Archive for August, 2010

I Definitely Found My Shoes

Monday, August 30th, 2010

post image: shoesI believe it's official. We can call off the dogs now. The shoes have been found. That means I can start this thousand-mile journey (again).

While I haven't begun near as many books as I have diets, the books (er, I should clarify, novels) that I have started have been just about as successful as the diets. In fact, they follow a remarkably similar pattern:

  • I get the idea to do something (what, I don't know---just "something")
  • I do something for a while
  • I see good results
  • I meet a box of donuts

It's hard to believe that a box of donuts can kill a good story, but it's true. Donuts are evil.

And, just like the start of a diet, the start of a novel is a rosy prospect: so full of promise, opportunity, and thoughts of, "This one will be different, I tell ya!"

Except this one really does feel different.

I hope I can tell you about it soon. (Unfortunately I'm still in that paranoid, don't-talk-about-it stage.)

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Posted in Progress |

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I got an idea for a new story. It goes something like this: a young hero, trapped in the ordinary world, longs to get out. He's befriended by a gray-bearded mentor who helps him find adventure. After meeting both friends and enemies along the road, our hero eventually faces the Big Bad Guy in the final showdown. The hero defeats evil and everyone lives happily ever after.

Whatcha think?

About seventeen years ago, when I first got the crazy idea I wanted to write fiction, I immediately began thinking about what I wanted to write. I realize this is backwards: the fact that I desperately wanted to write before actually having something to write . . . a problem that stuck with me for . . . oh, I'd say about seventeen years now. But anyway, as I tried to come up with something new and different and gripping, I simply couldn't help but come back to Hero's Journey-based stories. It's like it was imprinted on my DNA.


Posted in Musings |

Treat it Like a Job

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

post image: Office SpaceI just finished reading blog post Paying Yourself to Write by Tami Moore where she in turn references blog post Paid Writer by Bria Quinlan. Bria suggests setting up a pay scale (e.g., $10/hr for writing, $5/hr for research, etc.) and keeping track of what you earn. The idea is that putting a dollar value on an effort that (more often than not) results in no income helps keep you in the mindset that writing is still serious business.

I think Tami takes this concept further by saying, in so many words, it's not about the money but about how you treat this gig. Whether you're published or not, paid or not, professional or not: are you acting like you're like a published, paid, professional?

While both Bria and Tami embrace the idea of the pay scale, I feel Tami strikes closer to the heart of the matter: it's less about the money and more about your behavior. In short, are you treating your writing like an actual job?


Posted in Musings |


Friday, August 20th, 2010

post image: confused chimpSchool starts again soon. Yes, whether you're ready to face it or not: summer is just about over. That means three things: 1) morning traffic is about to get worse; 2) Christmas decorations will start appearing in stores; and 3) NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is short for Naughty Nobles Wrinkling Mozzarella. (Wait. Wait. No it doesn't. I got it wrong again. Last year I was under the impression it stood for Naturally Nomadic Writhing Monsters. Let's try this again.)

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It's where you write a novel of at least 50,000 words, start to finish, during the thirty days of November. While thousands upon thousands of people enter, and a surprisingly large percentage of them win, it's generally understood amongst the NaNo population that (at best) you wind up with nothing more than a first draft.


Posted in Progress |

Best of Both Worlds

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The first (and only) typewriter ever in my proximity was an old Royal. I have no idea where it came from or how ancient it was; but during high school, I used to pull it out every once in a while to tap out a few words. I remember just having to slam the keys to get any sort of letters to hit the paper. I also remember waiting patiently for white-out to dry before I could give a letter another whack. It's hard to believe how far we've come in such a short amount of time.

But humans never advance so far technologically that they can't look back wistfully on days gone by. And when the wistful look turns into genuine desire to resurrect, well, then gadgets like this are bound to be invented:

I can't explain why I suddenly want one. Click here to purchase one for me. Christmas is only a few months away.

Posted in Fun |

Always Darkest When?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

post image: dawnStill, if anything’s going to "happen" it's going to be a long journey. And, as we all know, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Unfortunately, at this point, I can’t even find my shoes.

That was from last week, when things were looking pretty bleak for me, creativity-wise. This two year book project kept running into nothing but dead ends, no matter which way I came at it. And it was a shame too, since I had so many good scenes (and even a good ending) planned. But all the good scenes and good endings in the world are for naught if readers put your book down after the first fifty pages. If you can't get that heart-pounding action going right away, readers nowadays---with so many millions of other creations vying for their attention---will walk. I don't blame them.


Posted in On Writing |

Query Letter Fail

Friday, August 13th, 2010

post image: wincingWith rare, rare exceptions, publishers do not deal directly with authors. It's simply not possible for them to do so, what with one hundred million prospective authors out there and only the teeniest fraction of them worth talking to. No, the job of wading through the masses falls on the literary agent: that tireless go-between responsible for bridging the gap between the writer and the publisher.

When a writer finishes his or her work, it is time to contact a literary agent. Now, if you've been through this before, just use the agent you used last time. That always works unless one of you did some serious bridge-burning during your last deal. But if you're brand new (or burned some bridges) then you need to find a new agent. And that's where the query letter comes in.

The purpose of the query letter is simple: you are asking an agent to look at your drivel masterpiece. The well-formed query letter tells the agent who you are, what credentials you have, why you believe the the book is good, and (most importantly) what the book is about. It's a sales pitch. In a nutshell, "Hey, look at me! I'm worth looking at! Here's why!" The well-formed query letter is professional, clear, concise, and doesn't cause the agent to post it on the web as a shining example of what NOT to do.


Posted in Fun |

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

post image: feetI spent several hours Sunday night trying to kick-start some creativity. I needed more than just Mr. Sanders to get me moving this time. As I said before, in theory creativity shouldn't be any problem at all. We are by nature creative. Every day every single one of us creates. We aren't handed a script as soon as we crawl out of bed. We create, we improvise, we play off each other. All day. Every day. So what makes the creative arts so difficult sometimes?

Well, for one, a good story is hopefully a wee bit more interesting than our unscripted lives. Sure, we may create fresh, new dialog during the natural course of our normal day. But it's doubtful we're coming up with anything Shakespearean either. No, to make a good story takes something extra.

A few writers get lucky. Every so often a writer might be sitting on a train and suddenly think, "What about a boy who's a wizard who doesn't know he's a wizard?" I'm not that kind of writer. I struggle; and Sunday evening was no exception. I tried one of my usual tricks (don't ask me why it's "usual" since it hasn't worked yet). I tried to "open my brain" so to speak. I looked at art, listened to music, and did what I could to rise above the reek of the earth into that plane of creative bliss.


Posted in On Writing |

The Creative Process

Friday, August 6th, 2010

post image: lightbulbCars are obvious. Humans like to move around a lot and, as a species, we're predisposed to solving problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. So what could be more obvious than inventing an object that moves around under its own power, carries people and cargo, and only costs between ten and ninety percent of each paycheck? If cars had never been invented, it's likely you would have come up with the idea just this morning.

Unfortunately, most creative ideas appear brain-dead obvious in hindsight. Why of course we came up with refrigerators, tube socks, and the printing press! We can't imagine our lives without them. But when it comes to looking forward, things get a bit more difficult. Sure, anyone can read a Harry Potter book and think, "Heck, I could've come up with that!" But the odds are: no, you probably couldn't. And neither could I.


Posted in On Writing |