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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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 A lot of people have been asking for a little preview of Surviving Bear Island so here it is:

Chapter One

 

A wall of dog-like heads was closing in on us. Sea lions, six or eight of them, swam side by side. They raced toward us like they were gonna swim right through us, stretching their necks and plowing through the water like they had motors attached to their backs. I gripped my paddle tighter and held it just above the water, waiting, watching, just like Dad. Then, at the last second, they dove.

“They could’ve dumped us if they wanted to,” Dad said. “It’s happened to other kayakers.

I felt some bumps right under my feet, and the nose of the kayak shifted.

“Crazy,” I said. “You feel that?” The last thing I wanted was to take a swim. We’d be in trouble if we dumped. The water would freeze us solid.

“Never been touched like that,” Dad said. “Let’s paddle. Now.”

I dipped my kayak paddle into the blue-green salt water and pulled. Then did it again. And again. I twisted side to side, pulling one blade through the water while pushing the other through the air. Like Dad always said, “You get your back muscles working for you when you paddle. If you just relied on your arms you’d be trashed in a couple hours.”

Left.

Right.

Left.

Right.

Sea lions swam along on both sides of the kayak, easily matching our pace.

Just as I pushed my paddle in again, a gust of wind came out of nowhere and water slammed into my face, running down and underneath my raincoat. I felt the sweat building under my raincoat and rain pants and just wanted to crawl out of them. At the same time my hands were turning to ice from being washed by the waves and chilled by the wind.

The sea lions dove under the boat, nudging it. Two of them surfaced right next to me, opened their mouths and made these roaring sounds that made my breath catch. Then they dove again and disappeared.

I couldn’t see Dad, but I knew he was behind me, using the rudder to steer, keeping us pointed at an angle to the foot-high waves to help steady the kayak. Left. Right. Left. Right. I was a first-time kayaker.

Left. Right. Dad was the expert.

Left. Right. More water stinging my face.

Left. Rubbery arms.

Right. More water up my sleeves.

Left. I can’t feel my hands.

Right. Where are those sea lions.

Left. This was so Mom and Dad’s thing. I just agreed to go because this was the first time in three years that my dad actually acted like he wanted to do something with me.

I tried to keep paddling, but the water was dragging my arms down.

My body was burning but my face was freezing in place and my hands were completely numb. And to make matters worse, the gray clouds looked like they would dump on us any moment. But hey, that’s how it is in Prince William Sound, Alaska. You come out here to kayak, your muscles work overtime, and you expect rain. We’d been gone for two and a half weeks and still had sixty miles to paddle to get to Whittier and then a four hundred mile drive north to Fairbanks. I just wanted to get home.

The kayak slowed down. I stopped paddling and twisted my body around.

“Just making a clothing adjustment so I don’t overheat,” Dad said. His paddle was lying across his cockpit as he wrestled with his raincoat and life vest. “Looks pretty rocky ahead, but I’m gonna try to work us closer to shore. Hopefully that’s the last we’ve seen of those sea lions.”

I nodded, turned back around and waited. Mom should’ve been with us. Everything was better when Mom was around.

I scanned the water. No sign of the sea lions. And the waves seemed to be calming down. Little did I know I would be upside down in the water in less than an hour—fighting for my life.

Copyright 2015 by Paul Greci

Thanks for stopping by. Surviving Bear Island is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Soon it will be in bookstores.

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Camaraderie

(photo by Phil Marion.)

I just handed off a manuscript to a few readers to see what they think—thanks Terry, Natalie and Ali—and have just picked up another WIP after letting the first draft sit for a month. So, I’m pretty much in rewrite-mode for the next few weeks.

"Now, what was the purpose of that scene?"

Some year, if I get the timing right, I’d like to participate in NaNo. I’ve written first drafts in a NaNo-like fashion but never with the camaraderie which I sense is part of the experience.

Are you participating in NaNo? If so, how did your first week go? Did you get a lot of support from your buddies? If, like me, you’re not participating in NaNo, what are you working on? And, are you getting the support you need?

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I’ve been happily buried in a revision/rewrite for the past ten days on a WIP I hadn’t picked up for over a year.

I remembered writing the first draft of LAST CHANCE, that’s the working title, in about six weeks. Then over the course of a year I revised it half a dozen times and finally gave it to one person to read. I had two other books I was working on, so when the critique came back I read it and then set it aside. I continued working on the two other books, and wrote a first draft of another book.

When I finally picked up LAST CHANCE, I was a little overwhelmed. I remembered being really excited by the story and then deflated by the critique. The critique did a good job of pointing out LAST CHANCE’s weaknesses which was what I wanted, but it also fired a couple of personal jabs my way which kind of threw me off balance.

Now I’m a guy who taught in a school for behaviorally challenged students for 15 years. I’ve been cussed out, lied to, and threatened too many times to count. I’ve even been punched and kicked a few times, but none of it was personal. By that, I mean those kids were going through tough times and for whatever reasons that’s how their anger, fear and frustration manifested.

My point: when someone is supposed to critique your writing, when that’s the understanding, and they start critiquing you instead, it’s not about you, it’s about them. Don’t take it personally.

Is this hard to remember? Sometimes.

Do the memories of those personal comments still get under my skin? A little.

Am I putting to use some of the comments directed toward the book? Yes.

Will I ever seek out this person for another critique? I haven’t decided.

Have I spoken to this person about where I thought the critique went astray? I haven’t and don’t plan to.

Since I started blogging—the above critique pre-dates my blogging-days—I’ve had the pleasure of trading manuscripts with some really great people who’ve totally focused on the writing.

Have you ever received a critique that crossed the fine line between the writing and the writer? How did you handle it? How would you handle it in the future? If you’ve never experienced this, what do you think is the best way to handle this type of situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(This weekend I was interviewed at Frolicking Through Cyberspace. Here’s the link if your interested: Frolicking Through Cyberspace)

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Heather Ayris Burnell, author of  the recently released picture book Bedtime Monster, (Raven Tree Press), was kind enough to interview me on her blog, Frolicking Through Cyberspace. If you’d like to read the interview, here’s the link: Interview

Thanks, Heather.

And, I couldn’t resist showing off the cover of Bedtime Monster and a short summary:

A little boy doesn’t want to go to bed. He whines. He cries. He throws a tantrum. He begins to grow long claws and a tail. What? A tail? It’s true! This little boy is not only acting like a monster, he turns into one! He growls a scary growl. He grows a tail. But, his parents know what to do. They calmly cuddle, rock, and sing to him. Here is a monster you might actually want to snuggle with as bedtime draws near.

Thanks for stopping by.

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"Okay, just another minute of Twitter, then I'll get back to that novel."

I signed up for the writing-time log experiment for two reasons. I thought it would be fun. And, I thought I’d learn something.

Here’s my log for the past week:

  • Sept. 27  4 hours
  • Sept. 28  3 hours
  • Sept. 29  2 hours
  • Sept. 30  5 hours
  • Oct. 1     5.5 hours
  • Total      19.5 hours

I logged the times I left my writing to do other things for more than five minutes. So, October 1st’s entry looks like this for writing time:

  • 5:00 to 5:20
  • 5:30 to 6:20
  • 6:30 to 6:50
  • 7:30 to 8:15
  • 10:45 to 11:40
  • 12:45 to 2:30

A couple things I learned:

  • Twitteruptions last longer than I thought they did.
  • When I know what I’m writing toward, I stay at the keyboard longer.

The middle of my week I had some very light writing days. I’d lost my way in my story and needed to find it again. I spent more time on Tuesday and Wednesday walking, running, and doing other life chores that I knew had to be done anyway.

I do think you have to put in the time in order to produce the words.

But sometimes backing off and giving the story some space is more productive than pushing forward.

Friday was my longest writing day, but it felt like my shortest because I knew where I was going. I think backing off on Tuesday and Wednesday helped me to see more clearly where I was going.

My word count on Friday: 4200. 

I’m pretty sure that Friday’s words made up at least a third of my word count for the week.

If you want to see more writing log blog entries go to Patti Neilson’s blog. She has a list.

This week I hope to finish this first draft I’ve been plugging away at since mid-May.

What are you working on this week? And, have you ever kept a writing-time log? If so, what did you learn from it?

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I came at writing slowly.

As a kid I spent most of my free time playing or watching TV. I liked to read but not in an obsessive way. And I didn’t write unless I had to for school.

My senior year of high school I had an English teacher who really knew how to bring books to life through discussion, and I discovered that I liked thinking deeply about books.

In college I started keeping a journal, but only wrote in it sporadically about girls I liked but was too shy to ask out, or about what life is all about, or about how I needed to get off my butt and do something, anything.

Sophomore year I decided to major in English because I had to major in something and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life besides go camping and backpacking.

My last two years of college I wrote lots of old-style rhyming poetry, modeling the poets I was reading, and had two poems published in a student literary journal.

When I moved to Alaska a few years later and was living in a cabin outside of town, I wrote some really bad short stories about a guy living in a cabin where not much of anything is happening.

Yeah, writing what you know doesn't always work out.

Fast forward a few years: I’m teaching English in an alternative school and I discover Young Adult Literature. I start bringing home books by the arm-load, searching for a few my reluctant and struggling readers will connect with, and I fall in love with the genre.

Now that I’ve got my students reading, I’m looking for ways to turn my students on to writing so we start writing scenes using characters from the novels we are reading.

My students like doing the assignments, but I love doing the assignments.

I’m not sure I would’ve started writing YA if it weren’t for my students. Now, I’m hooked.

How did you come to be a writer? Did you love writing from an early age or did you discover it in a more roundabout way?

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For me, plot and character are interwoven like the DNA strands in a Double Helix. I map out character arcs and plot arcs, but end up looking at them together more than separately because the story has to work as a whole.

That said, here are few things I do to develop character:

1.  I write my MCs life story up until the book starts. This helps me to develop his voice for the actual novel. Nothing beats voice when it comes to story-telling. Your character can be doing something as boring as changing a light-bulb if he’s got a great voice.

2.  In the first draft I ask questions like this continually: What does my character want? What does my character need? What are his internal conflicts?

3.  And all throughout the revision process I keep asking myself: What is my character feeling right now? If I know his back story, I can usually get in touch with what he is going through. Often those feelings make it into the story as thoughts, actions or gestures. And these are the things that show who he is and what he is struggling with.

In one of my manuscripts, I totally changed who the MC was during a revision. I gave him a completely different back story even though in the book he still had to get from Point A to Point B.

I made him both more sympathetic and larger-than-life in a good way. Hopefully he does things that you wish you’d done if you were in his situation but you’d have to be pretty brave to try. At the same time he battles with guilt, anger, lack of self-worth, and helplessness. I think he’s a better fit for the story I’m telling.

So, my final thought on writing compelling characters: Have them take risks. And to have them take risks, put them in risky situations.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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