Thursday, August 26, 2010

Working Vacation?

I’ve just returned from a five day family trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This was one of the best vacations I’ve taken in a while. Very relaxing – except for the sightseeing boat tour on a choppy Lake Superior. The crew spent much of their time handing out bright pink barf bags to passengers who asked for them and carrying around rolls of paper towels to clean up after the passengers who should have asked for them. I’m happy to say that my whole family survived the tour unscathed, but it was pretty grim there for awhile.

I hadn’t known the Upper Peninsula was that beautiful. The waterfalls, forests, and beaches were wonderful, with plenty of colored rocks to carry back home. (We must have brought back fifty pounds of beach rocks). It’s a great place to visit, although I couldn’t imagine staying up there during the winter. Sorry to all those who disagree, but I already find the winters down south in the Detroit suburbs too cold and too long for my tastes.

Amazingly, I didn’t work on my Hogwart’s book at all. Not a single word was written during the entire trip. (My wife's idea)

That doesn’t mean I didn’t think about writing. I spent plenty of time observing the scenery and thinking about the words I might use to describe it. One of the hardest things for me to do is to describe a setting in clear, concise sentences so this turned out to be good practice. And not just practice either. The Forbidden Forest is not only a setting in several of JK Rowling’s books, but it's also in a few of my chapters. So it was fruitful to think about how best to describe it while I was surrounded by deep woods.

Now that I’m back home, I’ll have to jump right to those chapters which occur in the Forbidden Forest and start putting in some of these descriptive ideas before I forget them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Writing a Book is Hard!

Writing a book is hard work. Really hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. Big deal, you say? Anyone should know writing a book is hard work. So did I… once. But then I was lulled into a false sense of security. I told myself writing was easy.

Let me explain. Back when I thought I hated writing of any kind, I thought that writing a book was probably the hardest thing in the world to do. Who could possibly combine that many words and put them to paper without driving themselves to tears? I had a lot of respect for authors of books. (Actually, I still do.)

But I kind of forgot about that when I first started out to write my Hogwarts book. Actually, it didn’t start out as a book. I was just trying to take all the ideas that were bouncing around inside my head and put them together into some sort of coherent framework. One of the reasons I decided to actually turn this into a book was because I was developing so many ideas so quickly I was not having any trouble filling up pages. Writing was easy!

Of course, back then my book read more like an outline than a real book. What I considered my story was nothing more than simple descriptions of what happened in each chapter. No details, no descriptions, and very little dialogue. I was condensing what should have been a 25 page chapter into 5 pages of text. I had no idea what I was doing.

So now I’m beefing the story up with details, adding dialogue and beats, and trying in general to make it enjoyable for others to read.

Now I realize just how much work it is to write a book.

What makes this even harder is the size of the book. I’m already well over 400 pages now and by the time I finish I’m sure I will be closer to 600 pages, if not more. Considering that the first two Harry Potter books were each about 300 pages long, this is a scarily large project to be tackling as a newbie, especially since I’m trying to teach myself how to write fiction at the same time.

Coming up with ideas is easy for me. Putting it down on paper is the hard part.

Writing a book is hard. But it's fun too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Long Uphill Road to Writing Well

As part of my quest to become a (good) fiction writer, I’m reading everything I can lay my hands on. Right now, that means books, articles on the Internet, and blogs. Blogs are a great resource, but there are so many of them I will never have time to read them all. So I’m concentrating on the ones designed to help newbies like me.

I’ve discovered one downside to reading all these blogs. They often leave me depressed. It’s not that there isn’t useful information in these blogs, but I often find myself disheartened at how well everyone else seems to be able to write. The authors probably didn’t even spend much time composing these posts, yet their writing flows so much better than my feeble attempts at writing.

I envy how easily writing comes to these people.

I’ve always had difficulty converting the ideas in my head into words on paper. I stare at the computer screen with my mind full of thoughts and I have difficulty coming up with a way of describing those thoughts without sounding like a high school student writing his first essay.

Not that there’s anything wrong with high school students.

You’d probably be horrified to find out just how long it took for me to get this written, so I won’t tell you. I’m just hoping that with practice, everything becomes easier with time.

We’ll see.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Journey Begins

Finally!  My first post!  I've been planning on starting this blog for quite some time, but I've always been able to find reasons why I should do something else instead.  To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to having to decide how the blog would look (color schemes, layout, etc.), but I finally decided that enough was enough.  I grabbed the simplest template Blogger offered, used the default colors, and started writing this post.   As a result, this blog is still a work in progress.  I'll be rearranging the layout and adding all sorts of widgets over the next few weeks (or months), but I hope to be posting on a regular basis in the meantime.

The reason for this blog is simple.  I've decided to teach myself how to write fiction and this blog will track my progess toward that goal.
First, a confession.  I've always hated writing.  It's has always felt like a chore to me.  I've written reports for scientific journals (I'm a research chemist), but it was like pulling teeth.  Now this may sound strange coming from someone who is writtng a blog about writing, but it's the truth.  It turns out that though I may detest writing non-fiction, I've discovered that writing fiction can actually be fun. 

And for that, I blame J K Rowling.

Let me explain.  After I finished the "The Deathly Hallows," the seventh book in the Harry Potter series, I started thinking about how Ms. Rowling (or anyone else for that matter) might go about writing an eighth book.  A few ideas occurred to me that night, but I didn't dwell on the matter.  Over the next few weeks though, more and more ideas came to mind -- characters, plot twists, unusual events that could only occur at Hogwarts.  You get the point.  Soon I had so many ideas buillt up that I felt the need to write them down just to keep from losing them. 

Eventually I made the decision to write a story based on those ideas.  It might be lame, but at least the ideas wouldn't be wasted.

And then a funny thing happened.  I discovered I liked writing fiction.  Inventing characters and working up intricate plots filled with mysteries is a lot of fun.  And now I want to spend all my time doing it.

But there is a lot more to writing fiction than coming up with a good story.  There are all sorts of techniques to master and I quickly discovered that I have a lot to learn.  Tightly scripted dialogue, character development, pacing -- these are all things I'm now in the process of trying to teach myself.

So that's the point of this blog -- tracking my progress as a writier of fiction.  Hopefully you'll stay around long enough to find out where this leads.

BTW, since I''m a chemist you can expect me to occasionally write about science topics which I think you might also find interesting.  

Thanks for reading.