clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Stuffed and Trussed

At left, a copyright free image courtesy the Hassocks4589 as hosted on wikicommons. This was their Christmas turkey straight from the oven in 2006.

I'm writing tonight. It's a cool, calm evening and I'm at the desk finishing a story. Nice feeling (much better than finishing the run at the gym felt...).

My drafts are "stuffed." I've got lots of details and feelings and things I want to be important and little notes to myself and dialogue that is stilted but important so it stays and ...

It is stuffed.

Now, I know disciplined writers who have the core of their story in their first draft and that's it: the core. They add dialogue and characterization details and the environment later in successive drafts.

I wish them well.

I'd like to have the ability to stick "only" to the core plot events of the story.

I outline. I plan. I draw pictures. I draft.

And yet knowing how the story turns before I begin the composition does little to keep the first pass from being bloated and slightly over-done much like most Thanksgiving turkeys.

I don't even like turkey all that much. I'm a baron of beef or standing rib roast sort of fellow. I eat turkey for lunch every day because my metabolism has slowed to a glacial pace and it seems I can't eat anything but carrots and turkey-hummus roll-ups for lunch.

Come Thanksgiving, I can't wait for turkey. I bet you're the same way.

I'm embracing my bulging drafts. I'm looking on them as great starters for a pared down late-night meal of leftovers which -- in my experience -- becomes the best part of the show.

You've got a little cranberry dripping out the sandwich there ... too late. That should wash out. Oh, dry cleaning? Sorry. Gift giving opportunity for the rest of us then. You look like a medium extra-ink stained.

Over stuffed isn't a bad thing. Avoid dry and under seasoned; but, overstuffed? Go right at it.

Careful carving solves all ills.

Happy Thanksgiving to the ink-stained crowd.

Mind the family. We all have them.

Two drink minimum.

Write something this holiday even if just the germ of a new story. You'll feel all the better for it.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Something Wrong With Us

At left, a public domain image from Firebelly (thanks, 'belly) hosted on wikicommons.

This is an American Irish Pub. How can I tell? Real Irish pubs have Carling's Black Label on tap. Yep, Black Label. The same $14 a case beer your buddies bought in college (or I bought if I was your buddy).

I once went fishing with a buddy, got stuck in the mud during a squall, and had to walk out. We had a cooler in the truck with most of a twelve pack of Black Label left on ice.

When we got back to the truck someone had shot a hole in the front window, rummaged through the glove box, and taken the cooler out of the back. We drove the truck out of the now dried mud.

The cooler thieves dumped the cans of Black Label beside the truck. Nope. Dead serious. That's the true story of this one.  There was something wrong with those guys.

Something wrong with us, too.

It is Friday night and I'm writing here with a feagle (that's a short foxhound who looks  a lot like a beagle) at my feet. I should be out having fun. I should be out with friends at a bar.

I'm here at the keyboard composing.

What is wrong with me? What is wrong with you? Why must we lock ourselves in the basement utility room and scribble passages about adventure in Peru instead of talking to someone in a social setting about going to Peru?

Well, Peru ... maybe not. It can be cold and Americans tend to pant like dogs down there.

I love Estes Park in Colorado. It's the gateway to the eastern part of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Great place at 7500 feet above sea level.

At attitude, I don't enjoy drinking. I go straight from having a couple drinks to hangover. No drunken revelry in-between. Drinking and now .... hangover.

Right. So back to this writing thing. Why are we drawn to this solitary devotion?

What is wrong with us?

It's got to be some sort of curse. I must have stepped on the wrong shadow. Must have.

Off to the prose. The story doesn't write itself.

Have a drink. Skip the hangover.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Amid the Ruins of Our Own Making

At left, an image of Whitby Abbey, ruins, as photographed by Juliet220 and hosted on wikicommons. This meets the criteria of a quality image.

I'm writing tonight. I've notes all over my desk that I've amassed solving a plot hole (Add Bob back at the cabin , give him a shotgun, put Lucious in a shipping container and find out what Diazepam tastes like).

The abbey was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII after his little falling out with the Pope.

Lesson: getting in the way can be a problem. More than that, your characters don't know when they are in the way of trouble.

I've off to write. Darkness won't last all night.

You know what I mean.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Night Writing, Morning Edits

At left, some of my working area.

It's a busy time. I'm walking back through my USCG Navigation Rules,  my Chapman Piloting and Seamanship, and now a replacement copy of Basic Coastal Navigation as my old copy got away from me. My Annapolis Book of Seamanship is downstairs by my bed.

I'm planning on sitting my navigation exam in December and it has been ... er ... several years since I had to pass such a course.

So, a little bit each day.

Which is where we are tonight.

I'm in composing mode. I have several tools to share that help with this task.

Toggl ( here ) is a free time tracking app that is free, has a mobile app component for all you app folks, and is completely free form. You pick the category,  hit start, and time "butt in chair" effort. If you are a words-per-day sort of person this isn't something you need.

After a good decade back in the chair, I find I do better not focusing on the stress-laden w-p-d count. I use a time-on-task count. It worked in school ( you spend three hours a day on statistical thermodynamics and your grades will go up markedly in that arcane subject as well).

While we're on it, let's talk composition and words.

I use Scrivener. ( here ) I love it. It has scene/chapter/project word count totals. It produces a dozen formats. It integrates with Dropbox if you should like (I just do a manual drag to my local Dropbox folder after a writing session and select an option to allow new-to-overwrite-old on copy. Syncing happens quickly and ... cloud backup achieved! Good enough.).

I format my Scrivener output in a custom wash with a couple of post-production Powershell scripts added in and I'm ready for a couple of my favorite LaTeX typesetting production formats. ( LaTeX here ).

I compose into the evening. I try and keep from working too late because, like you, I have a day gig.  That's important.

I edit in the morning with coffee in hand. I read aloud in my library and fix the immediate issues from the prior session. Sometimes I make notes and set the new material aside for an "immediate revision" session in the evening after a little thought.

I stick with this process until I am in a hole from which there is no escape. There aren't many of those anymore because I am willing to cast aside large volumes of ineffectual text if the blind rush of impulse has lead to .... dull.

Time discipline and stability in the mechanics of the writing process serve me well to keep my creative energy "on the page" and not in tampering with what the hell I'm trying to do: write.

I have no idea if this works for other people. I think a lot of you might be like that to: we have some idea of what works for us sometimes but we don't understand why and we don't understand what other writers do.

I did know one fellow who wrote in pencil starting each session with three sharpened #2 wooded beasties. He wrote until the pencils were dull enough that his longhand -- he wrote quite small -- was filled by the large flat loops of his script.

I'm an ink fellow for longhand because ink's contrast shows better in poor light.

As to why this process of mine and these lovely tools will from time to time fail me and I will go weeks without working on a single composition, I don't know. Sometimes I can no longer bear to sit at my desk and face my own writing for one minute more.

I know that over time, I'll come back to it.

I keep very good notes now so I can pick things up quicker the next time around if a spell of "absent heart" strikes me.

Keep the ink flowing. Night when everyone is in bed and morning before they are up makes for some productive volume if one is manic enough to keep the interest in place.