Taking your time and getting through the drafts.

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Through trial and error, I’m discovering that I need to take more time with a story before I commit to writing. This comes as I’m working on the 3rd rewrite and 6th draft of this story.

I don’t take enough time to figure everything out. I jump in feet first and don’t think about it. It takes me more drafts to do that and as I worked on the story this morning I’m understanding the story better. It could be the draft number, but I’m realizing more about the story I didn’t see before.

I won’t get into the specifics because I’m submitting the story again this year, but it’s about more than I thought it was. Parts of it are personal, others are just the story, but I hope it finds a home.

But I digress.

When I take my time I understand the story, and while it takes a few years, it’s a better story for it. The current story started a couple of years ago as a short story. It’s changed what it is, but the meat is still in it and the heart continues to beat.

Getting through each draft is the maddening part of it. My wife thinks I should outline and narrow the scope to reduce the number of drafts. Some stories don’t let me do that. I know the story’s bones when I sit down. That’s not all the time, but usually, I construct the rest of the story around those bones. When I don’t know it I may sketch the thought down, just to have a record of it. I’ll work with that thought over a few weeks. If I have enough I’ll get to work. If not it sits.

The problem is jumping into a story without having those bones, ligaments, tendons. The heart may be there, but it’s a lifeless, grey thing without the other parts.

I’m trying to slow down with these drafts and construct something better.

I have to get other things done today. I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you on Friday.

There is a bit of transference…

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I’m going to continue on this tangent about books.

I’ve dropped reading Horror for a little while to work on my craft. I’m finding that when I read better writing my writing improves. I’ve ignored this for a while as I knew it happened, as it’s happened before, but I really like horror.

My current read is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. While reading it I’m realizing a few things about my own writing as well as ways to improve my craft. These things have to do with paragraphs and how to structure them. The problem is I’ve written a blog for so long that what I do on here flows into my other writing. The short clipped sentences you’re “supposed” to use in blogs made their way into my novel writing.

When I discovered this I knew I had to change a lot of my writing. The latest rejection told me that there were a lot of single-sentence paragraphs, which I knew came from my blog writing. I will be adjusting this and you will see that adjustment. I’m trying to get the length correct and keep to one idea within each paragraph. I’m aware this is how paragraphs should work but the way I used to right created problems and I’ve fixed them along the way to where I am. These adjustments took time to break and I’m still working on them.

Now I love horror, but sometimes the language and the structure isn’t as good in horror as it is in other fiction. There are writers whose prose baffles me. I’ll look at some writer’s work and think, “damn I can’t do that.” Afterward, I think, but I’m going to work on it until I can. That is my goal in this art, to get better.

I know this is a bit different for me, but I’ll continue to write on this blog, it may come across a bit different as I work on my craft issues. I hope you’ll stay as adjustments are made.

Fear of the Classics

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I have a problem, it’s with classics but not all classics just some of them.

I’ve read, Frankenstein, Dracula, most of Lovecraft, Alexandre Dumas, and I love Algernon Blackwood, Dum. The Willows is one of my favorite stories I’ve ever read.

But there are others that I have trouble with; Dostoevsky, Faulkner(not all of them), Melville. I know that I should read them and enjoy them but I don’t. I have tried reading Crime & Punishment at least 10 times, but on the last read, I quit. I can’t read that book.

I wish I knew why I have this trouble, but I’ve narrowed it down to fear.

What if it’s amazing and I wished I’d read it earlier. I feel that way about Frankenstein and a few others, but they’re either sci-fi or horror. It’s the literary classics I have trouble with. It’s not the way it’s written, it’s the fear that I’ll either hate it and feel like I’ve wasted my time on it or I’ll love the hell out of it.

This comes in many ways to me. I am going to read a bunch of classics this year and my current read is ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. I know it’s Dostoevsky, but I want to read it for my own reasons. These books are part of my learning as a writer and while I hope to enjoy them, there’s that fear I won’t.

It’s the whole I’m not good enough to do this writing thing. What if I read something and I feel I’ll never accomplish that grandiosity of what I’ve read? This came to me a lot in the early days of writing but hasn’t been raising its nasty little head lately.

I don’t know how to get past all of this other than keep reading, keep writing, and ignoring the voice in my head, so I’ll ignore it and read all these books.

This started as a conversation between my wife and me. I bought Don Quixote recently and she was surprised I’d never read it. I told her it’s one of those books I was afraid to read for all of the reasons I stated above.

Anyway, read what you like and don’t let that voice screw it up for you.

Recent reads

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I haven’t done an update on what I’m reading for a while, so here’s what I’ve read so far this year.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: I don’t talk about it much but I’m big into learning about Norse mythology both as a personal interest because of beliefs and because I think it’s cool to know about other belief systems.

Over the years I’ve read books about Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and have read most of the texts associated with each of the beliefs I’ve listed. I enjoyed reading the Baghavad Gita quite a bit as well as Buddhism, but Norse Paganism is where I find myself.

The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow: I loved every moment of this anthology. The stories were incredible and while I usually have a hard time getting through anthologies I read this over three days from the first story to the last. It’s the first time I’ve done that with an anthology. I usually skip around.

I told myself I’d read a bit more classic horror this year and the next book blew me away.

The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson: This is a weird book and I found myself thinking of House of Leaves quite a bit as well as Hill House and various Lovecraft stories.

It’s a very odd novel and while I read it I compared it to those I above as well as The Worm and his Kings by Hailey Piper, which is one of my favorite books that I read last year.

The next book is one that I’ve had on my shelf for a while but hadn’t read. Last week as I recovered from Covid I read quickly.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris: I’ve watched this movie dozens of times. I enjoyed the book more than I believed I would considering how much of its content is mimicked or mocked in our society. I feel more for Starling the book than I did in the film. Her childhood and what she went through to get to the FBI is a wonderful backstory and it’s my favorite part of the novel.

Now I’m going to add something I put as finished last year, but didn’t.

Lonesome Dove By Larry McMurtry: I started this book last year after a suggestion by Stephen Graham Jones. I read up to page 600 and got stuck. It may have been from reading it so quickly. I got there in a few days, but my brain fought with me a lot last year and it’s more likely than the former.

After finishing it I’ve been going through a rough spot in reading and have picked up three different books. Yesterday I went to the library and picked up Streets of Laredo, which is the book Stephen Graham Jones suggested I read after Lonesome Dove. I’m only 100 pages into that one and it picks up from Lonesome Dove a while later.

I enjoyed Lonesome Dove more than I thought I would it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

There are other books I’ll be reading this year, Hailey Pipers “Queen of Teeth,” Catriona Ward’s “Last House on Needless Street,” as well as my intentions to finish “The Great and Secret Show” by Clive Barker which I’ve put off the last couple of years.

I have a lot to read and with my Nightworms subscription, I won’t run out of things to read.

Find your happy place and read something you enjoy.

Comes a time…

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I wrote a lot of blog posts last week while in isolation. I started the rewrite for a story I mentioned in this post and I’m moving forward.

I’d had an issue with a certain part of the story. I thought about that story through the weekend and found some new ground within its borders. I figured out how to make it work while incorporating a story I wrote a few years ago into its borders.

The story itself ran into difficulties while I wrote it and I came to understand there was something missing. A larger story was missing and the novella will be novel.

I’m making an effort to take it slow with this story, something I talked about on Friday.

I’m also doing something that felt odd until I noticed an improvement while doing it.

I see places in my head but can’t get them down as well with my eyes open. It’s only when I close them that I see the story better, so I’m doing that.

When I sat down to write this morning the words came darker, more evocative of what I want for the story. They’re better words and I’m sure my patience with the story is helping a lot with that. Patience isn’t always my strong suit. I’m always in a hurry to get to the next story, but I’m going to slow down. Take it in smaller steps to finish this one.

The incorporation of this short story into the larger frame of the novella adds more to the story and while it makes it darker it also changes one of the aspects of the story I didn’t like as I mentioned above.

There are many aspects of this story I love. The main character and what he’s dealing with are the biggest as I can relate to some of it.

We find ourselves in our stories often. Sometimes it’s little things, this is a bigger one for me.

I’m hoping to submit it later this year. I have four other projects out on submission and I hope to hear something about them soon. I’ll let you know when I do, but for now I’ll keep working on this one. If you’re curious, here is the playlist on Spotify for this one.

Happy writing.