hit tracker Dave Shields Author Blog: February 2005

A journal detailing my efforts to launch my career as a novelist. The goals are to share info about succeeding in this field with other aspiring authors, to provide updates to the many supporters who have asked me for them, and ultimately to build the momentum necessary to assure success in this venture.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Attitude Adjustment

About a month ago I was allowing myself to feel overwhelmed. The phone rang. It was a real estate agent making cold calls. I was about to tell him that we don't accept solicitations, when his voice inflected in a vaguely familiar way. I said, "Is this Ed?" It was. He's a man I last saw ten years ago. At the time, he was going through some tough times, including a recent cancer diagnosis. In truth, it surprised me even tolearn that he was still alive.

After we talked about the wonderful changes that had gone on for both he and his wife, he asked how things were going for me. I'd just experienced a series of disappointments and I told him about them. I suggested that maybe the path I'd chosen wasn't going to work. He said, "Ten years ago you changed my life, Dave." He reminded me of a series of conversations we'd had, and told me why he'd never been the same afterwards. He told me that if I wanted to break through, I'd better change my "self-talk" because there is no way that others were going to believe in me if I'd quit believing in myself. Attitude is vital for a long list of other reasons, as well.

I apologized for turning his sales call into a therapy session, but thanked him for helping me get my head straight. He said that everything happens fora reason, and told me again that I had played one of the most important roles in his life. What a weighty and meaningful thing for a man who had essentially become a stranger to tell me. The cool thing is, he had just returned the favor. In the month since that conversation I have been very productive, and I've solved many of the problems that faced me on the day Ed called.

Not only is a positive attitude the only way to ultimately attain the success you imagine for yourself, it is what makes the journey worth taking. When all is said and done, it is the journey that is the reward.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Getting it in Writing

People often ask me about my writing methods. Someone recently asked if writing a book was like building a building. Then they wondered if such a structured approach might cramp the creative process. I've written first drafts of four novels now. Each time the process has changed significantly, mostly for the better. In each case I assumed I knew where I was going, but ultimately problems/possibilities have emerged that I hadn't imagined.

This happens often when building are being constructed as well. Major design changes are sometimes made while construction is underway. In some cases, these changes are never even drawn on paper. Sometimes they are a result of workmen having a better real-world understanding than the architect. Sometimes they are the result of circumstances that never could have been anticipated. Either way, few buildings would get built if not for a flexible approach. Novels are the same way. No matter what method is used to create a first draft, there will always be lots of room for the creative process. The important part is that the project manager never loose sight of the ultimate goal-- get the thing done!

By the way, I used to believe that I could create a complete novel in the first draft. There are probably people capable of this, but I now realize that I'll never be one of them. Not even close. The variety of mistakes I'm capable of making are staggering. For me, a better method is to get my first attempt on paper and then have knowledgable people point out the weaknesses. Often the errors are completely obvious once they are pointed out, but when writing the first draft I tend to be too close to see them. So, in myopinion, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes in the initial attempt. Fixing them in the reewrite can be fun. Even better is the process where a critiquer's comment sparks an idea that elevates a manuscript to an entirely new level. I'm hard at work on the sequel to "The Race" right now, and I believe that the input I have received from critiquers are going to turn it into a far better book than I could have possibly written by myself.