Taking Stock of Maryland Crab Soup: Life and Work

By: Michael James Greenwald

Happy Super Sunday, everyone!!  For those of you who care about the football contest this evening, enjoy yourselves; for those of you who are in it for the commercials, they’ve been disappointing the last couple years but here’s to a couple new ones that’ll make it all worth it.

For those writers out there, GET YOUR WORK DONE EARLY!!!!!  Superbowl Sunday is not an excuse for skipping work.  Stephen King writes on his kids birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day (ST. PAT’S DAY PEOPLE!!!!), he and Tabby’s anniversary…  Say what you want about the quality of his work, you cannot but respect the dedication the man displays to the professional nature of authorship.

This week’s topic is our second: WHERE AM I AT.

Before I get into where I’m at in my work, I’d love to hear where you are at with your work.  If you feeling uncomfortable with posting this on our site, I urge you to shoot me an email (jonah14646@gmail.com) or Facebook message (Robot With Dreams) and share your progress.

Not for me, but for you.

It’s cathartic to spend a half hour every now and then taking stock in where you’re at.  Where you’ve been and where you’re going.  Just like in writing itself, where you create slower, introspective scenes every now and then to allow the reader to catch-up and your character to catalogue what’s at stake for the reader, it is crucial to do this in life too.

Like this morning, when I opened up all my cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer and to see what foodstuff I have (removing the bag of rotten apples, yuck; smelly, spoiled lettuce, oh my God, yuck; and the clumpy, two-weeks over-due-date milk, sour cream?), what food needs to be donated (but would even starving people want Weight Watcher’s Maryland-style Crap Soup?), and made a list of what I need to buy at the grocery store.

My greatest weakness as a writer is a microcosm of my greatest weakness as a human being.  I have a terrible time focusing.  My brain likes to work on five things at once, which makes it very hard to make the best out of each thing.

Look at it this way.  You have five oranges sitting on the counter and you want to make five glasses of orange juice.  Most people, I think, would take the first orange and squeeze it into the first glass until there is no more juice in the fruit and move onto the second.  What I do is squeeze a bit on the the first orange, get bored, and move onto the second orange, get bored, and move onto the fifth orange, get bored, and return back to the first orange.

It’s a different strategy, for sure, but is it less affective than the person who dedicates all his energy to squeezing every little drop of juice out of the first orange before moving onto the next one?  I don’t know.  What do you think?

Several weeks ago, I revealed to y’all that I realized the novel I’d been working on since last summer, Haply, had reached a point where I needed to scrap my 122,000 word manuscript and begin again.  I wrote that manuscript by sitting at my computer everyday, working my brain into a scene, into my character’s heads, and basically (if I was a good day), looking up a couple hours later to realize I’d written a couple thousands words.  This strategy provided me with a lot of words, and some extremely daring, captivating scenes, but when editing the manuscript I realized the novel took the shape of a marching band with world-class musicians all playing their own songs.  I needed to form the scenes into rank and file and get them all blowing (strumming, beating…) a universal tune.

As I related in a blog a couple weeks ago, I set about learning my characters wants, needs, rationale, motivations, etc…

But learning these important details wasn’t enough.  My mind works like this: out of sight, out of mind.

So, I created a visual, that would stare me in the face everyday, in order to keep me on task.  As you can see on the left, I bought notecards, wrote all these discoveries down, and tacked them to a cork board, which hangs in my office.

As Far As My Anal-Retentive Hypocrisy Will Allow

Next, I created a variation on a storyboard (Go here for an example of a traditional storyboard).  Those of you who are TV or movie writers, you know what I’m talking about; for those of you who are not, it’s just a visual depiction of the scenes in your movie, with the purpose of taking-in your entire story in one look.  I created mine a bit differently.  I wanted to make my storyboard as formulaic as possible, so the top row lists the ACTS of my novel (I, II, III, IV), which in the actual novel are PARTS (I, II, III, IV) and in the columns I listed crucial sections, culminating with the final scene in each act, which builds to a HOOK.

Yes, it’s formulaic, yes, it very well could bely the novelty of a novel.  But it’s what I think I need to focus my story.

So, where do I stand at present?  12,000 new words into my rewrite in a week.  Not bad.  Thanks to Amy, I finally came to grips with the fact I began my novel in the incorrect place.  And with eyes that the first fifty pages must catch and hold my future agent, publisher, and, ultimately, reader, I sought to create a first ACT which is both unique, captivating, powerful and drives readers into the second ACT.

So, he’s growing, you might say.

Well, lets not go that far.

What I will say is I love to write, want to do this for as long as I live, and now that I’ve identified one of major stumbling blocks to ultimately having my work published and feeding my family through my keyboard rather than feeding them the actual keyboard, I’m closer to my goals that I was a year ago.

I can’t ask for more than that.

What are your stumbling blocks?  What have you done to compensate?

As always, even on this Super Sunday, I wish you all good words!!!!!

Where all the magic happens...


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