Writing on a deadline

I have achieved the American dream: One wife. One house. Two children. A dead-end soul sucking corporate job. My only legacy will be words.

Writing on a deadline.  After more than sixty years on this earth, much of that time spent writing meaningless drivel for others, I am finally writing for myself.  More than just desiring to write, I am compelled to write.  And I am compelled to write under a deadline.  And that’s alright.  I’ve done some of my best work under pressure.  And nothing provides pressure like knowing that your life has an expiration date.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not expecting to cash in anytime soon.  The thing is that since I had heart surgery last year, I have become increasingly aware about the importance of time and how it’s spent.  I mean, sitting around watching Netflix is fine, but creating stories that describe my thoughts, beliefs, and experiences is much more important to me.

Men spend their whole lives hiding themselves away under the cover of masculinity or propriety or societal expectations, and I’m through with that.  I write what I need to, and when I need to, because while I dance like no one is watching, the content of my stories is the one thing that I have complete control over.

So, does that mean that I’m giving up on the world to immerse myself in fiction?  Of course not.  The future, whatever it may be, is there for me.

Since our society demands that you can’t get nothing for nothing, I’m still working the same miserable job—and monetizing this blog by allowing certain ads—because someday I’d like to at least break even.  And I have my family whom I love and would be lost without.  Finally, I have a file of forty or fifty stories I need to finish and publish.  All these are forward looking, as I continue to be.

Looking forward, what’s next?  I’m about 38,000 words into my next novel (tentatively called ‘Clarice’), and what a ride.  And it is a ride, because quite often I have no idea where we’re headed until we get there.  I guess that’s the difference between deciding to write a novel and being compelled to write it.

Deciding to write a novel is like technical writing—and some writers do this very successfully.

  • Decide on the genre and plot.
  • Create and outline or a template.
  • Create the setting for the action.
  • Create your characters, including detailed physical descriptions and backstory.
  • Plug everything into the outline or template.
  • Edit, reedit, publish.

Compulsion to write a novel is more like having a fever—you just have to ride it out until it’s done with you.

  • Wake in the middle of the night with a thought that might be a story thread and scratch it down on the notepad you keep by the bed.
  • A few weeks or a year later, read about something, or hear about something, that triggers a relationship with your late-night thought.
  • Mull over the relationship for a few days, until it grabs you and you find yourself scribbling notes down on a notepad, envelope, or any paper that’s handy.
  • Start writing from your notes. Add more words.  Any words will do.  Write more and more, remembering that it doesn’t have to make sense to you, not yet.
  • Step away. Have a drink.  Mow the yard.  Watch some TV.  Do this until your mind is completely absorbed by the story swirling in your mind.
  • Return to writing. Feel the characters ooze out of your pores onto the page.  Close your eyes and see where they are.  Become overwhelmed by their emotions and desires.
  • Give the writing over to the characters, let them drive the plot, let them drive your fingers.
  • When you can catch your breath—assuming you and your characters survived—edit, reedit, publish.

Which is it for you—decision or compulsion?  Do you have forever or are you under a deadline to finish?  What makes you put down the TV remote and grab your pen?  What makes your creative juices flow from your mind to your page?  And when are you going to get that story published?

So many questions, so little time.  Start writing now!

© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

Death without death

“The priests would have you believe have you believe that life is linear, with no deviations or side trips.  Just birth to death to after-life, that’s it, with an eternity of waiting for whatever comes next.  Personally I don’t think it’s that simple.  I think it’s more like a stone infinitely skipping over an endless lake, birth to death to birth to death, an endless cycle of lives. Some of the stones are jagged and they drag in the water, while some of the stones are smooth and they glide effortlessly.  Sometimes the lake is rough and the skip is short, sometimes the lake is placid and the skip seems to last forever.  Sometimes, if we are very fortunate, two stones align and skip together.  Mass and energy and time are neither created nor destroyed, they remain constant.  We are composed of mass and energy and time, why shouldn’t it be the same for us?”  From the diary of Ray Travis
© Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh.

A Few Edits and a Funeral

It’s an unfortunate truth that even the most well thought out plan is subject to the demands and restrictions of the real world.  A few days ago I thought that all I had left to do was to create my cover art, create a .mobi format file, and submit my eBook to Kindle. Two things happened that stopped the production process cold.

The first thing was death, my wife’s Uncle Dan passed away. To honor his passing we were required to make two trips out of town, one for the viewing Thursday evening, another for the funeral Friday morning. Neither of these events happened quickly and we were left physically and emotionally spent. Even if you consciously acknowledge that the passing was “for the best” or if you weren’t part of the family forced to view the descent on a daily basis, death is never easy. It impacts everything.

I bring this up as a partial explanation for not having already submitted my novel to Kindle, but more importantly as an example of one of the many limiting factors on production. This is something I’ve posted on previously. Life happens and it always has an impact. The other reason I mention it is that death figures prominently in much of my writing. It is the natural (or unnatural, depending on the circumstances) result of everything and everyone.

The other thing that happened recently was that, as I was about to process my novel through Mobipocket Creator, I thought I might take a gander at the Smashwords Style Guide. The Simplified Guide to Building a Kindle Book was very easy to follow, but it was almost too simplified and left me with the feeling that there was something I had missed. I had, and I found it in the Smashwords Style Guide. The Guide is easy to follow, very detailed, and not only explains what format changes need to be made, but why. I admit I still haven’t finished fixing my formatting, but I’m not far from it.  The added benefit of following the Smashwords Style Guide is that the novel will be ready for submission to both Kindle and Smashwords.

The good news from this past weekend is that I finally decided on my cover art design, which I will post as soon as I submit to Kindle. Actually it was the cover art that got me to thinking about reviewing the Smashwords Style Guide. The image size requirements for Kindle aren’t really specific – “Minimum 500 x Maximum 1280 pixels”.  Smashwords suggests “500 pixels wide X 700 pixels tall is a good size and ratio (your height is approximately 1.4 times greater than your width)”, then goes on to provide details on how to create the image and make sure it’s the right size, without having to speak HTML.  It has been a while since I wrote HTML and I appreciate the plain English approach of the Guide.

If you have any comments about this or any of my posts, please feel free to click the comment link and let me know what’s on your mind.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.