Trying out this Wattpad thing

When I first started this blog I was looking for ways to network with other writers.  One of the sites that was recommended to me was Wattpad.  I checked it out but the possibilities of the site didn’t immediately occur to me.  Why publish work for free if you’re trying to make any money being a writer?

A couple months ago I decided to take another look at the site.  This time, I saw things a little differently.

First, it seems like an interesting way to get readers to take a look at your work.  You can post a few short stories, or sample chapters, the first part of a series, whatever you want to try and get your name out there.  The more people who see your work, the more will check out your books, hopefully.  It makes more sense than most social media to me because readers would actually see your work and, if it’s good enough, they’ll be encouraged to visit your blog or buy your books because they have some idea what they’re getting into.

Second, it occurred to me that I had a story that would be perfect for Wattpad.  It was an experimental piece, something I wasn’t sure anyone would have any interest in reading.  The story is only maybe a third of the way done and I wasn’t sure whether to work on it or move on to something I had more confidence in.  That’s where Wattpad comes in.  If I put it up and people like it, then I will invest more time and energy into it.  If people hate it then I haven’t risked much, have I?  I’m letting the readers decide early on rather than investing hundreds of hours into something that they might hate.

So, I’m experimenting.  I put up the first couple chapters, we’ll see how it goes.

If you’re curious, you can check it out.  I posted it under a pen name I’ve been developing for experimentation with these kinds of things.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/34847967-the-lake-diary

Why I’ll probably never be an indie success

If you’ve been following for a while you’ve probably realized how infrequently I post.  There’s a reason for that and it’s the same reason that I’ll probably never be a “successful” indie author:

If writing feels like work I don’t do it.

It’s just that simple, if writing feels like a chore than I stop.  I’m sure there are some very talented, smart people rolling their eyes at that but give me a chance to explain.

I’ve loved writing for almost as long as I can remember.  I loved it because it was such an amazing way to escape the daily grind, to explore new worlds in new ways.  But the biggest reason that I loved to write was because it was FUN.  Creating characters, coming up with back stories, coming up with a creative twist is just so much fun.

Over the last year that I’ve been seriously writing, putting time and energy into finishing projects, there are so many things that I’ve learned.  One of the biggest lessons is that you can’t fake it.  And really, you shouldn’t even try.  If you’re writing to make money or fans, or if you’re not into the project or scene, it shows.  I could force myself to write a blog post every week but then it would be work, it wouldn’t be fun, the posts would be uninspired, and I don’t delude myself into thinking that readers aren’t smart enough to realize that.

What this also tells me is that I’m probably never going to be an indie success story.  I don’t like social media, I don’t like marketing, I don’t like putting myself out there, branding myself sounds painful, and half of the tips for success would be a lot of work.  I could do all of that, I could do all the “right” things, I could form myself into the shape of the box, but that would turn this thing that I love into a job.  I already have a job, I write because I love it.  And I’m certain that even if I did those things the writing wouldn’t be the same, the lack of fun would come across in anything I published.  I want more than that and readers certainly deserve better.

So, I’m not going to fight it, I’m going to write what I want, when I want, and continue to enjoy myself.  And if I end up making any money, or gather millions of fans, that’ll just be a bonus.  If enjoying what I do means that I’ll never be a big “success”, well, I suppose that really depends on your definition of the word.

Writing about fear

I got to hear a really fascinating TED talk about fear the other day.  The speaker went over the difference between the things we fear versus the things that are actually dangerous.

A recent example could be the fears about Ebola in the United States compared to the fear of the common flu.  Every year the flue kills thousands around the world (1)whereas Ebola infected two people in the states and both survived (2).  Rationally, the flu should be far scarier than Ebola but fear isn’t a rational thing.

The speaker for the event used a fantastic example of what fear can do to us.  The crew of the Essex, a whaling ship, was struck by a whale (inspiring Moby Dick) and sank in 1820.  The crew managed to escape the ship on the smaller whaling boats and faced a big decision; they could either make for the Marquesas islands (closer) or make for South America (far, far away).  The crew was so afraid that the islands were inhabited by cannibals that they tried for South America despite knowing they didn’t have the food or water to make the trip.  A captivating, unrealistic fear versus a very realistic, practical fear.  Most of the crew died of starvation and dehydration before being rescued by another ship 95 days later.

To me, this TED talk is interesting on multiple levels.  It affects how I see things on a daily basis, helps evaluate what is a “real” fear versus an unrealistic fear.  As a writer, it interests me because we live in the world of unrealistic fears.  A book about the flu killing .05% of the world’s population, or dying in a car crash, wouldn’t make for a very interesting read.  Our imagination is what fuels our stories, as well as our daily fears, so it’s a fascinating subject.

You should check out the talk if you get a chance:

https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us?language=en

Most Monsters vs. Zombies

I’m a huge fan of the zombie genre, books, movies, games, and tv.  Anything zombies and I’m interested.

Friends and family often ask me “Why zombies?”  Of all the monsters out there, why are zombies so appealing to me?

For me, the easiest explanation is the same reason that “zombie” is often followed by “apocalypse”, zombies are a life changing, world changing monster.  If you watch a vampire movie, by the end things usually go back to normal, same thing with werewolves or most monsters.  Kill the monster/monsters and the next monday every one can go back to work and then catch up on the newest reality TV show that night.  But with zombies, even if the immediate danger has passed the world at the end of the book/movie looks totally different than it did at the beginning.

Zombies aren’t just a monster, they’re a pandemic that devastates everything.  They’re monsters and an apocalypse rolled into one.  Just look at The Walking Dead, even if they managed to create a cure and kill all the remaining walkers it’ll be a long time before anything even remotely resembling normalcy returns.  That’s what I find so appealing, a monster that changes the very face of the world that bred it, that affects everything.

For a long time I’ve wanted to write a zombie series along the lines of all the ones I’ve enjoyed over the years (you name the popular zombie series available for Kindle and I’ve probably read it).  The idea of writing books like those almost makes me giddy and yet I’ve held back.  Several other projects demanded my attention first.

My new project, without giving away too much in the way of spoilers is going to involve zombies.  It might turn into a series, it might not, but the concept has me bouncing up and down like a five year old full of excitement.  I’m not very far into it yet but I’m already enjoying myself immensely.

Hopefully there are plenty of other readers out there that enjoy zombies as much as I do.  And hopefully they can take a joke because this isn’t going to be like any of the zombie books I’ve read so far.

Writing Group Blues

I just got home from one of the writing groups I’ve joined.  A couple are based around getting together and just writing, this is the only one that is based on critiquing.

Now, I take critiquing very seriously.  When I was in school I was very fortunate to have a series of really good english and creative writing teachers.  They really pushed me to become a better writer, and almost more importantly to be better at giving and receiving constructive criticism.  There’s almost an art to being able to read through someone’s writing, good or bad, and providing an opinion and suggestions.

When I’m doing a critique I’m reading really slowly, carefully, making notes along the way.  I always come up with a few good points and a few suggestions.  Even if I really like the piece, I always try to come up with at least a couple suggestions.  Whether the writer uses them or not doesn’t matter, it’s about giving them a different perspective.  We have to push each other if we’re going to improve.

Today, I handed out the first five pages of my NaNo project.  It’s rough, I haven’t even given it a second look since writing it I told them all that as a disclaimer.  I sat back and waited for the list of issues to roll in.

Their response, “It’s good.”

I asked if the descriptions were too heaver or too light.  “No, they’re good.”

I asked if it flowed well.  “Flow is good.”

I asked them for any suggestions.  I got one, the transition from the first chapter to the second could be a little better.

That’s it.

Now, I know I’ve improved as a writer but there’s no way I’m that “good”.  No, I think it says a lot more about the quality of the criticism than about the quality of the writing.  That’s disappointing.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Whooooo!  After weeks of working out, training and sparring it’s time to fight!

Write Club Fight Club.  The writing is done, all that’s left is the fighting and today I’m up against N. J. Layouni.

J.M. Payer vs. N. J. Layouni.

I encourage all of you to visit the site, check out the two stories and vote for your favorite.  Honestly, I don’t even care if I win or not, I’m just having a blast participating in the adventure.   I’ve already learned some lessons from reading the other stories that have battled so far.  Any excuse to stretch the writing muscles in a different direction is worth the time and effort.

Feedback on both stories is encouraged and I’d love to know what you think about mine.   I don’t even want to name mine, that might skew the results and I want a straight forward battle.  I’ll just say it’s the one about the cop and a cat.  If you read it and have any suggestions or feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Battle on!  Go to WFCF and vote!

Three days until battle starts!

I’m so excited, it’s three days until the first Write Club Fight Club bout!

I’ve been plugging away at a couple different pieces; Sadie’s Adventures, Larry’s Dead, and another story project.  They’re all coming alone, though slightly slower than I’d like.  I think I’m learning moderation when it comes to writing, slow and steady rather than sprints and rests.  But the project I’m most excited about is the WCFC submission.  I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with.

Bouts start the 29th at WCFC.

My bout is on October 2nd with N. J. Layouni.

WCFC Submission

I’m happy to say that despite all the complications, the busyness, I’m wrapping up my first submission for Write Club Fight Club.   It’s not as perfect as I would like, but that is a topic all it’s own and probably familiar to most writers.  With the time and energy I had to put into the project I think it turned out alright.

There were several guidelines for the submission:

Story begins with “It began last Fall in the woods”, it has to be involve revenge, must be below 8,000 words and the word “said” is not supposed to be used.  Full rules can be found on the post Hit the Gym.

Writing the piece was a lot of fun and definitely made me flex some writing muscles.  It would be nice to win my first bout but I’m less concerned with that than having a good time.  It’ll also be really interesting to see what all the other writers came up with.

Battles start September 29th.  Each day for the following week two pieces will be put up against each other.  My battle will be on October 2nd, I’m up against N. J. Layouni.

The fun has just begun, stay tuned here and on WCFC.

 

Pantser Slump

The greatest pleasure I derive from writing is also my greatest curse.

There are two general types of writers; plotters and pantsers.

Plotters are kind of the Type-A personalities of the writing world.  They have an idea, they plan out the characters, and lay out the plot line in great detail.  Then when they write all they have to do is connect the dots.

Pantsers are those who write “by the seat of their pants”.  They start with an interesting idea, a character, and they just write.  It’s a very organic process, they just see where the characters take them.  Planning is usually limited to a couple chapters ahead.

I am an unashamed pantser.  What drives me to write is curiosity.  Usually I start with a hook and I’m genuinely curious where the story is going to go.  How is the manly man going to react when he has to direct his daughter’s play?  I don’t know but I really want to find out.  Every story is a puzzle that I really want to solve.

As much fun as that is, it’s also my biggest hurdle towards becoming a novelist.

You see, as long as I don’t know what’s going to happen I’m hooked by my own story, but there’s always a point (around 80% done) when I figure out how it’s going to end.  I can see how the last little bit plays out.  The puzzle is solved but the draft isn’t finished.  Suddenly, I don’t have any motivation at all to finish the last 20% or so.  It’s work, it’s trudging, it’s painfully boring.

When I get bored, my attention starts to wander toward other story ideas, until I drop the original project and start something new.  The new project gets to about 80%, puzzle solved, and my attention starts to wander again.

Right now, I’ve got two books 80% finished and I’m struggling to maintain my focus on them instead of the flashier, new ideas that have been cropping up.  I really, really want to be a published author but there are so many difficulties that I never anticipated, this being one of many.

So, I desperately need to work on my writing discipline.  Not just in hours/words per day but in finishing what I start.  Even then, I can only imagine how painful it’s going to be to do the multiple cycles of revision to make the story readable.

I keep telling myself, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.”   Pantser or not, I’m working on it.

 

Writer’s Block

As though it needed explaining, here is the Miriam Webster definition:

“Writer’s Block: the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc.”

That’s kind of a bland definition, I tend to imagine writer’s block as an almost pathological fear of the blank page.  It’s an empty vessel, it needs to be filled, and yet nothing comes forth.

I have been fortunate so far in my writing so far that I have never suffered the dreaded condition.  Normally, I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky writer, just happy to be doing my thing.  However, I do have profoundly uninspired days.  Days where I have some idea where the story is going but it’s a grinding, painful experience to get the words out.

Those days are frustrating because not only is it difficult to write, but the writing itself comes across as uninspired as I feel.  It’s flat, boring, and the story only limps along.  I will later read those passages and think that maybe it would be better to delete them, put them out of their misery, rather than try and make something productive out of them.

I don’t really consider that writer’s block, just kind of a slow day.  Usually, I can push through those feelings, lose myself in the story, and after a while and regain my enthusiasm.

Today was one of those days.  I still got my pages out though, so I consider it one more small victory.