I Can’t Write Yet, I Have to Read How to Write First

writers-block

We here at Multimedia Meditations Central have decided it’s time to thin out the herd that is the collection of writing books we’ve accumulated over the years. Many are good, but there are duplicates, and duplicates of duplicates. How many rhyming dictionaries is too many, comprehensive or non? And all those books on writing novels? I can’t even make it all the way through one of them. They’re good, I suppose, but they all pretty much read like, well, books on how to write novels. Plus, none of them come with a magic wand for me to wave and make the words appear.

This is not to say the books are bad or poorly written. Not at all. But, and now here’s the shocker, I’ve learned after years and years (and years) of writing a little of this, a little of that, that nothing beats finally sitting down, teeth and fingers gritted, and applying pencil, pen, or electrons to a writing surface, non-electronic or otherwise.
Several of the books I don’t even know where or when I got them or why. I look at the covers and they’re cryptic as code.

Then there are the ones that, yes indeedy, I know exactly why we bought them. We wanted to be rich and famous authors with book contracts and movie deals and fans writing to us wondering why we killed off their favorite characters. Books like “Writing for Dollars”, a short publication titled “101 Ways to Make Money Writing”, “Writers at Work”, and “Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel”.

These are all fine books, but in my case I’ve learned that, unless I’m looking for something specific, they are distractions. I can read and absorb all this excellent marketing advice but it’s still not writing. Writing is writing. It’s something I need to remind myself of every day. In fact, there are, at least for me, a bazillion ways to not write, and only one sure way to write.

Over the years we’ve amassed writing books on getting to the writer within the writer, getting to the child within the writer, writing for play, writing for bucks, setting schedules, writing freely, writing what I know, writing what I don’t know, grammar tips and tricks, dictionaries on cliches, rhymes, idioms, mystical creatures, magical locales, baby names from various decades, word origins, acronyms, and abbreviations. And let’s not forget the various thesauri.

So, it’s time to pluck, prune, and otherwise weed out. For nothing is quite as effective a writing method as just doing what I’m doing right here.

‘til next time…Adios.

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BackDraft

Rough draft

I was hesitant at first about getting back in to edits on my rough (and hopefully becoming less rough) draft, so I snuck up on it. Sometimes you just have to outfox yourself. And, I have to admit, it smacks of procrastination a little.

Okay, so here’s what I’m doing. I’m starting from the beginning with my most recent draft (keep in mind that it’s been almost three months since I worked on any of it — yeah, I know.), and comparing with the draft right before that one, sweeping through and deleting the old stuff in the previous draft. That way I become reacquainted with my story again, and have a sense of accomplishment as I trash the version prior. Plus, I get those golden little aha! moments when I go, “Hey, no, he wouldn’t say anything like that!”

Sure, it’s cheating, but it’s getting me back in the game. And, what’s nice, I’m getting back into my world and my characters’ skins, wearing them like that old familiar jacket that’s hung in your closet for the last 15 or so years. A word jacket.

Well, now, you may ask what I’m doing writing this blog when I should be working on edits. An excellent question. I just needed to let the fingers run for a few minutes before I get back to the creepy-slow editing process.

In the lessons learned department, I now know not to quit working on a rough draft to go galavanting off to write a magazine article. Nope. Too hard getting back to where I was, so once on the rough drafting train, I have to stay on it until done.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Crossing the Finish Line

Finish Line

Okay. So, I’m getting back to editing my novel’s rough draft. Just saying “…my novel’s rough draft” is a bit mystifying to me, as at various times while I was (and wasn’t) writing it, I wondered if I would ever finish it. At any rate, the rough draft is complete, and now I’m finalizing the latest round of edits. So, what this is, this here blog post, is my process of revving my writing engines back up for that. Sort of sneaking up on it.

I’ve been away from it for a little over two months as I worked on a magazine article, which consumed all my time and left me with little creative fire for my novel edits. Why did I do the article, you ask? Well, I wanted to see if I could write something other than what I had just worked on. And I did. But it also slowed my momentum. So, now, there’s this huge mass of creativity I need to crank back up. And I will, I just need to ease into it. Feels like this huge generator at the Words ‘r’ Us Dynamo Company, and the generator has all these building-sized gears that need to get up to speed first, so I’m looking over character sketches, organizing files, that sort of thing.

Yes, perhaps it’s a little bit like procrastination, but at least it’s forward motion. I will get there, it’s just how I work. I need to see my people again, get the feel back of my land. Speaking of which, one of the first things I need to do is work on some maps. And next time, as I plan on this being a series, I won’t go chasing butterflies. I’ll stay with my people ‘til I bring them home. Just a note to self.

Keep writing, my friends.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Exit, Stage Left!

Snagglepuss

“Heavens to Murgatroyd!” For some of my readers that’ll take you back 50 or so years to the hand-drawn cartoon era of Hanna-Barbera characters. His trademark line was shouted in surprise by a pink (Although at the time he was gray, as everything we watched was on black-and-white TV.) bow-tie-sporting lion named Snagglepuss, usually when he was pursued by Major Minor. No one knows for certain who Murgatroyd was, although Snagglepuss occasionally opted for “Heavens to Betsy!” But all us kids loved the Murgatroyd expression, as it had a mysterious, and eloquent sound. He was, best I remember, a thespian.

That started me thinking about other expressions of surprise, some of which I use, some I can’t print here, and others I wouldn’t dream of using. I know someone who wanted to use “Drat!” in a piece they wrote. Drat doesn’t work for me. Never has. It sounds like something a character in the Sunday comics would say, perhaps Mr. Dithers, Dagwood’s boss, as he’s jumping up and down. “Drat!” he fumed. Sorry, that one doesn’t work.

As typical of me, I went to the Well of the ‘Net. “No s**t!” was listed, and that is one I use, although I have to be careful of when and where I apply it. “How about that?” or “Well, how about that?” I’ve used, although I may be thinking “No s**t!” Sometimes I’ve used “Whaddayaknow?” as that’s how it’s usually exclaimed, with all the letters scrunched together.

Which leads me in to what our characters would and wouldn’t say when surprised or shocked. For my novel that I finally completed the rough draft of (“You don’t say?” you might express.), it’s a fictional world, and I wanted a completely made-up expression. Something that would definitely place my people in their fictional world. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so well. When the Battlestar Galactica redo cranked up, they decided they wanted a brand-new expletive, so they came up with “Frak!” Oh, come on, folks. You could’ve done better than that. We know what you were really thinking.

“Hell’s bells!” is a fun one, just because it rhymes, but I don’t typically use it. “Wonders never cease!” sounds a tad on the sarcastic side to me. And then there’s “Lo and behold!” which sounds like what you say when you’ve suddenly acquired godlike powers. I don’t know, I think it’s the “behold” that bothers me.

Perhaps the most generic expression of surprise is just plain old, “You’re kidding!” Works in most situations, doesn’t sound too sarcastic, and it’s compact. Although now that I’ve considered it, I might have to try airing out “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” just for fun.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Writing from the Real World

leak

It was a little after 9 on Saturday night. I’d had my bath, Wendy was working on her writing and art, the cats were doing cat stuff, and I was going through my pre-going-to-bed ritual. I figured I’d go into our attached garage and make sure the main doors were shut. Not that I’m a bit OCD or anything – I’ve been tested.

So, I opened the door that leads from the basement to the garage, and before I flipped on the light I noticed something dark on the garage floor, all flat and spread out, like…water.

I flipped on the light, and after that calm, quite moment of disbelief, thinking my senses were lying to me, I saw the water, soaking a few boxes. Fortunately, it hadn’t spread to the carpet in the basement and it wasn’t deep, so after that brief stomach-sinking feeling of panic, I started analyzing the source.

It seemed to come from the floor drain in the middle of the garage. Okay, I thought, time to go tell Wendy, knowing that misery shared is always easier. Also, since we trade off on panic times, when I would start freaking, she would settle me down.

It worked. Long story short, between us we checked out the situation, closed ourselves in the garage and kept the cats out of the garage, as we knew that since the water in the garage didn’t affect them directly in any way (litter boxes still good, food and water in the various bowls, still warm, safe, and dry), the water represented something new that must be investigated. Which we didn’t need.

Using a combination of towels, push brooms, and the handy-dandy Shop-Vac, we got the water out of the garage. And, as no more water swept in to replace what we got rid of, we breathed a little easier, figuring it wasn’t at least a busted pipe. Still needed to be fixed, though.

While I finished the last of the mop-up operation (literally), Wendy checked our listings of plumbers and found a company (no advertising here, but they were good!) that would take care of us plumbing-a’feared people. They said they’d be out pronto the next morning – which they were.

Plumbers, doctors, airline pilots, electricians, dentists. Those are all folks who, once you find a good one, you should follow them across country if need be. And these folks are like that.

Turns out it was a clogged line leading out of the house, no tree roots. He fixed the snafu, along with a few minor things we were needing done, too. Problem solved, our lives back to normal.

What’s the moral of all this? It’s that you can take a situation like this and add to it if you need to describe a scene in your story you’re writing, augmenting the emotions. Like this:

I opened the back door, expecting to see the normal green grass of our backyard, the huge oak trees, and further out, our creek.

Our small, slowly flowing, wading creek. That had, somehow during the night, during the rain-filled night, became a swollen monster, pushing the water higher into our yard. I watched, mouth open, feeling as though the ground rushed up to meet me, as the water crept closer to our new house like something from a horror movie.

Initial shock gone, I thought, No plumber to turn the main water supply off on this one, got myself together, and went through the house to wake the family. Take what we can and head for higher ground.

That’s just one example of taking an actual event and applying it to your writing. It’s taken me years to learn this, and it isn’t always easy to do, especially while you’re enduring a rough situation. But I’ve found that if you write it down fairly close to when it happened and you capture your feelings as best you can, it’ll give you some potent material.

Which reminds me — I lost my car keys while ago and haven’t found them yet.

Hmm, lost… Yes, there was that time I was lost for days. I knew the way out was somewhere close, but where?

Keep writing, folks.

’til next time…Adios.

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Commissioner Loeb, Who’s Up in the Attic?

Bosom-Buddies-tv-03

In case you’ve been wondering what Peter Scolari’s been up to these last several years, here’s a glimpse into his work.

Peter was one half of the duo in the TV show Bosom Buddies (1980 – 1982). His buddy was Tom Hanks, who went on to win a batch of Academy Awards. Ah, from such humble beginnings. I hadn’t kept up with Peter’s career, although I knew he was in the Bob Newhart show, titled simply enough, Newhart (1984 – 1990). That’s the one where Bob and his wife buy an inn somewhere in New England. I never watched the show back when it was on, but I was aware of it. Now, with the advent of MeTV, I’m watching it, and, if you watched the show, Peter Scolari is a major character.

His name is recognizable enough that, while I watched one of the latest episodes of Gotham recently, I thought to myself as the credits rolled, “Hmm, did I just have an 80’s flashback, or was that Peter Scolari’s name I saw scrolling past. So, I went to my old friend, IMDb, looked him up, and sure enough, he’s playing the sinister (but sinister with a heart – sort of) Commissioner Loeb in the Gotham TV series. One more reason to like the show. One more dark character operating the puppet strings in Gotham City. I didn’t recognize Peter at first as his character has black, slicked-back hair.

And, speaking of actors I haven’t seen for a while, I saw the new super-spy movie recently, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), and who should pop up in there playing Professor Arnold with, from what I remember, a German accent, but none other than Mark Hamill. Great job on the accent, by the way. Before too long, he’s supposed to appear on The Flash (2014 -), where he’ll reprise his character, The Trickster. Mark played Trickster in the original 1990 – 1991 series The Flash, and I absolutely loved that character – totally whacked-out/insane and wonderfully murderous. And a great costume, too. Definitely not Luke Skywalker.

As I age along with these guys, it’s great to see them still working. Keep going, folks.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Outrageous Acts of Television

car-jump-rope

What’s gone wrong with the History Channel? I know I’ve railed about this before, but I just had to take a cruise around the channels to see what’s out there that once was of a little higher quality.

I first hit the History Channel today hoping they’d have some in-depth religious history programs, as we’re coming up on Easter before too long, and at one time they (the History Channel) would have some good, analytical shows on the origins of certain events in religion, from a historical perspective.

Perhaps it’s been a while since I’ve checked out the programming, but they had some guy analyzing videos of a (supposedly) legendary birdman from somewhere south of the border. Upcoming shows include Pawn Stars, something called Counting Cars (one episode says they’re going to build a couch from a coffin, and someone named Mike gets in trouble), and Legend/Superstition Mountains (this particular episode deals with a mysterious heart-shaped stone). I didn’t look any further, but I’m certain Bigfoot’s lurking somewhere.

A&E network, formerly the Arts and Entertainment network, has a show called Nightwatch where I can learn about a man whose finger is bitten off by a dog. Late Saturday night I can watch Married at First Sight. That show will teach me all I want to know (and more) about arranged marriages between strangers where social science was used. Social science. Isn’t that Facebook and Twitter?

Finally, in the realm of sensationalism, which is apparently rampant these days, on the Science channel, I can watch Outrageous Acts of Science and see a jump-roping car.

That’s incredible!

‘til next time…Adios.

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