Writing: If your brain keeps stewing, you probably aren’t finished.

As a rule, I typically do this: if my brain keeps stewing about a work you completed, it’s not complete and you need to revisit it.

I’m not talking about the revision process when a writer is still in the mode of improving a work. I’m talking about after the writer thinks the work is finished. If it keeps bothering you, if something isn’t sitting right, you need to take a second look.

This is an excellent reason to allow a finished work to sit untouched for a while before the writer publishes it or does anything else to it. Time allows the ideas to settle, and time will eventually tell you are not finished.

I came across this issue this past week. I wrote a piece (with a student of mine) this summer, a short play which will be part of my show in December. I thought it was finished, and we’ve actually started rehearsals with the piece. But this week, for whatever reason, I started thinking more about the structure and characters and the more I thought, the more I realized I wasn’t satisfied.

I didn’t really have time for another re-write, but I know me. Once I feel unsettled about a work, there’s no stopping me until I’m satisfied. It’s an annoying trait, but I think it’s a good one.

And so over the last couple of days, I went through two more re-writes, I cut out about 20% of the story, dropped one character completely, reedited many lines and ended up changing the title three more times. I actually sent the new updated script to my actors with one title, but I just changed it again about ten minutes ago.

Writing perfection doesn’t exist. A work is never completely done, it’s typically just abandoned by the writer. But sometimes, a finished work can haunt you until you give in and do the necessary work to improve it. Because that’s what is ultimately important. The process. The small increments of improvement played out over a long period of time.

Don’t settle. Listen to the unsettling voices inside. It will make the work better, and it will make you a better writer.

New 5-Star Review of “Which Half David”

I’m honored to have such a great review of “Which Half David” from Charlene at CollectedWorksBlog.  Here’s a couple excerpts:

“Incredible twists keep the suspense ramped up toward the end and I never would have imagined the choices Tobin makes.”

“I believe that this is, by far, my favorite of his writings. 5 stars for the relatability of the characters, fast pace and suspense.”

Read Charlenes entire review HERE!

And to find out what she’s talking about, this new release is available in Kindle and paperback HERE!

img_20160904_1550221_rewind

A Writer’s Problem? Diverted attention

Here’s the problem: I have so many writing interests that I jump around to all kinds of writing projects at the same time.

I should be working on my novel right now. I’m almost done with the first draft, but here’s where my rabbit-hold-kind-of-brain has been at this week. Two days ago, I got an idea for some song lyrics that I wrote. It was completely random, but I guess it’s good to rhyme every once in a while. I had fun writing them and I put them on this blog two days ago. Right about that same time, I had the genesis of a new play, just a title and a very rough scenario which might work. After that had been marinating in my brain for a day or two, I went to see a production of The Glass Menagerie last night. It was a great show, so as I was thinking through Williams’ writing and what it means to me, I got re-inspired to start that play. I decided to zoom in, and like Tennessee Williams, have a static set with only four characters. I’ve written elaborate plays before with many characters, those are especially good for high school productions, I’m attracted to the idea of a character-driven play where I can really focus and develop on just a handful of characters. So this afternoon, I’ve been writing it, my new play, forsaking my novel once again.

I also have another play I’m writing with some students. We  have a mid-October deadline. Plenty of time to procrastinate.

I also re-wrote one of the short plays I’m producing for December.

So, yeah, I’m all over the place. But I think that’s the way I work best. Let the cross-genres and overlapping ideas help each other. I’ll eventually get everything done.

The creative writing process is such a fascinating phenomenon. One word or phrase can turn my head and get my undivided attention. I never know what’s coming next. And that’s actually kind of fun.

The Glass Menagerie @penangpac – Don’t Miss It! Last Chance.

I just returned from seeing the classic Tennessee Williams piece “The Glass Menagerie,” – one of only three performances as a special penangpac production.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t miss this show!

  1. Marina Tan! Marina played the matriarch Amanda Wingfield, giving a stunning performance. The nuances, the playful southern accent, the command of the stage – the depth of the character, who on the surface seems so one-dimensional, was brought to life by this terrific performance by Tan. I’ve seen Marina in many wonderful performances in the past, but she was more than up to the challenge for this meaty role. Tremendous!
  2. The direction. American actor and director Christopher Presslar did an admirable job with the entire splendid cast. The direction was playful and relaxed, with terrific spatial features which showed the distance between the characters. The minimalist set worked very well. The pace moved quickly, but Presslar’s touch allowed the necessary quiet moments to properly pace the scenes very effectively. I was also very appreciative of the decision to not try and adapt this piece to a Malaysian setting, but let the words of Williams and his universal themes to speak for themselves. I do become tired of adaptations which changes the original script to better suit a local audience. I’m so glad this wasn’t the case. It was St. Louis 1937, as it should be.
  3. The set. I love going to shows to see how the production decides to tackle. With a combination of raised platforms, LCD projectors, fog machines, period music, and a terrific lighting plan, the set brought the play alive in all the correct ways. The focused facial lighting, the backlighting, the soft hues, the smoky feel – all of it created a wonderful atmosphere for theatre.

And lastly, I know this is four, but I have to mention Williams’ script. It’s great to see and hear a modern classic on the stage. It doesn’t happen that often, especially in my part of the world, so it is treat.

Don’t miss the final performance @penanagpac, Saturday Sept 24, 8:30 pm.

img_20160923_2017386_rewind img_20160923_2141324_rewind

I Wrote This Last Night

I wrote this last night. No particular reason, and I’m not even sure what it means. But I kind of like it. I’m thinking folk-rock.

Vagabonds of Mercy   by  Mark W. Sasse

Ghostly kin collared high and smart, rolling out till we hit the dawn,

Pardoned souls with sing-song hearts, Hit the road until they reach the dawn

And the shadows cover field and vale, where it spreads it’s really hard to tell

As we brace for impact from the eastern gale, remember truth is the hardest sell

 

A girl in jeans and a ragged smile, waves a knife at the quarter mile

I duck my head from her pensive sight, but the battered soul gives up the fight

Proffered dreams, deferred hearts, testing limits with spare parts,

But the mileage wanes around the bend, when you’re headed home and then back again

 

Chorus:

And the vagabonds always know where they’re going,

Cause the road welcomes everyone who floats on the wings of the sun

And the vagabonds always know who they’re traveling with

Cause they understand more than most the feeling of Judas’ kiss

 

 

Part of the reason I joined this quest, was to get something off my chest.

I understand your hesitation, but I really need your participation.

Mercy ends in the empty void when shattered dreams lay half-destroyed

But walking men and talking girls, know the dance of the underworld

 

And those who dare to reach inside, might find release on the other side

But those who laugh at the high employed …

 

May find the lost key

May say a quick prayer

May join the party

Of the unaware

 

Chorus:

And the vagabonds always know where they’re going,

Cause the road welcomes everyone who floats on the wings of the sun

And the vagabonds always know who they’re traveling with

Cause they understand more than most the feeling of Judas’ kiss

 

Don’t let the night take you.

Don’t let the light break you.

Don’t let the fight leave you.

Don’t let the might beat you.

 

Chorus:

And the vagabonds always know where they’re going,

Cause the road welcomes everyone who floats on the wings of the sun

And the vagabonds always know who they’re traveling with

Cause they understand more than most the feeling of Judas’ kiss.

Last Day to Enter Giveaway!

Don’t forget to head over to Goodreads and enter to win one of two paperback copies of my new release “Which Half David.”

Here’s the Link!

It ends today, September 22, don’t delay! And make sure you add it to your to-read shelf.

Thanks for the support!

“Which Half David: A Modern-day King David Story”

whichhalfdavidRGB-final-f

These are the moments we remember


batu-picnic

Look closely at this photo. What do you see?

I see memories which will last a lifetime. Not for me, no, but for that family of aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, mothers and fathers.

if you look closely on the center left, you’ll see two children playing in the sand at the edge of the ocean’s waves. On the right is picnic-central, complete with thermoses, snacks, extra clothing, blankets, mother, father, and daughter. The kids will run back and forth from the water while the parents will chat in the cool of the shade, enjoying the holiday, Malaysia Day 2016.

I took this photo from my usual writing spot, and the scene struck me so vividly that I had to take a photo of it through the trees. It was a lovely scene, the kind my family had when our kids were small. It’s a nostalgic scene, the kind that the Malaysian Normal Rockwell, if he exists, would happily paint and immortalize.

I can imagine what these kids will think in thirty years. Remember when Mom and Dad would pack the car and we would travel over the bridge to Penang Island, weave through the bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic, making the 45 minute ride to Batu Ferringhi where we would picnic by the sea for the entire afternoon, coming home exhausted by midnight? Remember?

Everyone, of course, will remember. And when these young kids have kids of their own, they too will come to Batu in search of the idyllic family day.

It’s moments like these that we all have to hold on to. It’s moments like these that make me glad that I’m a writer.