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First draft. How bad can it be?

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Every professional writer, every editor and every How-to book will tell you that the first draft of your story is garbage. That’s not the words they use but I’m trying to be G-rated here. Being the analytical sort, I’ve asked the question, “If it’s so bad, why do books ever get finished? If the first draft is always toilet water, why on Earth would the writer, editor, or publisher ever get beyond it and find a good story somewhere inside the garbage?” There are an awful lot of books and magazines out there with stories in them. Granted, not all of them are prize-winning quality. However, there are a ton that are much better than they are given credit for. So, somehow, the first draft makes it out of the cellar and onto the bookshelf.

My current project has been in the works for a long time. It’s been on again, off again with two short stories and numerous articles interspersed within the timeline. For the most part the internal editor has been kept at bay. I have gone back and re-read several sections to get back into the story line or to verify a detail or two. I have tried not to be judgmental of my writing or the story at this point. Then one evening last week, I sat down to write. I was feeling a little out of sorts and lacked focus bur I was determined to work through it and get a thousand words out before I turned on the idiot box (television). As I wrote, I kept saying to myself, “This is crap. This is crap. Oh, this is really crap!”

Finally, I hit my goal of a thousand words. I think I may have even finished the sentence before I closed the laptop. Maybe.

“Thank God! It’s all crap, but I got through it.” I set the laptop aside and proceeded to watch some mindless TV.

Two days later a friend asked me how the book was coming and the nightmare returned. “Oh, I’ve written some, but it’s all crap.”

She replied with the kicker, “Yeah, and…?”

“And, what?” I said.

She smiled and calmly replied, “You have always told me that the first draft is garbage, right?”

“Uh…yeah, I suppose so…but you don’t understand, this was really crap!”

She continued to smile but said nothing so I changed the subject.

That night I went back and looked at the “mess”. After reading over twice, it dawned on me that except for a minor change to the laws of physics and relocating my main character’s “dying” body, the scene actually works, for now. Not quite as bad as I had imagined. Hmm…

I thought of my friend and just shook my head.

So, there must be various levels to crap and as long as there is a desire to edit the work until it is no longer crap, there is hope. And eventually a story.

Note to self – Finish the book dummy and quit worrying about the quality. It’s going to be crap until you start editing it. Just write!

 

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Thoughts on Writing

 

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The Third Anchor

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My blog, though small, receives a sizable number of views each week from the Traditional Archery community. This due to two articles that I had published in the now defunct Stick and String Magazine. This has been a pleasant and unexpected surprise as I started the blog to discuss writing. But, the power of social media took over and the Traditional Archery forums send me visitors every day. Nice!

Most of those readers get here and, after reading those articles, look for additional archery information to read about. So, This will be the first of a series of posts relating to one of my other passions, “The mystical flight of the arrow”, traditional archery. Now please do not call me an archery snob. There is nothing wrong with compound bows or the people who choose to shoot them. I own two. I just like shooting my longbow and recurve bows more. Much of what I will discuss in my posts will translate for either traditional or compound shooters. So, let’s get started.

For years, I have had issues with my arrows impacting the target to the left of my aiming point regardless of the shot distance. This is not that uncommon for right-hand shooters. Now finger shooters who use sights will tell you to move you sight and that will fix the problem. Not necessarily. After much experimentation and a little reading, the problem became obvious. My eye was not in line with the arrow shaft. Using sights would make this adjustment somewhat easier. However, I shoot instinctively. In other words, i look at where I want the arrow to hit and my hands make the necessary adjustments. That’s the theory behind it. The reality of it is, like the golf swing or throwing a strike in baseball, there is a lot that goes into the perfect archery shot. Most critical is proper alignment of the body and sight picture.

To ensure that the archer can repeat the same shot every time, anchor points are used. For example, growing up my father taught me that when I brought the bowstring to full draw, I should put the tip of my middle finger on my string hand at the corner of my mouth. This worked for him just fine. and He was quite successful as a bowhunter. That’s how I learned to shoot. Guess what?. Most of my arrows drifted to the left of my target. It wasn’t the right anchor point for me. Much later I began placing the first knuckle of my string hand at the point of my jaw bone, beneath my ear. This increased my draw length and improved the alignment of my shoulder to my bow arm. A nice straight line. To ensure I was always at the same location and that my hand was in proper position, I tucked my first finger into the point of my cheekbone. This gave me a nice two anchor position that I could repeat over and over again.

Arrows still went left. *grumble, grumble*

Finally during a practice session I realized that sometimes when I turned my head just right. the arrows would hit the x-ring. After a little experimentation I found that if, at full draw, I tipped my head slightly to my right, the string would touch the tip of my nose. In that position, my eye was directly over the arrow with a straight line to the target. This third anchor point created a repeatable, very stable, sight picture that put the arrow in a perfect vertical plane. My “lefts and rights” came together into a vertical line. Because it is still new to me, I have to think about it. But it will become automatic in time.

Next time, I talk about the “ups and downs” and a little about judging distance.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Traditional Archery

 

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Out with the old, in with the new

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As I’ve gotten older, I try not to wish away any days, months or years. I have a finite number left. That said, I am certainly glad to see the past three and a half months behind me. Family members continue to heal up and there is finally time for me to get back to the things I want to do. Like updating this blog.

2015 has been a very tough year for me. The universe was (un)kind enough to show me a few of my limitations. The good news is, that I have been intelligent enough to realize the opportunities to change for the better. Now, I just hope I’m intelligent enough and strong enough to act on those changes.

I don’t believe in making year-end resolutions. The typical failure rate is something like 93% by the end of March. So, I won’t make any here. However, I have started to make some changes. Some have been geared toward freeing up time. Some have focused on my health.

For those of you who have stuck with me and not given up the faith, you will begin to see more posts here. Writing and Archery will be the main focus with a healthy dose of psychological, philosophy thrown in just for fun. You will also have to put up with my visiting your blogs and making comments that may or may not be full of wit and wisdom.

So, out with the old and in with the new. I’m looking forward to 2016 and spending some of it with you. I wish you all the best!

 
9 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Other Strangeness

 

Reality

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How do we respond when reality happens?

Most of our lives we go about chasing what we call our dreams. Professional athlete wannabes. Rock star wannabes. NYTBS wannabes.

We work to make money to afford the luxuries we call necessities. That pair of Jimmy Choo’s. That new computer or tablet. That 4,000 square foot house.

We try new things to keep our lives interesting. Take up gourmet cooking. Skydive. Run a marathon. We live vicariously though our children, hoping they will make it big where we failed, so they can support us in our old age.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” He hit the nail on the head, I think. But there are times when Life decides to autocorrect. When we think our lives are stressful and actually we are on cruise-control. Suddenly, the phone rings or the police car pulls up in front of your house…

“I’m sorry sir, but there’s been an accident…” You can fill in the blank with your own worst nightmare.

Life is no longer a passive thing that we just experience. It has just slapped us across the face with a cold wet fish and said “WAKE-UP! It’s time for a dose of reality.” The switch has been thrown, our train is heading down a new track, and our lives will never be the same!

What we say and do in response, helps to define what we have learned in life up to that point and our character is carved out a little more. It might be only one test that we face. Or, it might come at you in waves that seem to never end. Almost before the last news has fully sunk in, the phone rings again… And, three days later, the phone rings again…

It has been said that “God will not give you more to bear than you can handle.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In whose opinion is it too much to handle? I have seen first hand what can happen when someone breaks. It is a frightening thing to witness.

One factor that can make a huge difference in our response, is the size and form of support system that surrounds us. Don’t kid yourself, you still need to deal with reality individually. However, having others to talk to, ask advice from, and sometimes just sit quietly with, can be the difference between making it through your ordeal and not. Support can come from the strangest places so don’t be surprised when a near-stranger stops by and offers a hand up.

The truth is, we will each handle the news differently. There is no right or wrong. You will do the best you can and only you know when you’ve reached your limit. Expect to be stretched beyond where you thought possible. It will happen.

Best advice for this situation: “Take it one day at a time. Do what you have to do to get through today. Worry about tomorrow when it becomes today.”

“This to shall pass.”

 

 

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Tear it out!

If you own a home and you are reading this post, you have some form of plant material in your yard that needs to be torn out and replaced. In unison, you all responded with, “yes, weeds”. And that is most likely true, but I’m talking about trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers that you planted. Yes, you!

I’m not talking about the hostas or daylillies that need to be split. Though they probably do. I’m talking about the tree or shrub that turned from the pretty little thing that looked so nice up against the corner of the house, to the monster that now appears to have eaten that same corner and half of the garage as well!

Too much Willow!

Too much Willow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years back I planted two Arctic Blue Willows on either side of the waterfall in my back yard. “What waterfall?” you may ask. That is precisely my point! The willows, which I was informed would only reach three feet in height turned into real monsters, six feet high and six feet across. Sure I trimmed them twice a year so I could see my water feature. But, then the willows didn’t look so good.

I try to create a “maintenance-free” garden, at least as much as possible. So, I decided to tear out the willows. initially the plan was to transplant them to the cabin. However, because the roots took such a pounding during removal from under the rocks, and the travel time to the cabin would make it difficult to keep the remaining roots moist, we decided to scrap them altogether. I was not happy about this but it had to be done.The result was nothing short of amazing

Clean palette

Clean palette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I can see the waterfall and have a chance to rebuild the planting beds the way they should be, You see, tearing it out isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Note to self: Have the Domestic CEO weed the walkway.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Garden Walks

 

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Mistakes Happen.

Speak no evil

 

 

 

 

Well. it finally happened. It took a few years but I finally put something on the web that wish I hadn’t. I will not say what, when, or where as it doesn’t really matter at this point. Just that I said something without all of the facts and without considering the context in which it would be taken by other readers. unfortunately I cannot take it back or remove it. Looking back on it, I should have just kept my mouth shut and let others, who also did not have all the facts, spew forth their opinions. This was not my finest hour. However, it did reinforce my decision to not use this blog to stand on a soapbox. Don’t get me wrong, I have opinions on most topics. And a few of those opinions are based on experience and first hand knowledge. It’s simply not what I want for this blog. I hope those who read my comment, won’t hold it against me.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if the everyone followed one simple rule: If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all? The silence would be deafening.

Uh, oh. Caught myself trying to step up on that soapbox.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Other Strangeness

 

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Plot Twists in Short Fiction

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A panel topic at this year’s 4th Street Fantasy convention dealt with using Fake outs, False Fumbles,and Misdirection to spice up standard plot tropes. It was a lively discussion as you might expect. The part of the discussion that interested me the most was the Set-up. Those sentences, paragraphs, and even whole scenes that are used to purposefully send the reader down a dead-end or straight into the surprise plot fake out. The Set-up is the clue(s) the author provides the reader that the plot trope they know and love may get thrown for a loop later in the story. Usually, the clues go unnoticed at first as just lightly related information used as world-building or characterization. The number of Set-ups can vary from story to story but as a rule there should be at least three: one towards the beginning, another somewhere in the middle, and then a last one just before the big surprise ending.

During the panel discussion, a comment was made that this is a little harder to handle in short fiction. The clues would be included in at most a “throw away” sentence or two. Frankly, what shocked me more was that the accomplished short fiction writers in the audience did not jump up and scream at the top of their lungs at this comment. Since when is there “throw away” sentences in a 3,000 word short story?

As I stated previously, the initial clue(s) may go unnoticed. But, can they really in a short work? Can you afford to insert a “throw away” line. just to set up a plot twist later? It seems to me that those “throw away” lines are nearly as important and require at least as much consideration as your opening line. These sentences need to fulfill at least two and maybe three or four purposes. One of which is to give the clue that the reader needs to remember, on some level, so that the surprise ending doesn’t seem contrived. Also, keep in mind that the clue should not be too obvious that it jolts the reader out of the story.

So, I would like to hear from you short fiction writers. How do you handle Set-ups in your short works? Or, do you stick with the tried and true plot tropes?

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Thoughts on Writing

 

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