Lessons learned

Joe’s Post #20 — I loved Karalee’s post about what she learned from this whole 5 writers, 5 books, 5 months experience so I thought I’d add my own realizations.

simpsons1) A dedicated workspace works makes a whopping difference. Oddly enough, before my laptop died, I would have said,’ writing at a cafe makes a difference’, but when I was forced to clean up my office, unearth all my writing books and set up an area for my mindmapping and notes and scene cards, I found I wrote a lot more when I sat down. More than just an hour at the cafe. Now all I need is to get one of them fancy coffee machines and I’m set.

2) I need to work on developing outlining skills. My mish-mash of thought and ideas and notes stuck to everything is not something I want to do again. Sure I had a basic outline – I knew where it would end, what were my high points etc – but the amount of work I’ve had to do to fix problems is massive. Most of the novel from page 200 – 400 will be a complete rewrite and that’s a lot of work. It became necessary when each change I would make would ripple through the entire novel. I ended up making so many changes, some big, some small, that the result was a tsunami that wiped out the last bit of the book. Next book. Massive outlining. I promise.

3) Never tempt fate. Cause if you do, you’ll pay the price. Case in point. After seeing the Silver Linings Playbook with a friend, she told me of a terrible cold she’d just gotten over that had, in addition to all the fun cold stuff, a skull-cracking headache, dizziness, chills and sweats. To which I say “oh, I’m glad I didn’t get THAT cold.” So what happens? Very next day, THAT cold hit me so hard, I didn’t even want to get out of bed and nothing, I repeat, nothing, seemed to cure that headache. Lost a day of writing because of it and with the deadline looming, that one day hurts.

F_Lanfear054) I need a brainstormer. That’s part of why there were so many things that had to be changed going from first draft to second. I had to figure it all out by myself and I am a bear with very little brain and sometimes I just can’t see things that are wrong in my writing. In the old days, I had a wonderful wife who helped me craft better novels and now I know I need to find someone to fill that role.  Craig’s List Ad : Looking for nerdy, well-read woman who looks like Sandra Bullock and can help struggling writer become a best-seller. Must know who Lanfear is or Jack Reacher. Clothes optional. For both of us.

5) I miss my writing group get togethers. I miss talking about writing and getting inspired by the other writers in the group. Who would have guessed that? A shy, introvert missing being with people? Well, I do. I hope we’ll be able to put something together as we go forward in 2013.

6) I have to find a way not to get lost in research. Lemme give you and example. I wanted to find out what beds were made of in medieval times. So I googled it and found a cool site that not only talked about beds but ironing methods and oooh, I wonder what rushlights are? … And the next thing I know, hours have gone past and I’ve learned something cool about mulled ale and where the LARPers are gathering. Not that it’s all useless information (it’s NOT, do you hear me, NOT!!!!) but I think I may have to put a timer or something beside the computer so I don’t get lost in the research.

7) I can get a novel done to first draft (and maybe even 2nd draft) in 5 months. Believe it or not, I once wrote a novel in 1 week. 400 odd pages, but it was complete crap. A fun exercise for sure, but crap none the less. I just didn’t have the skill to go from nothing to a full novel in that time. But 5 months is doable. More likely 6 to get it to a publishable state but still, that bodes well for me getting another novel done before the end of the year.

Pages rewritten: 320

Pages left: 100ish, (ah who knows, that’s just a guess.)

Colds: 1

Turkey Dinners: 0 (will make one for myself when I finish the novel.)

12 thoughts on “Lessons learned

  1. Love your insights, and, as always, your humour Joe. Haven’t we learned as much about ourselves in this process as about writing? And in 2013, don’t think for a minute you’ll get away with NOT resuming our writers group meetings! I miss you.

  2. See Karalee’s post’s comments for my thoughts on what you guys learned – but *any* lessons are valuable. If you’re over here on Feb. 10, I’m having a turkey dinner, with dressing and cranberry sauce, gravy and the whole nine yards (including brussel sprouts, if I can find any). Want to come for dinner that night? You don’t HAVE to eat the sprouts. I don’t. And anytime you want to come back here and join me in another crit group I’ll start cheering and lining up stuff for you to crit! I miss reading your work, and commenting on it. Keep going! You’re almost there!

  3. Joe. I love you and miss you. I do, however, have a few questions:
    1) When did turkey become a Valentine’s Day staple. (I must have missed that memo).
    2) A novel in one week. 400 pages??? Did you take amphetamines. No wait! Don’t tell me. you know I’m an ex-drug prosecutor right? And that Sean is a cop… Is it time for an intervention?
    3) How is that Craigslist ad working out. I have a few girlfriends who might want to apply. What is your age and weirdness range. How many dogs can you tolerate and are you a fan of Gary Larson’s ‘Far Side’.

    Seriously, I’ve missed you all! I am committed to an off-season, (May??? June???) stay inside with the air conditioning on marathon critique session in Palm Springs when we can all get away. I’ll bring the house, the pool and the beer. Just don’t be too hard on my manuscript. I dream of a second draft. I’m racing to the end of the first draft and have almost figured out the ending.

    • Answers to your questions. 1. Missed all the turkey dinners at Christmas. 😦
      2. Basically, you write from 7 am to midnight. 15-20k words a day. Lots of coffee. No time for doubt. No time for rewrites.
      3. Tell them to call me.

      Oh and the marathon session sounds like fun! There’s an old ruin I want to check out for my next Lou Rains story.
      Good luck on the final push!

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