Busy April

I’m about halfway through beta-reading this book and I’m beginning to stress. I have six days to get to the end of the book and report back to the author what my thoughts are regarding his novel. No pressure.

I envy those people with a critical eye for writing. You know the people, the ones who can pick at loose threads in a story, the eagle-eyed readers who can pick out spelling and grammatical errors with relative ease, the type of person I’m endeavoring to become.

Like most people, I’m more critical about myself than I am others. I question my word choices, the direction my plot is going, and countless other things. I’m embarrassed by every little error, fearing that someone out in the ether is ready to pounce and mock each and every mistake. It hasn’t happened yet, at least the mocking. I make way too many mistakes.

My priority for the last week of April is to concentrate fully on what I’m reading, and I’ll set aside my own works, which have temporarily stalled anyway. I can’t quite figure out how to resolve the dilemma I’ve created for my character, but more on that in a future post.

There’s my job I’m juggling at the moment, but how many of us are free of the employment obligation? I’m not going to pretend I’m the only one who has to work, but the commute, a two-hour round trip, is a killer.

What’s really taking a lot of time is my truck. For those of you who don’t know, which should be most of you, I’m trying to clean up an old 93 Chevy pick-up.

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Here’s the before picture from February.

We’ve been taking it apart, cleaning things up, pulling dents, etc. Rear brakes have been replaced, as has the exhaust. It’s been tuned up, and I need to replace the entire A/C system. To make it even more fun, I decided to paint it. Here are a few more pictures, just to give you an idea.

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So I’ve been busy, all the while I’m trying to improve my golf swing. That isn’t going all to well, but I can’t complain. I have a lot going on, but it feels good. Beats lying around all day doing nothing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sure I should be doing something at the moment, I just wish I knew what!

Struggles in outlining

Outlining my story was a great idea! I can’t believe just how much easier it is for me to write with this crisp new outline in front of me! Well, maybe not. Outlining hasn’t gone too well. So far all I have to show for my troubles are several aborted attempts. A pantser I remain, for now.

My problem is that I don’t know how to outline. I’m trying to put too much detail into the outline, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen, other than a vague idea of where I want my story to go, and a few key scenes I would like to include. To make a comparison to real life, it’s like knowing where I want to drive to, where I’m starting, but only knowing the general direction I’ll take. Lubbock, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts? I’ll just drive north and east and I’ll get there eventually.

Actually, that sounds like fun, and potentially the makings of another epic “Amy Adventure,” but that’s a story for another time.

I know the ending to the series, though I haven’t sat down and written it down. I know what the problem is going to be in the first book, but not how to resolve it. I vaguely want the second book to focus on Lily’s relationships with everyone around her, and her adversary’s attempt to subvert those ties in order to weaken her. I know Lily will make an unlikely alliance in the third book to defeat her adversary, though it comes with a cost.

Lily’s relationship with her dead mother will come more into focus as Lily learns more about her and the reason for her apparent neglect and unfortunate demise. My character will have to grow up and live up to a destiny that many before her refused to take.

What I hope will work out is the nature of Lily’s enemy. That has me worried because it’s either the best idea ever written, or the worst. It excites me and terrifies me as the same time. I need to finish it before I’ll know for sure.

Writing is a scary endeavor. I’ve gotten used to posting my thoughts on this blog, so now I’m working towards a grander goal. I’ve been hoping to cross this one last goal line, though I’ve been putting it off. I think I’m about ready to put myself out there to be scrutinized, to have my books out to be criticized as either good or bad. As much as I wanted it, I wasn’t strong enough emotionally for it. I am now, I think.

I’ll get back to creating a general outline for Lily, and hope that it is detailed enough for me to work with, but flexible enough for me to create an organic and fluid narrative. I’m still a long ways away from finishing Book One, but in all honesty, I’m closer to being done than I would like.

 

This is the end, or is it a beginning?

I have no choice now. I have to give in to the inevitable. I should have seen this coming a long time ago, and maybe I did and I tried to delay it by walking away. Now I can see that I have to give in. I’m sorry, but this is the end of my way of life. I can barely stand the thought of it, and it’s breaking my heart to say it, but here goes nothing.

I think I may have to outline this story.

There it is. Mock me if you must, but my time as a pantser is all but over. No, don’t cry for me, at least not yet. All is not lost, but there are moments in life when one must confront one’s fears in order to mature and grow. This for me is one of those moments. It’s a little bittersweet.

I may be overreacting.

So here’s the deal. I’ve been working on this book that I call Lily, which is the name of my main character, imagine that. I want to write it as a series – probably a trilogy just so I can be like all the cool writers out there – so I’m having to do more planning than I’m used to. It’s not going all too well at the moment.

I can see some key scenes in my head, and I’m working on trying to weave them together into a cohesive narrative. I’ve written most of book one already, though there’s a lot I have to correct and clean up before I’m ready for anyone to take a look. For the rest, I have an ending in mind, key plot points I need to address, but when and how are the questions keeping me awake.

Maybe I’m not ready for this, but then if not now, when? I’ve talked this through with my confidant and I think this may work, at least if I frame it correctly, hence the need for an outline. I’ve never used one, but I think my story is becoming too complicated and convoluted to try to write this piecemeal, without a road map to guide me.

Since I’ve never done an outline, I have no idea how to do it. I guess I could do a little research into outlining, or maybe ask other writers how to create one, but I know I won’t. I’m writing my story, and I know what I need, so I guess any outline that I need to create must serve my needs and not try to live up to someone else’s definition of what an outline should be. Which now begs the question, why am I bringing this up?

But just for giggles, how many of you work from an outline? Anyone?

In the beginning….

I survived my Monday, how did you fare? Let me tell you a little of my day, starting with Sunday, weather-wise. Sunday, we had temperatures in the low 80′s. It was a nice and comfortable day. By the time I left the house for work on Monday, temperatures were in the high 20′s, a little over a fifty degree swing. Nothing like the schizophrenic nature of April weather!

Other than the light snow, the day was uneventful. I spent a considerable amount of time on the road thinking about opening lines. It started when I remembered one of Ron White’s jokes, “I was sitting on a bean bag chair, naked, eating Cheetos…” That has to be one of my favorite opening lines for a joke. You can check it out on YouTube.

The way Ron White delivers the line is magic. It’s as if it were normal for everyone to be sitting naked on a bean bag chair. It’s casual and easily sets up the ludicrous premise that is the rest of the joke. It’s all about setting up the tone.

Opening lines are a tricky beasts, if you ask me. There are plenty of famous opening lines in literature, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” – or – “Call me Ishmael,” – or how about – “It was a dark and stormy night.” Actually the last one is my favorite. It’s entered the collective consciousness as a bad opening line, which was in fact written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton for his novel Paul Clifford, though I mostly remember it used by Charles Schulz’s character, Snoopy. Actually, I need to add Paul Clifford to my list of Books I need to read, but probably never will.

The power of opening lines is not lost on men trying to score with women. That’s how we have classics such as “You come here often,” – and – “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” – and my favorite – “Haaave you met Ted?” I keep it simple when meeting people with “Hey.”

In real life, as in books, that first line can make or break your chance of continuing and growing a relationship. I know it’s a lot of pressure, and maybe I’m making too big a deal of it, but that first line is a killer for me. All I can do is write it and continue on. I may go back and tweak the line once I’m into the book, but probably not.

I was looking at some of my opening sentences of my pieces that I will someday actually sit down and finish. I’ve decided to let you take a look at the glory that is my madness.

  1. Paul Cardinal Dawson sat in his office drinking his black coffee, fuming silently. – Son of the Father.
  2. “Do me a favor Luke, and get me my lighter.” – Self Reborn.
  3. “Sheba! Time to go outside!” – Unseen Obsession.
  4. This was to be a reunion, years in the making. – Lily.
  5. I must say, I never thought I would ever write down my life’s story, and never in such a public forum, but yet I’ve decided to embrace this odd medium and so here I am. - Peccadilloes.

I don’t know, I’m probably stressing about nothing, but that’s what I do. I should probably let it go and stop worrying about something so inconsequential. It’s only one line, after all. But just to play Devil’s Advocate, here are a few more opening lines, from real life, to show you how important they can be.

  1. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
  2. “We need to talk.”
  3. “Joe, come to the office.”
  4. “You have the right to remain silent.” (Hasn’t happened to me, yet.)

In case you were wondering…

Today’s Agenda


  1. Finish painting pickup frame
  2. Take truckload of trash to the city container for City Clean-up Day
  3. Write, write, write!
  4. Hit around some golf balls in the backyard.
  5. Laundry.
  6. Maybe write some more.
  7. When in doubt, see number 6.

At least I did two of them. Yay me! Time for a nap.