Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writing Partners For The Win

   I feel participation in a writers critique group, especially if you're just starting your journey, is a plus for any writer. It's a great place to learn some basics and to find out where your weaknesses lie. I learn just as much from listening to the critiques of another person's work as I do my own. The group dynamics of such a diverse bunch of folks is fun to watch.
   It's no secret a number of writers are very introverted, and participating in a group can be beneficial in regards to public speaking. I've seen it time and again where a new member can barely poke their head far enough out of their shell just to introduce themselves. After months, that same person is now confidently voicing their opinion and actively participating in the group. If you're going to be a writer, you not only need to learn how to write, but also how to talk to others about your work.
   Eventually you will need something more in order to continue your growth as a writer, and that's where writing partners come in. My partners and I have very different styles, and write in different genres. We've known each other for a long time, and are familiar with each others stories. This aids in being able to see the story as a whole and not just parts. The important thing is we respect each other, not only as writers, but as individuals.
   Of course our meetings are not always a bed of roses. Sometimes the thorns get in the way, but that's okay. We have disagreements and misunderstandings, but because of our respect for each other, we can usually work those out. It's also nice to be able to brainstorm with the others when you get stuck and they can help you get your story back on track. That's something just not possible to do in a large group.
   If you've been in a critique group for awhile, my suggestion would be to pick two or three people you respect and feel comfortable around, and invite them to join a smaller, more intimate group. That's what I did, and it has been beneficial and rewarding. Remember, life is about relationships. The more positive relationships you develop, the better your life will be.
   Thanks for reading.


Picture is me and my partners many years from now. Lol



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

STORYTELLER or WRITER

   Last night was the first Writers Critique Group since our previous administrator decided to step down and asked me to take over the group. The meeting went really well despite my initial reluctance in taking on that role. It was the confidence builder I needed right now though.
   The group consists of a fairly solid core of writers who have been attending for several years, but every now and then we have new folks show up interested in joining. Last night was one of those times as three new aspiring writers joined us. It was nice to hear some of the group veterans reassure the new folks that my critiques are always well thought out and constructive.
   Thinking about the submissions and critiques we discussed last night, a thought came to me that others are probably already aware of. It seems people who start out to write a book are one of two things. They are either a storyteller or a writer. What I mean by that is some start out writing beautiful prose with vivid descriptions and smooth dialogue, but there isn't any story behind it. Others have a wild imagination and an awesome story once you manage to struggle through their poor writing.
   We have both types in our group and it's a challenge sometimes trying to find the best way to help storytellers become better writers, and the writers become better storytellers. I always feel a small sense of accomplishment when one of our members submit writing that is a vast improvement over where they started. I will do my best to help continue those improvements.
   It certainly doesn't hurt when I receive several e-mails from members thanking me for stepping up to take over, and they have confidence in my leadership ability.
   Thanks for reading.

Picture; what my cat thinks about the whole writing thing.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Trying To Find My Way Back

   It feels like forever since I've felt like writing a blog, or anything else for that matter. Now that my dear friend is finally back to the point where she can do things for herself, I find myself strangely adrift with no purpose. The problem is after spending months focused on keeping someone alive, the importance of writing falls far short.
   Everyone tells me I should take time for myself, especially now that she is doing better. Honestly, I have no idea how to do that. I've never enjoyed doing things by or for myself. I enjoy life through the reactions of those around me. My children are all in their forties with families of their own, and don't have the time to spend doing the things we used to do. None of my grandchildren like the same things I do, so when we're together, they spend time on their cell phones or play games I can't get into.
   Somewhere along the path I lost confidence in my writing ability. I used to think I had some small amount of talent as a writer, but the lack of response to my stories tells me something else. My writing partners and critique group tell me I'm a pretty good writer, but they're my friends, what else would they say? Folks who I've never met tell me my stories aren't very good. Who do I believe?
   Will I continue to write? Probably. At my age and current health, I can't do much else. Plus I'm from a generation that believed you should always finish what you've started. I'll find the desire somewhere to finish the two story lines I've started and try my best to make them interesting and enjoyable to read.
   At least it looks like I'll have the critique group behind me for the foreseeable future. Our current leader wants to step down for personnel reasons, and it appears the group would like me to take over. I suppose I could fool myself into thinking they want me because they appreciate my knowledge of writing and ignore the truth that no one else wants the job.
   Sorry for the dark tone of this blog, but spending yesterday in the ER with all the signs of a heart attack must have set me off. Fortunately, everything is fine except my potassium level had dropped dangerously low for some reason and my heart was letting me know it didn't like that.
   Thanks for putting up with an old man's gripes, and hopefully the next blog will have a more positive outlook.


Pictured is my little one-eyed buddy who'd rather have me hold him than write.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Writing As A Caregiver

   Some of you may remember I live with, and take care of, two disabled women. The three of us have been best friends for over fifty years. I love them both more than words can express, and I know they love me equally. Unfortunately, we are no longer spring chickens (all in our mid-sixties) and the possibility of death is always present.
   If you have ever been a caregiver, you understand the stress that comes with it. As long as I can still draw a breath, I will care for them, but what will happen after that? Who will care for them, or if I push myself too hard, who will care for me?
   Fortunately, several years ago I found I could use writing as a stress reliever. If you've read any of my stories, especially the shorts, you've seen an emphasis on love and loss. When I can put those emotions down on paper, it helps me deal with them on a personal level.
   Normally the two of them can get around pretty well on their own and take care of the basics, but the last several weeks have been tough. The most frail one picked up a nasty virus that left her bed-ridden. My days have been consumed with her care, and today is the first time I've had a chance to write as she slowly improves. It's only a blog post, but hopefully I'll be able to think about my stories once again.
  For those who may be interested, I'm working on the second novella in my first series. When I'll get it finished is anyone's guess, but I'll keep plugging along. It'll be done when it's done.
   Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is Google Plus Still Worth It?

   When Google made their new plus available, I tried it several times, but it never worked the way I expected. I would always end up switching back to the original hoping they would give up on the changes.
   Now, granted, I'm an old fart set in my ways and always a little resistant to change, but when I was forced to the new plus I decided to give it a chance and reserved judgment. It's been months now and I've decided the new system just isn't working for me. I tried to find a way, and hoped they would fix some of the problems everyone was experiencing, but it never happened.
   If anything, the whole platform is worse and almost useless. Even though I still have over four thousand friends in my circles, I can't seem to find most of their posts nor do I imagine they can find mine. With the old system, I could walk away for a few hours and come back to hundreds of new posts to look at. I loved the variety and all the interesting things people would share. Now I might have maybe ten new posts, and those from a limited number of people.
   I don't receive near the response to my own posts as I did with the old system. I also noticed a marked drop in the traffic to my blog. With the old system I averaged over two hundred visits a month that went on for years. Now I'm lucky to get fifty visits a month. I can't even be sure of what picture Google is going to put up when I post a blog.
   I've spent years building up a list of friends on Google, and I'm not sure I want to spend the time building up another list on something like twitter, but what choice do I have? Needless to say, I'm not a happy camper right now.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I Did That

   As some of you may know, I released my first, full length, novel several weeks ago. I'm still trying to wrap my head around what I've accomplished. It's been a little over a year since I had to step back from this story, and publish a novella just to get a feel for how the system worked. The difference between writing a 35 thousand word book and a 90 thousand are like night and day, at least for me.
   The complexity of this story, with its multiple plot lines and a wide variety of characters with very distinct personalities, was daunting. Several times I had to sit back and re-think the project, especially the time lines, to ensure everyone arrived at the climax at the right time. For the last several months, the book consumed my life. I thought about it night and day. I was concerned over my ability to pull the story out of my imagination and present it on paper in a way that made sense.
   To be honest, I was disappointed in the numbers from the free promotion, but you know what, it's okay. I've done something I never thought possible. Admittedly, the writing could be better, but hiring a professional editor on my limited, fixed income, was out of the question. I did spend the money for a quality cover and formatting in the hopes resulting sales would cover it. At this rate, it'll be a long time coming.
   At least several people enjoyed the story enough to leave a nice review, and bringing folks to my author page resulted in a few sales of my short stories and novella. There are some friends who I hoped would enjoy the story, but I haven't heard from them yet. If I've disappointed you, I'm sorry. I did my best.
   Thanks for reading.
 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's Been A Long Road

   Four years ago, unable to work because of health reasons, and running out of books to read, I decided to write my own stories. It was just something to pass the time. I had a couple stories in my head I thought would be fun to put down on paper, and just started writing. My daughter came over one day, and of course she wanted to know what I was doing. (nosy kids! lol) Anyway, she really liked what I had written and pressured me into entering a contest.
   I picked up a writing magazine from the library and found an ad for a short story contest. The story had to be less than three thousand words. I sat down, wrote the first thing that came to mind, ran it through Word to check for errors, and sent it off. Several months later, I received an e-mail congratulating me on finishing in the top ten.
   The story had been brewing in the back of my head the whole time. It needed to be longer. I looked through another magazine and found a contest with a word limit of six thousand . Again, I sat down, wrote what was in my head, put it in the computer and off it went. Months later, a nice Certificate of Honorable Mention arrived in the mail. I later learned I'd finished in the top eight out of over eight thousand entries. I was hooked.
   That short story blossomed into the idea of a trilogy, and I began to write in earnest. It hasn't been a steady or smooth road to this point. Sometimes, I'm just not able to write because of pain, or my depression rears its ugly head and mocks my efforts to complete a story of that length. In desperation, I set aside the large project and wrote a much shorter novella. A number of short stories also appeared along the way
   By that time, I had joined a local critique group, and eventually found three writing partners who encouraged me to finish the first novel in the series. They were over last night and helped me put the finishing touches on the final scene. I completed one more final edit and sent it off to be formatted. In a couple of days, I will submit it to createspace and Amazon for publication.
   It's a really good feeling to have completed the book, but my mind is now drifting. For years, scenes from this story have always been in the back of my mind. Will I be able to focus on the second book like I did the first? I don't know, but for now, it's nice to let my mind think about other things.
   Did I mention I have a honey-do list pages long? Hopefully, my brain will be refreshed after completing most of the other projects I've been neglecting around the house. I hope to continue with the intensity I had while finishing the first novel.
   Of course, I will let everyone know when the book is available, and maybe I can even convince a few to read it.
   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Involve the Reader

   I try to write stories in the way I enjoy reading. I'm also a very visual reader and have a vivid imagination. Books that go into extreme detail and long explanations of what is happening, bore me. When something unexpected happens to a character and they are puzzled, wondering why, I want to be puzzled and wonder also. It gives me the incentive to keep reading and hopefully find out why along with the character.
   It irritates me when an author introduces a character, and then several paragraphs, or even chapters later, provides a detailed description of that character. Based on the situation, setting, etc, my imagination has already formed a complete picture of that character. If the author describes them differently, it makes it hard for me to connect with the character. Unless it's critical to the story that the character has long blond hair, always in a ponytail, let the reader use their imagination. If it is important, then mention it as soon as the character appears.
   My writing partners and critique group enjoy it when I leave things to their imagination and present happenings without explanation. They look for that 'ah ha' moment later in the story when the reasons become clear. They feel involved in the story, not just reading about it. Of course, I have to remember those moments and make sure I answer the questions before the end.
   I know my writing style will not appeal to everyone because some readers aren't able to visualize that well and need the extra detail and explanations. Sorry, but I can't write that way. If I don't enjoy writing it, I doubt others will enjoy reading it.
   That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! Ha ha!
   Thanks for reading.

Attached is a picture of my new book that should be published by the end of the month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

OLDER THAN DOS

   Actually, I'm a lot older than that, but I feel like an old 8088 computer sometimes, trying to keep up with the new technology. I understood DOS, and I could write programs in Basic, Fortran, and Cobol. Those all fell by the wayside long ago along with my ability to understand modern computer programming.
   The speed at which I write is on a par with that old computer. It doesn't take much to cause a 'blue screen', and everything come to a grinding halt. After Christmas, I started averaging several thousand words a day and felt I could finish my story by the end of January. Then I got sick. Zero words were written as I struggled to breathe for several weeks, and of course I missed my goal.
   Tried my reset button, but the auto-depression.exe virus initiated, dumping my memory. CTRL-ALT-DELETE isn't helping, and the old cpu is randomly running short misc. scenes trying to find the right program. I still have the ending in mind, but the path to get there is no longer clear.
   Unfortunately, I can't upgrade the cpu and add memory like I used to for the old system. Between a corrupted program, fragmented files, low memory, and an ancient printer, story production is minimal. I wish I was referring to my computer, but I'm not. I'm no longer the sharpest tool in the shed. As a matter of fact, the shed isn't in very good shape anymore either.
   As long as they continue to put notebooks on sale for 20c each, and charitable organizations keep sending me free pens, I'll keep writing something. Maybe I'll even finish this story someday.
   Sorry you've been subjected to my rotten mood, but this is the least whinny of the blog posts I've tried to write today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It's Not Always About Money

   While it's certainly nice to sell an occasional copy of something I wrote and have a few extra dollars to spend, it's not why I write. I write to release the emotions bottled up inside, and the fantasies that go along with them. I also write with the hope my stories will affect others in some small, positive way. This happened again the other day.
   The woman I take care of has several friends who take turns going to church with her. One of those women has only been in the area a short while and I had only met her once. The other day, after church, she was invited to stay and visit since she lives alone and hasn't found many new friends yet.
   During their conversation, it came up that she likes to read at home, but was having a hard time finding enjoyable stories. My friend mentioned to her that I was a writer, and they called me to join the conversation. I told her I write mostly fantasy, but have written other things as well. Of course, being polite, she said she would love to read something I'd written, so I printed out two of my short stories for her. I didn't give it a second thought.
   Yesterday she surprised me by calling just to tell me how much those stories affected her. She said she sat down with a cup of coffee and decided to read the shorter one first (Arizona) and got in one sip before she finished the story, crying. She had to get up and putter around her apartment for a while to settle down. She got another cup of coffee and prepared for the other story (Broken Souls) wondering what kind of journey it would take her on.
   Again, she only got in one sip, and when she finished, the first thing she did after drying her tears was to find her address book and call friends she hadn't talked to in ages. I wrote that story as a way for me to express my regrets over lost dreams and opportunities. It drove her to call and reconnect with friends and family to avoid the regret of missing out on sharing their lives.
   The idea that my story moved her to do that and then call and tell me about it, makes it all worthwhile. If I can get people to smile, cry occasionally, or stop to reflect on their own lives, then I've done my job as a writer.
   Hope your day is as rewarding as mine has been.
   Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I'm Writing and Can't Stop

   If you've been following me for a while, you know I write mostly in my head. I run scenes through my mind, over and over, tweeking each time until it's exactly the way I want. Only then do I commit it to paper, and into the computer. It works for me, but is an extremely slow way to write. I'll go for a week or longer before I feel a scene is ready. This is a complex story I'm working on with numerous characters and plot lines. I've been struggling with tying them all together when over the holiday, the whole thing fell into place.
   I believe it also helped when after diddling with this story for two years, I put my foot down and told my brain enough is enough. This story will be finished by the end of the month, no excuses. What's that old saying? "Be careful what you wish for." I'm now obsessed with writing. It irritates me when the phone rings or I have to prepare dinner or any number of other distractions.
   I'm still only averaging around a thousand words a day, but that is pretty amazing for me considering the way I write. I won't be spending as much time on the Plus either which is probably a good thing. It's too easy to fall down a rabbit hole scrolling through my feed. Hopefully I can keep this up and finish before burn out. I guess we'll find out.
   Thanks to all my virtual friends, writing partners, and critique group for the encouragement and confidence to continue.
   Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for reading.