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Can I still do it? Shake off the frost and post here knowing who reads, and who doesn’t, and what expectations I have set? I share this as an opening to relate the vulnerable, very human feeling of being faced with the great canvas.

I’ve been writing, sure. Things are moving along.

I’ve learned much in the year I’ve been absent. Adventuring not to different countries this time but different worlds, geo-politically in a sense. It doesn’t feel like a year, but then I haven’t been able to say much. The irony of gaining access to the more venerable doors is that you lose the ability to talk about much of what is going on. When the purpose is to share rather than promote yourself, anonymity is your friend. At least, by the bar I’ve set here. Not that I haven’t been called out already. In nice ways. Which brings me to my point. How do you sustain?

I don’t mean in the “How am I going to face the NY Times Bestseller list for yet another week? Ennui! Privileged people problems! Calgon!” way.

Even then you still feel the same visceral self-ness you’ve been shouldering all this time thinking there would be some rightness in the end game. Heavy stuff, but hang on. That’s actually a good thing. That’s better than good. That’s brilliant. That’s where the shiniest truths emerge.

Being a writer isn’t a reinvention, it’s an expansion. You. The universe. Hang on. The sugar plumbs dancing in our heads aren’t the reward. Rule one of writer club: don’t confuse the fat lady for the scenery. The reward of keeping the inner aspects of yourself that you once found (or still find) squirmy is knowing you live in a zeitgeist with people who can share with you the same little signal moments of lightning you bow over first to them. Surprising, glowing little moments of shared wonder or pain, or company. Shooting stars of illumination. Flares of path light in the distance. Near heartbeats to slow our own panic.

We are all here for such a short period of time. What stirred this post was not only the need to re-connect with this experiment – and you – whoever you are who keeps twitching my statistics to make me smile knowing this may help salt your path, or who knows what you are doing with it. Have fun. What motivates me is the understanding of someone who gets that even if you have a shrine of awards, or a shrine of bulk-purchased, single-ply you hope makes it past Thursday so you don’t have to liberate the bar bathroom nano-ply next door (again) – that you are still suffering the same, unavoidable fact of your writer existence.

I love every doe-eyed, sad, angry, elated, arms out on the balcony or cliff’s edge to the sunset one of you. I can say that completely sober and mean it because I’ve had a year to go off and see how many people who’ve made it still suffer from the same unavoidable reality. Whatever you were secretly nervous about at fourteen, or twenty-four, or forty, or eighty, sticks to your ribs, and yes you can go to therapy and become one of the West Side, card-carrying, made creative elite, but you will still wake up on a cold sweat on occasion whether you remember it or not, and those things will motivate you to pick up a pen or miss your stop thinking about them from time to time.

Yes, I live in New York. Yes, I clawed my way up the drapes one handful of organza at a time. Great floss, that. Yes, it’s changed me dramatically and clearly marks a difference when I see where everyone’s path diverged. Though how much I can’t yet say. I’ve reconnected with friends who literally landed on the four corners of the earth. Turns out there was something to our little clique after all. Plotters. Every one. And even though I got what I was after (be careful what you wish for) I’m arriving at many truths my doubles found in the heat of the tropics, the arctic north, far east, and lastly sitting in a plastic lawn chair in our old back yard, trading our exotic baubles for early kids and early retirement. Who gets the last laugh I wonder?

I will never retire. This used to terrify me. Now the idea of retiring terrifies me. Not because I can’t think of a million things to do with an afternoon, and lust heavily at times for the opportunity, but because retiring in this sense means throwing in the towel. We can’t get back what we lost.

In exchange for living in interesting times, I’ve tasted a lot of what I always wondered about. Last week I finally discovered the secret to the answer 42.

Go on, ask. There really is one. It’s pretty inspiring and worth finding. And you do absolutely know it’s exactly what Adams meant. Like everything in my life, I discovered this little gem in the course of a completely unrelated research project, and didn’t even seen the synchronicity until the final finish line moments, like this glowing reward for gritting through. As far as longstanding authorial Easter eggs go, that one turned out to be truly nod worthy. Call it luck if you like. But you know, he died at 41, so circle back to this post.

What is the difference between writing, a medium intended to stay around long after we are gone, versus just sitting around a fire being a performer and living what might be a truer source of the craft: bringing the fire to the night, kissing the watchful faces of everyone in the circle with that glow.

The difference is how history is created.

Look at it this way: of all the brilliant performances and works ever written, only a tiny grain of them have ever survived. Not just the good ones, a wide array, almost a completely random assortment.

The new research on why we die is illuminating. Supposedly in virtual models, a society that never dies of old age eventually dies due to lack of adaptation. How long did dinosaurs live? Depends on how you see them: collectively as fossils, or individual as very large and successful moving rocks. That died. And never came back. We know nothing of what they could have become.

The species that died, or dies continuously to force room for the next generation created us. Now that we have the insane problems of our family dysfunction as a species firmly established, we can see how totally unavoidable it was that we all ended up frothing, volatile beakers, largely unattended until someone noticed the magnetic phone interference and electrical problems thirty floors down. We are dangerous because we are in an experiment we created.

The first little amoeba said to the second: “I’ll wait here. You have the crumb. I’ve had my life, and I love you more than dessert.”

Some say the whole construct we’re applying is simply our own coping mechanism against the chaos. I say, yes! Both! Neither! Open the box and find out! Open another box and find out if it happens again! I am a writer.

So are you.

The bad news: you will lose your life and there is no cake. So you get even less than the lone romantic amoeba who had an actual hand in all this.

(As it turns out, romanticism in amoebas wasn’t a success for evolution purposes in the amoeba per se but the decision still turned out to be a good one.)

The better news: you are the sum total of a million-trillion molecular, astrophysical, bio-revolutionary mistaken paths that worked.

Welcome to your existence, the intersection of a trillion-trillion-trillion lucky breaks. You’re a fractal that pulsed awake and stayed together instead of breaking apart within three weeks. 18,144,000 seconds to convince your mother before she noticed. You are Christmas cake made of stardust. Lick your lips when you taste the cold. You are sunshine.

I can be a million-trillion molecular, astrophysical, bio-revolutionary illusions. I am a writer. I can be anything. Anything. And so can you, because the thing about being a totally unmonitored experiment is all the beta features we’re passing along to the next generation. Because the harder it is to fit in at that dull day job, or gazing out the window on those family vacations you have to just remember are material, the more James Bond top secret gadgets you’re going to light your shoes on fire with as soon as you find them – attached to your own inherent existence. This is the secret of what makes life so obscenely compelling. This is the mystery and sheer, utter joy of it.

You either take the pledge to test them out or let them die with you, and if they die with you, it’s highly possible no one will ever seen what you could have uncovered. The uncomfortable parts that aren’t fully releasable yet will have no author to master them. But wait, you are a writer. You don’t even have to read the manual to become the fiery spectacle you are. The task of being interesting all on your own comes in exchange for the things you wouldn’t have had anyway. Because let’s face it, a trillion-trillion-trillion combinations later, you still wouldn’t be whoever you think you’d rather be.

But…

There is a cost. For every one of us still chasing shadows and bringing the light forward as best as we’re able, given the circumstances of our experimental nature, the result of which absolutely requires our free will, some have fallen. Our speed race is against the death of our ability to carry forward all the other success that will be lost. Loving the mechanics of being together circling the fire is loving the beating heart of being human. If we don’t love the collective, we cannot sustain. That doesn’t have to mean agreeing with it, in fact most times loving something and agreeing to let it fail are completely opposite impulses. Take our love struck, hypothetical amoeba, for instance.

People, some at least, are natural performance artists. We do it because we do. Art of the early primordial variety is the stuff that we were programmed with to guarantee the pilot light comes on when it’s time. That happens to spark the same cascade of future art spilling ahead like a line of gasoline to light the spectacle for the next. Sometimes the light gets lit too early, and that has other implications. Sometimes it gets lit too late. Both require a lot of strength to get through if you found the wrong forest or saw the reflection of a past or future forest lit before you were able.

But if we don’t test out all these glorious, terrifying experiments we call ourselves, we leave nothing. We lose all the beautiful joys we ourselves experienced as a result of the previous tenants.

Case in point. You likely do not know Lesley Harpold.

But her writing lives still. Hers was either an incredible life, or a performance pulled off to the fullest degree of any performance stunt known to me. Her life would be unbelievable to me if I hadn’t said the same several times over the course of many others. People have presumed me gone or in danger of being gone before, which is a bit unsettling the first time it happens. Actually, this is a pretty strong reoccurring theme in the lives of writers, either those scattered into hiding from the repercussions of particularly effective alter-egos, or those who really are what we might call “off being dedicated.”

In my usual skeptic sense on the uncertain things in life, I can only say bravo to what I read of Lesley’s that turned into a two-hour exploration of what it means to touch lives anonymously. Whoever or where ever she is, or whether you believe or not, this is the legacy she left, starting with the piece I read.

http://workbench.cadenhead.org/leslie-harpold/possible-scenarios-for-heaven.html

I’d say this is another case of a forest clearing I came upon too late.

And to anyone wondering how to keep going…

So what if all these crazy experimental aspects of being human were landed upon us in a flourish of cold mathematical beauty? So what if there is or isn’t someone watching. We have ourselves. You can blame teacups in space and still come to the same conclusion. There were beautiful people out there years before now, the best of which make us who we are today, and in order for that to have any meaning moving forward, we do our part. We go forth.

And when we are done, we can just know, remembering the fireworks lit at the coldest moments around us, that the ship does not go down with the crew.

Spark your flares and send some memories ahead. You know they’re watching. Remind them it was worth waiting for.

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It’s a boastful assertion, but some comfort to the many writers I see struggle to come to grips with the reason why good writing takes so long. You know you have a good story. You just need to know how to get it to the completed draft. There are ways to make it through when nothing else works.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few hard and fast rules to keep in mind, but typically the alternative process goes like this: you can pool from direct experiences to get something solid very quickly that is unpolished and in the rough, or you can wait a while, delicately approaching a subject repeatedly in different lights and moods, and like da Vinci use thin layers over long periods to produce something highly structured and refined. There’s no one way, or right way, or better way to do it. But frequently for dedicated writers the problem is not a lack of writing ability, because let’s face it, that part isn’t impossible, but rather the weight of the writing itself. Part of making it to the finish line is daring to believe you have something good to offer the world. The other part is realizing when you are in a small dingy with a lasso roped around the tip of an iceberg, with only a tiny paddle to make your way home with your inspiration, because that’s what it is. What you see or think you see is not what you are dealing with. Not really. Not if you’re here, still reading, and any of this rings true.

The point is to keep approaching the darkest doors you have yet to open with the deepest textures ingrained in them, because those are the same doors no one opens, and they stay closed for difficult reasons. You have them, they are there, and they are beckoning.

Plenty of times a story sags or goes brittle and falls apart or we lose interest simply because the structure underneath was not strong enough to hold it, or the little bits of fluff we intended to tack onto it simply weren’t interesting and full enough to cover what we wished. But nothing much compares to the difficulty most genuine and earnest writers face. You can see and feel the anguish from them at coffee or over dinner, or in their holiday updates, and you know something is stuck by the way they avoid that most awful of questions. When will it be done?

Of course, this is like asking God, when will the universe be done? If it hadn’t been such a pain to create, there wouldn’t have been so much about productivity once it was finished. Or is it? But that’s a question for another story.

What I humbly offer people who are writing good work, talented friends and struggling acquaintances I want to comfort, is simply this. You must lock eyes on the thing that makes you squirm. You must write all the harder when your cursor hovers over any possible distraction to get you out of the red zone, that uncomfortable on the nose place you must invent and uncover and lay bare about yourself so that others can dance around it and be safely distanced and comfortable confronting it after you’ve built the cage to hold it.

Whenever you get the need to reach out and send the signal to eject, sit on your hands and think. This is not genius advice by any stretch, but it is the most successful for getting done the project you really have in you, that you really want to complete, and the one that will ultimately be the most fulfilling as a creator, instead of skirting around all the little amusements that so many writers fall into while they are waiting to get the courage to say the thing that made them writers in the first place.

The shortest distance between two points is a direct line. It will be hard to write this way, but if you are reading this journal you have probably tired of the other advice anyway. Here’s my best shot to help you, because we are in the same line of work.

Write what scares the hell out of you. Write the thing you won’t share face to face or even think about for fear of ruining your day. Write the thing you cannot speak any other way. Sit there refusing to give in to the part of you that is scared off and instead make sense of the world you have found to build past all the fantastic mind palaces that were already so easily conquered in the past.

Go to the place you cannot go and open the door colored the blackest of night you cannot touch and find out what’s there. Something good happens afterward. You’ll have something that’s yours, that you believe in. The fight to leave what compels you will take over for the blank page you cannot fill. It is a reversal just as hard, but you will never wonder what to write again. You’ll always have something powerful and rich and compelling to write once you start from that place.

I have never felt what other people call writer’s block. I’ll even wager that what most people casually dismiss as a lack of discipline or procrastination due to lack of direction is really only this: the real truth, the one knocking about and asking for you by name, the thing they don’t tell you in pastel-covered writing self-help books is that real writing, like real living, or real anything is terrifying. Writing isn’t make believe. It’s pure fear, dipped in caramel. When you find yourself turning as far away from a word or subject or whisper as you can, that is exactly where you should be heading for your next line. Realize when you’re doing this, why you’re pulling away, and how that procrastination actually means you have exactly found the point at which you will write best and truest and most like your own voice. Consciously go after it, daily building up a tolerance for that thing waiting that you cannot face, and the block will go away.

It is so much easier to soften what is too true or too on the nose than to invent what is false. You will be happier with the outcome, I think.

Procrastination in writers is deathly not because it takes time, but because it teaches us to keep missing the obvious talents in ourselves that are waiting for us to make use of our personal truths we are secretly chasing without knowing that is exactly why we write.

Follow those dim lights down those dark corridors. Be willing to let the candle go out where you walk. Let your eyes adjust.

That’s my ghost story for the season.

Bisous

There’s a million tricks on mechanics, dramatic devices, and cast development, but the most important for good writing is also the simplest. You have to be honest. I’m not saying you have to write the truth, because part of being honest is realizing truth is like opinions and everybody has them. But you have to be willing to write the elephant sitting in the room.

Whatever it is you, or your characters by projection aren’t talking about, chances are that’s actually your golden ticket to producing a work that is both fascinating and original. That also means it’s hard work.

Maybe it comes out fast on the page, but the real work happens in your own ability to discern your biases, and be willing to look deeper into your characters, at their challenges, but also backward through time to what caused their behaviors and your own as their author.

Yes, you do get to a point where you learn how to seamlessly merge total fiction and mechanical polish with the rough, beating heart of honesty, but if you’re ever stuck with an outline that is suddenly looking very flat and cookie cutter on the page, consider the one thing that would make you break out in a cold sweat to come face to face with, or blush at to hear whispered about yourself at a party? Make it real, then make it relate to something you want to write about.

Maybe this is what bothers your characters, and maybe it isn’t, but if you can come up with half a dozen of these little phrases, you’ll be writing stories that ring true and have that quality unnamed for a long time to come.

Well-written reviews explain flaws that will be obvious to the target audience. If you can’t offer solutions you may not understand the story or storylogue in general to be effective in a review. I wait until I have a solution for each problem I bring up.

As a courtesy to the author, criticism works best as impersonal perspective in exchange for warning the audience of what they need to bring to the experience.

Ever notice you can read a critical review and then like the story just fine? Good criticism helps the audience understand how to approach the story. Scathing criticism is usually an attempt to buffer a serious-to-fatal flaw with humor instead of direction. Sometimes people cannot be honest about their work because they use it to self identify. That’s unfortunate.

All the criticism to my work so far has been understandable to me, thankfully before publishing. Insight and appreciation are both rewarding to read. I’d rather know than not because I’d like to improve. I’d also rather not find out in a public review of a book that’s already published. If it turns out to be accurate, I’d feel somewhat betrayed by my editor and publisher for not being honest with me in the initial development. For this reason I move my projects ahead with a lot of personal skepticism, very slowly. Perhaps I’m just the sort of person who would be hit hard if I found out my final draft was worthless. But I’ve yet to write anything that perfect.

This might be why I take it as a given that what I review will have flaws and that my suggestions and the improvements from others are just part of the process on the way from sneak-preview to final draft. I’ve always found a bad thing happens when you run out of improvement – the project stops being interesting. Luckily at that point it’s done.

I just read Plot to Punctuation’s Top 9 Character Tips for 2009 for additional tips for character development not just in the scope of avoiding stereotypes. These are great tips by Jason Black.

As a follow-up Elements of a Novel writes:
“All stories are about people, even when they’re about rabbits. And the stories that move us most, the ones that stick inside years later, are those inhabited by characters we can connect with and admire. And no characters resonate more than those who in the course of a story learned how to transcend their own flaws and weaknesses to do something great—this is known as a Character Arc…”

I’m sure there are many other good resources on this topic and I’ll add them here as I find them. I’m discovering Twitter to be an incredibly invaluable resource for all sorts of amazing links.

Some of my new favorite blogs are:

InkyGirl.com A wonderful resource from Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who regularly posts great links on just about anything new writers might encounter. Her comics are great and her icon makes me smile. Hey, what can I say. She’s doing a ton to help the writing community. I don’t think people get enough credit considering how much time it takes to blog, write, etc.

Teresa Gomes runs quotes for writers, with plenty of inspiration. One of the great advantages to writing is that you have the thoughts of your predecessors already written down. I say, use it. Amazing people referenced daily.

Screenwriter John August keeps an insightful blog up on screenwriting, and it’s great to read multidisciplinary material. Screenwriting is very structured as a necessity of production. Thinking like a screenwriter can help with plays, novels, story boarding, and outlines to cut down on development time from inspiration to draft.

Nathan Bransford keeps a blog as a writer and literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. He’s written Jacob Wonderbar and The Cosmic Space Kapow and offers interactive contests with perspectives on the entries. This is a great learning tool.

Cheryl Klein is listed as a Senior Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books and an editor at Scholastic. I find her posts really helpful and thought-provoking. She’s already helped my writing style since I’ve been reading her posts and I’m sure has influenced large swaths of re-writes in the right direction for many people. I highly suggest her to anyone interested in creating relevant manuscripts. Be warned she posts query letters.

I’m one of those people who respects being given the tools for self improvement, and then going off and working on it with minimal harassment on my part. Agents like Janet Reid create a persona I think to warn of their standards, but even this is done with best intentions in mind for the author. If you read her blog, she gives useful information and her honest thoughts on what makes for successful writing.

10 Traits of a Good Writing

1. Relevance. Stories that are timeless today were all relevant back then.
There’s an intriguing glimpse at the hopes and fears of the past which highlight our own.
2. Dialogue. The ability to communicate effectively and minimally.
3. Character. Character like good dialog is the creation of an insider world with the tools of subtext, linking each scene to the next for payoffs and paybacks to keep the readership or audience paying attention to the clues along the way.
4. Story. Story is the reflecting basic human archetypes, no matter how we may scramble them up like a rubik’s cube.
5. Clarity. The ability to write actions and activity which externalize characterization is essential for stage.
6. Metaphor. Externalization of action creates easier visualization for readers as well as audiences, often in the form of a unique symbolism that lives on after the work is finished.
7. Complexity. Modern and ancient readers never went for Dick and Jane. We misunderstand and oversimplify rich and forgotten subtexts from cultures we’ve moved too far away from to recognize in earlier works. B-plots have always been around, and were used correctly to balance the more difficult material encountered in the main message.
8. Structure. You can be the brightest literary genius of all time, but if you don’t understand how to frame your work, your reel will never play through at a scale your readers or audience can watch. It will always be stuck in your head until you discipline your work not to exceed the limits of human endurance.
9. Brevity.
10. Stealth. Never let them see it coming. Use externalization to create vivid visualization for unique metaphors your story can call your own. A unique metaphor means the connection is not overused and will be less likely to give your surprises away.

10 Traits of a Good Writer

1. Persistence. For those tapped to write, there is no choice in the matter. Persistence is the art of refinement.
2. Insight. Writing isn’t about gaining attention, it’s about giving insight – rare and hard won experiences you don’t want to tell.
3. Daring. Throughout history the best loved minds were mostly beheaded. This isn’t a warning, it’s a call.
4. Discipline. Writing is the art of starting. It doesn’t happen without planning – an outline, a beat sheet, and coffee.
5. Forgiveness. Single note emotions prejudice the story. Layered onto the deepest, darkest emotions, a little levity must fall.
6. Wonder. Perspective refreshes an old view. The untried angle is found through wonder.
7. Memory. A good memory creates a reality in writing that outdoes the detail we take in through normal experience. Writing has a resolution much like high definition.
8. Ethics. If a writer lies, the stories go stale, and if writers tell the truth, they live by it as well, producing the greatest stories.
9. Hope. Whether it’s a rejection pile or the character rising for act four, hope really does float us all.
10. Desire. If a writer has nothing else in the whole world, let it be desire because that sparks all. We are after all, only human.

Become a Manuscript Whisperer

You’ve seen those strange shows. Reality tv aimed at getting your pet/horse/strange Japanese youtube character to follow some unspoken direction. Creating a cohesive whole – otherwise known as story design – is a lot like getting some animal to animate in convincingly human terms.

‘Writing’ is ‘what I did on my summer vacation/personal fantasy on the train’ – but ‘Story Design’ is laying the bricks of a very rugged and methodical oven. It’s so unlike initial creative instincts to ‘just write’ – because it’s practically antimatter by comparison. It’s supposed to invisibly hold everything together, creating a speed and direction that seems like magic to the outside observer.

Writer’s Myth # 1:

Writers come up with a what-if and that becomes the premise of the story, right?

You’d think, but not from what I’ve seen. New writers get zapped with what-ifs meant to drive the dialog, but they usually end up being the arc of a specific scene, which will echo by and then be recorded. The larger story design has yet to materialize.

Which brings us to the tools of Manuscript Whispering…

Manuscript Whispering Step 1: The Notebook that Never Was

Keep the smallest moleskin possible on your body at all times. You are diabetic, and that notebook is the antidote. Be subtle if you need to, make it an address book, etc. but you need that notebook more than your laptop, keys or the litany of other usual suspects in distracting devices.

When some what-if story idea appears, one you really feel strongly would be a good story, write it down. You’ll know when it’s the right kind of thought bubble. It will demand your pen immediately. But before you set your pen down afterwards, write down whatever the characters would do or say in that situation in order to…

A. PHYSICALLY and EMOTIONALLY *GET* to that scene…
B. REACT after it happens… (and with who?)

You will naturally come to the end of the scene using these before/after prompts, and what’s more, you’re creating cohesive, self-contained units of story building blocks that don’t depend on you knowing the end of the entire story arc to constructively develop on their own.

Other uses for your Whisperings:

a. character names
b. ironically juxtaposed character profiles
c. titles and unusual little symbolisms
b. your theme/pitch/unique gimmick.

This is your primordial goo of evolving ideas. No one should see it but you. Moleskins come with convenient elastic straps for this purpose. You’ll be surprised how many people feel better once their loved ones have their votes reneged.

Manuscript Whispering Step 2: The Gimmick that’s Not

Give up on the idea that you would never use a ‘gimmick’ and understand your ideas will need to be looked at with a critical marketing perspective. Something unique or starkly differentiating your story from all the others like it – that is a gimmick. That’s all it is. You can have a pure art. Finding a playful way to make it worth reading to someone other than you is unavoidable. Also, it’s easier to agree with yourself on that gimmick from the beginning. Back-peddling on this is a bear.

Writer’s Myth #2

Pitch-writing is hard and takes a certain extroversion writers don’t have.

I will challenge you to a duel on this one. Writers are excellent communicators. Most writers who find they can’t pitch will discover the problem is with their ‘gimmick’ or uniquely differentiating idea. It’s not there. Ideas which are cliche are going to sound lame because they are. A little secret? Your gimmick is your story arc. They’re like mirror twins. Don’t look!

Manuscript Whispering Step 3: The Character in the Negative

A lot of a writer’s time is spent on defining what a character IS. This isn’t bad. But what if you read the blocks of story dialog you’ve collected over, say, a six month period, realize what kinds of characteristics are being projected in these discrete expressions of your growing story DNA, and then reversed them?

Balance in a story is what conflict is made – and resolved – from. If you have a lot of blocks that are red (heated dialog) – what is their common subject? If not a subject, a motivation. Once you’ve defined the similarities, next come up with characters to defy the ones you’ve already created on these common themes. If you already have too many characters, as many detail-oriented writers tend to create, begin to consciously ‘shadow’ the negative characteristic in another character. Likewise, a villain can only be so ‘bad’ before he or she is totally inaccessible, and therefore unrealistic, un-scary, and even worse, un-problematic. People cause us problems because we care about them. Dabbing similar shades of kindness and cruelty from your villains to your catalyst gatekeeper-types and vice-versa will give you the bridge conversations to ultimately net your story blocks together.

Even with the extraordinary adventures of every-day life, I’ve slowly built up an armory of these personal blocks. Writing software brags about them, but to DIY makes you a writer and gives you a chance to come up with the illusive, so-called “unique” idea that every writer is after.

You’ll dog-ear and number those blocks – it even helps to keep different color pens to separate them, or quickly color-code the mood or character of your off-hand writing in your notes. And in a about a week of on-the-side typing, you’ll have something you’ll actually like. It will stand on its own legs and look finished, even without the sheen of buffing and editing that will finally send it out of the plant.

Now does it sell? That’s a post for another weekend. But if you’re tired of manuscripts taking forever, and shouting the story out as a one-block continual narrative doesn’t work, try a little whispering.

While floating about the blog flotsom a few minutes this morning, I discovered this:

“Whenever I want to write a book, I am obliged (by contract) to submit an outline to my publisher first. My editor reads it, decides if she likes the idea, the premise, and the story I describe in a 40 or 50 page outline, that is supposed to include the characters, plot, and details of the book, broken down by chapter. The fact that I have to do that always surprises people. They assume that after all the books I’ve written (107 to date), I can just write whatever I want, send it off, and my publishers are thrilled. That’s not how it works in real life, or not mine anyway. (I used to have to submit several sample chapters or even half the book. Now I just have to submit the outline). The editor then calls me or writes to me, and makes lots of comments about what they don’t like, want changed, or what doesn’t work… After that, with their notes well in hand, and my outline, I write the book.”

That’s a pretty honest assessment of being the author of a specific genre. Genre work can be reliably warm and connecting, but also very scrutinized and monitored by protective publishers who know (or believe they know based on the numbers) their audience very, very well. The author goes on to discuss personal editing in an equally frank passage:

“Re-reading it is like looking in a huge magnifying mirror where you see every pore, speck and flaw on your face. And then, finally, I send the book to my editor, and the real worrying begins…”

I think I must have read some of these books as a kid, holed up in hot summer breezes behind ruffled white curtains in my grandmother’s pink arm chair sorting through towers of hardbacks, sifting for the action. There’s always action in any story, of a kind or another. Some prefer travel tales. Ladies prefer bodice ripping and shaggy-shouldered gasps of air. At least, that was my general impression at the time. Then I discovered the stash of “Lady’s Magazines” unassuming and innocent looking as they collected rumpled circles beneath the mid-day tea glasses. You can either be a grandmother, retired and catching up on the revolution through these conveniently covered issues touting baking bits and health elixirs, or you can be a seven year old picking up basic anatomy through the letters to the editor pages. I’m sure both are equally divine.

I noted with some surprise today that the slight smudge on my N-key, which has become slowly more obvious in the last few weeks, is actually not a smudge at all.

It’s a dent.

That’s right, my prized G5 power book, christened by my pointy fingers some 14 months ago, is now showing my love nibbles.

The N key is in that perfect spot (well, not for it) when my index finger goes straight down. Upon closer inspection, it is trailed in damage by the M and A keys respectively. Amazing when you touch type that you can keep your finger within a 5mm target to do that sort of damage.

Oh well. We all have to sacrifice for my art. I think as a computer, it wants nothing better but to be smacked around a bit. It hasn’t gone off with any other writers yet, at any rate. Some razor-clawed romance writer – well, would I have a computer in the house that would put up with being owned by someone like that? I think not. The alternative is the death by the would-be withering emu crowd. Oh look, another post about not doing anything.

Funny Quotes has this to say on the matter:

“I tried to cut myself last night to Joy Division with my toothbrush. I was sitting there trying to peel away as many layers of skin as I could but I couldn’t make a serious dent in my arm. I kept doing it for half an hour. My mother actually thought I was brushing my teeth for that long!”

And this:

“If God exists why did He have to give me such a horrible looking body? I mean what’s the point in having nipples if you are a man? I’ve tried biting them off in the past but I doubt I could handle the pain. I don’t know what I’d say to Mother on the way to the hospital either…”

I don’t know who the writer is of this “Dan” creature. But we are friends already.

In unrelated news, Atlantis Studios has a site up now offering to take your work and map it out into a graphic novel (comic book in other words.) On the whole I try not to shill vanity publications due to the heavily associated yes men who swarm about the garbage looking for half baked ideas – works which should have become better with a little dose of reality instead of a dive for the checkbook. But hey, there’s something to be said for viewing your work in an entirely different artistic format. The art images in the previews aren’t bad. No idea about pricing. I’m far too cheap.