Archives: writing

Off-Target, Laser-Focused Marketing.

An intriguing opportunity came my way a few months back, one that I consider intriguing in two aspects. I was interviewed for an article in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin (the monthly house-organ for Oregon’s attorneys) about lawyers who are also writers.

This interview was an enjoyable opportunity to discuss writing. As usual with this sort of thing, an hour conversation was whittled down to a few paragraphs. But the conversation was still worthwhile.

Editing Purgatory

I suppose I should write about Father’s Day. But I’m busy enjoying it. Why write about it? Instead, I want to jot down a few thoughts about editing, since I’m currently wallowing in editing purgatory. Feel my pain.

Imagine you’ve finished creating a jigsaw puzzle. You’re happy with the picture. It’s attractive and you like the complexity of the manner in which the pieces slot together. Now imagine you get some notes with a few requests for changes.

Okay, stepping out of the metaphor for a moment, this is what happens after the publisher hands your manuscript over to an editor. You get suggestions. Requests that this happen sooner in the story, that that bit gets cut, that this description is excessive. Etc.

So, returning to the metaphor, you attempt to comply. You remove a piece or two, add one, move a few around. But once you’ve done that most of the rest of the pieces no longer slot neatly together and your picture collapses amid a cascade of disconnects. You need to adjust everything in order to once again present an attractive picture. And you can only hope that it resembles the picture you had in mind when you first began creating it.

It can become rather frustrating. But once you see that puzzle in a shiny new box on the toy store shelf, that frustration reduces to a dim memory. All the frantic juggling you’ve done was worth it the effort. And you can enjoy the moment. Until the next time.

I’m hoping to get that point again soon, after I’ve clambered out of this purgatorial pit. For now, I’m going to let Father’s Day distract me. Tomorrow, back to ascending the Sisyphean slope.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Once again I write from one of the dreary hardship stations where I toil in the phrase fields, reaping sentences and paragraphs for your entertainment. This particular gray, danksome locale is Playa del Carmen, Mexico. That’s right, I’m suffering the horrors of the Mexican Riviera on your behalf.

For example, just to the south is Tulum, where the Spanish first landed, assaulted the Mayan town, and were routed by that metropolis of 10,000 or so. Of course, a couple years later when the Spanish returned there were only 400 left alive in Tulum. So, whether the Mayan’s should count that a victory or not is certainly up to debate. The point is, I had to visit that nghtmarish scene of battle and disease, under the blue sky, against a backdrop of turqoise Caribbean waters. Excruciating.

And more ruins awaited. I was forced to scale the crumbling, hazardous steps of the pyramid in Coba, sight of ritual sacrifice. In this case, I sacrificed for you. I then further endangered myself, plunging into the bottomless depths of a cool, refreshing cenote, some fifty feet or more below ground. I could have drowned, assuming I suddenly forgot how to swim.

In between these labors I sit outside and write. That’s correct, I don’t even allow myself to sit indoors while working through the second draft of Boss. I mean, c’mon. I’m from Oregon. I’m not used to this sort of heat. I must resort to wading through the surf or plunging into the swimming pool to relieve the misery.

I even faced death herself in order to free bottles of tequila from their imprisonment. This I do for you!

And I haven’t yet completed writing the talk I’ll be giving next week at NanoCon Mark IV. That’s right. I proceed from one task to the next.

For you, dear reader. For you.

Well, back to the fields.

Somnus is AWOL

There was a period of about six months following the birth of the Heir Apparent during which I was functionally a zombie. A decent night’s sleep consisted of perhaps four hours, broken into two-hour blocks. Ah, good times. But gradually the HA began sleeping through the night on a more-or-less consistent basis.

Idle Plots

Pardon me while I ramble on a bit. This is primarily (or perhaps entirely) for my benefit. Consider it musing or work notes.

Geography dictates the battlespace. As a rule, soldiers aren’t herded together onto a broad, featureless plain, formed up into ranks and columns, and marched headlong at the opposing army doing precisely the same thing. Elevation, terrain flank anchors, concealment, lines of egress — these are considerations. This becomes obvious when one considers major battles, such as Bannockburn, Crecy, etc.

Rest

A few days ago I finished the first draft of the novel I’m working on. Huzzah. Glory and trumpets. Time to set it aside, gain some distance from it so I can approach it with fresh eyes for the second draft. Normally this means moving on to the next project. Now, I have a couple of books I’d like to start outlining. But which one depends on an outside factor. Meaning I need to wait. Meaning a chance to rest.

All work and no play make Ken a dull boy.

Repeat.

First Draft Contemplation and Commiseration

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The way I figure it, I’m three-quarters through the first draft of Boss. If I can press on at the current rate, I should finish around March.

How do I feel about that? Glad to be on the downhill slope. I can’t actually see the finish line yet, but I know it’s approaching. On the other hand, I’m beset with the usual anxieties, self-doubt, and hyper-critical responses to a first draft. Is there enough conflict? Does it lack description? Is there sufficient characterization? Is it rife with cliché-ridden, lazy writing? Or is there instead too much experimental, self-indulgent phrasing? I alternate between thinking it is absolute shit and that it is actually pretty good for a first draft.

Settling In

I’ve been in the new house about three weeks now. The majority of the unpacking is complete. It is even conceivable a car could be parked in the garage soon. But that doesn’t mean I’m nearly finished. Oh, no. The torrent of chores may have dwindled to a stream, but the flow continues.

Of growing urgency is the need to buy a lawnmower. The grass inches ever taller. I’ve been hitting stores over the last couple of days, searching for a grass cutter. But I want a reel mower, not a power mower. I don’t want to deal with engines and gasoline. The lawn isn’t that big. But autumn nears and even those stores that do stock reel mowers have cleared away the inventory. Back to Amazon, I guess. Some assembly required, indeed.

I bought a caulking gun. And caulk. This means, I suppose, impending caulking. My television died in its sleep. So, I had to buy another one. You guessed it, Amazon. ETA: any day now. Various items of furniture remain on the to-be-purchased list. One piece at a time, I suppose, except for dining room chairs and bar stools. Buying those piecemeal makes little sense.

Hear that sound? That’s my wallet screaming.

Grout sealed. Check. Minor job done. But fences, now there’s an undertaking. And getting a concrete slab poured out back. And…well, it just goes on.

It’s like writing a book, in a sense. The task consists of a continually evolving sequence of chores. Plot, character motivation, distinctive characterization, narrative pace, planting information, evocative description. Reaching a goal — say establishing an important plot point — requires achieving a certain number of subgoals, like ensuring a character would be likely to make a certain statement, meaning prior demonstration of a certain personality, earlier utterance of similar statements, etc. And then something unexpected demands another series of actions. Then reaching the primary goal reveals another series of tasks yet to complete. It goes on and on.

Except, it doesn’t. Eventually, you finish writing the book. Editing and proofreading are complete, and the book is off the printer. You’re done. But with a house, it never ends. Never. Regular maintenance requires maintaining. Regularly. New chores pop up. Re-design and remodeling will occur, whether you want it or not, especially when one’s spouse has a background in architecture and design.

So, settling in, yes. Settled? Never.

Sweltering in Monterrey

View from my brother-in-law's house.

View from my brother-in-law’s house.

Two blocks from the hotel on a Sunday morning and Monterrey is nearly unrecognizable. Kilometers of a major thoroughfare — the sort with a shady, tree-lined median and jogging path bisecting it — is closed. Bikers, joggers, walkers, dogs, and children pedaling four-wheelers crowd the street and the median. Not a single driver is plotting to commit vehicular homicide against me.

It’s rare I can step out onto a street in Monterrey without feeling my life threatened by every driver behind the wheel. Kind of nice, really.

But even at mid-morning the heat is sapping, merciless, and promising to grow worse. So, back inside to write today’s web log post.

I like writing in hotels. There is a sense of seriousness in the act of enclosing oneself in a room, curtains closed, and getting down to it, instead of being out, exploring what lies beyond the walls of the hotel. The implied sacrifice of unknown experience and fun suggests one is truly working and not merely playing at writing.

Not that I’m here in Monterrey for fun. When one considers vacation options in Mexico, Monterrey does not spring immediately to mind. I’m here for a wedding, and the reception on the terrace at Hotel Chipinque. My Beautiful Wife is taking advantage of the opportunity to visit clients and give a seminar. So I’m also here to assist MBW, looking after the Heir Apparent while MBW works.

View from Chipinque

View from Chipinque

I have gotten a bit of work done on Boss, writing a bit on the airplane, and writing a chapter over the last couple of days. Again, on the subject of writing in hotels, I’m for it.

So far we’ve visited family, spent some time in the hotel swimming pool until the sun drives us out, and eaten very well. Today being Father’s Day, I anticipate a memorable meal.

At the moment, however, it is enough to savor air conditioning. Sweet, sweet throat-desiccating hotel air conditioning.