Status Update: Writing

Good morning to any Bookbrainers still out there! I’m sorry it’s been *looks at watch…realizes I don’t have a watch….checks computer….cringes* awhile since I’ve posted!

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(sorry)

I hope all of you are doing well! I wanted to get back to the blog and let all of you know what I’ve been up to and why there has been a bit of a gap between posts.

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As you may or may not remember, last year was a bit of a flop for me personally when it came to writing. I was doing great with the blog, but I wasn’t really working on my book much and then not at all. I had stalled out. I needed to fix a few things in my priority list to try and get back on the writing train.

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(Spinning doohickeys are vital to my writing train)

Since the start of the year I’ve written two chapters in my book and I’m currently doing well on the next. I’m officially at 44,000 words as of the posting of this blog. This is a HUGE success for me for many reasons. First, it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written and that’s just cool. Second, from my understanding a widely accepted benchmark for the length of a novel is 50,000 words. This means that I’ve actually written something novel length!

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A lot of this success that I’m creating for myself is due to my new schedule for writing. After reading a lot of articles about writing and interviews with writers, I’ve decided to take some of their advice (go figure, listening to a professional helped).

My daily schedule now looks like this:

  1. Wake up at 5:30am – Write 500 words before getting ready for work.
  2. Hour lunch at work – Read books that I have on the craft of writing.
  3. Before bed – Turn off the TV and shut the computer and read for fun.

That’s it guys, that’s the magic that has re-energized me and is taking me forward. I’m keeping my word count for now at 500 words a day because for me that’s doable in the 30-60 minutes I have each morning to write. If I could dedicate 3-4 hours a day to write my word count would be at least 2,000 words like Stephen King, but sadly I just don’t have the time.

I’ve chosen to writing in the morning because I used to try and write while I was on my lunch break at work. I was trying to fit in eating, reading news articles, and writing 500 words into a single one hour lunch while being distracted by co-workers and people messaging me on my phone (which is ok I guess because they’re all awesome people). But this made it a struggle to write constantly. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and actually get my ass out of bed early to write when my mind is fresh and I haven’t had to spend my day *gasp* thinking. I’m not making my word count every day, but I am writing every day now and that’s as good as gold.

The next part is since I now have free time on my lunch, I started to read the reference books I have on writing. Now I’m not saying it’s necessary, but do have a degree in English and creative writing. I have taken many writing courses. This has served me well and has greatly improved my writing, but there is no such thing as enough training. Sorry folks but there it is! I believe that learning more ideas about how to craft words into something that doesn’t suck is always a good idea. I many not always agree with what I’m reading or feel like I’m just covering old ground, but it’s all useful. At the very least reading these books on the craft of writing has kept my mind not just on the story I’m trying to tell, but the tools I’m using to tell it.

The last part of my day is reading for fun. This may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but stick with me here. If you’ve ever met me you’d know I love TV and movies. Like a lot. Hell to be honest my dad and I can talk for hours and hardly say anything to each other that isn’t a movie quote. So for me it can be hard to turn off the TV and actually read, which is something that I absolutely love (obviously). Now I’m not saying that TV is evil and people should only read, that’s stupid. There are many shows that are amazingly crafted and tell a fantastic story with room do develop plot and characters. It’s all about finding a balance. It has also helped that some of the books I’ve recently been reading have helped me with a few mental blocks to figure out some needed things for my book.

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So there we go guys! That’s what I’ve been up to and has been taking up a lot of my time in the past few weeks. I will always strive to write more for your guys, but I’m going to assume that producing a book for you to read will be a bit more important to you.

Stay awesome Bookbrainers!

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Book Review: The Abhorsen series

Happy 2018 Bookbrainers! I hope you’re all doing well out there and enjoying your New Year resolutions! To be fair the majority of you are at that point where you’re kind of doing your resolutions but not really and you’re trying to figure out if their worth salvaging….or you’ve failed already and gone back to the couch with a bag of potato chips to wait for next year. I’m doing good with mine so far! (I may have just jinxed myself) I’ve been writing a lot more and I’ve even started to get up early to write before I go to work. I’ve also been reading more!

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Yay books!

I had intended to just write a book review of the first book in a series I had started to read…but then I accidently read the whole series so I guess I’ll just do a review for the whole thing. The books are called The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix.

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These books are fantastic for anyone who loves fantasy! The world the books take place in is split in two. In the south there are countries where the world is very similar to the technology and culture of WWI England, but then there is an ancient wall, and north of that is the Old Kingdom. Here magic is everywhere and people live in constant fear of the dead who can crawl their way back into the world of the living. It is the job of the Abhorsen, a necromancer, to fight back against the dead and make sure they go back to death and never return. I would LOVE to go more into the story of these books, but I don’t want to give anything away. Trust me, the story is frickin’ awesome!

The books are filled with many interesting characters and fun characters that draw you in and make you want to give up sleep to find out what’ll happen to them next. I had a great time reading these books and falling in love with the interesting magic system and world that Nix has created. The books did a fantastic job keeping up the pacing of the urgency in everything the characters do while also taking the time to explore the themes of family, the nature of death, and destiny versus a chosen path in life.

If you’re looking for a fantasy series to read I would definitely give this one a go!

Now go forth and read!

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I know I am.

A Time to Be Thankful

Welcome Bookbrainers! Thank you for taking the time to stop and visit during this holiday weekend (for those of you in the United States). As I sit down to enjoy all my favorite comfort foods, spend time with my amazing family, and do some shopping, I wanted to reach out to all of you to talk about what I’m most thankful for.

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Other than the obvious (family, friends, health, and all of you amazing-ass Bookbrainers!), I’m always thankful for books. Not just books I get to read or ones I want to write, but every book and places that have them and people who read them. As cheesy as it sounds, books will always be the closest to real magic in the world. Books change minds and lives in ways that other mediums just can’t.

What sticks with me most (and please forgive me because I can’t remember where I read this and I don’t want to take credit), is that I once read that reading is being able to read someone’s mind through both time and space. I can read a book written by someone who died hundreds of years ago in a place I’ve never been and doing this, I can read their thoughts, know their feelings, understand their lives, and make friendships that will last until I am gone.

Now I understand that being able to read and have as many books as I do is a privilege that I’ve gotten through luck of the draw. There are people out there who are not as lucky. There are people who struggle in life for food and clean water, for education and a chance to reach for more. For many years now I’ve been a HUGE fan of an organization I mentioned on the blog before (link to old blog here) called Worldbuilders which was created by my favorite writer Patrick Rothfuss. Every year starting in the middle of November they start their annual charity event where they raise money for those in need by donating everything to an organization called Heifer International.  They basically raise money to educate and provide lasting and permanent change to people’s lives. They don’t give a man a fish, they teach him to fish then give him a pole, tackle box, and a boat.

As of my writing this Worldbuilders have already raised over $206,000 with 15 days left to donate. Now here’s the fun part!

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There are three ways to donate! You and buy items that you think are cool from The Tinker’s Pack which has memorabilia from all sorts of geeky stuff there. You could also head over to their auctions and bid on REALLY cool stuff! Or the last option is to directly donate where you can either just donate the money OR you can choose to be entered into a lottery for a chance at literally thousands of cool prizes!

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There you go guys! A chance to help books and people make a positive difference in the world just when it feels like we could all use a win. Take care everyone!

Looking Under the Hood

Happy weekend Bookbrainers! I hope all of you are doing well. I want to…*sniff* thank you for all the love and support I’ve gotten for the last flash fiction challenge I did. It was super fun to write and I really enjoyed it!  But this led to an interesting conversation. I was talking with a friend of mine about the story when he said…

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“What is your writing process?”

Now this was a great question that’s not easy to answer. The two main reasons this is hard to answer is because the process changes for the kind of writing I’m doing (short story, poem, a novel, etc.) and that the process is both visual and mental. So to answer this question I’m going to talk about short story writing specifically (though some does apply to novel writing) and mostly just the visual aspect of it, but also some of the mental.

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(Did that make sense? GOOD! Moving on then!)

Step One: To come up with a story there is no better way to describe it as casting my imagination out and seeing what I catch. Often I take something solid like a picture, or a topic, or a question and play with it in my head. And as I think and toss around ideas, eventually something clicks (almost audibly) and there it is. An outline of a story. But at this point it’s like looking at a forest from Google Maps. I can see the whole thing, but no details…yet.

Step Two: Now that I have an idea of a story, it’s time to zoom in on the forest and find the best path through it. At this point I sit down and bullet point out the entire story from start to finish. First A happens, then B, then C, then D, etc. until I reach the story’s end. During this phase I fill in all the gaps and mentally flesh out the characters and find out more about who they are and how they fit into their story.

Step Three: Take all my notes from Step Two and toss them aside.

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Step Four: Now that I’ve tossed my notes aside I sit down and write my story. While I write I have everything from my notes in my head, all the ideas, plots, characters, images, and I follow what I wanted for my story. The reason I toss the notes aside during the actual writing is because (for me at least) the words are a living thing. I have final say over them and I control them, but at the end of the day the story and its characters are a living breathing thing on the page. If I try and force it to fit into an outline that I created that just doesn’t feel right as my fingers dance around the keyboard, then all I’m doing is creating shit writing. A story needs room to organically grow and change as it needs to to become the best version of that story that I’m capable of telling.

Step Five: Revision. This is where I go back over the story and read it as a whole for the first time to myself. Here I’m not focused on anything other than things like, “Is that sentence worded well? Can it sound better?” or “Does this make sense? Will the reader follow and understand what I’m saying and what I mean?” After all that if there’s time (I’m looking at you flash fiction challenges!) then I actually pick through and make sure the editing is as clean as possible.

And there you have it Bookbrainers! That is honestly the best way I think I can describe how my brain processes and writes stories. Is there a LOT of other things that go into writing? OH HELL YES! But to be fair I’m not going to get into the depths of how to best use active sentences or how to establish characterization or techniques of imagery. That kind of skill with writing are things that for the most part I use reflexively on my first drafts and actively on all the others. If you want more on that depth of writing I’m sure I’ll touch on a lot of it eventually here, otherwise look into some good books on writing if you want a more, “How To,” guide. Or read a lot. Reading is awesome!!!

Literary Diner: How Would You Like Your Sci-Fi Today?

Welcome back Bookbrainers! I hope you all had a kick-ass week! So recently I did a guest appearance on my friend Doug’s podcast called Rawcast A.D. (if you’ve been reading the blog awhile I’ve mentioned him before), where we talked a lot about current technology and where that technology is going in the future. You can listen to it here!

So talking with Doug about technology got me thinking about Science Fiction as a genre. I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Fantasy as a genre both to read and write, but there has always been amazing gems of Science Fiction that I’ve been drawn towards. One of my all-time favorites being Orson Scott Card, who is a fantastic writer if you’ve never given his books a chance. His largest series (and my favorite) being about two characters, Ender and Bean. If you haven’t given them a read I would highly recommend doing so!

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(The books are great, just ignore this…please?)

For the most part though, Card’s books fall under what is commonly called, “Soft,” science fiction. This means that the technology in his writing does get some explanation, but it’s not very in-depth (mostly) and it takes a backseat to the characters and plot.

The opposite of this is obviously, “Hard,” science fiction. A good more modern example of this would be Michael Crichton, who wrote books like Jurassic Park and Timeline.

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(That’s just badassery right there!)

The science in his books tends to be very detailed and take a strong center point in plot itself. In the early days of Science Fiction writing this was by far more common as for many writers their characters and even the plot was mostly just required decoration around their ideas about technology. These writers even felt that the transition to “soft” Science Fiction was heresy against good writing.

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(Dude do you even science?)

So my question to you Bookbrainers is which do you like more? Science Fiction that takes the time to thoroughly explain the technology that is in the story, or do you just want a quick glossed over explanation and on to the more important things? I personally feel that neither extreme is best, but a kind of meeting in the middle. I personally don’t need to know every detail of the teleporting device and the science behind it all, but damn it I want more than, “It works because it just does! Now quit questioning my methods! *continues shoving cats into fuel tank.*”

So sound off your opinion here on the blog, on our Facebook page (here), or on our NEW TWITTER…page? Feed? Thing? *storms off to go find out its proper name*

Stop! I Collaborated now Listen!

Alright Bookbrainers, (yeah you heard me), I have something special for you this week! Some of you may have noticed me post about this VERY briefly on the blog’s Facebook page, but I recently went on my friend’s podcast called Rawcast: A.D. (Here: https://soundcloud.com/rawcastad/017-bookbrain ) and got to promote the blog to his listeners. I HIGHLY recommend that you go over when you get the chance to give it a listen. Doug (the host of Rawcast: A.D.) and I talk about the blog quite a bit…

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…as well as talk about movies and books worth reading. Doug and I go waaaaay back to our college days at UW-Stevens Point. There is also a podcast we did talking about that if you’re for some reason interested in me…can’t imagine why you would be though…(*cough* look at above picture *cough*).

Anyway! Doug’s podcast has been on hiatus for a while, but he’d bringing it back better than ever going forward! Doug talks about everything from politics, to books and movies, to just random fun things that he feels like brining up. So if you’re interested in him or if you just want to hear me jabber like a moron for an hour about writing give it a listen!

Now to celebrate this awesome crossover how about a…FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!!! On next week’s blog I’ll post the new challenge for YOU (yes you) to vote on and me to pick the wining suggestion and write on. So all you Bookbrainers…

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I want all of you to get involved in this next challenge and have your friends (all those Nobrainers who don’t read the blog) vote too! Also when I ask you to, “Bring me everyone,” what I mean is…

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Have a great week!

Creative Inspiration: Dungeons and Dragons

Alright you beautiful readers! This week I’m taking the time to dig into one of my favorite creative inspirations, so grab your dice and let’s talk Dungeons and Dragons!

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(May the odds be ever in you favor!)

I’m fairly sure I was born with a love for all things fantasy. If you were to take a sample of my DNA and look at it under a microscope you’d see a tiny film strip of a wizard fighting a dragon. So it’s no wonder that this game appeals to me, what with it having a picture of both wizards and dragons on many of its covers. The only strange thing is that I didn’t get introduced to the game until I was in high school. (So many wasted years!) The game is even loved by people such as Vin Diesel.

(Disclaimer: I actually stopped playing official D&D years ago. I play a game called Pathfinder, which is essentially the same game but by a different developer. I just called it D&D when talking to other people because it’s easier and they don’t really care about the difference.)

For those of you reading not too familiar with the game, Dungeons and Dragons (much like myself), comes to you from the great state of beer and cheese, Wisconsin. The game was introduced to the world by Gary Gygax in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in January of 1974. Since then the game has seen many years of ups and downs, with the high of its popularity being in the 80’s (think Stranger Things from Netflix), though it has been growing in popularity in the last few years again now that all things geek and nerdy are mainstream popular.

Each player in the game creates a character from the rules offered in the books ranging from your standard Wizard…

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To the Rouge…

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To the basic Fighter…

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(It’s super effective!)

Once you as a play pick your class, race, and buy gear from what gold you have, you’re ready to play! One player though has to act as the narrator for the story and control the monsters you fight, they’re called the Dungeon Master (though to be fair the newer books acknowledge that this name has a LOT of geeky connotation with it have has started to call them the, “Game Master,” instead to try and sound cooler…it’s not working).

It’s the job of the Dungeon Master (DM) that I want to focus on though. For many of the games I’ve played my job was to be the game’s DM. There are pre-made games that I could run in this role, but the fun and challenge of creating my own worlds using the game’s rules and putting my friends into stories that I create (often without much preparation since that’s a lot of work and I’m busy *cough* lazy *cough*), has challenged me to become a better story teller over the years and helped inspire me to think about fantasy stories in many different ways. As well one of the challenges of running a game is that it only works when the players are having fun. Playing has challenged me in a way where I have to balance each player’s own enjoyment of the game, my enjoyment of running it, and keeping the game fair and running smoothly. It’s the kind of challenge that any writer interested in fantasy should consider since keeping readers happy functions much the same way and provides very similar challenges.

Hopefully in the future you think of D&D less like this…

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And more like this…

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Now that you’re more familiar with this amazing game and its possible influence, my challenge to you is this…go and enjoy your weekend!