Writing Excuses

The name of this post is a bit of a double entendre.  For one, I’d like to point those interested in writing to the podcast titled “Writing Excuses” put on by Wesley Chu, Piper J. Drake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Anne Monhanraj, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Dan Wells.  It contains fantastic information and writing advice from established authors, I have enjoyed it and found that it does help my own writing.

Now, the other reason for the title is my excuses for not posting as often this spring.  I have been deep into edits and my day job has been extremely busy as of late, and both have cut into the time I have for keeping up with the blog as often as I’d like to.

There is some good news though, I have gotten a good deal of notes prepared on my novella and have been working on rewrites.  The short story collection I’m working has been put on pause for the moment.  I do have a few micro fictions I’d like to get posted here in the next few weeks.

And in the section of general geeky updates, I’m finding myself identifying more with Dr. Strange out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes.  This has a great deal to do with my recognition that I need to take care of myself and not just my projects.  I tend toward worrying and anxiety, both of which have been catching up with me.  As a result, I’ve been looking into the benefits of yoga and aromatherapy to help keep myself centered and grounded.  There may be more here on that later.

Hope you are all having an amazing day!

Microfictions: Sentry & Shoes

I’ve been dealing with quite a few computer problems over the last couple of days and with my Camp NaNoWriMo participation this month I haven’t been able to post as often as I would like. So here’s a couple microfictions in the meantime.

Sentry

The hordes below the mountainside were as vast as a hill of ants. A cold sweat broke out on the sentry’s brow. His hand tightly held his sword for the comfort of its steel, as his fingers remained close to the trigger of the gun embedded in its hilt.  The enemy was moving directly toward his village.

Scurrying backwards he moved silently, a figure quickly obscured by trees as he raced through the night to make his report.

Shoes

He had found his lost show, along with the gold inside. The other guy hadn’t been so lucky.

A Novella

“I’ve got a jar of dirt! I’ve got a jar of dirt, and guess what’s inside it!” –Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

I started a fantasy novella last July as a means of giving myself a break from my first novel. It was meant to be completed in the month as part of Camp NaNoWriMo in conjunction with watching Brandon Sanderson’s BYU classes on writing. Unfortunately, I got busy and the plot was giving me a few issues, so it remained in stasis for a while.

Part of my reason for writing it was to get a microcosm of the writing process, like learning to bake a cookie so that I can eventually go on to creating a soufflé. Another reason for writing it was also because I’ve spent the last ten years putting the pieces of my high fantasy work together, I needed a break and proof that I was more than just a one idea and done author.

So there you have it, the main reasons I’ve been exploring short stories and this novella over the course of the last year is because I need the practice before I go back and work on my high fantasy trilogy.

So why am I going on and on about this?

I finished the novella yesterday! It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be released any time soon, but it is another step forward. And I’m looking forward to what the story can teach me about the editing process.

The reason I love the Pirates of the Caribbean quote above is because that’s exactly what I have in this draft.  It is what amounts to a jar of sand that I’ll use to build my sandcastles. (Writing as related to sandboxes is a popular metaphor shared by at least both Ted Dekker and Shannon Hale regarding writing.)

What should be coming sooner than a published novella however, is news about short stories: the rest of this month will be committed to the backlog I’ve created of short story and flash fiction drafts. I’ll be cleaning them up and sending them off for submission.

For tonight though, I’ll continue celebrating that another major rough draft is finished.

 

 

 

(Here’s the first in the Sanderson lectures if you’re interested:)

Weekend Microfiction: The Chase

The words of the forest were dimmer today. The young mage was unsure how to approach the ancient trees. The soldiers would be here at any time and the mage needed the words of power, now. She felt sweat bead on her forehead as the pounding of horse hooves began to echo closer. The inquisitors were likely behind their speed. She looked at the trees and then at the sky. “Please.”

She was not sure where the plea was directed, but moments later her body filled with warmth, like golden light filtering in through a storm.

The Advantages of Longhand

(The above interview makes note of longhand but also has some fantastic general advice)

I am not one of those authors who will write everything out by hand and then meticulously copy it into the computer.  That being said, I am experiencing my own resurgence in using paper and pen instead of a strict computer model.

I’m finding that I’m less distracted when I’m plotting, creating character notes, and world notes by writing rather than immediately typing up my ideas.

Now while I may be using a computer first model for novels, for short stories, I have been writing a first and very rough copy by hand.  Once those are done, I enter them into my computer and make a few adjustments as I’m typing.

I am finding that with physically handwriting the stories, the ideas have a little more clarity in the early draft than some of my projects that were exclusively done on the computer.  As a result, I have been writing chapters of my novels in long hand when I find I need a little more momentum without the distractions that a computer offers.

All that said.  Here’s a quick breakdown of a few of the benefits I’ve found:

Retention – I quite literally remember more of the details that I’ve written.

Brevity – The physical act of writing at a slower speed keeps the superfluous words to a minimum.

Clarity – When it takes more time to write a phrase down, it is easier to keep the target in sight.

Edits – It’s far easier to make notations in different colors on a manuscript than to go through all the steps to get a comment in on the computer.  I also appreciate how it is ultimately always visible when you are looking at the physical document.  This is also why the edits on my first draft are all in pen/pencil on a printed copy.

Attention – I am far less likely to browse the web if I have a piece of paper in front of me than a blank document on a screen.  My attention is drawn to the paper, and while I may check my phone, I am still often more productive with the pen and paper method in the same amount of time as I would have spent on the computer.

I’m still working on my own process.  As I find more tips, tricks, and recommendations I’ll be sure to pass them along!


For additional reading:

The Very Weird Handwriting of Very Famous Authors

This Is What A Handwritten Novel By Neil Gaiman Looks Like 

(Both of the above links make me feel a whole lot better about my own handwriting style.)

8 Ways Writing Longhand Amps Your Muse

Electricity

I have been working on a few micro fiction pieces recently, spanning no more than a paragraph in length.  This was my favorite from those I created this weekend.  If you like it or have some suggestions, feel free to let me know:

The woman sat in the corner of the bar, watching the door as she tapped her fingers together.  A picture of grim beauty as her dark hair fell in contrast to her sultry red dress.  As the music blared the smell of cheap liquor overwhelmed her nostrils.  It was a proper place for revenge she thought as the tips of her fingers sizzled with energy. The fire gathering between them was ready to be unleashed on her command.  Her lover would soon emerge from the backroom with his new mistress, but this time she would be ready.

Finding a Niche

Last month, I had a conversation with an acquaintance discussing my future and how it is really hard to find a day job that fits well with me.

Anyway, to shorten this story a bit, I was told very few people ever find a niche that truly works for them.  The idea was that I should settle for something I was good at, but hated because very few people find their niche.

I walked away, wondering why anyone could justify quitting the search for something that gives you a sense of fulfillment, just because most people never find it.

I had already written Skipping Stones by this point, and this story was more a reaction to current world events, while thinking of the “Green Fields of France” by Eric Bogle.  And now, it’s my first published work. It’s obviously not perfect, but no writer is ever totally perfect* and I am very pleased that this story is the first.

And I am also very pleased with my decision soon after to make a career transition.

—–

*Not only do many authors face rejection after rejection, but I’ve found typos and a grammatical issue or two in even my favorite published first editions.  My point?  We’re all human and working on our craft.  It would be ridiculous to quit after a first draft isn’t a masterpiece so why do we do that in “real life”?