Risky Writing

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Professionally writing is a risky business. 

Professionally writing novels is a risky business. Creating a massive, 70,000 word literary journey is a serious undertaking. It requires a lot of sacrifice and no small amount of risk. You first sacrifice time and energy, basically all of both, for a undetermined period. Some authors take a few months to complete their first draft, some take many months, and some even stray into years. While writing you must keep your work close to you, for losing momentum can be deadly to your manuscript and you need the fictional world and characters fresh in your mind. While writing you must hold onto the same emotions that are captured within your book, day in and day out. While writing you must actually work in order to finish the draft, showing up everyday, even when you’re sick or tired or randy, and writing.  

And after all of that–let’s be kind and say you finished in just three months–you’ve only finished the FIRST DRAFT! And the first draft always sucks! You have another four months ahead of you before just the first chapter is presentable. Maybe about four to six more months from there before you have an acceptable draft. Not a good draft, mind you, not a successful draft as far as publishers are concerned, but an acceptable one. And keep in mind, that’s if you’re putting in at least two hours of writing/editing each and every day. No off days for you. 

All that sacrifice. All that work. Is it worth it? Well, that’s where the risk comes in. What if, after all of that, you produce something that the market is already saturated with? What if no one buys it? What if you end up sitting on it for years? What if the few people who have read it don’t like it? What if you experience rejection unlike anything you’ve ever felt before? What if, after all of that, you really produced something poor and unwanted?

That risk, you see, is what separates professional writers from amateur ones. Professional writers make the sacrifice and take the risk, amateur ones don’t. It’s essentially that simple. Are you willing to sacrifice all your free time, months or maybe even years of your life? Are you willing to risk all of that time and energy with the possibility that it could all be for nothing? 

If you say yes, then you might be a writer. And if you are, God help you. God help us all. 

You see, I have been making choices in my writing career that were avoiding risk, that were looking to make the smallest sacrifice possible, and then I was wondering why I felt unfulfilled and stagnant. I was making choices out of fear, afraid of risking too much for too little. Afraid of making large scale sacrifices for an abstraction of the future. 

But no longer. 

Professionally writing is a risky business. When you understand that, you can prepare yourself for the long haul and fill up your tool box with all you’ll need to succeed. 

So take those chances with your writing. Make those big sacrifices. You won’t make it professionally any other way. 

The Craft/Skill/Art of Writing Well

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The craft of writing well is a fickle and elusive skill that can always be improved upon, which means even the most masterful writer stands to learn a thing a two. The craft or art or skill of writing well is such that, even after decades of honing it to a fine and deadly edge, it can still be honed further, made even more deadly. It is almost predictable how, just when you think you’ve finally earned some skill with words, you are brutally and humbly reminded of just how much more there is to learn. 

Imagine with me that you live in a small town, Wordville, USA, and you just discovered your new favorite restaurant. The Flavor Flinger is a hole in the wall restaurant you’ve absolutely fallen in love with. It’s open, bright, full of other locals, has a nice bar, and always provides great food. You spend every Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday there for the next two years, with little exception. Yes, it’s THAT good. And the people are wonderfully friendly there, staff included. 

Then, one odd Monday night, you take a seat at the bar next to an older gentleman.

The bartender greets you both. “Great to see a couple of locals in here. Warms me heart, it does. You two belong here. What can I get’cha?”

The old timer turns, looks at you, and says, “You’re a local, huh?”

Proudly, you say, “Yes, I am. Been coming here three times a week for two years now. I know the owner, I know the waiter, and I know the cooks. I know what’s fresh, what’s reheated, what’s expensive, what’s the best. I love it here. I know this place as well as anyone.”

“Wonderful, wonderful,” the old man says. Then he leans in and asks, “So, what do you think of the basement?”

“The… what?” 

“The basement? You must know about it. The door’s right over there.”

But you don’t need to look because in that moment everything makes perfect sense. The odd rumblings and shouts you hear occasionally from the floor make sense. The door that waiters disappear behind sometimes makes sense. The extra food being cooked in the kitchens makes sense. 

After feeling like a complete fool, you devote the next year of your life just to the basement of The Flavor Flinger. You learn their exclusive menu, you learn the tricks of each billiard table, you learn where the remotes are for all the TVs, you learn the best times to go and the worst times to go. 

When a year is up you decide to head upstairs for a change, and you find the old timer from before sitting at the bar by himself. Your eyes met and you head over to take the empty seat next to him.

“Thanks for telling me about it,” you say as you sit down. “I’ve learned the whole basement now; the dartboards, the billiards, the karaoke machine. I’ve got it all. This whole dang restaurant now.”

The old man nods. “Impressive. You’ve put your time in. But, I haven’t heard you mention the third floor cafe yet. What do you think about it?”

Your eyes sting as you blink rapidly. “The what?”

“The third floor cafe. It’s right above the second floor dining hall.”

“THE WHAT?!”

Two floors, two years of your life. You spend the next two years only visiting the upper floors of The Flavor Flinger, which you should’ve known existed the entire time. There are reflective windows, which you always assumed were merely for decoration, lining the walls above the restaurant’s first floor. The stairs in the back of the restaurant led up to more than just the attic, it seems. 

After two years you enter The Flavor Flinger’s main floor on a mission: where is the old man? You find him, as ever, sitting at the bar. His hair is quickly disappearing now and there’re more wrinkles, but it’s the same old timer. This time you don’t take the seat next to him, you grab him by the shoulders, spin him around, and look straight into his eyes. 

“Tell me,” you say with the wisdom of defeat and experience. “Tell me all the other places I don’t know about.”

“Well now, let’s see,” the old man says. He counts off on his fingers, “You know the main floor.”

“Obviously.”

“You know the basement.”

“Yep.”

“You know the second floor dining hall.”

“Sure do.”

“And the third floor cafe.”

“Indeed.”

“And the deck out back.”

“And the… the what?”

“And the patios.”

“Patios? Plural?”

“And the rooftop tiki bar.”

“Excuse me?”

“And the kid’s playground.”

“Where?!”

Ten years. You spend the next ten years learning all about the places you never knew of, which were right under your nose the whole time. You learn everything this time, not a single corner or suspicious looking locker goes beneath your attention.

You are now much older and much wiser than when you first entered The Flavor Flinger. After ten years, you decide it’s time to finally enjoy the main floor again. You find a familiar face behind the bar. The bartender looks older as well, but he’s still smiling. You take a seat and he pours you a drink. 

“Where’s the old timer?” you ask. 

“Oh, he passed away. In his sleep I heard. A few years ago now.”

“That’s too bad,” you say, and you mean it. “It would’ve been nice to discuss this place properly.”

Before you can raise your glass to your lips, the diner door bangs open. A bright-eyed, young woman enters the restaurant like she owns it, sauntering past the tables towards the bar, nodding and high-fiving people as she goes. She sidles up to the bar and takes the empty seat next to you. 

“Ah,” the barkeep says with his patented smile, “it always warms me heart to see a pair of locals sitting at the bar. What can I get’cha?”

You turn to the young woman and give her a critical eye. “You’re a local?”

“Damn straight,” she says. You can tell she’s proud. “Been coming here four times a week for a little over a year now. I know the cooks, the waiters, the owner and his wife. I know this place like the back of my hand.”

Slowly a smile grows across your face. “Is that so?” You lean in a little closer. “Well, you must tell me, what your thoughts about the basement?”

“The… what?”

 

The Flavor Flinger may not be the best analogy for writing well out there, but it works for me. Just when you think you’ve put your time in and you’ve got some knowledge, you’re embarrassed and shown otherwise. Of course, this doesn’t apply to poor writing. You don’t need much to pull that off. 

Endeavor to write well now and always and you will find limitless uses for the skill/art/craft. 

Let’s Talk About Spiders

You know, I haven’t posted here in a while. And while I would normally write something to bring readers up to speed as to what’s been happening throughout my absence, I’m not going to do that this time.

This time we’re going to talk about spiders.

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What’s that? You want to know why?

Because I hate spiders, that’s why. And by hate I mean I loathe them with all my being. I detest them with every living organism that makes up what I perceive to be me. I hate spiders.

You see, if you believe that Hell is a real, physical place with tangible gates somewhere on this earth, then I want you to know that if those gates ever open to unleash their horrors upon this world, spiders are one of the many terrors that would crawl forth from the fiery depths to conquer us all. Indeed, that is actually how spiders first came to be here, along with snakes, wasps, mosquitoes, bats, and most ducks.

Spiders have adapted in ways unlike any other predator to instill primal fear across the many niches of the animal kingdom. They clearly don’t need all those legs; the could make due perfectly fine with four, like most animals, but nooo, the want to freak us all out with those articulated, disjointed monstrosities. Oh, did I mention they have eight of them? And because of those legs, Spiders have the highest speed to body size ratio of any animal ever. They can pass through your bedroom (and nightmares) in the blink of an eye, so quickly you wouldn’t register it.

They’ve also adapted to see all, day or night, thanks to their eight independently operating eyeballs, which, again, are far more than a spider actually needs. They could make do with four, or two like the rest of the planet, but instead they have eight, each one equipped to stare into your soul and touch the darkest, most fearful places of you. They have pads on their feet that allow them to walk silently, not just on their webs, BUT ANYWHERE, resulting in spiders being the masters of stealth, more so than ninjas and the boogeyman combined. Also, most of them are poisonous, not just if they bite you–which is bad–but sometimes the spider’s very blood is poisonous as well, so you end up regretting that you ever killed one in the first place. Except that you should never regret killing a spider. Never.

It’s not as if you can simply move to another part of the world and avoid spiders altogether, like you could do with bears or sharks or mockingbirds. These little devils are everywhere; all over the world, in every country, in every state, in every province. They love hiding in dark places, like your shoes or dresser or basement or garage or under your bed. And they only pounce when you’re alone, when you least expect it, because they know when you’re at your most vulnerable. They always know.

Excuse my French, but… Fuck spiders. Seriously, fuck spiders. We don’t really need these demonic, bird-eating, hell-spawns on our planet, do we? Could we maybe have open season on spiders where we go around killing some of these monsters? I know, the ecosystem and natural food chain is important and blah blah blah. But, type “Australia + Spider” into Google, read the articles, look at the pictures, and tell me we shouldn’t kill some of these bastards.

 

Monday Monday Monday

It may sound weird, but I sometimes forget how much I enjoy writing. There are so many other aspects that go on behind the scenes in order to be a successful or accomplished writer, and lately that seems like the only things I’ve been focusing on. Sure, you write the stories and characters, but then comes the submissions, the query and cover letter writing, the waiting, and if you get accepted, that opens up a whole new list of tasks you have to look over. The bottom line: there is more to be done than just thinking up a cool story that people will like to read.

Today, however, was the first day that I put all that crap aside and just wrote. Not even editing something that I already have to tweak it for a publisher, but just good ‘ol rough draft writing. It is therapeutic, and that is the only reason why I know writing is for me. My mind does not feel as at ease throughout the day as it does when I am writing. Time just flies right by me when I start typing away. I forget to eat, drink, take medicine, respond to people, and usually only check back into reality when I run out of creative juices or have to pee. 9 times out of 10 its because I have to pee.

So today I didn’t work on Greyheart, though its pretty much sitting complete and waiting for the final push towards publishing. I didn’t do submissions, I didn’t revise anything. I did do some research into agents and editors, like usual, and I watched some of Brandon Sanderson’s online writing class where he talked about agents and editors, but then I zoned into rough draft mode. It felt good. “I accomplished something today”, my mind says, and usually then I sleep better. If no writing happens, I just lay awake sometimes thinking about what I should have written and how the day was a waste. But not today! Progress, friends! Forward motion! To victory! Which in this case is more writing under my belt… so, to that!

Short stories are fun

It’s true, they certainly can be quite a joy. Little episodes of adventure from your favorite worlds, or sometimes bordering on a full length novel. Either way, I enjoy short stories. They are slightly more navigable than a novel, and they use every word to the advantage of the story. Since they aren’t cranking out chapters or going for a trilogy, they make every sentence and every word count in their story. A single sentence can carry much more meaning in a short story than it might in a novel.

For this reason, I hold many short stories in special places in my heart and use them as inspiration to write my own. Today during my daily research into agents/publishers/editors, I found a short story contest that is actually right up my alley. There are tons of short story contests out there and many have very specific qualifications for their submissions. They only want a specific genre, within certain word limits, only accepting published work, only from authors from this region, entry fee of way too much money, etc etc.

But today I stumbled upon one that is accepting and open to my kind of writing, with a lovely cash prize for about the top 7 placed stories. I like. I like mucho. But of course before I can submit anything, I have to panic at the quality of the story I want to submit, read through it again making last minute edits, and then second guess my entire life up now. Once all that is out of the way, the story is safely submitted with a clever cover letter and a prayer. Lots of prayer.

After spending way too much time in the world of that story, I jumped into the world of another to make edits and look at the awesome sketches I’ve had commissioned for it. I have found a great fuel for writing in getting light artwork done for projects while I am writing them. Nothing brings the world to life more than actually, you know, seeing it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard. What do you think?

 

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Still lots to do

There is a lot going on behind the scenes for this book. Not complaining, I enjoy the heck out of it, it’s just a lot to do. Every aspect of the book is in my hands to do with as I please, unlike most traditional publishers who sort of control everything that isn’t written word in the story. I’ve had a blast talking to artists about sketches, covers, and illustrations for the story. I enjoy the feedback I received from the few people who’ve previewed it, and I have spent many hours tweaking things here and there throughout the story. I like that every part of this book has been crafted and put together by me and no one else (except for the cover, I can’t paint that). However… it can be quite time consuming. And those are just the things on my end that I can control. Setting up online accounts takes time for domains to register, sending the book into publishing takes days for it to be completed, and those are out of my hands to control. So I have been spending the day plugging away at all the things behind the curtain of writing that suck up lots of time. After having that business hat on for a few hours, its time to switch gears and actually WRITE something. But I shan’t leave you without a cool present for dropping by, so here is the finished cover of the book, fresh off the… online editing site. Whatcha think?

 

Second cover

 

 

And so it begins…

Day 1 of putting a professional front on for this author business. Spent much of the day doing research into potential agents and publishing companies to contact in the future, then jumped right into setting up this bad boy of a website. Not sure how it will all turn out, but I am content with how it’s coming together so far. There are few a things on my checklist of stuff to do before finally sending this novella in for publishing. Setting up an author’s webpage, financial info to publishing company, signing up for other social media sites, formatting the final product and then proclaiming it to the masses are all to be completed. I’ve done a good amount so far today with the lack of sleep I’m running on, and I think I’ll leave it here for today. There are two short stories and the hint of novella on the website after just a few hours of editing. Who knows what tomorrow will hold? We shall see!