What is a writer?

Stepping through the squeaking door, he brought a brisk chill from the frostbitten calgarian arctic air into the foyer. So brisk indeed, it chilled his co-worker, the older man with salt-pepper-hair and beard behind the front desk, to the very bones.

“Brrr,” say said collectively, as if bringing truth to the cold, thus proving that it is, in fact, freezing as fuck out there.

The young man closed the door behind him and swiped his employee card at the front desk. The computer screen confirmed his arrival with a simple “IN”.

For a quick minute, they chatted. This and that. All and none. And, of course, the cold.

Then the young man said, “Wish I could have stayed at home. Work on my novel, instead of driving through minus-fourty windchill to come to work.”

The older man chuckled through his grey-black beard. “Ah, we’ve got a writer-folk here,” he said, bringing up the needed equipment for the young man.

“Yeah. I’m a writer.”

Scanning-in the small devices needed for the job, the old man smiled. Not the kind of smile that approves and appreciates, no. The kind that makes you want to punch him the face. The nasty kind. “So, what have you published, huh?”

He said, “Nothing. Yet.”

Louder, clicking on his computer, the old desk-clerk laughed again. “Then you’re not a writer.”

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Rewrite vs Edit vs Check-up

I’m still tinkering away on this damned-by-the-gods thing. I’m also still writing the next part of the same god-forsaken work-in-process.

What I don’t do: rewrite. Not yet. But there’s this urge to do just that.

The story has moved in directions I didn’t foresee. Yes, I planed some and plotted some other–but things still go as they may. Later on, I realized themes and scenes that escalate more. That drive harder. That hit deeper. Stakes are higher now than they were when I finished the first part.

The problem is: In order to make this all make sense in le part deux, some scene in part one need to be changed around. Consistency. Continuity. So, should I go back and edit those things right-the-fuck-now? 

My former self would say, yes. Damn it yes. Fix it now so it’s good to go for later. So it all makes sense on Draft-Zero.Read More »

First draft of the first draft of the first part.

To some, this might not matter at all. To others–I think many–this can mean a lot. Those like me, that can’t finish a project to safe a starving animal’s life. That tried and tried and tried and never just hard enough.

Last night, I finished the first full part of this damn novel I’m working on. I want it to have three distinct parts throughout the book, so this is now a major milestone for me. It’s not going as fast as I wanted it to, back when I decided that I’m a writer now–not later. But I was (and still am) fighting this damned-to-heaven flu, so I allow myself to be excused. Thank you. It took me about three weeks to get to this point. Which, given that I–again–suck at pulling through with just about anything, is a huge accomplishment.

I’d like to talk about two things here. First, what I’ve been doing, and how I feel about it. Second, about my personal process as novice wordsmith. (Am I a novice? How does one rank up?) I figure it can help one or two people with no guidance and stuff. Probably not. Enjoy it anyways.
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Outlines and Plot Points

Whenever I write, I just write. Usually, I had an idea weeks, months, or even years ago, and one day I simply acted on it. It took me where it did, I maybe finished it, and then that’s that.

The idea of creating an outline, plot a course through a story, it bothered me. I find it hard to concentrate on one thing alone as it is. I also find it hard to tell a story quickly through a few quick notes. Because in my head, I’m telling the entire story at this point (just in fast forward). So, when it comes to then writing it all out, I feel like I’ve done so already. And I hate repeating myself. It also kinda-sorta took away the magic of the process. Having a plan. Me. Right. Having a course, a thread to follow. Me. Right. I don’t need that shit.

Very bad attitude to go into the writing process.

And as result, my writing career is as successful as attempt to summon great Cthulhu. One day, though, one day …Iä Iä …

While I still believe that a story will take me where it may, and that I won’t really ever plot through an entire storyline completely, I wanted to try it out. Give it a chance. Make it happen, the magic of taking away the magic.

The reason for this change of heart was reading Chuck Wendig’s The Kick Ass Writer. In his writing-advice-but-not-quite-advice book, he gives a full set of tips and tricks, opinions and ideas about the process of writing, editing, publishing and social networking. He’s not really telling us what to do in detail, or how to do it with lots of examples and ramble-blah-blah. But instead, he tells us why it’s important to consider these things in 25 quick paragraphs per topic. It’s also quite funny.
He talks about outlining and plotting as something not for everyone. Agreed. But he’s also talking about how it can help getting an overview. Keeping a thought together. Stripping away complexity of the narrative to simple, easy to follow step-by-step instructions of how to put a story together. Suddenly, I felt less overwhelmed by the idea to “pre” tell my story. It’s like zooming out on google maps from street view. I think he made that comparison, too. Street view is the narrative. The story. The novel. The book. The movie, whatever. Zoom out to the map. Zoom out even further. Go from right-in-the-action to let-us-see-what-else. See the whole picture. Plan a route through the thing. Get an idea where to turn. Where to twist. Where to crash and engulf the car in a fireball and crash into …something like that.

Anyways, so I wanted to try it.

This morning, I did. I had about twenty minutes before I needed to get ready. I took the “Eternal Night” story and worked with that.
First, I plotted out the existing part. Worked well. Material was already written. Added even a few extras to edit in later.
Then, part deux. I outline a quick scene that I had in my head already. Since I’m using three different vantage points and narrators, I started each bulletin with the name of the narrating character of that scene. Then I wrote in quick, sharp words what it’s happening. Next bulletin, new name, next step in narrative. Fuck, it worked. I finished the second part and started the outline for the third. Went to work ten minutes later.

At work, tough, is where the magic came back. While I’m slaving away, I kept thinking about what I wrote. I only wrote little sentences. Quick. Crude. To-the-point. (Like that). And so on. But in my head, the entire scene unfolded like an overstuffed burrito. All the goodness and juiciness spread all over my hands, my mouth, my lap. God, it was delicious. It started to get really weird when I couldn’t wait to catch a break from work and read this scene again.

Then it hit me. This scene WAS NOT written. Yet, it felt like I already did it. I saw the lines in my head, felt the text flowing over my tongue. All day I  worked on the second part in my head, letting the few bullet points sink in and do their work. Amazing. And instead of feeling overwhelmed as I usually do when I feel like I’m repeating myself, I now can’t wait to write it all out as it is written in my head.

While before, I would think about a scene for ever and ever, but only few key moments of it. Now that these key moments are already written down and marked off, I instead think of the actual scenes. The in-betweens. The acts. The sights. The dialogue.

So, to all you writers out there still trying to figure out your footing in this whole writing thing: Try it out. Outline. Plan. One scene at a time. Outline the scene. Go in there, fully prepared. Outline the first part of the scene. The second. Third. Let it sink in.
Again, some people don’t like and never will. Watched a thing with Stephen King talking. He said, he never plots. But, turns out, yours truly should have given it a try years ago. You’d be reading this in my 10th how-to book about writing, instead of this blog.

Maybe it do wonders for you, too.