I’m Back — Jacob’s Quest is in Second Draft.

The second draft of my fantasy novel is completed.

I’m happy to be two days ahead of schedule. Here is a full list of what I did.

  • Edited 78,000 words.
    • Cut wordy descriptions.
    • Shortened all dialogue. — Sappy, wordy, and redundant.
    • Revamped dialogue attribution.
    • Removed passive voice. — It was everywhere.
    • Break down long sentences.
    • Built up verb variety.
  • Changed a major plot point.
  • Wrote a new scene to resolve some ‘Chekhov’s Guns’.
  • Changed the main character’s name.
  • Rewrote the first chapter — For the third time, it’s never quite right.
  • Broke down long chapters into multiple.
  • Removed flat jokes.

What I’m going to do next is —

  • Finish the new section. (It’s a barely functional skeleton right now.)
  • Add a better setup for a joke that isn’t landing.
  • Keep an inventory, make sure nothing pops out of nowhere and characters don’t disappear and reappear at a whim.
  • Keep a calendar, time is inconsistent throughout the entire book.
  • Learn more about English grammar. Take what I learn and add it to the dialogue.
  • Read it aloud.

I will be doing that later. For now, I’m going to blog.

What’s next?

Editing this book is fulfilling. There were lows and some highs. Life interrupted my writing with fun and !!FUN!!. (Losing)

I want to tell you all about it.

Learn from comparing two drafts.

I now have two different drafts of ‘Jacob’s Quest’. I am going to compare the two and explain key differences. Both on a clarity level, and a character level.

Before I do that, I want to tell the story of the book.

I started writing ‘Jacob’s Quest’ under the title ‘A Book Without a Name’ back in 2013. I finished it in 2014 and tried to get it traditionally published.

No one did. I don’t blame them. It was awful.

I should have been writing for the last 6 years, but I gamed away my time. At the start of 2020 I mentioned to a friend I wrote a book. He read it, and liked it. (He was a friend after all) He encouraged me to fix it, finish it, publish it.

He read an old, old copy of the book. A unedited version from 2014. I found the edited version from 2014 and worked from that.

In May, I wrote the new first draft. My writing style changed enough to justify calling it that.

In the past week, I turned that first draft into a second draft. I couldn’t be prouder. I will publish it after the next round of editing — I will not let it rot for another 6 years.

Back to blogging.

My struggle will be your gain. I’ll be posting again soon. You will learn key insights I gained from rewriting this book.

That’s all for now.

Be back soon— Writing a Novel

I will pause my blog posting schedule. I limited my focus to one thing: rewrite the fantasy novel.

A blog post has already been scheduled for August 6 to celebrate my completion. Which gives me a little over a week or I risk embarrassing myself.

This is the first time I’ve mentioned the novel publically.

The novel follows a frustrated young page as he tries to find the book’s author and get a quest. The book (working title George’s Adventure) has a comedic tone. Funny is my favorite way to write, otherwise I take myself too seriously.

See you all soon! Looking forward to writing more for you.

3 Foolproof Methods to Write Consistently

Writing is difficult enough, and life keeps getting in the way. Normally, it isn’t pressing social engagements or work opportunities. But instead it is the pressing feeling of leaden socks draped over our shoulders driving us into unknown depths of our couch cushions.

Writing is all about getting ideas from your head into another persons. If we don’t work on getting content down and then perfecting that content we are strictly consumers. It is better to be an artist than just a consumer.

Even though we know that, we only know it intellectually. Our bodies are constantly sabotaging us with low energy and comfort seeking. If I could, I’d let some tigers loose on you, stopped only if you finished your first draft.

Then and only then would our comfort obsessed bodies get a grip on the necessity of our craft.

This fact bugs me. I need all the help I can get to keep my writing moving along. There are three tricks I use to keep myself writing everyday.

  • Making it easy to work.
  • Working with a schedule.
  • Setting up reverse bets.

Some of them I have been using for years, and others I picked up recently. I am up to writing six times a week, writing at least a thousand words. So I can attest to how well they work.

Make it easy

I draw. For the last seven years I walked around with a notebook in my back pocket to jot down ideas.

No one would ever draw if it took five minutes to prepare yourself to draw. Same thing applies to writing.

A pen and notebook is always on my person. It takes a quarter minute to whip them out and start sketching.

Or in this case, writing.

Ensure that you always have the tools you need to write, ready at hand.

A word processor needs to be ready for your creativity. Every single keystroke you have to do to get ready to write is a mile of mental work to run. Keep your insert dash at the end of your document. Ready to start. [Is that what this ‘|’ symbol called in the writing processor?]

In addiction, your processor shouldn’t be buried under sixteen tabs of Listverse articles two flash games and a drawing program to boot.

The same thing applies to your writing environment. Keep your desk clear, and your laptop easy to access.

No one has ever written a book that couldn’t get to their writing supplies. Stop sabotaging yourself.

If you are using Windows 10, you can use the desktop feature to organize your computer into work and play.

Press: Windows Key and Tab. That hotkey opens up the multiple desktop browser.

Drag and drop your word processor into desktop number two and leave everything else behind.

Now, instead of filing through the complete library of congress just to access your in-progress novel, two keystrokes and a mouse click and you are there.

Schedule Before you are Done

A common idea in sales is to market the product before its done. There are two reasons to do this.

  1. You stop surrendering to perfectionism.
  2. You set a fire under your pants to perform.

This post you are reading now was scheduled when it was only three sentences. Three brief descriptions of the methods. They weren’t edited and I didn’t know if I would have anything to say about them or how I would get them from my brain to yours.

Doing this in blogging is extremely easy. You are going to publish your blog posts eventually, why not sent that down in stone before hand. Simultaneously, you solidify your posting schedule as well.

Working on a novel is different. If you have a deadline with the publishing house, this is handled for you, and your task is dividing your project into manageable blocks.

Work with a schedule. For every single chapter, or scene post a deadline everywhere. Put it in your email program. Good email programs will have a calendar that you can create a weekly repeating event.

If you are a purist, and are writing your novel by hand. Write it down in your monthly planner instead.

Bet against yourself

This is the equivalent of setting tiger’s loose on yourself.

It’s called the reverse bet.

Last year I tried to get to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym on a consistent basis. It was possible to mentally hype myself for a week, but then the exhaustion from imagining a future that never came stopped me in my tracks for another week. Two weeks, or three.

There is only trick that worked with 100%. I would tell a training partner if they didn’t see me tomorrow, I owe them 20$.

Its that easy. The human mind evaluates possible loss as more pressing and urgent than possible gain. I took this trick to my writing. Just yesterday I sent my best friend a message.

I told him that if I didn’t finish an article by end of day, I would owe him 20$.

That article got written that day.

Find someone close to you and tell them what a reverse bet is. Then immediately bet against yourself.

You’ll find yourself winning every time.

17 Quality Verbs and The Why

When you are learning a second language, the quickest way to obtain fluency is by learning more verbs. But, rarely do writers work on their verb vocabulary in their native language. This lack causes writers to get lost in the sea of clarity. Their ships endlessly spiraling from weak verb to weak verb.

This should not be your fate! You have the opportunity to chart a course out of that archipelago.

People want action: Give them Verbs

Powerful verbs create powerful prose. Before you consider any other type of word to upgrade your writing, master the verb.

Quality Verbs are Short

Don’t bore readers with your large words. Short words always read faster. Action should be fast. Slow action is a disservice to the reader. Use snappy words.

When should you use long verbs?

I love some large verbs. A favorite being ‘overwhelm. I pay for this word in advance by using short verbs around it. Long verbs help with contrast, but only if you are using short verbs.

Quality Verbs are Concise

Consider the sentence. ‘Be more thoughtful of the sentence.’ That sentence is better written as ‘consider the sentence’.

While we write, we encounter state-of-being verbs, they signify an opportunity to find a better verb.

State-of-being verbs are words like, are, is, was, and were. They are necessary. Don’t religiously remove them. Be mindful of how you write. Mind the words you use. [Sentence edited to remove state-of-being verb ‘be’]

While we are writing, every time there is a state-of-being verb, it is a sign that there may be a better verb to use.
While we write, we encounter state-of-being verbs, they signify an opportunity to find a better verb.

These two examples delineate the power of using quality verbs.

Adverbs must be stricken down. [Not: adverbs need to be stricken down. Must is a better verb in this case]

Adverbs act like salt. They heighten flavor but no one wants to taste salt alone.

Apparently, he ate quickly. Thoroughly surprising his fellow campers. He promptly and softly walked back to his cabin. Happily he cozily got into bed and peacefully slept.
He wolfed down his food. Shocking his fellow campers into reverence. Without wasting time, he sauntered back to his cabin. He snuggled into bed, and napped.

I dropped ‘apparently’, it lacked importance. ‘Thoroughly’ became ‘into reverence.’ The emotion of reverence described my intention better than an adverb ever could. ‘Promptly’ became ‘Without wasting time’. ‘Sauntered’ is a beautiful verb, we will be seeing it later. ‘Happily’ was dropped: not important. Peacefully slept could have been just ‘slept’, but I decided napped was a better word.

The exact choices were subjective, but the end result is not. You are capable of stronger writing, let your ear guide you. Don’t grab fancy words for the sake of them, let new words meet you one by one. As if you were going on blind dates with them.

Quality Verbs are Fun

The pirates jumped on board the ship. They drew their weapons and charged. Jimbo was the first to charge back, he drew his pistol and shot a zombie pirate. The priate fell onto the aft deck. Jimbo needed to get himself and Francisco off the ship. If they could get a rowboat they could sneak away into the night. The only problem was Francisco was already unconsciousness.
The pirates leapt onto the ship. They unsheathed their swords and attacked. Jimbo confronted them head on, he aimed his pistol and blasted a zombie pirate. The pirate collapsed onto the aft deck. Jimbo needed to get himself and Francisco off the ship. If they got a rowboat they could slip away into the night. Jimbo’s problem was Francisco fell. A zombie struck him unconscious.

I rest my case.

There are two things I did to promote this prose. First, I used synonyms to remove repeated verbs. The synonyms I chose better described the nouns. Both a sword and pistol can be drawn, but unsheathed is better for swords and aim better for pistols.

Second, I turned passive voice into active voice. This will be elaborated on in a later article.

List of 17 Quality Verbs

This list is short for a reason, I actually want you to learn them. With each verb, a micro-essay elaborates my opinion. I hope you will love them deeper than I.

Let’s chew on these verbs.

Let

Let is verb that paints the intentions and experience of a character. Let me show you what I mean in this example.

‘Rachel let her heels click on the floor. The squabbling men paused and looked at her.’

There are a few things going on here, we know she is walking. We are describing an effect of walking (heels clicking) to indirectly hint at her step. This works because the sentence describes her relationship to her environment. Rachel is letting her heels click, this implies she is in control. Characters that are in control are able to make choices, and choices reveal character. In this case, she is letting the men know that she is there; they hear her heels click. By extension, this means Rachel wants to be noticed.

I love this verb, ‘let’ gives intention and control to a character. It is a common word, but I don’t see it used often in writing. It is short, snappy, I like those qualities. Sprinkle it in, you will not disappoint you.

Aim

Humans are hunting creatures, we have bifocal vision to help us aim. Take advantage of this verb to describe character intentions. Like let, it is short and common.

Overwhelm

Overwhelm serves two functions that I know of. It is a powerful verb for emotion. For example: Joy overwhelmed Jack. Note how I made joy the noun, to keep it in active voice. This isn’t strictly necessary. Saying ‘Jack was overwhelmed with joy’ works, but I prefer the active phrasing of this idea.

Naturally, overwhelm can be used in conflict. ‘The army overwhelmed the rebels.’

Say

The absolute best word to use for dialogue attribution is said. Infinitive form: ‘to say’.

Why? Say is simple. Due to it’s simplicity it is applicable in all forms of writing, for any character. Authors use it. Readers like the familiarity.

Said is an interesting word. It gets editted out by the reader’s eye. Without so much as a ripple, it nudges the dialogue forward.

Feint

Give your audience conflict. The verb ‘to feint’ implies conflict. Feinting is a lie by action.

When a character feints a strike, or feints a helping hand it signifies that they want their counter party to be in the dark about what they are actually doing.

All of that power is in five letters. Use them.

Become

Become is a powerful transformation verb.

I love ‘become’. I often write ‘is turned into’. This clunky three word phrase can be replaced by some form of to become.

Narrative fictions dramatizes transformation. ‘To become’ is your ticket to making the audience believe it.

Pause

Characters are either acting, or thinking. When a character thinks they will change what they are doing (new information), or continue (fighting off doubts). Often, writers use stop when they should be using pause.

As a quick rule: when the character changes his plan, use stop.

If the character continues his plan, use pause.

With pause, you can work character doubts seamlessly into the narrative.

Rub

Versatile verb. You will find your favorite uses in no time.

My favorite use: directing attention to discomfort.

‘Fred rubbed his eyes.’ — Tired

‘Fred rubbed his feet.’ — Sore

‘Fred rubbed his hands together.’ — Anxious

This isn’t a list of cliches to memorize. You can discover uses by a simple experiment. Your in the comfort of your own home. No? Pretend you are. Rub anything nearby. Instantly your brain constructs a story to match with the action.

Hair? — Self-conscious

Doorknob? — Indecisive

Nose? — Sick

Wrist/watch? — Impatient

Naturally, ‘To rub’ has limits. Find them.

Grapple

Let your characters break each other’s arms.

Or a gnome can’t hold a human broom, and grapples with it instead.

I love the sound of grapple — I prefer it to wrestle (which sounds like a two-year-old’s attempt to say whistle) — but that’s not enough to justify its power.

Conflict between two actors is built into the sub-structure of grapple. Every time you read grapple, it signals conflict. Conflict compels readers to turn pages, spellbound, when they ought to sleep.

Squint

You are a fool if you miss this opportunity to capture body language so fluently. Body language is complicated, to describe a pose in detail will bore the reader.

His right hand was on his breast, the left hung limply. He kneeled — BLAH BLAH BLAH. I won’t read this drivel.

Use this powerful verb: SHOW your characters attitude.

Respond

There are many ways to respond. Making this verb versatile. Often used with the preposition ‘by’.

She responded by flipping the bird.

Good. We can imply ignoring by misdirection.

She responded by looking away.

Use a colon for more punch. Fruity, but I leave it to your discernment.

She responded: a left hook at his jaw.

Em-dash for style.

She responds — walking away.

Assemble

Groups of people can be assembled. Space engineers assemble Sci-fi thingy-a-whatsits.

When an actor assembles a team, it shows her leadership.

After the assembly is well, assembled, the team robs an armored money-van. Or something equally important.

Evil assembles its minions too.

Like clouds assembling into a storm, when your novel’s factions assemble it only means one thing: war.

Sauntered

Sauntered is a fantastic synonym for walk. When I write a character walking softly, I am tempted to write sneak, tiptoe, slink, stalk, or tread. While all of these verbs get close, they associate with stealth. (Except for tread, which is slow, but not by necessity quiet.)

Saunter fulfills the purpose of easy, quiet walking without sneaking. However, it risks being seductive. I don’t mind. Saunter is a verb writers ignore, but readers understand.

Maintain

At times, things remain unchanged, but not without effort. If your hero maintains something, they care for it as it is. Show that care.

He maintained his aloofness — Classic, with good reason.

He maintains an arsenal of weapons. — Paranoia is a form of caring.

I maintain that the law doesn’t matter. — The ‘I’ holds this position.

Maintain is a versatile verb. I feel that it has a formal air, your experience may differ.

Form

Experience forms a boy into a man.

The wire mesh formed the furniture.

Smoke swirled about and formed a tunnel.

God formed the world.

Form is a powerful verb. It transforms, builds, and manifests. Transformation motivates narrative, but used in this why appears rarely.

More often, use it in environment descriptions, it readily builds complex structure from any material. For example: the towering greenery flattened and formed a ceiling.

From nothing creation is rarer than the first use. But may I suggest formation of ideas. For example: A new idea formed in Charles mind. Or: Charles mind formed a new idea.

Did you see that? Form is powerful. Something can be changing, or causing change and form will describe both.

Faze

Best used in conjunction with a negative modifier. ‘Magic did not faze Quibbiespak’, ‘The herd of pink elephants didn’t even faze Quibbiespak’, or ‘Nothing seemed to faze Quibbiespak.’

As you can tell, Quibbiespak is one unconcerned fellow. Which is the point, if a character is unfazed, it implies them being above it all.

Use in moderation, trust your ear.

Where can I find more?

Read more.

…and I’ll share more lists later.

Even more important than finding more is strengthening your connection to the verbs you learn. Go on a second date with them. Now that these verbs are at your attention, you will spot them as you read. Note how powerful they are.

Seize that fire, and run with it.

Dialogue Attribution: The Basics

Dialogue Attribution answers the question, ‘Who Said That?’

Dialogue is often necessary for compelling characters. A character’s unique voice carries the narrative and endears the audience to your story. However, many writers do not craft their dialogue well. Readers are often left wondering about who is speaking, how, and to whom.

Attribution of dialogue is when the author tells the reader who said a quote.

“I’m going to get a coffee, with nineteen shots of espresso.” James said.
Someone, please help James.

We know that James said this quote of dialogue; the narrator told us. Complications occur if the narrator is untrustworthy or shackled to a limited perspective.

Trustworthy or not, the dialogue attribution’s style creates a poetic quality. This poetry is vital for the rhythm of the piece and clarity of the narrative.

In this post I will describe my personal journey of dialogue attribution.

I started with said.

In the wild I giggled, guffawed, and growled.

Then back home — I stretched and again said my lines clearly.

Subtly of a sledgehammer

Using said with every piece of dialogue is as poetic as a hotel wake-up phone call. What it loses in style it makes up for in clarity. Since clarity is highest goal of dialogue attribution, it is better than fancy styles.

James said, “What do you mean I’ve got the jitters?”
“You are quaking like an Italian flag in a hurricane.” Said Leah.
“So? I can still help.” James said.
Leah said, “Right now, Nope. I can’t trust you with scissors.”

This is how I initially wrote dialogue. The problem with this method is that said becomes repetitive. It will grate on the ear within two pages.

Laugh a line

After writing a first draft for my fantasy novel, I was introduced to a fancy style of writing. It involves taking any verb, other than said, to convey the dialogue. This method bypasses all ear grating of using said continuously.

James giggled, “What do you mean I’ve got the jitters?”
“You are quaking like an Italian flag in a hurricane.” Explained Leah.
“So? I can still help.” James pleaded.
“Nope. Right now, I can’t trust you with scissors.” Leah denied.

The disadvantage of using any and all verbs is that they begin to sound silly. Or worse, pretentious. It is also a lazy way of getting across the speakers attitude. These problems are evident below.

“Will you go out with me?” Charles mewed.
“No. You smell like old fish.” Yosef countermanded.
“I treat you so well, and this is how I get repaid.” Bellowed Charles.
“Ha. Is that how this works? You earn dates with good behavior?” Joked Yosef.

This is a classic case of telling and not showing. Instead I recommend using action to paint the character’s attitude in the situation.

“Will you go out with me?” Charles said, leaning forward, head tilted.
Yosef wrinkled his nose, “No. You smell like old fish.
“I treat you so well, and this is how I get repaid.” Charles shook as he yelled.
“Ha.” Yosef leaned back and smirked, “Is that how this works? You earn dates with good behavior?”

My red and green coloring indicates which I prefer. I recommend dropping that 217 word list of ‘instead of said’ verbs. Start visualizing the action of your characters. This will get easier as you practice and requires a deeper intimacy with your characters. Which leads me into my stage of my journey.

Action is how Character is Revealed

Let’s go back to my original example, I will write the dialogue attribution as I would now. I realized after the second draft of my fantasy novel that my logophile vocabulary of verbs (Oogled, countermanded, prodded, chanted) only demoted my writing. I prefer choice verbs, character action, a sprinkling of said, and when possible: nothing.

James looked at Leah, eyebrows cocked. “What do you mean I’ve got the jitters?”
“You are quaking like an Italian flag in a hurricane.” Said Leah.
“So? I can still help.”
“Nope. Right now, I can’t trust you with scissors.”

James is established as the subject. His dialogue is then indicated by quotations. His actions explain that he confronts Leah — He’s not afraid to meet her gaze, and his quizzical emotion is clear. This could be part of his character, perhaps he often looks directly at people. I do not explain that James is shaking because in the next line Leah does it for us.

In the second line I use ‘said Leah’ to let the reader set up a back and forth with James and Leah. It is the smallest way to nudge the reader to understanding. This works because said is often “edited out” by the readers eye. By far, said is the most concise way to explain who is talking.

The last two lines use my favorite technique, doing nothing. Because the context has been in the first line, subtly affirmed in the second line, the speaker can be safely assumed for the third and forth line.

If more dialogue is spoken I will drop in small bits of action here and there to associate the quote with the character. This works especially well at turning points in the dialogue. The more action I put in, the slower the dialogue will read.

That’s all she wrote

Whether your writing journey follows mine or just crosses it, write with confidence in your experience. Clarity is the most important part of dialogue attribution. The style and poetry of your prose will evolve with your experience. I am happy to share mine.

How to use the Em-Dash

Let me introduce you to your new best friend, the em-dash. He looks dashing with his wide figure, ‘—’.

There are three types of horizontal rules, the hypen (-), the en-dash (–), and the em-dash (—). Despite the em-dash’s long history, it is rarely used by writers. The em dash is a powerful tool. Novelists ignore it their own peril.

Interruption

Em-dashes provide a crisp way of indicating interruption. Be sure to use an example of it early in your work with clarification like so—

“Listen listen! I want to tell—”
“I am busy right now,” Blake said, interrupting, “Another time.”

From that point on, you can use the em-dash, its association with interruption has been established.

I stand up and begin to walk.
Suddenly there is a pain in my chest. I can’t breathe.
I stand up and begin to walk—
A pain in my chest. I can’t breathe.
Em-dash used for interruption of action.
“Hello Roger. Your room is ready sir, right this.”
Roger interrupted him saying, “Oh! What’s this?”
“Hello Roger. Your room is ready sir, right this—”
“Oh! What’s this?”
Em-dash used for interruption of dialogue.

In my opinion, the Em-dash used for interruption is good it you want to write action, especially in thrillers. It makes the work faster paced, and more visual. This being at the expense of poetic considerations.

Pause

“I suppose this,” He looked up at the clock, “This means all my work was for nothing?”
“I suppose this—this means all my work was for nothing?”
Em-dash used for a pause in dialogue

In the above example, the em-dash can be mistaken for stuttering. I read it as a small pause, 2 seconds at most. The above example is great, I love clarifying action that paces dialogue. The utility of the em-dash though is apparent in the second example.

Simultaneous Action

“And just like that,” as he talks he snaps his fingers, “I removed three words from this sentence.”
“And just like that,”—he snaps his fingers—”I removed three words from this sentence.”
Em-dash used for simultaneous action within dialogue.
“Your passport has been out of date for seven years, its your fault,” While Fred spoke, Jacklyn talked over top of him.
“What? Its my fault?!” Jacklyn couldn’t get a word in edgewise, Fred never stopped talking.
“that you didn’t take the time to go to the government office.”
Fred said, “Your passport has been out of date for seven years, its your fault—”
“—What? its my fault?!—” Jacklyn tried to interrupt Fred.
“—that you didn’t take the time to go to the government office.”
Em-dash used for simultaneous dialogue.

In the same way, the em-dash can be used to time dialogue within action, or action within action. Using more words isn’t an error if you have more to say. In the above example, I find the original piece without the em-dash to be funnier, more emotional, and more specific. The rework with the em-dash is faster, harsh, and more chaotic.

Emphatic Parenthetical Statements

Using the em-dash for parenthetical statements has a different feel than using commas or parentheses. In the following examples I feel the lines are made casual by the em-dash.

Along the road, he saw a duck, which on its own isn’t unusual, but this duck had a ice-cream sundae.
Along the road, he saw a duck—which on its own isn’t unusual—but this duck had a knife.
Em-dash used for a parenthetical statement replacing commas.
He memorized poetry (He adored Ross Gunther’s poetry), while he was in the priesthood.
He memorized poetry—He adored Ross Gunther’s poetry—while he was in the priesthood.
Em-dash used for a parenthetical statement replacing parentheses.

In place of a colon

Among other uses, the colon adds emphasis to a sentence. When the colon is used in this way, consider using the em-dash. It feels less rigid, every trick you can use to get the tone you want should be used.

It was that time of day again: the sacrifice.
It was that time of day again—the sacrifice.
Em-dash used for replacing a colon.

How to focus: Divide your Writing into 3 Steps

Where you are writing is the second level of where you commune with gods, muses and inspiration. The first level is your mind. Everyone organizes their room from time to time — when we must — but few organize their minds.

No one wants to be buried with blank pages, words we could never set down on paper. I am going to share with you a piece of a system. A way to focus your mind on distinct stages of writing.

If you incorporate this knowledge into your process, writer’s block will never haunt you again.

Division of Tasks

Writing is divided into three distinct tasks.

  • Research
  • Writing
  • Editing

To achieve flow, work on each stage by itself. The mind needs time to get into focus — around 90 minutes. Deep focus is nessecary for talking to God.

All of these tasks will be analyzed in respect to writing.

Research is not Writing

Every time we interrupt our writing — opening google, searching for the price of wigs in 1567 — we are interrupting the flow of creation.

The eudemonia of writing is too precious to be squandered on such trivial concerns!

Never squander passion on tedious research. Its like trading away gold for candy, by weight.

If you don’t know something, make it up, or if you must, write: ‘TK-price-of-wigs’. TK is short hand for ‘to come’. (I do a document search for TK- afterwards to finish a first draft)

Doubts regarding the honesty of your story are difficult. Keep a journal, or scrap of paper handy. Write down any nagging doubts. Then: Carry on writing. Write despite what you think.

Writing is Writing

When your mind conjures words, this alone is writing. Unfortunately, we only have sluggish fingers to pound them out.

I will save the mechanics of writing for another article, but I will leave you with this.

If your fingers aren’t moving, you aren’t in the head space to write. Not the other way around. Little doubts, questions, and pangs of hunger shouldn’t be addressed. Ignore them. Persistence is the key to success. Write them down on a handy journal to log them, then write.

Editing is not Writing

Do not edit when you write first drafts.

The mind-scape of creation is radically different from the mind-scape of editing. A painter does render a picture in crisp focus. Instead, the completed manuscript will come into focus from successive washes of color. Focusing brings things into focus.

If you are writing and simultaneously editing, your mind will be split in two. Your writing (noun and verb) will become tedious.

Removing Distractions from Microsoft Word

Most writing processors are set up in a way that harms are creativity. Red, blue outlines and thousands of menu buttons demand attention. But we must turn them all off if we have any hope to generate words.

To set up Microsoft word for deep focus, you must turn off proofing marks, and enter the focus mode. Open up the ‘File’ section in word. The ‘File’ button is the leftmost button top menu. Once there, look at the left tab, ‘Settings’ is on the bottom. Open settings.

Go to the proofing section, and check off all spelling and grammar checks in the ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in word’ subsection.

Turn them off with the same vigor that a gardener saves her precious sprouts from choking parasites.

Next, go back to the document. On the bottom right there is a button called ‘Focus’. Click it. Well done, you have optimized word for writing.

Allow Yourself to Write in the Language You Think in.

However, man cannot live off bread alone. Practical advice is peachy keen, but spiritual advice is foundational.

First drafts demand vigor. Write them recklessly.

Whatever words come to your head, blast them out! No one, not even your favorite author, has perfect words spring from their heads like Artemis from Zeus. Every book you have ever read is a first draft that has been smelted pure.

You can only write from experience. Perhaps you are like me, and doubt the importance of your life. Your personal language is criticized by your ego. Ego is an embarrassing friend that follows us everywhere.

For example, say your writing your first draft. You write a trope, a reluctant hero. The hero is anxious, so you write a cliche, ‘white-knuckled grip’. These thoughts pass into your mind and out again without your fingers imprinting them on the page. Do not let this happen. Despite how embarrassing your thoughts, you must write them down. Blast through the first draft like a stream of boiling water cutting through snow. White, hissing, fury.

Your stream on conscientiousness must be set down in type. If you don’t instantly play with your ideas, they will get bored and go find another friend.

What you will mine up is gold bearing ore. From there you toss it into the crucible, again and again. I’ve been doing this for a while and I’ve been getting quite good at it. I cannot recommend reckless writing enough! You, at times, will find gems in the dirt you delve up. Admire them briefly and keep digging. Most of the time you find gravel, but you must never hit backspace.

Gems are shy birds, and ore are violent seagulls. If you swat away the pizza-swiping seagulls, the graceful heron will think you hate birds. She leaves. Writing: your hands go forward.

Experience is personal, you may doubt its value. I am shy about my religion, career, and passions. The I think in language is Christian allegory, kids cartoons, and card games. While I write, I think, Oh, this part is too religious, no one is going to identify with it.

We must write regardless.

That is all.

Setting Sail

This is the first article on the Writing Temple blog.

I hope that you got here after reading many hundreds above it. Why a voyage to a temple?

I like to believe that there is an underlying structure to everything. The way to understand it is to meditate deeply on things. Even the smallest difficulties can thrash an otherwise sane person if they don’t have a ballast.

Everyday, you must overcome resistance. We all want to become better writers and if we aren’t careful ocean swells will toss our ship side to side. Courtesy of the annoying voices in our heads, doubts assault us.

If you wrote better prose you would be happy. All your characters are boring. You can’t make this plot work.

This is important: all of those doubts are valuable and shouldn’t be ignored. But in their current state they drive us to exhaustion. I want to turn my doubts into opportunities. It may be a side effect of my male mind but I do that by maps, and taxonomies. I organize all my doubts into glass jars, letting them calm down, and take them out and examine them like bugs I am pinning and labeling.

This blog is a map for writers like myself. I am going to draw out where I’ve been, and what I’ve seen in a vast ocean of writing.

The Map

Before Jason is a turquoise ocean, the edges wrap down to the horizon. The tide laps at his ankles. He holds a map. It shows a temple in the center of seven seas. It is a temple full of silver and is only visible with the full moon.

The seven treacherous seas are:

  • Character
  • Contrast
  • Conflict
  • Content
  • Context
  • Clarity
  • Concrete

Jason, must build a boat.