When writing things click.

A while ago, like ten years or something my cousins who is published traditionally, and who publishes independently gave me a book.

It’s John Truby’s Anatomy of Story.

At that point I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how to use the book, didn’t think I needed the book, and was determined to do it on my own.

Here’s a tip, when someone gets you something and they’re trying to help you, use it. Do whatever it takes to understand it .

If you don’t get it, ask for help. It’s really okay to ask for help.

Go to Reddit and ask. The people on R/writing are awesome.

But use whatever is at your disposal.

I never asked. I was stubborn and borderline asshole.

The belief that we can do something ourselves and ignore what people tell us is stupid.

You need help, ask.

Now that I’m trying to figure this out(ten years later)I’m struggling to do so.

I should’ve listened to her. Paid attention and not just read the book and not understood it. I should have done a lot of things differently.

Now that I am doing things different, I understand she was trying to help me.

She was trying to get me to understand writing on a different level.

It’s taken me a while but I’m getting there.

The point where shit ain’t working.

I’ve reached critical mass, DEFCON 1, time to pull the holy shit handle…you know all of that.

My writing isn’t working and maybe it hasn’t been working for longer than I’m willing to admit.

The writing itself has been good, but the organization looks like my niece got ahold of crayons and paper.

Shit is all over the place!

I’ve always just written. No outline, rarely a beat sheet and it’s just not working.

I’ve rewritten whole books a couple of times because I was afraid of the outline monster.

I was worried I’d get bogged down in an outline, stop working, and just quit.

But I’m at the point of quitting right now. So why shouldn’t I take a chance on an outline?

I realized my first written draft is my outline, but a 86k+ outline is hardly workable.

It’s daunting as hell and it’s making me hate writing. I used to love sitting in the chair and creating.

Then I noticed a few things.

I was putting out a draft that had no cohesive theme or flow through, not until at least the third draft.

When my wife would ask me questions if flub through it.

The other night she asked what is motivating a certain character, I had no reply.

What the hell am I doing if I don’t know the damn motivation for what my character does?

I’ve only looked at the part where I’m sitting in the chair as the writing part. Not the thinking about the story, drawing maps or staring at screenshots which resembled the world I’d created, and definitely not an outline.

This changed over the weekend.

I thought about all the stories I’ve written. Shorts, novellas, novels and understood that whenever I’m thinking about, drawing about, or outlining, it’s still writing.

I have stories that felt too daunting to create because I didn’t understand their world and didn’t get it about the things I mentioned above.

Now as I hit the button, reset things, and journey into this new creative life, I feel blessed to have a wife who continues to stand by my side as I navigate these waters.

She’s my rock and she’s always there to tell me it’s okay. She makes sure I keep writing in whatever form it takes and I’m the luckiest man to have her.

Now on to the writing.

Writing Critiques and How TM has changed my view.

As a child I remember my father critiquing me for anything he believed I did wrong. If I stood with my hands on my hips, “That looks Gay”, or when I’d get bad grades, “You’re stupid.”

This type of critiquing didn’t go well with my creative side, it impeded it.

Now that I have kids and don’t say those things to them, I learned more about what is a good critique and a bad one and how TM figures in to my writing.

The one thing about TM, is that I no longer care as much about the past, or the future. I’m finally able to live in present, and with the present I’m able to handle criticism a lot better.

I recently got my edits back from an editor, though they’ll change the way I write, they’ll also let me grow as a writer, which is more important.

The edits were on a draft of a novel I wrote and they’re what I’ve wanted to hear from someone who knew what they were talking about.

I’ve attended Meet-Ups, but a lot of them are just a bunch of people gathered to drink at a bar, which may be fun for those who aren’t serious about the craft, but for me they limited what I wanted to do and they were detrimental to my craft.

I knew going in to writing that I needed work, and with the notes I received, I know what I need to fix, and I’m also now more aware of my writing issues.

I no longer live in a world where I care if I’m berated for not cleaning my room, but that prepared me for writing more than anything.

As a kid I had to have thick skin, but I also became aware that I could write to escape things, which went hand-in-hand.

TM allows me to worry less about the critiques I received in the past and let me focus on my present writing issues.

Being critiqued is part of writing, and being critiqued well are the best kind of critiques.

Before TM I was fearful of being critiqued and based what I knew on my experience with my father.

I now know that a critique should be a lesson and not a reprimand.

Writing and the Flicker of the Candle

In the corner it flickers, stretching shadows, emphasizing the darkness and collapsing things around it into small dark little balls.

The candle, though small, creates its own world and as it dances in the night air we see all that it creates.

For every candle we light, another shows up in our dreams. The wick can be worn, tired, burnt, but it stands there reminding us that it was once lit.

For every story we write, the wick burns farther down, but that is a deception for the wick may look worn, tired and burnt but it’s still there.

The reality is that we look at the wick, never the candle. The wick is where our stories come from, the candle is only holding them, just as the wick holds the light.

The darkness, though eclipsed by the light, may be its own deception. Is the darkness hiding from the light, or is the light hiding from the darkness.

We see the light stretch across the room, but the darkness, it hides in the corners, in the folds of the candle wax. It comes out when the light fades, drifting up through the wax, around the top and spreading out across the room.

The darkness, willing itself through the spaces, the nooks and crannies finding its way to the places in the room where the light once stood.

But in its search for more places to hide, the darkness seeks something greater, it wants to be inside our mind.

In the darkness of our mind we create the darkness which stood in the wax. We create monsters, killers and anti-heroes.

But in this darkness we pull the darkness in our reality and put it on the page every day.

Whether our reality is disturbed by the things we pull from our darkness is another thing, but putting that darkness on the page is our release, much the way our night-time dreaming is a release from our daily activity.

In our release we set free the darkness to share with others.

 

2014: Rebirth of Your Writing

A few weeks ago I talked about, “The minutes you have left”, with the new year, there come resolutions; something I don’t believe in.

I do believe in a fresh start, which is what New Year’s is supposed to be about, not this whole thing about changing who you are. Be who you are, love the person you are, but make a fresh start with your writing.

If you’ve been struggling to get words out, write something for yourself and see where it takes you. Quite likely you’ll enjoy the ride more and may want to camp there for a while.

Once you’ve started your new journey, you’ll discover you’ve found something you like; writing for yourself does that quite well.

The year comes with great hope for our projects.

We hope for that breakthrough project. We hoped for it last year, but last year wasn’t this year and we’re going to kick that book’s ass.

With a new year comes new vigor, motivation and hope.

Our hope is to do better than last year.

Make a plan to have that book done within in the first four months. Set aside a time to write, Live your life and enjoy the journey, it’s your journey after all and no one can take it for you, so enjoy your writing the way you did as a child when you told that first story to your friends.

Because it’s a new year, find the time, make the time and write like your minutes are running out, because they are.

 

Writing the First Draft: Fast and Frenetic

Our first draft is always furious and frenetic. It comes out like storm gathering on a plateau and when it’s ready, it pours out of us like a massive supercell destroying what we thought we were capable of and making us think twice about why we write, but in a good way.

We’re sometimes not prepared for the strength pouring from our fingers and it can frazzle our minds and make us drink more coffee or maybe something stronger.

The best part of writing is the first draft, the pace seems impossible to sustain, the breadth of the story amazes us and the characters and their lives remind us why we love to write.

Pacing of the story isn’t our worry in a first draft or spelling, grammar or whether we get the characters names correct, it’s all about the discovery.

Each story happens this way and we keep writing because we love how much our beautiful stories fascinate us.

From the opening sentence to The End, we’re mesmerized by the story.

Finding ourselves wrapped up in the writing, ignoring everything but discovering who these characters are and why they’ve been in our head is the best part of the first draft.

We never have a greater time than the frenetic courtship of the first draft.