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Collaboration is Good

I'm in the midst of making my short film, which started as a story I wrote on my own. We've completed principal photography. I'm in the editing room and it looks like we were able to capture everything we needed. But in order for me to do that, I had to trust a lot of people with my story and my vision. I created the story, yes, but I had readers look at it and had them give me notes for revision. Then I turned it over to actors and they had to inhabit the parts and bend my vision to fit theirs, for their acting is their art. Then I had to bring in a cinematographer who I had to trust to get the images I'd described to him into the camera. I'll have to trust that the musicians who put together the soundtrack will apply their art to the best of their ability. And then my art, after the story is written, is to become the conductor and make sure all those collaborative artists plying their trades work together to synthesize into one piece of art.

For prose writers, t…
Recent posts

Characterization

I was asked by a fellow writer how to approach characterization in a way that allows one to express their personalities without putting it into plain text. And I think that's a great question. No one likes to read about how a character acts outright. They want to see it.

A lot of this will come down to the classic "show don't tell" advice.

No one wants to read a passage where you say something like, "Jason was a constantly nervous person who liked ice cream when he could get it. He had a short temper and was prone to large outbursts. He hated this about himself and would cry himself to sleep at night."

This is the sort of narration that might fit well in a Wes Anderson movie, but to make that character interesting without a person like Gene Hackman or Bill Murray sort to inhabit it, you need to show us all of these things. If your character is constantly nervous, how can you show that in other scenes? Are they constantly biting their thumbnails? Are they s…

The Road to Freelancing

I've been freelancing for a long time now. I've written for websites ranging from my own like Big Shiny Robot! (and this space) to Huffington Post, HowStuffWorks, Fantasy Flight Games, and StarWars.com. I've written for magazines and newspapers. I still have a regular column at Salt Lake City Weekly, which is the alt-weekly here. I had a weekly column before that in IN This Week, a now defunct weekly from the same area.

How did I get to the point where I was getting paid for my writing on a regular basis?

Well, it wasn't easy, for one. For two, no two writers will have the same path to that point. What worked for me might not work for you. And the path you take might be completely wrong for me. But I can tell you what I did and how I started and you can see where that goes.

Let's start in high school, shall we? I was on the newspaper staff for three years in high school. My first year, we had to print out the text and wax it to layout pages and hand lay in gutters…

Bravery in Sharing

I was asked to take a crack at explaining to other writers how to deal the vulnerability that comes with sending out your work.

I'm not sure what to do about that.

That's something that comes with every piece of your soul that you bare in writing. There's not much I can say to make you feel comfortable with sharing your work. This is a highly personal process. And all I can do is give you some advice on what to expect and what not to expect.

First, you're going to need to develop a thick skin. People are going to give you a lot of feedback on your writing and you need to understand that they are trying to help you. No one writes a perfect, clean first draft. And when you hand that first draft over, there are issues with it that you are completely blind to. People will point them out. It's nothing personal, they're trying to help you get better and help you see some of the things you've certainly missed in the blind fury of a first draft.

And there's al…

Salt Lake Comic Con Schedule

I will be doing a whole pile of panels. I'll be doing a signing and lots of live podcasts and I would love to see you. Stop by. Say hi. Ask questions, etc.

Friday

4:00 pm - Fauxthentic History: The Princess Bride - The History of Florin and Guilder
Room 150G

5:00 pm - Mysteries of the Force
Room 150G

6:00 pm - Carrie Fisher - To Me, She's Royalty
Room 250A

8:00 pm - Adventures in Podcasting
Room 150G

Saturday

11:00 am - Spotlight on Greg Grunberg 
Grand Ballroom

1:00 pm - Author Signing with Bryan Young
Shadow Mountain Booth #401

4:00 pm - The Interconnected Star Wars Universe
Room 250A

5:00 pm - Inside Rogue One 
Room 250A

7:00 pm - Full of Sith - Live!
Room 150G

There are a lot of cool things going on and I'll be a little busy, but I would still very much like to meet and say hello. These conventions are large, though, so if you don't catch me, don't feel too bad. But if you like Star Wars, my guess is you'll be seeing lots of me.

I hope to see you there!
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As…

The Villain's Tool Kit

Over the weekend, I taught a panel at SaltCon, which is a gaming convention held each year in the Salt Lake City area. It's a lot of fun and there's always a lot of interest in the intersection between storytelling and roleplaying games.

The panel I gave was on worldbuilding, but I taught about a concept that makes for really great roleplaying game stories from the perspective of the game master, but it can also be a powerful tool when crafting certain kinds of stories.

If there were a style or mode of writing a book that's most like the way a roleplaying game, I would think it's the method of writing that Stephen King outlined in his book On Writing. He talks about how he doesn't do any outlining, he's very much working on the story by the seat of his pants, taking a premise and putting the character (or characters) through the paces. Every chapter he asks himself, "How would this character react to this situation realistically?" and that's the …

Writing Discipline

One of the most important skills I think writers need to cultivate is discipline.

For the last 600 plus days I've put my butt in the chair and written. There have been days when I haven't felt like it. There were literally days where I was in the hospital. There were times when I was so distracted by Star Wars that I could only eek out a few hundred words. But I made a commitment to discipline that I would sit down and write every day. 

It was important for me to learn how to sit down and write even when I didn't feel like it.

Part of the inspiration to learn that discipline was this quote from Neil Gaiman:

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.  You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that s…