Going for a Trilogy

My, the consummate stand-alone novel guy, is going for a trilogy.  I mentioned a while back that I was wading into virgin territory by starting a sequel to my finished yet unpublished novel “A  Man too Old for a Place too Far.” As I’ve been working on the sequel, the stories line just keep ballooning and advancing in unexpected ways. Finally, today, I realized that there is no way I’m going to wrap up this story by the end of the second novel, but a third, yes, can be done. Probably should be done. I don’t want to drag it out indefinitely. I do like closure. That’s why I write standalones.

But in this one, I fleshed out 6 weaving story lines. Does that sound like a lot? Perhaps. But they are all interconnected in unique and fun ways. It will be a pleasure to see how they overlap and tie up in a beautifully satisfying bow at the end of book three. That’s the goal, at least.

And that brings me to outlining. I’ve never outlined before, but with overlapping story lines and three novels, it is starting to feel more nature. I have, at least at this point, figured out the very ending of the trilogy. That’s where I want to go. It could change, of course, but it gives me a clear goal to get to. Now it is just one big puzzle with many moving parts and I have to put the Rubik’s cube back together again. At least this is the cube that I created. I have the playbook. So there!

It’s also a reason why I slowed down the release of Book 1. I want to make sure I have all three books well thought-out before I release the first and regret it later because of a great new idea.

So the first Sasse trilogy is in the mix. It’s a tough genre to describe. Historical fiction, contemporary adventure, time travel, magical realism. And go ahead, throw in a few more.

I asked one of my beta readers of book 1 how he would categorize it. He said that that is a good question, and unfortunately, there were no good answers.

My goal would be to have the trilogy completely written by the end of 2017. First book published by summer’s end with books 2 & 3 coming along in 2018.

Now let’s see what really happens.

Open Submission … (if, if, if …)

I’m currently looking to expand the reach of some of my plays which I admittedly have done very little with over the past couple of years. Researching on-line, I’ve come across some wonderful theatres and festivals who encourage new voices of the stage to submit their work. I’ve very encouraged by all of this.

At the same time, I can’t help but chuckle when I come across some supposed open submissions which have a series of asterisks after it more prominently displayed than Barry Bonds home run totals.

Here are few. Paraphrased.

  • Open Submission! We would love to see your work except we don’t want it to end in death. We have enough death in the world and want to have some feel-good stories.
  • Open Submission! But you must have a permanent residence in northeast Ohio.
  • Open Submission! If you have a literary agent.
  • Open Submission! If you live in New Jersey, Delaware, or Rhode Island.
  • Open Submission! We will not accept scripts which have guns as props.

Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t it be better to call it limited submissions?

It just seems strange that the artistic community wants to shape the outcome of an artist’s endeavor – change the ending so the protagonist doesn’t die so I can send a script there – re-write a gun out of a scene so I can send a script there – move to Akron so I can send a a script there.

I just like to write. I let the stories dictate their endings. I let the characters dictate the props. I don’t let location dictate anything.

And I’m okay with that even if some people aren’t.

 

When the ‘Something’ becomes Obvious: A Writing Revelation

Nearly two years ago, as I was meeting with my drama troupe to brainstorm some ideas for out Christmas show, someone said, “Hey, why don’t we do something with the twelve days of Christmas.” I said okay, opened my laptop, started WORD, and named a document “Something of the Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The document was completely empty except for the title.

And so it sat for the past one and half years.

Until yesterday.

I was working on a musical piece for Christmas 2017, yes I work ahead, and when I finished revising some lyrics, I saved the piece and cruised quickly through the document folder. I came across some “unfinished ideas” and I saw the title “Something of the Twelve Days of Christmas.” And as I read that document title, I suddenly know what the ‘something’ was. It was obvious, plain, easy, right within sight. All I had to do was start writing.

I did.

Thirty minutes later I had fleshed out my idea and then today I nearly finished the first draft of this new piece called “The Twelve Days of Christmas Revisited.”

It’s going to be a really funny and fun piece to produce. I just find it strange that for a year and a half I didn’t know what the ‘something’ was, but yet yesterday, it was as plain as a blinking beacon on top of the Eifel Tower.

Why? Why did I know what to write yesterday but I didn’t have a clue what to write a year and a half ago when I was first presented with this idea?

I have no idea.

That’s the mystery of creativity. It rears its head unexpectedly. It cannot be summoned or ordered into the court of creativity. It bursts through the doors as it sees fit, in its own timing, at its own pace, with its own ideas.

I love that.

I don’t always love that. Sometimes I want the inspiration to rest heavily on my shoulders like Milton—a divine light from the heavens revealing its truth—but creativity is the most finicky of hobbies. The only thing a creative person can do is:

  • Attempt when the inspiration hasn’t hit.
  • Write down ideas, even vague ones.
  • Be patient.
  • Press forward with inferior ideas, hoping that one poor idea will lead to one better idea.
  • Wait some more.

If you do that, the ‘something’ will come back around. It will define itself and you’ll be in the position to write or create something meaningful. That’s all you can hope for.

Now get waiting!

 

 

 

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.

 

Blog Writing Keeps Me Writing

I’ve discovered that writing a blog may not reach the world with my ideas, but it does do one thing: it keeps me writing. And as a writer, that’s important.

Blogging is a wonderful distraction from my creative writing which takes up most of my time. For me, creative writing takes a chunk of uninterrupted time, away from the house, away from the world, alone in my thoughts. But blog writing can be done anywhere at any time. I can be sitting in a restaurant with music blaring and I can write a blog. If I was writing creatively, the music would drive me crazy, and I would keep giving the waiters evil stares when a mind-numbing pop song would jolt on, interrupting my writing mojo. But blog writing, ahhhh, it’s relaxed. It’s ten minutes here and ten minutes there. Save draft. Get back to it later. No pressure. No deadlines. No plans. It works according to my schedule and not vice-versa.

Blogging also allows me to explore anything at all. That’s what I particularly like about my blog. I’ll write about everything. Whatever pops into my mind. Yesterday, I had beef on my mind so I wrote about beef rendang. The day before that I was writing about writing over break. Today, I’m writing about blogging.

Riveting. I know.

But I’ve written about history, drama, theatre, movie reviews, politics, travel, culture, religion, books, writing, and anything else I want.

The point being that if I want to write about these topics, it requires me to write. And as a writer, that’s what I consistently need to do: think about new topics, discuss experiences, look at what’s going on in my life, think about what’s coming next, and just processing life as it happens. All of these are essential aspects of being a writer. A diverse interest list will only help the creativity when the writer finds himself back in front of the keyboard ready to tackle the next topic.

So that’s my take on blogging. It’s good for the person. It’s good for the writer.

A Break from Work to Work

I’m fortunate to be staring down the beginning of nine days off of school. I am a teacher, and I enjoy teaching immensely. But I also enjoy my break times because that means I can concentrate on my other work: my writing endeavors. Here’s what’s on-tap for the coming week:

  • I plan on finishing my latest novel which is only a couple chapters away from a complete first draft. Very close. Can’t wait for this one.
  • I am revising a full-length play I just wrote in the last few weeks entitled “The Last Bastion.” I’m working with a local theatre to arrange a workshop reading of it later this year or in January of 2017.
  • I am still revising some of the scripts for my RLT Players show on December 1-3. I had to pare down one script to fit it under 10 minutes as it will be part of the Short & Sweet Festival in November here in Penang. I revised another one yesterday and sent the new script to the actors. Those poor actors! But I want to get it right!
  • I’m putting the finishing touches on a short musical piece which I’ll be producing for a show in May 2017. It’s entitled “It’s the End of the World and I Love You.”

All of this, and only one week. I’m looking forward to a fun-filled, productive writing week. What will you be up to?

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.