A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Here’s what I was able to accomplish as a writer in 2017:

  • January Staged reading of “The Last Bastion” @ Penang Performing Arts Centre
  • Started a historical musical on a unique person in US history with a musician colleague of mine. This is a long-term project.
  • Finished editing and production aspects of the first book in my new trilogy: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far – published it in  December
  • Finished the draft of book two of my new trilogy: The African Connection
  • Rewrote 6 sketches into a one act play called “The Folly of Progress.” Produced it as part of my show in May.
  • Wrote my third Christmas show, this one entitled “Tales of Christmas.” It was produced and performed by The RLT Players in December.
  • My play “Safe Spaces” was performed at the Gallery Players’ Black Box Festival in Brooklyn in June.
  • I was awarded the Greywood Arts Winter Writing Residency for 2018 for my play “The Last Bastion.”
  • I wrote an anti-bullying play entitled “Project B” for my new school.

I wrote my first baseball short story, “The Hundred Pitch At Bat” – more to come with this.

 

And 2018 writing goals …

  • Publish book two of my trilogy.
  • Write book three THE FORGOTTEN CHILD of my new trilogy.
  • Finish a play I started several years ago “EMBRACE”
  • Finish a play I started about Nat Turner.
  • Write a new show called “Crazy as Love” for my new drama group The Sun & Sand Players.
  • Write the book to my long-term musical.
  • Write more baseball stories which will eventually be an anthology of stories about a fictitious independent minor league baseball team.

This should get me started. I plan to do a lot of this during my winter writing residency in Ireland.

Happy New Year everyone. What are your writing goals?

 

 

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Do You Have Writing Goals?

There is no better proof of being a writer than writing, and writing, and writing some more. I’ve met a lot of people in my years who have indicated that they wanted to write a book, or they have ideas for a book, or they have written one book, or they have started a hundred books. All of those are good in and of themselves, but for me, being a writer means producing varied works over a long period of time. It’s a daily task whether or not any digital pages have been written. It’s an all-encompassing passion which you cannot escape, literally, ever single day of your life. Writers do not become writers on a whim or because they finally finished their manuscript from high school. Writing requires discipline but writers don’t need to be disciplined to write because it’s a natural out-flow of who they are.

It took me many years to call myself a writer. I’m an author because I’ve published five novels. I’m a playwright because I write plays and have them produced. All of that has made me a writer. I don’t dare attach other adjectives to that moniker. I don’t consider myself a good writer or a great writer or an average writer or a poor writer. I’m simply a writer. Adjectives get attached to writers by critics and readers. I can’t control which adjective a reader attaches to my name, I can only control what I type on my blank screen. That’s it.

So it’s best not to think in terms of whether something is good or bad or just plain silly. In my view, a writer should think in terms of goals, long-term and short-term, and work towards accomplishing those goals. If you do that and put everything you have into your creativity, you’re a success, regardless of the adjectives plopped in front of your name.

When I just started out pursuing writing as something more than a passing whim, I recall telling myself that I wanted to write a novel a year for seven years and then see where I am at that point.  Well, I’m happy to announce that today, during my afternoon writing session, I completed my seventh novel. Seven novels in seven years. This on top of a regular job, family, and a myriad of other writing projects I’ve taken up over the years. I’ve done what I’ve set out to do and that, in fact, feels good. But achieving this goal is not the end by any means. I can’t wait until I hit double digits in novels written. Where will it end? Could I hit 20 novels written by the end of the next 10 years?

Who knows?

You don’t have to meet every goal, but they help you determine if you are actually serious about this writing gig or not.

I am. I have goals which I’m never going to stop shooting for.

What are yours?

Seven

Seven.  Novel number seven, that is. I started writing it today.

I needed to stop and reflect on that number a little. I suppose I should start with that frequently used qualifying: if you would have told me ten years ago that I would have … (fill in the blank) … for me it’s … written seven novels, I would have said you are crazy. Because ten years ago I was afraid to write. I had no talent. I had a poor vocabulary. No one anywhere would ever want to read what I had to say.

Yeah, that was me. Those self-doubts haven’t gone away. I suppose it should be “Whoa to the writer who never has self doubts!” I think that is someone in Ecclesiastes.

But I’ve learned, as I’ve written many times, that I no longer write for other people. I write because I am compelled to write. I write because I can’s stop the creative thoughts which keep exploding out of my brain. I write because I love it, and a poor review or a snide comment isn’t going to stop this writer anymore. It used to. And, might I add, the poor reviews and snide comments were typically self-inflicted.

But, wow, seven! 7! Bay! (That’s Vietnamese without the tone mark.)

So I started my seventh novel while my fifth novel hasn’t been released for very long. “Which Half David” came out in September, and it’s still in its infancy in regards to promotion. Honestly, I haven’t had the time to do much with it. I even feel my fourth novel, “A Love Story for a Nation,” has a much longer life to it as well. It’s only fifteen months out from its release and has yet to reach wide-spread distribution. Still working on it.

What about #6, you ask?

Six is done. It’s currently in the hands of some beta readers to get some feedback. It’s entitled “A Man too Old for a Place too Far.” Yeah, kind of long, but I like it. And as an independent author, I get to make the call! So there!

Anyways, #7 is my first sequel. It’s a continuation of novel #6. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing with it yet, except I wrote a powerful and gripping opening chapter, taking the story back to 1918. It will throw off the readers at first, but has some pretty cool tie-ins.

Seven. It’s a pretty special number. Perhaps someday I’ll hit 10. Or dare I say, 20?

Here’s a excerpt from a post I wrote nearly four years ago, from Feb 2013:

“With one novel published, another novel finished, and a third novel in its beginning stages, I am off on a four year writing plan. My goal? When 2017 rolls around, I hope to have five or more novels under my belt.

I have no goals of readership or success or money. Those are the least of my concerns. I want to write. I want to improve. I want to strive to be the best, creative writer I can be. If I do that, I believe all those other things will take care of themselves, and even if they don’t, I’m writing for myself because I enjoy it.

So I have a plan and I’m sticking to it.

Remember the motto: ‘Create, not consume.'”

I’m happy to see that I have met my goal, and this goal was met while also writing dozens of short plays and several full-length plays.

It’s pretty cool to see where I have come from and I wonder what these next four years will bring.

Hopefully, a lot more creativity.

 

February was a good month!

While much of America was buried under snow and huddling around their basement wood burners to stay warm, they also must have had some more time to surf the web – February was our best month ever at mwsasse.com with the highest number of visitors and views. I also sold a bunch of books, got a whole bunch more likes on my Facebook page and got some writing done, too!

So a big round of thank yous heading out to all of you who stopped by, did some reading, checked out a promotion, and, ultimately, bought a book. I truly am humbled when even one person plops down their hard earned money on one of my stories. I continue to work hard to make them as enjoyable and gripping as I can.

Writing-wise, I accomplished the following in February:

  • Wrote 6 Christian-themed skits I was requested to write. More on these later.
  • I finished editing on novel 4 and sent it off to my real editor.
  • I did a major re-work on novel 5 with greatly improved it. I’m getting more excited about this one now. Much work remains.
  • I’m still working on my short musical which I hope to complete by the end of March.

Overall, a good and productive month all around.

Plus, I enjoyed my tropical climate as I thought about all those Canadian temperatures which decided to migrate south.

Thanks everyone!

I just hit 50,000 words for the fifth time. That deserves a post.

For me, a writer who likes to be concise, hitting 50,000 words is always a feat, but I’m noticing that it’s not nearly as big a deal as it used to be.

Fifty-thousand is, of course, the usual plateau where a work officially is granted the title of novel – though I’m not sure who these shadowy people are who decide these things.

When I was attempting my first novel, I was worried sick that it would languish in the realm of novella forever. Fifty-thousand seemed like too many words to me. I thought that maybe I should become a short story writer instead. But I pushed and pushed until the day arrived – 50,000 – and to my utter amazement, the story hadn’t finished yet. I cruised to 61,000 and celebrated!

I had similar fears with my second novel, but my third, fourth, and now, fifth novels seem to write themselves, so I guess I have grown as a writer.

Why? I don’t really know. Although I do take notice when I pass the novel thresh-hold, it is no longer the goal – the story is the goal. The story itself will dictate how long it ends up being. My third novel is still my longest novel, finishing at about 80,000 words – still a far cry from some of those super thick novels you see on the racks in airport bookstores.

The one I’m currently writing may actually take me to new heights, but it does depend on how stingy I become with words as it progresses into the final third of the book. I’ve been accused by readers of being stingy with words. I heard comments about how some readers wanted me to develop certain story lines deeper, but I always remain skeptical of doing so. I like my works to be described as a “fast read”, “read in one sitting”, “leaving you wanting more” kind of read. Much better than “slow and plodding.”

Anyways, writing is a blast. I’m so glad I’ve had enough time these past three and a half years to write five novels. I hope I can keep up the pace.

Goals?

I haven’t always been good about keeping goals.

Let’s not do the New Year’s Resolution thing, all right? Plenty of failure there.

But I’ve noticed something. The goals I tend to reach are the ones that I’m the most passionate about. Co-incidence? I think not.

Intentions are great, but without action they are empty winter branches swaying in the wind. (Don’t worry. I don’t really know what that means either.)

About fifteen years ago, a friend asked if there was something that I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 40. (About 10 years into the future.)

My only response was this: I want to write a book.

I didn’t care what book. I had nothing in mind. I just wanted to write a book. It was my goal. Did I reach it? Well, almost.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I finished writing my very first play (with a group of students – still unpublished, by the way) in December 2007 – two months after I turned 40. A full-length play is kind of like a book, right?

After that, each year I wrote another play until I wrote a novella based on one of those plays in December 2010. Once that was complete, I felt ready to try and tackle my first novel, which I did in the summer of 2011 – Beauty Rising. Summer of 2012 – The Recluse Storyteller. Summer of 2013 – The Reach of the Banyan Tree. 2014 – I have two more ready to go.

It has been really satisfying for me to have not only reached my goal but sped on past it. Writing has certainly become a passion of mine, and I hope it will always continues.

In the meantime, other goals have come and gone without ever reaching the goal lines. Some goals I’ll never accomplish, but I remain focused on the ones that mean the most to me.

What goals do you have? Find your passion and you probably will reach them. And don’t ever be disappointed by not reaching your goal before an arbitrary date which ultimately has no meaning. Keep striving for what you want. You may be surprised at how much your dedication to your passion one day pays off.

Impacting Readers: Every Writer Wants to be Validated

Writing for the love of it or writing to be loved. Which is it?

Writers seem to have this persona of being these isolated islands unto themselves, hiding  away in their thoughts and not really caring what the world thinks about them. After all, it’s the art that they create with words that’s important, isn’t it?

Well, the “island” image of writers certainly is true in one respect or another. Writers tend to be a rare breed that create impulses out of isolation, and dialogue and stories out of imagination. I try to tuck myself away for a while everyday to get lost in my thoughts and ideas.

But no writer is an island. No writer is immune to public perception. No writer doesn’t care what people think and if they say as much then they aren’t being totally truthful.

Writers are sensitive beasts, caring greatly about what others think, but oftentimes pretending to be immune from criticism. Perhaps it’s a survival mechanism because writers really expose themselves in vulnerable ways.

(Readers often assume that what someone has written has flown out of their own personal thoughts, beliefs, or experiences. Sometimes it may, but it is not a safe assumption for readers to read into what writers have written. It could be completely from the imagination. But I’ll save this for another post.)

So what is it exactly that validates a writer? Is it the offer of that big book deal with a traditional publisher? Is it that glowing review from a book reviewer? Is it the simple praise from a reader who says they were moved by one’s writing?

Does writer validation have to come from outside of oneself? Can a writer validate his or her own writing? I remember when I held my first published book in my hand. It was self-published, and not reviewed by anyone outside of my own world. But I didn’t care at that point. I felt like I had accomplished something; something I had wanted to do for a long time; I did it and that seemed like validation enough at the time. But as my writing has progressed, self-gratification isn’t enough. There must be more to writing than that.

When I sit down to write everyday, I really don’t think about what others will say. I don’t wallow in the praise that I hope will one day be bestowed upon me. There could be nothing further from my mind. In those writing moments, it’s all about the story, the characters, the underlying themes. It’s about linking concepts and extracting ideas. Those are the exciting issues I think about as I write.

But once finished, and I turn it over to the readers or I send it to the bloggers or I query another agent, I want people to like it because, honestly, if I spend hundreds of hours on my own which ultimately has no impact on the readers who dare to pick up my writing, then what exactly am I accomplishing? Am I merely playing in my own fantasy world? What would the point of that be? Why not just play a video game? It would be less stressful on my mind!

But I do think there is something more.

Art. Music. Literature. They are meant to impact others. They are meant to bring about change, big or small, in clear or subtle ways. This, I believe, is where writers find their validation. How does one’s writing make people think? How does it move them? How do they identify with it? How do they lose themselves in the characters and settings?

This is what I strive for, and I won’t give up until I achieve it. Not for the glory or the praise, but to validate the time I spend alone writing. If it impacts one person, then it’s worth it.