A New Year & A New Us

We are a fortunate species.

We have cycles.

Day and night. Weekdays and weekends. Seasons. Life and death.

Years.  

Year is the cycle most deeply anchored in our soul. It is scratched on ancient cave walls. Revered by faiths and traditions around the globe. Obeyed by creatures big and small. We feel it and we heed it.

January 1st is when we release a sigh of relief, followed by a deep draw of anticipation. The past has gone and the future looms, as promising and daunting as ever. Just as it has for millennia, as it did for our ancestors.

Now, it is your turn, our turn to fulfill the hope and promise of all who have come before. To be intentional and energized, purposeful. So when we pass the baton to those waiting at the end of our cycle, the start of theirs, it is done with force enough to reveal our love for them and ourselves and those who came before.

It is my hope that this year when your resolutions are made, your scope extends beyond yourself. Include all humanity in your vision.

Is 2017 the year you mend a relationship? Finish your masterpiece? Love your neighbor? Reach down to pull up the fallen? Go to battle for those who need a hero? Finally put yourself first? Accept help? Let yourself be loved? Do what needs doing?

I need you. We need you. Humanity needs you.  

Be intentional my friend.

In love,

John

So You Wanna Write A Book…

I had read many testimonies about the tortures of writing a novel. When I began my book, 8 years ago, I was certain the stories were exaggerated. I thought that there was no way it could be that hard.

I was wrong. It was every bit as difficult as I had read and heard.

Harder even.

In fact, if I had known how difficult it would be and how long it would take, I am not sure I would have completed the damn thing.

Here at the highlights.

In December 2008, I began planning Emerge Beyond Circles. After four solid months of planning, I was ready to write the first word.

I conservatively estimate that I have spent 3,000 hours planning, researching, writing, revising, and editing my book. That is a year and half of 40 hour work weeks.

When I finished a relatively polished draft of the entire book, it was 95,000 words. After several months of ruthless revision, it was 77,000 words. Then I rewrote to get it back to 80,000 words.

A mentor read my book and suggested I delete the first four pages. She suggested it would instantly improve the book. In one fell stroke, four brilliant pages were gone forever.

I thought I was 100% done with my book in August 2015. The book is being released on January 7th, 2017. Needless to say, there was an unseen gulf of daily work I still had to traverse.

I printed a complete version at least thirty different times. I read it each time with a red pen in my hand and went back into the electronic version to make the revisions.

I poured over the entire document time and time again using Grammarly and Autocrit, both are online editing tools.

It was an exhausting effort but filled with moments of intense beauty.

Why do it? I write, we write because we are writers. It is as simple as that. The story in Emerge Beyond Circles insisted on being born. It made a painfully slow entrance into this world, an eight-year labor.

And now the novel I envisioned will meet the world on January 7th.

It will be a wonderful day.

The Six Commandments of Writing

Thou Shalt Know Thyself. What is your style? How do you phrase things? How do you build tension? What kind of characters do you love/hate to write? Which words do you overuse? Where are your strengths and weaknesses? You need to come to a reckoning with these answers.

I overuse certain words. The list goes like this; that, really, and next. My ongoing revision is to search my document for these words, go through one by one and eliminate or replace each occurrence. It is not uncommon for me to have 70 “that” in a longer piece, and revise it down to 5 or 6. I know this about myself, but I don’t tend to it much during the writing of the first draft. That would just slow me down. Instead, I seek and destroy overused words during revision.
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Here’s a list to get you started. http://www.consultpivotal.com/commonly_overused.htm

 

 

Thou Shalt Do Research. We can all put together a story. Where we begin to see authors rise above is in the area of research. They add interesting facts and tidbits. Things that make us, the reader, smarter or inspired enough to do a Google search to see if it is true.

A story without tantalizing research-based facts is like chicken noodle soup with only water, noodles, and chicken. Yes, it is chicken noodle soup but it is bland. It is the seasoning and vegetables that make it yummy. I mean, no one’s secret soup ingredient has ever been water or chicken. Flavor your writing with facts.

Thou Shalt Demand Progress. There is nothing more debilitating to your progress than being focused on sales. Write for yourself first and others second. Put all thoughts of making it big fall away. Chasing money only serves to kill your muse.

Instead, demand progress from yourself. The art of writing is infinitely complicated and can only be learned while you write. Study style and structure and technique. Listen to those who know. Apply what you can as you go. But understand it is impossible to master this art. However, it is possible to become proficient enough to produce quality writing.

Thou Shalt Wait. Our brain requires time to process what we have written. It is a curious process. For some reason, once we have an idea or draft, our brain spends a lot of time with it. While we sleep it analyzes our work. While we shower it offers insights. While we exercise it constructs the perfect revision ideas. And then it presents all of this to us…if we are patient and willing to listen.

But, it means we need to slow down. The process takes time. It means we need to take days off. It means we need to listen to the little voice when it speaks.

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My little man.

I refer to my little voice as my little man. He is short, bald, unshaven, cranky, and smokes a fat cigar. He wears overalls and has a messy desk. He is my ally. I speak directly to him. I say things like, “Little man, I need you to find a clever ending for this chapter” or “Little man, can you find that name I thought of a while ago?” or “Little man, would you be so kind to find a cool way to remove these characters from the dungeon?”

Then, I go off into my day while he works these things out for me. He hasn’t failed me yet. But, I do need to be patient and ready and silent enough to listen. It always works.

Thou Shalt Revise. What is revising? It is you constantly asking yourself, “How can this be better?”  It is the part of the writing process where you create beauty. If you think you are done revising, you aren’t. It is a brutal and long event. You, the creator, assume the role of violent disrupter. It is often painful. You slash at your creation with ruthless red eyes. In fact, I only feel like a writer when I become willing to delete entire pages in order to transform my writing from good to beautiful.

Thou Shalt Know Your Purpose. Why do you write? It should be stated succinctly. I write because my soul requires me to. Because I want to leave a portion of my spirit for those who love me. My novel, Emerge Beyond Circles is my love letter to the world. It is my offering to humanity, my chance to bring beauty to my species. I write because I am a writer.

When the pressure of this world pushes and pummels me, and my energy for writing dies, I come back to these commandments. They focus me. Energize me. I hope they are of benefit to you as well.