Attempting to FOCUS

Wait. Is he sticking his tongue out? Is that a Saint Christopher medal? What kind of material is that top, or is it a wetsuit, made of? Is he just jumping up, or is he grabbing the rail for no apparent reason? GoPro shot courtesy of, I think, Cap, second-handed to me by Stephen R. Davis.


Trish and I, a little later today, are meeting up with our daughter, Dru, and heading down Surf Route 101 to see Dru’s younger brother, and Trisha’s and my youngest child, Sean.


Sean has an older brother/oldest child, James, over on the borderland between Washington and, yes, Idaho. James lives in the red state, works in the red, East of the Mountains part of Wa, and, yes, a bit of the blueness may have faded in the years since James headed that direction, signed up for classes at the U of I because of the Lionel Hampton School of Music, continued his practice of having his own band, continued improving on guitar playing, got into a popular Moscow-based cover tune band, the Kingpins, as lead guitar player (he can crank out any riff you’ve ever heard), dropped out of school, continued spelling his name Jaymz, got married to a woman with a young son, had a son, got divorced, got remarried. His stepson had the first of several (3 now) kids, his son had a kid and joined the Navy, pretty much in that order.

Brief history, without the histrionics.

So, back to Sean, down in Olympia. But first, yes, since our youngest child is turning forty, I must be something other than young. I am not writing about that today. Maybe a little.

MORE EXPOSITION- Also optional (suggesting all other reading is mandatory)

Sean attended the Evergreen State College, graduated, got a master’s degree in Public Administration. Any day now we expect him to use the degree and his experience in working jobs in which an advanced degree is not required and get something better, white collar, perhaps. Sean does have the capacity to retain and pass on incredible amounts of knowledge on subjects he has a passion for: Movies, action figures. Action movies. So far, this passion hasn’t turned into a clear career path. We have hope.

All Sean needs is focus.

FOCUS and “SWAMIS” What I really wanted to talk about-

After writing two complete versions of my novel, I decided an outline might be a tool to cut down on the extraneous and peripheral stuff. Plot, not backstory. Not exposition. No fancy descriptions, just basic setting, dialogue, action.  Because of the time I have invested, I have to rationalize. I know my characters. Helpful.

The PLOT, the STORYLINE(S) have always been the same. Everything else is in support of the story.

DIALOGUE is very important to me- getting the rhythm and the use of language right. I used an ‘if it is important, I will remember it’ technique, trying not to constantly check with the second unexpurgated manuscript.

I wanted to use STORIES told by various characters to establish the character of several of the… characters. FOR EXAMPLE: JODY/JOEY is meant to be someone with a history of violence, of striking out when he felt threatened. I wrote several stories to back that up. JUMPER was severely wounded in Vietnam and almost certainly has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wrote a whole lot on that, probably won’t use any of it. JOSEPH DEFREINES was a decorated war veteran. I didn’t write much about that, but because my father also served in World War II and Korea, I know something about how Joey’s father would suppress his own trauma.

What I attempted to do is cut out some of the stories, shift some of the stories around, have them told, in a shorter form, or merely alluded to, by other characters. STILL, I love some of the stories.

THE ACTUAL MANUSCRIPT- I told myself it would be so easy converting the outline into a novel. NO, none of this is actually easy. I do, however, love it all. I have to rationalize the time I spend writing and thinking about what little changes I just need to make; I tell myself that all writing helps one become a better writer. SURFER ANALOGY- Wave count; it’s all about the wave count.

The outline ended up being 14 ‘Episodes,’ If that sounds like it’s more screenplay than outline… yeah.

Adding the descriptions of the settings has not been as quick and easy as I had imagined. I have made more changes and will, undoubtedly, continue to do so. Tighter. That is the goal.

I currently have the Forward, the first big chapter and a good start on chapter two at a state I’m pretty happy with. I printed the nineteen pages up. THE PLAN IS, when I have Drucilla, who loves to listen to podcasts and books on tape, as a captive audience in the car with Trish driving (after my last crash, Trish will no longer allow me to drive if she is in the vehicle- I’m fine with it), I will read the manuscript to her.    

FOCUS- I was talking to a client the other day about painting the trim on her Port Townsend Victorian house, and, as I do, I was off on numerous tangents. “We have to focus on the painting here,” she said. “Oh. Okay.” I said I wasn’t insulted, then said, “Yeah, I am kind of insulted. It’s okay.” I walked toward my van. “You know, the main character in the novel I mentioned… He gets so involved in all the stuff that is going on that… I think, for a detective, that kind of perceptiveness might not be a bad thing.” She nodded. “I have every confidence,” she said, “based on your reputation, that you have the ability to focus totally on what you’re painting.”

“Well,” I said, climbing into my big boy van, “I do.”

I wanted to add “When I have to.” I wanted to add a lot more. No time, had to get to working. Focusing on the task at hand.

DRUCILLA BACKSTORY- Optional but possibly interesting-

Dru went to Loyola University in Chicago, graduated, got a good job with an advertising firm, didn’t complete her master’s degree (Trish hopes she still might), worked for “The Onion,” moved back to the northwest a couple of year ago. She lives in Port Gamble, works in a shop there and does off site work for another advertising outfit in Chicago, works for the Olympic Music Festival. Dru actually did some recording of ‘concerts in the barn,’ the barn being in Quilcene, when she was in high school. Dru’s best friend from high school, Molly, lives in one of those old houses just down the street from her.

I really want my only daughter to help edit and package and sell “Swamis.” The threat is, if she doesn’t, and someone else does, and some money is eventually made, she would have to wait until Trish and I die to reap the real benefits. Trish plans on living to one hundred, I’m not planning on going anytime soon and… and… We’ll see how it goes today with the forced listening.  

Happy days to you.

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