Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Goal #5 -- Spiritual Development

Goal: Read 1 chapter of the Bible per day, read 1 book of C.S. Lewis per month, read 1 day of "My Utmost for His Highest" per day.

Goal: Ongoing...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Goal #3 -- Focused Reading

Goal: Read the following per month...
-1 Genre Fiction Novel (SFF, Thriller, Horror, Romance, etc.)
-1 Mainstream Fiction Novel
-5 Short Stories
-1 Nonfiction Book (Philosophy, History, Science, etc.)
-1 Book on Business or Publishing
-1 Book on Writing

Deadline: 25 December 2012

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 Goal #2 -- Traditional Publication

Goal: Submit 12 short stories and 4 novels to traditional markets.

Deadline: 25 December 2012

Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 Goal #1 -- Amazon Publication

Goal: Publish 20 items on through Kindle Direct Publishing.

Deadline: 25 December 2012

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Plan

The desire to write grows with writing.
-Desiderius Erasmus
Here we go...

Okay, finals? Check.

NaNoWriMo? Check.

Travel home? Check.

Write? Check...but just for today.

Contact readers? Check.

Send stories to readers? Check.

Spend time with family? Check.

Procrastinate? Check.

Okay, I guess it really is time to write this post.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Second Story: Complete

Well... this is taking longer than expected...

Over the weekend, I finally finished the second short story. It's about an android infiltrator who goes to college. It's got a couple of fun bits, a creepy turn toward the end, and what I think is a beautiful last line. (I tweeted it when I finished.)

Unfortunately, there's a big chunk of missing character conflict in the middle (easy enough to fix, really; I just need to add a scene in) and the concept sounds far more fun than the reality. So it needs work.

But it's finished. In the midst of Finals and everything else, I managed to rise up out of my procrastination and Resistance in order to finish it.

So now I'm struggling with the next one.


I'll keep you posted.

Until next time...
-josh k.

Second Story Stats
Title: "The Changer and the Student"
Genre: SF-lite.
Length: 4,859 words / ~17 pages.
Premise: Robby, an android shapeshifter, learns what it's like to live with a roommate.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reader's Block Presentation

Hey, everybody. So, things have been abundantly busy and stressful this week. As a result, I have gotten none of my work done unless it's for class. (And even some of that has been difficult to squeeze in.)

Even though I don't have anything to share about my short story sprint project (which is quickly metamorphosing into "the short story crawl" :-/  [Odd, I thought things were supposed to get better when they "metamorphosed."]), I do want to share with you a semi-creative piece I did as a part of my group presentation for the Introduction to Literary Genres: the Novel, class.

A brief background: Reader's Block is an experimental novel by David Markson that weaves numerous quotes from literary figures into a bare-bones story about a man known only as Reader who is trying to write a book about a character named Protagonist. It is this word-tapestry style that I attempted to emulate in presentation on the surrounding context of Markson's work, using the internet.

Right. Okay. And now for something completely different.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

First Story: Complete

Finished the first short story earlier today. Took me about two and a half days to complete it, and it clocks in at about 7,800 words.

I'm not really sure how I feel about this one. It took me longer than I would have liked, ended at a longer length than I would have liked, and all around was more difficult to write than I would have liked.

That being said, I'm still excited about the world that this story comes from. It's what I like to describe as a clockpunk western. It takes the feeling of isolation and lawlessness from frontier American life, and mixes it with the crazy inventions that rise out of the Steampunk genre, without relying on too much of the fantastical magic.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Project -- the Short Story Sprint

Okay, I think it's finally time to lift the veil of mystique from around this new project.

It's pretty simple, folks. During the month of December, I plan to write one short story per day.

Exempting myself for Christmas, that means I should have 30 new stories by the end of the month.

Daunting? Yes.

Very much so, because I am utterly incapable of writing a short story. And that's the main reason I'm doing this. I feel reasonably confident of my ability to write longer fiction, but telling succinct stories (and, really, just straight-up finishing things) is still difficult for me.

Thus, I am going to practice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 30

So, this is weird. I feel like I'm sitting in limbo.

For the first time in weeks, I don't have a writing project on my hands.

Now, that's all going to change tomorrow (I'll talk about that then). But for now, it's... actually kind of scary. I'm floating around looking at all the time I have on my hands and not getting anything done (more or less). I made some progress on my reading, played some video games, and generally wasted time.

It was kind of miserable. Not having anything to write felt... wrong, somehow.

I did enjoy it, sure. And I do think it was a good thing (that's a big shift, by the way; for the longest time I felt terrible every time I took a day off). Breaks are necessary in order to "refill the well," as Brandon Sanderson likes to say.

All that being said, though, I'll be glad to get back to writing tomorrow. I don't want to lose this momentum.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 29

Way, kitty. I'm finished.
Well. That's that. My NaNoWriMo adventure comes to a close. Sorry I've been quiet for the past week. Between the holiday and the traveling and the trying-to-get-the-book-done, I've been a bit busy. I would have liked to offer my insights on the last leg of the project, but... well, it just didn't happen.

Wow, though. This feels good.

You may or may not know this, but Sentinel is only the third book that I've managed to type "The End" on (and I'm going to type "The End" on all my books, it just feels too good to pass up).

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 21

No, you stupid cat. I'm allergic! :-(
Well, I guess that's what I get for sleeping in this morning.

So, for those of you who don't have to live with me this week, you should know that I've been getting up consistently at 7:30 in the morning to do two hours of writing before getting started on other things for the day. It's been an amazing practice to get into, and it's probably the main reason I've gotten so much done.

I've also been sleeping on the couch. That detail is important for this next bit.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 20

No comment; just cutes.
K, I'm all caught up now. :D

On a few other notes, here are some things I've realized over the past 24 hours.

1. I no longer complain about not having enough time.

Now, I'm not saying that I got more time, or even that I do have enough. Rather, I stopped complaining about it.

For those who don't know what I mean, here's an example. If you knew me when I was younger, you might have found me wishing for more time, complaining that "I don't have enough time for that." Heck, I used to put "Time" down half-jokingly as the first item on my birthday list each year.

That's how much I wanted time to write (and do other things, of course, but mostly write).

I don't do that anymore.

What changed?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 19

Yeah, that's kind of how I feel right now. :-)
There we go. That's more like it.

Somehow, even though I've been home almost all day, I've still managed to sit myself down for TWO whole writing sessions.

Which, as you should know from reading these posts, gives me almost 5,000 words for today!


Granted, I'm not caught up yet. But if I pull this off for the next four days, I can finish the NaNo before Thanksgiving Day! (Which would be lovely for a number of reasons, but I'm going to focus my energy on the actual writing for the moment.)

Anyways, not much else going on right now. It's the weekend, so I don't really feel obligated to offer and incredible insights or anything.

However, I do have the two new chapters of the NaNo I wrote today posted over in my Writings section. Lots of action (finally) and some big twists. Go check it out. I enjoyed writing it, so hopefully you'll enjoy reading it.

Until next time...
-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 4,912/1,666 words.
So far: 29,982/31,666 words.
Total: 29,982/50,000 words.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 18

Hey, you. You're cool.
I'm home, now! :D

It's the beginning of Thanksgiving Break for me now, so I've finished (most all of) my papers and homework that needs to be turned in. I've survived the moderate drive back to St. Louis, and now I'm home.

Which is dangerous for the writing... but at this point I'm not really concerned. I'm just glad to have some time off from school.

In other news, I've made more progress on the NaNoWriMo novel, which means I've finally finished chapter 9! (Took me long enough.) Hopefully I'll be able to get back on track and make regular progress on the book again. There's a write-in on Sunday that I'm thinking about going to, but that's thinking just a little too far ahead right now.

First, I'm going to celebrate my sister's birthday. Then, I'm going to settle in and reconnect with my family.

Tomorrow, I'll try to make more progress on the book, and get back on track with things.

For now, though, like I said, I'm just happy to be home.

Until next time...

-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 780/1,666 words.
So far: 25,070/30,000 words.
Total: 25,070/50,000 words.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 17

Yeah... I have no illusions about getting any writing done today. I'm still writing this paper for tomorrow, due to my horrendous procrastination habits when it comes to academic and other "real world" deadlines.

However, on a significantly more awesome note, I have several pieces of exciting news to share with you.

First, I was interviewed in the student newspaper this week! It's a part of an article the paper ran on NaNoWriMo (so this post is totally topical, yep), and I'd say I acquit myself fairly well, even if I was apparently too verbose for any actual quotes.

You can find the article on the Index's website: Writing contest creates bonds.

On another happy note, my proposal for English Honors was accepted today. Not only that, they gave the idea some very high praise.

Here's the relevant portion:

"We would like to share with you the following remarks, made by a reviewer, about your creative project proposal:
"Sounds great to me. A fine plan for proceeding on a creative project. Contextualized, researched, written with literary models in mind. I wish all the creative honors projects were this thought out."

*pleased face goes here*

I'm excited, despite the fact that I'm behind on my wordcounts and still struggling to finish this paper. I'm sure I'll be sharing much of this excitement over the coming months, but for now I'm going to buckle down and finish things so I can go on break (during which I will work very hard to catch up on all the writing and homework I've neglected).

Until next time...
-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 16

I am not pleased.

My writing has continued to slow more and more and more on each and every front this week as I struggle to make progress on not just NaNo, but also schoolwork, and blogging.

Obviously, seeing as this post is going up the day after it was due.


So, yeah. No quote today. No kitties. Barely even an update. I just don't have the time. (Or, rather, I've told myself I don't have the time, but that's a separate issue.)

Instead, here's a series of posts from Dean Wesley Smith (yes, again) about setting goals for your writing. Not only what types of goals you should be setting, but also how to set them and break them down into manageable chunks, as well as how to follow through with them and trick yourself into getting the work done.

They were a surprising find for me yesterday, and managed to teach me  few new ideas. Considering and setting goals for next year is just about the one thing I have made progress on this week, so I hope I can pass on that productivity to you through these thoughts from Dean. I realize it's a bit early for many of you to be considering goals (or "resolutions") for the new year, especially since we're waist deep in the midst of NaNo. But like I said, this is about the one thing I've managed to do well this week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 15

"Read aloud. Look up words. Study grammar. These three things will take your writing to levels you never dreamed of."
-M. Todd Gallowglas
Sometime, this is how I feel. I sit there peering into the screen and inside I'm screaming, "WHY WON'T YOU MOVE, YOU STUPID, BLINKING CURSOR!!!"
Sometimes, I get a bit over-dramatic with myself.

I refuse to miss a midweek post. I absolutely will not stand for it.

So here it is. A bit late, because that's how the writing has been today. But here it is nonetheless.

Once again, lots of interesting stuff I've been reading today about self-publishing from all these lovely people.

Like I said, interesting stuff. Kinda scary that I'm considering this stuff again. But there you go. It's a scary, difficult road you walk as a creative person -- no matter which route you take.

Right, so, on with the reflections and advice.

Honestly, it's difficult for me to write this one, because I haven't gotten to the midpoint yet.

Wait, wait, backing up.

Let's talk about the midpoint!

(Okay, there we go.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 14

New blog post at The Vanishing Blog. Why Brandon Sanderson's The Alloy of Law is a cheeseburger. Also explained, why the above statement makes the book awesome!

Go check it out.

"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once."
-Stephen King
Hey, remember that picture of a kitty in a glass? We were in quite a bind then, weren't we?
Yep, now we're in a double-bind.
Yeah, it's been a while, as usual for the weekends.

Good news, though, I'm back, and I'm almost back on track for the month.

In related news, I've been reading a lot of stuff today from Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, KW Jeter, Joe Konrath, Lee Goldberg, and David Gaughran about the self-publishing model. (Did anyone know that there were SO MANY self-pubbing authors passionate enough about the idea that they basically crusade against the current publishing industry on a daily basis? Apparently this idea has some weight to it. Who knew?)

Obviously, this has gotten me to thinking quite a bit about what kind of writer I want to be in the professional realm of things. But that's not a discussion for us to have right now. (It's a discussion for me and my family to have, first of all, and it's also not a discussion to consider when you're knee-deep in slogging through word counts. [Are you ever not slogging through word counts, Josh?])

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 10

"First, you get the idea. It may germinate for a long time or it just pops into your head. And then you work out a structure. And when you feel confident enough, you start to write. And you have to allow yourself the liberty of writing poorly. You have to get the bulk of it done, and then you start to refine it. You have to put down less than marvelous material just to keep going to whatever you think the end is going to be -- which may be something else altogether by the time you get there."
-Larry Gelbart
Anyone feeling the SQUEEZE yet?

Well, here we are. If you've done your writing for the day, and you're on track with the word counts, we are exactly one third of the way done with NaNoWriMo.

Even if you haven't done all those things, we're still one third of the way through the month of November, which is almost basically the same thing.

This is, most likely, where you're going to encounter your first real instance of "writer's block."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 9

"If you understand the basic elements of crafting fiction, craft will help you find your way when you are lost in your story."
-M. Todd Gallowglas

But don't worry, none of them are about you...
Lots of news today.

First, the above quote is from author and bardic storyteller Michael Todd Gallowglas. I met him at WorldCon in Reno this past August (for tales from my Reno adventures, take a look through my blog archive). He's been seeing some success with independent publishing and often has insightful things to say about the writing life on his blog.

Speaking of which, today he talked about "Why I Write," which is a question many of us authors have either asked ourselves or else been asked before. Like I said, some thought-provoking insights. So I encourage you to take a look at it and see what he has to say. While you're there, you can also find links to his works on Amazon. I haven't had a chance to read through it yet myself, but I've bought it and it's on my list and it all looks like some fun stuff. So go ahead and give him a look.

On my own side of things, I can now make my big, exciting announcement.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 8

"I like to think of what happens to characters in good novels and stories as knots -- things keep knotting up. And by the end of the story -- readers see an "unknotting" of sorts. Not what they expect, not the easy answers you get on TV, not wash and wear philosophies but a reproduction of believable emotional experiences." 
-Terry McMillan
...which was only slightly larger than my ego this afternoon.

For those of you doubters, quibblers, and overly picky people from yesterday...

Welcome to week two!

(I consider myself a member of the above groups.)

How's it going everyone? For you NaNo-ers, are you on track? Do you know where your story is going? Have you gotten a grasp of who your chief characters are?

I think it's time to have another structural discussion, because at this point, you should begin seeing it unfold.

This is week two, everyone. This is the end of Act 1. This is the beginning of the end, er, middle...

Monday, November 7, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 7

Another new post from me at The Vanishing Blog. This time, "Why Portal 2 is Awesome."

Check it out.

"If you want your reader to understand something about a given character, his habits of intellection and control of his emotions, show the reader what the character thinks about, and then the reader will think about it too."
-George V. Higgens
See, this is what I want you to think about.
It's working, right? :)
And so we progress. Into week two. Or, well, the end of week one, technically. But let's focus on the fact that it is Monday, instead.

Into week two!

I'm feeling like I'm running out of profound things to say in this space. Granted, I haven't been especially diligent in saying profound things here anyway, but I'm focusing so much on NOT sticking to my schedule, and yet still getting the work done, that it seems I have little thought left to devote to this space.

So, instead, I'm going to share one of my favoritest episodes of Writing Excuses, lovingly referred to as "The One Where Mary Schools Brandon, Dan, and Howard," AKA Season 3, Episode 14: The Four Principles of Puppetry with Mary Robinette Kowal.

The ideas explored in the above episode dovetail nicely into the above quote and presents some really powerful and effective tools for you to consider employing as you try to write from the perspective of your characters.

As always, if thinking about craft as you frantically try to churn out words is a detriment to the actual churning out of words, then go ahead and save this for the end of the month, or after you've churned out your words for the day, whichever you think is best.


Until next time...
-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 2,333/1,666 words
So far: 11,459/11,666 words
Total: 11,459/50,000 words

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 6

"The unconscious mind takes the gem of an idea and develops it, but usually this happens only when a writer has tried hard, and logically, to develop it himself. After he has given it up for a few hours, getting nowhere, a great advancement of the plot will pop into his head. I have been waked up in the night sometimes by a plot advancement or a solution of a problem that I have not even been dreaming about."
-Patricia Highsmith
"Okay, okay, I'll write my NaNo!
Well, that was a fun weekend. Now it's time to play catch-up.

I quite unintentionally took Saturday off from writing in order to play video games.

Did I enjoy it? Heck, yes.

Do I regret it? Only if I don't finish my NaNo.

As it is, between the work I had done earlier in the week to put myself a head mixed with my extraordinary boost in productivity this afternoon (2100 words in an hour and a half; I think that's a new record for me), I'm just at the recommended wordcount levels for today.

I am, of course, behind for my own goals, but I'm happy enough to have caught up with the official pace.

Now, as I head into another week of work and school, I get to play my juggling act of productivity all over again.

Because of that, I hope you will forgive me for making this a shorter post. If you're looking for more insight than I can provide, I recommend that you go check out this week's episode of Writing Excuses, or read a short story, or take a nap, or buy The War of Art, or play Arkham Asylum (you can find my review of it at The Vanishing Blog).

Any number of things can help improve your creativity. Sometimes desperation is the best motivator (as I have proven today), but I highly doubt it's the healthiest.

Until next time...
-josh k.

(Also, you'll have likely noticed the "Writings" tab above. I don't have news about that yet, but pay attention for an announcement sometime this week, as I'll hopefully have it all worked out by then.)

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 2,135/1,666 words
So far: 9,126/10,000 words
Total: 9,126/50,000 words

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 3

"Sit in sun. Sun goes behind cloud. Look at watch. Notice that second-hand does not always point directly at little marks on dial. Sometimes it does, though. Then sometimes it doesn't. Why? Feel panic at how quickly life slips by. Get to work."
-Nicholson Baker
My friend brought me one.
It was spicy.
No, that's not a euphemism.
Shut up.
Goal for today: Regain momentum.

Did I meet it?

Not yet...though I probably will.

Right now, I'm sitting at around 1500 words for the day. That's really close to the recommended daily dosage, but it's still 1,000 words behind my personal daily goal. (Remember, I'm taking Fridays off, I don't expect to get anything done over Thanksgiving break, and I'm trying to do this "one chapter a day" thing. That's why I'm being so strict with myself.)

I'm on track, according to the official site. In fact, I'm ahead of schedule. But I'm not far enough ahead, and my production is clearly beginning to lag.

(For those of you who are still struggling to get started, yes, I realize that this is a luxurious complaint to have, but there it is anyways.)

Let's look at the numbers:

Day 1 wordcount: 3,151
Day 2 wordcount: 1,667
Day 3 wordcount: 1,491 (so far)

That's a trend, folks. And it's one that I don't like.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 2

"Don't look back -- something might be gaining on you."
-Satchel Paige

Yes. There was some at breakfast today.
That is all.

Goal for today: Don't lose momentum.

Did I meet it?

Yeah, mostly...

Okay, thus far, I have successfully met the wordcount suggested by NaNoWriMo for today. And this puts me ahead overall and on schedule to finish early. So I'm happy about all that.'s not up to yesterday's stellar start, nor does it match my own standards set for myself.

That's...a bit disappointing.

Even so, I'm still glad that I'm keeping up with it. And I'm maintaining my goal of finishing at least one chapter each day. And I'm further maintaining that goal by keeping the wordcount of each chapter around 2500 words. (They've been a wee bit short thus far, but I'm okay with that. It means I'll have some leftover words to shove into some of the juicier chapters.)

I'm just hoping that this isn't a sign of things to come and I simply continue to backslide off of my strong opening.

Anyways, that's all I've really got for right now. If I think of anything more profound to say, I'll throw it in here with an exciting "UPDATE" tag. But until then...I've got other work to do.

-josh k.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Progress
Today: 1,667/1,666 words.
So far: 4,818/3,333 words.
Overall: 4,818/50,000 words.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Day 1

"There's a myth among amateurs, optimists, and fools that beyond a certain level of achievement, famous artists retire to some kind of Elysium where criticism no longer wounds and work materializes without their effort."
     -Mark Matousek
We're all in this together guys.
No HSM references, please.

And...we're off with NaNoWriMo 2011. Now with more kitties!

Right, so I should probably explain that.

My roommate is to blame, honestly. We were talking about blogging and he made an offhand comment about how "I would only ever get people to really start reading if I had pictures of cats." [Paraphrased]. Well, between that and another offhand comment about how some people could probably use a greater "cute cats" presence in their life -- for emotional sanity, y'know? -- I decided to take him up on that challenge.

So, for all of you who are stressed out about NaNo, school, work, family, friends, life, and whatever else, I hope that this can be a comforting place for you to come and release some of that emotional tension by looking at pictures of cats.

At least for the first glance. After that, we're back to concrete NaNo discussions.

Also, I'll try to share a quote about writing or creativity or perseverance or somesuch, just to make sure I fulfill my "Inspiring" quota for the year. (Yeah...don't expect it to last.)

Anyways. Let's begin now, shall we?

Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Ignition

Hey, everybody, I've got a new post over at The Vanishing Blog this evening. It's my review/impressions/explanation-of-why-it's-amazing for Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Yeah, yeah, I know. A bit overdue. Deal with it and go check it out!

Here we go. We're back for another full week of posts.

More importantly, we're back for NaNoWriMo - the National Novel Writing Month.

Hopefully it'll be another successful year so I can start a win-streak (or whatever).

Anyways, on to some content.

I am excited about this. For those of you who aren't sure what NaNo is, you can go to the official site for the full information. For those who just want a summary, it goes like this: NaNoWriMo is an international initiative to encourage all those of us who have said "I'd like to write a book" to actually get up and DO IT. The challenge is to write 50,000 words entirely within the month of November, and for those 50,000 words to comprise a complete book.

Now, of course, there's no way for them to measure this, but it's really in your best interests to be honest. You're only cheating yourself, after all, by pretending to write a book instead of actually writing a book.

For those who are curious: 50,000 words in November is 1,666 words per day if you write for all 30 days (7 days a week, and all). It's 1,923 words if you take one day off each week (which some writers recommend; for me, it'll be Fridays). And it's approximately 2,273 words per day if you only write 5 days a week; so let's go ahead and bump it up to 2,500 words per day after assuming that you'll take Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday off to spend time with the family.

Okay? Between sixteen hundred and twenty-five hundred words each day, depending on your writing style. For those of you who have done it, you know it's possible. For those of you who already write every day outside of NaNo, you know this is a piece of cake. For the rest of you, looking in from the outside: this is hard work.

So, let's share some helpful pointers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Suddenly Feel Very Overhwlemed

Today was registration for classes next semester.

Well, qualification, today was the day that I registered for classes next semester. Unfortunately, due to several complications having to do with transfer credits (namely, that I haven't done anything with them yet), I'm a bit behind most of my friends. So, while everyone else has been gleefully celebrating their schedules for the past two days, I've had to wait until this morning to register.

Naturally, this has led to complications with scheduling the final semester of my college career. But that's not what I'm planning to talk about today. Sorry for the diversion.

Instead, I have exciting news!

But first, a picture:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Projects Update: Game Design

Hello, everyone. Just a few notes today, nothing fancy.

First, and perhaps most importantly, I've updated the story structure post with what is, in my opinion, the most useful tool for learning basic story structure that I've ever seen. I'm actually surprised I didn't include it in the original post. *sigh* What a forgetful, imperfect man I am...

Anyways, it's there now. So you can head over to Monday's post to learn about "The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet," from his highly effective book Save the Cat! (Confused? Amused? Go check out the post!)


For the rest of today, I'm going to talk about games. Board games. I guess video games, too, but mostly about board games.

See, I love games. I love playing games, but I also love creating games. This goes back almost as far as my love for storytelling, when I tried to make a Super Mario RPG card game that was basically a re-flavored ripoff of the Pokemon card game.

I've gotten slightly more of a clue since then.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Introduction to Professional Creative Writing, Part 2: Story Structure

Goodness, where does the time go? You let things slip away for a day and soon the whole week has left.

Oh, well.

Shall we get back to this?

Today, I have some links (once again, predominantly from Writing Excuses) to share that discuss story structure. This ranges from basic, three-act systems to more complex considerations of why we use structure.

So, without further dawdling, some links:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

College and its Effects on Writing, Part 2

Okay, I'm back now. Time to talk about networking.

This is one of those things that, I feel, works out best when you don't realize it's happening. When you think to yourself  "man, I suck at networking," I like to think that means you're probably doing it right.

For example: how many people do you know? Think carefully now, and don't just stop with the obvious answers.

Sure, you know your family. You know your close friends, the folks you hang out with all the time and share secrets with. Those are easy. You also know your coworkers, to an extent. And maybe even a few of your classmates, a bit. Those are also fairly obvious. But you also know your teachers and the guys on your sports team and the folks in your gaming group and in that show you were in and at that group you attend and the list goes on.

The list probably stretches into the hundreds if you really take some time to think about it.

Again, though, that's the easy part. Here's where it gets fun: how many of those people do you think would spot you a buck if you asked them to? How many of them do you think would write a letter of recommendation for you? At the very least, how many do you think have a good impression of you?

That's enough. Chances are, someone you know is going to be successful. So yeah, if that's your entire goal behind networking, you're done. Someday.

But let's take it a step further...

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Follow-up to "That Big, Awkward Post"

So, this is going to be another one of those posts where I put myself out there. Certainly not to the degree that I've done recently, but still, following through on things is good. Right?

(Also, in case you don't know, THIS is "that big, awkward post," so far as I'm concerned.)

Today I stumbled across a blog post by thriller novelist Wayne Arthurson, wherein he talks about sharing. You should go read it, it's good. And it sums up a lot of my feelings about blogging and celebrity transparency and public image and stuff like that.

For those of you who are either too lazy or too busy to read his post, I'll summarize: sharing is good in moderation.

The slightly more expanded summary: he's not going to tell you about his family on the internet, but he will tell you about what his interests are.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

College and its Effects on Writing, Part 1

So, I was sitting in a coffee shop in St. Charles, MO yesterday and thinking about an ongoing debate I had been having with a former friend who lives there. The debate was whether or not it's necessary to attend college in order to be a professional writer. Now, obviously, it's not necessary. There are many and more writers who have been successful without attending college, but it's still a discussion that does and will continue to happen.

Phrased a different way: what's the point of going to college if you want to be a writer?

It's a question I asked myself before deciding to attend University, and it's a question I've asked myself several time while I've been here. Now that I'm approaching graduation (on time!), I figure I should be able to take a moment and reflect on this question again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Introduction to Professional Creative Writing, Part 1: Getting the Work Done

So, I've had a few people at school express interest in making money as creative writers. Some of them asked me specifically for information; some of them simply expressed their interest during general conversation in my vicinity, so I offered my encouragement that it is, in fact, possible to earn a living by writing.

Now, these interactions got me to thinking, "Y'know, I've done enough research into this topic that I guess I am qualified to give advice -- or at least point folks in the right direction."

I'll admit I feel a bit weird offering advice on how to earn a living as a writer when I haven't exactly made a buck at this myself, but I am confident in the advice of other, successful writers I've read and listened to for years now.

So, here I am, presenting the advice of wiser men and women for your digestion:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Looking For Help -- English Honors: Antebellum

Hey, new project: English Honors.

I decided today to try and pull together an extended creative writing project for Honors in the English Degree, as I'll be graduating in the Spring. The proposal is due this week, so I'm pulling together some initial plans and thinking about some of the things I should consider as I approach this project.

First, a basic overview: my goal is to present plague-era medieval Europe in a creative piece of fiction in such a manner that it feels like a post-apocalyptic journey story (The Road, Mad Max, etc.)

Unfortunately, despite my general interest and familiarity with both the genre (post-apocalyptic) and the history (plague-ear Europe), I haven't actually read/watched anything the specifically fits into either of these categories.

That's where all of you come in. I'm looking for recommendations (from anyone, really) of things to read that would help me familiarize myself with the two above topics, with an eye toward using this list to form a foundation of "research" for my Honors project.

If anything springs to mind, or if you have any questions about what it is I'm doing, please leave a comment below.

Thank you. Until next time...
-josh k.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Equality, Humility, and Other Fine Things

"Nobody cares how smart you are -- they care how willing you are to treat them like equals."
                                                                                      -Holly Lisle

Yes, I think I'm better than you. It doesn't really matter who you are, it's safe to assume that this is the case.

I'm sorry. I know it's not true, somewhere, but still I think it.

Yes. It's an issue. One of many -- don't worry, I'm not about to be perfect anytime soon. Unfortunately, it takes me a while to get around to noticing these issues -- at least, it seems like a while to me. And even when I do notice them, it doesn't mean I'm able to fix it.

It's this...pretension, delusion of grandeur, self-importance, pride, etc. that really prevents me from writing, in several forms.

I can't write in private, because I'm trying so hard to be better than I actually am.
I can't write here in public, because I'm so afraid of revealing to the world that I'm so damned pathetic.

It's not the time, or the inspiration, or anything like that. Not really, at least.

Nope. It's pride.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Right, so...I need to stop making promises.


Hello, everyone. As I'm sure you've all figured out by now, Runic is not going well.

In fact, it's not really going at all.

You see, I apparently have this odd writing quirk where I make grandiose plans, prepare for those plans, promise people that I'm going to follow through on those plans...and then completely switch my plans to work on an entirely different project at the last minute (...or one month past the last minute, in this case).

It's a psychological disorder, I swear. I think I need counseling. :P

So, anyways, I'm not going to be rewriting Runic this semester. Unfortunately.

There are a variety of reasons for this, and I could get into them, but the most important one is this: I'm a lazy, undisciplined, selfish fool. AKA, I'm a bad person. But we all knew that already, so I'm not sure why this is such a surprising revelation.

Back on track with the post, now, yes?

I am writing now. I've switched to another older project: a short story I started last summer but am now expanding into a novel (it needs to be, honestly). It looks like it's going to shape out into a tight, character-focused, five-act tragedy. know, the kind of stuff I've been doing all year, more or less.

In fact, let me share with you a few brief thoughts on the matter that I sent to my girlfriend in a text:

"2,271 words. Reached the end (more or less) of the old stuff. Learned some new things about the characters involved and decided on a way to fit the story into a beautiful 5-act structure. Ready to dive into new stuff tomorrow."

(Too bad it's too long to be a tweet. I like the condensed nature and reporting tone.)

So, yeah, that's what I'm working on right now. As I have said before, hopefully this springboards me into writing other things, but I'm not going to make any promises.

Until next time (whenever that may be).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Runic Progress Report -- Accountability

This is called public accountability. I hear a lot of big companies do something similar: board meetings, voter meetings, earnings reports, etc. Call it what you will. It's a rather ingenious way to motivate yourself. After all, if you know you're going to have to give an account for your actions, you'll likely follow through on goals and promises that you've made to yourself that pertain to those actions.

So that's what we have here.

Two things I want to say tonight:

1. I've "finished" the outline for my rewrite of Runic. Yes, it took way too long. I was travelling during the weekend, as you noticed. Work doesn't happen when I'm travelling.

As far as the outline goes, though, it's looking good. An intriguing opening, a solid enough ending, and a couple twists and developments in the middle. The middle bits will certainly need the most work, of course, but that's always something that I seem to work on during the actual process of writing. So...problem for another day.

With the outline finished, though, I should be almost ready to start in on the actual prose. I'm going to take the rest of this week's writing sessions to work on some much-needed worldbuilding and character development, that way I won't have to bog myself down with on-the-fly creation and/or fact-checking when I'm trying to crank out multiple thousands of words each day.

...which brings me to my second point.

2. My goal is to finish the first draft of the Runic rewrite by the time I leave for midterm break on October 12. That means, if I start writing sometime between Saturday and Monday, I'll have just around a full month to expand my initial concept from the 2009 rough draft into the bone structure for this year's edition. There's at least twice as much story and probably four times as much eventual plot involved in this rewrite. So...yeah, quite a bit to churn out.

That's my goal. This is me being held accountable. Let's see what happens, folks.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Work and Travel

Just a quick observation here before I turn it in for the night.

I've discovered that traveling is the bane of productivity. While traveling, it is truly impossible to get any work done. Sure, you can have some lofty goals for what you might do with "all that free time," but you and I both know that it's not going to happen. You're busy. You're keeping track of things, you're taking in new sights, you're connecting with people. There's a lot going on. It's understandable.

I used to think that, since I'm a writer, I could take my work anywhere. Anywhere. Such an all-encompassing word. All I need is my computer, right? Maybe a book or two. A few notebooks, pens, and other physical outlining tools can help. But really, in the end all I need is my computer. (Okay, if we're being really minimalist, all we need is a pad and writing utensil. But seeing as I'm talking about myself, primarily, I'm going to be honest and simply say that I need my computer.)

I don't think that anymore.

I used to get upset about traveling a lot, because I would always set these lofty goals (do I ever set non-lofty goals?) about what I could or would get done while I was gone. Then, when I didn't meet those goals, I would be really disappointed and upset with myself.

I don't do that anymore either.

Having done a lot of traveling (as you all know) during the past six or so months, I've been given a lot of opportunities to be at peace about this lack of productivity. It still annoys me a bit that I lose a day here and there (like today) or a week every now and again (like WorldCon) to travel opportunities. But it's a loss that I understand much better now than I ever have in the past. As much as I love writing and want to write, I'm slowly agreeing (with myself) that I wouldn't want to do it if it meant I'd have to be chained to the desk every day and would never have a chance to travel. It's just not healthy.

Speaking of's time for sleep. For real.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Here We Go Again

Whoops! There goes another week without blog posts. (Probably longer than that even...) Sorry about that. As I mentioned at the end of the WorldCon series, I came home for about 36 hours before turning around and leaving for school. Not much room for writing in that kind of a time frame.

I am back on schedule now, however, and semi-regular posting should resume as the semester wears on.

A few notes on what's coming up:

Monday, August 22, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- Day 5

And so we come to a close.

Short day today. Only went to two panels. Again I find myself writing this post way too late (despite finishing the con early today), and so I will be writing only briefly about things. I'll probably do a series of posts during this coming week about some more general observations from the con. But for today (tonight? to-morning?) I'll keep to my pattern of reviewing panels.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- Day 4

Networking, I have found, evokes a strange combination of exhilaration and exhaustion in me. Meeting new people and getting to know them and learning how much you have in common and hoping that you've made a new friend...that's all so exciting that it gives me such a thrill to watch it happen (even while participating in it). But putting myself out there, making that initial connection, being honest to total strangers...that all takes a lot of effort and can be emotionally draining.

So, as I said before, networking is this strange combination. I'm draining myself emotionally in order to make these connections with people and, when those connections work out and develop into something, it recharges me with the excitement. So, at the end of a night of networking (like tonight) I find myself on an incomparable high that makes me feel ready for anything...yet as soon as I hit that darkened room and look at the bed and simply have an opportunity to unwind a, do I crash.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- Day 3

Things are beginning to blur together now. I'm not even really sure of what day it is. I just know that it's the third day of the con, and I'm only ever vaguely aware of what hour it is. I know I go to this panel at this time to start out, and then its go, go, go, go (with a brief pause each day for food). I can't even remember if I've talked about this already (I'm too lazy to go check right now), and I can only barely remember what panels I've gone to if I check my schedule.

Wow. So much to take in.

So today was a bit of a lighter-weight day, but it was by no means absent of awesomeness.

Friday, August 19, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- Day 2

Wow, guys. Parties are where it's at!

No, seriously, it has been a day-and-a-half of awesome here at WorldCon, but finishing it off with a Tor books party where I get to brush shoulders with...oh, man, too many people to name, really...was awesome. Really, freaking awesome.

Right, so, the rest of the day.

Went to a bunch of panels. Not as many as I said I would, but that's mostly because I was taking time to talk to people a bit more.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- Day 1

Hello, officially now, from WorldCon 2011 -- Renovation.

Such a busy day and so many great memories already, it's hard to reign in and talk about any one, focused topic. So I guess I'll just have to throw a bunch of thoughts out there for you to dissect as you please.

Okay, so the first break-my-mind moment of the Con was walking through the door. I found the convention center and I found the entrance and I walked inside...

...and found George R.R. Martin packing up his stuff at a table near the door.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- Transition Day

WorldCon starts today!

I will be leaving soon to pick up my membership badge and begin acclimating myself to the services provided by the Con. I'm hoping that the convention center won't be too difficult to navigate, but I'm going to get there early just in case.

Before I do that, though, just a few quick words about yesterday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- San Francisco Days 3 and 4

...still doesn't feel like America. Especially now that I've been through three days of foreign accents and foreign languages. I realize that San Francisco and the bay area is a major tourist destination for travelers from all over the world -- and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge did help to solidify that, yes, this is San Francisco, California, America -- and that most people in the world do not speak English. I learned this definitively during my Europe travels (which, for those who are wondering, I will return to chronicling soon). But makes this whole trip continue to feel vaguely foreign.

Oh, yeah, and then everywhere around here has vaguely Spanish-sounding names. San Francisco. San Rafael. Point Reyes. Sausalito. Tiburon. Corte Madera. El Cerrito. El Sobrante. Pinole. Etc.

For a Midwesterner like me, where everything is either vaguely French, vaguely German, vaguely Native American, and all very mish-mashed...yeah, it feels a bit foreign.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

WorldCon 2011 -- San Francisco Days 1 and 2

It's hard to believe that I'm still in America. After doing so much international travel in the past six months, I find it hard to believe that, after riding a plane for a few hours, being dropped in a totally alien landscape, and driving for another few hours through at least three distinct geographic regions, I could not be in a foreign country. There's no way there's this much variety in a single country.

And yet there is. I'm here on the north-California coastal region and I feel like I'm halfway around the world, despite the lack of foreign accents and currency.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Welcome Back

Okay. So much for the productive summer.

Between class, work, and various social obligations to family and friends, I have not been able to maintain my writing goals during these summer months.

That's okay. It was all important stuff. I'm closer to graduation, farther from debt, and I've reconnected with  those I've been absent from for the past semester (most of them, at least). Overall, it's a net-positive summer, even if it hasn't been productive for writing.

But now the summer is drawing to an end and it's time for me to buckle down to finish out the year strong.

This coming week I will be attending the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Reno, Nevada. It's going to be first con, and I'm really excited. George R.R. Martin will be there, and Brandon Sanderson, and Lou Anders, and Writing Excuses, and Robin Hobb, and Kim Stanley Robinson, and Pat Rothfuss, and so many others. They're going to be presenting on topics of all kinds, from game design, to world-building, to film adaptation, and so on. Oh, and there're also plays, and films, and readings, and signings, and dances, and other shows and stuff.

Wow. I'm excited. Starts wednesday. Goes til Sunday. I return monday; I leave for school on tuesday. Busy couple of weeks here...

Once I return to school, I'll be starting in on three goals, both personal and professional.

On the personal front, I'm going to be reconnecting with the friends I haven't seen since last Fall; and a part of that will be through RPG campaigns. (Side note: I'm really looking forward to these campaigns this year. It's been far too long since I've run a campaign, and they're wonderful social events for me to practice my on-the-fly storytelling.)

On the professional side of things, I need to begin preparing for graduation. Everything should line up for me to finish school on time, and I'm hoping to have a job waiting for me when I'm done.

On both ends, I'm planning to rewrite and revise Runic in order to prepare it for submission to publishers in January. I'm estimating the final length of the book to be between 90k and 120k words. Which means I'll need to write at least 1300 words each day while I'm at school if I'm to get it done at all. If I want time to revise, I'll probably want to write between 2500 and 3000 each day. But we'll see if I have time after fulfilling all of my other daily goals.

I'm confident that I can get Runic ready for submission by January. I just need be consistent in my efforts...again.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this is going to give me enough to finish my year of words (for those of you who forgot, the goal was 500k words). I'm still going to try for it, but...well, my prospects don't look good. And I don't want to exhaust myself or depress myself by holding myself to a commitment that I can no longer keep. *sigh* It's disappointing, but a likely necessity.

One final note, I'm going to be offering frequent updates from my trip this week. Today and the next few days are going to be spent in the San Francisco area here, and then Wednesday through Sunday will be a flurry of fan excitement streaming forth from WorldCon. (Excitement!) Following that, I'll be back at school and back to work. And hopefully I'll be able to continue offering updates then as well.

Until then, thank you for your time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

To Begin Again

So. Here I am.

As you may have noticed, it's been rather quiet here for the past month.

I could go into both reasons and excuses for why that is, but I don't want to waste your time and I certainly don't want to waste my own.

Suffice to say that I'm going to get back to work now, the way I should have gotten back to work when I got back to the States a month ago.

No matter. I'll just have to make it up now.

I have ten days left in June. That's an easy ten thousand words if I would just sit down and do the work for a simple hour each day. More if I can muster up the effort.

This isn't over yet. I haven't quit. I just need to begin again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Going Home

A quick note, just to let you all know what's happening.

The semester is over. All of my assignments are turned in. I am packed and ready to leave London.

I will be travelling for approximately 32 hours, beginning later tonight, so I won't be able to post anything between now and when I arrive home in St. Louis.

Fear not, though, because regularly scheduled posts should resume now that the semester is over.

Until then, I'm up in the air.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Mortality

Sorry, not an update to the adventures today. Still waiting for Lauren to return.

Instead, I want to talk about something that occupied my thoughts for a good long time during the trip. Namely, death.

It's a fairly common stereotype that men (when compared to women) have a strong drive to leave something behind for people to remember them by. Leave their mark on the world. Forge their legacy. Etc.

And, as far as I'm concerned, it's true. I don't really care (at the moment) about all of the explanations for why this is, be they societal or evolutionary or conditional or divine. Whatever. Fact is, I'm scared of dying without leaving an impression on the world, and I care about what people will think about me once I'm gone.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Not About the Money, Part One: They Speak Spanish in Paris? -- Episode 5

Hello, everyone, and welcome back. Sorry about the delay. I don't like giving excuses, but things have been a bit busy here with the end of the school year. Regular posting should commence now.

In case you missed it, you can find the previous episode here, and you can find the beginning of the series here.

Alright, now on with the last bits from Paris.

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris
In case you didn't recognize it.
 After the Louvre and the Eiffel, Lauren and I were starting to get a bit worn out. But there was still one place that we knew we had to go see before we left Paris the next morning. Obviously, that was Notre-Dame.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a walk involved before we could see it...

Monday, May 2, 2011

World News Reactions

Osama bin Laden
Source: Wikipedia
Well, this is unexpected...

I actually went through my entire morning of checking e-mails and preparing for my day before learning that, last night at 23:30 (05:30 here in London), American forces found and killed Osama bin Laden outside a military academy in Pakistan.

So my lunch hour was spent in semi-shock and by dinner I was watching the BBC.

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's Not About the Money, Part One: They Speak Spanish in Paris? -- Episode 3

(For episode two of this series, go here.)

Oh, boy. Here we go...

My face at the RE-planning stage.

Hello, everybody. Sorry about the delay in this post. Celebrations for the Royal Wedding are underway here in London and everyone is enjoying the four-day weekend. Despite all this joy and excitement, however, it's time to tell you about the lowest point of our European adventure.

Train tickets.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Not About the Money, Part One: They Speak Spanish in Paris? -- Episode 1

Hello, and welcome to day one. For those of you who missed it and/or have no idea what's going on here, please find the introduction to this series here. To the rest of you, again I say welcome. Today I'll be talking about the start of our wacky adventures in Paris.

The first part of any proper vacation is the getting there. For our purposes, we chose EasyJet:

The flight itself was fine.
Actually reaching the plane... not so much.
Why did we choose EasyJet? It was cheap. Plain and simple.

Unfortunately, cheap travel isn't always the most convenient, and so our journey actually began several hours before we got onto the actual flight.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Have Returned

Short post today.

Just wanted to say that I'm back from my Europe trip. It was crazy, fantastic, and filled with really, really, really old stuff (which is always a major plus for me). I didn't do any writing during the trip, as each day was so full and exhausting that I really didn't have any opportunity. Also, it was a vacation for crying out loud. I decided I deserved a break.

Which isn't to say that it wasn't productive. My subconscious never seems to give up on me, so I ended up making several impressive breakthroughs and developments on a variety of projects, most notably Runic. Does this mean I might start working on revising it again soon? Probably, but I want to finish the rough draft for Godchild before I start thinking about another project (again).

Getting back to the actual trip, I wanted to mention really quickly that Lauren and I are going to be working on a joint series of blog posts chronicling the most interesting parts of our adventure. We're going to alternate posting between our two blogs (you can find her's here) so that you can get a more balanced mix of perspectives on the trip. And also because it'll be fun.

I'm not sure when that series will start, but it could be as soon as later this evening/afternoon (depending on your time zone). We'll see, but I'll keep you posted on it.

For now, it's time to get back to work and see what good the time off did for me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Few General Updates


It's been awhile since I mentioned anything concrete on the work I've been doing. So I thought I'd take a moment to deliver some updates in that regard and also talk a bit about what's coming up on the blog.


First things first, I hope everyone has had a chance to notice and appreciate the new features over on the right-hand column. If you haven't, please look over there now. Don't worry, I'll wait.


Okay, do you see it now? Good.

I have a progress bar! I'm really excited about this, as it means that I can share my progress with you each day/week as I update the bar, instead of making you wait for one of my infrequent updates hidden amidst my ramblings. In the future, if all you want to know is how I am along in one of my projects (or just my work overall), you can just stop in and glance at the progress bar. As i mentioned above I will be updating this thing regularly. Hopefully every day as I finish my writing sessions, but sometimes I'm a little slow. At the very least, I will update the progress bar every Monday, just to make sure it's up-to-date.

In addition, I have a "Currently Geeking" section. This is just a short list of the various items that I have either been interested in lately or that have consumed my time lately. I'll be updating this one a bit less frequently than the progress bar, but I hope to keep it changing regularly in order to let you all know what I'm wasting my time on and what I think other people should be wasting their time on as well.

(Plus, it's probably a good bet that if something shows up on the "Currently Geeking" thread, I'll likely be talking about it in the near future either here or over on The Vanishing Blog. Fair warning.)

Now, on to the actual updates.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

If My Career Was a Chimera...

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term chimera, here's a definition from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online:
a capitalized : a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail
   b an imaginary monster compounded of incongruous parts
2 : an illusion or fabrication of the mind; especially : an unrealizable dream
3 : an individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic construction

Now, I would imagine that many of you are familiar with the first definition -- the classic image of the tripartite creature in Greek mythology. What some of you might not realize is that the definition of the monstrous chimera has expanded to incorporate sub-point b up there, which includes all manner of conglomerated creatures resulting from the fusion of two otherwise normal animals. Fantasy gaming is full of these, ranging from the owlbear to the duckbunny. (Avatar: The Last Airbender is particularly fond of this, to the point where every animal in the entire series is either over-sized or cross-bred.)

The most interesting and applicable element of this definition, however (and the one that I didn't know about), is the second definition: "an unrealizable dream." That's fantastic, though I doubt I'm ever going to use it in conversation that way.

Now, getting back around to the title, if my writing career was a chimera (both in the sense of a thrown-together construction of many other parts and  in the sense of "an unrealizable dream"), I would like it to have...

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Divided Attentions

My good friend and fellow blogger Matt raised an interesting question in one of my posts a while back.

Here's the question:

Matt said...
I was curious: do you divide your attention between different work or are you usually singularly focused on a single project on a given day?
 To which I responded (essentially): "I don't know."

It's a relevant question about work patterns that I haven't really thought about until now. What drives me to work on one project fanatically (as I did at the end of February, making it my most productive weekend in the history of my career)? And what drives me to split my attention among several projects (as I did at the beginning of February, which saw me writing a bunch of character sketches and short stories in addition to my work on "Godchild")?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why I Like to Disagree With People

This post is a direct result of my reactions to this post by Matt over on The Vanshing Blog from about a week ago. It's not necessary to read the post in order to understand mine here, but it's a thoughtful piece and worth your time.

Now, to draw attention away from Matt's overall point and narrow in on what I want to talk about today, a quote:
I'm not a big fan of MovieBob. Although I find him occasionally interesting, he comes off as something of an elitist to me. Also, he is coming from worldview diametrically opposed to mine. He seems to have no problem insinuating that those who disagree with him are small-minded. Plus, at the end of this video he basically says he'd like to be a supervillain.
That's from Matt's article. It does not reflect the main purpose of the article in any way, shape, or form, but it brings up what I have discovered is a rather fundamental difference between him and me.

I like it when I disagree with someone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Author Roundup

Lightweight day today. Just wanted to mention a few pieces of author news that's interested me lately.

Here's a George R.R. Martin interview over at the Bear Swarm podcast. There's a content warning on this one, but the discussion is interesting. This is less significant now that there's been an announcement about the Dance With Dragons release date, but still...

Here's an interview between Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss up on It's from early March, when Wise Man's Fear was coming out. They talk a lot about some of the nuances of the writer's life, which is always a topic I'm ready to talk about.

A couple weeks ago, London "weird fiction" author China Mieville came to my university and spoke about the renovation of weird fiction in recent years. I had the opportunity to attend. Naturally, I took it.

Now, I have a confession to make. I haven't actually read any of Mieville's books. I know that he's a highly creative and skilled author, and I'm going to read his stuff eventually. Thus far, however, I have not.

That being said, I still really enjoyed the talk.

First of all, this man is well-educated. I mean, really well-educated. He was throwing around high-brow literary terms with a nonchalance and deft skill that kept me swimming furiously just to keep abreast of the discussion for most of the hour. My first reaction to this was intimidation. I was, essentially, thinking "Wow. I'm nowhere near this learned. This guy really knows his stuff; how am I supposed to be a writer if I don't know my genre as well as he knows his?"

Well, then I discovered that he's a creative writing professor at a London university. I guess that explains that.

Follow-up thought to that was, "Well, okay. He's got years of experience. You'll get there."

Second, he's a friendly guy. You listen to him talk and you get a sense of a laid-back, inviting personality. That being said, he's definitely working the "punk edge" look. Bald head, multiple piercings, massive arms. You don't want to tangle with this guy in a dark alley.

Third, this guy is really into octopuses. I mean, really, really into octopuses. To hear Mieville speak, you'd think that octopuses are almost superior to human beings. In a one-and-a-half hour discussion, the group spent at least forty minutes talking about octopuses. Their biology. Their place in weird fiction. Their lack of place in traditional folklore. Their lack of metaphorical impact. Again, a lot of high-brow literary discussion that kept me just gasping for breath... about octopuses.

But hey, it was interesting.

One final note. I've broken 65,000 words on Godchild, making it my longest single work yet. Huge news.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Dance With Dragons Release Date!

So... I had something completely different planned for today, but I just found this out, so it obviously takes precedence:

"A Dance With Dragons," the fifth book of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, finally has an official release date! This isn't just an expected release year, or even a month. It's the exact day.

12 July 2011

So very, very soon...

As anyone who has read Martin's fantasy epic knows, this is huge news, highly anticipated, and about time. Martin has been writing this book for over five years now, and a lot of skeptics have been saying that it will never come out. True, it's still not done yet, according to the man himself, but it's on the last stretch, so it'll be done soon. And Bantam Spectra has been waiting to publish this book since the last one was released (I imagine), so they'll be more than willing to put the tome together in a matter of months.

Seriously, people, I cannot stress how monumental this is. Those who have read the series, as I said, know how big a deal this is. For those of you who haven't, this is easily the most anticipated fantasy release of the year -- and probably the most anticipated fantasy release since the last Harry Potter book (the only other books I can think of that come close are "The Wise Man's Fear," Day 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patric Rothfuss, and the final Wheel of Time book [which is actually three books now, long story.])

Okay, I'm calming down now. For real.


I'm gonna go write something now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Comparing Methods

Here's another interesting note to consider.

With "Godchild," I have an overarching plot in mind, with dozens of locations and characters and events all weaving in and out of each other. However, I don't actually know what's happening when. I have large revelations and theme shifts blocked out, but their placement is very fluid and will change to fit the confines of the story. In addition, my day-to-day writing is generally outlined fairly concretely. I have a good idea of what the characters are doing and where they are going for the foreseeable (which is usually about a week's worth of writing).

What I don't know, however, is that big, fat middle ground between overarching plan and daily grind. So it becomes an interesting mix of discovery-writing meets outline-drafting. There are moments when I discover that a certain character is going to disappear for a few days, or another one is going to stick around longer than I intended, and that's okay, because I'm leaving myself open to the characters' actions. But there are other times where I see a brilliant chance to lay down some foreshadowing or begin to sow the seeds of plotlines that will develop much, much later in the story. And I get to do so because I know (on a grand scale) where the story is going. So, for me, thought it's exhausting and requires continual maintenance and will likely require a very thorough rewrite before any thoughts of publication, the way I'm doing things for "Godchild" is an enjoyable and dynamic way to write the story.

Now, I tell you that to tell you this.

"A Tree in Times Square" is going to be handled in a completely different manner. It's going to be the first book that I try to map out, scene by scene, before sitting down to write it. Yes, this means that I haven't started writing it yet, even thought March is already burning through days. I want to give the story time to grow organically in my mind, even while I'm attempting to codify it with an outline. I've already seen benefits from this approach, as character origins and roles adapt and shift into new flavors, and plot details connect and respond to each other in my head and on the page. The entire climax that I had originally planned has changed itself at least three times since I started working on this outline (for the better, of course).

So that's another bit of trivia about "Tree" that has me excited to be working on it at last. We'll see, in the coming weeks, which method holds up and whether or not I'll want to adopt one or the other for future projects. (It might just be that -- gasp -- each project is different. We'll see.)

Until then,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What I learned in the month of February

As you may have noticed, I disappeared during the second half of February.

Sorry about that.

What you may be wondering is "why?"

Well, I talked briefly about it here, but I wanted to take a brief moment to talk about it independent of any other matter. So if you don't want to read the self-absorbed ramblings of a discouraged loner, then I suggest you move on to the next post. (If you do want to read the self-absorbed ramblings of a discouraged loner... what the hell is wrong with you? Creeper.)

Moving right along.

You see, I came very, very close to giving up on writing. It's hard for me to understand why, sitting where I am now. It was hard for me to understand why while I was in the midst of the doubt, but all I know is that I seriously questioned the purpose behind the daily grind that I have chosen to put myself through.

It didn't help that I was/am isolated from the majority of my friends and family, my easy access to books, and a supportive community for gaming. All of the things that usually remind me of how great this art form is, and how much I can do with it, are absent. These are all elements of my life that enhance my perception of the written word, both as a craft and as a life style, and I have been forced to embrace writing in its rawest form without them around me.

In short, and absent poetical terms, my writing almost ate me. Not consumed, in that I became nothing but the writing -- though that may have been a related danger -- but like a spiny beast it cornered me in a subtle ambush and demanded to know if either of us were worth it.

The spiny beast made me think that my ideas are crap and don't deserve to see themselves written down, much less put into publication. In turn, I convinced the spiny beast that it isn't worth the daily sacrifices that I have to make to live with it. Like a squabbling couple immediately before a messy divorce, craft and craftsman both thought the world was better off without the other.

Fortunately, as far as I'm concerned, we're both too stubborn for our own good. Neither of us agreed to roll over and die, so we persevered. It took a long time and a lot of mental energy and disappointment. But the result of our hard work is apparent in what we have learned and overcome together in these last days of February.

To be a bit more clear:

-I have learned that if I don't get a start on my writing in the morning, the chances that I won't get any writing done at all increase exponentially.
-I have learned that if I do get a start on my writing in the morning, it's likely that I'll exceed my writing goals for the day.
-I have broken down what seems like dozens of mental barriers in the past three days. I never thought I would be able to write more than a thousand words per day before NaNo. Then I never thought I'd be able to write more than two thousand words per day before January. As a result of February: I'm aiming to write over four thousand words per day, just to see if I can keep it up.
-I am learning, slowly, to press on through my doubt, because the writing does get better and the story does come together eventually and the characters really aren't as flat and lifeless as you thought (even if they will look that way when you start your rewrite).
-I am learning, slowly, to forgive myself and get over my disappointment when I fail to be as productive as I think I "need" to be. Beating myself up about my writing only makes it harder to get started the next day, and it prevents me from enjoying time to myself (without the writing) and time with my friends and family.

Okay, that's all. Thank you for bearing with me through all of that. A rough month is behind us now. Let's hope that that's the worst of it for a while.

I promise to be a bit more upbeat in the future (or at least to avoid wallowing about myself.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Introducing: A Tree in Times Square

First of all, I want to mention that I've begun contributing over at The Vanishing Blog. You can find my introduction here.

Alright, moving on.

So you may have seen me mention a new project in passing on Twitter and here in comments. I'm going to take a moment now to formally introduce it to all of you.

"A Tree in Times Square"

What is it?
It's going to be a shorter book (aiming for 40k words) that I hope to write within the month of March. It's about a young boy living in New York city who discovers an affinity for plants. I'm not entirely sure as to the audience for this book, yet, but I imagine it'll end up on a YA or similar market eventually. (However, I am not a publisher, so I don't know these things for sure. Yet.)

Why am I writing it?
Once again, I'm beginning to feel the drag from writing epic tales like "Godchild." This is an effort to complete something, and to do so in a timely manner as well. In addition, it's a story that I've had on my mind for years, so I decided that now was the time to try telling it. That may work, it may not; we'll find out.

What about "Godchild?"
I'm still working on it, and will continue to do so throughout March. Yes, this means I'm going to have to work harder than I did in February, but hopefully it'll earn me a break by April. Again, we'll see.

That's about all I can think of for now. I hope to share more about this project (and "Godchid") as I work on it. It's going to be different than anything else I've worked on (I seem to say that a lot, but it's true).

Until then,