Category Archives: Blogging

Self publishing

I’m taking the dive into self publishing. I got myself set up with a pseudonym earlier this year and I have been reading books on self-publishing like a fucking nut. I picked a genre and I got a website and I got accounts with all the right places and I’m about 60% done with my short story.

Holy cat balls, Batman, just 60% with a short story? What the fuck is wrong with me?

Well, lots of things, but not this. I wrote several stories (see all the badass shit on this blog!) but I felt they weren’t good enough to sell at $2.99 at 1000 words. I want to give some more value and amp that bitch up to 6000-8000 words. That’s actually a bit longer than the genre demands, but when I write, I do some stuff, like, you know, shit that happens and the sub-plots weave into the main plot and I need room to develop characters so you believe their motivations and actions and all that malarkey.

I worked “malarkey” into that paragraph to see if you’re still paying attention or if I lost you already. You’re such a fucker.

But, back to the point, I’ve got the thing plotted, I’ve got characters with backgrounds rich enough for me to get into their heads and really believe their motivations, and I’ve got 60% of it written. Well, about 2/3, so that’s 66.6666% if you’re the type, and I am, so let’s leave it at that. You’re so pushy.

I think it’s a huge accomplishment. I want to have it up on Amazon before Thanksgiving. I’m feeling some pressure but, fuck my ass, it’s NaNoWriMo so why the fuck not? What better time?

You know what THEY say (and you should always be wary of a nebulous formation of people) – THEY say that you should just write and get it out there. Lather, rinse, repeat. So that’s what I’m going to do. If it sucks, well, at least I did more than 90% of you bitches ever did, so there’s that. I’m better than the 20 readers of this blog, lulz.

The deets… using Scrivener for Windows, which lacks a bunch of features, fuck you very much, Literature and Latte. Using that really slowed me down but the actual creation of the .mobi for Amazon will be much faster in future writing because I’ll have gotten all the niggling little doodads beat into submission.

I resisted and it’s got a learning curve, but Scrivener is where it’s at. Spend it to make it, right? And fake it ’til you make it, too, right? So… spend it ’til you fake it? Wait, that’s not right.

Okay, I’ve got a story to finish, then edit, then tweak in Scriv, then tweak some more, then go to sleep and wake up realizing why my story isn’t working, fix that, edit a zillion bits, then, well, at that point it’s done and it will be live and I will sit there refreshing Amazon like a freak and I know nothing will happen for many months, so I will immediately begin work on the next story.

Remember, no matter what happens, you learned all you need to know in Kindergarten when you did the rounds of Row Row Row Your Boat… life is but a dream.

What does writing have to do with Steve Vai?

Guitarist Extraordinaire

If you haven’t been living under a rock, and have even a passing interest in guitar, you know who Steve Vai is – arguably one of the best rock guitarists ever. Even if you don’t like his style, you probably know who he is.

Okay, so why should you, aspiring writer, give 2 shits about Steve Vai?

I’ll tell ya.

Showing Up

Because the dude wrote a fully orchestrated song EVERY DAY in high school.

Ever since I was a young boy I wanted to be a composer more than anything. The guitar fell into my lap along with the progressive rock music of the 70’s and even though my fingers were glued to the instrument, I started studying composition and musical notation long before I even started playing the guitar. I had a wonderful music theory teacher in high school, Bill Westcot, who gave me an assignment to write a song in manuscript form every day, then turn it into him to play on the piano. This was the only homework I ever did in high school and it made every day exciting. To be able to hear your music performed is the greatest gift a composer could hope for. I wrote my first orchestra piece in 9th grade for the Carle Place High School Orchestra. It was called “Sweet Wind From Orange County” and I actually still have a scar on my finger from the pencil I used while feverishly writing it.

I don’t know about you, but I try to write every day. Sometimes holidays and birthdays and stuff get in the way.

Focused Practice

But let’s take something out of Mr. Vai’s blurb – he didn’t just jot down rambling things every day. No, these weren’t just melodies on the guitar, or riffs, or snippets, or just a few lyrics. These were full songs, written out on manuscript paper, that someone was going to play. EVERY DAMNED DAY.

When was the last time you pumped out a full story every day that was suitable to be read by someone else?

It’s a tall order, and I’m sure some of those songs were terrible. But Steve Vai showed up. And I am, too. Are you?

Want to be a better writer?

You Must WRITE

Improving your writing 101: WRITE

Okay, well, not just that, but definitely some of that.

Stephen King, in On Writing, says that to be a better writer, you must do 2 things: read and write. That’s it.

Unbelievably, some writers don’t read, or don’t read much. Personally, I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like and I still end up reading about 30-40 books/year. How? I make it a priority.

Focused Practice

I think there’s another step you could take. Practice.

In Talent is Overrated, the authors show that you can’t just practice anything, you must haveĀ specific practice. For example, figure skaters that practiced the same number of hours still had different skill levels. They saw that the better skaters practiced the harder stuff. Working smarter, not harder, has measurable results.

You can apply this same thing to any practice, really: chess, guitar, violin, basketball, painting, writing, relationships, etc. Don’t just practice, practice the HARD stuff.

Ben Franklin, in his autobiography, explained how he improved his writing – he would read articles that he enjoyed, wait a few days, and then rewrite them from memory. I suppose you can guess what happened – his writing improved by leaps and bounds.

Dean Wesley Smith gives a similar story – he explains why writers need FOCUSED practice, not just practice. Same concept. Specifically, he says:

When I like a page or a section from another writer who is doing something well and I want to learn how they did it, I type it into my computer in manuscript format. Putting their words through my fingers for a page of their writing or so is a learning experience, and I do it all the time. Yet most writers I know have never done this simple learning exercise.

If you are having problems challenging yourself, just take a look around – rewrite some of your favorite episodes (I watched some old Twilight Zone episodes and then rewrote one, just as Franklin and Smith prescribe, and called it “Twilight“), check out Scene Stealers from Write to Done, write some Flash Fiction and submit to FridayFlash, or even take on some writing challenges (even if you don’t submit your entry).

You won’t get better if you keep writing the same story.

Daily Writing

Finally, you can’t just practice once/month. It’s a lot more frequent than that. I use 750words.com to do my daily brain dump, clearing out the cobwebs and frustrations. Research shows that writing about your problems is better than therapy! Once the mental clutter clears up, I find that the stories start to flow.

And when they flow, you let them flow. Sometimes the stories just come out and I had no idea what they would be, they just take on a life of their own. Those are the best stories – they feel surprising, creative, and non-contrived.

Summary

Want to be a better writer?

  • Write every day
  • Read every day
  • Challenge yourself

On Writing

I work at a Fortune 500 company. That’s my day job. It pays the bills and I get a fair amount of enjoyment out of it.

But I also write. Not just what you see here: I write at work, I write at least 750 words/day over at 750words, I set a goal to work towards writing 2500 words/day (inspired by Stephen King, who does the same), and I write for others, on occasion.

But, I write.

I write, write, and write.

And I read. I checked my Amazon history in December for a couple of years and I am reading 30-50 books per year. I read more now that I have a tablet and the Kindle app.

In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he says that in order to be a writer, you must write a lot and read a lot. That’s pretty much it.

Recently, at work, a manager asked me to write something for our internal newsletter. My boss had no idea that I had any writing experience, and, frankly, expected the standard crap that the average Joe writes.

I blew him away.

I got an email from him and from several other managers, agreed to publish my article on a company-wide internal site, and received a lot of surprised congratulations from my peers: “That was great! I didn’t know you could write!”

Lesson not only learned, but smashed into my skull: I don’t sell myself NEARLY enough.

Another example: once upon a time, I worked in corporate communications on a $20M supply chain project as the communications manager. The big kahuna on that project told me that he never appreciated communications until I did it.

So what makes me special.

FUCKIN’ NOTHING.

Seriously, nothing makes me special. I write a lot, I read a lot, and I am proficient in the English language. I’m a grammar Nazi, I focus on SIMPLE, and and I focus on PLAIN.

Go out and read some blogs about “7 steps to better writing!” or “attract more readers in 3 easy steps” or even “5 ways to use numbers and exclamations in your headlines!” They all tell you the same things, and this information is freely available.

After the article came out at work, a coworker asked me if I would provide some feedback on a paper that her daughter wrote. I agreed.

Her daughter is young and the paper was very good given her age, but she made the typical mistakes most adults make: overuse of flowery language, overabundance of adverbs, passive voice, and telling vs. showing.

It’s not Rocket Surgery(TM), it’s writing. It’s nothing special, but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do because you have to overcome your ego. Once you do that, just shut up and write.

 

750 words

I’m not gone. I’ve been writing on 750words.com, a site dedicated to the daily method described in the Artist’s Way – writing three pages. Each page is around 250 words typed, thus 750 words.

I did it straight for about 43 days without missing a day, then I went on vacation and didn’t write at all (I didn’t have my own laptop and there was no way I was writing that much on a tablet or phone). I am going to get back to it because I’ve missed it!

I went about 3 weeks, or slightly a little more than that, without really having a breakthrough. I was really disappointed because, you know, all these other fuckers were like, “zomg, after a week I was like all loosened up!” and shit like that, and I wasn’t seeing any results. I was just venting all the shit that collects in that gray matter. Which, for me, is quite a fuckton. Well, okay, it’s a lot.

Then, after a few weeks, the ranting and the venting started to run out, and a story appeared in my head. A quick idea for a story, really. So I wrote it, and made sure to wrap it up by the end of the 750 words (thereabouts). It was farking amazing! I had stories in my head before but they wouldn’t really translate, or I would wander my thoughts off to something else and then run out of time to finish the story, and then the muse would pass and I would be left with nothing but some false starts.

I didn’t go back to see how many I finished, but I bet it was about 15 stories. Some of them could be fleshed out. Some of them were incredibly bad. But it doesn’t matter because they are for ME. Glorious me.

But I used to use this blog to do that writing, and I feel that I’ve neglected it. Well, you can see – I really have neglected it. I get on here in fits and spurts and never really got myself to the point where I was doing this daily. I am going to go back and pick out some stories and post them here, meanwhile writing additional stories. I will cherry-pick the ones that I think have potential and aren’t too embarrassing for me, which may not be many. Yes, I do write without fear. It’s almost like a diary, but really it’s the cheese that I don’t want to let public. Yet. Though I think I should, just to do it.

And so that’s that. I won’t really want to go on here any more, but what I really wanted to do was say, “Hi!” and fall back into the abyss.

Days With My Father

I stumbled across this wonderful photo essay, or rather a book, perhaps, called “Days With My Father,” by Phillip Toledano. Go read it it. It takes a few minutes.

I’m going to talk about myself here. His mom died, so he was left to care for his dad, who was in his late 90’s and had no short-term memory. I found myself at once angry that he had so much time with his dad, envious that he was able to be with his dad on the day his dad died, surprised at my heart-felt emotion, and relieved that I didn’t break down and cry at the end of it.

My dad died just over a month ago. I have days that are good – days when I can look at pictures and smile. I have days where I don’t want to believe his death is real. When I refuse to believe it – or maybe refuse to acknowledge the impish beast that nags at me and won’t ever let me forget. Rightfully so. I have days when I just let myself cry. Today, I didn’t call or text or email my mom. I just needed a break from it. I’m beating myself up for being selfish but also relieved that I was (mostly) able to push thoughts of my dad aside, even for a bit.

I have to stop writing now. I’ve gone and made myself cry again. Damn it. Not even just one day?

 

Static

static [shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh]
static [will you see it?]
static [fragments of a dream]
static [wishing it away]
static [prodding the synapses]
static [ticking in the dark]
static [I tell myself I will not go]
static [even as I drive there]
static [behind a veil]
static [repeat after me]
static [no, it’s not a threat]
static [deep, slow, intentional]
static [shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh]