Sunday, July 31, 2011

The First Rule of Self Publishing

There are lots of first rules. Goodkind promulgated the Wizard's First Rule. Asimov put forth the First Law of Robotics. You do not talk about Fight Club. And so on.

One of my favorite first rules is the first rule of gunfighting - Have a gun. This rule can be applied to many situations besides an armed encounter. Like self publishing electronically. Or, for that matter, submitting traditionally. The rule? Have a manuscript.

Sounds dumb, I know, but it is a very useful reminder for me. It's easy to get caught up in the internet hubbub, social media and publishing gossip. Promotions seem alluring, gotta get the word out, right? Wrong.

The first and most important thing I need to be doing, every day I can, is writing new work. Absolutely has to come first. When I have a manuscript to show for my efforts, and it's up for sale, then maybe some promotion is in order. But, it's all to easy to get the horse before the cart.

I am currently of the belief that the best promo I can do is to put out new works, though. And one of the rules of gunfighting that many people put second is - have a back-up gun. So the second rule of Book Club is the nearly same as the first rule - Have another manuscript.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ideas Vs Story

I am reading through Bob Mayer's book on novel writing, and getting a lot out of it. In some ways it is a much more nuts and bolts book than other ones I've read recently. He also took the rather unique approach of writing the book over the course of about fifteen years, so a side range of perspective is evident. really good read, highly recommended.

One of the concepts I have picked up is the difference between an idea and a story. Read the book for the full scoop, but the gist is that an idea is a one sentence summary of the core of the book, that must at all costs be maintained. What if an omnipotent being created the universe from scratch - an idea. Genesis - a story. That one idea could generate many different stories, but none of the stories could be summed up as anything other than the one idea.

One of the ways this concept affects me is that I am now applying it to every entry in my idea bank. It goes like this - I have a flash of genius (or something else), I write it down as concisely as possible, in one sentence. Then I start revising that idea to be as interesting as possible, then I start brainstorming the story. The first step is different form my old one, which was - write down the idea, higgledy piggledy. The middle step, enabled by the first step, is brand new.

And no, I am not afraid to use phrases like higgledy piggledy, if I need them to get my point across.

An example -

Idea - What if an office worker was driven mad by her spreadsheet.

Refinement - What if the elder gods used office software to mentally enslave a junior accountant?

The Story - The Elder Spreadsheet - The protagonist, a junior accountant, isn't climbing the corporate rungs fast enough to suit her ambitions. Her weird friend from high school is having great success with an import/export business. They have lunch, the friend suggests using an occult self-help book, which in turn leads to online discussions and eventually a website. The protagonist downloads office productivity software, which she installs on her work computer. It mimics her regular software. She begins to succeed, wildly, but also has strange events and nightmares, etc. Eventually she is a mindless drone, as is the rest of her company. She ends up the CFO, and her weird friend is the new CEO. Her company begins producing and selling the software, worldwide.

I am sure there are a lot of other ways this same idea could be developed into a story. I like this one enough that it is likely going to be the next short that I write, though. Easy peasy, huh?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Coby Kyros 7022

This is partially an addendum to yesterday's post, and partly a further review of my new tablet. First things first - as I continue to use the device it's clear that once I get past the initial learning curve I will be able to work much faster. The barrier to entry is fairly steep, at least on this particular tablet.

The hardest aspect of blogging on the Kyros is, of course, the typing. I have installed an app called the hacker keyboard. Between its much improved sensitivity, predictive text, and expanded layout, I am moving along at a much better clip. Still slow, but not quite as painful.

I have also had to spend an inordinate amount of time managing the OS. For some bizarre reason, Coby didn't remove the phone functionality from the kernel. So I had a fair amount of fun fixing all the issues this was causing. Were my time worth more than the money I saved, the Kyros would have been a poor choice.

Fortunately for me, I enjoy goofing around like this. The experience isn't just a money saver for me, it's also a learning opportunity.

Just like this blog entry. The main purpose was to test the hacker keyboard app, which I can now recommend as a great replacement for the stock Android keyboard.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Typing on a touchscreen

Here is an attempt to compose a blog entirely on my new android tablet. I recently bought10 a Coby Kyros 7022. Coby is not known for their high end electronics. Rather, the company is known for inexpensive tech that works adequately.

This is a fairly good description of the tablet I purchased. This particular model is likely the highest quality tablet that Coby makes. It has a metal back, and a capacitive touchscreen. Two features every other Kyros lack.

It is responsive and gets good battery life. I had to hack it and root it to install amenities like the Android market, and to fix firmware issues. Now that I have done so I quite like it. Definitely a tablet that needs a technical minded user to get it up to snuff.

I use lots of open source stuff, like Ubuntu. If I was the type that needed an easier to use product, this would be a no go. More later, as I get to know it.

And by the way, typing on a touch screen is really slow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day Off Story Challenge - Round Three

I really thought this one was going to be hard. I haven't written much in the last few days, for one thing, so I had no momentum. I did have a story idea, which I came up with the night before.

Unfortunately, I didn't write it down. All I could remember going into today's writing were the character names and general details. I went with it anyway, rather than falling back on previous idea. My hope was that I would remember the rest as I got into the story.

This didn't happen. I managed to prevail anyway, and finished the session with a fairly goofy comedic story. I think it's funny, anyway.

Total time spent was about three and a half hours, word count is about 1,900 words. The story is the shortest of the three, and took me the longest, comparatively. I spent more than the normal amount of time wondering where the hell I was going with the plot :)

All said, I'm quite satisfied with the day's challenge output, especially given my apprehension going in. Yay, me! I'll be putting another tick in my challenge count box.

Oh, the title of the story is "Super Stud". That alone should give you a good idea of how goofy this one was.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


We all hit them sooner or later. Those days (or weeks, or months even) where creativity just doesn't flow the same. Where our needs to get it out doesn't burn. Ho-hum.

I've barely written anything this week. I had an important birthday party midweek, and all my energy went towards making that a success. Between that and other stuff, I've basically lost the last four days, as far as writing new fiction.

Besides the party, I had another distraction. I got a new 7 inch android 2.3 tablet, the Coby Kyros 7022. I will blog more later about this particular device, which fits me fairly well. Suffice it to say, new toys and writing discipline don't go hand in hand.

The worst part about all this is the loss of momentum. I feel like it is difficult to get started again, now that I've been stopped for so long (comparatively.) Not too worry, today is my day off, and should be an upswing. But that feeling is a real one that's important to acknowledge.

I seem to run in cycles anyway, a few days of heavy writing, followed by a few days of editing. And taking a break sometimes is good, right? But it's time to get back to work.

The most important lesson - distractions will kill your word-count. Kill it dead dead dead. Eliminate the distractions (when possible).

Monday, July 25, 2011

One Simple, Easy Step to Increase Your Output

Many writers have found that the most creative and best time for them to work is as soon as they get up in the morning. I work early hours, so getting up early, before work, just isn't gonna happen. For me, "as soon as I get up" translates to "as soon as I get home from work".

If I get writing as soon as I get home, it's fairly easy for me to make my writing goals. Especially if I start writing first thing, before any distractions manage to take root in my mind. Online distractions being the chief culprit. These can ruin my entire days production.

So here is the one step to higher output - get up, and get going writing. No internet, no mail, no morning cartoons. But have coffee, for the sake of all that is sweet and holy. We're not barbarians.

 This works even better on a day off. You will amaze yourself with how much you can get done if you start writing first thing and keep going until you're ready to keel over. Or lunchtime, whichever comes first.

Make your daily word count the first thing you have to accomplish, every day.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Further Thoughts on Voice Recorders, the Ws710M, and the Coby Kyros 7022

I'm gonna go ahead and give you all a full report on my recently purchased and returned Olympus ws710-m, as it pertains to blogging and fiction writing. Kind of a review, but one on the concept more than that particular device.

Recording in stereo was pretty awesome, The recording quality was definitely better with the dedicated device than it is with my phone or mp3 player. This is the biggest plus of having a dedicated device, if you need high quality audio, like for podcasts, reporting, basically consumption by others.

Also, a separate device was nice because my phone is clunky to record on. I never had to worry about missing calls or texts, stopping an mo3 to pull up the recorder on my player, that kind of thing. I never used any of the additional functions of the ws710-m (mo3 player, FM radio, can be used as usb drive), but it was nice that they were there if I did want them.

The fact that it was another device was a downside as well as an advantage. Having to remember to carry around a third thing, worry about power, juggle devices, the whole experience can be summed up by the phrase "three's a crowd". So the pros and cons of a dedicated device basically cancel each other out in this regard.

The other big con was the cost. This recorder was fairly expensive, compared to the cost of other tech in my life. As voice recorders go, the ws710-m is actually only mid-range or so, kind of the highest lower end product. Even so, the outlay of money was questionable for something that basically just did a job that something I already carried could do, even if it did it better.

This negative became even more glaring when I compared the cost of the other two devices, which do many things, to the cost of this one device. Basically, the recorder was more expensive, and narrower (a function of being really good at one thing.)

The final problem I had was uneven levels between the two speakers on the recorder I received. The left side mic was hotter, and always recorded at a higher gain. This was a deal breaker for me, no sense spending the money and hassling with a third device if it doesn't work flawlessly. The seller I bought it from was gracious enough to accept a return and refund my money, so that was a bright spot.

I was considering getting another one, but my recent problems uploading podcast to the hosting solution I chose are swaying that idea. I don't need a swank recorder for notes to myself, so if I'm not recording podcasts on the go, it's just not necessary. For Armadillocon, I am now just planning on using my mp3 player to record, as it does adequate quality.

The final nail in the coffin was me getting a Coby Kyros 7022 Android 2.3 tablet. The money that was originally slated for replacing the recorder is spent now. The Kyros is a 7" capacitive model, and I expect to get a lot broader use out of it than I would a recorder, so I am happy about this turn of events.

I will consider getting another recorder sometime in the future, if I find one I like better. Bang-for-the-buck is a big factor though, and the Kyros, at roughly twice the price, does so much more than twice the work.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Writing Fiction Using a Voice Recorder

I managed to turn out an over 4,00 word short story using the voice recorder on my phone a few days ago. It took me about a day of thinking, and possibly 40 or so minutes real-time to record the story. It took me about an hour per thousand words to transcribe it.

I did some light editing as I was transcribing, and made another light pass when I was done. But I still have several hours of heavier work to really make the story gel. The bones are there, but the language and flow need some work.

I sound it difficult to "get into" what I was writing, while I was writing it. The story suffered somewhat for this, coming out far rougher than if I had typed it. Definite;y needed more editing, and self editing is more difficult for me when I am talking, and on the spot.

I don't feel like I really saved any time, versus just sitting down and typing. But I did use my time more efficiently. I can also see where, if I was more accustomed to the process, it might be more rewarding. It certainly is viable, enough so that I have started a second story using the same methods.

The next one I do, i think I am going to try treating it as somewhere between an actual draft and an outline, see if I can work up a rhythm. Like collaborating with myself. I do appreciate the time efficiency aspects of this method.

Also, it's really nice to come home from work, and go straight into transcribing, secure in the knowledge that I am going to make my word count goals, guaranteed.

Friday, July 22, 2011

WttJ Episode 004 - not going live today

Well, I was going to put up the next episode of Welcome to the journey, but apparently I've already hit my limit at the hosting site (a measly three episodes, under 100 Mb).

I'm at a loss for what to do next. Obviously podbean isn't going to work out for me. Hopefully I can find a free hosting site that allows for a little more storage, or figure something else out.

I'm not at a point where I can afford monthly fees for hosting and storage and so on (yes, even low fees add up). Honestly, unless there is a clear business reason for it, I am not a fan of subscriptions or recurring fees period.

I recently returned the recorder I bought to record the show, an Olympus ws710-m that turned out to not record evenly. That piece of kit was fairly pricey, if getting something that actually works is even more expensive I may jsut be out of the podcast market altogether.

However, recording at home on the computer is still a possibility, if I can get the hosting thing licked.

I'll keep you all informed, of course. But I may be podfading spectacularly early.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Touch Typing

One of my bugaboos is my typing speed and technique. Although I know how to  touch type, I am incredible slow at it. Especially compared to my favored technique, the look-at-my-hands-and-use-two-of-my-left-hand-fingers-and-three-of-my-right approach.

The really sad part is that I am actually much faster now than I was a few months ago. But, I really need to be able to touch type at all times.

It would help if I wasn't using a netbook keyboard half the time, but that's a whole other ball of wax.

So, in the interests of pushing myself over the edge (maybe not the best choice of words), I am issuing a new challenge to myself - the touch typing blog posting challenge. Basically, all of my blog posts, which I do every day, I am requiring myself to touch type. Every single one, all the way through.

This will guarantee that it takes me twenty or perhaps twenty five minutes to type each blog entry instead of my usual fifteen or so. But hopefully I will get past that pretty quick, and start picking up speed. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

I am going to push harder on my idea bank transcriptions as well, that they be done by touch. Not require, not yet, but likely soon. Then the final blow will be transitioning to only touch typing all my fiction.

In the long run I hope to save a fair amount of time. This is whole 'nother blog post, but lately I've been working on writing via voice recorder. Actual finished text not just ideas or whatever. So far I am spending more time than I'm saving, but touch typing fluently is one of the things that could turn that around.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Idea Bank

This is a simple, yet incredibly useful concept. At least for me.

I keep a record of every idea I have, no matter how out there or dumb.  Every character, plot device, even phrases that I think would make good titles or good punch lines. I always have pen and paper or a voice recorder handy. I type all this stuff up in a basic text editor nearly every day.

Now, granted that most of these ideas are never going to see the light of day. Even so, I have enough for several years of writing, without breaking a sweat. I pick whatever idea seems most appealing, whenever I'm not sure what to write about next.

I often return to partial ideas, and add on, as well. Many of my dumbest ideas have ended up being killers, once that last little piece of the puzzle fell into place.

The main use of this is just to constantly keep my juices flowing, to practice thinking in a creative fashion. I also get practice typing, and developing ideas beyond that first blush. And I have a massive resource for story prompts, that is growing larger every day.

These ideas can also be combined, two ideas can make a good story where one would be thin. Characters often evolve from one idea to the next, or make it in wildly different stories. Snippets show up when I least expect them, saying "Here. Here is where I go." and inserting themselves into my current work.

I like to think I am earning interest on these ideas as well. Creative interest. I'll be rich in imagination, someday.

The idea bank. Give it a try.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Useful Concepts, Including My New Favorite - Powerdays

Here are a number of ideas that I find useful in motivating myself, on the days when that fifteen minutes that I managed to put in feels insignificant. or the days that I do no writing at all. These days breed a malaise that can easily turn into a full blown rut, if allowed.

So, antidotes -

The thousand hours of crap, or the million words, take your pick. This is the amount of time and/or words written necessary to start producing good work. Some people less, some more, all depending on talent, previous experience, luck, which moon was in retrograde on the third month of your eleventh Valentine's day, and so on.

Everyone wants to get through this period as fast as possible, of course. Nothing wrong with that. Where such a monolithic seeming downer is actually useful is this - at least it's a finite amount. It isn't a dunno, a maybe this much, maybe not, a whenever. Write a million words, you'll be good. All you gotta do is make it.

Chipping away is important. 250 words is a page is .04 percent of the way there. Every little bit adds up.

Quality is important, sure. And you will get more quality as you continue writing. If your work is terrible, 100,000 words from now it may be passable, 500,000 it may not be half-bad. You will improve your quality through quantity. Writers learn by writing.

Power days. My new favorite concept, what I'm using on my day off short story challenge. Basically, whatever your daily word goal, dedicate one day a week, or every two, or a month, or whatever. But pick a schedule, and bust your ass that day. Balls to the wall. As many words as you can get out.

I id this two weeks ago, and hit my highest wordcount ever, 2,400. Last week, it was 3,300. Not a big deal for a full-time writer, sure. But for me, and my puny 1,250 daily goal that I miss only slightly less often that I make, this was huge.

Even more importantly, I'm learning a new skill, the skill of taking bigger bites. 2 or 3,000 word days chew up that 1 million a lot faster than 250 word days.

I'm also finding that I get the second thousand done faster than the first, and so on. Momentum. I'm building up creative inertia. The residual effect of this makes it easier to get through my slumpy days.

And on the days I get nothing done at all? Hey, I probably finished a short story in one sitting recently, I deserve a day off. Right?

Monday, July 18, 2011

WttJ - Eps 002 and 003, Olympus WS710-M

Two new podcasts are live -


Podcast Powered By Podbean

Download this episode (right click and save)



Podcast Powered By Podbean

Download this episode (right click and save)

I haven't made much progress on organizing my podcasts and blogs, there is a lot of tech mumbo-jumbo I haven't got a handle on yet.

Honestly, all this web stuff is dirt simple, it's just finding the time to sort it out that's slowing me down. I'm planning on getter better links up, an rss and itunes feed, all sorts of stuff. Maybe even a donate button. I just need to get it done bit by bit.

Speaking of bit by bit, I just got a new digital voice recorder, an Olympus RS710-M. The short review is - it works great. I was reluctant to spend the kind of money it costs for a quality device, but I'm glad I did, now.

I recorded Episode 004 on it already. I have a learning curve ahead of me, but the bottom line sound quality is much better. I also love having a dedicated device for recording, instead of juggling that function with texts, phone calls, and mp3 listening among my other two devices (phone and mp3 player.)

The longer review - The design works, the sound is good, there are plenty of options for recording. Overall, it is a good product. That said, the prices on these things are out of whack, possible a function of the market being small and mostly professional. I got mine for not much more than half of list price, and I feel like that was top dollar for this product.

The software options are plentiful, and seem to work well. The menus, navigation, and general look and feel are clunky. This thing feels more like an old micro-cassette recorder with a display grafted on than a top-of-the-line digital product.

As near as I can tell, in all the research I did before settling on this one, this is pretty typical in the world of higher end audio products. The industrial design is about a generation behind. This thing makes my mp3 player look like a futuristic space doodad.

Still, it does the job, is light and portable, has lots of options, and came with a raft of accessories. I bought an open box model from an Amazon seller, no outer packaging but everything still sealed and new, and saved a ton. I'm glad I did.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Take on Gatekeepers, As a Reader

First things first, a personal note - I cannot stand arrogance. The attitude that people have sometimes that they are better than me. Not more skilled at some certain activity, or more accomplished. I'm talking flat-out snobbishness.

I'm just saying. We're all big boys and girls. We should be pretty well capable of picking out the books we want to read, right?

My reaction to the gatekeeper argument, the idea that big publishers are necessary as gatekeepers, to tell the readers what is or isn't good? I don't buy it. Every time I pick up a book in a library, browse it, and decide not to read it, I'm being my own gatekeeper.

No matter how much crap is out there, it's easy to avoid.
Especially with book sampling, social networks, and so on. I have a huge to be read list, and it's all stuff recommended by friends. Not publishers.

If a gatekeeper function is all big publishers offer readers, I don't see readers continuing to be willing to pay three times the price for a paper book vs an ebook. I certainly don't see why an author would want to accept 1/4 the royalties just for the approval of a publisher.

This all may read as bitter, but I assure you it isn't. I have no ill-will towards any publisher, big, small, or self. Nor do I have any bias against any writer's choice on how they disseminate their work.

As a reader, however, and a consumer (which every reader is), I don't see the value in dealing with intermediaries, when the cost is so high.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day Off Story Challenge - Round Two

The challenge - write one complete short story on my day of, once per week, start to finish. Using pre-thought ideas is okay, but not stories that already have more than a cursory word count.

The short of today's post - I was victorious, for the second time in a row. I was off on Wednesday, July 13, and I wrote for approximately six hours. I completed a 3,400 word SF story, entitled "The Day the AI Died". Go me!

The intention of this challenge was to write shorter, easier stories. I seem to have gotten away from this today, even more so than last week, when I banged out a 2,300 word story. My original goal for this challenge was between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

Both stories have been fairly straight-forward, as expected. My
alpha reader felt that the the last story was good, but the ending was too predictable. I have a sneaking feeling this one will have the same reception. Really original fiction may require more processing time than I am giving these.

On the other hand, the first few stories I ever wrote took far longer than these, and are much less interesting too me. So perhaps letting that startling plot twist happen, without spending days or weeks thinking of it, is a learned skill as well.

This story had a slight bit more background than the last one, a text file totalling about 200 words or so. It was also an idea I recorded on a voice recorder while working. It also bore little resemblance to the original concept.

This is not surprising, as I write mostly by discovery, and  none of my stories ever end up where I think they will. I rarely even start with an idea for the ending.

One really exciting fact is that this story is equivalent to about three days worth of daily writing goal word count, and will require very little editing. In practical terms, this is a week's output for me, done in a day. That creative momentum is a really powerful thing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Welcome to the Journey

I'm pleased to announce the first episode of my new podcast is up at The podcast title is Welcome to the Journey - a self-help podcast for new writers.

I recorded it on my Sansa Fuze+, so the quality is certainly not excellent. This was actually the third or fourth try, the early ones were unlistenable. I hope to upgrade to a better recorder soon, but I wanted to start recording with what I had, and get going. Momentum is important to me.

I am deeply indebted to podcasters like Mur Lafferty and Nathan Lowell for the concept I am following. My podcast is just me, speaking extemporaneously in a conversational style, on the issue that affect me and ideas for improvement I have. All through the lens of being a new writer.

Hopefully some of you will find it useful, or entertaining, or amusing. I will be releasing new episodes at least weekly, possible more often (decisions, decisions.) All constructive feedback is welcome.

Welcome to the Journey!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More on the Seven Point Structure

First off - none of this is my idea. All credit goes to Dan Wells. I mentioned this last post, but I want to make sure to give credit where credit is due.

Check out this video series for a great lesson:

Or go to his blog, specifically this page:

All of that stuff will help in understanding the example below. One note of caution - this is just my attempt at applying this structure, allow for mistakes. Probably lots :)

Onward! The following is this structure applied to my newest novel. I generally don't like sharing details of a work-in-progress, but this work is hardly even begun, so what the hay.

Besides, this is work I would have to do to get started, anyway. So turning it into a blog post and getting double-duty out of it seems like an efficient use of my work time, right?

Basic Structure - Monster Attack! (place-holder title)

Hook- Three main Characters (MCs). MC one is Monster, newly created, small. MC two is Scientist young, brilliant, insecure. MC three is Soldier, battling inner demons, torn up.

Plot turn 1- Monster escapes. Scientist discovers older colleague, mentor, is responsible. Soldier struggles after homecoming.

Pinch 1- Monster growing, goes on rampage, small and stealthy at first. Scientist begins trying to decipher colleagues notes. Soldier called in to fight.

Midpoint- Monster growing larger. Soldier/military on full attack. Scientist learns Colleague/Mentor was somehow set-up by Corporation, key to notes is at separate site in Monster-controlled zone, must go there physically.

Pinch 2- Entire city in peril, many deaths, Monster huge. Military barely holding it back with Scientist suggested tech (radio, Soldier's, from zone.) Plans to nuke city. Soldier and scientist ally, trying to make it to secret lab.

Plot turn 2- Scientist discovers key to secret notes, left by Mentor. Military applies solution, Scientist and Soldier must make it stick, somehow personally deliver when Military fails. Monster mutating, may break free any second.

Resolution- Monster neutralized, Scientist expands quest to stop Corporation, be responsible, Soldier feels better about self, can see hope for future. City saved. Ya!

There are some obvious sub-plots here - love interest between Soldier and Scientist, Evil Corporation fights back, Military/Government corruption and spy stuff, some daily life interrupted moments, and so on.

Also, very clear possibilities for a sequel or series expanding the quest against those responsible.

Next step is to expand this outline into a full storyline, and/or scenes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Narrative Structure and Novels vs. Short Stories

I've been stuck at around chapter three on two different novels for about a month now (okay, maybe just three weeks.) This is just frustrating.

I certainly don't have writer's block, I've been producing plenty of short stories. It's just the novels that I'm bogged down on.

Key question - why? These are both interesting projects. One is YA (ish) horror/adventure, the other is torchpunk fantasy. Both have cool characters, some original (ish) ideas, interesting settings, and so on. One has an outline, the other I have been discovery writing.

So, no obvious culprits there. I just can't seem to get excited about them anymore. I don't know where I'm going with either of them. Even the outlined book, I still just don't feel like I have my fingers on a narrative thread.

I mostly do discovery when I write shorts, sometimes with just a starting scene, sometimes with a bit of an outline. I almost never stick to what I start with though, adding in newer and better ideas as they present themselves. This doesn't seem to work for me for novels, though.

My characters don't seem real enough, the narrative is twisting, the third chapters are drifting far from alignment with the first. So what to do?

I am going to try another idea, a different work-flow. Instead of my short story methodology, I am going to do a much more complete outline, a lot of background, full character studies, and then plot scene by scene. If each scene is essentially a short story, and I can think of each scene, when complete, as the same accomplishment-wise as a short story, I think that will help me get through learning the longer form.

I'm figuring on some combination of three act structure, seven point structure a la Dan Wells, or even the eight point screenwriter's structure. Or all at once. Whatever works, however the book shapes up.

But it is clear to me that I need to build a framework first, before I try to hang drywall, to mix metaphors.

Also, the new book is an easier concept, easier setting, and so on. As easy as I can make it. It is crucial that I complete a novel, just like it was crucial when I wrote my first story that I completed that. have to prove to myself that I can do it. Even if it's not the best book ever. As long as it's coherent, and complete.

Don't worry, though, about the unfinished books. I hate leaving things unfinished. Once I have a success (as in, a completed book), I'll go back to them, with a better idea of how to proceed, I hope.

I'll let you know how it's going in a few weeks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Math Post

We all love math, right? There have been a number of math posts that have been helpful to me. So I thought I would show my personal math, how planning works for me.

First off, I am not writing full-time, yet. My goal is to be writing full-time in one year. That may sound like I'm over-reaching, but I'm not. The amount I need to make to replace my current income is pitiful. I am not rolling in riches.

This could be a negative, could be something that I let drag me down. However, my day job is very conducive to working on my writing education. An added benefit - this job will be easy to leave behind :)

Anyway, the math -

I write about 500 words an hour. I believe this to be a fairly average pace, at least among all the authors I have heard figures from. There are 40 hours in a normal work-week. 48 weeks of productivity in a year (time off for vacations, holidays, and sickness.)

500 x 40 x 48 = 960,000. Almost a million words.

Now, some more qualifications. I only edit as fast as I write, currently. So immediately cut that in half. Only 480,000 words. Two doorstoppers, four decent length novels, six slightly short books, or five shorter books, two novellas, and about eight short stories.

This is what I could get done, working a normal work schedule, if I was writing full-time. This is the hardest part of writing for me, actually, knowing how much more I could be accomplishing if I could go full-time.

My actual output is about 1,000 words a day, on average, in about 2-3 hours. Some days are much more, and some days (editing or not writing) are much less or none. I don't take days off, unlike the average work week above.

So my personal math-

1000 x 7 x 52 = 364,000. A little more than a third of a million. Only 120,000 less than produced by the full-time schedule above. Hmm...

So if I could average, say, 1,250 a day?

1,250 x 7 x52 = 455,00. 25,000 less than the full-time output. Double hmm...

So, what have I learned from my math? I am producing nearly as much as I think I would, writing 2-3 hours a day, as I would writing full-time. Absolutely nothing for me to feel bad about. The hardest thing to deal with as a part-time writer, wanting to be full-time and get more done, is a complete self-fabrication.

I am hanging a lot on that only actually writing new words four hours a day, of course. But I think that is pretty valid. So...


Monday, July 11, 2011

What Isn't There, Is important

My wife is my alpha reader. Besides being smart, intelligent, beautiful, good-looking, and hopefully reading this post, she is very well-read. Her natural tastes align fairly well with the stuff I write, which is also helpful. And she knows me well enough to understand the style of critique that is most helpful to me.

An added bonus is she's handy. I just have to ask her to read something, or lay it out on the table. No chasing her down, no emailing or (shudder) snail-mailing. We can talk face-to-face, which is the best way for me to benefit from her insight.

Often times, complaints she has about a story are symptoms of a problem she doesn't have the language for, or quite know how to pinpoint. But between the two of us, we can work out the root improvements I can make.

For instance, the classic "bad ending" which generally indicates a poor beginning. Or "what happens here is confusing" which is usually related to incomplete world-building. And so on.

One of the most interesting things for me about this process, though, is when she explains how she imagines the characters and worlds in her mind. Or her understanding of the meaning or significance of some of the symbolism. Often, it's completely different than what I had in mind writing the story.

Not wrong, mind you, just different. Because I took to heart Stephen King's advice to leave room in the story for the reader, I don't usually go into much detail about clothes or physical appearance (or any, sometimes). I leave out all but the descriptions that are key to the plot, or anchor dramatic moments. I want my worlds to be "just real enough."

And sometimes, when I'm really lucky, I not only have something I didn't realize I put in pointed out to me, but I see where I can expand on it and make the story better.

So, here's my proverb, newly minted - Leave room in your heart for love, room in your wallet for money, and room in your stories for your readers.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day Off Challenge, Week One - Complete!

I am happy to announce that week one of my day off story challenge is now completed. I wrote 2,300 words in one sitting thursday morning (with breaks, of course.) It took me almost 4 hours, from not long after I got up to just after noon.

Close to 600 words an hour is a pretty good clip for me. I vary between 500 and about 750, depending. The more thinking, the less words written, is the basic equation. This is the first full story I've ever finished in one go, and I'm quite proud of myself.

I had the idea already, just a basic seed I recorded the day before. I developed it as I wrote, and the only thing that stayed consistent was the setting, and the genre. I went into it with the idea that I might try to make more of a heroic story, but I fell back on tragedy.

The story does a fair amount of jumping around in viewpoints, for being so short. I feel good about the necessity of the switches though.

It's also modern day, and I had to do a bit of research (online) as I wrote. I kept the questionable details to a minimum and tried to concentrate on the story. There may very well be some stuff that knowledgeable (or even not so knowledgeable) folk will laugh at. I did the best I could, and made up what I needed to to make the story work.

The above is one reason I stay away from hard SF in general, or anything that I feel requires heavy research. At least in fields I'm not already well informed about. Write what you know, right?

I chose from four different ideas before I started writing, all ones I had recorded and transcribed of the last few months. I will likely do all three remaining ideas over the next few challenge slots, since they all are good for shorter stories.

I haven't decided yet what to do with this story. It is (in my rather biased opinion) worth sending out to paying markets, so I am a hesitant to use up first serial rights by putting it online. If I had more stories written, or more readers, I probably would, though.

As it is, this story is my eleventh completed one, and represents a ten percent addition to my (potentially) saleable output. So I am going to think on it for a bit.

The biggest lesson here, for me - It is entirely possible to develop a bare idea into a complete quality story in not just one day, but one sitting. And it's also a lot of fun :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy Endings

First of all get your mind out of the gutter. Second of all, if your mind wasn't in the gutter, get it in there for a minute. Massages in seedy back alley sailor bars. Okay, now get your mind out of the gutter.

I have noticed lately that I don;t write very many happy endings. More often than not, my protagonists are unlikeable, and fated to die horribly. I have no idea what that's about.

I have written several stories where the hero triumphs, so it's not that I am morally incapable of writing a happy ending. I just like tragic horror. I find the ills I visit on the poor schlubs in my stories to be like balm on my own psychic scars (feel free to snort at that purple sentence.)

I recently read part of Ben Bova's "How To Write Fiction that sells". I found it to be not that helpful to me, except that it got me thinking about the lack of heroic outcomes in my work, and whether I need more of them.

Which is actually a pretty big help, and as much as I find myself disagreeing with his rules of good fiction, I still like that he is getting me to think, and try new things.

And yes, I know it is sacrilege to disagree with Ben Bova about writing. I'm a heretic, not by choice but by sorry circumstance. Woe unto me. I will probably never sell anything now.

I have resolved to give his preferences a try, and write at least one full-on, hero saves the day, stretches past glaring flaws, and so on type story, with a happy ending, and see how I feel when I'm done. One of the great things about writing a lot, especially shorts, is I can afford to experiment.

Let's face it though, no experiment like this can ever truly be a failure. I'm bound to learn something, at the least.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I got the idea to start using challenges to motivate myself form Dean Wesley Smith (among many other great ideas.) I am sure the idea doesn't originate with him either, but he makes great use of it.

Basically, the idea is that you come up with something that you think you can do, but that is at the limits of your abilities, and set a repetitious goal related to the concept as a challenge. Example - for competitive eating - fifteen hotdogs at a sitting, every day. This is a slightly silly (and possible completely wronhgeaded, by virtue of being to easy or too hard) example, but it shows the concept.

If you repeat a difficult task, it gets easier. Soon hard becomes bearable, becomes cake. And the achievements, small on day one, pile up quickly.

As a writer, my biggest self imposed challenge is writing 1,250 words daily. This is about two or three hours worth of work for me, but sometimes only takes me one hour, especially at the beginnings of stories. I find word count much more concrete and measurable than pages or time spent, and thus more motivating.

The magic here is that a week of 1,250 days is easily a short story, maybe two. Or a few chapters of a novel. A few months make a collection, a short novel, or half a doorstop. And so on. It all adds up.

I have two new challenges I am imposing on myself. One, My daily blog post challenge, you are reading right now. I am on my fourth consecutive day, I believe. Whee!

The other  is my day-off story challenge. I intend to complete, from scratch, one new short story every day I have off (once a week.) I will use existing ideas, or new ones, but nothing I have already been working on.

I am giving myself some wiggle room - editing later is okay, so long as the story is done in one day. I don't expect epic length opuses (opi?) here, flash fiction to a few thousand words is fine. I am also still counting these stories as my daily word goal, so no double pressure.

Can I do it? I don't know. Will I succeed every week? Probably not. But I bet I learn a whole heck of a lot about tight storytelling, and how to get my creative process on a fast track.

I haven't decided what to do with these stories, I may put them up here for free, for a short time at least, or I may shop the ones that I feel or saleable around. Haven't got that far yet. I am wanting to do podcasts, so maybe some of these will be useable for that purpose, after Tes-Nin is done.

All depends on what I write and how the challenge goes, really. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tes-Nin's Elbows

It looks like it is time for me to self publish my first short story. In the last few months I've written a bunch of them, and many of them are in submissions various places. I would love to sell all of them to magazines first, before I put them up, but that is probably unrealistic.

I also need to get some experience with epubbing, need a story to podcast, and want to start getting some stuff out top the readers. I am prolific enough (so far) that sacrificing a few stories to this end is no big deal. Especially if they exceed my expectations, which are pretty low.

To clarify that last point, I think Tes-Nin's Elbows is a great story. It's funny, it has lots of clever bits, my wife liked it and my mom hated it. What more could any writer ask for?

But, selling fiction online really needs a presence. Even if the story is actually good (I'll find out soon enough, right?), it will be the only one I have up until I get the next one up. And it will be thirty or so more times doing that before I have a decent, interconnected web of content, which is necessary to snare all those readers. Like flies, muah ha ha ha ha.

So this is mostly just a test-case/DIY workshop for me. Laying down that first brick on the (yellow) road sort of thing. I'll  let y'all know how it goes, when it goes. And of course put up a link.

The other salient points about this particular story are that it is fairly long, I have already written another story in the same universe, and it is ripe for a sequel, or more. If it does well, tomorrow or ten years from now, it has potential for expansion as an IP.

It also has potty jokes, orcs, and a really big hammer.

I'm planning on making it free on smashwords, because I want readers more than money right now. Maybe always keep the latest story free, I haven't planned that far ahead yet. The podcast will be free as well. If I ever get my own web-site, I may put them up for free there as well. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Here is something I've been thinking about a bit lately - the frenzied buzz among writers about their platforms, marketing, how to get exposure, and on and on and on. I grow weary of it, even as I half-heartedly pursue the same ends.

Basically, I am a child of punk rock. I hate commercialism, hate advertising, am so not interested in shilling anything for anyone, including myself for myself. I'm a terrible salesman, even though I am really good at it (I've tried it, of course. I annoyed myself.)

My idea of really effective sales is to produce a product that sells itself. Do a good job, price it right, be pleasant. This is all that should be necessary. And is, as far as I can tell.

All the look at me, look at me, like me, friend me, re-tweet me is just off-putting. So I don't do it. Much. I'm not perfect either, being human is always a limiting factor. But I do try to avoid that sort of thing.

So, what about this blog? What about the twitter feed I have? Well, basically, this isn't meant to be advertisement. I am not setting out to build a platform. I do hope to provide some content that is of interest to other people, new writers especially. And, this is fun for me. Yep, fun. The main reason for all this.

Also, the writers who have helped me so much, with their blogs (Dean Wesley Smith, J A Konrath, in particular) have inspired me to try to do whatever little bit I can to help anyone I can. If this gets me readers and makes me friends, so much the better.

But that's only tangential to the real goal. A great perk, sure. But no heartbreaker if I never get there.

If I never get to the point where I can write full-time, because I don't write enough well-crafted fiction to make a minimal living, because I'm too busy trying to convince people to join my network, that's a heartbreaker.

Don't worry, the one post a day challenge still stands. This blog only takes me about 15 minutes a day. Cake. And I'm actually learning a lot writing it, so it's educational cake, the best kind.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Creative Commons

First order of business - I tried for the second time today to record a podcast on my cell phone. No dice. Great tool for jotting down notes, terrible to listen to. I am hoping to either get a better microphone, or step up to a portable recorder (like the Olympus WS 710M). That, however, will have to wait until I can find the money.

The other option is if I get enough time, somehow, to record a podcast at home. Which I might try sometime this week. I certainly am not going to do a daily podcast from home, but weekly might not be to bad. The style guide there would be Mur Lafferty's excellent "I Should Be Writing".

On to other topics. I recently read the collected intros to Cory Doctorow's books, in one big PDF. Basically, a bunch of stuff about Creative Commons licensing, and how piracy is good for exposure, and not a threat, and so on. I am pretty much in agreement, and am now considering licensing my e-stuff under Creative Commons. And yes, the term "e-stuff" is my intellectual property, and is licensed for your use under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial attribution. (I probably got half of that license terminology wrong, hah, just making it up as I go along.)

Anyway, my take - Go to, download the PDF, and read it. It will only take an hour or so of your time. Not only are his ideas interesting, most of the essays are from before ebooks got big (pre-2010, basically.) So the lens of hindsight adds interest.

Final note - I did some math this afternoon. Since I started writing fiction approximately 3 months ago, I have completed 9 short stories, and written about 42,000 words. I am very pleased by this. At the same time, I feel like this is an almost glacial pace, compared to the amount I got done in the last 3 weeks - 24,00 words, 4 short stories.

My current daily goal is 1,250 words of new fiction (not counting story ideas, blogging, or editing time.) Or 2 hours. I was at 500 words 2 months ago. I hope to work up to 2,000 in a few months (still in the 2 hour time frame.) Wish me luck :)

Link -

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Way Forward

So, it's easy to admit that I haven't got much done around here. No new content in weeks. Not by intention, but by lack of goal setting. I think I have a handle on things now, though. If all goes as planned, I will be updating this blog regularly, aiming for a near daily posting schedule.

I still don't have a super-clear focus for the content, or a catchy name, but hopefully that stuff will fall into place as I do this. Sounds backwards, I know. As a writer I've found sometimes the only way out is through, and I just have to start typing until something catches.

So, main thing I will be covering is the beginning writer's journey, tips that have worked for me, other options, and so on. My sense is that a lot of writers make the actual work of writing much harder for themselves, by mentally getting in their own way. So hopefully I can provide some perspective on that.

This won't be a heavily edited or planned blog, my goal is to spend only fifteen or so minutes a day on it. I am going to accomplish this by using some of my downtime at work to voice-record ideas that I want to cover for the day. If I can get good enough quality, I hope to put these recordings up as podcasts as well, so you folks get the condensed (and possible different mental take) version as a blog, and the expanded version as a podcast.

I love podcasts, by the way. I listen to probably twenty or thirty hours worth a week. One of the main advantages of my otherwise hum-drum day job.

Voice-recording has worked very well for me as a way to cut down my time spent on new ideas. Instead of scribbling them on paper, as I have them (always carry a notebook, or some way to record your thoughts. Always.) I record them, and transcribe later.

I would estimate I save at least a half-hour of precious writing time a day using this method. I haven't yet applied it to actual new works, but I intend to. And of course, this blog (and the coming podcasts), are also going to benefit from this method.

My biggest worry is that I will end up spending so much time recording, that I will get behind on my listening :)

Welcome to the journey, I hope y'all  enjoy it.

(See that up there? That's what I meant about just getting fingers on the keys until something comes through. New podcast and blog name is Welcome to the Journey. Y'all saw it happen.)