Tag Archive: writer


 

While I’ve always been a fan of music, I love it even more when there’s a message in the lyrics that apply to my life. A group of London DJs and producers called Bugz in the Attic have a song titled “Consequences.” The song is basically about keeping up with your current progress, not lagging behind or going too slow lest you pay the consequences.

I feel like this is something that especially applies to writers. We all know what it feels like when you spend several days in a row churning out pages and pages of material. Creativity is flowing and you feel better knowing you’re making progress and start to feel more like a professional writer and less like someone who only thinks or talks about writing. Then something happens and you go a few days without writing anything. Before you know it, it’s been a week since you’ve even opened the file on your WIP, and that feeling of accomplishment you once had fizzles down to nothing.

Trust me, I know how life gets in the way, but if you were once able to work on your novel, short story or screenplay for several days in a row, you can do it again. Even if your schedule becomes hectic, there’s surely a way you can cram in ten minutes here and ten minutes there. While every second counts, you have to make an effort to make it count. If you don’t keep up with your new writing level, you may pay the consequences. Consequences such as that feeling of emptiness you get when you haven’t written or done anything productive in a while, that feeling of taking three steps forward and stumbling three and a half back. You also run the risk of ruining a serious writing streak. You get your brain used to pumping out several words or pages every day or every other day and then you suddenly stop, slamming you mind into a brick wall. I’ve been working on my novel for the past few days, and I’ve been in nothing but a good mood.

Keep up with the writing spirit and let it have its way. You don’t have to write every day, but try to at least think of ideas and scenes for your story. Always keep a notepad and pen nearby to jot down ideas or use a phone app to keep notes. You’ll find that simply thinking about your story will get you excited. Think of writing like exercise. At first it’s grueling and your muscles protest, but if you keep up with it your body will eventually grow accustomed to it and you’ll be able to do more repetitions, go longer without taking a break and you might even start to look forward to exercising. If you suddenly stop, you run the risk of seeing all of that progress disappear every time you look in the mirror or go up a flight of stairs.

Don’t be afraid of doing more, of being more. And don’t be afraid that your writing streak is just a fluke that will wear off in a few days. Even when you don’t feel productive or creative, you can still study the craft of writing. That way, when another writing streak comes back around you won’t be struggling with scene, dialogue, tone or character arcs.

To end this post, I’ll leave you with “Consequences” by Bugz in the Attic.

Take care out there.

What are some ways that you try to keep a writing streak constant? 

Taken Over By The Fear

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d talk about fear and how it can both help us and hinder us.

As writers, there’s plenty for us to be afraid of. We can be rejected by agents, have our work completely shredded by a critique group, make a grave mistake in a novel and not realize it until after it’s been published or we could suffer a horrible accident that leaves us unable to write. No matter how sensible or far-fetched our fears may be, the point is that we’ll have them. But when you push away those looming mountains of fear, the truth is that we’ll always have fear. If you write a great novel that sells well and is well-received, who’s to say that your next novel will be as magnificent? You may be able to scribble out several novels a year, but what happens if no one buys them or likes them? What if what happened to Robert Jordan happens to you and you die before finishing your latest book?

What if? What if? What if?

Fear can cripple us if we allow it. Or we can look at that fear as a motivator to help us become better writers. Afraid of being rejected by agents? Then do your research before you send off that query letter to make sure you’ve written the best novel and best query letter that you can. Just make sure that you don’t let fear keep you from sending it off when you know it’s ready. Afraid your critique group won’t like your submission? Then go through it forwards, backwards and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes your group has mentioned in the past. The same applies to avoiding massive mistakes in your novel.

Don’t try to keep fear out of your head. It’s what makes you human and it’s what makes you cautious. Instead, I think it’s better that we try to find the root of that fear and ask ourselves why we have that particular fear in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in life, but every now and then it really helps to sit down with yourself and sort out what’s going on in your head. For me, I find that cleaning is when I do my best thinking. When I need to step away or analyze a problem, I like to clean. Either that or I go for a walk. I think it’s the scrubbing away at a sink, dish or bathtub that symbolizes scrubbing away a problem or scrubbing to reveal the truth beneath the grit and grime.

Some of my fears are that I’ll run out of story ideas, that I’ll lose my writing ability/style, that what I write won’t match the ideas that I have in my head, that my writing career won’t go as I’ve planned and that I’ll find that one of my story ideas has already been written (I know this is common concern, but I always strive to be original).  The best that all of us can do is to just forge on and realize that the fear will follow us throughout our lives. Fear, like taxes, is something that occurs no matter who we are or what we do, so we might as well deal with it and move on with our lives. Besides, how different would like be if we didn’t have fear? Would it be better or worse?

Take care out there, and be safe tonight!

What are some of your fears about writing and how do you deal with them?

 

It’s Time to Share!

I think I’ll share a bit of my sci-fi story SanGuine with you. This is a short that I wrote back in 2007 or so. It’s a story about a guy named Santino Guine who’s a BloodBurner, basically someone who can manipulate blood to heal, hurt and amplify a person’s natural abilities. This one was published on the e-zine Chaos Theory: Tales Askew (upper right corner). If you’re into sci-fi and noir, you’re gonna love it…either that or your blood will boil.

 

I am Jesus Christ.

At least to them I am. They touch the soles of my boots, I take them into my arms, and they are whole again. Then they pay me. Jesus was paid once, right? A Bible is hard to come by these days, so I wouldn’t know. Not that I would care to anyway. The only thing I care about right now is the woman sitting across the table.

“How do I know you won’t just take my money and sprinkle some smelly powder and wave incense through the air?” She waves her hand through the air. Her veins are verdant lightning bolts cracking across her arms, neck, and forehead.

“You don’t pay me until I patch you up.” I flick my Zippo open, touch flame to my cig, inhale, exhale, and a pile of red smoke barrels through the air.

The cocktail waitress stops by. I point at my empty glass. She nods with a synthetic smile and scuttles off.

“So what ails you, Miss…”

She shakes her head, or at least she tries to. Mid-shake her head starts spasming, twitching, and she becomes generally discombobulated. I smother a laugh behind a lungful of Alphrosnic tobacco.

“The BT Virus?”

She starts to nod, stops, and says, “Yes. I was in the Mentanet when I opened the wrong file. Next thing I knew someone was digitizing the contents of my brain, can’t even remember my own–” her hand shakes violently “–name.”

“How long?”

“Infected for eighteen hours.”

“Gonna be dead soon.” The cocktail waitress returns with my drink. I take it and dip my head. That’s as close as I get to saying thank you.

“I know, that’s why I came to you.” Her words are a high-pinched hiss. She throws a nervous glance over her shoulder. People in the bar could care less. They’re used to me and the people I bring in. There’s an understanding in the air. I’m the one that put it there.

“Are you always this callous to your…clients?” She grabs her drink and downs it before it sloshes and shakes from her hand.

I throw a glare over my specs. “I’m not the one dying, lady. Now, if you want to continue to live and think me a heartless brute of ill-repute, then hold your hands out.”

She holds out a hand.

“You do know the difference between singular and plural, don’t you?”

She holds both hands out.

When she glowers at me I see that the pupils and the whites of her eyes are coated in black with neon green characters written in digitized ink scrolling down her eyes. This woman only has two hours to live. I shove my smoke in the corner of my mouth and get to work.

I take out my pocket knife, flick it open. Of course she jerks back.

“Wha…Are you going to cut me?”

“Thas the only way I can heal you,” I say around the cylinder in my mouth.

“What if you have–”

“All diseases transmitted through the blood were cured five years ago. In order for me to cure you I have to bleed into you. The good stuff’s in my blood.”

Her fingers curl like wilting flower petals. They smell just as sweet.

“I don’t know if–”

“Lady, you’re gonna be dead in an hour.” I blink.

She blinks. And she puts her hands on the table soaked in alcohol.

I touch the blade to her palm and make a delicate incision. I do the same to her other palm and to both of mine. When blood starts to dribble out like a thing unleashed, I press our palms together and our blood mingles. Then I heal her.

First, I keep her blood from pouring out of the cut. I go into her arteries and veins and it feels as if my blood, her blood, is being shredded and gnawed apart by the virus. I follow the scattered paths of pestilence, burning the virus from her system as I do, and stop at the blood flowing to her brain. The virus burns hottest here. I feel the decay burrowing into her body, soaking into it like poisoned sunlight. It makes me shudder and quake and sweat in my own skin and I know that she must be doped up on—yes. I can feel a faint smudge of nascacin in her system to dull the pain. The virus is eating through it like candy.

I throw myself deeper, almost drowning in toxins and broken blood cells. I brush the source of the virus surrounding the chip at the base of her brain that allows her to connect to the Mentanet. The virus is a familiar one, one that works in chains. I grab hold of a few links, my body jerking as I take a bit of the virus into myself, and penetrate them down to the core to the moment of conception. It fights and thrashes against me like the devouring beast that it is, but I am stronger and take a drag on the cigarette in the mouth that I can no longer feel. My blood is like a star shooting and slicing through viral chains. I overload it with artificial light and store-bought love and machine-gun diligence and pretty soon the thing is unraveled. I soak every drop of her blood in antibiotics and increase her white blood cell count before I follow the reverse path to my own arteries and veins, drawing dissolving remnants of the virus into myself as I do.

I open my eyes and take my hands from hers, the cuts on our palms zipping shut.

The lady rocks back in her chair, her eyes now a startling shade of green. She lifts her arms and sees her veins are veins instead of twisting lines of poisoned poetry.

“Oh, my, my–” Her jaw comes unhinged.

“Yeah, speechless. I get that every time.” I take the SiphonSlider from my pocket and lay it on the table. “I also get paid every time.” I take my currency card from my pocket and slide it into the slot on the SS. “If you would oblige me.”

Elation shines beneath her skin, smothering her ire, and she slips her card into the other slot. The LCD screen comes to life and rattles off our names and account numbers. She touches her name: Eloise Dictana.

“How much?” Eloise asks.

“Ten thousand credits.” I pinch my cig between my index and middle fingers as I sip my drink. Ice clinks as I stare at her over the rim.

“I don’t have that much money.” An ugly dent batters the middle of her forehead.

“You have enough money to afford a Mentanet chip and nascacin painkillers. Trust me, ten thousand is a drop in the bucket for you.” I nod at her drink. “And if you wanna look dirt poor, don’t order two glasses of Trissjoie.” I sip at my cheap Byroqdu.

I can feel her blood warm, but not from the virus this time. She opens a window on the SS, keys in the amount and transfers it to my account. A line of arrows trail from her end of the screen to mine and both the machine and my heart give a content little chime.

TRANSACTION COMPLETE

Eloise snatches her card out as I calmly retrieve mine.

“I find out your money’s funny I put the virus back in your blood, only this time I lace it with something truly nasty.” I look up at her as she stands. “Remember the Silent Syndrome scare in ’06?”

The blood I just healed drains from her face. She leaves.

I finish my cig, smash it out, and reach for another. The singer on stage is belting out something about poisoned love, and don’t I know it. I like to think of it as more that love poisoned me, poisoned all of us. At least it would if I ever tried the junk. Not to say that I have anything against love, just that I don’t see the point of it. Too much work and not enough pay. Women today are worse than they were when the sun was still burning. Crazy beautiful broads. I throw back a drink. Here’s to women and poisoned love.

 

I think it could work as a series. What do you think?

P.S. Be sure to check out episode four of Dark on the Rock! Share and vote, please!

Back to Basics

 

Writers not only have to be writers, but business people as well if we’re serious about making  a career out of our passion. We spend time learning about the publishing industry, how to market ourselves, where to find the best critique group for our level of skill, finding agents and more. All of this can be very exciting and fresh, but it can also make us forget why we set out to become a published author in the first place.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been slacking in my writing. I’ve still been working on my writing career, I just haven’t been working on the very thing that will support that career: my writing. I’ve been reading articles, trying to find software to create my own cover for my JukePop Serials story (any suggestions would be welcome) and writing to pay the bills.

Last night I had a small mental breakdown. I was reading an article about how poor publishing is worse than not being published at all. I realize that we need to know what we may be getting in to it before we get in to it and I appreciate the knowledge. But one thing I didn’t appreciate was the way it made me feel, like attempting to become a published author is one of the most risky and foolish decisions a person could choose to do with their life. In the time it takes to write a novel, find an agent, find a publisher, get a book deal and finally see your book on shelves is roughly the same amount of time it takes to finish medical school or earn a PhD. I realize that becoming a medical doctor takes time and money where becoming a published author only takes time and luck. But sometimes it seems as though it’s smarter and less painful to simply follow a different passion, a more sensible passion.

So why do writers do it? Why do we put ourselves through the rejection, pain, setbacks and pitfalls of the journey to authorhood?  Why do we keep faith in our hearts that one day we’ll join the ranks of other successful authors even though we know what’s waiting for us out there? Why?

I asked myself all of these questions last night, wondering if maybe I should focus on another career goal and put writing on the back burner for a few years. At 27 I feel as if I should stop dreaming and wake up and join the real world. But then I remembered how blessed I am. I remembered when I first discovered that I loved to write. I remembered how there is nothing more in this world I’d rather do then tell stories, explore, examine and imagine.

I remembered the magic of writing.    

I don’t want to look at my life ten years from now and wish that I’d kept pursing my first passion. Something could happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. But I won’t be there to experience that something if I don’t keep going and keep believing that whatever or Whoever brought me this far isn’t done with me yet, that my journey could be nothing like the horror stories I’ve read. Times are different, my path is different and my circumstances may not be the same.

Almost anyone can be a doctor, graphic designer, business owner or any other practical job. And I’m not demeaning those occupations whatsoever. But not everyone can be a writer, world weaver, yarn spinner, storyteller. Or journey is a different one, with different obstacles and frustrations. And there’s also a different joy and satisfaction associated with what we do. I believe that writing is  the closest I’ll come to finding out what it’s like to bring life into this world.

So not only will I stay in the game, I’ll do my damndest to change the game and win the game. And I hope to see you at the finish line.

Take care out there.

Tell Me Where the Road Turns

 

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-publishing and traditional publishing, wondering which would be a better fit for me, my personal tastes and my novel. There are aspects of both that I enjoy: the freedom and independence of traditional publishing, the level of exposure with traditional publishing, the level of control with self-publishing, the professional team you get with traditional publishing…and of course the financial benefits of self-publishing.

With traditional publishing I may have to wait months or years for my novel to come out, I’ll probably have to do all of my marketing on my own, I could be asked to change my title and I may not have much control over what my cover looks like. All of that being said, my material will be looked over by a professional editor, I’ll have more opportunities for reaching a wider audience and I’ll have an agent who knows where and to whom to market my work.

Self-publishing is a lot of work and can take a lot of money for a professional cover, editor and travel expenses if I want to do a book tour or something. That being said, it can be that much more satisfying if I become a success knowing that I did a majority of it on my own. I get to decide how much my book sells for, where my book is sold, what the cover looks like and when the book comes out. I know it’s possible to find an agent and publisher through self-publishing, but I feel like there’re just so many authors out there with magnificent and not-so-magnificent material. How does one stand out? How much time should one devote to marketing, networking, writing and working to keep food on the table?

I’ll be honest with you, there’s a part of me that terrified, overwrought and queasy at the thought of failing as an author. While I have confidence in myself and my writing, I’ll admit that I’m terrible at garnering attention. I’m the quiet, introspective type, not the Don Draper of the professional author world. I know I’ll have to become more extroverted and assertive as a self-published author or a traditionally published author. I know a lot of authors feel like this, and the way I see it is that if we’re brave enough to show readers, many of them faceless strangers, a part of ourselves with our work, then surely pursing an agent or self-publishing should be simple.

I’m sure some of us have heard horror stories about traditionally published authors who were forced to gut their books in order to make them “publishable” only to watch them wither and waste on the bookshelves. And we also know that if you choose to self-publish you have to set yourself on fire and put on a strobe light show with full surround sound simply to get readers to look your way , and even then they may not read your work.

So which path is the right path? Which is less painful? Which is more rewarding in this day and age?

I think they both are.

Rather than looking at it as an “either/or” issue, we should explore both avenues and realize their merit. If I do get an agent before I’m financially ready to be published, then I absolutely must express my concerns with them to make sure that we both want the same thing and so that I can make sure that my career is on the right path. I know that I’ll probably do some self-publishing, just to try it for myself somewhere down the line, hopefully after I’ve built up a bit of a following.

There’s no way of knowing where the road turns, and sometimes there’s no map to look at to plot a course, so all we can do is keep going…even if we’re all by ourselves.

Take care out there.

What are some of your fears and anxieties as a writer?

Devil’s Webground

 

I haven’t been feeding my child of creativity lately because my child of responsibility has been crying loudly, endlessly. As I was discussing with Diem Burden on Twitter, I hate it how life gets in the way of writing. And that’s especially true when you feel that writing is your life. Writers are also friends, fathers, employees, bosses, businesspeople, advertising agents and tax payers. While we would like nothing more than to put up a force field to block all of that out and simply write, we simply can’t.

I hate that I have to neglect my work-in-progress for my job, but I also hate having a zero balance in my bank account. And that’s what it’s all about really, balance. Sometimes that balance is a daily thing, sometimes weekly and sometimes monthly. While I would really like to work on something creative every day, I realize that sometimes I have to put aside the writing that makes me happy for the writing that makes me money. My novel isn’t making me any money yet, but my freelance writing is, and that’s something that I have to live with whether I like it or not. Sure I could say the hell with making money, but I like having a place to stay, food to eat and new books to read. In order to have all of that, I have to be bringing in money. While I have faith that I will make a luxurious living as a published author, I realize the hard truth that it may take a while for that to happen. In the meantime, I still have bills to pay.

Something else that I feel I’ve been investing too much time in, unnecessarily this time, is the Internet. I know that this is something that all writers deal with. These days it’s important to have an online presence in order to build up your platform and audience. But spending time online is a piece of the puzzle we have to fit in with the other pieces juuust right. Twitter, Facebook, blogging and all of the other social media gems are no doubt valuable, but they have to be done in moderation. After all, you won’t have anything to promote on all of those platforms if you don’t set aside the time to write. Just as you won’t have anywhere to sit down and write if you get evicted from your apartment for not paying the rent…ok, so you can go to a coffeeshop to write, but you won’t have money to buy coffee!

I guess what it all comes down to is prioritizing. Even if I don’t work on my novel every day, I can still write down ideas and at least outline a scene or chapter. Even if I don’t have something insightful to say on Twitter every hour, there are plenty of people who do and I can share their information, information that could inspire a blog post.

Writers are so busy moving, thinking, churning and reading that we forget to be…still…and…just…be. Just because you aren’t moving doesn’t mean that you aren’t going anywhere. Simply because you can’t feel the Earth move doesn’t mean that we all aren’t hurling across space. There’s no shame in having priorities, but there is shame in having skewed priorities and warped perceptions.

Take care out there.

Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense system, and in it there’s a concept known as “retzev.” Retzev basically means keeping up a continuous flurry of attacks and never leaving a gap to allow your opponent to escape or launch a counterattack. While I’m no Krav Maga master, I do think that the concept of continuous motion can and most definitely should be applied to writing.

 

I really enjoy variety and keeping things fresh and new even if it’s something that I’ve done several times. When it comes to writing, I try to keep up a continuous chain of “attacks” with writing, editing, blogging, re-writing, outlining, brainstorming and even reading. This allows me to constantly be working on something and have something to work on. With my second novel, I’m slightly changing up the format of my writing with some chapters. My latest chapter is comprised of nothing but training missions and an earlier chapter took a short break from the main cast of characters to focus on two other characters that inhabited the same world, just to flesh out the universe of the book.

As writers, it’s easy to be hard on ourselves and feel that we’re doing something monumentally wrong, or will never become a professional. What if a professional is nothing more than a person who never stops feeding and exploring their passions and making an honest attempt at fulfilling a goal? If a boxer does nothing but work on perfecting their left hook, they may have a mean punch, but they won’t know how to defend themselves or throw a combination to knock their opponent off guard. If you keep working on perfecting your dialogue writing skills, you may find yourself lost when it comes to character development or describing the setting your chatty characters inhabit.

One of the best ways to work on your writing style isn’t to constantly write, but to constantly read. Work on your editing skills by going back to the basics with the rules of punctuation and grammar. If you’re having trouble with pacing, watch a TV show or movie. In these formats you have to cut your material down to a certain amount of pages so it fits within a certain time frame. Attack your writing from different and unexpected angles. Are you better at defense or offense? Outlining or freewriting? Is there a way to transfer the principals of one to the other? Try out and examine different methods, even if you don’t think they’re a good fit for you.

This post is a little all over the place, and I think I like it that way. While I probably won’t make it a habit, I do enjoy the change. Keep the spice going in your writing relationship by switching things up. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to stop writing before you get to the end of a chapter so you’ll have a great jumping point for next time. Edit snippets of conversations you hear while at the grocery store (I’ve done this before). This will give you a feel for how people really talk and how you should properly punctuate “real talk.” Read a sci-fi novel and a western novel at the same time. You never know how the mixed reading experience may help you. Keep things off balance and organize the chaos.

Take care out there, and keep those hits comin’ from every angle.

What are some ways you like to keep your writing life fresh?

The Soliloquy Tweets

I’m finally on Twitter! @O’BrianGunn is my screen name. If any of you lovely guys and gals are pros at this, please help this lil’ tweetin’ tenderoni out! Now I know how older people feel when they try out new technology. Follow, help, comment, all of that good stuff!

Tweet care out there!

Ok, I’m done with the Twitter/tweet motif…for now.