0125 – One Key To Being a More Consistent Writer

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A co-worker and I were out for a walk on our break and started talking about writing. During the conversation I finally verbalized an issue I was having with being consistent at writing and answered it for myself too:

Me: “Back in March I was consistent with getting up at 5am every day and running. Ten weeks later I ran a half-marathon at a good pace. So I know when it comes to some things I have the capacity to be consistent for more than a week.”

Co-worker: “Why aren’t you consistent with writing then?”

Me: “Duh! Setting a plan / goal of 1,000 words a day is too vague and not detailed enough. Every year I set my mind to NaNoWriMo I can easily complete the challenge. . .at least I can easily complete it every year since I started planning ahead and outlining every scene I’m going to write.”

Co-Worker: “So you need a better plan?”

Me: “Yes, I need to write out a better, more detailed plan similar to using the S.M.A.R.T goals method. For the half-marathon I knew exactly what I would be doing every day for ten weeks. It was specific and achievable. Darn I’m so stupid sometimes!”

Are you struggling with consistency and motivation? Maybe you too can benefit from creating a specific writing plan to help you with consistency.

smartIMAGE FROM: http://hunterswritings.com/2014/07/10/productivity-fortnight-goals-to-tasks/

 

Here are two articles that hit on this topic of creating a writing plan for yourself:

Make a plan. Keep on writing!

0124 – Old Time Radio, GraphicAudio and Writing

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Back in the day (maybe ten years ago), I use to be part of a Yahoo! Groups where collectors of Old Time Radio Shows (1930’s through 1950’s mostly) would share their collection of different shows with other members of the group. In the year or more I was a member, I think I collected over 100,000 hours of radio shows (that’s a lot!). The radio shows in many instances had a cast of actors playing the characters, accompanied by studio guys/gals providing sound effects. In its time, this was the weekly ‘TV episode’ before everyone had a TV in their home.

oldtimeradio-1-1(Image from: http://www.amoeba.com/blog/2008/09/eric-s-blog/the-death-of-old-time-radio.html )

You can get a lot of shows off the Internet for free here:

Switching gears, slightly. . .

I realize in the 2000’s that one could find story dramatizations in the form of podcasts, thanks to Apple and their iPod products. I could also get Old Time Radio shows converted to podcasts and delivered to my phone and listen to it similar to listening to an audiobook. I never found out if there was a Windows specific community, like the Apple podcast community, but often one could find the appropriate software for any device and use it to access a podcast.

Switching gears, slightly and hopefully pulling it all together. . .

I exercise on average 30+ minutes for 3-5 times a week. If the weather allows (108 this past Monday. Ack!), then I like to get out for a run, since I’m a half mile from the American River in California. This becomes a perfect opportunity for audiobook listening. Recently I discovered GraphicAudio.

Screen Shot 08-19-15 at 01.15 PM

 (image from: http://www.graphicaudio.net/)

This site’s audiobook productions are top notch! They not only hire one or two actors to do the voice work, but have an entire cast of actors, with mood music, and tons sound effects. Its the best of audiobook and the best of Old Time Radio shows, but taken to an entirely new level (free short stories here).

As a reader, listening to stories in audio format uses an entirely different level of interaction and comprehension skills versus what is required when reading. As a writer, seeing how a company could potentially transform my story into ‘a movie in your head’ (as the tag line goes) is amazing.

I’m encouraged to keep writing to not only see my work in print/eBook — and with a cool cover — but see it converted to a GraphicAudio production or like audiobook. For others like myself, maybe having a new goal to get one’s story into audio formats may be another motivator.

Regardless the format, it still comes down to finishing my writing projects and getting the stories cleaned up and published. Find what motivates you and what goals you should set for yourself, but keep on writing!

 

 

Interlude – Some Free Reading E-Zines

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I’m one of the first to subscribe to several book lists that let me know about free or discounted Kindle books. In addition, to read voraciously, I subscribe to one or more of the following resources. Others may want to leverage these e-zines for their reading enjoyment and/or analysis of what other writers are doing through flash fiction, short stories or novellas.

http://www.quantummuse.com/ : Quantum Muse – speculative fiction e-zine that has been going on for a number of years and is a free subscription.

http://www.darkfictionmagazine.co.uk/ : Dark Fiction – no longer producing new content since 2013, but sixteen issues/episodes of reading and audio stories.

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/ : ClarkesWorld – Hugo Award winning speculative fiction e-zine. I’ve also seen print copies and Kindle copies available for sale on Amazon.

http://www.plotswithguns.com/ : Plots with Guns – No longer providing new issues, but click on the Archives section for some free mystery short stories.

http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/default.aspx : Shots – Crime and Thriller EZine – I’ve not necessarily found much on free stories, but lots of good articles on the craft of writing mystery fiction.

http://www.thrillingdetective.com/ : The Thrilling Detective – I found free mystery stories under the Fiction link (hard to find on this old-school web site) ranging from 1998 through 2009.

Also, many of the paid magazines (Asimov, Ellery Queen, etc.) have online versions if someone wanted to pay for those resources.

Hopefully this short  list of story / article resources will help keep people reading in between writing. Keep on writing!

 

 

 

 

 

0123 – One Key to Writing More

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Working to get back into daily habits and scheduled tasks for me means my daily list includes:

  • Devotional  / Scripture reading & meditation
  • Write 1,000 new words
  • Read <current book title>, before falling asleep at night
  • Complete at least one honey-do list item
  • Don’t just tell my wife and kids they are loved, but show them

Though I’m a Protestant, for my daily  devotional I’ve recently started reading — what is probably the second most read book in the world (Bible is #1) — which is a Catholic favorite titled: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis.

These meditations written down over 500 years ago, continue to challenge readers, Catholic or not. In Chapter III the author has a rhetorical question followed by a clear statement:

Who hath a harder battle to fight than he who striveth for self-mastery? And this should be our endeavor, even to master self, and thus daily to grow stronger than self, and go on unto perfection

It seems what most of us writers struggle with is, self-mastery. If we mastered self, then we would have little excuse not to meet our daily writing goals. With self-mastery we would write more, regardless of what life throws our way or our current emotional and/or mental state.

I’m convinced that on my own power I’ll never have the necessary level of self-mastery, as proven by working at this ‘writing thing’ for the last twenty-five years with little to show for it. I’m convinced by the Scriptures that the power of the Holy Spirit can change even me; empowering me to have the necessary self-mastery to accomplish what I’m called to do for my time in this world.

As I strive to tackle being a consistent writer and getting more words on paper, I’m choosing to rely on help from above to develop in me the necessary self-mastery. Combine this with keeping myself motivated through the tools available, I’m finding I am writing more.

Find what will help you with self-mastery and lead you to ‘perfection’, as you keep on writing!

 

 

0122 – Pictures to Write By

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Warning: A picture of a carcass below. If you get grossed out don’t go down to image #11.

I’m currently on vacation and captures some images as I was:

  • visiting the Asian market
  • spent way too much money at a local specialty bakery
  • was out for a scooter/bike-ride session with my daughter

Here are some images I captured on my phone that I’m using as writing prompts.

SIDENOTE: I realize I need to work on my picture taking ability. Sorry for the blurriness.

Goal is to use an image or several images to prompt some words to paper.

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1. Yummy! That top one in the middle is Tiramisu, but it looks like a cookie cake.
cakes_2015-07-24

2. Doesn’t UFC stand for Ultimate Fighting Championship? Also, what is banana sauce anyhow? I bought some to try!
Banana_sauce_2015-07-24

3. The squid before it’s made into calamari
Squid_2015-07-24

4. I have no idea what this seafood is, but it’s still alive and sitting in the water waiting for a customer to come deal with it.seafood2_2015-07-24

5. I’m not sure if these catfish make me think of kisses or spreading secrets with moths like those.seafood_12015-07-24

6. Not one of my favorites, but I know many really enjoy them.seafood02015-07-24

7. This is called Dragon Fruit and it looks like something out of a fantasy or sci-fi novel.dragonfruit_2015-07-24

8. I thought the parking lot of green carts was interesting. I’m sure Jackie Chan could make an entertaining fight scene with these.carts_2015-07-24

9. Another strange fruit from a far off planet. They look like maroon,round organismss with pink and green tentacles coming out.strange_2015-07-24

10. I loved how this guy not only has camo shorts, but a matching KNIT camo shirt. His clothes were salt-n-pepper camo and so was his hair. He really matched well.camo_2015-07-24

 

11. Sorry. This is an image of a deer carcass that has been deteriorating for at least a year since I first saw it along the side of the road. Someone pulled it out of the ditch and let the sun and elements get at it more, so it is less recognizable

carcass_2015-07-25

 

Hopefully these images sparked some ideas and helped put words to paper. Keep on writing.

0121 – A Writer Needing To Practice What He Preaches

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I’m in the final week of accelerated summer school courses and realized I haven’t posted in nearly four (4) full weeks. Decided to come take a look at the blog site and re-read the title and sub-header:

Screen Shot 07-22-15 at 01.10 PM

 

Hmmm?!?

This is the goal I set out for this blog: To encourage other writers that they can get their writing done while dealing with the rest of life. Yet, I’ve obviously not been blogging regularly, nor have I been writing privately.

I’m going to pause here for a second, head off-stage and have a short beat myself up session. . .

Okay I’m back.

For me, I know I need more than just drawing a line in the sand. I need to surround myself with the tools that motivate me:

  • Writing music
  • Reading good books
  • Attending local writer’s group
  • Actually putting new words to paper
  • Re-reading old ideas and seeing what new ideas spark
  • As I perform other activities, (watching TV, reading, standing in line at the Walmart return counter) I should be generating new ideas and writing them down on a notepad or something

For others it may be as simple as drawing a line in the sand.

Draw your line and keep on writing!

Draw-A-Line-in-the-Sand

 

(image source: http://www.redletterchristians.org/me-neither/)

 

0120 – Formula for TV / Movie Writing

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I’ve lacked in my posts thanks to an accelerated Accounting class during this summer session. I would not advise anyone who already has a full time job, kids, wife and other commitments to take Accounting as an accelerated class = lots of work, every day!

Between homework and other life commitments, I’ve been catching my share of movies and TV with the family. The following list is by far not complete in any sense, but I’ve noticed some common trends for what makes popular TV shows and movies.

1. The story needs anywhere from 5 to 9 ‘main’ characters, who all have different temperaments and/or desires.

  • TV Show, Castle: we have Castle, Det. Beckett, Martha, Det. Esposito, Det. Ryan, Alexis and Dr. Parish. All of these characters are protagonists, but all have very different personalities and goals.
  • Movie, Avengers:we have Ironman, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow, Agent Coulson, Agent Hill, Nick Fury and Selvig as our protagonists.

2. One central location where most of the interactions happen, with no more than one or two additional locations.

  • TV show, Stargate SG-1: we have the US government base hosting the stargate device and the one new location they travel to each episode.
  • Movie, Alien franchise: each movie pretty much takes place in a single location (spaceship, colony, prison, etc).
  • Movies like James Bond purposefully break this mold and try and travel to five or more locations throughout the movie. Adventure and action stories tend to be the exception, when a common plot device is adventuring to exotic locations.

3. Romantic involvement. . . whether some of us writers like it or not. Not only having a romantic storyline, but a forbidden love storyline is common.

  • TV Show, Vampire Diaries: this show plays with forbidden love a lot, as the human protagonist is drawn to the vampires in the story and visa versa; regardless of the danger this means for the human and/or vampire characters.
  • The movie and book, Twilight: if you’ve ignored it till now, its all about forbidden love.
  • Every TV show has a romantic involvement, except maybe Stargate SG-1. I think after ten seasons there may have been one hinted at relationship, but for the most part SG-1 is the one exception to every other show I can think of. Thus, even if writing romance into a story isn’t someone’s ‘thing’, it is an expectation of most popular shows / movies / books.

4. Humor goes a long way to drawing in the crowd. I’m not talking specifically about comedy shows or movies. Humor is similar to romance, in that there are few exceptions that don’t’ have a comic relief characters or comedic scenes.

  • TV Show, 24: this is a very serious show. But the writer’s mix in some humor with the character Chloe and/or her husband Morris that make you like the characters more and able to take a breath between the non-stop suspense.
  • The book and upcoming movie, The Martian: is another serious and life-threatening story with plenty of humor interspersed throughout.

5. Conflict. Conflict. Conflict. Whether external (aka the Bad guy) or internal (man vs himself), it is the conflict that drives the story and gives the viewer/reader something to cheer for.

  • Movie, Interstellar: the conflict is the Earth is dying and killing crops and people. The next conflict is the environment of space, time and gravity that works against our protagonists.
  • Almost every video game, even Minecraft, has elements or a distinct storyline that is all about conflict and drawing the player into that conflict.

6. People have secrets! This is tied to conflict, but I’m calling it out separate because it’s a easily plot tool to setup future conflict and drive moral decisions on the part of the characters.

  • TV Show, Arrow: is chalk full of people keeping secrets from each other. We as the audience may have more information for certain characters, which heightens  the drama, as we watch the character(s) work to reveal or keep some secrets secret.

7. A bit of mystery. Not the same as secrets per se, but there is often a macro plot where our protagonists are being impacted by external forces and they may not know why or who.

  • TV Show, Kyle XY: this show starts off with a mystery of who Kyle is, why he has no memories and how he can learn new things super fast.
  • For a non-stop action movie like, Mad Max Fury Road:   there is still a bit of mystery in this movie. The audience is not told till a bit later in the movie why Furiosa has left the expected route (happens within first 5min of movie) and is racing toward a completely different destination, nor what that destination is.

These are a few elements that seem to be requirements (aka the formula) in many TV shows and movies. As a writer, I shouldn’t look at this list as a burden or something being ‘forced’ on me, but an opportunity to add layers and depth to my story and characters.

Keep on writing!

 

 

0119 – Music Videos Can Help You Write

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This week I was watching ‘pop’ songs from Youtube, when I came across the song, Bad Blood by Taylor Swift (ft. Kendrick Lamar).

After watching this video, my first thoughts were that Taylor Swift has definitely left Country and embraced pop/rap. Besides that, this is a mini-movie with a lot of speculative fiction elements. Since I like sci-fi, fantasy and action stories this video was generating all kinds of ideas thanks to the creativity of the video writers.

Some writing ideas I personally get from this music video:

  • Rival mercenaries, who’s paths keep crossing, as they try to one-up each other
  • Team of villains, with codenames
  • Androids who are recycled, then re-deployed for further field work
  • Field medic robots running to save the human fighters on the battlefield
  • Super-models who are trained as assassins and do hit jobs while visiting other countries under the guise of their photo shoot
  • Sci-fi cop duo who patrol colony sites to bring justice
  • A futuristic cage fight-to-the-death competition where you either kill your opponent or die, no escape

These may seem stupid and not really ideas but it works for me. I could take these initial thoughts and combine them with a problem or a ‘What if?’, then grow the idea into something more.

Today I also watched the video, Photograph by Ed Sheeran, and thought of a time-travel story across the lives of this person, as he meets himself in different times:

Since many of us are distracted by Youtube and other sites, let’s turn what was once wasted time into a semi-productive event by generating ideas and writing more from those ideas.

Keep on writing!

0118 – Turning Flash Fiction Into a Published Work

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Back on post 0115 – Free Flash Fiction Writing Course, we find an opportunity to learn more about writing flash fiction. Granted flash fiction isn’t for everyone and honestly for me I really only participate in it as part of my warm up before writing 1,600-2,000 words in an hour.

Since I published science fiction short stories (publication list here), I’ve been watching the Top Paid and Top Free Kindle sci-fi books on Amazon. A few times I’ve seen, 30 Second Sci Fi: Three Hundred and Sixty-five Stories of a Science-Fictional Nature  by Philip Trippenbach on the first page of results (top 20).

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image from: http://30secsf.com/

I find Mr. Trippenbach’s effort genius. To put in words that apply to me specifically:

  • Daily I’m writing.
  • Daily I can choose the exercise of flash fiction as my warm up for other writing.
  • After 365 days, those flash fiction pieces can take on a different use; by being edited and published into their own book.
  • Another book in my portfolio may be very helpful to my writing career.

I love ideas where I’m killing two birds with one stone, and this is a perfect example of that. Being more efficient and purposeful with our writing, means saving time and getting more potentially publishable words onto paper.

Consider converting your daily writing prompts, timed writings and/or warm up exercises into something that can be published in the end. Maybe this will give those short writing sessions more purpose and benefit for you too.

Keep on writing!