Welcome Back, JW

It’s been exactly one year to the day that I last posted a blog on my website. How can it be that a year has passed so quickly? Reflecting on this, my lack of blogging activity has nothing to do with a lack of writing activity in general. On the contrary, I’ve been extremely busy juggling work and horses in order to carve out time to write—something that is an ongoing battle. I’ve been told the older one gets the faster time flies by. That feels true.

The SOPs for a fiction writer mandate that I post blogs on a regular basis and stay active on social media. Build your audience! Stay connected with your readers and other writers! Post and be relevant! I suppose the only reason I can give for not doing any of this is that I haven’t felt compelled to do so, even though I know I should. I should care about feeding my relevancy, but mostly I don’t. I find spending too much time on social media quickly turns in to a time vampire. Time spent quickly turns into time sucked. It’s too easy to go down the rabbit hole of mindless scrolling. Therefore, I try to minimize wasting that kind of time and tend to post content only when something has happened to me. As a result, while I post something that is relevant to me, it might not make me relevant to anyone else. For example, yesterday I posted on IG, “I am the master of my own dialog. I don’t need to be told what I said.” It is a reference to something that happened to me, which had nothing yet everything to do with my writing.

So, what happened to prompt me to write a blog for the first time in a year? The answer is that I am suddenly strongly compelled to get my WIP organized, which is not my forte. A few months ago, I applied to the Aspen Words Summer Words Writers Conference. This is a juried workshop, which means I was required to prepare a submission that would be judged against the other submissions for 20 fiction writing slots in the weeklong workshop next month. I had no idea how many applications for the fiction writing sections might be submitted (turned out to be 276). I honestly didn’t think I had a chance in hell of getting accepted, but I still put my best writing effort forward. So, when I received the email that I was one of the 20, I panicked. Shit! What now? My 150,000-word first draft of The Fifth Language is a hot mess. It’s not presentable in its entirety, although there are sections of it that are. So, I asked myself, “What do I want to get out of this workshop?” The answer to this eased my anxiety considerably. I need help with the elements of The Fifth Language that I am having the most trouble with: Weaving backstory into story in a nonlinear narrative style of writing. Writing workshops, like therapy, serve to solve a problem, and that’s my problem.

I do want to cut myself some slack here. For the past six months I have been going through the tedious process of getting my first draft more organized and more cohesive. Now that I am far enough along to be able to step back and look at the framework of the story in its entirety, I find myself rewriting extensively to ensure my characters are fully developed and my plot is strong, concise, and compelling. I’ve also been working on the chapter-by-chapter synopsis, which further helps me get organized. This is actually more difficult than cultivating solid character and plot development. It’s downright painful at times to convey in as few words as possible what takes place in each chapter. But this exercise has served to shine a spotlight on holes in the storyline and lags in pace.

I have a little less than four weeks to complete my chapter-by-chapter synopsis, organize my manuscript files, craft some marketing copy, and write a few 30-second elevator pitches so, when asked, I can answer the terrifying question, “So, what’s your book about?”

Here are two pitches I have so far:

The Fifth Language is a dialog-rich and tension-filled drama about a famous young prodigy recovering from a drug overdose and her relationship with an elusive architect who has committed to helping her. The story, told in a nonlinear narrative style of writing, delves into her caregiver’s abusive childhood, the forest fire that destroyed his family’s ranch, and the chain of events which followed that ripped the family apart.

In 2009, a forest fire destroys the Henrey family ranch in Darby, Montana. Ten years later, three Henrey brothers—Lawrence, Cole, and Jason—reunite there as a conflict between father and sons unfolds. Meanwhile, Jason finds himself amidst another crisis in the form of the omnipresent Michelle Seko, who is secretly recuperating at his home following a drug overdose. Jason fights to protect her privacy as turmoil in his life boils over and he must face the consequences of his actions.

The tasks and deadline are self-imposed. They are not required of the workshop. But I know if I can accomplish this, then I will go into the workshop feeling organized, prepared, and—perhaps most important—relevant. Through recent bouts of self-doubt about what I am trying to accomplish here, I remind myself that I earned one of those 20 slots. I think my next SM post will be I can do this!