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And…He’s Back

I know, I know, I’ve been neglecting you the past few months. There are reasons: getting my latest novel To Hemlock Run ready for publication (look for it in February/March 2017; a very contentious election here in the States (and behalf of all progressive Americans I apologize in advance to the rest of the world); and a scarcity of new ideas. I found I was beginning to repeat myself in my posts. Not a good idea. So I decided to take some time off to replenish the well, if you will.

Now, with the end of the year looming in the near future, it is time to look back on the accomplishments and defeats of the previous year.

I did finish the first draft of my new novel, an accomplishment all on its own. The first draft is probably the most important step of the writing process because it makes all the others possible. There are no edited or finished drafts without the first one.

I have also edited, revised, re-thought, and re-written To Hemlock Run and refined it to a state where I feel fairly comfortable releasing it into the world. I will be beginning the publication process next week.

Last year, I devised a reading program for myself, pledging to read forty-eight books over the year, with a particular emphasis on writers who were not white American men. I did not fully complete that plan. While I did read the forty-eight books (actually fifty-two as of today), I did not range as widely as I’d hoped. I only managed to read a couple of novels by black authors and a handful written by Native Americans. However, I did read several written by European authors, set in European countries, with all the cultural and accompanying differences. I did read many more works (most very, very good) by women writers. Again, just because of societal pressures, the world is approached somewhat differently by a woman, than a man.

There will be more about what I’ve learned from these authors in the coming weeks.

In the coming year, I hope to continue my reading. Reading, for a writer, is really a type of industrial espionage, combined with a tutorial session with an established master. I very seldom read anything of consequence without noting how the author accomplishes the effects she does. For a writer, reading is seldom simply an exercise in escapism or entertainment. A part of the mind is always paying attention to techniques and choices.

Have you ever played “first draft” with a novel you’re in the process of reading? At some point, about halfway through the work, stop at the end of a scene and close the book. Now ask yourself: if I were writing this, what scene would come next and what would it accomplish? If you want, write that scene, then compare it to the scene the author wrote. Did the author make a different decision than you? Why might that be?

My reading program for the next year will be an attempt to read quality, more than quantity. I’m only pledging to read twenty-four novels, but I intend for half of them to be classics. I have several works by authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Hugo, Dumas and Flaubert lined up and ready to go. Since many of these works are long and very dense, I expect to read fewer of them, but perhaps learn more with each. To lighten things up, I will still read works in my favorite genre, friend recommendations, and newer works that strike my fancy.

And, of course, I will begin to work on another novel at some point in the near future. Ideas are beginning to flit around my consciousness like moths around a campfire.

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