Before Coffee: How to Tell a Great Story

August 24, 2016 § 2 Comments

I came across an article this morning with the terrible title “A Writer’s Guide to Hacking the Reader’s Brain in 5 Steps.” Because everything has to be about hacking these days. “Hacking Your Diet with Oreos and Bacon Fat,” or “Hacking Your Cerebral Cortex to Never Need Sleep (Without Becoming a Murdering Hobo),” et cetera ad nauseum.

A better title for the article above is “How to Tell a Great Story,” or maybe “5 Steps to Bringing a Story to Life.” Or maybe those are just as terrible.

Regardless, the article is very good. You can skip the first half of it if you’re in a rush and just start at this bit: « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: 21st Century Neanderthal

August 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

The World Wide Web turns 25 today. Which means I was 24 when it opened its virtual doors to the public in 1991. (It actually took a few more years for it to become truly public, i.e., used by more than a few dozen CERN folk, but the news calls it for today so who am I to argue.)

I’d been using the Internet for at least five years at that point. Message boards, email. I set up and was the admin for the movie discussion board on Tri-State Online, a local message board hosted by the University of Cincinnati. « Read the rest of this entry »

Low Millions

August 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

The best thing about my ancient iPod? It’s sedimentary. Layers of favorite music, played until I burned out on them, lay forgotten under the songs and albums and musicians that came later.

Tonight I dug down to 2004 and found Low Millions again. They put out one album, Ex-Girlfriends, and then disappeared. Which is surprising, given how good they were. A couple of their songs made the charts—which is not a reliable barometer, I know, but still.

Of course, I tunneled right to the sexiest song on their album. Which is saying something, since there’s something sensual about several songs on the album. I mean, it’s called Ex-Girlfriends, after all. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Dear Parents

August 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

I wasn’t going to write one of these today, because I’m sleep deprived and adorable baby animals are talking their shit. (No, I didn’t just have a stroke; that sentence will make sense if you click the link, I promise.)

But then I saw this on Facebook, and it plucked the catgut strung over the thumpy thing in my chest: « Read the rest of this entry »

Anno Coffee: That Feeling When

August 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

That feeling when you write something so great that you surprise yourself.

That feeling when you agree to share the thing you wrote with a group, and on the day your stomach hurts and you feel like you’ll vomit and you consider using illness as an excuse not to show up.

That feeling when you share the thing and everybody enjoys it, and you drive home with a huge grin and a feeling like you’re floating.

That feeling when you sit down to write and your heart starts pounding and your arms go numb, and you know you’re alone and no other writer has ever felt this way but you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Ghost Architecture

August 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s already humid and on its way to hot when I open the garage door. I’m up an hour earlier than usual because I have to run an errand for my parents.

Most days, I judge how late I’m running by whether I’m in the car in time to hear the 8:00 news update on WGUC, our local classical music station. Today, I’m in the car an hour and twenty minutes before that.

I do the thing for my folks, which takes me through my old neighborhood. I’ve beaten the sunrise, and now I get to watch it set the clouds afire. It’s pretty, but it would look prettier from bed, with my eyes closed and brain churning out some REMs. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Serendipity

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Full disclosure: I have never read anything by Malcolm Gladwell and can’t even name a book of his off the top of my head. Punching his name into the face of the hive mind, I see he writes non-fiction, which explains the dearth of Gladwell titles on my Goodreads list.

I saw the quote below today, though, and it hit me at just the right time. I’m feeling guilty for a total lack of movement on the novel-in-progress, especially since I spent a great chunk of hours yesterday working up a D&D game to run next Saturday. Part of the reason I’m not making eye contact with the manuscript is that I’ve been feeling it’s irredeemably awful.

So Gladwell’s words simultaneously give me hope and make me want to saw my head off with a bread knife. Because the thought of trudging through five more drafts of this book, regardless of how good it might be on the other side, is just more than I can bear right now.

Of course, Gladwell stops short of saying anything about the drafts after Number Eight. Maybe nine through sixteen are mediocre, seventeen through twenty-four are almost good, etc. Where does “publishable” fall on that timeline? Where does “great” show up? Draft 64? Draft 80?

I suspect innate talent enters into it at some point. Writing may be a skill that can be honed with practice, but something tells me you don’t become Shakespeare just by rewriting your manuscript 120 times.

-The first eight drafts are terrible.-


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