Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It Comes in Spurts

You damned, dirty-minded people. Cut that out. I'm talking about writing.

I wrote Transit Gloria using the BIC (butt in chair) method, and I'm glad I discovered it. Without it, there would never have been a finished manuscript with my name on it. With it, there will never be another one. I've decided to discard it.

Unlike a lot of writers, I don't make myself write until I reach a word count, or until a certain amount of time has elapsed. I simply write until I've accomplished whatever I need to accomplish next. When a character needs to disappear from the story for a while, I sit down and write him out of the story. Then I take a break. When a story needs to reach a peak, I write its way up the mountain. Then I take a break. When I need someone to make an entrance, I write them in. Then I take a break. Sometimes these breaks last for weeks. This is my new writing method. I call it the butt-in-chair method.

"Wait," you protest, "that isn't the butt-in-chair method. You can't take weeks off. You have to put your butt in the chair. Every day."

I disagree. I think what you have to do, is put your butt in the chair when you are ready to write. Not a moment before, and not a moment after. I put my butt in the chair when I 'm ready to write, and then I write the stuff that makes my chair-time worthwhile.

I tried to force myself into the chair while I was writing Transit Gloria, and when I wasn't ready to write but tried anyway... I produced some of the most hideous stuff you will never read. Absolute garbage flowed out onto the page. Hideous, stilted, uninspired tripe. When I went back to revise the story, those pages ended up looking like the scene of a chainsaw murder. There was red EVERYWHERE. I swear I spent more time revising each of those scenes than I did revising any ten of the scenes where I just let the writing flow.

This is how I write for the paper. I interview people, I cover events, I attend meetings, and when I'm ready to write the story, it just pours out of me. It's easy, and I'm prolific. Today I wrote twelve stories. They just flowed out of me and onto the page.

My fiction writing changed with the things I learned while writing Transit Gloria. During TG, I had one night of writing that I remember like you remember a night of lovemaking with your soulmate. I remember everything about that night - the sights, the smells, the taste on my lips... I wrote almost 12,000 words that night. I created a character from the rawest of materials, and led him through the event that forged his entire future. I gave him life, I gave him love, and I broke his heart, and the writing was almost like an extended orgasm. When I finished, I was exhausted, and elated, and convinced that it would always be that good.

I'm sorry to say it isn't always that good, but knowing it can be, makes me want to keep writing. It keeps me ready, and gets my butt in the chair. Because when it's good, when it's really good, it comes in spurts.

Mark Pettus,
Wednesday, December 21, 2005


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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Update Me! Please!

Ok, I'm going to break with tradition and do a post that has diddle to do with writing or getting published. I'm just going to update you on a few things.

First, Crazy Stalker Woman is still stalking me. Here's part of her latest contact with me.


... another trip down memory lane, lets see...

There were rumors you slept with your high school speech teacher (true or false)
Moe and Joe (the dogs not the singers)
Carl Sandburg poetry read on the phone in the middle of the night.

Congratulations on the book, that is really wonderful!!

I really don't know how to sign this, Stalker is a terrible word and Crazy, well that brings up images of straight jackets and not so appealing drugs, so let me just say talk to you soon, and by the way I
have been cursed with a very good memory.

Don't be afraid.


I'm not afraid. Really. But Carl Sandberg? Boy, was I full of shit or what? Afraid? No. I'm embarrassed. Not about the speech teacher thing, though. That was a cool rumor then, and it's still a cool rumor, and she was pretty hot... skin as soft as warm butter...

Where was I? Oh, yeah...

Anna McGinty has changed addresses. I'll update her link someday. Until then, read her here.

I finally have proof that blogs can sell books. I've been a bit of a doubting Thomas on this one. It's easy to find readers who are writers, but readers who are readers, not so much. Dawn, over at NVNC ID VIDES, NVNC NE VIDES has turned me on to a lot of things, latest of which is Neil Gaiman. I know he's probably a literary god to many of you, but honestly, I never heard of him until I read his blog. Now I'm reading Anansi Boys. It's a good read (actually, I'm listening to the audiobook, and it's a good listen). Thanks Dawno.

Lisa Coutant tagged me for a meme. I've only done one meme, and didn't do it here (that whole thing about keeping the blog pure, its message on target... this is about writing, etc... to which I now say, "Bah. Humbug.")

Seven Things to Do Before I Die:
1. Not a clue. I really have had a full life. I've done almost everything I ever wanted to do. I'd like to do some of them again (think Henry Miller, and save me the indiscreet details), but things I've missed that I really want to do?


  1. Okay... hold a grandbaby. My own grandbaby. I could do that.
  2. Learn to play the piano.
  3. Same with the guitar.
  4. Come out of a courtroom feeling like a winner. 'Nuf said.
  5. Get a jacket blurb from Pat Conroy.
  6. Become a bonifide curmudgeon. I'm already in training.
  7. Play Mercutio on the stage. It's never going to happen, but hey, this is where we are supposed to dream, isn't it?

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

  1. Pretend I believe in the existence of justice.
  2. Ignore ignorance.
  3. Hide behind a cliche.
  4. Put my leg behind my neck.
  5. Not notice a woman's ass. Sorry. That does NOT mean I don't respect your intelligence or your authority or your abilities, but I'm a human animal, male, and I have a biological imperative to propagate the species. Your ass constantly reminds me of my responsibility to the gene pool.
  6. paint or draw anything better than stick figures.
  7. Pick up strangers in a bar.

Seven Things I Say (or write!) Most Often:

  1. almost
  2. very
  3. just
  4. that
  5. I
  6. ...
  7. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Seven Books (or series) I Love:

  1. Beau Geste
  2. Wheel of Time series
  3. Le Morte D'Arthur
  4. Rabbit Run
  5. Cidar House Rules
  6. Memnoch the Devil
  7. The Great Santini

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:

  1. Magnificent Seven
  2. The Princess Bride
  3. Babe
  4. Top Gun
  5. Phenomenon
  6. Michael
  7. Signs

Yeah, I cheated and left out two categories. Hey, its my room and they're my toys, so I get to make the rules. Deal with it.

I'm only going to tag one person. Dawno, who has always been nothing but nice to me, for no good reason.

If you tag yourself, let me know. I'd like to see everyone's answers.

Mark Pettus,
Wednesday, December 14, 2005


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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It's a small world, after all.

It's a very small world, and getting smaller every day. The internet is bringing the world to our front door. If we don't answer, like a nosy neighbor, the world is going to peep through the blinds.

You may remember a piece I wrote a few weeks ago titled Dear Anonymous. In it, I wrote about the lack of anonymity in small towns, and how much I enjoyed becoming just another face in the crowd when I moved to Dallas/Ft. Worth. I also wrote that I was abandoning my anonymity, that I was becoming Mark Pettus, the small town boy with a talent for making up stories. Little did I know...

Twice in the past week, I've gotten emails from people who want to know if I'm the same Mark Pettus who went to their high school. Both times, my answer has been yes, and my question has been, "Do I know you?" So far the only answer I've gotten is from someone who might be a character on Seinfeld. Crazy Stalker Woman refuses to tell me her name, but knows my birthdate, asks about my brother, and signs her email, "The Game Continues..."

If you're a Stephen King fan, you probably know how much grief he got for calling the little town where he taught high school english, "The asshole of the world." I'm not going to make the same mistake. Although my hometown has its share of hemorrhoids, most are attached to the assholes who live there, not to the town itself. It's a small town, and has its share of great people as well, some of whom are undoubtedly going to discover that I'm writer, a great writer, a Faulkner for the new millenium... okay, so maybe that was a little over the top (but if you ever have to introduce me, for a reading, a Pulitzer, the Nobel... you could use that line, it wouldn't piss me off).

Since I'm already attracting some attention, I guess I need to lay down some guidelines for people from my past:

  1. If you are angry because I once slept with your sister, you have me confused with my brother. He lives near Miami, and drives a white Yukon. I can send you his plate number and address if you like.
  2. If you are nursing a decades-long case of unrequited love, I look forward to meeting you. I'm still a pretty good looking guy. I love candle light dinners and long walks in the park... but I must insist that you never tell your brother that you know where I am. Never. I'm not kidding.
  3. If you are thinking that I can somehow help you finance an organic dairy farm, you should know that I work for a newspaper, my novel is unpublished, and I don't have an agent. When I get an agent, and my agent sells my novel, you can get in line behind my ex-wife, the IRS, the people who are trying to collect on my defaulted student loan, and a guy named Vinny who keeps threatening to repossess my grandmother. If, after I pay them, there is any money left, organic dairy farming in a the desert actually sounds like the kind of hair-brained scheme I'd fall for. Call me.
  4. That whole thing with the underwire bra was a joke. No one at the reunion wants to hear about it. I know those pictures look like me. You never heard of Adobe PhotoShop?

p.s. to Crazy Stalker Woman.

Are you married?

Mark Pettus,
Wednesday, December 07, 2005


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