My Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.40 – Fixing Character Problems – Part 1

Ooo! Episode 13.40 looks interesting! I like this idea of having many teams answering the same questions, so I hope this works out. There’s been a lingering problem that Writing Excuses has had the last few seasons – the same answers to what amount to the same questions. At the end of the day, after a while, you find yourself in the same rut of questions about story as last season and the season before that. I think that was a big driver in past seasons to do the Master Class and the new teams this year.

But this year, we’re in a sort of twilight area – the new teams are great with energy, but their viewpoints are kinda…basic? Continue reading “My Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.40 – Fixing Character Problems – Part 1”

Favorite Writing Craft Books

So far, my personal favorites for books on the craft of writing are Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, and Robert McKee’s Story.

I’ve got plenty in my queue still to read, but I’m curious what books others recommend for learning more about writing, art, and creation.

What are your favorites?

My Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.38 – How to Find and Use Alpha Readers

Been awhile since I was caught up enough on my podcasts to be getting in reaction posts, but thankfully all caught up on Writing Excuses, so here’s Episode 13.38.

Alpha/Beta readers and how to use them. Having only really done one book through readers, my process isn’t very set yet. But for the most part, my process is similar to the podcasters. Alpha reader is one other friend who is a librarian/author who reads a lot in my chosen genres. I found her through NaNoWriMo, I think through the cabins that are done during Camp NaNo in April/July. We connected up and she has been a great champion and supporter who manages to balance good critiques with plenty of cheerleading. Beta readers include some family and local friends, and recently members of my writing group, though I think they will move forward into alpha read status in the future.

Finding them all felt like luck, but in line with what the podcast recommended – networking with other writers (in my case, through NaNoWriMo) and sending out invites to those close to me to see who would have the time and desire to do it. I’ve had lots of people accept enthusiastically, but who end up not reading it. Probably about 50% fall out rate in that sense. Those people I will ask again for the next novel just because they say they want to help, but I have a core that I trust who give me the right feedback.

As for getting back the answers I want, I’m very much in the same camp as Valynne – I know my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and I’m actively looking for people to call me out on my weaknesses. I know I do big picture premise well, along with story structure, narrative threads, and action scenes. I’m also pretty good with the logical inferences that come from extending a technology or creating a magic system. Where I struggle is making characters memorable and anything descriptive. So I ask my readers to look specifically at my characters and locations to make sure they’re striking enough. And I always ask about the emotional beats and about the things that already work to make sure I don’t loose those or that I haven’t blinded myself on a topic.

I also generally send an entire manuscript rather than chapters/scenes just because I’d like a one and done, but that might change more as I try to level up faster.

So far, it’s worked out well.

The homework challenge from the episode was to send something to alpha/beta readers that I’ve done recently. I do have a completed manuscript sitting, but I’d been calling it a trunk novel because I didn’t think the story worked. But then again, who knows? I’ll see if anyone one my writing crew wants to read it or if my library friend wants to take a crack at it. Maybe it’s better than I’m giving myself credit for. Or maybe it’s more salvageable than I realize.

Creation and Self-care

With the large push I undertook to get Betrayed ready for Pitch Wars, as well several trips for work, a funeral, and getting kids back to school, I have been struggling to get into the swing writing. And in my writing group, I was definitely not the only one — we have  several all on the very limits of time and effort trying to balance artistic creation and just getting through the day.

When we met for our monthly meeting last night, one of them asked me how my exercise regime was going in a perfectly timed moment of “keeping me honest”. And I had to admit that in the last two weeks it’s been terrible. I haven’t been making it to the gym and haven’t been taking care of my body the way I needed to. So, I re-committed to my friends that I’d get back in the groove for both exercise and writing.

This morning I hit the stationary cycle at the gym and this post gets me back on the writing train.

But it got me thinking about how I try to balance my self-care with all the other things I have to do.

Pretty much my whole life, working out has taken a back seat to something else. Sometimes, that thing was a “still good for me, but isn’t exercise”, but often it was just blowing off steam or wasting time. Other types of self-care have been slowly getting better over time – stress management, eating well, brushing teeth, etc. – but I still find that I have to remind myself more often than not to do the things that my body, soul, spirit, and mind need in order to stay sharp and working well.

Habits are slow to build and can get upset by changes in schedule, but the longer I go, the more I find I need to have bits of self-care to keep me going. And today thankfully is one more notch in the proverbial belt of habit making.

What kinds of things do you do to take care of yourself so that you’re ready to create? Or what challenges do you find yourself struggling with in performing that self care?

Drop a line below to chat.

Singing in the Rain – The Most Meta of Movie Musicals

Yes, the alteration is intentional.

Introduction

Singing in the Rain has long been my favorite movie musical. A fun story, awesome dancing, catchy music, great gags and jokes, a wonderfully wicked antagonist, and a look at filmmaking by a film.

But this isn’t going to be a standard movie review; hopefully something deeper. I’ve been trying to wrap my head more and more around how story is told. A while back I stumbled on something I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else talk about with regards to this film. The expectation I have as I write this is that you’ve seen Singing in the Rain – indeed that you are well familiar with it. Because I want to look at the way this story was told, not the story itself.

Continue reading “Singing in the Rain – The Most Meta of Movie Musicals”

Ergodox EZ 8+ Month Report Out

TLDR: Corporate computing takes some adjustment, new layers might be needed even months later, and odd habits can take a long time to switch, but I’ll never go back from split programmable keyboards.

It’s been over eight months since I contracted split keyboard madness and purchased the Ergodox EZ as my primary driver at work during my day job. Fully programmable, tilt and tent capable, weirdly shaped, and definitely a conversation starter, I’ve have loved getting used to, then thriving with the Ergodox EZ. I’ve talked quite a bit in my previous installments about the features I like and how I’m using the keyboard day to day, so this one is going to focus more on long term impressions and how it’s changed my daily computer use both as an engineer and as a writer.

Continue reading “Ergodox EZ 8+ Month Report Out”

And it’s done – pitch away!

Now all I have to do is hurry up and wait…

Hang on, no it’s not! I’ve got books to draft and stories to tell. As exciting, nerve wracking, and tortuous as preparing for Pitch Wars has been, I am looking forward to a nice break working on the story that’s been keeping me up at nights recently.

Betrayed is away. Back to Junkyard Dogs!

Gearing up for Pitch Wars 2018

My wonderful friends at CityInk Tulsa (my absolutely beloved writers group) challenged several of us wanting to level up to submit to Pitch Wars this year. I remember hearing of it in the past and decided it was time to push myself to that next level. I’ve been stalling on submitting my novel Betrayed this whole year, I think because I was just finding so many things to tweak or improve instead of buckling down and getting my work out there.

Getting ready for Pitch Wars and having the awesome support of my group has helped me kick things into gear. It has made me get all the ancillary material (synopsis, query letters, author bios, and pitches) ready and given me the right framework from which to pitch in the future.

Submissions started yesterday and go through tomorrow. All I have left is my query letter and then I’m off to submit.

Wish me luck!

Making Time vs. Making

An aspect I struggle with in nearly every facet of life revolves around setting aside time to do something – time to exercise, finishing projects at my day job, volunteering in the community, fixing the plumbing, visiting friends for a game night, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And that has been how I addressed creating – making time to make. Waiting until my kids go to bed, then using that time to draft and edit, because I didn’t want to take from family time. Even my interests around personal productivity have this pernicious undercurrent of trying to fit more into less time.

But what if when I sit down to write, I use that as a time to engage my children in the process of creation. Let them see me work, struggle, fail, push through. Ask their thoughts about word choice, plot points, character motivation? What if making became part of my family time, a part of play, or a part of learning? Would that change how I create or impact my motivations? I think it would.

What might you decide to do if you could just make instead of having of make time? And what if you didn’t have to change anything except your own paradigm?

woman pouring down a brown paint
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Incredibles 2 (2018) – Quick Review

Fun film with really great music and some good family characterizations. It did feel like the filmmakers got a little precious with it and it didn’t have quite the same heart as the original; specifically some of the dialog suffered early on and the banter felt forced to me. It also suffered some expected sequel bloat.

But it absolutely shown in the creative superpowers. Elastigirl + motorcycle = awesome! The new supers had some great moments. The pacing was good throughout and I like the continued developments of all the mains.

Final verdict: another great movie from Pixar and another fresh look at superheros.

Now, a thought that includes some spoilers for both Incredibles films.

Continue reading “Incredibles 2 (2018) – Quick Review”