Monthly Archives: August 2013

A reason to write or a reason to drink?

Why can’t we have both?

For the last several years I felt the impending disappointment in myself as each autumn rolled around and knowing that November meant National Novel Writing Month, or as some affectionately know it as, NANO.   The basic idea behind NANO is to write a novel in a month.  When I first heard of this concept back in 2006, I though surely someone got into the wrong bag of mushrooms.  How can a person actually write a well thought out, well plotted, well written and publish ready novel in 30 days?  Back then I was working full-time, going to college full-time and devoting time to my very needy pet geese.  Writing was still a hobby.  My mind couldn’t wrap around the concept of NANO.  It wasn’t until my friend, (and published author) Lisa, told me that for her it wasn’t so much about writing a publish ready novel, it was about getting yourself into the habit of writing and having a community of writers encourage you to keep writing.  Yes, the material you produce will have problems: your plot may not flow well, your characters might be shallow, your dialogue lacking, your arc and climax weak.  It’s okay.  The point is you wrote it and after November 30th you can go back and fix all those issues.

The legendary first graphic!

The legendary first graphic!

I finally understood.  And I heard the angels sing on high.

And then it drizzled into a flailing French horn under the tire of an eighteen wheeler.  I had a bigger problem than just sitting down and attempting to write a novel in the month of November.  I had commitments that in no way I could back out of, mainly the Texas Renaissance Festival.  If you’re there at any point during November, you’ll see me in all of my corseted up, thigh high pirate boots, boobies sticking out, two swords and dagger wielding, camping, drinking, turkey leg toting, roasting weenies on a stick and motor boating my friends glory.   Yes, I am busy.  Yes, too busy to write.

After lamenting this predicament for a couple of years, the answer finally came to me.  If I couldn’t commit time to writing in November, that didn’t make me less of a writer.  It made me somebody who needed an alternative.  I needed to write in a month I knew I could commit, that was adjacent to NANO and still feel in the spirit of the other writers out there and I needed a gimmick to go along with it.  So, what do I love as much as writing?  That would be wine.  Thus, in 2011 I stopped whining about it and launched  the October Wine & Write.  The concept was very basic.  Write every day in October, whether it’s a sentence, a thousand words or an entire chapter.  The point was to write and get further along than you were on Sept. 30th.  And the gimmick?  Simple.  Drink while you’re doing it.  Have a glass of wine.  Have two.  Have a beer, have a Cuba Libre.   If there was anything that I learned from Papa Hemingway is that you could never drink enough and write.  His legend spawned drink recipes, hunting adventures, love and war, writing and more writing.  Hell, his favorite seat while writing was a bar stool.   If you don’t drink for personal reasons, have a cuppa tea or coffee.  The point is, WRITE and have a sip of something that you enjoy.

This idea became popular with my friends and Facebook peeps and a few also joined my writing adventure.  Another friend, Lysa, started making graphics to go along with the Wine & Write.  It brought us together for the sheer adventure of writing and gave us a little accountability.  It made me sit down each night after work, take out my notebook and pen and write without the worry that I needed to edit, sculpt my plot just so or worry if my dialogue was flowing smoothly.  I just wrote and usually had several chapters written by the end of it.  At the end of the day, I reported my progress or congratulated friends on their progress as well.  Suffice it to say, the concept was a success.

The reason I decided to blog about this today is because I just realized we’re only 5 weeks away from October 1st.  And although my friends and FB friends are aware of this new tradition, I’ve acquired a few followers over the last few weeks who are also writers.  I’d like to share this madness of writing.  Whether you’re a NANO-ite or not, or just someone who needs another excuse to write and feel community support, please join us on October 1st with your notebook, pen, laptop or whatever you write on, your favorite beverage and write.  You won’t regret it.

In closing, I’ll share one of Hemingway’s famous cocktails.  I’ve personally never tried it.  Absinthe is $45 a bottle in Texas and I’m on the verge of only affording Boone’s Farm these days.  But like all of Hemingway’s other endeavors, it has an awesome title and will probably kick you in the balls.

Cheers and Sláinte!

Death in The Afternoon

  • 1 1/2 ounces absinthe
  • 4 ounces Brut champagne

Mix together in a Champaign flute.  Drink.  Write a masterpiece or spear a swordfish.  Repeat.

Graphic #2.

Graphic #2.

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It shouldn’t be this hard…..(or, that’s what she said.)

That brief moment of 14-year-old humor was brought to you in reverence to my sisters known as the Slapahos. Why are we called Slapahos? I’ll tell you when you’re older.

It’s officially been 7 months since I stopped working. Back in January I made the scary and difficult decision to quit my job for several different reasons. I know what you’re thinking: why would anyone willingly volunteer to stop getting a paycheck? But in return, I was able to focus on my health, my sanity and my overall happiness. I made a personal oath to myself that I would use my time wisely. I would wake up without fuss each morning, see my fiancé off to his job, tidy the house and spend the next several hours writing and/or working on story submissions until it was time to make dinner. Did that happen?

No.

What my typical routine morphed into was that of waking up an hour or two after my fiancé left for work, stumble around the kitchen to find my tea or coffee, listen to talk radio while I read email and Facebook, do the dishes/laundry if I’m particularly motivated enough, play on Facebook some more, read cold case stories or odd news articles, start working on dinner when Robert gets home, then after dinner, and only then I sit down for my perceived last hour of the day to work on writing. My goal and dream of being a full-time writer producing legitimate literary material did not pan out as it should have. I was not conducting myself as a “serious” writer. Even now as I write this, I got distracted and checked out Facebook. This “serious” writer needs a serious intervention.

This morning I changed up my routine a bit. The fact that I’m writing a blog entry is proof of that. As a writer, I had a great night last night. And the night before as well. For the new novel, I have a habit of writing several chapters over a month-long basis, (that’s handwritten, pen and paper and all), then I spend the next month typing and editing. Some think I’m crazy for that, but it really does help me keep on track with the story and not get too many plot points or details mixed or missed. So, the last two nights I finished edits on one chapter and moved on to the next. Let me stop for a moment and explain something. My chapters are monsters. I am not a light writer. My chapters are rarely less than 4000 words. Some of my best chapters reach up to 9000 words. I think that’s a habit I picked up in college because my prof always cut me off at 4000 words. All of my chapters can pretty much work as short stories. So to say it takes me several days (sometimes weeks) to edit a chapter is not a sign of laziness, but it’s to let you know my chapters are long. They are detailed. They are monsters.

Getting back to my point, the last two nights I got roughly 6000 words edited: well written, well thought out, metaphored, symbolized, alliterated, obliterated, moving-plot-forward type of words. I was ecstatic. Getting a chapter just right and completed sends me into a state of euphoria I simply can’t explain. Other writers and artists understand where I’m coming from on this one. It’s like being in love. And as cliché as it sounds, it’s better than sex. It’s my drug and I have no shame in abusing it.

But the morning after is when I feel the drop. The feeling is gone and I wonder why it doesn’t last. But I know all I need to do is get back to writing to feel it again. (Just as soon as I spend 2 hours fucking around on Facebook.)

I wonder sometimes if I became conditioned over the course of my life to only write at night. Thinking back, in high school I wrote when I got home. As a working adult, I saved my writing for when I got home. As a college student, I broke it up a bit and wrote while at school, but then I was a creative writing student. Back to work, back to writing at night, although I built up a routine to reserve 30 minutes during my lunch break to writing. During some weeks, it was the ONLY time I wrote. After looking at all this, what is it about night writing? Up until recently, writing was defined as my “hobby”. And you don’t do your hobby during the day. Because prior, I spent all my time on improving my mind or winning the bread. I felt like if I was writing during the day, then something more “serious” was getting missed, like my job (that thing I got a paycheck for), house work or my dedication to my family or friends, or looking for work because I would like a paycheck again someday. Something in my life was going to get missed and in the back of my mind I thought I couldn’t let that happen.

Changing my views and thoughts about writing shouldn’t be this hard. I thought it would be a more natural transition. Being a writer is not hard for me. After all, I love it. But finding a writer’s routine is a part of this love affair I’m having difficulty with. What can I do to stop myself from feeling guilty about writing in the morning? Or writing eight hours a day? If I was a “serious” writer, I would stop making excuses. That’s what all multi-published, well paid writers will tell you.

Maybe my blog will help. Maybe I’ll spend the next several hours writing like I really want to. I have a 6000 word chapter to finish editing so I can get back to the handwriting. I won’t ignore the dishes, but I’ll ignore the laundry on the couch….at least for a few hours.

I will edit. I will write. I will breathe and let the euphoria wash over me. It’s my first love, after all, and one I should never take for granted.

 

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The Published but Still Unpaid Writer: The Second Coming!

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar.

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, it’s a sad state of affairs when you go to your blog to brag about your second publication to realize that you have no idea how to sign into your blog, nor do you remember how to make the post to brag about your newest accomplishment.  You are a sad individual.

Yes, that happened today.

I love to write.  I love to create characters, situations, drama, places, things, recreate history, happiness, despair, love and hate, and life and death.  That’s what a writer and author does best.  Some compare it to a God complex.  I say I live in a different world that everyone would never want to leave if they had but a glimpse into it.  It’s wonderful, magical, and full of woe and wonder.  It’s not without its fair share of hurt, struggle, deception and pain.  The highs are high; the lows are low.  My characters move by my will alone, not theirs.  They live for me and my happiness and amusement, and I give them happiness and amusement in return.  And at the end of the day, I let them rest, and do it all again the next day.  God complex?  Perhaps.  But it makes me smile, it makes me happy.  And if the Old Testament and Greek lore taught us anything, it’s that you don’t want a pissed off deity.

I once heard that writing is not a young man’s game because it takes most of your life to get really good at it.  There is a lot of waiting around, a lot of learning, a lot of editing, a lot of thinking, and a lot of daydreaming.  In case you’re still not sure, it’s a lot of writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, etc.  Once you’ve written that awesome masterpiece, there’s a lot more waiting around.  There are submissions, reading, finding that right audience, and submitting some more.  Some submissions take up to 9-12 months to get that rejection or acceptance letter.  And if you’re lucky enough to FINALLY    get that acceptance letter, it might take up to a year before you actually see your work in print.  The first acceptance letter I received for the story featured last month (June 2013) was received in October of 2012.  I received my second acceptance letter back in February.  The third letter came in over the weekend after a four-month wait and remarkably enough will feature my submission next month.  But for the fourth acceptance, I won’t see that story in print until next April, 2014.  Lots of waiting, what can I say?

I have 20 stories in all I’m trying to get out there while I work on the novel.  I see much waiting in my future.  I honestly wonder if this is how God feels sometimes.  He planted a seed for a mountain and He’s still waiting for it to grow.  How do we know Mount Everest is actually complete?  Maybe volcanos are edits?  Maybe earthquakes are re-edits?  The hurricanes and tornadoes are just there to rearrange the words or paragraphs?  Perhaps the ruins of cities and pirate ships which archaeologists are finding at the bottom of oceans are nothing more than a few sentences that God didn’t like, but he’s saving them just in case they come in handy in a different chapter. Your God, your writer has a lot of work left to do.  Lots of waiting.  Have you heard the joke that when you can’t remember what you’re about to say, it’s just the writer of your life backspacing and writing new dialogue?  Go ahead, laugh.  It’s funny.

My second story is out now, one that I am proud of because it’s a writing style that I began experimenting with in college and fell in love with.  Not many attempt 2nd person narrative; not many do it well.  I like to think I’m in the “well” category of it.  But I could be wrong.  My motto as a writer has always been “Whore for feedback.”  If I’m a crappy writer, somebody please tell me.  Some whores know when to hang up their stockings.

So, check out the latest:  http://scars.tv/ccdissues/ccd244Jul-Aug13/ccd244Jul-Aug13.htm  If you really, really like it, buy it.  I’m not making a profit yet, but like any good writer with a God complex, I believe in karma and hopefully it will come back to me in spades (meaning I’ll get paid one day)

Sláinte

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