The Weekly Man: One Got Through (so far)

CoffeeNovel

I’ve been planning and preparing for my serialization of The Weekly Man for months. It’s pretty much how I spent most of my summer. It wasn’t easy. I had to set up a blog at WordPress to post the episodes. I was horrified when I saw the first test posts on my phone. They looked great on my iMac and Macbook, but things were skewed all to hell on my phone.

So I had to create a phone-happy version on my biffmitchell.com site on GoDaddy. And it actually looks good. Unfortunately, I ran into massive formatting problems with the template and I had to create PDFs for each episode…72 of them, along with 72 thumbnails for readers to click on to bring up the PDFs.

Ran into formatting problems on WordPress as well and had to create screen cuts of all the email messages (and there are many many many emails in the novel) which I can insert into the posts each day for the next couple of months.

Now, I realize that I could have sailed around a lot of these problems if I used some HTML, but that would be time-consuming and my HTML is rusty as hell.

And then, of course, there’s getting the word out. I won’t get into the Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn and Facebook challenges. I could write a book on the ups and downs and the special rules and expectations, especially on some if the Reddit and Facebook sites.

It’s a lot.

But I have a checklist. I worked in Quality Assurance for several years and learned that complex processes crumble and collapse without checklists and stringent testing. So I have a checklist, and when I post something on either site, I read through, looking for misspellings, missing paragraphs, incorrect images…all the cool and maddening ways that things can go wrong and kill the hair follicles in your head.

But I just received a message from a friend informing me that when she clicks the thumbnail for Episode 2 on the GoDaddy site, she gets Episode 3. Fortunately, I don’t have any hair left to loose, but I have to wait an hour before I can correct the error and…whisker by whisker…my new beard is falling out.

It’s a race against the clock to keep my beard and hide the mistake.

There will be more. I’ve been in the IT industry too long to believe any differently.

 

(PS, if you find any errors, mistakes, gross misconceptions, incorrect theses, unintentional release of secret information, or signs of unforgivable sloppiness…please feel free to rub it in my face and I’ll do my best to address it.)

How Do You Read the Coffee Break Novel?

read novel

You would think I would have the decency and the brains to limit the world’s first daily serialized coffee break novel to five days a week…those weekdays traditionally recognized as work days in the 1950s image of the perfect world where everybody clocked in at 9 in the morning and stumbled out at 5 PM. But I have neither.

And I don’t really feel bad about it. Not everyone works in an office. Not everyone has coffee breaks. Not everyone drinks coffee. And since this is a world’s first, not everyone knows how to read it. There will be chaos and war sprouting out of arguments over how to read a coffee break novel if you don’t have a coffee break. Families will purge members who drink tea on their coffee breaks. I’ve already received disguised death threats from football fans expressing their outrage that The Weekly Man will be published not just weekdays…but Saturday and Sunday as well…even though I had no say in that. You can thank the novel’s characters for that piece of insanity.

I’ve thought deeply about this and I’ve come up with some options.

You can read The Weekly Man five days a week on your morning or afternoon coffee break…and you can come in to work for a few minutes on Saturday and Sunday to read it. I foresee objections to this option and offer the following alternatives:

  • Stay home on the weekends and read three days’ worth of episodes on Monday.
  • Have your weekend coffee breaks at home in a room simulated to look like your work space.
  • Don’t bother reading those episodes, which will very likely increase the novel’s mystery aspect.

Personally, none of these options appeal to me, but then, I’m bald and have an unruly beard that I try to conceal from the public.

Now, let’s suppose you don’t have coffee breaks, don’t drink coffee, don’t work because you’re a 105 year old hippie like me, don’t have time on your 3 minute coffee break or…don’t whatever. I have a page, a hidden page that doesn’t appear on my website’s navigation bar because it’s a secret page. It has all the episodes, every single one of them listed for the whole two and a half months of its serialization.

One problem though.

Each episode will be posted on its scheduled date…not all at once. But you can still put aside some time and read say, a week’s worth or a few days’ worth. And you don’t even have to drink coffee while you’re reading. You can drink beer. Or tea. Click here for the secret page…but don’t tell anyone else. This is just for you.

Come to think of it, reading a weeks’ worth of episodes each Saturday would be more like the original serialized novels from writers like Dickens a thousand years before they had coffee breaks.

Using this secret link will allow you to read the whole novel after all the episodes have been published. But keep in mind…that would require a lot of clicking because each episode requires you to click to open it. You’ll get Click Thumb and Fingers and your hand will fall off.

Here’s another option that just occurred to me: Read the episodes at night while you drink coffee on a break from your evening activities. How cool would that be? You’re watching a movie with friends and suddenly stand up and announce, “I think I’ll have a coffee break now and read The Weekly Man.” You’ll be envied as the loneliest person on the block. I know this from experience.

I guess it boils down to this: Read it however you want. I’ve put together a few options to give you some choice and that choice is yours.

You can read The Weekly Man on its own blog here. https://www.theweeklyman.com. If you’re reading on a cell phone or tablet, read it at the secret place mentioned above. And check out the welcome page at https://biffmitchell.com/the-weekly-man for more options and lots of freebies for readers and writers.

Sometimes you have to cry before you laugh

Cry before laugh

…or just do something that’s not anywhere near laughing…like being confounded, grossed out or puzzled. The Weekly Man is a mystery of sorts. In terms of genres, it would fall loosely into speculative/magical realism/humor/social commentary/not always so humorous. Something along those lines.

The first episode is not humorous. My apologies. It’s kind of serious, kind of gross, kind of foul-mouthed and kind of hopeful. You won’t like the main character…for now. However, if you don’t like serious/gross/foul-mouthed/hopeful, you can just skip it. It’s being published on a Sunday anyway, and my friends tell me they’d rather stay home and watch football than go into work so that they can have a coffee break and read the first episode of The Weekly Man.

Oh well.

But honestly, the first episode won’t make any sense until almost halfway through the novel anyway; however, it sets a tone that’s important coming into the story because, sometimes, it’s necessary to erect humor on a solid foundation of muck.

Dark muck.

There’s something deeply wrong with humans (that would be you and me), but I won’t get into that now. I will later…well into the story when, hopefully, you’ll see something intrinsically wrong with the way the lives of the characters unfold. It’s something we do all the time and it’s probably going to kill us eventually and that’s why the story starts on a down note.

There will be humor, but you won’t be slapping your knees or choking on coffee. It’ll be quiet and bothersome. And it’ll go well with your morning coffee.

Check out the new landing page with options for reading the novel and some interesting free stuff.

 

 

Media Release: Coming This Sunday: The World’s First Free Daily Serialized Coffee Break Novel

Landing Image

(Fredericton, Sept 4, 2019, For Immediate Release)

The serialized novel is about to enter a new chapter with the release of The Weekly Man, the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel, on September 8 this year.

“Dickens started this in the 1800s with The Pickwick Papers,” said author Biff Mitchell. “I’m paring the concept with the modern coffee break.”

The Weekly Man will be published episode by episode every day starting September 8 and continue until mid-November of this year.

“Each episode is short enough to fit into a coffee break,” said Mr. Mitchell. “The novel is mostly humorous and I’m hoping it will give people a morning smile, or even a laugh.”

The novel follows the lives of seven people who have sensed since childhood that something mysterious lurks under their daily lives. Their lives are changed forever when they make a stunning discovery.

“I can’t give too much information about the novel at the moment,” said Mr. Mitchell. “It has a few surprises and I don’t want to give them away. There’s a legitimate reason why the novel needs to run on the weekends as well as weekdays, but that’s a surprise as well.”

According to Mr. Mitchell, The Weekly Man explores a number of contemporary issues, especially our insane ability to ignore what’s happening in the real world and build our own realities no matter how wrong we know they are.

“We do this with climate change,” said Mr. Mitchell, “every time we buy a bottle of water in a plastic container. We do it when we eat fast foods, knowing they’re killing us, but we shrug it off and supersize.”

Mr. Mitchell has had several novels published through Double Dragon Publishing, but says, “Of all the things I’ve written this was the most difficult and the most compelling.”

The Weekly Man will be released September 8 at www.theweeklyman.com. You don’t have to sign up for anything. No requests will be made for email addresses. Just go to the site and read. A smartphone version will be available at https://biffmitchell.com/the-weekly-man. For more about Biff Mitchell, visit www.biffmitchell.com.

 

A Writer’s Real Job

Real Job

“So you want to be a writer, do you?” His eyes narrowed as he chuckled and I suddenly felt like I had two purple heads. “And what exactly are you going to do for your real job?”

Even with self-publishing making it possible for anyone on the planet to become a published writer, this attitude that writing (unless you just sold the movie rights to your bestselling novel and bought a new Ferrari) is somehow a pastime that people indulge in when they’re not spending their time accomplishing something useful like diagnosing a disease or making copious notes at Monday morning’s marketing meeting, even though the PowerPoint will be emailed to you later in the day…this attitude persists today much like it did 30 years ago.

It’s a lethal attitude. It’s killed countless creative efforts and pulled the rug out from under aspiring writers for as long as there have been aspiring writers.

It’s not always as blatant as in the example above; in fact, most of the time, it’s subtle, but always there, lurking under the surface of your interactions with the people around you.

“Can you pick Sheila up at the airport?”
“This is my writing time…remember the schedule? And I’m finally on a roll with Chapter 7. Can you pick her up?”
“I have to pick up the party favors for next weekend.”

“Pick them up tomorrow.”

“But I just want to get that out of the way. You can work on Chapter 9 tomorrow.”

Been in this situation before? You’ve scheduled your writing so that it’s not just a random thing you do whenever the creative juices bubble up. It’s something you take seriously and it’s probably more important to you than the job that helps pay for the party favors.

Part of the problem is that painfully long gap between starting a novel, finishing it and getting it published…if it ever gets published. It’s the immediate return on invested time and money. For instance, a plumber repairs your leaky sink and gets paid, all in a matter of hours. You go to the office, sit around for eight hours and collect a paycheck two weeks later. For most people, work has definite start and end dates with something accomplished (repaired sink, sore butt) for which there is a definite payment. You can schedule the start, end and reward.

Not always so in the arts world; in fact, rarely so. You might spend a few months or a few years writing a novel and, unless you’ve made a deal with a publisher, you’re not being paid while you’re writing and, if it’s your first novel, you haven’t established yourself as a professional writer. So most people will perceive your writing as a hobby…not as something to which you want to devote your life. And the longer it takes you to write your novel, the less likely they’ll take it seriously: they’ll see it as your little dream, that quirky little thing you do in the background of your life while you in your keep from the real job selling cars or insurance.

This attitude can be devastating, especially during those times when you’re having doubts and feeling the angst of doing something for ages that’s moving forward slowly but: “who’s going to read it?” “do I really have anything important to say?” “what the hell am I doing?”

That kind of stuff. It can kill you as a writer. I’ve had five novels published and tons of short stories, but I still have these feelings, these doubts that what I’m doing is even worth the effort. Fortunately, I expect the negative thoughts and I keep writing at the scheduled times (yes, I schedule my writing because, like my fulltime job, it’s work).

I’m not saying there won’t be those moments of pure joy when you read something you wrote the night before and you’re floored by the idea that you, yes you, wrote these beautiful words. Those moments are worth the fear and loathing of a thousand moments of doubt. But the novel isn’t finished. You’re halfway through and you’ve been working on it for over a year. You have another year to go, maybe longer.

I try to alleviate the uncertainty by storyboarding my novels before I start the writing, but once I’m 30 or 40 pages into it, the characters and story take off and the storyboard evaporates in the heat of the writing. But the structure and direction it initially provides carries me through. A diver is more likely to dive successfully from a solid board than a rubber one.

Not everyone is into storyboarding, and I get it…it’s work and you might not know where the story is going until you start writing. This happens to me with my short fiction. But storyboard or not, it’s a long process and it eats a lot of time and requires daily sacrifices. So much of writing is discouraging and, if you’re like most of the writers I know, you’re not going to get the kind of support you really need: acknowledgment that your writing is just as valuable as anything else you do, and maybe even more so.

It’s not just a hobby. It’s not just a distraction from the real stuff. It’s what you are and what you want to be.

It means putting things in a writer’s perspective. For instance, would you take time off the 9 to 5 job to pick Sheila up at the airport? If not, why would you take time off from your scheduled writing? You might say, “Well, I have more flexibility with my own time.”

“My own time”?

That attitude has turned many a promising word smith into dissatisfied retiree with a lot of regrets. I know some of these people. They still talk about that novel they should have written and maybe, when they have some free time in their post-retirement life, they’ll get around to it.

Your own time is when you write…when you’re who and what you are.

When people don’t take your writing seriously, feel free to take those people and whatever they do with a grain of salt. Better yet, avoid them. Unless you have no choice but to interact with them, just stay clear of them. Treat them as toxic chemicals. If you’re stuck with them, don’t talk about your writing. They don’t deserve to hear about it.

Resolve that you will be spending much of your time alone, even when you’re in a crowded area like I am when I write in coffee shops. While others are gliding through their mundane lives, you’re creating new worlds, birthing personalities that grow and evolve, focusing on those little things that everyone misses until they read about them in your novel and think, “Oh yeah…that.”

That’s your real job.

 

(BTW…don’t miss the first episode of the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel, The Weekly Man, coming September 8.)

Coffee Shops and the Single Writer

Coffee Shop Cover

I’m a coffee shop writer. I’ve written five novels in coffee shops because they’re the only place I can write fiction. There’s something about the atmosphere and the availability of coffee that burrows deep into the headlands of my creativity and starts a stampede of words and ideas. I write for about an hour to an hour and a half each evening and get one to two pages (yep, I’m no Stephen King). Anywhere else and I might get a paragraph or two and on very rare occasions, a whole page. Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter what coffee shop or where it is…if it’s a coffee shop, the trail to the headlands is a six lane highway into story telling.

And yes, I’ve written about writing in coffee shops before; in fact, my last post covered some of the hurdles to overcome. But this post is about single writers who write in coffee shops and why they’re likely to remain single forever.

To begin with…being a writer is a sentence to singleness. I mean it. Most of the writers I know are single…and not necessarily happy about it. Some have fond memories of those days when they had someone special in their lives, someone who understood them and stuck in there in spite of long hours alone while their writer mate disappeared into the jowls of a coffee shop (we’re talking just about coffee shop writers here) to do mysterious things with words. They put up with the roller coaster of moods and lifestyle that brand writers as persona non cool. They looked the other way when the writer, foaming at the mouth and crazy-eyed, tried to explain the world-shaking ramifications of not being able to find the right word to describe Sam’s blue shirt.

“Just say it’s blue,” she says.

“But how will they know the blue?” he responds.

“By the use of the word blue,” she says.

“But how will they feel the blue,” he says.

“You only feel blue when you’re sad,” she says.

“You don’t understand me,” he cries.

“You’re making a mountain out of…” she tries to say.

“You’re just like the rest of them,” he yells.

And suddenly, he’s single. And not necessarily happy about it.

The same things happen to female coffee shop writers, proving there’s no gender inequality when it comes to losing at love, especially if you can sneak a bit of the loss into a story.

There’s something about creating worlds with words that takes you out of everybody else’s world and plops you into a place that only exists in your own mind, like when was talking to a group of co-workers while I was working on my first novel. I started talking about a man called Baxter. The others looked at me in a strange way, like my head had just fallen off. One of them said, “Who’s Baxter?”

It suddenly dawned on me that Baxter was one of the characters in my novel. That’s how real he’d become and how unreal the world of my co-workers had become. Sadly, this didn’t discourage me from writing; in fact, it probably spurred me on. Something along the lines of OK, I’ve lost it with these people, so what do I have left? Oh right…Baxter and friends.

Writing is a deep uncharted pit with a shallow slope that slants ever more precariously as you slide into it. It leads into a place where a blue shirt is deep sea or sky blue, not just blue. A place where nothing is whole until the last draft, or until an editor has a better idea for blue. It’s a place where you can get lost, where you can drift away from everything that’s known into a great unknown that you get to arrange and rearrange until you’re satisfied that it’s the right color of blue.

Sound crazy?

It is. And it’s not like those writers who write at home where the better half (at least, saner half) can pop in say, “Hi, how’s it going?”

“What’s another way of saying blue?”

“Just write blue.  I think people will get it.”

“You don’t understand me.”

“Don’t stay up too late.” Door closes. Writer is alone to stew in blue. Until bed time.

But for some, the coffee shop calls out to us and off we go, single and bursting with words under the brilliant azure sky.