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COLLAPSE

I really had good intentions. I was excited about my friend’s positive reaction to my writing. Raring to go, but then motivation slowly evaporated. Life interfered or I let it interfere. Was it fear? Self doubt? Or just laziness?

Perhaps some combination of all of them; however, I’ve made a promise to myself. I’ll spend a minimum of one hour a day on my book even if it involves staring at a screen.

Hopefully by the end of September, I’ll report progress to you.

 

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MOTIVATION

The first three months of 2019 have passed swiftly like Minnesota melting snow. I’ve got some more work done, but the completion of my third rewrite remains distant.

Earlier in this quarter, a friend, who is also writing, requested to see what I’ve accomplished. I asked my spouse to copyedit several chapters. When finished, she commented that my writing was very good. So after taking a deep breath, I sent my friend several revised chapters. I waited expectantly for the comments.

In 1978 Quaker Oats ran an ad for a new cereal called Life. The set up involved three boys sitting at a breakfast table. One boy stated, “It’s supposed to be good for you.” Then the two boys debated who was going to try it first. They decided to give it to Mikey since he hated everything. With focused anticipation, they watched Mikey. As he dug into the cereal shoveling spoonfuls into his mouth, they proclaimed, “He likes it!”

When my friend called and discussed my chapters, I had the same reaction. Now I’m extremely motivated to finish!

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LEARNING THE CRAFT

As stated in September, my goal involved completing my third rewrite by March of 2019. I’m afraid this deadline could be too aggressive. I’ve rewritten several chapters and eliminated “telling”. This leaves more room for the reader’s own imagination. I’m satisfied with my effort, but I realize the next steps will require substantial improvements.

In her critique, my writing coach accurately stated that a majority of the action occurred in the second half of my novel. I need to engage the reader throughout. This will involve eliminating descriptive chapters and writing more action scenes. Simply stated: Reconstruction.

Implementing good writing techniques has become a greater challenge than I imagined. My coach has stimulated my thinking and I do have some ideas. Hopefully, future revisions will shift my thriller to a higher level of suspense and tension.

As 2018 winds down, I want to wish you a joyous holiday season and a healthy, happy New Year.

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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