Friday, March 17, 2017

The Book That Doesn't Exist

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We all have hopes and dreams. But what we seldom like to talk about are the fears and frustrations in between.

And that's what got me writing this novella. Originally, I just toyed with it while I was still busy on THE BIG SCI FI BOOK. That title still has a bit to go. 17,000 words in.

Lately, I've been going back to novellas because they serve a need within me to tell a good story that can be read in one sitting. I'm also expanding to make it an audiobook.

The seed of this story started as a dream.

I got this image of this guy leaving his basement apartment to join a few friends in his driveway who were tinkering with two cars. One was a Master Coach and the other was a pristine Studebaker. While they're chatting, the protagonist's friend reaches into this hidden compartment inside the Studebaker and pulls out a typewriter's carrying case. As he handed this item to the main character, the skies above were filled with thunderous clouds and a wind was picking up. As if this transaction was disturbing the natural order of things.

I woke up at around 6am, hopped out of bed, opened the laptop and just started writing as I was still waking up. It took me an hour and some change to get ten pages down. My wife and daughter woke up and joined me.

The story has changed a couple of times but the constant theme is frustration, of which I am familiar with.

I threw all the problems I had faced in life at the main character; juggling work and home life, fighting against poverty, finding your own voice as a writer, it was all right there. It kind of felt intimidating to write something that struck so close to home.

But the story continued to cook and after about two months, it was finally completed. At 52 pages long I can tell you that this has been the hardest one to write.

I labeled it a dark psychological thriller.

The next one that I'm planning to release, thankfully, is a much happier story. That one involves a writer too. That one involves a series of comical mishaps. I think I wrote it in 2010 but I just looked at it recently, polished it a bit, and think it will be ready soon.

I tell you all this because I don't want you to be afraid, as I was, to go to some dark places while you are writing. You may feel a connection to your characters. You may wish them not to come to harm. That's good. You care for them. That's relatable. But you have to let the story write itself and not try to save the characters yourself. Just sit back and see what happens. Be an observer, even when it is painful to do so. Because only then will your story hold something that rings true.

We all grapple with conflict, tough decisions, heartbreak, mania, doubt. If you completely exclude these concepts from your story, then you are holding back. And, as my wife always tells me when I'm working on a new story in progress, don't hold yourself back.

More importantly, write the book you would like to read. The one that you feel is missing on bookstore shelves.

Heck, write...the book that doesn't exist.


The Book That Doesn't Exist is being released on March 19th, 2017. It is now available for Pre-order. Just click the cover above to buy a copy.

As always, keep writing.



"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of." ~Kurt Vonnegut 



Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Joy of MindWriting





"Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters' theses." ~ Stephen King

"And I don't want to begin something, I don't want to write that first sentence until all the important connections in the novel are known to me. As if the story has already taken place, and it's my responsibility to put it in the right order to tell it to you." ~ John Irving

"I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it." ~ Ernest Hemingway




Over the course of the last decade I must have read over fifty How-To-Write books. Everything from scripting every single word to writing one true sentence at a time. But a good chunk of those books expressed that the most important thing that a writer could do for their story was to outline, outline, outline.

I did that method for my first book.

I wrote out directions, dialogue, plot, and even tone and objective of each chapter before I even wrote the word Prologue.

I thought I had to be chained to this type of device. To color inside the lines for fear that any originality would be lost or escape.

What happened instead was something very encouraging.

Every single time I strayed from the outline, when I'd let my mind wander, the story got better, sharper, grew some fangs.

On my second book, I briefly outlined the story but this time around I was looking forward to abandoning certain aspects of the outline.

Then, on my third book, I only outlined six chapters. Where did the rest of the book come from? Daydreaming, letting my mind wander, meditating on the story.

And you know what happened?

Not only did all of the elements I wanted to put into the core of the story suddenly appear, but I also found connections and crossovers to my other stories and crisp, witty dialogue came out of nowhere.

This was when I realized I was what they called a 'Pantser.' I know, it sounds like something a bully would do. But it's actually a term for writers. Johhny B Truant and Sean Platt describe that each writer falls into one of two groups: The Plotters - The people who outline everything about their story ad nausem. And The Pantsers - The people who kind of make everything up by the seat of their pants.

I enjoy the latter category.

Especially, since I've started the practice of Mindwriting.

Right now, even while typing this, I'm working on seven different novels. That's right. I'm multitasking.

It used to be that I'd take some time out of my day to think about a story and where it's going. But now, I'm thinking about them constantly. I'll map out a scene in my head while running an errand, try several different takes of a scene while at a party, experiment with dialogue doing the dishes, plot devices, character development, etc. Sometimes my wife will ask me what I'm thinking about because I get that far away look and every time I'll say, "Stories. I'm working on a novel."

Our minds are capable of a lot of things. We can figure out complex issues, learn languages or memorize entire scripts. But one thing I've always used my brain for is storage. I've created a room inside my mind with stories in the process of being written. And each one can be pulled up at a moments notice. That way, whenever I feel that the story has cooked for long enough and is just right, only then do I pull out the laptop and actually do the work of transcribing whatever was in my head.

One of the benefits of mindwriting is that it has helped me become more organized. Before, I had boxes filled with notebooks, receipts, post-it's, little scraps of paper with ideas written down. Tracking them all down was way too time consuming. So now, I keep everything up in the old noggin.

So, if you are up to the task, I encourage you to use your brain to its fullest capacity and keep the outline in your mind, where it belongs.

In the meantime, I've got one book that is already nearing the 300 page mark.


In my mind, of course.





Monday, July 18, 2016

I Think I'm In The Middle Of A Story Universe.



Yeah, I think I'm in the middle of a Story Universe.

Let me explain.

When I first began writing, I thought I had created four to five separate stories. Stand alones, basically. But what has developed has me convinced that I'm writing one big grand story that includes all genres.

The first book I wrote (Mr. Dead Eyes) was a medical thriller mixed with a supernatural element. A private detective that I created for that story literally came out of nowhere. But he had a history to him. His name is Thomas Wilker. But that's not his real name. He changed it. He also had some plastic surgery done. Then I began wondering, who was he running from? (Hint: There are two whole mystery novels I have planned that tell who and why.)

On a plane Thomas Wilker shares a story of capturing a murderer and why he has a grizzly scar on his right hand. Just writing that scene delivered a whole new book on to me. (Reviled) But Thomas Wilker only shows up in flashbacks. He's not present for the story but has, instead, 'traveled somewhere' to 'pursue a lead'. That lead, I've found out, is explained in Mr. Dead Eyes 2. But Derek, the main character of MDE1 and MDE2 shows up briefly in Reviled. He's passing through Wisconsin after the events of MDE2.

Then I wrote a novella about a girl who has to escape a group of soldiers. (Village Americana) I had no idea why I set it in the eighties but then that was answered when I finished my third book...

That book is Pickpocket Frankie. In that book she appears briefly. But another character within that book is connected by two other books that I'm planning. The working titles are Jefferey Pleasant Meets Brute Force and The Italian Way

And now it seems that the next ten novels I have planned out are all connected somehow by either a character, an object or a particular setting. It really is crazy how deep this rabbit hole goes. Needless to say, I dunno what the end result of all this will be, but I think I'll just let my characters do the driving. Cause they seem to know better than me. 

Just thought I'd share.

;)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Impossible Return To Innocence



JD Clair is more than just a writer. He's a man who understands emotions as well as how to direct a story and dedicates himself to taking you on a journey into another world. He also happens to be my friend from grade school. I caught up with JD to ask him about his debut book The Impossible Return To Innocence and about his daily writing routine. So, without further delay, here's the author interview. Enjoy!




1. What is your earliest memory of writing?

I remember writing stories as early as five years old with my brothers; creating homemade comics that had the Ninja Turtles, the Ultimate Warrior, and an assortment of 80s icons. It was a blast. I don't know if that really counts because it was a collaboration and I'm not sure how much I really "wrote". However, by third  grade I was writing stories in school and it was my favorite assignment, probably even until today.



2. How did it feel to see your book in print?

I wish I could say I was in love at first sight, but I didn't get that "high" I really expected. I was so hopeful, waiting on a very long shipment that took weeks, and finally when the proof came the colors were duller than I approved and the font not as noticeable on the spine. It was still a beautiful book, but the satisfaction didn't set in the way I hoped and I kind of feel like a jerk for admitting it. 



3. When did you decide to be a writer?

I've wanted to be everything from a fireman, commercial airline pilot, to a shepherd. I struggled in college to decide what to do. I set my heart on early childhood education, but after transferring and losing credits I decided to not retake courses. I was an art major for half a semester before I realized my passion for writing. I've had a desire to jump from project to project, making movies, writing scripts, creating comics, making art... basically indulging in anything and everything.  It was then I realized the simple fact that I loved telling stories and had a genuine admiration for the simplest things.  Writing always seemed to be at the center of this "be everyone" mentality and allowed me to learn and explore many lives. 




4. Do you get writer's block? How do you combat it?

I don't normally struggle with writers block. Often I find myself having too much to write for the time I allow myself to do so. Sometimes the topics my mind fixates on are not the current project and I've learned to write what I'm thinking of to get it out of my head. It's like being determined to walk through a forest but being stopped at a river. You have to deal with the immediate concern to go further.  I realized that allowing time for side projects really worked well for me. 



5. What's your writing routine? Do you write longhand, typewriter or computer?

I write at all hours of the day. Whenever it comes to me. Sometimes it's at 2 in the morning... Other times its while I'm driving. I try to text myself little notes for starting points or quotes as they come to me but  I do set time aside to sit and write. It's mostly in the evening. When my kids were in Awana, I'd sit in the Church and just write uninterrupted for an hour and a half. But mostly, I write after my children go to sleep. I lay in the hall with my tablet and keyboard and write for hours.




6. Tell us about THE IMPOSSIBLE RETURN TO INNOCENCE and how you came to publish it?

THE IMPOSSIBLE RETURN TO INNOCENCE is a story of love and family. It begins with a dark scenario where a mother is caught in the act of stabbing her 12 year old son, Dominick, and follows the anger that boy developed in the years that follow. This is explored through a fantasy world known as the Furtherland, where monsters and masked murderers are threats mirroring some of the mental anguish he is suffering. 

Once I finished I tried finding a publishing agent. I looked all over the internet for anyone who remotely fit my categories (YA, Fiction, Fantasy). I sent letter after letter, personalizing each one, refining them, sharing my story for pointers... and eventually went back in and reworked several chapters. A friend of the family began working for a new publisher, Meraki House, which combines an agency with self publishing. It is at the expense/risk of the author, but they do what they can to help create a better product. I decided to go this route after countless agency rejections. 




7. What was your inspiration for writing it?

I was fat. Really fat. 280lbs of slothful mess, formed in a manchild mold. No one took me seriously because I didn't take myself seriously. So I decided to change. I began dieting and exercising in a very strict but healthy manner. Withing 8 months I lost over 80lbs. In that time I began writing the changes I was seeing in myself and others. Each character is built on forms of myself and other people. The monsters were literally described out of the disgust I had for my own overweight body. The protagonist was me... is me. He was a runner, which is what I was becoming, and I put into him all my own doubts and fears. Unfortunately my father in law began a rapid downward spiral with severe depression. This, coupled with a desire to explore the way depression affects family, led me to creating a fictional event where a mother hurts her child. I've been hurt in my life by family, and it is difficult to forgive, and I wanted to bring that topic up for anyone who feels justified in their anger. You can let go of your justification and decide to forgive.




8. What are you working on now?

I just finished the sequel to THE IMPOSSIBLE RETURN TO INNOCENCE, titled STONECOAT. The story has many parallels and involves all the same characters as the first, but the narrative is now given from the sister of the first story's protagonist. It is a really intense book and I tried capturing the wonderful nature and strength that women have, while also exploring their vulnerabilities. I really tried to speak with an understanding heart and I think it shows.




9. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Writing is lonely. It can be heartbreaking. You can try to write a single sentence a hundred times and no one will understand the effort you put in. You will be rejected. You will want to give up. I've wanted to give up. I've rage quit a few times, one even made public recently... but if you want to do it, you have to find a way to make it work.




Thanks for coming onto the Blog JD.

You can find his book Here.

He also writes a blog at https://thetelltaledark.blogspot.com

and has his own website at http://www.jdclair.com

And for those of you who want a visual sneak peek. Here is a book trailer of The Impossible Return To Innocence.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Reviled


When I first published Wearing Donnie Torr in 2010, I did not hesitate to think if it was ready or not. Which was a big mistake on my part. A while ago I went back and revised Mr. Dead Eyes. I removed clunky sentences, reworked some scenes and added new dialogue. It made me feel overall better about the book. That happened in 2013.

I was somewhat dreading going back to WDT based on the fact that when I first published it, after what I thought was a good enough edit for $200 dollars, I went ahead and published it to Kindle.

The entire document was 103,000 words.

Yikes.

So yeah, it was way too wordy.

I mustered up my courage, found the old manuscript on a flash drive and took a peak. It's amazing what six years can do to a manuscript. I remember the words just tumbling out of me when I first wrote it. But now that I was staring at it years later and a little wiser on how to write a book; I couldn't help but go back and revise WDT too. I've since unpublished the kindle version, though you can still get the print copy.


Here's a quick pic of the progress.




The blocks highlighted in red are the parts that are getting cut. I was amazed at how many things I found when looking back on it:

  1. Clunky sentences
  2. Overuse of Commas
  3. Repeated sentences
  4. Confusing sentences

They all had to go.


Now the manuscript is about  83,000 words long.


That's 20,000 words I've cut from the original.

Also, it needed a title change. Wearing Donnie Torr was just something I slapped on there. But my wife and I talked about it during a trip back from Chicago, and she had nailed down everything the book encompassed in one word: Reviled.


But I think this identifies a common question when it comes to writing: How often should you revise a work?

Gene Fowler once said, "A book is never finished; it's abandoned."

I'm not saying that a manuscript is like a good friend where you can always pay a visit. I think it's safe to drop in and see if the work still makes as much sense as it did when you first wrote it. If not, revise. Make it clearer. Don't go Full-George Lucas and keep updating it with new characters and pump it full of prose that just ends up being filler anyways.


There was one case where Stephen King, fresh from writing three books, presented a copy of The Stand to his publisher Double Day in 1978. They were intimidated with it's size and thought it might sell better if it wasn't such a behemoth. So, willing to play it safe, King went back and cut 400 pages from the actual book. The final product came out to 1,200 pages. Years later, he released an uncut version because there was a demand for it.


Honestly, the author has to make the call whether to go back and tinker, to fix what was still cloudy. But I can say that I do not miss those 20k words I cut. They slowed everything down.

Now you can get your hands on a copy of Reviled on Amazon.com for only $2.99.

Click here to get a copy!