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New England in Autumn: Day 3

We took a little ride up Mount Washington today, and did some hiking there and also in an area with little waterfalls and placid pools called Diana’s Baths (all part of the White Mountains National Forest).

This area is absolutely breathtaking in Autumn.

The one photo below of the walking path shrouded in fog is from the top of Mt. Washington. It was 30 degrees with high winds and zero visibility up there this morning.

Behold! My paperback to read pile

I spent a little time this afternoon reorganizing the bookshelves in our house! Since we bought a new bookshelf for the office, we’ve finally got enough shelf space for ALL the books,

I put all the genres together and got the books into (mostly) alphabetic order. This time, one section of the got pulled out: my paperback “to read” shelf.

These are all the books I’ve been meaning to read. Anything look good to you? (Let me know in the comments).

This doesn’t include my digital to read pile, of course. I’ve got a dozen books on my Kindle in various states of unread. But that’s not important!

The rest of my evening was spent watching the X-Files and turning a new story into an ebook. Make Like The Roaches And Survive should be available soon.

I noticed tonight how much I’ve managed to streamline my post-production process, which is great because less time publishing and marketing means more time for me to focus on writing a good blurb and working on the next story.

Still have to write the blurb for this one, but I think I’ve got a good place to start. You can tell me how I did when it’s out in a few days 🙂

Thinking in scenes

An important moment in my development as a writer was learning to think in scenes.

This is a good life skill too, being able to break things down into their constituent parts.

You’re not writing a book, you’re writing a chapter.

You’re not building a wall, you’re layering wet cement and placing one brick at a time.

For stories, the basic building blocks are the scenes. Just focus on one at a time.

This works because a scene has the same basic structure as a story, but on a smaller scale. Each scene has a beginning, middle and end. Further, each scene is somewhere along that the beginning-middle-end spectrum in the greater story.

Writing a story can be overwhelming. Writing a single scene is eminently manageable.

Break it down. Focus on one thing at a time. You’ll get there.

Unplugged

After a working weekend (writing every day now, plus the talk I gave) I found myself worn out on Monday, generally running behind, and frustrated by the constant interruptions of social media, my phone, and the internet in general.

Sometimes I just need to unplug. And sometimes it requires a rather aggressive approach.

Technology isn’t going away and, unfortunately, several studies have shown that Facebook and the internet in general stimulate the same part of your brain that addictive drugs do. So I don’t know about you, but maybe we all need to learn how to disconnect.

That means learning to unplug. And sometimes—like other forms of addiction—the only way to do that is to attack the problem aggressively. To build it into your life through concrete actions.

Phone off and in the other room.

Computer off.

Social media blocked in browser.

Limit your screen time.

Whatever it takes to preserve your sanity.

Your mileage may vary but give it some thought.

So instead of tooling around on the outrage machine we call Twitter, I spent the rest of the evening reading Hyperion, which is excellent, and wondering why it took me so long to pick it up. I guess I just had to be in the right place for a sci-fi novel with a poetic and literary bent to it. That, and not distracted by my phone every fifteen seconds.

Fridays are backwards

Every day my first priority is to get some fiction words done, except Fridays when I do it backwards and write in the afternoon.

So today I did freelance stuff first. I’m still feeling crappy, stuffed up with a head cold, but I grabbed some coffee and got to it straight away.

That went good for a couple hours. Quick break to walk the dogs, then another three hours of work. Ended with a phone call around 2pm.

Next, I drove to a coffee shop where I met two other writers to work for a few more hours, this time on the novel in progress. That’s why Fridays are backwards—writing with company.

It’s worth going out of my way for. One of the guys that shows up to the Friday meetings is a good friend and we act as accountability partners for each other. It’s good to have someone to talk to about story problems and hang ups, and share progress with to motivate each other.

He and I also happen to write similar genres and have a similar writing process, which is rare enough to worth pointing out. No two writers are the same. It’s lucky to be able to talk to someone who writes like you. They just get it.

I like my backwards Fridays. Makes the last day of the week different enough to be interesting. Keeps my on my toes. And writers may work alone, but they’re better together.

Now I’m back at home, clearing my stuffy head with theraflu. My tolerant fiancé has made lasagna for dinner (smells delicious).

An otherwise uneventful but productive Friday. I’m going to fire up the most recent episode The Orville as my reward.

Here’s a photo of Elsa pup for you. Enjoy your weekend!

First words on Translocator 3

I’m finally making some visible headway on Translocator 3. Spent the first half of the month planning/outlining the book using a combination of the 9 point outline from Larry Brooks and 4 act plot structure (see Lester Dent’s Master Fiction Plot), journaling madly, and then blowing it all out into a chapter by chapter synopsis.

Some people think I’m crazy for doing that kind of legwork up front—they’re either afraid of the work or it bores them, or they call themselves pantsers and just don’t believe in planning. For me it’s thrilling, architecting the whole diabolical scheme and making sure all the pieces fit. The plot of a good science fiction thriller like these books is complex. Multiple points of view! Ancient mysteries! Secret alliances! Betrayals… It’s the only way I can keep it straight.

There’s another advantage, too. Once I figure out how the book goes at a high level, I can let go of the plot and focus on the scenes and the characters, and on the rhythm of the sentences. I think it makes the book better, and it certainly makes the writing easier. And planning well also cuts down on the amount of rewriting I have to do. Ye gods, I hate rewriting.

And so, with my blueprint in hand, last week I finally started typing. I got off  to a slow start, and then got sick over the weekend, but I kept dripping out words the whole time.

Right now I’m at 2500 words with a deadline of December 15th and a target of 80,000 words.

No idea if the 80k target is going to turn out to be accurate, or if I can hit the deadline. I guess we’ll see 😀 The challenge is half the fun of it.

t3-just-starting.png

July-August writing challenge finished

Did anyone else notice it was nearly the end of September? Good grief.

Despite the late date, I wanted to return to the subject of the July-August challenge briefly and review the results. I always get mad at myself when I don’t close the box on goal-setting exercises like this, so here we go.

My goal was to write four short stories in July. This got bumped by other project back to August, hence “July-August Challenge.”

I managed to write only 2 of the four stories—a 2k word story and a 8k word story…

  • The Road Is Three (2k) – Read it here.
  • Make Like The Roaches And Survive (8k) – Still in editing

Would I rather have gotten 4 complete stories out of the challenge? Of course. But sometimes you’ve got to be flexible. Life intervenes, like the vacation I took in June. Then finishing a cowriting project took priority through July and into early August. And after I finished two stories in August, I had to switch gears in order to get through the Translocator 3 outline on time.

The way I look at it, I got 2 new stories out of the challenge and a nice break between novel projects.

So that’s a win in my book.

Have you done any writing challenges this summer? I invite you to share your own experiences with writing challenges in the comments section.