Tag Archives: growth

Thankfulness and Expectations

Note: Norton’s Ghost is the Book of the Day over at http://www.kindleboards.com.  I wrote this entry as a little tidbit for the forum and am reposting it here.

I’ve had people ask me if the story of Norton’s Ghost is autobiographical.  I like to think that this means I got something right in the telling of it.

Beyond the usual “there’s a little bit of the writer in every part of the story,” it’s completely fiction.  I’ve never hitchhiked through California, have never experienced homelessness, am thankful to still have my father, and though I did leave school a few times, it wasn’t so that I could go gallivanting around.

At times, I wish it had been.

In a way, the telling of Kyle Dearmond’s story in Norton’s Ghost was a way of doing what I myself couldn’t:  cut loose.  Stop doing things just because it’s supposed to be a good idea to do them.

It’s often said that authors themselves don’t know the ending to their book until it spills out onto the page.  Oh, sure, sometimes we have an idea how we would like it to end, but seldom do our inspirations and characters march lockstep with our idea of what the story should be.

Kyle Dearmond set out to get away from what was expected of him and to find his own way.  I myself felt the pull of the expected as I wrote the story.  “You’re dumb for doing that,” I told him.  “That’s nuts.  Go back to school, get a job, buy a house.”

In all:  “Be like one of us.”

He refused.  In part, he was running from the things he couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with, but I can’t say I blame him for that.  And so I wrote, all the while wondering myself whether he would come out okay in the end.  As the author, my job was to tell the story–not to help the character along to a happy ending.

Today is the day after Thanksgiving.  Most of us are probably still full from yesterday (oh, but those leftover potatoes in the fridge still call to us, yes they do) and we’ve spent time with family and food and reflected on what we’re thankful for.  We sometimes forget these things during the rest of the year, when the roller coaster of life sends us thundering down the slope or rocks us around a hairpin turn.

But in the end, when the time comes, we remember.

For Kyle Dearmond, Norton’s Ghost is a crucible, a stripping away of expectations and an attempt to step off the roller coaster for a while so he can figure out what really matters–and to have the memories and experiences to properly treasure it.

Little does he know that he steps out of one roller coaster and onto another.

Such is the way of stories.

It’s Funny What You Actually Know

A good friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to come speak to her writing group about publishing options.  The group is my old writing group, but I’ve been out of it so long that only two of us original members remain (besides me).

My first response was, “Eeeek.”  Or maybe it was “Ack!”  At any rate, it definitely had both vowels and a “K” in it.

But then I started thinking about it, and I was like, you know, I might still be a newbie in some ways, but I have learned a lot, so why not?

So that was last night.  I realized as I talked and answered questions that I knew more than I had given myself credit for.

Zen, jazz,& creativity: Lessons from the art of jazz



Zen, jazz, & creativity: Lessons from the art of jazz

– In structure there is freedom and spontaneity.
– Restraints and limitations can be great liberators.
– Don’t ever force it; be ever natural.
– Good intentions are key. Sincerity is king, and yet…
– It’s not about you.
– Listen more than speak.
– Speak only when you have something to say, and then in the most economic way possible.
– Your approach can be direct and subtle at the same time.
– Fear is natural (and human), but work through it and past it. Don’t let fear hold you back.
– Mistakes are part of it (do not worry about them).
– Embrace the power of now, this moment.
– Technique matters, but it’s not the most important element.
– Make no pretenses; put up no facades.
– Laugh, smile if you feel like it — why not?
– Share yourself with others; make a contribution.
– Simplicity is supremely beautiful, yet difficult to obtain.
– Emptiness and silence are powerful elements of expression.
– Remove the clutter, strive for absolute clarity.
– If you think you have mastered it, you’ve have already begun your descent.
– Always be learning. Always be learning. Always be learning.
– Curiosity is your greatest gift, nurture it (in yourself and in others)

Coming Up For Air

Poor blog–been a bit neglected lately writing-wise. Lots going on lately. Notes on WIP, points of view, similarities between photography project and writing.  There’s other stuff going on, too, but those are the subject of other forthcoming posts.


Still ongoing.  I wish I could say it’s going well, but truth be told, it’s a struggle all the way.  This wasn’t an easy story to write, and its track record continues during the revision process.  The important thing is that it’s going.  My short stories often take 3-4 revision passes to tighten up, and so I expect MOROCCO to require at least the same.  Maybe more, due to the length and slight complexity of the story.

At this point, I feel like I don’t have enough description.  Part of this is because it’s set in an exotic locale that I don’t know much about.  Another reason is because I really wasn’t sure what was going on even while I was writing it: I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know for sure that characters were where they were or that they were going to stay there in revision, and so forth.  Because I knew I’d be ripping it apart in revision, I think I was loathe to try and put too much description in there.  Good idea?  Bad idea?  I’ll have to see as I go.

I also think that this “mostly dialog, no description” is the result of my writing getting stuck in a rut or a particular method.  I did the same thing on another short story that I finished the other day.  That one was sci-fi, so maybe the same excuse of not knowing the locale enough applies (Which isn’t much of an excuse; it’s my job to know my locations and convey a sense of them appropriately), but I’m also thinking that that is just the way my writing is going lately.  Can’t say I’m really a fan.

One other thing that comes to mind is that both stories were in the third person.  For a while, all I wrote (including Norton’s Ghost) was first person.  It feels so… easy.  Almost like cheating.  Third person, on the other hand, has been a challenge.  As such, I’ve put a temporary ban on first person until I write some stories in third to get a better grasp on it.  So I’m sure that’s causing my description problems, as well.

In the end, I’m hoping that I’ll have no problem going back and filling in the blanks once I’ve solidified the story structure a bit and that the descriptions shall flow once I iron out the uncertainties.

Also, an image I meant to post the other day.  I cracked open the rough draft file of MOROCCO and changed Scrivener to “outline” mode.  This is what MOROCCO looked like:

About 16,000 words of story that I had to drag out kicking and screaming.  All reduced down to that paltry little list of scenes and chunks of text and word counts.  It was humbling.

Current wordcount: 22,000.  I was right when I said I expected it to expand a great deal.  At this point, I still have no idea where it’ll end up count-wise (see previous description talk above, too), but I’m guessing at a max between 35 and 40,000 words.


So far I’ve done okay on keeping up with the “one day, one image” goal.  I missed my second day, but that’s only because I completely forgot about it.  The project hadn’t yet settled into the comfortable chair of habit.  It’s pretty much ingrained now.

Mostly, I need to get out of the house to take my images and do a little more planning.  Allot a little more time.  Sometimes it’ll be 10-11 PM and I’ll think, “Oh crap, I haven’t done my 365 yet today!”  and so the quality suffers.

On the other hand, I’m trying to strike a careful balance between utter crap taken in 30 seconds and spending half a day setting things up and getting the perfect shot.  I enjoy photography, but it’s not my first priority.  It’s ranking around third or fourth on my list of hobbies.  So my 365 images come after my writing and editing and suchlike.  I’m not trying to project my über-photography-ness or the airs or claims of a professional photographer.  I’m just trying to take some pictures, to fiddle with things, learn a bit, and have something to show for my effect at the end of 365 days.

There are a lot of parallels between this photography project and writing.  One of the biggest is the idea of small goals over the course of a long period of time.  One picture a day.  250/500/1000/2k words a day. It’s the same, really.  Especially since you might have to take 5/10/25/50 images to get that one good image.

There’s also the sense where you have to do something.  You can’t just sit around thinking about it and expect words to appear on the page or an image on your memory card.  You have to come up with ideas, you have to get up and try different things, and most of all, you have to do it anyways even if you’re tired and uninspired and plain don’t want to.  Some images will be better than others.  But even the bad ones that you don’t like but post anyways because it’s the one thing you managed to do is a success: Not every day’s writing is stellar, either, but you do it anyways.

It’s the process that’s important.