I’ve seen this question kicked around a few times during the last year. I thought I’d get on my e-soap box and belt out some of my thoughts on the subject.
As some already know, I don’t keep a word tally. I judge my progress by milestones and if my goals are reached or not, so the question of “does my blogging posts count as part of my word count” does not really apply to my philosophy.
When I think of the writing process, I think of it as a whole. Its not just about the words we put down on the page, its a host of other things: finding inspiration, studying our craft, researching publishers and agents, thinking time, organizing our our files, etc., etc.
One thing I feel that goes into this list of essentials is networking. For me, this is where blogging fits nicely.
Blogging is my support group. Its where I can go out and share my doubts and triumphs and offer words of encouragement to others. Its also where I can learn from other’s mistakes and get good advice and insight. This is why I consider it part of “writing time.”
So, here’s to all my fellow bloggers out there. You are an important part of my writing process. Thanks for what you do and keep blogging!
WIP Update: I have sent another short story out for folks to critique and am close to having another short story ready to be sent out to a magazine. The Gideon Plan is moving slower. I need to get my butt in gear on that front.
A few weeks ago, my friend Drew posted about the challenge of writing dialogue with characters who have accents. I never much considered it. All the writing I ever did, the characters spoke pretty normal. Now I’m writing about Irish immigrants in the 19th century slums of New York and I find myself staring at the Irish accent and slang.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How do I go about tackling this?
The last thing I want is my readers having a hard time reading my dialogue. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer comes to mind. Good book, but at times, it was tough to read. Also, I don’t want to pull a Dick Van Dyke and come up with the worst sounding accent of all time.
I seem to have four options.
- Go balls to the wall and study the shit out of the Irish language so it sounds plausible when written. (I’m only writing short stories, though, I don’t want to become an expert on this stuff.)
- Fake the language as best as I can. (ala—Dick Van Dyke).
- Keep the dialogue normal and just spice it with the occasional “ye” and “yer.”
- Don’t try to write the accent. Just say the characters have Irish accents and write normal.
I checked out some writers I admire to see how they did it. Larry McMurty in Lonesome Dove goes for the fourth option. Here’s a few lines after he has already told the reader these men are Irish.
“I say we eat the mule,” the younger man said.
“Nothing of the sort,” the other said.
“Then give me a drink,” the younger said.
This seems to work. There is something that sounds Irish about it—the way their sentences are laid out and their use of words. “Nothing of the sort” sounds Irish to me. Pretty good.
Michael Shaara in the Killer Angels goes for the third option. Try this on for size:
“Colonel, darlin’, I hate to be a-wakin’ ye, but there’s a message here ye ought to be seein’.”
This also works. I’m not sure if this is faked or spiced or properly studied. It’s probably #3, though.
In truth, Shaara’s strategy is my preference. Irish seems to be one of those dialects that just begs to be written out a little phonetically. I don’t want to over do it, though, because most, if not all my characters will be speaking in accents. Will this get on the reader’s nerves after awhile? It’s a challenge that I will be experimenting with.
How about you guys? What’s your strategy with accents?
Back when I made video games, we had this thing called over scoping. Our teams always had such grand plans for our games and it was my job to bring them back down to earth. It wasn’t the team’s ability that was in question, it was the amount of time and resources available for the project. It was morale squashing, but in the end, the team benefited from it.
As I continue to write this story, scope has been an issue. However, its not time or resources that I worry about. Its ability.
For the last week and a half I have been working feverishly on when things go bad in the book. As stated, this takes place at Gettysburg. I’ve been doing my research and taking tons of notes. All the while, I’ve been itching to put it all in narrative form. Yesterday, I was ready to go. I wrote like a mad mother fucker. For six hours.
But there was something wrong. . .
It wasn’t very good.
Now, these types of things have happened to me in the past. I’ve written stuff that is garbage. That’s always aggravating, but this time something was different. I began to realize what I needed to put in the story was something that could be beyond my natural ability and experience: streamlined exposition, strong description, a ton of minor characters, and lots and lots of narrative. I started thinking: My God, I can’t do this.
I’m not giving up. But it certainly put a scare in me. I’m going back and working on easier chapters and see if I can build up some momentum and confidence then tackle Gettysburg later.
How about my writer friends—you ever feel like you have bitten off more than your stomach can handle? How do you go about solving the problem?