A Week in the Writing Life, 4 February 2023

Okay, welcome back after last week. I’m hoping to get used to the weekly pace of putting something out every week. I’ve been sticking to it fairly well so far, but I want to keep consistent and try and write quality work (heh heh) as well. Let’s see how it works, shall we?

Homefront Stuff

The photo for this entry is once again courtesy of my wife Laura, and it’s a sunset scene from Lucas County, Iowa. I always remember the quote from Mark Twain about my hometown, although there’s some good sunsets around here as well.

Below is the quote, for those not familiar with it. Twain lived in Muscatine for a short time and even worked for the paper there (the Muscatine Journal, which Twain’s brother co-owned at the time.).

And I remember Muscatine—still more pleasantly—for its summer sunsets. I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them.

Mark Twain

What I’ve Been Writing

I’ve been taking a close look at the beginnings of my rough draft to the second book of my series The Yank Striker. This has resulted in more looking than writing, but I consider revisions and planning to be equally as important as word count, even though I’d still like to have at least another 200,000 words under my belt by the end of this year.

I’m realizing that something that I need to worry about, since I am actually writing a series for the first time in my life, is the concept of continuity. According to an article on Wikipedia (which states at the beginning that the article has “multiple issues,” so take this with as much credibility as it’s worth, continuity in fiction is:

…a consistency of the characteristics of people, plot, objects, and places seen by the reader or viewer over some period of time. It is relevant to several media.

Wikipedia (?) (Shrugging emoji)

Sometimes, these types of mistakes are obvious. I remember watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando with my grandparents, my father’s parents, at their home. I remember my grandfather being quite impressed with the film as we all shared bowls of popcorn, and it was a good slice of American 1980’s action cheese.

There was one scene where Arnold turned a wrecked convertible that had landed on its side back onto its wheels. However, when Arnold and the girl who was hanging around him (Rae Dawn Chong) drove off in the car, it was without a single scratch. (Continuity…)

This is apparently not a new thing. I learned this week about the concept of “Homeric Nods,” which is a term referring to continuity errors occurring in the epic poems of Homer when he wrote them 2,700 or so years ago. To be fair, his works and others were told by multiple authors over a period of centuries, so he had a bit of a disadvantage trying to keep everything straight[1].

With a novel that ends up being at least more than 50,000 words and often can run close to twice that amount, that means there are a lot of moving parts and facts that you need to keep straight and not get inconsistent with. When that becomes two novels, that’s twice as many moving parts, and if it is in a series, both of those novels have to be consistent with each other. The more books you add to a series, the more that Charles Lindbergh’s saying about three engines making it three times as likely to have engine failure makes more sense[2].

However, I am looking forward to this work. This will be the last opportunity for me to sort out any weirdness with the first book, because once it gets published, you sort of have to stick with it. Of course, that is going to wind up taking away from pure writing production, but this is not something that I can just blow off. It’s a time commitment that is well worth it for a good final product.

I’m also looking forward to getting some feedback on the book from my writing group. I’ve sent them an electronic copy of the manuscript, and I’ll be hearing from them in a few weeks, anyway.

With proofing The Yank Striker and trying to make more progress on the second book in the series, as well as trying to write here, I’ve not had much time for other projects I’ve discussed, such as the memoir, my fan fiction, and the poetry collection. However, all of that is not too far from my mind.

What I’ve Been Doing Having to do With Writing

My first public appearance of the new year will be coming up very soon – three weeks from now, as a matter of fact.

I’ll be participating in the Read Local Author Fair at the Johnston Public Library on Saturday, February 25. I’ll be out there with many other area authors from 2 to 4 p.m. that day. I’ll bring myself and copies of The Holy Fool for purchase, and I’ll also be there to talk about my upcoming series The Yank Striker. Thanks to the Johnston Public Library for the invitation, and I look forward to meeting old friends and new acquaintances there.

What I’ve Been Reading

Time for some more reading recommendations, especially people I’ve been checking out on Substack. Some of these are going to be slight repeats from last week, so be gentle with me and I’ll share more links than I did before.

I talked about the fact that Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaiden’s Tale, has a good presence on Substack. A few months ago, she had a very interesting article entitled “SOME VERY BASIC BASICS ABOUT WRITING NOVELS.” She attempts to define what a novel is, and I think she does a fantastic job while having fun with the concept. You should check it out.

I talked last week about the Iowa Writer’s Collective and the great work they are doing on Substack telling the story of Iowa. There’s two people I wanted to point out. Laura Belin is one of the top blogging journalists in Iowa, and I’ve been reading her site Bleeding Heartland for at least the past five or six years. However, she is also on Substack on the page Iowa Politics with Laura Belin. If you want to find out what’s going on with Iowa politics, that’s where you want to go on the Internet.

And if you want to find out what’s going on in Eastern Iowa, especially the Quad Cities area where I first began my own journalism career, check out Along the Mississippi. For 32 years, Ed Tibbetts was the man when it came to covering government and politics for the Quad City Times, and I was proud to consider him a colleague. Now he’s taking his skills freelance, reporting on important items like this one about a railroad merger with an impact on the Eastern Iowa area. I would urge you to give him a read – he is one of the best I’ve ever seen in action.

If you’re interested in writing fiction and possibly making money writing fiction online, I’d check out Fictionistas on Substack. I’ve subscribed to them in an attempt to start sorting out how I might actually start creating my own online fiefdom, and read interesting articles like this one by Michael Mohr on how to create tension in fiction and memoir.

Finally, there’s a melancholic plug for Futbol with Grant Wahl. This was the Substack site of Grant Wahl, the best American soccer writer that I’ve ever read in my lifetime. Grant passed away late last year while covering the World Cup, but you should visit the site and see what he had to say about the Beautiful Game.

Writing Quote of the Week

A while ago, when I was mainly on Facebook, I was in the habit for a while of posting quotes about writing on Mondays for some random reason. I’m still a fan of quotes about writing, so I decided to revive the practice here from a quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. Considering it took me until 9 p.m. Central Time to finally get this posted, I though the quote was particularly appropriate.

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Final Thoughts

You might recall that I posted a while back regarding my love for my out of date Alphasmart word processor. I really wish they were still in business, but no dice. There’s this company out there called Freewrite that is trying to put out “simple” word processors that are very portable and durable. However, their cheapest model runs for $500 – the same as most full-service laptops – and the most expensive Hemingway “Signature” edition runs nearly $1,000. I’m a writing hipster, but not that much of a freak.

However, I just learned that the company is releasing a new product, likely in July of this year. It’s called the Alpha. Hmmm… reminds me of something, and it only is running around $300. It might be worth a look.

This week looks sort of thin for this post, but hope springs eternal for next week. Take care everyone, and feel free to read my obligatory plug for my Substack.

While I do appreciate you following this blog, I really would like you to subscribe to my Substack page. By subscribing to that page, you’ll not only be receiving my Substack newsletter, The Writing Life With Jason Liegois (the companion blog to this one), but you’ll also be signing up for my email list. I will eventually be opening some special contests, offers, and first looks at original fiction, poems, and other items. Just click the button below.

Footnotes

  1. This made me think – when was the first time in literature that there was a consistent revision and editing process? Does anyone have a idea of when that first started happening? I’ve been teaching writing process for 25-plus years but I have no idea about that and it seems silly to just Google it for some reason. Someone, please prove you’re smarter than me or at least less prideful than me and comment if you know the answer.
  2. Then again, he was wrong about the Nazi’s and didn’t have the guts to admit he was a polygamist, so what did he know?

A Week in the Writing Life, 28 January 2023

Welcome back, everyone, to this new experiment of mine to try and have a weekly post on Liegois Media on WordPress and and The Writing Life with Jason Liegois on Substack.

It’s part of my efforts to write online on a more consistent basis than I have up to this point – at least once weekly with what I’ve been working on when it comes to writing and what I’m reading during the week or (in more than a few cases) earlier. The latter item might turn into more reading recommendations, considering how long it can be between me seeing something online and bookmarking or saving it, and me actually reading it.

I have a fairly clear idea of how I’m going to organize these posts going forward, but that could change over time. I’m also not too proud to take requests if I ever got any of those, lol.

Homefront Stuff

The photo for this entry is courtesy of my wife Laura, and it’s what my backyard in Lucas County, Iowa is looking like right now. There’s been some snow off and on for the past week or so, but not as much as the northern half of the state has been getting.

The house we share is around 100 years old. We’ve got three bedrooms and two bathrooms, which is about the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the house I grew up in back in Muscatine. It was newer than this house by about 40 years, as was the four-bedroom, three bathroom home that our kids grew up in. But I do like this house – for one thing, I’m not someone who likes big, complicated houses. For one thing, unless you happen to have a lot of cash, you have to clean that house and maintain it, and smaller houses are easier to do that for rather than big homes. Whenever I see one of these McMansions in the newer suburbs around Des Moines or out by themselves in the middle of the country, all I can think about is how long does it take to clean one of those places? Anyway, I’m happy with my house.

What I’ve Been Writing

I’m now deep into putting together the rough draft of the second book of my series The Yank Striker. (More on the first book in the series in a bit.) I ended up with about a 80,000-word volume last time, and I’m thinking that part two will be close to that length or slightly less.

I’m hoping that I will be able to write regularly enough so that the rough draft will be complete by the fall. This is the first time that I am trying to write fiction on a deadline, even though my publisher (Biblio Publishing, check them out some time) hasn’t set a time limit on when they want the manuscript. For those who don’t know, the whole publishing process, from writing, to revising, to designing, and to publishing, can be a long one. My plan is to have part two ready for readers to take a look at next year, but those plans end up… stretching, when it comes to books and fiction.

As for my online writing, you’ll probably see something posted on WordPress and Substack later about my struggle to keep up with all of the great writing I keep getting emails about from Substack. If it’s not entertaining, I’ll try to keep it short, heh heh.

I’m surprised that I keep coming up with ideas for my A Writer’s Biography series, to the point where I basically have had to admit that I’m tooling around with a memoir. This work is continuing slowly, and you are seeing some of it on my sites. That might eventually get published even if I have to do that one myself.

The older than I am getting, the more my priority is to try and be as productive as possible. It would really suck for me if when my time was up, I left a lot of projects I wanted to finish as just scribbling in some notebooks or a few word document pages.

I’m continuing to experiment with fan fiction, even though it is not my main priority from a productivity standpoint. I have a lot of fun with it and it is a low-stress, low pressure way to be creative. And as I’ve mentioned before, I read a lot of other people’s work and have been inspired by it.

What I’ve Been Doing Having to do With Writing

Apparently the proof for The Yank Striker is on its way to my home in the next couple of days. I am absolutely excited to get my hands on it, review it, and continue the process of getting it published. I believe that I can say that it will be published sometime this year, but exactly when at this point I am not sure. As I keep saying, the minute I know that date, all of you here will be the first to hear of it.

I am keeping active with my Iowa Writer’s Corner group in Des Moines, of which somehow I’ve been selected club secretary. Part of the reason that I’m sharing this with everyone is that I’m trying to remind myself to get the minutes for our last meeting finished up before it’s time to have the February meeting.

I’m hoping to show them some of my work on the new Yank Striker book to get some of their feedback. That sort of advice is valuable for me, as it has been in the past. One of the most memorable bits of feedback I ever got was something that one of my writer friends Misty Urban said to me about an earlier draft of The Yank Striker. She mentioned that it seemed like my main character wasn’t having to deal with a lot of adversity and difficulty, that many things seemed easier to him. And she was absolutely right. One of the themes of this series will be about how my main character has chosen a difficult path, and there will be roadblocks and setbacks along the way. So, I’ll be interested to see what my new group of fellow writers has to say.

What I’ve Been Reading

The Iowa Writer’s Collective is an all-star collection of some of the greatest journalists in the state of Iowa, a couple of which I had the pleasure of knowing during my past career as a journalist. The fact that many of these writers used to populate the papers of this state but no longer do, as well as the growth of this group, is likely worth its own post sometime in the future. For now, check them out and get a paid subscription if you can.

Robin LeAnn is one of the first writers I encountered on WordPress and I really do need to do a deeper dive into her blog. Just recently she put out this nice review about a meta-fantasy book that sounds interesting from her description, and this series reminds me a bit of what I’m trying to do with my A Writer’s Biography. Check her out.

Did you hear that Margaret Atwood’s on Substack? She is, and her page is called In The Writing Burrow. She put out this piece about when she didn’t make the grade and this one about Ontario politicians lying about what their plans were and getting called out for it. She’s always worth a read.

Next time I’ll try and get some more recommendations, I promise.

Final Thought

Just heard Tom Verlaine, the vocalist and guitarist for the seminal band Television, just passed away. He was a great artist who always was trying something different, and I loved his work. I figured I might as well close out today with one of my favorite songs by him. Take care, everyone.

While I do appreciate you following this blog, I really would like you to subscribe to my Substack page. By subscribing to that page, you’ll not only be receiving my Substack newsletter, The Writing Life With Jason Liegois (the companion blog to this one), but you’ll also be signing up for my email list. I will eventually be opening some special contests, offers, and first looks at original fiction, poems, and other items. Just click the button below.

A Week in the (Writing) Life, 21 January 2023

In the words of one of the favorite comedy idols of my youth, and now for something completely different.

I’ve been operating this blog for just over five years. It has been a long process of working from just talking about being a writer and being interested in writing to actually producing something. But I have made some progress – becoming a published writer, starting a companion blog on Substack after a year of just contemplating trying to mess around on it. I’ve certainly been writing more as time has gone on.

However, one thing that I have started to notice about myself is that the more personal writing goals and milestones I reach, the less that I am willing to just sit back and admire my work. I mean, I just wrote more words than I ever did on my own time, and the minute I realized I was going to make that goal, I immediately started to think of what I needed to do next. I started thinking of what this year’s goals were.

I decided to try to write 200,000 words again this year, but for me, that’s more like a quota than a goal for me. If I’ve managed to write more than 200,000 words twice in the past three years, I think it’s pretty safe that I can make at least that many words. Now, I’m going to try to meet my daily quota of writing (which is, once again, 500 words per day or 30 minutes of planning and revisions) at least 75 percent of the time. Considering that I’ve exceeded that percentage only once and neared it just one other time, I can safely call that a challenge goal. Since I want my writing output to be more consistent and not streaky, this seems to be a goal that also has merit.

I’ve also been trying to figure out some goals. In education, setting measurable, attainable goals is something of a mantra, especially when dealing with goals for students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs). You want to set a goal that is measurable – that is, you do something that can be measured in a certain amount of time. It also has to be attainable – that is, something that you have a chance of meeting in the amount of time given.

I should have considered the possibility of applying some of my educational training to this whole business of trying to improve myself as a writer. After all, writing is essentially an academic exercise. And, from my own personal experience, I found that analyzing what I had done and what I had produced over time gave me a better insight into what is possible. Once I knew what I had limited myself to before, I could start to push those limits.

So, I wanted to take a look at some of the tentative goals that I have for this year and apply this idea of measurable and attainable targets to those goals. Shall we?

As I mentioned before, it looks like I have a book coming out this year. As an update on that project, as of right now, I am waiting for the publisher’s proof from my publishers, Biblio Publishing out in Ohio. I am confident that it will be coming out this year, but an exact date is not quite set in stone yet. Once that date is set, of course, you dear readers will be the first to hear about it.

Goals for this project are slightly difficult to quantify in some cases, however. I want to do a better job of promoting this project. I have to think that living near the Des Moines area should give me a good choice of media outlets, so I wouldn’t have to rely on one hometown newspaper, my social media sites, and a couple of public appearances to promote it. It also didn’t help that I moved halfway across the state within a year and that the whole COVID-19 situation hit a year later. I have to think things will be better this time, but I don’t want to quantify that, just like I don’t want to quantify exactly how much I want to grow my email list, for example. I do know that I want to do better on both.

One thing that I need to quantify is how quickly that I complete this next book in the series. I am shooting for a tentative length of at least 80,000 words, so I will probably have to write somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 words a week on it to complete it by this fall. That’s… doable, I think. We’ll see how it goes. Watch this space.

I also want to write more consistently on this blog and on my Substack page. My tentative plan is to try and publish weekly on WordPress and Substack. I think I can manage that, although trying to come up with decent material to write about every week can be tough at times. For the past couple of months, I’ve done pretty well with it.

This leads me to the overall purpose of this post. As I want to produce quality writing on a weekly basis on this blog, I have to start having consistent material, as I said. I’ve decided that every Saturday, I am going to post a weekly journal about what has been going on with me as a writer. This will be separate from the writing journals I have been publishing on Wednesdays where I basically go over my writing totals for the previous week. I think that these new weekly journals – which I will call A Week in the Writing Life – will cover things that I’ve written, things that I’ve read, and anything writing related in between. I might even get into a few things that are non-writing, if I’m having a slow week. And I promise, most of the time I won’t be trying to get you to buy something from me.

This leads me to one of my other goals – trying to start a paid subscription model for Substack and maybe even WordPress. When this happens – and this is not happening right away – you will always have an option to subscribe or read my work for free. However, I will plan to have some material exclusively for paid subscribers, and I will likely release that exclusive material on a monthly basis. We’ll see how that goes.

In non-goal news this week – today, I attended my first meeting of the Iowa Writer’s Collective in Des Moines as its club secretary. Since I already served at the club secretary for my former writer’s group in Muscatine, so I felt halfway confident that I would be halfway competent at it. Today I felt like a reporter for a little bit again as I was recording meetings and writing down notes all over again. I’m looking forward to the experience, and if there’s some things that the IWC present that might be of general interest to writers or anyone else, I’ll post it here, too.

I think that is about it for now. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

While I do appreciate you following this blog, I really would like you to subscribe to my Substack page. By subscribing to that page, you’ll not only be receiving my Substack newsletter, The Writing Life With Jason Liegois (the companion blog to this one), but you’ll also be signing up for my email list. I will eventually be opening some special contests, offers, and first looks at original fiction, poems, and other items. Just click the button below.