Me enjoying a moment of boredom

Boredom is a Good Thing…and Here’s Why!

Most people hate boredom. Personally, I think it’s highly underrated. In fact, I could use a little boredom in my life right about now…

Me enjoying a moment of boredom

Me enjoying a moment of boredom

It’s Day 7 of my “open novel” experiment for Ice Storm, aka my “Development Hell” book. Yesterday was a little hellish in its own right. After four days off, I found myself struggling to get back into the story. This isn’t unusual for me and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like to take breaks during the middle of a story. Anyway it took a long time but I managed to edit another 3,000 words of my second draft. So, I’m sitting at 24,000 words with 66,000 words to go.

Today should be a relatively easy day. Then I’m going to need to start creating some new scenes, which will slow me down a bit. I’m beginning to wonder if I can keep editing at a pace of 18,000 words per week. Writing and editing at the same time is far more difficult than doing just one or the other. So, I may need to cut it back to 12,000 in order to give my inner batteries more time to recharge. And that brings me to today’s topic…

Boredom is a Good Thing…and Here’s Why!

No one likes boredom. Many people even consider it evil. This is a leftover from early American history, as brilliantly shown by Thaddeus Russell in A Renegade History of the United States. Prior to the American Revolution, America was a hotbed of saloons, interracial mixing, non-marital sex, homosexuality, and prostitution among other things. Life for these people was about having fun.

After the war, the “Founding Fathers” became worried. They thought these frivolous, pleasure-seeking lifestyles would ruin the American experiment of self-rule. The result was a strange merger of Puritan values with Victorian ideas about work and leisure. Work was said to be godly, regardless of whether it had a purpose or not. Idle hands supposedly led to misery and wretchedness.

These ideas continue to this day, albeit to a lesser degree. We still avoid boredom like the plague. In fact, we do everything in our power to avoid it. We turn on the television. We surf the internet. We call people. We engage in work. We do chores. We run errands. In general, we throw ourselves into any structured activity that promises to alleviate our boredom. But creatively speaking, that’s a mistake. Boredom can be an extremely powerful tool.

I try to fit boredom into my daily schedule. Yes, I know that sounds weird. But I have to fight my initial instinct to consume entertainment. So, I find time to sit down once a day. I don’t do anything in particular. I just let my mind wander. And the result is often amazing. I do some of my most imaginative work when I’m just sitting around, being bored. The other thing I like about boredom is that it helps me realize my passions. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself thinking a lot about drawing and how I wished I knew more about it. Now, I’m about to begin a 30-day drawing program.

So, embrace your boredom. Avoid the temptation to fill every spare moment with outside stimulation (unless, of course, it happens to be Chaos!). Instead, let your imagination go to work and maybe you’ll discover things about yourself you never knew before.

Other Stuff

I wanted to begin my 30-day drawing program yesterday. Unfortunately, I ran out of time. Hopefully, I’ll start it to later today. The link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is still broken. Diesel has a revised version of Chaos in hand so hopefully, this will be fixed soon. On the bright side, I fixed my Goodreads link. So, at least that’s off my list. Finally, the Chaos paperback continues to be on sale for $13.25 at Amazon.

Wood Table

4 Days, 13 Hours in the Car, and 1 Sick Wife!

My wife and I don’t travel much, but when we do we make it count.

Wood Table

Check out the table…it might look like a bunch of mangled wood but to me, there was a whole other world beneath that glass…

It’s Day 6.5 of my “open novel” experiment for Ice Storm, aka my “Development Hell” book. Last Friday, I reached 21,000 words of the second draft. Just 69,000 words to go. I’ve spent the last four days on the road, traveling up and down the East Coast. I’m excited to be back to work but first a little vacation recap is in order.

4 Days, 13 Hours in the Car, and 1 Sick Wife!

May 25: Early in the morning, Julie and I drove 5 hours to visit our friends Graig and Michelle for a BBQ. I know what you’re thinking. 5 hours for a BBQ? Well, it’s a little more than that. Over the years, my close college friends have moved all over the place. Thus, I don’t get to see them very often. Anyway we ate too much, drank too much, and slept too little. All in all, a great time. Unfortunately, our hosts got extremely sick that night. They thought it was food poisoning. But since the rest of us felt fine, Julie and I decided we were safe. Oh, how wrong we were.

May 26: We drove another five hours to Massachusetts. My parents recently bought a retirement home in Cape Cod. So, they’ve been gradually moving into it and sprucing up the place. Julie and I drove out to meet them and got a chance to see my aunt Karen and uncle Brian as well.

Karen and Brian own a home right down the street from my parents. They’ve been renovating it and it looks terrific. My favorite addition is a glass coffee table built on top of curving, winding pieces of wood (see photo). The table originally belonged to my grandparents. As a kid, I used to take my action figures and thread them in and out of the wood, weaving them through the nooks and threading them through the crannies. It was like a world in of itself. Seeing it in their home brought a huge smile to my face. Good memories!

We also looked through some of my grandfather’s old belongings. He passed away four and a half years ago and left behind a variety of trinkets, paperweights, and geological specimens he collected from his travels. I was fortunate enough to be able to take a few things with me. My favorite one is a carved rock. On the bottom, my grandfather wrote “PAKISTAN” in large letters on a piece of tape. In smaller letters, he wrote “Bought in Colorado.” It’s hard to explain but this sums up my grandfather in just a wonderfully succinct way.

May 27: At about five o’clock in the morning, Julie woke up with stomach pains. Two hours later, she got violently sick. Around noon, she started to feel a little better. I took her outside for some fresh air. She was okay at first but eventually got sick again. After another spell of sickness, I got her into bed and she napped on and off for a few hours. By night, she was feeling well enough to eat some noodles and watch Moneyball. I’m guessing she caught a 24-hour bug from Graig and Michelle. Fortunately, everyone seems to be feeling much better now.

Moneyball was an interesting film. I read some of Bill James’ books as a kid. They were interesting, albeit a little over my head at that point in time. I’ve always thought sabermetrics was best used to analyze history. I also think it leads to a more focused understanding of baseball. Even before I found Bill James, I was stumped by why batting average got tons of attention while on-base-percentage was virtually ignored. I’m a little less bullish about its ability to predict future individual performance. I worked on Wall Street for a number of years and the first lesson you learn is that past performance cannot predict future results. So, I’m not convinced it has much to offer for draft analysis or team construction. Regardless, I enjoyed the film. The concept of an outsider trying to spread a powerfully-felt philosophy in opposition to an old guard has particular meaning to me. In fact, this is a sub-theme that runs through Ice Storm.

May 28: We drove three hours home. I was tired from the trip and decided to extend the break for an additional day. Today, I’m back at work on Ice Storm!

Other Stuff

Later today, I plan to begin my 30-day drawing program. Look for more on this tomorrow. The link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is still broken. Diesel has a revised version of Chaos in hand so hopefully, this will be fixed soon. Also, my Goodreads link still isn’t working. Finally, the Chaos paperback continues to be on sale for $13.25 at Amazon. Cheap!

A David Meyer Original!

Learning how to Draw: When is it too Late?

I am the worst artist in the world. But not for much longer. I’m going to teach myself how to draw. That is, if it’s not too late…

A David Meyer Original!

A David Meyer Original! Wow, these are not good. Well, this is a house, an airplane, and a not-so-tasty bagel. Whatever you do, don’t eat it!

It’s Day 6 of my “open novel” experiment for Ice Storm, aka my “Development Hell” book. Yesterday, I reached 21,000 words of the second draft. Just 69,000 words to go. As expected, it was a tough day. I had to write a new chapter and shift parts of two other chapters around. I cannot begin to describe how much I despise writing new material while editing old material at the same time. It’s exhausting. But at least I’m still on target to finish this draft by June 30.

Learning how to Draw: When is it too Late?

I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw. Unfortunately, I never got past the stick-figure stage. But I’m determined to change that. My brain likes to work in a frenetic fashion. Sometimes I’m writing one story while my brain is focused on two other ones. It can be difficult to keep track of everything. So, I’ve started to storyboard future novels. I take these large pieces of poster board and scribble ideas and little drawings onto them. Unfortunately, my drawings are just awful. And that’s no good because I have a lot of visuals I’d like to put down on paper.

So, I bought myself a couple of how to books from Amazon. I picked You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler and Drawing for the Absolute Beginner by Mark and Mary Willenbrink. I’m going to be working out of them for the next few weeks so expect to see plenty of photos of my work. As a starter, I took the advice of Mark Kistler and sketched a house, an airplane, and a bagel (yes, that’s what those drawings are supposed to be!).

Hopefully, I’ll learn a few things. Further down the road, I’d love to draw as another form of entertainment. I’m a huge fan of old school comic strips (Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, X-9, Li’l Abner, and Rip Kirby volumes all line my bookshelves). It would be an interesting challenge to create my own adventure comic strip. I’m also interested in creating a Cy Reed-based adventure video game using Adventure Game Studio.

Other Stuff

The link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is still broken. On the bright side, things are moving forward and from what I understand, Diesel received a revised version of Chaos yesterday that should fix the problem. Also, I just realized my Goodreads link isn’t working. This seems to be a coding problem as the widget I use for social networking doesn’t have an “author” function. Finally, the Chaos paperback is still on sale for $13.25 at Amazon. Get it while it’s cheap!

View from Flores, El Petén

Writer’s Guilt – My Greatest Nemesis!

I am plagued by a constant case of writer’s guilt. Never heard of writer’s guilt? Well, read on…

View from Flores, El Petén

View from Flores, El Petén. Peaceful right? Well, less than 24 hours later our van crashed into a police car…next to a military outpost. Next thing I knew, soldiers were swarming us and I was being directed into an ambulance. Ahh, Flores…

This is Day 5 of my humble little “open novel” experiment for Ice Storm, aka my “Development Hell” book. Yesterday, I edited the 18,000th word of the second draft. Just 72,000 words to go. Good lord, that seems like a lot. Especially since yesterday was a pretty tough day. I’m officially through the easy stuff. From here on out, it’s going to be a battle. I hope to edit another 3,000 words tomorrow. Then I’ll be taking a few days off.

Writer’s Guilt – My Greatest Nemesis!

And that brings me back to my first point. I’ve been writing fiction for a number of years now. But for a variety of reasons, I don’t have much to show for it. I’ve written countless scenes. And I’ve learned a lot about writing and myself. Still, I’ve only published one book (shameless plug: it’s called Chaos!). Because of this, I have trouble taking time away from writing. When I do, I get writer’s guilt. It’s this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that I haven’t actually earned a break. It’s brutal, similar to the guilt I used to feel when I didn’t do my homework on time. Actually, scratch that. I never did my homework on time. Heck, I didn’t pay attention in a single class until I got to Business School (Umm…hi mom and dad…). But that’s another story for another time.

The worst thing about writer’s guilt is that it’s ultimately self-defeating. Doing things, going places, living life…these things enhance fiction not detract from it. Plus, breaks can be enormously helpful when it comes to recharging mental batteries. But my brain doesn’t really care about such things. So, I get writer’s guilt before vacations. I get it before holidays. I get it before day trips. I even get it when I’m not actually missing any of my writing time. Weird huh? Oh yeah, I often get it well in advance of the actual break. And the guilt continues well after I’ve already taken the break. Strangely enough, I usually do fine during the break itself (note to self: take longer breaks).

So, with a break coming up, you might think I’m feeling a severe case of writer’s guilt. But so far it hasn’t happened. Famous last words right? But truthfully, that’s a big deal for me. I’d like to think it’s because I’ve got a plan in place to finish Ice Storm. But maybe my brain is just tired of harassing itself. Regardless, I’m pleased.

Other Stuff

I feel like a broken record here. But the link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is still broken. And the Chaos paperback is still on-sale for $13.25 at Amazon. Get it while it’s cheap!

Capturing a little lightning...

Development Hell to Development Heaven!

Wow, it was quite the storm here the other night. Torrential rain. Loud, ripping thunder. Blinding flashes of sheet lightning. Truly awe-inspiring stuff. As a result, I’m feeling a bit more contemplative than usual today. By the way, I didn’t have my camera handy during the storm. The accompanying picture is actually from another storm (way back in 2011).

Capturing a little lightning...

Capturing a little lightning…

This is Day 4 of my humble little “open novel” experiment. Let’s start with a quick update on my “Development Hell” novel, Ice Storm. Yesterday, I edited my 15,000th word of the second draft. I’m guessing I’ve got 75,000 words to go. The next 15,000 words should be a little tougher. Then things get really tough. Then a little easier. Then tough again.

From Development Hell to Development Heaven!

I’ve talked about Ice Storm’s development hell over the last few days. But to sum up, I wrote seven unfinished drafts over the course of four to five months. Finally, I got tired of spinning my wheels and combined the drafts, forming a story out of the various pieces. The result was less than good. However, the story had lots of potential. Last week, I spent three nights trying to pinpoint what was holding it back. I came up with two major problems and two minor ones.

  1. Scenic Confusion: The scenes felt strangely out of order. Sort of like I’d tossed them into a blender and let them splatter out over the pages.
  2. Passive Hero: Cy Reed was not driving the action. Instead, things sort of happened to him and he reacted accordingly. When he makes a fantastic discovery near the end of the novel, it felt unearned.
  3. Side Story Issues: Chaos was light on secondary characters. Ice Storm is far more ambitious. Several of the secondary characters have their own stories that unfold over the course of the novel. For the most part, I liked these side stories but felt I didn’t wrap them up well.
  4. Cartoonish Events: Cy Reed’s universe is supposed to be a little over-the-top. His world is filled with lost treasures, deadly monsters, and strange science. But it’s all grounded in reality. The mysterious artifact at the heart of Chaos, die Glocke, is fully explainable by modern science. Ice Storm was different. I strayed from reality and got a little too cartoonish at times. Hell, it strained even my credulity.

In retrospect, none of this surprises me. As I mentioned, I crafted Ice Storm out of multiple drafts. It was only natural that scenes get out of order, motivations get obscured, etc. Fortunately, these problems are manageable. Here’s what I did. I took a sheet of paper and divided it into six boxes. Then I divided Ice Storm into six sections, one for each box. In each section, I gave Cy an overall goal. By the end of the section, he either accomplishes the goal or fails and is forced to improvise. This leads to the next section and the next goal. It worked like magic for me. Cy is now driving the story rather than being driven by it.

Then I divided up my individual scenes and put them into the various sections. I had to throw a few away (hmm…maybe I’ll do a “Deleted Scenes” section after Ice Storm is published). And I’m going to have to create a few to replace them. But most of my scenes found a much better home. Now, it feels like there is a more logical progression of the story.

The division of sections also helped out with the side stories. I took each secondary character and figured out what part of their story would be told in each section. It also helped with the cartoonish elements. I was able to eliminate two particularly cartoonish elements merely by reordering the scenes. I also took the opportunity to reground the story based on the principles of Cy Reed’s world.

So, there you have it. Development Hell to (possible) Development Heaven all in a matter of three days!

Other Stuff

The link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is still broken. And the Chaos paperback is still on-sale for $13.25 at Amazon. Incidentally, that price may go up soon. I’m thinking about participating in Amazon’s Extended Distribution program. But the only way to make a decent profit off it is to raise the Amazon paperback to a higher price, say $17.95. I’ve been mulling this over for awhile. Still, if you’re thinking about buying a copy, now might not be a bad time to do it.

Ice Storm Development Hell

Let’s talk about Ice Storm Development Hell. The “first draft” (read yesterday’s post to see what I mean by this) came in at 85,000 words, or 340 pages. I’m in the process of editing it and reached the 12,000 word mark today. So, I’m still on schedule. Sweet. Then again, this part of the book happens to be in pretty good shape. It’s the next 73,000 words that are going to give me fits. So, not so sweet after all.

Come on that all you've got???

Come on snow…is that all you’ve got???

Ice Storm Development Hell: Not just another Cop Novel!

Ice Storm is the second novel in the Cy Reed universe. Cy Reed is an urban archaeologist turned treasure hunter. I used to feel a little silly writing about a treasure hunter. I mean, come on…treasure hunting is hardly a real profession. How many full-time treasure hunters are out there anyway? But that’s sort of the point. Fiction (and not just literature) is dominated by the usual suspects: cops, lawyers, doctors, bureaucrats, etc. They’re a dime a dozen. Does the world really need another novel about a world-weary, rule-bending, alcoholism-recovering, family-failing, overworked cop? Actually, maybe so. For some reason, readers gobble those up like crazy.

But as for me, I don’t have much interest in conventional characters. I prefer characters who operate on the fringes of society and respectability. I think it opens up a lot of interesting story lines and points of view you don’t see in most novels. Take Cy Reed for example. He’s got one foot in the world of archaeology and the other foot in the world of treasure hunting. His former colleagues view him with disdain. His new ones view him with distrust. He doesn’t really fit into either world and probably never will. At the same time, his position on society’s totem pole affords him an unusual outlook. He sees the hidden flaws in the archaeological industry. He thinks antiquities laws are wrongheaded and do more damage than good. And he views smugglers, looters, and black market dealers in a rather positive light. In short, he defends the “undefendable.”

My first book in the Cy Reed Universe, Chaos, takes place in Manhattan. It’s a good old fashioned treasure hunt set in the middle of the urban jungle. Rather than mountains, Cy climbs a skyscraper. Rather than venturing into forgotten caves, he explores abandoned subway tunnels. When it came time to write a sequel, I considered writing another urban-based adventure, perhaps in a different city. But it had a “been there, done that” feel to it. So, I decided to take Cy in a completely different direction.

Ice Storm takes place in Antarctica, which in many respects is the exact opposite of Manhattan. There are no paved streets, few buildings, and very little in the way of permanent population. Manhattan is a bustling metropolis. Antarctica is mostly lifeless tundra. And yet, Ice Storm is very much about life. I’ll return to this point over the coming weeks, but suffice it to say a lifetime isn’t enough for Cy Reed to accomplish all of his dreams. As you might’ve guessed, I have that in common with him.

Other Stuff

By the way, the link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is broken. Don’t know how that happened but I’ve been told it’s in the process of being fixed. Oh and Amazon lowered the price of the Chaos paperback to $13.25. Apparently, I still get the same commission. So, you can save a whopping $0.70 and I still get full payout. Good deal!

Get me out of this Development Hell!

Check out that chart over there. What? You can’t read it? Okay, click on it. That should help.

My Writing Schedule - April 2013 - September 2015 (Yes, you read that right!)

My Writing Schedule – April 2013 – September 2015 (Yes, you read that right!)

This is my writing schedule. I created it last month. You see, I have a tendency to write books straight into development hell. I’ll write 50,000 words (200 pages) of a novel. Then I’ll conclude I made some crucial error. I’ll start to rewrite. I’ll add new chapters and eliminate old ones. Ill get maybe 30,000 words into a second draft before I realize I made another set of crucial errors. So, I’ll rewrite again. And again. And then again.

The result is an incoherent mess, filled with various parts from various drafts. Eventually, I give up and move onto another story. And then I go through the same process all over again. I think it happens because: a) I’m a perfectionist and fiction, by definition, will always be imperfect; and b) I tend to rush into stories before I’ve really had proper time to brainstorm them.

I’m determined to break the cycle. So, I created a schedule for my next four books and set some rules for myself. I’ve also started to storyboard future novels (that’s the reason I’ve got four books on the schedule). The basic idea is to extend the creation period as well as separate creation from editing. If I do it right, I think I can write a novel every eight months. That’s two months apiece for brainstorming, writing, editing, and publishing.

  • Brainstorming: Far too often I rush into a story only to find I don’t like where it’s going. The characters seem thin, the story feels off. So, I want to lengthen my pre-writing creation process.
  • Writing: I write 2,000 words per weekday and 1,000 words per weekend day. So, 12,000 words per week. That means I can write about 100,000 words (400 pages) over a two month period (I consider 75-90,000 words to be my sweet spot).
  • Editing: I’m going to need two months to edit my current novel. But going forward, I’d like to reduce that time and instead, place more trust in my creative work.
  • Publishing: This is all the other things that go into publishing a book…soliciting suggestions from outside readers, formatting the book, and creating a cover.

So, where do we stand? I started my current book, tentatively titled Ice Storm, back in December 2012. After spinning it off into development hell, I resurrected it. Basically, I took pieces from seven (!) different drafts and shoved them together. I finished this on May 16. For the sake of simplicity, I’m considering this to be my first draft.

It’s not very good. In fact, it’s exactly what you’d expect from shoving seven different drafts together. But it has tons of potential. Over the last few weeks, I’ve developed a plan to realize this potential. It’s going to take some work. Generally speaking, the first 15,000 words are almost perfect. Another 15,000 words will have to be replaced completely. The remaining 55,000 words will require reshuffling and minor to major editing.

I started editing on May 18 at a rate of 18,000 words per week. It’s slower than I’d prefer. But like I said, Ice Storm needs a lot of work. I got to 9,000 words yesterday. If all goes well, I should be able to finish this draft by the end of June. I’ll spend July tightening it up. I’d like to give it to my first reader (Hi Julie!) by August. I plan to publish it by the end of September.

Either Ice Storm will turn into a spectacular book or it’ll become a train wreck of epic proportions. Regardless, you’ve got a front-row seat to watch it all go down. So, stick around. It’s going to be one hell of a ride!