Creative Practice: Inspiration

No idea if this is going to be more than a once in a while thing, but we’ll see.

Creative Cal has shown up in pictures before, usually with his giant quill. He represents the creative aspect of writing, the imagination and the inspiration.

Logical Lou (with the mustache) represents the logical aspects of writing. The planning, the determination, the grind.

The Senator will see you now

 (the image is the property of Seize the Imperium card game)
Senator Uldina

Short I’ve been helping a friend play-test his new card game, Seize the ImperiumIt s a fun, empire building card game set in the far future. I found myself inspired after the last session of testing, and wrote out a few fan-fics, one about an influential senator. The game’s creator liked that one so much, he posted it on his blog!  You can read it here.

I’ve been gaming for most of my life, and I really enjoy these sort of extra-short stories that are often included in rule books. Mechanics of a game are important, sure, but these little things set the flavor and tone of the world.

Anyway, just wanted to get this out there. Book 2 is with some Alpha readers, and the initial feedback is pretty good. I’m also making good strides with a fantasy novel, and writing every day. Manticon is coming up, and that’ll be fun.

Until next time, keep on writing!

-Michael

500 words a day

As a resolution for New Years, I challenged myself to record at least 500 words day in writing. I could have gone for more, but I wanted a nice, comfortable goal, since there are days when I have little time to actually write, and there are days where I don’t feel like writing. So, I set the goal at 500 words.

It turns out its usually a bit easier than I worried. I’m at a coffee shop most morning a little after 6 AM, starting my day off hitting the goal. Some days, I exceed a thousand words, and sometimes even two thousand.

There are off days, of course. There have been days where I’ve just pushed myself to get 500 words total, writing obvious crap, saying ‘a rough draft is just words on the page’ and I’ll fix it when I revise. But I’ve made the 500 words every day.

A benefit during revisions

It’s come in handy. As Book 2 of the Renaissance Army series has gone through revisions and out to some Alpha readers, writing 500 words a day on other projects has kept my creative juices flowing while I’ve been dealing with the mechanical and stylistic issues that revisions include. And it’s advanced a few projects from ‘neat idea’ to ‘words are on the page’. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell, and it’s good that I’m getting to them, even if they are of secondary or tertiary importance.

So, even as I get stuck on some matter in the revision, I at least make some headway on another project. So I feel I’ve gotten something done every day.

Some Math

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the words I’ve recorded in yWriter. Now, there are things I’ve written that aren’t recorded in yWriter, but I didn’t want to spend hours finding every single word I’d typed and adding it, so this is just a rough, quick calculation.

Since New Years, I have written 98,909 words in eight different projects. The vast majority went to Book 2 (58,000+), and with a fantasy book taking second place (29,000+). Book 3 was begun, with just shy of 3,500 words. Which means, over 106 days (as of writing), I’ve averaged 933.1 words a day. Well above my goal.

Try it!

If you’re a writer, try it out! Setting a simple, low goal and sticking to it is the way to accomplish a lot of goals, and with writing it helps to bull rush your way through the writers block and doubts and just get words on the page. Because once they’re on there, they mean something.

Non-sequential writing

This last weekend I finished a rough, rough draft of Book 2, my sequel to Renaissance Calling. It took a lot longer to finish than I expected, in part because I had to learn how to write a book in a  non-sequential fashion. Between the length of time Book 2 covers (a year as opposed to two and a half months) and the need to fit fourteen backer-created characters into the story, writing the story from start to finish wouldn’t work, unless I was willing to write out a 300,000 word monster of a rough draft. So I started jumping around, writing scenes as I had them and working from both ends towards the middle.

Like a pyramid being built without finishing the foundation.

It was interesting and frustrating, with a lot of false starts and dead ends, but ultimately it got me to the end of the rough draft and into revisions. As I move on with both this book and other projects, I want to take a moment and share with you some lessons about non-sequential writing I’ve taken from the experience.

Start at both ends and work to the middle

Starting at both ends and working towards the middle was the first thing I started doing. It made sense, since I knew how the story began and ended. Working from both directions, I can approach any problem I came across from either the front or the back. Sometimes I had to solve problems by writing the solution first, and building up to it.

Keep an eye out for lessons the protagonist needs to learn

By writing the end I gained a huge advantage; I figured out what the character needs to experience to have the impact I need her to have at the climax of the story. That helped me figure out what I needed to show the reader, versus what I could tell the reader. It’s a huge benefit to non-sequential writing to know what you don’t have to write.

Write scenes independently; don’t worry about flow

By flow, I mean the attention of the reader as they go from one chapter to another. I quickly stopped paying attention to flow for my rough draft. Scenes begin and end rather abruptly. Annoying, yes, but finishing the overall story was the main goal. Working on the flow is for the revision phase.

Don’t describe a secondary character when you first write him/her:

Jumping back and forth, I had no idea when this character or that character was going to be introduced. The first few times I wrote a character I included a description, but several times I later wrote them in an earlier scene. So I stopped writing descriptions. Instead, I’m saving the description until afterwards, then I’ll add them when I know where their first appearance is.

Keep a list of ‘Bits to Add’

Instead of jumping around to fix things every time they come up, I’ve been keeping a separate document where I write down the ideas I want to return to. The point is to get the side-thoughts out of the way without interrupting the work on whichever scene I’m focusing on at the time. There will be enough time to fix everything later.

 

I’ve already started applying these lessons to other projects. It’s really helpful to get things moving when something is getting stuck, or simply to just get words down and counted. One project in particular covers almost a decade of time, and already I’m making huge strides in it because of these lessons.

Have any thoughts or tips of you own? Feel free to let me know.

And as always, keep on writing.

Goals for 2018

I didn’t mean to wait until halfway through January to post about my 2018 goals, but somehow that happened. In some way, the lateness flows into my main goal for 2018: to be more of a writer.

I don’t just mean write more, though I do want to do that. What I mean is I want to be involved in the writing community more. I know people who get short stories published and set up literary events. I want to go to more conventions and blog more.

A friend has said several times that self-publishing is like a business, you have to work on it every day. While I am proud of my accomplishments as a writer in 2017, I can’t say I have stepped up to that challenge. So my goals for 2018 have to do with improving that.

Specific Goals for 2018

Attend four conventions: I am already signed up for Manticon 2018. I want to find three others to sell my books at.

Blog regularly: There are a lot of things I want to blog about, so I’m going to have to make this a priority. I’m already using a habit website to help me track a lot of improvements for 2018, including blogging.

Publish Book 2: I want to get Book 2 out and get started on Book 3.

Finish my fantasy Trilogy: I have finished Book 1 of a fantasy trilogy, and I want to finish the whole thing before I start revising and editing. I want to work on that some.

Find and take advantage of other opportunities: Going to require some research, but there’s no reason I can’t get into more writing relating groups, organizations, etc.

Simple, right? At least on paper. There’s still a lot of work to do on all of them in execution, but I’m ready for the task. To the writing-mobile!

-Michael

Birthday Check In

Yes, it’s my birthday. And since it’s been a while since I posted, I wanted to take this opportunity to check in and let you all know I’m still here, working hard on Book 2.

Book 2 is largely outlined, with only a few gaps to connect. I’ve got about 70,000 words written and plugged into yWriter. And I’ve got all the Kickstarter-created characters figured out. All in all, it’s just some hard work to get the draft finished.

I’ll try to post more on here in the future, but it might be spotty until Book 2’s rough draft is done.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday to me! Last year I had just finished my Kickstarter campaign and was happily on my way to publishing Renaissance Calling. What a good year it’s been.

Cheers!

Book and Beer Pop-Up Bookstore

This last Sunday I had a chance to join more than twenty other authors as the Books and Beer Pop-Up Bookstore, held at the Blackstack Brewery in St. Paul.

The format for the event is pretty simple. First, it takes place at a brewery. The authors, all local Minnesotans, get a portion of a table, enough to see up some books and a few display bits. Patrons can come to drink beer and mingle with the authors, buying books and taking cards as they see fit. And there you have it: a Pop-Up Bookstore.

It only lasted five hours, but with about 25 authors there, there was a lot to see.

A picture from the event, posted by Books and Beer on Facebook.

I didn’t get around to giving everyone the attention they deserved, but I did see enough to appreciate the broad range of authors there. My table alone had gothic horror (written by an author who graduated from my high school one year after I did), and a techno-thriller book. I also saw horror comedy, children’s books, and historical fiction set in ancient Egypt. There was something for everyone.

I certainly enjoyed myself. I got to try some new beer, and meet a number of local authors. We traded writing stories and tips to get around writer’s block, inspirations and problems we’ve faced as authors. I got some resources and ideas for social media and other events to check out. And I got some people interested enough to buy my book.

I look forward to doing more of these Pop-Up Bookstore events in the future. The coordinator wants to keep the authors cycling through, so I probably won’t have a table at the next one, but I’ll still stop by.  It is always fun to meet other authors, and see what they’ve created.

Books and Beer

I’ve got a table at an upcoming Books and Beer Pop-up Bookstore.

When: Sunday, August 6th, beginning tat 1 PM.

Where: BlackStack Brewing, 755 Prior Avenue North, St. Paul.

Join me at at least 24 other Minnesotan authors. Finds some drinks, start some conversations, and support your local writers.

I’m looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!

Lonely Road

I have a Saturday morning writing group that I attend most weekends. It is a pretty simple setup: rounds of 1 to 6 minutes of writing to a prompt, then passing a microphone and reading. I usually just write something to each prompt individually, but I’ve been wanting to challenge myself to write to a theme throughout the day, telling a single story of a person or place. Other people do that at the group, and it can be fun to see them work everything together.

This is my attempt. I really didn’t expect it to turn out so ‘Hotel California’, but I am pretty proud of it.

Down along Lonely Road

Down along Lonely Road are a surprisingly large number of bright lights. You’d think a road named Lonely would be dark and depressing, but in fact it’s quite lively. Street clowns perform tricks and make balloon animals, as windows invite pedestrians into shops selling food or clothes, arcades full of games, and dance clubs from hip-hop to Charleston.

There are lots of stories about why it was called Lonely Road. Named after some forgotten tycoon, or a mispronunciation of some foreign word. No one really knew, and the stories became part of each shop’s mystique.

On Lonely Road, one is always surrounded by people, lights and noise. It’s a difficult place to be lonely, but some people still try.

North Face

One of the biggest shops on Lonely Road is the North Face Hat, Mask and Sunglasses Shop. There, one can buy any sort of headwear one wants. Sunny day, buy some sunglasses. Need a tribal mask, there is a floor for that, too.

The owner, Timothy North, says Lonely Road came from one tree that used to stand in the middle of the field. The road came by, and as it was the only landmark, it became Lonely Tree Road, eventually shortened to just Lonely Road.

The tree was cut down oe died, but he saved some of the wood to make masks. He sold hundreds of authentic, lonely tree masks, not at all made in China. Someday he’ll run out, but somehow he’s always managed to find one more when needed.

The train was coming into the station, and . . .

At the end of Lonely Road, the train was coming into the station, and once again, no crowds waited to get on. A hundred people got off, welcomes by clowns and announcers, shuffling on the sidewalks of Lonely Road, awed by the lights. But no crowds boarded before the train took off.

Endless Blue Sky

From the tallest point on Lonely Road, on the top of the North Face Building, one could see the endless blue of sky. No mountains, no cities, no landmarks of any kind. Just unbroken horizon.

The road, beginning at the train station, stretched off at the other side. At the edge of town sits a sign post, boasting several dozen cities. All the arrows point down the road, with a question mark for each distance.

No clouds, no contrails, no birds. Endless blue sky.

Raptor’s Noise

There are odd shops along Lonely Road.

A raptor’s noise sounds off when you enter Dino Dave’s Zoon, with all sorts of mythological and extinct animals roaming the floors. No cages keep the crows from enjoying the animals up close.

Then there is Papa Paddington’s Puppet Palace, where Old Man Paddington makes thousands of dolls. Many look like pedestrians that once walked along Lonely Road, but have long since moved on. The details are exquisite, even the eyes that follow patrons through the store.

Multiple People Later

Parties raged all along Lonely Road. At every venue, multiple people would dance and drink, and agree to meetup at another club just down the road. But by that club, new groups formed, old friends forgotten.

‘One more! One More, then back to the hotel!’ was a common cry. No one asked how a three-story hotel held so many people, and few even remembered their room number. When they did, it was always 2B.

We can edit that out.

Photographers prowled the road, taking pictures with archaic flashbulbs. ‘No, they are digital cameras,’ they claimed, ‘we just made them look old. Worried about a picture? We can edit it out. We are professionals.’

One pedestrian requests an obnoxious looking man with an ice cream cone be taken out of the picture. The photographer uses a pencil and erases the man from the photo. The pedestrian smiles, while down the road an ice cream cone suddenly falls to the pavement.