Happy St. Paddy’s Day

Yay, it’s St. Patrick’s Day!

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, time to get back to work.  Guess what’s just around the corner?  Camp NaNoWriMo.  Only two weeks away!

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a huge fan of the whole NaNo program.  Last November I knocked out 50,000+ words, finishing a rough draft of Summerton Blues.  I put it on the shelf to work on other projects since.  One of these days I’ll get around to sending it to an editor.  I’m not in a rush.

Today I got a notice from Camp Nano to start filling in the details for April.  My profile was already done but I hadn’t filled in anything for my project.  I’ve been working on other things and hadn’t put much thought into it.  So, I took the afternoon and did some brainstorming.  Then I got out my sketch pad and warmed up my paint program.

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s

I’m pleased with the results and am looking forward to April.  Get your drink on tonight (Safely!), then tomorrow get ready for NaNo!

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.

Why I’m not editing my NaNo draft this month

One of the fun things about being in a few writing groups is that you get to hang out with other people doing the same kinds of things you’re doing.  Last month it was NaNo, we were all obsessing over word counts, racing each other, and generally just having a good time.

Now that NaNo is done, most of these writers have turned to finishing their incomplete draft (50K words didn’t quite do it), or they are in the process of editing their complete first draft.  Most of those writers shook their head at me when I told them that my NaNo draft went on the shelf and I had immediately started my next project.

Why am I shelving Summerton Blues for now?  Because Stephen King is my hero.  In his book “On Writing” he suggested that instead of editing a project, start the next one.  When the second project is done, then edit the first.  That process gives us some mental, emotional distance from the first work that lets us get far more critical and spot all the things we missed the first time through.  Following this advice has made a big difference I’ve found in the overall quality of the work.

It’s also the same reason that I write a lot of draft posts, let them sit a while , then go over them before posting.  A bit of time and distance does wonders for spotting problems or things that could be clarified.

Additionally, I’m not in any hurry to publish anything, unlike some NaNo writers (I’ve already seen a few popping up in my reader).  I’d rather let Summerton Blues sit on the shelf for six months, work on a few things in the mean time, spend plenty of time editing it before even considering publication.  There’s no hurry, I’ll take my time until I think it’s ready, the same as I will with anything else I’ve written.

So, I’m already twenty pages or so into my next project.  I could talk about it but then I’d have to kill you.  Kidding.  But really, it’s kind of a surprise project, I don’t want to get into it until I’m closer to done.  Until then, Summerton Blues can wait, it’s not going anywhere.

NaNo Wrap up

With a bit of a last minute dash I managed to “win” NaNo this year.  I was on track up until WCFC Bout #2, which put me behind a couple days.  This long weekend though gave me the opportunity to catch back up and cross the finish line a couple days early.

Surprisingly, my novel actually wrapped up about the same time I crossed the 50K mark, which I thought was going to be at least 60.  There are some things that need to get fleshed out still but overall the story is there on the page, which is fantastic.

Now, I just need to figure out what I’m writing next… or start the editing process.  So, new project it is.  🙂

Congrats to all the other winners out there and for everyone else, keep up the writing and good luck!

Lesson learned

My word count for NaNo has dropped off the last couple days.  On days when I would have normally cranked out at least 4,000 words I’ve barely been doing half that.

Today, my NaNo region had a write in and a dinner afterwards.  The dinner was interesting because our laptops were put away and just talked about our projects.  One of the writers said something that really stuck with me.

She said: “If a chapter is boring to write it will probably be boring to read.”

Now that sounds like such a common sense thing but it reverberated in me and made me think that maybe that’s why my word count has been dropping.  I’m bored.  The chapters I’ve been writing have been so boring to write that I can barely get through them.

So, I sat down and took a hard look at what I’ve been doing.  My silly, easy werewolf tale has turned into a serious mystery/thriller, I’ve been filling in some important details but it seems like I’ve been dragging it out too much.  The details are important to the rest of the story but each one doesn’t need it’s own chapter.  The other writer mentioned how a lot of that kind of stuff can be narrated or summarized quickly between more interesting scenes that are written out more.  Maybe that’s what I need to do better instead of getting sucked into writing chapters that bore me because I can guarantee if it’s boring to write it’s going to be boring to read.

NaNo progress

Just a quick update, I went over ten thousand words today in my NaNo draft.  That means I’ve got a daily average of over two thousand words, which means I’m track to complete the challenge.

It’s exciting, I had a few ideas rattling around but nothing really inspiring.  Then, on November first, sitting down in front of a blank screen, I had a quirky idea.  I consciously decided that I didn’t want to do anything too deep or serious, I wanted something almost cheesy that I could have fun blasting out in a month.  Rather than going with something I wanted to get just right, or was too emotionally invested, I just wanted something entertaining to write (and hopefully to read).

Here’s the synopsis from the NaNo site:

A small town sheriff is faced with two sets of strange murders.  One seems like the work of a big, deranged animal, the others almost seem like professional hits.  The strangest part is that the bullets being pulled out of one set of bodies have been coated with silver.  Any other sheriff might not have any idea what was going on but for this one, he knows all too well, he’s been a werewolf for over three years.  He’s a good man, a good cop, but once a month he turns into a feral beast.  Assisted by his trusty deputies, the sheriff needs to get a handle on these murders and put a stop to them fast, anyone could be next and it’s only a few more weeks until the next full moon.

When I started writing it, it was going to be a kind of campy comedy piece, totally different than the other projects I’ve been working on, but the more I write the more serious it’s getting.  It’s still fun and pretty light-hearted but it’s rapidly turning into a thriller/mystery, which kind of surprised me.  It actually has some meat going for it, I’m getting excited.

Ten thousand words down, only forty thousand left to go!

NaNo

I haven’t been posting much over the past few weeks.  I’ve had some personal things come up and I’ve been sick for the last week and a half.  Being sick is no fun.

I’ve also been focused on a Halloween short story I was writing for my daughter.  She’s been out of town for a while and I thought it would be fun to share something with her.  I wrote a fun story with a little bit of everything in it, ghosts, monsters, bullies, and adventure.  Using Scrivener I formatted it so it could be read on her iPad and emailed it to her and her mom.  She hasn’t finished it yet but I’m hoping she enjoys it.

In other news it’s November, NaNoWriMo time!  I met up with the regional group today and got started on my new project.  In three hours with them I got almost 4,000 words knocked out.  Not a bad start, if I do say so myself.  I won’t be able to keep up that rate but I figure the more I can get done earlier the less pressure there will be later.

Good luck to all the other NaNo writers out there!