The Man Cave

The Man Cave
Jack's Man Cave (Click on the photo to enter the Cave)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

If I Can Help Just One Person with My Novel, I Will Have Succeeded

If I Can Help Just One Person with My Novel, I Will Have Succeeded

Deep thoughts on a beach

The Author

Most of the "Writing Tips" articles I read on Medium, end with the advice that my writing should offer something to the reader that will help them in their life.

This idea caused me to hit the "pause button" big time yesterday. I decided, before I go any further, I need to assess just where my novel based on biographical information is going.

Am I Just Navel Gazing?

Yesterday I found myself writing a long paragraph about a very important moment in my life, and it occurred to me that what seemed so important to me, might not be as important to anybody else.

I caught myself, and I grabbed myself by the scruff the neck and I said (to myself):

"Listen Self! Is this really important to anybody else (besides myself)?"

My Eureka Moment!

I took a long walk (by myself) on the beach today, while my son was at soccer practice. It was somewhat distracting that my sunglasses kept fogging up because of my mask. But as I walked through the thousands of college kids, pressed close together, high-fiving each other, and singing loud and drinking out of each other's cups, I heard a voice in my head:

"If my book can help just one person out there, I will have succeeded!"

This is My Truth

The moment that I was writing about yesterday, was the time that my father forced us to change lanes while we were stuck in a long line of cars trying to cross the U.S. Border from Mexico. After we changed lanes, the old lane we were in started moving fast, and the car that was behind us got across the border almost a half-hour faster than us. I'll never forget that.

Feel My Pain

If there is one other person out there like me, who ever experienced things like these- I want to let them know, they are not alone:

If your "best friend" told you the road was clear for you to ride your bike out of a blind driveway, and then you got hit by a car;

And if it was the first day of summer, and you had to wear a leg cast for like 11 weeks, and the car was a Lincoln Continental (the biggest car ever produced); and

If you were the only boy in your whole elementary school who dressed up for Bicentennial Day in 1976, in a full Minuteman outfit made by your Grandma, complete with neck and wrist kerchiefs;

And they made you stand on a chair at a school assembly, so that everyone could get a really good look at you;

Or if you still walk around angry that the San Diego Clippers basketball team moved to Los Angeles;

If any of these things happened to you, I think my book will help you.

Smooth Sailing From Now On

When I got back to my desk tonight it was with a new sense of passion and purpose. I opened the laptop and hit the "This is Chuck Mangione" playlist on my Spotify heavy rotation list. I told my wife Tracy:

"I'll be up late tonight Tracy. I've got a lot of unpacking to do. And a lot of people to help."

© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Writing Your Memoir?

Writing Your Memoir?

Here are the four questions from family and friends that will make you change it to a novel

iStock by Getty

[At the outset, I want to apologize. This is my first article on Medium and I am having technical problems. When I cut and pasted my article, many of my edits slipped through. Please ignore the bracketed material. I appreciate your patience].

. . .

When the pandemic hit, I ran out of excuses not to write the memoir I've been [threatening] planning to write for years. Holed up in the house with a laptop, there seemed no better [way to avoid doing planks, sit-ups, and squats, than to tell my family it was] time to start work on the Great American Novel.

In the past, friends told me "Oh, that's such a [embarrassing] funny story, you should write a book." So over the last three months, I did write the first draft of a memoir. [Let's see how funny they think it is now!]

But as a result of some [harassment] pointed questions over the last few weeks from friends and family, I am [disappointed] very proud to report that my book will now be a novel, "loosely based on some biographical information."

When I tell people that I wrote 2,000 words a day for the last three months, amounting to over 114,000 words, and 438 pages in 20 point font, here are the questions they ask me, usually in this order:

1. "What's the title?"

This question seems to be a subtext for the following questions they really want to ask:

a) Are you bitter?

b) Can I tell by the title if I'm in it?

c) Is it self-serving, boring self-improvement stuff that I won't read?


d) Does it have a lot of sex and shameful secrets in it that I can't wait to read?

2. "How far along are you?"

What really seems to interest the questioner is:

a) Can I stop this if I need to?

b) Can I add stuff to it if I want to?

c) When will [you/I] know you are done with it?

d) How hard is what you are doing?

e) Could [I/have someone else] write my [memoir] "loosely biographical novel"?

3. "Have you written anything about me?"

After a short time, they just come out and blurt this one. I can tell by looking in the person's eyes that this is what they are really asking:

a) Do I need to get a lawyer to sue you?

b) Is it bad?

c) Is it good?

d) How can I make sure I [read/edit it] before you [publish it/show it] to anyone else?

4. "What is your goal?"

This is what they really mean:

a) Are you trying to get revenge (on me)?

b) Is there a chance you might get rich and famous from this?

c) Do I need to [distance myself/or suck] up to you?

. . . 

The Answers to All the Questions

The truth is, when I began writing, I did not know [any] many of the answers to these questions. It was only during the vigorous process of writing every day that I learned some of the answers.

1. No Title Yet

I thought of a few prospective titles to my [memoir] novel based loosely on biographical facts, but I am still [not telling anyone] keeping an open mind about it. I [could not think of a cool enough title yet] certainly did not want a title to guide 114,000 words, rather I want the words to suggest the title to me more towards the end. So many book titles seem pretentious and overblown to me. [Mine will be too.]

2. Just A "First Draft"

My [memoir] novel based on loosely biographical information covers my childhood to the point right before I enter high school. I knew I was done with the "First Draft" when I felt [exhausted.] like I had written about most of the [traumas] "teachable moments" I could remember. There were other [terrible decisions] events I could have written about, but I was pleased I touched on as many [regrets] poignant memories as I did.

3. Yes You're In the Book, But No You're Not.

If you were one of the very rare persons who were kind to me, you have nothing to worry about. [Just kidding.]

My book is about [me] my main character, and [his, now] her reactions to events that occurred. It's [me] her, not you. [I don't want to hurt people unnecessarily.]

I just saw a great documentary on Philip Roth where he said "Life is not good enough," meaning that a writer has to [exaggerate] amplify what happened for the reader to be interested. Roth also said "A writer has to be shameless," meaning that [hopefully my family understands] there can be no self-censorship.

Only when you write the [most dirty] deepest thoughts and emotions is anyone going to [buy] care - no matter how [twisted] vulnerable. You can [and heaven knows I should] have shame in your personal life, says Roth. But shame and caution [will not get you a publishing deal] have no place in your writing.

4. My Goal- To Exorcise the Demons

"Writers are the exorcists of their own demons" -Mario Vargas Llosa

It does not matter why I started writing now. I uncorked the bottle, I have to write, otherwise [I have to go back to real work] I don't feel good. That is the only justification I need for writing.

I tried to write in the past, but [I was always afraid to say what I really thought] what came out sounded fake. Now I am mostly just trying to tell the story. When I read my writing now, I do not cringe as I did before, when I was younger trying to write "literature."

. . . 

There were some days [when I was a little hung over] that were a slog, and I was not pleased with the writing. On those days, I mostly felt that I was "telling" not "showing" the reader what happened. I will [never revisit] work hard to fix those passages during the edits. It was far more fun to read the passages where I put the reader right there into the movie themselves, rather than in the back row eating popcorn.

There were other days, however, when I felt the dialogue was cracking, or a poignant truth popped out as if by magic during a scene. On those days, I was, as Bukowski says, "with the gods." I can't wait to go there again.

© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune

Featured Post

How to Train for Your Eye Exam at Costco During the Pandemic

  How to Train for Your Eye Exam at Costco During the Pandemic Ventriloquism, yoga breathing techniques, sign language, and flashcards Photo...

Popular Posts