Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Font and The Muse

I read Stephen King's On Writing and found it to be quite an interesting and useful book. King not only chronicled his writing career from the early days, but he gives a lot of practical advice to aspiring writers on many aspects of writing, editing and publishing.

No matter what you think of Stephen King and his books (and many "serious" writers dismiss his efforts, unfortunately), his thoughts on his muse is quiet different. In On Writing, King describes his muse as a guy, not a woman as thought of typically - a big, rough character to boot, certainly not very refined.

I doubt I'll ever be able to personify, even for creative purposes, my muse. Where does one get ideas on which to write? Fortunately, I'm blessed with a good imagination and have the potential to be prolific - not great, mind you, but voluminous. So, for me, my creative spark isn't at the behest of some sentient being. Rather, I look at it like an overflowing font … a wellspring of creativity that I hope translates accurately from brain to pen.

Therefore, in that mindset, I give you this week's progress report, gentle reader.

I have one more draft to edit for my fourth short story, "Animal Control." I'm a little more nervous about trotting this one out because it's quite different than the first three and if it "works," then I'll have my first recurring character for other short stories or even novels. In fact, I like her - Lucinda Dreyer - so much, I'm making her one of the main characters in short story #5, tentatively entitled "On A Gelding's Trail."

The other good news to share … I finished act II of my second screenplay, A Perfect Tenant. I'm quite pleased with the way it's progressing thus far, but I KNOW it's going to be too long and will need to be trimmed. My first screenplay, The Rebound Guy (now called Ricochet Man, for reasons explained in past posts), came out to be the right length when I completed the first draft. That was a different situation … the font was overflowing when I wrote that one (from idea to first draft was three weeks).

I just joined, a site for writers to post their work and get feedback. I decided to post "Monument" as my first offering for public comment and shortly after posting it, I got a very nice compliment from one of the members. Poetry - I didn't know I had it in me - but now I'm encouraged to explore that area further.

MySpace has provided a wealth of author contacts, some of whom have been regular correspondents already. I recommend to anyone who is aspiring to be a writer to take the opportunity to use vehicles like MySpace and EditRed to get out there, get your creations read by others and network with people sharing the same personal journey that you're experiencing.

I wish you all the best in your pursuits, whatever they may be. Keep striving!


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Experiments in Poetry

A few months ago, I wrote my first poem since being assigned the task of doing so in high school. Poetry was never my thing back then. I was always aware of the lyric flow of the lyrics of Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan and even Bruce Springsteen. Read without their music, the words and wordplay speak to the reader looking for more meaning in what the artists are saying.

Yes, I call them artists. They paint pictures with words. Look at Townsend, Lennon, Jagger / Richards … all of them, great artists. Kurt Cobain, another one … tortured artist, wanting to be heard, but not idolized … wanted to express himself, but did not set out to speak for a generation. He did. Did any of them want to have their words pored over like so many grains of gold in a pan of detritus?

I was inspired to write this poem, both as a way to express feelings, but also to paint pictures with words. A bus trip into the office, another mundane day of politics and BS, and this is what I came up with (entitled Monuments):

Bleak, winding roads lay before me,
No one in sight as I hug each bend on this journey.
I exist, I don't live, yet I have the one thing only I can lose, hope.

Nothing about this daily subsistence is life-affirming.
I go through the motions without emotion.
I strain even as I am constrained by my self-created prison, walls.

The dragon dares me to dance, but I demur.
I stand ready, but for what? For whom?
How I will get there is for greater minds than my own, self.

I'm only the docent on this tour I've chosen.
Standing perfectly erect, yet imperfect as I am.
I hear words murmured all around, still I walk purposefully, away.

I posted this on a literary forum site, but only got a few comments, all positive for the most part. Unfortunately, that particular forum serves those ten years old and older and I realize that it wasn't the best place to showcase my fledgling attempt at verse. There will be other places.

This week was fairly productive, thanks to the extra day off on the 15th. I finished the first draft of "Animal Control," SS#4. It turned out to be twice as long as my typical short stories (23 pages), but at first blush, I don't think I can shorten it. The goal is to finish the second draft this weekend (in spite of the two championship football games on Sunday).

I also wrote about six or so scenes in the second act of "A Perfect Tenant," SP#2. I'm pleased with the way it's unfolding right now. I would like to complete the second act this weekend, but it may be pushing it.

I've been good about keeping my three regular blogs up to date. I also added a new post to my Eleuthera Journal ( blog, the first one in a few months. It's so difficult to read my own handwriting as I'm transcribing my words from 2004. Admittedly, I have to guess when filling in some of the indecipherable ones.

Another blog chronicles my attempt to lose weight - 55 pounds - by August 1st. That's pretty straightforward, though I do give more information than the number of pounds I lost since the previous week.

I really haven't started my book review blog except for posting the introductory text. I've completed two books I want to review, but I just haven't taken the time to write notes before doing the reviews.

No query letters written yet … admittedly, I'm a little intimidated. I'm not necessarily concerned about being rejected (I expect to be, many times). I just want to make a good first impression and do everything right. Obviously, once I do one, the others will come easier. It's on my list for this weekend.

I'm meeting some very nice people on MySpace, published authors who are very willing to extend words of encouragement or advice to a new writer like me. I would love to be able to meet with some of these people in person a couple of times a month, just to exchange ideas or share experiences - sort of an Algonquin Roundtable West, perhaps. Alas, I doubt it could ever be so. Knowing LA, if such a thing were formed, it would be overridden by star authors, Hollywood wannabes, and generally turn into a pretentious freak show.

I'm really a positive guy, really. Living in this town for over twenty years has made me a WEE bit cynical :-)

And so, I conclude this week's post and sign off as Garrison Keillor does in his daily The Writer's Almanac recordings on NPR: "Be well, do good work and keep in touch."


Saturday, January 13, 2007


I pretty much can avoid watching television most of the time. There are a few programs I watch regularly … The Simpsons, The Apprentice, House, The Sopranos. That's pretty much it for "must see TV" (sorry, NBC).

Now I've never been a real big sports nut, though I've gone through my fan-atic periods with basketball, hockey and football in the past. However, I'm not one of those guys that lives for the NCAA championships or the World Cup or the Olympics. Sports viewing can become a full-time hobby or even an addiction … admittedly a fairly innocuous one. To be honest, my free time is taken up by my pursuit of a writing career. Who needs the distraction?

Then the football play-off season arrives and I'm lost. Even as I write the, the Colts and the Ravens are playing on the big screen TV in the living room and I'm able to watch it, courtesy of a strategically placed framed picture on the wall ahead of me. It's a sickness, I tell you.

I've been trying to make the acquaintance of writers and others who aspire to be through my MySpace account. I've been fortunate to meet some very nice folks so far, some of whom I will end up corresponding with occasionally as I chase this dream.

Meanwhile, back at the writing desk ….

My parents and my wife read my third short story (called "Baylor") and all liked it. Now, it really shouldn't be noteworthy that they liked it. After all, these are the people who love me the most in this world. However, my mom said the story caused her to shed a tear or two. That gives me a little more to work with as far as feedback is concerned.

I'm in the middle of my fourth story now, called "Animal Control." This one is going to be quite different than the first three … more Stephen King-ish. I'm still working out the plot twist(s).

Since it's a three day weekend, I'm trying to be really ambitious. Besides finishing the first draft of "Animal Control," I'm going to try to complete the second act of my second screenplay, "A Perfect Tenant." The first screenplay, "Ricochet Man" hasn't gotten much action on lately, but I intend to renew its registration on the site when it comes due in February.

Also on tap for this week … I'm going to try my first pitch letter of one of my stories to some literary magazines (and perhaps others, too). I ordered a few copies of Porcupine Magazine so I could understand their editorial preferences better. However, Writer's Market is chock full of possibles. I just need to be judicious on who I send the stories to.

There are other projects … transcribing my journal from our 2002 trip to Eleuthera to a blog I started; typing up letters from an old friend dating back to when I first went to college that went through until our thirties; transcribing a memoir from an interesting fellow I never met in Eleuthera, but sought me out through a mutual friend to write up his life story and maybe get it published or produced as a film.

Finally, I just started a new blog, one that I'm devoting to book reviews. Besides giving me a chance to look at writing from a different perspective, I hope it will lead to meeting some of these great authors I've been reading. It doesn't hurt to have friends in the industry.

Okay, that's all for now. Back to the game!


Sunday, January 7, 2007

Starting Out On the Right Foot

Progress. I completed the first act of the first draft of SP#2. I'm quite pleased with this tale I'm telling right now. It's a comedy, even a little slapstick at times. This is a bit different than my first one, which is more of an adult "romantic comedy." The only thing I'll say about this new one is it stars Robin Williams (in my mind, anyway).

Speaking of SP#1, I've gotten no more feedback on At least it's now copyrighted, a standard practice I'll employ in all my works. This was advised to me by my entertainment attorney. I might as well take advantage of the high-priced legal help I've already paid for!

I've started using a dedicated Outlook calendar to plan out my writing "assignments." Since I'm so task-oriented, I know this will be the best way for me to keep my progress where it needs to be to achieve this year's resolutions. Updating this blog and two others is on the list for today; so is completing the first draft of SS#3.

I finished editing the third draft of SS#3 yesterday. I'm really enjoying writing these short stories. It gives me the opportunity to experiment a bit and try out different genres and literary devices.

Literary devices? Who the hell is this guy? Sheesh …

The books I've been ordering to help me in my writing career are finally arriving (and more are on the way). Who DOESN'T like to get a package in the mail? Besides some "instructional" books, I also ordered some short story collections, including Hemingway's entire oeuvre. In so many of the writing magazines, they cite Papa as the quintessential short story writer, bar none. I've read Hemingway's works, but I'm certainly no expert.

Keeping to one of my other resolutions - about reading this time - I finished one work of fiction already this month. It's a real page-turner … Paranoia by Joe Finder. I highly recommend it.

On the marketing side of things, I've been expanding my literary "friends" on my account ( I want to be able to associate with all kinds of people in the publishing / film business, including aspiring writers of fiction and screenplays like myself. Networking is key to getting published or having a film produced and I'm internet-savvy enough to market myself using the web.

So far, then, it's been a good start to the New Year. If I can make a regular living in this writing business - somehow - I'll be able to segue to doing this in 7 years or when I'm 55. That's the game plan, folks, and I'm sticking to it!

From my pen,


Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

Greetings! It's officially 2007 now and I have a whole lot on the plate this year. They say the first step toward making resolutions "real" is to write them down, plan them out and then just do them! Also, they (the ever wise "they", that is) say that you should advertise your intentions to everyone so as to more or less oblige you to completing what you set out to complete.

With all of this sage advice behind me, here are my 2007 resolutions (at least my writing ones):

1. Write 10 more short stores and submit each one for publication:

SS#3 by 1/31/07 (in progress as of 12/25/06)
SS#4 by 2/28/07
SS#5 by 3/31/07
SS#6 by 4/30/07
SS#7 by 5/31/07
SS#8 by 6/30/07
SS#9 by 7/31/07
SS#10 by 8/31/07
SS#11 by 9/30/07
SS#12 by 10/31/07

Each one submitted for publication within the month immediately after completion. Prepare to publish collection by 2/28/08.

2. Complete SP#2 - SP#5:

Spec SP #2 by 2/1/07
Spec SP #3 by 5/1/07
Spec SP #4 by 8/1/07
Spec SP #5 by 11/1/07

3. Complete Novel #1 (N#1) by 12/31/07

4. Read at least two books a month

One of the problems with writing all the time is I don't take time out for leisure reading. I do read a lot of non-fiction, particular books related to how to write better (or magazines for writers). These same helpful resources also say in order to write better fiction, you need to read a lot of it and from a lot of (good) writers.

Meanwhile, this week was busy.

I'm continuing to get positive feedback on my non-fiction article published in the industry trade magazine. A pleasant surprise is I'm hearing from former colleagues and employees who moved on to greener pastures. The challenge is to figure out how I'm going to best that effort in my next article!

I finished the second draft of SS#3 and I'm still waiting for feedback from my parents and Leia on SS#2. I've researched magazines for SP#1, but have yet to send it to any. See my resolutions for further plans.

I sent SP#1 to the US Copyright office to be registered. I also wrote several scenes for SP#2. On the latter, I'm pleased with the progress so far, though I need to spend more time on a daily basis putting down the words.

One of the writing articles I read (an interview with a known writer, actually) which averred one doesn't need all the sleep they get and could do fine with one less hour every day. Sure, try to convince me of that at 5:00 in the morning when I'm just hoping that that the 45 minutes I have left will turn into a couple more hours. Okay, we'll give it a try.

And so, I close this lovely New Year's Day - with the sounds of the Rose Parade emanating from the TV in the adjoining room - to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2007. May you get everything you ever wanted in life!