Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Resolutions

Celebrate responsibly. Hear everything. Use later.
The end of the year reflections are upon me. It's been quite an interesting year full of very low Lows and middling Highs. Productive and full of promise; exasperating and exhilarating. Lots of introspection during the Lows as is more than normal in any human's life. That introspection begets revelation which begets resolution to be better.

For the last few years I've tried to boil my resolutions down to a six-word sentence, inspired by the Six Word Story idea. Last year I didn't have a 'real' resolution except to be a more consistent writer. The blog stats have certainly reflected that. In 2012 I posted as much as the previous three years combined. I guess that makes me some kind of blogger. Which kind I'm not sure...

As we begin the New Year, on the cusp of another sea-change in terms of mass media, my resolutions for the coming year aren't easily boiled down.

One thing, as far as my work life goes, is to be as open as I can be. To do what I do best and be the best at those things that I do. Sounds convoluted but it's honest. As resolutions go, it also doesn't sound like much but believe me it's a lot. As long as I get 100% from everyone around me at work, I will give 100% back. We're all in it together.

In terms of writing I will be at least as consistent as in 2012. Submissions will happen, too. I won't be afraid to send the work out because I will know that it's better than it was before and that it's good enough to be consumed by the public. You can read from this that the novel will go out again sooner than later and that short stories are destined to be picked up somewhere. Watch this space.

Finally, personally, I am going to shed myself of these bad habits that have reared up again. They're the result of terrible changes wrought on me early in the year and my weakness in combatting them. Exercise will be part of my daily life again, and eating less. These are simple things that made me feel a lot better and require minimal actual effort but it's so easy to let them slip by. No more. I need to feel better physically to reflect the determination I feel mentally.

Can I sum this up in six words? I don't think I have to. I know what I need to do and how it needs to be done.

And in our hearts we all know the same thing. As a society we do the same things, think the same thoughts. As individuals we make choices to be one thing or another, do one thing or another and we have to live with those choices.

I wish you a Happy New Year and the ability to make the right choices for you.

And thank you all for your support and reading the blog. I hope to hear from more of you in the coming year.

Best,


Jason


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of the Year

This is a list of the 16 posts from this year that I would class as 'the best of' Jason Arnett dot com, 2012 edition. Interestingly the most visited post is Nina Simone and the Keyboard. Probably because I mentioned Nina Simone (who appears nowhere on the blog, sorry) and have a picture of The Scream in it. I'm just guessing. I've included posts that are my favorites and the ones that got comments related to the post. Also, just looking at the stats I can see which ones are more popular and so we get our list. I could have had 20, but I like that it's not a top ten or top twenty list. It's a 'best of'.

A New Montparnasse
Teh Future Iz Hear
Review: John Carter
Casting Color
Adapting
The Prurient Interests
Nina Simone and the Keyboard
Self-Publishing
Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises
Juggling
Brand Loyalty
Recompense
NaNoWriMo Prep: Character Profiles
Self-Identifying
A Bit Forward
A Bit of Critical Thinking

The blog will continue into 2013 with thoughts and ramblings about all sorts of stuff from my writing, other peoples' writings, music, art, films, politics, and just whatever crosses my mind. I suspect that there will be less about writing and the process and more about the things that are interesting me to write in the first place. You'll get stories about writing.

Thank you so much for being here this year. I hope I've entertained you and I look forward to continuing to do so in the coming year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

What I've Learned: The Year 2012

Double sixes means I get roll again, right? Loading the
dice so that happens every time means you make your
own luck. That and perseverance are how you win.
This should be subtitled or what I've had to re-learn this year that I should've learned long before now.

LUCK IS THE RESULT OF HARD WORK AND TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHANCE. Really, as cliche as that sounds (or reads) that's the absolute truth. It takes practice to get good at what you do. Some people say there are numbers you have to hit in order to reach minimum competence in regard to learning a skill or trade. Between this blog, my novel and short-story writing, and my weekly contributions at The Confabulator Cafe I've written over 200,000 words this year alone. Jeez, that's a lot, isn't it? Over the last two years or so I can count over half a million words written. Over a million if I count back to 2008. All fiction. All in storytelling forms.

And I'm still learning how to write with skill.

If I find a way to get my novel published (and that's the plan for 2013) then it won't be because I got lucky. It'll be because I've put the work into it. There's no such thing as an 'overnight' success. It's always the result of figuring out the way to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.


PATIENCE. AND MORE PATIENCE. AND STILL MORE PATIENCE. I was fortunate this summer to have time to spend with my son while I was between jobs. He's sixteen and he took Driver's Ed. That's the age where he's 'becoming interesting', as the senior Dr. Jones put it once upon a time. As a parent I've learned patience in raising him. It takes time to grasp concepts and be able to put them into use. The same applies to being a writer or anything else. You get good at what you do over time, not over night. I hope that I'm improving as a writer - I feel like I am - and things are looking up in terms of being 'successful'. All a result of being patient.


MULTIPLE DRAFTS ARE PART OF LIFE AT THIS STAGE OF MY CAREER. Oh, god, multiple drafts. The novel has been through five separate revisions at this point. I'm sure there's at least one more to come no matter what.

That said, the first draft, as much as I loved it, was really and truly that hot mess we call a Zero Draft which amounts to nothing more than a 'treatment' of the novel the story will grow up to be. One of the reasons I'm in love with Scrivener as a novel-drafting tool is that I can tell it what draft I'm in and the text I write is a different color from what already exists in the document. I can tell you that five colors on a single page is kind of distracting but damned effective in showing me how the manuscript has improved and changed. I understand that as I improve going forward I'll be seeing less and less of a rainbow. I'm looking forward to that.


THE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO YOU WILL SUPPORT YOU NO MATTER WHAT. There are tests in every relationship and when you are at your lowest you'll find who's there for you. The people who love you as friends and more will wait for you to tell what's on your mind unless it's obvious that you're  in a serious, perhaps life-threatening crisis. It hurts when you realize that people you thought were close really aren't but that's part of life, isn't it? Sometimes they come back but it's hard to trust them as completely as you might have once.

Just to be clear, I'm not mentioning any names and I'm not talking about any one person in particular. I'm generalizing because in this case it's the best way to illustrate the point. I've been pretty low a couple of times in my life and it's hard to see your way out of any hole that's deep and dark. As a creative person it's important to realize that you are really not alone though it seems that way. Occasionally you have to look up at the top of the hole and hold out your hand. The people who love you will help pull you out.

You'll find out.

BAD HABITS WILL REAR UP WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT THEM. Not just in my writing (passive verbs) but also in my everyday life. I have to be aware of them when they come roaring back (like eating too much) and then double down on the things I have to do to combat them (like actually exercising). Watch out for them and when there's a time when you'll slip (and you will) embrace the fact that you are fallible and human and then beat that sucker down like - well, like whatever metaphor you prefer does.

WHO YOU KNOW MATTERS. (NO REALLY, IT DOES.) I wish it didn't, I really wish that everyone who was worthy could just be successful based on demonstrated talent alone. It could be that way in the future, but we're not living there yet. Or even now. Still not yet. So take the time to be nice to people you meet and follow Wheaton's Law. You may not recognize someone who could help you out in some small way so it's best to take the attitude that everyone can be of some service.


SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE OF LIKE MINDS (IN TERMS OF CREATIVITY) WILL MAKE YOU BETTER. This is an absolute truth. Even if it's only that you'll recognize that you might be ahead of the people you're around. Then you'll find a new group of people and realize that you're all at roughly the same level and that you can help each other quite a bit. Learn how to critique honestly without being personal. Develop a thick skin and be able to hear an honest critique without taking it personally. Adjust how you say things that others don't want to hear but need to in order to improve. You'll find that it gets easier to critique new members of your group.

A word about the group: it may not be an organized thing like the Confabulator Cafe. You may have to find that group by building it yourself. Do it. It's worth the time. Just be aware of potential likeminds when you're meeting people. A caveat, though: don't be pushy. Others may not be ready to be part of a group. It's okay. Stay in touch. Also: don't overextend yourself. You'll go down in flames too quickly if you try to do too much. If you can get together for coffee or a Google hangout, do that first. It takes time to build good chemistry as a group. Be patient.


LIFE HAPPENS. DEAL WITH IT AND FIND TIME TO BE A WRITER ANYWAY. Seems obvious, doesn't it? The biggest thing anyone who's creative has to do is manage Time. None of us are Time Lords (well, I'm not anyway) and we can't just slow things down in order to find time to do what makes us happy or drives us or whatever it is inside you that makes you want to do this. You have to treat your creative endeavors as a sideline, a second job, your own business. Whatever metaphor works for you. You have to schedule your attention. That's what makes NaNoWriMo so important. If you can write 50,000 words in a month, you can plan to write 50,000 words over three months. Or however many more you want.

Look, it's simple: set a goal and meet it.

No, really. It's that easy. Determine for yourself that your goal has to be met and then find the time to do it. Give up one TV show, one trip to the coffee shop, thirty minutes of sleep at the beginning of your day or the end or one party a week. If you want to be a successful creative person you have to work at it. This is the theme that we started with, right?

2012 has been a fantastic year for me. Personally devastating and gratifying at different points during the year. Highs and lows are part of being human. Once you understand that and decide that neither will defeat you or blind you from doing good work. Keep pushing yourself and you'll get better.

The old saw goes that the one that gets published is the one who didn't give up.

That's me. I'm not giving up.

Ever.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Here's a reminder that there are Free Stories collected on this page here for you to link out to and peruse when you have some time.

The latest link is to my current Confabulator Cafe/Straeon Manor story - A Delicate Man.

Of course the title came from Fiona Apple's brilliant debut single Criminal. But the twists and turns of the story were probably more inspired by H.P. Lovecraft than anyone else. Certainly the ending owes Howard quite a debt. 

I am stricken with the realization that I have written a good deal more horror or suspense than I previously thought. I think of myself as a science fiction writer, but there's some dark stuff inside and it's working out in these little tales. Dark Fantasy, maybe, rather than horror. I dunno, you tell me.

So if you're feeling the need to read some interesting stories for free in the odd moments over today and tomorrow or any time, really, click here. I'd be grateful if you'd let me know what you think, too.

Merry Christmas! See you on Friday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Holiday Film List

Today's my Dad's birthday. I write because he built me a drawing table when I was a teenager. I know that seems incongruous but it's the truth. I wanted to be an artist as a kid and he crafted this table (which I still have) out of PVC pipe and a nice wood top. It's lightweight and the top detaches which has always made it easy to move. I drew my first comics attempts on it in the mid-80s and then mini comics on that table in the early 2000s. When I found I didn't have what it took to be a writer/artist, I just started writing. Dad is a genius when it comes to building things. You should see the kitchen cabinets he made for Mom.

So, Happy Birthday, Dad! Here's a song for you:


***


It's that time of year when the wife and I settle in with a bowl of popcorn, maybe a martini, and watch holiday films. We celebrate Christmas and for the first time (for me) I'll be able to see the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, which makes me extremely happy. Anyway, here's the list of movies we watch every year in no particular order.


  • The Ref - Dennis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis together made one of the funniest Christmas movies ever. I mean ever. Spacey and Davis are a couple on the edge of divorce and therapy isn't doing them one bit of good. She tells stories at dinner parties that embarrass him and he's upset at her for resenting the 'help' they took from his mother. Both yearn for more than they have and their son is a --- well his military school commander (the wonderful wonderful J.K. Simmons) calls him "demon seed". Leary's a cat burglar who is trapped in town and take everyone hostage. Hijinks ensue. Santa Claus and Leary's assistant, Murray, are just small parts of a terrific ensemble cast that includes Christine Baranski and Glynnis Johns. If you haven't seen it I don't know if we can be friends.
  • Donovan's Reef - John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour, and Elizabeth Allen make the family holiday squabble even more entertaining in this John Ford-directed film. There are fistfights, waterskiing, subterfuges, and a silly gag with a slot machine, too. This is really light comedy and just a ton of fun to watch every year.
  • The Family Stone is a tearjerker in the best way. Sarah Jessica Parker, Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes, and Luke Wilson are all part of one of the most familiar, most dysfunctional and idealistic families ever committed to film. You know these people, at least I do, and they're endearing and maddening at the same time with all their foibles and expectations. Mulroney brings Parker home to meet the family because he wants his mother's ring to ask Parker to marry him. He thinks he's in love. She thinks she's in love. Turns out that the one who instructs them all about love is the lovable loser Wilson. Once the hijinks are done you'll hurt with them and understand the depth of the love in that family. 
  • Hidalgo - Viggo Mortenson stars with Omar Sharif (!) in a truly epic horse race story. If you're a fan of big action and thrills, you'll love this film. One thing you have to remember here is that it's based on a true story, not the entire truth. I'm sure there are problems with some facts but it's damned entertaining and requires your attention.
  • The English Patient - Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas (along with Juliet Binoche and Colin Firth) make a love story so strong that you can't resist. It's beautifully shot in the desert, too, and the Christmas party scene is especially memorable. You know all the rest, I'm sure.

Last year we watched the Swedish versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books (all three of them) one after the other. Not sure if we'll do that again this year but I'm kind of hoping for that. Love Actually is a candidate for annual viewing after this year, too. We've hit it a couple of times on HBO and it's one of my favorites.

All right, last post before the holiday, this one. I'm taking Monday off to do family things but I'll be back next Wednesday.

***

But before I go, don't forget to click over to The Confabulator Cafe today to read my newest FREE short story: A Delicate Man. It's set in the year 2037 at the Cafe's house, Straeon Manor. Everyone's stories this week are related to the holiday and so is mine, but there's some really strange stuff going on in the house. You'll have to read it to find out. 

Let me know what you think will you? And tell me what holiday films you watch every year. I might need some new stuff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Don't Worry Post

The cats lay in wait for me on the bookshelves. Jeez, I can't
get a break. They also don't believe how hard I'm working
since I don't bring them crunchies to eat.
It's been busy here around the house. I've been reading frantically for two friends, offering critiques and working like a demon. Tuesday I wrote 2000 words on a story that will appear Friday at The Confabulator Cafe. I can't tell you why there was such a burst of creativity but there was and I'm not questioning it.

I've got the novel out for comments again and I'm working to get ahead on blog posts again. By Saturday I should be back on track.

And the holidays are coming up again.

Damn.

Then there's the winter storm that's possibly bearing down on us for Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Sleet turning into snow sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Still, it's a great time of year. I'm going to have some time off, get to open some presents and there'll be plenty of drinks to drink and movies to watch. Food to eat, too.

Yeah, I can't complain.

Once I'm caught up, I'm gonna get back to the novel. This year's novel, I mean. There's some serious editing to be done before I dive back into writing the rest of the middle and then the end. However I know exactly what's going to happen so it should be a cakewalk to finish. I'm aiming at the end of January.

So - don't worry that you didn't hear from me earlier this week. I'm just staying busy. You should be, too, right? Because you're writing and so am I.

Oh. Yeah. I've got some reading to do. Lethem and Baciagalupi. What are you all reading over the holidays? Anything?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Being a Writer

Being a writer means universes clash on our Christmas
tree every year. 

A little while back I told you that I self-identified with being a writer. Part of that revelation has come from writing every week (mostly) for the Confabulator Cafe. I'm over there again this week writing a bit about gifts for writers. It's not as entertaining as Chuck Wendig's article earlier this week, but maybe it'll help you decide what to get for the writer in your life.

All this introduction to say that I'm really enjoying being a writer. I finished another draft of the novel and I'm writing a short story (which I really have to get back to after I write this) and I'm reading a couple of things for other writers. 

I enjoy the critique process. That's probably masochistic, but I want to know what's wrong with my stories so that I can make them better. When I critique what I look at is possibilities. Is this going to happen? What if it does? 

The difference in choices is what makes writers different. Recently a conversation brought up Stephen King's Desperation and Richard Bachman's The Regulators. (You of course know that King and Bachman are the same guy.) The basis of each story was the same but it certainly highlighted the different voices and the different choices writers can make if given the same topic to write on. That's further reinforced by how each of us at the Cafe approach our flash fictions (and next week we return to Straeon Manor!) and how each of us look at the topic of gifting. 

In the case of the books I mentioned, it's the difference between horror and terror. No one can write horror quite like King. And no one can writer terror like King does when he's using Bachman's voice. (For the record I much preferred The Regulators to Desperation. The Regulators terrified me. It was brilliant.) This is also what makes King such a fantastic writer that he can write with two distinct voices. Yes there are quite a few similarities and it's obvious now that they're the same person but if you didn't know you might just say they shared sensibilities.

So when I'm critiquing a work for a friend, I'm looking at those sensibilities and trying to figure out why those choices were made, how I might have made them differently. That's how I'm learning to be a writer. By the same token getting critiques back always shows me the same thing in reverse. 

The possibilities are intoxicating and enlightening. Sometimes I'll think what would this person do in this case? and then I explore that option. Sometimes I use what I come up with and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I'll like the outcome of that thinking but go back and wonder how I get to the same conclusion along a different road. 

Like I said, being a writer is pretty cool. Reading something by a friend or someone as well-known as King teaches me something I didn't know before. Do you know a writer and need a gift for them? Books. Always books. 

Tak.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I've Learned: Editing

I used to edit on paper with anything red I could
find. Nowadays I can do it on the computer
though I still have a lot of red pencils around.
Image from here.
Yesterday I finished the (by my count) 5th draft of this novel I wrote last year. Actually it's about draft 3.5 but because I did some things halfway, I'm counting it as 5. Along the way I've learned quite a bit. Here's a partial list:

'A LITTLE' GOES A LONG WAY
It seemed like every time I turned around I was having people do things 'a little'. Nodding a little, smiling a little, shaking a little, stepping back a little. I know it happened because I was avoiding the -ly adverbs and in particular 'slightly' but it got waaaaaay out of hand. There were as multiple instances in every single chapter of the book. More than a dozen in one case. Those puppies were gone every time I caught 'em. I found them because 'little' is a weak word. So is 'nice' and 'very' and so many others. Not all of them but the vast majority took a flying hike.

SUPERPASSIVE BLACK HOLE
I've made no secret that I had a problem with passivity in the verbiage. In a given chapter of roughly 5000 words there might have been 50 - 60 passive phrases that had to be retooled. Most of them were of the garden variety [to be verb] combined with a gerund. "Was going" happened to be the biggest offender. "Was wearing" came a close second and in almost every case I could change the offending verb phrase to 'wore' or 'went' or - well, you get the picture. I'll tell you that fixing passive verbs over the course of more than 100,000 words teaches you a lesson that should stay ingrained. I'm really hoping this will improve the first drafts of everything going forward. Only time will tell.

Now, that said, I left the passive verbs in the dialogue. That's how people talk. We aren't machines or even necessarily well-versed in the rules of proper English. We have color in how we talk and we say what we think and what's on our minds and we say it badly. So, passive stayed in the dialogue.

PATIENCE IS REALLY WHAT IT TAKES
Since I've edited this manuscript I don't know how many times (3.5 or 5 depending on how you count) I've tweaked a lot of things that I missed in every draft prior. It surprised me how much I didn't catch on the initial tries, how many plot things were just laying there waiting for me to notice them, how many sentences needed improvement in POV or just plain clarity. One shouldn't rush editing these things, I guess.

I'M PRETTY GOOD AT AVOIDING THE -LY ADVERBS.
Again if the average chapter was 5000 words, there were usually only a dozen or so of the offending -ly adverbs. I think I've pretty much conquered that aspect of my writing. Level up!

INDEFINITE PRONOUNS CAUSE A HELL OF A LOT OF TROUBLE.
Start a sentence with 'it' and you're done for. That one word makes your sentence so weak it can't even fold a piece of paper. Awful. Stop doing that. Easy to spot, too, and littered all across the landscape of this manuscript. Something that has to be fixed as I didn't pick it up until a little over halfway through.

***

That's what I learned this go-round. Well, not all of it, but that's the largest part of my education at the moment and I thought I'd share. Maybe someone will get some use out of it. Let me know if you do, will you?

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Bit of Critical Thinking

The amount of training and education
that goes into this moment is enormous
and the result of asking questions. Right?
Photo by NASA via Wikipedia.
Being a writer means asking Why?

A writer asks why? every day and more than just once or twice. More than a dozen times, too. If it's not in mind all the time, then you're not a real writer.

It's true. If you don't wonder about things then you're not curious enough to explore. And exploring is what writers do. Whether you're Pitfall Harry or Indiana Jones, you should have a sense of curiosity that drives you to wonder why things are they way they are. Why that formation? Why those colors? Why so many iterations? Why? Why? Why?

So -  a quick formula:

observation + curiosity = potential story

But dig deeper. Once you've asked why you have to keep asking why like you're a child talking to your parent. Avoid the whiny tone of voice but I think you probably get my meaning. You remember what that was like, don't you? You understand now that you're a parent - or maybe just older - that you weren't always trying to play a game by asking why; sometimes you were genuinely curious.

That curiosity is trained out of us as we go through school. School prepares us for what is known, trains us to be active participants in society in accepted ways. It's a good thing for us to be aware of the social contract and to understand that's the basis for how to interact. What we didn't get in school as often is the training on how to go beyond the teachings. It's the rare instructor that prepares students for the unknown. It's the rare teacher that asks students to think critically. That's education. What we get in public school and beyond is training though it's called education. Certainly you're being taught, being prepared for the everyday things that everyone knows about now, but how about what might be coming up?

Ever had someone ask you how you come up with your ideas? Ever thought about how you come up with your ideas? Ever thought about being a visionary?

Warren Ellis said a long time ago that part of his job is to stare off into the distance and think about what's next. That's exactly what being a writer is. It's also the definition of a visionary. And it's easier than anyone thinks it is, but it's easier by far to let someone else do the thinking for you. Swimming along in the stream with all the other fish and never wondering about anything except who did what to whom or just watching the other fish play is boring. I've never been one to just go along with everyone else. I've always asked questions.

And like that child who keeps asking why? over and over and over I am very unsatisfied with "because I said so". Aren't you? It implies there are things I'm not supposed to ask about, that I'm simply to accept because an elder tells me to.

No.

It's not in my nature to simply accept things. Like everyone I will on occasion give up if the fight to find out more doesn't seem to be worth my time. That doesn't mean I don't stop thinking about it. I'll try to figure out all the angles and then approach the problem from a new position. I'll keep asking why? because it's important. Don't ever think I'll be satisfied with "because" or "that's just the way it is" or "it's always been that way".

Those three responses are reasons to write stories. To explore what could be, what might happen, if things observed were to change.

When you're thinking of yourself as a writer and someone asks you where you get your ideas, what can you say? You have to assess whether the interrogator is asking a serious question or just making conversation. Will that person be satisfied with "I just make stuff up" or will you be able to have a serious discourse on the subject? When someone asks you "how are you?" is he asking because he cares or just to be polite? It's up to you to decide, isn't it? How do you decide?

Training tells you to respond with "I'm fine, how are you?" because it's polite and you're on autopilot. Education will provide you with the critical ability to decide whether that person gives a damn and how to formulate a response appropriate to the relationship and their apparent curiosity. Most times I'll come to the the trained response but sometimes you do run into someone who is asking a genuine question and not just being polite.

Be prepared for that.

Or don't. It's up to you to decide. If you're a writer, you're already thinking about a lot of things. Look ahead. Be that visionary. Don't accept answers that amount to "because I told you so". Think for yourself and encourage others to do it. Keep asking why. Remember what it was like to wonder about things and know that it's okay to ask questions. It's okay to be curious.

And be a writer.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Bit Forward

Hey writers, don't stop writing - go forward
and keep at it. You'll write crap and you'll
write brilliance and if you're lucky most
everything you write will fall in the middle.
Over at The Confabulator Cafe today I'm talking about how NaNoWriMo went for me. I'm really pleased with what I've learned by participating over the last five years and I know I've definitely upped my game. I'm getting what I need from it. Go ahead, see what I had to say about it. The rest of this'll wait.

Hm? Hello again. Great. Thanks for coming back.

So now that we've looked back at last month, I'm all about going forward. I'm still developing my plan for next year as I'm swamped in editing this book. It's going well, just now that I have some definite things to work on (damn the passive voiced me) I have to finish it. Then send it back off and cross my fingers.

Once that's out the door, I'm going back to edit the novel I've written so far for passive voice so I can hammer home not to continue writing things like "was going" in the narrative. It's okay to have passive verbiage in dialogue with characters who talk that way but eliminating that stuff in the narrative (unless it's first person POV) makes the story better. Trust me. After I've gotten that accomplished I'll get back to writing.

But I've got a short to write for the Cafe and some blog posts here and there to stay ahead of. December's shaping up to be JUST as busy as November was.

And that's a lot of what I learned from five years of NaNo: it doesn't end. Being a writer is an ongoing concern. It's every day, every week, every month. On Wednesday a friend Tweeted that one should "never give up" and I replied "only long enough to sleep".

I think that's probably pretty good advice. Because, after all, the way to getting published is never giving up. It's writing every day.

Now I've got to get back to it. See you next week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

An Interlude

Hi.

Today's a little different because I'm busy editing. (That's a helluva lot of work, by the way. More about that another time.)

Anyway, what I'm here to tell you (besides that I'm editing) is about a book called Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore. It's a touching, sometimes heart-wrenching story about two women who meet and have a life. Sometimes together, sometimes apart. As a comic book, it stands out for being self-published by the writer/artist but also because the art itself is excellent: people are drawn as people and not cartoons or superheroes. Yes, the art is cartoony (much the same way some manga art is) but still it's refreshing and realistic in ways only comic book art can be.

While the story is also sometimes manipulative (what good story isn't, though?) there's a terrific payoff in the end.

I'll also tell you that it's one of a handful of titles that has made me cry as I read it. (One of the others is The Death of Superman. Again, another story for another time.)

So, go check it out. It's on Comixology, it's on Amazon, there's even a great entry on it on Wikipedia.

I'll be reading the entire series over the Christmas holiday. For the seventh time. (Or is it the eighth? I don't remember. Could be a dozen or more, anyway, too.)


Monday, December 03, 2012

Self-Identifying

The elements of me being a writer; but only
at home.
This is tangentially related to the end of NaNoWriMo, but I'll have a postgame report about that which'll run on Friday at The Confabulator Cafe. This is foremost in mind right now.

Up until this spring I always identified myself as a manager of people through my job. I was always that first (after being a father and a husband) and a writer after that. In my life I've been a lot of things and before I was a manager I was cook and a musician and an artist and a kid. When I changed jobs, it helped me understand something about myself: I'm a writer before I'm a manager. Really and truly.

So, me: father, husband, writer, manager.

This is a huge shift personally. Don't get me wrong, my job is terribly important to me but it's not the third group I belong to now, it's the fourth. This reflects my confidence in my abilities as a writer, I suppose, and the fact that the new day job is so much less stressful than the previous one. I wasn't unhappy there, I was stressed out way more than I thought. Leaving that job helped me put some things in perspective. Spending a good deal of my summer working on the novel and making plans for more writing solidified it, too, I suppose.

I suppose it's a bit of a risk to say this in public like this, but it may be that it's not, too. I mean when I'm at work I give everything all my attention. I make sure the job is getting done and a little more, too. The difference is that at home, I don't think about my job any more. I don't worry about or plan for things to happen in certain ways. The job stays at the job and home stays at home.

I don't know, really, where I wanted to go with this but I thought it was important to say out loud because there may come a time when you self-identify with something different than what you always have. You should know that it happens.

I'm not sure I want this to post, looking it over. Not that anything would happen with the day job, it's not that kind of place. Being a writer is important to me. If I win the lottery (fat chance!) that's what I'll do - be a full-time writer of stories.

Until then, I'll go to my day job and do the best I can every day and give 100% all the time. When I'm there I'll be there. But I won't take it home. Not like I did before.

We'll see if my writing improves (or my output) with this shift.