The Mother of All Writing Advice

A story can’t be self on self. Avoid the Uber Voice. Seeing someone else through another’s eyes just might be the highest level of interiority.

Looking down a cold tunnel at a mother

Omniscient first person, that’s the thing. Whatever you decide, modern literary theory states that it’s all about what your mother says you didn’t write.

Writing Process: The Almighty Opening

Every time that I open Anori – something I have done a couple of thousand times – and wait as the document slowly loads, my always eye fastens on the opening line. And it’s never what I want, which has led me to change it some fifty or sixty times.

Dee watched the police car turn down the empty street and vanish on the other side of the park.

The keys to this sentence are a. the police car, b. the viewpoint (from a penthouse apartment) and c. the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

Jostled by the winds, the police car vanished on the other side of the park, as Dee slid the balcony door closed.

And then I think it’s all too much and that I only need the bare bones: The police car vanished on the other side of the park. But, that doesn’t work. Neither does: Dee braced herself as the gusts of wind came up again.

I want to communicate an isolated and brooding tone in the opening, something like Dee stood alone watching the police car as it went from sight on the far side of the park. But not that either.

The Thing About Writing

The thing about writing is the fluidity of the act, getting the thoughts out, sharp and immediate. At the edge of that. Sacred & divine/Drunk & stupid. Between those lines.

Jet Rockwell orates by the fire

No plumbing of the depths. None of that. The story, just the story, simple and direct. Anything more is drivel. Pablum. A brouhaha.

Pretend I’m a Writer: Writing Process

Martin Scorsese’s Pretend It’s a City features Fran Lebowitz declaiming on her writerly life, stating that no writer enjoys writing. Which makes me think that I am no writer because I do, enjoy writing that is. And then there is Raymond Carver, who exposed the secrets of his life with honesty and makes me realize that I’ve never come close to that.

Title page for second part of The Buzz Trilogy

My modus operandi has been the sensational subjects – prostitutes, 9/11 and outer space – which I’ve consumed through the media. I feel unglued and half done. I want to think again and write something that people will read and think, “What a guy!” Yes, I need to get a grip

The McPhedran Way – A Typical (Bad) Day in My Writing Process

6:30 am Play Fishdom and Words With Friends. No thoughts on writing.

8:30 am Play Fishdom. Read emails, watch YouTube videos and search for “inspiration” by porn surfing. A general malaise dominates thinking.

11:00 am Half think about writing but retreat from that, afraid to start.

12:30 pm Lunch. Watch random bits of film – anything from Battleship to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

2:00 pm Ride stationary bike and listen to intense music (Rage Against the Machine, Cheap Trick, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) in an attempt to get brain moving. Watch birds flying past, beds being changed in hotel rooms across the street and people working in adjoining business. Writing problems do not come to mind.

Entertaining things can occasionally be seen in Artezan Hotel.

3:00 pm Read more emails, watch more videos and porn. Snack.

4:30 pm Open the Anori document. Close it. Play Words with Friends and Fishdom.

8:00 pm Think about what I might do tomorrow

So it goes on a bad day. Which oddly enough can lead to a good day.

Writing Process: Finding My Way

Years ago, I read an interview with James Bond author Ian Fleming who detailed his daily writing regime at his Caribbean home. He would rise early every morning and write five pages by noon and then spend the rest of the day at the beach with a cocktail in hand.

The Sanibel Island Writing Contest offers many places to bask and ponder

I liked the idea so much that I blogged about it and mimicked it – albeit without the beach and Caribbean home. I wrote five pages every day for my first novel, The Sacred Whore, but realized that the pages were weak and ill-conceived. I was going through the motions to get to my metaphoric (and literal) cocktails.

Later on, I tried writing at different times – afternoon, evening and night – with a similar page count in mind. No dice. Fleming’s process simply was not for me. I needed something else. I needed my own process.

Notes for All In written on a newspaper

Something that I have learned over the years is that I don’t work well with an exact routine. My system tends toward the erratic. That is not to say that I don’t have a system, but that when I am overly regimented, the work loses its divination.

That said, when the writing is working, I have a pattern that works. I suppose you might call that The McPhedran Way. More on that tomorrow!

My Tendency to Overwrite

I push hard to get my point across and, to make that clear, write the thing again. I might write it in another way. Or maybe not. I repeat myself to make sure that my point is getting across. It is the point, as simple as that. And I have to make that clear.

Modified excerpt from Anori

This veers toward a tendency to overwrite, filling a cup well beyond its capacity, thus defeating the purpose. The trick is to find the right words and use only those.

Excerpt tightened up…but too much?

The right words. That’s the rub.

Fear of Writing the Perfect Thing

Death cannot be far once you have realized the purpose, right? I had that feeling, of having realized my purpose, in the early 1990’s.

I was in the basement dark room of our house on Marlborough Road in Toronto. I was in the midst of writing Wreck of Dreams, an autobiographical snippet written at age of 28.

Cover design for Wreck of Dreams

It was earnest at best, but mostly trite, like the feeling. And yet, oddly enough, the feeling has seeped back. I am older now, 30 years hence, and so it seems that may be the real issue. Vain and dumb, all I know is that I’m still writing

Pandemic Accomplishments: Month Nine

Despite the recent excitement of vaccine and Trump’s repeated failures at the polls and courts, the pandemic drags on. I learned to appreciate the term “Toxic Positivity” over these past days. As Uncle Joe says, a dark winter awaits, meaning that I have learned to reflect more regularly on the utter of pointlessness of this existence and, ipso facto, survived multiple waves of depression and despair.

Mouse blends back into his environment at the Bronx Zoo.

On a more concrete note, I had my bank account cleaned out by a fraudulent check and await the fire marshal’s clearance to helped my wife salvage what we can be from her office which was destroyed by fire.

The remains of Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village, New York.

On a more positive note, I have applied for jobs in all five New York City boroughs as well as Paris, Helsinki, Lisbon, Lucerne, Lugano, Rome, Newport, Atlanta, Havana, Cayman Islands and Kathmandu. I have also rewritten the first 110 pages of Anori, with some satisfaction.

Eternal me

On a more moronic note, I have achieved Level 2234 of Fishdom and came, oh so close, to getting the Ghost Robot Fish.