Baby Steps

Here I am, a few years into my journey to being a professional writer. I write almost every day, submit stories, participate in a critique group, and attend local writer’s club meetings. I seek out conferences to attend. I read everything. I am giving my writing craft the time and energy it needs to grow.

At this point, I need a finished product–a book. I need to prove to myself that I can finish a book length project. I need that foundation upon which I can sell my writing to an agent or publisher, but most of all to readers. I need to be able to believe that I am not just a crafter of exceptional sentences and scenes.

Over the past few years, I have developed some good stories and two great concepts that I hope will become novels. I began work and have made progress on each. And by progress, I mean 75-100 pages of character development, setting descriptions plus actual writing. I love these two stories. I long to write them. I am bonded to  the strong but vulnerable characters and the people they meet along their journeys. I want to inhabit the worlds I have built, and invite readers to join me there. I keep staring at the notebooks I created for each novel. I have struggled with my stunning lack of progress as I continued to move forward in other areas of my writing life. I poke at the work, and delve deeper down the rabbit hole of research and write scenes to fill in the spaces between the buildings of the narrative (Thanks Tom Borcazk for this image). Are these fledgeling novels my adult author version of building castles out of sand? Or are they the works upon which I will build my career?

Recently, I wrote a new story. Right away, I knew that this was another book length project. I felt that buzz when I write something good and true. I knew that the characters had more to tell me than a short story length allows. Then, I attended the May meeting of Oklahoma City Writer’s Inc. and heard JB Hogan speak. (If you haven’t read his work, you should.)

Mr. Hogan told us a little about his writer’s journey. To paraphrase the part of his presentation that made an impact on me: He has been a writer since 1970. He finally found his own author voice in 1985. About that time, he put his work away in a box in the closet, and stopped writing. But he resumed work on his projects again with renewed passion. Eventually, he rewrote all of his early works.

I interpreted his act of packing the old work away in the closet as a huge leap of development he experienced as a writer. Maybe he got to the point where his skills and perspective had changed. Maybe he had grown into a more mature writer. As I listened to his words, I accepted that my two novels-in-progress need to be rewritten. Perhaps one day, I will find the right time to rewrite them and finish the stories that are close to my heart. This is not their time. For now, it is more important to finish a book length project.

I accept that I am at a point of growth in my work. I am only a few years into my journey as an author.  I gave myself permission to honor the baby steps of growth that I have taken as a writer. With a great deal of peace, I placed the two novels-in-progress carefully on a shelf. I will have to wait, along with potential readers, to inhabit those worlds.

There is a new work in progress, now.

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Change of scene

 Today, I am writing at the library in downtown Oklahoma City. It was my son’s idea. He is an avid writer, who wanted a change of scene. Our downtown library is a lovely building. It is full of clean summer sunlight without the heat of outdoors. Whoever designed the building created glass which only allows in cool comforting light in soothing blue tones. The ceiling is a giant skylight. Walls are nearly all glass on the north, east, and west sides. Rooms of various sizes line the walls. Opaque partitions lie perpendicular to the outside walls while light streams through glass panels parallel to the outside walls letting in more light. The rooms vary in size from small study cubicles to a large room designated “quiet reading space” in which comfortable chairs combine with large golden wood conference tables to invite readers to focus.

We are not in a room, but seated at a luxuriously large conference table kindly fitted with power ports. Wifi streams freely and fast to all patrons and their various devices. There is a busy hush to the open space on the second floor. Each floor is open to the other four floors.

The downstairs has a roomy children’s section, several service desks, fiction, teen area, a large atrium with a grand piano, and dozens of small tables and chairs, and some offices hidden behind opaque walls.

The second floor is slightly smaller than the first. The space above the atrium is open to the fourth floor letting in loads of cool light. I wonder what it is like in here when the piano is in use. There are a large number of tables with computers, some are for library catalog searches while others are for use by patrons who need general computer access including the web.

The second floor is non-fiction. One whole section is for materials related to the Holocaust against the Jewish people by the German Nazis during the second world war. Along the south wall is a set of three microfiche/microfilm readers. This is very exciting. I had no idea they were still in use. I wonder what kind of films they still keep in this format.

Sitting here working, the physical environment fades away into the busy hush of people going about their business. I hear the soft sound of a hard working janitor using a straw broom to sweep off the texture tile stairs. I don’t know if that is a way of reducing noise or the best way to clean, but her rhythmic sweeping is soothing.

For some visitor information–

http://www.mls.lib.ok.us/downtown-library

Arts District Parking Garage Main & Colcord

Arts District Parking Garage Main & Colcord

http://parkingokc.com/arts-district Bring your parking ticket from this garage to the front desk of the downtown library for a $1 off voucher.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/153540.The_Little_House

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On our short walk from the Arts District Garage to the Downtown Library, we saw this tiny structure which reminded us of a children’s book, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.tlh

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Soundtrack of my life

I cannot listen to music while writing a first draft or world building. But today, I am in editor-mode working on my upcoming collection of short stories. What do I need for a day full of tedious editing?

  • Background music to keep me focused.
  • Tons of coffee.
  • My sweet dog.
  • The internet.

A collection of singer/songwriter music is playing now-Stan Rogers, Paul Simon, Sting, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, The Police, and Fleet Foxes fill my writing studio with soothing music.

Now, back to the Red Pen–

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My kind of SciFi

I like scifi in the old fashioned tradition of Isaac Asimov. I Robot is good storytelling, which happens to take place in a futuristic world. That is my goal: tell a good story that is set in the futuristic world of my own creation.

After years of consuming truly excellent scifi on tv, movies and books, we all want a truly believable world. The story has to make sense within its own framework and within the laws of the natural world (unless the author can alter them).

I am striving to build a world in which interesting characters can tell us a story. The universe of my story has to work. The timeline must reconcile with logic. The geography has to not only work, but be accessible to intelligent readers. Characters must behave according to the parameters set out by the story. Even the science and math must be accurate.

Now, that’s intimidating. And I need to get back to writing.

What scifi do you love that is also good storytelling?

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Meeting my characters

Working on my first novel is living a mystery as it unfolds. Who? What? Where? How many pages until I find out?

Recently, I narrowed it down to one piece of work, and it took me some time to put away the other stories percolating in my head. Now, I am settled in to my scifi galactic empire story, and loving it.

I am meeting the characters now. They are fascinating, and I love them already.

I created Solon yesterday, the elected leader of the Zenodoran clan. He has some deep sadness in him, but keeps it hidden well. I don’t know if he will be a good guy or not, but I like his smile.

Also written into the world this week: another clan leader, some family members, and a beloved cousin. I am afraid it won’t end well for everyone when the dark cloud creeps across the empire snuffing out worlds as it moves silently across the vastness of space.

 

 

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Worldbuilding Muse

The outline of my first novel had a beginning, several plot points in the middle, an end and some key characters. I had no idea how cool it would be to create the universe in which my novel will grow! After crafting the world of my novel, I know where each of the five clans is located, their resources, talents, and weaknesses. This is beyond fun.

I struggled with naming places and people until I defined each group more carefully. Knowing their origin story helps me to narrow the list of choices. I want each clan to have its own distinctive identity, including names. I’m not giving away any secrets, though. I wonder if you will be able to guess the origin of each clan when you read it.

At this point, I can’t the words on the paper fast enough! Whatever muse is whispering in my ear, please do not stop now!

 

 

 

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Wisdom from Hemingway

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Ernest Hemingway

Okay, I’ll admit it–if I am going to pick a book to read, it probably won’t be Ernest Hemingway. I respect his work, and his wisdom. This quote speaks to me and soothes me when I cannot write as much as I would like. Life often gets in the way of writing. I am learning to designate those times as “filling my well” of creative energy.

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