Monthly Archives: February 2014

Finishing a Book

I have written another book. It’s the one I started during the November, 2013 NaNoWriMo competition. I have polished it by checking for grammar errors, spelling, and punctuation. Then went through it looking for better ways of saying things. Now, I am down to adding color, background, descriptions, character development. Then I will do a final pass looking for anything else that I might change to make it better.

My book is about 145 standard pages in Microsoft Word. On Kindle and CreateSpace, it should be around 300 pages.

I’ll be happy to get this one under my belt as I have four others I’ve written that I must edit before I let them go. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, I agreed to teach too many classes at the local university and my time disappeared. It has taken me three months to edit the novel I wrote in November, and my short story writing has dropped off.

I’ll begin editing the others when I finish this semester.

I have to discipline myself to say no to things that take up my time, but don’t contribute to my writing – teaching is one of those.

A friend of mine told me recently, “I think you can be called prolific. You have published three books and have three more in the works, not to mention your short stories. (He needs to look at the work of Dame Barbara Cartland, who had 722 books, averaging one book every 40 days of her career, or Corín Tellado who wrote over 4,000 novellas. But, I’m not going to tell him that.)

I hope to have the book published this spring or early summer. Its name: Skean Dhu and the Pirates of Blacktom.

Interestingly, I have read that some authors become depressed when they finished a book. I don’t. I can’t wait to plunge into the next project. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I don’t get depressed. I don’t give my self the time to do that.

What Writing Style is Best?

I was reading a story by Isaac Asimov yesterday, then today I read a story by Harlan Ellison, both were great, but very different.

Asimov was written with the utmost simplicity. Everything but the essentials of the story was left off. Ellison, on the other hand, used many metaphors, similes, and much more complex language. Both stories were engaging and moved inexorably to their predictable ends. Neither author was anything other than great in their storytelling, but they couldn’t have been more different.

Puzzling? No. That tells me there is room for writers at every point in between these two masters. It’s interesting to know their style, even how their styles differ, but that doesn’t mean you have to emulate one or the other.

My spin on this is that whatever your style, work on it. Continue to make your voice yours, make yours inimitable. And here’s the rub. I tend to be a bare bones story teller. (Like myself, not like Asimov.) So, I have had to learn to add what I call color, descriptions of the environment, the characters, and the scene. I also tend to leave out the nuances of characters, how they look, the sound of their voice, subtle things that communicate their true feelings.

My bare bones writing falls flat, unlike Asimov’s. So, I think that to make my writing more readable, I have to be more like the writer I am naturally the farther from – Ellison.

I’ve mentioned martial arts before. My Master Instructor, Dr. Dashik Kim, when asked to give advice to people about the martial arts they should take, always said, “You should take the one that is the opposite of your personality. If you are aggressive, take a soft style. If you are mild, take a hard style.” I think the same advice pertains to writing.

New Plans/Reset/Overs/Begin Again

I will be attending a writer’s workshop in April, the West Texas Trail Writer’s Association. Although it as a Western theme, writers of every genre attend. We have also had editors, historians, the state poet, and indie authors.

Other than being around other authors, the thing I like most is the variety of speakers. Every time I go I am inspired by something one of them says.

During the last conference, we had a speaker who focused on the business of writing. Her name is Nina Amir.  She bills herself as an “Inspiration to Creation Coach.” Her newest book on writing is, “The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books that Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, Self-publish Effectively.” I haven’t read  it yet, but she was working on it during our last conference. She followed through and viola, the book is available for pre-order.

I look at the conference as a time to recharge my batteries, to catch a breath from my daily activities, and get back to the business of writing. How do I lose focus, you may ask? Well, I agree to do too many things for others and find that I have little time to get the things done I want to do.

This year, I agreed to teach extra classes at the University. Then I found there were no support materials – after I agreed to teach. I had to develop the classes from scratch, two of them. The effect of that is, I am a week ahead of the students in both classes. I plan to use Spring Break to get ahead, but that will still leave me scrambling to keep up.

So, I am cutting my classes down to one next fall. I also plan to hone my “Help Me” detector. When it goes off, I will say no. Why am I being hard nosed?

I am several books behind in editing and I have lost ground in writing. I feel like I am hopelessly bogged in past due, self-imposed assignments, struggling to keep up with the projects I have planned, and verging on vapor lock because of those two things. No one can get me out of the mess I’ve gotten myself into but me.

Play, Creativity, and Practice

In my childhood development class, I teach about the relationship between creativity and play. Play is an altered state where children experience improved creativity, decision-making and perception. It also is a means of relaxing and stimulating the body and mind.

My shorthand for this is that when a child is playing, she is becoming. What is she becoming? An integrated human being. Too often, adults interfere with children when they are playing or attempt to enter a child’s world. The result is they stop the play.

When an adult intrudes into a child’s play, they interrupt the altered state. It is no longer play, it is something the adult has contrived.

To my way of thinking, play is essential to creativity. When someone is play deprived, according to some, they are incapable of play. I think they are also incapable of joy. They may enjoy some things, but they are not able to experience joy. The difference is like the difference between sugar and an artificial sweetener that is off taste. One is pure, and the other is contrived.

Writers, I think, have to be able to play in order to create. They are adults who have sustained or recreated their child-like ability to alter their conscious state and reenter their child’s way of seeing the world.

In order for that world to be shared with others, they have to have the discipline to practice written communication until they can distill it to a pure stated. If they succeed in doing that, they invite the reader to join them within their altered state.

Unfortunately, for adults, a small jolt – a mistake – can bring them back to their adult world. They can be lost by the writer. That’s why practice is so vital to the writer. It is through discipline and practice that the writer refines presenting their artistic view of the world in a believable way.