Tri-Writing

A triathlon is composed of three parts: the swim, the bike, and the run. As a triathlete, you have to train in all three of these areas to prepare for the goal, a specific race. Most people have their strong areas and their weaker ones.

Writing can be broken down into three parts as well: the first draft, the editing, and the publishing. As a writer, you have to learn about each of these areas to prepare your novel. A novel is similar to a specific race. It is the goal of all your prior work and training.

The swim is like the first draft. Most of what you do stays below the surface, your body rotation, kicking, and most of your arm stroke. In writing, most of the work a writer puts into the first draft remains unseen by others. In fact, you probably want your first draft to remain unseen by others. Research, backstory, character profiles, it all remains below the surface of the novel. In swimming, technique is essential. Understanding structure is critical in completing a first draft. It’s your road map to the finish.

The bike is like editing and revising process. The bike is the longest portion of the triathlon. Revising and editing take a long time. You have to let your manuscript rest for at least a few weeks before editing and sometimes for months.  Riding a bike for hours can cause various body parts to become numb and editing can cause mind numbing. Riding the bike and editing are both a pain in the butt. The only way to get through either, the bike section or editing, well is to spend a lot of time in the saddle.

The run is like the publishing process. In a triathlon, you make or break it on the run. It’s the final stretch before the finish line. You can’t give up and just relax, you have to continue to push forward even though you are tired and your mind is screaming to stop. Once you get to the publishing stage of writing, you want to just hand your manuscript over to others to finish it: formatting, cover design, and distribution. But you can’t you have to remain invested and oversee these aspects too and push through by promoting your novel.

For both of these life-changing events, you must be constantly training, learning, and improving. It takes months and sometimes years to reach your goal whether it is a specific race like the Ironman or seeing your novel in print. Dream big. Fight for your dreams. Never give up.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Six

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

“You have a shower I can use?” Melanie asked Jake.

He hesitated. “My apartment is above the gym. You can use the one there, if you’d like.”

She bit her lower lip.

“I’m the last guy you have to worry about in Breck, Ms. Craig. Here are my keys. Lock the door if you’d like. I don’t have another set so bring them back to me.”

Or she could go to the coffee shop smelling like a horse. She hesitated another second and then took the keys from his and.

“Go up the stairs around back.” He shook his head. There was a fine line between cautious and stupid. She walked out the raised bay door and went up the stairs. She pushed the key in the lock and turned the handle.

“Hello?” she called. There was no answer. She went in and locked the door behind her. No reason for her to be stupid, when she had an option. The apartment was much more stylish than she expected for a cowboy. She had expected it to be dirty, but every inch of the place was tidy and clean. The kitchen, dining, and living room were all one area. Black leather couches lined the wall. Plain red and grey pillows adorned the corners. Black and white skylines hung in silver frames on the walls. A bookshelf stood in the corner stretching toward the high ceilings. A dark solid oak table, with red placemats, and four chairs sat on a black and white ceramic-tiled floor. Long stem wine glasses hung from beneath the oak cabinets.

She had to go through his bedroom to find the bathroom. The bedspread was a pattern of various shades of blue. Dark curtains blocked all but a dim light from the window.  The bureau was black and a flat screen TV hung above it. The nightstand matched the bureau and a book laid atop it. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, she read aloud. She flipped the book over to read the back, “True fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse. Learn how to tell the difference.” She placed the book back on the nightstand and looked around the room. There were no pictures of family or friends anywhere in the apartment.

She showered quickly. The towels were white and soft. She locked the door as she left.

“See you tomorrow?” Jake asked as she tossed him his keys.

“Yes. How much is a membership?”

“Let’s see how you do, alright?”

She slid into her car and drove the short distance to the coffee shop. She slipped her black apron over her head as she walked through the front door.

“Cutting it close Mel?” her boss Suzanne asked arching an eyebrow.

“Sorry.”

“You and Sarah are closing tonight. Your schedule for next week is in the back. I’ll see you later.” Suzanne left. Sarah wouldn’t be in for a few hours. Melanie sat on the tall stool behind the counter and breathed in the deep scent of the coffee house. She loved that smell.

She poured herself a cup of the house blend the aroma rose enveloping her. She inhaled a lung full and smiled. She poured in some cream and sprinkled chocolate on top. She wrapped her hands around the warm mug and sat back on the stool relishing the experience. She never wanted to forget how life was before the Justice Law passed. She filed this piece away in her memory for later use.

Sarah came in just as Melanie’s stomach began to growl from hunger. As soon as Sarah put her apron on and was ready to take over for Melanie at the counter, Melanie slipped out the door to find something to eat.

She grabbed a turkey cranberry sandwich from a little café and crossed the street to the bookstore. She could get any book on her ipad, but she like the feel of physical books in her hands. It reminded her of the nights she spent reading with her dad. He had read and she turned the pages.

She knew which book she wanted, so she wouldn’t be long in the bookstore. She ran her finger over the rows and slid two books off the shelves. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker and a survival guide by some longhaired hippy guy.

She walked back to the coffee shop and read The Gift of Fear between customers for the rest of her shift.

On the following Monday, Richard Stein pulled is huge black Dodge truck into the Craig’s long drive way. Headlights shined into the kitchen and living room windows. Melanie stepped out of the house to greet Holly who was climbing out of her dad’s truck.

“Bye dad. Thanks for the ride.” Holly waved and the truck began to backup.

Jennifer pushed past Melanie and ran out to the truck, trying to catch Richard before he was gone. Holly and Melanie looked at each other, neither one of them knew what the big rush was. They walked out to the truck.

Jennifer was handing some papers through the truck window on tiptoe. Richard let out a long sigh and scanned the pages.

“Jennifer, I know you mean well, but I’m not signing your petition.” His Texas accent was thick. “It’s not that I’m going go out there shooting folks up or anything, but people need to know I’ve got no qualms about defending my own.”  He handed the papers back to her and she tried to push them back into the truck.

“But Richard if you sign—“

“I’m not and I’m not arguing with you either.”

Jennifer took the papers scowling.

“You girls have a good day. Melanie you’ll drop Holly off tonight?”

Melanie stretched up on her tiptoe to look at him more levelly. “Yes sir.”

Richard tipped his black cowboy hat at Jennifer. “You too Jennifer.”

Without a word, Jennifer turned and went back into the house. Holly and Melanie followed her.

The metal detectors arrived at Summit High School that morning along with the crews to install them. Things had calmed down at the school, as the administration dealt with threats and aggressive behavior in a consistent and quick manner regardless of who was making the threat.

Seth, Holly, Mitchel, and Melanie decided to stay at the school for lunch. The four of them sat at the end of one of the long orange picnic like tables that lined the lunchroom.

“Your mom starting that petition tonight?” Mitchel asked Melanie.

She took a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and nodded her head.

Seth looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “What petition?”

Melanie held up her finger while she took a sip of her chocolate milk to wash down the sandwich. “It’s a no kill petition. She is asking everyone in Blue River to sign it. Basically it is an agreement not to use your Justice Deaths. She is going to take it to the City Council meeting. ”

“Are you guys signing it?” Holly asked Seth and Mitchel.

Seth snorted. “Are you?”

“We already did,” Holly said, smiling.

Seth shook his head. “What if some jackass comes and puts a gun to your mom’s head, are you telling me you are not going to shoot if you have the chance because you signed a petition?”

“No, Seth. It allows for killing in defense of another whose life is in jeopardy,” Melanie said.

“How long is your car going to be in the shop, Holly?” asked Melanie taking another bite of her sandwich.

“Wait. What? Why is your car in the shop?” asked Seth.

Holly laughed. “Where have you been Seth?” It was true, Seth seemed to be out of the loop on things that had been happening over the weekend.

“A freshman backed into it last Friday. I dropped it off at the shop this morning it will be there for until Wednesday, so they said. Maybe I’ll get it tomorrow. Until then I’m hitching along with Melanie.”

Melanie glanced sidelong at Seth. She looked up and smiled at Holly. “We still going to the firing range after school?”

Seth inhaled his soda. Mitchel patted him on the back shaking his head.

“Yeah, but I have homework to do too.” Holly stood up to go dump her garbage.

Mitchel reached across the table and took Melanie’s hand in his. “I’ll sign the petition, Mel.”

Three keys to keep the creative flowing

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There are three keys to keep the creativity flowing, the boys in the basement active, and the muse at the quill. First is to read, read, and read. Second is to learn as much as you can. Third is to write even when it sucks.

Reading in the genre that you write in is important. You learn new tricks of the genre. You keep up on what is trending. You understand the themes and structure of the genre. It is also important to read outside of your writing genre. By reading outside your genre it flexes your creative muscle. New ideas pop into your mind because it combines with the ideas you already have going. It adds a special twist in your novel. I’m not suggesting you combine genres, but you could. What I’m saying is that different genres do certain things better than others and you can learn to be better by reading outside the lines.

Continue to learn about structure, characters, dialogue, and every other area of writing. Strive to improve over your career as a writer. I have found that I need to keep a notebook near at hand when reading about the ins and outs of writing. Ideas for new stories and current ones spring into my mind as I discover new ways to look at things whether it is scenes or sentences.

Write as often as you can. For some this is every day. For others it is every other day. Whatever it is for you, keep doing it and do it regularly. It might be total crap that you are writing, if it’s a first draft it is total crap, but keep doing it. You will get better. However, if you stop you will not get better. Quitting is the end of the line. The chance of success drops to zero. Write all kinds of things. Don’t box yourself into one type of story. Write poetry, short story, novels, non-fiction, fiction, and in any genre that calls to you. I find it easier to have two projects going at the same time, that way, if I get sick of one I can still be productive on the other.

The balance between the three keys ebbs and flows, depending on where you are in your journey. Stagnation and loss of creativity is a sign that you have misplaced one of your keys.

Two weeks as a writer

I am Writing

“How did you find being a full time writer?” Jeff asked.

“I enjoyed it, but the one thing I would do differently is get out a little more with friends here and there.”

“Does that help with creativity?” he asked.

“Sanity.” I smiled. “I only had two weeks so I felt a bit of pressure to write as much as I could because I knew it was going to come to an end and then I would be back to struggling to fit it all in. If it was full time, I could relax a bit more.” As I said this I realized, yes it does help my creativity.

My main focus over the last two weeks was my fantasy novel, Syrain’s Marrow. I am 45,000 words into it now. I also spent some time working on the outline to my serial fiction, A Vigil for Justice, and listening to my memoir, Fighting for a Chance to Dream.

I have to admit, I didn’t spend as much time on the serial fiction or the memoir as I had planned. Once I got into the flow of writing the fantasy novel, time slipped away and then I had to tend to mom responsibilities.

Life as a writer takes a lot of self-discipline. It is hard work. I didn’t run into blocks where I didn’t want to write, in fact, I became frustrated when I knew I had to do other things such as come up with blog posts or research twitter articles.

I’m sure that would change if I were writing full time. I would reach the point where I wanted to throw the whole manuscript in the dumpster down the street and set fire to it with a blowtorch.

Being a full time writer is definitely on my to do list, but in the future. Until then I continue to have work to do for the children of Utah by telling their story in the courtroom and helping put their families back together.

As long as I feel my work in child welfare makes a difference to the families involved in the juvenile court system, I will continue to fight for their chance to dream. If I ever reach the point where I see my cases as just another case rather than people with a story worth saving, I will leave child welfare because if your heart’s not in it, you’re not helping anyone.

I didn’t start writing to make money, although that would be nice. I started writing to inspire others. I began with my memoir, which is about overcoming the odds even when they are self-imposed through destructive decisions and an unhealthy worldview. I try not to lose sight of the reason I write, just as I try not to lose site of the reasons I am an attorney. The day that I write solely for money, is the day I will set the quill and ink jar to the side.

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