William Michael Goins

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Dec
01

10/2015 Back to Book Two

Working hard on book two of my trilogy and after wrestling with it a bit I think I finally have it in a manageable outline form. Unfortunately, until recently, I tended to be primarily a scene writer with no real regard to the segues and chapter arrangement until later, more or less knowing where I was going but not definitive. Bad idea, as it really slows the writing down. I discovered that with another book I wrote that went so much smoother and have fallen totally in love with more precise plotting along an outline form using a system I developed that works for me. I had a lot of solid scenes written for this book but no definitive organization, no real solid plot line, so I had to drop back and both organize what I had already written and set up a more cohesive plot than what I had originally thought. That, took time I honestly could have been writing had I been better organized with the way I wrote at the time.

I recently did a synopsis of it for my agent that reads pretty solidly so I used it for the foundation, adding in some additional plot lines that I worked through recently. It’s now a much stronger book than originally planned with a good central line and several additional threads running through it and I am more than happy with it so far but it took determining exactly whose story it is to get it laid out properly. After several starts/stops and tough decisions, I think I have it very, very close – never positive as additional ideas sometimes need to be worked in as I go. Little more than a couple hundred pages done and more than enough storyline for another two to three hundred pages and I now know exactly where I’m going with the side threads woven in and out of the main plot line. Might actually be five hundred pages (about 125K words) when finished and then I’ll edit it from there.

If you are reading this – and I’m not sure anyone is – I’m still looking for others in the area (northwest San Antonio) interested in a small writer’s group – maybe five or six serious writers regardless of skill level. If you write and want to get better and need quality critiquing, contact me and let’s talk.

Back to book two – people waiting on me.

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

10/2015 Freshman Papers

Freshman papers due and I have hundreds to grade so I won’t be writing until get them done. English is a difficult subject to teach for a number of reasons. First, most students in freshman classes are literally all over the place. Some had good high school English teachers, some not so good, some come form good schools, others from those just getting by. Others come from either the military or from the regular world where they have, for the most part, learned the minimum wage world can be a difficult place to live. Also some sadness – I caught one of my freshmen cheating on a paper. She pulled it off the Internet with minimal intro and conclusion added and when confronted about it claimed she had written it in high school – a double whammy as a previously written paper is not okay to submit in a college class. It turned out that she had submitted it in high school and received a good grade on it, however, she took it off the Internet then and it wasn’t her’s. She thought it was okay to sue and it was her paper since she had used it once. Scary, but not all that uncommon. Each year brings more and more students who are essentially unprepared for college level writing and many don’t even know the fundamentals of grammar. Makes my job difficult as freshman English is meant to prepare a student for all the following classes required writing needs and I only have 16 weeks in which to do it. While it gladdens my heart to see most go from D papers to A/B papers, I still, after all this time, hate that I can’t save them all. Some simply won’t let me and though I know the failure of those few is not my fault, I still hate it anyway.

Update: It’s that time in the semester where my students writing generally improves dramatically, making the grading much faster than earlier in the academic year. I am now finished and all papers are graded, so it’s back  to the people anxiously standing around my desk that only I can see.

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

10/2015 We’re Waitin’ on you.

Steadily working on the second manuscript in my trilogy and as much as I really do love teaching freshman English, it sometimes gets in the way of my writing. Like all others who write fiction, the hope is to someday write full time and, to be completely honest, after teaching for so many years, it sure would be nice to never have to grade another essay. I  often have as many as several hundred essays of wildly varying quality on my desk to grade at any given time, and by necessity its a slow process to do properly. I sometimes sit at my desk and focus on the papers with my characters from book two standing all around me, each whispering my name softly, and that, my friends, makes the grading hard to do. There’s always so many essays I can’t not grade or I get behind, and that’s something I would never want to do for a number of reasons. It’s important to get them back to my students ,not only for me and the avoidance of the hassle of trying to get caught back up if I don’t stay on top of it, but for my students who desperately need the feedback so that their next paper is better than the one I’m currently grading. Without feedback – and I provide a LOT of feedback on essays, even the good ones – they can’t get better and that’s what the composition classes are all about – getting better and becoming a competent college-level writer so they can make good grades in all classes requiring writing. Even as I write this, the big man to my right is rolling his eyebrowless eyes and whispering my name and the scary little woman behind me is mumbling something that sounds like it might be a threat. The fat woman with the errant headscarf just in front of my monitor smiles, rearranges the headscarf yet again, and nods. “Hurry up, Mister Mike,” she says. “We’re waitin’ on you.”

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

10/6/2015 The Trilogy

Everything is working quite well on the trilogy mentioned earlier and I really like the characters, both the good ones and the bad ones. It’s surprising sometimes how a bad character will come to life, often quite unexpectedly, and then just how much fun they can be to write. The complexities of character development can make both good and bad characters difficult to make real and that’s where writers sometimes go astray, but the reality with fiction is that with most characterization there are really just three types of characters. Obviously, the main characters, protagonist and antagonist however many there are or might be, have to be fully rounded and fleshed out with subtly to them and considerable depth including tics, mannerisms, etc. The other two types are necessary for reality. Walk-on characters are those that are necessary to make scenes true and real, whether one is writing historical fiction or science fiction ad they generally interact with the main characters or at least are hears in some way. They walk in and out of scenes and usually have names, though one has to be careful with too many named characters or the reader won’t know who is actually important and who to pay attention too – at least initially when opening the book up. They are the waitresses interrupting the action at the table and taking orders that make a restaurant a restaurant, the librarians waving a finger and shushing in the library, the characters – whoever they might be – that somehow come into contact with the major ones and then interact with them in some way. This would be the waitress that talks to a major charter on more than one occasion, for example. Last, and certainly important to setting, are what I refer to as the cardboard characters. They are the ones who are nameless and in the background but vital to setting or moving the story along in some way. The people walking in and out and eating in the restaurant (so it’s a restaurant and not a bus station, for example). They are nameless but quite vital to the realization of the scene, the ones who drop the glasses/call out the orders/greet customers, brush past/etc. the people in the restaurant so it feels/looks/sounds real. Deep breath. Back to the manuscript.

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

9/2015 A Three-Page paper is three pages.

September, and classes have now been going on for several weeks. This is my bitch entry, and I’ll try hard not to do many of them. Wow, it is so amazing how poorly high school students are taught English. Every single semester I have many of my first semester college freshman students who can’t write simple sentences, write nothing but run-on sentences or comma splice sentences, understand the fundamentals of grammar, or are able to follow simple directions. A three page paper is three pages. Pretty simple, huh? Apparently not. I get emails asking how long the next paper should be. Really? Happens with the one-pages I have them do too. There is one – 1 – correct way to format an academic paper, yet most can’t or won’t manage to do it correctly until the points taken off multiply sufficiently to make them understand how serious I am about doing it correctly. I do get some good students, but they are in the serious minority. Two, three a class of twenty-five or so is the norm and it takes the full sixteen weeks of the semester to get most up to where they can do well in future classes that require writing (like pretty much everything, sometimes even including math classes).  The first part of the semester lacks good-feeling feedback. The end is usually much better. Okay. Enough time away from the stack waiting on me to grade them. Back to the trenches looking for that occasional outstanding paper that lets me know I am doing something right here. There’s simply too few of them coming into freshman classes anymore.

 

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

9/2015 Back to the Manuscript

Working on book two of the trilogy and have 100 plus pages done as well as a pretty good working outline. Also have a lot of additional scenes roughed out that are not as yet incorporated, so overall book two is about half done to the completion of a reasonably clean first draft. Out of necessity, I am doing a little work on book three too, as all three books fold into each other to make the trilogy work. A reader should be able to read any of the three first and then read the others.

Most days the writing is fun but occasionally it is more mechanical arrangement than creative process and while I like that too, the creativity part is obviously my favorite. A good writer has to be able to do both and do them well, among about a thousand other things. Back to the manuscript.

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

9/2015 Favorite Quotes

A friend says this is his favorite quotation:

I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.

– Steven Wright

This has always been mine:

There are three rules to writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

– W. Somerset Maugham

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

9/2015 Labor Day

Been a really long week, so I am more than a little glad for the extra day off that Labor Day provides. The new semesters means first academic papers from freshman classes, and I also have editing needed on a manuscript for my agent.

The student paper grading went well – for me, not so well for the students. Freshman composition class papers generally suck the first time around, partly, I’m sure, because of the attempt to do the absolute minimum necessary as was done in high school and a lack of understanding that they are not now in thirteenth grade. Bad mistake, and most make it, though not all recover from it. An always too large portion of the papers were truly awful and ended up as F papers (I actually gave F/D’s to most since they are the first college level papers attempted by these guys). A few were legitimate A’s, a few B’s, and a couple were C’s.

Most issues were caused by a distinct inability to follow directions regarding the format, length, topic, or whatever, as well as a general lack of ability to write in any sort of cohesive manner or understand the fundamentals of grammar. That said, lots (and I mean LOTS) of markup on these papers will be discussion next week and that will lead to much improved papers the next time around. Always does. Unfortunately, many have been allowed to write really crappy papers in high school by teachers who didn’t care and/or bother to prepare them for college, so it takes the full 16 week semester to get some improved to where they are solid writers. Those who have trouble distinguishing the difference between college and high school will likely not make it through the class, and so it goes. Not everyone really should be in college. Those who will let me, will write and write well in fourteen more weeks, if they make the effort. The others will struggle with college writing assignments for the duration of the time they remaining college.

Once the grading was done, I was able to work on to the manuscript I’m completing and get it and several synopses finished for my agent. As of a few minutes ago, it’s in her hands (electronically speaking). On to completing book two of the trilogy.

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

9/2015 Back to Editing

My line edits are back, so I’m back to work on a book in my trilogy. It’s a long weekend, so I’m working hard and hope to having the package ready for my agent before Tuesday.

However, here in San Antonio, things are a little different sometimes, especially for those of us who live on acreage in the country. We are also a small bed and breakfast (Bella-Green) here and have two kinds of deer, as well as the occasional javelina, fox, bobcat, coyotes, etc.  which is really no big deal. That said, we have a young couple from Austin staying with us for the next three days from Austin, which is not too far away. I’m sitting at my desk, diligently working on final rewrite/corrections and when I reached 200 pages, halfway through the manuscript, I decided to stop and check on our guests.

He met me as I opened the back door, iPhone in hand, literally texting me right that moment that there was a tarantula on our back door (the one I am now standing in as I talk to him). I look the door over – nothing. I look inside, thinking maybe it fell into the house – nothing. Then I look behind the door, inside the house, and bingo! There he is. Sadie, our rescue cockapoo, is cautiously checking him out but not growling yet as she has no idea what the heck a spider that big is. A mason jar, a teflon potholder, and a smooth grab and he’s scooped up and safe to handle. The couple took pictures, but as it was a bit scary to her, I took the tarantula ( a medium-sized one)  a couple hundred yards down the road so he will hopefully make new friends and bother someone else. Tarantulas here aren’t really a big deal – we usually see 2-3 a year, sometimes more. He makes the third one so far this year. Just another day in Central Texas.

Back to editing.

 December 1st, 2015  
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Dec
01

8/2015 Plot Twist

How a friend of mine approaches all of life using the writing of fiction as his core element:

plot twist

 December 1st, 2015  
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