Sunday, February 15, 2009


Okay... well... yeah. So it's been a few days since I've blogged... but that's because it's been a few days since I've written.

Truth is that I was searching in my head how to rewrite the novel with the new tone that captured my wife's interest (see previous entry). Easier said than done. I had to rethink the direction, the motivation of the characters, the life experiences. I feel that I can salvage about 80% of what I had done. But the work is large.

It wasn't until late last night that I thought of the angle. Couple of keys for me:
  • Start each Part with a solid start (no build ups... start with energy). Needs to be the explosion that keep the reader hooked
  • Not too many chapters per part
  • Not too many words per chapter
  • Maintain energy level and keep the suspense levels high
This to me is key. I want the narrative to be fast, enjoyable and suspenseful. Twists and turns as often and varied as my imagination can generate.

I got two new chapters in today and I'm very happy with them. These are the intro chapters to one of two protagonists. These new chapters allow me to hook and move into the existing chapters. Now I have to edit considerably.

Fun stuff!

Date: Feb. 15th, 2009
Word Increase/(Decrease): 2,107
Current Word Count: 55,781

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Smiles everyone, smiles

It worked. The prologue that I wrote last night got the thumbs up from my wife!

One of my guides is Stephen King's "On Writing." In it, he tells the up-and-coming author that there should be that one reader that is your primary reader. The one that reads your first draft of the manuscript. In many ways, he argues, that you're writing for that person. For me, that's my wife.

I printed out the prologue (~1,000 words) and asked her to read it. She read it in the car as I drove. She had her red marker in hand (she's a teacher... she can't help it). When she was done, she said "Excellent. That was really good. You hooked me. I want to know what happens next." For those that know my wife, they'll tell you that she doesn't mince words. She calls it the way she sees it. Good news is if she tells me she likes something, she really does. Bad news is that when she says she doesn't like something, there's not "Kinda like, or sorta' like." You will get the news with all the zits and warts and hair on it.

But I got to tell you, that felt good. And I told her that. She was surprised that I had so much doubt. I suppose it's very common for writers to have self doubt. At least I hope it's common because I find that I question my sanity every other day (okay every day but who's counting). She's used to seeing me in my "day job" where I have all the confidence and comfort that is possible within my profession. 

In any event, this tells me that I can lure the reader and that this tone of voice works. So I have to overlay this type of writing over everything that I've written. But first, I will draw out the way there. How will the story adopt this tone throughout the tale? In my other life, I call this design work.

Date: Feb. 8th, 2009
Word Increase/(Decrease): 87
Current Word Count: 53,674

Saturday, February 7, 2009

One small step for...

A good day. Once the kids and wife were sleep ( 9:07 PM for those keeping track) I went to the office. I looked at the next chapter that I wanted to edit. I thought about it and felt embarrassed that I would have to post a blog saying that I did the same thing again. 

Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

The result I want is to start the book off on the right note. Hook the reader right off the bat so that they read through the rest of the novel.

So I stared at a blank page for a couple of minutes and erased a couple of lines. This is my prologue. So it needs to set the right tone. And as I imagined what the scene would look like, I started describing the place, the smells and the situation. The rest flowed naturally. 

I felt good when I was done. I will probably edit it for a month before I show it to my wife. I'm almost serious. The reality is that I have set a rather suspenseful tone, a somewhat macabre one at that. I need to check my tone through the rest of the novel. Everything needs to flow.

Date: Feb. 7th, 2009
Word Increase/(Decrease): 969
Current Word Count:53,587

Friday, February 6, 2009

Avoiding the Obvious

It's been one of those weeks (if it sounds like an excuse...). Since I started this blog, I have had only one opportunity to write... today (... and smells like an excuse...). The week was filled with unexpected turns at work that called on me to work late nights (... then chances are...). Duty calls. (Yup! Excuse!)

In my first entry I mentioned that I was in a bit of a funk. My wife read the first two chapters and she gave me some feedback that I used as an excuse to slack off instead of move forward. The key thrust of her comment was that the start doesn't capture her (in marketing we call this stickiness). It's interesting, but not captivating. This is not what a weak ego wants to hear.

What I had secretly wanted to hear was: "Ara... this is so damn good! I can't wait to read the rest!"

I obviously wanted to tell her that she was wrong. Because dang it, I'm building it up. I'm introducing you to new characters, I'm... I'm.... full of it. She was dead on. I've been on and off working on this novel for about four years. I know the twist and turns. The reader has no clue and if I don't bite them fast, they will not want to read the next chapter.

So I've used this as my favorite excuse to avoid writing. "I need to ponder this matter," I've told myself, and apparently I was buying it. I haven't done anything since. And I as I've said before this blog is my therapy.

Now I've come up with a good start, at least the concept came to me... but I have yet to put my Mac to work and command my fingers to spawn the tale as I see in my mind's eye. So today I finally got to the Mac and what did I do? I started editing Chapters 38-40. I avoided the real issue. I need to get this story to explode from page 1... but I'm sleepy now... you see I didn't sleep well last night. I had heartburn, indigestion--What? This sounds like an excuse? Hmmm... so it is. So it is...

Date: Feb 6, 2009
Word Increase/(Decrease): 180
Current Word Count: 52,618

Monday, February 2, 2009

Here we are...

I admit it: I am a professional technologist. I enjoy what I do. I hold a master's degree in business from USC. I've launched a successful technology start up. I've worked for a couple of world class companies. I love to lead my team towards extraordinary results.

...But certain things are coded in your DNA and try as I did, I could not take the desire to tell stories out of my blood. Story telling continues to pop up in my life. Let me explain.

In 1997 I was shopping around a concept for a video game. It was great fun. Got a great agent, was spreading the word, a publisher was very interested... but in the end I didn't get the right team in place fast enough to respond to the needs of the publisher. More importantly I discovered something in the process. I loved telling stories that were unexpected and funny. My concept paper and presentation was based on this fact and it worked. My first hint that maybe writing was in my blood.

Through this effort I was found by a director of documentaries who wanted to do a pilot for kids programming and he needed a segment writer for video games. I wrote a couple of pieces that he incorporated into the pilot.

A couple of years later I thought I would write a novel... why not? I gave up after about 5,000 words. It felt like I was creating a comic book character... no, not a good one. Two dimensional characters that were more cliché than interesting. Not ready for prime time...

When my wife and I were expecting our first child, I wanted some professional help with the nursery. Since I didn't want to pay for it, I decided to see if HGTV would be interested. I completed the application for the show "Design on a Dime." Within three days I got a call. Before I knew it the producer and the team were in our house discussing the project. I'll never forget it when the producer asked me "Are you a writer?". I paused not sure why she would say that. Then she said, "Your application was so funny that it caught our attention."

In 2004, I had the audacity to start writing a story about our two cats Ernie and Oscar. It was shortly after Oscar passed away that I got the inspiration to write a fictional story about them. We always felt that there was something magical and divine about this little furry guy that showed up at our door begging for food. 20,000 words into it and I hit the wall. I guess changing jobs (and careers) after 10 years with Hitachi had something to do with it. My focus was my new career.

Then, in November of 2008, something bit me again. It was very innocent. I was in the bathroom (it's true... I can't help it) reading a recent issue of Mac World. The article was about applications for authors. As soon as I was done (get used to this...) I started looking up the applications that were reviewed. Before I know it, I was reading my story about the cats.

I didn't like some of the chapters, but wasn't sure I was ready to make the commitment. So I opened up my old copied of Writer's Digest and listened to Stephen King's On Writing. Man, the bug was biting me and biting me hard. I went up to my wife and said, "I am going to start writing again." She looked at me and said, "Okay."

With that pep talk I downloaded Scrivner and started to populate my last draft into the tool. I set a goal of 600 per day. Don't give me lip about that. I have two kids (almost 3 and almost 5 1/2) that sleep late (10 PM) and wake up early (5:30 AM). I get to write from 10 PM to 11 PM where I almost throw up on the keyboard because I am so tired.

I am now at 52,000 words and I'm worried. I am done with draft one but all the doubts are coming to the party. Also, I shared my first three pages with my wife and got a lukewarm reception. I got some soul searching to do here and I've decided that the best therapy is writing it out.

Thanks for joining the ride…

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