Does it feel right?

Done with Camp NaNo, a couple days early even!  Woo hoo!  Now that I’ve found myself with a bit more spare time I thought it might be a good time to write about an interesting little experience I had during this project.

The first week of April I was on a trip overseas.  I knew that it’d be hard to keep my word count up but I had almost two days of flying involved so I figured that’d give me a chance do some writing, even if I didn’t get much done the rest of the week.

On my return flight, the story was feeling a little slow so I write this really intense action sequence.  It was fast paced, lots of back and forth, it was awesome.  Probably the best action scene I’ve ever written.  I ripped out six or seven pages in no time.  Word count, smerd count, I’m the man.

But about an hour later, something was bugging me.  I wasn’t sure what it was, I just knew that there was something off about the scene.  I kept tweaking it, trying to make it feel better, but there was some underlying problem that unsettled me.

One of the things that I have learned as a writer is to pay attention to those gut feelings.  Often the subconscious will pick up on something before the conscious mind does.  So I paused the story while I tried to understand out what was going on.

It took me a while to figure it out but when I kind of stepped back and looked at it, it was obvious. I had wanted to write a certain type of scene so bad that I forced the characters into it.  My main character was way too savvy to get sucked into that situation, it should never have happened.

It didn’t fit, I’d forced it.  No amount of tweaking was going to change that.  So, with reluctance, I chopped the entire seven pages.  Seven pages!

This was so frustrating because that’s one of those holes that writers are often advised to avoid.  If you’re true to your characters than the plot flows along, if a character makes some decision that doesn’t make sense that’s probably a sign that the writer is forcing the characters to fit into a specific plot point.  I’d always thought that wasn’t a problem for me since I’m more of a pantser, but now I know better.

My word count suffered, it felt like all that work went down the drain, I had to rewrite pages and pages, but in the end the story was so much better for it.  I’m glad I listened to my gut, figured out what was wrong and fixed it.

(Side note: I saved the pages in another file and was later able to salvage some of it in a more appropriate place in the story.)

Three days until battle starts!

I’m so excited, it’s three days until the first Write Club Fight Club bout!

I’ve been plugging away at a couple different pieces; Sadie’s Adventures, Larry’s Dead, and another story project.  They’re all coming alone, though slightly slower than I’d like.  I think I’m learning moderation when it comes to writing, slow and steady rather than sprints and rests.  But the project I’m most excited about is the WCFC submission.  I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with.

Bouts start the 29th at WCFC.

My bout is on October 2nd with N. J. Layouni.

Pantser Slump

The greatest pleasure I derive from writing is also my greatest curse.

There are two general types of writers; plotters and pantsers.

Plotters are kind of the Type-A personalities of the writing world.  They have an idea, they plan out the characters, and lay out the plot line in great detail.  Then when they write all they have to do is connect the dots.

Pantsers are those who write “by the seat of their pants”.  They start with an interesting idea, a character, and they just write.  It’s a very organic process, they just see where the characters take them.  Planning is usually limited to a couple chapters ahead.

I am an unashamed pantser.  What drives me to write is curiosity.  Usually I start with a hook and I’m genuinely curious where the story is going to go.  How is the manly man going to react when he has to direct his daughter’s play?  I don’t know but I really want to find out.  Every story is a puzzle that I really want to solve.

As much fun as that is, it’s also my biggest hurdle towards becoming a novelist.

You see, as long as I don’t know what’s going to happen I’m hooked by my own story, but there’s always a point (around 80% done) when I figure out how it’s going to end.  I can see how the last little bit plays out.  The puzzle is solved but the draft isn’t finished.  Suddenly, I don’t have any motivation at all to finish the last 20% or so.  It’s work, it’s trudging, it’s painfully boring.

When I get bored, my attention starts to wander toward other story ideas, until I drop the original project and start something new.  The new project gets to about 80%, puzzle solved, and my attention starts to wander again.

Right now, I’ve got two books 80% finished and I’m struggling to maintain my focus on them instead of the flashier, new ideas that have been cropping up.  I really, really want to be a published author but there are so many difficulties that I never anticipated, this being one of many.

So, I desperately need to work on my writing discipline.  Not just in hours/words per day but in finishing what I start.  Even then, I can only imagine how painful it’s going to be to do the multiple cycles of revision to make the story readable.

I keep telling myself, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.”   Pantser or not, I’m working on it.

 

Time vs Energy vs Words

The last few months, my writing routine has been knocking out between 20-30 pages a week.  I’ll grant that they aren’t quality pages, they’re mostly unedited, but I’m trying to get the drafts finished before I really dig into the editing process.

The last two weeks though, I’ve been working so much that when I get home I basically collapse on the couch.  Then, maybe watch a little TV and head to bed.  Last week I wrote about 15 pages and they were terrible.  I’ll probably end up tossing them rather than facing a grueling process of turning them into something readable.  This week… I’ve written maybe 5 pages.

Exhausting work, my writing’s kryptonite. Continue reading “Time vs Energy vs Words”

Two Miles to Humility

(I wrote this right after it happened in 2008, I had plenty of time off my feet to work on it.  Enjoy!  WordPress didn’t like my formatting, so it’s a little off.)
Two Miles to Humility
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I’d like to think that I have reached the point in my life where there aren’t too many big life lessons left to learn.  However, it’s when you think you don’t have much left to learn that you end up being forcibly shown how little you actually know.
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My wife, Carrie, is an amazingly gifted woman.  I say this with some confidence because I’m fairly gifted and she is far more talented and gifted than I am.  When applying for a University, eight years after High School, I was required to retake the SATs.  I studied for two weeks and scored a 1390, two hundred points higher than I had almost a decade before.  I’ve learned through the years that given a little time and effort I can truly accomplish anything I put my mind to.  My wife, on the other hand, can match any accomplishment of mine almost instantly, and with little discernible effort.

Continue reading “Two Miles to Humility”

Welcome!

It’s been an interesting few months leading up to me starting this blog.

I’ve been a voracious reader and writer for many years now.  It started in High School when friends and I would exchange stories, usually horror stories that involved gory death scenes.

Since then, my problem has been that I get really excited about a project for a few weeks but then I get another idea.  The first idea gets shelved and I start working on the new one.  And repeat.  None of them ever made it past a couple dozen pages before another project came up or life got in the way.

Recently though, I started writing a story for my daughter.  She loves to read, so I thought it would be something fun to do.  She’s been the motivation that got me to dig into a single story and not let go.

It’s been a whole lot of fun and it’s really inspired me to get more serious with my writing.  There is so much more I want to learn about writing, publishing, and developing as a person and a writer.

J. M. Payer