Over the past winter my writing occurred sporadically. Actually I accomplished very little. Doubt crept in like an insidious beast. Negativity rose. I can’t do this. I lack the talent. I’m never going to finish. Fits and starts.

Back in Minneapolis, I began to focus energetically on the latter. I came across my editor’s blog discussing a nemesis – show don’t tell. I took copious notes to finally understand a concept that many new writers struggle against, including me.

I began organizing my rewrite. Instead of an outline, I used 3 by 5 cards. Each card represented a chapter. I eliminated unnecessary chapters. I marked chapters requiring revision. I retained those that moved the action forward.

Writing more regularly, I’m pushing myself to finish the third rewrite for submission. Yes, my editor will find more items to correct, but it feels good to be moving forward!



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Right before going to bed, I surfed TV channels. My search discovered the remake of The Italian Job (2003) starring Mark Wahlberg. I loved this movie. It had an intricate plot. Each character had depth and captivated me.

My editor/coach often references movies as a technique to hone my writing skills. In a novel, the narrator sets the scene. In a movie, the camera accomplishes this task.

Describing the actions of characters and their emotions engages the reader. In a movie, facial expressions and dialogue creates insights. As I continued to re-read her edits, my writing has a major flaw. I tell rather than show (describe). Not surprising since my career necessitated advising clients.

In The Italian Job Mark Wahlberg is the protagonist. He appears in a majority of the scenes. The viewer gets to know him best. When the other characters enter, he engages them causing the viewer to understand their role and empathize. Or when Wahlberg gives them a task and they have their own scene, you connect with them through dialogue.

I realized that if I could emulate what occurred in The Italian Job, my novel would improve greatly. I could eliminate the “telling”. An easy task? No, extremely difficult. As I attack the edits, I wonder whether or not I’m still telling. My doubt causes my frustration level to rise.

A corollary to eliminating this frustration can be found in another retirement activity. Golf! Initially my game proved very frustrating. Although I had a couple of golf pros teaching me, I just couldn’t execute. One excellent golfer in my foursome patiently suggested trying different approaches. I plugged along but didn’t improve. One day a light bulb went off and I realized exactly what I needed. I had to combine several techniques to achieve the correct swing. As I practiced this swing my game improved.

As I continue to write, I need to step outside my comfort zone and try different methods. Hopefully the same bulb will click and I will begin to show instead of tell.

NOTE: This is my last monthly update. The next one will be at the end of June and then quarterly going forward.

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When I first started writing I assumed it would be like one of my investment updates. After few revisions, I could send it to my clients. From conception to publication, I worked on the update several days. I got rave reviews. So I thought how hard can it be to write a novel?

Three hundred times harder! As an example, I have re-written my shark attack scene multiple times in an attempt to capture what Peter Benchley did in his novel Jaws. As you read his opening chapter, the tension builds. Oblivious to the shark, the woman continues her night swim. Here’s an excerpt:

“The fish smelled her now, and the vibrations-erratic and sharp-signaled distress. The fish began to circle close to the surface. Its dorsal fin broke the water, and its tail, thrashing back and forth, cut the glassy water with a hiss. A series of tremors shook its body.

 For the first time, the woman felt fear, but she did not know why….”

As a reader, I knew what was going to happen, but didn’t know how it would conclude. In just a few paragraphs, Benchley had me hooked.

My main character encounters a shark during a perfect afternoon of surfing off the coast of Santa Cruz, California. I have attempted to duplicate Benchley’s imagery and tension. So far I have failed, but will continue to re-write this section until I get it perfect (or as close as I can).

I’m often asked, “How’s the writing?” When I respond “hard”, now you’ll know what I mean.

Here’s a YouTube clip of the theme music from the movie Jaws (last 2 minutes but the first 20 seconds will send a chill down your spine)

NOTE: I’ve decided to shift my blog updates to quarterly instead of monthly. Unless there is a strong outcry from my followers, I will write the March blog next month with the next postings in June, September, December and the following March.


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This month I actually accomplished my objective of writing at least 3 times a week. The juices began to flow. I would even think about re-writing falling asleep or waking up. Felt good to be focused again.

My writing coach wanted me to concentrate on nine issues. A major one involved avoiding POV (point of view) stranglehold. This bad habit takes the narrator out of the story. The reader only sees events and scenes from the point of view of the main character.

POV stranglehold example:  With hands on her hips, Susan felt the pressure of her feet pushing against the dirt. As Sam drove away the smell of dust filled her nostrils. She wondered why he became so angry.

In the above example the narrator is absent. The reader sees everything though Susan’s eyes (her POV).

The narrator establishing the scene: Slamming the door of his pickup truck, Sam drove off. A cloud of dust kicked up by the tires trailed behind him. Standing with her hands on her hips, Susan wondered, “What’s up with him?”

The difference appears subtle, but the imagery becomes more engaging when the narrator is involved. As I wrote this month, my “aha moment” came when my narrator became more assertive.

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This month I re-started the rewrite of my trilogy (book one). I worked on several chapters and gave myself a pat on the back.

In retrospect, these efforts lacked the intensity of past efforts. The pat on the back recognized my self-motivation, but in reality fell abysmally short.

My resolution for next year is to complete this rewrite sooner than later. In 2018, I resolve to put aside specific days each week for at least two hours of writing. From past experience, I know the execution of this plan will propel me toward my goal.

Once achieved, I’m sure another rewrite will appear in my future. Ah, the joys and tribulations of writing.

As 2017 draws to a close, I wish you and your families a healthy, happy New Year!


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In my travels last month, a cousin approached me. Paraphrasing our discussion she basically stated I should give up on my novel. When I asked why, she replied your blog makes it seem so painful.

I was taken aback. I reassured her that I still actually enjoyed the process, but realized that my recent blog entries could have represented one long whine. Next month the eighth episode of the Star Wars saga will appear. Using it, I will attempt to redeem myself.

Writing my overall concept for the trilogy and the first book represented episode four, A New Hope. Beginning my journey as a writer contained apprehension and thrills similar to Luke Skywalker maturation. His adventure ended with the triumphant destruction of the Death Star and mine with the draft of book one.

My angst arose after the first edit of my second rewrite. My psyche filled with doubt and trepidation. I wondered if I could actually complete the task at hand. The rebel forces in episode five, The Empire Strikes Back, had a similar journey. All felt lost as the Empire continued to have successes against the main characters and Luke realized Darth Vader was his father. The future of the rebellion remained uncertain, as did my ability to write.

As I move forward with revising the first book, I am confident that I will learn and master the skills necessary to write an engaging novel. Like Luke in episode six, Return of the Jedi, I will complete my training by facing my fears and becoming a published novelist (perhaps even a Jedi knight).

Yoda’s quote continues to resonant in my mind: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

May the force be with you!


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(Note to Followers/Readers: At the end of October, I won’t publish a blog entry. The next entry will be November 30, 2017.)

At the beginning of September, I gave serious consideration to throwing in the towel. After much soul searching, a decision occurred. I would continue to write.

As mentioned in previous months, I’ve been struggling. How can I manage the nine various improvements required for a better story? Focus on one and rewrite eight more times? It appeared to be a Sisyphean task.

The breakthrough came when I decided to alter the process by writing chunks of material. I would complete a few consecutive chapters focusing on several major improvements. Then I would review and incorporate the other issues I needed to address per my editor. By breaking the rewrite into reasonable segments, I could avoid the constant loop of rolling the stone up the hill.

I’ll update you in November. In the meantime, I went to a toy store for my grandchildren (even at my age, I still love perusing toy stores so I use my grandchildren as an excuse). On the shelf was the toy “Magic 8 Ball”. I hope you remember it from your childhood. You ask it a question and roll it over for the answer.

So I picked it up and softly stated: “Will my novel ever be finished?” Rolling it over the following answer appeared: “Everything points to a Yes.”

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