Sep 172010

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, we do things that provoke a predictable response that we then use to galvanize further action? Yeah, that’s a little vague. Let me clarify: the other day, Scalzi posted this. For the TL;DR crowd, the short version is:

Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.

I shared this article with Cody; that’s the “doing something to provoke” part. This morning, Cody asks me, “So, do you want to be a writer, or not?” Enter: “a predictable response” part. I knew, on seeing that article, she would needle me about the fact that I haven’t really exhibited much in the way of writer’s ambition since I finished the zeroth draft of the novel back in November. I’ve poked at the idea of editing it ever since, but haven’t really done much.

Anyway, this exchange dovetailed nicely with a growing urge to try to actually write something here every day, if for no other reason than to practice the work of stringing sentences together. I’ve entertained the idea of actually having a readership for this blog, and enjoy that notion. The trouble is that whole ‘building a readership’ part that has to come first. When the desired end state starts taking more time than my patience allots, I slack off on actually getting to that end state, thereby never attaining it. This has been true in my for-fun modeling (oh, Star Destroyer project, I shall one day finish you!), in the notion of getting more into costuming and crafting-type things, in learning to play guitar, drawing, and writing. It’s a bad habit and needs to die a horrible, painful death.

So, pursuant to that, I’m going to start trying to write something here every day, at least 250 meaningful words in length. Meaningful, mind you, does not get to be in the eye of the beholder!

Writing and Ideas

 Posted by at 14:13  No Responses »
Sep 012009

It’s an old cliché that aspiring writers* will often ask established writers where their ideas come from. The equally cliché answer is that their ideas come from all over, which leaves the poor aspiring writer wondering why they are so defective, since they do not appear to have the same wealth of ideas from which to pick and choose. The truth is, they do. Everyone does. It’s a matter of recognizing it, tapping into it, and executing on that idea once you’ve identified it.

I’m being presumptuous here, not being an established writer myself. In the course of attempting to become one, however, I make habit of reading the personal writings of several authors (namely Gaiman, Scalzi, and Lisle) and have also read a number of books concerning the craft. The authors of these books always bring this particular question up, and always express how flabbergasted they are when they hear the question. The barrier between the two is that one party has a wealth of ideas, knows how to access those ideas, and has the skills to hammer the raw material into something that a publisher will buy, while the other doesn’t realize that their deep pool of imagination is right there, waiting to be used. If you’re capable of reading this blog entry, you have an imagination equal to the task of inspiring a work of fiction. “I don’t have any ideas,” is the mantra of those who don’t know how to recognize their ideas for what they are.

Any idle thought can turn into a story. Walking into work today, I saw a tall, thin post with a hole through the top emitting smoke. I can only assume that this post, with its hole, was meant for cigarette butts. But that image can be enough to inspire an idea. Perhaps it was the start of a fire that consumed the building. Perhaps there’s a story about a guy trapped in this fiery building. Maybe this pole is part of a laser security grid, and it just vaporized the last person to try and walk in. Maybe it’s one of several exhaust vents for a fire-breathing dragon that lives beneath the building. Any of these could become a story.

Ideas are everywhere. You just have to let yourself see them. The hard part isn’t coming up with an idea; it’s turning the idea into something other people will want to read. For that, you have to push beyond the paralysis associated with the desire for approval and just write. See where the idea takes you. If it starts off rocky, with turgid prose and flat characters, that’s okay. Keep going. Writing something is better than writing nothing at all.

* “Aspiring writer” is a bit of a misnomer. The second you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you are a writer. An aspiring writer implies someone who has yet to actually write anything. Aspiring published writer would be more a accurate phrase.

Writing Professionally

 Posted by at 10:20  No Responses »
Apr 072009

The first career path to which I gave serious consideration was authoring fiction.  The driving motivation behind this idea — telling stories — drives a disproportionate number of my hobbies: independent film-making, movie/TV-watching  and game-playing (on the receiving end of told stories, in this case), role-playing games.  Every other career I entertained the notion of pursuing held storytelling as a key component: acting, directing, visual effects for film, and now game development.  Within the last year, I decided that having a “day job” by no means precluded professional writing.  Author John Scalzi, internet-famous for his Whatever blog, cemented this decision by restating my own conclusion in as many words.  This led to my involvement in NaNoWriMo 2008, which I completed within the designated timeframe.  Though the resultant short novel is not something I feel is worth publishing (contrary to prior statements I’ve made about it), the simple fact that I wrote it armed me with the confidence that I can write a novel.

Pursuant to my goal to be a professional writer, I decided yesterday that I would take another page from Scalzi’s playbook and try to write a blog entry every day from now on.  My morning routine includes perusing a number of websites (a task made much simpler thanks to Google Reader and the wonder of RSS), which often have several interesting stories worth pointing out.  My hope is that readership here will grow beyond the small circle of friends that now read it and that it can become a community unto itself.

What do I mean by professional writer?  I don’t mean quitting my day job.  Scalzi (yeah, you’re going to see him name-dropped quite often) makes the observation that unless you can guarantee annual income from writing that’s 30% above what you make at your current day job, your financial situation will be worse if you quit your job to focus on writing.  The only reason to quit your job for writing is that if holding the job impedes the income you could otherwise make from writing.  

Professional writer, in this sense, is synonymous with Stephen King’s definition of a talented writer: if you wrote something and someone paid you for it, you’re talented.  It doesn’t matter if the writing was technical, analytical, editorial, or fictional — if you wrote something and got paid, you fit the definition.  Take it as a forgone conclusion that my ideal world would have me waking up at noon to eat breakfast and surf the internet for an hour, writing fiction for the next five, eating dinner with Cody, and then spending the evening on entertainment, all while making much more than I make now.  It’s not an unrealistic fantasy, but it’s not one that will come without time and effort.  

Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to elect to do things you otherwise might not choose to do.  To that end, I stopped procrastinating last night and bought myself a copy of Writer’s Market 2009.  This book is the ultimate go-to resource for writers, listing every publishing outlet for every topic available.  I plan to find a small outlet that publishes articles I might be able to write about with some intelligence, and submitting.  Without some incredible luck, it won’t be fiction.  I would be more than happy, however, to be paid for writing movie reviews, technical reviews, game reviews, or any other number of topics on which I tend to pontificate anyway.

As with every other industry, you first need to get your foot in the door.  Prove that you’re publishable in a small way before you can hope to hit big.