Stories about life.
In other words, all stories all the time.
The stories may be about me, freelancing, fiction, something interesting that I saw, heard or know about, stories of inspiration, everyday foibles, funny stories, sad stories, silly stories. Well…I guess you get the idea.
My goal is to entertain you, give you something to think about and help you in any way I can. After all, a person is only as valuable as they serve others.
Feel free to look around, read something and let me know what you think.
May all your days be filled with wonderful stories.
While working on the current novel, I managed to line up a few beta readers. Total excitement. I’d never had beta readers before. What would they tell me? Would they make me cry? Would they stroke my ego. Would they love the book or hate it? Would I (in the end) acknowledge that I’m not creative after all and set up an affiliate website selling info products? Would they give me insight or would I be incited to violence. I just didn’t know.
After weeks of patiently waiting. Not really patient. Pretty much impatient. Actually very impatient. I finally heard back from one of my guys. The feed back was pretty nice but there were a few things I needed clarified, so I sent a follow up email with questions. Easy-peesey, right?
The answers were where the real nitty-gritty came out. It’s not that I disagreed with the answers, or even got upset. But they did present a problem. A major premise of the story, according to the beta, was not believable. Yikes!
So, I thought about it. I asked other people about it. I thought about it some more. I tried to come up with a way around it, because if I gave in, then well you know, rewrites.
I even had an eight part email fly back and forth between me and another reader about how it could be fixed. Oddly, I was the one playing devil’s advocate when the poor girl was fighting for my premise.
In the end, I decided the beta was right. It had to change. I had to change because you know, readers, they don’t like illogical things in their books. It’s a rule. I don’t know who wrote the rule, but I’m very sure it’s an official, carved in stone rule.
Real Life vs. Fictional Real Life
But even though I did agree with the beta it got me thinking. This rule about how fiction has to be logical. Has to be ‘believable’ when real life is anything but that. Let’s face it, real life is crazy, even on a good day. Nothing makes sense from the small (why is he driving that way?) to the huge (we’re going to war because of what?).
And examples of the illogic of life are everywhere:
- Beautiful women married to fat ugly men
- Pajama wearing, self-made millionaires who got rich selling ‘information’
- James Carville and Mary Matalin
- Animals rights activists who are against killing animals but for abortion
- Politicians get elected for criticizing their predecessors for the exact things they do once in office
- Reality TV
- How Facebook apparently kills brain cells
- Half the things you see (and can’t un-see) in emergency rooms
- Atheists using the phrase “Oh My God”
- Good people dying
- Bad people getting rich
- Chocolate cake with Diet Coke
- Running or bicycling along high traffic roads (with plenty of exhaust)
- Hard workers get fired
- In America dead people vote in every election
Plot point? What plot point?
In fiction every scene, every action, and every bit of dialogue has to move the plot forward. If it doesn’t, it’s cut. But does life follow plot points? Is there some logical path that life takes that leads us to the Promised Land or our dreams or goals? Hell no. Musicians slave away at bar and top-40 gigs all to get their big breaks, while some pimply faced 13 year old becomes a sensation because of a video posted on YouTube. Life is completely unconcerned with moving the story forward. Rather it pushes in every direction possible away from forward.
But even despite all this. Despite the fact that life is truly stranger than fiction I think I understand why fiction has to make sense, has to be logical and follow through to the end. It’s because we humans have to see something resolved. We have to see somebody reach their goal. We have to see somebody get their happily ever after. I mean, let’s face it, we don’t read so we can get reality, right? We read to escape. We read so we can become someone else for a while. Live their life, which is typically much more interesting than our own. We read to immerse ourselves into a risk free adventure. We read for relief from all that ails us.
When we’re done with our mini vacation from life we can return, perhaps a little calmer, maybe even a little wiser, and ready once again to deal with all the glorious illogic of real life.
Feel free to argue, agree, or contradict me in the comments.
There has been an enormous amount of press about the dispute between Amazon and Hachette books and its authors. By and large the media has sided with Hachette and has done (seemingly) everything in its power to guide public opinion against Amazon.
In the spirit of fairness I offer the following links to articles that go against the tide of ‘popular opinion’ to give critical thinkers at least a fighting chance to form an opinion about the situation. Konrath and Gaughrin say.
Full disclosure: As a diehard capitalist who believes in the free market and as an indie author who thanks God every day for the likes of Amazon, I am decidedly not with ‘popular opinion.’ I simply don’t believe that a handful of ‘traditional publishers’ should have the right or the power to determine, what we read, what we pay for what we read and what authors are worthy of publication. As always, I side with readers and writers. I believe that readers should have access to as many books as can be published, regardless of publishing format and that they shouldn’t have to pay through the nose to feed their habit. Call me crazy but it seems to me the free market, which enables the consumer to decide is the best of all worlds.
But that is as eloquent as I can get on this topic. Read the articles at the links which do a much better job than I at making the argument.
Which is why I’m only on page 55 of the third draft. Do you want your book to be good or fast? I’m going for good.
Hey, let’s party like it’s 1776.
Hot dogs, mom’s potato salad, parades, fireworks and afternoon naps. That’s what I’m talking about.
Be safe, have fun, take care.
I read an interview not long ago (although now I can’t find the link) with James Patterson. Wherein Patterson explains how he sells a bagillion books a year. The ‘secret’ is that he leaves the boring stuff out of his stories. By doing so, his stories are fast reads, the action never slows and presumably the reader never gets bored.
While Patterson has other systems that enable him to churn out multiple best sellers yearly that as a reader I’m not crazy about, I tend to side with him on the boring stuff.
If you read or write, you know what I’m talking about. The passages we all skim or skip over entirely when reading a book.
- Because we want to get to the juicy stuff.
- Because the color of curtains or that the fabric came from some middle eastern blip of a country that employs child laborers because their tiny hands are just the right size for the intricate pattern interrupts the action.
- We want to know where the bad guy is hiding.
- Or if she’s going to say yes to the good guy or the bad boy.
- Or how our hero is going to get out of the elevator careening toward the underground parking garage from the penthouse suite.
Curtains – schmurtains – gimme the action.
And Patterson isn’t the only famous author who proscribes to the philosophy of boring free stories:
Ernest Hemingway: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”
Mark Twain: “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”
Alfred Hitchcock: “Drama is life with the dull parts left out.”
Italo Calvino: “I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.”
Truman Capote: “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
Is the Narrative necessary or in the way?
As much as I admire (and envy) Pat Conroy’s skills with prose (among others, say, Dean Koontz for example) as a reader I really don’t need to know:
- The origin of the wallpaper
- All about our heroine’s first period
- The play by play on how our hero makes a sandwich.
“But,” you say, “we must have narrative. We must have a sense of space. We must know what the characters look like. We must know the character’s back story. Right?”
Well of course we must have a sense of those things. (Except, back story – very tricky thing, stops the action, takes us off the timeline – a light hand there methinks.) Otherwise our characters are floating free style in space with no anchors or landmarks.
But maybe inference is a better approach than full on assault. Perhaps finding one definitive aspect of a room so the reader’s imagination can fill in the blanks. Could your heroine be a tall, cool, blonde without my having to know how tall, her dress size, her dietary restrictions and the nasty fight she had with her sister when she was five, at the outset?
The whole idea in writing fiction is to show not tell, right? I think that some writers feel they must show the whole room, rather than the really important parts.
I also think that writers have an incessant need to use all their research. I mean, heck, they went to the trouble to research, it seems only fair to let them use it, right? I mean, it is kind of a bitch to spend weeks researching something and maybe only devote a few sentences to it. But then that’s what writing is about. Finding out what you need to know to write the story – it doesn’t necessarily follow that your reader needs to know it too, right?
If you’re not sure you could ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it stop the action?
- Does it make the story drag or go off in a direction not relevant to moving the story forward?
- Will it matter to your reader?
- If it wasn’t there, would your reader miss it?
- Is it a necessary detail for your reader to know to follow the story?
- Will it annoy your reader who is up past midnight reading your story to find out what happens next but she can’t find out until she reads the seven pages of description?
Even Best Sellers Might be Surprised
This week I finished a book by one of my favorite writers (who is famous and has written a ton of best sellers). The last hundred pages were riveting. Except for the parts that I had to skim through to get to what the fuck happened and who the hell did it. After I finished the book I actually wondered what he’d think if he knew that I skipped (easily) 50 plus pages of his novel because all that technical crap bores the hell out of me. I also wondered how much time he spent writing those unread, quickly skimmed pages. Maybe he could have finished the book a month early if not for those pages and the edits and the rewrites, etc. And his readers would have been none the wiser. Maybe not. It’s something to think about.
Only you know what your story is. What you want to say. What’s important to your characters. But your readers will decide is it’s important to them. Maybe a little less boring stuff and a little more action is just what they’re looking for.
Writer or reader, what do you think about leaving in or leaving out the boring stuff? I’d be interested in knowing.
You’ve been gone a long time.
And you’d think by now I’d be used to the idea. You’d think that I wouldn’t wonder what your opinion would be about all the crazy crap going on in the world today.
You’d think that the arrival of Father’s Day wouldn’t still hurt like hell when I realize there is no place to send a gift, a card or place a call.
But hell, you’re my dad and I still miss you.
I still want to call you up when I’m feeling blue or when something kick-ass happens. Or when I hear a really funny story. Or even when I see a Budweiser commercial.
I still feel the need for your wisdom. For your perspective. For your cantankerous attitude about all things flaky.
I laugh when I imagine what you’d say about political correctness, climate change and the outlawing of plastic bags and light bulbs.
The worst part is not knowing where you are.
Are you living a new life in Minnesota as a slack millennial? Are you organizing a country band in Heaven? Are you blissfully floating out there in the ether? Or are you just sitting on my shoulder, whispering, everything is going to be all right?
Wherever you are I hope they have boats, Budweiser and country music. I hope they have good coffee and color TV. I hope you’re happy.
I hope that you know that I love you and miss you and wish you were here.
All my ♥
I started this blog so that (among other things) I would commit to writing every day. I knew I needed discipline and this blog was the ways and means to obtain that discipline.
And I did it.
For the first four years, come rain or shine, happy or sad – I wrote.
Then somewhere along the way I stopped. I looked around and noticed most bloggers weren’t posting everyday. So why should I? I posted less.
Then things happened.
I got engaged.
We broke up.
I moved again. And again. And again.
Then the economy.
I still wrote. I still blogged. But less often. And then even less.
Then I got it in my head that I needed advice. There’s lots of advice on how to blog. What to blog. The best way to blog. The worst way to blog. Niche blogging. Power blogging. Business blogging.
I signed up for every webinar, newsletter and mailing list that could teach me how to blog. Forget the fact that I’d been blogging for years. Apparently I needed to learn to how to do it right.
Didn’t help. Not only was I not inspired to write more. I wrote less. I never had any ideas. The few idea I had – I didn’t like. Writing became a chore.
I threw up my hands and started a new novel. Actually, I’d started a few others but they went exactly nowhere. But this one was different. It engaged me. The story mattered to me. I wasn’t blogging but I was writing.
I still didn’t write every day.
Why not? For lots of reasons. Did any of them matter? Nope.
Life is messy – always. Even when you get a reprieve, it’s not for long. Cars break down. Clients disappear. Too much work. Not enough work. Work dries up. Sure things never are. Friends move. Loved ones get sick. There’s always something. Always. Something.
But then it hit me. My problem. I’ve been waiting for all to be right with the world. Like I needed some special nirvanic place in which to create. So if I had to wait for all to be right with the world before I could write that meant that I couldn’t write until: Things settled down. I landed more clients. Tax season was over. I’d lost twenty pounds. I wasn’t so tired. After the laundry. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Personally, I believe we all do this. We put aside things that matter to us while we’re waiting for all to be right with the world. The economy. Our jobs. Our kids. Our parents. Politics. The house is messy. The lawn needs mowing. It’s too noisy. It’s too quiet.
Meanwhile, we’re not doing the thing that makes life worth living. We’re not doing what makes us feel alive and like ourselves. We’re just waiting for a license to survive. To create. To be who we are. Waiting for someone to show up and assure us that we’re now allowed to write that novel, make that film, start that business, join that group, take those dance lessons. Whatever it is – we deny ourselves because we think there’s a special moment in time that will signal that all is right with our worlds and we can proceed.
But the truth is – there is never a right time
The only time you actually get is right now. Tomorrow is less of a promise and more of a hope. No matter how much you plan, life will mess up your plans. No matter how much stuff you put on your calendar something will knock it off. As long as you’re waiting for permission, you’ll never get it.
And besides all that, all will never be right with the world. No matter how much we want it. No matter how much people are convinced that they can make it happen (if only everyone would cooperate with them!). Not going to happen. Utopia is not coming to a theater near you any time soon. And probably not at all.
But what you can do is start that thing that you want so desperately. Sign up for that class. Write that book. Start that business. Learn that skill. Go back to school. Dare to be you. Right now. This minute.
While I’m waiting on feedback from my beta readers, I’m playing around with book covers for the new book. So, I was hoping you’d tell me which cover you like best:
This one (#1):
This one (#2):
If you can, tell me why you like the one you like.
If you don’t like either, you can tell me that too.
All feedback much appreciated.
On this 3-day weekend we look forward to some time off and gatherings with friends and family. Often forgetting the real reason for the holiday. Picnics are great. So are fireworks. Lemonade. Watermelon. Ice-cold beer. All good.
But I try to remember that we have holidays, picnics, great food, freedom of travel and gathering because of those who have stood the watch. Because of those who’ve defended our freedoms and liberties – often with their lives.
Small things matter
My room mate just got back from grocery shopping and he told me there was a man ahead of him in line who was a Viet Nam vet. He was badly injured and burned and had a hard time putting his groceries in his cart. It took a long time. My room mate gave him bags and helped him pack his groceries and carry them to his car. A small thing. But it made me proud of my room mate that he stopped and cared.
From Valley Forge to Afghanistan selfless Americans have gone to war to protect this country and its citizens.
I thank them for their service. I thank their families for their sacrifice. I keep them in my prayers.
Be safe this holiday weekend – and if you get the chance, do a small thing for someone to show you care.