MIKE BOCKOVEN

I Wrote A Novel In 45 Days

Sep
08

I’ve always had reservations about NaNoWriMo.

There’s nothing wrong with it and I like the concept of getting your work down so you can fix it, but it was just never for me. Slow and steady, that’s how I would write. Until I didn’t.

I’ve written a few times about writer’s block, which is not exactly what happened to me. In my case, it wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas or that when I sat down to write those ideas wouldn’t come. It was that I got to a point where everything seemed more important and when I did write it was hard to grab a flow that carried me to the next day. As a result, I didn’t write a book last year, the first time in three years that didn’t happen.

Getting back into it was starting to bear fruit and I was plugging away at a sequel to one of my earlier books when I got an idea for another project. It wasn’t my strongest idea or my best idea ever but it seemed like something that could definitely play into my strengths as a writer, as it were. I also came up with a nice hook that got my brain really working.

I’m not sure when I decided to really tear into it, but I started a 1,500 word a day diet. Every day, no matter what else was going on, I was going to knock out 1,500 words a day on this thing. And I did it. On Thursday I finished the first draft of a new novel. I don’t want to go into what it is quite yet other than the elevator pitch, which is “The Shining in a Comedy Club,” but I do want to share some random thoughts I had while I wrote this book.

-My joke is I wanted to “finish the book before I convinced myself it was a bad idea” but I think there’s something to that. Giving the book a read now that I’m done I saw a few places where I could have gotten hung up for weeks had I not just plowed through and moved on.

-Parts of the book aren’t anywhere near as good as they need to be, but there’s excitement in going back and trying to fix them. Tearing through the book like I did I am still fresh on where those are what what I need to fix.

-As always, the wonderful Steph Romanski helped guide the story as it went. I know this doesn’t work for everyone but having a friend read the book as it’s being written is invaluable to my process and also keeps me going. To be clear, this isn’t an “edit” but rather a “the story is compelling, keep going” sort of thing and without it I wouldn’t have a book on my computer waiting to be edited.

-Finding time for 1,500 words is a bit of a challenge but I only fell behind twice – once because of circumstances and another time at the end where I ran out of gas a bit. When you have a goal in mind and you know how long it takes every day to get to that goal, that helps a little bit.

-Being a discovery writer REALLY helped because I wanted to know where the story would end up. Not knowing the end kept me interested.

-Some days suck, but not as many as I thought. In those rare days when the days really sucked I dove into other sections of the book that I knew were coming in order to meet the word count for the day and stitched them into the narrative later.

-Trying to plow through a book quickly left little time for research but I was able to do enough to where substantial changes weren’t going to have to happen. I think. I hope. I’m pretty sure.

-I can’t wait to get it edited and submitted but that wasn’t what gave me a kick in the ass to get the book done. At the end of the day, I think it was the story.

I let you know how it’s going and, worst case scenario, it might end up on this site at some point. Or in bookstores. Hard to tell, but the first draft is done and that’s worth a small celebration.

 

-Mike

Early Reviews of “Pack”

Apr
22

They say “don’t read the reviews.” This has not been good advice in my experience.

My first book is pulling decent reviews and even the bad reviews generally fall into two camps – those who didn’t connect with the material or the style (which is TOTALLY a legit opinion and I begrudge these one star reviewers nothing) and those who tend to be hard on books. One review of ”FantasticLand” has never not given a one star review to any book he’s ever reviewed. That doesn’t hurt my feelings any. The good reviews…they’re just more than I could’ve hoped for. I’ve had people tell me “FantasticLand” is one of their favorite books and it makes my day…hell, my week, every single time it happens.  I enjoy watching the conversation, is my point.

(I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge my imposter syndrome and that I am honestly delighted that anyone is reading my book at all. Return to text).

But I’ve been nervous recently as early reviews of my second novel, “Pack”, have started coming in. There’s the “sophomore slump” to consider, there’s the fact that my first novel took a different and risky approach to novel writing and, as a more straight novel, I’ve got less to hide behind. Either I’m a writer who can pull of a traditional novel format or I’m not.

The good news, so far, is that the early reviews are coming in and they’re good. Real good. There’s a long way to go and this could all nose dive at any moment (my general operating philosophy, strangely enough) but so far, so good. In the interest of promoting “Pack” a bit and celebrating a really good review, I’d like to repost an early review of the book by Dee Arr who got an Advanced Review Copy of the book that you can read on Goodreads.com. Here it is:

Mike Bockoven’s newest offering “Pack” takes the not-so-normal and turns it into something that helps us accept the paranormal as everyday life. The book describes a small town that not only has accepted the idea of werewolves but treats the pack as an integral part of the community. When one of the pack steps outside of the boundaries governing their behavior, the decisions made bring outside attention and threaten everyone in the town.

“Pack” continues with some of the reporting aspects that made his previous novel “Fantasticland” an incredibly realistic read. The story is told through the eyes of multiple characters and embellished through his “Selective History of Barter County” chapters. These historical entries reveal bits and pieces of the past, events which were important and shaped the town as it is today.

This is not your typical story of werewolves. It is not a tale of young love nor a bloody trail of horror. Except for their ability to change into wolves, members of the pack are no different than other residents. The author humanizes what is normally presented as scary and spins our way of thinking in the opposite direction. It is easy to empathize with the characters in their struggle to preserve a way of life that has been crafted by their ancestors for almost 200 years.

Bottom line – this is a creative story that assumes the paranormal is real. While most writers work toward this goal, Mike Bockoven’s “Pack” seems to effortlessly achieve this level of realism. Highly recommended. Five stars.

My thanks to NetGalley for an advance reading copy of this book.

It feels really good to have someone tell you that everything you tried to do came across. It’s a relief and it’s made me far more optimistic about how the book is going to be received. If you read the book and leave me a review, please know that I appreciate it a great deal and that I take constructive criticism to heart.

 

”Pack” comes out on July 3rd and I’m counting down the days. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon right now. As always, thanks for following what I do. It’s a dream come true.

 

-Mike

On Writing Warm Ups

Jan
17

I haven’t fallen down the Tumblr hole quite yet, but I’m on the precipice.

For the uninitiated Tumblr is a social network of mini blogging sites carved into intricately fine niches and with its own way of sharing, interacting, praising and innovating. It’s a singular thing and, like Twitter, you either get it or you don’t. I’m not sure I get it yet but I’m almost there, at which point I will fall into a hole, never to return.

My Tumblr, which I’m not sharing yet, is stuffed with writing advice, tips and tricks and I’ve noticed a trend. Some people do warm ups or a couple hundred words of whatever is in their head to get their fingers moving and their brain pumping. Not a bad idea if, for example, you have a block of time in which you can write, uninterrupted. And, like anything, if it works for you do it and do it proudly.

Let me tell you about the last time I tried to write.

I was in the gymnastics studio where my daughter was taking class (she’s great, by the way. Fearless and enthusiastic, using force of will to make up for whatever she lacks in grace) and I was squeezed into a child’s sized chair. Less than two feet away from me was a young boy, whatever you are after you are a Toddler. Creeper Pain in the Ass, I think is the clinical term. This up and comer wanted candy from his mom, who had some in her bag so he asked “Mommy, candy”. She said no, but he got stuck on a loop. It took him about two seconds to say “Mommy, candy,” and before the “y” in “candy” was completely out of his mouth he was on to the “m” turning it into a sort of chant, pausing only for breath. When the mom ignored him (smart phones are a powerful thing) he took his act on tour, eventually making it to me where he stared dead at me and said “Mommy, candy” over and over with the mommy in question not paying attention.

I finally piped up, saying “I don’t have any candy, bud,” the “bud” being thrown in to prove I wasn’t upset or creepy. This caused the mother to take notice and quiet the kid and I went on with my novel (knocking on the door of 50,000 words).

Why tell this story? Because it’s the only time I have. It’s a full, mostly uninterrupted hour and even that doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Unless I’m up early (like now) or up late this is the only time during the normal, waking day I have to write and I have it once a week, twice if I’m lucky. And I really like sleeping.

Bottom line: If a kid chanting in my ear isn’t going to stop me from writing, I’m not going to let my brain being a little slow do it. That’s one of the joys of discovery writing – picking right up where you left off, even if your brain was on fire. And, yeah, like anything sometimes you have a slow start. And, yeah, sometimes you have a bad writing day. But I’ve found that thinking about it before hand, like on the drive over to the gymnastics studio, and then diving right in works for me and when I lock in, that’s a glorious feeling. I wish I had it more often.

Again, that’s not to say warm ups aren’t valuable. I like reading them. It’s just not how I work right now and with a year where I’m hoping to increase my output, I am going to stay away from them for right now. Come back in a few months when I’m extolling the virtues of warm ups and asking for suggestions.

You know. Whatever works.