No Writer Can Make It Alone

I write alone. No one can write for me. That being said, there are countless people involved in my stories. These individuals read my drivel. They listen to me dream about being a writer and manage to do it without a smirk. They encourage me every step of the way and I would not have written a novel, help start a writer’s conference, published in journals newspapers and websites or started this blog without them.

Part of her birthday card to me.

One person in particular has sacrificed more than anyone else: my wife. This week was our nine year wedding anniversary. We’ve “dated” for over 11 years.  She didn’t marry someone who wanted to write. I developed the passion about six months afterward.

I write this blog to tell her, that I am so very thankful for her. I’m not always pleasant. I’m certainly not perfect, but she has always been there sacrificing time, correcting grammar, reading and suggesting. So, thank you baby. Thank you for being there. Thank you for not laughing or telling me I’m not good or that I should focus my efforts toward something more practical. In your quiet strength you help me move forward. I could not be here without you.

If you have some one or a group of people who help you in your writing be sure to use your gift of words to say thank you.

We forget that too much.

Cheers,

Bob

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What Is Your Scene/Chapter Aiming At?

I mentioned in the last few posts that I am reading James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. It is an essential guide for fiction writers.

Through my interaction with it, I’ve come away with a hundred different ideas. It’s like each paragraph holds four morsels to help tighten up your prose and create books that will continue to ratchet up until the final page.

One of my recent takeaways was to make sure you have a focal point for every scene you write.

Each portion of your work should be directing the audience toward something. What I mean by this is that there is something they are looking forward Archerto, some dangly little cookie that is just in front of their face. Is the character to have a visit from someone? Are they finally going to go through that door? Has your character had enough and it is time to speak up after months of getting trod on? Whatever it is, there needs to be a purpose for each scene, or in other words, the scene’s bull’s-eye.

It’s hard to write a book and be in a fictionalized world and not write for me. In a way I am. I would hope I am entertained at the placing of each word after the next otherwise why would I spend all of this time by myself typing away? But, one thing to keep in mind is that focal point. The place in the distance we are herding our audience. It’s a crescendo that is building and then instead of handing it to them, take it up an octave. This could be an action or a reveal that comes completely out of nowhere.

To take it from Mr Bell –

Every scene in your novel should have a moment or exchange that is the focal point, the bull’s-eye, the thing you are aiming at. If your scene doesn’t have a bull’s-eye, it should be cut or rewritten.  Art of War for Fiction Writer’s pg 113.

So as you consider your next chapter – the one with the scene at the café or the grocery store or standing on the parapet overlooking the battlefield, remember, what are you aiming at?

Cheers,

Bob

100 Word Challenge – Emerald

It’s been a while since I participated in the 100 Word Challenge from Julia’s place. I was inspired by my friend Josh’s short story. Read that HERE.

If you100wcgu-73 want to stretch your writing muscles or are considering working on a large piece of fiction, I’d start here (click on the logo). Confining your words is one of the best ways to develop your language. Limiting your words means you have to pick the right words, or at least the best words you can manage.

This is titled, The Dragon Rider. Enjoy.

Alden Nash touched the Emerald. There was a flash, and he vanished.

Dr. Bulgakov looked around. He heard a faint squeak and saw his friend, a half inch tall now,  screaming up at him.

“……!!….!!!!”

“I’m sorry my friend. I can’t understand you.” Dr. Bulgakov replied knowing it was some form of eloquent profanity.

“… said… dragon…rider.” Alden screamed, throwing his fedora down and jumping on it.Dragonfly

“I didn’t. The runes did.” Dr. Bugakov put his on glasses and read the stone tablet again.

“Oh, no.” He looked down. “It says dragon fly rider.”

“…!!!…!!!…!!!”

“Yes, well, I’m sorry Alden.”

Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers,

Bob

How To Create An Effective Word Count Goal

Failure

Think about the last time you failed at a goal. Be it to land a job, run a triathlon, swim a mile, write a book, etc. Whatever it is, it weighs on you. It can be a mocking, dark cloud. You might have failed from lack of effort but those usually don’t hurt. I am talking about one that hurts, and hurts bad. Not a mosquito bite, but a side swipe by a car.

I’ve been side swiped on and off for the last seven years. Okay that might seem a bit dramatic but the stings have been there. I’ve gone through spurts where I have written a lot, and not written at all. This is not what a novelist does, I told myself. Novelists write every single day. They get up and write when they don’t feel like it. They write when they are tired and when they have no effort or words left. Still, they keep laying them down one by one.

I’ve read how Stephen King would spend hours every day finishing his daily word count, Hemingway too. These giants keep/kept a pace of writing deities. I used to think with a little bit of effort, I could do five hundred words a day. But then I’d have a bad day. A day where nothing comes together and my emotions are sapped. I’d given all I could to my family and gladly, but I’d get nothing on the page. There was no more time for artistic pursuits. This was a big issue for me. I’m serious about my work. This is what I want, but I keep failing at measly little daily word counts.

A Realistic Goal

I am reading the Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. It is an excellent read and I recommend it to any writer I know. In its pages I discovered something so simplistic I could punch myself for not trying it before (actually I did punch myself): the weekly writing goal.

Instead of walking around feeling like a failure five days a week, because I wrote only two hundred words those days, I’ve decided to aim for a weekly writing goal.

Here are three reasons weekly writing goals work

  1. They are flexible. With a life dominated by the sporadic, I could suddenly lose or gain writing time. Instead of being bummed or paralyzed you can be okay with not writing, or staying up late working toward your goal.
  2. It is a goal. Writers need goals. We need to be working for something. Be it a short story, poem, or novel, there needs to be consistent work and effort. Professional writers, like professional athletes, don’t get to where they are by being lukewarm in their pursuits.
  3. It builds momentum. I wrote 2547 words on my novel last week. I wrote 2 blogs (429, 589 words) and in my sons journal every day. It was nice to continually write. If I had a daily goal, I am sure missing one day would let the air of out my momentum and crush another day with ease. I want to stop that failing feeling.

For my weekly goals, I’ve decided to write:

3000 words on my novel.

2 blogs a week.

1 short story submission per month.

I do all of this while keeping track on a notebook. I always count backward to my goal 3000-0. It’s a physiological thing. Do whatever works for you.

Avoid the power of failure. Set an effective weekly writing goal and don’t compromise. Don’t make it 10,000 words if you don’t have the time and vice versa. Maybe you can only get 1000 words done per week. Whatever your goal is, keep striving and keep writing. If you have goal setting tips, please comment below.

Cheers,

Bob

 

 

Is Jon Acuff A Liar?

I respect Jon Acuff and thoroughly enjoyed his books. They were inspiration to me and if I had an inordinate amount of money I’d have them all in hardcover. They were water to my creative soul, and gave me drive to work hard and joy at being productive. Unfortunately, I tried to implement one of his suggestions and I failed, utterly.

DawnAround the country there are people who get up and meet at 5am. These people have taken a page from Acuff’s book Start. I don’t recall the official title of these stoic individuals but something like Starters or 5amers comes to mind. Anyway, Mr Acuff says starting early can help your productivity throughout the day. Start goes on to say that it’s easier to do whatever it is you strive to do or be (WRITER!) before the day’s cares and stresses have at you and sap your energy. I wholeheartedly agree with this. If I get up early and pray, read the bible, have a bit of writing time, then enter my day, it is 100% more productive than if I just get up, stumble to the coffee pot and then to work.

You may or may not agree that there are morning people and night owls. They may be subjective terms that mean productive members of society and unmotivated slackers. But how does Mr. Acuff expect me to get up at 5am when I’ve just been up at 2am and 4am with my children? And I won’t even mention my cat. Bandit, I love you, but clawing my face at 3am is not appreciated. Ever had sick kids and be up all night? Try getting up when you are already up. Ouch.

Though it was a huge inspiration, I find myself diverting from a lot of what is said in the book Start to “what works for me whenever it works for me and does not take away from my family time”. I’ve wasted a lot of time looking at what other people do and try to implement their formulas. The thing is I am not them. Their plan worked for them during that portion of their life and got them to where they are today. It might not work for you and me. We might have to find another way.

I was talking with my wife the other day and lamented the fact that I simply cannot count on the morning hours to write, not at this juncture in my life anyway. It has worked in the past, just not now with children this young. She asked me what worked for me and I thought about it. When is the perfect time for me to write?

I‘d like to think of myself as that responsible morning person: get up, make coffee, and put the house in order before anyone is up. I get some exercise in, some writing too, and have an effective morning launch into my day. But maybe I am that slacker night owl that writes until 1am four nights a week.

So for now, I am going to write when I can count on it: when everyone else is asleep and I am awake. Per my wife’s brilliant suggestion, I cleared a shelf next to my bed and bought a 15$ fan to curb the clickety-clack of the keys on my laptop so my wife can sleep.

I guess the idea of Start is to, well, start. Mr Acuff, you weren’t wrong there. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going.

Write 500 words today!

Cheers,

Bob