Tag Archives: writing

Friday Link Pack: 3/28/14

It has been two weeks too long for one of these. I am still super happy that K.M. Alexander asked me to fill in for him during February, and I hope to continue this tradition as well. I had a hard time remembering what posts I thought were outstanding this week, so the list below is only composed of those that I do recall being exceptional. I will do a better job bookmarking the links I need throughout the week.

Writing:

Terribleminds has a “Five Things I Learned Writing….” series that is awesome! Two that I read this week really resonated with me:

Adam Christopher writes about ensuring that you werite what you love and story concerning yourself with staying in-genre. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you will know that I struggle with this. I always want to write what I love, but I was trying to force everything into the Fantasy genre. Once I stopped that, a bit of magic happened and I am much happier with what I am writing. I know that I will get ‘back’ to the Fantasy genre that I know, love, and aspire to write in, but for now, I just need to write what inspires me.

Wendy Wagner teaches us that babies are not for eating. Also, that you need to leave room for characters, good or bad, to be hated but not abandoned to sheer hopelessness for being saved. If your character becomes a ‘zombie’, as she puts it, there will be no reason not to destroy every single part of it – there is no redeeming quality left. I love this idea, because not every villain is totally black-hearted and evil. Backstory can create sympathy and tension. To take it a step further, in the pilot for Walking Dead, there is the scene where the mom is a zombie, and Morgan Jones watches her through the scope of his hunting rifle. The wife is a zombie, there is no saving her. She must die. Do not let your villains or antagonists get to this point.

Four Secretes From My Writing Process

Lauren Sapala is a name that I bring up often. That will not change. You need to follow her. Anyways, she was asked to do a blog hop and reveal four hidden truths of her writing process. It was incredible insightful. More importantly, it motivated her to share even more of herself with us on this post.

Random:

Fireside Magazine Year 3 Kickstarter

I admit to never having subscribed to, or even heard about, this magazine until now. I am excited for what their mission is: “We have two goals: finding and publishing great storytelling regardless of genre, and fair pay for creators.” This is an endeavor every writer should back.

Aether Magic by Happy Mitten Games

This is an amazing game. I have play-tested it with Jeff, Lee, and Kyle. I am also intimately connected to the project, and am proud of what it has become. If you are into board games at all, you should listen to HMG’s podcast – the talent that they interview is pretty outstanding. Follow them @HappyMitten as well.

 

Farewell Gif of the Week:

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Skin in the Game VS External Motivators

It is amazing what a little direction and an external motivator can do for a writer. I think, at times, I take my writing group for advantage – as in, I am always amped to beta read, offer my services as a sounding board, or my myriad experiences with life and the multitude of careers that I have held…but sometimes (most of the time?), I fall vastly short of what I promise. I am the Prince of Empty Promises, which sucks…hard. Hell, I can’t even follow through on promises I make to myself (remember, Self, when I promised to write every day, even if it was only for twenty minutes?).

So when a friend offers to help me, it usually brings forth feelings of guilt, bubbling to the surface in sticky, resinous clots. I need to get over that shit. I am an ESFJ, which I hear is pretty cool. I don’t know a ton about personality tests, but the title of ‘Provide’ definitely seems to fit me well. I love to give, and have a hard time taking. I want to motivate others to be their best. I want people to look up to me for one reason or another – I guess that is why I have a degree in education. I believe that one should only surround his/her self with people that they strive to be like – I do not waste time with people that I do not admire. That being said, I need to get over my shit and start taking help from those who I admire, those who I strive to be like.

So, I was offered help recently. By one of those very friends who I strive to be like, none-the-less. Someone who is as well versed in literature and writing as you can get. Someone whose spirit and personality outshines everything else. And my knee-jerk reaction was to make sure that I wasn’t taking advantage of their expertise or services. I was laughed at, in the most kind-hearted and flattering of ways.

That brings us to today. I have written more from the spark of that outreach in the past six days than I have in several months. I talked about my lightning in a bottle writing session a while back – this is the most I have written since then. And it feels incredible. I am just writing. I am getting out of my own head, circumventing the tumors of self-doubt and vast wasteland of over analysis. I am just writing. And it feels incredible.

Concurrent to NaNoWriMo, their funding drive kicks into full gear. The argument is simple: if you donate money to the cause, you will be more inclined to reach your goal. I use this same argument at work. If you put some skin in the game, you are more aware and involved in whatever it is you are doing. So I donated. And I ‘failed’. I wrote over 13k words, so it wasn’t a total failure, but it sure wasn’t the mark that I set for myself. I am okay with that today. However, for me personally, this rationalization is a complete lie. It is bullshit. If I were to actualize my intentions for everything that I approach in this manner, I would be in amazing shape as well. As in, I pay for a gym membership every month, but I haven’t gone in eight. Skin in the game does not work for me.

The difference for me, in this situation, is that I am now on the hook for letting a friend down. If I don’t follow through, I am going to fail as an ESFJ. Again, that profile doesn’t resonate with me in terms of being a Briggs Meyer fanatic – it resonates with me in terms of being the person I want to be. I want people to come to me for help, advice, a hug…whatever. But I need to be able to reciprocate that situation for my friends as well. They are doing incredible things. I am sure they want me to go to them for help. Sometimes though, they chose to offer the hand before the request. I feel this encouragement in many ways. For example, I felt it when KM Alexander asked me to cover his Friday Link Packs while he was on tour with his wife for her amazing art exhibition in Melbourne.

I promised my amazing writing group that I would submit to contests, lit mags, etc. at least four times this year. I am certain that I will accomplish this, because I have an external motivator now – the fear of letting my group down. I have promised a friend to try a strategy in writing, and I am producing words again. This is happening because of that push. Even if fear is the motivator, it is working. I do a lot of public speaking and for me, that fear, right before I begin a presentation, is a tangible pod humming with the energy I need to be great. I harness that fear, breathing it in and swallowing it, as fuel to do great things.

All I can do now is figure out how to take my fears and apprehensions with writing and harness them in the same way. Dedicating time to the craft, and getting a few words on the page is the start. As I test the waters with my words, I will breath in their energy, and build up the confidence to dive in and let the electrifying shock of the process invigorate me.

How about you? Do you perform better when you have some skin in the game or when you have the push of an external motivator behind you?

Friday Link Pack 02/14/14

In K.M. Alexander’s stead, it’s time to share a few links that I stumbled upon throughout the week. I am going to start mentioning the articles that interest me via my Twitter account, so follow along there if you want.

This is the inaugural Friday Link Pack for me and Write-brained Ramblings. I found the time I spent researching articles (I have not been, historically, as proactive in reading articles as K.M. is) was entertaining and informative – I will be sure to dive deeper into the blogosphere and stay connected.

Let me take a few moments to introduce myself. My name is Drew Gerken and I am currently an aspiring writer, brewer, new father, and a pursuer of dreams and interests. I am also a collector of hobbies.  I love learning how to do things for myself, getting my hands dirty, and pursuing new experiences. The request for me to fill in has really helped motivate me to try and stay informed and share what I find as valuable as a writer, brewer, and human being.

Writing:

Are we growing out of Epic Fantasy?

This is a brief but great article that discusses a shift from praise-worthy heroes and grandiose story arcs to a more character-centric story with internal conflict as a more central theme. I write Fantasy, and my recent works have flopped a bit mainly due to, in retrospect, me trying to write Martin/Sanderson-esque epics when my heart and interests really want to focus on a character overcoming their flaws, adversity, and growing into something great.

Another Way to Deal with Procrastination

An article on the neuroscience of imagining your goal beyond something you love as a way to associate the happiness with the goal. I am definitely going to practice the exercise that Diane outlines, as procrastination is an art form that I have definitely mastered.

Writers Aren’t Insane, We’re “Disinhibited”

Setsu over at KatanaPen is a friend and writer peer who doesn’t waste anyone’s time with fluff or frills. She is a fantastic resource on writing, martial arts, and not putting up with bullshit. If you aren’t following her blog or on Twitter, you probably should be.

This article also talks about Neuroscience (two in one week is atypical for me, as I left my psychology interests behind in college) and how creativity and eccentric personalities are related.

Are You Still “Aspiring”? How to Level Up as a Writer.

This is a post by the fabulous Lauren Sapala. I know that K.M. has mentioned Lauren’s blog a few times in the past – I am here to reinforce the fact that you should be following her if you are not. Lauren has been a major inspiration for me, and is firmly entrenched as a cheerleader and motivator for my writing career.

This post is probably the most applicable to me as a writer right now – just refer back to my intro where I called myself an aspiring writer. My goal is to start scheduling writing sessions in the morning.

The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Check Wendig is typically NSFW, but the rawness of his voice strikes true to me. I enjoy his blog immensely, and this post is helping me break down some of my own writing barriers. Don’t let the writing guise fool you though, the heart of this post should be applied to most aspects of life.

Other Works:

Portraits

This is a fantastic piece that sketches various reader/writer personalities in a few lines. I can see myself in the first, third, and seventh portraits. How about you?

Random:

Beard Beer: Rogue Ales Creates Brew out of Yeast from Brewmaster John Maier’s Facial Hair

This is old, so don’t rush off and call Rogue to get your hands on a bottle – they are all sold out by this point. I find it fascinating though. I feel the urge to throw away my electric trimmer and razors as well, and start cultivating my own yeast strain. I told you I like to try new things, right?

Happy Valentine’s Day:

Torz Reynolds Slices Off Tattoo of Ex-Boyfriend…

Nothing says ‘true love’ like “Chopper’s Bitch”. Nothing says ‘we’re done’ like an envelope of withered facial flesh.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Remember, if you bring your partner to a hotel for a romantic getaway this weekend, DON’T do this…

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

Wow. It has been a while since posting anything and I feel as though each day without an update is alienating me from my writing peers – something I never want to do.

I have had a few letdowns and a few breakthroughs since NaNoWriMo destroyed my writer’s confidence. I would not have felt so defeated had I not felt so prepared before the month began. I had an outline, character sketches, a writing strategy, and a dedicated space to do it in. I also had an amazing support group. It just wasn’t meant to be in 2013.

In December I had a dream. A week later I discovered my voice through a whimsical short story. I was writing outside of my preferred genre and it felt great. The beginning paragraph formed in my head while I was trying to sleep – I could not stop thinking about it, turning it over and over in my head until I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed a mangy little notebook that was warped from being used as a coaster. It didn’t matter. None of the things that I thought of as ‘tools’ mattered. The Evernote Moleskine notebook wasn’t needed. Neither were the eight different colors of the new Sharpie pens, for which I had a color assigned to each character. I realized later that perhaps they are all distractions. When the lightning flashes, you will use anything to write with. The instrument is nothing more than a conduit- be it a pen, iPad, eyeliner, crayon, or keyboard. It also didn’t matter that I was exhausted, writing into the early morning. I even fell asleep writing in mid-sentence once.

Since then, however, I have struggled – floundered even. This post discusses what I believe to be the underlying issue.

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

To be enamored with your own writing style is a special thing. I am not sure how many writers feel the same way, but when you finally write your way through a piece you feel is worth a damn and come out on the other side feeling excited about it…that is special. I was writing fantasy before this breakthrough. I have always loved the idea of being a fantasy writer. It stems from being an avid role-player for the past twenty-plus years. It stems from loving to read in that genre. It stems from being a total worldbuilder junkie.

What I did for this story was completely different though. I was transcribing a dream and adding little elements that were either hazy in my recollections, or that made sense to me on a purely subconscious level within the dream. I didn’t have to think about anything. I just wrote what I saw and felt and tasted. It came out snarky and whimsical. I feel like, if pressed to put it in a genre, it would fit in Urban Magical Romance. Sort of.

I woke the next morning and sped to work, wanting to share the breakthrough with my writing friends there. I transferred the story onto my computer and sent it to a few friends. Once that was done, I was energized to write more. I needed to cling to the crackling energy that was dissipating. I must have destroyed a dozen pages of my notebook trying to let that voice ooze out of me. Nothing happened.

So this is where I find myself today, more than a month after my breakthrough. I have a work that I believe, with a few rounds of editing and the dawning of realization that I figure out exactly what it is, could be worth sending out. I have the knowledge that I have a voice worth reading – I even hear that voice echoing somewhere deep within. I also have the stare-at-the-screen, deer-in-the-headlights, drool-on-the-notepad paralysis. I have no idea where to start or how to begin.

Perhaps finding a way to bridge this new voice with my beloved Fantasy genre is where I need to experiment next? Perhaps I need to find inspiration in the ridiculous things around me? Perhaps I need to shut the hell up and just write?

I know that other writers struggle with this. I know this because Lauren has a great post about How to Hunt your Writing Voice, and she knows lots of spectacular things about writers. I know this because my peers talk about this regularly – even the ones who are publishing.

I want to know about your struggles with voice. I want to know how you are working to overcome those struggles. I want to know that you overcame them.

One.Hundred.Thousand.Words.

One.Hundred.Thousand.Words.

That’s nothing, right? Right? Seriously. I can do that. Can I do that?

I have been coming to terms recently with the fact that my story, no matter how desperately it wants to be told, will not come to fruition without BiCHoK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard). I have neglected my writing for a couple of weeks now and, after some introspection, I think I have found a few key factors for this.

First, I am going to be a dad. What?! Yuppers. My wife and I are now out of the DangerZone in terms of risk for the pregnancy and we are excited to be able to tell people now. Obviously this has been a fantastic, frenetic, and (insert any applicable ‘f’ word here to continue consonance) time for us. We were busy planning the different announcements for our family members, celebrating, and combating some morning sickness.

That aside, I was able to sleep through the night so I cannot use exhaustion as an excuse. As the end of CampNaNoWriMo was drawing to a close, I saw my required daily word count rise from 5,500 words to 6,150 to 7,342. What I actually saw was my goal pompously defying logic. It floated farther and farther away, yet it appeared larger and more menacing each day. Discouragement set in.

My expectations were set too high. One night I participated in @FriNightWrites and #WriteClub and wrote over 1,000 words in a half hour sprint. I was amazed. I let a scene flow out of me with inhibition. I wrote from the PoV of my second main character who, ironically enough, I was initially more interested in as the primary main character (ugh, I know that sounds redundant, but I have twin brothers as protagonists and so there is really the primary main and the secondary or supporting main).  I thought from the beginning that I would be writing his PoV from the get go, but working from the other brother’s PoV first allowed me a deeper insight and thus the writing flowed quite nicely. I created a crumpled, wrinkly old woman who is tough as stone and as warm as fresh bread. I set up backstory for the village in which the story starts out. It was a completely positive experience.

So I thought, “Self, if you just do this 100 more times, which is only 50 hours, you would have a first draft.” The logic is solid. 1,000 words every half hour. 2,000 words an hour. 20,000 words every ten hours. 100,000 words every fifty hours. I imagine that is the pace that self-professed speedster Rachel Aaron writes at (her book, The Spirit Thief, is pretty rad to boot).

This all seemed so damned easy to me. Then I tried writing the next day. I could hear the sucking sound as words had to be practically pried from brain. It was excruciating. So I gave up. I let my lack of willpower defeat my aspirations. That burdened me with guilt. Guilt led to depression. You get the idea? Does it sound familiar? I have gathered from this new exploration into the craft of writing and learning about other authors’ processes that this is sort of common. I want to move past that.

I have also been struggling to find my voice. Lauren Sapala’s fantastic blog recently had a post about How to Hunt Your Writing Voice that gave me insight on my perception of discovering my voice. Just like her opening example discusses how a fellow writer thinks about his craft, I have decided to try and conceptualize my process. At best, to this point, I have given myself a fantastical scene in which I am an adventurer digging for an ancient relic (remember, I write fantasy). Each word is nothing but detritus being flung atop a heap of writing scree. They say that you have to write a few novels before you write one worth publishing. My process is simply to do that. The more I write, the closer I get to that ancient (although future) relic of my first published book. The product implies the completion of the journey. I hope.

So this is my pledge. I want to give myself and all of you at least one blog post worth reading each week. It won’t come on the same day. It will pertain to writing or creating. I will try but do not guarantee that you will find something to take away with you from it. Right now, this process is for me – the books I publish will be for you.

Let’s Talk it Out

I had another breakthrough yesterday, thanks to ShanShan. We met up at a bakery to write for a while before attending a writer’s group in the area. We barely wrote a word. Instead, I talked about what problems I was having with my prologue (backstory style, not middle-of-the-book-major-event style). I thought I had it figured out before – then I hit my first roadblock during the actual writing process. You can see any other post on my blog about other roadblocks that I have hit before the writing process has begun.

I bounced some ideas off of her. She gave me some insight. She also posed a What If to me and outlined the reasoning behind the question. I now have a secret language between twin brothers based on stacking cairns . I am not sure if I will work on anything linguistic about them – at this point they are just for flavor.

I also worked out the problems that I was having with PoV and the flip-flopping of. Writing a story about twin brothers and wanting each to have their own story told seemed pretty daunting to me. I have a simple fix now – alternate PoVs by chapter. It is either painfully obvious solution to most of you reading this, or a terrible foible that should never be used. I will just have to wait and see. Even though I only wrote 400 words yesterday, I think they were stronger due to ironing out a few things first.

My point is, if I have one, that I am still finding out what works for me. I mentioned in a tweet that perhaps DragonSpeak or some other software is the way to go for me – this lends credence to that notion. I mentioned writing by hand could work. I think it has been great for bullet pointing how a scene or chapter should flow. This process, although frustrating at times, is becoming more rewarding every day. To me, discovering who you are as a writer is the goal and the story is the vehicle to get you there.

SideNote: The Twitterverse has opened doors to encouragement, wisdom, and drive. I have found the extra gumption to get my ass moving on this.

I have to write about 2200 words a day for the rest of July to meet my CampNaNoWriMo goal, and I am still feeling positive about it. I think I will make up my time on the weekends and during write-ins that @ShanBradshaw, @UtahRichie and myself (@wordrew) will be holding.

If you are on Twitter, follow me if you want. Give me all of your writing advice. I will continue with my blog and tweets – if anything strikes you as motivational or some such, you are welcome to it!

Finally, a breakthrough!

This weekend was shot…or so I thought. Friday night was wasted in video games and such. TheWife wasn’t feeling well, so she laid down after we got home and I fired up the trusty, mind-numbing complete and utter distraction that is my PS3. Damn I love that thing. Friday night passed and I sort of felt guilty. The only reason that I felt guilty is that my writing group, as small in number and immeasurably great in awesomeness that they are, had a challenge on the table to write 2000 words by Sunday night. I was about 1700 words away from meeting that challenge because I did a little bit of writing on my flights to and from Seattle earlier in the week.

Saturday was another wasted day as my PS3, evil seductress that she is, beckoned me unto her almost as soon as I woke up. I played until TheWife and I headed out to Costco to take care of the Necessaries. Lunch was had, vitamin D was absorbed, and we came back home in time for me to head out and see a movie with my brother and father-in-law. I will not name the movie because you, if having seen it, will either love it or think that I am a total deviant for having watched it. Saturday was capped off with dinner and birthday party for my sister-in-law. Pizza and karaoke were had (and a beer or two) and I knocked the dust off of my karaoke boots with a spot on performance of Ice Ice Baby.

This morning was incredible, as TheWife and I headed downtown for the Utah Art Fest. It was a great time and really struck a chord with me to get my ass in gear. These artists were not only hawking the fruit of their loins, but they were making money at it as well. I saw some of them, even in 90+ degree heat, working on future works of art. We ate, I drank another beer, and then we rested under a tent where a delicate, squeaky voiced girl read four pages of her work aloud to an audience. She was twelve or thirteen tops, and sounded like she had already found her voice as a fledgling writer. I envied her. Then I had to leave because my frustration in myself was boiling over to the point where I could not enjoy listening to her any more.

I chalked this weekend up as a total failure. A loss. A disappointment. Then, at 7:58 pm I received and email from ShanShan toting her claim to 2040 words written this week. Then John Stamos replied and toted his 2400 words for the week. I do not have words for the emotion that I felt. It was a hodgepodge of fear, depression, excitement (genuine and completely for them), and motivation – it also came to me in the squeaky, high-pitched voice of a pubescent girl for some reason.

So, after watching MasterChef with TheWife – I know, it sounds like another distraction which is completely true, but one of my other unfulfilled dreams in life is to be a chef, so I chalk it up as research – I began transferring some of my writing from my Seattle trip to Scrivener. Things began to flow. I pulled a nugget of inspiration from a prompt that I created for a game, plucked it into my general idea for a prologue, and off I went. I had a breakthrough. And even though it took me almost three hours, I had 2189 words down in something that I think has potential and that I am proud of.

While writing this, it also occurred to me that I created my blog this week and that in the forty minutes that it took me to write this post, I have pounded out another 640+ words. Adding in my other blog posts for the week, I am looking at a grand total of 3494+ complete!

That makes me incredibly happy (note: this final sentence not counted towards final word count)!

Face My Fear

I have a confession to make – more to myself than to anyone reading this – but a confession none-the-less. I am coming to terms with the fact that I am terrified to become a writer. This is a realization that has revealed itself to me very recently…today, in fact. I find that others have pushed me, encouraged me, smiled and nodded as I rambled on, and otherwise allowed me to come to this realization on my own. Perhaps that is exactly why I feel so responsible to fix this particular issue.

Thinking that I had a breakthrough (with the gentle nudging of a fellow writer who knows who she is) today, upon arriving home, I strode into the bedroom and promptly woke my sick wife. “Honey,” I said. “I know what my problem is. I am scarred to write … the thought terrifies me.”

Heather, the amazing woman that she is – even when not feeling well – gave me a familiar gentle smile and head nod, somehow telling me that she already knew and was glad that it dawned  on me as well. We talked for a moment. She arrived at the exact same conclusion mere hours earlier.

This is confirmation. I can write it in stone. Give me a slate tablet and a chisel – no need for a hammer though, I will just repeatedly pound my head into the chisel to do the work. This fear is as hard to get rid of as blood on a white shirt or grease stains on a graphic tee.

I really do not know what I hope to accomplish here. Well, I do know, but I fear that I won’t actually accomplish it. In the idyllic landscape that is my mind – the place where the notion of writing and becoming an actual author sounds glamorous and perfect – I hope to use this blog as my centering, my focus, where I can write to clear my head and know what I am writing before I write it.

This is as good of a time as any to discover myself as a writer and I intend to do just that. I will not fear writing again, regardless of how daunting it seems or how much I self-depricate by comparing my words to another author’s.

My writing buddy tweeted a quote for me tonight because she is awesome like that.

Do what you fear and fear disappears.
~David Joseph Schwartz