Home Again

My excursion is over. And man was it awesome. The entire get-a-way was put together by my wife to celebrate my 30th birthday. I’m not big on birthday parties and stuff like that, so this was the perfect solution. For the past week we stayed in a cabin with our dogs and were bums.

For the entire week I read over my novel. Wrote my short-story for Thunder on the Battlefield and make great progress. And got caught up watching an “Ink Masters” marathon on Spike TV.

Can’t get any better than that.

In addition to the reading and writing, I think I have some germs for new story ideas. Last night I watched the movie “Constantine” for the first time. Decent enough. The premises are pretty fantastic. Then, while packing up to leave, the show “Supernatural.” I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it and again, from what I’ve seen, I like the premises.

And it got me thinking. Maybe I should try my hand at my own Religious themed dark-fantasy. Then I remembered a setting that I wanted to write a story in. Russia in a post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Then the little idea-germ bit me. Oh-ho, what about Tribulation times set in Russia. Where man-kind fights to the lead up of Armageddon.

Where will you be? Muahahaha.

So, as you can see a successful vacation. I had wanted to finish reading over my book and finish the short story, but I think what I did get out of it was perfect. Can’t wait to see what will come of that idea.

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Birthday Writing

My escape has turned out great. I’ve been struggling with my latest short story for the Thunder on the Battlefield anthology. I’ve been tweaking the story line over and over but just couldn’t get things to line up.

It’s when I realized that I had been telling the wrong story. Originally I thought my POV character had the story I wanted to tell, when it turned out it was someone else entirely who had he better tale.

Once I switched to that one, though keeping the same POV character, everything began to gel. Last night I went from ~200 words up to 1800. That’s not including the 700 I wrote for the outline.

It feels good when things start to gel. Can’t wait to hand this off to my reading group this Sunday for their feedback.

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Running Away

Tomorrow, I’m running away. Just for the week. You see, I’m turning 30. One of the big ones. And I wanted to do something just for me. So it was suggested that I take some time off and head out to a cabin for the week and just relax.

I thought it was a great idea.

I haven’t done any writing at all since I finished my first draft. Even though it was my plan to pump out my Sword and Sorcery short story over my novel break. For some reason I just couldn’t push past the book. I had to fight the urge to keep working on it.

Some of you may wonder why I wouldn’t follow those feelings and keep working on it. That’s because I feel equally convicted with the fact that I need separation from the work. Having that time away will give me fresh eyes on the art and a clear mind.

But my little holiday is going to be exactly what I need. I’ll pump out this short story–mostly because I agreed to submit something to my writing group next weekend–and I’ll also begin reading my novel in earnest. With luck, I’ll finish both of these things by Friday. Or at the least, finish the short story.

So, here is to a week of reading, writing, and running away from the world.

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+Follow

Huzzah! There is now an official follow button and email subscribe section to the site. I may not be as connected to a community as before. But I’ll do my best to make it easier for people to find this blog.

Hrm, I wonder if I can setup a URL redirect on my old WordPress site. Some of my friends have mentioned doing that. It’s worth looking into it I think.

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WordPress.org and Onward

I’ve had access to a wordpress.org blog for a long time. I didn’t have many followers and when starting my writing career I wanted to get connected to like minded people–budding writers who wanted to share their experiences.

For some reason I got it into my head that a wordpress.com blog would be more “connected” than a .org account. That it was more in touch with the blog-o-sphere or something. And maybe it is. But what always bugged me was how disconnected it felt from my site as a whole.

With that, I decided it was time to move back to a .org account. I’m not exactly sure if my blog followers from the .COM address are still connected. I certainly hope they are. So, if anyone of you wouldn’t mind dropping a comment below to let me know if you received a notification that I posted an update, that would be fantastic.

Thanks! And I look forward to the coming months. Keep an eye out on my next post detailing my steps in the next phase of writing my first book.

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How Prolific Are You?

I follow a blog of local author James R. Tuck, and yesterday he posted an update on what he’s up to these days. His list of upcoming projects is impressive. Several novels are in progress, a couple of anthologies, and more. This is on top of running his own tattoo parlor.

Talk about having irons in the fire.

It’s an aspect of my own writing that I would love to have. The more material you can generate, the more you’re able to put yourself out there. Currently I’ve only two projects going. My first novel and a submission for Tuck’s “Thunder on the Battlefield” anthology.

The first is on simmer. I’m separating myself from the book so that when I get back into it I can see it as fresh as I can. In the meantime I’ll be letting my writing group read the full manuscript at their leisure. Over the year they had been reading it in smatters of two to three chapter chunks. So giving them the full manuscript should give them a better idea of the story.

While that story is set to low, I’ll be working on my Sword and Sorcery style short story for “Thunder on the Battlefield.” It’s requested that it be in the style of Conan. So, low magic with lots of grizzly combat. The idea of  a low magic world got me intrigued. That’s when I thought, wouldn’t it be great if the main character is a carnival performer who specializes in illusions. Secretly, he longs to be an adventurer. One day he gets his chance. He signs up with a group of mercenaries and tells them he’s a powerful sorcerer. They accept his offer. Their first mission, ransacking a group of what everyone believes is a cabal of wizards. And his expertise will be just what they need.

Oh no.

Putting this liar into a situation well over his head is something I really enjoy.

That’s it. Two projects. Sure, I have some other ideas sitting around in notebooks, but nothing I’m actively working on. Am I falling behind? Or on the right track for a first time author? What with my own day job, wife, and now kung fu training. Are these excuses? Maybe, maybe not.

One thing is for certain. I have a solid direction on the things I’m working on and feel comfortable with the speed I’m at. I’d love to be more prolific like Tuck. But for now, I’ll focus on my projects and see them through.

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My Methods For Dealing With Writer’s Block

On different writing websites I visit I’ll often see others talking about how they’re stuck. Even with an outline, a few have hit a speed bump they didn’t foresee. This happened to me on a number of occasions. It can be the most frustrating part of writing. You want to keep going forward, but that one bit is keeping you back. If only you could get past it! You’d probably finish your novel that very night if it weren’t for that one missing bit!

/shakes fist into the air

Luckily, I’ve been able to use three methods to help me with all that. One I shamelessly stole from Anne Greenwood, while the other two are methods I used to blast through the road blocks.

The first method I mentioned, I employed very recently. On the surface it’s very simple, but becomes very powerful and liberating. I was writing a big fight scene and had hit a point that I needed my main character to come out on top, but in a very interesting way. Needless to say I slammed into that wall of muck.

I waded through it. Fighting for a week and half on what I could do. Finally–reaching frustration–I did what I should have done at the very beginning. I applied Anne Greenwood’s suggestion of placing two ‘@’ symbols down, writing a small description of what I wanted to accomplish, and then moving on.  The reason for using the ‘at’ symbol is because it will rarely be used in your work, so it will be easy to do a CTRL+F to find your place later.

It worked great. I slapped down a few sentences that basically go, “This guy does something cool which makes this outcome.” And then I rolled along and was able to finish out the book. There is plenty of time to write that scene later. For a first draft–in my opinion–it is your goal to finish. Above all else, finish it.

The second method comes down to changing up your style. There was a point that I was really having a hard time. I was slogging through and my inner critic was having a field day on my writing. That’s when I decided to change it up. Instead of writing in clean prose, I just went for a more conversational tone. I skipped writing dialogue tags and kept things loose.

What that means is I would write in very simple, descriptive terms.

“OK, Mary goes to the store to get some ham. What she doesn’t know is that pig meat around the world has been magicked up and so the store is over run with Ham-Zombies. She dodges evil Ham-Zombies and runs through the store where she finds herself stuck in the walk-in freezer.”

Now, all of that would probably be two, to four pages worth of writing. But I was able to knock out a good chunk of the thought process. Get my main points down and I will just go back to it later to fill in the gaps. It’s easy and frees you up creatively.

My last helper is one I like to employ often. Say you’re writing a scene and it just isn’t flowing. Nothing is coming together and–if you’re honest with yourself–it’s coming off a bit forced. That means it’s time to step back, go back a few pages and begin to ask yourself, “Can my characters make different choices?” or, “What can happen differently?”

These types of questions will open up so many possibilities. And you must be willing to follow the outcome to wherever it takes you. Sometimes it may not be where you planned, but it may be better. For example, early in my novel I had the main character setup to ride the school bus home with his brother. It was boring, and I was having a hard time figuring out what to do with it.

So I stepped back and asked a simple question to myself. “What would happen if his brother didn’t show up for the bus?” And BAM! the scene took off. Opening up new scenes that dove tailed nicely into my themes of the book. It was a relief.

Are there methods you employ that have helped you? I’m all ears. It’s always nice to find new methods to beat the dreaded inner critic and massive writer’s block.

 

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The Single Best Advice For New Writers

As some of my regular readers know, I have finally finished the first draft of my first book. It took me just under a year to complete. I must say, it has been a great ride and a wonderful experience. Because of that, I wanted to talk about the experience in depth. In hopes that I can help those that are either on the brink of starting their first book, or are in the middle of it.

With that said, the first thing I want to talk about is the single best advice I can give. A thing that was the biggest influence on my ability to finish. So here it is.

Get thee to a writing group.

Seriously, it was the one action I did that has propelled me to the point that I am at. Having a group of authors that you meet with on a regular basis is incredible. Their eyes on your early work will be an invaluable resource.

My particular group are all SciFi/Fantasy authors and readers. We meet every two weeks to critique up to four pieces of work from inside the group. There are several benefits to this:

  • You are given a deadline. The Sunday between each meeting is deadline. Those who sign up to submit are required to have their work in by the following Sunday at midnight. For most people, a deadline will be the difference of noodling and getting it done.
  • Hearing several opinions on your work–in person–gives you perspective. Too often we can become laser focused on our story that we miss some big issues. And when you hear several people say they have a problem with the same issue, then you really have a problem. These are your peers and your audience, listen to them.
  • They provide motivation. Not only with the deadline, but through encouragement. Sure, not everything they say is going to be praise, and for some people negative criticism can feel like a boot to the face. Just keep in mind that they’re there to help you. Your writing group wants you to be as successful as you do. Take what they say and learn from it. Its never meant to hold you back.

So get out there and find a group. Or start one if you must. I found my group through meetup.com and they are an incredible group that I wouldn’t change for the world.

And I want to stress this: An online group is OK, but no real substitute for real human interaction. Being able to ask questions and watch their body language is important to the process. In addition to that, make sure everyone writes in your, or close to your genre. I was part of a group where everyone was writing Literary Fiction aside from me. Needless to say, none of us could really help each other.

Go forth. Find ye a writing group and flourish!

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Good news, everyone!

At 2:15 on October 19th, I finished my first draft. What’s more, is this is my first book. I must say, it feels great to have finished the story completely. I started the book the day after Christmas in 2011. This was after one false start and many pages and pages of development. I wrote the book by hand and overall it took me 3 1/2 100 page notebooks and two dead pens.

Over the next several posts I’ll recount the experience of working on the novel. From my expectations going in, to how things changed during the writing process.

I do want to give a shout out to my writing group. Without their feedback and support, I’m not sure I would have been able to complete even the first draft. Thanks guys.

But, more on writing groups later.

For now, I’m taking a breather!

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Selling Out

In my writing groups we often talk about “Selling Out.” Which for us means pandering to a particular audience just because it’s selling well. Especially if its a genre that you actively hate. I think every person at the critique table has a paranormal romance sitting in their back pocket at the moment. We all tinker with it from time to time. In the back of our mind we are constantly wondering what it would be like to put our entire effort into it.

My older brother is a screen writer. And we’ve had this type of conversation often. It generally hovers around the term “artistic integrity.” He has a humorous anecdote about a professor of his who had a chance to write an episode of “The Love Boat.” His prof skipped the chance because it was against his artistic integrity.

N-years later, the man regrets the decision. As the show has been in syndication across the country and he’d still be receiving royalties. For him, he had been held back by that integrity. If he had done that one thing, he could be free to pursue whatever else he wanted.

For me, I still struggle with that idea. When Michael Bay’s concept for TMNT was floating around I was outraged. How could you change their very concept from being mutants to aliens. It didn’t make any sense. When I talked with my brother, I fully expected him to be on my side. I mean, we grew up on these guys. They are apart of our childhood.

I was thrown a curve-ball.

My brother said he’d write whatever Michael would want. It didn’t matter to him. The film would pull in a load of money–if Transformers is any indication of those sales. And with my brother’s name attached to the script, it would give him more work.

And I get it. I see where he’s coming from. But man–as a fan–it hurt my little Teenage Mutant heart. I know I couldn’t do that. Because I’m a fan. And I know what the fans would want to see on the screen. For me, I would want to give them–and thus myself–a screen adaptation that fits with what we all would want.

But there is something to be said for getting recognized first, to free yourself up for whatever else you want to do.

So in part that’s where I stand. Do I write the schlock in order to give myself some freedom–though there is no guarantee that will happen. Or do I focus on my passion, the one book I really have my heart set on?

Can I really sell out for the quick buck? Can you?

 

 

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