Friday, August 26, 2011

Armadillocon 2011

Today is the day. While you are reading this, I am off at the yearly Armadillocon writer's workshop. Hopefully I am learning a lot of stuff, and really improving. Hopefully I'm not twiddling my thumbs and wishing I had saved my money. I'll let you know in a few days, one way or the other.

The road to the con was a bit twisty for me. I've been to a bunch of gaming conventions, back when I was a sproutling. This is the first writing (or professional, period) convention I've gone to, though. I'm really hoping to meet some new people and expand my circle of writing friends. So, if you go to the con, and you see me, do me a favor and introduce yourself.

I wanted to bring a voice recorder, and make some recordings of the panels I attended, maybe podcast them. My podcasting career has got off to a rocky start however, and you can check out my post on the voice recorder I bought and returned to see how that went. I do still have the ability to make recordings with my mp3 player, so maybe I'll try that.

I don't have much of a plan of attack. I'm not sure what the panels actually are, and I don't have any friends going, so I guess I'm just gonna wing it. No travel involved, I don't live far from downtown, and the con. This is one of the big reasons I am able to attend, actually. If there were travel costs involved, I wouldn't be be to go.

Anyway, I'll post some updates on the con and what's happening/happened there over the next few days, if I can. I may cut myself some slack and let the daily posting challenge slide, just for this weekend. We'll see. And see you there.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mindspace - Why I Guard Mine Jealously

I am extremely careful with who an what I allow to influence my mindspace. For those of you that have no idea what that even means, let me offer some definitions.

Mindspace is the interior monologue and self-analytic function of my brain. It is the part of my persona that decides what I should be doing, how , and why. It is my internal orderly, my judge, jury and executor (no, not executioner, that would be morbid.)

When I allow other people to critique my work, whether writing or other arts, even reading reviews, I allow them to influence my mindspace. Bad critiques have the ability to throw my head out of whack, to put it bluntly.

This, in itself, isn't that huge of a problem. I have a strong ego, my equilibrium will right itself eventually. The problem is the hour, or day, or days, I spend obsessing over whatever it was. I lose time. Time better spent working on new ideas, or writing new words, or learning about epubbing. Spent on someone else's ideas instead.

For instance, I've gotten critiques that were fairly harshly worded. Not necessarily wrong, just not gentle enough for my fragile self. which lead to a day of turning the words over in my mind. Instead of a day working on my next story. The solution is to not expose myself to critiquing like that. I'm very, very picky about first readers now.

Which brings up the topic of Armadillocon. I'm attending this year, my first writing convention. I've done gaming cons before, back in the day, but never a learning focused one like this. I'm hoping to get a lot out of the weekend, as well as link up with some other Austin writers, expand my circle and all. I am leery about the actual writing workshop part, but hopefully it will be helpful and not, well, a poor guest in my mindspace.

More on Armadillocon tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Final Post on the Coby Kyros 7022 - Dead Touchscreen

Long story short - the touchscreen stopped working on my tablet tonight. Just quit, while I was in the middle of surfing. Resetting, restoring, even a factory wipe didn't help. This is a hardware issue, and from what I can gather, I'm not the only one whose had it.

I'm returning the tablet to Toys-R-Us tomorrow. I don't feel enough confidence in the product to risk an exchange for a new one, that might fritz out on me as well. It's a shame, because I did like it. But not enough to risk a $195 paperweight again.

So, my final weigh in on the Coby Kyros 7022 - if you want a 7 inch Android tablet, I suggest spending more on a better brand. It was easy to root, and functional while it lasted, but I just can't recommend the brand based on my experience.

The tablet was a birthday gift (bought with gift money, anyway), so now my challenge is figuring out what to get instead. I'm not sure I want to try another tablet. My luck with gadgets has been rather poor overall, lately.

Maybe it's time to get a desktop, for a dedicated writing station. We'll see. Funny that this happens so soon after the 3DS price drop.

I don't think I'll have any hassles at Toys-R-Us with a return, since it's defective. Although their return policy is known to suck. If I do have any problems, I'll make sure to post about it here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Weekly Day-Off Story Challenge - Round Five (For Reals)

The fifth round of my weekly day-off story challenge has come and gone, and I have emerged victorious. It was a hard slog, though. Between not having written as much lately, and the two weeks I missed (not really missed, just postponed) due to funeral and exhaustion, I was a bit rusty.

In order to ameliorate that, I gave myself a little leeway. I used a story idea from the idea bank, rather than going completely from scratch. I also took time to craft the story in my head yesterday, and even recorded a short section (a loose version of the first scene, maybe 500 words.) My recording turned out like crap, mostly unusable. But having made it really helped solidify the story and structure in my head.

Even so, it took me from ten AM until five PM to write the story, and another hour snatched between then and eight PM to edit. All told, eight hours for a 3,300 word story. 400 words an hour is definitely not my best speed. On the bright side, it's the second longest, out of five. It's also a great story, if I do say so myself.

I had much more difficulty focusing than usual, distractions kept calling out to me. Also, I had to do a fair amount of research, for such a short piece. Mostly on bit details that were only relevant because I wanted them to be specific, and correct.

The story's title is "Stalking the Stalk". It's one of my weird/horror pieces, and features icky plant-like monsters vs. rednecks with guns. Sort of.

I'm at the point where I've got more stories written than places to submit, by a margin that is starting to feel uncomfortable. So stay tuned, these might start showing up here soon. Especially if I hear some interest.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stealing a March (From a Legacy Agent)

The following is a comment I put on a blog called The Portfolio Javelin - followed by a reply, and my rebuttal. Such as it is. I thought my elegant prose worth preserving over here as well.
Many of the other replies posted by Wendy Keller feed into the myths about self-publishing digitally - the tsunami of crap, gatekeeper argument, books as produce, and so on that have been debunked endlessly by  Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith. I highly recommend reading the whole article and all the comments, just to get a feel for both sides of the coin.
Silver Bowen August 5, 2011 at 9:10 pm
I just put up my very first –ever– ebook, a fantasy novelette. It took me about 6 hours, start to finish, and cost zero dollars. Unless you count the monthly fee I pay to my internet provider, in which case it cost approximately one dollar and ten cents. Granted, if it had been a full novel, it might have taken an hour longer to get the formatting done. In the interests of full disclosure, I’m also not counting the time I spent writing and editing. I did everything myself, of course. My own cover, content editing, copy editing, formatting, and conversion. I expect the process to be significantly smoother and faster next time, and the time after that, and so on. It wasn’t easy, but it certainly wasn’t incredibly time consuming. And it really doesn’t get cheaper than free. So, on at least two of the foundational points of this article, you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried. The fundamentals rules of publishing have changed, and changed so radically that many, including you, are apparently incapable of even grokking the changes.
Wendy Keller August 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm
Let’s see…hmmm… I checked out your 99 cent book on Amazon. Looks like you have no sales and no reviews at all. That’s success?
Silver Bowen August 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm
Wendy Keller, Maybe you missed that part at the very beginning of my comment where I mentioned that I just put the book out? As in it went live on Amazon a little more than a week ago? I didn’t expect much in the first month, or several for that matter. I have gotten 59 downloads on Smashwords so far, where the book is posted for free. Go me. The thing is, buzz out of the gate isn’t relevant in digital publishing. It’s nice, sure. Doesn’t hurt one bit. Sales are always a good thing. But ebooks are forever. Forever is a long time to find an audience. Being an independent publisher, even if I only publish me, is a new business for me. Business take time to establish and grow. Judging my success by the first two weeks is a little bit premature, financial or otherwise. For me, as a new author, success is having my work available to be read, with no compromises in control over content or rights. I wouldn’t be anywhere near that with a legacy publisher, or an agent. I would be depending on people other than the reader (my customer) to decide whether my work was fit to be read. Depending on employees and distributors to determine the fate of my product. No thanks (not without big bags of money involved, which isn’t going to happen.) But thanks for checking out my –first– book, anyway. Perhaps now you might address my actual points rather than engaging in ad hominem attacks on my credibility?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Growing Up In Public

No, last I checked, I still wasn't a child-star. I have to face facts - I may never be a child-star. But that's not what this post is about.

I just self-published my first story, a novelette called "Tes-Nin's Elbows". My friends and family all loved it, of course. The rest of the world has so far not seemed to care much one way or the other. It's only been two weeks, so that is expected.

The story was written, edited, and proofread by myself. My wife helped with some critiquing. I made the cover myself, did my own formating and uploading, and all that. This is, essentially, a terrible way to launch any book, and doubly so for my first one. What I should have done is hire an editor and proofer, pay someone to make a professional cover, and someone else to do a clean formatting. Oopsy.

Except I can't afford any of that. It was my way or the kiss-it-goodbye way. So I did what I had to, like we all do. I will likely do the exact same with the next several stories I publish. Hopefully I will learn more and more as I go along, and get better and better at this whole thing. Hopefully I won't get slammed to hard for whatever mistakes I made this time around. Hopefully folks will read the story, and like it, maybe I'll get lucky and people will even pirate it. You never know.

What I do know is this - I only have one path to a writing career that I can pull off, for a variety of reasons. That path is DIY self-publishing. I either succeed at that or fail entirely, or get super really quite incredibly lucky, I guess. So I am going to have to grow up in public, take the good criticism with the bad, learn from each story, and push ahead. It's the only shot I have, and I'm going to take it.

I'm willing to put my pride on the line to learn, to grow, as a writer and editor and artist and publisher and so on and on. What's the worst thing that could possibly happen? Nobody cares. That's why so many child-stars flame out. Because the world stops caring, stops paying attention.

So all I have to do is continue to "grow my platform" (I am), and keep writing and releasing (I definitely am.) Oh, and keep improving. I think I can manage that. I hope I can. That, and a little luck, will get you a writing career.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Magic of Names

This is a rip-off of the "-ainus" scene in Gentlemen Broncos. Just so you know.

I have a couple of useful observations on ways to make names more interesting, or at least how to convey certain intangible elements of character through naming conventions. Okay, maybe not intangible. Definitely tangible.

The first part is the use of the suffix "worth". As in Guilesworth, or poundsworth, or professor Mortimus Schwagsworth. You get the idea. This suffix provides the maximum amount of tweedy English gentelmanliness, with a minimal amount of effort.

A second strategy, building on the first, is to append "worth" to a set of nonsense syllables. For example - Gillabba combined with worth is Gillabaworth. Or maybe Bomboonaworth, Flneebiworth, Chuzzleworth, and so on. These types of names a great for conveying a sense of tweedy English alien-ness. Or clown-ness, works either way.

Final notes - If you didn't know, Gentlemen Broncos is a comedy about a bestselling SF&F writer who steals an MS from a student and publishes it as his own. The antagonist is (loosely) based on David Farland, who I am fairly sure is not this weird. Gentlemen Broncos mostly felt like an inferior retread of Napoleon Dynamite. But, the writerly farce was wonderful. Highly recommended for genre writers, skip it for the rest of the world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Still Not Buying a 3DS

For those of you that missed the recent news in the hand-held gaming space, Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS by a whopping $80. This is old news at this point, but there you go.

I was blown away by the 3DS when Nintendo first showed it at E3 2010. I wanted one instantly, or sooner. Then, half a year later, Nintendo announced the price. My dreams died. $250 dollars for the console, and game prices were getting a hike to $40 each.

I would have been willing to spring for one at $200 or less, back then. I would have felt the pain, but I would have gone for it. After seeing the unit in person, and watching the lackluster launch line-up and half-baked support, even that price is too much, now.

But wait, you might say. It's now actually lower than $200. Surely $170 is a good price. Well, frankly, no. Not for me, anyway. I'm just not that impressed by the hardware. Even worse is the way it's locked down. Basically, the only things I can do with a 3DS are what Nintendo lets me do. And cartridges are still $40.

On the flip side, I just bought an Android tablet for about that same price. That tablet does tons of things, and has even more potential. No lock-downs. Games are anywhere from free to maybe $5 tops. Not as deep as the games on 3DS maybe, but certainly playable, and fun diversions.

But this isn't really about tablet (or phone) versus game console. It's really about computer versus game console. Even at the new, reduced price, the 3DS just doesn't do enough to justify its price tag. When you factor in how expensive the games are, it looks even less appealing.

And when you factor in the greatest depression since the great depression, everything looks overpriced. And my final factor, a personal one, and the nail in the coffin - I spend so much time writing these days that I don't even use any of the gaming systems I already own.

So, my final take - I miss the days when portable systems cost less than half what consoles did, when they were under a hundred dollars at launch, and when I could afford them. The 3DS isn't as cool as I thought it was, back around E3 2010. Maybe I'll get one in a few years, when they are around 130 and there is a decent library available.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tes-Nin Two

It's amazing to me sometimes, how little encouragement it takes to get me going. I'm just one of those kind of people, I guess. Wind me up and watch me go.

The wind up, this time, was my brother's reaction to the first Hexes and Hammers story, Tes-Nin's Elbows. He loved it. Went ga-ga for it. Is dying for the next installment.

Okay, okay, bro. Stop twisting my arms. I'll write it. See how easy that is?

Actually, I already have another story set in that universe, although it doesn't involve Tes-Nin. It's more of an Orcish dental romance type thing. With lots of funny. I haven't had any luck selling it, so maybe that one will go up next.

I'm actually considering doing a book, when I have enough H and H material. About three Tes-Nin novelettes or novellas, plus that story (Out, De'moan!), plus maybe a follow up to that one. Or one of the other ideas I have floating around for that universe.

Anyway, I never intended Tes-Nin's Elbows to be anything more than what it is. But if I'm getting positive feedback, I'm prone to continuing in the same vein.

Other updates on that story - no Amazon sales yet. No reviews on Amazon or Smashwords. I did get a mention on twitter, so that's cool. The other good news is that it's been downloaded 56 times on Smashwords. It's free, so I'm not making anything off those downloads, but I mostly wanted to get it read.

Things I am hoping for - Reviews. This is the biggy. Good or bad, feedback is an essential part of this process. So hopefully that will happen soon. Also, sales, of course.

Okay, this is a fairly babbly post, so I'm gonna cut it here. Just thought it might be useful to some of you to know what my week two numbers, such as they are, look like.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inertia AKA Momentum

I got an unexpected day off a few days ago. I considered doing Day Off Story Challenge round five. Instead, I slept all day. Really needed some rest, I guess.

I still did some writing. The last few days I've barely made it over a thousand words, which is under my goal of 1,250. Of course, before that I had several days of 0. Zilch, Zip, Nada. So I guess 1k is an improvement in comparison.

Today I churned out 1,600, a good amount. I did still feel like I was working slowly, at a reduced pace compared to where I was at a few weeks ago. I blame inertia. I really feel like I lost speed, like an athlete who skips practice for a few days.

This is one of the many reasons that daily output is essential. It takes me less time to write a minimum amount if I do it every day. Binge writing can put my monthly word-count up quickly, but if it costs me my daily goal, it is probably hurting me in the long run.

What I need to do is keep a steady, sane daily word count (thinking of reducing my 1,250 to 1,000 just for this reason), and still have occasional blurts and power days. Either that, or learning how to get by on three hours of sleep a night.

One of the really nice things about being new at writing is that I'm not locked into any one set of habits. I can add new things to the mix, and keep them if they work, or ditch them if they don't. Or I can set everything aside and try something completely new and crazy for a while. All me, all my choice. Hmm...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stealing a March

One more encouraging idea about talent, or ability, or whatever – Future talent cannot be measured by current talent. Personal progress cannot be predicted. Talent equals effort multiplied by an unknown quantity of time (a unit I like to call a mysterion.)

Some people suck at something for years, then all the sudden something clicks. Or they go from “just okay” to “wow” in a few short months, halfway through their career. The phenomenon of plateauing for a while and then making rapid progress is really common.

Every time I find myself busting my butt at something, and feeling like I’m not getting anywhere, beating my head against a wall, and maybe I’m just no good at whatever it is I’m doing, I try to keep this in mind and take heart. Progress is a complex, chaotic, unpredictable thing, nobody knows which tap is the last one that brings the wall down.

I recently posted this as a comment on Dean Wesley Smith's blog, about the myth of talent -

I liked what I wrote so much I'm reposting it here. Because I wanted to share this priceless nugget a little more widely (actually, Dean gets about a billion hits for every one of mine.) Also, it is long enough to qualify as a daily blog pots, under my ill-defined rule-set (read: I'm making it up as I go along.)

This is what's known as stealing a march. That's military history type talk for one upping the opposition while they sleep. Google it, I'll wait. It may not really actually apply here, but it sounds neat.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Writers Write, Storytellers Tell Stories

The corollary to "a writer is someone who writes" is "a storyteller is someone who tells stories." Why is this distinction important?

A writer is not necessarily a fiction writer. There's non-fiction, poetry, or even fiction that isn't a story. Like character studies, or descriptions of made-up places. So, first of all, what is a story? A story is when a conflict arises among some number of actors, and is somehow moved forward.

At least, that is the broadest and most inclusive definition I could come up with. Defining a story more narrowly certainly won't hurt a writer's chances of being published.

A story has to have conflict. Conflict implies at least two parties, both capable of influencing the resolution of the conflict (actors.) There has to be some change in the conflicts parameters, and thus some change in the actors.

It isn't a conflict if the actors aren't affected by it, and it isn't a story if the conflict remains static. Thus, it isn't a story if the actors aren't changed.

Enough with the definitions. I do have a point, and it's this - you have to decide if you are a writer or a storyteller. If you are a storyteller, it might be helpful for you to recognize that writing is just your medium, not your message. The story is the message. Focus on the story, not the prose.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Storytelling Vs Writing

Writing is important. Not writing in general. Quality writing in terms of style, prose craft, and so on. If your writing is stilted, overly verbose and flowery, or otherwise distracting, it doesn't matter how good your story is, the reader will quit on you. And heavens help the writer with bad grammar (fiction grammar, not academic grammar) or spelling.

But, good writing will only get you so far. You have to have a good story. You have to have the storytelling skills to keep the reader invested in that story. Writing style is only the very first barrier to entry for a reader.

I ran across a statement by Dean Wesley Smith several months ago, one he repeats many times in his "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" series (required reading, IMHO.) He says that most new writers are concerned with sentence by sentence writing, rather than story writing (any errors/paraphrasing are mine.)

I have been turning this statement over in my head for months, trying to understand it. I felt sure that I, as a new writer, was likely committing this offense. But I couldn't understand how, or how to move past it. How else could one possibly write, other than sentence by sentence?

It's taken two things to illuminate this issue for me. Firstly, the idea vs story concept I picked up form Bob Mayer. That idea in itself has radically changed my writing process. The huge number of words I've written in the last four months has also helped tremendously (about 100,000 or so.) Basically, I've gotten to where I am much faster imaginationally (yes, that's a word. It is now, anyway.)

It took me weeks to write my first story. I could probably (have, I think) write a better story now in an afternoon. Not that I am trumpeting my own horn, or claiming that the stories I write now are great (they are, of course), but they are miles ahead of what I was writing when I started.

I am developing a faculty to see my stories in much broader swaths than I could when I started. And I see now where the particulars often don't matter, as long as they convey the essential story information. It's not the words, it's the content. words are just a container for story.

A humble note - I'm sure (I really really hope) I'll continue to grow as a writer, and understand storytelling and writing better. I hope my current understanding seems as limited to future me as my past me's understanding seems to present me. Phew.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Short Post on Aim

Aim, as in, what are you aiming for? What's your intention? You do know what it is your trying to accomplish, right. Because if you don't, it's going to be awfully difficult to know when you've achieved it.

Aim, as in, what I want my voice to be. Most people's voice is heavily influenced by who they've read. That's normal. Most writers continue to read the genres they write, often quite heavily. Again, this is to absorb influences, to further shape a voice.

I read quite heavily in the genre of "being a writer" currently. I'm not planning on writing how to write books, so I can't say that I'm picking up a lot of style particulars from these books. Learning a heck of a lot about writing, for sure. But not much about being an individual.

It popped into my head, though, the other day. The exact description of what I am aiming for, the writer's who I would love to be compared to, who I have learned so much about what writing is for from. To wit - I want to be the Louis L'amour of Phillip K. Dick, by way of Robert A. Heinlein and Kurt Vonnegut.

Any questions?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Further Thoughts on Idea Vs Story

It actually might be better, or at least more clear, to say idea as a separate entity from story, rather than idea vs. story. The latter implies an adversarial relationship which isn't actually extant. Of course, the former is more than a little bit cumbersome.

Anyway, to break from pedantry, the actually crux of this post. And, to answer that query that may even now be formulating in the vast recesses of your questing intellect - I am not intentionally using as many big words as possible. And I most certainly did not imply that you had a large, empty head.

This new goal of being both informative and humorous may need a little tweaking.

I have been running every new idea that I add to my idea bank through the full developmental process. In other words, I write down the original thought/brainstorm. This, plus maybe some dialogue or exposition used to be all I did with the ideas before saving them and moving on.

Now, I also state the idea in a single sentence (usually a what if?). Then I develop the idea to a possible next level, adding specifics, but still keeping it at one sentence. Then I write a full paragraph summary, similar to a blurb, but with no attempt at keeping out spoilers.

I've illustrated the form a few times now, in other posts, so I'm not going to give an example.

This process has not only vastly improved the quality of the ideas that I bank, it is also helping to push my storytelling skills to the next level. Ideas i would have quickly moved past, I am now forced to fully develop, regardless of perceived merit. This is a good thing.

Since the whole purpose of the idea bank is to stretch my imagination, and practice telling the core of my stories, anything I can do to make the process more productive is time well spent. In other words, I am adding heavier weights to my mental whatever-it-is-a-bar-with-weights-on-it-that-people-lift-is-called.

A couple other quick notes - 1) I have now definitely been posting daily for over a month. whee. 2) As I challenged myself, so I deliver. I now touch-type all my blog posts. Okay, sometimes I peek, but I never do the two hands but only five fingers thing anymore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Dislike DRM

This is a fairly off-topic post, but this strip got me thinking about this subject today. It is relevant to writers in a tangential way, in that you will have to decide where you stand on DRM if you publish yourself. And file-sharing (AKA piracy, a misnomer that I dislike.)

It's worth reading the news part, as well. A house divided and all that.

Basically, my idea is that if I pay for something, I own it. I am not interested in asking permission from the manufacturer every time I want to use it. I'm not even talking about copying, sharing, or anything that might be a violation of intellectual property laws. I'm talking about a video game that I cannot use without connecting to the internet and asking the manufacturer's servers if it's okay to play.

Not happening. Other manufacturers have tried this same stunt, and I have been uninterested in their products as well. As have the general range of consumers. There was a huge amount of backlash those times, and I expect there will be this time as well.

Now, in my case, it is a moot point. I rarely play games on my computer, and haven't for years. I did own a copy of the first Diablo, but I really didn't get into it much. So my not buying a copy is a foregone conclusion, regardless of the presence or absence of DRM.

I would worry about this sort of thing migrating over to other content (movies, books, music), but I doubt consumers would stand for it. So far, it hasn't worked out well for the video game companies that have tried this kind of heavy-handed approach.

More importantly, I'm with the likes of Neil Gaiman, Corey Doctorow, and J A Konrath on file-sharing - it's beneficial. DRM is stupid, not just because it annoys paying customers without affecting the (determined) non-paying ones. DRM is stupid because it limits an audience's potential scope. The more non-paying readers you have, the more paying ones you will have. It's that simple.

Ebook lending, file-sharing on torrent sites, library lending of print or ebooks, even photocopies - all drive sales. DRM screws up this beneficial process.

In other words, steal my books, please. Just pass them on when you're done, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Quarterly Report - Lessons

Things I've learned in the last four months -

1) A daily wordcount is crucial to production. 250 words or 2,500 words, whatever. Set a limit as high as you can consistently make it, and stick with it. Producing new words of fiction on a regular basis is the essence of being a fiction writer, and producing a volume of new words on a regular basis is the essence of being prolific. Unless you're one of those binge writers, which I'm not, mostly. Although I am considering doubling my wordcount and only writing every other day.

2) Have a one sentence idea written out for every story. This simplifies the hell out of actually writing the story, and keeps me from writing something that I'm not sure how to finish. In other words, it's much harder to get stuck if I have path to follow, even if I don't know the features of the path (story or plot) beforehand.

3) Keep an idea bank. This keeps the ideas flowing, keeps my imagination in shape, and ensures that I never have to sit around wondering what to write about. For a guy that had no concept of how to plot a story four months ago, this has been crucial in developing my storytelling basic skill set.

4) Power days. This is the opposite of the steady wordcount theory above, or the next level of it, if you add in the concept of blurting. Basically, once a week I set aside a day to write my ass off. This is also known as the Day Off Story Challenge, and has been another really useful way to expand my storytelling skills. The next level of this is taking every writing day and turning it into a power day. I'm not there quite yet, but hopefully soon.

5) Miscellaneous smaller lessons - The seven point story structure is another, useful way to look at novels. Heroes and happy endings are worth writing, too. Plot is what happens when characters interact. The math of writing as a career heavily favors the prolific. Voice recorders are really useful. Touch typing, on a keyboard, is way faster than pecking, and way way faster than typing on a touchscreen. Android tablets are great for tweeting, but suck for writing blogs. Tweeting and posting on other people's blogs about your own work (especially "buy me, buy me" is mostly just irritating and counter-productive. Podcasting takes work, and possibly money.

6) Final lesson - I can do this, at least for four months. And next quarter makes half a year, and that twice is a full year. More math, and it says that all this adds up, eventually.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Quarterly Check-Up - Statistics

I began writing seriously tomorrow, four months ago. I know this because I have a journal that I started on that date, as well as a text file of an idea I was trying to develop.

The journal got 5 more entries, I started blogging somewhere in that time frame as well. The folder labeled "story ideas" with that first text file, labeled "story ideas", eventually became my idea bank, and it now has 188 entries. This number doesn't include the ideas I have already written stories from, or the actual usable ideas in the "good ideas folder".

I blogged off and on until a little more than a month ago, when I began the Daily Blogging Challenge. I haven't missed a day since.

I have completed 13 short stories, one drabble, and one flash fiction piece since then. I have six more stories in various stages of completion, as well as two novels in progress, and one more novel that is at the planning stage.

I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my stories and the markets they are submitted to. I have submitted to various markets 29 times, and received 18 rejections. Two of those, from minor markets, have been personalized. I have not made any sales, yet.

I have more fiction available for sale at this point than markets to send my work too. Also, some of my earlier stories have been rejected by nearly every professional market they are suited towards. I launched my first ebook, a fantasy novelette name Tes-Nin's Elbows. It has been downloaded a whopping thirty times in the last week. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day Off Story Challenge - Round 5 - Postponed

I spent my day off this week at a funeral. A better man than me might have managed to write a story anyway. I am not that man.

On the positive side, I am not counting this against my challenge. Round five is postponed.

On the other positive side, I still managed to squeeze this (truncated) blog post out of the experience, thus keeping my daily blog posting challenge going without a miss.

May you all be as blessed as I have been, to not only have had such a wonderful loved one, but to get a full measure of time to say goodbye.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I have another new idea that I want to put into use in my writing. As the title implies, I want to be a blurter.

What does that mean, exactly? Blurting is writing faster than any of your filters can keep up, as fast as your unconscious can compose. Basically, edit as I write, instinctively, get it all out now.

Why blurt? Because I am writing too damned slow, in a nutshell. Blurting is the nutcracker that will free my fingers from the drudgery of composition. Or something along those lines.

Basically, if I can write as fast as I can imagine, I can get a lot out, much quicker. My goal as a writer i to be really excellent, and prolific. Both having nearly equal merit, in my view. Maybe a little more on the side of excellence, but not by much.

To get as much done as I want to in this lifetime, I have to be prolific. I already am firmly of the opinion that any rewriting more extensive than a light edit is time wasted. It takes me nearly as long to edit, as it does to write in the first place. Any ideas about editing I apply to old work can be equally applied to new work, as I write it.

So I can rewrite a good piece, and make it great. Or I can write a good piece, use what I learned to write a great piece, and have two stories to sell, instead of one. Now I just need to learn to write without thinking, AKA blurt, and do it well.

I'm not entirely sure I did this idea justice with this post, but I am going to chalk it up to typing too slow.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Imagination Wants to be Free

I learned something pretty cool last night, browsing a fellow writer's blog. This writer has a particularly funny way with words, very Pythonesque. Almost like slapstick, but with words. The lesson there is that being funny is a very good way to make people laugh. More importantly, it's worth going for the extra silly joke, rather than holding back for fear of the dreaded unfunnyness.

This wasn't the really important lesson, however. That lesson is summed up in the tittle to this blog, a play on the hacker's mantra - imagination wants to be free. Think about it, how often have you held your writing back by running your ideas through what I like to call "the filter of fear of failure"?

In other words, you approach an idea with the intent "what can I do to make this idea viable, ie not so loony?" instead of "what can I do to make this idea as awesomely cool as possible?" This second approach I like to call "the unfilter".

I have been using this process in my work with the idea bank lately. I come up with an idea, no matter how outlandish, and try to run with it. Very often, if you take an idea far enough, you end up somewhere both viable and fresh.

For instance - Ribbot Invasion

Idea - What if robot frogs were assaulting a suburban home? How would the homeowners fight them off?

Refinement - A elderly lady must defend her home from an invading force of robot frogs, while attempting to figure out their origin.

Story - Doctor Hoptario's ninja android swarm has been defeated by the combined might of the Science Hamster Team. He decides to try robotic frogs instead, or what he terms "Ribbots". He mistakenly targets the wrong house, and the SHT only gets wind of the assault on their neighbor's house when it's almost too late. They manage to save the elderly lady, whose late husbands fly fishing lure collection comes in handy. They defeat the frogs, but what will they do about the continuing menace of Dr. Hoptario?

That particular story has some severe lack of genre identification, it's silly on many levels, and who on earth would buy it? Atlwast, that's what my filter of fear of failure says. My unfilter say "Holy bleep! That sounds like the coolest
saturday morning cartoon that never actually aired, but should have. Let's write it, right now!"

See the difference?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Few Further Thoughts on Tablets

Specifically 7" Android tablets. Even More specifically the Coby Kyros 7022. In a nutshell, I like it. For the price, I am perfectly happy with its utility. I would not have wanted to pay more than the slightly under $200 it costs, for what it does. But I also don't see more expensive tablets doing much of anything worth paying more for.

Basically, the niche tablets fall into now is that they are essentially low powered netbooks. The problem with this is that netbooks are already as low powered as is practical for most actual productive applications. But...

Tablets are really cool for surfing the web in bed. There portability makes them pretty nifty videogame machines, media devices, and that kind of stuff. I may get some use out of mine for reading PDFs as well, although I definitely prefer my ereader for actual book reading. Oh, and I just read a comic book on the tablet as well, and actually enjoyed it more than on my larger netbook screen. A 10' tablet, or even 12' (should one hit the market), might be better for that, however.

As kind of a back-up option for the netbook, the tablet is nice, too. I am typing this entry on mine. It's definitely clumsier than it would be on the netbook, even using a full sized USB keyboard, but it does get the job done.

The Kyros 7022 runs Android 2.3, BTW. I can see room for improvement, which presumably 3.0 and 3.1 have been. But again, a little clunky, but gets the job done.

The netbook I have is an Asus 1005p, BTW, and it is my main computer. It does enough, and is portable enough, and gets about 6-9 hours out of a charge. Since I don't do processor intensive stuff, it has been great for me so far. When I write I just hook it up to A USB mouse and keyboard and a bigger monitor (an LCD TV/DVD combo that serves triple duty in my household.)

This post has gotten long enough that my tablet is freaking out, so I'll stop here. Short post shorter - I like my new tablet, and think most people could get some use out of one, this brand or another. Especially writers who spend a lot of time online trying to learn new stuff.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hot News - First Ebook Now Available

Big news - I just published my first ebook. This is otherwise known as putting your money where your mouth is. The story is called Tes-Nin's Elbows, and it is available via Smashwords for free. It's a novelette, about 9,500 words, or 38 pages.

Go here to download it for free.

I have it in submission to Amazon as well, but their review process will take a day or so. I am fairly sure, based on my experience with Smashwords, that I will end up having to reformat and re-upload it to Amazon.

Technical notes - I created the cover myself using Gimp (Linux's answer to photoshop.) It looks a bit plain, but decent enough for a first try. I wanted to avoid dealing with photos and licensing. I also don't much care for the photo with text slapped on look of many ebooks. I will likely go back and re-do the cover later, when I have my sea-legs.

It took me about 6 hours to get the whole thing done, from opening my browser to typing this blog. I think I can get it done in an hour or so next time. The covers might take a bit longer, if I continue to do them sans photos. We'll see.

I have a few more stories that I haven't had any success selling to the high-paying markets, so once all the dust has settled from this little hoo-haw, I will likely get to work on those titles.

Plus, Tes-Nin's Elbows is only the first story in the Hammers and Hexes series.

Quality Isn't Related To Conditions

To explain the title - The quality of your writing is in no way related to how you feel as you write. This includes mental states like stress, physical states like illness, even emotional states like heartbreak. Note that this doesn't mean your state won't affect the tone of your writing, as it often does, merely the quality.

I first read this theory in Dean Wesley Smith's series "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing." If you haven't read that series, do so, including the comments. It will take a bit of time, but be well worth it in regards to furthering your writerly education.

Back to the matter at hand. I have not felt well lately. I've had a cold that has dragged on for nearly a week, as well as family matters dogging me emotionally. Yet I managed to complete a fairly light-hearted and enjoyable short story for last weeks day of challenge, and another one this week. I've done some writing over the last two weeks besides these stories, but not a whole lot.

If I were to believe that my sickness and general sense of lethargy would preclude my being able to write engaging prose, neither of the two recent stories would have been written. The fact that both turned out well, and are at least as good as anything else I've written, proves the matter. Quality of writing is independent of the circumstances of that writing.

So next time you feel to tired, sick, or emotional to write, do it anyway. Force the words out, one letter at a time if you have to. You may be pleasantly surprised by the quality of your output.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day Off Story Challenge - Round Four

I just completed my day off challenge story number four, as of three PM. I started writing this morning around ten, so this one took about five hours. It clocks in at 2,800 words. The title is "Minor Mutilators".

It took me longer to write this than the last few stories. I usually come closer to 700-800 words an hour. At my normal rate, this would have taken an hour or so less. However, I am sick today, and this story included more characters and complexity than usual, so I don't fell like I was really all that slow writing it.

I vacillated this morning between this story and a simpler one that only had two characters. This idea was one I added to my idea bank only a few days ago. But, I thought this idea was slightly more interesting, and I wanted to try to stretch out a little.

In the interest of demonstrating the process, for those curious, The original idea and the refinement are listed below. These are all the development I had, going into the challenge.

Idea - A micro race of aliens mutilates small animals.

Refinement - A collection of house pets team up to stop the menace of tiny alien animal mutilators.

The fun of this story is seeing how the animals, who are heavily personified, manage to defeat the aliens. I had a lot of fun coming up with the viewpoints of the house pets, and their names for themselves, as well.

As the last few stories, I would like to put the full story up, but my readership is so small that I feel it is best to keep it unpublished, and try to sell it. If I get more people reading, or publish it myself, I will likely put the story up here as well.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Now, when most of you think of multi-tasking, you probably think of consciously doing two things at the same time. Like talking on the phone and making dinner, or rubbing your tummy and patting your head. All good examples, but not what I'm thinking of.

What I want to talk about is the kind of multi-tasking where you prime your subconscious, and let it do the heavy lifting, while you go on about your life. You already do this all the time without realizing it. It's only a small step to doing it on purpose.

One way to utilize this is to fix your mind on a particular story you might be working on, just before you go to sleep. This works best with stories that you are stuck on, or unsure how to finish. Think about the characters, let your mind roam. Sometimes, you might have to jump out of bed and write the answer to your narrative problem, if it just pops into your head. Other times you might dream the answer, or have it come to you at a seemingly random point in your day.

I call this effect the "Internal Churn". Like the opposite of a woodchipper. You give your subconscious a bunch of fragments, and it will put together a narrative. Sometimes you may get so many ideas that you have to discard some, sift through them for the right one. Your subconscious will bust ass to be creative for you, if you let it.

I try to keep myself thinking about creative things throughout my day. I take a moment here and there to reflect on the stories I am writing, or want to write, and let the thoughts stew, then let go. I nearly always get far better return than if I continued to beat my head against a wall, trying to force creativity.

So - Focus, Fix, and Let Go. Easy peasy.

A few good references - Walter Jon Williams's Aristoi, Richard Bach's Illusions