Sunday, May 25, 2014

On This Date

Here's an excerpt from Bobby Cramer:
I first met Bobby Cramer on Sunday, May 25, 1980, a little over two months before my eighteenth birthday. He was a year older than me. I had heard of him and his family, but it wasn’t until the Memorial Day Tea Dance at the country club that I actually met him in person.
I don't remember why I chose that particular date, and I certainly didn't have any idea that the calendars of 1980 and 2014 would align so that May 25 would fall on a Sunday in each year.  After all, I wrote that passage in 1995.  All I remember was that's where and when I knew that Richard, the narrator, and Bobby first met.

I'm not sure why dates are important to me, but when I began writing the novel, it needed a starting point because I knew where I wanted it to end.  So far, throughout all the years, I've kept that perspective.  I've also had to remind myself that certain things we take for granted thirty-four years later -- the internet, cell phones, social media -- and changes in life views -- the AIDS crisis, political winds and the acceptance of marriage equality -- were not there or were just being thought of.  I was also looking back on recent history in 1995 at the callow age of 42.  Now it seems like antiquity... at least to some.

I've tried to be faithful to the time and to events that were going on in the story's time frame, but they are not big players.  The hostage crisis in Iran is mentioned in passing, as is the eruption of Mount St. Helen's and the presidential election of 1980.  But in the day-to-day lives of the people in Bobby Cramer, they get little more than passing mention because in our own lives, do they really touch us deeply?  Some do, but mostly they are outside of the frame of the daily lives you and I think about, and so it is with my characters.  They are ripples.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reading Writing

I have been sharing my novel writing -- both Bobby Cramer and The Purer, Brighter Years -- with people by reading them sections and chapters out loud.  It reveals a lot.

I started sharing The Purer, Brighter Years when I joined a little writing group about a year ago.  (By the way, you might recall that I wrote a play of the same name a long, long time ago.  That play was done once in a staged reading in Traverse City, Michigan, and has never been heard from again.  I re-claimed the title.)  The responses to it from my fellow writers was good, both in terms of positive feedback and insights and suggestions.  But it also made me aware of what works and what doesn't, and as I read the pages -- no more than ten -- out loud, I immediately saw things that could be cut, heard what clunked and what sang, and found whole passages that could be thrown out.  I also found places where I needed more exposition, explanation, and insight.

When I started with the group, I purposely avoided sharing Bobby Cramer with them.  For one thing, reading a 1,200 page novel ten pages a week meant it would take two years to get to where I am now, and I'm still writing.  Second, Bobby was never meant to be published.  I just wanted to write the story for myself, explore his character and his life, and leave it as my own private work.

That's how it was going until a couple of months ago when I was having lunch with a colleague at work and we got to talking about my writing.  I boldly offered to read her some of The Purer, Brighter Years, and she took me up on it.  So every day at lunch I would read her a chapter, and we'd discuss it.  Since I was doing it almost every day, within a few weeks I had read her everything I'd written in that story... and left her hanging with a real cliffhanger that I'm still working on.  Now what?

Despite my vow, I started reading her Bobby Cramer.  As I did, I started reading it over and over again, and I started editing, cutting, adding, and now I'm on track to finish it before I finish reading it aloud.  (Not to worry about PBY; there's time to finish it, too.)

What I've learned in the process is that there are things my subconscious writer does that I'm not even aware of in telling the story.  Parallelisms, confluence of moments, contrasts of characters, climaxes and denouements that flow from telling the tale and listening to the inner Bobby and the rest of the cast.  It may not be Chaucer or Fitzgerald, but it amazes me that in hearing the story out loud, in my own voice, how much more I'm learning about the people that I'm writing about.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Promise

I know... It's been almost a year since I wrote anything on this blog.  If you stopped by here and think I've dropped off the face of the earth, well, I haven't.  I've been spending most of my time over at Bark Bark Woof Woof and haven't had the time to stop by here and catch up.

On the writing front, I've been making a lot of progress on the novel Bobby Cramer.  Seriously.  It is up to 1,206 pages (Courier 12 pitch double space) and I've been sharing it with a friend at work, one section at a time.  More to come, but right now it's like being back from a long break.

I've also been working on the story that started out as "Untitled" and has grown into a novel with a tentative title of The Purer, Brighter Years.  I've been sharing it with the writer's group that I joined last March and they've been very helpful in shaping it.

So... I make this promise.  I will post here at Bobby Cramer at least once a week, and I will be writing about writing.  I'll save the politics for BBWW.

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