A Thousand Words A Day

A writing journal _____________________________ PROFESSORBLOG@HOTMAIL.COM

writing: _ Christian Writers _ _ NaNo _

reading: _LibraryThing_ _ BookCrossing _ _ My local library _ _ Another nearby library _

blogs: _ Lorie Rees_ _Itinerant Iconoclast_ _ Rita's Ravings _
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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Reader, writer, podcast listener, and TV watcher. And real nice guy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Working my way through the book "Rejected: The Chronicles of a Failed Writer" by Jack Harris Adlor. It is pretty amazing, though certainly it is also disturbing and painful. Adlor wrote a journal over the ten years that he was trying to submit stories and novels to agents and magazines. The entire irony of the story is that the only thing that Adlor ever published was this book, the chronicle of his failures as a writer. It is a little mind blowing, but once you get your mind around that fact it is pretty enjoyable. No let me take that back, enjoyable it most certainly is not. But what it is, is enlighening. I always like these behind the scenes sort of things, so I buy all of the Book Notes books and watch that show on C SPAN. I love the creative life and I love hearing about it and learning about it, and most of what is out there is from people who have successfully mastered it, or at the very least, have nad some success at it. This book is one of the rare opportunities to get an insight into the life of the unsuccessful creative person. It is again an odd scenario, but reading Adlor's thoughts and his doubts and his highs and hig lows was quite an enlightneing experience.

He clearly has emotional issues, which I think most creative folk do. Something about that tortured artist, or as Todd Rundgren mocked in the title of an album, "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect." What I can learn from this is that you have to tap emotion to write, which actually Adlor does not do. His most passionate writing seems to be in the journal and not the fiction. He disses the idea of writing non-fiction early in the book . early is his career, but it may be what he is best at. There are excerpts of some of his work in the book, both of the unsuccessful works and the ones that were published. He did have a few stories accepted and published. What I learned from the book was the polite way to deal with editors and agents, some of which he did right and some of which he did most definitely wrong. Some of his letters were mean spirited and vengeful and spiteful, none of which are good examples of emotions to pour into letters to editiors. Into fiction most certainly, but letters to agents and magazine editors? No, I do not think so.

I also think that I am a better writer than Adlor. None of his excerpts jumped out at me as emotional or quality or awesome or even more than a little bit better than some of the stuff I write. They were not exceptional in almost any way, at best there was one laugh and there was one moment when I had to say "hmmmm." But in as many excerpts as there were in the book, that is not a very long list of impressive moments. So I got out of it the feeling that i have a shot, and that I am organized enough to keep track of my submissions and agent solicitations, which Adlor does well. I like those kind of stats, and they are interspersed throughout the book nicely. I am not sure about the depth of the sriting in terms of emotional carriage, but I think I can come close. I hope that my personal life is better than his, or at least that I feel better about mine than he does about his, but either way I know that emotion is part of process and needs to be part of the output. The one thing I will not do . .. or that at least at this point I do not foresee me ever doing . . . is quitting work to write full time. At least not until I am successful. I am being productive enough in my mind, in terms both of the quality and the quantity of my output, to fit it in to the work scheduel. And let us bbe honest right here and right now, the job I have is not exactly the most time consuming one that there is. So I do have time, and I do not need to quit in order to devote myself to qriting. Plus, I like my job, but that is a rant for another day, or maybe just a rant for another blog. For being confident enough to actually commit to wriitng, Adlor did not seem confident enough about the actual stuff that he wrote. I also think that I have a better feel for the mechanics and the structure of what publishable fiction is. Adlor seems ot have no idea what a plot or a story is, or haw to develp characters. But he can still figure out how to get eight hundred pages down on paper. How can that be done? I have no idea, and I do not think I will ever fall into that trap of writing and writing and writing and getting a whole bunch of quantity with nothing to it. Even this blog is a problem . . . if I don't have anything to write, I just won't write. So in this blog I have to figure out what to write and learn how to write. And insofar as that goe, I think I have a shot at success that Adlor did not have.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

I have the other assignment here for the Na No Wri mo meeting we had a few days ago now. This was a really interesting one, it is a card game called "Nano Fiction." First I have to explain that this is not the same Na No as in National Novel Writing Month, this is Nano as "nano second" or "nano technology" . . . the prefix meaing extremely extrememy extremely small. Nano Fiction (in this sense) relates to extreemely extremely short stories. This is sometimes called hyper fiction and is realted to the type of monthly assignemnts that appear in Writers Digest every issue. W D caps their assignments at 75 words, while official Nano fiction caps itself at 55 words. Now that is a challenge, because you technically need to basic features of fiction, including a beginning, middle, and an end, as well as a setting, characters, and resolution. So this is to distinguish Na No fiction (which is the Na No Wri Mo fiction that I am writing and that is the basic premise of the reading group I am a part of) and Nano fiction, which is 55 words or less.

So with that as a bit of background, we go back to the game that Allison picked up somewhere . . . I want to say that it was in an airport down wouth somewhere like maybe North Carolina. Anyway, the game a pack of cards with elements of fiction: character, setting, conflict, and resolution. There are a number of ways to play and "score" the game, but it involves writing a Nanostory from the elements one selects. We did not do that, in terms of writing 55 words stories, but used the cards as creativity helps in so far as getting into the mood for writing stories. So we went through the cards, selecting the elements that we could use in telling (not writing, mind you, but telling) a story. I did jot down notes, so I could get to this point.

My cards ended up (after sifting through part of the pack to get these, not completely random like the game would prefer in some cases) being: the super hero with worthless powers, the intrepid investigative reporter, the woods, a strange noise, and it all burned down. I picked these cards because some go together well, like the reporter and the superhero . . . that is a classic motif, and the combination of the setting in the woods and it all burned down went together well. Not for a happy ending, but at least they fit together a bit. So my story pretty much told itself as far as the cards went, but I added a bit to it. The first thing I had to think of was what the worthless powers could be that a super hero could have. Thanks to the good work of the improvisational teams at ABC's "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" have given me some good ideas. They have a skit like this. So I went with Captain Clearisil, who had the power of causing unsightly facial blemishes on others. He mostly used this power to embarrass all of the women who turned him down for dates when he was in high school and college. He fell into a career as a minor celebrity, ending up on "I am a celebrity, get me out of here 3," and had lined up a national long distance service TV commercial, but unfortunately was replaced at the last minute by ALF. His alter ego was Kent Clark, a mild-mannered type of person. Scoor Scooperman, the reporter, works at the Daily Snafu, and has been on the case of Captain Clearisil for years now. He suspects Kent Clark as Captain C, mostly because he has "really clear skin." So he has followed K C into a clearing in the forest. Why K C is there we have no idea, but what we do know is that there is noise! He heard the noise and wanted to investigate, so of course he had to look for a phone booth, but had no idea where to find one in the woods, and he had to keep away from the reporter. So . . . it all burned down.

They laughed at the story, which is always a good sign. Their stories were equally interesting, and it was a good assignment. What we decided to do for the next "writing meeting" is to select some cards from the pack and create a similar assignment for 4 weeks down the road, the first meeting in June. The nice thing about actually being at the meeting was to assist in the selection process. We tried to select items that were open enough so as to not force a particular story line, not too much SF or fantasy or romance or whatever. We tried to keep it open. What we ended up with was two character cards, "The Men In Suits" and "The Time Traveler Visiting From 1888," a setting of "The Bus Depot, Near Locker #17," a problem of "Trapped!" and a resolution of "They totally got away with it." I look forward to writing it, as usual we are set to try to get one to five thousand words out of this situation. I am leaning towards making the time traveler not a real time traveler, but weasel out of that. I am thinking about making the guys in suits the good guys somehow, kind of a switch of stereotypical roles. Someone else is out to get them, maybe the time traveler or maybe someone who thinks they are a time traveler or someone else . . . who knows yet? That person or that group almost gets away with it, and we are rooting for the men in suits and are glad that although they were trapped, they escape. Somehow. Though I might go anywhere, this is one of the scenarios I am kicking around. I don't want to fall into the stereotype of the men in suits trapping the time traveler in the bus terminal, whereby the time traveler (our hero) escapes the evil men in suits. I want todo something different.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

This is what we did at the meeting on Tuesday of the Na No Wri Mo group. We did two in-class writing assignments. I will talk about the second one first, which I guess came form Amy's writing class at O S U. At least, that was my impression. She gave us a stack of photographs to go through, selecting one that would serve as the jumping off point or the characters in the story. I selected one with three women in an office setting. She then gave us an opening line ("I am a very superstitious person") and told us to just start writing a scene. A minute or two into it, she gave us another line, which had to be the next line used ("I refuse to see a doctor"), then a few minutes later she gave us another line ("But if you really want to know the truth . . . "), then a few minutes later, told us we were done. I had to cheat just a little, as a worked in another line before I got to the second, but nonetheless, here is what I came up with.

This is what we did at the meeting on Tuesday of the Na No Wri Mo group. We did two in-class writing assignments. I will talk about the second one first, which I guess came form Amy's writing class at O S U. At least, that was my impression. She gave us a stack of photographs to go through, selecting one that would serve as the jumping off point or the characters in the story. I selected one with three women in an office setting. She then gave us an opening line ("I am a very superstitious person") and told us to just start writing a scene. A minute or two into it, she gave us another line, which had to be the next line used ("I refuse to see a doctor"), then a few minutes later she gave us another line ("But if you really want to know the truth . . . "), then a few minutes later, told us we were done. I had to cheat just a little, as a worked in another line before I got to the second, but nonetheless, here is what I came up with. I ended up with a story that made the ladies laugh, even though it has no attribution obviously and even though the picture had three people, this is a dialogue just between two of them . . . just for simplicity's sake.

"I am a very superstitious person."
"I know that I respect that, but this is nutty."
"Just because casual friday is going to fall on the 13th, you don't think we should do it?"
"Of course not. The gods of this realm do not like Khaki Dockers. And they are not real wild about golf shirts, either."
"What are you talking about?"
"I refuse to see a doctor."
"What? Who said anything about seeing a doctor?"
"You just did."
"I did not."
"Well maybe not, but you were thinking it."
"What are you ranting about?"
"I saw into your soul."
"Oh, then just tell me one thing. Was my soul wearing Dockers and a golf shirt?"
"Don't be silly. That is just silly."
"Me, silly. You are calling me silly? Look here, Little Miss Pot Calling The Kettle Black."
"But if you really want to know the truth, you should speak to my personal astrologer."
"You have a personal astrologer? And I take it they do not like casual friday?"
"No, that would be silly. She does not like casual friday the 13th."
"Well, you can tell Miss Cleo of Dionne Warwick or whoever that you can not take tomorrow off for this reason. It is just crazy."
"Well, I will just give you her number and you can call. It is one nine hundred . . . "
"Stop right there! You are paying two ninety nine a minute for this mumbo jumbo?"
"It is three ninety nine. But no, I am not actaully paying for it myself."
"What do you mean?"
"The company is."
"This company? Are you trying to tell me that you have been calling your personal astrologer from here? From the office?"
"Well, yes, but only during my lunch."
"You know, I have reconsidered. You should definitely take tomorrow off . . . to look for another job!"

I thought that was actually O K for getting written in such a short amount of time. Not a story, but just a scene, and that is some of what need to get through my head. I raced to actually find an ending, which I thought might be a struggle. But I did an adequate job at it, as it turns out. But the Cockburn story a while back was a scene and not a story, so I guess I am getting into the groove. It is very difficult to become a good novelist except be writing bad novels . . . at least that was my thought before I got into this group. I am new to this whole workshop / writing practice / writing group world. It is a world that I am trying to get into and take some of the strengths from and ignore the weaknesses. So what we did was do this writing and read them out loud. I got a very good reaction. There was no formal crit or analysis or anything like that. But they laughed. And they laughed out loud. This was a very good feeling. I liked that reaction, and I know that I can do it O K. Writing funny is very hard, and I do not know if this would have been funny JUST on paper, without the reading out loud. I was able to accent and emphasize what I wanted to, and read it at the pace and tone that I thought was funny. But it is not an easy thing to accomplish. I write serious fiction, in terms of most of my novels, although they have very light tones, at least some of them do. So I am not trying to write funny, but I am trying to write light with a light tone, and I hope I can pull it off in the long run.

Amy did not do this assignment, because she knew all the people in the pictures! And we also needed someone to keep the time and do the assignment monitoring, reading off wha the next line had to be, whatever. It was nice working in that relaxed a manner, with the homeyness and the cat and the comfy furniture. Allisons' was very good, too. She had a picture of some sort of goofy looking guy, or at least a guy in a goofy sort of pose and she was able to put together a humorous story or scene about who the guy was and what would cause him to make that particular odd gesture. She has a good handle on words and language, and writes good sentences. I do not know enough of her work to say that she is a good writer of paragraphs and chapters and books, but she has words and sentences down pretty well.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Let me tell you about yesterday's meeting of the Na No Wri Mo writers' group. In a bold move, we met at one of the people's house. Seemed like a great idea at the time, until it dawned on people of the group that we would actually have to meet at someone's house. I think that may have been a little too personal or intimate or just plain scary for some of us . . . only three showed up, down from an average of six to eight for when we meet at Borders. We are pretty much stereotypical "authors" if you know what I mean, a little introverted, a little neurotic, a little bit afraid to spend much time in a social setting, especially in the too close quarters of a personal residence. Away from the safety of the bookstore, who knows how we would react? So I sucked it up, as did one other brave heart, and we showed up at another's place for the meeting. And it went pretty well.

I did the two crits I had planned to, and wrote about it here over the last few entries. I wrote two crits, one for an author who was at the mieeting and one who was not. The one who was there had also worked on a writing for me. We both looked at Na No excerpts for the other. I liked hers, interesting word choices and phrases, and so forth. I had a few comments and "corrections" and only one overall problem. The story take splace largely in a cafe, and the word cafe is used probably 15 times in the first few pages. I commented that maybe there existed synonyms that would work as well. Such as bistro. Such as joint. Such as coffee shop . . . whatever. But overall it had a very nice feel and I am intrigued about the story. She did actually finish the story, though she did not like the finish of it. Anyway, I think I was helpful, and certainly not overly negative.

She gave me her crit of my work, and it was helpful and overall pretty positive. I did not get my feelings hurt, and I appreciate the way this group seems to do crits. These crits were not posted online, as the original works were not posted online, either. This seems to be the way this group operates, which is cool to me. She said she liked the building of tension between the two characters, and had the feeling that she wanted to know what was going to happen next to Annie and Brian. I should have told her that this excerpt is from the middle of the book, actually about a quarter of the way through, and not the first chapter, as she may have thought. She liked the dialog, which sounded natural, but did not like the narrative, which she found sometimes rough, as it does read more like narrative. Since this is first person, I do not think that is critical, but I will think about it as I revise. She also didi not like the dual fist perosn POV thing, which I am going to keep nonetheless because it is absolutely critical to the novel. I think the interior thoughts and voices and attitudes of the two are key to the story. So that I am going to keep. I appreciate the crits I have gotten and the way that the group does those crits.

Then we moved on to the homework from the last meeting. This was the A S L story that I wrote. None of the other two attendees at the meeting had accomplished this feat, so after tsk tsk tsk-ing them appropriately, I went ahead and read what I wrote. They seemed to like it and they seemed to laugh at the right parts, so that was pleasant. The others talked about their writings and we talked about the future of the group and the future of the what we are going to do. We did a few exercises, which I will recount at a later date, because right now I do not have the notes of what I wrote at the meeting. But it was a good assignment and a good time and I will tell you all about it soon. The next meeting . . . in a month . . . will have an assignment similar to what we did at the meeting, so I will tell you all about that at that time, as well.

Then we retired to the kitchen for snack time, a wonderful innovation that I heartily support. We chatted about our writing, but mostly about the group. Our master plan is to move to two meetings a month, one at a person's home, probably the same person's home to alleviate the feeling that everyone has to host and to get us comfortable in one setting, and the second meeting would be back at Borders. The first meeting (at the home) would be the writing meeting, where we do writing exercises, when assignments would be "due", etc . . . this might be a better location, it will be quieter, no strangers around . . . and the second meeting of the month would be more of a social and a talk about writing. For example, for the meeting in 2 weeks, we will be discussing any book that has had an influence on our lives or our writing. I am leaning towards "Tess" by Thomas Hardy. I have read the book twice, once in high school in AP English which must have been twelfth grade and then again as a young married person when I was still an auditor at M & P. Both times were important to me in my reading and writing life, which was the start of my overall creative life and began to fill out the skeletons of my writing life. I cannot think of any other book that has had such a profound impact on my life and on my writing.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Getting ready for this week's meeting of the Na No Wri Mo group. Last night, I printed out with a few minor edits here and there the story that I wrote for the contest. This was the contest that was the start with the first line that we came up with or that some one else in the group came up with or whatever. Actually, I used the one that was for The First Line magazine contest. Maybe that is not the exact name of the magazine, but it is something like that. So what I did was write a story based on the first line, "So, all of it was just a lie?" with the quotations. Something like that. I wrote a story that I called A S L, which is based in the wild and wacky world of e mail and chat room and internat chat and romance. It is a topic that I am interested in writing about and have gotten a start on a novel about that. The novel is about a guy named . . . I forgot what he is named, actually . . . and his girlfriend Paige Turner. Paige's father is in the publishing industry, so do you get it? Paige Turner? It's a literary joke of a name. It is not there just for comedy effect, it is an insight into a father who would insist on naming his daughter Paige Turner. It says a lot more about him than her, that is the point. So the guy is a grad student who is working on a business thesis and the dad says that he will publish the guy's book if he can do a popular version of it . . . no problem, but he feels like the dad is too controlling and the girl friend herself is a bit too controlling, too. So the novel chronicles (or I shall say that it will chronicle . . . because we have not gotten very far into it . . . ) the guy's alienation from his girl friend and Real Life and descent into the fantasy life of chat rooms and e mail and internet romance, and all of the variety of good and bad problems than occur in that situation.

I am planning on finishing my crits of two works I have. THe fan fic from Michelle and the first chapter and sneak preview of the second chapter of the Lydia novel by Alison. I read part of this before, but this is a revision, so I am ready to get into it and review it. I will bring these crits ot the meeting and not post them online, as the works themselves were distributed at a meeting, and not posted online. The whole ettiquette and process of the crit and the post and all that that entails has escaped me, but I trying dilligently to figure it out and not embarrass anyone . . . meanine, me. I like the Lydia novel, it got off to a good start, and I am intrigued by where it is going. There is an older woman, who is hanging out in a cafe and then she thinks people are follwoing her or she has noticed the same couple of people wherever whe goes. So I am intrigued to read the revision and see the sneak preview of the second. I do not know if this is the Na No Wri Mo novel she was working on or if this is a new work, but it is intriguing . . . the only thing that I remember from the first read through of the first version was the fact that she used the word cafe almost every paragraph. I suggested a number of synonyms . . .but this was a crit I never gave her before, so I will see if this is something he has revised or if it the same kind of issue that there was before.

This meeting will not be at Borders, it will be at someone's house. This is a chance for a more social version of the Na No Wri Mo group, in addition to just doing a writing group. This is a chance to shake up the format of the groups, and we will talk about the future shape of the group. Where we are going, what we will be doing, how many meetings a month, all of that sort of thig. I am looking forward to it.

Friday, May 02, 2003

This is another of Cameron's assignemnts from her books and workshops and writings, that have been translated into a pair of books. I did not actually read the books, I listened to audio versions of the books, read by Cameron. So I guess what I got more closely resembled her lectures or work shops, which are audio experiences, anyway. So here we go.

If it weren't so selfish, I'd love to try . . . this is a tough one, because I am not terribly selfish that I see. Maybe I could think about places to go that I could spend time writing or spending time by myself . . . is that the point of this question? Well, I will try to give it an honest answer,so.

If I weren't so selfish, I'd love to try getting a Ph.D. and a real job at a distinguished university.
If I weren't so selfish, I'd love to try visiting my old schools in my old home state
If I weren't so selfish, I'd love to try taking a long stretch of time with nothing but a pencil and a lot of paper and do some serious writing
If I weren't so selfish, I'd love to try hiking the Appalachian Trail with my child.
If I weren't so selfish, I'd love to try taking a tour with my family around the USA

If it weren't so expensive, I'd love to try getting a Ph.D.
If it weren't so expensive, I'd love to try finding my old house in Thailand
If it weren't so expensive, I'd love to try taking the family to Hawaii for a week
If it weren't so expensive, I'd love to try take my family to the best restaurants in the area
If it weren't so expensive, I'd love to try finishing up my comic book collection and organizing and caring for it properly

If it weren't so frivolous, I'd love to own a big screen TV with all the digitla cable channels
If it weren't so frivolous, I'd love to own a big fishtank that sits in the wall
If it weren't so frivolous, I'd love to own a new, custon-designed kitchen
If it weren't so frivolous, I'd love to own XM and an XM walkman
If it weren't so frivolous, I'd love to own a nice set of lawn equipment

If it weren't so scary, I'd love to tell M that M needs to change M's life all the way around
If it weren't so scary, I'd love to tell K that I would like to write about K's
If it weren't so scary, I'd love to tell D that I would like to write about D's life and interview D
If it weren't so scary, I'd love to tell S that S was way out of line in the mast meeting me were at
If it weren't so scary, I'd love to tell B that B is an awful boss and really needs to find another job

If I had five other lives, I'd love to be a young single adult again
If I had five other lives, I'd love to be a serious comic book collector
If I had five other lives, I'd love to be a "hobbyist" in the TFHITW manner
If I had five other lives, I'd love to be a stand-up comic
If I had five other lives, I'd love to be a writer . . . . . . . . . . . .