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Writing on the Road (or not)

by Jonathan 0 Comments
Yeah, Journey.

Yeah, Journey.

They say that the road ain’t no place to start a family.

–Steve Perry, lead singer of Journey.

The road is also no place for me to start a story. We just got back from Nags Head, NC where we visited with some old friends. I always marvel at how much I enjoy seeing those guys. This time our daughters, all around the 3 year mark played together and oozed cuteness wherever they trod. As much a success as the child’s play was, the writing suffered. I managed about 400 words during bed time one night and that was it. I didn’t get the opportunity to feel my way through the beginning of the story. The results were unsatisfactory, but at least they were something.

The weather was spectacular, not so much in a sunny paradise, brilliant sunset way, but in a rainy, windy, giant waves rolling in kind of way. Even so, it was a nice trip.

I also managed to read a hundred or so pages in Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. Good stuff. As he did with Quicksilver, Stephenson captivated me with his worldbuilding that is both alien and comfortably familiar–no small feat. I like to think of it as research.

Short Stories

by Jonathan 3 Comments
Here's hoping the bones of my next short story aren't so, um, combative.

Here's hoping the bones of my next short story aren't so, um, combative.

I wrapped up the first draft of my first novel three days ago. It felt good. Not great, but good. The following day, all I could think about was all the stuff that needed to be rethought, reworked and rewritten. The prospect of doing those things is daunting and exciting. I look forward to the revision process, but I also look forward to some weeks away from the novel.

To that end, I am working to stretch my short story muscles a bit. I’ve entered a few contests hosted by Jay Lake, Susan Adrian and Ken Scholes, but those were all of the flash variety. Until I started entering these contests, I hadn’t done much with short fiction since primary school. I am thankful opportunities like these exist. It is unlikely I would have written any short fiction while working on my novel if not for these authors’ offering incentive to do so. Now that I’ve done some, I’m encouraged to do more for the sake of writing. Prizes are nice (not that I’ve won any), but to explore short fiction can only help to better my writing.

Also, it is a nice break from working on one concept to explore many. The challenge for me will be to see if I can convey the feelings, tones, characters and stories economically. Today I’m mapping out the bones of a fantasy short story, probably something in the 3,000 to 6,000 word range. I’m trying out some tools I’ve come across with regard to setting up the story, so it’s an exercise of sorts. It’s also an exercise I plan to submit for publication.

More than One Way to Skin a Cat

by Jonathan 2 Comments

The imagery of this post’s title is awful, but I like the meaning. I’ve hared off and slung a whole bunch of words down on my laptop and am close to wrapping up the first draft of my first novel. Part of me thinks I should have studied more about the craft: plot, characterization, setting, and so on. However, I may never have written if I had gone about it that way. I just got a couple of new books as a 9th anniversary gift from my loving and supportive wife (Thanks!). BTW, is the 9th anniversary the Book Anniversary? It is at our house. I picked up Emily’s Ghost by West Virginia’s own Denise Giardina and The Lady with the Little Dog by Chekhov.

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Both books I received are Writer’s Digest publications. The first is Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. I posted a little while ago about the search for inspiration to keep going (or inspirado as the D calls it). I highlighted Card’s book, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy there. Well, Mr. Card, your clever marketing pitch among those pages worked. I put Character & Viewpoint on my wishlist. So far I am enjoying it. Of course, I could read about the craft all day long and never do any writing. I think it will be useful over the long haul. I like Card’s easy style. He writes in a way that makes the techniques accessible, but not oversimplified.

The other book I received is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Again, this book is written in a easy style. Bell opens the book by exposing what he calls the Big Lie, which, alone, is worth the price of admission. Granted, I just gave you a link to said opening for free, but whatever.

And I discovered the most incredible thing. The Big Lie was a lie. A person could learn how to write, because I was learning.

James Scott Bell from Plot & Structure.

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

I’m about 60 pages into the book and I find it to be useful. I don’t know how many of the exercises I’ll do, but some will dovetail nicely with the novel I’m already working on.

So here I am, my first draft almost complete and I’m reading books that might have made my writing life a little better had I read them before embarking on my journey of a thousand miles. I will be devouring these books now in hopes that I can put some of the info to good use during the revision phase as well as trying out some of the techniques for some short stories I have in mind. We shall see.

If anyone has any experience with these books, please feel free to share. Or, if you have other writing books you find useful, throw ’em out there!