by C. Don
I'm learning to write and report my progress here. Comments welcome and appreciated.
The personal blog of C.D. Huntemann...|
I retired from the aerospace profession after helping land men on the moon, testing ICBM components, creating some of the original PC operating systems and running large complex computer installations. They were all great engineering challenges of ingenuity and creativity. Now I'm attempting to do something really hard. I'm learning how to write with emotions.
Story telling is much harder than designing a rocket. Stories need to be told with/through emotions. They aren't worth reading if they don't reach the emotional level. It requires the writer to dig for emotions from people he doesn't (and probably will never) know, to plumb the emotional depths of the everyman/woman and connect with the reader beneath the logic level.
That's not rocket-science. That's tough.
Come along with me as I explore writing. I'll attend conferences, writing groups, courses, workshops, eavesdrop in bars, write a little and generally look for my limitations. Help me find them. And if I don't see them, tell me so.
I joined to see where they meet.
The Old Salt Restaurant
490 Lafayette Road, Hampton, NH
We arrived a half-hour early and had to wait. The place is really busy. One of the locals said the Hampton Beach boardwalk/strip are all closed for the season, so this is the closest eatery in town. Traffic on Lafayette Road was heavy too.
The waitress informed us that there will be a $50.00 room charge if we don't order much food. (Tacky way of doing it right in front of the whole room.)
There were about 16 of us in attendance. Kevin (organizer), Cynthia, Stacy, Ken (publisher), John, Jane, Mona, Susan, Liz, Rebecca (speaker), Elizabeth, three others for which I didn't get names, and Ferne and I.
Rebecca Mahoney's talk was a discussion about anything writerly. All stories have to have a triggering event, whether it's an action, thoughts or setting derived. Don't worry about sales, genre, marketing etc. until the whole thing is done. Concentrate on the art first, you can handle the business stuff when that time comes.
I asked about the 'info dump' for character backstory. One of the attendees was not a writer but an avid reader. She liked the 'info dump' approach. Most recommended to spread it out into little pieces.
If you have a lot of backstory, write it complete, separately if necessary. Then as you write the story, pull in just enough of the backstory to help the reader understand what is happening 'right now.'
The group discussed the differences between women's and men's sence of place. Men connect with actions thet took place in the setting. Women concentrate on the feelings that occure at a place. The place can be almost a character in many women's stories.
If you self publish, you can get your own ISBN. The number belongs to the publisher, not the author. When editors or agents review a manuscript of a new author, they look at what you've published. If the ISBN is not under your control you may not be credited for the work. Ken said you can buy the ISBNs: 100 for $500, 10 for $250, or 1 for about $100. Don't let one of those small/private press houses get one for you because they will own the ISBN. Publishers use 'Bookscan' to check sales or shipments of books. The NYT Best Sellers are really based on shipments not sales.
Some houses will publish chapters as excerpts/short stories. Most authors are not 'discovered' until their 5th or later book. Look at the 'Orphan Train' author who had written four books before she was 'discovered.' (She was interviewed in 'The Writer Magazine' for October 2014.)
I tried to submit my notes as a critique to Meetup but was limited to 1000 characters. I don't think it went.
|Last month I joined a new review group. They are good writers and very serious reviewers, not just for writing mechanics but for character development, story telling and craft. We meet twice a month and review five or six 2,000 word pieces each.
This session, they reviewed my "Bad Bands of Portland," and "Pride" from Wines of Winter Ch 1 Sc 1&2.
I need to straighten out lien vs. lean or loan.
I should include names when I introduce the female members of the band. There is no reason for this group to be a band, the characters are incompatible.
Rather than 'tell' the condition in the strip club, they wanted me to 'show' it.
The two pieces seem unrelated. They want a connecting thread through them.
After the meeting we met at Margarita's for drinks (20:30-21:15). Good discussions.
|Four of us met at the Books-A-Million store in Concord, NH.
Lee is still going through the mountain, Mary is still escaping from kidnapers, and Lynne is still researching her father's war.
I had promised to redo the menses piece for this month. I cut out all the technical medical things and put them into Endnotes. That cut it down to only 3 pages. My target was 10. So, I added the toilets and meetings pieces, but that became 15 pages.
Last night I reworked the Toilets, Menses and Meetings piece for chapter two, scene six down to 9 pages.
I read it aloud myself, and it was received much better than last month. More conversational and less reportage. They still wanted me to get rid of the bullet points presentation of the meetings though.
I think I was in ‘Engineer Mode’ during Renee's time at TMNH. It makes sense to have my meeting notes as bullets. But, for part of my character arch development, I can show my softening into a ‘Writer Mode’ if I keep them as bullet points here, then change to conversational as the story goes on....
Maybe that's too subtle.
|We met at the Books-A-Million store in Concord, NH.
Three of us attended: Mary, Lee and me.
Mary had another chapter of her ghost conscious kids chasing a kidknaper.
Lee gave us another slice of his through the mountain novel.
I reworked the menses thread and tried to show the problems resulting from anoxia. Both were disappointed... too much of a research dump. They pressed me to drop that and just show the reactions of the narrator.
I had already cut it down from 97 pages to 6. 'It'd probably only need 2.' I promised I'd redo it for next month.
|We met at the Books-A-Million store in Concord, NH. Well, two of us met, Mary and I.
Mary had another scene from her YA ghosts and kidnapping story. I hope I helped her. My confusion required her to draw a map of the setting... maybe something she should do in the story. We talked about how ghosts (or spirit infested kids) could walk through walls. It began to sound like Quantum Mechanics electronics... (boy do I lack the required suspension of disbelief).
I presented a shortened 'Night Visitor' section from my memoir. I have sparse documentation and I'm concerned about putting fiction into a basic facts story.
| Last month I was asked to be the presenter for April. I sent out a meeting reminder last Friday.
Writers' Night Out will be Monday, 4/7/2014, at 7:00 pm in The Halligan Tavern, 32 West Broadway (Main Street), Derry. Ferne and I will be the presenters.
Since we meet in a restaurant, the topic will be FOOD.
See you there.
My favorite wife, Ferne, wanted to help, so she put together some Easter baskets with goodies. I included a few writers' things which we used for fun. Here was my agenda:
I started writing my memoir Assault in 2002 and quickly realized I needed writing experience before I tackled that emotional task. So, for practice, I wrote a story called ELT which fictionalized an incident from my childhood (teenage years) about a missing aircraft search I participated in as a Civil Air Patrol cadet. That plane was not found for several years, because those were the days just prior to the introduction of ‘Emergency Location Transmitters’ in aircraft back the 1960s. I did not finish the story and put it aside to work on other things.
But, I took it out, over a month ago, intending to work on it some more. Then a week later Indonesian flight HL370 disappeared into the Indian Ocean... I set it aside again.
Another story, Tremors, I started back in 2003, was about volcanoes, geology and earthquakes. I looked at it again last week... just before L.A. had a 5.1 quake and Chile had an 8.2 quake. Tsunami warnings went up... and I set that one aside again, too.
One of my first NaNoWriMo attempts was called Wines of Winter, about how small changes in agricultural conditions has spurred development of wine grape growing regions in Southern Oregon. That story reached the ‘first draft’ stage but needs to be updated with recently announced Global Warming developments... Maybe another day.
So, tonight, I thought I’d like to avoid another weird synchronicity complication and concentrate on something simple. FOOD.
I'm doing research for a new story where food is an important component. I need some memory triggers. So, I'd like to enlist your experiences with food.
But there's a small catch. I forgot and left out one word in my announcement... And that word is "BAD."
Write a literary story (paragraph only) about a food you dislike. Not toxic or unsanitary, but a real food. Describe it: texture, taste, color, smell, presentation (customary), cost, even sounds while it’s being prepared, or where it’s served.
When you're done, you’ll read your piece aloud. Then we’ll go on to step #2. (Note: Pay close attention to the person on your left.)
For the second part of this request, I need a character sketch. So, pass your paragraph to the person on your right.
Write a character sketch about someone eating the above food and enjoying it. Use things from the first paragraph.
Read your sketch aloud.
If we have time:
Faith Durand of The Kitchn website had a great topic:
What Drink Do You Order at a Bad Bar?
As she put it:
'What do you drink at a bad bar? It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, I know, but we've all been there: stuck in a tired airport lounge, or at a restaurant hundreds of miles away from an artisanal cocktail menu, eyeing a bartender who doesn't [even] look old enough to drink. What do you order when you just don't trust the bar (or the bartender)? [In other words,] What's your safety drink?'
This turned out to be a simple task... everybody agreed, ‘Anything in a bottle.’
Halligan Tavern is a great place to meet, usually not too crowded. But last night the poor bartender was all alone, running from the kitchen, to the bar, to the tables, to the cash register.
Besides the other normal patrons, there were eleven of us there for WNO (three new faces). Thank goodness Ferne brought enough extra stuff to make a few more of her baskets. We all had a great time.
Next blog I’ll compile some of the fabulous responses those super writers gave me.
|The New Hampshire Writers' Project Writers' Day was held last Saturday on the campus of Southern NH University, 2500 North River Road, Hooksett, NH.
Keynote speaker was best-selling author B.A. Shapiro who gave a discussion on the challenges of writing novels. She touched upon her own writing process, the craft of writing, and fielded questions from the audience.
SESSION 1: 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Robert Frost #204
1B TURNING FAMILY HISTORY INTO FICTION with Henriette Lazaridis Power
As advertised, this class was to teach students how to shape the facts of a family story into exciting, tension-filled fiction.
She first discussed the key elements of the narrative. Then we did two brainstorming/worksheet sessions on two student's family stories to identify the ways in which they can turn their facts into good fiction.
I think we helped quite a lot. Had them focus more on the theme of their story first, than filled in the facts. A good session.
SESSION 2: 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Academic Center #105B
2M EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO WRITE A BEST-SELLING MEMOIR with Michael Charney
Michael talked about writing and publishing his memoir, and how he helped develop and edit other authors to publish to very strong reviews. He gave us hints, tips, and do's-and-don'ts so that we walked away with practical and realistic ideas.
An attendee from his first session left a signup sheet if anyone wants to start/join a New Hampshire Memoir Email Group. I left my name and email address.
LUNCH 1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Dining Center
Half a dozen choices. I had the Grilled Steak Salad. Good, but hard to cut medium rare steak slices with a plastic knife.
SESSION 3: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dining Center
3Q PLOTTING WITHOUT MAKING YOURSELF CRAZY: THOUGHTS ON TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES FOR PLOTTING with Toby Ball
This workshop was to help sort through different techniques and tools that writers use to create and manage plot.
Unfortunately, the lecturer had an excellent PowerPoint presentation, which he merely read to us.
I was hoping he would embellish a bit more and suggest strategies that have worked before for him. Without having read his novels, The Vaults and Scorch City, I couldn't ask specific questions. I apologize for being so unprepared.
SESSION 4: 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Academic Center #106
4Z REVISIONS-YOU DO GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION with Jessie Crockett
Revisions can be the most creative and enjoyable part of the writing process. In this workshop she discussed strategies and techniques to encourage us to pull that languishing first draft out of a drawer and take it to the next level.
She recommended I use Scrivener for my outlining and was surprised I didn't like it. I do extensive outlining, but I have my own software I wrote years ago and I'm too old to change now.
After the last workshop, I join the group for the NH Literary Awards ceremony over at the Hospitality Building.
As I was approaching the front door, I heard a crunch behind me. I turned around and saw some woman had managed to drive her car down the walkway (way too narrow) and her front right wheel had fallen off the bridge into the ditch. A minor accident and they didn't look hurt, so I continued on toward the door.
I then heard a roar from the car, another crunch-crunch and she powered up the slope and through the debris. (Four wheel drive?) Green fluid was pouring from the wheel well and I assumed she had severed a coolant line.
I tapped on her window after she pulled into the handicapped parking spot next to the door and told her she had a bad coolant leak. She gave me a blank stare and didn't seem to know what that meant.
Why do people insist on using machines without knowing anything about how they work... (sorry, that attitude's from my old engineering days).
During the ceremony, the coolant must have evaporated because it was dry when I came out two hours later.
I hope she didn't try to drive very far without coolant.
| We met at the Books-A-Million store in Concord, NH. I forgot to bring the book of writing prompts Mary wanted. I showed her the page in a magazine that has a monthly writing prompt. Her friend, if he's serious about writing, should be reading "Writers' Digest" anyway.
Lee has gone back to work on his tunnel novel. Smooth and crisp. He wove in quite a bit of history without it sounding like a research gush.
Lynn gave us another scene from her memoir of the search for her father memories. She said it is revealing how her story rhythm seem to differ when read aloud by another person. It showed a few kinks here and there but quite comfortable. Mary cautioned her that the 'fair use' clause applies to reviews of copyrighted material. It needs written approval if you use it as part of a story. I said I made up my own epigraphs for 'Assault.'
Mary gave us another scene in her YA novel. Teens trying to deal with an awkward social situation. We suggested moving a few paragraphs to sequence it better. All of us are so far past being a teenager it is difficult to see it through their eyes. But Mary does it well. It is the third book in her series, so some of the characters would have appeared before.
I presented the updated and reworked preface from "Assault." It was received well. Lee said he is more comfortable with my new narrator's voice. I should re-edit the whole story that way. Mary said it shows how much I've improved in the last twelve years.... That's why I go to the group.
|Ferne and I attended the finals of the 3-Minute Fiction Slam held at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, 158 Concord Street, Manchester. There was a wine and cheese reception before. It was attended by maybe 200 guests to hear the 8 statewide finalists. Martha and Cathy, from the Derry group, were there also to help cheer on our event winner, Ed... he won 1st place.
| Several months ago I joined a group for ‘Writers Night Out.’ We meet once a month at a bar in Derry, NH. Each month someone presents a topic we discuss as we sip beer or eat dinner. I have been asked to present something for our April meeting on the seventh. Here is my first thought.
One of the hazards of journaling is re-recalling memories. Every time you recall a memory it becomes more impressed in your mind. That is one of the properties of our connectionist human brains. The more you recall a thought, the easier it is to recall it. It’s called learning.
Writing about something requires thought. If you keep a journal you run the risk of remembering what you wrote about something rather than what you remember first hand.
My earliest memory is of sitting by our car, looking through a fence next to the road, at an airplane under netting. I have recalled that scene many times.
I may have been late two or early three years old. Probably about 1945, just after the end of WWII.
But, at two or three years old, did I know that it was a P-38 with twin engines, tricycle landing gear, flaps in the down position. Did I know that a 1932 Chevy had running boards you could sit on while Dad changed the tire. Was the threat of war still fresh at the time where the Army still used camouflage to conceal our front line fighters from enemy eyes.
Those are the things that I have learned since 1945, but they are impressed into my memory of that afternoon. I see that plane now as an animated photo. I can see the camouflage netting fluffing in the breeze, the sound of the jack Dad was using to lift the car, the smell of Avgas exhaust as they started the plane.
A two year old wouldn’t have known those things. But that first impression was so important that I became an airplane nut. In almost every picture of my early life I was holding a toy airplane. I learned to fly when I was 16. I became an aeronautical engineer, and I’m going to build my own plane (someday).
Write a short paragraph about your earliest memory. Then analyze why you remember it.
· How many times have you thought about it?
· Is it possible your memory has been influenced by your life experiences since that time?
· Have you used that memory in a journal or story, and has that story infected your original memory?
· What impact did that earliest memory have on you?
Would this be a good topic? Drop me a note. If you do the exercise, did you learn anything about altered memories?
Note: My memory is similar to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Repairs_to_P-38_by_459th_Fighter_Squadron_at_C...