Writer with a Day Job

Here’s an interesting new book, “Writer with a Day Job”. I found it listed on the Writer’s Digest website and I thought that someone finally captured the reality of being an aspiring (or even published author). Through my trials as an aspiring writer, I’ve discovered that I’ll never be able to quit my job and write full-time. It’s a great fantasy to have but it’s not realistic.

The reality of being an aspiring writer is that I have a day job. I’m also a husband and a dad. Those are my priorities and not to mention taking care of a house (inside and outside). Whatever time is leftover, I try to write and that’s usually in the morning. I’ve had some success writing at night but lately it’s been tough. With a new job, my brain has pretty much cashed out on me by the end of the night.

That’s why I’m wondering if Aine Greaney’s book might provide some direction. I have a second child on the way in October and I’m a quarter of the way through my second novel. The challenge I made to myself was to have the first draft finished before then. I’ve stalled. Writing comes down to discipline, but if there are ways to work smarter not harder, I’m in.

I guess my other issue is that my creative energy get stalled from time to time. In addition to my writing challenge, I’m also on a weight loss challenge. Too many challenges? I hope not. I hoping that my improved waistline will fuel my writing, but maybe that’s where “Writer with a Day Job” can help. Here are a few takeaways based on what I’ve read so far:

  • Make the most of your writing time early in the morning or late at night.
  • Harness the power of your lunch hour for writing, editing, and revising.
  • Use your commute—driving or riding—to power your writing.
  • Plan the perfect writing getaway.
  • Set goals, revise your work, and share your writing with coworkers.

Any reviews on this book? Send them my way!

Thanks!

Ice Cold Man

I recently came across a song on my iPod that got my creative juices flowing for a short story. “Ice Cold Man” is a song by Probot, which the side project of Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters. Turns out that Grohl is into metal and a few years ago decided to enlist a who’s who of metal vocalists to record an amazing metal album. I love it!

So “Ice Cold Man” is one of those songs that’ll grab you. The lyrics are beautifully apocalyptic. The guitars are slow and haunting and match equally creepy vocals. To top it off the song ups the tempo about halfway through with a juicy solo. Metal fans can certainly appreciate this gem.

If I’m interpreting the song correctly, “Ice Cold Man” is about the last man on earth in a nuclear winter. The apocalyptic imagery is strong. The song isn’t about how the nuclear winter happened, but it’s more about what’s left. Powerful stuff and it has me influenced me to try get some writing done outside of my novel. A lot of my writing energy has gone to my novel. Taking a detour might be just the thing to prevent novel burnout down the road.

I’m always curious what inspires people to write novels or short stories. For me, it’s not always music, but the news, movies, talking to people. I guess I’m always paying attention and if I see or hear something I start to envision how I draw out a story.  I’d like to see what inspires others to write; drop me a line!

Avoiding Perfection

As I’m writing, I’m focusing on a few things: conflict, word count, and avoiding perfection. I’ve discussed the first two in previous posts and now can elaborate on avoiding perfection.

I sometimes had a hard time writing, not because of writer’s block, but because I wanted perfection from myself. It’s a tall order for someone who doesn’t have a published book let alone an agent. I put a great deal of pressure to write perfect – every time. Every sentence had to magical and each page resulted in literary genius. It’s just not possible. I continue to challenge myself to just write.

Now, I’m not completely sloppy and irresponsible. I do my best to maintain form, proper sentence structure, and verb tense. I guess what I do is not second guess myself. I don’t try to spend five minutes looking for a better word for “laugh” when “laugh” works just fine. I’m not trying to draw out tons of description in a room; at least not yet.

I’m sure when I edit my work for the first time I’ll find a bunch of punctuation and spelling issues that I can resolve. I’m willing to bet I’ll find a bunch of things that need to be fixed, but I’ll worry about them later. Right now, I’m writing. Getting my ideas down on Word so that a story can take form – that’s what I’m interested in. I’ll worry about achieving perfection once I have something to perfect.

By the way, that’s the logo of the 1972 Miami Dolphins who were a perfect 17-0 which is an amazing feat to be perfect for that long. I would’ve shown a picture of the 2007 New England Patriots but they were only perfect during the regular season and lost in the Super Bowl. Bottom line, it’s important to be perfect when it counts.

Word Count

With my new project under way, I’ve commented in previous posts about time. I don’t have much of it and I’m actually OK with that. So when I do have time to write, I try to make it count. I believe I do my best writing in the morning. I’m refreshed, my mind is a lot clearer, and there are no distractions. Actually, there is one distraction, the internet. I’m tempted to check the news, facebook, and email. I try to allow myself  a ten minute max, and I’m usually pretty disciplined. If I were more disciplined, I would sit down and start writing and not get so easily distracted. Baby steps, I guess.

I digress because this post is about my word count in the morning. Before I start writing, I think to myself that if I can at least get 250 words I’ve accomplished something. Interestingly enough I usually surpass that most mornings. I know it’s not a lot. 250 words is a basically a one page Word document. But there have been mornings where’s hit close to 600 words, and on the flip side I’ve hit close to 200 words. I take what I can get and feel good about that. The word count approach keeps me focused and provides a goal for that morning.

I didn’t try this technique on my last novel. I basically pushed myself through the novel and the pace was exhausting. Now, I’m dedicating sometime in the morning and then whatever time I get throughout the day is a bonus.

Anyone have any other good goal writing ideas? I like to hear them.

On to the next project…

A couple of weeks ago I started my next project. I made previous posts of things I’m trying differently this time. For starters, I’ve read two books on the craft to get my mind in the right direction. I’ve learned the free-form style of just writing is great for practice, but when I really want to create a story I need structure. Taking the time to frame out the plot, create characters, and do an outline so far has helped.

What’s also different this time is, well, time. I have less of it but I’m starting think that’s a good thing. I’m married, with a young son, and a mortgage. All take time and for good reason. My writing seems to fit in whenever it can. I seem to do my best writing in the morning before work. I usually get about thirty minutes (possibly more if I’m not checking emails or the news). I aim to get down about 250 words. Sometimes it’s more or less – usually depends what kind of flow I’m in. What I do know is that the time I do have I use it and make it work.  

As I’m writing, I realize I’m not getting caught up in the minutia of details. I can remember my first chapter of my last project. I painstakingly described the characters clothes, the room, the weather outside, etc. all of which detracted from creating a strong opening. I know my approach is different and time will tell if it’s better than my last effort.

My take on this novel already has a different vibe to it and I like it. I feel less pressure to get it done and really enjoy telling the story. I’m hoping it will someday transform into something tangible that I will get published. I can’t worry about that now as I’m only concerned about one thing when I’m at my laptop: writing.

Conflict

There is nothing more important in fiction than conflict. After reading the Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing Great Fiction: Plot and Structure, conflict is paramount. Whether you write genre fiction or literary, you have to conflict.

If it seems that, by reading this post, a light bulb (a compact fluorescent one) went off – it did. I look back at the first novel I wrote and immediately see where the conflict gaps are. According to the books above, there should be conflict on every page. Sounds hard but it’s not tough when you think about it. The main character of your story needs to endure something (save the world, marriage, self, etc) and that requires conflict. Without conflict, one is left reading about the ho-hum stuff of life. That doesn’t make for good fiction. I should know because a big chunk of my first novel has the main character getting out of bed, eating a sandwich, etc. It eventually leads to something but not always conflict.

Conflict supposedly drives the reader for more. It keeps them engage well past the first few pages and hopefully a hell of a lot more.

I’m done summarizing what I’ve learned from Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. The book is worth the investment, and lately I’ve been trying to transfer it to my writing. So far so good. The feel of my second novel already seems different. I’m concentrating on conflict, throwing whatever I can at my main character. At the same time, I’m not trying to exhaust the reader but trying to make it difficult for a them to put down my novel. I should know how this all shakes out in a few months when I have a first draft.

I changed my tagline

I ‘ve made some changes to my blog to create better traffic but also to streamline my message of why I have this blog. My most recent update was the tagline. I had tagged this blog as a way to document my path to becoming published. An earnest idea at best, but the reality is that getting published is hard. It’s a long road with lots of detours. I was pretty naive to think this blog would unfold the path of becoming published. The reality is that getting published takes time. Every post (in the beginning) focused on what I was doing to reach my goal. Then, there were gaps. Query letters went out without responses. I revised my novel for the fourth time. But the blog really wasn’t moving forward.

My blog then evolved to include thoughts about writing and reflections about the horror and science fiction genres. I went further to include tips and resources I found about writing. What I have now as a blog is a diversified outlet of information and things I like to discuss. Yes, traffic is picking up (mostly because of my Armageddon Week post), and while I’m not published the focus is still there.

I’ve matured as a writing since I started this blog a year ago. I was certain that it would only take time for my novel to find an agent and then a publisher (try not to laugh too hard!). Now I’ve realized that my goal of becoming published might not look like I thought it did a year. I’m actually OK with this realization. I feel my writing has improved (and will continue to), but more importantly I know patience and persistence are just as important as a good idea.