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Posts tagged “writing

Does Blogging Time Count as Writing Time?

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.


“Jaysus! Howaya Saggy Arse?”: The Challenges of Accents in Dialogue

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. Fake the language as best as I can. (ala—Dick Van Dyke).
  3. Keep the dialogue normal and just spice it with the occasional “ye” and “yer.”
  4. 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?

Biting off More Than You Can Chew

June 27, 2012

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?

Writer’s Diary: Moving Toward the Rough Draft of The Gideon Plan

This blog has two main parts to it: my reviews for places in St. Augustine and to let everyone know about my writing goings-on. To be truthful, I would like to write more about my writing life than I have been, but in actually there isn’t much to . . . er . . . write about. I write, but its not typically in any form for anyone to see. I thought I’d go ahead and start a writer’s diary. This will just be an update on what I’ve been working on. I’ll add to this post periodically (my goal is once a week), so come back and check it out from time to time.

March 8, 2012

I’ve certainly had better weeks, but I’m confident that this one wasn’t wasted. I wrote probably around 3 pages this week of narrative for the Gideon Plan (I need to bump this up to hit my goal of 5 pages a week). I’m letting my muse take me where it will, but I’m trying to point it in the direction of Rose, my story’s love interest. She is a spy. Today I checked out a book called ‘Spies and Spymasters of the Civil War’ to get some ideas. Pretty good book! I will stew on it for a few days and see what pops up.  I also finished Richard Cromwell’s “Rebel” (color me unimpressed). Not much there to inspire except, “gee I can do better than this.”

For some reason, the thought of bringing back another point of view character into the story appeared in my head today (James Braxton). Its not a thought I relish. It just means more work, but I’m getting the feeling he is needed.

Also, believe it or not, I still have not figured out the story’s protagonist. Isn’t that weird? Traditional writing takes the tack that you take a character and throw them into a crazy situation, but I’m not quite sure who that character is supposed to be. Originally it was Braxton, then I was certain it was Locke Bowens. Now I’m wondering if it might actually be Rose! If I use reverse logic, by asking who it is the antagonist antagonizes, I can only say “all of them!” Oh well. I know I’ll figure it out. Interesting conundrum to say the least.

I created the story’s first outline today. This usually comes along after I have written quite a few bursts and I have a better idea of the direction the story is going. For me, right now, its just a gauge to see if the story is emerging instead of an actual direction the story should go. The story is definitely there, but has lots of holes. The outline will give me some ideas on where I need to fill them.

My biggest accomplishment was to come up with some goals for story completion. My first big milestone will be August 3 when I should have my rough draft finished. Its also my birthday. I’ll have a first draft for people to read by October 1. Like all goals, these don’t always pan out, but they look doable. For Bronze Raiders, I consistently exceeded my goals, but we’ll see.

My word count estimate is between 150 and 200 pages long. That’s somewhere in the region of 102,000 and 135,000 words. Write now I have somewhere between 40 and 50 pages that may or may not make it in.

I do have my fears and concerns for the Gideon Plan. This story is quite the undertaking compared to Bronze Raiders. It is much more involved as far as research goes. It also has multiple points of view (I’m up to three, possibly four if I bring Braxton back). That’s three to four characters that need a lot of time to develop. That’s a lot of work. To do it all right . . . egad. Its daunting sometimes. But, its so much fun!

March 15, 2012

I exceeded my goal of 5 pages a week by over six pages (total of over 11 pages). From personal experience, this is an exception rather than the rule. Life too often just gets in the way. Boy, wouldn’t it be cool, though, if I could write that much every week? Gee, I’d be done with my rough draft by the middle of May. Oh well.

This week, I primarily wrote about the union detective tracking down Gideon. I also wrote about Rose, the love interest of the story. Both are starting to take a shape. Neither are as fearless as I thought them to be. Both have genuine fears and insecurities but do what they must despite the odds. That is a good thing.

So, I’m not going to lie. Being a writer and having a family is not often conducive to one another. I set aside one day a week where I know I will write (Thursdays). It gives me about 4-5 hours of uninterrupted writing time. Unfortunately, the muse doesn’t always work on a schedule. It may appear other times of the week (it did this week, actually). What I try to do when this happens is write down a few bursts just to get it out on paper and then come back when I have more time. Unfortunately, when that happens, all I’ve succeeded in doing is prime the pump and the muse won’t turn off—more ideas flow and my need to write peaks. However, if the family is around, this is often impossible. The kids want something to eat, I have to cook dinner, I need to clean the house, there is laundry to be done, the kids are being noisy and I can’t concentrate, my wife wants to talk etc. When I try to come back and write later, I find the muse is gone.

Yeah, I know– “wah.”

For those of us who write, you know this is a very painful and often frustrating experience. Anyone else out there have this problem? How do you get around it?

Here is a sample of this week’s bursts. This is Lucan (final name is still pending. I called him Joshua Lawrence in this setting of bursts). He’s gone to Natchez, Mississippi, recently captured by Union forces. He is looking for the home of Gideon. In tow is Mr. Wesley, a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle turned informer. You may notice most of my bursts are dialogue (I’m sure there is some type of psychology as to why I do this). Also, you’ll see its a little more raw than the Percy example I gave a couple of weeks ago. This is a little more in line with most of the bursts I write.

March 22, 2012

This week I wrote almost seven pages—so again I exceeded my goal.

This week I wrote primarily about the team’s missions at Fort McHenry and the Springfield Armory. Writing about these things is very difficult. Its a struggle getting the specifics of historical places with limited resources. For example, Gideon has a blockade runner that is captured and the team needs to get it back. So, question #1. Where would the Union take a blockade runner after it was captured. I don’t know. I couldn’t find anything. I chose Baltimore. It has a port near the southern states. Ok, so questions #2. If the team is in Baltimore, what was the city like during the Civil War so I can describe it to the reader? I spent a lot of time on the web, looking at maps and finding (few) photographs. OK, so I got some basics and I might be able to fill in some details that are missing to make it sound real. Question #3—where would they put the ship? I don’t know. I chose a place near Fort McHenry. Sounded reasonable. Question #4– Where would the crew be held prisoner? I read that Fort McHenry was a place where prisoners were processed during the war. Ok. So, #5: Gideon’s team has to get them out. How was fort McHenry fortified? I found photos, a couple of maps, some information. Not much to go on. Again, I figured I could fill in some details.

Regardless, I’m going to have to go back and revisit these areas after doing more research. I’ve already ordered some books from inter library loan. Gee, its a lot of work. Fun, but certainly daunting at times. Especially if I want to do it right.

How about you guys? How do you handle research that goes along with your story? Do you research first then write or research as you go? What if you can’t find what you are researching for?

March 29, 2012

Good week overall. The family was gone for a few days and while I couldn’t spend all my time writing, I did get more than I would have normally. I wrote about eight pages this week. Not bad at all. (current overall count is over 75 pages)

Rose is still the character that remains somewhat elusive to me. Strangely, I have a good idea where she goes and what she does, but I just don’t have a good bead on her personality yet. I also do not have the details of her role in the story. I have been reading Mary’s Chestnut’s diary to get some ideas. Its helped some, but this character still remains somewhat elusive (about all I’ve really gotten useful from the diary so far is a running list of Civil war era slang and terminology). Also finally decided that James Braxton is going to be a POV and major character in the story. Welcome back, James!

I’ve reached a point where I know which parts of the story has holes in it (the outline I made a few weeks ago helped pinpoint these). Not surprisingly, its the ending. I always have a tendency struggling with that part of the story, though I admit when I get it figured out, I nail it (at least my readers I did for Bronze Raiders). Also have been reading Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy to get a better feel for Special Ops units in fiction. I decided I needed to get some more info in the Lincoln Assassination. I picked up April 65: Confederate Covert Action in the Civil War. Jesus. This book just may become my Bible! Tons of things in here I can use.

Here’s a burst I wrote this week. Gideon begins to do things that the old team members find reprehensible and this eventually leads to them defecting to the Union. This is the beginning of that break. The two characters in this burst– Locke Bowens, former Texas Ranger and leader of the original team and Whitman, a mountain man and the original team’s sharpshooter.

April 5, 2012

The family was out of town this weekend so I was able to write more than my usual. I wrote over 11 pages. I probably could have done more, but there is this thing called a ‘job’ that has a tendency to get in the way.

This week was spent looking into possible missions for the team. Primarily I was interested in finding clandestine operations or the destruction of property presumed to be caused by accidents that the team could take credit for in the story. I came up with a small list. It includes the destruction of the Allegheny Arsenal and the capture of General Edwin H. Stoughton (attributed historically to John Mosby.)

Mosby captures General E.H. Stoughton. March 9, 1863.

The tricky part was to figure out why these operations were important strategically to the southern cause (when in reality, they were not). I went with the whole “the real reason was never disclosed or discovered.” For the Arsenal, there is a legend that there were underground tunnels under it. In my story, those tunnels are the secret facility for a secret Union weapon—a rocket that could be fired up to 100 miles (and would be aimed at Richmond!) The team destroys the facility, executes the inventors, and steals the plans (hence the legend of the Confederate rocket). For Stoughton, I went along the tack that Stoughton was Hooker’s first choice for the head of the new Bureau of Military Information. This was basically the spy service for the Union. The team captures him and seizes information about Union spies and their networks within the south. This gives the Confederacy a leg up in the war’s clandestine battles. (Don’t worry Mosby history buffs, Mosby is still involved in the actual operation).

So, the trickier part will be to figure out how these operations actually fit into the whole story. They just can’t dangle out there by themselves. I think they will end up being backdrops for important plot points.

Lots of work to do . . .

April 12, 2012

I’m ahead of schedule! Check it out!

April 19, 2012

Little bit of a rough week this time around. I was able to squeeze out about 3 pages this week. Life just kept getting in the way. I had a 50+ hour work week, sick kids, and was behind in my sleep in general so when I did have time to write, I spent much of it napping (yeah, I know excuses, excuses). I also spent my writing time reading up on Vicksburg (see image to right–great book btw). Like I said in my last post, it looks like I need to beef up the second part of my story. Things start to go sour for most everyone right around Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, so I am researching that area to figure out how my characters had a hand in those historic events.

Only thing I can do now is keep plugging along. How about you guys, how do you deal with everyday things distracting your writing time?

April 26, 2012

Over twelve pages this week. Much more than anticipated. I’m now at a total of 114 pages. I spent a lot of time reading the Vicksburg book (finished it, it was awesome). I have a pretty clear idea what Gideon was doing over there and how the siege effected him. Here is the burst on it. In the end, this will probably be more like three or four scenes. General Joseph Johnston makes an appearance.

I also am really starting to figure out what makes Rose tick and how she fits into the story. Her story is becoming a little haunting. All good stuff.

Overall, the plot is really starting to come together. Whew. Its about time.

I expect things to slow down over the next two weeks. I’ll be lucky if I make my 5 page goal. We are moving and my spare time will be sucked up by packing. Sucko!
May 3, 2012

So ends the week of May 3. Despite what I thought I’d do, I ended up writing almost eight pages this week (a total of over 122 pages overall). Despite that, I don’t expect I’ll write much this week as we are moving Wednesday. I’m going to try and write at last one page. I also expect my routine to be off the following couple of weeks after the move as I try to settle into my new digs. After that, it will be summer break and my routine will be further thrown off. The kids will be home and that will disrupt my ability to write. No more Thursdays for my day of writing. I’m going to have to grab time when I can. I have a feeling I’m going to be very moody over the next four months because of it.

I’m also a little concerned that the second part of my story is still not very well fleshed out. Though I am writing some scenes that fall in the second half of the story, I still am writing parts that are in the first half. Its pretty lopsided. My feeling, though, is that my estimates may be off and that many parts of what I think is in the first half of the story may actually be in the second half.

May 10, 2012

Move is complete and I did indeed hit my 1 page goal. Hey, every little bit helps. I fleshed out Lucan’s Legion, which is an elite Union company of mounted infantry that pursues and ambushes Gideon’s men. They in turn are latter ambushed themselves. They are a special detachment of the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, “Western Sharpshooters” and veteran guerrilla killers. The leader, Captain Emmanuel Lucan, is modeled after Custer. Hopefully, I will get back to my 5 page goal this week if I can get some type of semblance of normal (I can only hope! And I have my concerns!).

May 17, 2012

As expected, I didn’t get as much writing done as I would have liked. 5 pages was certainly pushing it. I got about 4, so that’s not too bad, I suppose. The move has thrown things out of whack and we also have house guests, which has disrupted my routine. Additionally, I’m having to research Stuart’s involvement in the Gettysburg campaign and that takes time (Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg by Whittenburg and Petruzzi). Unfortunately, I believe I may have just chased the wrong rabbit down a hole (not sure if that’s the correct phrase). I think I may be reading the wrong Gettysburg account. It may be more plausible or better if the team was actually involved with General Ewell’s attack on the Susquehanna and not Stuart’s ride around the Union army. This means more research and of course, more time. Drat!

At this point, I see two major holes in the overall story that still need to be fleshed out before I can consider the rough draft done (perhaps a third). The first is Gettysburg. The second is the Lincoln assassination and the final showdown between the two teams (this is a biggy!). The third, if needed, is Chambers’s adventures trying to find Gideon. Regardless, things are slow moving right now and that can be a little frustrating. I need to just plod along, a little at a time, and remember things will work themselves out. I just need to be a little patient. I can’t rush it!

By the way, if you are reading this, will you give me a ping? It’s quiet out there.

May 24, 2012

Looks like I was making up for lost time here. I wrote over 18 pages this week and I felt like I had not written enough. There’s still a lot left in me. This actually brings me up to my 150 page goal (I’m technically at 149.55 I think, but . . .) but I’m not prepared to call the story rough draft ready, though. I still need a little more Gettysburg and a little more Lincoln assassination first. In all, I feel I have around 10 pages left between those two before I dub the story a rough draft.

Lots of stuff written this week, but most of it revolved around Rose. Also included in this week is a new POV character ( a minor one–Rose’s father). He’ll help fill in some political gaps I am missing. He also is important to a couple of plot twists and points. Also, wrote the sex scene and the sexual tension scenes leading up to it (thanks to the novel “Souless” for inspiring me!)

Sorry, my burst this week is not the sex scene (its good but not as delicious without the build up scenes). Instead I’m including the scene where Rose rushes to Washington to warn of Lincoln’s assassination and also her husband’s discovery of her being a spy.

May 31, 2012

And another week goes by and so does my obscure blog. Anybody out there? Hello? I guess its my own fault for not posting these entries as individual posts. I think I’m going to start doing that for when I start working on my first draft.

I’ve written at least seven pages this week. Not enough of them are on Gettysburg and the Assasination, though. Still, they are for the most part good bursts and I’m happy with them. They’ll flesh out the story nicely.

I’ve been focusing my attention on the Assassination for the last few days. Lots of reading and research. I went back and got April ’65 and am also reading Blood on the Moon, which has been really invaluable, mostly because it is so easy to read and still full of detail. Great Book! I’m starting to get a better idea of what all is happening towards the end of the story. Its all high level right now, but soon, details will begin to appear as they generally do. I’ll just need a little bit of time to absorb it. I think that I probably have about another three, maybe four, weeks before I call this rough draft worthy and am ready to start putting the first draft together. I hope so anyway. I admit I am getting impatient and want to go, go, go!

June 7, 2012

Gee is it June already? My how time flies. This week’s page count–almost 11. Unfortunately none of it was in the areas that I still need to focus on. Not that I am neglecting those area, I’m just still researching them. Ideas are creeping in, slowly but surely. Right now I am thinking that Booth and his conspirators are mostly just informants for the Confederacy and when the Gideon team fails to kill Lincoln, Booth takes it into his own hands. The two main points of view will be Braxton and Oliver (new name for the Lucan/Lawrence character). Both are present at different places during the assassination of Lincoln and the attempted assassination of Secretary of State Seward.

So goal reality check–the summer has arrived and that means my kids are out of school, which means that they are here all the time and every thirty minutes or so are in need of something, which completely makes it difficult to write. Writing in the evening and in the morning are not much of an option seeing I work late (sometimes till 1) and then I sleep in. Its going to be tricky reaching that page count and focusing on my writing. Well, where there’s a will there is a way. I just have to figure it out.

Here is a burst that I wrote this week. In this scene, the Gideon team has just destroyed the Allegheny Arsenal near Pittsburgh (real life event–check it out). The man who has been sent to find out who Gideon and his men are and how to stop them is Oliver (still not sure if that is his first or last name is). He has arrived about a month later. He is starting to piece things together.

June 14, 2012

Rough Draft is complete. I’m closing this post down! Yay me!

Third Draft of Bronze Raiders Finished

For the faithful who have been following, the third draft of my story, Bronze Raiders: A Tale of Mythical Troy, is now finished. I thank those of you who encouraged me to get off my duff and just finish the thing. Lately, I have been distracted by my other stories, the Gideon Plan and Sphinx. Though I certainly enjoy working on them, I can’t forget to finish what I started.

After almost two years after finishing its first draft, I am considering Bronze Raiders to be in a true Beta phase. I am through changing plots, characters, setting, etc. At some point, you need to let the thing go and walk on its own legs. I am still looking for readers to just look it over and find any inconsistencies or minor details that may have been overlooked before I send it to an editor. If you are interested in reading it, I’d love for you to look at it! After that, I’m going to self publish it. I don’t expect to get rich or gain much profit (heck, I probably won’t even break even). I just wrote this for you, the reader, to enjoy and take a step into my imagination.

I’m putting up the prologue and chapter one here for you to enjoy. Just click on this cool image below created by aka maelstrom and it will link to it (Yes! there are minotaurs in the story!).

A story synopsis is here.

Gideon Plan Update

Its been awhile since I’ve posted and I think I should go ahead and put up something–for those of you who are following me (let’s see I think there might be one of you)–here’s whats going down with the Gideon Plan.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and have written about thirty scenes that may or may not make it into the final story. I have learned a hell of a lot about the Civil War during this time and based upon what I’ve learned, I’ve made some changes to the story premise and characters. Here’s a few of those.

  • Charles Gideon is the antagonist (it was William Talbot, but he wasn’t fitting with the theme).  His character is based primarily upon Nathan Bedford Forrest (with a touch of Stonewall Jackson and Chatham Wheat). He’s frontier-tough and a military genius. Unlike Forrest, he has gone to West Point (which historically would probably have been a deadly combination if it were true). He got his start with irregular warfare as a member of the Second Dragoons during the Mexican War fighting Mexican guerrilleros. He’s fought as a filibuster in Mexico and Nicaragua and as a mercenary in Italy. He’s a charismatic fanatic who believes God has made him the instrument in the expansion of the supremacy of the white race and the southern way of life.
  • The secret society, the Knights of the Golden Circle, is prominently featured in the story. Gideon’s guerrillas are the military arm of this Order.
  • There is a Union cavalry officer who is trying to find out who these mysterious guerrillas are at the peril of his life.
  • Gideon’s core group of guerrillas are men he has fought with for many years before the war and represent some of the toughest sons-of-bitches the world has seen including a Texas Ranger, a sharpshooting mountain man, a Cherokee tracker, a British Adventurer, and a bare knuckles and knife fighter from New Orleans.
  • Gideon is recruiting men of exceptional skill and courage who possess an unfaltering belief in Southern Rights and liberties from the ranks of the regular Confederate military.
  • As the war proceeds and the south’s plight becomes more desperate, Gideon’s guerrillas take on a more sinister character. This creates a fraction in the group as well as with the rest of the Confederacy.

This is all for now. I hope to get another sample chapter up soon.

Gideon Plan-Chapter 1

So, here’s something different (for me anyway). I’ve had this idea for a story bouncing around in my head for the last eight months. It started out with my fascination for steam punk. I soon began to imagine a James Bond type character in a Steam Punk setting using Steam Punk technology. That evolved. I began to imagine something more along the lines of a GI Joe type team set in a Steam Punk setting using Steam Punk technology. I ran with that. Off an on, I have done research and piddled around with a few idea. About a week ago, I posted the story’s premise (see below). My wife really liked it, so I went ahead and wrote the first chapter. I’m actually pretty pleased with it so I thought I’d post it here.  It hasn’t been edited at all. No one else but me has looked at it. If you have any comments for it, go ahead and throw them out there.

NOTE: This chapter was written some time ago when the story concept was still young. A lot has changed since then. Still, I’m leaving it up because its neat to look back on where one came from. Also, its also pretty well written if I do say so myself. 🙂

GideonPlan_1stD_Chapter 1_Sample