Thursday, January 14, 2010

Journal of a Novel

My favorite example of these types of journals are two volumes of Steinbeck letters that are available.; Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath.

What he did and what I am thinking about doing is you write a long series of letters in the notebook he also wrote the novel in. The right side of the page is where you write your novel, and the left side of the page is where you keep the letters. Steinback said he used to do it to get his mind in the zone. Any writer knows how much of a key issue this is in the writing process. No matter what other kind of external influences are going on at the time, if you are in the zone, have the focus and discipline to immerse yourself into the world of your story you know as well as I do is that this is the place were your words come from. So I am willing to follow in the footsteps of those masters that have come before me and adapt their tactics there methods.

I would also like to get copies and read both of Steinbeck's books as all I have read are romantic descriptions of them. In one way though I would like to just keep that thought and do them how I imagine they are instead of reading and copying his style.

One of the things I do know about his technique that I am going to adapt is that he would set down to write, sharpen his pencils and start of by warming up and writing letters to his publisher and friend on many subjects.
I have a great idea of how I am going to do it. I am going to write a letter to someone who is new to the art of writing and has not read the books. For those of my readers who are occult inclined I am going to do a sort of writing version of Magick Without Tears by: Crowley.

Of course now I am at the point when I am trying to read like 15 books at the same time. My room is starting to become a path of books leading to the bed, books and music. Not that I think that is too much of a bad thing really.

I am going to and read for the rest of the evening and then tomorrow begin this work!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Anderson, Faulkner, and Me!

I was shopping in a local bookstore the other day and found a book by Faulkner I had not know existed. It is called New Orleans Sketches, and it is amazing, One of my favorite books is Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. I have always considered working on a similiar work of inter-connecterd short stories. New Orleans Sketches is Faulkner's verions of Winesburg.

I think I am going to adapt this style for my crime novel. I worked a lot on plot stuff yesterday, and it went very well. I think I have an outline of some of the "sketches" I am going to do. I am going to spend the first half of the novel just doing character sketches on each of the main characters, and some of the locations totally described.

I am going to set the whole novel in a small town called "Fair Hill". It is a small mountain town in the Ozarks. So with it being a small town there will only be probably 8-10 characters total, so I am think probably 20 or so chapters/sketches. I am going to try and write one sketch a week and I am also going to start submitting them to short fiction magazines. I want each of the stories to be tight stories that can stand alone and also that will form the chapters of some connected novel.

I am planning on going down to the office twice a week and writing a rough draft of story by hand, then spend a day typing it and doing first revision, then step back for a day and not think about it (start working on new story idea), then I will comeback and spend 2-3 days revising the story and then the 7th day or so I will submit that story to magazine. Then after all that my plan is just to rinse and repeat.

Okay I am going to go make some coffee now and work on some more plot stuff I will keep everyone up to date on the novel progress as it happens.

New Orleans Sketches Read these amazing books now! Winesburg, Ohio (Signet Classics)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


This is the first in a series of Guest Posts by fellow writers about writing conditions and techniques. I want to give other writers a outlet to voice their opinion on writing; how, where, and what they write.
So the first in the series is by my close friend and fellow writer; Don Lee. You can check out his blog; Whiskey Bottle Over Jesus

"The conditions under which the working writer writes seem to be of universal interest. I think on some level it’s part of that desire in all those who write or aspire to write, at least up to a certain point, to find out “the secret” of successful writing –  the actual physical act itself, that time when you sit down and put words down and somehow sometimes they flow out and it’s as if someone else wrote them, and you kinda sit back and go “Wow.”

Some prefer to write by hand, then retype, while others compose straight into the keyboard. I have been writing longhand for years and am trying to shift from the latter to the former right now.

For some writers it’s an issue not of how but of where. I used to write a lot in coffee shops when there were several good ones handy. More recently, living alone, when the weather permits I have a work station set up on the front porch of the cabin where I live in the woods. (I also enjoy writing in bars, although there is a limited window of usefulness there and one wonders about developing a Pavlovian connection between the two events, the writing and the drinking. Probably sounds better than is, in the long run.)

It is important whenever possible to have your own place to write. For one thing, a certain amount of privacy is necessary – uninterrupted time and space to think and compose. The downfall of the coffee shop – or bar, for that matter – is that once you’ve become a regular, you’re forced to deal with both well-meaning acquaintances and/or slack vampires who have nothing better to do than suck up your writing time. “Hey, buddy!” Your options become either rudeness or changing locales periodically so you won’t encounter people you know.

Earlier last year I lived for a few months with a wife who had a seven year old son. Finding a place to write away from home meant being away from home, often not an option. But there was a shed out back, concrete slab floor and a roof that didn’t leak – and best of all, electricity! – and this became my sanctum. It was just close enough to the house to be within yelling distance if yelling need occur, and just far enough out that I wasn’t in the loop of the usual dealing with a manic seven year old. I wrote a lot of journalism out there and a chunk of a novel that I dropped about the time I moved out.

If you are a writer and unless you have an incredibly secure, understanding mate, or none at all, the chances of finding privacy to write at home are low – but if you have a shed, I think you’ve got a shot at it. It worked for me."

If you are interested in being a guest blogger please email me; and we will get something set up. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Sacred Text of Writing

The weather here is going insane. Been snowing almost non-stop since yesterday afternoon. Everything is covered in snow and ice. When I went to the office yesterday it was crazy slick and the computer says it has been snowing all night, but I have not looked outside yet. I got a few more things at the office last night and now I am rethinking both my sacred text.

I really need to have two sacred text I can fall back on when I am writing and I do not change one of the very often, and this time it looks like I may change both of them.
I am going to replace The Writing Life with another book by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird.  I read the first 15 pages last night and it is amazing so far. It is written in the same style as The Writing Life, but seems more polished perhaps. I will not know really until I get more into the meat of the book itself. I think this will be a great sacred text and should keep my on track with my writing projects.
She talks about getting in print in the introduction and it makes me think. Always makes me think of short fiction. Perhaps I should try to work on some mystery/crime short fiction and submit that. I can write and polish a short story in a few weeks. If I could write a rough draft in a week and then spend two weeks revising it, and then send one story a month off to a magazine then surely I could publish this year. That would be a big step for me and would give me a chance to work on the mystery genre without worrying about novel length stuff.

Okay I am going to go spend a few of these morning hours making some coffee and reading on that Silva novel.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blogging in the New Year!

Okay, I have been thinking about the subject of New Years resolutions since writing my last post. I have been feeling unmotivated the past few days and have spent all day in my head searching for the reason and trying to figure out how to get motivated. I hope taking on a fiction project for the new year will give me some of the motivation I am seeking.

The reading I have been doing lately is also in hopes of lighting a fire under my ass in the fiction department. I have been reading the type of fiction I want to start writing in hopes of it rubbing off on me in some way. I also have not turned to my usual sources of writing motivation, so maybe that is effecting me also.

I usually turn to one of two books when I need to start writing; The Writing Life by: Anne Lamott and also A Moveable Feast by: Hemingway. I think now though I may have added the third book to this list of sacred text; The Triumph of the Thriller by: Patrick Anderson.

We will see how well it works in about a week. I have found that while I am actually doing the writing I can not read too much fiction or it influences the work I am doing. So I think I am going to finish reading the Silva novel while I outline the novel. I may continue reading because I am working in a genre I am not familiar with.

My usual writing routine however is to hand write my first draft, then type and then do revisions on a computer. I can not usually write at home, so I usually go out and work. My best writing is done at coffee shops and bars. The office will not work either because there are too many distractions. So I think I will start going to the coffee shop across the street from it to work. I also need some music on my MP3 player so I can tune out everything. be more zen about it all. I have to be careful on my music choice though. I can not work if the music has words, so I am limited to classical, techno, and jazz. So I need to start working on getting some music together for that.

I need to be very simple to get work done. I do not need much, but the things I do need have to be just right; the right kind of pens, a new notebook, the outline index cards, my MP3 player with good music on it, and a book. Anything else I have with me will only distract me.

One of the other distractions I have to avoid when I am writing is also the most difficult for me; the Internet! It is also the reason I can not write fiction on a laptop really. This is why I am trying to get money for a NEO Alphasmart word processor.

Okay I am going to quit ranting about this for now and go start on the outlining for the novel. I promise to keep you, my dear readers, updated on my progress.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Years!

Happy New Year everyone! It will be a good year for all of us! 2009 was an interesting year for me. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about writing, a lot about this virtual world we all live in. I hope to learn as much or more in 2010!

I usually do not make new year's resolutions, but this year I decided to make a writing oath to myself.

I have been studying The Art of Dramatic Writing by: Lajos Egri for a few months and it is going to be my guidebook on the quest I am embarking upon. My quest is none other than the search for the Holy Grail itself. It is my opinion the reason that man has been searching for the grail for hundreds of year and has yet to "find it" is that, in essence, the grail quest is a personal quest.

I will write a play this year! This has always been a mind blowing undertaking to me, but I think I am ready.

I am going to attempt to do a crime/mystery play. I got a copy of The Major Plays by: Anton Chekhov to use as examples. I have only read one play by Chekhov; The Sea Gull, but the book I just got has all five major plays, so now I have more reading than I can handle right now.

Also me and my friend Brother Catfish have been talking about planning on moving to New Orleans in the fall, so I would like to have my first play done by then.

Okay I am going to go read till I pass out. Still recovering from last night. Good party and I have people in from out of town staying with me too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

BRK and Simple Living

I want to say first off, sorry for not posting yesterday. I was busy preparing this huge rant you. Hope this makes up for the lack of reading material yesterday...

This just goes to show you, Wisdom never appears were you think it will. It always turns up in the most unexpected places, that is part of it's charm. For me wisdom appeared on a cold night in Michigan City which is one of the many far reaching suburbs of Chicago. I was in Chicago staying with a friend who lived in a wonderful farmhouse and was married to a International Stockbroker who also had a house 20 minutes from hers. On certain weekends they both got there visitation with their children from their respective exes. On these weeks due to the space in the house I would stay at his house in Michigan City.

On the night in question I was looking through a stack of books on the coffee table and ran across a book I had seen at the book store countless times but had not looked at; Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by: Roger Lowenstein

I picked it up and thought I would read the introduction and see what this guy is up to. I had no idea when I picked up that tome that my life would change, my paradigm shift, at that moment. I did not read the whole thing cover to cover or anything like that, but I the seed of change was planted from that moment on. I did read the introduction and the first chapter. I began to see Warren for something beyond what I had originally thought.

Here was this man, a man who was he richest (and sometimes 2nd richest) man in the WORLD. A man who grew up dreaming, and thinking of nothing but making money. A man who was too teach me and make me see more clearly the idea of a simple life. It took me by more of surprise than I could have ever expected. I left Chicago on a train on Christmas day to head to New Orleans for New Years and then onto Florida, where two things would happen. I would spend the winter on the beach and I would read and re-read the book that shifted my paradigm yet again, I am self-admitted paradigm hopper if such a think exist.

In a classic round about, ranting fashion this leads me to my review for this months issue of Harpers! January 2010, and what a wild year I think it is going to be. The article was a piece by: Mattathais Schwartz, The Church of Warren Buffett. The title sets the mood for the rest of the article, it is set at the Berkshire Hathaway Share Holders Meeting. For most people in the investment industry this is their Mecca.

I think the key quote that made me need to write a "review" for this article. This was attributed to Marsha (no last name given),"When you grow up poor," she told me, "all you want is enough money so you don't have to worry. Money is freedom. Someone helps you, you got to pay it forward." This quote lays forth the spirit of Buffett's philosophy that I want to live by. I grew up poor and this quote hits home with me. I understand the freedom she speaks of and it the kind of freedom I want.

I am struck really by the day to day life of Mr. Buffett he lives simple, stoic, almost monk like in his pursuit of a pure form of capitalism that almost no one else can achieve and frankly most other people can not even grasp in their mind's eye. This is the exact kind of routine that I want in my life.

I do not want to be the next Warren Buffett, for one thing I do not think it is possible for anyone to be "the next". I would however like to use him as somewhat of a model for life though. The article states "What Buffett had done was sit in a room and think." and unfortunately Mr. Schartz also makes the correct assessment that, "Like most drudge work, thinking a undertaking that Americans would rather sub-contract to someone else." I wish that statement was not true but for most of the public I think it is.

I try not to think that way or associate with people that do. I instead would like to focus on the positive thoughts on the matter that come from the mind of the master himself, "Inactivity strikes us as intelligent behavior." He spends most of the day in a small room at his desk reading, and when he is not busy reading he is playing bridge online. That sounds like a pretty great way to live to me.

R.J. Meurer says of Warren and I agree "He's in the business of thinking the unthinkable" I think this a great description of him. He sits in silent meditation for hours at a time trying to come up with that next good idea, the next investment.

As Shai Dardashti says, "The answer is cutting away the noise." and Warren does this to the extreme which is what is needed to achieve his level of success in the way he has chosen to do it. Shai is a follower of Mr. Buffett's way of life he says of his work ethic "There's no one yelling or screaming. I set here, go through stuff, absorb information, and try to com up with three or four good ideas a year." That sounds like an amazing way to work and live to me. I must start right away on this way of life, this way of thinking, shifting into this paradigm.

I am going to end this rant and call it a night, but I do want to leave you with two quotes which I find comforting in the age we live in. I would like to get both of these framed and hang in my future office. The first one is by Sherri Gregory, another Buffett follower she says "He chooses not to complicate his life with things, with stuff."

The other is by the master himself,"We don't have to be smarter than the rest. We have to be more disciplined than the rest."

I think if you enjoy Mr. Buffett and his way of looking at life you should go out and buy the new issue of Harpers to be able to read the article for yourself and pleased offer your opinion on his ideas here. I will be ranting about him in the future also, and I am always on the lookout for new posts ideas.
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