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What Writers Do

Bill's Blog Shorts: Check 'em out. You never know what's in 'em.

Writers don't get mad. They just write you into their next novel.  (As the victim.)

You are a writer. The ‘normal’ ship sailed without you long ago. ...Terri Main

I’ve neglected my blog these past weeks because I’m deep into writing. Re-writing, to be more precise. You see, I have a book I wrote 20 years ago that never made it to publication. It’s a great story that was written by a mediocre writer. The writer has kick-ass ninja skills now and is hell-bent on breathing new life into characters that deserve their time in the sun. (OK, maybe not ninja level yet, but working hard to get there.)

Why? Because I’m a writer. As they say where I come from, I ain’t quite right. I’ve got a thousand stories bouncing around in my head, yet I’m compelled to go back and “finish” this one. I can’t stop myself. Also, it's because I can only write one story at a time – damn it!

“So, Bill, what is it about this story that compels you to try again?”

I am SO glad you asked. You see, this was my first novel and, to make a long story short, it came very close to making it to publication. Despite finding two agents at two different times to represent it, publishers thought the writing just wasn’t strong enough. In re-writing it, I totally understand what they were saying. And while I may not be Hemingway yet, I am a far better writer today than I was back then. Part of the credit goes to Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and similar essays. The rest of the credit goes to me working my butt off and the ingrained trait of refusing to quit.

Refusing to quit goes hand-in-hand with the unrelenting ability to believe in yourself and what you are doing. True insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Writer’s insanity can be defined as doing something over and over again differently until you get it right. (Or, “get it write,” if you prefer puns.) I don’t have it in me to quit. I just don’t.

With writer’s insanity, you throw out the negatives and hang on to whatever flotsam you can grab to appease your passion. I have two personal stories that I’ve mentioned on my blog before that illustrate this “selective hearing.” It’s actually the same story that happened twice. When I was first submitting my manuscript 20 years ago, I got a response from one agent who said, “You write just like Nicolas Sparks.” Another agent said, “You write just like John Grisham.” After replying with “thank you” to both agents, they informed me that they did not like the way these authors wrote.

WHAAATTT?!

In baseball terms, that’s like the New York Yankees saying, “Sorry Mr. Furney but we don’t need another left-handed pitcher with a hundred mile-an-hour-fastball.” As a writer, what the hell do you do with that?

Well, if you are this guy, you start working on a curve ball and a change-up to add to your repertoire, because BY GOD I am going to make it to big leagues or die trying. (If you hear a bit of manic ranting in those last words, so be it. No apologies. I’m a writer.

I can’t reveal the title yet but for those folks who may be wondering, the story I’m re-writing takes place mostly between 1903 and 1918 and revolves around a surfman and an heiress who are lost at sea. “Surfman” was the name given to lifesavers in the U.S. Lifesaving Service, a forgotten part of history. It’s an epic love story – not a romance. Not that there is anything wrong with bodice rippers. I like ripping bodices as much as the next guy. It’s just not the kind of thing I write. I will reveal more as soon as I have satisfied all the copyright requirements needed to protect my work.

For now, let me end this post the way I started, with another writing meme:

Being a good writer is 3 percent talent 97 percent not being distracted by the internet.