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Writing Diary

Metamorphosis of a Story- Part Eight


I did it!

My first published story, “Pool Sharks,” will be in the 2014 spring issue of Tales of the Talisman.

I just got the e-mail (literally—like minutes ago). When I read the first line, I was expecting the whole “thanks, but this isn’t quite for us. . . blogitty, blah, blah . . .”

Wow, I’m just beside myself. Stunned.

Thanks for all you fine folks out there who have believed in me and my stories. I need the support you all give me. Thanks so much . . . (wow, was that an acceptance speech???)

WIP Update: Though I have been on station break, I still work on my novel quite a bit. I’m working on back story for my love interest. It’s been a fun time doing all this research. I’ve learned a lot about Civil War era women.


walking-cliche-2I was so excited last night. I finally had the opportunity to talk to someone about my story (it really is a rare occurrence). A friend of mine has some of the same attributes of my story’s love interest and I was milking her brain for a few insights. Then I talked to her a little about the story’s love plot. She listened patiently, nodded her head, and said, “Dan, that sounds cliché.”


Curious, I looked on the interwebs for what is considered trite in romance storylines and found I had a couple: husband is the antagonist, and the hero or heroine dies in the end.

Well drat.

I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what is trite and what is not. If something seems trite, I try to put a spin on it. But you know, it’s pretty darn tricky sometimes. It’s hard to create a unique story when there are literally millions of stories that have been told before. Inevitably, you’re going to hit on the same themes, characters, and plots.

And then there is the issue of reader expectations. I posted a few months ago about the Hero’s Journey which espouses there are certain elements that the human mind expects in a story. I believe there is a fine line between what is considered a cliché and what is an expectation or an archetype.

So, what do you guys think? You have any tricks for staying out of the cliché realm? I know reading widely certainly helps. You got any more suggestions?

WIP Update: I have still been working on backstory for my story’s love interest and have made some pretty good progress. This week is going to be tough because I have a complete change of routine. I have a week long certification class (I’m trying to get a grown-up job). We’ll see if I can get any work done. May be tricky.

Crawling into the Skin of the Opposite Sex


A friend once told me that if you find yourself writing in the voice of a person who is the opposite sex you are, then you are secretly that gender. I don’t know about that, but it certainly has gotten me thinking about writing from the POV of the opposite sex.

For some reason, I have never had much difficulty writing from the POV of a woman. I look back over the years, and I would say about a quarter of my POVs have been women. I don’t know why I have been able to make this transition so easily. I wonder if I should be concerned about my masculinity.

Maybe it’s because of my upbringing. I am the only boy between two sisters. I also had a mother who doted on me. I notice that I am typically more comfortable speaking with women than I am with men. I may just be more comfortable being in the skin of a woman. . . Did I just say that?

Whatever the reason, it helps me with my writing. I’m currently writing about my story’s love interest, Rose. So far, she has been the most intriguing character in the novel. I was curious as to how my writer friends out there handle writing from the POV of the opposite sex. Do you struggle with it? Is it easy? What tips do you have that helps when you write from these POVs? Do you take Melvin Udall’s advice from As Good As it Gets?

WIP Update—No Lie. This month has been the worst. Sickness. Work. More sickness. Kids on vacation. More work. Someone please just take this month and throw it in the trash can. Fortunately, I’m starting to get back in the groove of things. I’m currently reading a book about antebellum women in Charleston and have started a dialogue with a Civil War re-enactor to give me some insights into Civil War era women. Pretty fun stuff actually.



… And Away She Goes

Bull SharkToday, for the first time in twelve years, I submitted a short story to a magazine.

The story is called Pool Sharks. I wrote it about ten years ago. It was based upon a dream I had about a swimming pool full of sharks. I thought the story was pretty good, but admittedly, it wasn’t my normal genre (dark fantasy). I had some people look at it, they made their comments, and it just kind of sat around for a decade.

I’m not really sure why I didn’t do anything with it. Of course, I had about four or five other short stories that hadn’t gone anywhere either (a few had been rejected by some magazines).

Anyway . . . I picked this one back up about four or five months ago, still thought it was good, dusted it off a little, and sent it out for some feedback. Most everyone harped on the ending. I changed it up a bit, resent it out for another look over and bingo. People liked what they read.

Now its on its way to Tales of the Talisman. I think it would fit in well with this particular magazine, but we’ll see.

WIP Update: I hate to say it, but between life getting in the way and me being unfocused, I haven’t done ANY work on the Gideon Plan. I’m hoping to get my arse back in gear soon. I don’t really have much in the way of excuses. I’m just not doing it.

P.S. Oh yes, one more thing–A shout out to Bare Knuckle Writer who just wrote about how to acquire rejection letters, something I may have to reread when this story comes back with REJECT written on it. Knuckles writes with a hilarious in-your-face style. I really dig her posts.

I, the undersigned, resolve to . . .

new-years-resolution-be-more-awesomeMy New Year’s Writing Goals. Attainable, me thinks. Sorry I’m a few days late . . .

Education & Networking
• Become member of the Florida Writer’s Association
• Attend Florida Writer’s Association Conference in October
• Attend 9 of the local writers club meetings.
• Read 10 novels and write a short synopsis of what I learned.
• Blog once a week

• Finish rough draft of The Gideon Plan.
• Write two new short stories or resurrect two old ones.

• Publish one short story or receive 10 rejection letters trying.

How about you guys? What are your writing goals?

Planner vs. Pantser– FIGHT!!

Mortal CombatWriters have some strange jargon. Planner and Pantser appeared on my radar about a year ago. When I first saw them I think my response was along the lines of, “What the . . . ?”

They are easy to remember:

Planner: Plans the novel from start to finish and then writes. “Thou shalt outline or your story is going to publisher hell.”

Pantser: “Flies by the seat of the pants.” In other words, just wing that mutha’.

This is a pretty big thing debated in the writing community. I attended a writing workshop last Saturday and the first thing out of the speaker’s mouth was, “Outline!” The crowd kinda shifted in their seats and mumbled to one another, but what were they to do? They were held captive by this outlining fiend.

So, Dan’s two bits, because I have the e-soap box right now . . .

Our speaker made the analogy of what person in his right mind would build a house without a blueprint? Nobody, that’s who! Great analogy. Problem is, I’m not building a house, I’m writing a story.

A lot about writing a story is about discovery. How many times have we written a scene, going in full well knowing what is supposed to happen and our characters take it in a completely different direction? Sometimes this is good and sometimes its not, but this is what writing is about. You can’t always force it to your will. How do you blueprint that? You can’t.

Video game analogy time! Number three rule of game design—you will make a game design doc at the start of the project, and by the end its best use will be to wipe your butt. You know why? It’s because what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out on the screen. Game designers need time to figure out what works best for their game and their audience. This is true with story writing too.

Now, let me back track a little before folks think I’m a pantser. I’m not espousing that either. Going back to this presenter, his talk was about story structure: beginning, middle, and end. He was adamant that people understand what each entails. I agree with him, however, this in no way entails that a writer outline—it simply means that a writer needs to understand story structure. Our presenter said that he speaks to published authors all the time that don’t outline—it’s because they understand story structure. This is key!

So, I challenge my writer friends out there—whether you are a planner or a pantser—do you really understand story structure? Heck, do you even know what it means? It could save you some headaches!

WIP Update: I hit a milestone today. I finished the bursts for my protagonist (uncertainty about particular scenes was conquered). Next step–I go through  all the bursts and arrange them so they create a rough draft. After that, I tackle another character’s bursts.  Yay me!

How to Beat the Blank Page

writers-block1-300x200We’ve all been there: staring at that blank monitor screen, dreading the glowing white void. All our dreams seem to be sucked away into that nothingness.

We ask ourselves, “What happened to the great scene that was floating around in my head just yesterday evening?” We make an excuse to get away from the screen, figuring, in a little while, the muse will show up and all will be well. Meanwhile, three hours later, after making cookies and watching a couple of shows on Netflix, were lying in bed reading a book with tears welling in our eyes, “God, another day without writing. I’m a failure! Why do I even try?”

Curse you blank page!

No one but us writers seem to understand why the blank page is such a terrifying adversary. I’m sure it has doomed many a budding career. Fortunately, I have developed a method to whip it.

I’ve discussed writing in bursts before. This is a method where you don’t write in complete thoughts, rather just write down little snippets of narrative as they come to you. This is how I beat the dreaded white page—every single time..

Foremost, what we are looking for, is to get past the first 10-15 minutes of writing. This is how long it takes someone to get into the so called “zone.” You know—where the pump is finally primed and the words are flowing like so much water from the faucet.

  1. Pull up that dreaded blank page. Stare at it. Don’t be afraid of it, because in a second, its ass is going to be kicked.
  2. Yesterday, or the day before, or sometime this morning when you were in the shower, a scene was in your head. You may not remember all of it, but I bet you remember at least one snippet of it. Write that down. It doesn’t matter what it is.  It can be a short description. It can be a line of dialogue.  It may not be a complete sentence.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be all that good.
  3. Oh look, the page is no longer blank. Score one for you. Think back on that scene. Write something else you remember about it. Again, it doesn’t matter what it is. Also, this is important— the snippets don’t have to be in order of appearance of the scene. Just write it down. Double space-it helps fill up the blank page. Also, don’t edit. Keep the fingers going.
  4. Rinse and repeat. Soon, you will have a string of bits of your scene. It won’t make sense to anyone but yourself, but that’s fine. After about 10-15 minutes of this, you will find that the muse has suddenly returned and you are in the zone.
  5. Feel free to go back and put your little snippets in order of appearance. I would suggest keeping them double spaced. As you put them in order, you will find more snippets come to you. Write them down.  Put them in order of appearance. Feel free to enlarge your original snippets as things come to you or join snippets with other snippets if they go together.
  6. Voila. No more blank page! Also, I bet you anything by the time you are finished, you have a pretty good rough draft for a scene.

WIP Update: After kicking a lot of blank page ass this last week, I’m pretty pleased with my progress. I’ve set a goal of finishing my bursts for the story’s main character by the end of the month, but I’m getting stuck on the plot toward the very end (the story’s climax).  I’m not really sure what happens exactly. I may need to blog about this next week.