This is just a quick post (if that’s possible) to check in and let you know where I am.
Today is September 25, 2017. A little over a month ago, I pledged to myself that I would finish 65,000 words of revision (which I thought would be the entire novel) by the end of September. I recently topped 54,000 words and I’ve got six days left. *squee*
When I’m finished, I’m allowed to get a game I have on lay-a-way at a local comic/game store (only $6 left on the lay-a-way), and I get to compile my novel and send it out to some beta readers. *double squee*
The revision process has been easier than the rough draft process, mostly because I know where I’m going. I’ve been through the forest once, and this time I’m mostly following the original path that I’ve blazed. I have entire new chapters and some chapters that are pretty close to the original rough draft. Most chapters are a mix of old and new. It has been a really interesting process.
I’m additionally progressing in my writing habits. I’ve consistently written every week. Some weeks have been better than others. Every week has good days, but every week also has had at least one day with zero words. The worst weeks have had three days with no writing. I have had six days with two thousand or more words revised, and one day with over four thousand. The zero days out number the 2k or greater days 9 to 7. 🙁 I have six more opportunities to correct this grievous injustice … or something melodramatic like that. I plans to overcome my deficits.
So if you don’t mind, I’m going to rush along. I’m not really even going to read over this post more than once or twice. I have novel revising to do.
So yeah … I’m listening to music and writing. So what?
My Ego says, “Tell them what Joe listens to when you’re writing!” and since I’ve been drinking slightly, I think “YEAH.”
So here’ my “Faves” playlist. I warn you. This list contains a lot of 70’s and 80’s nostalgia, some slow jazz, and anime sound track favorites because Cowboy Bebop’s soundtracks were the best you motherfuckers.
Anyway, my Faves (all 186) by song title … as if you cared …
Recently I remembered what it was that I wanted to do with this site, and I need to get back to it.
When I was trying to figure out what my “author platform” would be, I wanted to stay away from things like politics or religion or basically anything that told people how to act or what to think. I don’t want to be the kind of guy that tells you that this group of people or that group of people are bad, because when it comes down to it, those groups are usually incredibly large and contain vast numbers of good people. Just because you and I don’t agree about some political point that one or both of us are passionate about doesn’t mean that we disagree about everything. Hell maybe we agree about everything else. When people belittle and deride others for having the audacity to have a different viewpoint on the world, I get sick to my stomach. Even if they aren’t talking about me, they might be talking about someone I love or someone I know to be a good person. And writers, writers who are supposed to be good at looking through the eyes of others, often seem to be the worst of those belittling others. I don’t want to be that person, so I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to teach.
It’s kind of laughable that I might teach anyone about anything related to writing, and I agree. BUT the one thing that I haven’t seen from any of the authors that I follow, is how much they screwed up along the way. How much worry and how many mistakes did they make on their journey to becoming published? Many write about much of what they have gone through after the fact, but I couldn’t find anyone who documented their struggle as it happened. That’s what I’m trying to do. That is why you’ll see me post stories about not writing. I struggle with not writing. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to just sit down and do the work. A dozen authors can tell you “sit your ass down and just do it,” but how many have shown you how badly they have done? Wouldn’t it be inspiring to see that some schlep posted story after story about how he couldn’t sit down and write? OK. Maybe not inspiring until he finally made it.
If you are with me along the path, some of you, nay many of you, who do end up writing your own novels, will likely finish before me. Some will not ever finish. I’m going to. I have so many stories in me that I haven’t even discovered yet, and I know that getting that first one down and finished will start the process of the dam breaking. If you’re there with me when that happens I hope I inspire you to do it too. If you come after the fact and I’ve written several books, how inspiring would it be to find my previous multi-years worth of posts lamenting how I simply can’t write?
That is what I want to do, to inspire others. I want to do this because I know the pain of the story trapped within. I know the pressure building that has no vent, no release. It is far better to release that pressure in a controlled, useful manner than it is to let it build until there’s an explosion. After the explosion, you’re wasted inside. The pressure will no longer build, and so without that pressure, you have no useful energy to focus on doing something good. How horrible is that fate?
So, mentally I now go back to Alpine where I attended the Writer’s Conference of Texas Writer’s Retreat in 2015 (a little more than a year ago as of this writing).
The impact I experienced at that retreat was huge when I was there and shortly after. Over time I started to feel like I shouldn’t have gone at all. That was the Impostor Syndrome talking, but I realize now that I probably should not have gone so early in my journey. I wasn’t prepared. I still don’t think I am, and I’m much more qualified now than I was then. But at what point in your journey is a good time to go do something like that? Check me. I intend to return to that question.
Some of the things I really wanted when I went to the retreat included finding a writing group, finding others who write the kind of things I write, and finding some reassurance on general idea that I wasn’t crazy. Of those I found who were interested in the writing group, no one really seemed to want to keep the pace required. Everyone is busy and doing their own things, plus we were trying to do this over the Internet so it wasn’t as personal as it could have been. Finally, I just don’t think my style of critique and writing really meshed well with the other writers. I don’t think any of the others were interested in being a genre writer. In my estimation, they all hold the capacity to be literary writers, and there I was wanting to write paperbacks and short stories. I also started realizing I have no idea what I’m doing. I do think I realized that I wasn’t crazy. I mean, whenever I read for the group, people were intrigued by my story. I even had opportunities to shine a little, which for me is a big deal too. (Not because I’m all ego – which I am regardless – but because I like to think I can create something that brings joy to others. What is better than that?) So yeah. The experience was a mixed bag, and the longer I dwelt on the negatives, the more I started to think the whole experience was a waste.
What a fucking idiot I am sometimes. (No you can’t quote me, Chuck.)
Now however, I think back to that experience and the few I had since. I haven’t progressed on my path as I would have liked, but I have progressed. I’ve done more writing in the past two years than I have in the prior twenty five. If only I had been writing all that time. Actually I had been writing, just not in the novel form. Since I was eight or ten years old, I’ve played role playing games, you know Dungeons and Dragons and the like. I love the things. They are interactive storytelling experiences. With dice. And math. ALL THE THINGS I LOVE. Every once and a while I’ll find a couple sheets of paper tucked away in some forgotten notebook that details the life and times of random people. I was writing.
I can’t help but write, but my problem is that for so long I’ve been concerned with building likable characters that I haven’t really focused on building plots. Well that isn’t exactly true. I’ve tried to develop large complicated adventures before, but somehow the story always faded. Often I lost interest. That’s a significant flaw of mine. Often the players would want to do things that I as a game master didn’t want them to do. I once had a whole story written about some mutated sentient spiders. They were expanding outward from their caves and intruding on the lands of mankind because their king and queen were at war with each other. Man. I was waiting to see the faces of my players as they descended into the crags and caves that the spiders lived. I envisioned the players descending into the caves. In the distance, beyond their torch light, they would see tiny motes of light sparkling at them. Deeper and deeper they would descend until the sparkling was all around them. Then a voice would ring out as one small cluster of sparkling light descended in front of them from far above. The voice would call out again, light would appear around the sparkling motes, and the source would reveal itself as a spider, eyes twinkling the group’s own light back at them. The reveal would have made months of adventuring so very worth the investment.
But after taking care of the small group of spiders attacking the random village my players were traveling through, they said “hey lets go to <place>!” <Place> being a thousand miles away … in the other direction.
Ah. The joys of being a game master.
So there I was a decade plus later and I realized I was done telling my stories through adventures that will never pan out the way I plan. Instead I’ll write a book or thirty, because things go the way we plan when we have all the control right? HA! I’m such an idiot. (See previous statement on quoting, Chuck).
So here I am, a year post Alpine, and I am thinking “did I do the right thing going to that retreat when I did?” The answer is yes. I may not have been ready for the lessons then as well I would be now, but I wouldn’t have made it to now had I not gone then.
If you think something will help you become a better writer, I say try it out. Just remember to take stock of your situation, and keep re-examining things at different times so you can get a better appreciation for what you did, how you did it, and what you can take from it. The journey isn’t about how well you did, if the timing was right, or when you do it. The journey is about the journey.
Recently I wrote a short story that ended up being just over two thousand words. I wrote the story as a potential post for my site thinking that I should post more content here. I mean obviously I need more content if I ever want to attract people, but I struggle with what kind of content to post. I don’t do politics or religion because you people don’t need to know any of that about me. If you want to know, I’ll tell you in person so I can punch you when you start to correct me. I’d really want this site to be about my progress from dreamer to not-quite-a-dreamer to writer, but I have to write more to do that. Maybe I should post about having no discipline. I’m an expert on that.
The next day I edited the story down to just under 1500 words which seems to be the magic number for contest submissions. I was thinking I might enter the story in the most recent Writer’s Digest short story competition, but I didn’t. Part of me says that I don’t want to be the kind of writer that just writes stuff for competitions, but another part of me asks why not? Mostly I think I’m scared and unsure of myself. I’m unsure of what I want to do and where I want to go. What do I want to do with this craft? Really?
I’m not scared of rejection so much as I’m scared I’ll make the wrong choice and screw up the rest of my journey because I took the low road instead of the high road. Or Hell, what if I think I’m taking one of those roads, but in reality I’m taking the other? To say it frustrates and tires me to run in these circles is an understatement.
Ok so it’s has been a few days since I started this post, AND I have to say I’m slightly tipsy again, almost drunk. It might be that I like bourbon, and it might be that I like being tipsy. Regardless, I feel like, “You know what? F’k how things are usually done. I’m going to do things MY way. And that means giving away some cool stuff for a while at least. So what if I lose out on first publication rights to some of my stuff? I’m a new writer with some (I think) interesting stories. So if people find them for free on my website verses some contest I (probably didn’t) won, then so be it. Screw you Dave Farland! I’m doing my own thing!” (Not really Dave. I love you. I really enjoyed the class I’ve taken from you and I hope to do it again. But in reality. I have NO confidence in myself. So I’m going to build a readership for free first. Then maybe I’ll do a collection of short stories … maybe in a Kickstarter … maybe as a vanity thing, who knows?!)
So anyway, there I am. I make the BEST decisions while tipsy or drunk. OK, that’s not necessarily true, but I do make decisions, which is something I do NOT do sober. So almost immediately following this post, I’ll schedule for release on Saturday a post about my half ogre monk, Draug. He has trouble counting. It’s a fun fantasy story told from the point of view of someone with a slightly less than average IQ. Then later, I’m going to post a story about Tenten, a Lizardman monk (I like monks) in a different fantasy world, who helps a peck (halfling – kinder – hobbit) find her baby. “River gods stole my baby!”
Hahahaha. As indicated, that made me laugh. I crack me up, luckily I’m not made of ceramic.
I REALLY have to stop drinking and do something else.
NOTE/EDIT: I’m posting this a month after I wrote it because I like the post and I’m not very good at following through with things. So shame on me.
I haven’t posted since my dismay at the Hugos. Let me say, if it was unclear, that I’m not disappointed that the Hugos did or did not allow the Sad Puppies and other ne’er-do-wells to have their day, rather I’m disappointed that these people would act so childishly concerning the entire situation. In my opinion they should have done one of two things: 1) openly acknowledge what happened this past year and what it entailed, how the voting turned out, and why the organization did or did not think this was a good idea or 2) simply performed the ceremony as it was without the inside jokes, without the snide digs, and without the exuberant glorification at shutting down those that think differently than they. Basically I expected that regardless the outcome of the night, they would have acted like adults. I was disappointed at the results.
I do admit that I am more “Sad Puppie” aligned than not, but I’m trying to remain neutral as I only recently started to become familiar with the publishing world and the movers and shakers within. I say that so that you might know me more fully for who I am. I hope that you will accept me for who I am rather for what you think I would be considering what I have admitted, because I can guaran-damn-tee you that I am NOT what you think I am. I refuse to allow anyone to put me into a single categorization other than “Joe” – assuming the Joe you are categorizing me with is me.
With that out of the way I have to announce that IT’S NANOWRIMO TIME YA’LL!
That means that for thousands of people across the country in all age categories will be attempting to write a novel in the month of November. How anyone can do this while also juggling their everyday lives is beyond me. There are even some that are attempting to grow a fabulous mustache this month as well in the attempt to bring some awareness of prostate cancer and funding to research a cure for such because unless you are the most die hard lesbian, we can all appreciate a nice solid erection.
Oh. Sorry. I have to note that I’m slightly drunk while posting this. I’ll tag that or something. But I’m likely to say things I wouldn’t normally say. Like ‘erections’.
I tried the whole Movember thing once and determined that only a couple of my friends were concerned with prostate health, and I look ridiculous with a mustache only. I mean look at that link of me. I look like someone I wouldn’t trust around my kids.
So here I am stuck at the beginning of NaNoWriMo and I have written maybe 400 words in 3 days. <sarcasm>What an excellent turn out!</sarcasm> Yeah. I have to admit that I’m in the middle of my story, and I want to be done with it. I’m not really the “see the long project through to the end” kind of guy, and that’s got to change. It has to change for my writing life, and it has to change for my professional life. I want to excel at each and frankly that means focus and determination, what some might call “hard work”. I haven’t always been the best at working hard, sometimes but not always. In fact my pattern growing up was to be very lazy. I’m simply bored by anything too familiar. I’d really like to overcome that pattern, but it is really hard. I want to say that I simply have to forgive myself when I’m not following through as I expect, but at the same time I have to exercise a level of discipline that I don’t normally hold for very long.
NaNoWriMo is exactly what many people need to help them get through the kind of problems that I have with discipline. My wife won NaNo last year, and I couldn’t be prouder of her. She wrote almost 15,000 words in a week to catch up and win. Way to f’king go! Me? I get 2000 words behind and I’m all, “meh, there’s always next year.” The reality of the situation should rather be “2000 words? I can shit that for breakfast and come home for dinner and do another 2000.” I know I can do it, but something is always holding me back, pulling me down.
One day I’m going to haul up this anchor that holds me down, cut the line, and throw it over the side of the ship of destiny. Then you mother f’kers better watch out because I’m going to be coming for your position on the best sellers lists.
The 2015 Hugo Awards have just completed, and I have to say I am a bit dismayed. As a novice writer who hopes to one day be published, I’d really like to think that my work would be given a shot at consideration by people in the publishing world not because of who I am, where I’m from, or what boxes I check on a census form. Rather I’d really like to think that my work would be judged upon its content.
But that’s not what the 2015 Hugo Awards have told me.
The 2015 Hugo Awards have told me that if my work happens to catch the attention of someone that disagrees with or is disagreeable to certain people the content of my work will not be judged by any other merit and will summarily be excluded for consideration.
I am disappointed. I thought I was angry, but I’m not.
The people who voted No Award for entire categories because they didn’t like who suggested the nominees (despite the fact that doing so isn’t against their current rules) basically told those people nominated that their work had less merit than sending a message to basically three guys that pissed them off.
Sorry if you disagree, but I find that classless and juvenile.
I was eager to attend my first WorldCon next year until now. Now I’m not sure I want to breathe the same air as these people. If the idea to be inclusive means shutting out people like me, congratulations on a job well done.
Recently I attended the Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Summer Writing Retreat in Alpine, TX. As a newbie writer I have a burdensome number of doubts about my ability and motivation regarding writing. One doubt in particular that I have is in regard to my training in the craft.
Up until the retreat, my training in creative writing has been limited to Brandon Sanderson’s BYU 2013 writing class as observed via video from the website Write About Dragons and some limited reading. When I learned about the Writers’ League retreat, I instantly wanted to join. With the support and encouragement of my wife, I signed up for a class, reserved a hotel room, and waited.
I went to the retreat alone. It was not my choice to go alone because despite being a very gregarious, boisterous, and opinionated individual, I’m quite quiet and meek before making a person’s acquaintance. I love company, I just hate making it. When my wife could not (or perhaps would not) go, I could only hope for the best. Luckily that is exactly what I got.
The retreat orientation was on a Saturday night with classes starting in earnest of Sunday. I took the class “Focusing Your Fiction: Plot, Character, Setting and Analogy” with Charlotte Gullick because I felt like I know very little about plot. Having led numerous sessions Dungeons and Dragons for years I have learned how to create interesting characters and how to set up interesting scenes, but I’m not particularly good (yet) at “decorating the stage” or stringing scenes together to form a coherent plot with rising and falling action. Practical application of these ideas alludes me. Unfortunately I allow my ignorance (among other things) to distract me from writing.
The class was excellent. Charlotte provided several examples of meaningful stories for the class to read prior to class. We then discussed in class the aspects of the story that she wanted to illustrate to us. Principle among the things she taught that I fail at was to ensure every scene had a goal and a “disaster.” The disaster in a scene was explained as an element of the scene that narrows the character’s possibilities. My scenes often lack this narrowing of options.
Additionally I attended an afternoon critique group that consisted of about half the class. In this group, we each read ten pages from each other writer and provided our own insights on the submitted pages. From this experience I learned so much I fear I would fail in an attempt to repeat or quantify it all. But I can stick to the highlights.
When I write a flawed character, I tend to go so far overboard that the character instantly becomes incapable of redemption. I need to add something to said characters to allow the reader to relate to him or her. Even if I’m going to kill the character later. Which I totally am going to do.
The devil is in the details. I finally learned the meaning of “verisimilitude”, because my ten pages lacked it. My small town lower middle class upbringing failed to provide me the sense to know that fancy 1980’s New York auction houses probably used photographic images on glossy stock paper for high-end buying guides, and what might be a lot of money to me isn’t going to be a lot of money to some rich socialite’s charity.
What is obvious to the writer, may not be so obvious to the reader. I knew this one already, but it came into focus during the critique portion of the class.
On the second day of the class, I got two compliments from the teacher. I’ve forgotten the first one, but I remember the second. After reading a rather long sentence (or two) about something she had us write from a prompt, she said “That’s beautiful. Is all your writing like that?” Which I had to admit, no, just some bits here and there. BUT SHE SAID “BEAUTIFUL!” I know no one was keeping score (and they shouldn’t have been if they were), but that day I felt like I was winning. 🙂
Three people from each class were selected to read a section of work for everyone else in attendance on the third day. Charlotte asked the class who was interested in doing this, and there were only five of us. She then asked who had never read before an audience before, and two of the people lowered their hands. We had our three, of which I was one. Now I have read before other people before, but it was to a panel of editors at GenCon and not to a public audience. There were at that event maybe ten writers and four editors. I didn’t really count that as “public” since spectators were not allowed. I volunteered for the retreat reading for the same reason I volunteered for the GenCon reading. The idea scared the crap out of me.
Charlotte helped the readers from her class pick out about a page and a half of material to read. I chose the portion of my untitled short story where my heroine seals her doom by raising her eyes and seeing for the first time her future employers. Charlotte read my piece last. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped as she read. If her reaction was honest (I have no reason to feel otherwise), then I feel I chose the right bit.
I was not nervous at all about reading until the day of when Charlotte allowed each of us to practice in front of the class. I shook slightly as I read. My words provoked a few “ewwws” and gasps as I read. I smiled inwardly even as I trembled. I don’t know if I would call what I wrote “good” or not, but I managed to evoke a reaction. That night, when we read for the entire retreat, I trembled even more. When I finished there was applause and a “Good job, Joe” from one of the organizers. A firm handshake and a smile from a new friend helped put me at ease, but I didn’t stop trembling for at least thirty minutes. I was and am happy that I was able to experience that.
Finally, I have to mention that before the retreat I had no contact with other active writers, but I now feel like I’ve made several new friendships and several more associations with other writers. This would not have happened, or would have been much less likely to have happened, if I had taken my wife.
The first night I ate alone a the bar of the small garage turned bar and grill. From the bar I could hear people at other tables talking about their writing and just being so close to such a gathering made me smile a bit. On the second night I returned to the same bar and grill. Two of my classmates were already there and seeing that I was alone, they invited me to their table. I didn’t eat dinner alone after that night and our little group of three became six by the end of the week. I would not have made those connections, those friendships had I had my wife, my refuge with me.
Up until I actually went to the retreat, I constantly wondered if I was doing the right thing with writing and investing so much into it. The retreat cost me time and money. Yet after the first day and each of the following days of the retreat, I felt that the investment I made was worth just that individual day alone.
Charlotte asked each of us on our last day to come up with a word that summarized our experience at the retreat. About ten people had gone before me and each of their words seemed significant, but not right. Not for me. When she came to me I didn’t have a word. Then in explaining this dilemma, about how before the retreat I wondered if I should just quit my silly dream, but the retreat taught me so much and allowed me to connect with so many other delightful people that my hopes, my dreams were restored. The whole experience for me was simply … and I found my word.