At long last, I am pleased to announce the availability of Kelin, the latest in the Tales of the Pa’adhe collection of short stories. This story has taken a rather winding path to finally getting published and I apologize for taking so long. No, I take that back because that time has been spent ensuring it is as ready as it can be. Ah, just go read it then come back here and finish this post, or finish this blog entry then go read it. Either way, I hope you enjoy Kelin and look forward to when the next story is ready for you.
As a teaser, the tentative working title for the next Pa’adhe short story I’m working on is Ghost Ship. Yep, the action is going back to sea for this next one.
One problem I have with my writing is knowing when to stop and move on to the next story. It’s easy enough for me to know where I decide the story is over even though sometimes my readers might disagree on that point. Rather, the problem is finding the answer to the question, “when has this story been revised, tweaked, corrected enough that it should be released to my readers?”
I can always find something more to tweak. A better turn of phrase, some additional information could be presented here, I could shorten this sentence, I could make this funny…. I could do that work forever on any of my stories and never achieve the perfection I seek. No story I write will ever be perfect, I know that. Every time I go back and re-read what I’ve written, I can always find something to fix, whether it needs fixing or not. I want to put out the best possible story I can but at the same time, I’m aware of this little voice that says, “you need to get something out there for your readers.” Finding that balance point between perfection and satisfying my readers sometimes feels like being in the middle of that old phrase about trying to drain the swamp while avoiding the alligators.
I had an interesting conversation the other day with Ken McConnell, friend and author of the Star Saga. I mentioned that this weekend I would have a clear 2 – 3 hour time frame to write in. I happened to say “parking where I can gaze unseeing out over the valley” while writing. He found that phrase sufficiently odd to ask what I meant. After explaining it, I asked if he ever wrote that way. His reply was along the lines of no, he didn’t and it would creep him out.
I have alluded to this style of writing in other writing-related entries on this blog. I never got into detail about it because I thought it was fairly common, one of those “but doesn’t everyone do this” type of thing. Since I had to explain it to him, I guess I’ll explain it better here, too.
Ever since high school, I’ve been able to touch-type. I’m so happy I took that typing class, and I thank my teacher for imparting that skill. Touch typing and my theory of not fixing what you’re writing until later are central to this method of writing. You have to focus on the act of writing the story, not the words you’re putting in the story.
The process is somewhat akin to when you’re deep in thought while looking out the window. Here is how it works for me…
I will sit somewhere, let’s say up on the bluff overlooking the town of Emmett down in the valley since that’s what started this whole conversation. I’m sitting there with FocusWriter open on my laptop. I’m comfortable, relaxed, my hands are positioned on the keyboard, and I’m ready to write. Looking at the screen, I position the cursor and start typing my story. As I type, I look out over the valley, enjoying the view but I never stop typing. The valley gradually fades out of my consciousness. Oh, I still see the valley but I just don’t notice it any longer, or the passage of time. Instead, I’m seeing my story unfolding before me in my mind, a combination of daydreaming and meditation while typing. I sit there and write (type) my story until something brings me back to the present time and location. Writing like that, there could have been an accident off in the valley on the highway with flashing blue and red lights and I most likely saw it. I just wouldn’t have been aware of it until I stopped writing and looked around.
Obviously, I don’t worry too much about grammar and spelling corrections as I type. I know there’s going to be some and that there will be re-writing to do, but I set that aside for now; it doesn’t concern me. Right now, I just want to get the story down. Happily, I don’t have many typos or I probably wouldn’t be able to figure out what I wrote.
When writers talked about being in the zone while writing, I always thought it referred to this state or style of writing. Apparently I was wrong and maybe it just means a good writing session. I don’t know if my ability to write like this is due to having meditation training, my being deaf allowing me to focus more deeply on what I’m doing, or what. Or if it’s “all the above.” All I know is that I will be mostly unaware of what’s going on around me even if I’m looking right at it, I will have lots of words on the screen when I stop writing, and I’ll be refreshed after such a session. I’m not completely tuned out (that sounded better than “spaced out”) as I’ll be aware of someone approaching me if I see them, but I just don’t think about what I’m seeing while writing. It’s there but of no import.
I don’t always write that way, obviously. I do need to be where I can focus completely on my writing with no distractions from people, animals or things. It doesn’t have to be looking out over grand vistas such as the valley around Emmett or the beach on the coast, either. It’s happened just sitting at my desk looking out the window at the trees in the other yard. It’s happened sitting in the car in the parking lot at the store waiting for my wife to finish shopping. I just need to be comfortable and unlikely to be disturbed for a while.
Obviously, it’s a state of being.
Does it produce my best writing? Not necessarily. It seems to be just as good output as is produced in any other focused writing period I’ve done. It’s just a different way of immersing myself in my writing.
That is how I write “gazing unseeing out over the valley.”