Let’s hop in our way-back machines today and take a short trip. What’s that? You don’t have a way-back machine? Well, you can all pile in mine, but keep your feet off the seats please!
Our journey is a quick one this time, just about a year and half ago. I was given the time opportunity I had been missing to finally relax and begin writing. Although I had a number of things I wanted to write about, some long and some short, I was eager to get started on my fantasy adventure novel I had been bouncing in my head for many years.
I sat in my newly remodeled home office (and that’s a story for you — another time) in my newly purchased comfy chair and in front of my not-so-newly purchased but still pretty wide-screen monitor and…..stared. And stared. I blinked, flexed my fingers, shifted my seat and….stared.
For some reason, I just couldn’t get started. Not just the words, but the whole idea just wouldn’t come out. Oboy. I knew that one thing was essential to my career as a writer…I had to be able to actually write!
I hit on the idea that the setting was too formal. I’m not a very formal guy. I might even be considered a bit of a goof, but I don’t know if I should admit that for fear of hurting my public image (although, as we’ve talked, my public probably isn’t big enough yet to be called a “public”). My next thought was to sit out on my patio with a wide expanse of green grass, pine trees and extremely quick and energetic squirrels. Feh.
Had 15+ years of Finance and Accounting ruined me? Had years of regimented office work with schedules and meetings stifled my ability to imagine? Had I run out of ways to extend this blog with stalling questions? Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to the point. Sorry.
In a nod to my previously ordered life, I mapped out an extended plot for the book, writing up about two pages for each chapter I envisioned, including some dialog for key scenes I saw in my head. At the time, the book was planned to be about 20 chapters. I ultimately decided to shorten the chapters for quicker reading and smoother pace.
With this story “bible” in hand, I packed up a beach towel, filled a thermos, grabbed my Gator tailgating chair and headed to my local beach. There, facing east into the early morning sunrise, I began a three-times-a-week writing session on a cheap laptop. The glare on the screen and the sun in my eyes made reading what I was typing on the screen virtually impossible. Fortunately, the words flowed out of my head and through my fingers easily now and for the next two to three hours, I happily sped through about a chapter or two a day. Upon finishing, I would simply take another half hour or so to lie on the beach towel and listen to the ocean and people. Plenty of sun block, of course, but still ended up nicely tanned. A pleasant side benefit of my writing solution.
Each afternoon, I would trot out the laptop and review what I had written. A lot of it was surprisingly good and clean. There were plenty of spacing and spelling issues and the expected “fat-fingering” of letters, but the correcting process also served to offer a good chance to properly edit the work for the day. It turned out to be an elegantly simple solution that was as native-Floridian as you could get.
When the book was finished, the real work started. Chopping, re-writing, editing, shifting. I must have ultimately read this book eight times, cover-to-cover. Talk about taking the fun out of it. The “work” part of writing is just as tough as any other job I’ve done. The most annoying problem was, no matter how many times I reviewed the book, I still found typos. Right up to the day of the “final” approval for printing. That day I found one right on the teaser page of the book. I mean, jeepers, the book had not even started yet and there was a typo. Feh again.
Recently, it was pointed out that I had a typo in one of my blogs on this site. I took my mea culpa and realized I had not been doing a spell check on my blogs. And, although I re-read each of them before publishing, even a spell check will find the error if you type the wrong word (as you can see with the obvious error in this sentence). When you “know” what you’ve written, the danger is you can miss an incorrect word because your brain doesn’t even see it. While you can get external editors for your book, the blogs remain solely my responsibility.
I’m rechecking all of them today for spelling and grammar and will certainly redouble my efforts in the future, but I imagine one will slip through at some point. Hopefully, by the time I have a public-sized public, I’ll be able to employ an editor on the website as well. Just in time, too. With spring fast approaching, I think I’ll pack up the ol’ thermos and try blogging from the beach. Who knows what those will look like if I hit “publish” from there?