I’ve Committed My First Murder

In all honesty, it went better than I expected even though I didn’t know what to expect. I built him up. I followed his footsteps and learned about his life, his love, his loss. I found his strengths. I exposed his weaknesses.

Then, while his friends slept mere feet away, I took his life. I turned his own ego against him and snatched all that was left of his life, the pieces he’d managed to reassemble, in one immediate stroke. His friends saw the last of remnants of life leave his body. They clung to him and begged him to stay and wept, and I took his life away all the same.

I could have stopped it all, but I didn’t.

No, this isn’t Flash Fiction.

But it is the first character I’ve killed in my book 😉

I hope others come to enjoy it as much as I did. At the very least, they had better learn to enjoy it. Though first to fall, he won’t be the last. Something more powerful than fate has deemed it necessary—my outline!

45k

I did a total word count on my book to see where I am at the end of May, and I’m just a touch over 45k. Things are going well. Honestly, things are going very well. Story aside, I’m very happy with myself for sticking to this schedule of 3k words a week. Some weeks have been challenging, others not so much, but it has gotten easier as time goes on. Writing is normal. It’s something my brain needs to do, wants to do, not a drag or a chore. At this rate, it feels like the book will complete at around 90k, maybe shorter.

Onward.

Progress Report

I can tell it’s been awhile since I’ve posted because the WordPress page layout has changed. Anyway…

The book continues. I currently have just over 30k words written. That accounts for seven chapters. So far, so good. Those that are reading and providing feedback seem to be legitimately enjoying the story. That’s a nice feeling and helps to keep my momentum. If I were to guess, I’d say the book is at the 1/3rd point. Right in that neighborhood.

I’m still on track to finish by the end of the year, and now I disappear again 🙂

The standard line applies: bla bla bla, something about flash fiction if it strikes me.

Hesitation

Writing continues. An idea for flash fiction made a cameo in my mind but then disappeared in quite a hurry. Apparently it wasn’t worth the bother.

Something I’ve found to be peculiar about myself and writing this book—and specifically this book as this never happens with flash fiction—is that every session begins with climbing over a wall of hesitation.

Before I begin writing, I go through a ritual of finding any little thing I can to prevent myself from starting. It’s like a writer’s version of a dog that turns and turns and turns before laying down. I’ll grab a snack so I won’t feel peckish. Better get the bathroom break out of the way before hand. Grab a beverage. Oh, purge out the junk email. Quick stroll through Reddit. Make sure my phone is charging.

Anything.

It’s so prevalent that I’ll literally scold myself. “Sit down. Write. Start writing. Stop screwing around. Open the folder… good. Now double-click the file.”

I share this mostly because I find it funny, that writing transforms me into a new version of myself that must be managed like a child, but also in the hopes that maybe someone else will see this and realize they’re not alone.

Right? I’m not alone on this one?

Another aspect I find interesting is the feeling. Not only am I putting it off, but I can feel the hesitation within me. It’s an emotion I experience, enough to cause me to think on it further, to find a comparison, for I’ve felt this type of hesitation before.

It finally came to me the other day.

I used to ride motocross. My dad got me into dirt bikes in my teens, and it was amazing. Most of our riding was out in the Mojave desert where you can literally ride for hundreds of miles. There are races that run from Barstow to Vegas still.

One thing I enjoyed while riding was hill climbing. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You point your bike at a nasty mountain and see how far you can go. The intention is to make it to the top, but that doesn’t always happen. Either way, when you made it to the top or as far as you could go, that meant it was time to turn around and ride back down.

Going down was always a bit more nerve-racking than going up. Going down was the motivation for making it to the top. From the top, you could usually choose which trail you took back. If you didn’t make it… well, figure it out.

The hesitation I feel before writing is the same hesitation I felt back then, sitting on a dirt bike on the side of a hill looking down at rocks and ruts and cactus, knowing I’d being traveling over these things quicker than I wanted to with no no choice otherwise.

Strange.

Am I to assume there’s some physical harm waiting for me at the end of a session if I perform poorly? Does my mind care this much about the story? I don’t know, but I certainly find it interesting.

Anyway, just thought I’d share. Time to begin the ritual again. After all, this is yet another example of hesitation.

Checking In

It’s been a month. I figured I’d let those that randomly pass by know that I’m still alive and kicking. And writing, of course.

I’m currently glaring at Chapter 2 of my new project. It’s a bit of a mashup of genres, it mostly being a survival-horror story set in a fantasy/western type setting. I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far. It allows me a lot more freedom with language than my previous book did. While the decision to place the other project on hold was difficult, it was also the right one.

I’m glaring at Chapter 2 but not for any particular reason. Sometimes I must glare at stories. Sometimes stories glare back. The feeling is a bit mutual right now as I tackle a few paragraphs that need better wording. Fortunately for me, distractions are readily available 🙂

This project has one goal: Finish. To help meet that goal, I’ve given myself some tools and some requirements. First, I’m logging my daily progress. Words written each day are tracked, as are total words for the book. With that, I’ve required from myself that I will write a minimum of 1k words a day at least 3 days a week (my days off—I work shift work). If I hold to that requirement, I’ll write 12k words a month, putting me at 120k words in 10 months (November). Depending on the story, 120k words is roughly one book.

Finish the book by the end of November.

The only thing stopping me is me. Everything else is in place. One day at a time. One word at a time. Off I go then (work, work).

2017

I hate to center this post around what appears to be a New Year’s Resolution theme, but I don’t control timing, neither the events as they unfold in my head nor how the calendar turns. If I did—well… I don’t know if that’d change anything, but I can sure as hell pretend it would. Fiction has taught me to believe that.

So with resolving not to resolve, here’s as far as I can see down my own little path. Some of the twists and turns have straightened, and I can see a fair distance to the next bend.

To stop being esoteric, I’ll be posting less.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything, and the itch is returning once again; that’s always a nice thing. However, I want to change gears for myself. For the last few years I’ve done what I can to pressure myself into writing in a rather public way, posting stories that I’ve written whether I consider them to be good or not. It’s all been in the name of practice and the off-chance that I gain a reader base.

Now I want to focus on writing simply for the sake of writing, and writing in a more private manner allows me to experiment, practice and explore. This new book idea is coalescing in my mind, and I want to keep that process as free from restriction as possible. That means allowing myself to write in open-ended ways. No quip endings to wrap things up. No need to edit and keep things succinct. Just write. If something conjures itself into a readable story, I’ll be sure to share it, but that’s not my focus for the time being.

It’s a little exciting as it reminds me of my teenage days when I sat in a basement with a laptop and cool darkness and simply writing a story because I wanted to. There was no audience or even the imagination of one. Just words on a screen and enjoying it all the same.

In that vein, you may see some experimental postings as well. As I explore characters, it’s possible that my own writing sessions turn into their own storylines which may or may not be posted.

Anyway, yadda yadda. I hope all of you had an enjoyable Christmas and that the New Year treats you even better. If you have any lingering goals, chase those devious little things down. Even if they’re not obtained, the pursuit is equally important.

Cheers

Paintings

Image

I’ve been painting the last few weeks. Some have turned out well, some haven’t. All in all, it’s been a pretty good experience. Learning and all that. Plus, a change of pace is always nice.

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This one was nice and simple. I don’t think it even took 30 minutes from start to finish (canvas is 12×24).

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This is the same concept, but it doesn’t work as well with this color combo. (24×36)

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This one turned into a happy little surprise. (24×36)

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This one was like wrestling a bear. It originally started out well with a decent background, but then I ruined it by trying to overlay a tree onto it. Then I made it worse by doing who knows what. Then I shelved it for two months. I finally got over the sting of defeat and just treated it like a practice canvas. In the end, I feel it was somewhat salvaged. I at least learned from it. (36×48)

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This was the painting I feared the most. I knew what I wanted to do, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I did the background work for it and let it sit for about six months. After having a decent run at painting, I finally decided to push on and go for it, good or bad. This is the before. (36×48)

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And the obvious after. The picture is a little glossy where it’s still wet, but I’m very happy with the end result. I’m keeping this one for myself 🙂

The Next Step

A few months back I Rambled about considering stoppage on my current novel to start from scratch and write something else. Shortly after, I realized how much work that is—starting from scratch—and immediately jumped back into the comfort and security of my novel that is roughly 60 percent complete.

As it always is in life, changes come.

In the last month I’ve found myself very resistant to working on that book. I assumed it was laziness, that I simply wasn’t spending enough time writing, but that’s not true. I’ve been writing. Not as much as I could, sure, but I’m still taking time to put words onto page in various forms. I often have the itch to write, and I often scratch it. Normally this would be a great opportunity for me to berate myself for not following through on a project or for being lazy or any other helping of self-guilt I could conjure. I’m changing my outlook though. Instead, I’ve figured out what’s happened to this novel.

So why not this novel? I’ve outgrown it.

While that may sound bad, it’s actually good because the novel has achieved its purpose even in its unfinished state.

The book I’ve been working on is very simple. A frugal man buys a home that is haunted, and through various circumstances he cannot leave. On top of that, he finds himself involved in a budding relationship that further drives him to find a way to make the house livable.

The story itself is fine. It’s solid and stands on its own. It works as a novel and has parts that legitimately give me chills. When I started this project, I gave myself guardrails to help me along the way. I’ve never written a book before. Previously, all I had finished were a few short stories and a novella (the novella sits as it does not meet my personal expectations for self-publishing). Going into this, I knew I didn’t know what I was doing, so I wanted the process to be as clean as possible in order to focus on the fundamentals—move the plot, develop the characters, build tension, create hooks and appropriate pacing, etc.

In exchange, I chose a story and setting that was as straightforward as possible. There are only five characters. The setting is current day in an average town. There are only a few locations where events unfold. The language is vanilla. The whole thing is simple, basic.

In essence, I gave myself training wheels. And for twenty-three chapters, over sixty thousand words, those training wheels paid off. Without having to worry about a complex story in an exotic setting that uses a variety of language and character desires, I’ve been able to focus on the fundamentals I was concerned about. I’ve been able to recognize my weaknesses when it comes to developing a novel, as well as my strengths.

Now it’s time for the training wheels to come off. I’m ready to try balancing on my own. That also means stopping the novel.

I know that goes against one of the biggest rules in writing; finish what you write. A few weeks ago, I was holding that standard with an iron fist. But I’m shifting my approach toward writing. I’m removing the habits and ideas that don’t work for me. One of those ideas is that I must publish/post everything. That idea, while with its own merits, has created a situation where I no longer write for play, for myself. I take all writing seriously, too seriously at times, and that’s a problem. No more.

The second idea is that everything must be finished. While I still very much agree that you should finish what you write, I no longer feel that’s a blanket statement. All writing is good writing in the simple terms of it advances someone in their craft. Whether you’re cranking out two lines or two pages, you’re writing, and that writing will accumulate toward an ultimate style and ability that you can call your own. If someone wishes to improve their physical habits, do you yell at them for jogging one block instead of one mile? Of course not. Progress is progress. It all counts.

But why not finish? If I’ve come this far, why not grind the rest out?

I don’t enjoy it. These training wheels I created to prop myself up are now the same elements holding me back. Mostly, a lot of it stems from the language and setting I’ve chosen. Since the dialogue is common and the setting normal, I find myself writing with a restriction in my voice. I feel rigid when I write this story, awkward. I can’t jump off the page and write in fun and challenging ways as it won’t make sense in the story. Plainness is the setting. To deviate from that is to deviate from the core of the book itself. Anything beyond this basic framework I’ve created will feel out of place.

So I’m moving on. To what, we’ll see. I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there that’ll say I’m making a mistake, that I should finish and then move on. Maybe they’re right.

If they are, they’re right for them.

The most important part of this process for me is figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Everyone has their own way, and I feel that in challenging some of my own views—views that were adopted from reading the opinions of others—I’m learning what works for me. Being so early in my writing, that’s far more important than one measly novel being self-published. I need to create a foundation that will last through decades, not a few more months.

And why Ramble on about this for so long? After all, practically no one reads any of this (and to those handful of people subscribed, I sincerely thank you). I don’t know. I’ve written and deleted this last paragraph about seven times now. Maybe to share. Maybe to vent. Maybe to romanticize over the idea that my decision could relate to someone else’s. It’s normal to struggle. It’s okay to change directions when finding your way. I think it’s important for people to hear that. So often in our culture we’re only shown the results of one’s work and never the efforts that created it. So often we’re told to keep going, keep going. Never stop. Realize your dreams! (and various other catchphrases)

I guess this is all to say that it’s okay to pause now and then to make sure you’re on the right path to begin with.

 

 

Broken Record

I recently had an enjoyable chat with a friend who was requesting a story. There was only one requirement; the story had to be happy. This request sent me on a quick search through the ol’ website, something I hadn’t done in some time, and ultimately revealed an interesting fact.

I am a broken record.

It’s probably fairly obvious to the casual observer, but for me, it didn’t become clear until I scrolled through the entries I’ve made over the months. One thing that’s always fun for me is going back and reading stories I had forgotten completely. It happens on a regular basis (when I do go back and read). I have a decent amount of Flash Fiction built up now. Rediscovering them is like finding a lost memory.

However, rereading the Random Ramblings is where the realization came from. Time and time again I’ve posted about my feelings of disappointment for not having written enough or for stalling completely. After my pity-party, I then move on to the familiar ground of “this time is for real!”

Good for me for staying positive I guess. Normally I wouldn’t look down on this kind of behavior. It’s important to shrug off the past in order to move into the future, but when you scroll through a year or two of entries and see the same thing posted again and again, it’s pretty clear that change has not occurred.

So now what? Am I here to post another chorus to my never-ending song of beginning anew?

Not really. I’m not writing this to bare my soul (although it is helpful for me, therapeutic). I certainly don’t want to double-down on my “this time is for real” position. I think that’s somewhat out the window given how long this cycle has continued.

The real point of my sharing this is the hope that maybe there are other people who feel the same way, and maybe it’ll help them (as it does with me when I’m working through personal issues) feel a little more normal. We all struggle. We all wish we did a little better, worked a little harder, or procrastinated a little less. That’s normal. I’m normal. You’re normal. In the end, it’s okay. You do what you can. Hopefully, if the results are less than what you hoped for, you’re able to find a renewal in dedication to reach the goal that still lingers on the horizon.

That’s where I’m at today. I have goals I have yet to reach. More importantly, looking back and seeing how much time I’ve piddled away has helped me realize there are things in my life I simply need to change. Whether or not I follow through remains to be seen, but I’ve at least figured a pathway from the valley of feeling defeated to the tops of the rolling hills of personal victory.

Or should I say mountainous peaks of victory?

Nah. I’ll work on getting out of the valley first.

 

No Entries

I had the intention of doing a writing prompt tonight, but nothing came along that grabbed my interest. Then I tried to come up with my own topic for a quick flash fiction, and my brain was found lacking as well.

Thorough disappointed across the board.

Life goes on, as do I. This has been a longer cycle of silence than is the norm, which is more so a good thing than a bad thing. The further my pendulum swings one way, the further it swings on the way back. The back of my mind is starting to gnaw again. Words are protesting. They want out.

Yes, yes, dear words. All in good time.