Writing Update: December 4, 2016

This post is about 350 words. 

kermit writing.gif

It’s been about three weeks since my last writing update, where I mentioned that I’d uploaded the first two chapters to this website. Since then, I’ve finished up* the next three, though I’m not sharing them yet.

*As always, when I say, “finished up”, there’s a big disclaimer about reserving the right to go back and tweak them as needed. Or to change things based on revisions to later chapters. Or to fix things that have woken me in the middle of the night. Or when I realize I’m having the same delusion as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

OK, so rambling aside, I’m satisfied that FIVE chapters are ready for reading. They have cohesion and flow, and each considers the length of the ones before (i.e. I don’t have a 3,000-word chapter followed by one that’s 10,000 words). They have transition and connection to each other, so they are no longer five separate pieces. They feel like the first act of a three-act story. And that’s about 20% of the book completed, which feels pretty good. But….

Continue reading

Advertisements

Writing Update: November 13, 2016

This post is about 250 words. 

It’s been a few months since I published an update like this, but with back-to-school, Boy Scouts, the election, and the release of Gears of War 4, it’s been a busy Autumn.

Oh yeah, and I’ve been doing  massive amounts of editing.

typing 5.gif

I haven’t been idle, even if this blog has been a bit quiet. To remedy that, I’ve uploaded excerpts to the site.

Continue reading

Writing Exercise #3: Halloween Rhymes

This post is approximately 500 words. 

The following verse represents about an hour’s worth of work, which means it’s not highly polished, yet I still managed to work in rhyme and rhythm with minimal effort.

However, if you’ve ever written a verse in rhyme, you know that sometimes it requires a ridiculous commitment to the style. For me, I usually get about three-fourths done before I start to question my decision. It comes around the time I think, “I need a rhyme for itch: ditch, Fitch, hitch, kitsch, liche, Mitch, niche…” Then comes the expectation that the audience will find the verse absurd because stylistic compromises were made just to get a rhyming word in.

Well yeah….sometimes.

But that’s fine. In a writing exercise, you’re not seeking art or permanence. You’re chasing the muse, curious about where she leads. It’s almost disposable writing, which is not to say it’s worthless. To the contrary, it very well could end up in a finished work. But again, that’s not the point. The goal, the real objective, is to keep your writing tools honed. This makes your daily manuscript work easier because you’ve kept your mind sharp.

In the spirit of the Halloween season, I hope you can enjoy this little cautionary tale, written in the style of old nursery rhymes. Continue reading

Too Many Villains

This post is approximately 600 words.

In this post, you get to travel far down the rabbit hole. But instead of landing in Wonderland, you’ll land in the writer’s brain, a place as equally crazy and confusing.

rabbit hole.gif

As the title implies, I’ve got too many villains in my first book. At least, that’s the perception readers will have. If I’m careful enough – write well enough – I can prevent them from thinking that, but it’s complicated because I don’t want a simple black-and-white story.

In the mix, some win, lose, die, or are redeemed. Some characters might even be more than one of the following:

  • the antagonist of the entire series
  • the lieutenant – the character that does the bidding
  • the manipulator – the deceiver
  • the baron – the non-supernatural foil
  • the monster – in a traditional story, the dragon to be slayed
  • the foot soldiers – cannon fodder

For characters that come and go, interwoven amongst each other’s storylines within a twisty, turny story, it will be easy to lose my readers. In working through the second draft, I find I’m already there. Continue reading

Flash Fiction: An exercise in editing

This post is approximately 750 words, about as long as a typical flash fiction piece.

I discovered flash fiction a few summers ago. Seemed like the perfect way to churn out quick little stories that I didn’t want to flesh out further. I’m fan of O. Henry and fairy tales, both of which are often very short. For me, sometimes there wasn’t much story to tell, and that was fine. And with a word count of 500 to 1,000 words, it should be no problem cranking something out in less than an hour, especially for someone who’s been typing for more than half his life and finds himself bursting with ideas.

flash-fiction.jpg

So, oh yes, it was very easy to type quick stories: 1,200 words, 2,500 words, 5,000 words! How in the hashtag was I going to edit down stories of those lengths? Well, for the longer ones, I couldn’t. They would sit, untouched, until I had the time to flesh them out into longer short stories (the 5,000-word one has since doubled in length).

But the 1,200-worder posed a delightful challenge. I just needed to trim my story by 17% (yes, I’m an English major who likes math). That’s probably about what I should be looking to do with my writing anyways. In a story of this length, that was about two paragraphs. I reread the story, looking for a section to cut. And read it again. And again.

I was stuck.

Every paragraph seemed to drive the narrative forward. Every detail seemed critical. After all, why would I put in anything that wasn’t essential, especially when word count was a key consideration? I felt like I had laid a path with paving stones and was now trying to determine which ones to remove. At first glance, it seemed my smooth story would soon be filled with potholes.

All right. I’ll nickel and dime the heck out of it and see what that gets me. Continue reading

The Edges of Fantasy

This post is about 600 words.

Seven years ago, I was shoveling my driveway for the third time in twenty-four hours. A blizzard was sweeping across the upper Midwest, making up for the lack of snow we’d had that season. I was happy for its arrival. The snow, not the blizzard.

Hoth.gif

My preferred method of winter transport. They smell bad on the outside.

I have a routine when clearing the driveway: first define the edges, then push the snow outwards from the middle. That day, it struck me as analogous to how I wrote fantasy fiction, which was different than the way I wrote everything else. I thought I needed to approach fantasy by rigidly defining all aspects of the world before filling in the storyline. I felt I needed to know the limitations of my realm, which really seems counter-intuitive for a story designed to exist completely outside our own reality. Here’s a quick list of the things I wanted to create first:

Races, political history, creation myths, alphabet and language, folklore, weapons, armor, architecture, landscapes and geography, clothing and fashion, fighting styles, music and poetry, racism, and heroic legends

That’s a monumental amount of detail to develop before the main character begins the Hero’s Journey. Even though some story ideas blossomed from this world-creation, I struggled getting to the serious writing before I’d defined every aspect of my new world. Until I’d found the edges.

Calvin 2.jpg

“In my rewrite, this shop is on another street!”

That’s the real reason I never got far in my original fantasy novel. But man, oh man, I really enjoyed defining those things, which is part of the trap, right? It’s exhilarating to play god in your own little world, even if the devil is in the details. I might have put down 100,000 words on paper, but more than half were notes and definitions and guidelines and rules, rules, rules.

Consequently, I abandoned that epic fantasy novel, despite having created several maps, dozens of characters, and components of everything else on my aforementioned list. It was the right decision. It was too big for me and was going to get in the way of the rest of my life.

I knew I would eventually return to this world when I was ready. Continue reading

Bring Your Character To Life…Literally

This post is approximately 350 words.

In April, my colleagues Christi and Michael were discussing Hero Forge, a website that allows you to design your own gaming miniature and have it 3D-printed. Being a Warhammer fan, the conversation put me into nerd overdrive. Design my own character and play with hold it in my hand? Gaming nirvana, my friends.

Hero Forge.png

To be honest, I enjoy gluing, painting, and basing Warhammer miniatures more than the game itself. In some future post, I’ll write about the similarities between the painting and writing processes. But I digress.

As I spent hours designing fun figures, it occurred to me that I could bring my novel’s main character, Tildy, to life. Imagine having your own character sitting on your desk, thought-made-real. But not just one! Oh man, the possibilities are nearly endless. I wrote briefly about it hereContinue reading