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Getting Back on the Horse.

swearing_3421243Last week I wrote a rather depressing blog post about the ups and down (mostly the downs) of being an independent author.  It was nasty, dark, and true. But is also awoke something in me. Something that I hadn’t really had in a long time.

The writing muse.

Muses are funny is the way they come and go.  They also have a weird way of being awoken at the most interesting of times. But this little muse snuck right in and wacked me over the head with a frying pan.  I’m not sure why a writing muse has a frying pan, but it worked at getting my attention.

My writing days started way back. But the real passionate writing that I enjoyed started in 2003.  I was finding myself stressed out beyond belief.  And escaping to the world I had created, the world that Dissolution of Peace is set in, relaxed me.  It relaxed me to a point that I could sleep well and face the next day ready for those challenges.  I’d put down 2,000 to 4,000 words a day and I loved doing it.  And when I did it, I had a small hope that someone else would read it and find themselves escaping into my world to relax.  But that was never the point, the point was a lot simpler.

I wrote for me.

There was that damn frying pan to the back the head again. That was what the muse had came to lecture me about. I wrote to relax, and now here I was stressing about how to get more book sales.  I’m stressing about the very thing I used to do for fun. And if I was no longer doing it for fun, what’s the point?

Every story teller just wants to be heard (or read in this case).  And I still very much want readers to escape into my worlds and relax.  But I have always written for me first.  And fortunately this muse, and the frying pan, reminded me of that.

So I started a new novel project the next day. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t the next book in the Dissolution of Peace series.  Though I think that will be my first ever NaNoWriMo project.  I digress.

This new project has spoken to me for a while and it touches very deep on some of my own life trials and tribulations.  And, it has had me writing 2,000 or more words a day.  Yesterday alone I put down over 6,000 words. And you know what, it feels good to be writing to relax again.  It feels good to be telling a story that makes me happy, and it feels great to get back on the horse.  If I keep my focus on what I love, my books will eventually sell themselves.  And, eventually readers will find relaxation in the pages of my worlds.

The best part is, I feel better.  I feel like I can take on the world with my keyboard and computer.  And the muse has finally put the frying pan away.

And with my new positive outlook, something did come my way.  Samantha LaFantasie, another author is going to do an Author interview with me in October.  And she got me thinking.  Why can’t I post things on my blog to help out other authors?  So I will. Starting in August.  I will be posting some things for other authors.  If you want to join in, you can contact me here.  Just fill out the form and we will be in touch.

Here is what I am thinking:

1st Friday of every month: Author Interview

2nd Friday of every month: Guest Post

3rd Friday of every month: Book Review/Feature

4th Friday of every month: Author Spotlight (Brief Bio, List of Titles and upcoming releases)

This is free.  I won’t charge anyone for doing this, I just want to help promote others because that is what we should be doing.  So Please sign up to participate.  I’ll do my best to accommodate everyone.  It will likely have to be on a first come, first serve basis.  But we will see how it all goes.  So head on over and contact me.  Won’t cost you anything. It just might be what gets you back on your own horse.

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Dry Spells

We writers often talk about writer’s block.  I even had a blog post on the topic.  But sometimes we just have dry spells.  They can be caused by different factors, including writer’s block, lack of time, and lack of motivation.  For me it has been the motivation mostly.  The ideas have been flowing free in my mind.  Both for a sequel to Dissolution of Peace and the current novel I am working on have been very active in my mind.  But I just don’t sit down and write.  So for today’s blog I thought I would talk about how to ride out these dry spells and even do a little rain dance to get things going again.

The first step is recognizing the dry spell.  That may seem easy enough, and for some it is.  But for me it wasn’t so easy.  I only just started thinking about how little I have written.  And when I look at my work in progress, I see the file hasn’t been modified since May 10th.  That is nearly two months ago, and I wasn’t aware of it.  This is by far the longest dry spell I have had in some time.  The only saving grace is that I have still been writing in this blog on a weekly basis.

In fact it was this blog that made me recognize I was in a dry spell, and at the same time it was what made me not realize it for so long.  Each week I sit down and put together a blog post for you.  I’m writing, and perhaps writing these blogs kept my ‘writing sense’ working.  Blogs are great ways to keep people aware of your existence, and to break down writing blocks and walls.  But, in this case it tricked me into thinking it hadn’t been so long since I wrote.  But, when I only wrote a short ‘Happy Independence Day’ blog last week, it clicked to me how little I have written.

You may not blog, so you may see you haven’t written in a matter of weeks.  Or, it could take you some time to recognize it for other reasons.  The point is you have to realize you’re in a slump before you can move on to the next step.

The next step is identifying the cause of the dry spell.  Again this may seem easy, but that is not always true.  Writer’s Block is often the first thing to blame.  But, if your ideas are still percolating in your head, as mine were, writer’s block is likely not your cause.  You have things to write about in your head, you’re just not sitting at the keyboard and doing it.  If you think it is writer’s block, dig deeper.  If you find no other causes, then revert to the steps to break down writer’s block.

The next most common thing to blame is time.  That is what I blamed.  I told myself I haven’t had time because I have been running a magazine.  I’ve been trying to get the first issue ready for print.  But that wasn’t fair.  Sure, running the magazine has taken up a lot of my time, but so does work, and my family.  All valid things to be working on rather than writing, but I’ve worked around all of them before.  But if you work through all this and find that time really is the issue, then you need to revert to the steps to find a time to work on your writing.

You might find it is depression, lack of motivation, or you have something new in your life that you’d rather be doing.  You may even find out that writing isn’t what you want to do.  But chances are that if you’ve realized you’re not writing, and are looking for ways to start again, you genuinely miss writing.  Once you find the cause, you need to dig deeper and find the true cause.

For me, I found it was a lack of motivation.  The ideas were there, but I wasn’t writing.  I dug deeper to find the cause of my lack of motivation.  That was a series of bad news in my writing.  I have received five rejection letters in those two months.  Three of those were for a story I have really felt confident in.  It has been stacking up the rejections and it has started to take a toll on my confidence.  In fact I have two short stories that are not selling despite approaching a year in circulation.  I’ve reminded myself that my first stories sold remarkably fast.  I’ve also reminded myself that I have not turned out a short story in almost eight months.  That is not a bad thing though.  I’ve been focusing on putting out novels.  When the right idea hits me, I’ll write another short.

There have been other delays in my novel as well.  I still don’t have cover art.  The edits may be delayed.  That coupled with the lack of sales of my son’s children’s book, has me worrying about my ability.  I get frustrated when people are not as excited about something as I am.  I feel as though they don’t approve of it, or even thing it not as worthy of their time.  I am a pessimist by nature, so I see all these things for the worst rather than the possible truth.  I see cover art delays as an artist who is disinterested in my story.  I see edit delays as an editor who thinks my work is so bad it needs more time.  And I see lack of sales on my son’s book as validation of my worst fears (that I can’t do this).

Long story short the reason for my dry spell is a lack of motivation because I am suffering from the “I can’t do this” and “I’m not good enough to do this” mentality.  We all hit this.  Everyone, in anything they pursue, hits a point where they think they can’t continue.  But if you stop, you are only proving yourself (and your critics) right.  It is the people that continue and refuse failure, that make it to their goals.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Next, you need to break past your road block.  You have figured out what the cause of your dry spell is, but now you need to break on through and keep working.  For writer’s block, it may be as simple as sitting down and typing until you get something going.  For a lack of time, you can schedule in writing time.  If it is more complicated, break it down into simple ways to motivate yourself.

For me, I inflated my ego a bit.  I went to the reviews of my short works that are previously published and saw what they had to say.  Reminded myself that people do enjoy what I write, and that eventually an editor will.  I also recognized that not everyone is able, or willing, to fall into finite deadlines.  I either need to live with it, or only work with people who will follow deadlines (likely a mixture of both).  Last, I think I am good with marketing.  But I had to recognize that when it comes to books, I am new at it.  And when it comes to Children’s Books, I am unsure where to start.  So I’ve started asking around for help on that.

The point is whatever is holding you back needs to be addressed.  You need to either make peace with it, or solve it.  Either way you have to get those things out of the way before you can start writing again.

Last, perform a rain dance.  You will never get past a dry spell if you don’t start getting things going.  If you have a work in progress, open it up and get working.  You’ve worked past all your issues, but your desire to write won’t magically spark up.  You need to start writing.  You might find that you will jump right back in.  Or, especially in the case of writer’s block, you will struggle to start up again.  But after a little time at the keyboard you will find the rains will fall again.  And hopefully once you get going again your next dry spell will be a long way off.

Some people hit dry spells and give up.  For some people they simply don’t feel the need to write anymore.  But, chances are they would not be interested in finding a way to start writing again.  If you have the desire to keep writing, but you just can’t seem to do it, you are a writer in a dry spell.  Don’t give up on it.  Clearly writing is something you enjoy doing, or you wouldn’t seek out advice on how to end your dry spell.  Now get to work on fixing it, and get those words on paper.

 

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RIP Ray Bradbury

Over the last few hours, news has come out that author Ray Bradbury died sometime last night.  I had to say a little something about Mr. Bradbury.  He was one of the greatest writers of Science Fiction.  Aside from that, he ranks among one of the most talented authors across all the genres.

There are not many authors, or even readers, that were not touched by at least one of Ray Bradbury’s many stories.  I’m no exception.  I want to take a moment to reflect on how Ray Bradbury’s work’s influence on my life.

As high school came along for me, I’d really come to hate reading.  At this time, my reading influence came from whatever novel the English Teachers issued out and made us read.  Some of them I forced myself to struggle through and read.  Others, I simply sat at the back of the class and hoped I wasn’t called on for discussion.

One day, we were reading through our English Text book.  It often had a number of dull and boring (in my opinion) short stories that we had to read.  We’d then pick the author’s brain to pieces.  On one particular day, we came across “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury.  A story and author I had never heard of.  After reading that story, I was in shock about how much I enjoyed it.  I went back, reread it again at home, and then again the next day (and over the years I have read it many times over).  To this date, it is the only short story that I remember so clearly.

I’d be lying if I said that I was hooked on reading ever since.  I went right back into my ‘sitting at the back of the class’ mentality.  Then a year later, our class was assigned Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  It is my understanding not many classes at my High School read that book.  I guess I was just lucking.  I read every assigned reading, and I even read ahead.  I was done with the book before the fourth chapter was assigned to us.  For the first time, I was at the front of the class, active in every discussion.  I wasn’t even afraid to tell the teacher that I thought her interpretation of the text was wrong.  I had to go back and read at the assigned speed to I could stay on top of our discussions, and I didn’t even mind doing it.

From that moment on my interest in reading was sparked.  I found a genre I enjoyed and I was trying to read it all.  But, I also go a better appreciation of novels outside my favorite genre.  I enjoyed reading (though I still didn’t enjoy Teacher’s opinions on symbolism).  Of course, my reading guided me to my desire to write.  Really if it hadn’t been for Mr. Bradbury, I don’t know what I’d be doing today.  Perhaps I’d be a teacher (cringe).

I understand that Mr. Bradbury wrote up until his death.  I hope that I have the will to do the same.  Ray Bradbury is a literary icon and the world should take a moment to reflect on the art he has given us.  I hope his family can take comfort in the fact that so many people, like me, are inspired by him.  Rest in Peace Ray Bradbury, I hope you found your own paradise to relax in.

 

Some of my favorite Ray Bradbury Quotes:

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture.  Just get people to stop reading them.”

“Don’t think.  Thinking is the enemy of creativity.  It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy.  You can’t “try” to do things.  You simply “must” do things.”

“There’s no use going to school unless your final destination is the library.”

“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn” From Fahrenheit 451

“There is more than one way to burn a book.  And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

AND MOST FITTING:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”  From Fahrenheit 451

 

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Multiple Projects

Working on multiple at one time is something I am very accustomed too.  Having worked as a manager and business owner for many years, I am well aware of the difficulties involved in multitasking.  However, until this month, I wasn’t aware of how hard it would be to do that with my writing.  You see, before this month, I had only one work in progress at a time.

I think more of my problems come because I am typically not an outline writer.  I don’t create and outline to work from, I just type.  Well, that also makes the ideas stored in my mind a bit harder to track.  There where a few things I was already doing that helped dramatically and there are some things I learned recently.

Juggle

Being an writer, and doing it a lot, is like juggling chain saws on a unicycle while up on the tight-rope.  If you don’t know what you are doing someone is bound to get hurt, and it will likely be you.

You may be planning to only work on one project at a time.  That you will complete one manuscript and move on to the next.  While, I don’t think you should do that, I can respect that.  But, there are still some other things to consider.  Lets look at what I juggle right now (and this is just writing related).

  • Novel A
  • Ideas for Novel B
  • Ideas for Novel C
  • Short Story A
  • Ideas for Short Story B, C, D, E, F, and G
  • Critiques and edits for Short Story A
  • Copy editing for Children’s Book
  • Keeping track of illustrator’s progress on Children’s Book
  • Researching best publishers for Children’s Book
  • Writer’s Group meetings
  • Critiques and edits for the works of writers in my writing group
  • Self Publishing research
  • Weekly Blog Updates
  • Webpage Management
  • Twitter Updates (to promote myself)
  • Facebook Page Updates (to promote myself)
  • Self Promotion
  • Planing to see if I can attend OSC’s Boot camp
  • Submission tracking
  • Short Story Market research

I am sure I have already forgotten a few things.  But, that is a lot.  Most of it has little to do with writing multiple projects at once.  The funny thing is, it didn’t become overwhelming until I tried writing my short story while working on the Novel.  The fact of the matter is that I refuse to trim back on any of this (and I still have personal obligations as well).  Each of these things is enriching and rewarding to my craft and my future in the craft.

So, let me share with you what it is that I have learned.

Organize

Organization is absolutely key to surviving the onslaught of things I need to do.

Schedule. I use my Google calendar like crazy.  It links with my android phone and my wife’s Google Calendar.  Aside from the list above, it keeps track of my kids’ appointments, my wife’s appointments, my personal appointments, my volunteer appointments, and my writing appointments.

Story notes.  I know I said that I don’t outline.  But often while I am writing one scene an idea comes up for a future scene in the same work.  So I have a file on my computer called “Story Notes” and on it I keep track of my daily word count, ideas for future scenes, characters (and their quirks), and much more.  It helps me to refresh my memory when I open my novel, especially after working on another project.

Ideas notebook.  Every good writer needs an ideas notebook of some type.  Maybe its a file on your phone.  Maybe it is a little notepad.  Whatever it is, you need to be able to carry it with you everywhere.  Ideas hit me at the weirdest times, from the middle of the night to the drive to the kids’ schools.  This gives me the ability to write them down.  Many of them don’t work out to a story right away, but recently two separate ideas merged when I was flipping through that notebook.  That became Short Story A that I mentioned above.

Submission Tracking.  If you are not tracking your submissions, you will be in big trouble.  I currently have two short stories out at different markets, and one more that will be going out soon.  The worst thing that could happen to those would be for me to forget about them or to even confuse them.  You might forget you sent one to a market already and resubmit it to them (wasting your time and theirs) or you might skip a market thinking you already sent it there.  I use Duotrope, it’s free and it works well.

Folders.  Organize your computer’s writing folders in one spot.  This keeps your works together while also making back up easier.  I have one folder called “writings” (original I know).  In that folder, I have a folder for novels, short stories, contracts, and the miscellaneous files.  I can drag and drop the ‘writings’ folder onto my Passport hard drive for simple back up.  Also, when I decide I want to write on a particular piece, I find it quickly.

Project Tracking.  It might be a cork board in your office.  It could be a program on your computer.  But you need to keep track of what projects are where and when was the last time you worked on them.  Set up three categories for your works in progress:  Writing, Editing, and Submitting.  Each project should be under one of those categories.  And, keep a date attached to it.  Otherwise, you may keep writing the newest thing while your other piece sits and collects virtual dust waiting for the edits.

Time Management

Time management is important.  You can’t expect to get everything done in every day.  There are only so many hours in a day.  I don’t plan out every hour of every day.  Life with three little boys doesn’t work like that.  Instead, I only plan for a few activities each day.  If I can get more done then great.

Check the Calendar.  Don’t tell yourself you will write for three hours today, when the Calendar says you have to be at the Doctor’s at noon, take the car in for an oil change at three, and you have a volunteer meeting at six.  With everything else you have to do, three hours of writing is not practical on that day.  But, perhaps you can fit in some smaller activities in between.

Know what fits.  I can’t write for one hour.  It’s just not how I work.  I have to write out a whole chapter and once I get going, there will be no stopping me.  So I know that I can’t sit down and write during the hour between when my two older kids get out of school.  I’m setting myself up for failure if I do that.  I do know, that I can read during that time.  So, I often sit in the car and read.

The point is, the first step to failing at multiple projects is assigning the wrong projects for the wrong times.  For example, my wife has the kids today.  She handles getting them to school and home.  That means I can focus on my writing today.  You won’t see much from me on Facebook or Twitter.  But, Wednesday through Friday you will see a lot more for me on the social networks because I can easily squeeze in a quick tweet or post while I am making lunch or entertaining the kids.  Every day you should work on your craft, but that doesn’t mean that everyday you have to type in a manuscript.  Take your weekly writing to-do list and plug it in around your life.

The best-laid plans of mice and men.  Plan on forgetting something.  Listen, you are human.  I know that may come as a surprise to you, but you will forget something you wanted to do.  Yesterday I forgot to write this blog post.  Even with all the plans in the world, something will be forgotten.  If it was a crucial line in your manuscript you can go back and add it.  If it was to even write, there is always a chance to make up for it tomorrow.  When I first pledged to write 1,000 words a day no matter what, I knew I would miss a day or two.  So, I have revised that plan to be an average of 1,000 words a day.  Much easier to manage.

Just know that you can’t do it all in one day, or even in a week.

Priorities.  Get your priorities down now.  And writing shouldn’t be number one.  Your life should be first.  Once you know what is important to you, you can better plan what needs to go where in your schedule.  Writing is very important to me, but my family is always first.  My own sanity is next.  So on a busy day, I may not plan to write in the hour I have to myself.  I may plan for a game or to zone out on the TV.   I won’t be writing anytime my kids deserve my attention.  I won’t be writing anytime the San Jose Sharks are playing.

Writing can’t be number one in out lives.  Recognize that, and place it where it really falls.  Then plan around that.  Your priorities change daily depending on what else needs to be done that day.  Once you get into a rhythm of your own priorities and schedule you will quickly realize there are certain days you won’t be writing in that manuscript but you may have time for reading, editing, promotions, and of course ideas come at their own times.   But, you will also see when you can maximize the writing time you do have with minimal distractions and without letting it consume your life.

Know your own limits

If you can’t juggle two tennis balls on the ground, I don’t recommend the tight-rope stunt above.  I know that I am just getting started in this multiple writing projects realm.  So, even though I have an idea for the next novel, I won’t start writing it until this current one is at least into editing.  I did put together a short story while I was writing this novel.  It is still waiting for it’s first round of edits.

I knew that one novel at a time is my current limit.  I also knew that I needed to push myself just a bit and try writing a short story while I was still working on another project.  It’s okay to push those limits just a bit from time to time.  But over doing it will result in burn-out and the possibility of dropping the craft all together.  That is something to be avoided.

Summary

In the end, I can’t tell you what will work for you.  You may not like my ideas, but I can hopefully point you in the right direction.  If you organize yourself, manage your time, and know your own limits; you can juggle all that life has to offer and still get your writing done.

As always share your ideas in the comments section below.  Let the readers know what works for you, and I am always willing to learn something new myself.

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Distractions

I recently finished reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.  A great novel that is full of characters you can relate to and a plot that is imaginative and engaging to the reader.  It has a well thought out world that has depth and dynamic. The magic is believable and based a bit on real life.  In other words, you should go by this novel if you have any love for Fantasy novels.  You can wait until you finish reading my post, but as soon as you are done, go buy it.

Like every great story I finish, I find myself sad it is over.  But, I also find myself inspired to write a great novel of my own.  I also find myself looking at my latest novel and wondering why I have not done much to advance it.  When I undertook writing with a serious intention of being published this past March, I told myself I would complete one short story a month and a novel by the end of the year.

That means I should have written nine short stories and one novel.  Currently I have completed four short stories and about 2,500 words into the second draft of my novel (the first draft was written years ago, so really this is a rewrite first draft).  I also completed a Children’s picture book my son and I wrote together.  A far cry from being where I wanted to be.

There are some pluses.  First, two of those four stories were published this year.  The other two are currently out to markets.  The children’s book is currently waiting on the illustrator to complete the drawings.  It has a scheduled release for the early part of 2012.  Both of which I think are good accomplishments for a writer in his first serious year of writing.

But, why I have fallen so short of my goals?  When I finished The Black Prism, I really began to quiz myself of the true cause of my short comings.  The answer was simple: Distractions.

I have a long list of distractions.  Many of those distractions are worth it and they have to to come first.  Those include: My kids, my wife, my health, my chores, my job (when I had one), and searching for a job.  But there are some I could trim out.  Such as: Television, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Battlefield 3, and the internet.

Of course, the real trouble is actually making those cuts.  Every time I power up this laptop the first sight I go to is Facebook.  I can’t help it.  Then I have to check Twitter now (a site I used to hate and now for some reason I can’t avoid it).  Then I go look for work, then I go check out all the sites related to Battlefield 3, then I check my writers forum, then check the site stats for this blog, then I go back to Facebook, and then I check Google+.  By then I am tired of the internet, so I shut off my lap top and turn on the TV.  Through all of this my children need my attention.  I cook dinner, put the kids to bed, my wife comes home from work, we watch TV, and then off to bed.  And I always say, “Tomorrow I will have to get some writing done.”

Perhaps I am not taking writing serious enough.  I don’t think so.  I like doing it and I enjoy seeing the positive reviews of the things people have read of mine.  The truth is, and I have mentioned this before, I just have to make the time.  Most of the time there is nothing on TV, but I watch it anyway.  Most of the time there is nothing new on Facebook, but I check it anyway.  I am finding Google+ useless but I still check it.  And I don’t know why I am so addicted to Twitter now.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are great for me to get in touch with my fans and fellow writers.  I won’t cut them out completely.  I certainly won’t be able to cut out Battlefield 3 for a while.  I enjoy the game.  But, I can limit them.  I intend to limit them and focus on my novel.

One thousand words a day would reach novel length in just forty days.  Of course my novel may be longer and I almost never just write 1000 words in a writing session, but that certainly seems like a reasonable goal.  However goals are not worth much if you don’t try.  I will try to hold to that goal, and you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see how I do.

So I know have two 2012 resolutions: 1) Exercise and lose weight, 2) Write more.

Of course I have more, but I will save that for another post.

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Dream Job: The process of crafting an idea into a story.

My story “Dream Job” in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction, which you can read for free here, was the first short story I had written since High School.  And, the first thing I ever wrote with the intentions of having it published.  So now that it is out for the public to read, I felt I needed to say a bit about it.  After all, there is a lot to be said for it.

I talk a lot about ideas, you can read my post about them.  I had made up my mind I wanted to be a published writer, and I though it would be best to start with a short story.  The real problem was, I couldn’t come up with a good idea.  Well, scratch that, I had ideas but I was having trouble developing them into anything.  Finally, the idea hit me in a nightmare.

If you have read the story, you know this line (if not please go read it):

“An icy cold began to rush over her body, slowly flooding around her arm and across her body. She
began to gasp for air in panic as she realized the cold-flowing blood was reaching her heart.”

That was my dream.  One line.  Thirty-seven words out of about 4,600 words.  I had a dream that someone was in the room, I was injected, and a cool oozing feeling flowed towards my chest.  And, like Samantha, I woke up feeling the cold.  It scared the shit out of me.  So much so, that I thought about it for the whole night (I worked graveyard shift at the time).

I started to wonder what might cause that feeling, which had long since passed.  I wondered how I remembered it so clearly and how would something from the dream world transfer so easily to the waking world.  Then, but the end of my day, I wondered how I could make this into a story.

The first draft of Dream Job was a disaster.  Though when I wrote it, I thought I was a master of the craft.  I posted it for my writer’s group, Hatrack River, which I had just joined.  And, they very nicely told me that my intro was cliche.  They even referred me to The Turkey City Lexicon, a must read of new writers (which I re-read all the time). I had used the “White Room Syndrome” opening… ouch.

I realized I needed a complete rewrite of the opening lines (also known as the hook).  When I did that, it took the story in a different direction (although it was was along the same plot points), and thus my second draft was a total rewrite.

I posted the new Opening for my group to read.  They told me it was still missing something.  There was not much for readers to grab on to.  I was frustrated because I thought I was was writing gold, and they were not getting it.  Of course, they were right. After I looked things over again.  I went for a third rewrite of the opening lines.

Now, this third one was troublesome to come up with.  I spent a week mulling over different openings.  And then it hit me.  My dream was so emotional to me because it happened in my own bed.  My own house.  This was my house, my bed, and my room and it was invaded by this nightmare.

BINGO!

So I put Samantha at her home, and hat it invaded.  Government Agents had always been a part of the plot, so naturally they were the invaders.  The story took a third complete rewrite, very different from the first and second drafts.  Then I posted it again on my writers forum.  I don’t know if my forum LOVED IT, but they certainly liked it.

From there it was just a few minor tweeks for Grammar (ugh… grammar cops), a bit of tightening up based on suggestions from fellow writers, and then it was out for submission.  Shortly after submitting it, I got the idea for “Death Watch” and started this process all over again.  “Death Watch” was accepted first (12 days before its big brother).

From the time I started writing until “Dream Job” went for its first submission was almost exactly two months (59 days).  From first submission to acceptance was just over five months.  I am proud of it, and to see it in print is a great thing.

The title may seem obvious to you after reading it (sorry no spoilers here, just go read it).  But, for me it was also a bit of an inside story too.  After all, writing is one of my dream jobs.  This being the first thing I wrote, it only seemed fitting.

So please, head over to Smashwords and download your free copy of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.  Read it and review it on Goodreads.  And on the topic of Goodreads, check out my Author page and become a fan.

As always your comments are welcome.

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Writer’s Block

I can hear all of you yelling at you screens:  “Where have you gone Richard?  Why did you leave us?”

I know I have been quiet on here. I haven’t posted in 10 days.  I think in blog time that is something like 3 years.  I have been stricken with a terrible case of writer’s block.  The only natural enemy of the writer.  Well, there may be others, but writer’s block is certainly the worse .

Writer’s block is that horrible condition where a writer has no idea what to write.  In can be minor; like not know what to write on Twitter.  Or it can be severe; like not knowing what to write anywhere.  Writer’s block affects all writers of all ages, there is no vaccine against it, and it often requires lengthy treatments that are not guaranteed to work.  Worst of all it’s not covered by most insurance carriers.

My case was moderate.  I managed to put together a few tweets, I think I got on Google+ with a post, and Facebook got a few posts.  But, I could not think of anything to write, both here or for a new short story.  I haven’t got anymore written on my novel.

I tried all the treatments.  They don’t work.  I brainstormed, I read, I wrote nonsense, I opened the documents to type, and still nothing got down to the page.  I tried hard to get something down on paper some where.  Nothing.  Not even a sticky note on the fridge reminding me to buy my son Ice Cream toppings for his school party.

I had an awesome dream.  I woke up and thought, This will make the most awesome story known to man.  Sure enough, my writer’s block was so severe that I didn’t write the idea down and fell back a sleep.  That is a cardinal sin in the writing community, and I did it.  And now, I still can’t remember even the smallest detail of what that dream was about.  All I can remember now is, You fool.  You could have been the next Heinlein, and you didn’t write it down.  Your note pad was arms length from your bed and you were too lazy to write it down.

Then yesterday I got a rejection letter from a publication for my latest short story.  Its okay, it was only the first market I have sent it too so I was not really surprised.  However, when you have writer’s block it is a bit more discouraging.  I sent it off to another publication as I promised myself  I would always do.

And then I had a great idea for a blog post.  I will write about Editors.

Then I realized that might be career suicide if I wrote down what I was thinking of editors after getting a rejection.  So I decided that post should probably wait.

Well then my Van broke down… yes I drive a mini-van.  Stop looking at me like that.  Men drive mini-vans too.  Well, as you have read in other threads, writing provides stress relief for me.  Well, I needed it and I still couldn’t think of a damn thing to put on paper.

Then today, I went through my routine.  Checked Facebook, Checked the Facebook Author Page, Checked Twitter, Checked Google+, and then I got to this site.  And I thought to myself, I need to blog.  My adoring fans need to hear from me.  It has been three blog years since I posted.

It didn’t work.  I couldn’t think of anything.  Then after going back to Facebook and then back to this site.  It dawned on me.  I should write about the tragedy of Writer’s Block.  And so, I give you this post.  I managed over 700 words here.

I AM CURED!

So what is my point is all this?  I am not sure I really have one.  Give me a minute, let me see if I can make one up…

Okay I got it.

Writer’s Block is a debilitating disease to a writer.  And really only time can cure it.  The more you force yourself to writer something the more resistant the disease becomes.  Sometimes you have to just take a break and let the disease run its course.  And when you are ready you will have something great to write.  Or at least something to write.*

If you have suggestions on how to cure Writer’s Block, please feel free to comment.

Now if you will excuse me, I have things to write.

*Note:  The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA, your 
results may vary.
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Muse (Where I get my Ideas)

Once people found out I was a writer, and more so now that I have this blog, the most common questions I get is this:

“Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”

My answer is always the same.  Getting the ideas is the easy part.  Taking that thought and making it into a story is the hard part.

I think the common misconception about writers is that we get the idea for a whole story in our heads in a flash of brilliance and inspiration.  It has been my experience that is not how things really work.  I have yet to have a sudden epiphany and instantly a whole story come to my mind.  It is usually one line that come to mind, or even just a fleeting thought.  Odds are you have had one too.

For example, you may have wondered “What if the sky was green?”  or “What if I could visit Venus?”  That’s all it takes for me to get started.  I start thinking about it.  How would life be different under a green sky, could it change our skin color?  Could it change the way things look around here?  I play with the idea in my head until I am either ready to write about it, or I throw it out.

That’s right, not all my ideas became stories, I’ve had to throw a few out.  Throw them out is not really accurate.  I keep a book of my random thoughts and ideas.  Since I think of them a lot at night, and have a nasty habit of forgetting by morning, I write them down.  Some have turned into stories, others are still sitting there.  Some of them joined with other ideas in the notebook and their love child became a story.

So when do I think of all these great ideas.  All the time.  At night when I am about to fall asleep.  Some come from dreams I have had.  I have to write those down in my notebook fast since I forget my dreams easily.  At the gym on the treadmill, I mull many a story idea over there.  What else am I to do walking all that time and getting no where?

Ideas come all the time.  Its the ones that stick in my head that become stories.  The ones I can’t seem to stop thinking about.  They grow in my head, until I am dying to write them down.  I have to constantly ask myself, “So What?”  The sky is green, so what?  So, I can visit Venus, now what?  As I keep asking myself what is next, the story just form in my mind.

However, that is hardly the end of it.  The next challenge is getting the idea on paper.  Developing the right way to say things; to paint a picture with my words.

What do I like to do to help me catch my muse, to keep coming up with those ideas and playing with them in my head?  Music is always a good way for me to clear my mind.  I mentioned above, the gym always works for me.  Sometimes a long drive also helps.  Some authors find reading helps them.  I tend to get wrapped up in the story I am reading, and while reading is very inspirational, it doesn’t allow me the chance to play with my own ideas.  But, I know it works for many.

So, while getting the ideas is easy, using them is hard.  That is what really takes time.  Good luck with yours, you just may have the next big idea just waiting to be developed.

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