Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell, 2008; Hello, 2009

There's a lot that can probably be said about 2008. I'm not going to get into all that, though, because this post is just about me and my personal resolutions for the coming year.

Whatever else can be said about 2008, it was the year that I became a published novelist, something that I'd always hoped for and yet never in a million almost thirty years ever thought actually would happen. Not only did I write and publish a book, but as far as I know, it sold pretty well this year, and people have been mostly favorable in reviews, which hopefully means that I wrote a good book.

Of course, while Thousand Leaves was published in 2008, I actually did the writing itself far earlier. In fact, most of my writing in 2008 (and late 2007, actually)1 was spent on my second novel, my working title for which has been The Seventh Chakra2.

Now, I've mentioned before in this blog that this sophomore novel of mine has been... problematic. While I certainly wouldn't say that writing Thousand Leaves was at all easy, this time around, it's just much more difficult. I'm not sure if it's because I'm holding myself to a higher standard, or if it's because of the content of the novel itself, or what, but it's been fighting me every step of the way (and, in fact, I've gone months at a time without even wanting to look at the damn thing).

Well, that's all going to change. The steps have been tough, sure, but while progress has been slow, it's still been progress, and having gotten to where I am now, I can see the finish line.

My major resolution, then, for 2009, is as follows: I'm going to finish a first draft of The Seventh Chakra by the end of March, and I'm going to have a complete revised draft finished by my birthday (July 25th)3.

I think I can do it, too. I have momentum. And when you're a writer, momentum can often be the single most valuable weapon in your arsenal.

1. Checking back on my records, I actually started writing it sometime in either late February or early March of 2007. Curse you, book!

2. This is just my title for it. Currently, I have no concrete plans as to when or by whom or even if it will be published, so please don't ask for those details. Right now, my focus is solely on writing the damn thing.

3. This way, it also doubles as a handy birthday present to myself!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Wagon

I was just about to comment about how I'd once again not posted to my blog is almost forever, only to see that it's only been a month and a half--way less time than I thought it had been.

Anyhow, to update on things:

Not a whole heck of a lot of writing done lately. I wrote a few really short stories on the side, but overall, I've been really busy for the last month or so with a lot of things. I have finally gotten back to working on that pesky second novel, however.

I'm just past 80,000 total words on what's (still) my first draft. By comparison, the published draft of Thousand Leaves is somewhere around 120,000 words (with the initial draft coming in at 95,000 words, roughly).

I know I've mentioned it before, but the actual work on this novel has been going agonizingly slowly. Seeing that I've come a full 80,000 words, though, fills me with hope that an end is in sight. Really, my biggest fear is that the edits and rewrites will be just as bad to get out, but I'm hoping that once the story is out and on paper and in physical form I'll be able to 'get it' more easily and therefore fix it with more efficiency than it initially took me to write it.

Maybe the Sophomore Slump applies to novelists, too, I suppose.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I've got a short story I've been tinkering with and tweaking, lately. One of the side-characters comes across particularly well, and the folks I've shown the early drafts to really like her and think she's pretty neat, but that she doesn't have a lot to do in the story.

My main thought, then, is, "Well, I'll give her more to do in order to justify her place in the story." Simple, right?

Some of my fellow writers, though, have suggested, "You could always just cut her and use her for a different story, instead."

And for some reason, that feels really weird to me. Intellectually, I know that if I pulled her from Story A and placed her in Story B, nobody (well, nobody who hadn't read any drafts) would know that I'd done it, and if I did it right, her place in the new story would be fine and natural and dandy.

Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to try something like that. In this particular case, though, I'm trying to get the character to work for the story she's already in, trying to justify her existence in that special way that we writers so often have to.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Affliction

After finishing a first draft of my most recent story (the one with the weird narrative structure that I mentioned earlier), I was all set to go back and edit and retool some of my other recent works that are in desperate need of such editing and retooling.

...except that, well, on Friday morning, during my commute into work, I got hit with the spark.

Yes, out of nowhere, I was hit with the idea for another new story, and over the next twenty minutes, as I went on with the rest of my commute, the ideas grew and congealed, and...

Yeah, I ended up with a full-on story idea, and I knew that I had to write it or it would drive me crazy.

Luckily, I knew it was going to be a short story, so I devoted my lunch break Friday, my free time later on and most of my free time Saturday to working on it, and now that it's just past midnight, I've managed to churn out a pretty tight first draft.

My first impression is that I'm happy with it (which, as a writer, always makes me wary). I'll probably tool with it for the rest of the weekend before finalizing it. In many ways, it's just a silly little thing, so I don't want to spend too much time on it when I've got other things to work on.

Still, for a quick story that came literally out of nowhere, I'm glad that it happened to me.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Creative Control (and lack thereof)

A surprising number of short stories have been popping out of my head and onto the page, lately. This means a bit of a delay in my eventual return to novel-writing, but I'm mostly happy just to be writing. The majority of these stories are for publications and other things that have deadlines; most of them are going to require additional drafts, too. I'm happier with some of them than I am with others, but if it's any consolation to myself, the ones I'm happiest with are the ones I personally consider the most important.

I'm working on another story right now that's actually intriguing me a fair bit in that I'm not sure what I'm doing with it.

Allow me to explain: I don't mean to say that I don't know where to take it or don't know how I want to write it--I literally mean that I'm doing something with the actual writing and I'm not entirely sure what it is.

It's something artistic. Probably artistic, at any rate. It's something I doing with the narrative structure. I'm just not sure how to define it. I mean, I'm doing it on purpose, and I have a feel for what the nebulous 'something' is, but I can't put it into tangible terms, even inside my own head. It's just kind of happening as I will it to, in a subtle way, and whatever it is I'm doing, it's making it out onto the page.

When I go back and rewrite the earlier parts of the story, I hope I can keep it up, since I appear to be getting better at this 'something' the deeper into the story I get. Which, in and of itself, is kind of neat. It also furthers my belief that the compulsion to write really is something beyond a writer's control, even down to the actual stylistic level at times.

I hope it all makes sense and sounds good once it's finished. To someone other than me, I mean.

Oh, and there's another review I found of Thousand Leaves here. It's mostly pretty positive, if somewhat lacking in focus at times.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Checking Back In

Haven't updated in a while, but August was a busy month for me due to moving, and September has been busy as well with both post-move stuff as well as work.

Writing has been spotty in the meantime. I haven't gotten any new work done on my novel-in-progress, but I have been poking at some short stories and getting them to come to life. While I don't have any specifics to announce just yet, it's looking like there should be a few more of my stories in print by the end of this year and early next year, which is exciting. The feeling of knowing that someone likes your work enough to spend the effort to give it physical form never really lessens even after it's happened a few times It's very self-affirming (and it keeps me from succeeding in convincing myself that my writing isn't worth the time I try to spend on it).

Right now, I'm debating whether I want to try to crank out another short story or two before tackling another chapter of my novel or not. I know that, in the meantime, other pieces of mine are going to require editing, so whatever I start will likely get interrupted anyway. I suppose I just need to put my feelers out inside of my mind so that I can see what I have the best "feel" for.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Emotional Wrangling

I was talking to one of my fellow writers earlier today, and in a discussion about one of his stories, he apologized for being "manipulative" in a particularly emotion-driven scene.

Now, I suppose it could be debated whether or not it's actually manipulative to do something specifically to get an emotional reaction out of a reader. On some level, I think that's pretty much the writer's job: after all, why do people read stories at all, if not to experience some sort of emotion, be it sadness or joy or terror or even a cheap thrill?

Of course, I do think that it's possible for the writer can pull a cheap shot for no real reason other than to get a reaction that might otherwise be unwarranted, and nine times out of ten I'd probably oppose that. There are times when even that can work, though, I think (a certain character death in the second season of Buffy springs to mind). Like everything else a writer does, though, one just needs to be careful with it, I suppose.

On the whole, though, I think that the entire premise of writing "fiction" is that we take situations that need to be carefully massaged so that they can be masked as something that would actually happen. That's pretty tricky in and of itself. But in the end, the goal is still to convince the reader that what they're reading is real, and to instill an emotional response based on events and actions and people who aren't actually real.

Is that manipulative? Maybe on some level, I suppose. Perhaps one of the bigger tricks in writing is to also mask the manipulative moments so that those aren't obvious, either.

(And I still maintain that the scene in question that started this thread of thought wasn't manipulative. Or, if it was, no more than the situation demanded of it. :3 )

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stroke of Not-Quite-Genius

This morning, on my drive into work, I was thinking about some of the recent work I've done of my novel-in-progress, and I had what was initially a horrifying realization: I'd accidentally introduced a glaring plot error into my most recent chapter.

What had happened, basically, is that the line between what I knew as the writer and what the characters knew had gotten blurred (this is what I get for having been away from the story for so long). So, I mentally kicked myself, and then started thinking about how I could take those bits out and smooth them over so that the error would be repaired.

And then it hit me: what if I used this to my advantage and actually let the characters deal with this information that they weren't supposed to have?

To make a long (and vague) story short, after even just a few minutes of brainstorming, I realized that I could turn this once-error into what's actually (in my opinion) a pretty awesome plot point, and one that propels this section of the story along in a way that, embarrassingly enough, makes more sense than what I'd originally planned.

I'm not sure what to make of that, if only to just let it reassert my assertion that, as a writer, you very often discover the story more than you actively create it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Swept Up in the Currents of Creativity

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I thought I'd finally gotten past whatever strange block was preventing meaningful progress on my new novel. Over these last few weeks, I've done a pretty good job of staying focused and I'm actively excited to sit down and write more of it (which was decidedly not the case for several months). Even better, the more I write, the more motivated I get, because I see that I am writing, and that makes me happy and excited and more likely to write more. Honestly, the only reason I haven't written even more than what I have in the past month is that I've been too busy to find more time.

Back when I was working on my first draft of Thousand Leaves, I had a similar experience: I was just over halfway through getting the draft on paper, a process which had taken the better part of a year, and then, one evening while I was sitting waiting for a flight at the Burbank Airport, I was struck with this bizarre epiphany that just made the rest of the book make sense inside my head. I hastily and hurriedly scribbled out a series of notes in my little writer's notebook, and I managed to write the second half of the book over the course of the next month.

With my current project, I don't quite have that level of intensity when it comes to getting it all out, but I do know that I can see the end of the story on the horizon, as well as all the plot landmarks along the way. I'll discover the individual details as I make my way through those, and it's a journey I'm excited about taking. (Of course, once that's done, I've got edits and redrafts and rewrites to worry about, but Key Point One is to get the damn story out of my head and onto paper, first.)

The catch to this (and isn't there always a catch?) is that this is all happening while I'm currently also already committed to two short stories for a pair of anthologies. I don't want to kill the momentum I've got going with my novel, but at the same time, there are still other things I need to write.

In all likelihood, I'll probably finish up the current chapter I'm working on, and then take a break to write at least one of those stories (ideally, the one that has the earlier deadline). Besides, I don't want to burn out on the novel, either, and with the end in at least semi-feasible sight, I'm not as worried about losing my grip on it a second time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Prescriptive Descriptions

A friend of mine once had a discussion with me about what one can and can't get away with it modern writing. Not in the sense of writing "rules" of style or syntax or that sort of thing, but just in terms of what readers are willing to put up with, as it were.

The example he cited was an eight-page description of a kangaroo. Now, back in the 1800s or so, when people didn't have things like television or photo guides or the Internet, an eight-page description of a kangaroo was probably a fascinating thing.

Nowadays, though, your average person knows what a kangaroo looks like, even if they've never been within a few thousand miles of Australia. We modern day folk have a mental picture in our heads of what a kangaroo looks like, and it's doubtful that any of us would want to read on for eight pages of exacting detail of something we already know.

Describing things can be a tricky thing in writing, anyway; I already know that I tend to err on the side of less description when it comes to my own work. Depending on one's style, the balance between description and narration can, in some cases, be a tricky one to strike.

What can be trickier, though, is when you need to describe something in a way that requires you to not rely on real-world knowledge that the reader already has.

I tend to write in a pretty tight third-person limited point of view, and that's how I'm also writing my current novel(-in-progress). The story doesn't take place in the real world, though, so if (just for example) I wanted to talk about how big a particular city was, I can't just compare it to L.A. or Paris, because with the tightness of the narration, even though the text itself is directed at the reader, the character perspective can't 'think' in those terms. This opens some unique challenges in making sure that you're able to convey something easily to the reader without being able to make use of knowledge even if you know the reader already has it.

In the chapter I'm in the middle of writing, I got to (or is that 'had to'?) spend a few pages describing the details of both an architectural style as well as a type of cuisine that we do actually have in the real world, but which are completely alien to the characters encountering them. Writing about that was actually a whole lot of fun, and I found it to be a gratifying and inspiring challenge. It would have been far easier to just gloss over things, but that wouldn't have been fair to reader and it wouldn't have been as honest to the narration, and in the end, I think I've got a better chapter for it.

So, yes, I'm not writing eight-page descriptions of kangaroos (readers of my books, especially, most assuredly know what kangaroos look like), but I am getting to stretch my literary fingers by showcasing something that might ordinarily be unspectacular in a spectacular light.

Monday, July 07, 2008

My Writing Journal

Back in May, I started keeping a little writing journal. Not a journal that I use for writing, but rather, I journal I keep that keeps track of my writing.

Essentially, on days that I write (or, if I happen to forget to update it, after a couple of days of writing), I just make a short entry that goes over what piece or pieces I might have worked on and how I felt about the project(s) in question. I'll also make notes if there's something I should be working on that I haven't gotten around to (yet or recently).

Mostly, I guess I'm using it to keep track of myself, making sure that I'm writing as much as I might like, and checking to see if the time I do write are productive and/or enjoyable. In a way, I suppose it's like one of those journals that dieters keep in order to keep themselves motivated.

We'll see how it works, in the long term.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Reviews for Thousand Leaves

It's only been a week, but already, I've got my first two actual reviews for Thousand Leaves! For an initial review buzz, they're both quite positive, and that makes me really happy.

Tim Susman has a review on his blog, and there's another review by a fellow on LiveJournal that's been posted over here.

They both offer different insights about the book and the writing itself, which is good (especially for me) in that people aren't all just saying the same thing. Also, they both get into specifics in terms of feedback and critique, which I really appreciate, since it's those specifics that help me learn what I do wrong and what I do right.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Novel Milestones

This past Friday, my debut novel, Thousand Leaves, finally went on sale. The following day, I got to do an actual book signing. From what I heard and from what I saw, the book sold pretty well for its opening weekend, too--I wasn't nearly as concerned about that beforehand (I was just thrilled that the book was out, really), but now that I know that that's how it went down, I won't deny that I'm feeling a certain amount of glee.

So yeah, now I... have a book. It's still kind of weird to think about. I've already seen one review that someone wrote, and I'm wondering if, down the line, people might start sending emails and whatnot telling me what they think.

I'm finally past the crest of a big emotional wave, though, and I think I'm finally starting to settle. This is fait accompli, now; nothing can take this away from me.

What is not yet behind me, of course, is my second novel, the one I'm working on now and the one I mentioned where I felt I might be close to having an epiphany. I think I have. For the first time in the better part of a year, I'm excited to work on it. Something must have "clicked" in my head, because the words are finally flowing, for once.

I really hope I can keep this up. Hell, I did it once before; I should be able to do it again, by that logic.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I think (or possibly I merely hope) that I'm getting close to an epiphany regarding the novel I'm working on right now.

It's a fundamentally different story than Thousand Leaves, and I guess that, in a lot of ways, I'll never be able to shake the fear that "it won't be as good." That being said, despite being written by the same person and being set in the same world, comparing the two is close to comparing apples and oranges.

My fellow writer Tim has given me some good advice regarding my own writing style, in that I usually include a bit of levity in my writing, even when the story itself gets serious or even dreary; in this current novel, I don't have anything like that, which might explain part of why I have a hard time connecting with it.

Whether or not that's directly related to my current brain clog, I'm not sure. I do get the sense that I'm near a breakthrough, though. My fingers remain cautiously crossed.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Over the weekend, I gave my official buyoff to (what should be!) the final proof for Thousand Leaves.

So, this is it. If all goes well, the book will be ready to go on sale as planned at the end of July.

It's kind of trippy that this is all finally coming together. It's been a long road to get to this point, and I'm almost at the end of it.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I know I said that I'd be posting more often, lately, to get back into the swing of things, and I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up on that.

The final few steps involving Thousand Leaves are going on right now. I think I have gotten all but the last few pieces my personal input into the process, with a few remaining bits that I'll do tonight. After that, though, the book itself is very quite nearly done.

I've got a cover. I've got interior art. I've got my dedication page and my author bio; I've been through the manuscript and have done some last-minute editing changes for layout purposes, consistency, and adding some clever little hints that allude to my second novel, the one I'm currently still afraid to work on.

In just over two months, it'll be a book for real, and I'm scared and excited to know that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dusting Things Off

Okay, so it's been over half a year since I bothered to post here. I'll confess that part of that has to do with the fact that I'm not sure how many people even read this thing, and another part of it is simply that I've been some combination of busy or lazy.

I am, however, still writing!

Tonight is the last class meeting for the most recent writing class I've been taking with my partner-in-crime, Tim. We do a lot of our writing together, and we're always bouncing our respective ideas off each other. Mostly, we take our classes together (well, I've taken all of my classes with him, though he's taken others without me). This most recent class was something of a mixed bag; I'm not sure I learned as much from it as I would've liked, and there was a lot of work to put into it, to boot, so I'm mostly relieved that it's over, more than anything else. Really, I think one of the most valuable things I learned from it was that if I was able to scrounge up the time during the week to workshop and review the stories we read, then I can scrounge up time to write during the week, too.

Work on my novel had been put on hiatus while I'd been busy with class. It's still very daunting to think about, and I might continue to take some time away from it. When I think about the story, I know I still believe in it, but I worry about my ability to tell it, still.

The good thing is that I've been cranking out short stories again, finally. Normally, I only finagle a handful of them a year, lately, but my spark seems to have come back, whether as a side-effect of frustration or just plain determination. As I mentioned above, I know that I can find the time, so it's just a matter of making it.

Part of keeping myself motivated should, in theory, involve my regularly keeping up this writing blog. Hopefully I can keep myself to that.