You Can’t Get There From Here: Why Books Are > Movies

I saw Ender’s Game tonight with Marta and some good friends. The six of us were excited – we all bought tickets online last Sunday – and we made a night of it, grabbing some beers and munchies at Harry Caray’s before piling into the Navy Pier IMAX for the main event.

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything, and this isn’t a movie review. It’s just that, after leaving the theater, I couldn’t shake this nagging thought. So, here it is:

Books are better than movies.

I mean no offense, so before you get too worked up, know one thing: I love movies. See for yourself:

DVDs

It’s a little ridiculous, I know, but Bull Moose Records in Portsmouth made it pretty hard to resist with their enormous collection of used DVD’s at bargain-basement prices. It used to be somewhat of an issue, in fact, when I would burn one (or more) of our precious few hours during a visit home browsing other people’s cinematic leavings. One man’s trash…

Anyway, I hope this helps prove that I’m not some sort of nutty movie-hater. I also hope it helps illustrate how much I love books.

For me, it starts with the look of it. Skinny and petit or thick and burly? A squat, compact paperback, or a sprawling, stately hardcover? A bold, flashy cover, or something understated and demure? Teeny-tiny font, crammed so tightly on each page that from a distance, it might be mistaken for some Impressionist painting of a solid black rectangle, or great big block letters that remind me of the times I used Courier New to stretch a school paper to its required length?

Then I notice its feel. Maybe it’s heavy for its size. Maybe the spine is a little too stiff and needs to be broken in. Or maybe, if the book is old, the spine is cracked and loose. No matter. When I flip from cover to cover before I start reading, the pages zipping beneath my thumb, all I’m thinking about is what wonders are waiting for me inside, buried within all that paper.

By now the smell has hit me, especially if the book is well seasoned. It reminds me of the attic above my dad’s woodshed, the way those old farmhouse boards, dried by age, smell sweet and mellow and easy. Old books, like old boards, have the best nose.

One last thing (and Marta thinks I’m a huge dork for this…she’s probably right): I stamp the inside cover with my own personal brand.

stamp

I get this from my grandmother, I’m convinced. She used to write her last name in every book she owned to ensure their safe return when lending them out to friends. What can I say? I blame her.

Book stamped, it’s go time. If the author has done his job, the story grabs me and won’t let go. I forget about the look and feel and smell of the book as I’m transported somewhere else, another time, perhaps, where I can inhabit another mind.

I can inhabit another mind.

Reading a book is like seeing the world through two sets of eyes – your own and the author’s – superimposed upon one another. It’s a mutual effort, reading a book. To be sure, the author worked his ass off to write it, but now it’s up to you to breathe life into it by reading, by imagining, by seeing. Your participation is required, and participation breeds investment. You’re there, wherever there is, right along with the author and his characters, through thick and thin, for better or worse.

I loved Ender’s Game when I first read it twelve years ago, especially the ending. It caught me totally off guard, just like realizing that Verbal Kint had really been Kayser Söze all along. The movie we saw tonight wasn’t bad – it was beautiful to look at, I had no real beefs with the acting, and the screenplay was reasonably faithful to the book – but yet, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed when the credits rolled. As amazing as it was to see this sci-fi masterpiece up there on that great big IMAX screen, digital surround sound roaring in our ears, it couldn’t compare with the way I imagined it when I read the book. I just wasn’t there.

And for me, when it comes to stories, being there is everything. If I’m not there, then I’m here, and here is where I live every day.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me, but I think I hear the Starks and Lannisters calling. I have somewhere to be.


100 pages!

There’s something magical about a triple-digit page count. Maybe it’s that Time Lapse is only the second thing I’ve written (after Bent) that’s ever reached that length. Maybe it’s that one hundred is the first “big” number I ever remember counting to. Maybe it’s just that I’m glad my second novel didn’t crash and burn before it even got off the ground. I don’t know… Whatever it is, though, I know that it’s satisfying in a way few other achievements have been for me. 

So there it is: after a brief hiatus to write my short story, “The Day I Learned to Fly,” I’ve hit 100 pages (and counting) in my draft of Time Lapse. Plenty more where that came from!


MacGyver was a badass

MacGyver was a badass. Give the guy a paper clip, some matches, a pocket knife, and a roll of duct tape, and in a minute or two he’d build you a fully functional bomb. Not a bomb for killing, mind you (Mac never killed. He didn’t even like holding guns.), but handy for, say, blowing open a locked door to save the girl or disabling the bad guy’s getaway car. He possessed the uncanny ability to transform everyday objects into powerful tools and, hokey as it may sound, I credit him with helping me see that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

“But Evan,” you ask, “what about that mullet of his?”

macgyver

Ah, well, no one’s perfect. I’m willing to overlook his style blunders, as I’m quite certain I’m guilty of my own share of fashion faux pas. (My Aunt Michelle would be glad to detail them for you; I’m convinced she keeps a list somewhere of every questionable outfit I’ve ever worn.) So, regardless of whether you dig his dreamy locks, let’s agree that some things just are: summer follows spring, the opposite of up is down, MacGyver was a badass.

Mac isn’t the only one who laid claim to my boyhood heart. Even before he came into my life, I loved Sir David Attenborough, with his melodic British accent and knack for breaking complex scientific principles into simple, layman’s terms. It’s going on thirty years, but I can still picture him standing next to a Hawaiian volcano in his familiar orange slicker, explaining how the lava formed tubes as it cooled. The tubes were like subway tunnels, the lava like freight trains speeding through them on a one way trip to the sea. Awesome, let me tell you!

Attenborough

Some time after the PBS miniseries The Living Planet aired in 1985, while out on an errand with my mom one day (or so the story goes), I thought I might stump her with a bit of trivia I’d picked up from the good Sir. “Mom,” I said, “do you know what we’re driving on?” She smelled a trap, but wasn’t sure what angle I would take. “Middle Road?” she hazarded. When I shook my head, she tried again. “Tar?” Nope, strike two. After letting her sweat for a minute, I declared, quite matter-of-factly: “Mom, we’re driving on molten lava!” Okay, so my science wasn’t exact, but don’t blame David Attenborough for that. He taught me to observe the world around me – to look under every rock, peer into every hole, and study every mystery.

Around this same time, studying one mystery or another, I discovered C.S. Lewis’s magical realm, Narnia. Suddenly, a new world beckoned – one every bit as real and textured as my world, but where anything was possible. Where animals spoke, where winter lasted a hundred years, and where an ordinary boy, not unlike myself, might reign as a wise and gentle king. I devoured the seven-book series and for the first time, found true delight in reading.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Later, as an anxious thirteen-year-old interviewing for admittance to St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, I was asked to name my favorite author. “C.S. Lewis,” I answered without hesitation. “Have you heard of him?” My interviewer, as I recall, was a jovial man named Mr. Green (not to be confused with Colonel Mustard or Professor Plum), and he found this question quite amusing. Little did I know that C.S. Lewis was, besides a beloved children’s author, a well known theologian. Whatever he is, to me, he will always remain the master of Narnia, the man who taught me to love books.

In the winter of 1999, I discovered a different sort of magical realm while visiting my cousin, Sean, in Ireland. Having wandered into a Virgin Records store one afternoon in Dublin, I happened upon a lonely set of headphones connected to a sample of Radiohead’s OK Computer. In the blurb above the display, one reviewer had dubbed the album “the Dark Side of the Moon of the 90’s.” I had never been a huge Radiohead fan, but of course, being the semi-hip twenty-year-old I was, had heard Creep, Fake Plastic Trees, and High and Dry about a thousand times each on the radio.

When I slipped those headphones on and hit play, my world changed.

For months after returning to the States, I would drive around with my friend, Chris, in his old Camry wagon (the car in which I learned to drive stick) blasting OK Computer through his Rockford Fosgates and Pioneer 6×9’s, trying to decipher just what in the hell Thom Yorke was singing about. Have you ever tried figuring out his lyrics? Good luck, that’s all I have to say. We never cheated, though, never peeked at the jacket liner for a hint, and when we finally did manage to pick out a particularly garbled word or phrase, felt more than a little proud of ourselves. It was part of the magic for us, and when I think about all of the hours I’ve spent with Thom, Johnny, Colin, Ed, and Phil, I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like without them and their sonic alchemy. Suffice to say I don’t want to imagine that life.

radiohead

These days, my hero is a guy named Steve. You’ve probably heard of him – maybe you love him, too, or maybe you can’t stand him. Maybe you just don’t care. Whatever – it’s cool. Everyone’s entitled to his or her own opinion. But regardless, just as summer follows spring, the opposite of up is down, and MacGyver was a badass, I hope we can all agree that Stephen King is a master of his craft, a trueborn storyteller, a cultural icon of our times.

king

I read Carrie first, which seemed fitting since it was his first published novel. It was a quick read – one hundred seventy pages, give or take – raw and gritty. When I finished, I read about it. I learned that King, after writing the opening scene, tossed it in the garbage, certain no one would care to read a story about a telekinetic teen’s first menstruation. Fortunately his wife, Tabby, fished it from the waste basket and urged him to keep at it. He did, the book sold, and the rest is history. Now I keep a King quote taped to the inside cover of my writing journal:

“I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas…my considered opinion was that I had written the world’s all-time loser.” [i]

On my worst days, when I’m convinced I’ll never publish any of my work and that it’s all a bunch of garbage, this helps remind me that we all have insecurities, that even someone as accomplished as Stephen King isn’t immune to doubt. And then I pick myself up and move forward, because in the end, whether I’m published or not, I am a writer. It’s in my blood.

All of these men – MacGyver, Sir David Attenborough, C.S. Lewis, the members of Radiohead, Stephen King – have, in their own ways, played a part in my life story. And because I write from my own life’s experience (not necessarily about it, but certainly informed by it), I must give credit where credit’s due. Not only did these men help spark the fires of curiosity, ingenuity, and creativity that burn within me, but over the years, they’ve continued to stoke the flames, inspiring me to pursue my own dream of, in some small way, changing the world, making a difference to some boy or girl, man or woman, who sits down on a rainy afternoon with one of my stories.

And who knows? With a little luck, maybe one day someone who is touched by my work, who’s excited and inspired by it, will call me a badass, too. Until then, I’ve got my paper clip, matches, pocket knife, and duct tape at the ready…just in case.


[i] King, Stephen (February 1980). “On Becoming a Brand Name”. Adelina Magazine: 44


Multitasking

When it comes to writing, I’ve never been much for multitasking. Just ask Marta. If inspiration is flowing, if I’m in the groove, it’s best to leave me alone until my thoughts play out and I find a good stopping point.

With this in mind, I now find myself contending with an unfamiliar challenge: managing multiple writing projects at the same time. While writing and revising Bent, that was my one and only focus; I was 100% invested in that one project and had no distractions. It was the same when I was preparing and sending my initial round of submission material early last spring. And with no diversions, I worked efficiently and purposefully, moving forward in a measured way each day.

Then, in April, I started writing Time Lapse. Suddenly I had two irons in the fire for the first time, and now, on top of writing my new story and building my online platform, I’m trying to find time to work on query letter and manuscript revisions for Bent, as well. So far, I’ve really struggled with this juggling act. I don’t want to stop working on Time Lapse in order to go back to Bent, but I know I need to get back into Bent in the interest of tightening things up and resolving some point of view issues before I send out more submissions.

I’ve been giving some thought to the notion of setting aside specific times to work on each project, and this is what I’ve come up with: my commute on the train will be devoted to Time Lapse, lunch breaks to Bent, and evenings to my online activity. Hopefully with this schedule, I can move forward in that same efficient, purposeful manner I applied to my initial project while avoiding the gnawing anxiety I’ve been feeling as a result of neglecting two projects in order to focus all of my efforts on just one. After all, Time Lapse is a long way from being finished and in the meantime, I really want to continue querying Bent with the goal of publishing my first book!

Let’s see if I can become a multitasking master!


Cheese, Cars, and Stories: A Sale is a Sale is a Sale

I would never pass muster as a vegan; I just love cheese too much.

Looking back, it seems I spent half my adolescence – after school, weekends, vacations – slinging the stuff at my family’s (now closed) specialty food store, Tuttle’s Red Barn. Manchego, Gouda, Humboldt Fog, Maytag Blue, Petit Basque, Cabra al Vino, Stilton… Don’t get me started lest I short out my keyboard with drool! Cheese, to me, is a divine combination of nature and nurture, a gift from the gods, wrought by man, to rival the sweetest ambrosia. Of course, I wasn’t always so enthusiastic when it came time to clock in for my shift, but once behind the deli counter, knife in hand, I was a cheese-selling machine. In the spirit of full disclosure, cheese sells itself. I was just the (not so) pretty face that cut, wrapped, and handed it to the customer. But, giving credit where credit’s due, I sent many customers happily on their way with two, three, hell…six more hunks of cheese than they’d intended to buy. It wasn’t hard; all I had to do was make a suggestion or two, let them sample something they’d never tried before, and off they went, hands full, wondering why they hadn’t thought to grab a basket when they came in. Like I said, cheese sells itself.

Armed with the naïve misconception that everything is as easy to hock, I took a job selling Toyotas when I moved to Chicago. My first day out on the floor, I leased a brand new convertible to a middle-aged divorcée. No BS, no underhanded car lot tricks. Just me, walking away from the deal nearly $800 richer, thinking to myself, “Now this is how you make a living!” That delusion quickly faded when, for the following three weeks, I didn’t sell a single car and had to make due with the meager weekly “draw” (a base salary of sorts that must be repaid to the dealer when you finally DO manage a sale). I lasted three and a half months at the dealership. Not exactly laying the foundation of a career, and a far cry from selling cheese. Sales, it seems, is more difficult when the customer can’t try a nibble of what you’re selling.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a living in sales. Now I moonlight as an inventory planner/purchaser, buying rather than selling, as I chase my dream of becoming a professional writer. So let’s talk about this for a minute… When you think author – or painter, playwright, screen writer, sculptor, actor, dancer, or [insert artistic pursuit here] – you don’t think sales, right? You don’t picture big business, margins, percentages, losses, profits. Neither did I when I got started. All I knew was that I had an idea that needed to get out, characters and events that had to come to to life. For nineteen long months I worked on my story, breathing that life into it, giving heart and soul to a concept that would have remained locked away, lifeless, in my mind were it not for my burning desire to release it, to put it down on paper for whomever wished to ride along with me and my imagination for a little while. And when I finished my draft almost exactly a year ago (pictured below, printed for the first time, alongside a celebratory beer), I thought the hard part was over.

MS

How wrong I was!

To be sure, spewing 130,000 words is not an easy task. I endured many a day where I actually lost words, editing and cutting as I progressed, chopping fluff. There were days I stared madly at my computer, willing inspiration to strike. And even on the days when I netted words, when I forged ahead, I would often think to myself, “You’re wasting your time. No one will want to read this sh*t.” Still, I trudged on, and in the end, I was thrilled just to have finished such a monumental undertaking. In many ways, I’ve been good at talking myself out of taking risks in life, but in this case, my pessimistic side was fortunately trumped by the part of me that was determined to see this through.

Last spring, after nearly six months of revisions, I began submitting my story to literary agents. At first I mistakenly believed that all I needed to break into the publishing world was a compelling manuscript and a winning query letter. And to be sure, NOTHING is more important than a compelling manuscript. But faced with two equally compelling stories, how does an agent choose which one to represent? The answer, it turns out, is simple: the agent chooses the story that has the stronger author platform behind it. They’ll choose the writer who’s taken the time and made the effort to establish an online presence, who recognizes the value in networking and self-promotion, who’s invested in himself and his future. In short, the writer who’s a stronger salesman wins.

Sales. Whether we’re talking cheese, cars, or stories, a sale is a sale is a sale. In today’s Internet age, writers are expected not only to be master story-tellers, but also sales and marketing experts. As if it’s not difficult enough to write a novel, we’re now shouldering much of the responsibility that traditionally fell to the publishing houses’ marketing machines. And the learning curve is steep. Social media. Website development. Product placement. Readings. Giveaways. The list goes on and on. The Internet now enables artists to reach a far wider audience than ever before, but with this power comes a whole host of new challenges. Writing the story is the EASY part. Selling it, convincing an agent and editor to pick YOU out of the thousands upon thousands of prospects that pour into their inboxes every day, is much harder.

I write, first and foremost, for me. I have stories to tell and find it incredibly gratifying to tell them. But as I’ve said before, I also write for YOU, holding close the hope that one day, you’ll read one of my stories and, for a little while, be transported far from your everyday concerns to a place filled with intrigue and wonder. A place where anything is possible and where dreams (and occasionally nightmares) become real.

My hope is that you’ll discover a new favorite!

ETH


Back in the Saddle

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted, but I hope my *extensive* readership will forgive me. Between marrying the love of my life, spiriting off on a glorious two-week honeymoon spanning the exotic (Costa Rica) and the familiar (Ludington, MI.), as well as the work I’ve been doing on my second book, Time Lapse, I’ve had a full docket.

Reflecting on my earlier post, “New story, new quota,” I must humbly confess that I have not been keeping pace with my 700 words/day goal. That said, I’m currently sitting at the 22k word mark (approximately 63 pages) and am feeling confident about where the story is heading. I’ve known since June 2011 how this story would begin and end, but had NO idea what would happen in between. That seems to be coming together nicely, and it never ceases to amaze me when some aspect of plot, character, or scene seems to magically distill itself in my brain, waiting to be transferred to the blank page. Where does this inspiration come from? I’m not sure I know, but what I DO know is that it’s a lot of fun (and sometimes also quite maddening) to figure this stuff out. And when something falls into place like this, it’s extremely satisfying.

I’m also pleased to report that I’ve once again begun submitting queries for Bent after a fairly lengthy break. Other than one query I sent out in June (which was rejected almost immediately), this week witnessed my first submissions since late March. Between identifying agents, researching them online to see if they’d be a good fit, customizing my query letter for their consideration, then waiting, waiting, and waiting some more, querying is tedious work. Actually, it’s a bit of a drag, especially considering many agents advise a response time of four to eight weeks, IF they respond at all. I will say, though, that it feels good knowing I have four fresh queries out there. It’s a little like Christmas each time I open my e-mail, wondering if today will be the day I get a positive reply. I plan to continue sending queries out at a rate of four or more per week to meet my goal of querying fifty agents by October 1.

One last reflection before I wrap up this post: I am not the most patient person you know. Surprise! While I’ve mellowed somewhat in my “old age,” waiting is still a challenge for me. I find it curious, then, that I’ve chosen to pursue this path; that I’ve undertaken to write books, which in itself is a painstakingly slow and laborious process even before considering the complicated and at times daunting task of getting published. It’s been thirty months since the idea for Bent hit me, and I’m still going strong, undeterred, undiscouraged, and unbelievably excited to call myself a writer even if I have not (yet) been paid for my work.

Thanks for standing with me on this journey. Your support means everything!

ETH


Chapter One is done!

My attempt at speed writing is yielding overall positive results. Today, a little more than two weeks since I put “pen to paper,” I finished chapter one. Is it pretty? Not so much, but the gist is there. The skeleton is formed, and later I can go back and fill in some of the meat. The important part is that the first draft of my first chapter is on paper.

As far as my daily quota, well, I didn’t hit 700 every day, but I wrote something every day. In the end, I’m satisfied with that. The quota is a good guideline, a goal to focus on, but when I don’t hit it, I need to remember not to beat myself up. Even if I produce only a handful of words in a given day, those are a few words that didn’t exist the day before. Forward progress is the most important thing, and so far, I think I like this whole speed writing thing. I definitely feel freer than when I was writing Bent, constantly pausing to imagine a scene or character or conversation in painstaking detail. Now, I’m able to let my fingers fly, unconcerned with beauty at this point, only focusing on the story. The rest will come.

Here’s a roundup of my daily production this week (daily/total word count):

4/15: 928/2856
4/16: 807/3663
4/17: 735/4398
4/18: 135/4533 (my head a little worse for the wear after Marta’s b-day celebration…)
4/19: TBD

Not bad considering that it took me nearly five months at the keyboard to write the first ~28k words of Bent. So far I’m moving at twice that pace. Good stuff.

Oh, did I mention my wedding is in eight days?! Wonder if I can cap off Chapter Two by then…?

Happy Friday, everyone!

ETH


Eleven days and counting…

Nineteen months have passed since I proposed to Marta. Nineteen months… Wow.

We met six years ago during a turbulent time in my life. My brother, Matthew, and a mutual friend, Jeremy (who’s since crafted our engagement ring and wedding bands), used to work together at a neighborhood restaurant where Marta and I would occasionally bump into one another. I could never, for the life of me, remember her name, but always enjoyed talking with her. It’s Marta, after all. How could you not enjoy talking to her?

One gorgeous day in late June, Marta, Jeremy, and I spent the afternoon at Montrose Beach (by this time, I’m happy to report, I’d learned her name, though I’d soon realize that my “Mar-ta” pronunciation was unique). We played Frisbee. We lay in the sun. We even looked after a youngster whose dad told him to “stay and play with these people” as he disappeared for several minutes (a favorite memory of the day). And after packing up our camp and heading home, we reconvened some time later at Marta’s apartment for dinner. While Jeremy expertly grilled our steak on the deck, Marta and I cooked together indoors. She made risotto, I sauteed asparagus and portabellas. I’m pretty sure we were both stealing glances at one another, thinking, “This girl/guy is pretty cool.”

And so it began.

Marta was very patient with me those first few months. I was still gun shy after exiting a six-year relationship with my college girlfriend, and it took me a while to feel comfortable opening myself up again. I wanted to be sure, but when in life do we ever have that luxury? Marta endured several months of my waffling before I finally realized that everything was okay. That we didn’t need to know how things would work out down the road in order to enjoy the journey today.

A year after we met, we moved into our first apartment together. It was great. Marta has learned to deal with my pickiness (okay, my borderline OCD, but you didn’t hear that from me!), and I’ve gotten better at compromising. And we’ve both learned that while we absolutely love spending time with one another, some things are just better done solo. I shop for groceries while Marta cleans. And when we fly, we meet at the gate now. Hey, when you recognize flash points, why not avoid them? (Did I mention I’m fussy?)

We loved our first apartment and met two of our (now) best friends, Caitlin and Keith, when they moved in across the hall. One of our favorite jokes was to tell each other “Get home safely,” when we’d say goodbye. Yeah, those three steps across the landing can be risky… We’d probably still be living there if it hadn’t been for the herd of elephants – er, family – that moved in upstairs. Good grief. Reluctantly, we packed up and moved – two blocks away on the same street! I’ve never lived at two different addresses on the same street before, but there’s a first time for everything. Our new apartment became home even though we sure do miss living across the hall from C&K!

Two years ago, Marta began traveling more regularly for work. Overnights to Minneapolis, longer trips to Seattle, Tennessee, Las Vegas, and Miami. I’ve gotten used to these trips now, but at first it was difficult. I missed her a lot when she was gone, and that’s when I realized that I really couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life without her. I didn’t want to imagine it. Things had never been perfect for us, but I knew then that Marta was the woman for me. I wanted to be her partner, to commit not only to relishing the good times, but to working through the difficult ones. I wanted to continue this journey with her.

I reached out to Jeremy, now a metalsmith and GG (graduate gemologist) based in Seattle, and together we began working on ideas for a ring. At first I told no one, figuring that if I couldn’t keep my own mouth shut, I couldn’t very well expect anyone else to. Then, when we visited Marta’s parents for Father’s Day, I stole a moment with Bob, her step-father, and told him my intentions. He was thrilled, but made me promise that I would tell Sherri, too, before we left. “You have to tell her when Marta’s not around, though,” he said. “She will start crying.” So I concocted a plan to run back into the house as we were leaving on Sunday, and sure enough, the waterworks started when I told her. She gave me a huge hug. I’d always felt like part of the family, but this made it official.

That summer, Jeremy and I must have exchanged zillions of e-mails and phone calls, reviewing CAD renderings of the ring, talking about tweaks, organizing wire transfers of funds so that he could source the stones and metal. Finally I got the call the last week of August: “Done!” A week later we were in Seattle for a planned visit, and when I saw the ring for the first time, I was blown away. Absolutely stunning.

The thing practically burned a hole in my pocket. I managed to wait a whopping four days, then planned a dinner out at Caro Mio, our favorite Italian joint, and a walk through our neighborhood park afterwards. With the moon shining down, standing together in a place important to us both, I asked Marta to marry me. She said, “Shut up!” followed quickly by “Yes!”

And now, nineteen months later, our wedding is right around the corner. I couldn’t be more excited to marry this woman – my best friend and partner – and begin our next chapter together. I know how lucky I am to have her in my life, just as I’m lucky to have such wonderful family and friends. You all make life worth living, and I cannot wait to celebrate with you on April 27th as I put the “ring of ownership” on Marta’s finger. =P

Sure do love you, sweetie!

ETH


New story, new quota

Shooting for 700 words per day (doubled from my last project) to help keep me moving forward. And copping to it here will help keep me honest =)

Wrote 928 today for a grand total of 2,856.
Maybe I can break 1,000 tomorrow…

Speed Writing

I am not a speedy writer. Well, let me qualify. Ideas come quickly most of the time, but in transposing them from brain to paper, I bog myself down with questions: Can I word this better? Is this clear? What does this scene really look like? Would this character really say that? This tendency, I believe, originally stemmed from my previously-mentioned fear of revising. Now that I know not to fear revision, though, I see another cause: I feel that if I don’t nail a scene/character/conversation/etc. the first time around, I’ll be building everything that follows upon an unstable foundation. Makes sense, right?

The problem with this line of thinking, however, is twofold. First, while I allow myself to be preoccupied with minute details, the story languishes in the deep recesses of my mind. I home in on one little thing – how does this room look, for example – while ignoring the big picture – what’s happening in this room? Of course I eventually get to the ‘what,’ but sometimes I’ve waited so long that the creative spark has fizzled and then it feels more like pulling teeth than writing.

That brings up the second issue: the longer I toil on a particular scene, the more questions I start asking myself. Don’t get me wrong – questions (and their solutions) are good. But questioning too much breeds self-doubt, and that’s one of the most insidious and omnipresent dangers a writer faces. Second-guessing can drag you to a halt. I remember reading something (can’t remember where now) by an author (can’t remember who) that said (and I’m paraphrasing): “I write as fast as I can to outrun doubt.”

I really tried to spur myself along as I wrote Bent, but despite my best efforts, I still found myself rereading, tweaking, polishing as I went. This was gratifying in some ways, maddening in others. I wonder now how many brilliant ideas flitted right out of head while I was busy correcting a grammar mistake or eliminating a word I’d repeated in the same paragraph – fixes that easily could have been completed during the revision phase rather than the composition phase.

So now, I’m about 3,000 words into Time Lapse, and I really am trying to write differently this time, just to see what happens. It’s not easy to change the way I’ve always written and the method that witnessed the completion of my first book, but I want to give it a try. I want to see if I can outrun doubt and get my vision down on paper before I dress it up and send it out into the world. Maybe I’ll be surprised at the result. Maybe I’ll find that inspiration flows more readily when I don’t try to bottle it right away, but instead let it shoot right out of my brain like some mental fire hose.

Stay tuned.

ETH