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Happiness is …

As those of you who follow my writing/publishing blog know, I finished Northville Five & Dime this weekend.  Yesterday, I printed a copy out so the Queenly Midget could read it.  After dinner last night, sixteen-year-old Prince Midget picked it up and started reading.  The TV was on, so I didn’t expect him to read much.  TV is his addiction.

When I got home today, I asked him, “So, how much of Northville did you read last night?”

“All of it.”

“No, really.  How much?”

“All of it.”

“You read a 30,000 word story last night?”

“Yeah.”

We talked a little bit about what he thought about it.  His first response to that topic, “what I always think about every short story you write.”

“It didn’t end.  You wanted more.”

“Yeah.  I got to the end and was mad because it wasn’t an ending.”  Or something like that.  But beyond that.  He liked it.

So, there you have it.  As I told him, there probably isn’t anything better to a writer than to hear that your story was compelling enough for a reader to read the entire thing in essentially one sitting.  Yeah, it’s not novel length, but it certainly is longer than the average bathroom read.

One of the things I’ve wondered is whether I should market this story as YA Fiction.  It seems to be the market to be in these days — but there are no zombies, vampires, or other supernatural creatures, well except for a doubt monster.  His interest in the story suggests that may be the way to go.

Happiness is … the feeling I got after my son told me he read the entire thing in one night.

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We Live In a Different World

Thoughts on NaNo, Day Three

Here are my excuses so far:

1.  I’ve got the day job that took up nine hours on Friday.

2.  I met with Poetry-meister Geoff after work.  Had a couple of beers, ate a lot of chips and salsa, talked about writing, about family, about life, about his little publishing effort he started up a while ago, talked about writing, about family, about life.

3.  I didn’t get home until almost 9:00.  It was a great evening.

4.  I actually did, then, sit down and start working on Northville Five & Dime.  Wrote 800 words.  Half of the daily target for NaNo.

5.  I drank Friday night which these days means I’ll feel like crap the next day.  I did.

6.  I also woke up at 3:00 Saturday morning and tossed and turned for two hours, thinking about a couple of things.  Got up at 5:00, wrote a couple of emails to deal with the tossing and turning.  Slept from 6:00 – 8:30.  Woke up still feeling exhausted.

7.  Made my kid breakfast.  Pancakes and bacon.  Something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough anymore.

8.  In between the cooking and the showering and a short errand, I wrote bits and pieces here and there.  Hither and yon.

9.  My kid had a soccer game that took me away from the tools of the writing craft from Noon until 3:00.  Before we had left, I hit 1,400 new words on Northville.

10.  When we got back from his game, I took a nap.  It’s an inherent part of my weekend existence, particularly considering the tossing and turning of the night before and particularly because …

11.  90 minutes after we got home from the soccer game, we left the house again.  The kid was volunteering to be a scarer at a haunted house.  Alongside the new girl that he’s smitten with.  We drove him there, had dinner, went to see Captain Phillips (an absolutely excellent movie, by the way, and in the final ten minutes or so, Tom Hanks demonstrates why he is such an incredible actor — just for those final moments, you should see the movie), had dessert, met with the girl’s parents (old friends of mine) for a drink at 10:45, and finally got the kid and went home.

12.  I was pissed that we had to go do all of the things in #11.  I was in my head, in my story, and I wanted to stay there and explore and write and move it along because of #14.

13.  I had two epiphanies about writing and NaNo during the course of the day yesterday.

14.  First, I came up with an approach to writing to the climatic scene in Northville that will either make or break the story.  Up until now, I’ve been switching back and forth between the first person narrated versions of the story of the three main characters — Sophie, Lily, and Peter.  Each portion typically is about 4-6 pages long and each character has several portions in the first part of the story, which is now almost 13,000 words long.  As I switch to the day in which the climactic event takes place, those portions are going to become significantly shorter.  Maybe only two pages.  Maybe only one.  Maybe only a couple of paragraphs.  I think it will help ratchet up the tension.  I think.  Either that or people will get massively confused by the switches of voice.

15.  Second.  Here’s my problem.  I’m excited about #14.  Really excited to see if I can pull it off.  But, I realized what happens when I’m in a rush to write as a result of these artificial challenges like NaNo.  I end up telling more than showing.  For me, there is very much a mental part of writing.  It’s why some of the things I write take so long.  I have to kick it around the corners of my brain, chew at it, spit out bad ideas, run a few laps with the bits and pieces.  When I eliminate the mental part, I end up telling.  I found myself doing it over and over again in the short amount of writing I did yesterday.  I feel like I’m going to have to go back and completely re-do those 500 words I put down yesterday and, if so, why bother having done the writing in the first place?  Well, they do provide the guideposts for how the story is developing.  True.  But still, this is not how I write.

We shall see.  I’m going to continue soldiering on.  Even if I’m already one day behind in the word count and have a few things planned today that will interfere with my writing goals.

Quasi-NaNo

It was NaNo 2003 that got me writing.  As a result, even though I didn’t write 50,000 words during the month of November 2003, there is something about the challenge that is near and dear to me.  I tried it once or twice after 2003 and each time I’ve achieved less.  I simply am not built as a writer to be able to churn words out like that.  I think far too much about what I’m writing as I’m writing to be able to just let the words flow.  In addition, there are simply too many other demands on my time to be able to commit to the time needed to do this for an entire month.  Some of those other demands have been eliminated in recent years — no longer coaching my kids’ soccer teams, for instance.  But, damnit … it is just so difficult to find the time.

This year, there’s another hurdle.  I have too many works in progress that I want to finish before I turn to something new.  I simply cannot let myself turn away from those projects now and start something new.  I committed at the beginning of September to the following:  finish Deviation in September, finish Northville Five & Dime in October, finish Carlota in November, and then turn to another short series I’m thinking about, before finally returning to one of my half-completed novels.  I finished Deviation as planned.  I made major progress on Northville, but probably won’t have it done by tomorrow.  Probably?  Who the hell am I kidding?  There’s no way it’s done by tomorrow.  I need to be true to these goals I set and not let NaNo distract me.

So, here’s what I’ve decided.  I’m going to strive to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  First, I’ll complete Northville.  I think there’s another 5,000-10,000 words to that story.  Once I’ve done that, I’m moving on to Carlota.  I’m pretty certain there’s another 10,000-20,000 words there.  And, as I get stuck with any of those projects, I’m going to return to Terror in a Small Town.  I started this story back in 2007.  It involves an Islamic terrorist plot.  I didn’t finish it.  Since then, I’ve decided to change the terrorists to whacko, right-wing, anti-tax, sovereign citizen loonies who are a burgeoning problem in this country.  The result of this is that I need to significantly re-write what I have already written.

Ultimately, I’m probably “cheating” to the extent cheating is possible on NaNo.  Splitting the goal up over several different projects, considering re-writing as writing.  But, I don’t care.  If I can get anywhere near 50,000 words this November, I will have done for more than I expected.

P.S.  In looking through my posts on this, I realized that I committed to something remarkably similar last year.  Let’s see if I do better this year.

A Social Family

While I was at the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, participating in the Short Fiction Master Class, one of the other participants brought up the concept of a social family.  It was in the context of a story one of us had written and he was commenting on the group of individuals who made up the core of the story — none of them related, but providing to each other the love and comfort of a family.  Hence, a social family.  A couple of months before the workshop, I wrote a short story inspired by a prompt at We Drink Because We’re Poets.  Northville Five & Dime.  It was, at the time, nothing more than an effort to write a story that wasn’t the expected.  The prompt could lead very easily into a sexual romp.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I didn’t want the obvious.  So, I wrote about something different.  And I thought I was done.

Then I heard about MCWC and needed something to submit to be judged for the Master Class.  I submitted Northville and got in, which meant a dozen other people would be reading it and discussing it.

Then I started thinking about the story and realized there was much more to tell.  Actually, I knew that when I wrote the final line.  That wasn’t really the end.  There was story in Pete asking the girl to the dance.  There was story in the dance itself.  There was story in Pete’s parents.  There was story and more story.  One thing though was that I thought the young lady who worked at the Five & Dime would be making a graceful exit from the story and it would become about other characters.

Then the workshop participants, including Peter Orner, got ahold of it.  Peter was fascinated by that young lady.  He threw out the idea that there was the potential for a social family here.  The sisters and Pete — three wounded, scarred, troubled individuals who come together for the love and support they weren’t getting elsewhere.  He, along with others, was aghast at the idea that the Five & Dime employee would be disappearing.

So, she isn’t.  And I had an idea for how to continue with the story.  That first version was around 1,500 words.  I’m now approaching 6,000 words and I haven’t even got to the girl in the wheelchair.  Pete and Lily (the young lady has a name now) have a lot of damage to reveal.  I’m pretty sure this story will end up being 15,000-20,000 words and will be the first such story I publish on Kindle as a stand-alone short story/novella.

Which leads to another point that occurred to me when I woke up this morning at the ungodly time of 5:45 and started thinking of some of the posts from other bloggers I read last night.

I have a social family here on WordPress.  These are the people I’m attracted to here.  The ones who write about their wounds and scars, their struggles for balance, their revelations and reactions as they journey through life.  There is something we find in sharing those things here with, for the most part, people who are actually complete strangers, but who have become a part of our personal circle.  The support and camaraderie, the sharing of our life details and life adventures, even if we never meet is a huge part of the social contract.  So, that’s it.  Welcome to the table, social family.  Keep the dialogue going.

One question I’ve wanted to ask for a long time, but I think it finally fits here.  For my blogging friends — if you have spouses or significant others, do they read your blog?  What about children or parents?  I’d be curious to know.  Mine don’t.  Except for my father and a sister.

 

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