Camp! Camp!

 

I love NaNo and Camp NaNo.  I get excited each time it rolls around, tomorrow is no exception.  The clock starts at midnight!

Thankfully, I’ve been able to finish every time… this will be my… fifth?  Very cool.  Hopefully I can keep the trend up with my next project.

Here’s a sneak peak and a draft cover I made:

Last Rights

There’s a diner at the intersection of two remote highways that also correspond to the crossroads of the afterlife.  After having a cup of coffee, maybe flirting with Carla, Ghosts can pick a direction and start walking down the lonely roads.  No one knows if one road leads to a pleasant place, or the fiery one, or something in between, or whether direction even matters because no ghost has ever come back.

Until one does.

Also deserving an honorable mention here is the cover I made for a friend who I cajoled into participating.  It’s the least I could do, right?  Turned out pretty sweet if you ask me.

third 5.1 sized M

Writing Music – Dad

One of the biggest hurdles I have to face when writing at home is that I live in a teeny, tiny apartment.  In other words, the TV is about five feet away from me when I’m trying to be productive.  What I used to do is put on some idiotic TV show, just so that there’s some sound other than traffic and neighbors, but it always ended up distracting me.

Today, I wanted to get into some editing and decided that I really needed music instead of some dumb show.  I managed to figure out how to stream music through my ill-used game system without straining myself too much (as a technophobe, that’s saying something).

Then I reached the next big decision.  What to play?

This is a tougher question than one might assume.  I’m a very picky music listener.  I used to play in bands during High School and College, there’s not a lot I can stand and it was important that I find something conducive to writing.  I couldn’t just put on anything, if the vocals were too loud, or the beat too techno, or a million other variations it wouldn’t work.  I’ve tried writing to music before, but often found it as bad as TV.

So, what to play?

And here’s where we start down the rabbit hole that inspired this post.

My Dad is an amazing guy, talented in a million different areas.  But, when I was growing up, his taste in music used to drive me INSANE.  He used to buy the soundtracks to big budget movies and play them all the time.  And I mean the original soundtracks, not just a bunch of bands thrown together.  John Williams, Danny Elfman, etc.  Last of the Mohicans, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, there’s dozens I know by heart.

At fourteen I’d be sitting at the dinner table, mentally stewing because “Why are we listening to this when I’ve got a perfectly good Nine Inch Nails album in my room?”

Among the many talents of my dad are he’s exceptional with photoshop, digital animation, video and photography, and graphic design.  He spent so many hours in his office perfecting his work and it shows.  Calling him a talented hobbyist would be a dramatic understatement.

All while listening to movie soundtracks and similar music.

As I perused my options today one stood out: movie soundtracks.

That’s perfect, right?  The music varies, there’s a bit of every mood, there often aren’t big vocals or distracting flurries.  It’s meant to be subtle but evoke emotion.

And it works perfectly for me.  Now, when I’m writing I know what to pull up.

I had to laugh at myself a bit as the opening strains of Jurassic Park came through the speakers today.  How many times had I complained about my Dad’s music choices and now they’re my go-to?

It’s also nice that every once and a while a familiar tune plays and I get a little smile thinking of him.

First person, present tense

Today I spent a couple hours going through pages on Ellen Brock’s blog, Workshop pages.  Writers each submitted a piece for critiques, separated by genre.  Originally, I planned on just peeking at one or two but quickly got sucked into the whole thing.  I ended up reading all of them and commenting on most with (hopefully) helpful feedback.

If you have some time I would highly encourage you to go check out the submissions.  It’s always fun to see what other people are doing and getting feedback is one of the most important steps for writers.  There’s some good stuff over there.

A couple of the pieces got me thinking about a subject that’s been rolling around in my head for a while.  Recently, I’ve seen a lot of writing done in the first person POV using present tense.

Here’s some examples for those that aren’t familiar with the terms:

First person, present tense: I walk into the bar and look around.

First person, past tense: I walked into the bar and looked around.

Third person, past tense: He walked into the bar and looked around.

There are plenty of other options but those three are the most common I see so I’m going to stick with those for this post.

Each option has it’s pros and cons.  I’ve seen it argued that first person, present tense (FPPT for simplicity) is more immediate and gripping than the others.  And in some cases it probably is.  The Hunger Games is a good example, I really enjoyed those books.

However, in my opinion, FPPT seems to have more risk than other variations.  It’s easy to use it poorly, if that makes sense.  And when it isn’t done really well it can be choppy and awkward, like a character narrating their own life.  Who does that?

‘I walk into a bar and look around.  I don’t see anyone I recognize.  There’s a faint smell of stale beer and urine.  I find a seat at the counter and motion to the bar tender.’

It’s almost robotic at times.

I mean, it’s okay, but does it work as well as other options?  Most recent FPPT stories I’ve read might have been better as third person, past tense.  Being inside a character’s head can give you a really in depth perspective but it can also be really limiting.  To describe people, scenes, and details well enough to move the story, and keeping that authentic voice, is not as easy as it seems.  Whereas, taking a step back, third person, past tense gives the writer more wiggle room, with the con of being further removed from the specific character.

‘Eric walked into the bar and looked around.  The big red-head didn’t see anyone he recognized.  There was a faint smell of stale beer and urine.  He found a seat at the counter and motioned to the bar tender.’

Again, this is all personal opinion, but I’m a big fan of third person, past tense.  To me, it’s more ‘invisible’ to the reader and flows better.  I’m sure other people think the opposite, otherwise I wouldn’t be seeing it so often.  And maybe for some projects one makes more sense than the other, but either way it’s something that should be a conscious decision by the writer on a piece to piece basis.

Writing Humor

Some stories are easier to write than others, the most difficult I’ve found so far is humor.  I love a funny story but I’m also picky, probably like most readers.  Humor is such a subjective thing.

The last few stories I’ve written for NaNo were light-hearted.  I chose those stories very specifically because they wouldn’t be too heavy, they’d be fast and fairly easy to keep up the word count.

Geeks, Greens, and Guns was more situational humor, crazy stuff happening to fairly normal people.  It’s humorous without really being funny, if that makes any sense.  There wasn’t pressure to make jokes or have good one-liners, it was more about coming up with weird situations to stick the characters into.

The Apocalypse Gazette was almost the opposite, less crazy situational stuff and more funny stuff.  That wasn’t intentional, per se, it was just how the story turned out.  The main character goes through this boredom inspired insanity that leads to him writing the gazette.  In essence, he’s finding ways to amuse himself and humor played a large role.  Not a lot actually happens in the story, the humor has to carry a lot of the burden, which had me nervous at times.  If the reader doesn’t get the jokes they’re going to put down the story pretty fast.

Well, I can’t speak for other readers, but as I was perusing some of the chapters of The Apocalypse Gazette this evening I found myself chuckling over jokes that I’d forgotten.  I’m taking that as a positive sign.  Whether or not anybody else is amused, well, at least I’ve amused myself.  Life imitating art.

Camp NaNo

Woohoo, Camp NaNo started!  I’m on track with my word count so far, not that that’s saying much.  Just like last time I’ve decided to post the story to Wattpad as I’m writing it so interested readers and writers can follow along.  As an experiment it hasn’t yielded much in the way of results but it amuses me.

I put up the first couple chapters yesterday.

(Yes, I messed with the cover.  Again.)

The Apocalypse Gazette

How does the world end? Plague, calamity, aliens, solar flares? Maybe a combination of all the above? One morning Wally Mason woke up to find he was the last surviving person in his small town, maybe the last man on Earth. There’s plenty of food and water, he doesn’t lack for anything except entertainment. No social media, no TV, no internet, no Twitter. After a few months with only the company of his cat Spalding, Wally might just be going crazy. But just because he can’t blog or tweet anymore doesn’t mean he can’t write. In fact, why not document his apocalypse experiences in style? Why not write the one and only Apocalypse Gazette?

http://www.wattpad.com/story/41391002-the-apocalypse-gazette

The Future of Publishing

I read a fascinating post today about the difficulties all of us indie, or self published authors face.  If you just take the basic facts, how many books are being put out, how few copies sell well, how few authors are making a decent income, it looks really depressing.

However, and this was the comment I left on the post, it’s also a really exciting time.  We’re seeing the old system fail to evolve fast enough, unable to find a way to make money in this new landscape and struggle to maintain the status quo.  But all of us looking at them can see the writing on the wall, if they don’t adapt fast they’re going to lose all relevancy.

Right now, publishing is going through a massive shift.  Anyone who has ever wanted to write a book can do so and put it out.  Thousands of books are being published every single day, many of questionable quality, which means that while we’re able to put out books easily the supply far outweighs the demand and it’s only getting worse.

In some ways that’s scary, but in other ways this is the growing pains of all of us trying to figure out a new system.  That means there’s a lot of opportunity right now for all of us to try new things and the ideas that are successful will shape the future of publishing.

What I think is going to happen:

1. Traditional publishers will shrink.  Period.  Even those that can adapt, they’ll never be what they were before.  The self publishing age has come.

2. Working with a different model, new publishing companies will be very successful.  Enterprising, talented people will get together and form new publishing companies that operate in new ways.  They’ll take networking to a new level.  They’ll take lessons from what the traditional publishing companies used to do well, services that indie authors still require, like editing and promotion, and base themselves on providing those services.

3. Talented indies will band together.  Maybe they form a company like in #2, or maybe they just come up with a guild, whatever, but they’ll come together.  Mutual marketing, mutual promotion, advice and networking.  They’ll build a huge platform together out of their combined bases.  Instead of a million authors clamoring for a limited audience, those that band together will have a louder voice and as long as their work is solid the readers will follow them.

4. People complain about the lack of quality in some self published books.  Those authors will either join one of the guilds and improve their work, or they’ll be a solitary voice competing with the groups/guilds of solid writers.  Their books will not succeed in comparison.  The cream will rise to the top.

So, while traditional publishing will never be the same, there is tremendous opportunity right now.  Try new things, get together with other writers, we’re all in this together.  And personally, I’m excited to see how things evolve.

Choices, choices

This morning I asked for some feedback about a cover I’d been playing with.  I had some time today so I made up a second one.  I’m not sure if I like it better or not.  Huh.  So, I figured I’d put them up side by side and see if anyone has a preference, or different ideas I could try.

The Apocalypse Gazette 2             The apocalypse gazette 4.2

I think the reason I’m having trouble with these is that it’s like the camera is zoomed back too far, there’s too much to look at, not enough focus.  They’ll be even worse when shrunk down to thumbnail size.  Probably the simplest thing to do would just have the cover be the front page of the paper but that almost seems like a cop out.  So, feedback or ideas would be awesome.

The Apocalypse Gazette 2The apocalypse gazette 4.2

Something simple that sizes down well would probably be better.  Something like this, that is far less interesting -or complex.

cover_sepai_3

Even more choices.

Back to my Roots

When I was growing up I loved to read.  I’d read anything and I’d tear through a thousand page book in a week.  It would go everywhere with me until it was finished.  As much as I enjoyed reading, it wasn’t until I was thirteen that I discovered how much I loved to write.

When I was a Freshman in High School my friends and I used to have an hour long bus-ride home from school.  We were all avid horror and fantasy readers, one day we decided to use that time to write a short story on whatever topic we wanted, at the end of the ride we’d vote on who’s was best.

I wrote a short horror story about the four of us, my three friends and I.  We went camping, told scary stories around the fire, and one by one started to disappear.  We figured that one of the urban legends from the stories was actually real… but in the end found out that one of us was a werewolf (before they were trendy) and had invited everyone out to make meals of us.

It was scary, the descriptions were gory, like the horror flicks we loved, blood everywhere.

I won the little contest and discovered the joy I got from their reactions as we traded pages.  It was a blast to write something like all those stories that I enjoyed and have other people get a kick out of reading it.  Those little story contests became a regular part of our rides from then on.

Fast forward two decades.

This week I’m working on a new project.  As I was writing I realized I had a little hole in my plot, the characters were going to have to spend the night out in this hazardous place.  That wasn’t supposed to happen originally but it was just the way it worked out.  Thinking about that scene I figured I could just gloss over it, “they found an abandoned cabin to stay the night and nothing happened”…  but that’s not what I ended up happening

Instead, I spent the last two days writing over a dozen pages about the characters being haunted all night by creepy visions and monsters.  It just kind of evolved on the page into this huge, scary situation that I had so much fun creating.

In thinking about the project and the last two days it all kind of reminded me of writing those stories on the bus.  Those creepy, gruesome, edge-of-the-seat tales were what got me started writing to begin with because they were so much fun.  Even as a little kid, those R.L. Stein books were my favorites.  As I got older I transitioned into Stephen King and Dean Koontz, as well as a plethora of fantasy writers like Robert Jordan (RIP).

So I’m taking some time today to enjoy the process and remember what makes writing and reading enjoyable for me.  My last few projects have been pretty tame on the scare-o-meter, maybe my next one (or this one) will end up a few marks higher.  And if you find yourself hitting a slump, maybe thinking back to what you first loved about reading and writing will help get those juices flowing again.

Start with a Cover

One of the things that I like to do that probably seems strange to other writers is early on in the process of writing a story I like to make a cover.

The first reason is that I like all the arts, sketching characters or scenes from my stories is just as natural as writing about them in the first place.  It’s fun, it’s creative, it keeps all the juices flowing.  I’m a decent cartoonist-style artist and an amateur with graphics programs but it’s fun to see what I can come up with.

The second reason is something that other writers might consider, a cover is good motivation.  It’s a symbol of the end-goal of writing.  I’m not just playing around, writing something for a lark, this is going to be a book.  It makes me visualize the completed project which helps keep me motivated to finish it.  Out of all the stories that I’ve started or worked on over the last year, I’ve completed the first draft of 80% that I made a cover for (Sadie’s story is still in work).

Whether or not the covers actually get used for the books doesn’t matter, I’ve had fun and they’ve helped keep me going.  That’s something that other writers should maybe consider doing themselves.  Why leave it to the end when there are benefits to doing it in earlier?  Something to think about.

Here are a couple of the ones I’ve done over the last year, newest to oldest.

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s cover draft 2.2.1 s cover draft 2s front draft 2 larry's dead cover draft 1.1.1.2

Happy writing!

Camp NaNo Win!

Wow, April just flew by but somehow I managed to eke out over 51 thousand words and complete Geeks, Greens, and Guns…

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-BannerIt’s not one of my favorite stories but I stuck it out and I posted it to Wattpad as it was written.  That might be a headache when I start editing but it was amusing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get much feedback during the whole process.  I’d been hoping to get more interaction going on, oh well.  It was a fun experiment and I think that’s the way I’m going to keep doing NaNo in the future.  I like the idea of all writing together but also being able to check out what other people are doing.

If you’re interested in checking out Geeks, Greens, and Guns… on Wattpad, it’s available here.  Yes, I made the cover, and finished the story, I’m quite pleased with myself.

So, what’s on the agenda now?  Actually, I’m going to be pretty busy this month.  I got the name of a good editor and I’m going to be passing her a couple of my stories.  She’s local, which was important to me because I didn’t like the idea of sending money and my work to someone I’ve never met.  A couple of the projects I finished in the last six months are in good shape (I think) and shouldn’t require too much to make them publication-ready.  I think, we’ll see what she has to say.

One of the first stories that will be getting the editor treatment is one of my favorites, I’m really excited to see how it goes.