Monday, October 16, 2017
It’s that time of year when I stand in blatant defiance of all my writer friends by not preparing for NaNoWriMo. However, it’s not a lack of preparation in the sense that I’m going to dive straight into a novel; I’m not thinking, “Come November, I’ll just begin writing straight from a story concept that I have.” In most situations, that’s a dangerous thought. But in my case, I do not plan to participate in NaNoWriMo at all.
I’m not a lazy writer—or at least, I’m trying not to be a lazy writer. I have my own writing regimen to maintain, and I stand in awe of everyone who can slam out bestsellers in four hours with three cups of coffee (I do not drink coffee). At any rate, though, the thing I have most certainly discovered when I write is that I’m a…
“Deliberate” might be a nicer way of framing it, but I have come to embrace the fact that it takes me forever to write anything, including this blog post you’re reading right now. You might relate. In my case, with my general personality, I cannot stand to leave a problem unsolved before moving on to the next one. One time, when taking a college test, I couldn’t immediately solve one of the first ten questions. I stayed on that problem for who knows how long before I realized that it was eating up too much of my time, so I had to move on—but the specter of the unanswered question haunted me for the next 90 problems.
I have the same issue when I write. Word choice, especially when it comes to not repeating the same word over and over, is a major concern of mine (distributing the word “problem” in the previous paragraph, for example). Ultimately, in the pursuit of near-perfect phrasing, my writing cycle looks something like this:
1) Write half a sentence—stop, think.
2) Write the other half of the sentence—stop, think.
3) Go back and edit the sentence as a whole—stop, think.
4) Think about the next sentence—stop, think again.
5) Write half a sentence…
…and so on. Some days the cycle is faster than most—I treasure that days that steps 1 and 2 merge while 3 and 4 take a total nanosecond to consider—but often my writing process takes a good long while. Deadlines help, and my daily writing regimen should gradually increase my output, but right now a string of 500 words might cost me an hour.
It should be pretty obvious now why I’m not really the NaNoWriMo type.
I hope to try it someday, as the experience does appear to be a writer’s rite of passage. Lord knows one of my novel concepts has been begging for attention lately. So, while I sit agonizing over my keyboard, I salute all you people entering the scrivener’s fray, praying that I can one day do the same.
Final note that might actually be of practical interest to you: By the way, if you plan on submitting your precious brainchild to a publisher, DON’T do it in December. Apparently publishers get a lot of NaNoWriMo manuscripts that time of year. Just sit back and do some editing—personally, I edit WAY faster than I write.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Stuff has actually happened to me!
To lead off, I’ve had a new short story of mine accepted; it’s not a paying venue, but I’m not complaining. The publication is Edify Fiction, and the story to watch out for is “The Second Ascent.” It might be a little hard to spot—not only is it a pretty short story, but I also took a break from my regular genre and wrote a fantasy. It’s kind of my stab at a classic fairy tale (and if you should ever meet me in person, I can tell you a funny story surrounding it). Needless to say I’ll have the link online as soon as the issue is published. As always, creep on my Published Works page until that happens.
Next, my manuscript project—Stormlock: Activation—has been on the (copyrighted) review site Inkitt for a while now. It is now one of the trending stories! As I’m writing this, my humble-ish manuscript is on both the front page and the heading banner. Now, I cannot fathom why it’s there; as I’ve moved on, pitching my book to other publishers, I basically gave up all my Inkitt promoting. Therefore I’ve officially given up trying to figure out how Inkitt’s popularity algorithms work. At any rate, I’m incredibly grateful to all my readers, and if you are one such reader, I thank you profusely. And hope you’ll buy the book when it’s officially published. We can reminisce about the mistakes that the early draft had.
Other than that…that’s about it. Guess I didn’t have as much to talk about as I thought I did. See you mid-September; keep writing!
*pause for a few hours*
*pause for a few hours*
Never mind, I'm back. You know how it is when you're a writer and you start preemptively composing that inspirational speech for those other prospective writers who hope to one day follow your path? (No? It's just me? Riiiight.) Anyway, here's a nugget I came up with that I think is pretty good.
I don't want to teach people to become writers. if you can write, that means you've acquired literacy, and that's about it. Reading and writing are essentially superpowers for any human being, but it takes more than that to whip up a good story.
I want to teach people to become hypnotists. Cook up the right combination of words, all bouncing off my eyeballs in a precise, brain-manipulating coordination, and make me forget that I'm sitting in my living room armchair. If you are captivated with the story in your head, so captivated that you MUST put it down on paper, then you can make me—as a reader—feel the same way.
What's the first step in becoming a master hypnotist? Well, you want people to read the story from inside your head; that's what made the story interesting to you in the first place. When somebody says they don't "connect" with your work, it's because their consciousness never climbed out of their own heads and into the kaleidoscope lenses of your perspective. So you need your reader to get inside your head; to make room for them, though, you need to get outside your own head first. Look at yourself objectively. See what stories—and what facets of life in general—make you tick. If you find you're a plot-focused writer (like me!), learn how to balance that out with some character development weaved into your plot. That will make your reader's lens less foggy. You see where this analogy is going? First find out how you see, then get everyone else to see as you see.
In this sense, fiction is persuasion. Build a world that people believe.
There. NOW I'll see you again come mid-September. Get back to writing.
NO! Wait! Since I wrote that last section of this post, Edify went ahead and published their September 2017 issue. I’m in there, somewhere around page…(goes off to check)…23. Now I need to go off and put the link on my Published Works page. THAT SHOULD BE ALL. Really. These words right here are being written the evening before this post goes live. Writing stuff in the 21st Century is ridiculous.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
It’s almost September 20th—or it is already the 20th—or it’s past the 20th (hey, as I’m writing this, I don’t know if I’ll remember to post it or anything). That’s the day that I celebrate the one-year anniversary of my short story “Cognito, Ergo Sum” being published with Daily Science Fiction. I still remember waking up, eventually finding my phone, and wondering why that story title in my inbox looked so familiar. Yes. DSF never told me precisely when the story would be published, so that was a pleasant surprise.
I’m not exactly a successful author here (Translation: I’m not raking it in from a lucrative book deal yet) so I’m not speaking from a position of authority, but let me offer advice to all those prospective writers out there:
Start with short stories.
Read, write, and submit ‘em by the dozen. Short stories will help establish your writing style and build up your name. It’s really a brief vignette into how you lay out a story; readers and workshops can offer you the best advice in a small amount of time. The greatest feature by far, though, is that they don’t take long to write. Unless you happen to be me, and you take forever procrastinating or mentally debating what the next three words of a sentence should be.
That’s all I have to say for right now. Write short stories.
In an additional celebration of this publication anniversary, here is the link to the story itself, which is also available on my Published Works page.
Also, just because I feel like it, the following have been my top five most popular blog posts of all time—as I am writing this.
1) Get Igly
See you in October!
Friday, September 1, 2017
Meme Month has come and gone; taking a lesson from those brief depictions of authorial insanity (while acknowledging that, yes, another busy college semester has started for me), I’ll do my best to keep this one down to a three-minute reflection. In that time, I will do my best to convince you that, as an author, you should hate Alessia Cara’s song “Scars to Your Beautiful”.
If you’re a ravenous fan of that recent pop contribution, too bad.
If, somehow, you ARE Alessia Cara and have wandered onto my humble author blog…my apologies, but today’s just not your day. If it helps, I do enjoy your song “Stay” no matter HOW many times the local DJs decide to play it.
The song “Scars to Your Beautiful”, I will admit, has an upbeat rhythm that no doubt launched it to success. I appreciate the fact that it has less of a droning quality than, say, “Stay” by Rihanna, a song that should be officially registered as an auditory tranquilizer and is therefore unfit for driving radio. However, Alessia’s lyrics continue to goad me into an arguing match with my car’s stereo, and here I would like to explain why. The anthem proclaims:
…you should know you’re beautiful just the way you are,
And you don’t have to change a thing, the world can change its heart
No scars to your beautiful…
On one hand, this makes no sense on a logical plane. YOU don’t have to change—the REST of the world can do that instead…a world that’s also made up of a bunch of people, listening to that song…so unless this song was meant for one, specific, unnamed person, it’s all very self-contradictory. How far we have come from Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”.
Secondly, and most importantly, while this sounds like a great song for the vast population of people with self-esteem issues (and I check into that community every once in a while myself), I argue that this song does people more harm than good—not only because of the aforementioned logical issues. Simply put, this song flies in the face of one of writing’s most meaningful qualities: a story’s Character Development.
This quality is essential if you want a reader to connect to a book. Some characters don’t change, that is true—but when that happens, they either become the bumbling comic relief or part of an overall comedy plot. Who knows? Maybe Alessia was subtly urging us all to become an Adam Sandler film. But what if the character is not comedic? Then that might mean you have a too-perfect person in the middle of your story—and those are far more unrealistic. Therefore, if you want readers to connect with your written world as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, the characters needs to change. There need to be some scars moving them towards their beautiful. Sorry again, pop music fans.
As a writer, though, you are not starved for ways to shape your MC’s development.
(Let’s see…one minute left.)
I’ll make it quick.
As your character changes, the causes of his development will obviously come from either internal or external forces; from the inside or the outside. Balance is required between the two—if the MC is only affected by the outside, he becomes passive. Nobody wants to watch a helpless twig float downstream. Beating your character into submission by using the world you built around him sounds like a tale of gradual slavery, not realization and recovery. That realization is the necessary internal force; something has to come from your character’s heart and mind to develop him into a different person.
In conclusion (ten seconds!), how you balance those forces is up to you. But forget Alessia Cara—if you want a beautiful character and a gorgeous story, there have got to be some growth. Some scars. I’m outta here.