Friday, October 23, 2015

How to stay busy during a mental break

I know the value of AIC (ass in chair) as an author, but I know the value of taking a mental break and getting my literary world in order. But that raises a question: What did I do during that time?

My days were filled with various tasks, but three stand out. First, I worked on revisions on my baseball novel. Second, I sent a single query letter on another novel out to a single literary agent. I guess I could label that as an exclusive submission, although that would be fudging the truth. Third, I brushed up on my German, which I did next to nothing with since high school.

I like learning languages, but like many other of my preferences I left this one on the back burner. Being involved in a career does that. I have more free time now, so I turn my attention back to one of my neglected loves. I figured German would be a good starting point because I had a one-year course when I was in high school. (I also took one year of Latin, but that is a dead language that should be studied only if you want to learn foundations of certain languages or enter the priesthood.) I am indebted to the hard work of Herr Norman Tonn during those German classes.

My first problem was finding something I could afford. Rosetta Stone lessons aren't cheap. Another source, Babbel, is much less expensive, but I favor free things. I did a Google search and got a list of websites that don't cost a penny. I started on one, but it had software issues that caused breaks in the teaching program. I looked for another source, and I struck paydirt.

I am learning on Memrise, which is based on London. It has a good method because it breaks down sentences into small bits, and by learning small bits I can learn longer sentences. I completed the basic course, and surged into Intermediate German. I am about a third of the way through this course, and I am hitting some complex new issues. I am doing well, at least by my standards. I couldn't walk into Berlin and strike up a conversation, but I could order at a restaurant and make small talk at times. To be honest, I might not advance past the "ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch" stage. (That sentence means "I speak a little German.") I am not looking for a job as an interpreter at the U.N. after all.

A small side note: German lessons helped some while watching Bridge of Spies, which is set in large part in West and East Berlin. Okay, there's one point in my favor.

I continue my lessons, both in German and literary things. I don't like to stand still. It keeps life interesting, and I need to build on my interests. That is my simple solution to a complex life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Write what you love to write

My time of reflection over the past few weeks has been very advantageous. I had been writing on projects for so long that I forgot why I was writing in the first place. That reason has become increasingly clear over the past few days.

The object of being an author is to write what you love to write.

Don't get me wrong. I love all three of my main characters who are the center of my novels. My time away to assess has directed me toward working diligently to finalize one novel. (Veteran authors say there really is no novel that is finalized, just one on which the work stopped for publication. That's very true.) This novel is closest to my heart. It is from a world I know best.

My favorite is my baseball novel. It is good for me because I am writing what I love to write. I don't believe it is good from a financial standpoint. Sports fiction is not a big seller these days. Most literary agents who list sports as a category they represent add that they represent nonfiction sports. It's easy to understand why. Nonfiction relates to a particular event or person, and that increases the potential profitability of that novel. Which is a sports fan most likely to buy, a book about Aaron Rodgers or one about a fictional character? Aaron is going to win that battle every time.

So why am I focused on a nonfiction sports novel? I know this world so well. To my followers from my old hometown of The Dalles, Oregon, here's the basic makeup of my protagonist: He is part Doug Sawyer, part Jim Willis, but the biggest part is just the creation of this fiction writer. There is no player I know of from The Dalles or anywhere else who is an exact copy of this protagonist. If I can't sell this project to an agent and publishing house, I will self-publish in time for next baseball season. That is set in stone.

I don't want to discount my interest in another novel I am working on. The baseball novel is so close to me that it has a special place in my hierarchy. The other novel I have in the finished (for now) stage is vastly different, and so is the subject matter. It touches on things that are relevant today, like job loss, broken relationships, broken dreams and chances to revive treasured hopes. I hear all this junk about how strong our economy is these days, but the anecdotal evidence says otherwise. Many careers, and not just those in journalism, are being wounded by job cuts. I hear friends who work in many different industries say that. The other thing I love about this novel is that my main character can be a jerk. It is that way in the first paragraph. I probably don't help myself by writing in a way that might put some people off. (My first paragraph is rather prickly, and intentionally so. I want a main character with flaws, someone who is real and not a caricature of what a protagonist should be. I am willing to take that chance because it begins a beautiful character arc.)

Again, creating a character with rough edges is what I like. It's like real life, and I try to make my novels mirror real life.

I will go about the business of writing while embracing the love of the game. I move forward with that as my foundation.