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Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing, Book Clubs, and Reading

When I am reading a book I didn't pick out I always start with a certain amount of trepidation.  I read it saying to myself, "Alright impress me!"
Then the book will deliver or it won't.  It is the sheer volume of books that left me wanting that really inspired me to begin writing.  Where I envisioned a author going to a particular place but they never quite got there, or didn't go far enough in my opinion.  With writing books I can get a crazy and go as far as I want.  I have to remind myself constantly to "Jump into the shit."  Don't pussy foot around, or hedge around the bush, jump into the conflict, make it uncomfortable, make it emotional and personal as soon as I possibly can.  Otherwise I will be as lame as the books which made me want to write to begin with.
I belong to a book club, where we meet once a month at our local Barnes and Noble bookstore in the Starbucks section with the tables.  Whoever thought of putting Starbucks and Barnes & Noble together was a genius!  My book club each meeting decides on which Monday night the next month we will meet and what book we will read.  Everybody is free to make suggestions as to what we might read and we casually vote upon those books suggested as to what we read for the next month.  Each meeting we discuss the book we read the previous month.  What we liked, what was our favorite part, what we didn't like, etc.  The magic of the book club comes from several areas.
One)  After meeting together for months and years it becomes a special evening event once a month that is outside of your regular friends and events.  A little break from the world and the rat race of life to discuss a book.
Two)  Because we all introduce ideas of books to read from month to month, you have to read books you never ever would have chosen to read yourself.  This has a very surprising effect when you find a new author or new genre of book that you realize you love to read and thoroughly enjoy and you never would have guessed unless you happen to read one of those books.
Three)  Things change.  The only constant you can rely on in life is things change.  We have read several books by the same author and he has rounded the inevitable corner of his prime and his writing has gone to shit.  Either he lost what he once had, or ran out of juice, or forgot where he came from and what had gotten him to where he was at.  Whatever the cause, the result is he is on the decline.  For me as an aspiring author who still hasn't gained even the slightest bit of fame and haven't made enough money to buy a dinner for myself much less my family, I frankly can't even say if I have what it takes to succeed in this crazy industry of writing and publishing.  Only time will tell.  I will however try different types of stories and different series and groups of characters and I am probably hypersensitive to what little bit of feedback I get from those who have read my work.   I will not forget where I came from, and don't have a clue to where I am headed.  I pray it is to a point where I make enough money I can stay home and write full time.
If you're not in a book club I highly suggest you join one.  The website Goodreads has numerous groups which vote and pick books for a monthly read, kind of a virtual book club.  I haven't joined one but then I am member of a book club, and read numerous books in between on my own, and am writing two novels at the same time, not to mention full time employment and full time husband and father of three.  I am probably slightly over extended.  If you can't join a book club or start one with real people you personally know then at least try online. 
As far as the writing aspect of not forgetting where you came from.  I kicked around the idea of writing a book seriously from about 2002 until 2010.  During that time I wrote chapters and started over thirty different books.  It wasn't until the ladies of book club encouraged me to bring in chapters of what I was working on so they could read and edit my horrible work that I became serious enough to try and write every day.  Keeping in mind that of all the subjects in the entire Universe the only one I struggle with is English!  Grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary.
The story the ladies were helping me with is Golden!  If I stay with this long enough to get to 1 Million words published or I get picked up by a traditional publisher with an awesome editing department, I will come out with this series of Gems and more than likely this will be my pinnacle of success as a writer.  My Xanth series for those who know of Piers Anthony and his struggles with success.
What's funny is I had a start of Wiley Randolph's training and his first mission, what he was designed and trained to do, but I wasn't confident in my ability as a writer to pull it off.  Plus I had his last mission planned, and some basic ideas of books to do in the middle that I know I can flush out to be decent stories.  Knowing my first book would always be my worst I picked the least exciting, and most developed story I had in my tiny arsenal of work to finish as my first novel.  Whisper starts off slowly, because the first five chapters or so were written between 2002 and 2010.  You can tell when reading the story where I picked up in 2010 and finished the book by the flow and speed at which it goes.
With what feedback I have received about Whisper and the relationship of Lisa and Wiley, I added that so if I ever wanted to do another book after Whisper with Wiley I had a way of doing that.  Of all the things I expected questions about 98% of them are about Wiley and Lisa, which kind of took me by surprise, especially from the male readers who I thought would only really be interested in the technology and adventure aspects of the story.  As far as the difference in their age it was because my wonderful wife, my dream come true, is sixteen years younger than I am.  You write what you know, and there are definitely historical and cultural gaps with people of different ages and from different times.
So with this in mind, and being hyper-sensitive to the feedback, instead of just writing about Wiley's training and his first mission I am challenging myself with the sequel to essentially write two stories intertwined into one.  The sequel will pick up where Whisper left off but at some point in the book it will actually go back in time from Wiley's perspective reliving events of his first mission from his perspective, jumping forward to Lisa and Wiley discussing the mission, back to the mission, eventually concluding with both stories finishing, all questions answered and everything set and primed for the sequel to that book.  Taa Daa!

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