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Posts Tagged ‘writing novels’

It’s been a helluva week.

At work, I had all my tasks turned back-burnered by “walk-on” issues, I called in chits to get assistance from team members who’ve moved on to greener pastures, and I yelled at my boss in an open meeting (no profanity, and no actual “yelling,” per se, but my blood was definitely up).

At home, I tested a new recipe, answered my correspondence, got a chance to playtest a new boardgame, and (after days of back and forth texts) finally got the contractor to agree on a date to start work fixing the back stairs.

But it was my Work-In-Progress that really did me in.

I sat down with what I have written so far and the current outline, and took a look forward. Even though this novel has so far been the hardest for me to write, all indications are that it’s going to be a struggle to get it up to a decent novel-length, a realization that thoroughly depressed me. I mean, it’s hard enough to sell a novel these days, but selling a thin novel is likely to be even harder.

There are thin novels out there, true, but in general they’re either classics (when the expectations of novel length were different), or they’re written by established authors. Neither of those cases pertains to me, a modern writer with only modest credits to my name. Word counts of my previous books have all been in the 90–120k range—standard for their genres—but this one looks like it’s going to be closer to 60k. 

Some of you may scoff at my struggle to reach 60,000 words. “Pish tosh,” you say. “I know folks who can write 20k in a weekend.”

I know some of those writers, as well.

I am not one of those writers.

In my head, the novel already exists. I know where I’m going, I know how it will all be resolved. But I am not Zeus, and things do not sprout fully formed from my mortal noggin. Putting the words down is torturous, as my desires and my failing confidence vie in a battle royale. Even the good review the WIP got from First Reader cannot cure that malady. It’s why NaNoWriMo is such a turn-off for me; it requires a skill that, try as I might, I cannot acquire, much less master. This book especially, with its new genre and its intensely personal content, has been very difficult to write.

And yet, I want to write it. I want to finish it. I want it to be read.

I also want to sell it, so it can reach more readers than I can garner on my own, but that will be a long hill to climb.

First, though, I have to finish the damned thing.

k

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This past holiday weekend, we broke with our stay-cation tradition and took a little getaway to a lovely place, a re-purposed US Army base on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula.

But I don’t want to talk about the place, not right now. Instead, I want to share what we did while we were there. (Don’t worry, it’s SFW.)

Regular readers may have wondered what the hell is happening with my current Work-In-Progress, my dual-timeline novel set in Seattle. And you’ve had good reason to wonder. (more…)

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A follow-up on my previous post about character names.

It’s clear from comments — here, on Facebook, etc. — that some readers disagree with my characterizations of the names I’m using.

Not a problem. And absolutely expected.

When I spoke of, for instance, Eleanor as a name that evokes impressions of “a longer view, a queenly aspect, strength, confidence, patience,” I should have said that those are the impressions the name evokes for me.

Your impression of Eleanor, the name, will definitely be different from mine, perhaps radically so. You may have had an evil twin named Eleanor, she may have been your overly strict second grade teacher, or a particularly nasty girlfriend. Or it may be that, try as you might, when you hear the name, you can only think of the ridiculous novelist, Eleanor Lavish, from A Room with a View.

That’s all fine.

For me, the name Eleanor conjures up images of Mrs. Roosevelt; Henry II’s wife, Eleanor D’Aquitaine (my 24th great grandmother, as it turns out); and the homophonically named Elinor Dashwood from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Those are my Eleanors, and they match well with the character I want to bring to life in this book.

Naturally, I cannot expect my impressions of that name to be yours as well. No writer can expect that, even if we use a name as well known as George Custer (as I did in my Fallen Cloud Saga).

No, my job is to make sure that my Eleanor comes across with my impressions intact. I must show you, through her actions, how she is patient, thoughtful, perhaps even regal in her quiet dignity. Then, maybe, the next time you hear the name Eleanor, your first impression will be more like mine.

For my current purposes, I need to have a name that fits the character I want to create. That is true, I believe, for almost any writer.

Onward.

k

Puget Sound

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It began, as it often does, with Sam and Janet.

Sam and Janet, the couple of the oft-mocked enchanted evening, are a regular starting point when I’m trying to pick character names. I begin with these two because, frankly, I’d never use them.

Setting the names of my main characters is a crucial early step in my writing process. I have two main reasons for this. (more…)

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Ever since publishing my last post, in which I stated publicly that I was gearing up to break my four-year-long novel-writing dormancy, I’ve been in a dark blue funk.

It took me a while to figure out why. Well, to be honest, I didn’t figure it out. A fellow writer (Todd Baker: grillmaster, metalhead, and memoirist par excellence) commented on my post, and his reflections shed light on my own internal strife.

I was suffering from “The Dread.” (more…)

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You might have noticed a bit more poetry on this blog of late. There’s a reason for this.

If I’m to be brutally honest, these past four years I haven’t been much of a writer. My last novel came out in late 2012, and since then — aside from the posts, vignettes, and poetry on this blog — I’ve only written one short story.

A lot happened to us in those four years. All of our parents died which meant funerals and family strife and estate stuff. We invited a young woman in need to stay with us for a year while she reestablished herself. I had an emergency appendectomy and my wife had an emergency cholecystectomy. Our only car died and needed to be replaced. I grew deathly sick of my job and tried to switch careers. Not all of it was bad (we paid off the house, and for our 30th anniversary we bought a classic sports car), but all of it, even the good stuff, sucked up a lot of time and energy, and brought a great deal of stress into our lives.

All of which sounds like a bunch of excuses and, for a long time, I viewed them as such. Now, though, I see them as reasons.

Am I splitting semantic hairs? Perhaps, but hear me out. (more…)

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Self-Promotion: the crude and unappealing practice of marketing one’s own work; in British slang, often called “flogging.”

I’ve only met one writer who actually enjoys flogging his books. He travels up and down the coast, reading excerpts, glad-handing, meeting people, building an impressive network. For every other writer I’ve met, mention the word “promotion” and watch them wince.

We hate promoting our books. HateitHateitHateit. Some writers hate it so much, they don’t do it at all.

But according to ND Author Services (aka NDAS, run by bestselling authors Barb and J.C. Hendee, who–believe me–know what they’re talking about), there’s some good news. As with everything else in the publishing industry, self-promotion–the very nature of it–is changing.

(more…)

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