0130 – Not Too Late To Start (re-start) Writing

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I subscribe to Writer’s Digest Magazine and read articles every now and again. I should make better use of my subscription and read it more often, but that’s another story. What I don’t often do is read the letter from the editor. But in the latest November/December 2015 issue, I really liked the letter from the editor, Jessica Strawser:

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Never Say Never
Let’s get one thing out of the way: The idea of feeling like it might be “too late” to do something doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with age.

I remember vividly the first time I was overcome with the unsettling sensation that certain ships had sailed. I was a new college graduate folding myself into the “real world”—and the realization that my unstructured, unspoken for days for the year ahead could suddenly be counted on my fingers
(weekends notwithstanding) made my blood still. I peered out at the sea of cubicles around me, anchored in a bigger sea of landlocked Midwestern states, and took a big, swift kick at myself. Why had I not studied abroad in college? Why had I not taken more than a week after graduation—the summer off, perhaps—before punching my first time card? There was no going back now. This was it. This was how it would be until … retirement? What had I done?

Of course, especially now that I’m raising a family of my own, that temporary sense of despair sometimes seems almost laughable now. I didn’t have anyone but me to take care of. It wasn’t really too late to travel, or to take more time to find myself, or to change my mind—about anything. The opportunities to take those paths just weren’t going to be as readily available. Pursuing them would require more strategizing. More careful planning. More guts.

I think that is what we really mean when we lament that it might be “too late” to do something with our writing—to publish our first book, or to leave our day job and try writing full time, or to break out of a genre we’ve somehow gotten pigeonholed into, or even just to boldly say the words “I’m a writer!” out loud. Whether we’re 25 or 75, when the voices in our heads whisper that it’s too late, or when we mumble those loaded words to a well-meaning friend who asks, “Whatever happened to your idea to …”, what we’re really saying is that we wish we’d done it already. Th at we wish it were easier to do it now. That we don’t really know how to get started, or what to do next. That we’re afraid of what people will think, or afraid to have regrets later, afraid to make mistakes, afraid to fail.

When you think of it that way, it’s clear that it’s never really “too late.” We just need to believe that we can do it, to be willing to take action, and to form a plan. This issue is loaded with road maps to help you pursue the detours you’ve been dreaming of. Learn from other writers who’ve taken the long way  around. Get inspired to map out your own trip. Fill your tank, pack your bags and embrace the journey as part of the destination. When you get there, as editor and author Stephanie Stokes Oliver so wisely says in her essay on Page 29, you won’t be late. You’ll be right on time.

I’m in my mid-40’s and though I haven’t done as much writing as I could have or should have since I started this journey 20 years ago. . .it’s still not too late for me. It’s not too late for you either.

Whether you are starting for the first time or re-starting your writing journey. . .at least start!

Then keep on writing!!

0129 – Fiction Writing Should Remain a Hobby

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I titled this post as such and I should have added on an ellipsis (…) to the end of the title. This way readers would know there is more to the statement. I’m still not 100% sold that fiction should only be a hobby, but the following thought process is once again pushing me into the non-fiction writer camp.

In a previous posts titled, Book Review: “Damn! Why Didn’t I Write That?” by Marc McCutcheon, I followed the link in that blog and reread the full review I posted on Amazon. I was reminded about McCutcheon’s argument: Authors who want to make a living at writing should (need to) focus on non-fiction.

I went out to my  garage and found the physical book and reread my highlights (yes, I will write, color and highlight in a book). This also reminded me, that often the market news through Publisher’s Weekly seems to say: Fiction sales are often outpaced by non-fiction sales.

These events lead me to the following questions:

  • Why am I doing this writing ‘thing’?
  • Why do I more often write fiction instead of non-fiction?
  • Which is cooler, my new sci-fi / fantasy idea that a small number of readers may enjoy or the $$$ from being a best selling non-fiction writer?
  • If having a positive impact on people’s lives is one of my writing goals, wouldn’t that better be accomplished with non-fiction than fiction?
  • When I sit and brainstorm non-fiction, I can come up with book ideas and chapter ideas more easily than fiction. So why don’t I focus on that type of writing instead of making it more difficult on myself?
  • Where can I better be a standout writer by addressing a niche or mainstream audience: fiction or non-fiction?
  • What motivates me to write?
  • Can I use that motivation for either fiction or non-fiction, or does my motivation only work for one and not the other?
  • As a follower of Christ, what am I convinced God has called me to do in regards to this writing thing?
  • Wouldn’t the best and ‘guaranteed’ success lie with being in God’s will around writing?
  • Am I fighting or rebelling against any of the answers above, because an answer may mean a lot of hard work and I already ‘feel’ like I work hard at my day job and family life?
  • If I’m shying away from the hard work (editing is not a favorite task of mine!), if I simply buckle down for a short twenty-four months to reach some writing goals, what sort of rewards could there be and how will that change my life, my family’s life and those within my circle of influence?

It sounds like I need to:

  • Spend some time in prayer
  • Journal my answers to the above questions
  • Reevaluate previous answers to these questions
  • Address any new questions that come up through this self-discovery process

Regardless, if a primary goal of being a writer is to reach readers by selling books…then McCutcheon’s book is still in the back of my mind arguing:

  1. Write non-fiction, because you’ll sell more books and in turn reach more people
  2. Since you are selling more with non-fiction you can better support your writing career and reap royalties for years to come
  3. Use fiction for hobby writing

If you decide to answer the above questions, you too may find yourself leaning toward the non-fiction camp. True, some writers can write both and others need to write both in order to keep themselves busy and motivated. But dividing one’s time and energy could lead to frustration, lack of efficiency in writing and ultimately confuse your audience because they don’t know what type of writer you are.

Whether fiction or non-fiction. Hobby or career. Whatever answers you may have for yourself to these questions, it comes down to: keep on writing!

0128 – Once Upon A Time…a Storytelling Card Game

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Whether practicing storytelling on my own or encouraging my kids to learn and practice this art, it’s always nice to find a ‘tool’ to help the process along. Thus the card game, Once Upon a Time, published by Atlas.

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Originally Published: 1993

# of Players: 2-6

Suggested ages: 8+

Avg. Play Time: 30 minutes

Basically you as a player has an ‘ending card’, which is your game goal…to wrap up the story in a way that matches your story ending card.

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You also have other cards in your hand that you want to discard throughout the game, such as places, things, etc. You can use these cards to tell your story or to interrupt and take control of the story away from another player who used a keyword in their story that matches one of the cards in your hand.

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You could play to win, by discarding your cards quickly through some creative storytelling. It’s an option but not the best way to play, in my opinion.

What makes the game fun are the stories players come up with. Sometimes the stories are completely crazy and absurd, that the other players cannot help but laugh out loud. Other times, the stories are incredibly engaging that all other players forget they are playing a game to win, because they want to keep listening to that person’s story.

You can get a good feel for players that play to win and players that get wrapped up in their own storytelling, as demonstrated through this Tabel Top episode S02E03 from Wil Wheaton (NOTE: I haven’t watched this particular episode in its entirety, in about a year. But the show has been known to have some adult themes and/or language):

There is also a writer’s handbook that walks a writer through how to use this game to write stories, here.

Overall my kids love this game and dig the fairytale artwork. We have yet to try any of the expansions, as the base game already provides plenty of storytelling opportunities.

Get your storytelling on and keep on writing!

 

 

 

0127 – A Game to Get You Writing

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Perusing Steam games, there was a sale earlier this week and one of the games on sale was, Elegy for a Dead World. Basically you are an explorer visiting planets. As you find artifacts, ruins, etc., you are prompted to write what happened.

There is also the option to upload your writing for others to read and up-vote your pieces. Also you can read other writers and up-vote the pieces you like the most.

This ‘game’ has wonderful sounds, visuals, mood music and good writing prompts. When my character moves to a point that activates a writing prompt, I find myself in the perfect mood and mindset to write.

Here are some screenshots from the trailer video. . .

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Maybe there will soon be another sale on this product. Sale or not, some may find it worth investing in as a new ‘tool’ that will help get you writing more.

Keep on writing!

0126 – A Healthy Size List of Reading Recommendations


NOTE: This is a long post. Good news, it’s mostly a bullet list.

The lists come from handouts I picked up at the Folsom,CA Library, as recommendations for reading in different genres / categories. No additional information on how these lists were compiled. For all I know it was the Friends of the Library group that put this together, or the Library has a bazillion copies of certain books, or these are the books with long wait lists because everyone wants to read them.

Lists are from different months/years, as listed.
It is not a mistake that some titles show up on multiple lists.
Some genres have sub-categories and others do not.

A lot of unusual names, so hopefully I didn’t mistype any.
Sorry, I just don’t have the time to direct link all the titles to Amazon or some other site nor create jump links from the ‘table of contents’ below to the genre/categories below that. Also, don’t forget to click the ‘continue reading‘ link below.

There are some obvious choices in a few categories and many that may be new discoveries for others to enjoy.

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IMAGE FROM: http://www.socialtalent.co/blog/books-for-recruiters

 

Categories /Genres:
  • Thrillers
  • Mysteries
  • Cozy Mysteries
  • Spy Games: International Politics & Terrorism
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Christian Fiction
  • Historical Fiction: From Prehistoric to The Age of Discovery
  • Historical Fiction: Modern Era 1750 to Present

Continue reading

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.

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 (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!