Why #1lineWed Is A Great Writing Exercise

For those unaware, #1lineWed is a weekly writing-related Twitter event hosted by the Romance Writers Association’s Kiss of Death Chapter (@RWAKissofDeath). The rules are simple—each week, @RWAKissofDeath will post a new “theme,” and writers post a line from their manuscripts that relates to that theme. Simple enough. So why is this a great writing exercise?  Well, in the words of Stephen King: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

It is a common desire for fledgling writers to want to “stand out.” Often, this desire manifests itself as needlessly complicated writing. I’m certainly not above it – I still have issues sending my darlings to pasture. But step one in solving any problem is identifying it, and that’s where #1lineWed comes in.

Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters; “#1linewed” with a space takes up ten characters, so suddenly you’re down to 130. You’ll be stunned by how little room that is, but also how much you can pack into it if you’re cognizant.

Here’s a personal example. One week, the #1linewed theme was “sweet.” I located the following passage from my manuscript that seemed on-point:

“The voice of his mother echoed in his ears. It had been so long since he heard her voice. Too long. He had forgotten how similar his mother’s voice was to Carrie’s: both voices were sweet, steady, and calm. Both voices were like sedatives for his frenetic thoughts.”

This passage is almost 270 characters long, so I almost ignored it. But then I decided to experiment to see if I could get the character count down. After several iterations, I succeeded:

 

This passage is half the length, but much more impactful. And while it would take a very long time to take this approach with an entire manuscript, developing an eye for darling slaughter is critical to success as a writer.

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The Literary Nutshell: June 6 – 12 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

  1. “New Literary Agent Alert: Louise Buckley (@LouiseMBuckley) of Zeno Literary Agency”  http://buff.ly/1sPPZbb
  2. “5 Ways That Authors Can Use Facebook Advertising”  http://buff.ly/1X1epLl
  3. “5 Books to Watch for in June”  http://buff.ly/20VQ1JI
  4. “8 Books (and Advice) to Gift a Recent Graduate”  http://buff.ly/1X1eSNA
  5. “Our 5 Favorite Literary Villains”  http://buff.ly/1RRC4WP
  6. “How Authors Should Develop a Workable Marketing Plan”

 

A Playlist for My Son (arriving 5-24-2016)

Though I am not yet a father, I’ve come to realize the knowledge that I will be a father changes everything.  The changes have been subtle; soon, I gather, they won’t be.  Little things have shifted.  Certain colors seem more vibrant.  Foods taste a little different.  My mind shifts to new subjects. And, as the basis for this blog post, specific songs have developed new meanings.

The below list contains songs that, for whatever reasons, have resonated with me over the last several months.  A warning:  This list may be different than you expect.  Not every song is “happy-go-lucky.”  Rather, these are the songs I hope to discuss with my son in his 20s; perhaps by then I will have a better grasp of why these songs have stood out.  But, for now, here is my feeble attempt at explanations.

“Atlas” by Coheed and Cambria

Relevant Lyrics

So sleep tight, little Atlas cause when your daddy goes off just you know

That you’re the weight of his anchor, the love that is guiding him home

First, a confession:  This song is the reason I made this list.  I discovered it shortly after my wife told me she was pregnant and I’ve listened to it many times since.  It is also the most “on the nose” song listed, but that’s okay.  Sometimes a punch to the face is needed more than a tickle.

Claudio Sanchez, lead singer of Coheed and Cambria, wrote this for his son, Atlas; the love shines through.  I’ve always dreamed of writing a song for my wife or child.  Unfortunately, my dog leaves the room whenever I sing, so I’ll have to stick to blog posts.

The lyrics are amazing and relevant.  The first verse is about a carefree couple who discovers they’re pregnant and slowly realize what that entails.

And out of that we found ourselves back at the start of it all

So scarred and incomplete

The second verse is Claudio discussing his fears about being a busy father and the doubt that stings his mind.

And if there’s one good thing that comes from my away

It’s that you won’t be anything like me

In the last verse, Claudio realizes he’s got to “man up” and do whatever is necessary to succeed.

Now give us the man that you’ve been hiding

Cause this is your life now

I’ve experienced this exact cycle.  The excitement, the fear, the doubt, the acceptance, the readiness.  No matter how many times I listen to this song, it’ll still bring the occasional tear.

“All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles

Relevant Lyrics

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown

No where you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be

It’s easy

No playlist of mine would be complete without a Beatles song, and this was a simple choice.  My son will learn life can be complicated.  Sometimes, it’s easier to let the highs and lows sweep you away than to remain centered, focusing instead on what’s important, on what’s in front of you.   It especially concerns me there is so much stimuli in modern times.  There’s too much color, too much noise.

I hope to teach my son to detach, hold the one he loves, and just exist.  To slow down and remember that he’s exactly where’s he supposed to be.  That love is all he’ll need to make it through.

“Lovesong” by The Cure

Relevant Lyrics

Whenever I’m alone with you

You make me feel like I am young again

Whenever I’m alone with you

You make me feel like I am fun again

“Lovesong” has been one of my favorite songs since high school, although I didn’t understand it as an angsty teenager.  I think I get it more now, although maybe I don’t.  Anyway, the fact it’s a chameleon is the reason I appreciate it.  The beautiful, almost spiritual lyrics combined with a dark, sad melody creates a stark contract I will forever enjoy.

This is, in part, an extension of the last song—though life can be needlessly complicated, love is more complicated than movies and music portray.  My son needs to know love can be hard, love takes work.  Love can hurt more than anything else.  But these realities make love more beautiful, not less.

“Phantom Limb” by The Shins

Relevant Lyrics

This is that foreign land,

With the sprayed on tans,

And it all feels fine,

Be it silk or slime

What does a song about a high school lesbian couple in a repressive, small town have to do with the birth of my son?  Well, everything really.  I don’t know what kind of person my son will be in high school.  Maybe he’ll be a jock like his dad.  Maybe he’ll type away at a keyboard like his dad should have been.  Perhaps he’ll strum a guitar or move chess pieces.  No option is any less valid than the others as long as he’s true to himself.  My son should know that life’s too short to concern himself with the stares of others.

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire

Relevant Lyrics

So can you understand?

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young

I wanna hold her hand

And show her some beauty

Before this damage is done

But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask

Then send me a son.

The above lyrics will always send chills down my spine.  “The Suburbs” is a song about getting lost in the ugliness of the past.  I know bad things will happen to my son in life, and I will not teach him to hide from life’s darkness as much of life’s beauty can only be found in the dark.  I will, however, make sure he knows the importance of movin’ past the feeling, so he won’t miss the present by living in the past.

“Buried In Detroit” by Mike Posner

Relevant Lyrics

I used to live in New York City

But baby, that ain’t no substitute

Not for my hometown

That place people avoid

I’ve made love in every city

But I’ll be buried in Detroit

This song is here for the inverse reason of “The Suburbs.”  “Buried in Detroit” is about a man who travels the world, lives his dreams, loves every moment of his life, but refuses to forget his roots—this is exactly what I hope for my son. While living in the moment is important, I pray I do a good enough job as a father to instill in my son the importance of appreciating where he came from.

“Time” by Pink Floyd

Relevant Lyrics

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I always knew I wanted to write a novel, yet I waited over three decades to do so.  I didn’t wait for lacking of wanting; my desire to write never left.  I figured I had plenty of time.  It took a serious car accident for me to understand the fragility of life and value of time, our most precious commodity.

I will tell my son this story often.  I’m sure he’ll get sick of it, but he won’t forget the message.  No one lives forever, and our youth is gone in the blink of an eye.  Practicality is critical, but my son should never cast his dreams to the wayside.

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie

Relevant Lyrics

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied

Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs

If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks

Then I’ll follow you into the dark

My wife and I have very different opinions about this song; she thinks it’s depressing, and I think it’s uplifting.  There’s something so simplistically beautiful about loving someone so much you’d be willing to follow them into whatever awaits, whether it be heaven, hell, or just darkness.  And I hope my son realizes that one of the worst things you can do in life is settle.  The person he ends up with should make him feel the way I feel about his mother: When it all turns to ash and the light turns off, he should want to follow his love into the dark.

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The Literary Nutshell: March 14 – 28 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

 

  1. “50 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Reading (via @bookriot)” http://buff.ly/1XWxhJd
  2. “10 Types of Apostrophe Errors You Should Avoid” http://buff.ly/20GG41N
  3. “10 Books by Black Authors Destined to Become Classics: Today in Critical Linking” http://buff.ly/24cnFhH
  4. “Reading to Improve Your Writing” http://buff.ly/1RR6Cgr
  5. “50 Books That Should Be in Every Family’s Library: Today in Critical Linking” http://buff.ly/1Vf9RPE
  6. “5 Self-Help Books That Are Actually Helpful: Today in Critical Linking” http://buff.ly/1RVwUto
  7. “How to Deal with Writing as a Compulsion” http://buff.ly/1U34cvn

On Writing: Inspiration is Everywhere but the Desk

As I am not a “full-time” writer, and considering my job is quite hour intensive, writer’s block hits me hard because I have little time to write as it stands.  I say this because, when I do suffer from the dreaded block, I tend to chain myself to my desk, pounding out words like I’m attempting to break through the block by slamming my head against it.  At least, that was my old approach.

A couple of weekends ago, I was dancing my old writers block dance—staring at my excessively large monitor, eyes tired, mind weak. I was wrangling with two plot points I knew connected, but I could not figure out how they connected.  After nearly an hour of rotating between a blank page and various Wikipedia pages, I decided I needed a break.  I needed to get outside and sweat, so I went for a jog.

Jogging presents an interesting conundrum for me.  Truly, I don’t like to jog.  The voices of my former high-school coaches rain down upon my psyche with each step.  “Take a lap, Huebinger!”  But, I also have some of my greatest creative epiphanies while ambling along the various streets of my neighborhood.  And within the first mile of my three mile jog, I broke through the writer’s block and discovered the “connection” I had been seeking.

Most of the second mile I spent chastising myself for not figuring out the plot connection sooner.  It was right in front of your face, I thought.  The third mile, however, was different as my mind wandered to how I find inspiration for my writing.

As I finished my run, I realized that I had never experienced as a true moment of “inspiration” at my desk.  I came up with the idea for FATE’S PAST while driving down a beautifully scenic road in Oregon.  I told my wife my thoughts that formed the basis for my current work-in-progress in a Sonoma vineyard after several glasses of pinot noir.  And while walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought up the idea for my short story “The Accidental Savior.”

Mind you, I do not intend to speak for all writers.  This is just how I find inspiration.  And for me, inspiration is everywhere but the desk.

So, I guess the CliffNotes version of the above is that I’ve found inspiration here:

Road

 

And here…

Vineyard

And here…

Bridge

 

But never here…

Desk

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The Literary Nutshell: Feb. 22 – 29 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

  1. “Bookends: Where Do You Draw the Line Between Commercial and Literary Fiction?” http://buff.ly/20GG0Pk
  2. “Who Pays Writers? Writing as a Profession (via @magsrdoherty)” http://buff.ly/1KQj2ne
  3. “What NOT To Do When Writing YA Books (Advice From a Teen Writer)” http://buff.ly/20GFYqR
  4. “How I Got My Literary Agent: Randy Ribay” http://buff.ly/20GFMba
  5. “For a writer, how much does age matter?” http://buff.ly/1mpMYuL
  6. “3 Things I Learned About Writing: Analyzing Maya Angelou’s I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS” http://buff.ly/20GFFwg
  7. “7 Best Declarations of Love on My Bookshelf” http://buff.ly/1ToLyOb

Stephen King’s FINDERS KEEPERS – A Compelling Parenthesis

I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fanboy of Stephen King’s recent work.  Under the Dome11/22/63Doctor Sleep, and Lisey’s Story rank, in my humble opinion, among the best novels King has ever written.  But my personal favorite of the lot is Mr. Mercedes.

Mr. Mercedes doesn’t tackle the social-political issues of Under the Dome.  Mr. Mercedes doesn’t touch the massive scope of The Stand, nor does Mr. Mercedes contain many of the tropes that have made King famous.  Mr. Mercedes is, however, a dang fun novel, the kind that puts you in one place and keeps you there until the final chapter.  And isn’t that the whole point?

So, of course I was excited to read Mr. Mercedes sequel, Finders Keepers.  Finders Keepers is the second book in a planned trilogy.  And from the first page, I was hooked.

(Spoilers Alert!)

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Finders Keepers begins in 1978, with the antagonist, Morris Bellamy, murdering the famous and reclusive author John Rothstein (an amalgamation of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger) to steal Rothstein’s unpublished manuscripts. Bellamy later kills his two cohorts and buries the manuscripts along with thousands of dollars in the backyard of his childhood home.  He actually gets away with the murders, but then rapes a woman in a drunken stupor, an act for which he is sentenced to life.  Eventually he is released on parole, with an insatiable thirst to read the buried manuscripts.

Flash forward to the present day, shortly before Bellamy’s release a boy named Peter Saubers finds the buried manuscripts and money.  The Mercedes Killer injured Saubers’ father, which is putting a financial strain on Saubers’ family.  To help, Saubers sends him family the found money anonymously, until it runs out and he decides to try and sell the manuscripts.  Unfortunately, Saubers hopes to sell the manuscripts around the same time a desperate Bellay is searching for them, leading to an inevitable confrontation.

Deus ex machina aside, this is an interesting setup.   But about a third of the way through the book, I started to think, Where is Bill Hodges?  And Holly?  And Jermone?  This is good, but how is it a sequel to Mr. Mercedes?  All these characters do make an appearance, but it’s pretty late in the game.

And therein lies my only significant problem with Finders Keepers.  As a stand-alone book, it’s great; but it’s not a stand-alone title.  And all my favorite characters from Mr. Mercedes go through major transformations “off-screen.”  Hodges loses a bunch of weight off screen.  Holly develops a degree of self-confidence off-screen.  Jerome goes to college off-screen.  The penultimate novel in a trilogy should set the stage for the final book, but I don’t see how any of the major events of Finders Keepers will play into End of Watch (the last title).  Except, however, for the parts about Brady Hartsfield.

Brady Hartsfield was the Mercedes Killer from Mr. Mercedes, and because of the events in that book, he is seemingly in a brain-dead state.  But in a twist, the ending of Finders Keepers implies that Harsfield is far more “awake” than he is letting on, and may have developed certain telekinetic powers.  Now, I can already hear the cries:  “You just had to go there, didn’t you King!  Couldn’t just write a standard mystery trilogy, could you?”  And to those people I say:  “Get over it.”  If Stephen King wants to give one of my favorite villains psychic powers, I’m all about it.

Yet, Hartsfield seems to be the only link in Finders Keepers that will connect Mr. Mercedes to End of Watch.  Of course, King could surprise me, and I may change my opinion of Finders Keepers if he does.  Unfortunately, as it stands, Finders Keepers is an entertaining read, but as a sequel to Mr. Mercedes and entry in the Mercedes trilogy, it is at best a compelling parenthesis.

The Literary Nutshell: July 7 – July 21 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

  1. “20 Annoying Things People Say About Readers and Reading” http://buff.ly/1G9mMGQ
  2. “The best writing advice for new children’s authors from top editors” http://buff.ly/1HQhrKd
  3. “All Great Writing Boils Down to These 4 Emotional Appeals” http://buff.ly/1G9obgR
  4. “8 Things To Do While You Wait For The Next Book In A Series” http://buff.ly/1D2PAkA
  5. “9 Ways to a Faster Book Deal” http://buff.ly/1IQ7sRH
  6. “Here’s how reader analytics can help publishers” http://buff.ly/1Ny8c1Q
  7. “Amazon accused of ‘Big Brother’ tactics over customer reviews” http://buff.ly/1TnKtVu
  8. “How to Win at Publishing” http://buff.ly/1eIUYn0
  9. “5 Books That Are Legit Nightmare Fuel” http://buff.ly/
  10. “How I Got My Literary Agent: David Bell” http://buff.ly/1NQS6Qt

The Soundtrack to FATE’S PAST

Like many other writers, I like to write with music. In fact, I <em>have </em>to write to music as silence distracts me.  Because of this, I’ve found that I associate certain songs with my novel FATE’S PAST.  So, without further ado, the following is a list of a few of the songs I listened to while writing FATE’S PAST:

Cloud Atlas Soundtrack — “End Title”

I will always think of FATE’S PAST when I hear this song because it was on repeat for much of the initial drafting. There’s just something about the progression of “End Title” that I enjoy while writing–I’ll often find the pace of my writing to build along with the tempo of the song.  This is still my go-to writing jam.

Explosions in the Sky — “The Winner Is”

Similar to “End Title,” “The Winner Is” has a nice progression, though it builds faster and is shorter than “End Title.” The violin section always gets my creative juices flowing.

Arctic Monkeys, “Do I Wanna Know”

I wrote the climax of my book while listening to “Do I Wanna Know.”  Its aggression and sexiness sets the mood nicely for late-night writing.

Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”

This was my “revisions” song–its calculated pace and soothing harmonies helped the mind-numbing process.

The Neighborhood, “Sweater Weather”

I discovered this song (and The Neighbourhood) as I was putting the “finishing touches” on FATE’S PAST.  I also listened to it as I was querying, so it will always have a special place in my heart due to its connection with such an immutable time in my life.

Well, those are a few of the songs that would be on FATE’S PAST’s soundtrack.  Later, I’ll post the songs that I’m now listening to while drafting my current work-in-progress.

How about you?  What are some of your favorite “writing” songs?

The Literary Nutshell: June 29 – July 6 (Top Writing & Book Posts)

  1. “Why Books Are Comforting to Anxious People”  http://buff.ly/1HyNIHn
  2. “5 Important Tips on How to Pitch a Literary Agent In Person”  http://buff.ly/1dzBrVb
  3. “Literary Agent Interview: Greg Aunapu of Salkind Literary”  http://buff.ly/1C1aWn0
  4. “On Writing And Mindset For Indie Authors With Susan Kaye Quinn” http://buff.ly/1JotRIC
  5. “4 Questions Agents Ask Writers at Pitch Sessions”  http://buff.ly/1BvH02g
  6. “How Shakespeare Used Prepositions”  http://buff.ly/1eB9a1Z
  7. “3 Steps to Driving More Traffic & Selling More Books or Products via LinkedIn”  http://buff.ly/1R1HMuU
  8. “For Indie Writers: You have the control. Own it.”  http://buff.ly/1LA2tJK
  9. “The World’s 57 Largest Book Publishers” http://buff.ly/1LA1Z6v
  10. “Riot Round-Up: The Best Books We Read In June” http://buff.ly/1Knf2Hy