A Time for Dusting Off


Progress Update: I’ve written a poem I actually like (gasp!) and am working on another. I have also completed extensive outlining and research for my novel Gray Spirits, roughly 10 failed versions of the first chapter of that novel, and the first two pages of a new magical realism short story. I have no pending submissions to literary journals. The only thing pending in any form is the very slight chance that I might win a Pushcart Prize for Pieces of Walter, thanks to Jelly Bucket‘s nomination last fall.

Is it dusty around here, or is it just me?

I’ve decided there will be no wailing and gnashing of teeth over how long it’s been since I’ve posted or attempts to justify why I haven’t been writing.

Suffice to say it’s time to clean off the dust and get back to work.


I recently got back from my 10th session to the River Pretty Writers Retreat, and as usual, it was a fantastic shot in the proverbial arm. Strangely, it lead to me writing a poem, which is something I haven’t done in a long time. I’ve spit out a few attempts over the years, but never anything I thought was good enough to submit anywhere. This one is different, I think. I don’t know. Poetry may be finally starting to click in my head.

Poetry and I have a long and stormy history. I went through a tough time as a teenager and wrote a lot of terrible rhyming poems (that still exist but will never, ever see the light of day). I try not to be too hard on what I wrote then though, because it got me through. It served its purpose and gave me a constructive outlet, replacing any number of destructive ones I could have pursued. Once I got past the dark times, it fell away, and I haven’t pursued it seriously since then.

I’m not sure why this feels like the right time, but I’m going to do my best. Just have to pick a notebook, grab a pencil, and try it.


The novel, Gray Spirits, is currently the elephant in my writing room. I have so many notes, outlines, and false starts I could probably publish those as a standalone book. I even wrote part of a side story and read it at River Pretty last Spring. The book is there, I just can’t quite get going on it. Yes, some things in day-to-day life have been unsettled and my new job keeps me busy, but I need to get this thing really moving. Enough excuses. What I need to do is put butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, as the advice goes.

The part I’m having the most trouble with is finding my beginning. I thought I had it, but it still didn’t feel right once I wrote it. I think that’s the hardest part of a novel. When I wrote The Neverwood (which is still a once-edited draft in a drawer), I had the same problem. I’m still not happy with the first chapters of that novel, even after first revision. With a short story, I seem to never have that trouble. You start a short story in the middle of the action, or just before things get interesting. You have to pack everything in there all tight and neat like a game of literary Tetris, and I like to think I’ve gotten good at that.

The problem is now with the novel I keep trying to pack the beginning. That’s not how it works, and I know it isn’t working. Time to course correct. If I can get a rough beginning, at least I can move on into the flow of the story, where it’s easier to stay afloat and just enjoy the writing ride.

So, to sum up my current writing goals:

  • Complete at least 5 chapters of Gray Spirits by January 1.  I promised my wife I would, so that one is set in stone.
  • Complete 5 decent poems by January 1.  I’ve got one done, so that helps.
  • Complete 1 short story/flash piece by January 1.  I’ve got a good one started. I just need to finish.
  • Revise currently complete (if needed) pieces and submit to at least 10 literary journals by January 1.  Can’t win if you don’t play, right?

Enough dusting and planning — It’s time to boogie.