Archive for the ‘Wednesday's Writing Tip’ Category

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Now let’s take a look at Camacho in another bout with a fighter of a similar style. Julio Cesar Chavez was a great superstar champion who stalked his opponents. He did what Greg Haugen set out to do but he did it with dominant force.

Take a look at this first round.

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Camacho is employing the same strategy that he did with Haugen but much less effectively. Why? Quite simply–because Chavez’s punches hurt too much!

Camacho does not want to commit to his jab so it flicks without his body weight and balance behind it. He is already thinking of avoiding Chavez’s punishment when he throws his jab.

Camacho’s movement is artful but it is not setting him to do any counter damage as he becomes defensive. His feet aren’t planted and he’s avoiding the neutral zone like the plague.

Chavez is planting his feet, he is moving in through the neutral zone and he is committing to his punches–even when Camacho lands. Chavez is willing and fearless of Camacho’s shots.

Chavez wins almost every round on every card but there is a half a round where we can glimpse at what would’ve worked for Camacho if he had the strength to sustain it and the ability to do some punishing damage on Chavez.

Take a look at Round Four, particularly at the second half.

I may be reaching here but we can see what might have worked for the Macho Man. Late in the round Camacho throws two jabs with his feet planted and circles out but only after he has put some of his body into these jabs. Then he stands in front of Chavez and lands a solid uppercut. he is only able to do this because of how he has positioned himself. later he lands a looping left again when he hasn’t skitted out of the neutral zone.

At the close of the round Camacho lands a combination on the incoming Chavez who may have gotten a bit careless believing Camacho couldn’t hurt him.

It may not have been enough to win the round for Hector but we can a little of what he would have had to do to be successful.

Why could he do it against Haugen and not Chavez–Chavez’s power. Or more simply put–Chavez’s shots hurt too much to stand in and plant.

Camacho knew the right strategy. His body made him forsake it.

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There’s a lot of bullshit communicated about successfully writing a novel. if you heed much of it you’ll get paralyzed and never be able to finish your own work of fiction.

The truth is that writing a book isn’t joining the Marines, it isn’t Transcendental Meditation nor is it discovering cold fusion. It has more to do with cleaning your basement, building a bird house or creating a garden in your backyard.

In other words it involves some planning, some trial and error and quite a bit of time on task.

It doesn’t require any of this crap:

Large amounts of uninterrupted time in a beautiful oak paneled office.

I write before my day job in between hound bays and getting up every 7 minutes to act as the uniformed doorman for my three four legged VIPs

You must have a completely formed idea, outlined neatly with Roman numerals, bullet points and color coded categories.

Actually, you need an idea. Then another idea of where to go. Do that for 300 pages and you get a book.

You can’t start your book until you go on police ride-a-longs, volunteer on the local SWAT team or travel to Rome to interview the custodian at the Vatican for your story background.

This is fiction. You make this shit up. Read an article, go to Wikipedia and then start writing.

You must write only when the muse comes to visit you.

Good luck with that. It’s plain crap.

You can’t finish because you’re blocked.

You’re not a colon and you don’t get blocked. You stop working. If what comes next to you isn’t obvious then you have to problem solve, do some trial and error and rewrite. It’s work.

For more blogs on writing click here.

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People ask me all the time how I find the time to write. I often quote my buddy Marcus Sakey who when asked this question uttered the simple “Ass on seat, fingers on keyboard.”

Nothing sexy about the day in and day out of banging out a semi-coherent 80,000 story.

To help you understand I’m linking you to an article on one of my favorite websites The Art of Manliness.

The article is on drudgery and you can find it here.

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I’m finishing up the first draft of my fourth Duffy book. I had written about 220 pages and then put it aside to write a stand alone. i thought it would be easy to just pick up where I left off.

It wasn’t, in fact, it sucked.

A lot.

Now, however, I’ve put together a couple of weeks of steady work and it’s coming alive and writing itself again.

What happened?

It wasn’t letting it breathe, taking a break or some sort of end to writer’s block.

It was ass-on-chair-fingers-on-keyboards. In other words I wrote.

I wrote when i didn’t want to. I wrote sections that I thought were bad. I wrote stuff that i know I’ll have to change. I guessed at plot points and I straightened out some problems.

I started at the beginning and fixed characters, got rid of others and made sure I got all their names straight. It was tedious.

But I could feel the momentum build and that magic that happens when you write where the story takes on a life of its own.

Magic that happens when you do a shitload of work.

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I spent the weekend as the co-emcee of the mystery convention “Murder and Mayhem in Muskego.” It’s really cool because Penny Halle, the world’s hottest librarian, and Jon and Ruth Jordan do an amazing job setting the thing up.

The best part of it is getting to hang with writers. A couple of conversational themes came up.

One of the very best in the business said something to me that really resonated. I was talking about how I feel insecure about my writing and he wouldn’t let me finish.

“Everyone single person in this room feels that all the time,” he said. “Awards, sales–it doesn’t matter.”

Another conversation I had was about people-pleasing–specifically that authors constantly seek approval. I mean, think about it, if you didn’t it would be a little weird wouldn’t it? You write to entertain, inspire, scare–whatever–other people. if it doesn’t work on others then you haven’t done your job.

That means writers are by definition almost always neurotic and irrational, seeking the approval of something outside of themselves–exactly what people get into therapy for.

Hmmm…I’m glad I’m not the only one that is nuts.

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Sometimes structure gets a bad name in fiction.

If you focus on structure then some will say that your story is too contrived, that it doesn’t flow naturally enough.

I was writing a fourth Duffy book when I took a year off to write a different book. I completed the thriller and am now back to the Duffy book.

Let me tell you–it is brutal coming back to a book after a long rest. It feels like editing someone else’s stuff.

I’ve also uncovered a problem. I have too many characters and story lines for a 300 page book. Wrapping them all up will mean giving short shrift and a superficial feel. i have to let go of some story lines and consolidate a few characters.

It’s almost like math. If you X number of character you can have Y number of stories and Z number of twists. play with that too much and the reader gets distracted, bored or overwhelmed. You might think you can do it but you can’t.

Evan Marshall has a book on writing mysteries and he has a chart for page count, characters and story lines. I first thought it was a little too anal–a little too formulaic.

I’m going to spend some time reviewing it today.

Then I’m going to execute some characters.

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“A barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain…”

I was walking the dogs in the cold autumn rain this morning and this line automatically ran through my head.

It dawned on me how often this line goes through me. Every time I return to being 18, out of school for the summer and longing for a girlfriend.

Why this line? There are others that come to me from time to time but this one does a lot.

I think it’s because it’s the specificity of the words.

The girl is “barefoot”, the beer is “warm”, the car is a Dodge and the summer rain is “soft.” Thre aren’t too many adjectives nor are the adjectives complicated or flowery. They’re simple. They’re true.

Maybe that’s it. They’re true. They’re authentic, they’re immediate.

Maybe Bruce Springsteen had summers like the rest of us. His sales would suggest that he did.

His writing seems so ridiculously simple.

Maybe that’s it.

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People talk about writer’s block like it is some sort of immutable force that can’t be stopped.

In reality writer’s block is simple irrational thoughts and the usual human excuses made valid by the collective consciousness.

When you’re not writing this is what is going on in your head:

“I don’t know what to write next so i should take time off until I know exactly what will perfectly fit.”

“If I write something and it’s not up to par that would be awful.”

“It’s too hard to write today because…(I’m tired, constipated, worried, etc) fill in the excuse.”

“I’m not writing because I suck and I don’t write as well as (fill in name here)”

“I’m not writing because this will never get published or agented and it’s a waste of time and will never be on the endcap at B and Noble.”

“I really should get after those dust bunnies under the curio and write tomorrow.”

At a conference panel I heard someone ask Marcus Sakey how he writes so much. He said, “Ass on chair, fingers on keyboard.”

He’s right.

Here’s some questions to challenge yourself when you think you’re blocked:

Am I blocked or simply uncomfortable about writing right now?

Where’s it written that I must always feel comfortable?

If I wrote and hated it why would that be so bad?

Do I a want guarantee of success?

Must everything i write be perfect the first time?

Am I avoiding writing because it’s work and I’d simply rather not work right now?

Am I wallowing in the fact that others write better than I do?

Carpenters don’t feel like building things everyday, plumbers don’t like working on drains and librarians get sick of shelving books. Accountants don’t like adding things up and cops get tired of arresting criminals.

It’s work. It’s not fun and it takes leaving your comfort zone.

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I have to do fasting blood work for a physical.

That means no coffee this morning.

What kind of God-forsaken idea is this? I’ve already pulled a muscle in my back and got cracked dog skull to human orbital reaching for a sneaker.

Every other key I hit is wrong and when I look at my manuscript it would make more sense if it was written in Korean. (I just spent 12 minutes trying to decide the best metaphor…Sanskrit, Japanese or Korean. In the end I wasn’t confident of my “Sanskrit” spelling.)

Where was I?

That’s the problem, I wasn’t anywhere.

Did I mention I’m missing my Shreaded Wheat? By the way, that’s the best the marketing department good do on that product name?

I have a combination sinus/basset hound head butt headache. I’m pissy, sleepy and every day around this time I go to the bathroom and , well, I haven’t.

Can’t some overachieving Ivy-league asshole make it okay to drink coffee when you have blood work? C’mon, someone came up with the Sham Wow, the Chia Pet and the Cap Snaffler.

Anyways, today’s tip: Don’t skip coffee,

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Trying to figure out what good writing is like trying to understand why a sunset is pleasant to look at it.

Good writing is original.

It makes you think.

I have an investment that pays whether you live, die or become disabled--you're interested, right?

It CAN be about the same thing others write about if it presents an original thought, angle or take on something.

There’s nothing original about writing about Glenn Beck being scary. But you could right about how he’s similar to that nerdy guy in high school who got really good at selling life insurance later in life and now thinks he’s really, really cool.

Writing about the Yankees having too much money is tired. Writing like Rick Reilly and saying that cheering for them is like watching a movie and hoping Brad Pitt gets the girl.

You see the difference.

But trying to hard to be different isn’t different. It’s tired too.

I’ve got a related pet peeve–absurd names for rock ‘n roll bands. For awhile meaningless names kind of highlighted the angst of alternative rock. Now I just find it annoying. For some reason the band name “My Morning Jacket” pisses me off.

I’ve never heard them.

It’s why clichés suck.

It’s why comedians doing gags about how women take too long to get ready, how men never ask for directions and how old people eat dinner early aren’t funny.

Coming up with something different is hard work. It’s not safe and you can fail. That’s why people don’t do it.

That’s why writing is hard.