Monday, May 31, 2010

Thanks Grandpa

It's Memorial Day. It used to be called Decoration Day, however, I think this moniker is much more fitting. I just want to take a moment to say thanks to my Grandpa who served in WWII. He truly was one member of the "Greatest Generation".

Thank you to everyone who has served and everyone who serves now. And for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, you have my my deepest thanks for continuing the legacy of our freedom.

That's all for now.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just when you think you're out...

…they pull you back in.

I thought I was finished. Of course, my lovely wife still needed to do a read-through of 13th Summer, but overall, I thought I was pretty well done with it. Of course, with a read-through, there will probably be a few minor issues that you miss, but they should be fixable. Not.

The wonderful thing about my wife is that she’s really good at catching detail issues and continuity issues. She always manages to ask the right questions. This can be frustrating, but it can also be the difference between a good story and a really good story.

So, I’m set to do a few more revisions, but, in the end, they’ll make 13th Summer better.

That's all for now.

Friday, May 28, 2010

13th Summer

Finally finished my personal editing process on 13th Summer. Finally. When I originally wrote the first draft of this manuscript it went really fast. Many of the events are loosely based on real life experience, so the writing really flowed. As I began the revision process, I got caught up in editing grammar. Then I had some issues with continuity and so on. During this process I took a writing class through UFM here in Manhattan with Glenn Sixbury. I chose to read from 13th Summer for the class and was subsequently invited to another writing class that Glenn headed up. So, I started reading 13th Summer at this class, starting from chapter 1.

During the reading process, more questions came up. I took copious notes and never really started revising based on these notes. Well, two-years later, I finally got off my ass and decided that I needed to get this thing done. Tonight, I've finished the process. I'll print it out, have Andrea read through it and probably one other person just to make sure the story flows. If it does, I'll be sending it off to prospective agents and see if I get any bites. I'm excited and anxious at the same time. The submission process is rather gut-wrenching and the thought of rejection after putting in this much work on the manuscript is heartrending. I'll just have to hope for the best.

If you'd like a brief synopsis, please stop by:

That's all for now.

Process, Revision, Craft

A lot of writers speak or write about the craft of writing. When I first made the decision that I wanted to write books, I really had no clue about what this meant. As I've gone through the process of writing a manuscript, I think I've started to truly understand it.

The idea of craft isn't exclusive to writing. As a graphic designer, the term craft is used extensively to describe what we do. In short, it's a term that encompasses the entire creative process, revision and craftsmanship of a piece of graphic design. The same holds true for writing. When you first begin a novel, short story, essay, etc. You start with the seed or spark of an idea. This is the beginning of the creative process. As you type feverishly on your laptop or place pen to paper, this is the "creative" portion of the craft of writing. I don't want to gloss over this portion, but in my experience, it's the easiest part of what we do. This is the part where we, as writers, have the most fun. This is the explosive, orgasmic, exciting part of writing. It's the new story that you can't repress. It wants to break the chains of your brain and blast through your fingertips into written words and paragraphs until it is spent, lying there on double-spaced pages. In a sense, it's the beginning of a new relationship. It's exciting, fun and when things are clicking and the story is flowing its like having sex for the first time.

The second part of the craft of writing is the revision process. Here's where things start to fall apart for many writers. The revision process, for me, is a two-part procedure. One part is continuity and voice. The second part is grammar. Both parts can happen simultaneously, but sometimes it's relatively hard to concentrate on the grammar aspect of revision if you're going through the continuity and voice details. However, as you're reading through your story for continuity and voice, if you find grammatical errors, go ahead and correct them, but don't get bogged down by them. It's very easy to be reading along and find a sentence that has two independent clauses in it, insert a semi-colon and the next thing you know you're scouring the page with a fine-tooth comb trying to find more errors. At this point, you've lost the ability to see the bigger picture, which is what continuity and voice are all about.

I'm sure that many writers have their own solutions to this problem. My own personal experience has taught me that I have to do one of two things: Let someone else read the manuscript for continuity and voice or make a vow not to correct grammatical errors. I've found that having a trusted friend or loved one read your work can be extremely helpful. Keep in mind that you have to be open to suggestion and criticism. My wife is generally my first reader and it took me awhile to really start listening to what she had to say. After all, this was my work, my vision, my creative process, how dare she... but... nine times out of ten, she was right. It's of paramount importance that, as a writer, you be able to step back from your work and view it objectively.

The third part of the creative process is kind of a sub-process within the scope of revision. This is what I like to call the craftsmanship portion of writing. Please understand, I'm using craftsmanship in a neuter-gender manner because the word "craftsmanship" is easily recognized as the process of doing everything in your power to provide the best possible product regardless of whether you are male or female. Craftsmanship is probably one of the most important aspects of writing aside from the initial creative explosion and subsequent storytelling. I believe that craftsmanship in writing is what sets the published author apart from the non-published author. During the revision process, this means that as a writer, you are expending every effort to ensure that each sentence is not only grammatically correct, but also that your characters maintain credibility and sustain their individual voices and that the story has continuity throughout. By doing this, you'll ensure that your reader's are able to suspend disbelief and you'll make your editor happy because it will take a load of work off of their shoulders.

My firm belief is that the act of being published isn't based on random luck. I think that there is some luck involved, but I believe that it's actually 99% craftsmanship and 1% luck. Of course, we're building this on a foundation that consists of a good story with well-developed characters. I'm hopeful that as my writing career progresses that this theory will prove to be true. I'll let you know as soon as I'm published.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"You Don't Need an Invitation to Your Own Life!"

I stole a moment to wallow in self-pity. It was only a moment, but that moment ended up being a fork in the road and I finally decided that I needed to take a path less traveled. Frost quotes aside, I’ve decided that I am a writer. I’ll try to avoid the standard “burns within me like a flame” cliches and write what I know. Writing is what I’m supposed to do. I’m pretty decent at it and not in a “My mom tells me I’m a good writer” sort of way. I’m good at it in a jerk tears from a reader’s eyes onto an open page way.

I love writing and I’ve been avoiding it. I haven’t been avoiding it because my muse took a vacation or because I ran into a roadblock. I’ve been avoiding it because I have an excuse. I have two manuscripts. That is my excuse. What I’ve found with writing is that it’s easy to put it aside when you finish a story. Once my manuscripts were finished, I stalled. Editing sucks, correcting continuity sucks and fixing the junk that lingers about the edges of the story sucks. I know how the stories end. I know what happens in the beginning and middle. I know what the climax is. I know my characters (more than I want to by this point) and I don’t want to sit down with them and make sure that the grammar that surrounds them is correct and commas are in place.

Fortunately, I received a kick in the ass today. It caused me to have that small moment of self-pity I mentioned earlier, but it also caused me to pull out one of my manuscripts and edit 7 chapters this evening. If you’re still reading, you may or may not be asking yourself just what this kick in the ass was. I’ll assume that you want to know and tell you. My lovely wife sent me an e-mail today. It was short, sweet and to the point. One of her friends at work had just received word that an agent was going to represent her and try to sell her first manuscript.

This was the fork in the road or better, the kick in the keister. I stared at the e-mail for a few minutes before I replied. I was gracious, of course, happy for her friend and pleased for her. But deep down I was jealous as hell. I had no right to be, of course. I’ve been sitting on two manuscripts for well over 2-years now. Sure, I’ve had the excuse of going to my writing class and reading to group, making sure the story is just right. But when it comes right down to it, I’ve been lazy. The manuscripts have sat, pretty much finished and having someone else see a measure of success for their first manuscript (and believe me, garnering an agent is a success) made me jealous. Jealousy, of course, took its natural course to self-pity. Why not me? Why can’t I get things going? Why aren’t agents just jumping out of the woodwork to represent me? Seriously, these thoughts went through my head.

Now that I read this, just a few hours after perpetuating this emasculated whining, I have to laugh. I want to go back, wring my own neck and say, “Shut the front door!” Seriously.

Later on, while my wife and I were watching the “Parenthood” season finale, I got another kick in the pants. As a writer, I constantly tear other writer’s work apart. I try to find what’s good, what works, what’s bad and what doesn’t work. The writing on “Parenthood” is pretty good. It’s a good mix of drama and comedy and some of the lines are really extraordinary. Tonight was one of those nights. One line was when Sarah was talking to her mom. Her mom was whining about why her husband never talked to her, why he never asked her to come to certain events, etc. Sarah, exasperated, turns to her and blurts, “Just do something, mom! You don’t need an invitation to your own life.”

I fell in love with that line immediately. After today’s e-mail, it was a moment of afflatus in my life. I don’t need a friggin’ invitation to my own life. In fact, I need to quit running away from it. I need to recognize that this is part of my journey and that I better get on it because the minutes are a wastin’.

So, here I go. Here’s my blog and here’s my first post… as a writer. Let’s get on with it. By the way, if any agents do want to jump out of the woodwork and sign me, I have two manuscripts. One is a nifty little coming of age story for ‘Tweens or YAs. The other is a historical fiction piece set along the Oregon Trail. I know historical fiction isn’t a big thing right now, but it would probably make a good graphic novel.

That’s all for now.