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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Ideas

So, every story I write has its own journal…..

……where I can jot down every idea and thought related to it.  That journal goes with me as I go about my day – you never know when that illuminating idea will strike.  And I enjoy this process because it allows me to keep everything in one place and readily accessible.  I’ve got at least three journals for Novel Now Finished and I expect that it will be the same for the sequel.  Most of my novels (in progress or finished) have more than one journal to document my journey, from inception to completion.

Photo credit: Unknown. But I need this mug.

Writers a funny breed – we observe, we document, we report on our findings, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.  I even keep a story idea box, which has become the repository of random items I find in my daily travels.  And I keep everything – from scraps of old news clippings to a broken pair of glasses, that box is chock full of potential stories.

The more I write and read, the more I’ve learned to discern the voices of other writers.  What does that mean?  Well, if I listen to particular composer’s music often enough, I can find his (or her) musical signature in other compositions.  Same with a particular writer – their ‘voice’ and writing patterns become familiar and within a few seconds of reading, I’ll know who penned that particular piece of writing.

This is all a part of my education as a writer – the more I read, the more I enrich my writing.  And the more I journal the process, the better chance I have of either skipping a step that didn’t work previously or taking it in a new direction.

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So, I’m slowly building my editing business…..

……and it’s starting to take shape.  I have a few potential clients and am creating a website designed for this purpose.  My portfolio is beginning to look respectable and I’m excited to see where this will take me.  Yes, it means taking time away from my own writing to help others shape theirs.  However, by tackling issues in someone else’s work, it will help clarify similar ones that I’m having with my own work.

Most of my work will be focused on managing website content for local businesses.  Keeping the information short, to the point and exciting helps direct traffic to their site and then to their business, which encourages cash flow.  Marketing pamphlets and press releases will also fall under the umbrella of my business.

Will I be tackling manuscripts?  Yes, and I’ve already got a couple of potential clients.  My own experiences with my editor taught me a lot on what to look for and what to ask.  My goal is to help the writer shape their work into the best possible story it can be.  Beyond that, is up to the writer.  Just like it’s up to me to push my work into published form.

As mentioned earlier, I’m excited to see where this business will take me.  It involves words, I love words and it’s something I’m very good at.

So, after six years with nothing but an idea…..

…….a time frame, and one chapter, I finally found the story to the sequel to Secrets & Howls.  If Novel Now Finished gave me insight to its own sequel (and it did), as well as the first couple of pages, then I feel confident that it also gave me a window into two characters that featured prominently in S&H.

And I’m excited about that, because I genuinely like these characters.  I’d like to get to know their story better, of how they met, how they became lovers and what led to their decision to have their relationship play out as it did.  The questions I have for them run deep and I suspect that more than one surprise will happen when I finally dig in.  Of course, there will be plot threads from S&H running throughout the sequel.  Those threads will be tying into different time-frames that I’d set up for the world of Wolf’s Head Bay.

Some threads will be tied into a neat and tidy knot, others will serve to create more questions to be answered in succeeding books.  As is my plan for my other series, I’m planning five books total for the village of Wolf’s Head Bay, with a few short stories thrown in.  I have an overview of how my supernaturally themed stories tie in to each other and I think that’s why I like them so much.  These stories have a kind of depth that is demanded of me, and so I throw everything into them, including the kitchen sink. [1]

I’m interested in seeing how this sequel turns out.  One scene meant for S&H is being utilized in this story, but with some minor differences.  I keep everything I write, in part because these cut bits are really good when I read them.  And they got cut because, as it evolved, these bits no longer served the story.  But I knew I could use them elsewhere.

And I did.  And now it’s time to find out what happens next.

What secrets lie hidden in this small, coastal village?

[1] Not really, but it feels like it.

So, I’m plugging along on my Ancient Greek Comedy….

……and I can feel the tangents wanting to take off and create something new.  This is exciting to me, because it means that this play has a lot to say, that there’s more depth to it than I had originally anticipated.  But because these tangents are too nebulous and without form, I’m making them wait until this revision is finished.

I know, I know, I’m being terribly mean to these tangents.  I mean, they only want to help my Ancient Greek comedy become something truly magnificent.

And I can’t argue with that, because I want the same thing.  Still, this revision has to happen first and then the tangents can come in and do as they please.  If it makes anyone feel any better about it, I write these tangents down to remember them.  That is, if there’s something solid enough to write down.

In any case, I’m delighted to see characters that I’d written out make their way back in,  One character has regained his speech after I took it away from him.  Issues that I have strong ideas and feelings about are working their way in, which is only right.  Theater, and the arts in general, are about exploring ideas (good, bad, ugly) and politics and feelings.  The arts are here to make us think, not just make us feel.  There is something at work within the confines of this play that I can’t readily identify, but it’s exciting to me.

And that’s a very good thing.

Title and cast list of Hotel Mt. Olympus.

So, I’ve begun a new notebook of ideas……

……for the sequel to Novel Now Finished.  This is new territory for me, because I’ve never actually written a true sequel before.  I’ve written many stories that developed into multiple novels (written or in summary form), but never upon completing a manuscript.  I know who’s returning, who’s new to the story and I even have a story to go with the idea.

I’d known from the start that this would be a five-book arc – I didn’t want to write more than that involving these characters.  Part of that is because of my own experiences in reading several different series – by the time I get to book six, I’m bored and wishing the whole thing had been wrapped up in the previous book.  This is not the fault of the writer – I’ve read many authors whose series spanned multiple titles and have always enjoyed them.  But lately, my attention span has petered out at book five and I’d rather leave my audience wanting more than losing their interest (this is also an old theater saying).

While writing Novel Now Finished, I had no idea of how I was going to carry this character into another book, let alone four more.  I don’t usually plan my stories out to the tiniest detail nor do I use an outline – I tried the outline once and found it to be more of a hindrance than in any way helpful.  [1]  I was a little worried about how I was going to stretch this character’s story out beyond this one novel, regardless of how much I enjoyed her world.

The idea came to me while I was rearranging a snippet in Novel Now Finished – a simple image of the character standing at the entrance of a seldom used road.  Suddenly, I had an idea of what the story would be, of what the mystery would entail and who was going to be involved.  I also knew that there would be some character dynamics at play that I hadn’t tried before, so I’m curious to see how that works out.

And a few days ago, I wrote the first page of what’s to eventually become the sequel to Novel Now finished.

The character showed me what’s going to happen next in her story.  Now all I have to do is pay attention and write it.

The Manuscript in Question.

[1] I’m not suggesting that outlining or planning out a story to the smallest detail is wrong in general, just wrong for me, specifically.  If it works for you, then by all means, keep doing it.

So, I’m getting close to writing ‘The End’ on my Novel In Progress….

……and I know this because I’m distracting myself every ten or fifteen minutes.

If it’s not a post on Facebook, or a handful of tweets, or even preparing a few entries for my Patreon page, it’s channel surfing. Or I’m surfing the internet, looking up articles for new story ideas.

I’m procrastinating, in other words.  Not an unusual thing, but a definite habit.  Because once it’s done, it’s done.  There’s no going back…..well, okay, that’s not true, because there’s editing and revising and moving whole chunks of narrative around or eliminating altogether.

The point is, writing ‘The End’ on a story means that I no longer have this project to go back to, in the manner that I’m used to.  Now, when I go back to my novel, it will be to murder my darlings (words, for the lay person) and tighten up the narrative.

I’m distracting myself right now, writing this blog post.  And in a few minutes, that distraction will carry itself over to errands that need doing in town.  Maybe even lunch.

And when all that is done and behind me, I will fire up this computer, open up that document and throw words at it until I have no more.  Take a deep breath, throw some more words in, move things around and I will keep doing that until I am forced to write the inevitable.

‘The End.’

The Manuscript in Question.

So, I’m enjoying the constant learning…..

……of my websites, from this blog to my Patreon page.  The joys of finding little things that make the process of posting a little easier.  Of being able to write as many posts as I want and not sharing them immediately, but scheduling them out a little at a time.  Of finding new ways to shape what I’m presenting to you, my audience, that will make you feel welcome and inspired and energized.

It’s not just the technical aspects, either.  The more I post, the more ideas seem to come out of thin air, some as solid and real as cotton candy, some with the substantive weight of a thousand pound horse.

Some of those ideas survive, some don’t, and that’s okay.

That’s known as process.

So, part of my goals for 2017……

…….is to write one blog post per day, with a minimum of five per week. In a previous post about this subject, I’d indicated that I wasn’t counting the first week, as I was considering it more of a dry run. After some thinking and mulling over, I’m going to alter that thought.

It takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to create a new habit. The best way to start is to go small – remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This makes the new habit easier to keep and when you’ve succeeded at establishing and keeping that new habit, you can build on it. Whether it’s becoming more physically active or learning a new language or even cutting out or reducing certain elements from your diet, taking small steps is better than not taking any at all.

To that end, my goal is to develop a habit of writing a blog post every day. It could be long, it could be short. Topics could range from something I’d been thinking about for years or just stumbled upon that day. Historical or current, books or films – if something about the subject resonates or is off-putting, I will find a way to put it down in words.

Hopefully, this will be helpful to you, that you find something in what I write inspiring or amusing or motivating. This is my opinion only, but artists of all backgrounds and disciplines want us to experience their work, be affected by it and come away with a new thought.

That can only happen if the artist puts in the time and effort to better themselves at their chose craft.

My decision to write a blog post every day is part of my effort in that discipline. This post is the seventh one I’ve written since January 1st. I suppose, technically, I could take a couple days off and still meet my quota, but that’s not how to create a new habit.

So – my goal is one post every day, no weekly minimum. There may be more than one per day, which is just fine with me.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t start on the first day of the year. The important thing is to find a goal you want to make for yourself, pick a date and start. Hold yourself accountable, find a support group, remind yourself why you are doing this and go for it.

You can do it. I believe in you.

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Recommended*:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

*To be updated as I find more relevant suggestions. JJB

So, I’ve been revising my Ancient Greek Comedy….

…..and I got stuck because of Zeus. Why, you ask, would the primary god in Greek mythology be such a problem that you got stuck when writing about him?

Good question.

By rights, he should be a fun character to give life to on the page. He’s larger than life (because he’s a god, naturally), bombastic, can shape-shift into any creature or element he wishes, has the power to control the world and his fellow gods and goddesses.

Zeus should have been a piece of cake to write about.

But he wasn’t.

He started out as a Burl Ives caricature, then I took him out and made him a light/sound effect so that I could reduce the number of characters I had on-stage. Then I added him back on-stage, as a physical character, but with light and sound as his voice. A director read the work and came back with several notes, including one that gave Zeus his voice back.

‘Great,’ I thought, ‘This should be easy.’

It wasn’t.

I had gone through the first twenty pages, revising dialogue and cutting out unnecessary words (and this is how I know I’m a novelist at heart – I’m very wordy). I re-structured character motive and added new directions. All was going well, it was clicking along at a nice pace and I was enjoying the characters and their interactions.

Then I came to Zeus, his first entrance and everything came to a screeching halt.

I typed in his name, hit the Enter key to start his first line and………nothing.

Zip. Nada. Silence.

I put it aside, as I always do when I encounter difficulty. I still kept notes, writing down ideas that could be incorporated into the script. I even began to design a soundtrack, to help with the creative flow. Also, there’s a Greek Chorus and the Greeks were all about music, so it made sense to let that side develop.

But I was still stuck and Zeus, uncharacteristically, was stubbornly silent.

An article I’d read recently about character development had been ruminating in my thoughts – I don’t recall the title of the article or where I’d found it, but I will edit this post to add it should I be lucky enough to find it.

In any case, the article asked a lot of good questions and what I remember is this – what is your character’s over-riding arc? What is their question that needs answering? What is their need?

I began to ask this of my play’s characters and some interesting things began to come up, things that had been below the surface.

And then recent events and Zeus’s own well-documented behavior in his own myths began to shed some light on the subject. Now I know his questions, his arc and his need.

The darkness always comes before the light.

Title and cast list of my play.
Title and cast list of my play.

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