1,000 Words A Day...

…To Create A Writing Empire

Author: BigW (Page 1 of 18)

Getting to 50,000 Words – Outlining

I always thought of myself as a “start with a blank page and see what happens” kind of writer. Y’know follow the stream of consciousness and see what the muse tells me.

It didn’t work out too well for me.

I read mostly horror, action/adventure and suspense/thriller’s. For the first three years I tried to write a story in one of these genres using the ‘blank page’ method. Each time, I’d run into a situation where I didn’t know where to go with the story after the first week or two. I’d lose ground every day as I struggled to think of what to do. Eventually I’d hit a wall and stop.

The other thing that happened to me is that while writing one story, another one would pop into my head and I’d think, “Oh man, that’s a much better story. I know where to go with that”. So, I’d stop work on my current story and start over with the new one. Yep, you guessed it; I’d go off the rails with the new story and come to a grinding halt – again.

I gave up on the ‘blank page‘ method, as I finally had to admit I didn’t have that sort of creativity – as I once believed I had. I looked at what happened the previous three years and a clear pattern emerged and so did the answer.

  1. Whenever I wrote a story without a map or plan as a guide, explaining what it’s about or where I am going with it; I’d get lost and stop.
  2. Without a map or plan to follow there was no focus. I was easily distracted, going off on tangents – where again I’d lose my way and give up in frustration.

I often heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. I took this to heart when I started to rebuild my dismal financial situation ten years ago – and it worked.

For some reason, I never put the suggestion of that saying to use in my writing. That is until NaNoWriMo 2004.

In October 2004, I knew I wanted to write a road trip/adventure story loosely based on a cross-country trip I took with friends in the ’80’s. I used the month of October to figure out where to start the story, and where it would end. I outlined the story as a a series of events/scenes with conflicts to overcome. I mapped out the towns and areas the events would take place – setting the scenes. I then put a lot of thought and work into creating the four main characters of the story.

By the time November 1st arrived, I had the story pretty well mapped out. I knew where it was going to start, I knew who was in it, I knew where it was going, and I knew how it was going to end. I had the frame or bones of the story, all I needed to do was to flesh it out.

This time the writing was much easier and more consistent. I was often ahead of the 1,667 words-per-day goal. During the writing, new ideas for the story did appear and temporarily took me off the original path, but only as a scenic overlook. Each time the side trip came back to the original route and the story continued.

There is nothing (in writing) like hitting the 50,000 word mark for the first time. You get a real sense of accomplishment when you realize you wrote 175 pages of a story in just 30-days.

Outlining the story served as a clear guide of where to start, where to go and how to get there. With a little perseverance and determination, the outline helped maintain the Focus needed to see the story to its end.

How do you ensure you’ll finish your story by November 30th?

 


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Passing Pennsylvania

 

At the age of 20, living in Long Island, New York, my two best friends and I came up with the idea of a cross-country road trip on the whim of a joke. Two of us were in dead-end jobs and the other was in a job that was sucking the life out of his youth. 

When we decided we were serious about the trip, I immersed myself in the planning process. I was totally psyched to go on this adventure and create this part of my story. As the time to leave drew closer, the doubters and disbelievers came out in force. Almost all of our friends and family members to a person didn’t think we’d go – and if we did, we wouldn’t make it out to California. Days before we left, one of the closest, most important people in my life told me, “You’ll never make it. You’ll get to the end of Pennsylvania, turn around in Pittsburg and come home.” 

That just pissed me off. Everyone who doubted us, who said we’d fail – pissed me the hell off. It showed how little they thought about us and what we were capable of. 

On the first night we did go as far as Pittsburg and stayed at a friend’s house for the night. The next day we left Pittsburg and Pennsylvania. We spent the next 22 days traveling across the United States and back having one of the best experiences of our lives. 

That same person who doubted I’d complete the trip later told me I was really irresponsible. I didn’t think so, but over the years I became a very responsible person – ending up doing the best of everyone under that person’s influence. Once again I proved that person wrong. 

Recently, that same person now said I was taking too much responsibility for my children’s futures at the expense of own. That person stated I would end up broke living in Section 8 housing when I was in my seventies. 

Man that pisses me off. 

I am bound and determined to prove this person wrong again and this time I will shove it in their face – telling them “I told you so – over and over.” Nothing motivates me than a person who supposedly loves me, doubts me so much.

Winter Hurricane

That was some wild-ass weather last night.

We didn’t get snow. For us it was a huge wind and rain event. We lost power just after 7 and it’s still out. It was reported it could be a week before we get power back.

Just about midnight a humongous gust of wind, that had to be of hurricane force, battered the house and then I heard a sound I’ve come to fear and loathe from last year’s ice storm, the sound of trees KRRRAAAACKING and thundering to the ground.

One of those falling trees shook the house. A large pine broke in half and hit the corner of the roof over my bedroom. Thankfully, Steve and I were in Sarah’s room when it happened. Looking at it this morning I could see obvious damage to the roof and part of the siding, but it’s not too bad. There were no signs of a leak on my bedroom ceiling.

In addition to that, there was another huge, intimidating pine I always feared that if it fell it would destroy the house starting with my bedroom. Last night it fell.

We were really lucky. That huge pine and another one behind it were completely uprooted and fell straight across the entire back yard – just missing the deck. It did, however, pound Stephen’s trampoline into the ground.

Trying to drive into town in the morning was a challenge – just like last year. I had to make several detours as some roads were closed due to fallen trees or flooding. There were other streets where I was able to skirt around the ends of the trees, and drive through creeks now running across the road.

Unlike last year, this time I was able to get to Home Depot early enough to snag one of the last 18-inch chainsaws they had – but they had already run out of generators. So now I have my weekend “cut” out for me.

Steinbeck 50 Years Ago

50 years ago this coming fall, John Steinbeck embarked on a road trip with his French poodle Charley, on a tour to “find America” in 1960.

Steinbeck traveled the U.S. in a specially built pickup truck with a camper attachment in the bed of the truck. He dubbed it “Rocinante” – after the hapless Don Quixote’s horse (written by Cervantes).

I recently visited our library and found they had an original 1962 issue of Travels with Charley: In Search of America. It showed every one of it 48 years of being on the shelf.

I first read Travels with Charley some twenty years ago. After re-reading it I felt like I saw it with new eyes from a whole new perspective and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although I can’t take 3 months off to travel the route Steinbeck did, I am planning a long weekend trip to follow the same route Steinbeck did, at least through the New England portion of the trip.

I don’t think I’ll go all the way down to Long Island and start from Sag Harbor, taking the ferry back. I think I’ll just go down to Groton, CT, and start from there. I’ll follow his route through Massachusetts, up into Maine and to Deere Isle of course. Then I’ll go up to the northern most part of Maine, over to NH and through VT. If I have the time (and the inclination) I might head over to Niagara, New York.

In beginning my research to try and replicate Steinbeck’s route as closely as possible, I found an original vintage 1960 Shell Station Northeastern United States Road Map, at an antique store. It only cost $7.50 and I should get it in the mail in a week or so.

I think starting out on September 23rd, as he did, would be a colorful time of year to travel this route in this region of the country.


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J.D. Salinger has Died at 91

We lost Robert Parker last week and now this week we lose the famous J.D. Salinger.

To be honest, I had not known he was still alive. I read that he lived in Cornish, New Hampshire but thought he had passed away a while ago.

Late last year, I picked up Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged’ to re-read as it didn’t make much sense to me as a teenager. I enjoyed it so much this time around, I decided to go back and read other classics I did not appreciate when I was younger.

I was in our town library looking for something else to read when a paperback copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ caught my eye on a display table among works by the Brontë sisters and Jack Kerouac.

As a kid, I just couldn’t get into Holden Caulfield’s ramblings. Over the past couple of decades of reading; references to “Catcher” kept popping up all of the time. I decided to re-visit this classic.

Here’s the odd coincidence. I checked it out on Tuesday, January 26th, and began reading it that night. The very next day on the 27th, is when word crossed the newswires that J.D. Salinger had just passed away at the age of 91.

His obituary revealed he only published four books and had not published one since 1965. JD may only be known for “Catcher” and had not produced a book in 45 years, but his one classic piece of literature has incredible staying power.

I loved the local news stories about JD, on how the townsfolk of Cornish protected the aging author from fans looking for him. They went to great lengths to hide where their famous “regular guy” neighbor lived.

They made a game of it. All of the folks in the tiny community would give every would-be visitor wrong directions. They gave directions that led out of town or to dead ends and dirt road to no where. Frustrated, the seekers of Salinger would give up and leave. No outsider was ever made privy to Salinger’s true residence.

Once people in the town even took to directing all traffic to a man who was a high profile criminal for a while. It drove him crazy.

With Mr. Salinger joining the ranks of so many other great writer’s relegated to history, the excited speculation now is what writings may exist that he never wanted released while he was alive?

There’s no real evidence if he ever wrote another word of story again – it’s all pure speculation. I do hope he wrote a lot, and I hope there’s at least one more classic among the writings that carry on his legacy.

Now it’s on to read his classic work to see why it is such a highly regarded piece of literature.

His story is over and well lived.

Robert B. Parker has Died at 77

He died suddenly today. He was 77.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/01/mystery_novelis.html

I used to walk past his beautiful and unique home almost every day when I worked in Cambridge. I was lucky enough to meet him once several years ago.

It was a beautiful early summer day. He was walking towards me on Ash St., with a small bag in his hand looking as though he had come from one of the local shops on Brattle St. It just so happened that we ended up face-to-face at the front gate to his home.

I said, “Hello Mr. Parker. I don’t want to bother you other than to say I really like and appreciate your novels.”
He said, “Thank you, it’s never a bother when someone likes my work.” He shook my hand as he said it. He then added, “Enjoy this beautiful day.”
I said, “I will and hope you do the same.”
“I will from the comfort of my writing desk”, he said.

With a wave it was over. He went into his house and I continued up the block. I then stopped short. I wanted to kick myself. I had always promised if I ever got a chance to meet Robert Parker, I’d ask him why he only had one gargoyle on the second story balcony. Now I’ll never know…

This pic is the front gate at which we met. Notice the lone gargoyle on the right side of the upper balcony.

Home of Robert B. Parker

I Shrugged

Over the last year of the Bush administration and this first one of the Obama administration, I kept having the nagging feeling that I had read about what is currently happening – once before.

I remember reading something where the U.S. government asserts control over major industries and corporations for the “good of the people”.

A couple of months ago, I was watching Harry Reid make an ass of himself again talking about how taxes are “voluntary”, when it occurred to me that the story, the book I was thinking about was one I tried to read when I was 19 or 20. It was Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’.

I remembered it was a large book. During those years of idealistic beliefs and lack of life experience, I didn’t “get it”. I read about half of the book before I lost interest. Apparently it did make some sort of impression, as it stayed with me all these years as I recognized the parallels that are occurring today.

I found the book at the library, and it took me a couple of weeks to read it. This time it made complete sense to me and I consider it the most important novel I have ever read.

It’s uncanny how what was written about in a novel of fiction – 50 years ago – is happening in reality today. I’m a free market, small government guy –so this book really speaks to me.

I know a lot of people who don’t really understand it (or have read it) will really understand the whole “greed” part, but I do. Besides that, the quote that really lives with me is the one the heroes speak when they truly understand (paraphrased slightly):

I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another person, nor ask another person to live for the sake of mine.”

This spotlighted a problem in my life I’ve had for a very long time. It woke me up to the fact that you can’t live your life solely for the sake of others. You have to live it for YOU – first and foremost.

This quote, this thought, has set my mind and soul free in ways I had not expected.

The Meaning of Christmas

Well, here’s another Christmas Season and some folks are all up in arms about whether or not to allow the term “Merry Christmas” to be displayed in public places and in stores.

As you guys know, I had absolutely no religious upbringing – so follow no faith whatsoever.

With that said, here’s what “Merry Christmas” means to me.

First off, I just like the look and sound of “Merry Christmas”. It’s a happy, festive, warm and inviting phrase.

Christmas brings to mind Norman Rockwell images of Santa Claus, colorful decorations and lights, show specials and movies, Christmas trees and presents, colors, scents and good food, anticipation and happiness. More importantly, all my life, I’ve noticed that during the Christmas Season people are more friendly and neighborly towards one another. They smile at each other more and seem to be in a better mood. It’s a time of reflection. It’s a time of gathering with family and friends. A time of giving and a time of warm, heartfelt greetings. This is what Christmas means to me.

The thing I don’t understand about all the hoopla is – Christmas is and always has been a Christian holiday. I never understood why other faith’s get upset when they are not represented during Christmas. It’s never been demanded they neutralize the terminology of their faith’s holidays…

Oh well, in any case…

Merry Christmas !
~Werner~

How to Avoid Getting a Ticket

Coming in this morning, I get off the highway and am on the final road leading to our campus. The car in front and to the left of me begins to brake and speed up erratically. I’m figuring, ‘What the hell is the matter with this person? Is he on a cell, is he texting – what?’

As I needed to get in that left lane I got annoyed, I picked up speed, passed him and signaled the lane change.

Cop. On the far right side of the road down the hill. That’s why he was braking.

I was so busy paying attention to that car I didn’t see the cop until after I passed the car. By that time it was too late. He gave me the lights as I entered the left turn only lane. I put on the interior light, waved acknowledgement to him, waited for the light to change and then parked under a street light off the main road, rolled down my window and kept my hands on top of the steering wheel where he could see them.

He said, “Please hand me your license and registration. What was with that erratic lane change and cutting the other guy off? Are you going to deny you did that? I was watching you.”

I wanted to say ‘I put plenty of distance between me and the other car before switching lanes, and that I was never behind the guy in the first place and the only way you could see me was through your side view mirror – so how well could you see since it was dark and the headlights were coming toward you.’ BUT I didn’t say any of that.

What I did say was, “No, I’m not going to say that. I just didn’t know what the other driver was doing hitting the brakes, speeding up and hitting the brakes again. I thought he was texting”

The cop said, “He was braking because he saw me, because he was doing over 40. Do you know how fast you were going?”

“Honestly…I don’t.” I said.

“You were doing 58.” the Cop said. “Speed and impatience kills everyone.”

“You’re right.” I said.

He took my documentation to the cruiser while I sat there looking away from the road as all the other Fido employees drove by.

After only a couple of minutes, he walked back up and said, “I’m just going to issue you a warning for the lane change. Watch your speed and be more patient.”

He made my day and I was eternally thankful. I said, “I will and thanks.”

A Lesson to Live By

Back in the early 90’s someone brought a small book to work, written by an ex-cop explaining how to get out of tickets. That book has paid of in spades over the years. This was the fifth time I was able to drive away from a traffic stop with just a warning.

The essential lessons from the book are:

  • When being pulled over at night, turn on your interior light. A cop hates walking up on a dark car.
  • With the light on wave in the rearview mirror to acknowledge you see him.
  • Find a safe, well-lit place (if possible) to pull over or pull off the road. You’re trying to make the cop feel safe.
  • Roll the window down and keep your hands on top of the steering wheel. Again it’s to make him feel safe.
  • Feed his ego. Remain calm, honest and respectful.
  • DON’T Argue – It never works. They think they are always right and to suggest otherwise is to lose.
  • DON’T Make Excuses – They’ve heard any and every excuse you could ever dream up.
  • NEVER Lie – They already think everyone lies to them anyhow, so it’s pointless and you never get away with it.

If you can swallow your pride and do these things, it can work in your favor. It has worked 5 out of the 6 times I’ve been pulled over since reading that book 15+ years ago.

The other thing the book talks about is that IF you do get a ticket. Fight it. Fight every one. By showing up with a professional demeanor, you stand a high chance of getting it lowered or dismissed altogether.

That 6th ticket I got? I went to court and got it lowered from a $175 fine to $85 and from a 2 point violation to 1.

The things I learned in that book has saved me hundreds of dollars (maybe even a couple of grand) over the years between avoiding fines and increased insurance premiums .

Hope you folks never need it, but if you do, put it into action. It does work.

The Truth on How to Write a Book

This is article is on best selling author Scott Berkum’s blog . In short it’s excellent:

Every author I know gets asked the same question: How do you write a book?…

Here’s the short honest truth: 20% of the people who ask me are hoping to hear this – Anyone can write a book. They want permission. Truth is you don’t need any. There is no license required. No test to take…

Being famous and wealthy: Now this is the kicker. About 50% of the time the real thing people want to know is how to become a famous millionaire rock-star author dude. As if a) I qualified, b) I could explain how it happened, or c) I’d be willing to tell.

Read the entire article at Scott’s blog

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