Expansionism

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou might have noticed I did a few reblogs. That’s not going to stop, it just may not be quite so “back-to-back,” if you will. I’m trying to be somewhere between manifest destiny and Canadian, when it comes to expanding my audience. I know there is a huge gap between selfishness and selflessness, but I intend to do the normal human thing and try to be the best of both.

Today’s photo comes from epicantus.tumblr.com. You will find that I’m also going to play with the layout a bit. I may even begin some new content ideas. In particular I’ve got an idea to try to bridge the photo with the quote I use in a narrative of 500 words or less. Something short, sweet, and to the point. Practice for me, little nuggets of entertainment for you; costs you nothing but five minutes of your time.

“The best kind of writing, and the biggest thrill in writing, is to suddenly read a line from your typewriter that you didn’t know was in you.”
– Larry L. King

Today however I’m going to skip that since I’m mostly playing with the layout and letting everyone know my nefarious plans. I’m also looking for participation, I want criticism. What do you like, what do you not like, why? Do you want more content, less content, longer content, shorter content (much shorter and I can just use twitter)? The more I know the better I can make this blog. If I get no response, then I must be making the most amazing and beautiful blog yet to exist. If that’s the case, then anyone looking for a content writer, please email me a job offer with salary and available benefits, you can go to my about page or even my about.me page found on the side bar.

Joking aside, anything I reblog will almost definitely be writing related, be it narrative or informational. In addition to all this I’m trying to write a novel (working title: Dawn Vernalis) and a short story (The Return Of the Cult), while trying to keep interesting/entertaining content here, maintaining a full time job, and having a family life. So basically like every other person in the world who has everything going on and trying to move into their desired career from their day job.

All I can say is, anybody can do it, you just need the drive and desire. Oh and the skill to work while mentally and/or physically exhausted.

The Writing Process: Part Three

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
-E. L. Doctorow

traffic-cars-headlights-head-light-bokeh-lightsNever a truer statement than the one above.

Last time I went on about how I plan and execute a short story. Now we’re going to talk about how much that can differ from writing a longer story, such as the novel I’m writing Dawn Vernalis (working title) . If you didn’t yet read the first article in this set, about my process for blog posts check it out here. If you want to know more about Dawn Vernalis you can see the synopsis here. With the boring plugs out of the way we can get to it.

The biggest difference, for me, when trying to write a longer work of fiction is the use of more words. All jokes aside, I mean that my notes are also more wordy and organized. I need more detail in the outline in order to save myself from reading my entire story everyday before I write. The beginning of the process is not too dissimilar from that of the short story.

First I imagine the main points of the story, setting, characters, plot, but it usually stops there. At this point I need to begin the outline. I write a synopsis from the world I’ve imagined in my head, this gives me direction. This direction takes me into the plot line and details.

The main section of notes begin with outlining the plot, like a story board. I’ll plan out the introduction of characters, including detail information like a dossier. This includes the physical features, as well as character quirks; I don’t like to call them flaws, since quirks make us who we are. I’ll include setting details, such as ambiance, features, and landmarks. I might also add lines that I feel need to be added to the story, things that I come up with while brainstorming that are so critical that they fit in the story word for word.

I’ll plan out maybe the first act or major scene this way, then begin to write it out. Most of all I try to avoid going back to make corrections at this time. There will be plenty of time for grammar corrections, spell checks, revisions, and name changes after the story is finished. Once the first act is written, I’ll take all the information up to that point and plan out the next just as I did with the previous section. Wash, rinse, repeat until the story is complete.

And, as I said, we have plenty of time to go back and polish the work once the story is complete. Just think if you start editing before completion you might change the story you imagined, this type of thing would lead me into a serious case of writers block. Writer’s block is just your mind telling you that something in your story doesn’t make sense. This is the only caveat to not editing until completion; if you get writers block before completing your story, you may want to go back and try to find the thing that doesn’t make sense. Once you get that resolved it should be smooth sailing, at least until the next storm.

I have a hope that somehow these three posts will help someone realize, that with time and effort they too can write. It’s not just about that one story you carry, but maybe the stories you can imagine to get you closer to that story. Writing is work, the more you do it, the better you will get.

Part One and Part Two

The Writing Process: Part Two

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”
-Thomas Jefferson

twisty-treesIn the first part of this three piece article I covered my writing process for the blog posts I put together. I also included some of the things that I’m doing to add more oomph, gusto, pizzazz and a bunch of other outdated buzz words. As previously stated I’m going to shift gears and touch more on my process for slamming together a short story.

I brought up the part about imagining the basics of my story. Such as, but not limited to, the setting, characters, plot, climax and whether there will be a resolution or not, and what that resolution might be. I might write these things down, or I’ll keep them in the ole noggin. The latter generally being considered bad form, but it happens. Then I might start to hash out the first few paragraphs, introduce the main character(s), giving them some detail and body. It’s usually at this point I stop and open another writing application (I prefer Google Docs, but more on that some other time).

In this second document I’ll start writing high level notes of the story that I began to write as well as what comes next. I will generally work on a three act system for both short stories and longer works. Acts one and two come easy to me these are mostly exposition, plot and character development and some build up. The climax and fall of act three are often a little more work. I know that these are things that I have steadily increased the hype about for the first parts of the story, so this is something that must blow the reader’s mind. Because of this I usually wait until all the details of acts one and two are complete before making notes about act three.

The notes contain only the most important of details, everything else is setting the scene. That comes to me as I write. I visualize the scene in my head, all the details, then I find things that stand out to me, where did the blood flow too, was the painting crooked, did the killer leave any evidence, what color are the unicorns; well you get the picture. Getting the picture is the idea, however, I don’t want to force you into my frame of mind, I just want to put you in my world and let you see it how you would see the world around us. That’s why I write, not paint, if I wanted you to see exactly what I see I’d paint it, and you would probably still see what you want.

Act three comes with the climax, the big shebang. All that effort was for me to control your emotions. That’s right, writers just love to toy with our emotions and anyone who tells you different is probably lying. I want to make you anxious about what’s going to happen next, so I have to be sure to include that in my notes. Then I either want to make you feel good or completely dash all your hopes. Which ever I chose be sure I put effort into the outcome, and I felt the same before writing notes about it. After I have the notes I take myself into that situation and write out everything I would notice if I was experiencing it. If it’s a game of cat and mouse most of the details will be a blur, if it’s a battle field you will see a commander’s bird’s eye view, and if there is an unspeakable horror you won’t see the forest for the trees.

I left titles alone here, for the simple fact that titles are personal. If you can write the story, but can’t come up with a title, try that one phrase you wrote into the main character. The one you said out loud three times after you wrote it. Or don’t, I’m not the police, I’m just trying to explain my writing habits.

More to come in part three, the process for writing a longer story is, as luck would have it, more work.

Part One

The Writing Process: Part One

or What Comes Down, Must Go Up

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
-Ray Bradbury

duck-river-flood-126051297201343SpxPreviously I wrote a little about how my life has been quite disrupted by the breaking of a pipe. We are without running water in the house right now, which is rather inconvenient. Maybe inconvenient is too soft a word, a more accurate phrasing would be “a terrible inconvenience” or “a disaster.” I’m sure anyone can imagine, but it is something many of us take for granted.

Besides my home life being disrupted, work has become rather demanding again. The holidays are often slower for our business, than the rest of the year. With the holiday rut firmly in the past we are kicking things back into high gear and pushing to complete some projects. Of course, like many businesses, the upper management fails to understand the magnitude of the projects they have set forth. This leaves us, the peons, with the dilemma of completing tasks in an unreasonable time frame or not completing it on time. We usually opt for doing it right and taking the deadline hit on the front end, that way we can follow up with “see how good we did it.”

Most days when I get done with work I’m either thinking about the house, work, or trying not to think at all. But enough about earthly pursuits, let me embellish about my writing. I have a “process,” if it even qualifies as a process, that is less than professional. First, I’m going to talk about the shortest task, blogging. Then I’ll follow up with the short story, such as The Return Of the Cult. Finally, I’ll finish up with my process for writing a long story, such as the novel I’m working on (working title: Dawn Vernalis).

These blog posts have almost no process, but I’m working on that too. As you can see I’ve started adding a quote at the top. I haven’t quite decided if that’s a hook or just pretentious, but I’m not afraid to be pretentious if it’s right or I just like it. I try to find a quote about writing or inspiration and a photo that is obscurely referenced, even in hyperbole, somewhere in this blog. Most of the article topics just come from my head at the time and I’ll be honest most are written while I have down time at work. The titles usually come from the topic, but I commonly just pull something out of my hat and think, man that sounds good when you say it out loud.

Besides the quote, which I really liked the one I posted at the top of this, I’ve also started trying some other things to draw in readers. You will notice I’ve tried to include a photo in most of my posts. I’ve taken one of these myself, the rest are from public domain or are free stock image sites. I’ve also started scheduling my blogs for peak traffic time. It’s somewhat like predicting the weather; often close, but when it’s off it’s way off. Additionally, if you read this entire post you’ll see that I’m trying the time release article for longer lasting relief as well as acquiring repeat customers.

I will continue in the next article. We still have the short story and the full book process to cover, covers are another topic entirely.

Monday, Monday

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-high-quality-resolution-downloads-around-the-house-7On Friday I posted the first part to a story I will be writing here when I’m not
writing anything else, however I posted it at 7:00 am and I don’t think it popped up for many people. I’m learning very quickly that timing is key for getting new readers and views.

For those of you that didn’t see the post you can check it out here http://tinyurl.com/mk4jdsc.

The day before I posted this I had a conversation with a colleague/friend who argued that self publishing doesn’t count as being published. I argued the opposite for the simple fact that being available to the public is published. It’s in the base of the word. That got me thinking about success, and how it’s measured.

We all define success in our own way, but in the end the final goal is that sense of accomplishment. By writing and publishing my first book for Amazon Kindle, I will feel a sense of accomplishment, but is that success? I think it is a form of success, a small piece of the success I’m trying to accomplish. If someone buys the book I will feel some more accomplishment, another small piece of success.

However, I don’t expect to be a successful writer from one book. I hope that my first book will be a success, that is not my expectation. I expect to use my first book as a learning experience, a way to better myself towards my goal of becoming a successful writer. I measure that success as being able to make a decent living writing. One of those learning experiences is this blog, which I hope to one day monetize.

Here’s the flip side to that though, does monetizing my writing make me a sellout? Well, honestly, no. I’m not coming to you saying I’m doing this solely for the art and experience, that’s only portion of my motivation. I also want to earn an income, but that’s a lengthy goal that will require plenty of effort on my part.

It’s important to know what you want to get out of the things you do in life, but success is measured in the eye of the beholder. If you feel you are successful just by getting your words out, then do that, and feel as though you’ve made it. Others may not agree with your assessment, but they don’t need to decide your success, they need to decide they’re own. Once you know what you want, go for it with everything you have. Don’t expect it to just happen, and don’t expect it to happen with your first efforts, as nice as that would be. Prime example, my post of the first part of my short story The Return of the Cult has only seen 4 views since I posted it; that doesn’t make me feel like a failure, it just means I need to put in more work. Part of this post is that work, if you didn’t notice.

I spent most of my life not knowing what I wanted, I went with the flow of things. It has worked out pretty well so far, but now with a beautiful wife, an adorable baby boy, a dog, and a full time job, I’m wondering how long this success can last without any additional effort. Instead of waiting for “the other shoe to drop,” I decided to make an effort. That’s why I’m here.

The Return of the Cult, Part One

Disclaimer in table of contents

Part One.

My name is James Webster, I used to be a professor at Miskatonic University. Three weeks ago my life unraveled into a state of hallucinations and delirium. From professor of philosophy to a rambling lunatic screaming about monsters the likes of which have only been dreamed in the heads of the soft minded, the artistic, and those with apparent psychic connections to such great and malevolent beasts. During this period of general lucidity I am able to collect my memories for a short period in this imaginative chronological space that we call time.

Let’s go to the beginning of my journey into the depths of insanity, before I ventured into the dark secluded underground dens of people who have long since given up there ability to rationalize the surreal with clear reasoning. It was the 13th day in March, I was grading papers for a lesson on religious leaders and their charismatic presence, when I heard a scream coming from the hall outside my office.

I proceeded to investigate the scream. Opening my office door, I found a young woman across the hall laying on the floor in a pool of what my best guess was blood, which must be seeping out of the body from a spot on the individuals abdomen. I made this deduction when I noticed the student’s hand grasping the wound. While my brain made sense of the situation I rushed over to the aid of the victim. I asked how badly she was hurt, but she did not speak.

With her available hand she pointed down the hallway. I turned my head in the hopes of spotting the suspect responsible for this atrocity. I only caught a glimpse of the despicable culprit’s hooded cloak and muddied shoe. As they turned the corner of the hall I yelled out “STOP” but it made no resonance with them. I turned back to the scene of the crime and the young woman was not moving, so I reached down to check her pulse, she was now a murder victim.

In my panic, I looked around the hallway trying to decide the next logical course of action. During this moment of anxiety I discovered a small blade of about nine inches with a serpent like pattern, etched into the blade were symbols. As a professor of philosophy and religious studies I’ve seen many dead languages, but nothing like these. The characters looked a little like pictogrammes, but none that matched any from the far east, past or present. On the hand guard was some sort of creature, if you could call it that. There was something anatomically incorrect about the creature, parts from different biological classes of animals. It was unidentifiable with the knowledge I possessed. I came to my senses with a snap and telephoned the police from my office.

The police arrived within ten minutes of call. During my wait, as I tried to cope with the cruel reality that I witnessed, I drew a copy of the knife in one of my journal. As well I made note of what I had only just observed, from the audible scream to the suspected culprit fleeing the scene. I wrote down as many details as I could pry from my mind because, I did not want my fallable human memory to recollect any incorrect information when explaining my account to the police. As the officers took my statement, one of them, he will remain unnamed so as not to implicate him, told me in confidence that there have been a string of murders over the last four nights that fit the same modus operandi. Until tonight they had no found a single clue leading to the person responsible. They said it was probably my quick reaction that caused the killer to drop the knife in panic at being caught.

After the police left I went back to my home, a one bedroom apartment downtown. It was only a couple of blocks from the university, but I decided it best to take a cab tonight. I paid the cab driver and made my way up three flights of stairs to my apartment. I got in and placed my coat on the rack, then placed my notebook on the coffee table and prepared dinner.

As I ate, so too did my thoughts eat at me; the sight of a murder, the cryptic language on the knife, the creature that should not even exist in the minds of man. I began to lose my appetite but became insatiable for answers. I started looking through my books for any resemblance to the characters I had seen on that knife. There were many books of various breakout versions of Judaism that used pictographic letters in their rituals, but none matched. Neither did the blood rituals of ancient Mayan and Inca cultures. The symbols were nothing like those of ancient Egypt and far from the characters found at the Jiahu site in China.

I fell asleep in my chair with books all over my small living room. As I got up I knocked over a glass of wine hidden underneath various papers on dead languages. I scrambled to clean it up, grabbing towels from the kitchen. When I finished cleaning up I noticed one paper, I must have overlooked it the previous night. It was a study on a language that has never been pin pointed to a single location or period of history. The only information on it was from a case of mass hysteria that ended in the mysterious death of a professor at Miskatonic more than 40 years ago. The death was officially ruled as natural causes and the case was closed, and the study was kept from the public by the professor’s sole inheritor.

I went to the school that morning with the intention of letting the police do their job and dropping the entire subject. Sleepless nights were something I could not afford with my own study getting close to approval for grants. However, I failed to uphold my intention when I handed the drawing of the knife to one of the archaeology professors. Professor Thomas Ames has studied ancient artifacts for the better part of 20 years. After looking at the drawing with an inquisitive expression he responded with “let me get back to you.”

After the rest of the day went by with no response from Professor Ames, I had hoped, at the time, that might mean the end of my obsession. Little did I know, I was sorely mistaken.

Table of Contents | Next

All Dressed Up, No Place To Go

20150218_062449I’m stuck at home again due to icy road conditions. Yesterday my place of employment closed due to the inclement weather; today, however, the decision makers decided to go back to business as usual. I, on the other hand, live over 30 minutes away and that makes a huge difference in road conditions. You can probably see from the picture.

I thought, “oh well, time to get comfy with some hot cocoa and read.” But then I thought better. This is the time I will be taking advantage of this blog or writing the book.

I’m sure many of you know how hard it is to separate the work you want to do from the fun, entertaining, lovable, glaring distractions that we surround ourselves with at home. After all, we spend so much time working that the first thing we want to do when we get home is talk about something else. “How was your day?” Followed by the common change of subject, “um, what’s for dinner?” You do it, probably subconsciously at this point, maybe different questions.

Then, once you’ve gone through the daily exchange of information you turn on the TV, open a book, get on the internet. Many of us even put it in our heads that we can multitask this with some work. But few of us can actually pull this off. I am not one of them.

So here I am, early in the morning. Already went for a walk in the cold, made some hot cocoa, staying off the roads. Everyone is asleep except me and the dog, everything is off except this browser and a lamp, the only distraction I have now is me (and Steam, so many games so little time).

This is when I say something motivational like, turn off the TV, close that book, stop playing that game, stop browsing Facebook or Wikipedia. Do something that you keep putting off, like write a book or start a blog; I said before anyone can do it these days. Go make some music, put paint on canvas, program that app you think will revolutionize the way we use phones. And don’t sell yourself short, make sure you value the work you do and get something out of it. If that means make some money for the time you put in, then so be it; there is nothing wrong with providing for yourself and your family. If you can already provide and your just looking for that feel good when you help people or make people feel something that they would not, had they not seen your work that’s good to. There is value in helping others.

The most important take away here is that you have something to show for your work. Tell me in the comments how you focus.