2016 Wrap-up

Imagine my surprise when I logged on to do some updating and realized my last post was in November of 2015.  That pretty much sums up how my writing has gone for the last year.  Non-existent.

It’s been a crazy year, in a good way.  we decided  in the fall of 2015 to sell our home and move out to the country on some acreage.  We closed on our sale in August of 2015 and then moved into a rental while we looked for a lot to purchase.  That only lasted a few weeks and we had to move yet again into another rental (because of problems with the first one).  We bought a lot and started construction in October.  We closed in March of 2016 and have been living here ever since.  We absolutely love it.  Going from the world’s smallest subdivision lot to almost 4 acres was quite the eye opener for our kids.  It’s a lot of work, but I love it.  We installed our own sprinkler system, planted our own lawn, grew a garden, brought my daughter’s horse over, and made lots of new friends.  In short, it has been awesome.

But, the downside with all that going on is my writing suffered.  I literally have not made a single keystroke on a story this whole year.  In the months leading up to November and NaNoWriMo, I debated with myself many times if I was going to do it.  I really wanted to, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I was so busy, in fact, that the first couple days came and went without my even realizing it.  It finally dawned on me around day 4 or 5.  I debated again whether I would do it.  Even though I really wanted to, I didn’t have a plan.  I decided that I would at least sit down that night and punch out some words so that I wouldn’t keep digging myself into a hole.

However, it had been so long since I finished my previous book (Moonstones), that I couldn’t remember enough of the specifics to make a decent go of it.  After several hundred words, I realized it just wasn’t possible to work on Moonstones 2.  Not like that.  I briefly considered finishing Seconds, the novel I started for NaNo 2015.  But, that was in the same boat.  I literally hadn’t read a word of it for a year.  It just wasn’t possible.  At least with Moonstones, I had been in that world for so many years that I had a lot of the backstory banked.  Seconds was cranked out over several weeks in November of 2015 without any outlining or planning.  After I won NaNo, I had a memory dump and almost could remember nothing of the story.  Obviously, I had the gist, but not even close to enough to start writing.  I couldn’t even pick up where I had left off.

So, I gave up.  It was harder than I thought, actually.  I took a lot of pride in winning over the last several years, and it was sad to admit defeat. That was over a month ago.

But, something important happened.  A little spark ignited, a spark I hadn’t felt in a long time–the desire to write.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve fanned that little spark, slowly getting back into the writing mindset.  I’ve visited writing blogs of authors I follow.  I’ve figured out how I could rearrange my daily schedule to have dedicated writing time each day.  I updated the progress bars on the blog to show my current projects–there are others, of course, but those are the main ones for now.  And, I spent the last couple days re-reading my unfinished draft of Seconds so that I would be ready to start writing this coming week.

I’ve had many writing goals over the years.  Some I’ve met.  Some I haven’t.  But, either way, it’s time time to set some new ones.  I’m putting them here as a reminder to me. Hopefully it will make me more accountable as well.

GOAL NUMBER ONE is to just write.  Regularly.  I plan to finish the first draft of Seconds over the next couple months.  That will give me two fully completed first drafts.  Then come the re-writes with the ultimate goal of having both novels either submitted to publishers or e-published this year.  That’s GOAL NUMBER TWO.  Seconds is the shorter of the novels, and I’d like to have it ready to go by May 1.  GOAL NUMBER THREE is to get some short stories submitted to magazines or websites.  I just need to generate some words and get my name out there.  GOAL NUMBER FOUR is to get started on the sequel to Moonstones.  It’s a big epic fantasy, and it’s going to require a lot of time.  GOAL NUMBER FIVE is to make it to some Cons this year (at least one).

I know those goals are lofty and will take some tweaking and refining as we go along.  But, I’m never going to reach my ultimate goal of being a published author and full-time writer if I don’t start writing.

Wish me luck!

Scott

getting the momentum rolling

Keep an eye out for some changes coming up soon.

The first round of critiques is done on the short story, and we’re all hard at work doing our first revisions based on the suggestions we received.  I got a lot of great feedback from the guys in my group which is going to make my story better.  Now I’m in the process of trying to work it all in.  In addition to going back to add some extra description or to fix some logical errors, I’ve got a couple of scenes which I need to completely rework.  One of them just needs to be rewritten to fix the flow.  The other is going to involve a fairly extensive change to the actual story line.

The whole theme of the story is sacrifice.  I thought I could write a story about it without actually having to do it, but it’s just not working.  Several of my reviewers picked up on it, and I think I’m going to have to kill one of my darlings.  I actually listened to a Writing Excuses podcast about that once, and I thought I wouldn’t have a problem with doing it (for those interested, you can listen to it here).  Evidently I do.  It’s harder than you think to kill off a character that you’ve created and invested time with.  I know them all, and even the bad guys are important to me.  So, to kill a good one is, well, tough.

As an aside, if you haven’t listened to the Writing Excuses podcast, you really should.  Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells and Mary Robinette Kowal (recent addition) are all well-established authors who give outstanding practical writing advice.  I’m guessing that if you’re a wannabe writer like me, you’ve heard of them.  But if not, give it a go.  You’ll be glad you did.  Most, if not all, of their past episodes are available to listen to on the website, and the last couple seasons are available for download directly from iTunes.

Getting back on track, I’m excited to give this a good solid revision.  I think I’ll probably add several thousand words to my story which will be welcome because it currently sits at just under 11,000 words.  I wanted to be closer to the 13,000 – 15,000 range.  The longest story of the group is in at about 18,000+ which is long, but the story was very good.

All in all, the stories which have been submitted are all great.  I am fortunate to be grouped with the writers I am because they all bring a great aspect to the group.  The anthology is going to be outstanding.  I can’t wait until we get closer to release.

I’m still trying to decide what to name the story.  I don’t have any front-runners right now.  I’m also trying to decide whether I’m going to publish it under my real name or whether I’m going to use a pseudo.  I wonder if it would be too presumptuous to use something like: “Supreme Commander,” or “Greatest Author Ever.”  I’ll have to mull that over a little more.  🙂

Check back for more updates.  I’m hoping to have some more for you soon.  I’m also hoping to have some more blog posts up on a more consistent basis.

short story update

You’ll notice the progress bar shows that the first draft of operation sacrifice is now 100% complete.  Sorry I didn’t do a better job of updating that as I went.  And let me tell you.  Writing a short story is MUCH harder than you think.  It’s tough to build a believable setting with relatable characters and a good plot arc all just in a few pages.

Part of the problem is that there was nothing to update for a very long time.  We had several weeks to work on this project, and I am a terrible procrastinator at times.  I knew what my story would be about (or so I thought – see below), and so I took WAY too many nights off.

Well, our self-imposed deadline to post the first draft for critiques was 8/1/11 (aka tomorrow).

By Friday night when I went to bed, I had 1,500 words written of my 10,000+ word short story.  And, to make matters worse, my wife’s brother came to visit from Germany (military), and since we haven’t seen him in several years, we packed up and went over to stay with all the fam.  Not exactly the perfect atmosphere for distraction free writing.

This is the good part.  THIS is why I love writing.

Being at the fam’s actually worked out better than I thought because my wife and kids were occupied with family stuff the entire day, allowing me to hole up in a bedroom upstairs with my trusty netbook and type incessantly.

I started writing the story I had contrived in my head.  Only, certain things that I thought would happen, didn’t happen.  In fact, one path took a 90 degree turn on me, and before I knew it, the story was SO much better.  A twist was there that even I wasn’t expecting.  Believe me, I’m as surprised as you!  That’s what I love.  The story grows and develops on its own.  I’m just the cultivator.  I plant the seed, have a pretty good idea what the plant will look like, but you just never know.

The draft will be posted to my writing group tomorrow for the first round of critiques.  Then it’ll be back to the drawing board for revisions and rewrite.  I already have a small section in mind that I want to include.  Some sections need a little more detail.  Currently, I’m at just over 10,800 words.  I wanted to be closer to 12-13,000.  So, I may have to add a bit.  I don’t know yet whether there will be a second round of edits or not.  I assume so, but we’ll have to play that by ear.

Either way, I’ll let you know more when I know more.

In the meantime, I’ll be busy critiquing several other short stories and then fixing mine when it comes back.  So, I don’t think I’ll have time to get back to my novel yet, but hopefully soon.

The best thing about this project is that it finally got me writing again, and I remembered just how much I love it.

Thanks for reading.

the name of the wind

Until recently, I had never even heard of Patrick Rothfuss.  However, over a very short period of time, several random people recommended his book to me, The Name of the Wind.  I’d never heard of it and made sure to take a pic with my iPhone of the cover when someone showed it to me so I wouldn’t forget its name.

All I can say is “WOW!”  I don’t know what it is about this story, but it grabbed me.  It’s like my perfect story written the way I would want it to be written.  I absolutely devoured it.  Now I’m well into the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear.  Equally amazing.  I’m stressed that the third book isn’t supposed to come out for a year or two.

Either way, if you haven’t read it, you MUST.  It’s worth the wait.  And, the best part is that the story is so well written that it will be really fun to reread as the release of the third book nears.

When I get more time, I will do a more detailed review.  But, for now, I at least wanted to throw this out there.

You can check out his website at www.patrickrothfuss.com.  He has a blog there as well, and he recently posted the text of a lengthy conversation/interview between him and Brandon Sanderson in which he discusses the books, his writing process, some of the behind-the-scenes publishing information, and the like.  Check it out.

endings and beginnings

 

At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s time to look back and look forward.  2010 was a great year for my family and I.  We had a lot of changes and surprises.  The other day during a drive my wife and I looked back and inventoried our year.  We were both pretty dang happy.  As I said before, we had a great year.

My biggest regret has to do with my writing.  I set a new years resolution exactly one year ago to finish my novel and submit it for publication.  Between you and me, I did really well for a while.  But, as I am wont to do, I got sidetracked with life and family.

Have you ever wondered what it is about us that keeps us from doing what we most want to do?  Why is it that the easiest things are sometimes the hardest?  I really can’t think of much that I want to do more than be a published author, and yet night after night I find other things to do with my time.

There’s really no excuse for it, though.  I had plenty of time for video games, reading, shopping, playing, sleeping and just general avoidance.  At the end of the day, I just lost my dedication.  I chose to spend my free time doing other things than writing.

I was listening to a podcast recently where the speaker said, in essence, “every time you choose to do something instead of writing, you’re making a value statement that the substitute is more valuable to you than being a writer.”  It seems ridiculous to hear that said because I don’t want anything more than I want to be a writer.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

But, the statement is true. 

So, I’m reassessing my priorities and revaluing my values.  I really DO want to become a writer.  Just tonight I read on word press: “if you want to write more, write more.”  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

That’s my goal for this year.  I am going to write.  I am going to finish my novel and get it submitted.  That’s not the end though.  I’m going to start on my second novel.  And then my third.  I want to write, and, dang it, I’m going to WRITE!!!  A LOT!

I’ve been toying with the idea of self-publishing something in the eBook market to sort of test the waters.  I don’t want to do that exclusively, certainly, but I’m considering the possibility of doing that also.  I’ve read a good many articles of late discussing the self-publishing eBook market.  I don’t think things are as dire in the print world as many suggest, but I don’t think we can ignore eBooks either.  They’re here to stay.

So, how will I facilitate this massive production goal, you ask?  I’m just going to do it.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy fix.  I’ve just got to sit down and write, each and every night.  I’m setting a goal of 2,000 words per night until my novel is done and it’s time to begin the editing/rewriting process.

I’m part of a couple online writing groups, and I haven’t been doing very well with my participation there, either.  I’m recommitting to that as well.  In one group I post weekly.  The other, twice a month.  In each I have to do several reviews.  It easily takes a good couple hours to do all my reviews.  But, I’ve received invaluable feedback on my draft that will make it much much better than it is.  It’s a tremendous resource that I’m looking forward to taking advantage of.

I’m also going to take advantage of some workshops and symposiums to do some networking and pick up some good tips.  I’m going to the LTU&E conference at BYU in February.  I went last year, and it was outstanding.  I’m going to try to make the Superstars of Writing seminar in a couple weeks in Salt Lake City as well.  That one is pretty expensive, though, so I’m not sure yet.  Either way, I’m going to do what I can to immerse myself back into the writing world so I can get this done.  The more I invest in it, the more invested in it I’ll be. 

2010 was a great year.  2011 is going to be OUTSTANDING!!!

The Way of Kings

Every so often you come across an artistic masterpiece which is so beyond the realm of normal greatness you cannot contain the urge to share its effects on you with others.  Such it is with me tonight as I write this, moments after finishing The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

Understand, I have been a lover of fantasy all my life.  I’ve read more fantasy novels than I can even remember, the first being when I was very young.  I grew up reading fantasy.  I bought fantasy novels whenever I could during my middle and high school years.  I was nurtured by Brooks.  bullied by Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Raised by Tolkien.  Teased by Rowling.  And then I discovered Sanderson.

In truth, I’d never heard of him before a couple years ago.  My sister, who is also a fantasy fan, was telling me about her heartbreak about Robert Jordan’s passing.  Despite my fantasy addiction, I am embarassed to admit I’d never read Jordan (yet).  I started reading about him and what was going to happen with his series.  That’s when I first read about Sanderson.  I had never heard of him, and wondered how in the world he was picked to finish that massive series.  I also saw that he was LDS, like me, and my interest was piqued.  I went to the store the very next day, and bought a copy of Elantris.  Just a single, stand alone novel.  Worth a few bucks to test the guy’s mettle, I thought.  I devoured it.  The next three books I read were Mistborn 1, 2 and 3.  Loved them, especially Mistborn 1.  Warbreaker followed.  Outstanding.  Over the course of a few weeks I read every published work of his and was hooked.  I did not then (nor have I yet) read his foray into the Wheel of Time Series because I hadn’t started the series yet.  (I’m now almost halfway through.)

I even had the singular pleasure of meeting Sanderson (and spending a short time visiting with him one-on-one) at a sci-fi/fantasy convention in Provo this last February.  The guy is an absolute gentleman.  Down to earth and fun to talk to.   In any event, while at that conference, I started hearing talks about The Way of Kings.  He even read a sample during one of his sessions.  Knights in magical armor and mystical swords?!?  That’s something I could get into.  Within weeks, I read everything I could find about him and the Way of Kings, and then I began the 7 month process of waiting for the book to get published.

It has been suggested (inaccurately, I maintain) that I have zero patience and a tendency to aggrandize things I’m excited about.  A good friend once told me that I like the idea of things better than the things themselves.  Waiting for The Way of Kings was no exception.  I agonized over the next 7 tortuous months waiting for its release.  I normally have a VERY firm rule about not reading an incomplete series for that very reason.  I can’t stand the waiting.  To know that I was dying over volume 1 of a 10 volume series was, and is, devastating.  However, I couldn’t not read it.  Part of me worried that the book was getting overly hyped.  I so badly didn’t want that to be the case.  But, having read all of his other novels, I wasn’t too worried.  The guy is good.

In any case, I savored every page.  Every word.  I finished tonight in absolute awe of a true master’s ability to tell a story.  Every aspect of that story was meticulously crafted and methodically plotted.  To use an analogy from the book itself, the story was like Shardplate.  Where normal armor would have chinks and gaps at the joints, Shardplate fused together, every weakness covered by smaller, intricate plates that form an impenetrable shield.  I have never read–and I’ve read a LOT– a story so well told.  The plotlines and characters were juggled so perfectly.  The foreshadowing was genius.  The planning superb.  Things that I wanted to see happen, but didn’t think they credibly could, happened beautifully, leaving my jaw hanging.

The very lessons he’s preached in his podcast were adhered to so faithfully in his story.  Creating internal character conflict.  Generating reader attachment and investment in characters.  Plot planning.  Story pacing.  BEAUTIFUL! 

I look at my own novel I’m working on.  I consider myself a good writer.  And I thought, until tonight, that I was a pretty good storyteller.  I guess any talent seems good until compared to a true master.  I feel like a chainsaw sculptor making bears out of logs who just sat down and watched Michelangelo create the statue of David.  I have SO much to learn.  So much to practice and hone.  The level of detail in his books compared to what I’m dealing with makes my story seem a children’s book.  But, I can’t wait to practice.

Mr. Sanderson, thank you for The Way of Kings.  The bar in epic fantasy has just been raised.  VERY HIGH!!!