My writing history and current goals

My main goal for this blog is simply to be consistent with writing. On this entry I will go over my writing history which has spanned over a decade and my main flaw I believe is that I do not do it enough.  A lot of grammar snobs out there think you must command the mechanics before you pursue serious writing. To a degree I need to tackle grammar at some point, but I think bulk is more important. Once I have a bunch of writing I can practice grammar by revising my work. So, I’m planning to do three to five blog entries a week.  Each blog will be more than 1000 words, and will simply be on any topic that interests me. At some points this will be forced, but some writing has to be forced or it will never get done. Hopefully doing this three times a week or so will make writing a habit after a few months, and I’ll be able to finish the first draft of my novel. A few entries ago I talked of my goal of being consistent with exercise and skateboarding. I also want to be a consistent writer for my entire lifetime.

By late high school I started to develop an interest in literature, but was too busy skating and scatter brained to write anything. During the Christmas break of my first year of college I wrote about fifty pages into a novel attempt. This must have been around New Year’s 1996, and I thought I had something. My sister (the middle child) and I visited my eldest sister in Oberlin around that time, and among the artist/runners house that she lived in I decided to read it aloud to them.  After the first couple of pages I noticed how awkward the structure was, and stopped. My sister’s friends were very nice and supportive but I felt after trying to read it to people that it was not good. Shortly after that visit I stopped that novel attempt if you could call it that.

Sometime during my second year of college at University of Toledo I declared English as my major, and over the next couple of years had a lot of good literature and writing classes. Early on I took a newspaper writing class which helped a lot with thinking of formulas, grammar, and how an article works.  The first day of the class the instructor gave us a grammar test and a foreign exchange student from Japan did the best on it. So it was not only me that had trouble with mechanics, which I think is true today. My last semester of college I took a class called ‘Writing for the Popular Media.’ In that class we wrote restaurant reviews, music and travel reviews. This class was instrumental in me realizing that there are so many different types of writing out there, and more should be tried than simply fiction.

Now I’ll talk of my creative writing classes I had in my undergrad days.  The first one I think was in the spring of 1997, and our teacher was cool. He wrote and still writes mystery novels, got his MFA in Montana, and shared a lot of his interesting life.  He kind of scuffed at poetry, but for the course it was required. I wrote a poem on golf, which I don’t remember much at all, but I wrote in it this phrase, ‘retarded lust.’ I described that as the stupid satisfaction people get when they make a good shot.  I was kind of thrilled at the reception from him and the class over that, and felt positive. That class was also the first time I read other aspiring writer’s works, and I remember one student right out of the military had a horrific hazing story. My fiction did not stand out in that class, but my last work the teacher said it was a great improvement.  My second creative writing class was with a great professor and my advisor in the spring of 1999. In that class the students wrote all sorts of stuff, and remember the professor telling a student that there is a huge market for erotica stories. One of my stories was the first time I took on mental illness as an important theme. I don’t remember much of that story but it involved someone having an episode and crashing his car into a ditch.  When I got it back the professor gave me a grade of a B but with the comment ‘you have a great imagination.’ Somehow that comment has kept me going with writing over the years. I really took it as since I have an imagination I could do this.  Those writing classes were vital for my writing. It’s important to get feedback on writing. Several of the teachers would circle these words in red ink: is, was, could, should, to be, and have.  After that I learned passive writing destroys a writing piece.

After college I ended up working in a bookstore which was great to my developments socially and I continued my interests in literature and writing.  There I met one of my best friends who I still talk to regularly and we became friends from our common interest in writing. I don’t know how much actual writing I did at the time, but I thought of it and read a ton.  Soon after the Christmas rush in 2001 I think, I wrote for a three week period.  The word count was impressive with well over 100 double spaced pages, but for some reason I stopped. No attempt at revision was made. I emailed it to a few friends and one lifetime friend from high school said the grammar was so bad that he stopped reading it. He was unable to finish it. At the time, I thought he was being a little brutal, but I realize that it was honesty. I was so impressed with myself that I wrote so much I did not take time to evaluate what I wrote. Now I try not to send things out until I make the attempt to revise some, and revise to the best of my ability. It took me a long time to realize that. If you think about it, most people that you share your writing with are used to reading things that are published, and not necessarily rough cuts.  Anyway I enjoyed the process of writing my first novel attempt, and I am not sure why I stopped before it was finished.  Other than that I don’t think I wrote much in my bookstore days accept some attempts at humorous sketches of my bookstore experience which I shared with my friend. That probably was unprofessional, and something I wouldn’t do again, but it was fun. Even though I didn’t write much I had plenty of conversations about it with the people I worked with.

Now I’ll talk about my time in Grad school at Kent State, even though I went for library science, I ended up writing a ton. Right away I was surrounded by a group of people who were interested in literature and writing. During that time I discovered the author Henry Miller among others literary figures and I had long aimless conversations about writing with my current roommate and others.  I did not have a computer, but an older word processor. My apartment was large and when my work was done or when I did not go to the bars I would simply write on that. I went for what I envisioned as a hip-hop James Joyce type style. I would make up words, go by the sounds, and not worry at all about mechanics. It was a free way to write, but the results were not so satisfying, people would kind of look at it oddly when I showed them.  There was an older student who thought it was very cool, but in general people would scan a couple of graphs and then give me back my copy. I briefly dated a girl in the program and I let her borrow a copy of my writing. She dumped me which I didn’t mind much, but I kind of wondered if the writing freaked her out a little bit. It was crazy writing and I still have all of that writing; the pages are bulky in your hand when held. For pure bulk it was great, and I think it was also good to get some writing ideas out of me. So I’m happy with the writing I did there, but eventually the goal with writing is to write so other people can understand it too.

New York City has been great for my writing since I moved here five years ago. I’m lucky to be in a profession that promotes literature and writing.  With reading alone I’ve improved greatly, and I don’t know if I’m considered well read or not, but I have to be close. I’ve had long rambling conversations with my roommate about literature and writing that I believe that authorship is possible.  In fall of 2006 after numerous long short story attempts I had one shorter work that I wanted to send out.  I think on a website listing of online journals I found I read the submission guidelines and decided to email it to them. Their word count is 1,200 to 2,000 words which is a good amount to revise for. Shortly after I had my first story online and that made me happy. I showed people at work and emailed several people. Today I have seven works on there, and regularly check the monthly welcome page. I don’t know what their rejection ratio is, but at this point I feel part of it, and in the future will send them more. Through my second piece on there, I got an email from I ended up with a profile on there, and five stories. In the week before they posted the stories they asked me if I wanted to revise a couple of the stories that had mistakes on them. Over that week or so I revised the stories like mad, one is about twenty five pages long, and I liked the results. I think my profile on that site is a good representation of my work.  Over the next couple of months I may write new stories so it’s an even better representation of my work. The site is cool too, and showcases a lot of art work. In the years of 2006 and 2007 I wrote quite a bit and got rejected from these good journals, Glimmer Train, Belleview Literary Review, and others.  The good thing is that I started to send things out, and I hope to do the same in the next couple of years.

Now I’ll get to my baby, my first real novel attempt which is still in progress. I mulled over this idea for years, I think probably from some of these crazy writings I did in Kent State. In the fall of 2007 I made a short outline of the whole novel, followed by more specific outlines for about ten chapters. I have it notated that I started actual writing of it in January 2008. The basic premise is mixing my life history with magical realism, my life but exaggerated and better. My process is to write out a chapter by hand and then type that same chapter out. That February on vacation with my parents I cranked out two chapters. By summer I had five chapters and 56 pages typed out.  I emailed it to some people and family. My sister said I needed to finish it, that it was my destiny. Quite a few people I emailed it to did not respond, or responded with very little. Then I finally learned that I need to keep this to myself. Someone I respect told me that people can’t really comment until they know the whole story. At the time I think I stopped working on it for awhile to see what others thought. That stinted the timeframe a little, but eventually I got back to it. Currently I have 116 pages and 35,000 words. My problems I’m having with this process of writing chapters by hand and then typing it out breaks it up.  I find it too easy after I type it out to stop. Also the typing of handwriting is tedious. Simple typing a story is easy, but when it’s written first you think of other ways to say the same thing, and get caught up with the grammar and spell check. I believe in my novel and in the grand scheme of things it does not matter if I finish it in the next four months or the next two years.

That said, I think writing this blog regularly will make writing a routine. I think in so many aspects of my life I need to be routine based.   If I write this blog three or so times a week, perhaps other nights I can work on my novel.  Instead of completing a chapter in a week and then taking a two month break on it, I can write a chapter every two weeks and then only take a break of a week or so. I have plenty of time because my life outside of work has no structure or obligations. There is no reason that I can not complete this novel, but a huge step in making this a success is to write regularly.

There you go 2,200 words in one night. My novel attempt needs 50,000 more words to be novel length, completely possible.

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