The Nature of Writing

“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it”-  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     Recently a friend and fellow writer had mentioned that his writing  had been missing references to outdoor details lately because he had been stuck indoors due to health issues and authorial deadlines. He mentioned that he needed to get outside and do things again to get the feeling of environmental stimulus. This got me to thinking about how my life and environment affects my writing as well. I too have been stuck inside way too much while trying to finish up a story. So when my wife suggested we go out for a weekend of nature hiking and photography I was thrilled. I had just finished my last revisions on my story and I had some free time on my hands for the first time in a long while. We set out at one of the larger city parks in our area in search of Texas bluebonnets, our state flower which blooms only once a year in the Spring. We also went hiking on the nature paths that wind through the woods. I thought about how I would write a scene if one of my characters were walking along this trail:

     The air was heavy and thick this far into the woods. The sound of dead brown leaves crunched and rustled underfoot with every step of his leather hiking boots. Somewhere up the trail a small animal scurried through the underbrush rattling the tangle of briars and sapling trees. The smell of mouldering vegetation and damp cool earth wafted through the woods, stirred by his tramping along the path. He walked further on then leaned against an old oak tree, feeling the furrowed roughness of the bark under his hands. The bark was cool to the touch, but had a feeling of vibrancy, a tangible aliveness to it.

     Something like that anyway. So what are you waiting for? Get outside, experience the great outdoors and think about what you are perceiving while you are immersed in whatever setting you are placed. It doesn’t have to be a nature setting , it could be urban. A subway tunnel, busy city streets, etc.  Let your senses record your surroundings and use it in your writing.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” -Henry David Thoreau

Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 5:28 am  Comments (1)  

Lawyers in Hell snippet, April 15th 2011

Lawyers in Hell snippet, April 15th 2011.

The above link is an excerpt from my story, ‘Remember, Remember, Hell in November’, from the book Lawyers in Hell, edited by Janet Morris, which will be released this Summer, 2011. Several  authors will have stories in this shared world anthology of historical/mythical fiction: Janet Morris, Chris Morris, Richard Groller, Nancy Asire, CJ Cherryh, Ed McKeown, Bruce Durham, Michael Armstrong, Michael H. Hanson, Allan Gilbreath, Kimberly Richardson, Deborah Koren, Sarah Hulcy, David Burkhead, Scott Oden, John Manning, Jason Cordova, Leo Champion, Bradley H. Sinor, Michael Z. Williamson, and me, Larry Atchley, Jr.

This story, and the book itself wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all the writers in the Heroes in Hell series, and Lawyers in Hell group. Special thanks goes out to our group muse, Sarah Hulcy for her endless hours of toiling to archive ideas, and conversations into a useable format, and for proofreading, and editing all the stories. Of course the book and series could not happen without Janet Morris and Chris Morris willing it into life, and to do all the final editing, and add their input into everything to make this book the best it can possibly be. I can’t wait to hold the hardcover book in my hands, and see my name and story inside the covers of this wonderful anthology. This is only the beginning, more books in the series are already being planned, and I will have the opportunity to submit stories for each of them. Won’t you join me for a trip through Hell this Summer?  Hell is coming, look busy!

Published in: on April 16, 2011 at 3:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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The craft of writing, or How to drive yourself insane

We all know that writers are crazy. It’s obviously a prerequisite to be madder than a hatter to do this kind of stuff. There’s that whole “voices in my head” thing or, “the character made me do it” excuse. But the whole process of writing can, I truly believe,  make you insane. Trying to get inside the heads of you characters, and letting them get inside your head, can be a maddening, frustrating process. Sometimes ideas and words just flow right out of you. Other times you have to draw it out from your tortured soul, like one draws venom from a wound.

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”-Thomas Mann

Then there is the self-doubt, the indecision, the nagging compulsion to constantly change, revise, rewrite what you are composing until it is perfect. Except nothing ever is perfect. Sometimes you just have to settle for good enough. Otherwise you will revise and rewrite until the story becomes meaningless, you burn out completely on it, or you die.

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”-Oscar Wilde

But write we must. Because that’s who we are, not just what we do; we’re story-tellers. The most important part is that we must share what we write with the rest of the world. Otherwise it becomes merely self-serving cathartic therapy.

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” -Winston Churchill

And lastly writing is a job. Okay, I love my job, insanity, frustration and doubts aside, but a job nonetheless. You have to put in the hours, write as much as you can, and learn as much about writing as you can, so you can constantly hone your craft with words.  

“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”- Peter De Vries

Luckily it doesn’t require a university degree or any credentials to become a writer. Anyone can take a stab at it and it’s possible to succeed.

“Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.”- Edward Gibbon

Having just started to get my work out there to be published, I of course must work full-time at something else, and write in my spare time. Like there is a lot of that to go around. That’s why on any given day, you’ll find me sitting at my computer in a dark room, past the witching hour of the night, trying to get words put to screen, researching material for my stories, networking with other writers, or working on new and interesting ways to promote my work and get my name out there in the world. When I’m in the writing zone, everyday stuff in my life gets ignored unfortunately. Friends go unvisited, laundry and dishes stack up, cars go unwashed, fences unrepaired. Writing can take over your whole life, make you a hermit, a recluse, and all those long hours alone in the dark, staring into a computer screen: a madman!

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”
-William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”, Act 2 scene 2
Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 6:17 am  Leave a Comment  

My first blog! The long journey of being a writer.

I have started this blog as a creative outlet for my ideas and opinions and to talk about and promote my writing. I have been a writer since about eighteen, penning mostly poetry, fantasy, science fiction, and various philosophical ideas. I also love to collect quotes, so you will see a fair amount of those on here as well.

My journey to become a published writer has been a long one, marked by procrastination, self doubt, and fleeting moments of inspiration. I have talked about trying to publish my work for years, but didn’t actively pursue it until recently. My wife, Sussie has been on my case to write more and submit my stories and poems for years. She has been and continues to be my biggest supporter and motivator.

I finally decided to get serious about my writing and for my birthday last year my wife bought me a reservation to a workshop that the Bedford Library Friends Writers Circle was hosting. Author Sarah A. Hoyt, and editor/author Amanda S. Green presented the workshop and I learned so much valuable information about writing, and publishing over the course of the weekend. Each of us in the workshop submitted some of our writing to be critiqued, and I nervously awaited judgement on the part of the story I had written. Much to my surprise and delight, Sarah liked my writing, said I was a good storyteller, and proclaimed that with some diligent self editing I could be a publishable writer. Few words in my life have ever made me so happy. It gave me not only validation that I was actually a decent enough writer that people would be interested in my stories, but also the motivation to want to get my work out there for publication.

Thus began my serious attempts at writing more, and editing what I already had written, to prepare my work to be submitted to publishers. This was in the Fall of 2010, and barely a month after the workshop, by a series of fortuitous events, I was invited to submit a story for a historical fantasy shared world anthology. But this was not just any run of the mill anthology. I had read the Heroes in Hell series when they were first published from 1986 to 1989, when I was still in High School, and they are some of my favorite books. Janet Morris, who created, edited and wrote for the original series is bringing the series back with a new book and new authors along with some of those who wrote for the original series.  I was asked by Janet to be part of the working group of writers for the new book, and of course I jumped at the chance. She had gotten to know me from my comments and interactions at The Sacred Band Facebook page, and apparently liked what I had to say enough to ask me to contribute to the new Heroes in Hell book. All of us writers have been brainstorming ideas, plot lines, character interactions, and promotional strategies for the book, and subsequent books to follow for the series. It continues to be a fun, creative, wild ride, and I am very fortunate to be a part of the experience and work with such great writers, and wonderful people. My story has been accepted for publication in the book, Lawyers in Hell which comes out this Summer, 2011 in e-book format, trade paperback and hardcover. It will be my first published story. I  am working hard to refine my craft of writing, trying to learn as much as I can and become the best writer I can be. I have a lot to learn, but I have found some great mentors to help me along my journey. Thank You Sarah A. Hoyt for sharing your knowledge, and for your encouragement that gave me the confidence to pursue my goal of being a published writer. Thanks Amanda S. Green and the Writers Circle for your advice, words of wisdom, and support. Thanks Janet Morris and Chris Morris for believing in me and inviting me to write for the Heroes in Hell series. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity. Thanks to everyone in the Lawyers in Hell group for being such a great bunch of friends, talented writers, and a constant inspiration for keeping the words flowing. Most of all, thanks to my wife, Sussie, for always supporting and encouraging me to follow my dream, and to my daughter, Alina for understanding the madness of it all.

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are rotten,
either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.”-Benjamin Franklin

Published in: on April 4, 2011 at 2:01 am  Comments (2)  
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