Sunday, December 10, 2017

Time and intention.

This is a word splurge, probably because I haven't written on my story for four days.

Anyway, I've had some down time think about where I'm going with my writing.

My intention wasn't to get rich or become famous, though I've had much more activity in my career than I expected. My intention was to try to write a good book.

I was reading about some Indy writers and how much they are producing and earning and it is really quite amazing.

I really can't complain since I haven't really done the marketing work that it takes to make it as an Indy. In fact, I chose not to be an Indy when I went with the small publishers. The idea of putting out eight or ten books a year fell by the wayside. Instead, I've done about three books a year for five years. I could have done more than double that rate, basically. But if I wasn't going to promote I'm not sure putting out twice as many books would have resulted in higher sales.

I suppose if I want to do assembly line writing I could use a penname, and I probably should. But even there, I want to books to be as good as I can make them.

One major difference I see with the Indy writers is that I'm not dependent on writing for a living.

But, man, the amount of money some of these Indys are supposedly making is astounding if true. Then again, we're probably only talking about five hundred of these people in total. They did all the tricks, got in early, were highly aggressive, wrote to the market, produced lots of quantity.

I didn't do any of those things. Nor do I want to.

So like I said, I can't complain.

Meanwhile, the parallels to owning the store are still strong. Today I read a long article about "burnout," which is the thing I think most small businesses do wrong. Instead of staying small, they choose to grow, can't manage their growth, and burn out.

Writing needs to be fun. There has to be a certain level of engagement, and I'm still trying to find that proportion. I know I can't do what I did those first few years, which was put my head down and just write and ignore everything else.

I was afraid if I took my foot off the pedal that I'd drift to the side of the road. I still fear that. Sometimes it feels like that.

But then I remember that I finished a book just two months ago, that I've got half a book already finished. I need to keep the faith that I will be able to immerse myself once again next year. I've got The Last Fedora (maybe my personal favorite) ready to put up at the first of the year. I probably have an audio version of Led to the Slaughter coming out soon. My 80's books are getting published.

Things are happening.

At some point, I'd really like to go backward and completely rewrite all the novels in my Book Vault. Choose which ones to put out under my own name and which to put out under D.M. McKinnon. Also, maybe consider sending some of them to my new publishers.

I was thinking about Takeover yesterday and thinking about how much potential the idea had. I fell short probably, even though I think it has some of my best writing. I fell short because I was trying to do something I'd never done before. I tried for greater meaning.

But how do I imbue it with depth? How do I make it better?

Time and intention.

I have a feeling there is a way. I have a feeling that it involves rewriting in a targeted way. I think it requires time and context. Maybe six months, maybe a year, maybe both.

For instance, I once had the idea of writing a poem for every chapter, looking for the dreamstate words, and then taking those words and adding them. I still think that's a pretty cool idea.

I thought yesterday of how I should look at every page and ask myself, "What could I say that would add to the depth of this?"

Or alternatively, look at every page and ask myself, "How can I add action, color, sensation to this page?"

Or "How can I add to each character?"

I'm not sure if any of this would do any good, but I have in Takeover a good template for a serious book. I have a strong motif and a solid story and interesting characters. I just need to up my game, somehow, someway.

Time is the only thing I can really add to the mix. Time and intention.

Another insight I had on my walk yesterday was that planning and thinking about what I'm going to write is never a bad thing. The more I think about the overall book, the more I think about each chapter, the better they turn out.

The only problem is--at some point I want to turn that planning into words. Sometimes I'm forced to, because if words start flowing and if I don't write them, I lose them forever. So it's a constant tug of war between trying to incubate ideas and the necessity of getting them down on paper.

One thing I really want to do with the next book is take more notes. I often think to do that, but I don't always follow through. (Generally, I think I'm going to remember...) I don't really have a mechanism or process in place for this. I'm going to put a small notebook in my pocket and carry it everywhere. I'm going to open a Notes file for each book. I'm going to have paper at my desk to jot notes down.

The second thing I want to do is use my office as Writing Central. I've become way too dependent on writing while walking, which is fine as long as walking is possible. Right now it is 15 degrees outside, and there is no way I can sit and write when it's that cold. Last year I lost three months to snow.

But any kind of distraction at home also seems to be hard to overcome.

Right now, if the TV is on I have to go to the bedroom because that's the only room in the house where I can't hear the infernal contraption. I'm going to experiment with white noise in my office so that I can work there instead.

I'll probably still do most of my internet browsing at the kitchen table. Drink my coffee. That kind of thing. I'm sitting there right now. It's become my main station.

But I need to separate those activities from full-on writing.

In a sense, I'm sort of re-evaluating what I want to do. I'm ready to slow down, maybe get a little more serious. I mean, I've always been serious, but I have a much greater sense of what's needed. When I started, I chose to write quickly, figure out the best process, let myself write anything that came to me, not impede that progress in any way. My feeling was that I'd learn more about writing by writing than I would by studying or thinking about it.

I think that was true. I got better at it. It didn't always result in a better book, because there is a little bit of luck involved there, but I could feel myself getting the hang of it.

This progress has more or less plateaued, I think. I don't know that writing more books is the answer now. I think choosing bigger targets, spending my time thinking about them in advance, and then spending more time with them after the first draft is what I need to do now.

The middle part, the process of writing the first draft, that works great. I need to stick with that. I think I can give myself the luxury of giving myself at least several months after finishing for recharging and context before coming back to re-write. On some books, such as Deadfall Ridge and Takeover, I think I can give myself even more time. The one publisher who might have taken them hasn't given me a response, so they are orphaned right now even though I think they're good.

I'll be proud to put them out under my own name and impetus. But since I've got time, I might as well use it. I've already improved Deadfall Ridge dramatically with one rewrite. I'm betting I can do it again, and maybe even again. Just keep at it until it works. Same with Takeover; especially Takeover which is the book that has the most potential in my mind.

I kept thinking that if I continued writing I'd find an idea that was open to greater depth. Takeover is that book, and instead of being able to exploit it, I instead just managed a better version of what I was already doing. In other words, I couldn't quite step up to the full potential. Maybe I just have my limits, that's entirely possible. God knows, I read some authors and know I can never do that. But...I can try to up my game a little.

Watching a documentary the other day about session musicians and one of them used the phrase, "Good is the enemy of great.'

Well, good luck with that. If your goal is only to be great, well...that's a recipe for never starting or for quitting when you fall short. But...there is a kernel of truth there. The way I've put it, "Being good isn't always good enough."

I can't take a magic pill. I can't be deeper and smarter and more talented than I am. So I have to look for processes that will bring out the best in me. The two things I can do are "time and intention." Have the intention to write a "great" book, and take the time to do it.


Dave Cline said...

> I can't be deeper and smarter and more talented than I am.

I don't agree.

The advice you've given me says, to me, that you have greatness in a story, some time, some place, some when. From what I've read, you've mastered all the mechanics, all the pieces the nascent author struggles with. The only piece you're missing is the soul at the center of a story that cries out in your sleep, strangles you while you sweat, wrapped in your sheets.

Your success will come, I think, from a character who is nearly crushed by defeat, pounded by assailants, whittled to the core by adversity. And yet, they carry some inner truth that only you can discover in them. You find that character, and lead them through whatever story you dream up, treat them as the champion you know them to be -- that will be your ascension.

Dave Cline said...

"Your success will come" that is, your explosive success, I should have said... Your success is already well founded and in fact, is actually success. Most of us can only dream of the success you've had.

Dave Cline said...

I bet you could write a killer ghost story: