Thursday, January 27, 2011


Writing a novel is answering the question:  What if?

My WIP novel, Fragile Bones, answers the questions of what if a person was born completely apathetic?  What would happen if, when that person died, they were opened up to feel the fullness of every emotion?  How would he work through the memories of his wretched life with this new awareness?  How will he answer his own questions about his purpose and the apparent meaninglessness of his life?  Will he rise above his personal tragedy or will he fall?

What questions does your novel answer?  It might seem obvious, but it's good to step back and think about the overarching point to your story.  It can be as simple as what if Jane lived on Taylor Street instead of Maple Street, but all good stories answer the first and simple question of "what if?"; otherwise, there's no point.  Even if this wasn't the initial reason for writing the story, it's still what drives the imagination of the writer to write it.

The premise is sometimes different from motivation and that's important to understand.  What may have motivated me to write a particular story is not necessarily the same as the questions the story answers.  These two things will sometimes overlap, but for me, I've found more often than not, they don't.

Usually what gets me going on a story is a particularly deep emotional reaction to something.  Sometimes a first line will just pop in my head or a bit of dialogue or a scene and I'll want to get it down.  This will often spur the question of "what if?" and I'll find the story writing itself from there in order to answer the questions.

Sometimes writing one chapter will spur more questions that feed the following chapters.  If something happens in chapter three, I'll often wonder how that is going to affect the character in chapter four?  Will chapter four's reaction come back to bite him in the ass in chapter 12?  What if something else happens in chapter seven that changes everything!?  Or why in the hell did character two say something like that?  How does that make the MC feel?

I find when I write, it becomes a series of questions and answers as I'm writing.  It's what gives me the sense of mystery and excitement as the story progresses.  That thrill is why I rarely plan out an entire story ahead of time.  I may know a few points I want to hit upon and how it all ends, (most of the time), but the middle parts are an exciting roller coaster ride for me.

Questions can lead to learning.  I find myself often researching medical issues for my writing.  Things like can a castrato get an erection?  Do they have a sex drive?  Or what are the effects of a coma on the brain?  How can it change a person's behavior or personality?  How long does it take for a certain bone to heal?

Questions can also help bust through that seemingly unbreakable wall called writer's block.  I'm way too familiar with this one.  In fact, I have a twenty foot wall to bust through right now!  To overcome that, I'll sit down and ask:  for this next chapter, "what if?".


What's ahead:
  • What "prompts" you?
  • Fragile Bones excerpt
  • Music as an emotional backdrop
  • Flash fiction

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When a work starts feeling long - buckle down

Fragile Bones is a novel I started about five or six years ago.  I wrote several chapters, (nine or ten, if I remember correctly), and let it sit for damned near three years.  I found it again and after rereading those early chapters, I fell in love with the story all over again.  A little bit older and probably none the wiser, I set about finishing it.

When I penned the first chapter, I had no intentions of writing any more on it.  I'd had a really shitty day and it was my way of venting some of those feelings of frustration and hopelessness.  At the time, I posted it to a fiction site and when I did, I got fabulous reviews.  I hadn't expected that.  It was early in my writing "career" and I was still full of all the doubts an unpublished writer has.  The positive reinforcement encouraged me to continue with the story and I found it came pretty easily.

Until I hit chapter seven.  I'd run out of things to say and my MC stopped talking to me completely.  I went on to other things.  Several months later, I picked it back up again and got another couple chapters out, but I felt they were falling a bit flat, even though I was still getting good reviews.  I gave up at that point.  I didn't look at it again until last year.  I'd done a lot more writing and with that came the experience to know it is possible to write without the elusive and grand notion of "inspiration!". 

Turns out, there was quite a lot of story to tell.  Far more than I ever expected even after picking it back up.

I started on chapter 23 this week, which is a feat in itself!  The story is sitting at over 60k words and I feel there are at least 10k more that need to be written.  When I finish, this will be, to date, my longest piece of fiction.  I'm quite proud of that.  It may be a pittance to some, but it's an accomplishment for me.


I feel like I've hit another slump in the story again.  I'm not getting feedback anymore since I stopped posting at the fiction site all those years ago.  The fear is nipping at me again.  I wonder at times if an author ever gets over that.  Is this story going flat?  Is it getting too long?  Should I just wrap it up already and leave on a well turned phrase or piece of witty banter?

I can't with this one.  The characters have yet to get to that point B that all story characters must reach.  Their internal struggles haven't been dealt with properly.  They are still far from their destination.  So in spite of these recent chapters feeling so dull to me, I must keep writing to the end and we can all breath a sigh of relieve.

Then I can work on polishing those dull spots up to a full shine with edits.

What I've learned and am still learning:  even though the first draft seems terrible at times, push through those bits and get on with telling the story.

Monday, January 24, 2011

About this blog - a first post

I'm going into this with the aspirations of using this format as a means to communicate who I am, what I'm writing, my thoughts on that process and my opinions on what I observe around the internet from a writer's point of view.  I'll also be featuring excerpts from current projects or shorts written on the spot.

A small obligatory warning.  I write homoerotica.  I cuss.  (This is more than likely due to the fact I'm married to a truck driver and have been "one of the boys" since high school.)  My work will sometimes feature explicit sexual situations, foul language and/or esoteric thought processes that may or may not make sense.  I write stream of conscience; there's no telling what's going to come out.

With that, I welcome you.  I hope you find something entertaining, meaningful or memorable here.