HE SAID, SHE SAID

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One of the problems that have been identified with Closer is my use of “he said, she said”. That is, a typical exchange looks like this:

“I can’t really understand why this is a problem,” Jonothon said.

“It’s really quite simple,” Cassandra replied. “You say it too much in verbal exchange, when you should be showing it instead.”

So therein lays the problem.

And it has been persisting through rewrites as well, because one of the beta readers made mention of it in a previous blog post. Show, don’t tell is a difficult thing to do in writing, and I mused over the weekend that perhaps I would have been a better playwright than a novelist.

I have been thinking about National Novel Writing Month a lot in the past week. I still do not quite have a full plot nailed down, but it is a bit early for me after all. Quite often I do not confirm my actual novel until after I have registered, though it is less about superstition than it is just when everything happens to fall into place. I have been thinking about it though, and with registration coming up in about two weeks, it is time to start getting serious about it.

A BREAKTHROUGH!

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I am pleased to report that I managed to completely and totally stick to my plan to write 1,000 words a day towards Closer while I was holiday. Okay, it works out to a daily average of 1,000 since I did not have the opportunity to write every day, but I made up for missed days when I did sit down to write. It is a bit funny to think that a month ago I was writing about crossing the 10,000 mark, and now I am rapidly approaching 30,000, which will put me at roughly the half way mark of editing. My original plan to have Closer revised by the end of the year is still a longshot, but the odds did get a little better in the last two weeks.

While I was on holidays, I also watched Cruel Intentions. It was during this viewing that I reminisced. The movie came out in 1999, when I was sixteen, impressionable but not yet a writer (That would happen the following year). Despite that, I cannot deny the impact that Cruel Intentions, and its soundtrack (which remains flawless to this day) had on my teenage self, and eventually my writing.

Unfortunately, Cruel Intentions does not hold up as well as it could have over the years. The acting is stilted, the dialogue a bit… camp, but despite the film’s flaws, it still has an impact on me to this day. Jonothon is a protagonist/antagonist blend in Closer because that is the way I saw Sebastian in Cruel Intentions. People are people, and that does not always mean that a hero is purely a hero, or even for that matter, heroic with their intentions.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE



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I have, on average, maintained my goal of 1,000 words a day while on vacation. This has surprised me the most, believe me. Halfway through my vacation, with another half to go. Time to see if I can keep this momentum up; if I do, I will be well over the 20,000 mark by the time I go back to work next week.



Just a short excerpt this time, because the portion I wanted to republish needs a bit more work, and a little written about it.



Calvin fiddled with his pencil as Ms. Gardner droned on about the importance of family in the text of King Lear. Her words drifted through one ear and out the other, as they often did when Calvin sat in this English class. All Calvin could think about was the conversations that he and Jonothon had had in the last few days. He never thought in a million yeras that Jonothon would agree to go on a date with him… or rather, admit that he had feelings, Calvin corrected himself. He still was not sure if he was going to accept Jonothon’s invitation of giving it a try. He truly felt that he needed the time to figure things out. He could not explain where these feelings for Jonothon were originating from, but he did know that they felt real to him; a feeling that he never really had with Angela, he now admitted to himself.



Calvin pulled himself out of his reverie in time to hear Jonothon debate whether the theme of family in King Lear had any cultural impact in today’s world. Calvin had always admired Jonothon for being able to articulate himself so well. There was a firm man that reside underneath Jonothon’s meek exterior, something that Calvin had only seen glimpses of in the past. Jonothon caught the smile on Calvin’s face as he spoke, and returned it with an awkward one of his own. Jonothon had not said two words to Calvin all day, respecting Calvin’s wishes for the time, but the Calvin was beginning to realize that the silence was driving him a bit crazy. He secretly hoped that Jonothon felt the same way.



Rubbing his left eye quickly, Calvin attempted to refocus his attention back to his King Lear text, but found his mind almost immediately drifting back to thoughts of Jonothon. He did not want to admit it, but he was definitely falling for Jonothon.



As the bell rang and students gathered their text books, Calvin decided it was time to approach Jonothon and make the first move. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and stepped over to where Jonothon was shoving books into his own bag. “I was going to the library to study for chemistry duringmy spare, care to join me?”



Jonoton’s smile in repsonse beamed like a ray of sunlight. “Sure, that would be great.”



As the two of them strode into the hallway towards the second floor library, Calvin tried to form the words in his head. He wanted to make sure he got the exact perfect combination of words out that expressed what he was feeling for Jonothon. “I want to go for it,” he finally said, quickly, suddenly forgetting about the perfect coupling of words and just throwing caution into the wind. “I want us to go for it.”



Jonothon stopped in the middle of the hallway. “Are you sure?” He asked. It was clear to Calvin that there was a lot of skepticism in Jonothon’s tone.



“Yes,” Calvin admitted. “This entire situation is driving me crazy. Of course it’s what I want.” Jonothon smiled for a second time, even brighter than before. “So Mister Stroom, shall we continue on to the library?” Calvin held out his hand.



“We shall, but listen, I’ve got to his the washroom first. Would you mind taking my bag to the library? I’ll only be a few minutes.”



“Sure,” Calvin replied with a smile as Jonothon passed over his bag. Jonothon smiled in return before hurrying off in the opposite direction towards the nearest boys washroom.


VACATION, AMBITION AND AN EXCERPT



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I have the next eleven days off from work. I have a to-do list as long as my arm, and included in that list is the ambitious goal of writing 1,000 words a day towards Closer. We will see how that actually goes.



In the meantime, I recently finished working one of my favorite scenes between Jonothon and Calvin the other day. I suppose it is a bit egotistical to think that I am funny with fireman reference, but fourteen years after I originally wrote it, it still makes me smile.


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Jonothon was tearing up the dance floor. The drinks made him a little too carefree, but the two guys flanking him did not seem to mind. Jonothon grabbed one by the back of the neck and pulled him in close. The guy’s hands wanderered down the small of Jonothon’s back into his jeans. Jonothon could only smile at the guy and pressed his body up against his a little tigher. They were moving to the rhythm of the music together when Calvin suddenly appeared and pushed in between them. “What the fuck are you doing?” Jonothon demanded.



“I was just about to ask you the exact same thing, Jonothon. This guy has to be at least five years older than you,” Calvin remarked. “And not the greatest catch either,” he commented when he caught the guy giving him a dirty look.



“Why don’t you mind your own business and just…” Jonothon trailed off as the room began to spin around him. Calvin grabbed him by the arm and started to guide him off the dance floor towards the washrooms.



“Maybe we’ll just let you cool off for a little while,” he suggested. The two boys entered the washroom, and Calvin sat Jonothon down on the toilet in the single stall. “Sit here for a minute,” he instructed. “I have to take a leak.”



Calvin walked up to the row of urinals and unzipped his pants. A moment later, he felt a breath on the back of his neck and turned his head to the side to see what perverted creep was about to him on him. Instead, he saw Jonothon standing behind him. “Y’know, you’re kinda hot,” Jonothon complimented through slurred words. Calvin finished his business at the urinal and zipped up his pants.



“Okay, you’ve had just a bit too much to drink,” Calvin decided. He grabbed Jonothon by the shoulders and was about to guide him towards the door, when Jonothon slumped into his arms. “Fuck,” Calvin whispered, knowing they would both get thrown out if any of the staff say Jonothon in this condition. “Definitely too much to drink,” he mumbled, trying to steady his friend.



Jonothon looked up with hazy eyes towards Calvin and smiled. Calvin pulled Jonothon back up onto his feet and held him there. “Listen,” Calvin said. “You need to act normal, or you’re going to get us into major shit.” Jonothon continued to smiled stupidly. Calvin paid no mind to him, until Jonothon reached out and grabbed both sides of his face. Calvin’s eyes went wide as Jonothon leaned in and kissed him.



Calin was surprised even more when he found himself willingly kissing back in equal force, as he gently pushed Jonothon against the wall of the washroom. Jonothon’s tongue began to probe between Calvin’s lips, making its way into his mouth, when Calvin finally came to his senses. “What the fuck are oyu on?” He protested, breaking away and shaking Jonothon like a ragdoll. He grabbed Jonothon by the arm and started to drag him out of the washroom. “That’s it, I’ve had enough for one night, we’re going home,” he announced.



Jonothon began to regain a bit more of his own faculties. “And what if I don’t want to actually go, Calvin?” He challenged. “Are you going to throw me over your shoulder fireman style and carry me down the stairs?”



Calvin shot back, “I think at this point, you’d enjoy that just a little too much.” Patrons were beginning to look their way, and Calvin was definitely aware of the scene that they were beginning to cause. “Fine. Do as you will, but you’re taking a cab home by yourself,” Calvin stated. WIth nothing more to say to his friend, Calvin turned and made his way towards the stairs and out of the club.



A random patron moved alongside Jonothon. “Man, your boyfriend is a bitch,” he commented.



Jonothon shrugged his shoulders in response. “He’s not my boyfriend,” he replied, in a tone that someone would have easily mistaken as bitter.


SUBPLOTS, WHAT SUBPLOTS?

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One of the areas that I have been trying to focus on while revising Closer is developing not only more subplots, but just better subplots in general. When I originally started writing that novel way back in 2000, it was for an English writing assignment, and I never actually thought I would continue through with the project. I used to have this nasty habit of starting something, and then not following through with it. I still do, I suppose, but now to a far lesser extent.

In the case of Closer, each of the three parts have a main plot and one subplot, but usually the subplots are a bit on the weak side, and rely almost too heavily on the main plot point. Initially I was worried that I would run into a problem where I including new subplots would prove difficult, or even worse, require me to re-write large swathes of the novel. As it turns out though, this may not be the case at all. There seems to be enough plot holes that I can easily plug in a subplot here, and a subplot there. It is as though seventeen year old Mike while writing Closer was aware that he would be coming back to this project at some point to work on it. Let’s be real though, there is no way I had that much foresight.

So I continue to write, revise and add as I go along.

For those who are typically interested, less than seventy-five days until the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. Registration should be open in or around October 1st as usual. I plan on taking part again this year, and as we get closer to competition time, I will probably devote less time to revising Closer, and more time preparing for the contest. In the meantime though, I’m secretly hoping that I can have half of Closer revised by October 1st.

THE FIRST TEN THOUSAND

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One of the most valuable lessons I have taken from National Novel Writing Month in the nearly ten years I have participated is this: the first ten thousand words are the most difficult to write. The last ten thousand words are the second most difficult to write. It would appear that the same holds true of revision.



I finally returned to Closer a couple days ago. In that period of time that I was away, I got massively distracted. It started with taking a two week holiday to the east coast where I thought about writing. I even tinkered with a couple of ideas that will likely/hopefully turn into my premise for this year’s National Novel Writing Month submission, but I did not take a copy of Closer with me.



When I came back to Ottawa, I got caught up with my certificaiton to become a Personal Training Specialist. My plan was that I would return to writing once that certification was completed. Well, then my sideline gig as a personal trainer took off, and I have had clients as well as running bootcamps for my trainer. So writing took the backburner again, but this weekend that changed. I accepted that I would have to juggle a full time career, my part-time gig as a personal trainer and not fit in writing when I could, but just write.



And in that process I not only pushed myself past the first ten thousand words, but I suddenly have that drive to write again. Closer, let’s make the next ten thousand words go by fast.

SOMETIMES A STORY HAS NO END

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Now that my training program is completed and I am a Certified Personal Training Specialist, I can start putting a little more focus on writing. As I get into the groove of things again, I thought I would throw some focus on a couple of writing related news items I have read or watched in the last week.



First up, The New Yorker magazine is making their digital archives available for free, for the rest of summer. They are implementing their new subscription/pay scale in the fall, and honestly, for the bang for your buck, The New Yorker provides some of the best arts, culture and commentary writing around. I am seriously considering a subscription, but in the meantime, read what you can!



Secondly, this video published by The Atlantic, another fantastic publication, asks various journalists, writers and creative people what is the most important element of a good story. It is not a long video, but the answers are very thought-provoking.