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!
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. . .