I live in a world of kind baristas

I didn’t grow up with barista‘s or Pho or smart phones.

Wish I did.

Music was highly limited, tightly controlled by the labels and the cost of producing music. I’m listening to a cover of Steve Winwood’s Higher Love done simply on an acoustic guitar and solo voice. Achingly painful and beautiful. A sweet melancholy to go with my medium roast pour over.

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It’s a mid-February and mid cold for my town. I am at one of the cafe’s that makes me happy and oddly makes me feel that I have accomplished something by getting out of the house on a holiday at 730 AM.

But back to the Barista’s, briefly.

At this location the smiles are kind and warm. There is no dress code, except there is a dress code that the staff unconsciously adhere to – the code of cool – because that’s who they are. Similar but different.

The job application probably states kind but efficient.

It wouldn’t use the word “cool”. Cool is from an age past. When life and self expression was limited.  When conformity was mandatory and if you rebelled you all wore the same rebel uniform. The word rebellion doesn’t exist here. They have moved on. Grown beyond simple confrontation, ignoring the war against the rules and just be who they are as they find out.

Don’t mis-understand, they still struggle with the being human part. “Does he like me?” “Should I go out with them?” Their struggle is with finding out about life with fewer constraints and more dangers.  In the midst of their struggle, they work and are kind to aging want-to-be writers.

The Barista calls out, “Medium Roast pour-over“. I get up and look to the counter where a kind smile meets me, genuine, not a produced effect. They could have left to get back to work, the barista waited until I acknowledged the call, because it was the kind thing to do, the human thing to do.

Time to get back writing.

Be Well…dcd

 

 

Better to submit…

Well, for better or worse, the first submission is in.  For some reason I became roadblocked on being able to edit the story any further.  I knew there were, there are, parts that are just bad.

But, better to submit. The deadline was less than two weeks away and I knew that I was just going to procrastinate and not get any writing done. I am better for shipping it off then wasting time non-editing. Big thanks to Courtney for giving me the final kick and just send it in. She’s a Mom, gamer, writer and a member of WWP, my Monday night writing group.

Although this was just a short story, it showed me that there are many muscles to writing that I haven’t discovered yet.

Here’s the short list:

  • Just because I think that writing in second person is really cool. Doesn’t mean I can write in second person. Baby steps. First person, third person. The basics.
  • I had fun writing and researching the story. Writing is fun  and I enjoy it.
  • What ever “resistance” is, I understand that it is the enemy of the writer, more than writer’s block. In my case it impairs my writing more than lack of discipline. More on this in the coming weeks.
  • My wife is far more patient than I realized.

But why is it better to submit?

It’s better because submitting the story gets me one step closer to being a published writer. If you never submit you never get published. Part of being a writer is being published. For me, I know that I won’t get better unless I go through the whole of the process. You need all the skills of a writer to be a better writer and that includes the submission process. It means the idea, researching, outlining writing and editing phases are completed.

More importantly, it takes it out of my hands. I’m done with it. If by some miracle it gets accepted, then I will learn a whole new set of skills. Working with an editor. Which I will bore you all with.

It also forced me to write a cover letter for this anthology submission, including a short bio. One thing I have learned is that many writers, hate bio’s. Hate is not strong enough for some of them. It is a reality of being a writer in this day age. Here’s mine, feel free to laugh, I know I did.

Douglas had his first detention in kindergarten for colouring outside the lines. It was also his last. (The jury is still out if this was good or bad)

A remedial reader until the summer between Grade six and Grade seven, when his concerned parents bought him a subscription to Sports Illustrated. (Pre-Swim Suit Era thank-you very much). 

In grade seven he discovered he was an advanced reader and found Heinlein. He proceeded to devour all manners of Science Fiction and Fantasy. His selfie with Guy Gavriel Kay this past summer is one of his treasures. We all need heroes, especially in this day and age. 

An unpublished writer currently, his primary goal for this writing year are rejections for his novels “Engine Failure – Book One of the System War” and “Markaz: The First City” (Book one of the Four Magics Series). All authors he respects have rejections.

By day Douglas works in Information Systems at a Law Firm. At night he writes when his cat Jaeger allows. Unless he is playing Uber Driver for his youngest son. 

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Be Well… dcd

Submissions…

Working hard on submissions. But what does that mean for dcdear?

First I have to get the piece written and presentable to one of the two writing groups I partake in: The Western Word Slingers or We Will Publish.

The Slingers meet m20171214_193507 (2)onthly and are more of a critique group. The WWP try and meet weekly for a write-in and communicate in a free Slack group on various writing topics. Each of them have different requirements for submission that I try to follow, not always successfully.

On the January list for the Slingers in the Prologue for a Steam Punkish Space Opera which I am pretty excited about. The words came easily and flowed pretty well. This is in the submission folder.

The WWP get a short story that I am struggling with. It will be submitted to try and make it into an Anthology. I may just post the hackneyed version and get the advice from the group. It certainly isn’t completely working yet.

But overall the goal is to get three novels submitted and hopefully rejected.

Rejected? Why do you say rejected?

Every author that I have read about has received rejections before being published and so I have determined that you must be rejected before being accepted.

Given my scatter gun approach to writing I will be looking at what overlapping tasks I can do to make the submission process smoother. Given this is a Thursday, I should be outlining. Which I will do.

One last note, I have the dreaded ManCold, therefore there is high probability I will spend the day on the coach watching re-runs of spongebobsquarepants.

The Great Snifler

dcdear

Be Well.

Interlude…

Pristine cut glass snow-flakes reflect prisms of light in the sharp air that bites at my skin.

Blinding bright sun, low at midday, brings a smile to my face and closing eyes can’t see the crystals of ice from my breath, but ears can hear the distant laughter.

In my mind I see the ruby red cheeks of children sledding on twists and turns on the dapple lit forest path. Bursting free into the New Year.

 

The corollary of you have to be excited about your writing…

I have to be excited about my outline.

One of the lessons I learned from NaNoWriMo this year was I don’t have enough outline. What got me through was Mary Robinette Kowal’s, “No Prep NaNo” class. When I bogged down I went back to my class notes and followed her advice. The second action I took was to make a note of what bogged me down. More often than not it was the lack of outline, I was missing the “Ok-What happens next?” syndrome. Once I had this the writing was straight forward and oddly exciting.

Before I continue I want to point out something that I have learned over the last while, don’t argue with established bona fide experts. I paid money to take the class. I try not to argue or disagree with experts on writing. I do my homework by checking out the expert. And move forward taking their advice. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but at least I know that from experience. I find what works for me, but I don’t spend time re-inventing the wheel. But that’s me, it might not be you.

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Back to the corollary…

I have discovered that it’s work to write an exciting outline. I am aware of the forms, the three-act structure, the seven point plot, the MACE quotient, etc. What I am learning is the details of outlining. How to get the parts of your outline to weave together? I know I want my main character to have a love interest. But what are the details of that romance and how does it weave through the core of the story? I want my character to fail at succeeding at their main goal. It’s part of any good story. How does that integrate with developing secondary character who is an integral part of the story? And how do all of these elements mesh into a cohesive whole that reinforce the underlying theme of the novel?
I suspect for experienced author’s, this is straight forward process. For someone learning to write, it’s like exercising a muscle you didn’t know you had. It hurts, and it hurts more the next day.

The basic advice still follows, get your butt in a chair and write or outline. But just doing repetitions without examining the exercises you are doing is wasted effort. You can do all the sit-ups you want. But if you do them wrong you end up with neck and back pain with NO abs.

Ok, dcd, what are exercises are you doing? Good ones?

I hope so. But I am following the concept from workouts, High-intensity interval training (HIIT). What in the Sam hell does that mean?

Workouts, exercising these days evolves around working specific muscles very hard and then resting them. The next day you work a different set of muscles, very hard. And you have rest days. You match this with a proper diet and you end up being fit.

Unlike the problems with getting the details into my outlines, I can schedule. I would say  “Project Management” but I just felt eyes roll and glass over, and not in a good way. A simple schedule to work the different parts of my writing muscles with a focus on outlining. Cheese cake. (I’ll be right back, desert is calling)

Schedule

  • Monday – WWP Writing Group – Outline
  • Tuesday – Solo at home writing
  • Wednesday – Rest Day (Board Game Group)
  • Thursday – Outline (Once a Month WWS Writing Group)
  • Friday – Critiques for Writing Groups
  • Saturday – Writing
  • Sunday – Rest Day or Cardio…

Ok, smart guy, what are you going to consume to help this regime?

Core writing “foods”

  • Writing Excuses Podcast, IMO, the best podcast out there.
  • The Prolific Writer Podcast
  • Monthly Writing Class
  • Monthly Writing Prompt
  • Weekly Writing Group Writing Session
  • Audio Books in genre

Lastly and most importantly, tracking.

All sorts of studies show that if you track what you are doing, if you measure your work, you get better results.(Don’t take my word for it) And so I will build a spreadsheet or Trello Card or add something to a food tracker to measure what gets done. Most likely they will be “ToDo’s” in a calendar. Perhaps the website will contain micro updates…

As I re-read this now, other than all the typo’s, I see way too aggressive goals. But I know it’s OK to fail.

“Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” ~ Henry Ford

Be Well…dcd

Interlude…

Sometimes I need to stop typing and write with pen on paper. It’s not the words. It’s the sound of nib on paper. TDoorReSizehey rhyme and beat of the pen scrapping paper. Words of the same length come out in staccato beat that resonates with my soul. And then the change from print to cursive. The pen and paper become a different instrument. The sound is just as pleasing. Once I resonant with the sound my eyes come into play I try to focus on clear beautiful script. I fail most often here. Moments become infinity for me and I disconnect from time, there is only pen and paper.

 

Be Well…dcd

What I learned from NaNoWriMo 2017

With a strange sense of satisfaction, I find myself writing this blog post before the end of November.  I learned a lot about myself and my writing this during NaNoWriMo this year.

Here goes:

Special Award: Mary Robinette Kowal’s “No NaNoPrep” course was invaluable.

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Number One – I need more plot and structure to write.  I didn’t have enough material prepared, from incidental character names, to plot points, to the details of my characters.

Number Two: Don’t have to race to the next plot point. I worked to enjoy the scene I was writing.  There is more to improve on this. I also believe this is a weakness in my writing.

Number Three: Taking time to introduce my characters properly to the reader, makes them easier to write.

Numero Cat: I write the most words during word sprints at coffee shops, with an outline of the scene and alone.  Word sprints help me write, better, quicker, faster.  Make the  best use of my time. Having an outline of the scene or section I am writing generates greater output.  Once I start writing at a coffee shop I am highly productive. I write the best when I am alone focusing on what i need to do. While it is good fun and helpful to write with others, I am less productive. One of my goals is to have a higher output of words. Currently I average around 1200 – 1500 word an hour.  I want to get that much higher.  Once again more on this in an upcoming blog.

Number Five: Working with a soundtrack helps. I need to look at using different soundtracks for different sections. Instrumentals work best.

Number Six: Netflix is my friend. During breaks from writing, watching a TV show in the same genre helps to keep me grounded. I need to test this out more to be sure. Not movies, series. I don’t binge watch Netflix. If you binge watch, then I would suggest that this is bad tip for you.

Lucky Number Seven: Writing podcasts, like “The Prolific Writer” and “Writing Excuses” help my motivation. A LOT, LIKE A TON!

Number Eight: I don’t know how you become a writer without a writing group. The information and encouragement from a writing group should be mandatory for all writers, regardless of proficiency level. Thanks to Courtney, Lou, Melissa, Morena and Sharelene for keeping me on the straight and narrow.

Number Nine: (no not the Beatles song) Coffee shops. Lovely, pretentious,  coffee shops. My thanks go out to : http://iconoclastcoffee.com/ , http://remedycafe.ca/ , and https://www.transcendcoffee.ca/

There must be some deep psychological reason I love writing at coffee shops. A misplaced idealistic dream about what it means to be a writer? But Damn it, I love writing at coffee shops.

Be Well…dcd