room they seem to not only bicker with each other, but they create headaches for me as a writer. Hero alone… fine. Hero and one of the others… mostly fine. Hero and two of the others… grab a seat kids this edit is going to take a while.

Sure, it’s a headache. Sure, at times I’d rather be doing something else (actually as I’m writing this post I should really be crossing out the first 2/3 of the first page of chapter 12 and writing the whole thing over…).

However, it’s also part of the fun. I like to keep a copy of the first draft so I can see how things have changed. How things have gotten better (and worse). And, how things I never expected pop in or are brought to light from the original.

One of the fun things about fiction writing is the act of discovery. Today I’m telling you the act of discovery doesn’t have to be done until the story is edited finished and ready to go.

And then you get to pass it off for someone else to discover while you go write the next one!

It’s your story. If you’re doing it right, you learn and grow as you write it, edit it and make it the best it can be. Hopefully it helps you to be the best you can be to.

That’s it for today dear reader…

Until next time, this works on life too!

PS the fracking story has actually grown about six hundred words in spite of the stuff that’s been cut and I’m just hitting the heavy lifting now…

A lesson along the way

I officially cracked 40,000 words on my NANWRIMO project The Johnson Farm today. The real count is closer to 45,000 (I transcribe yesterday’s stuff from my notebook before I write today’s new stuff. It helps me engage in the new writing).

I am closing in on the end; that is to say that I can mostly see my way to the end of the plot for this one. I hit one and only one serious difficulty in the middle (I ignore the usual question of “how do I get to the ending?” It’s expected).

I have a point of view character and his dad and two uncles to cope with as main characters (don’t worry there are good female characters, my hero just doesn’t have a beef with any of them). I found myself feeling like I needed to tie up all of their problems by the end of the story.

Then, I remembered that I really don’t have to tie it all up. Just like real people John’s dad and uncles have had thirty plus years to accumulate all that baggage, and there is  no way I could possibly handle all of that in the time frame of the novel. If I did try to tie it all up in one novel it would make the old testament look like a short story.

I only have to worry about tying up those problems, or parts of problems, that get me to the resolution of this story.

Some of the other problems may never be resolved in word or in fact. This reflects real life. You can’t get them all fixed in a week! You might never get them all.

Leaving some things unresolved helps your story to be more in the realm of the real than in the sanitized world of sitcoms and modern fairy tales. It also opens up your options for a sequel. I’m not planning one at this point, but if I do one I have naturally occurring source material to start with.

Because the brothers still have things to work through I have a natural starting point for a next one. That means I don’t have to invent things to start the next one.

My characters are also developing history, not all of which is or will be revealed in this story. This helps build that resource base for sequels and opens up the opportunity for naturally occurring prequels (hate the term but as a writer I like the idea…).

The bottom line for today dear reader is:

Trust your process.

Trust your story.

And, don’t worry about trying to tie up all of the loose ends.

It’s reality and it gives you options for later.

New month, ‘new’ project, new adventure

As this goes up (October 30th 2015) I’m gearing up for one of the more interesting weeks of this year; Probably second only to the week I spent in the hospital last may; possibly more interesting.

Tomorrow, October 31, Halloween, my wife is leaving for a double conference trip. On Monday November 2, I’m doing my first official days writing on my NANOWRIMO project (the first being a Sunday and I have no official writing goals on Sundays…). This will be the starting week of a power project (almost 2000 words a day on this project alone in addition to blog posts/responsibilities, managing the end of my Kickstarter and my ongoing beasty known as research…). It will also be 1) the longest time that my wife and I have been apart since we were married and 2) the first time we’ve been apart since I was diagnosed with diabetes.

I guess it’s really time to put my money where my mouth is in terms of being able to handle my diagnosis solo…

NANOWRIMO…

The project I’ll be writing on is something that’s been on my mind for eight years, I have a one page write-up that I created eight years ago and that’s it to start from. I have an idea for a beginning and a remembered dream for a middle and an end. the usual big question is there… How do I get from the beginning to the end. This time there is also a new question, can I really do this in thirty days? I hope so!

I’ve been growing as a writer and this is a fitting test. I feel like a winner either way.

Diagnosis, dear wife and distance…

This will really be the longest we’ve been apart since we got married and the first time we’ve been apart since my diagnosis. It’s actually kind of scary. But, there are things we can do, and things we can put in place, that will make it work (or at least make it survivable).

Communication is key in a relationship, and knowing is half the battle. I know that the times I will be most worried are when my wife is traveling between conferences and home to conference… Answer, she calls or texts between planes/shuttles and when she gets to her hotels. I do the same when it’s my turn.

I think she will be most worried about me at night (and she’s confirmed the thinking). Will my sugar go low with no one around? Will I get to sleep without her beside me? The solution (at least partly) is that we will keep the good habits in place. I will stay conscientious about my meds and tests and I will call her to say good night and to wake her up in the morning.

I will make a point to talk to her about what I’m doing to take care of myself, the house and the projects I’m working on. We have not missed a single night talking/praying together since we got engaged and we won’t miss one now.

Knowing is better than worrying; our imaginations are pretty good at creating worst case scenarios.

Then there’s actually doing it…

Doing the writing… taking care of myself without burning down the house… it all has to get done. I suspect some friends will check on me from time to time (the minefield flags wouldn’t keep them out of the yard so why would Halloween decorations?).

In reality I think having the big project start the week my wife is gone is a good thing. It lets me get a good start on things, get a good roll going, and gives me something to report on when talking to her at night. It also keeps me busy and relatively out of trouble (Yes Idaho, for once you don’t have to worry about me burning the city down while my wife’s gone (well not on purpose at least 😉 ).

In general I think this is going to be fun. To find out what it’s really like tune in next week!

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Take care of your loved ones and yourselves.