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Showing posts from 2016

Writing is Listening

In many social situations, I'm a talker. I like to think of myself as a raconteur, but it's more just like I don't know how to shut up. At least in the right situation. I've done a lot and know just a little bit about so many different things, it's easy for me to find something to talk about with people. When I can come out of my social anxiety shell, I actually like talking to people. But there are times when I can't really talk, I don't have the energy, emotional or physical, to do it. Instead, I just drink in the surroundings.

I like to listen. I like to observe.

It's something we writers have to do. We have to take in all the input we can. And sometimes that means shutting the hell up and just listening. Listen to your friends tell their stories. Listen to how they talk about other people and describe them. Listen to the words they use. Listen to the emotion in people's voices as they're talking. Watch how they talk. What sorts of things th…

Word Games For Inspiration

I like to read a lot of books about the craft of writing. Probably a full ten percent of the books I read are about the craft of writing. The vast majority of books have some bit of wisdom or inspiration I'm able to take away from them and incorporate into my own writing. I'd been reading Dean Koontz books since I was ten and was looking for more craft books to read and found that he'd written this one.

It's long out of print. It was published originally in 1972, and by then Koontz had already written in excess of 40 novels. In many ways, it's useful because he is such a thorough expert in the craft that he's able to break down all of the genres and their component parts and what audiences expect from them. But I was going to be a little disappointed if this was all the book was, and I was happy to learn that it wasn't. For one, it was also a time capsule of how writing worked back in the day. Think about pursuing a career in novel writing and not having a…

NaNoWriMo: 10 Tips to Stay on Top

We're just over three weeks into National Novel Writing month and I'm just now crossing the 75,000-word threshold. I was looking around, thinking about how I got to this point two years in a row at about the same time and I thought I'd bring some of that advice to you.

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips to staying on top of your NaNo...

Know Where You're Going - Have, at the very least, a general road map of where your story is heading. I don't always have the most detailed outline to work from, but I do have a sense of where the book is heading and in what general direction I'd need to take to get to the end. And every time I feel like I might get stuck, I spend some time working in my notebook, asking myself questions about where the next day's writing could go. I also think about things I could include that would make that next day's writing exciting.Don't revise - This is one of those bits of writing advice that I think is pretty universa…

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Art and Politics

Art is inherently political.

Let's just get that out of the way. We all have things we want to say (or things we want to not say) in our personal lives that shape the art we make. And artists, more often than not, are trying to say something with their art, even if their goal is to not say something.

There is no doubt that this has been a turbulent week in the country I live in. There are many of us that are confused and shocked and afraid of what might be to come in the future. That's understandable. As artists and writers, I feel like we're typically more empathetic than the general population. It's easy to think about what it's like to be in someone else's shoes because we spend so much of our creative time almost literally in someone else's shoes. And we need to pass that understanding on to our readers or viewers or however else they're consuming this art.

I've seen this troubling idea, though, that art needs to be purely for escape and that p…

NaNo: Week One

It's been a week of furious writing, but I've got almost 25,000 words of a novel to show for it. And most of a short story.

There's something great about National Novel Writing Month that always kicks my ass into gear and makes me want to get so much more done. Part of it is the community. I love being able to interact with other writers who are going through the same thing I am. More often than not, writing is a bizarre and lonely process. I don't get to talk in specifics about what the issues of a day might be. Being around non-writers most of the time means that, at best, I'll talk in vague generalities. Maybe I won't even mention the problems I've got in my work. But during NaNo, that all changes.

There's a support system of people that seem to exist, like fairies in the woods at night, only during November. They have chatrooms and write-ins. I don't feel like such a shut in all the time.

I find that it's also good for me to be keeping trac…

National Novel Writing Month

It's November and you know what that means. Yes, turkey (or tofurkey), obviously, but it's also National Novel Writing Month. Each year, through the month of November, writers around the world work to complete 50,000 words of their novels in a long sprint that can reach the heights of both agony and ecstasy.

There is a lot of debate back and forth every year, bickering between working writers and newcomers, about what good NaNoWriMo does.

It's true that you will very rarely have a finished novel with the completion of 50,000 words. It's very true that it takes a lot of practice to be able to produce 50,000 words that are usable, let alone publishable. And it takes even more practice to be able to produce 50,000 usable words in the space of thirty days.

It makes a lot of sense to me why some working writers who have spent many years honing their craft and learning how to produce at such a rate might have a chip on their shoulder about NaNoWriMo. There's an idea tha…

Finding Motivation When You Have None

I don't want to be writing this right now.

I would rather be working on something else.

If it were up to me, I'd be curled up in a blanket on my couch playing video games with my kids.

But I'm work. I'm writing. I have to write. One of the things I have to write on a regular basis is this blog. Most of the time I really love it. Sometimes, trying to think of an idea to write about is as difficult as breathing on the moon. Sometimes, I imagine they feel about the same, too.

So how do I motivate myself to write even when I don't want to?

I'm not quite sure. I know that's not the answer you're looking for. You're looking for me to say something like, "All you need to do is sacrifice a bat during the fall equinox and then pour salt over your left shoulder and you'll be able to get through any writing block you have." But I can't say anything like that because that would be bloody absurd. The only thing I can tell you is to put your bu…

Deciding on the Next Novel

Since I don't write licensed fiction (yet!), I often get asked how I pick my next novel project. I'm currently working on my 12th novel length work and I'm continually finishing one and then moving onto the next. I've been in a pretty constant pattern like this since my second book, which turned out to be Lost at the Con. 

I'm not sure how usual that is. It usually takes me less than a week or too, sometimes as little as a day, for me to choose my next novel project.

I know some writers take months between projects, gestating ideas, and I think that is a completely valid choice, but I need to keep momentum and be working every day or I feel listless. I need to be in the middle of writing  a novel to feel... comfortable? It's a bit like a security blanket for me.

For me to keep that pace, though, there are a lot of things I have to do.

First, I need to constantly be taking input. I read, on average, a book every week. I try to watch at least a few movies every …

Anatomy of an Opening: The End of the Affair

Instead of breaking down a scene from a movie, this time we'll break down the opening of a book. (Previously, I've done scenes from City Lights, Citizen Kane, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  I've also broken down the opening to Starship Troopers.

Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is absolutely one of my favorite books. The writing is lyrical and story heart-wrenching and beautiful. Greene's style of writing is such that he always has me gripped, whether it's the beginning of the book or the end. And he shows you so much about the character in his opening lines.

So, here are the first two paragraphs from the book:
A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which, to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who - when he has been seriously noted at all - has been praised for his technical ability, but d…