A Good Writing Day

I’ll make this one simple and quick. I just want to recount a good writing day I had recently because they can be hard to come by and I want to hold onto it, in case I need it later.

It’s easy to recount because I can break it down in three, easy pieces…

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Not Checking My Email
One of the big rules I have for my Writing Day is ‘Not Checking the Email in the Morning.’ Why is that? It’s simple: I don’t want to have a possible literary rejection hanging over my head.

Now, I know it’s good to be tough and let the rejections flow by, water off a duck’s back and all that. And I’m getting better at it, I swear! And it’s true that the first rejection (of a career or a piece) hurts the most. But after the second, third or fourth it doesn’t hurt nearly as bad.

But still, they can sting. And having the Mojo of a rejection hanging over your head is not the frame of mind I want to be in when I sit down to write for the day. So, checking the email can wait until after writing is done.

So, my Writing Day began by not doing something: I didn’t check my email. So, the things you don’t do can also be important. 

Writing It Out
So, when I got to the café, I got my (English Breakfast) tea, warmed up by brain with some light reading, and settled down to write, like normal.

Only thing is, I ran into trouble right away. Like a frickin’ ambush. It was a chapter I had written last week and I wasn’t satisfied with it. At all. So, I went back, started the chapter from scratch (without deleting the old stuff!). I wrote and wrote and it came out staler than the old stuff…

So…I went back to the old chapter, reworked it, expanded on it a bit and tacked on a new ending. And that was the solution. Not great, but a better solution. Then, I had a little break and got ready for the next chapter.

It was going to be a big, meaty important chapter, so I knew I had to bring my A-game. I got another tea and started grooving to my tunes (headphones on, Word up on the screen). And I…ah…just dove in.

And it just came, it just poured out and kept going and then, when I got to a good break, I just went to the bathroom and—Bam!—Sat right down again and banged out the rest of the chapter. The whole time grooving to some Post Malone which captured that Gothic, grim and glorious mood of the chapter just perfectly…And then…

It was over. And I thought, “Man! That was it! Just what I wanted to say….That was a good…a  great…Writing Day.”

And I saved it all and powered down my PC.

The Best Rejection Letter Ever
And then I was going to leave the café, but first I decided to check my email. Just to see. And sure enough, there was an email waiting in my Inbox. And it was a letter from an editor, about something I had written. And it turns out, it was Rejection letter.

But then, I read the whole thing. And then I read it again and again. Here’s (in part) what it said:

…This is one of the most delightfully written, interesting pieces I’ve read this year. Your writing shines and your research is fascinating. Alas, I’m going to have to send it back to you…It reads now as brilliant historical fiction, ​​but it’s just not for this publication at this time. 

I sincerely hope I will see more of your fiction in the future. Do keep us in mind for your work.

All the best,

XXXXX

That almost knocked me off my chair. And it made my day. And then I thought to myself, “Well, all in all…This is one of the best Writing Days you’ve ever had. If not the best.”

And it was and it is. It comes after having another story serially rejected and not having much interest in this current story I’m shopping around. So, I really needed this shot in the arm. And then inviting to send more stuff in the future was just the cherry on top. The letter gave me faith in this piece and faith that I’m on the right track with my other pieces.

(So, note to the Very-Busy Editors out there: If you do see something that you really like, but doesn’t quite make the cut, sometimes a personal note can be a big boost for us writers! Thank you! And thank you for taking the time review our stuff!) 

Because sometimes that’s all a writer needs to keep going and keep writing another day.

Here’s hoping even better Writing Days lie ahead…For everyone.

Until next time,

Darius 

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The Craft: What I Learned about Writing from “Mike Tyson’s Punchout!”

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

Here’s a funny little realization I had on the connection between a classic Nintendo game  and my writing.

In the olden times, when we weren’t fighting off the dinosaurs or gathering brush to feed the fires in our caves, every spare moment we had not fighting off said-dinosaurs or gathering said-kindling, was spent hunched around the fire, or better yet the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. (Most caves, oddly, had electricity!). And one of the most popular games on the NES was “Mike Tyson’s Punchout!

Baldbull

Now, my younger self had pretty good reflexes. But still, it was hard, (hard!) to beat the tougher and tougher opponents you faced in the game. Sure, Glass Joe was easy. Then you work your way up to Don Flamenco, King Hippo and finally—the main event—Mike Tyson himself. Tyson seemed IMPOSSIBLE to beat at first. But luckily, you had your coach, the trusty Doc Louis, who between rounds would give you valuable boxing advice. And his most golden advice of all?

“Stick and move. Stick and move.”

In the context of game play this meant “sticking” or punching your opponent quickly once or twice and then “moving” to the side to dodge the counterattack. And it worked. You could almost count it out: “Strike One. Strike Two. Dodge. Strike One. Two. Dodge. Strike One. Two. Dodge.” And using that strategy you could even take down Iron Mike.

So what in the hell does this have to do with writing?

Good question. Well, after a recent writing session I got to thinking…Cause that’s what writers do to cool down from a writing session (sure!). I thought and thought and I realized that, at its best, that’s exactly what I want my writing to do.

“Stick and move. Stick and move.”

In this metaphor, the writer is the human-player/boxer and the reader is the opposing (computer) boxer. And what I’m trying to do is “stick” the reader with…let’s say…some detail for the setting (Bam!). And then some swift character development (Bam!). Then, I “move.” I move along the plot, an action occurs and the narrative goes forward. Then, back on the attack. I “stick” the reader with a little insight into a character’s motivation (maybe they slip up and utter something they didn’t mean to). Bam! Then, I stick again (maybe the other character asks them if they’re serious or only joking). And then it’s time to move the plot forward again (Maybe a rider appears on the horizon, but neither of them know who it is).

  “Stick and move. Stick and move.”

So, I’m constantly “sticking” the reader with little nibbles of setting, character development/backstory or world building. And then “moving” on by propelling the plot forward.

It might sound funny and it kind of is. But let me tell you there’s more than one writing session I’ve ended recently softly mumbling to myself:

    “Stick and move. Stick and move.”

…while the people around me in the café turn up the volume on their headphones, look away into space, or gather their children closer.

“Honey, stay away from the strange Writing Man.”

Anyway, all for now. See you next time!

,Darius