Sunday, February 19, 2012

The magic of writing

To be honest, there is no magic to writing. Disappointed? Well, let me explain what I mean.

When I think of the magic of writing, I think of a couple of things. First, I think of the words the author used to tell his/her story. As an author myself, I sit and watch my characters interact in my head, kind of like watching a movie. I transcribe the action and dialogue to the page. I also try to throw in some description to convey to the reader what the place looks like, what smells might be in the air, and anything else that helps draw the reader into the story. I strive to create an experience for the reader.

For me, this is extraordinarily difficult. As I'm writing, the scene is playing out. I like to think of it as typing the closed-caption for a TV show or movie. You've got to be quick, get the words down while the action is happening. At least, this is how I write. I don't find myself sitting at the keyboard lolly-gagging with just the right adjective or verb to make a scene pop. That comes later, during the revision process. That's where the writer is supposed to smooth the edges and polish the story until it shines. When I am writing a first draft, I grab the first words that come to mind as I watch those scenes in my head. But, writing the first draft for a novel is a laborious task. I don't do it in a week, or even two. It usually takes me a month or two. Within that time, I am also reading novels for entertainment. I often find myself reading a book and wondering, Wow, this writer's awesome! The way he/she worded this is spot on!, which inevitably leads me to thoughts like this Damn, why can't I write like this?

This is the first bit of magic that comes to mind when I think of the magic of writing: how the author can create such a beautiful work of art from words when my own stuff feels so stilted and awkward. Let me dispel the myth of this kind of magic. Every writer experiences these feelings at some point during their writing, usually when writing first drafts or in the early stages of revising. That's the point of revising, to polish out those rough spots and find the right words to evoke an emotion. Beta readers are instrumental during this process. And, any author who pens a first draft and thinks he/she is Hemingway or Faulkner, well, you're delusional and your writing is probably shit anyway.

As I was editing The Old Royal today, I realized that, as I was making changes and strengthening the story, it was becoming more and more like I wanted it. I was cutting repetitive crap, fixing stupid typos, and filling in large plot holes. It's becoming sexy to me! Yeah, that might sound weird, but if you've ever written a book, or even a short story, and experienced that sense of jealousy as I mentioned, then you probably get what I'm talking about.

The second bit of magic to writing is how someone can sit down and produce something as long as a book. Before I ever wrote my first book (a novel called The Shadow People, which still hasn't been released...yet), I often thought it ridiculous that anyone could write so much for so long. Then, I did it. It took me three months to finish the first draft. I set out to write a thousand words every day, but didn't always succeed. There were days where I didn't make it to a thousand and others where I didn't even sit down to write. But, I made up for those days that I had slacked off by doubling or tripling the words I wrote subsequently. Since then, I've written numerous short stories, started novels, and completed about three or four.

What I'm getting at here is that there is no magic to writing a book. What it takes is determination. Now, I know that bit of advice gets old. People who say they want to write a book realize the dedication and perseverance it takes and either lose their motivation or put it off because they can't commit the time or they aren't disciplined enough to carry through. There is no magic there. Believe me. I know. I was once like those people who always wanted to write a book, but didn't think I was up to the task. Finally, my desire to do it outweighed my procrastination and lack of motivation. I made myself sit down and do it.

That's how I feel about the magic of writing. I've pulled back the curtain and seen the little man hiding there, trying to keep the process shrouded in a veil of mystery. Now, I'm not saying that there isn't any magic in books. The experience of being transported to another place and time through words is real magic that exists between the writer and reader. So, what are your thoughts and feelings on the subject? Feel free to weigh in with a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 6, 2012

2012: The Lineup

I've been busy as hell trying to get some projects closer to completion. While I've been heads down working, I haven't really given the blog much attention. When I happen to think of it, I flush with embarrassment because it seems like I'm neglecting a loved one. I don't want to neglect any loved ones, especially my readers. So, I thought I'd give you guys (er, and gal(s)) a glimpse into the things I have lined up for this year.

First, I'm trying to right a wrong by publishing The Old Royal. I said in a previous post that I hoped to release this by the end of January. I had to eat crow in the previous post. I'm happy to say that my wife returned the manuscript to me and assured me it didn't require a rewrite as I had initially suspected when I jumped the gun. I am more pleased to say that I managed to edit nearly a third of the manuscript this past weekend, which, for me, is an astonishingly immense amount of editing to accomplish. I think I've said before how much I hate editing. I'd rather have my fingers pounded with a ball peen hammer. So, I hope to have this completed and handed over to my beta readers soon.

Second, I am still in the early editing phases of a Southern Gothic called Lathem's Lament. I mentioned a little bit of what it's about in this post. This is a story set in the 50s in rural Georgia. It's mainly about a family dealing with life at home while their son is fighting over in Korea. The story follows the family as well as some of the neighbors and each chapter is told from a different character's point of view. I know it's a deviation from my usual crime and horror fiction, but it's a story that I had in me and begged to be written. I obliged and hope I do it justice and that my readers will enjoy it. There is a crime that takes place in it as well as a supernatural event. Anyway, I'm working on getting it ready to hand off to the wife, too. When I release it, I hope to hear some positive reviews for it. After all, the readers are the final judges.

In addition to this vintage story, I have a Southern Gothic/crime caper in mind that I've been itching to write. I've already started it, but haven't gotten very far with everything else in line ahead of it. This is a story set in the early 30s (also in Georgia—can you see the theme here?) about a black man on the run from a lynch mob for murdering a white girl. I'm still a little sketchy on the ending because I haven't nailed it down, but I've got some ideas about how it might end. You'll have to stay tuned to find out more about it. The tentative title is Rabbit on the Run. If I can execute it the way I see it in my head, I think it'll be a fantastic read.

I mentioned a ball peen hammer earlier, which brings me to this last project. Another book set in rural Georgia, this time in the 70s. The protagonist is a Vietnam vet who witnesses a meeting between some members of the Dixie Mafia and a politician. He's running for his life as the Dixie Mafia pursues him (mainly a thug who enjoys using a ball peen hammer on his victims) and, at the same time, trying to expose the corruption he has recently discovered. I'm excited about this one, but I'll be lucky if I can release it this year. The title I have in mind is Greasing the Squeaky Wheel.

There you have it! Four big projects, all in various stages of the writing/editing process. I hope some of these sound as exciting to you as they do to me. Check back to learn how I'm progressing and watch for the stories that interest you most. They're coming. I don't know when, but I can assure you, they ARE coming. As I get closer to the publishing date for each, I'll provide some sneak peeks at the covers. Thanks for reading!