Writing While Driving

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First of all, I don’t recommend actually writing while driving. This is obviously dangerous.

Today due to our main delivery driver being out again, I took to the roads and ended up driving over 300 miles in 9 hours! This also includes loading and unloading times of course. During my long drives, I had ample opportunity to think about stories to write. And I didn’t think of a single one for tonight. Instead, my focus was on my book that I’m writing. It’s the character driven book.

Faced with not having enough conflict to make it interesting, I developed several plot lines in my head. This is my normal way of writing. I’ll create a scene in my imagination and then run through it like a film. The dialogue, the mannerisms, the thought processes and reaction will all feature prominently in my thoughts. Then like an irate director, I’ll yell out “Cut!” and re-do the scene in a different way. If I’m still not satisfied, I’ll try it again and again until it feels right.

I feel good about a major portion of the book now. There is conflict and inner character angst to keep it interesting. Now I have to sit down and write it all down. Naturally, my memory may be a bit off and as I’m writing, I’ll make small changes here and there.

With all the driving I did today, I have at least three if not four chapters ready to be written. Finding the time and energy is another thing entirely.

Looks like I’ll be out driving all day again tomorrow, so I better get cracking on putting words to paper.

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Conflict

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When crafting a story, I always try to keep in mind that there needs to be conflict of some type. In other words, going from point A to point B shouldn’t be a meandering mish-mash that doesn’t resolve a conflict. My goal is to present a conflict, maybe hidden, but with clues sprinkled in that eventually gets resolved.

With thriller stories, mystery stories and suspense stories, this is relatively easy. The hard part is to make the journey easy to write but not necessarily a clear cut straight line from point A to point B. A delightful twist at the end to wrap things up is what I really enjoy writing.

When I attempt a character piece, where the main character has an internal conflict that eventually gets resolved, is where I’ve been faltering. For me, it’s hard to construct a story where the main character has an angst of some type. How do I get from point A (woe is me) to point B (better now) and also make it an interesting story? What’s the conflict?

I recently read a review of Fifty Shades of Gray and the sequels that were made into a movie. The critic bemoaned the fact that there was no real conflict in the story. It only succeeded because of it’s niche story that appealed to a small segment of the population. It got me to thinking of my current book which is an entirely character driven story. Where’s the conflict and how do I resolve it?

Why even try to do a character story when it is clearly out of my wheelhouse? For me, I realized that quite a few of my stories I rely mostly on the thriller part, the mystery part and the suspense part at the expense of character development. When I go back and read some of my earlier stories, the characters seem flat. They could be interchangeable with a million different people. Some of the stories, it doesn’t really matter, but there are others that desperately need character development.

In my continuing quest to be a better writer, it behooves me to delve deeper into a character driven story. Finding the conflict in the story is hard though. In other words, what motivates my character? Is it a burning desire for knowledge? Perhaps a character that life has become dull and meaningless jumps into a situation which causes him/her to grow internally and find that excitement that we all had when we were young and growing up.

I think this is why I’ve been obsessed with the book I’m currently writing. I started it over ten years ago and have sporadically written here and there over the years. It is strictly a character driven book which may be the reason I’ve never finished it. It’s a story I want to write, but I’ve been struggling from the beginning as to why it would be interesting. Now I realize it is because conflict is missing from the story.

When I have sat down to a writing session with this book, the words flow and I can easily write some of the best prose of my life. However, when I look back at the overall story, it is clearly missing conflict. Maybe this is an exercise in character writing for me or it is my imagination needing a break from writing meaningful stories to write beautiful prose that ultimately means nothing.

For now, I’m going to take a break in writing the story to at least attempt to introduce conflict in the story. For all I know, I’ll crash and burn on the story, but that is okay as I realized years ago this is a story that I’ll probably never release to be read by others. In other words, it’s my guilty pleasure.

What’s the point of this post? I have no idea. Don’t you remember me saying I have a hard time getting from point A to point B on an angst story?

The Beat Goes On

Came across this today and decided to give it a try. Next thing you know, I’ve written two thousand words and know exactly where I’m going next with my book. I’ve read the blogs of other writers and sometimes they will post a playlist. Until now, I didn’t realize how much listening to music helps while writing.

As I’ve always been a huge fan of classical music, I chose this video. I’m always open for suggestions of other types of music to write with, so if you have one, please share.

Go Figure

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Did quite of bit of driving today at work. Usually this means I have time to think of stories to tell. Some of my best stories came to me while driving. My mind wanders here and there, going from one idea to another. I’ll ruminate on a promising idea and from that I have the framework of a story to tell. It’s not 100% foolproof as evidence of my thinking today.

Most of the ideas were a tad weird, which is an understatement. I quickly rejected one idea after another. Yes, I know I had given my mind permission to run amok, but the thoughts today frightened even me. I’m not sure they need to be brought to life in the pages of this blog or any blog.

Then I started thinking of yesterday’s story of Trust. I realized I could have done a better job, but as my wont, I figure out what I want to accomplish with the story and run with it. Due to the topic being trust or lack of trust to be fair, I started thinking of my book that I’ve been writing off and on for the last ten years. A huge storyline in the book is trust.

It’s been well over a year since I last wrote anything on that book, so I reread what I had so far. Ideas are bubbling up and I feel the need to write on the book some more. Strange thing is, long ago, I realized that I will probably never attempt to publish this book or share it. At odd times in my life, I feel compelled to work on it. It seems to awaken in me a spirit of writing.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have a story to share.

Reflection

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Yesterday while at work, it was a stressful day. Mostly of my own making, but nevertheless, a day that when I arrived at home, I knew I needed to relieve the stress. So I wrote the story Come Sail Away. For me, it was an easy story to write. I had the framework all set up by the song. Simply a matter of filling in details to make it work.

Was it a good story? Quite frankly, I don’t know and don’t really care. It succeeded by completely relieving my stress levels. Writing is a form of therapy for me. Not only does it help with stress, but I can also explore my inner angst in the story. I’m not going to spoil it and spell out what small inner angst I was working on during the story. That is for me and me alone.

So why am I telling you this? Simply put, be prepared for more stories and writings that will allow me to conduct an internal therapy session. You see, I have a lot of unresolved issues in my life and quite a few resentments. I could as I have done, keep all of that bottled up, but I found yesterday that it was a huge weight off my shoulders. Thinking about it today, I realized that I liked that feeling and I’m ready for more of it. Of course, some of the stories that are bubbling in my mad little brain right now may be incomprehensible to most readers.

Shoot, they probably will be a mystery to me also when I write them. Only by reflecting on the story the next day is there going to be a possibility of me recognizing what inner turmoil I am working through. Needless to say, it’s going to be a wild ride and there may be some shocking stuff that I write. I’m giving myself permission to run amok with my thoughts.

Sure going to be interesting to see how this turns out. Don’t you think?

Writing Woes

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Years ago, I wrote whenever I felt like writing. Sometimes a short snippet, sometimes a full-fledged story. Usually, I threw them away or stashed them in some box that eventually got thrown out. I wrote for fun and my own enjoyment. Rarely did I ever share any of my stories. Mostly because I didn’t think they were worthy to be read by anyone other than myself. To some it may seem like an odd hobby to spend time on, but I enjoyed it very much.

Then I faced impending doom after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. My fear of rejection of my writing became moot. If I wasn’t going to be around much, then I didn’t have to worry so much about how others saw my writing. It took a devasting diagnoses to propel me into not only writing but also sharing my writing.

I had loads of stories locked up in my brain. In addition, I was also chronicling my cancer treatment and progression. Some days, I wrote two or three stories. Many of you that have been reading this blog have generously praised my work. I didn’t always think it was deserved so I worked harder on the craft of writing.

My writing was going swimmingly until last summer. Then my right arm and shoulder started hurting. Little did I know, I had developed adhesive capsulitis or as most commonly known as frozen shoulder. If I bumped my arm, I would get a shooting pain throughout from the shoulder to my fingertips. Needless to say, it put a decided crimp in my writing. It’s hard to concentrate while dealing with pain of that magnitude.

I stopped writing altogether. Figured on restarting my writing after I fixed my shoulder issue. After a cortisone shot to the shoulder and physical therapy, the pain went away mostly and I regained almost all my freedom of motion with my right arm. By this time several months had passed. When I sat down to write, the stories didn’t flow anymore. I attempted to restart my weekly writing challenge, but it was a struggle to come up with an idea or theme to write about. My hard-worn writing skills I had developed had disappeared.

It became easier to make excuses to not to write. A new job that I was aiming for which I eventually did not get. A show I wanted to binge watch or a book that engrossed me so much that I preferred reading instead of writing. My football team was actually doing well for the first time in years. Any number of distractions came up to stop me from writing. I told myself a number of times that I needed to get back to writing but somehow I couldn’t find the motivation to actually sit down and write.

My memoir stalled in the final editing process. My novel completely dried up in my imagination. Then the holidays came and I finally gave up on writing for the last couple of weeks. No longer would I berate myself for not doing the hard work of writing. I gave it up completely and decided that the writing experience I had gone through was fun while it lasted. No more pressure to sit down and write. I thought that I would never again write on this blog and if I ever did feel like writing, I would revert back to my old days of writing and then throwing it out.

But here I am, and the words are flowing for now. This may be a new phase of my writing, where I don’t pressure myself, instead I write just to write. Maybe I’ll write more often, maybe not. I most certainly don’t have a plan for the coming months. There is a high possibility that whatever I write, I won’t feel like publishing. I do know I want to rediscover the joy of writing. It’s been my companion for most of my life. You, my dear readers, have only seen a small slice of it.

I have learned that to be a successful published author, it requires hard work, dedication and a sense of knowing that the stories need to be read by others. I lack all three. As I attempt to knock off the rust that’s accumulated on my writing skills, I hope to find the courage to publish whatever I write on this blog. Bear with me or give up on me, it’s your choice. I know for me, I feel pretty good about writing today.

Weekly Progress Report #48

Success! I managed to write every day this last week. Fantastic writing? Not so much. Getting back into the groove of daily writing will mean some days are going to be meh. I tried a few different styles of writing this week. Mostly to expand my writing. Still haven’t really settled on one genre, but I’m thinking I’ll never be able to be pigeonholed that way. That can be a good thing but also a bad thing. Quite a few authors write in a distinctive style and genre and build up an audience. If they go out of the prescribed style, then it usually isn’t received as well. Building an audience with an eclectic writing style is pretty hard to do. I do love a challenge!

This week, not only am I planning on posting everyday, but also start editing. I’m still not a fan of editing, but it is a necessary evil. I do know if I ever hit it big with my writing, I’m definitely hiring a professional editor. To me that will be money well spent as it will save me hours and hours of going over a manuscript. I’d rather be writing than editing and revising.

Health wise, I’m doing pretty darn good. I have about 80-90% mobility back with my shoulder. My last physical therapy session was last Tuesday. I had been scheduled for 3 more weeks, but my shoulder has responded to the therapy very well. I’m doing daily exercises to get that last bit of mobility back. But found out that I’ll need to continue the exercises probably for the rest of my life to keep the shoulder from freezing up again.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

On Writing

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What is success? More importantly how does one succeed?

I’ve been a big believer in the maxim of success. Namely, 80% of success is to show up and suit up. Doesn’t really matter what you are doing as long as you show up every day and you are ready to work when you show up. In my day job, I’m always at least 10 minutes early to work and get started immediately. During my commute, I review what needs to be done for the day and what my priorities should be.

Then there are the ones who might show up on time or a few minutes late each day. They need to fix a cup of coffee first and try to figure out what they will be starting on. This may take some time. Invariably, they will spend time gossiping about others, especially the ones who show up and suit up daily. They may get by for a while, but for lasting success at the job, they wonder why they aren’t getting promoted, granted raises or looked upon favorably.

So what’s the other 20%, you ask? Well, 15% is pure determination. Your mind is set on improving daily no matter what the task is set before you. Some days you won’t physically or mentally or even emotionally want to be at work, but the determination that you show in your work will over time make it where you enjoy going to work.

Now, for the 5%. Doesn’t sound like much does it? 5% is talent. You either got it or you don’t. If you have talent and decide that it’s enough for the work ahead of you, you won’t get too far. Talent combined with showing up and suiting up and determination can make you great at your work. Case in point, Michael Jordon, a champion basketball star. There is no denying that Jordon has talent, but what makes him great is that during his career, he showed up and suited up for not only the games, but also the practices. He was determined to be the best. Combined with his innate talent of basketball, Michael Jordon is considered to be the absolute greatest basketball player of all time.

How does this translate to writing? Exactly the same. This hit me over the head like a sledgehammer this past few months. I’ve been told I have a talent for writing. Me being me, I’m not so sure about that, at least until now. I stopped writing at the end of July due to health problems. I had stopped showing up and suiting up. Three months later, I’m back to renew my writing and found out that writing is no longer pretty easy. The words don’t flow and my mind goes blank frequently. I may have talent, but it doesn’t get me far. It’s been a struggle to write.

Now I’m back to showing up and suiting up. I’m determined to improve my writing and be the best that I can be. Each day, the writing gets a bit easier. The words flow easier and my blank thoughts come up less frequently. I may not know what I’m going to write about when I sit down to work, but it’s getting easier to find a topic or story. It’s also getting easier to keep the words flowing. Practice makes perfect.

Two weeks ago, if I had written this, I would have had to take three to four breaks to reorganize my mind in order to continue writing. Today, it has flowed like magic from my brain to my fingertips to the screen in one shot. I feel better about writing today and I know I’ll feel even better next week if I keep on showing up and suiting up.

If you have been struggling with writing or whatever work that you do, I hope that this resonates with you and gives you the little push you need to start showing up and suiting up.

Doing Some Editing… Sorta

It’s been almost three months since I received feedback on my memoir, “My Cancer Journey”. I’ve not looked at the story or the feedback since my shoulder started hurting me.

First step is to gather all the feedback, copy/paste it into a word document. I’ve got email feedback, Google Docs feedback and even a Messenger feedback. I may have missed one or two, so double-checking. Next step, read the memoir with a notepad handy to write down anything that I need to rewrite.

Then and only then, I’ll read the feedback again. Finally, I’ll make my to-do list to rewrite and edit the story one last time. Then set it aside for a few weeks. Do one final read and correct anything that glares at me. I hate when words glare at me, don’t you?

Final, final step is to research once again how to publish it on Kindle. Then start the laborious process of formatting and checking and re-formatting until it is right.

Final, final, final step is to hit the “publish button”. That’s the scary time. Might have to gird my loins for that. Okay, I have no idea what “gird my loins” really means, but it sounded good.

On to final edits!

Weekly Progress Report #47

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I’m going to start with health news first. My frozen shoulder is thawing out nicely. I’ve been doing daily exercises that are painful, but have increased my range of motion tremendously. I still have a constant pain, but it is much less now. At least now I can sit and write without having to take a break every few minutes.

On to writing progress. This part I’m going to ramble a bit, so feel free to skip it. I’ve been reflecting why my writing has deteriorated since I stopped writing at the end of July. Before I stopped, I used to be able to sit and write a story in about twenty minutes. A few minutes of basic editing and I published. The words flowed and generally the stories were well written. Since I started back up, it has been a completely different story.

I’ve struggled to even come up with a story based on my weekly prompt. When I do have a small germ of an idea, I’ll write a paragraph or two and then go completely blank. The stories don’t flow and I’m not real happy with the quality. It takes me about two hours to come up with a semi-decent story. This has been extremely frustrating to me and part of the reason why I haven’t been able to restart the blog properly.

Last night I had an epiphany. It all makes sense now. I went back to my early stories from last year. Reading through them, the quality is not as good as it was this last spring and early summer. Granted, I was starting out and not as well versed in the art of writing. As I looked at more stories, I could see the progression. Steadily, they were getting better and better. Wow, who would have thought that practice makes perfect? Yes, I know, I’ve been preaching that since I started, but somehow I completely forgot.

My writing skills have become rusty and the only cure is to start over and just write. Quantity over quality right now. I need to trust the process. Instead of bemoaning the lost time, I need to remember always to “Suck it up”, “Deal with it” and “No sympathy”. In order to get back to where I was at, it’s going to require daily writings. More than likely the writings will be dreck at first, but as I get more comfortable with putting words to paper so to speak, the old creative juices will come back and also the quality will naturally increase.

One of the the things I’ve told my children and also others is 80% of the key to success is to show up and suit up. In other words, be there on time and ready to work. 15% is determination to be the best you can be and the other 5% is the talent that you bring to your endeavor. I have a talent for writing, but talent alone will not and cannot be all that there is. Without showing up and writing every day and having that will power to write no matter what, I’ll never get to the level that I was at.

Enough rambling for today. My progress this week is being restarted once again. I have another weekly prompt that I will be writing today. Yes, I’m going to be doubling and tripling the weekly prompts until I get caught up. The goal of 52 prompts in one year is still doable, but will take a lot of work.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.