Novel Progress

kayak hh

Here’s a pic of me not doing my writing (BAD, Stephen!), but kayaking alongside dolphins (not pictured) in Hilton Head, SC, July 2017.

I recently visited a friend I hadn’t seen in almost twenty years and one of the things she asked me was how my novel was coming along, and I realized this is exactly the reason why I need to post about this process on social media.  If everyone knows I’m writing it, even friends I rarely get a chance to see, then it helps keep me focused.

So here’s an update.

In March I presented my draft to my writing group, the excellent and talented members of Jersey City Writers, and got some really useful feedback.  I was slow in implementing it due to the demands at school, but once summer started it became my main focus.  So help me God, I will have a revised draft finished by the end of summer, one that is ready to present to agents and publishers, or ready to publish on my own.  We’ll see…

Part of the problem with my original draft was that I wrote it for NaNoWriMo without planning much of it out.  Now, I love NaNoWriMo for all the enthusiasm it generates for writing, as well as the bonhomie it stirs up among those crazy enough to attempt writing a novel in a month.  However, I am not a pantser in any other aspect of my life, so I shouldn’t have supposed I could be one as I novelist.  I should have begun the process of writing this book with a formidably well-parsed outline.

But I didn’t.

So now I’ve taken the feedback from my writing group along with what I know of my characters and their general story, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing the flow of their tale to address some of the readers’ issues, adding some rather dramatic plot points that seem so obvious now that I’m ashamed I left them out initially.

I did quite a bit of searching online for useful ideas as part of my outlining reformation, and  I want to give a shout out to Katytastic, a YouTuber (kat_tastic on Twitter) whose video I found particularly helpful.  I use Scrivener for most of my longer works of writing, and this video demonstrated a really smart way to outline using Scrivener’s features that I hadn’t used before.  After watching her video and putting her strategies to work, my story seemed so much more solid.

Now that I’ve got it fleshed out a bit better, I’m back to writing it.  And trust me, if you’re reading this blog right now, then I will let you and all the rest of the world know when it is finished, because as much as I love my dear little fictional Ohio town of Villandry, I’ve already got three more novels I’m itching to write and as many protagonists getting pissed off at me for taking so long.

And a memoir.

And maybe a play.  We’ll see.

For now, though, please check out Katytastic’s “Outlining with Scrivener.”  (BTW, I really can’t figure out why the link starts the video in the middle.  I don’t seem to be able to correct it…but you can manage to drag it back to the beginning, right?)

 

 

Mahler for Vision

Funny how certain pieces of music have a way of appearing in our lives just when we need them.

mahler

Emil Orlik’s etching of Mahler (1902)

After my grandmother died last year and her funeral was over, I was eager to get back to normal life.  At that time MasterVoices was hard at work rehearsing Mahler’s 2nd Symphony — the “Resurrection” symphony, written in honor of a friend of his who died unexpectedly.  We’d started the season with it, performing with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and we ended the season with the same piece, then with the New York Youth Orchestra — just a week or two after her funeral.  The piece was a vessel for my grief, exactly what I needed to sing at that moment.

Well.  As I noted in my previous post, my grandfather died last month.  Just a few days before it happened I got an email from MasterVoices saying that we’d been asked to participate in another performance of Mahler’s 2nd, this time under the baton of George Mathew as a benefit for HelpMeSee, an organization that is fighting to end cataract blindness.  I wasn’t going to sing it — we just finished Bach’s St. John Passion, this concert will take place four days later.  I figured I might need a break (and, more importantly, I need to finish my novel draft by the end of the month to submit it to Jersey City Writers to be workshopped in March!).

But then my grandfather died.  I remembered how much the piece helped me after grandma’s death, it seemed wrong to turn down the opportunity perform it once more — and coming so soon after my grandpa’s death, it just felt like more than a coincidence.  Like they say, you can ‘call it odd, or call it God,’ but coincidences like this can’t be purely accidental.

So I said yes.  The performance will take place this Monday at Carnegie Hall (click here for tickets).  It is truly one of the most glorious pieces of music to sing.  When we sang it with the IPO I didn’t have the loss of loved ones weighing on me, and even then I couldn’t sing it without tearing up by the end.  I’ll probably look a mess after the concert this Monday, tear-filled as I’ll surely be, but I’m looking forward to it.

Please attend and support a wonderful cause!

(Somewhat semi-unrelated, but a few years ago I wrote a piece on Verdi’s Requiem and how it has had a similar way of calling me to it under interesting circumstances.  I looked it up just now and saw that it was written on 11 February 2015 — two years ago to the day!  Call it odd, or call it God.)

Here’s a link to a video of the final movement of the symphony, the part that features the chorus.  (WordPress has changed its structure and won’t allow me to insert the video into the post as I used to do without buying an upgrade package.  Grrrrr!!)

 

Recess: Children’s Stories for Adults (A Jersey City Writers Genre Night)

Greetings, all!

It’s been a busy three months since my last post.  The start of the school year always demands my full attention, but a few months in and I usually find my groove.  Now I can manage to blog a bit.  Oh, and write a novel!  Finished the first draft of my second novel thanks to the kick in the pants provided by NaNoWriMo and the creative energy and support drawn from the hundreds of thousands of others who participated.

More on that later.

JCW Bear says, "Come to Genre Night in Jersey City, because I make a dirty martini that will change your life!"

JCW Bear says, “Come to Genre Night in Jersey City, because I make a dirty martini that will change your life!”

I’ve also been buoyed lately by the camraderie and smart, really useful criticism I’ve experienced through the Jersey City Writers.  Lots more on this wonderful writing group to come, but before I get ahead of myself, I wanted to invite you all to a really fun event the group sponsors.

Every other month they host a “genre night” where short works of a particular genre are chosen by a panel of judges to be read aloud by professional performers.  The next genre night — which happens to be tomorrow (12/2/15)! — is “children’s stories for adults.”  Here’s the description from their Facebook invitation:

Please join us for a whimsical literary reading event where you can pretend to be a kid again…because “adulting” is hard.

Think Curious George slaving in a cubicle, or Green Eggs and Ham and Boozy Brunch, or the Pevensie siblings discovering a nightclub in their wardrobe instead of Narnia. Plus candy, coloring and stuffed animals, because when you’re an adult, why not?

You know you want to, right?   Because you’re just never too old.

For all the details, click here for the Facebook invitation.

And even if you can’t make it for whatever reason, why not just go ahead and like the JC Writers page — your inner-child will shower you with gifts and joy if you do.