How I’m Progressing as a Writer

Timons Teaching
Timons Esaias in his element

I recently finished my 4th residency for my master’s program and I’ve had some time to reflect on my progress as a writer. I’ve enjoyed every residency but each has its own flavor. After the first one, I wasn’t really sure that the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction program was going to work out. I’d spent several years prior to starting the program trying to improve my skill and my knowledge-base about writing as a profession and I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new. My opinion on that changed after the second residency, but looking back now, I can see the cumulative effects of the program.

After each semester I’d taken stock of how much my writing skill had increased, if at all. After the semester that ended last winter, I felt I’d reached a new plateau, but after spending a full semester with Timons Esaias as my mentor, my skill seems to have gone up an order of magnitude, instead of incrementally. I more easily recognize patterns in writing that I couldn’t see before. Common mistakes that a lot of writers make, especially on the first draft, stand out like a strobing beacon. Continue reading “How I’m Progressing as a Writer”

Holiday events, life in the Moody House

I love Thanksgiving!  It has turned into probably my favorite holiday. My wife and I shop together and prep the stuffing and turkey together.  I love cooking with her. After the bird is in the oven we have about 4 hours to relax, and call family.  It would be great if we were all together but our family is spread all over the country. 

Today we watched a Kung Fu movie together, about one of Bruce Lee’s mentors. Grand Master Ip Man, starring Donnie Yen. It was really enjoyable. 

The turkey came out golden brown and perfectly moist and delicious, just like always and all the other fixins were hot, and scrumptious. The timing worked out just right.  We gorged!


Afterwards, I plugged in all my timers for the outdoor Christmas lights today, so the lights are on outside. We did all the prep work a few weeks ago when the weather was nice, got all our clean-up yard work done and all the outside decorations up. 

Over the course of the last few weeks my wife has been bringing out her plethora of wonderful Christmas decorations. She loves to decorate for Christmas and it really makes the house feel very festive. This year she got a great idea from one of her magazines, using candy in clear glass containers to make a beautiful decoration and we went with it. It is one of my favorite new things she added.  Also the White garland is new and both are captured in this shot.

My Nano adventure has been less than prolific but I am making progress. Unless I am struck by some sort of writing miracle I am not going to hit 50k by the end of November this year,  I just can’t  pump out ten thousands words in a day. My brain doesn’t seem to work that way. But I’m not giving up or getting upset about it, I just keep plugging along.

I did get excepted into my Master’s Program!  Yay me! I had to prep a ten page piece for critique.  I’m expecting to receive papers from all the other students in my class to critique before I show up in early January.  I also had a read a book for class, Fated by Alyson Noel, and I just finished it this week.  So, all told, I’ve been busy, with work on top of all that. I liked the book, it’s YA and supposed to be romance but it was light on romance.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and good luck to all you Nanoers out there!

Clear Ether!

Let That Thing Fester

The title of this post is so awesome that I feel like the post itself isn’t going to live up to it.  I actually thought of saving it for another post on the subject but I’m going to go with it anyway.  I’m having issues finding time for this currently, and I ‘m not proud of it.  I know I’ve been absent lately but I have been doing the job of three people at my day job (literally) and cramming for my Air War College Exam.  The good news is we have enough people back at work that I can get back to just doing my own job and I got the results back from my exam, which I passed with an excellent!  I’m only one test away from finishing now, so I’m buckling down to get through it and then I can refocus on finishing the edits for Clear Ether and get it out to some beta readers.

I actually had a little down time in there while I was waiting for the exam to be graded.  I was initially expecting four weeks of waiting but it only took four days.  At any rate, I had time to do some revision on the first few chapters after feedback from my alpha readers and I actually feel like I have enough distance now to see it like someone else wrote it.  I was able to make big cuts and move some stuff around and really focus the POV.  Getting that distance is key.  I got some great advice and some great feedback from my alphas, thank you!

When people tell you to put your manuscript in the drawer for a month or two and let it ferment, they aren’t kidding.  I did some preliminary editing after only a few days, but I was really having trouble seeing the errors.  Stacy can tell you I went off the reservation with the word “just”.  It was laughable how many times I used that word in one chapter alone.

As the creator you can often have a hard time detaching yourself from your own POV.  You already know everything that happened and all the background details and motivations, so when you go in to start your revisions you can’t divorce yourself from yourself (Austin Powers anyone?) without giving yourself enough time after the manuscript is finished.  Completing the manuscript is a huge thing.  A lot of writers never get there, so I’ve heard.  And I know I was excited, not because I finished the manuscript, but because I was one step closer to being published, and I wanted to get on with the revisions.  I’m here to tell you that you have to wait a bit before you take that next step.

The manuscript is near and dear to your heart.  You’ve invested a lot of energy and time getting to “The End”.  Carving up your baby is simply not feasible at that point.  Any believe me, it needs to be carved up and have great chunks removed and tossed in the waste bin. (Boneyard)  It’s like a grotesque turkey that has too many legs and wings and parts sticking out and it needs to be prepped and oiled and baked to perfection still.  But before you can do any of that you need to stick it somewhere dark, where you will leave it alone, and let it fester for a few months.  When you put it away it looked like a bright shiny baby, when it comes out it will look like Chucky, and you can stab it and carve it up.  I must be hungry.  Enough of the carving analogies.  You get the idea.

When you get it back out you will be able to see it as a work of literary fiction instead of “your precious”.  You can see the POV errors and the extra background that really isn’t germane to the story.  You can see the bad dialogue tags and the dreaded adverbs and poor word choices.  You can see the poorly written sentences, and maybe there are chapters that really don’t even need to be there.  At the very least they need to be massively trimmed and combined with another part somewhere else.  It is eye opening … really.  Put that sucker away!  Don’t touch it!  Ah..I see you going back to look at it, I said leave it alone.

Anyway, as an aside, I’m also in the process of applying for a Master’s program in writing, so I had to put some finishing touches on some writing and then write a Letter of Intent.  It was kinda fun actually. I’m shooting for the Seton Hill University Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction degree.  It is a distance learning program that will only require me to spend 5 days each semester on campus.  That works great for my busy lifestyle.   The cool thing is it is designed for you to have a publishable novel length book at the end of the program.  I’m very excited about it and have my fingers crossed to get in.  It’s a small Catholic university near Pittsburg, so it’s also driving distance, at least until I move.

I hope you are all having great fortune in your writing and reading!

Clear Ether!