Monday, March 31, 2014

Do I or Don't I

Each of us writers wage an inner battle of  "Do I?" or "Don't I?"

You get an idea: do you do anything with it . . . or don't you?  Do you write the idea down or do you let it slip through your mental fingers?

Let's say you decide to cultivate the idea into a story, be it short story, novella, novel, or even a series.  Do you decide to write the first draft or don't you?  Also, do you complete it?

Okay, first draft is done.  Now what?  Do you edit it . . . or not?

Do you let it sit in a drawer for all time?

Do you even let others read it and give an honest critique?

Okay, four or five drafts later, what do you do with it?  Publish it?


Indie?  Traditional?

One could say that every single day--or even every single time we sit down to write--we ask ourselves: do I or don't I?

What are you deciding?

If you are answering no, why?  Are you afraid of failure?  Or are you afraid of succeeding?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Mar-2014 / Who's Carl Panzram?

Most have never heard of Carl Panzram.  I know I didn't, but last year while researching the town of Warren, Minnesota, for my novella Guest of Honor, I ran across a few notable residents.

One was a serial killer named Carl Panzram.

For many, you won't care.  But Warren is a town of 1500-plus residents.  Here's a link to Warren's Wikipedia page if you don't believe me.

Back in 1979, the town also became famous for a certain UFO incident.  No kidding!

I recently watched a show on Netflix about Carl Panzram and the trail of terror he created.  It's worth watching, and although it doesn't mention the town Warren by name, it does say he was from a small farming community in northwestern Minnesota.

It also says he is born south of Warren.  You know something?  The farm where Guest of Honor takes place is . . . south of Warren.


Guest of Honor also has a one-year birthday coming up.  Now, in reviewing covers over the past few weeks, I concluded that I still didn't quite like Guest of Honor.  So, I had it changed.

Thoughts on the cover?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The two Cs

I'm in the middle of editing my next novel Shadowkill when I enhanced a scene where one of the main characters talks a member of the opposite sex in regards to an unfortunate incident that occurred with this person's lover.

At first, I didn't know what the unfortunate incident would be.  Then, after scratching the first two off my list, I settled on a murder.

But what were those first two?

They were the two Cs:


Car accidents

I don't know how many times I run into unfortunate events where it involves either cancer or a car accident.  These seem to be so clique.  We, as writers, need to stretch our imaginations.  There are tons of other unfortunate incidents: heart attacks (although this one has been done many times too), suicide, shot, stabbed, AIDS, poison . . .

Don't stop with the obvious.  Do something different, in order to be memorable.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Mar-2014 / What took me so damn long?

I was listening to a podcast recently and the interviewer asked the author to describe how they started down the trail to become a writer--in other words, where did the spark come from to become what they became?

I then thought about my own life and how I'd answer that question . . . and I almost cried.  Even though the spark for writing occurred back near the second grade, and I even started writing a trilogy in the seventh grade on an old black typewriter--similar to the one used in the Stephen King movie Misery--I didn't become serious until I was in college.

In other words, roughly twenty years ago.  Wow, what took me so damn long to get up to this point!  And I'm just now starting out in my writing career!

Well, that's not quite true.  I started indie publishing roughly two years ago, and the knowledge I've accumulated about the publishing industry over the past nearly two decades is astounding and still continues to grow.  I have to say this right here and now: I wasted many of those years chasing the gatekeepers--AKA literary agents--and finding few results.  I can't go back in time and re-do it.

All I can do is start where I am right now . . . and keep moving.

And that's what I'm doing.

Now, many of those years was also spent working two part-time jobs in the law enforcement field.  And, when I wasn't working or taking care of my family, sometimes I did sleep.  But there's rarely a day that went by I didn't think about writing.

It's what I do.

It's what I am.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Mar-2014 / Focus, Daniel-son

Most reading this are probably not old enough to know what "wax on, wax off" means--it's from the original Karate Kid, from 1984, staring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita.

One of Mr. Miyagi's many other sayings was "Focus, Daniel-son!"  He meant to focus one's energy on one spot and to not have one's mind wander around.

Lately, as I'm plowing through the edits in Shadowkill, I'm finding myself having a difficult time moving forward.  My editing technique was to take 3-4 chapters at a time and clean them up.  I'm finding this not really working for me.

So, I'm revising how I edit: one chapter at a time.  It's time-consuming, but I'm finding myself getting through chapters in a day or two.  Now, I know what you're thinking: "Why can't I get more done in a day?"  I'm trying, and with a family, a cancer-recovering wife, and a full-time job, this is the way to go at this point.  As I get used to this, I'll probably clean up at least a chapter a day and I'll get done with the book sooner.

I've finished editing chapters 16 and 17.  This is out of 52 chapters.  Still a long ways to go, but I am making progress.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My analysis of the Dexter series finale (spoiler alert)

**Warning - spoiler alert!  If you have any desire to watch the series Dexter, do not read any further!  Spoiler alert!**

Okay, you've been warned . . .

I recently finished watching the entire 8 season run of Dexter on Netflix.  Hat's off to Michael C. Hall and the rest of the crew for an incredible show.

As I started watching season 8 and got closer to episode 12, the series finale, I wondered how it would end.  I could only think of two possibilities: he dies or he gets caught.  The reason they could really only end with either of these is because  . . . well, the series is done.  Completed.  No more shows.

So, Dexter Morgan had to either die or get caught.

Want to know what happened?  Neither.  Well, that's not quite true.  Dexter meets up with a serial killer Oliver Saxon, who was the son of the psychiatrist Dr. Evelyn Vogel.  Vogel knew Dexter's father and came up with his "code" for serial killing.  Dexter planned to kill Oliver, but at the last second said that he didn't have to.  His reason to kill was over.  He gave Oliver to his sister Debra to arrest.

Then, after Dexter left the scene, Oliver escaped and shot Debra.

In the end, Debra died in the hospital--oh, by the way, did I tell you there was a hurricane on its way?--and Dexter, in the confusion of evacuating the hospital due to the incoming storm, took his dead sister out onto his boat.

Then, after dumping Debra into the water . . . he sailed into the hurricane.  Where he died.

Or so we thought.

In the end, he escaped the wreckage and the very last scene is Dexter in the woods of Oregon, where he is a logger.  His old life had been erased.

Now, there's a lot more to the story, like with Hannah, his son Harrison, and the private investigator who is hot on Hannah's trail (she's a killer too).

I was surprised at the ending.  And pleased, nonetheless.  I thought it was wrapped up nicely.  My only criticism is that I would've added two small elements to the very ending.  First, I would've had a calendar of Argentina (where he, Hannah, and his son were planning on escaping to) on the wall.  Second, I would've had "Dexter" sit at the table and unfold a newspaper, that bore a headline like: THE FOURTH SLAYING AT TRUCK STOP.  POLICE SUSPECT SERIAL KILLER.

That would maybe give the impression that Dexter wasn't quite through with killing other killers.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Mar-2014 / Write endings that don't suck

Endings are tricky.  Do you leave the story open, leaving the reader's imagination to wonder what is in store for the character?  Or do you tie everything together in a nice neat bow?

Or, is it a combination of both?

Last week, on Netflix, I watched the season finale of Breaking Bad.  I won't spoil it here, except to say that it ends perfectly, tying up all loose ends.  As we speak, I'm just an episode or two away from finishing Dexter.  I'm dying--no pun intended--to see how it plays out.  Some of the character development in the last season is a bit poor and far-fetched, but overall I like the series and want to know what's going to happen with our friendly neighborhood blood splatter analyst who moonlights as a serial killer.

When it comes to endings, I believe it's important to give the reader enough to satisfy them.  This is where I believe a bit of planning--AKA outlining--may come into play.  As we speak, I have written in my lifetime a total of six novels.  In all of them, I had the ending in mind long before I even got to it.  But, when I wrote closer and closer to the end, it didn't quite turn out the way I had planned.  It was better.

In Shadowkill, I had an ending in mind yet didn't quite know how to get there.  A lot of questions were raised prior to it.  Then, like magic, they all fell into place.

I like explosive endings.  I hate cop-out endings.  This is why I hated Dracula.  The death of Dracula was about 2 lines in the book . . . and that was it.  Poof, big bad vampire is gone.  Don't do that.  Please.  Don't write endings that suck.

How do you tackle endings?  Please comment below and share.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rome wasn't built in a day. So don't treat your writing career like it should be.

Stephen King didn't stop with The Shining, his first hard cover bestseller.

J. K. Rowling didn't stop with the first Harry Potter books.

John Grisham didn't stop with The Firm.

Brandon Sanderson didn't stop with the Mistborn trilogy.

George R. R. Martin didn't stop with Game of Thrones.

All of these bestselling authors (and many more) did one thing in common: they wrote more books.

Of course, there are runaways successes like Harper Lee, William Peter Blatty, and J. D. Salinger who wrote one book (or two in the case of Blatty and four for Salinger) and quit.  These are not the norm for most authors who want to have a successful writing career.

Write more books.

Rome wasn't built in a day.  I look back at my blog and am astonished at how long I've been doing this.  I also look back at when I wrote some of my previous (unpublished) books and wonder what in the world I've been doing.

I am in this for the long haul.  I will be writing, and publishing, more books.

Don't treat your writing career anything less than the building of Rome.  It may be slow, but keep writing.

The world needs you.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Revising/editing your writing

Of all the parts of the writing process, one I enjoy the most--aside from actually coming up with the idea in my head--is editing.  AKA revising.

Some writers have a love-hate relationship with editing.  Some--this would be mainly indie authors who try to rush onto the self-publishing scene with only a prayer and a dream--do not even edit at all.  No one, and I mean no one, should ever do this.  No one writes a perfect draft anytime.  I would even argue the fact that Mozart, who has long since been boosted upon a pedestal of artistic quality, did not edit.  I have one word for that.


I even read once that William Shakespeare didn't even edit or revise any of his work.  I find it hard to believe, unless these two artists had such high capacity minds that much of it was done ahead of time in their own heads.  But even this I find hard to believe.

There are a few ways you can edit.  Some may read a piece and with each pass, they're looking for something different.  Maybe it's a content edit on one pass, punctuation the next, and so on.  Thanks to John Gardner, this is how I do it: I take a block of 3-5 chapters and read them on the computer.  Then, I print those pages and make changes.  This usually involves at least two printings before I feel it's right.  Then, I move on towards the end.  (I wrote a blog post on this almost two years ago, where I describe it more in detail. Feel free to give it another read.)

This way has been tedious for me, but it's much better than what I used to.  I have one novel I'm about a third of the way through with edits, and I just want to get it done.

Hence the reason I'm exploring various revision options.

Some authors I know take 4-5 passes (or more) through a book.  I want to try this once, to see if it would work so I can view the story as a whole more than the individual pieces.  Depending on how long the novel is, there could be two to four months between when I started on chapter one and when I got to THE END.

I will keep you posted.

What is your revision process like?  Any tips you can share with the blog readers, would be greatly appreciated?