Archive for the ‘sex drugs and jerk chicken’ Tag

Editing part 3: The Relativity of Speed   Leave a comment

From whence this beard came, I know not.

From whence this beard came, I know not.

I am shocked.

I feels like only five minutes ago I looked on the kitchen wall clock, which clearly read “4:45 am”. It is now 5:45 am, and in the last hour i’ve only edited four pages. I’m not sure if its the fact that i’ve been on a bizarre cycle of time this last month, but as I’m working on this re-edit an hour feels like five minutes. Going through the draft is one part reading, one part writing and one part analysis. It is a slow process. It can take me thirty minutes to finish a page properly. If I have to pause and think about what the page is saying, how this relates to things down the road, and changing something that might create an inconsistency it can take longer.

It is now 7:39 a.m, and again, if the sun hadn’t come up, I wouldn’t know that i’d been working since midnight. I’m approaching five weeks of this activity, of long dark nights with missing time, spent in this world of my making. I felt like writing about this idea of time because initially there was a part of me that just wanted to be done. i wanted to quickly gloss over the script, do some light edits and then get it out there. But in reality that isn’t how it can effectively work if you are doing it solo. 

I don’t have the luxury of a team of writers or copyeditors. For now I have myself and time, and in this regard, time is my friend. So the first day was a bit difficult, as i realized that not only would I be re-reading the novel, but doing so very slowly and very deliberately. I’ve had to take in many a chapter sentence by sentence, modifying very slight descriptions, taking out unnecessary particles and those kinds of things, and rewriting sections that don’t flow properly. Sometimes the writing is light, sometimes heavy.

Because i’m doing this early legwork by myself, I’ve been careful to utilize a method that gives me the best results in a reasonable period of time, so I am not forced to read my novel again. Why? When I was in the last stages of getting “Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken” published, I kept finding errors in my manuscript. A punctuation error here and there, something factually incorrect or a typo, stuff that i don’t really want in my final product. Then I would go through the book, kill some errors and find more. At the time, I didn’t want to go through it slowly, and I ended up having to read the book five times before I caught most of the errors, instead of doing one slow read through. You do NOT want to read a book five times, especially when you are supposed to be promoting it, not editing.

So, I don’t want that kind of stress on when i’m close to being able to enjoy being “actually finished” with a draft. I don’t want to worry that there are dozens of errors lying about when I’m doing my PR campaign. I just need to WRITE it, EDIT it, have a few people READ it, take FEEDBACK and then PUBLISH it.

WERFP to mother.

Once I accepted that this approach was quite different from pounding out 10-15 pages a day, I became relaxed. Slowly re-reading and modifying, I was doing about roughly 15-20 pages a day over a six hour period. It doesn’t take six hours to read 20 pages, but going through them line by line and thinking for a little bit about each line can take that long. So now i’m at a point where I feel like my draft will be reasonably “clean” and all i’ll need afterwards are the aforementioned opinions.

Not everyone can self-edit, but if you can do it slowly, there is a good chance you will spot what someone would have spotted anyways. But remember, I am somewhat obsessive, and pay attention to details most people can’t bother to so, do this at your own risk (malevolent laugh). I started this on the 11th of November, so the entire slow re-read for a 75,000 word novel took me maybe 5 days.

So I took a break from writing to write this (say that six times fast) , but I am putting in the last tweaks and fixes for my final chapter (can I get a Yay-men?)

So pretty soon, I’ll get to doing cool stuff like promoting the book and that sorta thing, and take a well needed break from the laptop. So look out for that.

cheers

I hope you liked this blog! Follow me on Twitter, watch my videos on YouTube and grab a copy of my novel Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken.

18 days, 70,000 words   Leave a comment

memornign

This is where evil lurks in shadowy rooms at four in the morning

I’m getting close to wrapping up this project, and I felt like making a quick post about this. I’m trying to connect with people more closely as I’m doing these kinds of projects, and many of you who read the blog know i’ve been posting regularly about the ups and downs i’ve had with this writing process.

I started the novel about the 11th of October, and had a burst where I did one hundred pages in twelve days, took a week to clear my head and then did the next fifty or so in the last week. So in terms of actual writing time, it has taken me 18 or 19 days to reach this goal. As i’ve said before, I figure this book will end at around 80,000 words, a similar length to Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken.

So I wrote a post about being a 10 page a day writer, and here i’m sort of demonstrating aspects of the way I mapped stuff out. My hurdles (the blank week) were a result of some pretty heavy character conflicts that arose in the middle of writing (it happens). Working this quickly had nothing to do with any sort of competition, but I set a goal to release two novels this year, and that more than anything gave me the fuel to really ramp up the output for this project. It has been mostly fun writing it, because once the universe you create becomes vivid and you have a VERY clear idea of where things are going, you can play around with different possible outcomes in your mind and weigh the possible emotional consequences on the reader. Then, after that’s done you can dive back into it.

So i’m thinking of releasing a snippet of what i’ve written to far, but i’m not sure yet. As much as I’m exposing my stuff to the world right now, I think i’ll put out a piece of the book when I start doing promo for the release date, so it is a more logical strategy. In fact, I’m probably going to write an article on how designing my book covers are a big part of how I write the novel, so more to come soon. So, guess i’m on to the next 10,000 or so words.

cheers

 

Massive exhaustion and Book review Caution   2 comments

earlymornNY2

It’s about 3 a.m, and I hear a door open. Squinting in the dim light of a lamp beside my suitcase, is Ron, whose couch I’ve been sleeping on for the past week. He shuffles past me, his eyes thick with sleep. I hear him mumble something unintelligble under his breath, before he vanishes into the bathroom. I’m doing my “travel check protocol” before heading to the airport. While staying at his place, I devised a nice little system of staying as organized as possible in the small pace. A few minutes before, my little space was chaos, but now everything is almost packed away, and outside New York is quiet and dark. Ron comes back out from the bathroom and gives me a bro-hug. “Travel safe man, and good luck,” he says. I tell him likewise and he shuffles back into his room.

The kind of tired I’m experiencing is palpable. I can feel it in every part of my body. I’m overextended in terms of energy, finances and everything else I can think of. The last few days I’ve been walking long blocks to get to meetings, figuring out directions (badly) to meetup with people at night while trying to make stuff happen with my book. In the Lincoln Town Car i’m taking to the airport, my mind runs briefly on Jamaica, where in a day I’ll be delivering a speech at this year’s edition of Anime Nation, a growing Cosplay event put on the by a group called the JA Cos Playaz. The time spent in the states running around on buses, planes and trains has gotten to me; I feel weak and winded. Some sort of Bachata music is playing on the radio, and I watch Brooklyn disappear in a blur of black as we head to JFK. I have a large duffle bag and a backpack.  I feel like I’m being dragged into the earth itself as I walk the fifty feet or two to the American Airlines check in counter. I happily hand over the duffle to the check-in lady, but my backpack is worse. Two minutes after having it on my shoulder, I start to feel light-headed and I kneel on the ground, taking in a few breaths. This is when I know I’ve gone close to my limit. I regain my balance and go through the major security checkpoint and head to my gate. The waiting area is so cold it would scare an arctic wolf. I try to pass the time rubbing my arms and walking around. I’m listening to the last few CDS of an audio called The Power of Intention on my ipod,  nodding in agreement with different parts as I ruminate about serious “coincidences” that happened in the previous week. The fat backpack is on the ground some distance away and I am wide awake. For some reason I buy a large cup of coffee, which adds to my growing state of disease. I sigh again after buying some morning McDonald’s (an egg muffin without bacon) and I can’t eat it. I’m too tired to chew it, and something about it tastes off.

mbirdinflight

The first flight is three and a half hours long, but before we took off I felt a little woozy. The plane felt as if it was moving before it was moving, and outside, the bright sunlight was garish and made my head hurt. I fell asleep for about two hours then woke up, feeling as if I was in a refrigerator. As man who has endured twenty-two hour flights to Japan, a nightmarishly uncomfortable thirteen hour train ride in Egypt and climbed a mountain the evening after a day of teaching six English classes (ask people who live in Japan what that means) I was annoyed at my weakness. I was annoyed I was so cold, and so tired.

With sleep seemingly not going to be my friend, I resumed rubbing my arms and floating in that grey area of being asleep and awake with the occasional feeling that my head is spinning. When we land in Miami I feel relieved. I have a six hour delay and at least that would give me time to get back to normal. I was wrong. The Miami airport felt even colder than JFK and my backpack felt like ten drowning men pulling me into a whirlpool. Only a minute after putting it on as I exited the plane, I started feeling light headed again. The bag was way too heavy. I groaned as I paced about, looking for somewhere, anywhere that would have sunlight. I found a spot adjacent to a Friday’s in plain view of everyone walking by. There I sat, unapologetically leaning on the huge transparent window for warmth. I felt like a traveling reptile author, on his rock, lazing the day away. When people walked past I could feel the cold air in their wake hit me like punching gloves, and in that mental mix of fatigue I drifted off to sleep.

For twenty minutes.

The sun had disappeared and I felt a little better, a baseball team of energetic young men chatting Spanish was near my location, I got a few more minutes sleeping crookedly on a chair.

coldairport

The next few hours were just like this, and the one hour flight back to Jamaica was brutal. Everywhere was stuffy,  and I felt like I was in a hot little box, unable to breathe. I’d never experienced throwing up in the air, and I felt close. Even after I came off the plane things felt wobbly and uncertain.

In this state I ended up going to a friend’s goodbye party briefly, mentally trying to figure out if I would be ready to deliver a speech in a day’s time. This was a very brief, but surreal re-entry back home. My friends (from Germany) excitedly gave me passionate hugs, congratulating me on the book and what i’ve been doing so far. I smiled and laughed with them, enjoying the moment but heavy with the need for sleep.

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It takes a while when you are this exhausted to regain your equilibrium, but time wasn’t on my side.

I did the Anime Nation speech (people told me it went well) and instead of heading home, I snapped photos of the event. The previous year I covered the event in a video, and I remembered I was frustrated at the time I wasn’t able to document people in their costumes. I ended up staying the rest of the night, taking pictures of almost everyone in costume and went home wiped out and tired, falling asleep fully clothed.

meanimenation

I wake up, still feeling somewhat exhausted and remember that I need to get these photos online quickly so I can start focusing on some book stuff. I shoot out a few reminder e-mails and plan some follow up calls. The day starts off with a bang as usual, and I’m already thinking of fifty things I need to make happen. Then I notice on my Amazon page that I have a new review up, and it is terrible.

Whoever wrote it didn’t like the book, my writing, they didn’t like my use of similes (this is mentioned in the review) and if I knew them personally they probably wouldn’t like my cat either. Sitting there on an early Sunday morning, I wondered, “what should I feel?”

The progress I’ve made in the last two weeks has been incredible relative to the previous five. In New York I had meetings with people telling me parts of the book they could relate to, and I briefly had a flashback to my book reading, when someone in the audience spoke at length about the suicide of a friend and how a part of my book  made them relate to that. So I looked at the review one more time, feeling a flash of discomfort travel through my body, and nodded to myself.

I don’t think you can be an author and not have someone hate your book. In fact, you can have people dislike your book, but most writers talk about the people that “spew vitriol” about their books and how these people must exist. I mull this over in my mind as I start selecting my top picks from the photos I took the night before. As it relates to the negative review, I briefly wonder who this person is, if they actually read the entire book, are they an academic or a writer, but then I realize it will be impossible for me to know this, and also impractical to ask. Maybe this person likes paranormal romance novels or historical fiction. Maybe they don’t, and as I start editing the photos, I realize it doesn’t matter. I realize that this one review could unravel me, it could make me question all my progress and wonder if I really have something. It could become the dark angel on my shoulder, whispering negativity into my ear canals. But I also know it can’t. I get more focused on the task at hand, and thoughts of the review slowly go away from the forefront of my mind. The image below is one of the favourites I shot at anime nation. (To see all the pics, click here )

redride

With regards to the book there is work to do, there are people to call, there are print revisions to make, there are proposals to write and there is not enough time in the day. I don’t have a loft in Manhattan. I’m not figuring out which book deal I want as publishing houses battle for me to be their new darling. I’m not there yet. I’m a guy who had an idea for a book and wrote it.  I’ve been on the nigh edge of burnt out for almost two months and I see that something is starting to happen, and I can’t stop now. Sleeping on my friend’s couch and getting all dressy to go to meetings, schmoozing with people at magazine parties and taking trains around town is for the moment part of an illusion, I am in the present, and dead certain what it means. The future can hold promise and many things, but each night coming back to that couch reminded me that I wasn’t there yet. So exhaustion, bad review or not, I know I’m not there yet, and that I need to work harder, and i’m just getting started.

Etro Jackets and Photo Packets   Leave a comment

swagdilly

I’m sitting in a nice Mexican eatery in Washington heights–the kind where both the people serving me speak no English. I’m hanging with Jacob, the fashion editor for G Caribbean magazine, who recently styled international superstar Machel Montano for the cover of their premiere issue. He will also be styling me for a photo shoot today.

I dive into a huge broccoli and cheese omlette while Jacob tells me about his career in fashion, working for brands like Hugo Boss, Etro and Canali. This whirlwind New York life is starting to mess with my brain because I’ve only been in New York since Sunday, and i’ve done more in three days to push my book Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken forward than i’ve done in two months. But the nature of how this happened relates to what i’ve been doing the last two months either way. Everything is adding up. I’m a bit tired as i’m writing this, because I haven’t fully adjusted to what I call “New York” rhythm. The constant walking, loud trains and diets that seem based solely on expensive sandwiches and sodas isn’t what i’ve been used to the last few years. But either way, the journey is getting more interesting. I meet the rest of the team, a cool photographer named Marko and my makeup lady slash co-director Mauricia. We run through the shoot, with everybody buzzing with high, friendly energy.

“This is the author of the book,” Jacob said to Marko at some point.

Something about that statement felt a little strange. I still just feel like me, Marcus Bird, the dude with a few crazy ideas he put on paper and brought into the real world. But in New York i am an author, creative and seemingly more. People here are excited by things and interested in things. This is a far cry from the more chilly, rummy vibe of sunny Kingston. I’ve been chatting to my little sister lately about the idea of “walking value” as a means of showing people a better side of yourself. This walking value could be a project of some kind that highlights more of your talents, or that encapsulates strong aspects of you related to your field. When I decided to really go hard with the novel, I felt that i’d be connected to it even more because I did the formatting, the cover design, all the graphics, the launch push, sent all the e-mails and so on. I am the product, and the product is me… and I can talk about it. It’s also great that I made some hardcopies of the book because they have been instrumental in putting a face to what i’m trying to do. On Sunday I had a meeting with the same people from G Caribbean that set up the photo shoot. One of them, a svelte fashion designer named Mikaila with a great head of hair peppered me with questions about the book.

“Where do you see this book going?” she said.”Where do you want to take this?” she asked. “Do you know know what you have here with this book?”

It wasn’t just her questions, three other people associated with the magazine hit me with similar questions. The questions were all about stuff relating to the novel that had been hidden in the back of my mind, in that dark upper attic that few people ever venture to. But this was New York, and people in magazines don’t just pat you on the back and say “Good job buddy!” No. They ask questions, they probe, they are interested, if only for the moment. The dialogue spun around the book, the magazine and ten other topics at once. At the end of it all, some plans were hatched, one of which included a photo shoot which would be happening in a day’s time.

shootsnap

So now i’m at the shoot, trying to get my swag on. (Big props to full time models, this stuff ain’t easy)

I can’t see where all of these various things will take me, but I honestly haven’t had time to think about it. In three days i’ve walked more than i’ve walked in a LONG time, made tons of connections and i’ve been constantly busy and going, going, going. Even today I have three meetings and i haven’t figured out how i’m getting to the airport for 5 a.m yet to catch my flight to kingston.

Something is tingling in the back of my mind, and i’m not sure what it is. I’m not the sort of guy who gets excited very quickly about things. I watch patterns, I double check things, I try to make confirmation on top of confirmation before I make heavy decisions. I want things to feel right; i want to make sure they make sense, but in the last three weeks in particular i’ve been throwing myself more into the wind, letting go of certain aspects of control, taking bigger risks, and stepping to closer the edge. At the meeting on Sunday, Rae, a research contributor for the magazine asked me, “How invested are you in this project Marcus?” I thought for a second, and said, “I’m on the edge.”

Geoff, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, immediately said, “Just dive.”

I thought for this for a moment, and nodded. I guess its time to dive.

Washington Places and CreateSpaces   Leave a comment

dcmetroaug03

It’s been really interesting being back in D.C for a day or so. Doing the book reading for Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken, walking around Chinatown for a bit, having dinner with a few friends and seeing old faces and places was an exercise in remembering what’s out there. Whenever I travel I tend to get this “reset” where I remember that out there in the world, there are entirely different ways of being and living. People I run into are doing things they want to do, whether it be at a non profit organization, or working for a big film company. I feel more and more like i need to be in a place with enough creative flux that I can meet and see the people I want. Either way, I got my books today and they look pretty cool. Hopefully I can offload them in the good old NYC if I do a reading. But i’m trying not to worry about it all, i’m just gonna hop on my bus and see what happens.

SDJChardcopies

Presently I’m not sure how to feel about the books. I mean i’ve made that step into the real world of publishing, but the way my mind works i’m always processing and nitpicking so I’m reserving judgement for the moment. BUT… at the very least, the cover design came out okay, and i’m pleased with the eye grabbing nature of it. The pages feel “okay” and i guess with time they will get softer with exposure to heat and air. The formatting seems to be okay as well, though the text is a tad smaller than I expected. I might have to adjust that somehow when i do my next run of books. Either way I have a tangible product that I can do stuff with like giveaways and show them to people, etc, so it’s an interesting step. I mean, as i’ve said many a time on this blog i’m not a person who gets easily excited by things, but i’ve been practicing more and more how to feel like what i’ve achieved is “something.” It’s hard to rejoice all the time when you are figuring out all the details about marketing, public relations, interviews and so forth at the same time. Anyhoo, this is step one to hopefully a much bigger step. Next destination is New York!

meholdingbook

First book reading!   Leave a comment

mebookreading

Just did my first book reading and i must say it was quite interesting. I wasn’t nervous heading into it, and I mapped out the reading as a look into the minds of young men, and explained that in the book there are some darker more adult topics such as suicide and depression. It went really well and I can see how these things have a purpose. A few people there had read some of the book, some had not, but they all wanted to hear more, which is good for me! I will be chopping up a video at some point and uploading it here.

The Surreally Real Life   Leave a comment

surreal

I’m in Boston, and outside the place is relatively quiet, i’m greeted by the casual chirping of birds and the quiet solitude that comes with chilling in a place where your next door neighbour is a farmer, and at night it gets so dark you can’t see ten feet in front of you. But this is good, good in the way that I need it to be. I’m far away from the mentally contiguous rabble that is Kingston, able to take a special breath of quiet air for what seems like the first time in forever. This is the Surreally real life, a life between lives, a glimpse into how other people live and exist, far from what is normal for me.

I organized a book reading for Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken which will take place in DC on August the first, and something feels “Surreally” about it. Why?

I finished my book in Jamaica, and even though this is not a feat by any means, the book is set in D.C. I’ve only been back to the states for a few days and i’m feeling this heavy internal shift. There is something else in the air, the people and the vast landscape; the groundswell of opportunistic feelings are slightly overwhelming, the taste of the past is quickly back on the tip of the tongue. Things feel more visual now as it relates to America. As the book promotion and connections i’ve made are slowly picking up, i’m noticing that the way I feel about the project is also evolving. It is really becoming an extension of me; an interesting conversational piece, a validation point, something of reasonable “worthiness” to break dead air and smile about.

As I was scrambling to figure out how to get to D.C from Boston (near Cape Cod nonetheless) I realized that I was in the stages of trying. Trying to make it, trying to get the word out, working hard and fast to sow the seeds that will hopefully take me somewhere out there. I’ve been constantly re-reading parts of the book for re-edits, polishing cover designs and getting feedback from new readers. I’m reliving the book through them, but I haven’t been to D.C in quite some time, and I’m sure re-experiencing the city I penned a novel about will be an exercise in culture shock within itself; a taste of self-expression personified in brick and concrete.

The reading will be held at the Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights. The spot is one of “those” bars. It’s a fixture in many a person’s nighttime activities. People from Georgetown and all over frequent the location for good reason. There is a vibe there, an energy which people feel as you walk in. Something about that bar connected with me, and during the drunken moments or quiet evenings hanging with friends, it became a large part of D.C for me as well. In my article “Neil Strauss Chuck Klosterman and Plastic Sheets” I explain how these two authors opened my eyes to the idea that my sort of writing had a place and made sense (and was profitable) and sparked the baby flames of what was then an experiment in finding my writing voice. The haze of bars, women and life in D.C was interesting to say the least, and my travels to Japan, Egypt and Korea also showed me a lot about what life has to offer in its coiffeurs. But for me to be reading at Wonderland of all places, that odd nucleus that semi-started my journey into this current writing landscape, is really, surreal.

I’m not sure how i’ll pull it off, or what i’ll choose to read. I will definitley read an excerpt involving a drunken mob rolling en masse to Wonderland after a Creation versus evolution party. I will also show other sides of the book, the dark moments of abuse one character faces as a child, and the lingering questions another character must face after someone close to him committs suicide. But what will it feel like, is what really puzzles me. Any time i’ve ever gone to Wonderland I was just a person, a patron with a can of PBR in my hand, a smile on my face with the intention of having a good night. I was a blur in a blur of memories and circumstances there, and now I’m feeling like i’m actually a thing; a moment shared with this bar that so many people like.

So i’m here, sitting on a wooden chair typing as I look out at an overcast sky with the pitter patter of light raindrops hitting the roof and I wonder, how will it feel, to step into the Surreally Real Life. Who knows, but I’m hoping it’s a wild ride.

Epic Snafus and Book Readings   Leave a comment

MOMzoomsnafu11                            Peek closely and you’ll see the teary eyes of a lost SD chip.

I felt genuinely inspired today. I checked out a reading excerpt from author Tom Gillespie who wrote a book called “Painting by Numbers“. I thought it was not only very cool, but something I could model as i’m presently in “try anything mode” to get publicity for my novel, Sex, Drugs and Jerk ChickenSo, despite the fact that I wasn’t armed with a cool Irish/Scottish accent I decided to record an excerpt from one of my novel’s chapters. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Gillespie’s whispery delivery of his work, and I felt that I could at least speak normally and get a few listens. Somehow, after doing two test recordings and gearing up for my final session with my little Zoom H1 microphone, the SD card went through the insertion slot and fell into the device itself. After saying “argh” a few times, I got my trusty toolkit and opened it up, hoping i’d be able to extract my card (and the files on it)

MOMzoomsnafu03

unfortunately, the card slipped into the area of the mic you cannot open and i’m screwed. The closest I got was a small peek at it, safely ensconced beneath one of the circuit boards. Needless to say, i’d have to buy another SD card and pray to the silicon gods the same thing doesn’t happen. I DID however, copy a few of my recording off onto a USB to do a test listen, and hopefully one or two of them is passable. Either way, I think this will be good practice for a book reading or two i’m trying to organize (more on that soon) and I want to find interesting bits of the book to read. I’ve been told my voice isn’t bad, and I guess with some practice I can bring aspects of this book to life. So, goodbye my SD card, I hope you enjoy your new home, until i figure out some other way to extract you from the Zoom mic without breaking it into bits.

If you are interested in hearing really good whispery delivery, the Excerpt from Painting by Numbers is here:

Writing ramble and the Kindle Gamble   3 comments

ALANBLOGPIC

Today was one of those days I wrote (so far) about 11 pages of a short story. I’ve been really working on getting back into the mental wagon of writing, and mainly this involves writing a lot more. That probably sounds pretty simple, but for anyone who does active writing, its not necessarily “easy” to write frequently, if you don’t have topics that motivate or interest you. For me, my attention floats between writing about language learning and then writing about observations of my daily life or things I feel might be of interest to people. Since I haven’t actively blogged on this site for quite some time (leading up to the release of my new novel), that means in a way that I wasn’t very interested in sharing much for a while. Regardless of that, i’ve been doing more writing across different lines, and i’ve noticed a few things.

It doesn’t matter what I write.

This adage seems to make sense, because writing is simply a function. I don’t really need to write swaths of epic prose to feel like i’m gaining momentum. The occassional blog post or lengthy e-mail does wonders to get the brain back into gear. What daily/almost daily writing does is just get me back into  the habit of seeing writing to be a normal thing. I doubt i could have woken up at 4 a.m written for two and a half hours one month ago because I wasn’t actively writing (I was working on editing the book and doing the launch). But now, I feel more in tune with just diving in, and i’m hoping to get a couple other projects out of the way and have more “product” out there.

Old projects are good kickstarters.

This comes from me digging up some very interesting short story projects I had either started, or made a basic concept of. In my post about a week or so ago, I wrote about how to be a ten page a day writer. I explained quite clearly my method, and it has a lot of do with a certain clarity about what you are writing. The picture above is about a page and a half description of a short story/short film concept i had. It clearly illustrated basic character motivations, scenes and the general flow from A to B of the idea. After mulling it over in my brain for a few hours, a stream of thought hit me and I started writing the first draft non-stop until I hit eleven pages. What was funny about this project is that I COMPLETELY forgot I even wrote this idea down!  I call this “mad scientist fuge state”, where I have a cool project idea, blaze out a detailed concept and then forget it soon after.

Working on this is a welcome sort of break as I slowly push my novel, Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken.  It is a little tricky to be doing all the PR and online interviews and marketing for your own book, and I felt that I need to be getting a project or two off the ground during this process. I’m looking at doing some “Kindle Singles” as a way of sharpening my writing again and hopefully gaining some exposure if the editors at Amazon find my work interesting. I spent all of Saturday morning designing a Kindle Single cover for a story of mine “Misses Cats”, and I felt like polishing another two or three stories (just in case) I decide to do a bigger submission. It’s been about two and a half years since I’ve actively written on a blog (other than my language blogs) and this feels interesting again. I think i’m getting back into it, but i don’t want to talk too soon. What has definitely changed in my self-perception on what i can do as a writer. Releasing a novel gave me a small kick in the gonads, but hasn’t left me with a massive ego either.

Big goals can help push smaller goals.

This is what i’ve observed about how I am mentally thinking about structured projects after releasing my novel. Years ago, I made plans to release a book of short stories based in different locales. I even sent out the top 7 stories i’d written up to that point, got a set of quality readers, gauged their interest and found the top contenders. Then, after doing that, my readers unanimously selected “Gaijin Girl” as their favourite written story, and eventually, it was published in an eidtion of Yomimono, a Japanese literary journal. Later, another story from that set, “Sleep” would be published again in the same journal two years later. Now, I’m about to push a third story, “Misses Cats” from that set as a Kindle Single. Sometimes you have these awesome writing periods, and you don’t realize the gems you are mentally creating when you are in the zone. So, in this scenario, the “bigger goal” was the novel I recently released, which was a bigger mental hurdle than say, releasing a book of short stories. But either goal felt quite daunting a year ago, but only two weeks after releasing the novel, doing the short story thing doesn’t seem like a big deal, and what’s cool is that I have loads of content. From my previous short story projects, I think I might already have about fifty plus pages of content for a collection of short stories. Because i’m sort of getting into the zone, I think with some effort I can start popping out a few more stories, or fleshing out stuff i’d already started. So this is my Monday morning ramble about writing and my current process. I’ll get back into my “journeyman” introspective babble at some point, but these days I can’t really bother to blog about “real life” since my mind isn’t focused in that way.

I guess i’m back in writer mode for the time being.

Novel Anatomy part 1: How to be a ten page a day writer   3 comments

   

flabs

This is maybe what ten pages a day looks like after a while

No, you don’t need a Black Sabbath album, a vial of coke, a magical leprechaun muse and a mountain of skittles to write ten pages in a day each day. In fact, I’ve discovered there’s only one thing you really need: clarity.

I’ll illustrate.

More than once I’ve had ridiculous, high energy bursts of writing that resulted in me writing 10-35 pages in a day. Yes, I’ve written a max of 37 pages in a day (not that I can repeat such Herculean feats often). Whenever I’ve had these sorts of days, it wasn’t so much about being “in the zone”, it was more about being extremely clear about what I wanted to write, with a burning intensity to get it out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the process of writing takes some plotting and planning and chewing pens or pencils and wandering around wearing tweed (possibly plaid) trying to find inspiration in your environment. But if you are very clear about what you want to write, there is nothing really holding you back.

So, I noticed this in two instances.

One instance was when in 5 days I wrote 120 pages of a sci-fi manuscript that had been eating at me for a while. The story was so clear in my mind that I didn’t do any research, didn’t write down any plot or do any significant character development. I just sat and wrote. Idly, I said to myself “if I do 20 pages a day, I’ll have two hundred pages in ten days.” So logically I started the process (in them thar days I didn’t care much about such  things as “limits” and “burnout”)

But the story (which revolves around some super human kid with powers and such) was so clear in my head that I didn’t even need to take a break. Every scenario from the introduction and the first few chapters were already in my head. So I just wrote. I did twenty pages the first day, and then did an average of twenty-five the next few days. When I hit 120, I realized I ran out of plot! So I had to stop, and think.

Now, the point isn’t the fact that I stopped, it was that I used up all the clarity that had made me so speedy with the writing.

Another time, I wrote 105 page manuscript in 11 days. It was a sordid emotional affair:  me breaking up with a girl and releasing my angst in written prose. Again, I was super clear on what I wanted to write, and had a burning intensity to get it on paper which resulted in a novella.

So do you have to break up with a girl to write ten pages a day? Hellz no.

Recently, when doing the final legwork for my latest novel Sex, Drugs and Jerk Chicken  I had a few ten page days and a few two page days. The ten page days were always days when I knew

(a) exactly what I wanted to write in extreme detail

That’s it.

You can make it happen pretty easily too. Of course we don’t all have those burning ideas raging in our minds that make us lose sleep, but we can create the same result without the seemingly candy-fueled rage.

Say you want to write a few chapters. Each chapter is five pages. All you need to do is write a paragraph or two describing the sequence of events and then importantly, what people talk about, where they go, and how they react. This builds “environment” which you don’t want to think about when you are writing. Once this is done, what tends to happen is that as you write, you focus less on the plot and more on the visuals and the dialogue or whatever, and you get the chapters done and have time to review etc. All you need is a piece of paper and a marker. (i like markers because they squeak when I write). How much description you write is relative only to one thing; how clear the idea already is in your mind. Sometimes you are 70% there, sometimes you are only 15% there. The more info you give your brain, the easier it will be to flow come writing time. I have examples of both below.

SHORTDESC

That is  pretty simple description, but you’d be suprised how long I had been puzzling this beforehand. I “sort of” knew what I wanted to write, but it was killing me. After I wrote this, I was able to quickly write a draft of the chapter and then fiddle with it for a while till i had it where I wanted it. That piece of paper translated exactly into SIX written pages. But that was a chapter where I kind of had a relative idea of how I wanted to shape it. Let’s say you have a more complex idea. No worries! As the French would say, ce n’est pas problem ici mon ami!  Simply repeat the process with more details as shown below.

longdesc

That page has material for two chapters. What I did was illustrate to myself how these two characters met, how they might hookup, little things they might talk about or what she might tease the character about (in this case the character is Tony). That translated into one 7 page chapter and  had the meat for another 6 page chapter. So two written pages with light description translated to 21 pages. So let’s say you just did enough for two chapters. Six plus seven equals… voila! Thirteen pages.

Now maybe you have a shorter chapter or a longer chapter or whatever, but this is the basic principle through crazy observation that i’ve learned. Once it is clear, or you make it much, much clearer, it is much, much easier to write. We all have different writing styles, but its much easier to write about the ” Man bleeding from his ears after the bomb went off in the deli he had been going to as a boy which happened to be the same place he met his girlfriend who went to join the army but loved talking about Norman Rockwell paintings after they made love” versus “some guy who got injured in a bomb blast”.

The first description gives you a lot more fuel for the proverbial fire because you can start making different connections and leverage your writing based on those things. The second leaves you in the chair, pen in hand staring at the bird taking a crap on a branch outside your window.

Which path will you choose?
   

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