“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 3/3)

Well, I’ve been trying to shovel out a lot of what our current president might call malarkey, so I figure that I might want to try and bring it to a close.

I started my writing life harboring a small little hope that someday, my talent and great stories might end up making me rich and famous.

As I approach a half century of life, I now realize that my writing goes beyond notions of fame and fortune. I realize that I would be writing and creating even if nobody was reading it. I realize that I would be flinging my work into the electronic beyond even if I didn’t know that someone would be reading it and be interested in it.

It is nice, however, to have someone praise your work and tell you that you are a great writer. That’s the truth even if you don’t know exactly who those people are and couldn’t be relied on to pick out those people in front of you even if they were wearing name tags that bore the usernames that they went by in the electronic Wild West. None of that matters.

As a responsible writing instructor at the secondary educational level (and previously at the post-secondary educational level), this is where I would start insisting, quite annoyingly, that the author of whatever nonfiction writing piece that they are trying to create (and this is, by clear definition, a nonfiction writing piece) needs to lay out, in a single sentence, if possible, what the thesis of their writing is. If they are not able to recite this sentence for me, I often insist, then they will be lost regarding what the intent and purpose of their writing is, and more importantly, their readers will have no idea what in the bloody frozen hells of the lower levels of Hades what the purpose is of what they are writing.

So, I’m going to see if I can manage some sort of thesis statement not just for this piece of writing, but also for the previous two ones in this series. In addition, I think that by definition, it is going to end up being a working thesis statement regarding who I am as a writer.

When I was a kid, I self-identified as a writer. This was what I wanted to be when I grew up, this was how I was going to Make My Living. I also had a small little ambition to become a Famous Novelist, but like all sorts of fame and success, I didn’t know how much talent, desire, and luck1 you needed to get to that point. I had at least just enough of the first one and plenty of the second one, but the third I had no more than most typical people and I hadn’t learned yet how critical that can be when it comes to fame and success. You can almost certainly succeed if you have sufficient levels of all three qualities, but if you only have even just two or one of them, you’d have as much as a chance as most people have on the lottery.

When I was a younger man, there were many times where I did describe myself as a writer but I almost felt like a fraud doing it. Yes, I was making money off my writing skills, first as a journalist, and then as a teacher. In the former case, I certainly could say I was a published author, but it wasn’t like I was a novelist or anything. I had set aside my writing for a while, and there were years that went by where I hadn’t written a single word of fiction. Those novelist dreams of mine kept getting further and further away.

Now, I have actually gotten to be a published writer, even though I am far from A Success yet. I have been concentrating on improving my writing skills, both from a productivity and a quality standpoint. I am starting to see results. The fact that I am not supporting myself as a writer, or that I am producing some work that has no economic or marketing potential whatsoever, is totally irrelevant.

I am a writer because I want to write, I am writing, and I want to grow and improve my craft. No other definition is needed.

How’s that for a thesis statement?

So now, I don’t have any existential debates anymore about whether I’m a writer or not. Whether I’m as good or as productive of a writer as I should be, however… that is a different story.

I’ve managed to set some goals for myself this year. Maybe you heard about them. I know I will have to continue to set new goals and challenges for myself in the years to come. I’m in the process of considering what those goals should be, and I think self-publishing is going to be at the top of that list.

Keep going upward and forward, for as long as my health and faculties hold up. There’s still a ways to go, and any lifetime is never enough time to learn everything that there is to know about writing.

Footnotes:

  1. Luck I define as any other outside forces or circumstances that fall in your favor when you are trying to accomplish something.

“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 1/?)

I’ve probably started and stopped at writing this for a while.

I had to think about it a bit1. Anyway2-3.

When I was a kid, I was thinking the endgame of my writing would be something like this: I write some books, and then I try to get them sold to some publishers or agents. Eventually, someone is going to take a bite, things move along, and then I would become a published author. And at that point, I would have officially Made It as an author.

What did that look like to me? I can still picture them, even now. Even my kid dreams were a bit modest. I could picture myself being Successful but not A Celebrity. A Celebrity status was something for guys like Stevie King, Tommy Clancy, Anne Rice4, the older Lit Boys like Hemingway, Faulkner, Updike, and DeLillo, as well as the pulpier guys like Elmore Leonard, Micky Spillane, and the others. Even as a teen I wasn’t totally thick.

No, I pictured myself as having Made It. That would mean some books on the New York Times bestseller list. That would mean the occasional appearance on the weekday morning chat shows they always host in New York or maybe Los Angeles if they want to be contrarian. It would likely be New York because that’s still the home of American publishing. Every so often, someone from Hollywood would call my people and one of my books or short stories would get optioned for a television series, movie, or even graphic novel.

I’d likely have a day job – maybe teaching at a four-year university after spending a few years earning my academic spurs at a community college near my home. I would be there, teaching writing in a nice, clean classroom with pristine whiteboards to eager young people with up to date laptops. People might call me “Professor Liegois” as I walked by them on the campus green or in the main buildings. I’d have a nice, cozy office somewhere on campus, stuffed with textbooks and novels, some of them even my own. And I would have regular office hours where I would help those students struggling with how do deal with the written word.

Man, I was dense as hell back then. What changed?

Well, life got in the way. I started being a journalist, then got into teaching. I got started in teaching junior and senior high school to give it a shot, but I always had my eyes on trying to get on with my local community college. I would have loved to teach there… but that was not to be. This entry’s not the place to get into all that business, but I think it might be worth a later blog entry to discuss how that worked out.

Then, I started trying to get back into the groove of writing. It was a long process to try and recover my love of writing fiction, of writing, period. I had spent a long time cosplaying as a writer, but I eventually realized that I had to start producing things to actually be a writer.

And that’s what I eventually did. Somehow I actually managed to get a book published. It wasn’t A Massive Success – like I even knew as a kid, few books are – but I was on my way.

However, during a recent time in my life, when I moved from my old haunts to the middle of south central Iowa, and I became involved with other types of writing, something changed for me once again. I began to fall in love, once again, with the idea of writing for the sake of writing. I started to write just because I wanted to do it, rather than because I wanted to accomplish something.

In Part 2 of this essay coming up (let’s say two days from now – this Sunday?), I’ll talk a little bit about how that came to be and what effect that’s had for me.

Footnotes:

  1. I’m also, once again, trying to write through a cold, which is not a good thing. And I’m going to try to travel cross-state to be at a book festival this weekend. They invited me, so I definitely wanted to be there.
  2. Just realized that is my favorite word to quietly and politely move on from a subject. My students take a bit to catch on, but sometime I think I should just be more blunt. But a bit of finesse does help. Ironically, I think, based on listening to his podcasts, that this is also a favorite saying of Jim Cornette, the pro wrestling podcaster and historian and former pro wrestling manager, personality, and promoter.
  3. Pro wrestling and my writing intersect a bit more than what you might expect.
  4. I was a Facebook follower of hers while she was still alive (and still am). She was a very sweet lady.

A Self-Publisher’s Progress, or Lack Of It: Why I’m Going to Go the Self-Publishing Route

These are interesting times.

You might remember that I managed to get a book published with an outside publisher a couple of years back. That was a feather in my cap, certainly, and I crossed a big item off my bucket list in the process.

Since then… I have not yet had a chance to publish another book. The publishing company I worked with previously is not accepting new fiction, so that avenue is closed to me. I have at least one or two possibilities for projects I could move forward with. I have at least one that is almost publishing ready, except for a few items.

So, I am faced with two different possibilities. First, there’s option of trying once again to find a publisher or agent willing to work with me to put together a new project. They would have a better idea of the current publishing climate than I would, obviously, and more connections in that area as well. Usually you won’t get a look from any of the Big FIve publishers – Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan – without an agent1. It’s a long-term process, as well – getting a book through the publishing process even if you succeed can take months and even years at a time, not even counting the initial writing process.

Or, I can go the self-publishing route. Selling physical books on demand is easier than ever thanks to Amazon, and e-book distribution can cut out even more middlemen out if you want to go the all e-book route. (As for me, I am too much of a traditionalist to totally abandon physical books. There I would be my own boss and have the majority of the profits. How much of those profits there would be is an open question. Some people can make a tidy career out of this. For others, the revenue is few and far between.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. As a result, I have elected to go the self-publishing route.

There are two main reasons that I’ve made that decision.

The first has to do with fame and fortune. When I was a kid, I may have had a small little dream to be a Stephen King-level writer. He was one of my idols, so of course I was going to think that. Then it turned out that for a long time I didn’t write a lot of stuff, as a young man. It would take me a long time to build up to being a consistently productive writer, and even then I wouldn’t imagine that I could be as productive as King, even in the early cocaine days2.

There are so many writers out there trying to make a name for themselves. A good number of them are truly great and talented, and most have at least some talent. Very few of them “make it,” just like so many talented actors, dancers, musicians, and other artists don’t make it. The ones who make it are successful enough to have publishing contracts, book advances, and teams of agents, attorneys, publicists, and other handlers to make their lives easier.

I don’t think that is going to happen to me.

I’d say that realistically, I am at the halfway point of my life. If it hasn’t happened at this point, I see an even smaller chance of it happening to me, even as you hear the tales of older authors becoming an “overnight” success. So if such a fate is not likely to happen to me, I shouldn’t want to concentrate on doing things with that in mind. I’d rather have full control over my fate, no matter what sort of financial rewards there are in it.

And that brings me to the second reason for this. I just want to write.

I’m tired of putting so much effort into finding publishers and agents, putting in so much time into it and not getting anything out of it. If I’m going to spend my time on this passion of mine, I want to start putting out the stories that I want to put out, and getting them out to anyone who wants to read them. Yeah, I’ll have to do promotional work, and other things like formatting and cover designs, but it will be a lot less foolishness than if I went the traditional route.

I know I only have a limited time in this existence, although I hope I still have many years still left. I want to do it telling the stories I have in me.

It’s going to take some time, even with the self-publishing route. But I’m looking forward to getting it started.

Footnotes:

  1. I should qualify this by saying that I would not include pay-to-play publishing or agents in this category. I have had past experiences and meetings with such people, and I’ve concluded that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  2. I do not endorse using hard drugs for any reason, but especially creative ones. Anyone who thinks it is sustainable needs to read The Tommyknockers and watch Maximum Overdrive. When he had a prescription drug relapse after getting run over by that van, he wrote Dreamcatcher. I rest my case.

Medieval Medley Part 2: Where I do an in-progress review of the first Wheel of Time book and the the pilot episode of the television series without seeming too lame because some people have already done a decent job of it and it’s not like I’m getting paid for this just yet LOL

I’m guessing the real reason, looking back, why I procrastinated about writing this for so very long after sincerely reassuring everyone that I would, in fact, do it is because 31 years after the first book in the Wheel of Time series was first released into bookstores (ebooks, such as my current copy of The Eye of the World is, didn’t really exist back in those days), there are a lot of people who have given reviews of both of them and I’m slightly intimidated by trying to do something myself. That’s especially true because I’m writing all of this basically just because I’m hyped about both experiences and wanted to talk about in in a low pressure way.

Usually, I don’t think I like writing really long sentences. I’ll usually do it just for a laugh. For example, go ahead and see above.

Robert Jordan wrote a whole bunch of stuff during his lifetime, as I mentioned in Part 1 of this. That was 4.4 million words for the Wheel of Time series alone. I have to think he probably wound up writing a few more words than that, but still – wow. That’s a lot. I can write a bit, but I’m not sure I’m going to get to that number in my entire lifetime, never mind in a single series.

Stuff I had to get off my chest for the moment since I was thinking about it but I’m going to format it differently so all you interested in The Wheel of Time can just ignore it.

It’s been a weird time for me recently. For the past couple of years, I’ve found myself, for various reasons, writing fan fiction that has been very satisfying for me emotionally and artistically, but has not helped me make much progress toward getting published again, or on other original fiction. I’ve discussed before how the combination of COVID-19 and my move to south central Iowa derailed what little progress I had been able to make toward publishing success. Now, I’m gradually beginning to look at self-publishing because I’m getting tired of the hurry-up and wait process of that traditional publishing seems to be and is becoming more and more pointless. If I’m going to be a starving artist anyway, I might as well have some actual books to show for it. Anyway, let’s move on.

What I think is turning into a miniseries of my own is going to be about

As of right now, I have (checking my notes) gotten through the first one-fourth to one-third of the book The Eye of the World and the first episode of The Wheel of Time series on Amazon Prime. This was a good deal because my wife already has Amazon Prime – there’s no way I was going to plunk down money for a streaming service just to do some sort of review for a series.

Man, this is kind of all over the place. Anyway.

What I will likely wind up doing is giving you my impressions of both the book and the series as I check them out. I’ll talk about what I’ve seen so far, and give whatever analysis and evaluation I can for both of them.

The Book

I’ve had tough experiences with “legendary” books or authors in the past. For example (I think I talked about this before), I tried, really tried, to get into David Foster Wallace. I liked some of the nonfiction articles he wrote, like that piece he did on Roger Federer. I even bought Infinite Jest and The Pale King and tried to get through them. I gave up after twenty pages in both cases. (Fun fact that might just interest me – in my book The Holy Fool, which is fictional but is set in Chicago in 2008, the climax of the story takes place on the same day that Wallace’s body was discovered. I even thought about mentioning that in the story, but thankfully, I couldn’t figure out how to tie my main character into someone who would be a fan enough to hear of or notice his death during the climax of the book. One of several things I wound up cutting out that turned out to be for the best.)

So, I wound up going into the read with a bit of trepidation. I knew it wasn’t going to be the type of “literary” material that DFW had produced or O’Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces had been. (Yes, I know the book is supposed to be a masterpiece and Reilly is supposed to be one of the most beloved characters of modern fiction, and the book is a bit of a cult in New Orleans, where it is set. I’m more of an Anne Rice fan, sorry. (Rest in Power).

This is probably where I should tell you now that I’m fighting a bit of a cold as I struggle to put together anything that is remotely coherent. It’s the type of cold where your nose runs constantly, and things around my eyes feel a bit stuffed. Luckily, I just think it is a cold and not something even more severe? At this point, if I put together some sort of shambolic stream of consciousness writing together that vaguely makes sense, then I’m going to consider it a win.

I wrote this bit a few weeks ago, so I’m doing fine now.

So, I downloaded The Eye of the World onto my phone (no way am I even going to contemplate buying all the books in a series because I wouldn’t even know where to put them all in my house, even if I got them all in paperback) and started to read.1

So, I finally got to tapping on the screen and began to read through the legendary first book in the series. And… it wasn’t bad at all. It seemed like a pretty solid entry into the fantasy genre.

I thought the introduction to the world was pretty straightforward and not a massive information dump. I’m not sure if this was added to later additions of the book, but my ebook had an “Earlier” section told from the point of view of Egwene, who is turning out to be one of the major female characters of the books.2 This section discusses the lives of her and her friends in the location of Two Rivers, which is where she, Rand Al Thor, Matrim “Mat” Cauthon and Perrin Aybara are growing up. She is approximately nine at the time of this part of the story, as are her friends. She is contemplating many things including growing up, what it means to be a woman in her society, whether she is going to be someone important who gets to leave Two Rivers, and whether Rand might be a suitable husband (even though she’s not 100 percent sure what qualities make up a good husband.) I liked how it gave me a good feeling for this area of Two Rivers – one of those quiet, small-town type of rural area. I felt like I was reading echoes of the Shire in The Lord of the Rings and even my own Iowa home, or, at least, the myth of it.

Then there is another prologue where we see this king, Lews Therin, who’s surrounded by the murdered bodies of his family and friends and apparently he’s the one who killed them all with his super magic powers we’re not really getting much of an explanation for yet. And it appears that he uses his power to destroy himself when some guy named Elan Morin reminded him that he’d gone crazy and destroyed his family.3

Then there was the beginning of the story proper, and that killer opening text. I always am a sucker for a good opening line or lines. And Jordan totally brings it here.

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”

— The Eye of the World: Book One of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

This opening part… it just really hit me. This idea that time can be circular, remnants of forgotten past eras, reminders that people are relearning and experiencing things that previous generations have experienced. And it reminded me so much of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (I am a Stephen King Stan, despite whatever flaws he has), and his whole concept of Ka that follows through the entire series.4 There’s even a wheel metaphor involved. I have to admit, that hooked me.

We then get to the heart of the story, where Rand and his dad are headed to town (Two Rivers5) with some cider for the upcoming festival. He seems like a regular kid with his dad, one who is trying to be careful, wanting to help out with his dad, but there’s some hidden stuff that you keep wondering about. We keep hearing about a mother, but of course she’s passed on. There’s also the continual references to Rand not looking like his dad. For someone steeped in fantasy lore like Tolkien and Robert E. Howard’s heirs (as Robert Jordan obviously was), that was a red flag to keep my eye on the kid.

When we get there to Emond’s Field (the main town in Two Rivers), we can tell that there’s going to be a party. I think Jordan gives us the feel of a proper farming community here in his description of the place and its people. I don’t know whether Jordan came from a rural community in his youth, but I think he gives up the feeling of such a community – its slow rhythms, how the people there look forward to the special times like a harvest festival and so forth, and how everyone’s so worried about the weather and if you’re going to get in a good crop this year.

You get the feeling that there is some advanced thinking in this society (I’m thinking especially medicine) and some things that are more somewhere between the Iron Age and late-middle-ages – a kind of collection of items from one thing or another. 

You also get a sense of women… having both more control and less control over their lives in the world that Jordan made. In many older types of fantasy writing I had read or heard of over the years, in most cases women absolutely took second place to the exploits and quests of men. In the Wheel of Time series, it seems that the women are masters (mistresses?) in their given fields, such as the Wisdoms, and the men are the masters of their realms. It does give women more agency, but I also get the feeling of “separate but equal” regarding the two halves of society. 

I really don’t know too much about Jordan in starting this whole process. I know he’s my father’s age, he grew up in South Carolina and attended the Citadel (the most Southern military academy ever), and served in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner. I’m thinking that he perhaps had an interest in trying to write strong female characters in this series, but I see it a little as two-dimensional thinking. Back in those days, there was not much talk of, say, LGBTQ people and those who did not quite consider themselves one gender or another. So, I consider Jordan’s effort to try and bring stronger female characters to life in The Wheel of Time to be not perfect but a great effort8.

Speaking of strong female characters, this is where I first get a look at Moiraine Damodred, who has come to Two Rivers with a mission on her mind. She is one of what are called the Aes Sedai, a group of female “light” magic wielders. From my understanding of the background of the book, I knew Tolkien was a heavy influence (as is custom), but I also got serious Bene Gesserit vibes from the description of the order, so maybe there was a bit of influence from a science fiction classic that predated Eye of the World by at least two decades.. (I am a massive Dune fan.)

Anyway, she is there with a man by the name of A’Lan Mandragon9, who is her Warder – apparently, her bodyguard and right-hand man. They are there to find a person that is known as the Dragon Reborn – one man who is able to effectively wield saidin (which is the male version of the magic the Aes Sedai wield) and fight the forces of the Dark One. It soon becomes clear later that either Rand, Mat, or Perrin are the candidates to be this Dragon Reborn10.

Pretty soon, there’s a bit of chaos, Rand’s dad gets cut down (but not dead) due to these dark soldiers called Trollocs (shades of the orcs in Lord of the Rings). Everything is about to burn down in Emond’s Field when Moraine sweeps in, takes out the invaders with her light magic and heals Rand’s dad while nearly wiping herself out in the process. Pretty soon, they are fleeing their homes into the unknown, hoping to get in contact with Moraine’s Aes Sedai godmothers or whatever. They’re also trying to deal with the implications of one of these guys being the Dragon Reborn. One of the biggest ones is that any males who happen to have this power tend to be in danger of destroying existence. So, there’s nothing at stake, right?

And… that’s pretty much where I have left off with The Eye of the World at the moment. I’d estimate that I’m maybe one-fourth to one-third done with the book. So, do I want to complete it?

I think the answer to that is yes. I’m interested enough in the characters – stoic Rand, crafty Mat, and the quiet and contemplative Perrin. I’m interested in seeing what type of men they grow into. Egwene (Rand’s childhood friend and Wisdom in training) and Nynaeve (The Wisdom of Emond’s Field) are also characters that… I’m not sure about, but I intrigued by their potential. I’m interested in seeing what they could be, what the story could be. It’s sort of like when I watch soccer and see some new kids out on the field, some new teen starting out, and they show me a spark of something, a great first touch on the ball when they get it under control, or they move with the ball between a few defenders without fear, and I start thinking there’s the start of something here. And it makes me want to keep watching them, seeing if they develop into something special. That’s what I think I have here with those characters, at least.

And Moraine? She’s definitely a fantastic character, someone I might want to follow through a full book and see if she’s able to accomplish her mission. Is she someone who sticks to the letter of the rules of her order or will she be someone who has to go above and beyond those rules to get the job done under extraordinary circumstances? I want to definitely see that.

I’m also fascinated by Moraine’s relationship with her Warder, A’Lan. It is a very deep and meaningful bond that they have, but one that is certainly not romantic in nature. It makes me wonder if the relations between other Aes Sedais and their warders are different. It also makes me wonder what romance will look like if it happens with Moraine (or with A’Lan, I guess).

I also have to complement Jordan’s world-building skills. I don’t yet feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that I am getting about this world and the people in it. I will have to see what happens later in the book. Jordan’s descriptions aren’t overwhelming so far, but will that change the further they go on in the story? It’s tough to say. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed by Tolkien’s descriptions in Fellowship of the Ring, but to be honest there are times when I sort of glide over those descriptions. In my own work, I don’t get into that level of description on a consistent basis, but I absolutely understand the need for that in fantasy, where you need to establish an entirely different geography and at-times multiple cultures.

I went into this process impressed with an effort that created one of the largest book series in history. What I’ve seen so far is definitely enough to make me want to move forward with it.

1 – There’s going to be a hell of a lot of parenthetical references in this post and you are just going to have to get used to seeing them. Just like DFW’s readers had to, eventually. Part of that is me trying to be as thorough as possible on the subject. However, there is another part that is not sure how to handle a book and TV review after not doing anything like that for several years. It’s just me procrastinating about the process (me procrastinating, that’s a stretch, isn’t it, folks?)

2 – Fair warning – before I got this ebook version of The Eye of the World, I got an older print version from my local library here. It did not have that other prologue with Egwene and her friends as kids in Two Rivers. I have no idea whether Jordan added that bit in later versions of the story or not or whether that was a ebook thing. [EDIT – turns out that’s exactly what Jordan did.]

3 – One thing I’m struggling with in this review is how much plot do you rehash in something like this. I mean, this story isn’t as obscure as many; it is one of the most famous fantasy book series in American literature. I’m probably going to follow the policy of “tell just enough to let the reader know you know what is going on.
Or honestly, that could be just a lie by the time I’m done with this.

4 – How is it that some horror writer from Maine came up with a concept of the universe that makes more sense than any of the organized religions I’ve experienced up to this point? And it’s not like he was from a far-out religious background, he was raised Methodist in Maine by his single-parent mother. I get the feeling that he’s taking religion with a grain of salt and organized religion with no amount of respect whatsoever6.

5 – I appreciated the detail that Jordan put into the maps that are included with the books. Like with Lord of the Rings, it gave me a better idea of where everything is from a geographic standpoint. I honestly think that if not for those maps, I would have gotten lost in the narrative, as it is. It is just another reminder that I definitely want to use maps when I start working on my own fantasy fiction, and I think I have the software that should be able to help inartistic me make those maps7 .

6 – And it appears I’m willing to do anything rather than get to the point on this exercise. 🙂

7 – In case you want to read what I have to say about making those maps myself, go here.

8 – I’ll likely have more to say about gender roles in Jordan’s work later.

9 – What the hell is it with the strange names in fantasy? I know that you want to have a unique language, culture, etc. There’s even a term for it – conlag – although the term for what Jordan is doing here would be artlag. And yes, Tolkien was one of the pioneers.
I also have to say that my experience in learning about phonics as part of my job for special education has given me plenty of ideas about the English language and how I might handle such a situation with my own original fiction. English is hard to learn, everyone, and you probably don’t appreciate that if English is your first language and you wind up doing well with reading, writing, and speaking it. And guess who fits into that category? (Me.) I think that will be worth another separate blog post.

10 – Since I’m sort of figuring things out, I decided not to do a hidden text thing to hide spoilers which is super simple to do on Reddit but you’d actually need to pay some money to do it on WordPress, so just forget that.
I mean, it’s weird to warn about spoilers regarding a book series that came out more than 30 years ago, but there’s some people who get really fussy that they need their plot twists, jump scares and surprises. What I will say is that I have hints even from the beginning of the book about who this Dragon Reborn is likely to be – details about the character’s life that are echoes of similar characters from past stories.
On a personal level, while everyone has their own taste in literature and I’m not going to criticize other people for their tastes, I will say that I personally think avoiding spoilers is massively overrated and getting spoiled on a story doesn’t ruin it in any way for me. However, I think that would be a good subject for another blog.

The TV Series

All right. Now, we read all of that about that first third of the book, right? Now picture shoving some of that and a bag of chips, as my son is prone to say, into a sixty-minute episode of very good-looking television. That’s what I saw in the pilot episode of The Wheel of Time11.

I did watch the pilot after beginning the novel, so I was open to what this world and the people who were in it looked like. What I covered in the “book” section above was basically the same plot-wise as the pilot, so I’m going to limit my comments to how the show-runners pulled off the episode12.

Cinematography/effects: I loved this aspect of the show. I was thinking that Two Rivers was more of a farming riverlands (not unlike my home in Iowa) but I also forgot that it was at the foot of a pretty big mountain range, so there is that. You got a good sense of place and the set design for the village was on point (with technology/building knowledge somewhere around the high middle ages with some variations).
The special effects were on point, as well. Most of any CGI that you saw involved magic being wielded, either by the Aes Sedai or (I think in one instance) a false dragon. The effects blended in well with the scenery and didn’t look like something you would see in an Asylum movie.

Characterization: I have been a big fan of Rosemund Pike ever since I saw her in the James Bond film Die Another Day, so it was a treat to see her as Moraine here. She brings a bit of an old-soul quality to the role, which seems important if you are trying to portray a witch/wizard with deep knowledge of her craft. I think you usually need at least some veteran actors sprinkled in with the new blood to anchor a production (Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings would be some good examples of that). I really didn’t research the names or histories of the other actors, but I thought that they had all managed to fit the characters as I had begun to visualize them in the book. I will be interested to see how it develops.

Plot: I’m not one of those who becomes fanatical about a book staying exactly 100 percent true to the source material. In plenty of circumstances, it can be a good thing to move off text to make something work. That’s especially the case for when you have to adapt something that has plenty of internal dialogue.

I’ve seen a couple of online complaints about some of these deviations, so I’ll briefly touch on two of them.

Rand and Egwene – frankly, if they’re two kids who have known each other all their lives and been friends, it would be a surprise that they hadn’t experimented with each other rather than if they had. So, I was not totally opposed to them having a physical relationship. You can still have a physical relationship and have some misgivings about making it a permanent bond, like Rand did in the book and Egwene had in the episode.

Perrin and his wife – that seemed a little strange to me. Why introduce a repurposed character to be his wife only to have her killed (accidentally by Perrin) before the first episode was complete? I understand the arguments I heard online about how it established the fear he might have about his anger and how he might be a danger to others. However, to me it just seemed too much like getting stuffed into the fridge. There had to be a better way of making that characterization happen.

In the end, I have to admit that I was hyped to see what would happen next, especially after Moraine tells the other characters their lives won’t be what they expected before riding out of Two Rivers. I’m planning on watching at least the rest of Season One and seeing what happens.

11 – You’re going to see little to no footnotes in the next couple of sections. That’s my hope, at least.

12 – Plus, I’m beginning to get mentally pooped out at this point. See the next section, “One Last Thing.”

One last thing

If you did not realize it, this is something that began as one thing and over time, (I’m not sure that I’m willing to admit to how much time) it mutated and warped into something that is not exactly what I expected. I was trying to do a combined book and television review. I wound up stuck in front of my computer screen or at times my mobile screen just staring at it and wondering why was it so hard to write about this?

Sometimes you need to write something to get it out of your system and move forward. Even if it’s not the best thing you ever wrote. On those occasions, I think what you have to do is complete the attempt even if you don’t think you are going to get it perfect. There have been so many times earlier in my life where I just left drafts and ideas for stories sit after trying to hammer on the keyboard for a few pages or hours.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

Good or bad, I want to write. I think that most of the time, it’s going to be the former. But I don’t want to worry anymore about not having my writing work, and I don’t want to end up passing on and leaving good ideas for stories in my head.

So, all of you get this post, for better or worse. I’ll tell you one thing, I’m glad I finally finished it off.

Take care, everyone.

Writing Journal 6.1.2022: Disaster… weeklong slump… but I think I might pull it out and I’m not that far off pace so I need to get over myself

[PHOTO NOTE: This was the first thing that popped up when I typed “Disaster Area” in the image search.]

No whining, no crying, no complaining. I sensed there was going to be a slump the minute I looked at my numbers from last year and realized that the end of the school year usually means that mentally I need a break and I usually take a break by sitting in front of a laptop and doing nothing.

But, this year I was aware of it. I knew ahead of time that this was coming, and I decided that I needed to get ahead of it or try to manage it. I also had that goal I’ve been talking about – 200,000 words this year, and meeting my minimum daily goals (500 words a day or 30 minutes of planning/revisions in a day). Now, let’s see how far I am from those goals as May wraps up.

First, here are last week’s totals, which are easily the worst I’ve had this year. The fact that I have only had one week in three figures rather than several is at least good news, because the following numbers aren’t:

Writing statistics for the week ending 5.28.2022:
+580 words written.
Days writing: 2 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 3 of 7 for 105 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

Now, here are May’s overall numbers:

Writing statistics for May 2022:
Words: 12,563
Revise/Plan: 255 minutes
Daily Writing Goals Met: 54%

Again, this was the worst month statistically for me this year, although the second half of the month was when I really collapsed.

Anyway, where does this leave me regarding my goals I mentioned above?

As of June 1, 2022, I am counting 91,179 words to my total so far. I have met my daily writing goals a total of 76 percent of the time. Assuming that I want to be on pace to get to 200,000 words this year, I am still more than 8,000 words ahead of my pace and also ahead of the 70 percent mark.

So… I’m not panicking. I have the feeling that the fact that I have been monitoring the numbers on a monthly basis more closely than I did last year makes me more comfortable than I was last year when I was just guessing.

I have the whole month of June off. It’s going to be a long month, too. I’m getting more confident that this will only be a lost week rather than a lost month.

I’ll leave you with that. Going to get back to some of those things I wanted to write.

Writing Journal 4.27.2022: Definitely blocked and stalling on “real” work, but not bad on “fun” work

I’m officially in… well, a writing block would not be an accurate description of what is going on. The blog post I wanted to write for a while and be a “respectable” blogger with “fascinating content” has been languishing, although I have written a few extra hundred words over the past two weeks on the subject.

I really don’t even care anymore if it’s any good or not. I feel like I’m mentally like some of those guys running the Ironman Triathlon back on the Big Island of Hawaii and I’m in hour 40 and still running to the finish line and just wanting to cross it without worrying that I’m definitely not looking good, my feet are killing me, and I’m a bit embarrassed about passing out every once in a while#.

To be honest, I think that it’s going to take me getting into summer break to clear my head, make plans and make any sort of progress toward what I want to get done now. Late May is looking better and better. Not that this year has been really stressful teaching, but… it is like a triathlon in the sense that when you are in it, it is difficult to concentrate on anything else.

However, with the “fun” writing and the other stuff I have written, I am keeping up the pace. I’ll literally only need maybe 2,000 words this week to make what I was hoping to write. 200,000 words this year and meeting my daily writing quota at least 70 percent of the time were my two yearly goals. I am feeling more confident of meeting the latter as we continue, and I am cautiously optimistic about the former. I’ll do a monthly total next time I post something for April.

Anyway, here’s the totals for last week. Take care, everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 4.23.2022:
+4,857 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 75 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 min. of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

# – I was going to write something a bit disgusting there instead of what I did, and I probably would have maybe 20, even 15 years ago. Over time, I’ve learned less is more.

Writing Journal 3.30.2022: Spinning the wheels… but still writing

I’m not going to prattle on this week.

I’ve been typing up the fan fiction, stuff I have been reluctant to fully publicize… but that’s OK. I think.

One of the advantages of writing it is that I don’t feel as much pressure to write that material as the “serious writing” that I feel like I have to get going on. I’m still trying to work that out, so I’m not going to do it

What I will say is that although I’m not going to take a look at the overall numbers until next week, I do feel confident that I am actually going to be well ahead of pace toward my target of 200,000 words this year and reaching my daily quotas at least 70 percent of the time.

I’ll recap the monthly totals next time I post a writing journal, but I have the feeling I would be over pace even without the fact that there are five weeks in March rather than the usual four. However, I estimated last month that I’d need to exceed 16,928 words every month from March to December to make that goal. I managed to pass that two weeks ago.

How about that… and it happens to be my birthday today. Not that I’m making a big deal about it. Even though I think progress in what I’m trying to accomplish is slow, I feel like progress is being made. By the time I’m ready to pass on, I just might actually know something about writing.

Anyway, here are the figures. I’m looking to have a good last week of the month. Take care, everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 3.26.2022:
+6,618 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 150 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

Writing Journal: 3.23.2022: I’m writing, but not what I’m “supposed” to write – or, the difference between total writer’s block and “situational” writer’s block/procrastination

Well, this is a bit frustrating now.

I’m doing… all right with the writing, I guess? I’m well into March, which is one of those “extra week” months where I can get five weeks of writing sorted out rather than just four weeks. Last week’s totals (I’ll spell that out in a moment) were the best I’ve had all year, bar none, and by the time that this post goes online, I might already have achieved my writing goal for this month, to keep on pace with this not-so-crazy 200,000 words in a single year goal for 2022.

But, I’m getting the feeling that I’m beginning to separate my writing into the “serious commercial or semi-commercial writing” and the “totally frivolous and fun writing.” Two different areas, and categories that represent two different emotions for me. I have been associating the first category with success, accomplishment, “being a serious writer,” and procrastination on a very measurable level. The second category is filled with slight embarrassment because most of the writing is “frivolous,” “not serious,” “fan fiction,” “not intended for commercial success or even intended to appeal to a wider audience” and it’s supposedly not something I should invest a lot of time and creativity.

But I’ve had more fun doing that latter sort of writing than any other type of writing during the past few weeks. So, since I’ve been thinking on this subject for more than a little bit, maybe it’s time to take a step backward and see if my behavior makes any sense. Many people have complimented me, both in past times and present times, that I have a good self-analysis of my behavior, my reasoning, and my emotional reactions. Maybe it’s time to apply that to my current writing status.

(I usually post writing journals that either just say “here’s my totals for the week” and hello, or go into a deep dive about what I am thinking, writing-wise, about what is going on. I get the feeling, as I am putting this together, that this entry is one of the latter kind.

So, buckle in.

Some dude found it on Facebook, then posted it on Reddit. I saw it there and thought it was a good visual representation of the weirdness that I was considering regarding the writing output I had recently. Now, it’s on WordPress. You’re welcome.

So, we have the “serious writing” and the “fun writing” categories that I came up with for myself because I need to write about something and I might as well get it out here. My other experience is that once I talk something out with myself, once I analyze it and try and explain it to myself, I usually am able to work my way for it. I often times have eventually found myself repeating behavioral patterns, but it almost always keeps me from repeating not so good behaviors in the short term because once I figure out what is actually going on inside my head, I am able to correct things. So, I think it is good to talk about that here, especially since it concerns itself with my writing and what I am doing with it.

Essentially, what is happening is that I’m doing well at the latter writing but not the former. So, I’m going to make a brief effort to see why that is the case, and also if this classification into good and bad writing actually makes sense or is just some arbitrary malarkey that I decided on.

I’m going to try to, anyway. Or, at least summarize it.

As of right now, I’m seeing the “serious” work as something that I have to do but have to really motivate myself to do. There’s plenty of stakes in it, such as getting better known and possibly making this pay off. While my “fun” writing has no chance of doing any of that, but I enjoy myself when I do it and find the process a breeze to put out new material – new material, that is, that is not even intended to be commercial or be exploited commercially.

This is an interesting conversation… but I think I need to think on it a bit further before I tease out the implications and see the reasoning, whether accurate or false, behind this thinking. For now, just know I had a very productive week and looking forward to many more. After some of the weeks I’ve had last year and early this week, that is a nice change.

All you writers keep writing, and everyone keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 3.19.2022:
+6,787 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 1.19.2022: Ugh (not a horrible week, but I got behind)

Making this really quick. Even though I have not had a horrific week of writing last week, I am a little behind the pace and I want to pick it up this week.

I was 600 words off-pace last week… not a good place to be, even though I was meeting writing goals 5 out of 7 times due to my revisions. Not enough for me. Now that I have a goal to match, I don’t want to miss it.

One bit of good news is that last weekend, I received an award from my writing group, the Iowa Writers’ Corner. I had been getting the monthly trophy for the highest word count in the “weekend warrior” category (for writers like me who are not writing full-time). Due to my word count for the year, I have this now to keep.

It does look nice.

However, I’m not going to be just satisfied with that. I want to bump up my game. And I’m starting this week.

Anyway, here’s the stats. I’m going to get to work on some fiction projects and hopefully more blogs this week (haha). Cheers.

Writing statistics for the week ending 1.15.2022:
+3,276 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 3 of 7 for 75 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.
Yearly totals:
GOAL: 200,000
Weekly average (Approx): 3,850
Monthly average (Approx): 16,667
So far: 7,157
Percentage of daily quota to meet: 70 percent

Procrastinating Hitting Me Again While Realizing My Idols Struggled With It As Well: An explanation

I really was thinking about writing something this weekend on this blog. I really did.

But I found something else to occupy my time. I was an expert at that as early as 30 years ago.

It’s easy to distract myself, or get into something that takes up my attention. I see my students sometimes distracting themselves in the classroom, and part of me (the one that isn’t trying to get them back on task) is thinking amateurs.

This past weekend I had plenty of distractions. Some of them were actually healthy and cool.

Saturday we started to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We went up to the Des Moines area for a day out, had dinner at the best barbecue in Ames, Iowa, and took a tour of a really nice Christmas lights display at some gardens on the Iowa State University campus.

Sunday I got my wife her birthday gifts, checked out the last Formula 1 race of the year and went to see House of Gucci at the theater. It was a good movie, and very easily the most Italian experience that I’ve ever had. I honestly believe I deserve an Italian passport after watching it. But it’s a good drama, check it out.

I’ve started to realize, in my older age, that I’m not the only person who struggles with this. As I’ve mentioned before, Douglas Adams is one of my guys. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was one of the books that made me fall in love with reading. I remember that one of the first great writing quotations that I remember reading was exactly about this issue:

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

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

This was a guy who had to be locked in a hotel suite for three weeks to finish the novel So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. You couldn’t even think about making that one up.

I also learned that one of the cartoonists that I grew up with had a similar problem. Back in the days when men were men, women were women, and newspapers were actual newspapers, Berkeley Breathed was the king of the newspaper cartoonists with Bloom County. Shoot, he even lived just down the interstates from me in Iowa City, Iowa. (He event name-checked KRNA in one of his strips.) I also appreciated that he ticked off all the old-fashioned editorial cartoonists when he won the Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning back in the 1980’s.

However, I didn’t realize until I read an article last week honoring the 40th anniversary of the strip’s debut how must of a procrastinator Berke was. To quote the man:

Read this carefully: “Bloom County” had a weekly deadline for 10 years. I missed 100 percent. Each of those 500 weeks, I had to drive 40 miles at 4:30 a.m. to the airport at whatever city I lived in to put the strips on a plane as cargo, delivered by a cabdriver in Washington, D.C., a few hours later. Every. One.

Berkeley Breathed, New York Times, 8 December 2021.

I get the impression that the one thing that he really enjoys about having the strip online without a syndicator is that he can release strips whenever he wants without having to worry about any deadlines whatsoever.

What this is is not so much an apology – it’s not like I’m violating any syndicator’s contract by not posting something on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or whenever. I do want to write more often and more consistently. But I have got to give myself permission to fail. I have to give myself permission to have setbacks.

And, I have to give myself permission to write something that may not be a masterpiece of literary and television criticism, but that I might have a little fun doing. Because sometimes, you end up with something interesting.