MICE AND MEN

I set a goal to finish my third rewrite by this fall. As the poet Robert Burns wrote: “The best laid plans of mice and men/ often go awry.”

Over the past three months, writing became more regular. I completed several chapters and began to attack my nemesis of “telling” rather than “showing”. Progress moved forward, but then life interrupted.

I finally conceded and contacted my writing coach and editor, Alida. I advised her I would not have the rewrite in her hands by the end of the third quarter. She encouraged me to continue.

My new goal: End of March 2019. Hopefully this deadline will be met.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

DOUBT

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!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

JAWS

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)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvCI-gNK_y4

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

AHA!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

DIPPED MY TOE IN

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!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

USE THE FORCE, MARK

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!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized