I was going to post something here along the lines of, TED WILL RETURN, or something else that kept a place holder while I went along with what has become this new chapter in my life. Don't misunderstand, I've never stopped writing, and I never will. But over the course of the past year or so, there have been great changes that have elicited a great morphing in lifestyles.
I've paired my writing life with a professional one, the latter of which I've been forced to undertake due to the unfortunate event of Imran Rashid suffering a stroke while undergoing a procedure to remove a brain tumor, which ended my career as a musician. Such a thing is unimaginable, but it did happen. Like my friend Dave Rosser once said to me, "Be careful what you feed your subconscious, because life can get pretty horrible at any moment on its own."
Dave, if you're reading this, know that I'm paraphrasing.
And so I just want to check in here and say that I have become the perfect example of the writer who now has to find the time to write, and I do just that. My commute every day has forced me to take everything that is me with me, which means at all times I have my shoulder bag with my laptop, a paperback or other book that I'm reading at the time, and the luxury of my iPhone on which I dictate writing to myself. That last one is a real treat, and I remember as a younger man wanting and having a tape recorder with me at all times, even though the result was often drunken bullshit.
I work for an exporting company in beautiful Homewood, Alabama, a slice of liberal hipness amidst all the tide rolling and eagle warring that I despise. I often go to Little Professor Bookstore (pictured) to write new pages during lunch, and my days are now complete and necessary. When I'm not writing, I'm submitting, which are the only two activities that writers who want to get published should ever be doing.
And yes, there are new pages being produced for the first time in a few years. This is not unheard of I guess, to have as much time pass between new material being written due to the arduous thing that is the editorial process. But I enjoy both sides of the coin equally in their own ways, and usually when I'm sick of one I can't wait to engage in the other.
Now is no different.
Know this: E.L. Doctorow (whom I've admittedly never read) used to get up and write for two hours every morning before going to his day job. So, there. Work is relative.
In my last post I compared using the tool of the Synopsis in writing the first draft of a manuscript to the way that a tattoo artist lays down a stencil before they start applying the ink. And I don't know why these metaphors are necessary for me, but for some reason I enjoy making these real-life comparisons to the process of getting published, probably because in no way is trying to get published really a part of anything comparable in the real world. The only exception to this statement would be the basic structure of the very-real business, with a protocol that exists even to this day, and this formality does demand respect.
Which is why I have a new metaphor, this time, one that inspires me as I try to land the elusive Literary Agent.
When I was a kid I used to love the movie "All the President's Men" with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. The story of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the movie follows the reporters' every move as they take the notes and make the rotary-phone calls to chase the leads, and ends as they blow apart the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. It's exhilarating filmmaking, and it's amazing that I don't have such a soft spot for all of the nine hundred "Law and Order" and "NCIS" shows that are on television right now, but I do not.
But what I do have is an appreciation for the meticulousness that these characters portray, and I think that landing an agent from the pages and pages of listings and specifics that agents want and require is kind of like finding that break in the story, that one lead that's going to give us the prize. In a reporter's case, it's the confirmation from a source that a story can go to print, but for the novelist it's the agreement that the agent will take them on as a client. Either way the process of examining every lead, so to speak, is very similar.
And so it is helping me at this stage to imagine that I'm at least one of those Washington Post reporters (I guess I would prefer to be Dustin Hoffman) in a version of "All the President's Men" that would resemble something a little more modern, like the aforementioned cop shows where they sit in front of a computer data base as a flickering list of suspects flow by for their consideration. Truth is, the same task-oriented attention to detail that writers have is the same skill that is needed, which is strange when one thinks of how artists make terrible business people. But research we can do, like Dr. Walter Bishop in his lab on "Fringe," but that's a metaphor for another post.
I discover more about myself as a writer every day that I write. Learning one's process is part of the process and it's why the rule of "writers write" holds so true. My latest discovery is this: I love the idea of the Synopsis, and I capitalize the word out of respect for its distinction, the closest thing that a writer can get to a first draft without ever actually writing one.
It really is all that you need to get started, and as I've come this far on the Writer's Journey, I've realized that the structure that I crave is inherent in the Synopsis. It gives me the confidence that I need as I dive headlong into a new project, and I know this because so far, my latest work-in-progress has quite literally blossomed from something that had existed only in the abstract universe of my mind to something traceable and real. It's very much the stencil sketch the tattoo artist uses before they add the color and the shading, the blueprints to the building, the ... you get the idea.
And wouldn't you know it that the discovery of this new and liberating tool came at a moment that was anything but liberating? When I was writing the Synopsis for the novel manuscript that I've recently completed and am querying agents about now, an exercise that forced me not only to be objective but to look at the book for what it was as it was quite literally spread out before me, I understood the absolute value of the Synopsis. I have since read that some authors use the Synopsis instead of a standard outline, and they carry this document throughout the entire process with only slight modifications here and there as they produce the manuscript all the way into the querying stage. This is indeed the writer that I have become, and trust me, it makes something out of nothing really fast.
Whether or not this "something" that comes from nothing is worth anything comes from the process as well. That is, if you have something worth writing by the time you get deep into your paragraph-per-chapter Synopsis (which is how I do it), then you'll know it by then and you can proceed with all the spontaneity and joy that comes from writing a first draft. I say, get that out of the way to make room for the real work of the coloring and the shading, and what a better time-saver then a ten or so page structural Synopsis rather than a five hundred page manuscript?
So far, I've discovered today without ever completing a first draft that my new book will be longer than the planned twenty chapters, and the book itself told me that. How did it tell me? It used the Synopsis as its mouthpiece to give me its vital stats, its characters and conflicts, its height and weight and the name that it would prefer to go by!