The Choice

I am exhausted.

I pause to take a good look into the mirror and examine why.

Why have a stopped reading my blogs? I read only the news these days.

Why am I usually feeling angst, anger, frustration and fear? I read only the news these days.

Why am I tired and distracted? I read only the news these days.

Why have I started feeling defeated and depressed? I read only the news these days.

Why do I only read the news these days? Because I’ve allowed the fear and alarm that is being spewed every single moment to enter into my psyche and alter my thoughts, dreams and values.

I have a choice. I can choose to continue down the slope I’m on and into a bad spiral, or I can choose to make another choice.

This morning for the first morning in recent memory, I chose to start my day by starting a book I’ve been wanting to read. I got my coffee, spinach smoothie and plain oatmeal and read as I consumed my daily breakfast.  By no coincidence the book I started today is appropriately named The Choice  by Dr. Edith Eva Egar.

My day started better. I read, I thought and I felt better. I blog to share, but I also blog to reinforce. Reinforce, inside of me, the better choice I just made.

I am better equipped to help myself, my family, my friends, my community, my country and my world if I put my oxygen mask on first. My oxygen is positivity and the good that still really does surround me. Through that I can find light.

Harvey Milk

Trailblazer.

Harvey’s foray into politics followed closely after Stonewall yet it took him several tries to finally get elected into office. However as he did, he blazed a trail. Like those who took a stand the night of Stonewall and into the days that followed, Harvey took a stand and he persevered.

Neither the rioters nor Harvey knew where their new paths would lead, yet look where we are today. Let us make all of them proud and continue our march forward. America and the whole world can only be great if we keep moving forward toward better horizons of understanding, respect and equality. It’s up to us as there is much left to do.

Challenge day 21

Today’s read pages 237-349, sections 15 & 16 of chapter On Writing.

One should have a literary agent before going to publish. Be wary of agents who will read for a fee.

Writing has more to do with instinct than with higher thought.

Does Mr. King do it for the money? He says although he has made plenty he never set a single word on paper with the thought of being paid for it. He has written because it fulfilled him. As with most anything in life, he says if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever. Writing is not life, but it can be a way back to life.

With this post I pause. I have arrived at the final postscript of the book. I am about to embark on a journey to take my mother back to my hometown to visit my brother and several of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. My attention will be on her and I have another book to read about spirituality without religion that may get a mention on this her blog thingy, or maybe not. I will return to the postscript of Stephen King’s On Writing upon my return to California at which time I will complete my blog posts of it and my Personal Challenge.

 

Challenge day 20

Todays read pages 231-237, section 14 of Chapter On Writing

Writing classes? One doesn’t really have to have them (nor does one need this or any other writing book). They may not hurt, but aren’t necessary. Classes mainly give a writer a chance to be around others who share their passion.

The perfect writing environment? Doesn’t exist. Do the best you can by creating your own writing space that has a door that closes. Use it.

Writers learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot. The most valuable lessons are the ones that you teach yourself. Those lessons always occur with the door closed on the writing space.

Stephen’s “pearl” today was this quote: “It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell makes the pearl, not pearl making seminars with other oysters.” (page 232, Stephen King, On Writing)

Challenge day 19

Todays read pages 220-231, sections 12 & 13 of chapter On Writing.

Tonight I’ll be short and brief. Short and brief because it’s late and I’m jonesing to get some sleep and short because this part talks about pace.

During the first draft, with the door closed, pace may not have been of concern as that was when the story was being unearthed. Now with a chance to revise and refine through a second draft one should be aware of pace. Look for a happy medium. Too fast and readers will get lost or worn out. Too slow and they will become bored or worse yet put it down. Be careful not to underexplain nor overexplain.

A good rule of thumb is second draft equals first draft minus 10%.

While one needs back story for character definition and motivation, the back story is just that, back. Get through it as quickly as possible while still doing it with grace. Everyone has a history, most of it isn’t interesting. Stick with the interesting.

Research is sometimes necessary when one writes into areas where one might not know much. Research is back story, keep it there. Remember you are writing a novel, not a research paper.

The story always comes first.

 

Challenge day 18

Todays read pages 208-220, section 11 of chapter On Writing.

How many drafts?

For Stephen King two plus a polish. For a beginner he recommends at least two drafts. The first draft with the study door closed (you the author only just getting the story out unaffected by outside input, interference or opinion), and at least one other draft with the study door open, sharing that first draft with trusted readers.

Upon completion of the very first writing you, the author, who has spent many months and unending hours unearthing this story onto the pages and need time away. Focus on another project or write a short story or go on an adventure…get away from the book. Rest.

Then sit down and go back though that first draft making notes where you see errors or holes. Do not get down on yourself, screw ups happen and can be fixed. Use this to not only fix mistakes but clear out the unnecessary and add clarity. Ask yourself about coherence and about elements, theme, resonance, meaning. After this stage then let a few trusted readers see this first full draft and read it.

Be careful not to be overbearing on your first readers. We writers can be needy. Resist the temptation.

Challenge day 17

Today’s read: pages 200-208, section 9 chapter On Writing.

Theme.

Theme is really no big deal.

When writing a book one is identifying trees. Once done, step back and look at the forest. Every book worth reading is about something. During or just after the first draft decide what it’s about. In the second draft make that something more clear.

Good fiction begins with the story and progresses to theme.

Once story is on paper think about what it means, then enrich following drafts with conclusions. This makes each tale written uniquely your own.

Challenge day 16

Today’s read pages 189-200, sections 8 & 9 chapter On Writing

Today’s take:

Pay attention to real people around you and tell the truth about what you see. Are fictional characters taken directly from everyday life? No. Well no not directly. However details of behaviors make fictional characters are drawn from life.

The best stories may be character driven but in the end the story should always be the boss. Help readers to understand characters, and even sympathize with them, to make the characters real.

In story telling practice is invaluable and honesty indispensable. Transcribe with clarity (without unnecessary adverbs). Use what bells and whistles work for or improve your writing as long as they don’t get in the way of telling the story. Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not create artificial profundity.

Story is about story.

Challenge day 15

Today’s read pages 180-189, section 7 of chapter On Writing.

Dialogue, it gives your cast their voices and is crucial to defining characters. What people are saying often conveys their character in ways of which they are unaware.

Character can be conveyed more vividly through speech. A cardinal rule of good fiction is never tell us anything you can show us. Good dialogue is a delight, bad dialogue is deadly. A writer can improve in respect to dialogue, but a man must know his limitations.

Dialogue is a skill best learned by people who enjoy talking and listening to others…especially listening. The key to writing good dialogue is honesty. It’s important to tell the truth. It must ring true on the page and in the ear. To ring true you must talk yourself and even more importantly listen.

Challenge day 13

Today’s read pages 155-173, sections 4&5 of Chapter ‘On Witing’

First I must document that I was short and snapped at The Better Half earlier for a stupid reason and I owe him an apology.

Secondly this read ends with an assignment. I will not be doing this assignment tonight as it is a five to six page write. I will however schedule it into a future day and then let you know how it went.

The nuggets of gold I picked up from this evening’s read are as follows:

Have a door that your are willing to shut on your works space. That closed door tells others as well as yourself that you mean business. Stay focused.

Set a daily writing goal. Start with a realistic one, say with 1000 words a day. Set a time schedule for that writing and stick to it. Take no more than one day a week off. The muse will find you only if he knows when and where you will be because of your habits.

When you are writing you are creating your own worlds. Tell the truth. Write what you like. Use what you know to enrich the story, not to lecture. What I know makes me unique. Be brave, tell them what you know.

Stephen believes stories and novels are composed of three parts. Narration which moves story from point A to point B; description which creates sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue which brings characters to life.

Plot is nowhere. Our lives are plotless. Plot and spontaneity are incompatible.

Start with a situation then characters and uncover the hidden story from there. The novels creator is it’s first reader. If the writer isn’t able to guess with any accuracy of how it’s going to turn out, then that writer can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a page turning anxiety. Use the “What if?” question to uncover or discover interesting situations to write about.

Challenge day 12

Today’s read pages 141-155, new chapter “On Writing “ sections 1-2

I’ve never been a stranger to clairvoyance. It seems my choice to bite this little learning challenge into 10 page bites was just that. When writing Mr. King writes 2000 words a day or about 10 pages. You have my permission to call me Carnac if you wish.

However Stephen King reads much more than 10 pages of other people’s works a day. He considers himself a slow reader. He averages 70-80 books a year. He reads mostly fiction. He believes that if one doesn’t have time to read, then one doesn’t have time to write. Reading others prose “creates  an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.” I take that to mean reading can refine one’s style, sharpen one’s skills and strengthen one’s passion.

Read daily, write daily. It must be your passion, your playtime.

Turn off your TV.

Challenge day 11

Back from the brink of stomach flu hell, we surface by merely sticking our toe into the water. Amidst queasy gurgles of bloating gas with now only intermittent runs to the toilet, I possibly feel good enough to actually concentrate. I open the book and start my read only to realize I was but two pages from the beginning of its next chapter when I last stopped. I’ll take this as a suggestion from above as a testing of the waters and only report back on my two page read as to keep each chapter separated.

Today’s read: pages 135-137, section 5 of Toolbox.

Words create sentences and sentences create paragraphs. Like a carpenter building a mansion, the writer builds one paragraph at a time. Stephen encourages me to construct out of my own volcabulary, my own knowledge of grammar and of my own basic style. I must stay level on level and shave even every door and I can build whatever I like – whole mansions if I wish.

Let us not forget we are discussing a learned skill but sometimes we can agree that the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations. Stephen says I’d do well to remember that we are also taking about magic.