Dinner steak – the third most important steak of the day.
Back when Team Fortress 2 came out, Valve made comics to go with them, and the hero was a mountain of a man Australian who crashes through the glass ceiling of his own home and is served breakfast steak – THE MOST IMPORTANT STEAK OF THE DAY! – by his butler.
Ever since I have quipped the importance of breakfast, lunch, and dinner steaks, in that order.
And so tonight is dinner steak. USDA Prime ribeye. Yes it’s cooked to perfection. Yes, I use Redmond Real Salt. And yes, I cover it in Kerrygold butter.
First, because I follow a strict nose-to-tail Carnivore Diet 95% of the time.
Second, to get those creative writing juices flowing!
Today, Saturday, I had to work my full-time job. Such is the nature of the beast.
And while I was working, ideas for the latest book began to flow. Scenes, dialogue, effects of those scenes and dialogue.
As I worked I thought, “I’ll remember that.”
Morgan Freeman narrating my life: “He did not remember that.”
That’s over exaggerating. I remember some of the thoughts I had as I toiled away today. But not all of it. The vague memories of the ideas I had pale in comparison to when they leapt into my head. They were mighty bucks that strode into the clearing of my mind, only to be scared by the hunter who coveted them, and they dashed away.
So now I have a process to capture these ideas. A little notebook where I’ll jot scenes, feelings, colors, smells, dialogue, and background once the idea strikes. These great, fleeting stags, difficult to catch, will be mine for the taking.
What do you use to capture the ideas that flit through you mind?
We’ve all heard about the archetypal hero’s journey and the steps involved:
- Ordinary world
- Call to adventure
- Refusal of the call
- Meeting with the mentor
- Crossing the first threshold
- Tests, allies, and enemies
- Approach the inmost cave
- The ordeal
- The road back
- The resurrection
- Return with the elixir
There are many iterations of this, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.
In August of this year (2019) I attended Paleo f(x), and had to opportunity to hear Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, talk about the hero’s journey as it applies to us and the mind.
And my mind was opened.
I don’t know why, but the hero’s journey had always been a physical thing to me. Luke Skywalker leaving Tattoine to fight the Empire. Beowulf fighting Grendal.
But Aubrey talked about the hero’s journey as it applies to the mind and personal self-improvement.
The ideas for stories blossomed in my head.
Of course, when given the chance to shake hands with Aubrey I blubbered like and idiot. “I like your gym and your supplements. . .”
But the seed of an idea Aubrey offered is still planted in my mind, and it’s being applied to the two books I’m working on now. The second book I’m writing takes the largest influence from the Hero’s Journey for mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the characters. While the physical realm is important in stories, the mental or spiritual journeys have added a whole new dimension to my works.
How have you encountered the hero’s journey mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in your life?
I am 16,500 words into my second novel. The next 60,000 words should be easier.
SHOULD be. . .
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write with work and family?
I go to work for eight hours a day and my mental capacity is utilized for the job. I meet with people, work through problems, and coordinate activities. After eight hours of that in some sequence or another I’m mentally spent!
Then I commute home and pick up my children. They are the joy of my life, and like all children take their toll on mental capacity, too. They’ve had problems at school with friends and teachers and they are seeking guidance. Then they fight with their sibling, and I have to step in and provide correction and more guidance.
I wouldn’t give up my children for the world. I’d like to keep my current job, too.
But then I go to write – what has been my passion and joy for years – and the words refuse to flow. I stalk from my front room to my dining room, and up the stairs to my study, trying to work out scenes, conflict, reactions, and feelings in each chapter. Yet the words themselves resist my call to come forth.
Some authors talk about writing preparation, or warm-ups they do where they write about something other than their book. But when you’re a single father with a full time job and two high energy kiddos, sitting down at 8:30PM/9PM at night leaves little time to “warm-up” before bed and 5-7 hours later I’m up again getting ready for work before I have to wake up my kids.
But we strive on, right? For our passion? For our hope that we can provide our children a better future while doing something we absolutely love? To be published and, hopefully, have someone read our book and have it positively change their life in some way?
So, once more, into the breach!
In my last post on editors, I talked about the last editor I worked with, and my experience with her. There was a lot of criticism – some warranted, some crushing, and some that left me with more questions than answers received.
Now I’d like to discuss the latest editor I worked with, and the night-and-day different experience I had with her.
I met my most recent editor through a friend. My friend, we’ll call him MV, is part of a Catholic Young Professionals group in Omaha. There he met a woman who had self-published two books. Through their conversation MV learned that this woman had her sister edit her books, and through several emails they put the two of us in contact.
I was skeptical at first, but sister of this editor has done exceptionally well for herself and her books are still selling. It helped that her price was a fraction of what most editors charge as she was just getting her editing services off the ground. Jackpot!
Over a four week period my editor and I worked through my manuscript, first two copy-edits, and the finally an in-depth content edit looking at story structure, flow, identifying plot holes, and strengthening certain points such as one main character’s growth from meek to strong and the culture of the fictional people I am writing about.
My most recent editor was very thorough with grammar and punctuation. She was able to catch quite a bit of what the previous editor and I had missed. My editor was also able to go through and help make sentences and even paragraphs more clear and concise to better get the story across to my reader.
Through the in-depth content edit, my editor identified areas of confusion which need clarification, and areas where the story was weak and need additional dialogue and/or description.
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. While my story is now stronger, there were times I wasn’t sure about my most recent editor. In all edits, and especially the last, she gave me a lot of pumping up and “your story is great, you’re a great writer” type of compliments. While this is a stark contrast from my previous editor, I don’t think it’s what I need to hear. I needed a hard, critical perspective and many times it seemed I was being provided too much positive reinforcement in a place where it wasn’t warranted.
Sometimes too many compliments and the like can be debilitating to identifying problems and fixing them, in this case in my manuscript. It can lead us into believing we have a great story when, in fact, we don’t.
With my current editor I had to be even more critical of my work, and bring things up to her and try to have her look at them in different ways. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she replied with, “I actually feel that’s really good and I don’t feel it needs to be changed.”
Regardless of whether it is actually good or not, she said things like that so often that my blood pressure spiked a little and, after our meetings, I would go back and comb through my manuscript more.
So maybe it was a good thing?
Most recently (within the last two years) I have had two very different editors. One was overwhelmingly critical and, after paying a hefty sum for a single edit, cut off her availability. The other was much cheaper, but the constant positive reinforcement on things I thought were wrong made me concerned about the quality of her edits. The result: I believe I have a completed, ready to publish manuscript. Unfortunately, these, and one other editor many many years ago, are the only benchmarks I have for what editors should be like.
After reading both posts, what are your thoughts on these two editors? What have been your experiences with editors? I’d also like to hear the thoughts of editors/agents in the business.
Until next time!. . .
Update: the book is coming along swimmingly.
Part of the reason the recent editing of the book is going so well is the clear lines of communication between my editor and myself. Like any endeavor – writing, military operations, power plant maintenance, family – communication is key. I find over-communication tends to be better (though perhaps a little annoying) than under-communication.
Now I’m not going to write a whole lot on this. I am going to put a lot more into “A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2”. But it has been such a good experience that I wanted to cover it.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Throughout the whole editing process this last month, my editor and I have been in regular communication through phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.
Some people may think that this could become cumbersome, even annoying. At times my first reaction is just that.
But the high level of communication has allowed us to deconflict issues we’ve had, reschedule meetings without issue, and to verify next steps and expectations.
Talking through things has allowed my editor to have a much deeper grasp of where I want to go with my story, and the background to it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable talking about all the nerdy stuff in my book. But the more I explain, the more my editor has been able to guide me in a better direction, and my book is really shaping up because of it.
Now Communicate Some More
I’m going to go back to the possibility of annoyance for a second.
I am very straight forward, concise, to-the-point kind of guy. I want the facts, and then to tackle the solution. I don’t need fluff or prolonged discussion.
I quickly found that this would not work in this case.
First and foremost, while my editor and I have gotten to know one another better, we still really don’t know each other well. We have both had to learn to understand how the other operates, reads, and understands things.
While I am a straight to the point kind of person, my editor needs more discussion. That, and I found that greater discussion in greater detail was required so that my editor could really grasp what I am trying to do with my book. It was a bit of a mental stretch for me, but once I got past my mental block, my editor has come to understand my book better and, as I said before, has helped me change it for the better.
For example, I wanted to ensure that the culture of the Star Folk, the main peoples described in my book, had a lot of examples without just info dumping. Info dumps make the writing boring and interrupt the flow. At first I tried to describe this and my editor had a difficult time helping me. But once I described the culture more, where and how I wanted to describe it, and examples of info dumps, my editor was able to give me suggestions and help me brainstorm.
The issue with this kind of communication is it’s a soft skill. It’s more difficult to make it into a procedure, or to document a process.
I have to understand myself and how I communicate, and learn how the other person receives information, processes it, and communicates back. And I have to do this each time with different people, whether writing, at work, or with family and friends.
As many may know, it takes time, practice, and many iterations of trial and error.
Communication through the editing process has been key to helping my book become better. Sometimes the over-communication has at first seemed unnecessary, but I’ve learned it’s required if I want my editor to really be able to help me. Perhaps if I had done this more in the past, my book would be further along that it is.
The book is, in fact, coming along really well! I wouldn’t normally say that – I would say good, or decent, or it doesn’t quite suck. But I can honestly say the book is making some real leaps to something much more organized, professional, and almost ready for publishing. I will have more updates in the weeks to come.
Until next time. . .
I don’t normally wax political on my blog. I attempt to keep my political views out of my love of all that is geeky. This has been made more difficult of late with the current U.S. election cycle.
That said, I do enjoy reading history, both long past and more current. I hop from ancient history circa 500 BCE, to the history of Prussia beginning in 1500 CE, up to present times, and everything in between at a whim. Ancient Roman, and Viking history interest me most.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Within I purchased a copy of George W. Bush’s book Decision Points, and began reading in ernest.
Erenest is a relative term when you have children. It took me the better part of 2-1/2 months to read.
George W. Bush is without a doubt one of the more controversial Presidents of our time. He has been criticized for everything from No Child Left Behind, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was far from perfect, as all human beings are. But, he is a man and leader I greatly respect, with all of his faults. I miss a president, like him, who not only preaches love of America, but lives it.
Decision Points itself is organized by topic, not chronology. Bush chose a series of major decisions in his life, and in his time as President, to discuss. From his decision to finally kick alcohol, to his decision to run for President of the United States of America. It is a deep insight into how he thought at the time, and why he acted as he did.
Once thing that stands out most in the book is his willingness to give credit where it’s due. He generally does not halt at party lines. Whether Democrat or Republican, Bush equally honors those that he worked with and helped him to make, what he sees, as a legislation and decisions that made for a better country, or that kept the country safer. At times he does talk about his work with the Republican Party and strategy meetings for elections. But more often than not he discusses striving to work with both sides of the aisle in congress to pass pass legislation, and to help Americans and others around the world.
He also does two things I see very few leaders these days do. First, he downplays the things he actually did himself. He gives short mention to his slipping past the media and visiting the troops in Iraq for Thanksgiving, or the fact that he cobbled together support from both parties for controversial legislation. Second, he openly admits his failures. I think this second one is more telling of the kind of person and leader George W. Bush is. Few of us, myself included, like to talk about and admit our glaring failures. I’m sure it was difficult for Bush to do the same. But he did in Decision Points. He admits them openly and without reserve. Where he failed spectacularly the reader gets the feeling that Bush is as hard on himself as the media and congress was.
Like I said, George W. Bush was far from perfect. There are things I disagreed with him on during his time in office. But he was also my Commander in Chief for the first part of my military career, and he loves the United States of America. He did good by the troops for the most part, and he backed his men and women 100%. He worked to make what he thought was a better, freer America. Though he was heavily criticized by all sides, he made the hard decisions and drove on to ensure America was more secure.
While reading I did poke holes in some of his reasoning. While he justifies the invasion of Iraq, he completely ignores the genocide of the South Sudanese at the same time. Though he defends bailing out banks and the auto industry, he says himself that companies should be able to fail as the free market and their own decisions see fit – instead Bush pushed to spend billions of dollars propping up failing companies instead of allowing true free market capitalism to reign and, while ripping that band aid off would have hurt, America would have been in a better position, in my opinion.
But he was POTUS at the time, and he was the one who had to make the decisions with the Congress he had to work with. I can arm-chair-politician all I want, President Bush was the “man in the arena.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Decision Points, and it will definitely be a book I reread in the future. I highly recommend this book to any who wish to have further understanding of the Bush presidency and that era of recent history.
Until next time!…