Tag Archives: Living Write

Diving into words: reading and writing list for 2013

Writers are insufferable creatures of melancholy and regret. We love to write, yet we’re sure we don’t do it often enough (we’re probably right about that), and even when we do, we generally regard our prose creations with disdain.

What? I wrote THAT?!

My novel-writing train is again chugging out of the station as of 1/1/13. In addition to finishing two of my Unfinished Epics in 2013 (see, that capitalization got MY attention), I also resolve to write one short story per month. (Defined by anything under 3,500 words).

My writing charge is firm and clear.

Even more than writing, though, we’re the world’s worst when it comes to reading, or thinking we should be reading, or berating ourselves because we think we’re not reading enough. (Let’s admit we can be a fairly miserable lot).

I’m certain that my life is littered with more unfinished reading lists than unfinished novels, so I’m not planning some grand announcement that THIS is the year I read a dozen classics and become enraptured by a dozen new authors. Maybe will, maybe won’t.


But my writer’s library grew by two books on Christmas, thanks to my most supportive reader — the woman who has been listening to and reading my most imaginative embellishments for 30-plus years. My wife. She asked for a Christmas gift list and I produced a detailed accounting of my literary desires. She must have given Santa a good report, because I now possess Novelist’s Boot Camp (penned by former West Point assistant professor Todd A. Stone) and The Writer’s Workout (from veteran writing coach Christina Katz).

I’ve needed the drill-sergeant approach advocated by Stone. If I can develop the discipline that he says writing demands, then I’ll be published by year’s end. Most of us have a writer’s how-to book that tells us, “These are the rules, but rules are made to be broken,” and I love hearing that, because then I don’t feel constricted by those stifling rules of writing. But Stone takes a much different approach, and I appreciate his honesty:

“Are you a best-selling or acclaimed author? No. You don’t even have a book yet. After you’ve written and published your third, fifth or tenth book, you can break all the rules you want. Until then, to get your idea on paper, to produce a complete book-length work of fiction, just to get the darn thing written and get it done and done well, do as you’re told.”

Yes, sir! The book has 101 drills, so reading two or three a week can’t hurt. (However, Stone does occasionally write, “Drop and give me 20 push-ups,” so, yes, I suppose it could hurt).

Whereas Boot Camp is broken into manageable, writer-friendly sections, The Writer’s Workout has 366 one-page “chapters” offering tips, tasks and techniques. It’s also arranged in four sections that match the seasons of nature or the seasons of life.

This is from Day 1: “Write until writing becomes as natural as breathing. Write until not writing makes you anxious.” Make it a habit and a natural function, in other words — not a duty or responsibility. (Tough to follow in some respects when it comes to my day job as a newspaper journalist, where on 1/1/13 I covered the county government swearing-in ceremony of new elected officials AND the customary “first baby of the year” story, which did lend itself to a more creative approach.)


Those are the newest additions to my writer’s library. I pulled a few others off the shelf, but offer only brief, Twitter-like reviews.

Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer, James V. Smith Jr., is the single book that gets me unstuck and unblocked. Smith’s riddle to “Begin at the End” is the best single piece of noveling advice I’ve ever read.

The Glamour of Grammar, Roy Peter Clark, includes these chapter header gems: Consult a thesaurus to remind yourself of words you already know; Master the elliptical art of leaving things out; and, Play with sounds, natural and literary. (It’s a fun book that I happened to win on a fun Twitter contest a couple of years ago).

The Power of Point of View, Alicia Rasley. She presents the hard-fast rules about not ever changing POV in a scene, then promptly suggests that writers not always follow that rule. I’m guessing Todd Stone would make her run laps for writing that.


What are some of your go-to writer’s how-to books? What’s your reading plan for 2013? Bonus question: In the event that someone might want to discover a new author or two in 2013, what are your suggestions — and why?

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Filed under Living Write, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month 2012, WIPs

Countdown to Kianna: Grandpa eats crow

My brain is best wired for blogging/noveling at 10 o’clock at night. The main drawback to that schedule is that Kelly is usually deep in slumber by the time I finish the next Jackson’s Journal entry. That makes it hard to ask things like, “Hey, honey, I should remember this, but how long were you in labor with Kishia?”

My last JJ post mentioned that Kelly was wheeled into the delivery room on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 1985, to end 20 hours of labor. If I had said, “Twenty hours of labor that day,” it would have been closer to accurate, because Kishia was born at 9:30 p.m. That was the end of 22 1/2 hours of labor that day.

Kelly let me know (see her comment on the last post) that she’d been in labor for a period that covered five days. The Friday before Tuesday’s delivery, her ob/gyn, Dr. Philo Su, did something during an exam that caused Kelly to go into labor. (What few details I remember about that “something” makes me feel faint and queasy, so I offer no further explanation). She went into labor late that day, through the weekend and into Monday, and then finally delivered Kishia a few hours before midnight on Feb. 26. “Labor” meant consistent, increasingly more intense contractions and probably dilating, but let’s not get into the faint-and-queasy details, shall we.

One of the biggest concerns about Kishia’s arrival was how late it was — by as many as three weeks late.

I also want to convey a more accurate “Countdown to Kianna,” so we’re going to include two days of counting with this post. As I said, I normally write this at night and my dedicated followers/subscribers get it via email right away, but probably don’t read it until at least the following morning. That means that if you’re reading “Countdown to Kianna, Day 28,” which was Sunday’s post, you probably read it on Monday (today), which was actually Day 27. (We’re counting down, remember?)

So here’s my solution: I’m scheduling email release and public posting of JJ for 6 a.m. each morning, which means that the Countdown chronology will match the day of release/posting. For instance, I’m writing tonight (Monday) for Tuesday, so when you see this on Tuesday, the Countdown will be on track with Day 26.

So here we are: 28, 27, 26 … days until Feb. 19 and the arrival of Kianna Allene Brown.

And here we are, probably more confused with my time-element explanation than by simply continuing as I was.

You can expect Jackson’s Journal to (loosely) follow this schedule, with Countdown to Kianna taking priority at least until the countdown is over and I begin overwhelming you with photos of Kianna and stories about how she’s the best baby ever.

Monday: Memoir-in-Progress, “Lost in the 70s.”

Tuesday and Thursday: Guest posts. (Except for today/Tuesday).

Wednesday: Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

Friday: Memoir-in-Progress, “Big hair, big dreams: The 80s.”

Saturday: Living Write. (Geared toward my fellow fictionistas and writing/journalism followers, and eventually a way for  you to get a glimpse of my novels-in-progress, “Chasing The Devil” and “Gone.”)

Sunday: No set topic at this time.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna, #11 …

You’re going to hear it or see it soon enough, so I’m just going to tell you: I’m a little bit quirky. For instance, I have a little-kid-at-Christmas fascination with snakes and lizards, but I’m terrified of spiders.

Other than that, I’m really normal.

(All comments on my claim of “normal” will be heavily edited).

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Filed under Family, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress