Haiku

The other night while bored and lying on the floor while putting my kids to sleep, I kept myself awake by composing a little haiku. This should explain how tired I was …

 

A good first line is:

Eye catching. Thought provoking.

Now do it again.

 

I even composed a runner up …

 

First lines are hard work.

Siren songs of investment.

Better back it up.

 

Sitting there in the dark, I either read on my phone and inevitably work towards a pair of thicker glasses or prewrite for the next day’s manuscript work.

Or create haikus I guess …

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Elusivity

My New Years’ resolution was to blog more consistently.

OK. It wasn’t. But I still want to post more consistently anyway.

Life at the Melnick household has been a bit rough lately. The Missus is super sick. I mean when stuff gets in your chest and ears kind of sick. The babies have also picked up little baby versions of this illness in the form of stuffy noses, sniffles and even more spitting up. Yep. That’s just what babies needed: MORE spitting up. It’s lead to a lot of sleepless nights and me running around trying to make sure everyone else gets as much sleep as they can.

As I type this, I can feel the telltale tickle in the back of my throat. The number at the deli counter just rolled over one digit closer to the matching one on my ticket.

I hope everyone had some happy holidays. In between traveling and illnesses, I’ve been daydreaming about getting back to Fairfax Cleaners and brainstorming for novel #5. I’ve decided that my alpha readers have had over a month now to read the draft and while that’s not a lot of time in this busy time of our lives, it’s been long enough that I can hassle them for an update to at least let me know WHEN they’re finished. I don’t mind waiting around and working on other things as long as I’ve got something out there dangling. But if I’m not fishing, I’m not being productive.

I’m still doing research on the next book and I think I’ve got the plot basically figured out. I’m about ready for the outlining phase. This one’s been a lot quicker than usual since I’m adapting a screenplay awhile ago I wrote into a novel. I’ve basically changed the entire story with the exception of the core concept, but I’ve had this character’s voice in my head for years. Writing in first person – fingers crossed – should alleviate some of those professional pressures that have started to creep in without a pitch-worthy product.

So far, I’ve only been scratching that writing itch through mental exercises. I would love to sit down and fire off a short story or two, but that’s just not my style. I outline too much. Coming up with a plot is the hardest part for me for any book, so you’d think that something smaller would be easier, but it’s the opposite. Usually, I can propose a scenario to myself and ask “what happens next?” OK. “What happens after that?” And follow that story down the natural rabbit hole. But with short fiction, I end up doing so much brainstorming, I’m developing material for a full length novel and I’ve forgotten what it was about the short story that grabbed me in the first place.

I’m hoping to kick that habit. I had a pretty vivid dream the other night that’s still haunting me. I thought it would make a great idea for a romantic comedy at the time so I wrote it down in case I ever wanted to tackle a screenplay pretty far outside my genre as an exercise. Then I massaged it into drama shape for kicks. And now, I’ve basically rebuilt it into a science fiction piece. I like the central concept, but it’s that illusive plot thing that’s tripping me up. I supposed I’ll keep working on it in the hopes that I see an end in sight.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Of Pork and Prose

I forgot my work glasses again which put me behind. I don’t know if its mental conditioning or has something more to do with the flood of dopamine and endorphins post workout, but I’m definitely more motivated to write in the morning first thing. If I miss my window, I feel my mind and body becoming more sluggish by the minute until I’m forcing it out of me just to get words on a page. Of course, my exhaustion today could also be attributed to last weekend …

We had our baby shower on Sunday. In lieu of a lady’s luncheon, we had a cookout for family and friends. She wanted to include me in the process and I wanted to eat pulled pork so everybody was happy. Kidding aside, the day was wonderful. Great weather, great food and great company. I felt kind of spoiled being showered with so many gifts, but not that spoiled. We got a lot from our registry, but there’s still so much more to purchase. Who knew that babies needed so much stuff?!

As she’s the one from this area, most of the guests were her friends and family. I had a couple of surprise visitors by way of my best friends from back home (Pennsylvania) and another couple of good friends from Chicago. We made an unlikely little social gathering, but it was pretty cool. It was great seeing everybody, but it meant hosting those out of town guests and late nights. After a few days, my body and mind are wrecked. Rich food and a hot sun will do that too, so I think I just need to recover. I was out of work yesterday for the tail end of the weekend and the result is that I no longer know what day of the week it is anymore. I’ll bet whatever you want that it is, in fact, Monday.

Just like listening to your body when you know you’ve pulled something means skipping the gym that day, I don’t think I’m capable of a full word count at the moment. I’m taking copious notes for tomorrow and you better be damned sure I’m making it all up. I’m rounding to the nearest 25 though … come on, I’m not that crazy.

I know I’m just making excuses and what I really need to do is push through the pain, but I’m gonna take a page out of my future childrens’ books and go full on baby this time. I’ll work on the prewriting though so I can hit the ground running tomorrow. Pinky promise 🙂

Countdown

Writing is a discipline.

It’s true. The simplest distractions or interruptions can all too quickly rip you out of the moment. I was having another one of those days. I slept through my alarm, my back was killing me from a bad gym tweak and a morning spent helping my wife move out of her classroom, and on top of everything it was storming like a biblical apocalypse movie outside so it was pretty easy to decide that today would not be a running day. It was time to listen to my body.

Fine, well then I was going to get to work and write extra hard. I want to get this novel finished next month and this was a golden opportunity. That was until I had a fight with my wife about something stupid. Point is, the shouting scared my little creativity critters back into their trees. It took a while to coax them back down and I was finally chugging away but then my phone would ring or somebody would come in my office or they’d need me to catch a pokemon or … OK well that last one might not have been true, but it was pretty close.

Anyway, it just reinforced the whole concept of you can’t always choose when you write. Something will always come up that either sounds more appealing or is actively trying to stop you. Unless you make a living by writing and your personal time is also your work time, time management is pretty freaking huge. This goes beyond turning off your WiFi or whatever so you don’t get sucked down the internet rabbit hole. This is sentences flowing freely and then – oh something shiny! – the well literally drying up a moment later. This is where the discipline part comes in.

Yes you can’t always choose when you write, but its hard to go in cold too. Prewriting, brainstorming, anything that’ll keep me thinking about the plot in between writing sessions is huge. As I type this post, my phone is buzzing out of control as my wife keeps texting me. See? Distractions can come from anywhere.

I got my words in today and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Kind of like the first goal of the last Women’s World Cup game. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take it. The longer these distractions go on, the less I write. The less I write, the less I like the book, the less I like the book, the harder it is to finish. You get the picture.

My life has become a ticking clock and in a month and a half – maybe only a month?! – it’s going to explode and reveal two baby dragons. That’s a good thing. An amazing thing. A thing I’ve been looking forward to for almost 3 years. But if I already have all of these distractions vying for attention, I imagine that shit’ll increase exponentially with the onset of babies.

Just Like the Dentist

Short and sweet today. I need to get some stuff finished so I can run home and mow the grass before the rain comes.

After being off writing for about a week, I’ve had to get back into the saddle before I can ramp up the word count. My little inspiration critters were skittish early on, but they’re coming back. Not yesterday though. Oh man. Yesterday, I had to fight for every single sentence. I know you can’t always pick the time to write. You don’t have the luxury of waiting around for inspiration to strike, but yesterday was just torture. I made myself get at least 600 words down so I felt like I’d accomplished something, but I had to throw in the towel.

I think it was a problem of direction. I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to go next and I hadn’t done the proper prewriting for it, so I just ended up floundering. Solved that today though, so I’m back on track and the world is good. Although, I ran into another interesting issue.

I have a secondary character (one who I hope will one day spawn his own spinoff series) who’s a magic-usin’ Scotsman. I used to live in Aberdeen when I studied ethnology and folklore for my master’s degree, so I like to think that I know a thing or two about the Scots. I’ve always wanted to write a Scottish character and I do a pretty mean accent, but for whatever reason, this guy is coming off as Irish.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t confuse the two cultures. Not one bit. I absolutely know the difference. I like them both, but I had a target in my mind that this guy was Scottish. His backstory confirms it. But when I hear his voice in my head, it’s totally Irish. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing on my part and that’s how I’ve actually always envisioned him, but this is the first time where I can absolutely say that my character has a mind of his own. When authors talk about characters doing what they want, I usually smile and nod and say “Sure.” But I get it now.

Try as I may, I might just give in. What the hell? I can rework the backstory to make him Irish, sure. Plenty to draw on. Maybe this just wasn’t the time and place for my Scotsman protagonist.

Has something like this happened to any of you out there? Characters going differently than how you thought they’d be?

To 11 … well maybe 9

I’ve been going strong now for a while with the latest book. I’m just shy of the midpoint. A few thousand more words ought to finish the current scene and then its off to the antagonist to ratchet up the stakes a little 🙂

In books past I’ve hit various walls that needed to be pushed through in order to continue. But this time around, I’m pretty much excited all the time. I’m taking that as a good sign. I’ve been aiming for 1k words a day, but I haven’t be religious about it. Sometimes I go so far as to write my word count down. If I’m 50 words shy today, you better believe I need to make that up tomorrow. That said, I think it’s time to crank it up a notch.

Work has been interesting to say the least. There’s this big scheduling deadline that’s been looming over my head for months now. I need to get the spring 2016 schedule of classes over to the Registrar’s office by June. It’s felt like a tightening noose for a long time. First, scheduling isn’t actually my job anymore and second, I’ve been waiting around for the department to hire a replacement. This replacement needed to be trained so SHE could turn in that schedule. Anyway, that’s a lot of back story to try and explain that this week and next one are the two weeks I’ve been dreading for ages. It’s my last hurrah as a scheduling officer, my last trudge through the trenches while I train the new person with all of the wisdoms I can muster. When it’s finally over, the wife and I are going to Disney World!

Seriously. We love it down there. We’re taking another last hurrah before we’re never alone again. Don’t worry, we’ll bring the little dragons back with us.

So I think I’ll wait for all of that to die down before I crank up my word quota. If I can get more in next week, fantastic, but I’m not going to make myself nuts about it. Otherwise, as soon as I fall into the groove, we’ll be off to Florida where I doubt I’ll get much writing done. Although, long car rides are great places to work on some outlining in my head and snippets of prose always seem to spring to mind. I whisper things into my phone while my wife naps in the passenger seat. She wakes up sometimes and asks who I’m talking to.

Oh, you know. Just the voices in my head.

Seahorse

Work is finally turning around, my friends. I mean real work. Work-work. It’s one of three times a year that constitutes crunch time in the truest meaning of the term. Normally, it’s a black hole sucking abyss that is all consuming. A mad dash where I work as hard and as fast as I can for a week and a half and pray I make it out alive.

This time around is a little different, though. I was driving into work feeling pretty pleased with myself. I ran 7.5 miles this morning and I was working on some prewriting in my head when I remembered what I was actually driving myself too. The black hole does not allow time for things like writing on the side or you know, lunch. I went from super psyched to super pissed in about one second. But then I remembered that I could finally start training. It’s taken two months, but they’ve finally replaced my old position at work with somebody else. All this work that has to be done for this looming deadline? Yeah, that’s her worry now, not mine. OK. OK. She doesn’t know how to do any of it yet … So I get into work, ready to give up all of my free time and start working with her. We’re at it maybe 45 minutes when she says she has a handle on things and I should go do something else and check in later so she can practice. Fine by me.

Black hole averted.

I got back to my office and for the first time in a long time had nothing to do. Looks like I was getting in some writing after all.

I got to expand on a scene I started over the weekend. After placing both my protagonists in mortal peril, the next bullet point on my outline has them recovering with a side of exposition. I realized, though, that if I did it that way, it felt too much like an info dump. Instead, I spent a thousand words just on having one of them wake up and take a shower. It sounds dumb, but I think that after everything they’d been through – the reader included – that all parties involved needed time to breathe. We could build to the exposition later, but for right now, we all needed a hot shower to calm the eff down.

When people talk about the writing process, the concept of pacing will sometimes get brought up. It falls right in there with scenes and sequels, but it’s often a judgement call. You can plot it and plan for it, but sometimes it just makes sense. The funny thing is that I first started to grasp the need for pacing when I started writing comic books.

For years, that was all I wanted to do. I’d do anything to break into the comics industry. I remember showing my first full length script to a friend and a professional in the biz and after padding my ego, the first thing he said was that it needed at least one splash page. I thought those were just for the artists to show off or something, but he explained that no, it allows the story to breathe. Yes, they’re usually big, dramatic moments, but it’s really just a place to slow everything down for a minute and let the reader take it all in. They’re like a visual pause.

I’ve taken that advice to heart. It’s a little different to have a splash page in a novel. At this point, they usually fall under the wow category instead of the reflection one, but it was thinking about stories visually that helped me wrap my burgeoning writing brain around the concept of pacing in general. You can’t always be rush-rush-rush, hell, even Sonic stopped and had a chili dog every once in a while.

Over the weekend, my wife and I sat through an all day intensive baby basics course at the hospital. We got to meet some personnel and see what the rooms look like for the big day in a couple of months. It helped alleviate a lot of worry and put some more excitement in the hype tank. It’s not that I wasn’t looking forward to them before, but now I’m really excited about it! We also sorted through some baby clothes people had loaned us.

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We have a lot. And that’s just for the boy.

And when we were at the hospital, there was one part of the class that had all of these physical activity stations. Most of which were places to practice hand and hip massages for when she’s in labor and has nothing to do but sit and wait through the pain. She got to relax for a change and I pushed and pulled on stuff I didn’t know could go those directions but I guess they helped reduce pressure somewhere. Go figure.

Oh and I got to try one of these on. She said she was getting tired so I told her I’d carry the babies for a while.

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