2009

Are You A Freudian or Jungian Dream Analyst?

I woke up from a dream a few days ago where I was riding a train and typing away on a manual typewriter before being thrown off the train and the typewriter being drop kicked behind me. That’s a weird dream. Dreams that I want to remember tend to slip away like ether into the nothingness. Dreams that I don’t want to remember tend to linger about like Chinese food left in the kitchen wastebasket over a hot weekend. The train dream decided to stay.

Naturally, I posted that summary to Twitter to start off my day. I was then invited to post my dream on Freud-It by a friendly Twitter bot, a Twitter-related dream analysis website where people can offer their own opinions about your dreams. The nice thing about the Twitter community is that the niche websites—TweetPsych and Twittascope—can tell you something about yourself. I didn’t post my dream on Freud-It because I used my own blog for dissecting my dreams and rants.

This dream was inspired by the Christmas Day terrorism incident where a wannabe terrorist tried to set off his explosives in his underwear on a plane arriving at Detroit. (First the shoe bomber, now the underwear bomber, and, since I’ve seen too many Tokyo splatter movies, the bra bomber will be next.) The initial reports said firecrackers were lit on the plane. I can imagine a string of Lady Fingers firecrackers being lit by some prankster. When I was a little boy, my brother threw firecrackers at my bare feet to see me dance, and was soon in a world of hurt with our mother coming out the front door and a sheriff patrol car pulling up behind him. (This was in the early 1970’s when the sheriff deputies would take people behind the local convenience store to beat out a confession and were regarded as more dangerous than the Hell’s Angels living down the street.) When I told my family about the plane incident, they immediately expressed the desire to toss the guy off the plane without a parachute.

I have never flown in a plane. I have taken the Caltrain commuter train between San Jose and Mountain View, and the Amtrak train between San Jose and Sacramento. When I took Amtrak to Sacramento, I would take my laptop with me for the 3.5 hour trip to either write or watch movies. These days I travel light with a notepad and pen to write and my iPod Touch to watch movies. When I had my dream, I had a manual typewriter.

Typewriters weren’t unusual for me.

I fell in love with an IBM Selectric typewriter when I was in the principal’s office at kindergarten, watching the little gray ball spin to put black letters on the paper. (This was the meeting where my parents were informed that I was mentally retarded and I would spend many years confounding my Special Ed teachers by blowing out the evaluation tests at the college or genius level.) Long before computers started showing up in the local stores, I was checking out the various models of typewriters. I had half-dozen typewriters when I was growing up and later gave them up when word processing became practical in college.

After my mother died of breast cancer in 2004, I went through a period of reclaiming my childhood by possessing objects that would trigger positive childhood memories, like Lava Soap and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. When I decided to get serious about being a writer, I ordered a manual typewriter from Amazon. My Dad thought I went off into the deep end when he asked what was in the box that we stopped by the post office. But being the writer of my childhood meant having a typewriter. I later got an electric typewriter that I still use to compose the rough drafts of my short stories and novels.

If you’re on a train with a manual typewriter, the repeated click-clack sound of the keys striking the ribbon to put ink on the paper could be mistaken for firecrackers and perhaps more annoying than a crying baby. Today’s train conductors will not physically throw people off a train—moving or not—for fear of a liability lawsuit. I was coming back from on Caltrain one Friday afternoon when a young couple were drunk like a stunk and wanted to get naked to have sex on the train. They didn’t get that far but they were crawling all over the seats and each other. The train conductor called ahead at the San Jose downtown station to have the police waiting to arrest them and physically remove them from the train. The train conductors of yesteryear wouldn’t hesitate to manhandle someone off a moving train into the wilderness or murder outright if that was necessary.

What does my dream mean? Who knows? Or, more precisely, as the second rabbi explains in the Coen brother’s movie, A Serious Man, “Who cares?”

On a related note, “The Red Book” by Carl Jung is becoming a surprise bestseller this holiday season. Handmade and printed in Italy, the 416-page book weighs in at nine pounds and has a $195 sticker price. This book of dream interpretations has been never been published until now. What’s the difference between a Freudian and Jungian dream analysis? I have no idea. When I took psychology in college, I got an “A” for the course because I was interested in applying psychological principles to the user interface design of software. I was never interested in what made people tick or why they lose their marbles. Although as a fiction writer, I’m not above poaching a Freudian/Jungian metaphor for my own purposes.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

Aiming For The Prairie Schooner Book Prize

This week I got a post card in the mail for the Prairie Schooner Book Prize Series that will be accepting contest submissions for a collection of short stories (150+ pages) and poetry (50+ pages) between January 15, 2010 and March 15, 2010. The entry fee is $25. The grand prize is $3,000 and publication through the University of Nebraska Press. I’m planning to enter my short story collection. This is a strong motivator to polish off all my short stories from the last four years that are languishing in the slush piles.

If you search the Internet for how to put together a short story collection, you won’t find much information. Most articles start off with the caveat that publishers won’t accept a short story collection unless you’re a well-established author, and even then somewhat reluctantly. Surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal reported that short story collections are breaking out this year and e-readers might make short stories a viable form again. I found this article and the arrival of postcard to be most encouraging for my own short story collection.

Since I had four short-short stories accepted for an anthology that I wrote after looking at the submission requirements two months ago, I started looking at the submission requirements of various anthologies and publications to match up with the short story ideas that I had previously thought up or recycling the ones that I started but never finished, letting the deadlines determine my writing priorities for the next three months.

My first non-fiction essay, “The Cabbage Patch Doll Fight,” about how my mother got a Cabbage Patch Kids doll for my baby niece by punching out two other mothers in a Toy “R” Us brawl in the early 1980’s, was accepted for publication in a special Christmas issue of Soft Whispers Magazine. I originally threw this story idea out on the Editor Unleashed forums since I didn’t think I had the time to write anything new when I got my hands full with revising my first novel and a short story with a submission due date at the end of the month. The editor wanted the story and I found the time to write. This became my fifth accepted story in the last two months and I have seven stories appearing in the next six months.

I’m going to be busy during the holidays. I’m wrapping up and putting aside my first novel after cutting 30,000 words from the 125,000-word rough draft and splitting the novel in two volumes. I got four short stories I’m writing to submit to different anthologies. I write on average eight short stories a year, but I’m on track to write 13 or 14 short stories this year. I’m revising my 20,000-word vampire novella for submission to an ebook publisher. The New Year will begin with me polishing off the 27+ short stories in my collection to submit to the Prairie Schooner contest by March 2010, and working on the next draft of volume one of my first novels.

Maybe I should find time to look for a job since I‘ve I been unemployed from non-writing work for the last nine months. Rejection slips and contributor copies don’t pay the bills, which is why I put a PayPal donation button my author website. If you got some spare change, please help out a busy writer get ahead financially. The grand prize from the contest is still a long ways off.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

A Short Story In Print

This week I received two contributor copies for my short story, “The World’s Best Coffee,” that appears in The MacGuffin (Fall 2009). This is my second published short story but the first one I have seen in print. (My first published short story, “The Uninvited Spook,” appeared in The Storyteller that paid a 1/4-cent USD per word and no contributor copy.) I mailed one copy to my Dad since the idea of me being a writer has always been an intangible concept to him and my family.

When we got together for my birthday in August, and my brother asked what I do to keep myself occupied since being laid off on Friday the 13th in February 2009, my Dad said “ceramics” before I could say anything. Ceramics was something my family could immediately grasp, and, at the time, I was working on a big pot. When I mentioned that I had finished writing the 700-page rough draft of my first novel a few months earlier, the room went silent.

Writing to them is intangible until it appears in print in the local bookstores, on the New York Times best seller list, and lavished with praise by the Oprah Book Club on TV. Even when I gave my Dad a copy of my short story collection in a binder, he was more interested in keeping the binder and tossing out the pages. Maybe the new issue of The MacGuffin with my story on pages 68-70 and bio on pages 158-159 will convince him that I’m serious about being a writer.

Then again, maybe not.

This week has also been good for revising the rough draft of my first novel, a coming of age ghost story. I started frequenting the Editors Unleashed website, posted a question in the forum about the manuscript being too long, and a suggestion was made that I split my novel into two volumes. The ideal length for a first time novel should be about 80,000 to 100,000 words. Anything longer or shorter may be a difficult sell. From revising about 1/3 of my novel over the last month, it became obvious that keeping the manuscript under 100,000 words was going to be a difficult task even after cutting out 35,000 words. I still got three notebooks of ideas that never made it into the rough draft.

After careful consideration and a late night of revising the novel structure on paper, I decided to split my novel into two 80,000-word volumes. That fixes a big problem in the rough draft where the halfway point happens at the two-third mark, something that would be painful to fix if the word count was less than 100,000 words. The first volume is strong and complete. The second volume is weak and underdeveloped. The overall structure is now clearer since I have room to run with the story.

Would selling two books be any easier than selling a single long book?

I’m not sure, and, to a certain extent, I really don’t care while revising my work. Something I’ll worry about next year when I start shopping the first volume and polishing the second volume. However, since my novel will fit into the Urban Fantasy market niche, a two-book set shouldn’t be a problem. Ultimately, I think an agent and/or an editor will have to decide how many volumes my novel should be.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

Changing Writing Gears

Four years ago when I decided to become a writer after putting it off for 20 years, I wanted to become a full time writer in five years. That was an ambitious and unrealistic goal. Becoming an established writer is taking five years. I think another five years will be needed to entrenched myself into the business of being a writer before I can go full time as a writer. Whenever an artist becomes noticeable success to the mainstream public, the artist has often been toiling away for ten years or more in quiet obscurity. This past month was very good to me with my publication credits list doubling in size. Now I’m changing writing gears for the next three months to prepare for 2010 and the next five years after that.

Last month I finished writing the first part of the rough draft for my second novel. I was planning to use the last month of a three-month break between drafts of my first novel to write two short stories, and take care of all the rejected manuscript submissions that I expected to come in after the summer break. That didn’t happen.

I noticed that I had a new Twitter follower, ElementalHorror, and checked out the Elements of Horror anthology the editor Clive Martyn was putting together. While looking at the submission requirements for short-short horror stories (500 words) involving one of the four elements (air, earth, fire, and wind), a perfectly formed story came to my mind that I immediately wrote and submitted. Within 24 hours after I wrote “Swine of The Earth,” introducing Charles Goodwin of The Giggling Mongoose restaurant and his special ingredient for swine roasted in the earth, the story was accepted for the anthology.

With a restaurant-themed horror story, the fire and water elements were the easiest to incorporate. The earth element was the second hardest, which I wrote first since I couldn’t figure out how to do the air element. After a bit of research over the next few days, I wrote and submitted “Salt of The Air” (curing meat). The story was accepted on the condition that I write the other two elements for four linked flash stories. A few days later I wrote and submitted “Honey of The Fire” (flambé) and “Rice of The Water” (sushi). I had to rewrite the fire story since my surprise husband-wife role reversal fell flat and broke the formula of the other three stories. Removing the role reversal made the revised story became surprisingly kinky. All four Charles Goodwin stories have been accepted for publication.

The good news kept rolling after that. I got the author proofs for “The World’s Best Coffee” that’s been slated The MacGuffin (Fall 2009). “The Unfaithful Camera” is slated Transcendent Visions (January 2010). “The Forgotten Sinner” was accepted this week to appear in Conceit Magazine (December 2009). I have seven stories slated for publication in the next six months. My first and only published short story, “The Uninvited Spook,” appeared 16 months ago in The Storyteller.

After writing four short-short stories for 1,965 words, I wrote and submitted a 6,000-word short story about four teenagers and a killer shopping cart possessed by an angry senior citizen. I felt like I have the Midas touch where everything submitted will automatically be accepted for publication.

A dozen rejection slips made clear that I didn’t have the Midas touch at all, including a few submissions that I thought would be accepted. I got those returned stories back out into the mail to face a cruel world of rejections and rejoin the 50+ manuscripts floating around in the slush piles. I’m submitting my short stories to paid markets from now on. No reason to be giving away my work for contributor copies or nothing at all. Except for poems as there are very few paid markets and I’m still a budding poet.

Writing is still a business and a business needs to make money. Something the IRS will remind me if I don’t start showing a strong profit motive. After four years of writing expenses, I can now figure out how to reduce my burn rate, determine my break-even point, and set financial goals to be operating in the black. I’m thinking about breaking into non-fiction writing to bring in more income. When I prepare my business plan and yearly forecast for this quarter, I’m expecting next year to be financially successful.

With the three month break over, I’m revising the rough draft of my first novel during the week and working on short stories over the weekends. If the next draft is done in three months, I’ll take another three month break to write the second one-third of the rough draft for my second novel, more short stories, and take care of the admin tasks. If not, I’ll take a one-month break to work on short stories and admin tasks before resuming work. I’m still on schedule to have a finished first novel, a finished rough draft of the second novel, a third novel that will be ready to be written, and a finished short story collection, before I go agent hunting in July 2010. When that happens, I will have completed my goal to become an established writer and spend the next five years to become a full time writer.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

The Blackmail of David Letterman

Last night on the “Late Show,” David Letterman told a story about finding a strange package in his car at 6:00AM three weeks ago, where someone wanted to produce a screenplay about “the terrible things” he had done in his life and would happily sell him the screenplay for $2 million. After notifying his attorney and the district attorney’s office, the blackmailer was indicted and arrested for grand larceny. Letterman than confessed on television that he had sexual relations with female staffers over the years. This was funny, sad and horrifying at the same time. I’m somewhat familiar with the concept of being blackmailed by those who think they can take advantage of you.

Within the church I used to belong to I had reputation that went from being “a sweet guy” to “a future California serial rapist.” That last remark came from a unpaid ministry leader — an unemployed patent attorney — who encouraged me to rape a woman whom I wasn’t getting along with at the time so I could do everyone a favor by going to prison. When I asked him how the woman would feel about being raped, he said it would be a “small sacrifice on her part for the betterment of the Kingdom.” A few days after that, another unpaid ministry leader — also unemployed — threaten to go public with my emails regarding this situation. These two weren’t the brightest in the ministry, not realizing that encouraging rape by blackmailing someone was wrong according to the Bible.

Unfortunately, church culture can devolve into spiritual entrapment and witch hunts that make this kind of behavior acceptable as the end justify the means. Such a culture makes it difficult — if not impossible — for the paid ministry leaders to do what’s right according to the Bible.

As for the emails, I threatened to post them in full on my website and send out an email to everyone with the link that this this was the ministry leader’s idea. Who has the most to lose with the publication of these emails? Not me. The blackmail attempt was soon forgotten. When other ministry leaders later hinted that they were saving my emails, I again offered to publish all those emails on my website and send out a link to everyone in email. They suddenly backed off by saying that they weren’t trying to blackmail me. Why tell me that you’re saving my emails if you weren’t trying to gain an leverage over me?

When I was working at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple personality disorder), there was an email list called the “chum bucket” for off-color jokes and NSFW web links. I bailed out of this email list after a few weeks when the supervisors called each other and everyone else who disagreed with them “douche bags”. The email list went on for several more years until there was an incident involving me that forced HR rep to shut it down to avoid a potential lawsuit. A co-worker sent anonymous emails to the list that were critical, negative and mean-spirited about me. This wasn’t blackmail but more like slander. When the co-worker stepped forward to apologize and his supervisor talked to me about the situation, I had no clue what they were talking about.

I was a lead tester who worked 60+ hours per week with a project ready to go out the door, attending church and teaching children ministry classes on Sundays, and taking two programming classes at San Jose City College. I was too busy to care about anything else. When I later ran into the co-worker at a bus stop, he thanked me for being the only the lead tester who said anything nice about his girlfriend, a tester whom I thought needed additional training but got let go by the company anyway, and he admitted that he was wrong about my character.

I believe that being a writer means standing behind everything you have written, whether in private or public. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. After all, if I get famous enough after I kick the bucket, someone will edit and publish a book of selected letters, emails and stupid rants that I had ever written. A generation of tormented college students will write their dissertations on why my neuroses represented early twenty-first century American literature. If someone wants to pass a moral judgment on me after I’m dead, there’s nothing I can do to stop them. If they want to use my writing against me in sinister way while I’m alive, why not let the whole world judge me and my blackmailer?


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

Touching The Kindle & The Dictionary

After I got my iPod Touch (first generation) a few years ago to replace an old Palm PDA with outdated wireless technology that could no longer pick up any access points to reach the Internet at work, I haven’t used it much since then. Although I listened to my 80’s music collection at the gym, I never felt comfortable taking the Touch in that kind of a sweaty environment. When the third generation iPod Shuffle came out, I got one for the gym. I loaded up the Touch with the digital copies that came with certain DVD movies to watch on the train while visiting my father in Sacramento. As for loading up applications, I found two apps useful enough to use my Touch more often now.

I downloaded Kindle for the iPhone and iPod Touch when it first came out, and a sample chapter to test out the features. That was okay. I’m a traditionalist who would rather have the actual dead tree edition to read through for current books. When I decided to pursue a classical education, I was surprised to find that many of the classical drama, history and literature books were either free or cost less than a buck on the Kindle. I’m reading “The History of The Decline And Fall of The Roman Empire: Volumes 1 to 6” by Edward Gibbon, and downloaded “The Jewish Wars” by Flavius Josephus (translated by William Whiston) and “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes/The Return of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Author Canon Doyle. Looks like I’ll be reading all the classics from Kindle on my Touch from now on, saving space in my library for more current dead tree books.

The other application was Dictionary.Com, a free dictionary. I was surprised to discover that Apple doesn’t include the Dictionary from the Mac OS X on the Touch. There’s also the American Heritage Dictionary version that cost $25 USD. Again, I’m a dead tree traditionalist when that much money is involved. (I made the mistake of selling my 1987 copy of The Random House Dictionary of The English Language, Second Edition, a number of years ago.) Since I started writing haiku poems that require counting out a specific number syllables per line, I been consulting the Dictionary on my MacBook more often to determine how many syllables a word breaks into if I wasn’t certain. Having a dictionary on my Touch makes the process of refining my haiku poems in my writing journal much easier. Dictionary.Com also has a thesaurus for looking up other words, but the extended features require wireless access (which really kills the battery life on the Touch).

If you’re a writer with an iPod Touch, these are two must have applications.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

Being A Philosopher & Heretic

Finished reading “Giordano Bruno: Philosopher / Heretic” by Ingrid D. Rowland last week, a biography of the sixteenth-century monkwho came before Galileo in accepting that the earth  revolved around the sun, and, unlike Galileo, did not recant his beliefs to avoid being burned alive at the stake.  The more I read about this guy, the more I see myself.

Giordano Bruno’s claim to fame, besides embracing ideas in natural philosophy that would form the foundation of modern science and traveling through Europe during the Protestant Reformation as a lecturer and writer while being wanted by the Roman Inquisition, was the art of memorizing and reciting vast amounts of information using a mnemonic device.  Often this is a process of associating information through a visual representation of a statue inside a familiar catherdal, and then recalling what the statue look like in a specific order to retrieve the information.  A senator in Ancient Rome could give a speech that lasted for hours without consulting notes or, in modern politics, a teleprompter.  A prized skill that many sought out then, and, sadly, too many people don’t know today since the advent of computers to store information.

There’s a passage from the book that I found quite interesting:

As a writer, and probably as a thinker as well, he was split from the beginning into three personalities: one had a Dominician’s philosophical rigor, one a Platonist’s poetic exaltation, and one a dark wit born in his parents’ little house on the slopes of Monte Cicala and stiletto-sharpened on the streets of Naples.

If I was to rewrite that passage to apply to myself, this is my version:

As a writer, and probably as a thinker as well, he was split from the beginning into three personalities: one had a Pharisee’s philosophical rigor, one a Shakespearean’s poetic exaltation, and one a dark wit born from watching Benny Hill on Friday nights when his parents was in bed and stiletto-sharpened in a world gone mad.

The church I was involved in for many years had went through periods where non-paid leaders would bait someone into sinning to score brownie points with the paid leadership to enhance their own position in the pecking order.  Entrapment is a very old game practiced by both ancient and modern Pharisees.  I developed a philosophical rigor towards detecting and evading such entrapment.

Detecting wasn’t hard since those who want to entrap you are often those who don’t associate with you anyway.  I’m usually approached by two brothers since the Bible requires two witnesses (or two liars as was the case to have Jesus sent to the cross), friendly smiles where none were before, and smooth talking that leads to a trap.  If that doesn’t smell of entrapment, I don’t know what does.

Evading such entrapment required deconstructing the smooth talk to find the Biblical counter-argument and/or realizing the one fact they don’t know since most brothers preening for the leadership thought themselves to be clever that they never really think through their arguments.  If that doesn’t work, ensnaring the brothers into a circular argument where their only response to every question is “because… because… because…” and then verbally beat them up “rope the dope” style that they won’t ever pull that stunt again.  Worst case, handing over my Bible and asking them to prove themselves usually send these evil doers scurrying back into the woodwork.

If you write fiction in the English language, you can never get away from William Shakespeare.  He had written a play for every conceivable story plot.  The key to studying his work is understanding his source material and his audience.   The Bible, Greek/Roman mythology, and historical events were fair  game.  He wrote in the language of  the common people (English), not royalty (French) or clergy (Latin).  His stories are often a mixture of both formal speech of upper society and bawdy speech of lower society, playing one against the other.  I started studying and writing poetry, and applying myself to a classical education, to better understand the structure behind Shakespeare’s plays.

As a teenager I enjoyed Benny Hill for the crude sexual humor since there was nothing else like this British show on American television in the early 1980’s.   (My family couldn’t afford cable TV with all the crude humor from R-rated movies, and the junior high school girls took pity on me because I came from a “poor” family for not having MTV.)  This was my first introduction to the British sense of humor, which is an acquired taste and requires an understanding that what’s being said or shown may have a different meaning.  This may have prepared me well in later years for dealing with religious entrapment, and embracing cynicism and irony in my writings.

When I attended San Jose State University for one year before being kicked out in 1995, the clock tower has a bronze plaque with the poem “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham (who graduated from the university when it was still a teacher school).

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

I identify myself with the second line, which, within the poem and by itself, doesn’t make much sense.  I grew up as a child without knowing God (heretic), took an unpopular stand that would get me kicked out of the church (rebel), and I’m now a writer (a thing to flout).   I wanted to be writer when I was a teenager but life has intervene, sometimes for the better but usually for the worst.  I have come full circle after 20 years to find myself.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

Writing From The Back Burner

After much consideration over the past week concerning my second novel work in progress, I’ve decided to wrap up work on the first part (1/3) and clear off the back burner until I start editing for the first draft of my first novel in October. This wasn’t an easy decision.

First, I no longer have the motivation to continue writing the second novel since I have a self-imposed editing deadline for the first novel, and I didn’t want to stop in middle of part two when I could make a clean break after finishing part one.

Second, since the second novel is a diversion between editing rounds of the first novel, I couldn’t give it my fullest attention without impacting the first novel. The second novel requires a complete breakdown analysis of the first part before I can outline and write the next two parts. An extended break should help with that.

Third, the back burner has unfinished short stories and poems that I would like to finish and clear out before I start something new. With the summer break coming to an end at many short story magazine publishers, I’m expecting a flood of returned SASEs bearing rejection slips, some acceptance letters, and no money to pay for anything. I’m always tweaking or rewriting a piece to make it better before sending out again. These admin tasks always take more time if I don’t plan for it.

Maybe I’m too lazy to pound out a 400-page rough draft of a novel in three months, or maybe six months is a suitable amount of time to write a novel. I hope editing my first novel goes faster than that. If everything works out, I’ll be working on the second part of my second novel in January. Or maybe not.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.

The Middle Is Where The Story Dies

The 700-page rough draft of my first novel took a year to write. I spent the last two months writing the first 130 pages of a 400-page rough draft for my second novel that I planned to get done next month before I start editing for the next draft of the first novel in October. I’m only one-third done, stuck at the beginning of the middle, and uncertain what to do yet. I’ve been wallowing in a writing funk for the last few weeks that isn’t related to my recent birthday funk. Recalling my experience with the first novel and reexamining the half dozen short stories that I started but abandon after a few pages, the middle is where a story can and often does die.

Writing something new is always exciting. Unless the story is very short (say five pages or less), the excitement wears off in a hurry and writing becomes work. That’s the problem I have: work. While the beginning and sometimes the ending tends to write themselves with little effort on my part, writing the middle is all work trying to bridge the beginning and the ending. Work that I don’t enjoy tends to make me want to do something else that’s more fun and exciting.

The middle of my first novel felt like stringing a rope bridge across a deep chasm without any help. I forced myself to start writing one bloody page after another until what I written became the bridge needed to cross the chasm. The structure was seven parts with seven chapters each that kept me from falling into the abyss.

The middle of my second novel felt more like climbing the high wall of an obstacle course and getting stuck on top with no one to push me over if only to see me land on my face. That’s probably because I’m experimenting more with this novel—shorter chapters, flexible POVs, and naming all the characters—to avoid repeating myself. Writing fast and dirty to get the main story down, but also taking care to avoid the sprawling mess of the first draft and respecting the deadline that I set.

What to do about this horrible middle?

There are several options but none will have the second novel done any sooner before the deadline. I can keep writing until the deadline, ending the story halfway through. I can stop at the one-third mark to clean up what I have written so far and outline the middle. Or stop at the one-third mark and finished the abandon short stories for the next month. All three options appeal to me in one way or another.

Maybe I need to buy a Magic Eight Ball to decide this one.


NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.