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My Writing Life
NaNoWriMo
My Writing Life
Saturday, November 20, 2010
NaNo 2010
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: Prairie Home Companion
Topic: NaNoWriMo

Wow! It's time for another NaNo! Amost 2/3 through it, in fact. This year's project is titled: "Turner Falls", and is supposed to be in the Spiritual/Inspirational genre.

 

Somehow, the only way I can get through the work is with the inclusion of a mystery! Oi! I'll be writing about the work of the novel here until publication. I hope you will join me. This one is out of my comfort zone, for sure! I have supporters, and encouragers. I also have deaf charactes who refuse to communicate, a plot frozen in creative ice, and a location I had to interview to even see! 

 

Such IS the writing life.


Posted by Budroe at 19:55 EST
Updated: Saturday, November 20, 2010 21:04 EST
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Moved NaNo 2009 to new Blog here!
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: Southern Gospel At Its Best (Play.it)
Topic: My Writing Life
I was going to add the NaNo 2009 activities to this Blog. I chose to create a new Blog just for that activity. I want to save "The Writing Life" for other projects. I hope you will join me on the NaNo Grand Aventure at the new blog. You can find it at http://kybudman.tripod.com/nanoblog/.

Posted by Budroe at 15:14 EDT
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Sunday, September 9, 2007
A Writing Test
Mood:  blue
Now Playing: Silence! The Amazing Silence!
Topic: My Writing Life
You Scored an A
You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.
The It's Its There Their They're Quiz

Posted by Budroe at 11:21 EDT
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Monday, July 9, 2007
When Things Don't Quite Work
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: My Writing Life

This is just an update.  Sometimes, things don't work. Sometimes, things just don't work out. It's been that way of late in my writing life.

It looks like, for lack of general interest, I am back to square one with the publication efforts of "The Grand Organ Mysteries".

 

More as it develops. It is definitely a very true statement that the first rule of writing is, just as it is the first rule of life,  that flexibility is the key. We shall see.

 

A disappointing day in the writing life.

 

Bud


Posted by Budroe at 16:47 EDT
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Monday, January 1, 2007
Happy 2007
Mood:  hug me
Now Playing: The Gaither Vocal Band: "Loving God, and Loving Each Other"

Happy 2007!  In the writing life, it is always important to be a discerning observer.  If you have not yet observed the change in the Calendar, you are going to find it difficult in the writing life!

Of course, everyone is talking about Resolutions for the New Year.  I'm probably gonna get around to that, at some point this year.  As most New  Year's Resolutions fail within 18 days, I figure I have a much better chance if I wait until February to list them. Call me silly, but...

I want to get "Notre Dame" to final edit:"The End" before my next birthday (12/31/07).  It would really be spiffy if the series contract were signed, the hubungous advance were in (and out of) the bank. I'd really like to get on with it, after all. What could warm the heart more than an impossible schedule, and an Editor that learned the craft from Speer?

I want to tell the world that this disease is under control, and I am facing a long and adventurous retirement, chasing book fans around the globe.

I want to get the website up, and active.  I would really love to get the outline planned for the Comptetition in 2007.  That would be a totally spork-a-riffic accomplishment.

I want to get at least a concrete outline for the Trilogy.  I do have it in my heart to write this work, because I do truly believe that the message is an imperative one to be told. And, of course, now time has taken on this amazing magnification factor, where no minute is worthy of being wasted. Funny, the way we learn things.

I want to see several people this year who mean so much to the value of my life. My AJ, Ron, and Isaac pretty much top this list.  But, as I am not likely to be afforded the opportunity to participate in commercial travel any time soon, I am not just quite certain how that will happen.  I do, however feel the impetus to make it happen.  As a Capricorn, when I get it set in my head, it usually happens. That's why I am so very careful about what gets set in my head!

I'd love to be able to afford the price, and the time to fully research the second book in the series. That would really help me figure out where the second book in the series will take place. I mean, I've only got a bouquet of 10 possible locations to choose from--IF I keep to the original ten choices I selected from the top 25 on my list. 

Such are the things of the writing life. For a whole year, so far, it hasn't been too bad.

 

Budroe


Posted by Budroe at 22:39 EST
Updated: Monday, January 1, 2007 22:55 EST
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Blogging Etiquette -- A Part of My Writing Life!
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Mannheim Steamroller - Los Peces en el Rio
Topic: My Writing Life

There have been a lot of questioning going on in my mind lately. That's mostly not a bad thing, especially in the writing life.  Questions need answers.  Who better than a writer to provide them? 

If you are a blogger, you too have lots of questions.  But, recently I've been getting a lot of questions about blogging.  Circle complete.

I am not quite certain why anyone would come to me, thinking that I could definitively answer questions concerning keep a Journal, or Blog.  For some reason, it seems that questions of etiquette keep arriving at my step.  I am going to posit some theories about blogging etiquette.  If you are a reader of this Blog, I would appreciate some input.  I'd like to know what you do to keep good blogging etiquette.  Mine will be some general principles that will help you keep your blog current, active, and vibrant.  Or, at least so they tell me. Perhaps a general statement is more in order than a specific list of answers.

One of the questions that seem to come toward me more often than not is a bit of a simple one: "How Do You Blog Well?"

Do you know anyone who does not Blog? I do, but only a few.  When you make the decision to keep a Journal, or a Blog, you are making a commitment that will require a significant investment on your part.  This is true if you are the only human to ever read the words you write.  Keeping a Blog honestly is a commitment much like raising a child.  (If true, then I have nine jewels in my Crown--several of which are about to be orphaned!)

Blogging begins as an adventure. It is a very "young" sport, at least in one sense.  Mankind has been communicating inner thoughts since the first chisel was forcefully applied to Granite!  Journalling is an ancient, and highly regarded historical reality.  Blogging is nothing more than the most recent reflection of this same rich tradition.  To writers, Journalling is one of the most basic and fundamental tools in the kit.  The very first law of writing (even among the few inviolable dictums particular to our craft) is:

"Writers write!" 

Good writers, and certainly the very best writers, write every day.  With the creation of the Internet, and the neighborhood we call the World Wide Web, it was no leap of faith to know that Journals would, at some point, make their appearance here.  Web logs (Blogs) came into fashion by those who were writing the code that created the Internet.  From every line of code, to the purpose and intended function, Web logs were the first-generation programmer's Bible.  Information passed between programmers led to the creation of email.  Having a place to keep, read, and share information about programming gave us websites.  And, through it all, there was the Journal.  Web logs is a bit of a mouthful, requiring the unneccesary application of usually, and otherwise, inert muscles!  Programmers love minimalism.  Thus, Web Logs became Blogs.

So there, you have it. Now you know where the word came from. Feel free to fool your friends, and amaze your mother!

Blogging is an optional activity. You can choose not to keep a Blog, in the same way that many people never kept a diary or journal.  But, some do. If you have kept a diary or journal, you have recorded history in your possession.  Most people keep a Diary or Journal for completely different reasons than blogging today.  These were private documents.  Within their pages were the secrets of the soul.  Diaries (and many Journals) were sold with locks, and keys! (Do you still have your Diary/Journal key? I do!)

Especially with teens today, the Internet is not a powerful tool of commerce.  (Well, at least until they "discover" EBay!) To youngsters today, the power of the Internet has a reality those of us who helped to program it into existance never considered.  The "net" has become a social tool.  Much more "humanitarian" than we ever envisioned, teens have brought an almost tactile humanity to the net via the Blog.  "Social/Encounter" websites are among the fastest growing, and most popular of all sites on the web.  From MySpace, FaceBook, and UTube, people are literally "living" on the web. 

In the best of traditions, this new anomaly will keep pundits and talking heads conversing with shrinks for decades to come.  I would love to listen to many of those conversations.  I would be incredibly interested to see just how very wrong these "Professionals" would be. Newspaper articles (remember newprint?) abound on the phenomena surrounding blogging.

It's not only intensely personal, but it is also big business.  Very much unlike the days of my youth, this is a very different world.  If you choose to Blog, there are some things you really should keep in your mind.  All is not well on the web.  As wonderful as immediate contact, socialization, and access to your most personal life may seem, it is also a grave potential danger. 

The danger can be as apparent as reading your entries.  Believe it or not, many people WILL read your words.  There are some on the web who seek out victims for crimes as serious as kidnapping, rape, and murder.  We are, after all, dealing with the same humans who inhabit our planet, and our prisons.  Yes, prisoners do have access to the web. It is a major source of income to many of them. 

It is not the same world that gave us locking diaries and journals.  Today, the Diaries and Journals we keep are available to the entire population of our planet.  And, sadly, many have learned this truth by a very difficult path.  If you keep a Blog (regardless of the access level or security level you establish), there is someone who will read it.  You do not get to choose, finally.  A crime is still a crime, and there are still criminals smart enough to break any lock you put on your writing. You need to know, and remember this, for several important reasons that may not even seem apparent to you right now.

1. Criminals use the web to seek out, learn of, and select victims--successfully.

2. Employers use the web to identify, select, interview, hire, AND MONITOR their employees.  Writing in your Blog about the latest tiff with the idiot you work for can have immediate, and dire consequences on your career.

3. School administrations are watching your blog, for everything from speaking about wanting to blow up your school (Boy! Now that will get a few hits on the sitemeter!) to your intense passion for your teacher!  What you may see as "Freedom of Speech" is, in fact, not. 

4. Telling a friend you know a secret about a friend you are mad at does NOT guarantee that the friend you are mad at will not eventually read the entry to your friend.  Not only that, but it also does not mean that the entry may not be read several YEARS from the date you wrote it into your Blog. Archived pages do not expire.  Google still works. Because you have a "private" Blog with a secure password and a limited list of members does NOT extend a presumption of privacy. Sorry, but that's the legal truth. It just is. Know it, and never forget that every word you write, no matter where you write it, can be read by a stranger.

5. Family histories can be a terrific hobby.  There is a strong argument for putting them in Journals, or Blogs.  What is true for your friends is doubly true for your family.  And, in both instances, seeing the disagreement with Auntie Gert can come back to bite you--even years later.

These are some of the necessary considerations that must be dealt with when you seriously consider the creation of a Blog. There is a wonderful community of excellent bloggers on the Internet that make blogging a terrific adventure.  Some prior planning can yield many good results.  You just need to know what to consider.

There are many more positive aspects of the blogging life that I will highlight in the next entry, eventually. But for now, I hope these points will help you not only determine the value a Blog has for you, but that you will also create a Blog that you will never regret.

That's just a part--a large part--of the writing life.


Posted by Budroe at 00:00 EST
Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2006 00:25 EST
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Friday, December 8, 2006
What I'm Writing These Days
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Eric Reploeg: "My Father's House!"
Topic: My Writing Life

Every once in a while, it is a very good idea to take stock of the things that occupy your time.  This is especially important in the writing life.  Sometimes, a new project "grabs" you, and hours--or even days-disappear beneath the excitement of new words. Sometimes, I am writing about things which are difficult to express; personal things or a difficult concept.  Hours, or days can suddenly vanish into the vapor of "research".  Suddenly, every project is "back-logged", and there isn't enough time at all.

It is no less true in the writing life than any other: You get 24 hours every day!  I have, lately, been devoting my writing hours to a very special, and very personal project.  It might be interesting to note, for those of you who are, or would be writers, that my writing about this is a reflection upon what is, in itself, a reflection.  Yes, such things really do occur in the world.  They occur quite often in the writing life.

For almost a month, now, I have devoted almost 100% of my available time to the writing of this project.  I finished the last "of the first" entries this morning: exactly one month AFTER I first heard the first - person possessive of the subject of the writing: Cancer. My journey, walking "through the valley" with this new disease is therapeutic for me, and (as it would surprise ME to learn) others as well. The writing is an on-going project, and is in no way intended to be a profitable venture-despite many urgings to the otherwise.  In the first place, the work is not well-organized.  In fact, it is purposely so.  It does not follow the accepted rules of good writing. Again, it purposely does not follow any rules which would constrain the writer.  It is a total free-form illustration of my journey, and was never intended to be a "best-seller".  And it's a good thing that is true! At least I am being spared the dis-illusionment of "hawking" a stinker!

But, sometimes in the writing life, it is important to look within yourself. Sometimes, you find entirely new purpose for the craft.  But, then again, what of the WIP's?  I have, for all intents and purpose lost sight (and track) of them.  They are:

"Notre Dame" Final edit on 14 of 34 chapters. Remainder waiting. Query letter (of unknown quality) out to 4 Agents, 4 Publishers.

"Theocracy" First Chapter of the Second Volue in rough draft, with a very few good reviews/critiques on-board. Period.  Planning in most rough shape using NewNovellist and WriteNow!  There is a deep desire to get this drafted, but I feel lost in the subject at the moment.  I actually find it interesting that, working on the rough plan of this work is what I was about when I went to the Hospital!  I wonder if Dad is trying to tell me something, or if Ole Stoopid is testing my intent to actually write the durned thing.

"The Police Chaplain" has the first chapter in rough draft, and has been well-received (limited).  All these works need review and comment, as I have some decisions to make as to where and how to take them.

"Diesel Dilemma" has a really good opening, and there is a plot arc around here somewhere (unless it, too, became a victim of the virus which required the new hard drives!!!!). It will be a fun write, but it too needs basic work and a lot of dedicated time.

Books II and III in the Series: Still researching, and trying to decide which nation I wish to piss off next.  I am waiting for the plot to tell me where it is we will go.  That's a lazy way to do things in the writing life.  But, with these strong characters, I sort of expected THEM to tell ME where we would go next!  I wonder who I should blame.  Well, at least I know it's not ME!

Article "Why Me, God?" in response to a comment from a new reader of the newest project. Pending input from Prayer Group, GCO, et al.

http:s14.invisionfree.com/effective_prayer/index.php.  Online Bible Study is OFFLINE--waiting on me to spend about one solid week getting the 2 new courses worked out and scheduled.   I wonder when that will happen.

http::s9.invisionfree.com/Serious_Critiques/index.php.  The Forum group has shown promise--moreso than the group which birthed it. But the group has Jim back onboard as Leader.  I think I did a pretty lousy job with that.  The folks love Jim (I do, too) but really didn't care much for me!   I thought when they said "Serious!" that is what they meant. Nothing could be further from the truth.  But the Forum site is attracting some really good writers who are anxious for in-depth, full, and honest reviews/critiques.  I'd love to get a good group going there, but again, the time.

The Blogs: I have not really had any heart for the Blogs, save two. The homesite blog is starting well, I think.  Well, for this work, would be doing the original purpose.  I AM being honest in the writing, and I am trying with all I know how to get current, as quickly as possible. But, in the process, I am really afraid I am going to "forget" some of the great moments, and the amazing people that worked together to get me to this point in the journey.  What do I sacrifice?  Events, moments, or those blessed souls who, if not a part of the story, would not have me around to tell about them?  It is really a quandry, and it takes up entirely too much of my time, and creates the enemy (stress) in the process.  In the end, I chuck the argument, write from my heart, and let Dad's words be the result. Different motivation than most writers, I suppose.  Max would kick me if he heard me say that! I guess, even in the writing life, we keep secrets from even our very best and best-loved friends. 

A Blessing of Opportunity is my lot.  I must, as always, just let Dad drive the boat.  He's doing a lot of that these days, I guess.  Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to just not concern yourself with the map, and let the Guide lead. That is so very hard for me, sometimes.

But, so it goes in the writing life.

 

Bud


Posted by Budroe at 20:10 EST
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Things That Change
Mood:  down
Now Playing: 1.FM - Otto's Classical Musick
Topic: My Writing Life

In the writing life, it is an on-going, never-ending battle with things that change.  They do not change from necessity nearly as often as I might prefer.  Things change because of choice, or convenience, or perspective even, but not from necessity--always.

A recent hospitalization has created all manner of change in my life in general, and in my writing life in particular.  I have experienced so many drastic changes in so many areas of my life in these past weeks that I am awash, overwhelmed, and stupified.  A reality roller-coaster has beset my peace, and I am near helpless. I am not certain how to catelogue and deal with all that has changed, and in so short a time.

I long-ago learned that, for me at least, writing can be my strongest method of untangling such Celtic Knots as these.  One of the advantages of being a writer is the amazing amount of really good writing "material" one can discover in virtually any circumstance. "If it's not writing, it's research!" Such a truth has never been visited upon a poor and unsuspecting lad as I.  

I have some nine (9) writing Blogs/Sites that consume a majority of my "Not-For-Profit" (personal) writing, and that just seems a tad compulsive to me. And, to be honest about it, I usually cheat in my entries.  I try to write one good entry daily.  What usually happens is that it is just so damned good I want to publish it to every site! (Okay, you can take that as a gentle dose of "Editorial License" if you desire--although why you would desire completely eludes me.) Oh, I see.  You are going for that whole "too damned lazy to be original AND good nine times every day" angle, huh.  Well, if that's where you wish to go, then have a nice trip! Please send some picture postcards, and DO enjoy the vacation, won't ya?

There just aren't too many jobs on the planet that require such gargantuan effort.  Interestingly enough, on a couple of my Blogs/Sites, a particular writing may have a couple hundred comments, while the same entry, on a much more public site (MSN Spaces, or Yahoo 360, for instance) may get no comments or views whatsoever. But then, that is one of the peculularities of the writing life.  It seems as if this particular marketing/therapy ploy is like to take a straight razor to cut a microscopic slice from the Universe. But, I am nothing if not persistent.

Dare I follow the recommendations of my writing mentors, and my writing friends, and begin yet another Blog at my now-primary writing site, solely for the purpose of detailing this newest journey through Cancer, malignancy, and associated horrors?  The diseases which have come to visit already have a life of their own, to be sure.  But, as I am a prolific writer, I can always just link this Blog along with all the others, for those few of you who follow this little Blog--or not. And, that is one of the big changes in my life of late.

There is nothing quite so scarey as a writer who pens words with no audience. The usual goal of a writer is to get their words viewed by as many people who are willing to shell out the bucks to pay for the privilege! Yet, this writing would be the most personal and intimate Journal of them all.  There is no doubt that it would follow the first rule of writing: "Write about what you know!" 

Writing about horrid events, and terrible feelings is a very difficult thing to do honestly.  Part of the writing process is the carefully and accurate recording of facts.  In the best writing, ALL facts are chronicled.  That would necessarily include the good things, the victories, and the good days as well, wouldn't it? It would be  nice to measure the progress along this journey, I think. I haver a terribly compulsive nature about writing.  I very often will go back (as I did tonight with this very Blog, in fact!) and read each and every entry and comment.  I do this to re-evaluate the work.  I usually am satisfied with the work.  I seldom edit work I post. Sometimes, even the mistakes I make in writing a post can be painfully instructive to me as a writing analysis of life, or the work, or the environment, or the world I find myself living in at the moment.

As a completely unrelated aside:

I have learned an amazing truth tonight.  I spent a good portion of my life as a classical keyboard performer.  As I listen to some pretty incredible classical (Baroque) music while writing this entry, I am discovering that my typing speed increases dramatically with the fast stuff, and slows down noticably with the andante stuff! Now, how is that for "tapes" we learn by, I ask you?

Sometimes, in the writing life, an author must come face-to-face with some pretty harsh realities, translate them accurately enough to be understood and felt by the reader, yet still honestly relate the facts and the attendant emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, and health aspects. Who wants to re-live such things? And, even more importantly, who in their right mind would EVER want to read about them?

Sometimes, change compels us to do those things that we might never have ever pondered, wondered, or considered. The writer takes those things, puts them into the soup, and serves them up at the proper temperature for the widest possible consumption by the largest possible audience who will pay the highest possible price for them.

Sometimes, we are compelled to write things that we hope no person will ever read, simply because they are personal, and private. They contain our worst. If not written with not only clarity of such degree that the words cannot possibly be misunderstood, but also with the brutal honesty of Supreme Court testimony, the effort is a fool's errand. I am not sure I have both requirements, but I am going to give it a shot anyway.  It will possibly be another chore that I cannot give myself fully.  But, being me, I will give it the valiant attempt, and see how it goes.

Sometimes, that's just the way it is in the writing life.

 


Posted by Budroe at 01:23 EST
Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 02:14 EST
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Thursday, October 26, 2006
The Doldrums and My Writing Life
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Gaither Homecoming Friends: "Oh, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem!"
Topic: My Writing Life

Sometimes, in my Writing Life, I spend hours (Yes, literally) each and every day looking for "new" (original) words to write that will, eventually, result in the very best thing a writer can hope for: dollars!

Sometimes, there are so many words packing the "exit" line of my brain that it seems all I can do to type fast enough to get them out of my head, through my fingers and onto the page (screen).  This can be a frustrating time for a writer, because these are just words.  They may create, in the end, a scene, or a chapter, or a useless pile of words--one just never knows.  In this "creative" phase (yes, it IS a phase--and it WILL pass!), the best thing a writer can do is just to simply get the words out. 

This requires something of the writer that is often most difficult to willingly give: faith in the writer's own ability.  I love it when the words are completely generated by talkative characters that I immediately recognize, in a scene or chapter that "comes out" in the proper form.  Then, it is mostly just dictation, you see. I am very good at dictation; my characters have taught me not to ask, consider, grade, or evaluate the words. If I am attempting to move, for instance, a particular point in the plot forward, and the characters want to talk about a plot point 200 pages away, I have a choice.  I can take the dictation, knowing that regardless of what hits the page, it will be somehow useful (or not) down the road.  The only available tool I have to use at such times is my absolute faith in my characters (who most often understand the "real" plot MUCH better than I), and my own faith as a writer in the work. 

I can also choose to try to ignore the chatter of my characters, and attempt to force them onto the topic I wish to "discuss" at a given moment in my writing life.  Now, I must tell you truly, this can be a most aggravating experience.  It usually has a spectrum of frustration for my writing life.  If the point I wish to develop is of no particular import to the characters, they usually simply stand around the bus stop, waiting for me to "get it out of my system" (they refer to it, among themselves, as my "flushing the pipes" of my writing life).

Sometimes, however, they perform (the characters, not the pipes) a uniform flanking movement, demanding their own way in all of this. They will quietly sit at the bus stop, smoking and chatting as if I weren't even there.  In other words, they simply ignore me!  It is my job to take my characters where they need to go in the story.  If I do not seem to be going where they are headed, or if my timing doesn't agree with theirs, they simply ignore me until their needs are met.

Now, lest you think me completely mad, this is a reality for writers who "know" their characters.   You know a writer, and you think them a bit "different", don't you?  Come one, 'fess up!  Well, this is one way in which most writers are different. Their characters take on a persona which is just as real (and often much preferred) to their friends and family.

My trying to "force" my characters to respond as I need them to can very much resemble an empty bus pulling up to a bus stop loaded with people waiting--yet no one gets on the bus! There is no manner of chiding, pleading, encouragement, or knee-walking begging which will get them on the bus!  If you say that you are a writer, and you have never experienced this, then I must seriously question your right to refer to yourself as a writer! 

But you must also understand, trust, and have sufficient faith in your characters.  They will always do what is right for the story in which they exist.  They do know it better than you do, after all!  (Okay, if you do not believe me, ask the characters and see what happens!)

They may well know that this NOT the bus they are supposed to be taking, and will spend much time belittling you for your so-obvious lack of understanding!  In such cases as this, there is nothing you can do to get them on the bus!  They may know this is the correct bus for them, but it has arrived too early (or too late) in the story.  When this happens, one of two results will occur: They will simply sit on the bench at the bus stop, smoking and chattering quietly together, with the occasional glance at the bus, doors akimbo.  They will dourly inquire of their timepieces (this is a great give-away of the problem, if you are observant), give the occasional disregarding glance towards the bus driver (that would be the writer), and continue their idle chat.

Sometimes, they will pull a real dilly!  They will stub out their smokes, allow the ladies of the cast their rightful first position, and enter the bus single file, take their seats--all but one.  This is a punishment to the driver, who should know his routes better. They will have drawn straws, or selected the one character with the most bitter disagreemnet with the driver in the first place, and that character will stubbornly stand, one foot on-one foot off, for as long as it takes. (Believe me, yes this really happens in the writing life.)

One time, I had a bus-full of characters who all piled into my bus, and refused to let the bus move--for two weeks! Why?  Because they knew a point of the plot which I did not. They knew the bus (right route, right schedule, yadayadayada!) could not proceed until first some entirely unrelated plot scheme had worked itself out!

It takes a lot of faith and trust in your characters to allow this seeming mutiny.  The writer has a choice to make at such times as these.  He can get out his impressively over-sized character Whip, and beat his characters into submission.  Having done this, sadly, I can tell you that one of three outcomes will occur:

1. Your characters, after a few too-many painful whelps, will relent en masse, and do exactly what it is YOU think they should do. This is, 100% of the time, the road to destruction in your work. The bus will explode, or will be crushed by a falling meteor (who saw THAT coming?). Or, your characters will quietly begin disappearing-never to be heard from again. Those that remain may break out into a language you have never heard, and will NOT speak your language-ever again!

2. Your characters will submit, and allow you to do what it is you so joyfully love to do: drive the bus--directly over the cliff.  They are characters, after all.  My characters live in the dark world of the mystery/suspense/thriller.  What, they're gonna be scared?  I think not.  In fact, at these times, the characters, wanting an exit to remember, will suddenly take on the attitude of the bull-riding cowboy 7.5 seconds into a PRCA Championship belt-winning ride!  They will start whoopin' and hollerin', just screaming for more speed!  They are going out, and they want a memorable exit!  (They usually get it, too!) You'll be totally distracted by all the goings-on, and turn around to look questioningly at your characters' wild actions--and miss the upcoming sharp left-hand curve.  You will turn back around just in time to see the cliff. It's usually about 2 feet in front of you when this takes place. So long! YIPPEEEE!

3. Your characters will hold out indefinitely.  You know there is a reason for their mutiny.  You know they only mutiny when the writing, the plot, or the story itself is at risk.  You will eventually get over your position in the first seat (I AM the writer, dammit!), and they know it.  You will wander back through the bus, and only after carefully studying the face, sitting position, etc. of each, you will (if extremly lucky) find the one character willing to condescend to speak with you. 

If you are a really smart writer, you will sit down, shut up, and wait.  When they deem the time sufficient, you will know it.  A really smart writer will ask (HUMBLY!) of that character something like "So, what are we waiting on here, folks?".  You really need to have a power load of "suck it up" at this particular time in the writing life. Because inevitably, the character with the sad responsibility of informing the writer will most often say something sublime.

"You haven't told us where we're going." That's usually a good one. You were so busy getting them all on the bus, you overlooked one (or more) really important points in the story.

"We are NOT supposed to be on this bus, driver.  This bus goes to the Mall.  We are headed to the airport.  Wrong bus."  In your desire to be right, and to be a writer, you have put your characters squarely where they DO NOT belong. 

"You've got us all gussied up to go to a funeral for character so-and-so."  (Said character is the one talking to you.) "Now, bus driver, unless you have somehow become Hitchcock or Serling, isn't it kind of important that I die before we go spreadin' weeds on wood?" So, I guess we're just gonna haveta wait a while.  By the way, I'm supposed ta die 1,000 miles, and 200 pages from here.  We got time. You got that kinda time, bus driver?"

Yes, it really happened!  Writers will understand, and feel deep compassion.  Non-writers will find these examples hilarious, and point their fingers towards me, the very self-same bus driver with glee.  (Hey, my story, my rules!)

When you are in "The Doldrums" of the writing life, and the words are just not to be found, there is a really good rule you should adopt-quickly if you wish to avoid even these few examples.  Trust your writing!  Do not FORCE your characters, your plot, or your story to do anything! You will not like the results, or the actions which come from your vain attempts to "control" your story, your plot, or your characters.

When you are in "The Doldrums" of the writing life, step smartly away from the plot, the book, and for the Grace of God, the characters!  Take in a movie.  Paint the drapes.  Play with that Origami book you've been holding back-for just such times as these.  Take a hike!

Be very careful about upsetting your characters by reading someone else's work during such times as these. (Do you REALLY want me to explain the hazards of such buffoonery?) Even the very best writers, the amazing plots, and characters right from the hand of God Himself have days when they just should not be together.  Understanding when this occurs can save you many frustrating hours down the road, especially when you know the first honest act is to throw those 200 pages you have forced into existence--into the rubbish bin.

Now, I know that most who read this are not going to believe what I say.  Fine.  Remember what Rhett said to Scarlett.  One of the greatest (if not THE greatest) advantages I have as a writer is the absolute trust and confidence I have in my characters.  Do you think it began this way?  Really?

Not in the writing life.


Posted by Budroe at 09:16 EDT
Updated: Thursday, October 26, 2006 11:19 EDT
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Thursday, October 12, 2006
The "Clean Screen" of The Writing Life
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing: Gaither Homecoming Friends: "Oh, Come Angel Band!"
Topic: My Writing Life

I am not much liking my options for NaNo 2006.  They include: One of three books in an as-yet unnamed Trilogy that I hate, a continuing book in the "The Grand Organ Mysteries" series (not a bad choice, actually), or an as-yet un-conceived stand alone novel of indeterminate genre.

At one of my primary writing sites, I am reviewing my abilities with the technical aspects of the writing craft.  My instructor has given the class the classic definition of "plot" (what happens in a book).  Here it is (Thanks NavWorks):

"Once upon a time something happened to someone who decided to pursue a goal. So this person devised a plan of action even though there were forces trying to stop him or her. This person moved forward because a lot was at stake. Just when things seemed as bad as they could get, the person learned an important lesson and prevailed. This satisfied a deeper need within formed by something in this person's past. So in the end he or she was better off and in a favorable position to continue to live happily ever after."

This is, then, the essence of the elements of the novel.  All I have to do is to plug in the salient parts, and the book will write itself. Yeah, right! 

While it is technically true that if you can clearly plug in the several different aspects of the definition, you will have a workable outline, or plan for the "black upon the white within the covers of your next book", it isn't quite as simple as all that. Let me give you a couple of reasons why.

In the first place, you can completely "fill in the blanks" to the plot (as so eloquently defined above), have a completely workable outline, and not have a story--much less the one out of 10,000 that will have the legs to go somewhere between 80-120,000 words, which is the standard length "trade paperback" novel. (Most publishers use a "Standard Manuscript Format" or SMF that says there will, upon average, be 250 words per page. Do the math.  It actually gets pretty close to that in the average novel.

The point is that it takes some rather amazing characters to take a story that far. It takes a pretty good story, too--most of the time.  Now, it is absolutley true that there is some mighty poor writing that gets sold, published, and put on your bookstore's shelves each and every week.

 Sometimes, in the doldrums between "The End" and The Contract, I think perhaps I need to find one of these trash-sellers, and get hooked up. Goodness knows, I sure could use a little less "principle" and a ton more "principal" if you know what I mean.

But, while it is true that pretty much anyone can create a publishable work, it is also true that not just anyone can create a publishable work that lasts.  If it were just about seeing my name on a bookstore shelf, there is an entire industry available to me. 

It's referred to as "Vanity Publishing", and it is a very lucrative business-for the publisher.  You pay them a very large sum of money ($5,000-10,000 or more) for that particular privilege, on average. Of course, this particular type of publishing has some distinct advantages-potentially.

You get published.  Your friends get to see a novel, whose author they know.  They can purchase your novel from your website, or directly from the publisher (P.O.D.- Publication-On-Demand).  They generally do not edit your work, so you do not have those particular issues to deal with. They also do not, generally, market your novel.  The extent, then, of your "sales" is usually about 30% of your address list--if you are incredibly lucky.

Another advantage to P.O.D. is that there are, generally, zero "returns". You also must create, and manage, the Press, Public Relations, and every other aspect of selling your work to the public. That presumes, of course, that you are writing this work for profit.  The P.O.D. market made its place in the publishing world by catering to the Family Calendar, the Christmas Letter, etc. It serves a very large market, in and of itself.  Catering to the novelist without an Agent or Publisher is also profitable for P.O.D.s. This is most often the step before failure for the aspiring author.  It is not, by itself, a bad step.  And there are some authors who (for reasons I have yet to fathom) prefer it.  Some say that they really prefer maintaining complete control over there work. They like, or learn, the skills required to effectively market their titles to that level they are willing to accept. The numbers are a lot different, and sometimes just making back your costs of publication is impossible. There are also, just like with traditional publishers, some really disreputable P.O.D.s.

I'm just not yet in that groove.  A few realities that all writers must face are that approximately 50,000 titles are submitted for publication each year, in the USA.  Approximately 1,000 titles will find their way to a bookseller's shelves.  Of those, approximately 700 will not be successfully sold, which means that the author will never meet (much less exceed) their usually paltry advance payments see returns).  With the traditional publisher, the author works every bit as hard as with the P.O.D., it is just much more of "team" effort.

Agents are essential to the success of the "mainstream" author, and earn every penny you pay them (usually 15% of every dollar your work creates).  These folks can, single-handedly create a best-seller. Most traditional publishers (honestly, out of self-defense) will not accept a manuscript for consideration from any "un-agented" author.

These are just some of the considerations which begin with that paragraph above.  In the end, it is the quality of the writing that makes it all possible.  The writer that writes, every day, can only make his/her writing better with better writing!  Sorry, but that's the truth of it.  Only truly outstanding writing even gets to the starting line. So, in that paragraph above lies some pretty amazing, and some pretty amazingly difficult stuff. 

That's why that simple paragraph can be pretty darned intimidating. And, until you plug in the components that, in the mix, create an outstanding concept that will compel the writer through the undeniable minefield of excellent writing, you are just writing.  That is a completely fulfilling pasttime for many millions, and I highly recommend it. It also tends to make, interestingly enough, much more informed, and active readers.  I like readers--a lot! 

If however, you aspire to be on the "Best Seller List" of the New York Times, you look at that simple paragraph in a little different way.  But, then again, that IS the writing life.

Bud

New Writing Terms Today:

"Clean Screen": Like a blank page. No words. Before the beginning. The condition usually responsible for a minimum of 50% of all "Writer's Block" (See below).

"Writer's Block": A psychological dilemma of the writer, where for whatever reason, an inability exists on the part of the writer to create new words on a page or screen.

"P.O.D." Publication-On-Demand. Non-traditional publishing houses who cater to the casual, or special event writer. You can google IUniverse, Exlibris, AuthorHouse, Lulu, or Book Surge for examples of these publishers, and get an overview of how they work.  There are some decent operations.  There are also, however, some amazingly BAD operators in this category.  The traditional publication industry very much looks down on P.O.D.  Most titles published in this manner are not available for publication by just about all traditional publishers. Yes, it is in some senses a self-serving prejudice within a cut-throat industry.  It is also, however, based upon a rather ugly reality that there are some amazing "Preditors" in the book trade.  One of the most trusted websites for authors is Preditors And Editors and I highly recommend them to any writer considering publication of any type. 

"Returns" In traditional publishing, book publishers work with booksellers in staggering numbers.  For example, the leading booksellers include Amazon.com.  Every author in the world wants to be listed on Amazon.com's catelogue.  Likewise, Barnes and Noble's is a leading bookseller franchise that purchases gazillions of books each year. 

Let's take an example with B&N.  Your marvelous Title "My Book" has been purchased for publication by "Legendary Publishers".  Their history with B&N is way past impressive.  B&N has, say 2,000 outlets in the USA. (Let's keep it local. Foreign sales is a whole 'nuther bailywick!)

Publisher of yore contracts with B&N to provide 5 copies of "My Book" to each outlet!  That's 10,000 copies of your book!  YAY!!!!! You are a hit!! Right?  Well, right?

Nope, not by a longshot.  The average payment to the author per copy is $2,00. Now, that sounds like a payday, doesn't it! A $20,000 contract sell is a pretty nice number.  It's even, it's round, and it's bogus. I'll tell you why in one lousy word: returns.

If, let's say, each outlet only sells 2 copies of your book (for whatever of the thousands of possible reasons work this week).  Under the agreement with Legendary Publisher, B&N can return any unsold copies for FULL reimbursement. Thus, that nice payday just went from $20,000 to $4,000.  Not bad, you say.  Not bad IF it covers your advance payment (and it usually will, because advance payments are usually not more than $5,000 from the best houses--especially for a new author that has no proven sales track record.)

It generally takes 100,000 copies sold to create a viable author! PER Title! Your royalty payments are established to be paid on a quarterly basis, which is measured one quarter late. Sales in January will create (maybe) a royalty payment to your Agent (who handles your money--and extracts his/her payment first!) will usually show up sometime in July.  I hate returns. And, when you check out your "listing" at one of the three significant author listing services, you can believe me when I tell you that they deduct returns. Your 10,000 copy sale shows up as the 4,000 copy reality that it is. That is NOT conducive to reaching the 100,000 "Mid-list Success" mark that virtually every publisher on the planet uses to determine your viability as an author now, or in the future.

You write for profit.  They publish for a profit. Booksellers sell for profit. And so it goes in the writing life.


Posted by Budroe at 21:29 EDT
Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2006 23:27 EDT
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