Monday, August 27, 2012

Freeing Yourself To Write

I have an idea for a story.

No you don't.

Um...yes, I do. It's a good idea. It's different than anything I've ever read.

That's just because you haven't read crap. This story's been written before, many times, by authors much more talented than you.

But I'm going to put a new spin on it.

What, the "I've never published anything" spin? I'm sure that will revolutionize the genre.

Well...even if it's been done before, since I haven't read it that probably means there are plenty of  others that haven't read it either. If nothing else, it should be fun to write because it's a good idea.

Yeah...about that...


Is it really a good idea?

Sure! It has action, interesting characters, and tons of conflict.

And a giant plot hole in the middle that you have no idea how to fill. 

Yeah, but I'll figure that out as I write.

And a two dimensional bad guy who seems to be bad just for the sake of being bad. Come on, you read three blog posts last week about how much people hate that.

Ok, I'll give him some back story.

And all of a sudden your short story turns into a novella. You've only read a hand-full of novellas and you've many?

A few...


Ok, zero. But that doesn't matter. I've got to start somewhere. If the idea pans out it could even turn into a novel.

And when are you going to have the time to write said novel, hmm? You barely have time to squeeze in one or two short stories a month, let alone a novel. Even then writing takes more time away from family and friends than you want it to. 

You may have a point...

Of course I do. Just set the idea aside for now. You can always come back to it when you have more time. It will be a better story in the end for having the time to mull it over.

That's probably true.

I had an idea for a story.

Sometimes my greatest barrier to writing is me. I don't consider myself a particularly negative person and I'm not prone to over-thinking things but that doesn't mean I don't get in my own way FAR too often.

And just to be clear, grilling yourself about whether a story is worth writing isn't always a bad thing. None of us have a lot of spare time so it's important that we scrutinize our ideas so that we can prioritize our projects and not go on too many time wasting wild goose chases.

Asking questions is good but over thinking is bad. It can shut down creativity and take the fun out of writing.

So what do I do about it?

I give myself permission to screw up. 

I've found that, for me, it's best to let the questions come. I'll let myself fret and worry for a little bit and then I'll say something like this:

"Ok, that's enough. I want to write this story. It's ok if it isn't original. It's ok if the characters aren't perfect. It's ok if I never finish. Maybe the story will suck. Or maybe, just maybe it will turn out good. Or even great. Either way, I'm going to write because that's what I love to do and, regardless of the outcome, I will be happy."

And that's the truth. I've written a ton of crappy stories, things that will never see the light of day, but that's not important. The important thing is that I enjoyed writing them. I like writing and it's ok if every story doesn't turn out. I write because it's fun.

How many times have you had a similar internal dialog? What approach do you take to push past the questions?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Adam August Awesomness!

I've been fortunate enough to be invited over to Jeff Hargett's blog "Strands of Pattern" to take part in his August is Awesome blog fest!

Head over there to read about why your story NEEDS an animal.

And a HUGE thanks to Jeff for the opportunity to visit his blog and for all the nice things he said about me. I'm all warm and fuzzy...

One more thing, I added a new page to my blog with links to some of my writing that is floating around the world wide web. Take a look!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sci-Fi Stories and Paying Market

Just a quick heads up:

If you're looking for some quality science-fiction, check out Abyss & Apex. They have some pretty awesome FREE stories up on their site.

For all you sci-fi writers, A&A is also a paying market: "US $.05/word (five cents a word) up to 1,500 words, and a flat payment of $75.00 for longer stories".

I submitted a story a few days ago. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Writing Songs

Dear Sir or Madam,

Will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look? It's based on a novel by a man named Lear and I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer.

It's a dirty story of a dirty man, and his clinging wife doesn't understand. Their son is working for the Daily Mail, it's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer,

It's a thousand pages, give or take a few. I'll be writing more in a week or two. I can make it longer if you like the style. I can change it round and I want to be a paperback writer.

If you really like it you can have the rights. It could make a million for you overnight. If you must return it, you can send it here. But I need a break and I want to be a paperback writer.

Paperback Writer

I'm a Beatles fan and I've probably listened to the song "Paperback Writer" (these are slightly modified lyrics) a couple hundred times but it wasn't until I wrote my first query letter that I actually understood what John Lennon and Paul McCartney were getting at.

It's a freaking query letter!

Like most writers, I'm fascinated by words. So I guess it's not surprising that I love song lyrics. I've even written a couple songs myself!

And I LOVE it when two of my favorite things come together, writing and music.

There are dozens of songs that reference different aspects of writing. Lyric writing is a craft unto itself but it shares a lot with all writing genres. For example:

Anna Nalick shares the pain of the creative process and what it feels like to have something so personal go out into the world for everyone to put their own spin on.

Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings share their thoughts about work ethic and dealing with publishers music executives.

And Vampire Weekend even has strong opinions about grammar!

I'll leave you today with a quote from songwriter and singer Tracy Chapman that mirrors my own feelings about all types of writing:
Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It's something I don't feel like I really control.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

5 Resons Every Writer Needs A Dog

Good news everyone who's trying to convince their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, mistress, mom, dad, landlord, roommate, body double, parole officer, gay cousin, -self that you need a dog:

I'm going to give you 5 good great reasons that will finally shut them up once and for all are sure to convince them that as a writer, you need a new best friend.

Sorry cat lovers, this post isn't for you. Actually, there's a pretty good chance that you'll never find a post on this site extolling the virtues of cat ownership. Cats aren't my thing.

No wait, you'll love my cat. He's just like a dog.

You have a pet that makes me sneeze and craps indoors but otherwise is just like a dog. Why don't you just get a dog. Oh, and don't let your cats outside people. Seriously. They're pretty much the 8th biblical plague as far as wildlife goes.


 Anyway, back to subject at paw:

I got your back!
1. Companionship: Even though there are plenty of posts floating around to the contrary, writing really is a solitary sport. The internet has given us writers a wonderful tool to interact with and stay connected to other writers, which is great. But when it comes down to the actual act of writing, it's just you a blank page...and your dog (if you have one). My dog is my writing partner. While I'm typing away you can usually find him under my desk lending emotional support.

Good dog.

2. Dog Walking Cures Writers Block: I swear this is true. Whenever that blank page wants to stay blank I just walk the dog. **POOF** The mind clears and the ideas come.

Q: Want to know what to do if that doesn't work?

A: Walk the dog again.

3. A Dogs Not Gonna Pee On Your Laptop: I have a friend who's laptop was just fried by her cat's overactive bladder. I'm just saying.

Pippin's listening!
4. Dogs Are Great Listeners: As writers, it's sometimes hard to get people to listen to our story ideas. Our friends and family are sick of it. Our significant others do their best but their eyes glaze over as soon as the words "plot hole" are uttered. It's not their fault. But your dog will listen. He will listen intently to every crazy story idea and character description you subject him to. Sure he's only paying attention in the hopes of hearing the word "treat" but that's not important. What really matters is that you have an audience that pays attention to what your saying (and doesn't give snarky feedback to boot!).


Monday, August 6, 2012

Having You Tried Writing? Putting Pen to Paper.

Have you tried writing?

It's a freakin' writing blog bright-boy. What the heck do you think I'm here for, your dashing good looks?

That's not what I meant. My dad used to say, "There's a tool for every job".

Great, now he's talking about his daddy issues. I'm outta here.


As writers we have to choose our writing tools wisely. Thanks to the latest word processing software, now we can move huge chunks of text with minimal effort, track changes, leave comments and reminders, search for problem words and phrases, and send drafts to our friends and enemies with ease (yes, some of my drafts are bad enough I think they could be used against my enemies, numerous though they may be).

But what about actual writing? When's the last time you sat down with an actual pen and paper and wrote out a story?

If it's been a while, I encourage you to give it another spin. There's something wonderfully visceral about abandoning your laptop and writing out a story longhand. Personally, I find it very effective to write out a first draft longhand and then make changes as I transcribe what I've written onto the computer as a second draft. I even have a special writing journal (several actually) with special mechanical pencils and erasers that I only use for creative writing (lest they find their way into the pen drawer...WHERE DID WE GET ALL OF THESE PENS!?!?!)

Give it a try some time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

News Flash Fiction

Just a heads up: I have some flash fiction up today over at 140 Flash Fiction. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On The Other Side of the Desk

You're called into an office and you take a seat. Whoever is sitting at the desk, you've stepped into their realm, their home base. You're out of your element Donny. You look up at them, not only because the situation demands it but because they're sitting in a throne-like office chair while you're crouched in an oddly tiny reception chair. The seating arrangement isn't the only uncomfortable part of this situation. You're vulnerable. You're in a position to be judged. Your ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DESK.

President Obama at the Resolute Desk in the oval office.

Being on the other side of a desk from someone in a position of authority is not only intimidating and uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of terrifying, but infinitely relateable. We've all been there. Whether it was a visit to principles office back in grade-school, a job interview, bad news from a doctor, or an ass-chewing from a boss, everyone has been on the business end of of a desk-visit. This is a universally understandable experience.

And this makes it a perfect addition to your story.

As writers, our goal is to put our readers into the story. To do this we have to give them situations, emotions, characters, settings, etc., that they can relate to and identify with. Putting your character on the other side of the desk gives your readers instant-empathy for that character. 

I've actually written several short stories recently that take place exclusively at the desk. One is a robot sci-fi story I've submitted to Asimov's Science Fiction (keep your fingers crossed for me) and the other is a "genetic enhancement" sci-fi story that's up for critique at On Fiction Writing. I would love to hear what folks have to say about the latter. If you're up for doing some critiquing (it's only ~1,200 words) head over to OFW and click the "Critique" tab on the top of the page. My story is called "Customer Service".

Or if you're not feeling OFW, shoot me an email at adamg73 [at] juno [dot] com and I'll email you the story. Thanks!!!