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Journal

Platform Building and Opening Scenes

All satisfying writing projects are alike; each terrible project is terrible in its own way. With apologies to Tolstoy, I am now at the beginning of two new writing projects. This is the first official post of the Café Epimetheus era on this site, where the focus is on writing about writing. I have also written the initial few pages of the new novel. Naturally, I’m seeing parallels between platform building and opening scenes.

I have resisted the urge, on both fronts, to lead with a massive info dump. There has to be a clean entry point for the reader, to make it clear what it is they’re reading. It has to be engaging enough that they’ll want to keep reading. It’s a matter of figuring out what needs to be said up front, which points can be teased for later, and how to pace the things you’re dying to tell.

Where platform building and opening scenes diverge is in their role and presentation. Every writing teacher in the world will stress the importance of hooking the reader. If that first chapter, first paragraph, first line is not perfect, readers will apparently storm your house with torches and pitchforks. The upside is that it doesn’t have to be done until the rest of the book it complete. I can go back and revise it until it’s just right.

The first post here is merely a brick in the wall. While I’d love for this to be the catalyst that draws in new readers, I understand its limits. It is the cumulative mass of a site, its consistency, utility, and collective entertainment value, that creates its gravity. There will continuously be new entry points. Some future subscriber may never see this post.

Platform Building and Opening Scenes

What’s important, on both projects, is that I am no longer facing a blank page and wondering what and how to write. It will take a while for me to find the voice I’m looking for. Reaching a comfort level, and a point where I’m satisfied with the work, will come eventually. The journey is what matters. I am doing it. You can’t polish something that doesn’t exist.


Progress Report: Day 2

  • Today is day 2 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Yesterday I wrote 2,339 words, bringing the total to 2,339.
  • That puts me 1,739 words ahead of my target goal, based on writing 600 words per day.
  • I’m currently working on the second scene of the first act.

Notes

  • In case you missed the link buried in the text above, a synopsis of the novel can be found on the About the WIP page.
  • The book has a working title: Cold Sunset. I doubt that will stick, but it gives me something to refer to and name files.
  • My expectation is that I will get more than the goal word count of 600 word per day written on weekends. I don’t have as much on my plate.
  • The opening scene has all of the elements that I want it to have. It’s a matter of cleaning up the presentation. The content is solid, but the writing can be better.
  • I’m not entirely sold on this format for posts. This bottom section is a good idea, I think. It allows me to provide some background without resorting to excessive exposition.

Thanks for Visiting

Comments? I want to hear them! Questions? I want to answer them! Leave a message below and let’s chat about writing!

Come along on this journey with me, as I fumble around and figure out what I’m doing. Go to the bottom of the page and subscribe to the site, if you haven’t already! Never miss a new post!

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Journal

Introduce Yourself with 3 Unusual Facts

In an attempt to better connect with the writing community onlineI’m participating in The Merry Writer. It’s a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new prompt or question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter. This month’s theme is goals. Today’s prompt is unrelated to that theme, but a good entry point: Introduce yourself to the group with 3 unusual facts.

So, hello! I’m Berin. Here are 3 unusual facts about me:

1. My legal name started off as a pen name.

Berin Kinsman is not the name that I was born with. When I began writing professionally in the early 1990’s I used it as a pen name for a lot of complicated reasons. I was estranged from my biological family at the time and looking to distance myself from them. Legally changing my name dovetailed with both finding my way as a writer and gaining control of my personal life.

2. I used to write romance under a female pen name.

When I was in college I wrote a romance novel on a bet. That came about when roommates caught me reading a romance novel. I sent it around as part of that bet. To my surprise, it got accepted. I wrote a couple more because while I wasn’t easy, the money was okay. At the time it beat flipping burgers. No, I’m not going to tell you the pen name or the titles of the books. They didn’t sell well and have long since fallen out of print.

3. I’m finally writing a novel that I hope to publish under my real name.

After a decade of ghost writing things for other people, most of which I wouldn’t want to put my name on, I’ve started writing a “serious” novel. My intention is to finish the first draft by the end of February, spend the summer polishing in, and hopefully start querying it by the end of the year.

Introduce Yourself

Okay reader, this is where I turn it back on you. Introduce yourself in the comments below with three unusual facts about yourself. You don’t have to be a participant in The Merry Writer game to play along here!

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Create Journal

Approaching Life as a Writer’s Retreat

Ever since we moved to Finland I’ve talked about approaching this time as a writer’s retreat. Of course, that’s when I expected that we’d be here for two years. By the time our current residence permit expires we’ll have been here for six, and we have every intention of staying forever if we can, so that original plan has been out the window for a long time.

If I had my way, I would do nothing but write, read, and drink coffee. As it works out, that’s still a significant portion of my day. I can deal with having to do marketing and accounting as part of the job. Household chores don’t both me. What keeps coming back around, though, is this idea that I have to interact with the world in a certain way in order to sell books. It’s the opposite of being the kind of quasi-monastic hermit I desire to be.

My role model in this has been Warren Ellis. Now, granted, he can get away with a certain lifestyle because he’s Warren- fncking-Ellis.  He has declared himself to be retired from the internet, save for his own website and newsletter and times when he’s contractually obligated to promote something. In a recent post he talks about how all of the moving parts stress him out, and how the only thing that brings him joy is creating things. So he’s only going to do that, as much as the world allows him to.

Treating Life as a Writer’s Retreat

Ellis talks about taking time to figure things out. That’s why I did during this internet hiatus. I’m making sure that I have time built into my ongoing schedule so that I can continue to figure it out, and make adjustments. It’s about the journey.

Because it’s not about having a writer’s retreat. It’s not even about having a writer’s life. It’s just about having the life that you want. I hit upon the notion that I needed to write a novel to write a novel, with no care for commercial concerns of the opinions of other people. The reason I went back to Twitter and will begin blogging again is because I enjoy creating, regardless of whether people enjoy the things I put out into the world. I can do those things on my own terms, within my own comfort level, and ignore people who say that I’m doing it wrong.

Regular blogging begins 2 December 2019. Until then, you’ll get interludes like this. So subscribe already! And please, leave comments below. I want your feedback and your questions.

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Create Journal

Preparing to Write a Novel: Tasks and Reasons

It’s odd to be talking about preparing to write a novel two-thirds of the way through NaNoWriMo. There will be people who think that I’m behind the curve somehow, that this is a late start. My goals, and the parameters that I’ve set for myself on this project, don’t properly align with that excellent and completely worthy annual event. There are elements of this that are deeply personal, so I need this to be its own unique thing.

I’m giving myself 90 days to create a solid first draft. Rounding up generously, that’s 600 words per day. While it doesn’t seem like much,  remember that it’s on top of my regular “day job” writing. There’s also the fact that I want to blog about the process, which adds another 300 to 500 words per day, five days a week. Launching the blog is another reason to not do it in alignment with NaNoWriMo, where I risk getting lost in the crowd.

Digesting all of this, taking the time to grasp what I’m doing, is essential. I am looking at this as a stepping stone to the next phase of my career. I have no idea what that looks like, but that’s part of the journey. Do I expect this novel to be a huge hit and make me tons of money? No. It would be fantastic if it were that good, but I’m realistic.

Nor do I think this blog will suddenly take off, or I’ll get job offers as a direct result of posting here regularly. This is more about learning new creative skills, becoming comfortable in my own skin, and getting better at marketing myself. Doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again wasn’t going to lead me to an epiphany that will take me to new and exciting places as a creator.

Preparing to Write a Novel

As well as putting together plot and character ideas, there’s been a lot of peripheral work. Rebuilding this site from scratch, for example, so that it meets my needs going forward. All of the static pages have been, or are in the process of being, overhauled. I want to be able to post without having to worry about site maintenance.

Getting my day job in order, so I can carve out time for novel writing and blogging, has been a task. Those work flows have to be nailed down. Fortunately I’ve been doing that for over 3 years, so I have processes in place in the event something goes off the rails. I couldn’t have done this in the early days of Dancing Lights Press, or even a few months ago.

Household things also need to be in order. This mainly means getting laundry and grocery shopping on a schedule. I’ve got meal plans put together, so I can spend as little time as possible on prep and cleanup. Cooking elaborate meals, as I am wont to do, is reserved for a few special nights per week.

The timing for this has also been carefully selected. We’re in the darkest, coldest, and most depressing months of the year here in Finland. Throwing myself into this for four months, including November for prep and December, January, and February for writing, gives me something to focus on. I do so much better when I have a passion project that I can obsess over.

If you haven’t subscribed to the site yet, please do. Come along with me on the journey. Leave comments. I want to know your thoughts. Full-time writing and blogging begins on 2 December, 2019.

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Create Journal

New Purpose, New Goals, New Plans

There’s so much to talk about that I don’t know where to begin. I’ve been off the internet for a while. In the intervening time I’ve continued writing and publishing for Dancing Lights Press. Our residence in Finland has been renewed through the end of July 2020. Katie has an art show running all month, and has begun teaching art again. A lot of my life has just been maintenance of the status quo. Which is the problem that I’m currently solving for by finding new purpose, creating new goals, and making new plans.

Finding New Purpose

I’ve been in a survival/reactive mode for too long now. My time has been taken up doing the things that I need to do, leaving little left to do any of the things that I want to do. There hasn’t even been time to consider what it is I want to do. Hence the cessation of all distractions, including social media, blogging, and any projects that don’t make a worthwhile financial contribution to the household. I needed to prioritize my time to maximum impact. A lot of that has been spent reevaluating my purpose, resetting my goals, and creating a plan for the next few years. I know that “finding new purpose” sounds like a bold claim and a little weird, but bear with me for a few more posts and you’ll understand.

Creating New Goals

When we decide to move to Finland in 2012, we made a plan. That got us here in 2014. When I graduated from business school that same year, I had a business plan. That’s kept the bills paid and a roof over our head for the past 5 years. The thing is, life is never static. I’ve changed, and the world has changed. It’s long past time to cross off the goals I’ve accomplished, tweak the ongoing ones, and set some new objectives for myself.

For the past several weeks I’ve spent time considering what I want. I’ve been envisioning what the next chapter of my life will look like, both personally and professionally. The result is that I’ve set four new goals for myself. In the coming weeks I’ll spend some time talking about all of them, but two are immediately relevant to this space.

The first goal is to write a novel. The second is to run a successful blog around the creation of that novel. I’m going to be using this space to talk about the process of writing, why I want to write a novel, and the sort of book I’m looking to create.

Making New Plans

In addition to taking time to determine my goals, I’ve been making plans. After gaining clarity about what’s important to me and working out what I want, I began devising how I’m going to get it. This means, for the first time since I started blogging, I have a clear direction for this blog. I know the topics I’ll be writing about, the schedule I’m going to keep, and the ways that I’m going to grow readership. It’s still a side-hustle, but I’m not making it up as I go along, and have a long-term vision for what I want to develop this space into.

If you’re still with me after the long hiatus, thank you and welcome back. If you’re just joining us here for the first time, welcome. Things officially relaunch on 2 December 2019, when regular posts will resume Monday through Friday. Between then and now I’ll be updating the pages and making some adjustments to the site design. Your feedback is absolutely appreciated, so tell me what you’d like to see going forward.