Back to the Writing

…And I’m back. Just wanted to do a little something before the old blog gets too rickety. Well, I’ve had some good cider, completed a massive road trip from the East coast out to New Mexico (with a pit stop in Memphis!) and now I’m back. barton-fink-6

….And I’m feeling a bit like Barton Fink  in this scene. A bit worn and stretched thin. After all, we’re entering one of the busiest times of the year.

But here’s the good thing: I’m off this weekend to write. I’ll be working on the 3rd draft of my new story, “The Number Thief.” I’ve been reading through the printouts of the manuscript and the story looks solid: tight plotting, compelling characters (in the two leads, at least) and some great moments along the way. So, it looks like I should have a third draft done in no time…Then it’s onto finalizing it and starting to submit the piece.

Other than that, I have a few other works done and I’m submitting those. No word yet on whether the editors like them, but I’m out there playing the game of submission and rejection.

Alright, that’s all for now. Life—and writing—call. See you next time.

,Darius

The Craft: How to Find Your Writing Routine

[This is part of a continuing series on the art of writing fiction.]

You’ve got to do what works for you. No less true in writing, than in life. And to do something well, you must do it consistently. And that’s where routine cHaruki-Murakami-007omes in.

I’m a big believer in routine, especially when it comes to writing fiction. For me, each writing day is the same: I get up,  hit the gym, grab lunch. Then, it’s time for a late coffee and some light reading. Right about then, I’m ready to dive into the writing. I write until about 5-6 p.m. and I’m done. It’s not a long day, but it’s a tiring one and lot of energy is spent in that one afternoon.

Now, that routine wouldn’t work for everyone. And my routine has changed over the years. I used to write in the morning, at home, but now I write in the afternoon at a café. Even my routine has evolved over time. So, what will work for you, if you’re trying to write fiction? It’s hard to say. But I do know you’ll have to experiment and find what works for you. And once you find it, you’ll probably be best sticking to it.

Let’s take two successful fiction writers as examples of how different writing routines can be. First, there’s Haruki Murakami. A pretty famous guy. What does he do? Here it is:

Murakami rises at 4am on most mornings, writes until noon, spends the afternoon training for marathons and browsing through old record stores and turns in, with his wife, at 9pm.

Pretty boring, right? But as he says, it’s a routine that works for him.

“It’s just routine,” he says and laughs loudly. “It’s kind of boring. It’s a routine. But the routine is so important.”

Well, that routine has gotten him through several long novels, including the 1,000-page plus 1Q84. So, will what he does work for everyone? No.

Let’s take another successful writer: Kei Miller. Miller’s routine is almost the opposite of Murakami’s. In fact, it’s not really a routine at all.

There are too many distractions. I succumb to them all. And I would like to tell you that my distractions are noble–rereading the classics, diligent research. But they are not. I am distracted by bad TV shows from the US, by the top stories in the Jamaican newspapers, by Candy Crush (God did I just admit that?), by the entirety of the internet…

Sound familiar? Despite all that, somehow, a pattern does emerge.

Writing periods, when they come to me, do not come neatly. They stretch across days, from 10 at night to five in the morning, me going to sleep only when I see the sky brightening and suddenly in my head is the warning voice of an old Caribbean woman: “Don’t make tomorrow catch you looking into yesterday!” I go to sleep then, but it is a restless sleep, and I wake up just a few hours later to write again…

And what does he produce as a result? Nine books in 10 years, as well as articles and essays and reviews and blogs and lectures. An output perhaps more staggering than Murakami’s.

So, what’s the point of all this? You have to find your own routine or pattern. And then stick to it. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes, I add or subtract little things from my writing routine: will things change if I don’t workout? If I listen to music instead? You must try earnestly and forthrightly to find what works for you. Write down how many words you wrote on a certain day and see if it was more than yesterday and analyze what you did differently. Did you produce more? Maybe there was a change in your routine that contributed to that higher word count…

There’s lots of ways to become more productive, but routine is probably the best. And nobody can give that routine to you. Not me, not your significant other, not your writing sensei. You just have to go out there and start doing it. That’s the only way there’s ever been.

Good Luck,

Darius

Forging Ahead with New Fiction

Well another writing week, and more fiction got done. Cider Flight

As I write this, I’m about to take off in the truck   for a long weekend of cidering around rural Virginia. We’re going to take part in that old   (and new again) American tradition of sampling hard cider. It’s good, because I’ve been busy and I need a little reward. Fermented apple juice is a great way to do that.

In fact, I’m just wrapped up the dreaded second draft of a new novelette (it’s about 14,000 words). The story is called The Number Thief and the protagonist is Yusuf ibn Yaqzan, the here of my earlier story, The Ghul of Yazd. This time, we get a bit more of the personal side and back story of Yusuf. He’s one of those kind of characters that, as a writer, you really just watch. That kind of character you can throw into a situation or a place and just watch what he does next and transcribe it, get it down fast. It’s really a joy to work with him, you might say. And it’s fun to see how a piece of fiction gets better defined and just plain better as you work through a second and third draft. The action becomes sharper, the dialog crisper and the flow more fluid with each little change. Put all those little changes together and you start finding you have a really fun, tight narrative.

So, other than that, there’s not much to relate. I’m submitting a flash piece and slowly but surely looking for markets for another story and a play. Oh, and trying to keep down my day job. So, not much time left to blog.

In fact, I think I’ll just move on, but not without leaving you with a little something. Here’s a link to the Virginia Cider Week festivities. I’ll be partaking this weekend, but if you’re in the area later this month, I highly recommend checking the festival out. Just bring a smart phone, an analog map and list of local cideries. And then head out. Next to writing fiction, there’s not many better ways to spend your time during the fall.

See you next time,

Darius

Rare B Sides: “The Search for Henri Le Fevre”

[This post is part of a series on literary works deserving of a wider audienOrson-Welles-Show-1941ce.]

What is writing? What is literature? There’s a lot of people asking that question lately, especially after that little prize for Bob Dylan last week. I won’t delve into whether Dylan’s songs are great literature (I’ll save that for another time.) But one thing’s for sure: good writing has never been just about words on a page. It comes in many forms. Great writing can be found in a song or a movie script or a video game. So far, in this blog, I’ve talked about obscure pieces of literature, Rare B Sides, that have moved me. They’ve all had one thing in common: they were pieces meant to be written down on a page. Now, it’s time to take the lens out a bit more. To start throwing in some great writing that wasn’t printed in a book. Today, we start with a radio play.

Now, the radio play—like silent movies—is a literary form whose glory days have (likely) come and gone. And like old films, they need a bit of patience and understanding to go through because the pacing of storytelling is different from what it was in the past. But as they say “time is the best editor” so many of the radio plays that are still listened to and shared are pretty decent. And just like it’s important to preserve and celebrate old books, it’s important to preserve and celebrate old films, music and radio. 

I’ve have had no interest in radio plays up to this point. But I was caught in a big traffic jam back into the DMV on a Sunday night, when I flipped the radio dial to WAMU. Airing that evening was a classic: “The Search for Henri Le Fevre.”

Just like a movie, a radio play requires a small army to work well. But it all begins with a script. And the writer of this script was Lucille Fletcher, who wrote several radio plays including a script that eventually became a Twilight Zone episode. Then, there was the music, written by Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann wrote the scores for several Hitchcock movies. And then there’s the acting talent: starting with Orson Welles and his cognac- and cigar-lacquered voice. It’s hard to think of a richer, more ambient voice than that. It’s as if he was born to do radio. So there you go: a little Twilight Zone, a little Hitchcock and a little Welles all wrapped together. Bring those three talents together (writing, music, acting) and you’ve got an entertaining 30 minutes of radio. 

But what is it about? We’ll here’s the short setup:

A man [Henri Le Fevre as voiced by Welles] who has just finished writing a symphony hears the exact same symphony on the radio…He had just set down the last note on paper, he was happy and weary and full of peace. There was a radio near the couch, he sat down and turned it on and felt great horror as he heard the music playing on the radio, the music that he had just set down on paper.

That sets up the story: we’ve got a plot, character and setting. And something that will keep it all going: How is it that this piece of music which he just wrote down is already being broadcast? Well, Henri has to begin a long, painful journey to try to find out. And when he does it’s not clear if the revelation will bring him peace or destroy him. You’ll have to listen in to find out.

Now, the specific version I heard was the Orson Welles 1946 broadcast for the legendary Mercury Summer Theatre. (There’s an earlier version from 1944). You should be able to access it at the link above. If not, Amazon seems to offer it for sale, if you can’t find it anywhere else. But in my experience you should be able to track it down on YouTube or via Google pretty easily. You’ll be glad you tracked it down, it’s a fun little piece of  literature to listen to.

See you next time,

Darius


If you like radio plays and want to dive deeper, check out WAMU’s Big Broadcast. They play old-time radio plays starting at Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. They even archive the broadcast for a whole week so you can come back to it later. It’s a great way to unwind on a Sunday evening.  As the website says:

Host Murray Horwitz brings listeners shows like Gunsmoke, The Jack Benny Show, The Lone Ranger, Suspense, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Dragnet, placing them in the context of the time and linking the shows to current entertainment and events.

It’s well worth a listen.


Wouldn’t be a Rare B Side post without a Rare B Side: Here’s Jack White running through the old blues classic by Son House, Death Letter Blues. Dig this version.

That Death Letter—Man!

Yusuf Is Back

Yusuf ibn Yaqzan is back. hayy-ibn-yaqzan

I have just completed a long story/short novella I’m calling “The Number Thief.” It features the protagonist of my earlier story “The Ghul of Yazd.” But this time, I’ve placed him further west, in what would become present-day Algeria. The story is over 14,000 words,   so we’re talking about double the length of a long short story. I felt Yusuf was a strong, compelling character when he first showed up in the Ghul story and I think he had another great outing this time. I’m about 14% done with draft 2 and I’ll let you all know when I finish the final draft. As for what it’s about…Let’s just say numbers and thieves for now.

Bad Author—No Submissions
I haven’t been submitting stories lately like I’ve wanted to. In fact, for the first time in a long while I have no stories out to magazines. I’ve got to change that ASAP and hope to do so this weekend. Like Heinlein said, “You Must Submit.”

That’s all. Short and sweet. Just wanted you all to know I’m still alive, kicking and writing stories.

See you next time,

Darius

Today, I Write

Well today I was going to write a nice, fat blog post. It ain’t gonna happen. X

I have a story burning a hole through me. And I have one chapter left. So, with only x hours to write today, I’m gonna spend that x the best way I know how: by writing fiction. So today, I write.

I will see you guys in a couple of weeks with a bigger post.

And if you’re a writer, I hope you’ll join me in writing today. Always remember: what separates writers from the rest is that writers write. 

Until Next Time,

Darius

Off for Some Vacation

Hey Everybody, time to hang up the fiction and blog writing for a bit and head out for some very late summer vacation.

North Woods

It’s true. I’m off to the North Woods again for some R&R, so I’ll see you next time here on the blog. I plan to be back Sept. 23 with a new post and some more news on how the writing is going.

Until then…

Keep Reading, Keep Writing,

Darius

PS…And take some vacation yourself, you deserve it!

Check Out My Post Over at Sobotka

Hey everybody, the folks over at Sobotka Literary Magazine were nice enough to let me borrow their blog last week for a short post on “Verses about Moscow” by Marina Marina_1914Tsvetaeva. The post is part of their “Wordsmith Wednesdays” series where they unpack the words/verses  in a poem or song. This week they’re covering a song by Nas’, a nice bookend to Tsvetaeva. 

Check out my post and let them know what you think.

I’ll be back two weeks from now with a new post. I hope   this tides you over until then!

See you around,

Darius

4 Years of My Blog

Writer writing

Wow. WordPress is telling me I’ve been writing this blog for four years. (It’s actually a bit longer than that since the blog started over on Goodreads). I can’t believe it. So, today, I want to do a quick look back and, more importantly, a look ahead.

First, here is the first post on my blog from July 20, 2012:


Well, here goes nothing

My first novel has just been published. It’s on the Amazon Kindle store here. It’s also on Goodreads.

Please take the time to leave a review. And a big thank you to all of you who have already got it and are reading it.

,D


My posts have come a long way since then. They even include pictures, which apparently is an unwritten rule on the Internet. So, to continue the look back: what have I done, in my writing life, over those past four years? Glad you asked. This is what:

  • Self-published a novella.
  • Got three of my stories traditionally published in magazines.
  • Wrote a fricking play. (Thanks, Fink!)
  • Wrote 171 blog posts. (Was it that many?)
  • Shared the blog with thousands of visitors.
  • Changed the frequency of the blog from weekly to biweekly.
  • Kept focused, kept disciplined, kept writing.

That last one is the most important to me. Constancy. I’ve written about that a lot here on the blog. But it’s one thing to write about something, and quite another to do it. To sit your butt down and write every weekend, when you could be doing other things. I’m really proud of that.

So, what’s next? Number one: keep writing fiction. I also want to re-christen the blog. It’s not going to be a “Writer Begins” anymore. If it needs a title, it’s going to be “A Writer Writes.” I think that fits just fine because that’s what I’m all about. And with three published stories, I feel a new chapter has begun. I’ve done a lot and learned a lot since I started this blog. There’s always more you can learn, of course. But that third story felt like some sort of milestone. One time could be lucky—a fluke. A second time, could be a coincidence. But getting published three times—There’s something to that. Three times is no accident. And with that comes an assurance you can do it again and again. Even before you put pen to paper.

As a consequence of that I feel the characters and the stories and the writing are all maturing. And improving. Now, the challenge is to keep going and build on that solid foundation.

And that’s what I intend to do. So, here’s to bloggers blogging and writers writing. Let’s keep this going.

Thanks for Tuning In,

DJ

My New Story Is Out in Sobotka Magazine

Great news! My new story “Barabanchik” is out now in Sobotka Literary Magazine. You can pick up Issue 4 of the magazine here. Sobotka Issue 4

I’m happy because it’s my first story published this year. I won’t say much more than that, but will include the start of the story here, in the hope that it gets you hooked:

A man looks at the world and sees phenomena, perhaps self-contradictory in nature, and goes about trying to explain them. In ancient times, these explanations took the form of myth. Why do the seasons change, why does the sun set, why are people born, and why do they die? All these could be explained with the presence of gods, angels and demons meddling in the world of men.

The modern age is no different. Man, when confronted with the numinous and unknown, still fumbles around for a deeper meaning behind the shifting shadows. But he no longer has recourse to the old, familiar cast of supernatural beings. In their place, he must find new explanations to the mundane absurdities and sudden horrors of this world.

The following story is a recollection of just such a phenomena. It happened not long ago in Moscow…

For the rest, you’ll have to buy the issue.

Thanks for all the support for my writing from my friends, my family and the extended “kin” I’ve met via the blog. And to Sobotka for picking up the story! I couldn’t do it without you guys.

Until next time,

Darius