Tag Archives: Writing

Music Helps

This song has been the theme song to tonight’s writing. An aide to a solemn scene that I am trying to map out, the violins are what make it work. This is vastly different from last night’s dubstep induced fight scene. Tomorrow night is up for grabs. I might listen to some P-Funk during my world building.

 

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More or Less

That is almost true, except I don’t play solitaire. I’m usually looking up random facts. This week it’s polar bears and their sneaking penguin snatching skills. Once I sate my wondering curiosity I just dive back into the swamp and go wordgator wrastlin…

I don’t really have a hard time going deep into a story and seeing it through, the first hard lesson learned when I started writing. However, if I don’t like what I’m writing I fall out of love with it pretty quick. At that point the relationship is pretty well over. Sometimes I find my story eating dove ice cream bars in the shower, crying to itself. I have more completed stories than abandoned…. To be fair completed is being generous, some could probably use so much rework that it would be a new story when I finished. I can concentrate on those stories later… *cough*

Some people have a really hard time concentrating. They instead of slinging words investigate the clutter in their desk or the contents of their belly button. While I won’t say I don’t clean my belly button when I write, the obscure mating habits of West African pygmy goats steal my focus if my focus is up for grabs, or things of that ilk.

I’ve been listening to audio books at work again, helps pass the time in between the chaos and quiet moments as we prepare for our biggest project yet. I would recommend checking out Larry Correia and basically any of his book series. The Grimnoir Chronicles are pretty good, but right now I’m into the Monster Hunter International series and it is jolly good fun, nice little nods to many mythos. If you like your luscas and shoggoths in one package, give it a go. I’m listening to the third installment of the series, Monster Hunter International Alpha, and I’m just a little over the half way mark and I have to say it is pretty good. I’d be hard pressed to say much without giving spoilers away, so just take my recommendation and run to the store with it. I wouldn’t lie to you, I promise.

Quest: What are your distractions?

That is all for now.

Cheers.

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What I’ve Learned So Far

It has been an interesting year since I started this pipe dream. I’ve learned a lot about writing and some interesting tidbits about myself, some good and some disturbing. I compare my earlier stories against my latest and wow, what a difference. I can see a lot of growth and determination, but mostly I see process. It hasn’t always been pretty, I’ll raise my hand to that, but it has been educational. Something that I’ve learned is that every writer’s path is different, this is my own and it will fold into whatever shape it has to.

I have entered in a few contests and regrettably the judges and I decided to go in different directions. Not being deterred I recently started sending stories to magazines, soliciting my work in hopes of being able to rock out my ZOMGHOLYSHITLOOK! I CAN HAZ PUBLISHED!  post. That hasn’t happened yet, but I have had some encouraging moments.

I’ve had a few right out rejections. Despite knowing that it is part of the process and it is an inevitability, it still hurts. I have collected a few of these bad boys and undoubtedly I have many more to collect. I’m never sure how to react to them; throw my keyboard in disgust or just move on. I play it safe and move to the next story.

I have had two pending stories that were rejected as near misses. While these do hurt and humble, it is also encouraging. Despite my doubt and flaws I have improved enough to get that close to selling something. To be honest it feels good, but the magic table that published people sit at, swapping stories and giving each other high fives is still so far away I can’t smell what is for dinner.

So what have I learned so far about writing and selling stories?

  • It isn’t personal when your story doesn’t sell. Everybody gets rejected. Some stories would do better in different outlets than the one you are submitting to.
  • Writing is hard work. Like anything there are probably people who can hardly put the effort into a story and sell it like pickles to pregnant women, but that isn’t the majority. Everybody has a different path and most had to work at it. Write, then write more, then write again, then write after that. Don’t forget to write.
  • ws;sr – which is stolen from John Scalzi. It stands for writing sucks, stopped reading. This ties into everything above. In our short attention span – hey look at the bunny! society you have to be interesting. When you are trying to sell a story your first paragraph/page needs to grab the reader. Chances are that even if your story is amazing, if the beginning is slow the editor/reader will move on to the other billion stories for the day. When/if you get past that point, your writing needs to be good, which comes from practice and due diligence.
  • Write.

Learning them first hand and generally knowing they exist are separate. I knew these blips of profound truthiness before this past year, but having learned them first hand I have to be honest and say it is different.

Until my next post about inappropriate euphemisms about Grandma and Scandinavian delicacies, good night.

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Not So Much Progress

Well, I did finish one story but not the meaty story, weekend-writing-goal-fail. I got wrapped up in the first story. It passed with fiancé with relatively little complaint or issue, which is a first. She did have a comment about it not feeling fresh, having done some reflecting I agree – she isn’t a science fiction fan either, color me impressed. I’ve spent some time thinking about how to more explicitly present some elements that I implicitly had woven in. Perhaps I thought I was being clever by being oblique or maybe it was a rookie mistake, I don’t know, I’m still learning. I feel by making the sublte elements more visible I can give the story some mojo, a little more oomph.

Reordering some of the events presented clarity to the evolution of the story. I think in a very short time the story has come a long way, almost unrecognizable from the first draft. I think this short story is stronger, unique, but not different enough to feel weird or terribly unfamiliar.

I’d like to think this story is salable but it ultimately isn’t up to me. Hopefully the untold of hours of slaving in the word mines will start to pay off soon. I still haven’t broken the 1 million word mark but I am pretty close. If you aren’t familiar with the 1 million word rule, it takes that many words to jump the novice fence and into the money making writer club. I don’t know how true that is, I suppose time will tell. I’d like to think every wade through the crap-filled novice river means I am that much closer to catching a keeper and feeding my family, aka student loans – they have hungry mouths.

After reading Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith, I learned some nifty tricks/ideas on how to write a marketable story. One chapter in particular that struck home was the insights into flashbacks. Essentially keep flashbacks short and sweet, or make a chapter. Don’t make this entire weird dialogue in the middle of a moving story where the reader finds themselves magically whisked away, it breaks that magical fantasy land and gets confusing.

Yeah, I’m guilty of that.

I did start editing the meaty story, but I didn’t finish. I ended up cutting the 15k words down to 7k. Cutting flashbacks and streamlining some events really made the difference. I suppose that is the magic of editing. Take 15k words of meh and turning it into 7k words of gold. Still plenty of work left to do, but generally that is where I left things before jumping back into the first story. I need to get that beast slain.

So my new goal is a recycled old goal; finish the second story by this weekend.

What about you penmonkeys, what are your goals?

 

 

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Progress

I set a goal for myself this weekend. Finish writing/editing two stories that have been getting the run around. Partly neglected because of schedule and partly neglected because I didn’t know where to go with them.

I am happy to say that I have finished writing and editing the first story. It bounced around in size for a little while I played with different directions; sometimes gaining weight up to 5k words and other times slimming down to 3k. I found a nice median slightly over 4k. Only took about eight hours in all total. That might sound not so impressive but for accomplishing editing that is an improvement for me.

For me writing is the easy part, I can just go to town and spit out a story without too much hardship. Few hiccups here and there, like these two stories, but overall I do not find writing to be the struggle. I find the struggle in editing. Arguably this is where the story is made and is my biggest weakness. With a book written and close to 30 stories of varying length complete, only three of the stories are edited and polished. I know, total slacker.

Next story on the hit list is sitting at 15k words. This will take a longer time to get through and nail down, but practice makes perfect and I’m trying to turn what I feel is my biggest weakness into a strength.

When I am done I am going to get my fiancé to use her big fancy English degree on my papers and hopefully make them salable. I’m coming for you Clarkesworld and Asimovs!

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Pretty Much

The real reason the literary snobs turn their noses up at Science Fiction!

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Hi

It has certainly been a minute since I made a post, sorry about that. Life got busy, I mean really busy. I won’t go into details but I’ll just hit the highlights.

A few deaths in my in-laws family, some car accidents, step-dad’s kidney dialysis problems getting worse, serious threats on my friend’s life, and I’ve been sick and not getting better.

I guess that is what I get for having two solid weeks of pure blissful boredom.

Well aside from some stress factors kicking in, it hasn’t all been depressing. There has been some good news, really good news. My fiancée got a job that is a game changer in our lives. When we got the news she got this job I felt like this huge massive weight was taken off my shoulders and instantly wanted to curl up and sleep. I’ve also been keeping up with my writing and staying consistent with word counts on a daily basis – well mostly true. I have also been keeping up with reading and have been putting books down left and right.

So it has been interesting. Now that things are quieting down I will start posting regularly again. I still have some writing related news forthcoming. I’d write more but I am about to take some NyQuil and pass out.

Good night.

P.S.

My better half is obsessed with my strange addiction. I am currently watching a guy who has objectophilia with his car. Google it, I dare you.

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Must & Cannot

I’ve been reading Writing to Sell and I have learned a few things. The lesson that I found to be the most telling is a simple plot skeleton that revolves around two basic elements; must and cannot. The lack of one or both of these can really hinder your story.

Scott Meredith says one of the most basic mistakes every new writer makes when trying to write a salable manuscript is forgetting the basic driving force behind every story. This would be the problem that the lead character MUST deal with, something extremely urgent and pressing. This would be something in the ballpark of a bad guy taking a character’s family and holding them for ransom or internal like an alcoholic overcoming his addiction before his wife leaves with the kids. Scott says this necessary for making the reader worry about your character’s outcome, helping them invest into your book. If the MUST is mundane or easily solvable, it won’t really capture an audience and a publisher won’t buy it.

The other element is CANNOT. This is the part of the problem where it seems as if the character CANNOT solve the problem. Going along with the earlier examples; the character can’t pay the ransom because he just lost his house and all his possessions to a tornado, and the alcoholic is having problems pushing through his addiction because he just lost his job and found out his son has a terminal illness. This is where the assault on the character prevents them from accomplishing their goals, starting from minor complications and cranking it up to where it just seems like we are in a moment of darkness.

Don’t go over board though, if you create an unsolvable problem just to make some ridiculous solution, you lose the reader. If you don’t have a logical solution or don’t explore and exhaust possible alternatives to your problem, you will lose the reader. Like the man lost his house and possessions but still owns a BMW, of which he won’t sell to get his family back. You will lose the reader, so be logical about your problems and solutions.

I posted about this because after I read the five chapters on plot skeletons, I went through some of my stories and wasn’t totally surprised at what I found. The early stories I wrote definitely lack a solid must and cannot, which Mr. Meredith simply calls incidents. What I mean by early are the stories that I haven’t edited very much. The stories I have edited heavily (including my manuscript) have these elements in them which sort of amazed me. I wonder if the countless editing and revising until I felt it was rounded is what did it, or I just stumbled into it.

I’ve been writing for a while now, more or less just taking the chaos from my head and putting it words, learning empirically as I go about what works and what doesn’t. I have some stories that I am damn proud of and others that smell really, really bad. I have posted some of both, which I suppose I should be embarrassed about the stinkers but I want to learn and sometimes the best avenue is through the blog.

Now that I am making submissions to agencies and magazines I really want to see growth in my writing and do what I need to do to make my work salable. I know to write, is to write is to write, but while I’m writing I am examining the work through the eyes of a professional. There are tons of information and books out there and it is hard knowing what is valuable and what isn’t, but you don’t know unless you try.

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My Rage Comic

Got bored, decided to make a rage comic. Actually I’ve made a few now, but I will show you this one.

You can make your very own over at the Rage Comic Builder

 

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Dubstep & Writing

Between going in and out of meetings  and being harassed by people in different departments from stupid to insanely hard questions, I have basically given up hope to listen to audiobooks at work. This was once one of my favorite ways to pass time at my job. Listen to the book and just work, enjoy the fruits of my imagination painting a picture. Sounds simple right?

No.

I have started leaving my iPod at home and canceled my audible subscription. If I’m not in a meeting or talking to somebody about something, I eventually run through my work load and start hitting bumps. These bumps are in part what I’m paid for, which demand my entire attention and sometimes can cause me to start bleeding out of the ears because the problem I am faced with is the software equivalent of putting makeup on a bull, mid bull ride. These are daily exercises in building character.

I  just found out I have been inadvertently doing linear algebra in my head. Kind of shocked me because I am very bad at math (not like I don’t get it, more like I have to work five times harder to than normal people to understand what they consider simple concepts).  I never thought I would ever learn/utilize this level of math in my life. But the way that the tech world works, things change and you better adapt. So take that and multiply by two because I have started a new project at work, good-bye ability to enjoy audiobooks at work.

This has left a gap in my awareness. I can’t just sit and not have anything to listen to. I have listened to the music I own and digested it so much that I spend more time skipping songs than I do actually listening to one. I’ll pick one, listen to it, skip for about three or four hundred songs, listen to another, rinse and repeat. So I am over my music collection and this has left a gap in my attention span, I somehow feel mentally naked without something to process in the background. It is a very odd feeling.

I can’t just NOT listen to something, that would mean listening to gossip and the guy behind me and his extremely personal hourly phone calls. I can only hear about Crohn’s Disease in detail for so long. So, with my lull in music, I have decided to fully embrace dubstep.

 

Yeah, I know.

For the past few days I have submerged myself into this very, very odd and sporadic music genre. Imagine catching a fish then getting it drunk and electrocuting it, then imagine putting it in a giant fish tank where a dinosaur with a laser attached to its snout constantly tries to snap at the fish through the glass. Now imagine being that fish.

That is what listening to dubstep feels like.

I’m not even remotely exaggerating.

The moral of all that? Dubstep is very hit or miss for me, but the songs and bands I have discovered are exactly what I need to fill the space in my head while I try to work; just enough to ignore, but awesome enough that I can enjoy it while working.

I fear what would happen if I listened to dubstep while I wrote. If it was remotely coherent it would probably read like a lab rat’s drug induced wet dream, just imagine Muppets with human eyes.

As for writing, I haven’t been doing a ton of it, but I have been consistent. I just finished another story and that makes me very excited and happy. I’m already two stories completed into 2012, which makes me feel very accomplished. Even though I had started both of them in 2011, I’m just going to ride this wave of productivity and say I have kicked ass.

I have several different stories submitted out in the world, some a second phase of feedback and others in that WHY HAVEN’T THEY EMAILED ME BACK YET stage of post-submission anxiety. I swear I won’t allow myself to get it, but it happens…….every time.

Other than that, life is good. Wish school loans would go die in a car fire. I could blog four years on how a 13% interest rate on school loans can really be a turd in your cereal.

I follow politics fairly close and have wondered if I should chime in with a blog or two. Some interesting things are going on within the Republican field. Not to mention all the shenanigans that Stephen Colbert and John Stewart are doing.

Few other posts to make but are super secret still. I will publish them when I can.

Back to the word mines!

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