The Agony of #amwriting

I’ve been doing some writing lately. Hashtag #amwriting is how we let others know on Twitter.

This week, I began with around 61,000 words written on what is a second novel. Today, I have 91,000 words.

It took almost 16 months to figure out how to write a book by attending multiple courses in the Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program, and then getting that first draft written. The Privacy Patriots came out about 95,000 words and though I sort of began officially writing it sometime in November of 2014, I didn’t get really going with it until this spring. At the end of April or early May I was at 56,000 words and wrote the rest of it in three or four weeks.

That draft has been sitting in a binder in a closet since early June. I was advised strongly not to think about it. Not to touch it. To let the words marinate so that when I open them back up, there won’t be a sacred word in them too sacred to revise or eliminate.

So to keep my mind from going soft, I began working on a second, completely unrelated topic in July. Almost three months later, here I am.


I tell you that history so that I can explain something more intense, more complex.

There is a new word I understand better than any other in the English vocabulary right now and it’s “AGONY.”

While I played around with some deeply emotional topics in my first book, I brought just about everyone of them I could think of out into the open for the second. One of my writing mentors calls it “Full frontal nudity of the soul.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 3.52.16 PMThe process is gut wrenching.

I’ve pulled triggers back to the surface of my emotions, things that I had long ago suppressed and kept shut away in a box, and I hauled them all out into the open.

As Kirk Carson my latest hero character dealt with issues from his youth and even ones he still deals with today as a man in his fifties, (I’m not that old) me, myself and I had conversations with t
he ghosts of those past events, with those fears, some as real as they were or might have been had I ever really had to deal with them.
At one point last week, someone wrote a counseling friend of mine and had him do an intervention check on me. I’ve gotten numerous texts and emails and messages asking “Are you okay?”


Now that the first drafts of my sixty-plus scenes are done, I feel somewhat relieved. This morning, I began at Page One and over the next few days I’m going to read to the end, revising, editing, cutting, trimming, adding where necessary until I can say I’ve gone from beginning to end and it’s in as good of a shape as I can get it for the meantime.

I’ve been through some hard days and hard times in my life, worse the past seven years than any other time in my life. But I have to say that the past three weeks, dealing with the rich, emotional wounds of the past, confronting them head on in the mind of a character I created, one who I understand very well, has been therapeutic. It has also been a living, mental hell. My brain aches. Even right now. My jaws are sore from clenching constantly.
I saw a quote today from Twitter that said, “The only thing more tormenting than writing is not writing.”

I understand that sentiment now more, having completed, or very near completed the first draft of a second book. My mind, I have found, is already probing where the next story should come from.

Maybe the first one, in the form it’s in in my closet was just my starter novel. I don’t know. When I open it back up, perhaps, as a result of the emotional hell I’ve been through to construct the second book, revising the first and then polishing it is going to make it that much more richer. I just don’t know yet.

But what I have felt, even as I tried to sleep last night, is more at peace.

There is a suggested series of sequences to writing a novel. You don’t start at the beginning and write to the end. You can, but it’s not recommended.

I found myself last writing the “reward” scenes.

And the last one of all of them I had mapped out was a scene called “Finding Peace.”

How wild was that, that somehow, through all the emotional turmoil and hell I’d endured to write the second book, to end it, I was left to write a scene about finding peace.

To a person who doesn’t write, maybe this won’t make a lick of sense. Maybe even to those who do, this won’t either. But it does to me.

After going through all that I have to carefully choose and pick the words to make up the total for The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club, I finally have found peace in my mind. How long it lasts? I don’t know. As I started reading through the first 28 pages this morning, I felt my heart hurting, aching and the agony returning. There’s just 300 more pages like that I want to read again before I print them and put them in a binder to sit for two or three months.

I hope this has helped. Maybe for those who are worried about me this shall give you some peace and some empathy to better understand what all is going on inside my head. Maybe you’re living through a similar storm of life. I have no way of knowing.

But thanks for reading. I can’t thank you enough for checking on me.


Donald J.

This is an image of the tree line from the new County Road 510 Bridge near Marquette, Michigan.


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Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander, a selfie from camping for 13 weeks in 2022 on the Claxton family land in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northwest of Marquette.

Donald J. Claxton is
‘The Timberlander’

Hello, I’m Donald J. 

I refer to myself as “The Timberlander” because I love off-grid living and woodworking.

My Great Pyrenees, Maycee, and I enjoy spending our time in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In the UP, I craft, make, grow, run, carve, and generate:

  • Custom crosses
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  • Basswood figurines and ornaments
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Check out my crafts for sale in The Timberlander’s Treasures.

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