Friday, December 31, 2010

12 31 10 WRITING - end of year tally

This is a quick tally – or summary? – of my year in writing.

Accomplishments: Six short stories appeared or are set to appear. Sci-fi novel is scheduled for August release. Working on the second draft of my second novel. Maintaning my work schedule of writing a minimum of two hours a day, six days a week.

Disappointments: Couldn’t find an agent interested in working with me. Latest short story and the beginning of a third novel panned by workshop groups. My collection of short stories continues to get rejected. Still can’t master plot as well as I’d like.

Things to be thankful for: A network of wonderful and talented writers I’ve been fortunate enough to call my friends (you know who you are, and forever thanks for your advice and encouragement). Still have a burning desire to keep filling empty white virtual pages with black virtual letters.

Happy New Year!

Be safe and see you in 2011!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Ho Ho Ho-rrendous! I keep a written log of my writing hours. It's the best way for me to keep on a steady schedule. My routine is a minimum two hours a day - six days a week. I think it's important to have a day off. I use Sunday - my day off - as a reward, a battery recharger and an incentive to get me to the end of the week.

I don't cheat. If I get up to re-heat my cup of tea (or coffee) and it takes four minutes, I tack four minutes on to my minimum time.

Having said that, it's the holidays and I've given myself a little slack, but I'm starting to feel guilty. According to my log, my last real writing day was Dec. 23 - but only for 61minutes. Today (even though it's Sunday) I did some editing on Die Laughing, my sci-fi novel. Though this is technically writing I don't really give it as much weight because this is more of a polishing thing as opposed to composing.

I should be back to my normal routine tomorrow -  probably taking new years eve day off, and the day after (recovering from the night before), but we shall see - the guilt factor looms over my head like a South Florida afternoon thundercloud.

Am I the only one who has these problems?

Happy Holiday Writing!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

12 10 10 WRITING - Mixed fodder

Five days ago my fall semester fiction workshop class ended on Monday. Someone said about my piece, “I don’t think he was having fun writing this.” Not quite sure what that meant, but I know it can’t be good.


Last night had a workshop gathering at my house with three writers – all struggling like me – who I greatly admire as people and as writers. We exchanged advice, discussed our work, our philosophies, gossiped and talked about triumphs and tribulations. Being with them was a joyous occasion for me. I drank too much wine and paid for it in the morning.


Today my son flew in from Tokyo where he’s been studying the past year. Another joyful occasion; without the distress of a morning hangover.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

12 01 10 WRITING - Writer Workshops: The Art of Listening

I’ve decided to start a short, semi-regular series on writer workshops. I’ve been attending a workshop in South Florida regularly for about four years. I’ve also belonged to a couple of satellite workshops in between, and while getting my MFA degree in creative writing, I’ve attended class workshops which are de rigueur as part of the curriculum.

For anyone who doesn’t belong to a writer workshop, basically they are a focus group. A set of like minded individuals – writers – get together. Those with stories distribute them and at the following meeting they are individually critiqued, usually under the direction of a head or leader of the group. That’s the formal definition. The informal definition is that they’re basically Hell’s Kitchen without the food.

Workshops can take the toughest egos and sledge hammer them until they feel like the leather launch pad of one of those carnival ring the bell games. It’s happened to me plenty of times.

Let me state up front that though I have a love/hate relationship with workshops, I’m a big believer in them. The reason is simple and I’ll get to that eventually, but what I want to write about now is a topic that I consider one of the most important when attending a workshop: the art of listening.

The wisest writers will sit silently and take notes while they are being skewered. It sounds easy to do but it’s not. My first instinct for a long time was to jump up and say, “No, no, no! You don’t get it. My character isn’t insecure she’s a deep thinker.” I confess, I still have the urge now and then to do it.

But, here’s the thing, it’s not important what I think, it’s what the reader thinks. If a group of your peers tells you your character comes across as insecure then that’s probably the case and you should be thinking about ways to counter-balance that impression through a revision, instead of defending it.

In my experience, the worse thing a writer can do is speak up and defend themselves for two reasons: the first is – and I speak from experience – when I see someone protesting it tells me they don’t really want to hear anyone’s opinion. That causes me (and others that I know) to keep quiet. Now, I may not have valuable insight to the story, but on the other hand I might be the guy who says, “You know, I wonder what would happen if instead of having Mary take her lamb home, maybe it could follow her to school.”

The second reason to resist speaking up, even if to defend a small point, is that it stops the natural flow of discussion among the others. Many times, as I’ve listened to my pieces being critiqued, someone will state an opinion or idea and someone else will take it to another area or expound upon it and it will develop into something wonderful that I would have never thought of. If I had spoken up earlier and stopped that brain storming it would have never developed.

Remember, you don’t have to accept anyone’s opinion. If you don’t like what they say then ignore it, but if you don’t listen to what they have to say you’ll never know if it was good or bad.

Happy writing. See you at the next workshop. I’ll be the one with my listening cap firmly strapped to my head.