500 And 1 Words At A Time: Ideas Without Words

Today is not a typical day, but is a day I am familiar with and maybe all writers are familiar with to some extent.

Despite the popular image of a writer sitting in front of whatever and banging away ceaselessly on their magnum opus, the truth is writing is an up and down process. The up is when the ideas and words flow like a river. The down is when something is off, not in a life gets in the way sense, but in a you have the ideas but the words won’t show up or you have the words and no ideas.

How is this possible to have an idea but no words or vice versa? Unfortunately pretty easy.

For example: I have an idea for a singular short story around Chuck. I want to tell more about who Chuck is and what Chuck can do and thinks he can do. In my head, this is a fast paced short with a lot of humor. This is my idea. And the words to create this idea have failed me all day. I have a bunch of sentences that on the surface read well, but when read together do not have the flow I have in mind.

Another example: Worldship Horizon needs an adjustment, the original idea is sound. However, my initial approach went off the rails really fast. Since that time I have had a few ideas to start over or readjust, yet each time I sit down to write, today even, the words don’t match the idea. Funny thing, is that well take a look…

As a blunt nose tender finished pushing the last colony section into place, green lights flashed around the edges. In another section of the worldship, the last troopers marched into lockdown position, armor on, weapons ready, locked down for transport.

****

Maxwell slumped in his command chair, sweat running down his face, sensors clear, warning lights flashed indicating systems damaged or destroyed, but they won their first battle. Over the command net, orders given, status updates, injury reports, and requests formed a familiar background noise, until he removed his helmet allowing the helmet to roll down to the floor.

Fans clicked on the cool breeze felt great. Maxwell sat up…

The first is a complete new start when the Horizon is loading before the launch. Interesting take, but not a direction I think needs too much revisiting. The second puts Maxwell, formerly a foot soldier, into the cockpit of something-a tank, a robot, or something else. Again, an interesting idea, but not where I wanted to work, down the road once I have a better start maybe.

I don’t what other writers do, not necessarily the truth I have read a few books by other authors so I know what they do, and while their solutions work for them they do not work for me. Writing comes and goes, today writing is doing both-I was able to bang this out without incident, but other stuff…

500 and 1 Words At A Time: Story Creation, My Way

From time to time I share with you the inner workings of how this writer works. Most recently in the form of Puddles and Whiskers from rough draft, to edits, to revisions, to the current stage of course corrections, expansions, and general story related stuff. You may not have realized that if you joined in recently. Something I have not shared is how I work my way through creating a story, this is on my mind because of my recent creation Worldship Horizon.

Everything begins with an idea. In this case, Chris asked if I wanted to collaborate on a roleplaying game. I do. Unfortunately, we have a rich history of starting and going nowhere fast. Not wanting to go this route we set on the idea of a space ship doing the Battlestar Galactica/Enterprise/whatever space opera thing. In essence creating a self-contained setting for the game.

I wrote down all of the types of ship in space I knew of, along with examples, and set about coming up with something I had not heard about and interested me. The idea: humanity conquered by an alien race long enough ago that nobody remembers a time of freedom is used by the aliens as a initial colonization fleet. Each worldship has an army of 10,000 troopers, 10,000 colonists, and all of the supplies necessary. Sent to coordinates of a planet the worldship is to establish a colony or conquer the planet and establish a colony. With that in mind, the Horizon is sent off, arriving somewhere else and immediately in danger before anyone has time to figure out that they are not in the right spot.

And that is where the idea ended and I made my writing mistake. I should have written out more before going all serial story. I did not because in my head there were a few scenes and events to write out. Great, because I can piece them together and weave together a coherent narrative while giving out details about the world or world building. That did not or more correctly, has not happened.

Oops. Normally, I write out a ton of material before I show people what I am working on. I write out the idea. I flesh out the with details large and small. I know what the characters, at least the initial batch of them, look like and sound like. I spend a lot of time writing out details that may or may not end up in a story, but are in my head and help shape everything written.

Rereading the initial pages, the intro is what I had in mind, although I see several ways to do the intro better. After the intro things go off the rails or at least into territory that is too familiar sounding to me and my original idea did not have any of that, which makes the familiar feeling all the more distressing.

What do I do? As of now, notes. Back to the drawing board. Keep the idea, that is sound. Everything else we shall see.

 

500 and 1 Words At A Time: I Should Be Writing

Tick Tock.

Tick Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

A day to myself.

Plans to write.

Plans to paint.

Plans to write some more.

…and nothing…

The clock keeps counting down to time to pick up the kids.

Picking up the kids means distractions until they go to bed.

I don’t mind the distractions…except when I had plans to write.

Except I cannot lay the blame for not writing at any exterior distractions. Only on me.

The words are there, but they are not cooperating. Pen to paper results in a few words and a lot of doodles. Then a call to find something else to do…

Dishes done.

Sweeping done.

Check the mail done.

Check the news done.

And the words come screaming back only to thwart themselves or me, depending upon your point of view, by refusing to set down on the screen or paper. A sentence leads to staring at the screen.

I have three open documents and have opened and closed a dozen more. Each open leads to a close within minutes despite my intentions.

I have four pens on my desk, arranged in a fan shape. The blue clicky-top in the middle, the odd pen out. Someone must have left it within my reach and being the writer, I collected the pen into my writing pens. And none of them want to write. Other than chewing on the ends pens have one purpose, to write, and mine say “no writing out of us today.”

Like a magic 8-ball only in ink.

Three stacks of stapled papers sit on the table and on the floor. Each one a different story I am working on; edits, revisions, questions, and story lines. Each one has been picked up two or three times.

Pen to paper.

Ink scribbles.

A word or two.

A doodle.

Pen to table.

Stack of paper moved to another spot on the table, disturbing the dust or covering my goblin writing buddy. Who stares back accusingly, “You should be writing, but you can’t.”

Laying there next to the writing, my goblin writing buddy, crafted by Barb for my birthday has been there for all writing since then, watching over me, the pens, the papers, and the words.

Today, he too is taking a break.

I want to flip him over so his pink red eyes are not accusing me of not doing my job. I cannot. Not his fault the…whatever is not flowing today. Not going to take out my frustrations on those not responsible.

Funny thing, here I am writing. The free flow of words and ideas about how I have not been able to write or work on writing all day. Nothing goes to plan, it seems. Perhaps goblin writing buddy is doing his job after all. Perhaps returning to a mandatory post a day is having the effect I hoped of keeping me writing even when I am not writing what I planned on writing.

Tick Tock.

Time for me to wrap this up. Maybe, when I get home with the kids the plan will unfold. 🙂

500 and 1 Words At A Time: Distractions

The maintenance man is here looking for the source of a water issue.

Every school district but one is closed around us due to ice.

Snow is falling, blowing, and piling up.

Temperature dropped.

And for the moment, my plans for structured writing have gone out the window.

Structured writing, the act of working on one project with a specific intent, in this case continuing to edit, revise, and expand Puddles and Whiskers. I have notes. I have lots of arrows and slashes across the text. These notes, arrows, and slashes need coaxing to become something more and part of that something more is some quiet and not having to wonder how much longer before I get a call from the school announcing early release due to snow piles and ice.

I can bang out a few hundred words, like this soon to be 500, in no time. However, as I have stated before much of what has been posted due to the nature of the blog I like to keep. Thus, unless otherwise stated, such as Puddles and Whiskers Drybush and Wash Phase X, was created on the fly.

Structured writing requires, for me, a space (I have two of those-one for summer and one for winter); time (I have that); notes (I have those too); and a limited number of distractions (I have those too in spades).

Distractions include, but are not limited to

  • work necessary around the house, such as dishes, cooking, the lawn, or garbage
  • children being louder than “normal”
  • children or other adults interrupting writing time, important questions, information, or fun interruptions are acceptable. Asking me who I think would win in a fight Hulk or whateverothersuperheroofthemoment is not important or fun because the answer never is what the questioner wants to hear
  • loud noises; out here is much quieter than our previous, hell any place we have ever lived before, thus loud noises is pretty broad now, typically the children playing outside my office window
  • maintenance work, I love our maintenance man, he works rain or shine, enjoys his work, takes pride in his work, and has no problem working later than scheduled. However, maintenance work is noisy and that is distracting, especially since I like to know what happened or how the fix is moving along
  • pressing business, there are always things that need to get done…you know the rest

So what do I do when distractions keep me from the structured writing I had planned? Wait, if the distraction is temporary. Usually, this works well, the distraction goes away and resume writing. When the distraction is longer, such as a day of life getting in the way, find some other writing to do, such as a blog post about distractions (practice those writing skills) or find some other way to work on structured writing that requires less cognitive processing, such as finding a section of a story to make new notes upon or find something else to do entirely…no sense wasting a day.

 

 

Reflecting On The Year In Blogging 2016

2014

2015

Ugh.

What happened?

There is part of me that wants to say that 2016 was a bad year for blogging for me, but it wasn’t. It has been a year of change. However, as I sit here I am not sure that the change I purposefully made was the right one for me.

Prior to 2 months ago, I posted every day. Mostly musings upon the day, situation, event, or what have you or as my father said, “I too used to have a diary to write about claptrap.” I haven’t seen him for a few holidays, I can hold a grudge. Thankfully (for me) his comment came before any of my blogs. Yet, that is how Speaking Out on Life was feeling to me; without college to write about a sense of purpose had left.

charliefootballgifThen came the “feels like a job” period. Blogging has never been about fame or fortune; if those things came about due to blogging great (a few job offers were offered, but did not pan out-that is another theme of 2016 and blogging-success at the tip of my fingers and yanked out at the last second), but I never set out to become a famous blogger. So when blogging began to feel like a job, where I went to work every day and was not seeing any form of “payment” I knew I needed a break.

keanu-movie-posterOne plus one ended up equaling Puddles and Whiskers. Thank you daughter, if not for your argument with your brother on the merits of arming cats with pistols, frying pans, and katanas they would never have been born. Puddles and Whiskers has given me a purpose and the blog a sense of something happening here worth visiting.

Except, while I can rip off 500 to 1000 words about my day or a game, writing a longer story is a more methodical process for me. Really methodical. Similar to game design and miniature painting. So instead of their story taking off their story is taking off in smaller chunks that I edit and revise until “just wright.” 🙂

This meant there have been long stretches between posts. I have never been a stats whore. I keep an eye on the stats, particularly what people read versus how many people visit. I am pleased to say, people are reading Puddles and Whiskers and visiting. And people are reading a lot of the game posts. I should be happy, my plan to have a more focused blog revolving around a story I am telling is working out, right?

Yes and no. Yes, by the numbers Life is doing fine. No, in that I feel like I am writing less. This is a perception issue on my end, as most of my writing happens on paper and a non-blogging screen, still there have been days, lots of them recently where I thought to myself, “I should blog about this.”

scrw6gaoo3cfgqnzjhch2zgu4z1And this is where I find myself on the last days of 2016…

what to do. Here is what I am not doing:

  • shutting down the blog
  • starting a new blog

Those are not resolutions, resolutions are meant to be ignored, those are facts. Here is where I am waffling and if you have any thoughts please share them:

  • returning to writing every day about whatever
  • sticking with posting when I have some new Puddles and Whiskers

Thoughts? I welcome input from readers.

Speaking of readers, thank you each and every one. I appreciate and am thankful for new readers and regular readers. I will finish out the rest of the year working on Puddles and Whiskers and see how the New Year starts in a day or so.

Have a good and safe holiday. I would say don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but that could get…messy. 🙂

 

 

 

501 Words At A Time: A Story of Patience

Today it hit me. What hit me? Patience or at least the realization that patience with my writing is a skill I have been missing, lacking, or on the low-side. Patience with writing is…necessary.

Recently a friend asked me for some help writing fiction and I gave my usual advice:

Characters: Have compelling characters who have their own motivations and world view. Compelling is based on the writer, what I find a compelling character may not be compelling to another. Regardless compelling characters are easier to write. Characters need to have a motivation not related to the plot, my thought at least. A character who’s motivation is to complete the plot is less interesting to me and has a shorter lifespan than a character who has a motivation outside of the plot and tries to interact with the plot. I.e. a detective who’s only goal is to solve the plot of the week is less interesting to me than a detective with a drinking problem, a desire to become wealthy, and motivational issues who is tossed into the plot of the week and has to deal.

Villains and Obstacles: Villains need to be as compelling and interesting as the characters, in some ways more so. A lackluster villain who the character defeats is not memorable. A villain as rounded as a character is interesting in their own right and makes for compelling/interesting reading. For me, and this is a me thing, villains are plot generators. Villains want something or to do something and some how the characters get involved and that is where the conflict arises…unless your characters go a different direction…nothing wrong with the villain winning because a character moved on, missed something, or life got in the way.

Locations and/or Environment: Put your characters in interesting places. Interesting does not mean unique. Interesting means providing enough details to make the location/environment seem alive and not a backdrop for the characters to act in front of.

Let everything grow: While writing if staying true to a character they will occasionally do something that is not what the writer had in mind or they should. If allowed to go off script, characters grow and become more interesting. This is a hard concept to grasp, as the writer don’t I have complete control? Yes and no. Yes, I put the words down, but there are times when I see a character doing something other than what I was writing and I re-write the scene going with what the character does, even if that puts the character in greater danger or removes them from the story altogether. Life is like that. I like my characters to have those not-so-perfect moments.

Good advice, but I forgot one thing and I did not realize I had forgot it until this morning when working on another revision, patience. Ripping off a story is easy. Going back and crafting that story is hard. All of the skills that go into taking a rough draft and turning that into the next draft, and next, and so on require patience.

A writer needs to have the patience to let the writing unfold. Ripping off a story and working on it later that day or the next is not the same as taking a day or two or even a week before coming back to that story. The difference for me between working on a draft the next day and week is immense. The next day I fill in the blanks I remember I forgot to put to paper. A few days later, I see the holes, I see the errors, I see the places where I can expand for interest, clarity, or remove altogether. Patience.

Waiting is difficult especially with writing where things tend to come in bursts. A burst of writing leads to another and another. Seeing all the words on paper or screen leads to thinking you did something and you did. Now take a few days off from that work. Work on something else or just take a break and read. Then come back. All of that work can be made better because you will have fresh eyes and thoughts will have had time to refresh.

Patience is that missing piece.

Need an example: Check revisions of the stories I have been posting or in a few days come back and I will have a better version of this rip and run up. Patience. 🙂

500 and 1 Words At A Time: Baseline

I decided to start my blog schedule now instead of starting next week, no time like the present. If I really will be chronicling my attempts to become a successful writer I should start with a base line, a starting point if you will. That way, months from now I can look back up at the baseline and say, “Up there is where I started, down here is where I am. Now, where is the secret door and ladders to success?” Sounds better in Klingon.

woDDI’ pagh nuqDaq jItlhIjchoHtaH, vaj tInwI’ naDev nuqDaq. DaH nuqDaq ghaH pegh lojmIt Qapla’ ladders je?

Thank you Klingon translator, but come on, no ladders?

Baseline

  1. Stay at home dad
  2. Write every day
  3. Multiple writing projects in the works
    1. 500 Words into book
    2. Stroud fiction
    3. and recent arrival, thank you Big Man, game systems
  4. Recently graduated college with degree in Technical Professional Communications-means if you need it written well (not like this sentence) and in a professional presentation, I can do it.
  5. Blog daily

I think that is a good start for my baseline. Oh, I guess there should be areas of writing interest. That way I have a direction other than my personal projects…lets see, I write about the following:

  1. Life
  2. Games-game play, game reviews, and creation of game systems and settings
  3. Food-cooking tips and the occasional recipe
  4. Fiction-particularly multi-genre cyberpunk
  5. Erotica-when the muse strikes
  6. Human Sexuality-when I find or create a new home for my blog
  7. Resumes and CVs-I enjoy assisting others with their resumes and CVs

I’m sure I am missing a few things, but for a quick baseline list not bad. Next up, what kind of work would I like…good question. A long time ago, I would have wanted to write for a game company, but that lost it’s luster when I did write for two small game companies. Easiest explanation, to many cooks in the kitchen and not nearly enough management (lack of decision making, pay issues, organization, etc.). Perhaps a larger game company would be more orderly, something to consider.

Honestly, having given the question a lot of thought over the past five years (teacher, cookbook author, and other see 500 Words post series), I do not have an answer. I write a lot of different subjects and I can write even more. I do not have one job that suits my…mood, skill set, or what have you…at least not one off the top of my head. For the moment, that question will be shelved.

What I have been doing with my time, now that the office is once again organized, is going over old projects, looking at current projects, and attempting to create a…for lack of a better word, flow chart. The goal, to have a plan. Which projects will get work first, deadlines, and a goal other than “personal satisfaction” with each one. I did personal satisfaction before and looking upon those works now is nice, but seeing them in stores-online and/or brick and mortar is more satisfying to me now.

When I have a Project Plan finished I will share that, perhaps readers can assist me in staying on task and even moving projects from one stage to another. That’s my rough baseline.