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Showing posts from 2017

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!
--
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…

Science Fiction: World Building and Technology

Tomorrow, I will be teaching a class to a bunch of high school students about world building, technology, and tropes in science fiction. I've been thinking a lot about what I'll be saying to them and thought it would be a good topic for the blog this week.

Mainly, I'm going to be telling them to ask themselves questions.

When you're building a world in a science fiction story, whether that's a planet, a system of government, or the equilibrium of an entire galaxy, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions. Why is a thing like this the way it is?

Take the planet of Mustafar, for example.


This is the volcanic lava planet from Revenge of the Sith. The designers behind the planet had to ask themselves what the structures and creatures on the planet would look like. And to do that, they had to go back and ask how it would evolve over time? Well, start with the idea of who would live on a planet like this. It's inhabited by an insectoid race well-suited to the hea…

World Building Without Bogging Down Your Novel

I was asked to talk today about how you build a world without bogging down your novel. And it's something you see all too much of, not just in the work of those working toward becoming professionals, but in professionally published manuscripts as well.

Part of the problem is that writers become so in love with their world that they hit you with as much of it as they can right from the beginning. There are dumps and dumps of exposition that are supposed to paint a vibrant world, but too many colors of paint hit the canvas and instead of a beautiful sunset and a happy little tree, you're looking at a big smudge of brown where too many colors mixed.

That's not to say you can't get away with some florid description. Sometimes, my favorite passages in books are descriptions of the world that leave my breath taken.

But you don't need all of it in your book.

The question you need to ask yourself is this: does it add to the story?

If you're creating a fantasy or a sci…

Your Writing is More Important Now Than Ever

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows they're bad. Times are crazy. But what can we as writers do?

Well, write, of course.

Our stories matter.

Look at the stories from the last time our country was in a major crisis, whether that was World War II or the Great Depression. Some of my favorite stories from these eras taught me how to be a better person, or how to feel about things. Look at what Grapes of Wrath did to make people aware of the plight of those suffering the worst in the depression. Or all of Charlie Chaplin's shorts, where he's a down on his luck hobo, but still lovable, just trying to scrape by. Look at all the material the Walt Disney Company produced during World War II to combat the Nazis.

Art was used to elevate understanding and empathy for the issues we hold dear in the face of demonstrable evil in the world and inaction (or downright opposition) from our own government. We need to use stories to do a lot of things. We need them to…

Free-Writing

I've been doing a lot of free-writing lately and I didn't quite realize how much it could help my ability to write.

The technique I've been using is to take a random letter of the alphabet and start a word with that letter. And then see where that sentence takes me. And then I see where that paragraph takes me. And as soon as I realize I'm consciously in control of what's coming out, I pull back and start over, using that same random letter. A new word comes out and my imagination takes me away to a different place. The goal is to keep your subconscious in the driver's seat to just see what comes out.

I've always done free-writing in my journal, but not in such a structured (but unstructured, too) way. Usually my free-writing consists of asking myself questions about my stories, talking about my struggles, or trying to just make sense of what it is I need to do on a given day. But this way frees my imagination and forces it to work quickly.

So, I think it&…