Writing in my head instead of sleeping

I’ve had a few nights recently where I’ve laid in bed thinking about my books instead of sleeping. I know a lot of people suggest keeping a note book by the bed for just such an occasion but I’ve never felt a need to do so. If the thoughts are really good, and especially if they are about a current book I’m working on, then I have no trouble remembering.

The first night it happened I found myself thinking about “My Life As Death” and some of the interactions the main character had with secondary characters. The scenes were good, the interactions felt natural and everything moved the story forward so I had no idea why my mind was focused on them. But as I laid there, I realized that the secondary character was going to have a bigger part to play in the story a little later on. It was exciting to know a little of what was to come, but with that figured out I was able to sleep.

During the next night of sleeplessness I found myself thinking about the same book and the same secondary character so I was a little upset. I’d already spent some sleepless time dealing with them and I thought I had it all figured out so I didn’t want to spend more time thinking about them and not sleeping. But then my thoughts drifted to their back story. I’d hinted about their history a little, and dropped a few details to add some depth to their character, but I didn’t expect it to have a major influence on the overall plot. Then somehow, those little details that I’d sprinkled into the beginning of the story, began to make even more sense to the overall plot. I saw not only what was going to happen to this secondary character, but also why. And it all tied back to some of the earliest words I’d written about them even though I hadn’t planned it at all. Those details, which I’d considered to be a throw away character description, turned out to be part of one of the biggest twists I’ve written. I loved it and I loved the character even more because of it. Too bad they have to die.

Writing in the Rain

I don’t know what it is about the rain, but I love it. It doesn’t really make sense because I’m very active outside and rain usually stops me from doing most of the things I like to do outside, but I love a good storm. Even more so, I love writing on my back porch, under the steel roof during a good storm and this morning I got to do just that.

I haven’t been writing quite as much as I would like to recently but it’s been for the right reasons. And as I get used to the contract work I’m doing, and the kids and new grandkids get settled into their routines, I’m sure my writing time will increase. But even with the little time I’ve been allowing myself to write, I’ve been making great progress on My Life As Death. This morning I hit 30,000 words which is somewhere between 35% and 60% of where I expect it to end up. There’s a lot of discrepancy in what various people consider acceptable word count for novels but I like shorter books so I target 50,000-80,000 words, especially for a young adult book like this.

But even though the writing is going well, I thought I’d been hit with my first bout of writer’s block with this story just a couple days ago. I had a good writing session one day but when I sat down to continue the next day I realized the main character Nate had agreed to get together with one character (Shawna) but ended up doing something else with another (his best friend Weed). It was a silly mistake, so I decided to rewrite the scene having him get together with Shawna like he’d promised. Only, I struggled with that writing session. I had to work to get anything typed up and when I re-read what I wrote, it didn’t really seem to advance the story or any of the characters; It was just kind of a filler scene. I didn’t like it at all. The scene might have worked at a different point in the story, but not there.

The problem was that I knew exactly what the story needed (the scene with Weed) and I ‘d already written it, but only because I’d forgotten that Nate had made other plans. Then it dawned on me that since I’d forgotten Nate’s other plans so easily, he might have as well. I put the original scene back in, and had Nate realize too late that he’d forgotten his plans with Shawna. This took things in a whole different direction and compounded some already existing conflict between him and Shawna. So what I thought was writer’s block was just the story telling me to get out of the way because it knows what it’s doing.

So this morning, as I wrote in the rain, I got to continue on from that point in the story and I can honestly say that I didn’t see anything that I wrote coming. And because the story keeps surprising me and keeps drawing me further in, I hope it’ll do the same to you when you finally get to read it.

Writing Update 4/5/19

My recipe posts have been getting a lot of attention recently but I want to be clear that this will not be turning into a food site. This is a writing site and the recipe posts are practice for my eventual cook book, tentatively titled “Recipes to Make While Drinking a Beer”. I like the title, even though I haven’t actually been drinking any beer while cooking (or really while doing anything else) lately. I have an obstacle course race coming up in a couple months and I’m just now starting to prepare for it.

My fitness training has cut into my writing time a little, but I’m also spending a lot more time on contracted design work. That, plus a couple new grand kids being born and a wife recovery from surgery means that I’ve not gotten a whole lot of writing done the past couple weeks. But I’m getting a routine worked out, and have several hours dedicated to writing today, so I hope to get back on track. My Life As Death continues to surprise me every time I sit down to work on it so I can’t wait to see where it goes. And Zero Sum is so close to being done that I get antsy any time I think about it. I can’t wait to share these books with all of you, so continue to check back here for updates; I’ll be needing beta readers real soon.

Just Write

My books haven’t been selling as well as I’d like recently so I’ve attended a couple webinars by extremely successful Indie and hybrid writers on how to improve this. Most of the advice and research would suggest that my biggest problem is not having enough reviews (so if you’ve read any of my books, please post a review on Amazon, Itunes, Kobo, Goodreads, wherever. Any honest review would be great!) but getting reviews is not something I can control. A great webinar yesterday with extremely successful Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson had some good tips on how to encourage reviews, but at the end of the day there’s nothing I can do (short of spending $425-$575 on a Kirkus review) to guarantee I get a single review. So rather than focus on this I’ve decided the best way to expand my readership and grow in my writing career is to “Just Write”.

The phrase “Just Write” has been in my head for a few weeks now though I don’t know why. And while I haven’t been spending as much time writing as I would like, every time I sit down to work on My Life As Death I end up averaging around 1,000 new words. This is unprecedented for me. In the past I’ve usually averaged 350 words, and considered 500 to be great. I don’t know if it’s the story, which is really flowing well, or the characters which surprise me every time I sit down, or even just that I’m getting better as a writer but whatever the reason, I’ll take it. But there are times that I get concerned that because I’m not really in control of the writing process that the creative energy will suddenly stop and I won’t be able to get it back. That bothers me a little but then I realize that I can’t control that either, and in the end the only thing I can do is “just Write”.

By the way – the “Just Write typewriter graphic will be making its way to some merchandise soon. Check back here or at the design shop for updated offerings.

UPDATE! “Just Write” T-shirts are now available! Check them out HERE

Reality Tunnels and the Mandela Effect

I tend to do a lot of great thinking (at least for me) while driving. I don’t know if this is really a good thing, but I enjoy it and I’ve not wrecked because of it (yet). I’ve come up with a lot of interesting story ideas this way, and when I do, I tend to add them to a running list of ideas that will probably never see the light of day. Not because the ideas aren’t good, but because I only have a finite number of years on this earth and I’m not the most prolific writer, so I’ll probably never even get through half of the ideas I’ve already come up with. But I like having these thoughts, and even if I don’t usually share them with anyone else, I find them intriguing and occasionally useful. Sometimes I add bits and pieces of them to other stories I’m working on.

While I don’t usually share my random thoughts, especially ones that I would like to eventually use for a book, this one was very intriguing and I could see it being used in a hundred different ways, so I decided to do a post on it, just to give you insight into how my mind works.

The whole idea started with just a simple thought: everyone sees the world through their own senses, their own experiences, so in a way everyone is secluded in their own reality. It turns out that I’m not the first person (Imagine That!) to have this idea (see Reality Tunnel) but that was the initial thought that got the possibilities racing through my mind. The idea I liked the most was that each of our reality tunnels is being created by an individual A.I. which is linked to all the other A.I.s controlling all the other reality tunnels. The purpose of the A.I.s is to
move us in certain directions and direct us towards certain goals which have been determined by a master program to be the best for everyone. There are two problems with this arrangement though; our reality tunnels must intersect with other reality tunnels and regardless of the reality we experience, we have free will.

This idea opened up so many questions which could lead to a great story such as: Who created the A.I.? What if the master program A.I. starts to break down? Can we, as individuals influence or even get control of our reality tunnel? What happens if our reality tunnel merges with another and there are inconsistencies/errors? Could this explain the Mandela effect?

Seriously, if you don’t know what the Mandela effect is, google it. There are so many great examples, but the name comes from a commonly held memory of Nelson Mandela dying in the ‘80’s. I don’t have many memories as a kid in the ‘80’s but I vividly recall reading about Mandela’s death in one of those elementary-school age magazines the teachers made us read when they needed some quiet time. It turns out he actually died at the end of 2013.

There are quite a few other examples too such as “The Berenstein Bears” are actually named “the Berenstain Bears”, the Monopoly man doesn’t really have a monocle, and Sinbad never played a genie in a movie called Shazaam, though I swear he did (see more examples here). I like incorporating real-world details into my books and I could see using these like a trail for the protagonist to follow. I don’t know if any of this will eventually make it into a book, but I love the mind exercises and I hope you enjoyed a brief look into my thought process.

On Writing

Thanks to my mother, I’ve finally been able to read Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and for anyone interested in writing, I cannot recommend the book enough.

Until you read the book, it’s kind of hard to understand how good it is, and even after reading it, I find it hard to truly describe what makes it so good. The book is part autobiography, and part philosophy of writing. Even though I’m not a huge fan of King, (I am far from fanatical about anything he’s done, except maybe “The Shawshank Redemption” which is based off his novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption“) I really enjoyed reading the biographical parts of the book; they’re funny, insightful and honest. But the best parts were the ones where he gets down to the nitty-gritty on writing.

Contrary to what most aspiring authors might want, this book is anything but a how-to manual on becoming a writer. King gives a background on how he became a published author and he even gives a basic example of how others have, but mostly he shares his wisdom on what it takes to write a good story. The funny thing is, even though I’ve heard most of it before, or figured it out for myself over the past several year, it’s the way he shares his knowledge that really hits it home. I could try to paraphrase everything he says in this book, and you can find others who have pretty much done so in different “How to be a writer” type blogs and discussion boards, but it won’t have the same impact. King’s ability to say just the right things in just the right way is uncanny.

And honestly, I didn’t really gather any new advice from reading “On Writing” but it did have a great impact on me. Most of what I read just helped validate or reiterate what I’ve learned these past few years as I wrote my books; but that validation was more valuable than I would have expected. And if I did learn anything from reading this book, it’s that it is okay to be a writer, and that’s one of the most valuable things I could ever learn.

My Life As Death

I’ve talked a little before about my latest work-in-progress My Life As Death, but I wanted to go a little more in-depth about it. The idea for the book is basically this:

On the eve of his senior year, almost-eighteen year old Nathaniel (Nate to his friends) gets into a drunken accident, totaling his car and ending his life, or so he thought. In the darkness of death, a face appears and offers him a deal; agree to become a Grim Reaper (yes, there’s more than one Grim Reaper), send 10 well deserving souls to the afterlife and he will get to finish out the life he was meant to live. Fail to reap all 10, and Nate will forever be a servant of death.

Now Nate’s not a homicidal maniac; to the contrary, he actually doesn’t like the idea of having to kill anyone, but he’s guaranteed to only have to reap the truly evil, the murderers, rapists and child molesters. How could anyone have a problem with getting rid of those people? Right? Upon touching the guilty party, Nate will even see their evil deed and know the punishment is deserved. Then he just has to decide how they’ll die. But not everything is as simple as it seems, especially when everyone has secrets.

I don’t know exactly why the plot intrigued me so much, but the idea of trying to get through high-school and deal with being a part-time agent of death wouldn’t go away. And it might not just be the plot itself, but the characters that kept me going back to it. I put a bit of myself, my friends and my experiences into each of my books, but this one seems to have a lot more of me in it. While writing this book I tend to listen to more of the songs from my teenage years than normal. I reminisce a lot more than I ever have. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but I already feel so drawn into it that it’s hard to focus on any of my other works-in-progress. But that’s a really good thing, because this is going to be the first book I try to get a traditional publishing contract with so the sooner it’s done, the better.

And just incase anyone is wondering about the graphic at the top of this post – no, that is not indicative of what the book cover will look like. I have several different ideas for the cover, but I’m nowhere close to deciding what it should be. But I think the skull graphic does share the same feeling as the book. It’s a little dark and creepy, a little cute and funny. And I think that’s a good way to describe the book.