Quick Update

Hello friends.

Just a quick update. We wrapped up principle filming on our short film. We will have to do a couple of re-shoots, but it is essentially “in the can.” It feels really gratifying to have completed this leg of the project so far. Working on a creative project is always the most fulfilling for me. The editing process will take some time, but I hope it will be a gratifying experience. I have found editing to be a surprisingly satisfying process.

As for actual writing? Nope. Still haven’t had the time/energy/motivation. We moved to a new house at the same time I was hired to teach English, and we are trying to sell our old house. Just far too many changes happening to be able to sit down and write. Not to mention I have to get my Masters degree to keep teaching. So, I’ll be busy, busy.

But, I do intend to keep writing. I wouldn’t use the word “compelled,” necessarily. I think that is a bit pretentious. I do feel driven to keep writing. I’m leaning toward not editing the first novel, but actually rewriting it completely. There is a possibility of a second novel rattling around somewhere up there, but I’ve yet to really come up with anything other than the seed of an idea. But, that seed keeps poking at my brain, reminding me it is there. As Stephen King said, if it keeps coming back, it is probably worth writing about.

Until next time friends,

Write on.

I’m not dead, yet…

It has been almost two years since my last entry. I apologize (not that anyone reads these but me!). But, I think it might be useful to someone someday.

Last we met I had finished my novel and but yet edited it. I still haven’t, though more from being busy with other projects that simply choosing not to. I did decide to not be as precious about it and sent it out to some beta readers without having edited it first.

As of now, I haven’t written anything since, as I have been quite busy. My life has taken some unexpected turns in the past couple of years. I went from being a receptionist to an English teacher, opening a video production company, and still doing comedy on the side.

I welcome these changes, but they have put a damper on my writing life. The good thing is that I am now teaching my students creative writing, which forces me to dig deeper into the concepts for myself as well as them. It provides me the opportunity to improve my craft through a better understanding of the techniques and methods used in effective writing.

But, despite not writing, I’m still trying to focus on story. My production company and some friends will be making a film this summer. Though I didn’t write the script, I have found that I also enjoy creating story visually as well as in writing.

The point of this is not to “flex,” as the kids put it, but to illustrate that our lives don’t always go the way we intend, but that we should be open to the opportunities life puts in our path. I am gratefully saying, “Yes, and” to the mysteries of life.

Until next time, write on.

The Art of Procrastination


  Can’t start yet. I’m out of paper, man…

Hey there. Been a while. That’s kind of the point of this post. Procrastination. We all know it, we all hate it. And yet, it is a persistent lurking presence in our lives, one that keeps us from achieving our goals. Why is that? Well, for me it is a combination of things. The first and most obvious is that I am very lazy. I try not to be, but I just don’t seem to have any energy most times. Which brings me to the crux of the post. My novel.

I don’t tell you about this to make the blog about me, per se. The intent of this blog has always been to give any insights I might have gained or will gain about my journey to become a published author (which still hasn’t happened).

I finished my novel a year ago. That’s it. Continue reading

Milestone Accomplished…but still not published

When I started this blog, I had one very simple goal: to become a published author. My original plan was to start by writing some short stories and trying to get them published with a recognized/reputable source other than e-publishing, simply because I wanted to. Nothing wrong with self-publishing, but I suppose I need that validation from a traditional publisher to satisfy my fragile and starving ego.


Well, I got a little off track. Rather than working on several short stories, I found myself writing my first novel. I can’t exactly say why other than the fact that I decided to participate in a NaNoWriMo-style write-a-thon. I missed the actual event, so I did my own. I wrote everyday (or nearly), with a minimum of 1000 words or more per day. In the end I had written around 40,000 words and decided I needed to finish the book.

Continue reading

Oops…my mistake.

I’ve been plugging away at my novel. Currently, I’m sitting at about 85,000 words, but I still haven’t reached the climax. I’m close, but I probably have at least 15 to 20 thousand more to go. Which means I’m going to have to do quite a bit of editing and revising. This, despite the fact I created a pretty detailed timeline during the outlining phase of this book. It is my very first novel though, so I’m hoping the next book will go a little more according to plan. As of right now though, it feels a bit as if I’m wandering though a dark wood, with a map that doesn’t make a lot of sense. download

I have found that even though I did the outline that I did a lot of “discovery” writing. In other words, I wrote several scenes that were not included in my outline. Why? Well, mostly it is because that is where my mind naturally went as I was writing. I think this is a vital component to good writing. Not to say that my writing is good, but I think discovery is a vital part of any artistic endeavor. It is often the little mistakes, deviations, and tangents in our art that make it interesting.

Recently, I’v just started watching the show Six Feet Under, and Claire mused about whether great artists make great art by mistake. I have also had this thought. When I was cq5dam-web-1200-675in art class, many of my best works had more character because I made an unexpected decision or error while laying down some ink or paint over my carefully drawn sketch. Perhaps it isn’t that great artists don’t make mistakes, but that they know to trust their intuition when they do, and to incorporate those things into their final pieces.

It is likely that if any accomplished writers or artists are reading this, they are saying, “Duh.” Perhaps this is something everyone already knows. But, for beginners, it is liberating to know your work doesn’t have to be flawless to be good. Who knows, it may even be great.

Until next time, write on.

What’s in a Name?

Whenever you see a really great movie or hear a beautiful song for the first time, what is the inevitable next thing we all do? That’s right, obsessively look up the artists, learn everything about their lives, the names of their children, and their underwear preference. Oh, don’t act like you don’t do that too. addicted

We live in a culture that often worships celebrity more than we appreciate the art they create. This cult of personality approach leads to several problems in my view. First, when the artist then does something reprehensible, we as consumers must decide if we will continue to support the artist and the people representing them by paying money for their work. Second, the work falls out of favor when the artist does.

Think of Bill Cosby (if we must). He was a beloved house-hold name for decades. Then, in a blink of an eye, he is swept under the proverbial rug of our minds because of his reprehensible acts of serial rape. Talk about a fall from grace. But, do we then erase the contribution his art has had on our cultural history? Perhaps.

This brings me to pseudonyms. The use of a pen name is an old tradition, used for many purposes. For some, it was about hiding their identity, specifically their gender or race, in order to prevent the consumers’ personal biases from preventing the purchase of their work. In other cases, authors use pen names to differentiate the different styles of stories they wrote. Think Stephen King and Richard Bachman. Some authors have up to five pseudonyms!

As an artist, the idea of not putting your name on your work is a bit frightening. Many want the recognition that comes with a published story or painting in a gallery. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ego can easily become inflated though.

I have personally decided to use a pen name. My reasons are varied and probably pretentious. But, let me explain my reasons and see if you agree.

  1. Ego
    As I said, it is very easy for egos to become inflated out of control when an artist begins to see some success. Even worse is when they have an ego before they’ve even done anything. I’ve been to writing conferences where I’ve endured several ego-1long minutes of an aspiring writer describing in amazing detail the world they’ve created for their novel. Granted, writer’s conferences are supposed to be safe places where this is not only allowed, but encouraged. However, I can only hear about so many ways that their dragons are different from everyone else’s.

    Using a pen name gives you one degree of removal from your art. And, depending on how much you protect your actual identity, that keeps you removed from talking about yourself too much unless you are doing so as your pseudonym.

  2. Helps take the artist out of the equation
    I’ve posted before on how I feel about Reader Response vs. Authorial Intent. To summarize, in my view it is paramount what the reader gets from the experience rather than what the author may have intended. Authorial intent to me is yet again about ego.

    As artists, once we create something and then put it out into the ether for consumers to pay us money for, it then becomes theirs. They are free to do with it what they wish. They can burn it, throw it down a well, or resell it even. So, why then can they not interpret it how they wish? Everything they need to know about the book is contained in the pages they read. There is no reason to inject the author’s point of view.

  3. Freedom
    Ideally, a writer should be able to write about anything they wish. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes we write about people and places we know, and they may not always be represented in the best light. While we writers should, as the great Lee Maynard once said, stand in the middle of the room and yell, “This is mine!” when it comes to our stories, sometimes it is better if that is done via the proxy of your pseudonym.


    Not quite what I mean by writing freedom…

    Many people who are not writers do not understand the process writers use when creating characters, places, and events in their stories. If done well, the writer will not take a character whole-cloth from their real lives, but often piece them together to form a character chimera. And, while it is true that authors use parts of themselves in their writing, that doesn’t mean the author’s love poem is about another woman, or the narrator’s desire to murder anyone is an unspoken urge of the writer. Please, DO NOT use a writer’s work as a way to psychoanalyze them. While it is true that parts of them are in there, most of it is distorted and twisted out of true to achieve the greatest emotional impact.

Whether or not you use a pseudonym is a completely personal choice that comes with its own complications and benefits. But, consider the idea that artists should not be revered in and of themselves, but rather the work they produce. Let’s stop prostituting personalities and put the focus back on the art.

Until next time, write on.


I’m Not a Real Writer…Yet.

The thing most writers say about how to become a writer is to write… Seems pretty obvious. But, in reality, it can be very difficult. Trying to establish a regular regimen and stick to it can be quite a challenge in today’s’ world with its myriad distractions and time wasters. The only way you will ever be a real writer is to make writing your main focus.

jim carrey

Which is why I’m failing.

The truth is I don’t really write every day, certainly not on my novel. I may do a little bit of social media writing (which I always try to treat as an actual writing assignment, focusing on my craft even then), but not any substantial or purposeful writing.

Really, I should be posting more blog posts as well, as the only way to stay relevant in the blog game is to post often and to interact with other bloggers. I tried that at first, it was nearly a full-time job in and of itself. Not to mention that I spent more time doing that than writing fiction, which is my focus.

boringAt least I have managed to try and pick up some writing jobs on the side so at least I was getting paid for some of the stuff I write. But, overall, I’m still trying to shoehorn writing into my life alongside my day job and my side job as an improv teacher and performer.

I have managed to complete 45,000 (very rough) words on my novel, but I’m far from completing it. I was writing on it every day for about a month, but life and mental illness go in the way and slowed and eventually halted my progress.

It isn’t always the best writers who succeed in this business. It is those who are the most dedicated and willing to put in the time and effort. I’ve never been very good at that, especially considering writing is difficult for me due to the distractions and lack of mental focus. But, like many of you, I persist without exactly knowing why.

So, here is my novice writing advice to any of you out there who are struggling as I am: Don’t write every day.


It will wear you out. Instead, set aside just an hour or two a week that is dedicated only to writing. Start with that. For me, baby steps are essential, not because I’m not capable of the craft, but because I don’t develop habits and routines easily. In that hour or two a week. write with purpose and dedication. Turn off all distractions, lock the door, and settle in. Do that for a month, six months, a year. Hopefully, you can then tack on another hour here and there until you are writing steadily. That is my hope for myself as well.

My last piece of advice would be this: Forgive yourself when you fall short.

Inevitably, and without fail, I let myself and those around me down. I have come to expect that of myself, not because I want to, but because it is just in my nature. But, because some of it is beyond my control, I don’t linger on it. I accept that the action was my own, make amends, and move on.

The same is true of your writing. If something happens and throws you out of your routine, or you find that you can’t write that day, or perhaps you have other projects you want to focus on, that is okay. Forgive yourself for doing that, but also knowing that it hinders you on your path to becoming a writer. Just don’t give up.

Until next time, write on.


Writing a Novel…

writerHere I am, a struggling writer, unpublished and far from reaching that goal. Why then am I trying to write a novel? It would seem the more logical approach would be to write short stories, a lot of short stories, and try to get them published to provide income, publishing credits, and start building that ever important platform. But, this novel has been banging around in my head for about three years now, and something has been telling me I need to get it on paper.

I don’t really do NaNoWriMo, as it stresses me out to try to keep up with quotas, despite the fact that if I do want to become a writer, and I’ll need to do just that. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to write the novel for a couple of reasons that I feel are pertinent to other beginning writers out there.

  1. I’m a lazy writer. I have always struggled with the fact that I actually don’t like to write. Writing is far too slow for my ADD brain, and it is a tedious and tiring process for me. So, I am not very prolific, at all. But, when I decided I wanted to write this novel, and gave myself a small goal, a baby step, to encourage myself to build a new habit.lazy businessmanPreviously, I only wrote occasionally when a story idea would strike. Now, I’ve tried to dedicate myself to writing 1000 words a day on the novel. That doesn’t mean I can’t write more if the feeling strikes, but that also means I can’t count words typed for a blog post or anything else. Those are extra.
  2. You don’t know what you don’t know. Those are perhaps the smartest words uttered by a politician. I feel somewhat comfortable with the structure of a short story. It is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t typically require too much planning in advance.A novel, however, is a much different animal. To be fair, I have read some novels that feel and are structured much like a short story, but they tend to be few and far between. When I first  had the idea for the novel I decided to try to “pants it,” or discovery write the story. I knew generally what I wanted it to be about, but not much else. I made it to chapter two before I had to give up. That was three years ago.SURPRISESince then, I’ve worked on an outline and a few character studies, as well as put some real thought into the structure of the story and what kind of tale I want to write. That has helped immensely. Though, I still leave room for impromptu changes as I write. And believe me, the story often surprises me with where it wants to go. Sometimes that is a good thing, and other times it means some major cutting and rewriting.

    But, the thing that struck me most was how little I understood about story structure when I scaled up from a short story to a novel length piece. Not only that, but I kept finding myself stopping to look up terminology or history in order to be able to move to the next piece of writing. Granted, as I write more of these (dear God, help me), I may learn to just write through it and come back to it later. But, for now I feel compelled to stop and make sure I grasp the concepts.

  3. Working on a steady project keeps me writing. In the short time I’ve been writing this book, about 35 days, I have found that I look forward to writing now, where I didn’t before when I was trying to come up with a short story from scratch. When I load up Scrivener (wonderful writing program if you get a chance), I read through the previous day’s final paragraph, then I’m off and running.Now, I realize that despite having  27,000 words, I have a long way to go, not only to reach my target goal of between 80-90k words (industry standard for fiction), but also that once I reach that goal, it is only the beginning of the real work. I still haven’t tackled editing such a large piece, and I can already tell I will have to murder many of my darlings and not so darlings.

So, if you are just starting out as a writer, I still recommend you begin with short stories until you feel comfortable with turning a story idea into a completed work. That will give you the basic understanding of story structure and composition.

But, as soon as you feel you have an idea for a novel, don’t be afraid to start giving it some thought. Do a rough outline and explore your characters a little bit. Write a short story about the idea you want to do as a rough draft, and many things about your story will reveal themselves. Then, try your hand at doing a full novel. You’ll be amazed how much you learn about the process by actually doing it. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to publish that novel. There’s  a reason many authors’ first books are usually the third or fourth to be published.The-End

Until next time, write on.

Framing–A Literary Device, or just Gimmick?

Have you ever been brainstorming an idea for a story when something just hits you, and you think, “Man, this is a great idea!” Immediately, you take up a pencil, or power on the second-hand laptop you picked up from that sketchy guy at the mall, and start writing. The words flow and the idea begins to emerge. Only when you’re halfway through do you go back and read what you’ve written, only to say, “Hmmm…this story about a boy that goes to wizard school to fight an ultimate evil sounds vaguely familiar…”18lt1cjz93obajpg

No matter how original your idea, chances are someone has beaten you to it first. That doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, take it as a challenge to write someone else’s idea, but with your own spin.

In that vein, I give you “Framing.” I’m sure there is a proper term for this technique, but I’ve been unable to find it (if anyone knows it, please leave me a note in the comments). What is framing? Think of it in terms of filmmaking. When a director or cinematographer sets up a shot for a scene, the frame that scene with the camera. In other words, it is what the camera is pointing at.

How does that work for fiction? Well, think of it as shifting the focus of an idea in such a way that you can explore well-trodden literary ground but still have a fresh angle on it.

For example, let’s say you would like to write a story about aliens. Well, you will be hard-pressed to come up with something that hasn’t been done to death on Syfy, or by the plethora of sci-fi writers since 1950. What to do? Frame the story a different way. Rather than concentrate on the aliens, turn the camera to one of the people indirectly experiencing the alien invasion.

alien-outside-car1At this point, the “camera” isn’t even looking at the aliens. They are just in the background. Your story now focuses on characters that are only indirectly affected by the main action. Instead, the story may focus on the love story happening in the midst of the alien invasion.

For me, this helps me to avoid writer’s block. Instead of trying to come up with a brand new alien story, I instead just dig into the human condition (which is fresh no matter how many times we write about it) and search for the stories that are universal amidst a story that isn’t.

This is the same approach many “indie” stories and films take in order to skew the angle at which they attack a cliched story idea. So, go ahead and brainstorm all you like about werewolves, artificial intelligence, aliens, time traveling, and superheroes. Once you’ve settled on an idea you want to explore, shift the focus and frame the story in a way that makes it more universal, and therefore unique to you as you tell it.

Write on!

Cognitive Biases–How they affect your writing

Writing Wranglers and Warriors

PortraitThis post is by Craig Snider.

When we write, we are attempting to capture the essence of some part of the human experience. Even when our characters are animals, they serve to highlight some aspect of human nature that is brought out in relief against an animal existence. To do so, it requires the writer to have a strong grasp on psychology, both of other people, and of themselves. Writers must always be examining people, their motivations, their fears, their desires, and anything and everything that will shed light on why people behave the way they do, to ensure their writing is as accurate to real life as possible.

In that way, writers are amateur psychologists and anthropologists, mining the human mind for the ethos, pathos, and logos that determine behavior. One of those aspects of human psychology a writer must consider is our innate cognitive biases.

Wikipedia says…

View original post 650 more words