Archive for the ‘Writing Craft’ Category

          

  Everyone who has taken a creative writing class has undoubtedly heard the phrase, “write what you know”. Readers are always able to separate the authentic from the roughly postulated or the completely fabricated. Why do you think Stephen King uses writers or English professors as his main protagonist in many of his works? Or that John Grisham uses an up and coming young lawyer as the underdog hero of many of his? Exactly, they wrote what they knew. Now, of course this doesn’t mean that it takes a vampire to write a vampire story or a sociopathic serial killer to write Silence of the Lambs.

                Many of my earlier works were done in such a way, with a male protagonist close to my age       (+ or- about 10 years) and usually going through something that represented a greatly amplified version of something I had experienced myself. This may sound outlandish, considering that I primarily write in the horror genre, but the problems that my characters faced were still human problems and the monster lurking in the shadows often symbolized or mirrored the emotions that the characters and I were feeling. It is easy for a writer to use this type of familiarity to create a level of authenticity in their prose and without authenticity there is no readability.

Now this is not saying that the above mentioned authors always played it safe, in fact I think that Stephen King is one of the bravest and most inspirational writers of our generation (one of my biggest influences to begin work in the horror genre). He has had some main characters that simply were not the warmest or fuzziest; namely, the brutally cold Roland from The Dark Tower Series or the drug-addicted Jamie Morton in his newest novel, Revival. Imagine investing the amount of time that it takes to create a novel or screenplay from scratch just because the power of the story was greater than an aversion to a character or their situation.

I actually pulled “myself” out of one of my more successful screenplays, which focused on a male detective looking into a string of home-invasions that had no ‘normal’ explanation. When the detective was brought together with a female paranormal journalist/rape survivor, I knew that the story was really about her, so I did what any self-respecting writer would do. I threw out what I had on the project already (which is way less painless when using a computer, I just filed it in the ‘old work’ folder as opposed to crumpling it up and burning it) and began writing the story from the journalist’s perspective. Needless to say it was the right choice, the change in perspective MADE the screenplay.

Now horror fans, you may have guessed that this “Write what you know” blog was really just a clever lead into some background and promotion for another one of my screenplays. Tune in next time for some insight into my own writing process and my creative influences for the paranormal thriller, Things Taken.

Every writer has likely asked him or herself what they should write about next. Early writers of modern fiction had a much broader realm of uncharted subject matter and unexplored topics. By contrast, it can seem near impossible to think of a story idea that has not been done before at this point in the world’s literary evolution. It is the writer’s responsibility to both themselves and their readers to tell their story in the most entertaining style while staying true to their own writer’s voice. So let us say that a writer has made the conscious decision to create another novel, screenplay, stage play, short story, poem, etc… Where do they start to look for ideas? And perhaps more importantly, to whom do they strive to appeal?

Several tools are available to aspiring writers, musicians, and filmmakers to give them insight as to what subjects are trending or what the most popular internet search terms are. These tools include the wide spanning Google Analytics ( http://www.google.com/analytics/ ) and many blog sites and social media sites also offer a more limited insight into the same trends on their own respective sites. This can be seen in the freshly pressed section of WordPress or the worldwide trend section on Twitter. So should writers feel obligated to appeal to readers by writing a book on “#NOCHILLPHILLIPINES” (whatever that means) or should they be more inclined to indulge their own selfish desires?

Anyone who has had the luxury (or misfortune, depending on the professor) of attending a college level psychology class is likely familiar with Sigmund Freud and his school of thought. Freud theorized that every person was composed of a selfish inner component known as the ‘Id’, a reasonable idea of self known as the ‘ego’, and an ideal sense of self known as the ‘super ego’ that takes societal expectations and things like religion into consideration. The selfishness represented by the Id is a gnawing feeling that many writers have learned to either embrace or to consciously avoid. This constant battle between writing something that is socially relevant and marketable and writing something that they actually want to write can be frustrating for a writer.

In the case of choosing subject matter, an author may want to consider what is popular if they want to sell more copies of their work or be seen as more marketable by the companies to which they pitch to. But one thing that a writer should NEVER do is write something that they are not interested in writing. It troubles me to think of how many would be writers wrote a ‘supernatural romance’ to ride the Twilight coat tails just to try to exploit that segment of the fiction market. Don’t get me wrong here; if they genuinely wanted to write a story in that genre then more power to them. The truth is that the reader will know if the author’s heart was in their work and if it isn’t, the reader will be very reluctant to commit to reading the author’s future work.

With all that being said, I’m off to write my new novel, NOCHILLPHILLIPINES: a Vampire Love Story.

Until next time!

For those of you that have stuck with me, I would like to say THANK YOU! I have been a terrible content provider and I want things to be different. Your parents always said I would not make you happy, but you believed in me, if only for an instant. You may think we are growing apart, but in reality, I am bringing us closer together by working on more content and not… Procastinating.

I understand that you may feel alone and neglected; I understand. Those of you that read my blog will likely understand the power of the muse and the relentlessness of the urge to create. I just finished my NaNoWriMo novel today, and I feel great about it! Sure, it turned out to be three times the length of the November goal, but it got me writing in this medium; for that, I say thank you.

http://nanowrimo.org

I can’t say that you will be happy if you continue to follow me, but I can say that the probability of your continued happiness will increase at a rate of 94.8%* if you continue to follow me. This percentage will likely increase if you refer your friends to my facebook, twitter, or blog page by an additional 85%*.

* Percentages may vary

* Percentages may be completely fictitious

#thankyou, #writershelpingwriters, #statistics, #kindle, #kindlefree, #freeebook

Most people who make the decision to write creatively do so for the same reason, they feel a need to tell a story. Many clichés have been used to describe such an uncontrollable drive; the first couple that come to mind concern musicians. Who hasn’t heard about a performer that had “music pumping through their veins” or “rhythm in their blood”? I think that writers can often be looked at in the same way and like music the need for storytellers goes WAY back throughout the annals of human history.

Of course, writing tools and techniques came long after the creation of story. Early cultures did not have the ability to record important lessons and enriching stories, so these sacred tales were preserved in the oral tradition, often times spoken by a recognized wise man/woman or shaman around a camp fire. The problem with oral tradition is that like the children’s game of telephone, things change as they pass from one story teller to another.

In a way this same transference occurs when modern writers commit to telling their own stories. Sometimes a writer knows the exact direction they want to go with a story or at least have a few milestones or a finish line that they plan to cross. Other times writers sit down in front of their computer or scribble in their notebooks in hopes that the muse will guide them in the direction that their story needs to go. Both of these techniques are fantastic and without them the world would not be blessed with the enriching power that is story.

The journey a writer must endure to reach the glorious “fade out” or “the end” is always long and is always different. Every story I have written has offered its own challenges, some went quickly and there were some that I thought that I would never complete. Anyone who has read any literature on the craft of writing has certainly heard the phrase “writing is re-writing” and the phrase is very true in most cases. Whether a story is being translated from storyteller to storyteller as it was in ancient times, or simply being transferred from the magic place in a person’s brain (or heart) that story comes from to the page or computer screen, it is inevitable that things get lost in translation or changed altogether.

It is because of this anomaly that re-writing is so important. Re-writing is not simply going through a manuscript or word doc with a red pen or the highlight tool, it is a running analysis on the soul of a story. Sure grammar and spelling are important when re-writing, but one of the most important (and often hardest) things to do is to make sure that every single word either moves story or character forward. The analysis itself may always not be that difficult, but what happens when a beloved scene doesn’t make the cut? It’s got to go and that’s all there is to it. I personally like to keep these “misunderstood children” in a separate writing file and have on more than one occasion found that they fit into another story or constituted one of their very own. So don’t think of cutting scenes as “killing your babies” but more of “finding them the right home.”

Likening the editing process to the creation and retelling of ancient stories may seem like a stretch to some, but both require great insight and fortitude. The soul of a story is a special and unique thing and it is the responsibility of its creator to nurture and protect it. I hope you all have enjoyed this broad look into the heart of the editing process; I plan to get into more of the mechanics of the process in the near future and will have to practice what I preach in the very near future as the draft of my current novel is nearing its conclusion.

Until next time!

So… Here we go again

Posted: December 7, 2014 in Writing Craft

I don’t even know what to say. What a terrible way for a writer to start his first blog in over a year, right? I chose this opening statement not because I have nothing, but because my hiatus is inexcusable (well, almost). I just recently completed an accelerate MBA program and was able to end with an almost perfect 3.97 GPA, unfortunately my writing time had been consumed by statistics, analytics, and other things that were not quite as much fun. As a married man with two wonderful children, you could imagine where all of my “spare” time went when I wasn’t busting my hump at work or making the grade in school.

A few things I wanted to discuss in my “welcome back” blog was some of the truths and misconceptions that can be found in business school myths. It would be an understatement to say that I was an oddball in my MBA program; most of my peers were salty mid-career professionals with undergrad degrees in business, accounting, or marketing. I was the ONLY English major in all of my classes and from what I heard from my teachers, it sounded like they did not see many (or any). One of the most commonly asked questions from teachers and peers was: why would you want an MBA if your dream is to become a writer?

My answer: Because I wanted to be prepared to represent myself in contract negotiations and have the knowledge and the ability to market myself like any other entrepreneur. I used the word entrepreneur after great deliberation; I feel that writing for the promise of monetary reward would detract from the craft itself and have vowed to never write for the money. I write for the same reason that many writers do: I have a story to tell and it is my job to make my prose (or screenplays) interesting enough for people to want to read it.

The response that I got from a few of my instructors was a bit demoralizing.

“Business school is also known as the creativity killer,” they said.

To which I replied, “we will see.”

It turns out that they were right; they did succeed in suppressing all of my passion for creative writing (save for 1 screenplay outline and 30 pages of a novel) for the duration of the 18-month program. I was so burnt out on writing ANYTHING after I completed the 10-30 pages of required writing per week. I was getting worried and thought on more than one occasion that I should have stuck with English and hope to land a teaching or editing job down the road.

Like I mentioned above, I graduated with honors earlier this year. I was eager to prove that the program did not leech all of my creative energy and I was determined to hit the ground running.

Wait a minute…

I graduated October 17th

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is November…

The solution was obvious, I was going to write a goddamned novel in one month! For those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo, the objective is to produce 50,000 original words in 30 days. This works out to be about 1500 words a day on average, but as we all know, some days are better than others! I stuck pretty close to quota, but I have to admit, I had a few 3000+ word days on the weekends to make up for the weekday short-comings.

So, is the novel done?

No, but I did achieve almost 60,000 words in 30 days and hope to wrap the first draft at between 85,000 and 90,000 words before the end of the year.

I will post more soon on my progress, but if I want that last 25,000 words or so to happen I will have to get to work!

Thanks for hanging in there and I hope to post more soon…

I was checking out my google search results and found this post from my old blogger account! Not too horror related, but I think you all might find it interesting. If you are one of the five people that visited my old blog and read it earlier this year I apologize:)
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The world of publishing has changed drastically in the last century. The printed word is becoming more of a thing of the past as e-books and audio recordings become more of an everyday alternative. As a result the marketing procedures and promotional mediums have changed just as dramatically. The science fiction genre is no exception as the technologies prophesized in the infancy of science fiction become a reality. Writers must take the current publishing environment into consideration when constructing a marketing plan for their works.
            Throughout the 1940’s science fiction legend, Issac Asimov published his short stories in pulp serials like Astounding Science Fiction. Some of his most popular works were the stories that would later be collected to become the novel I, Robot.  The stories were compiled and published in the early 1950’s and were advertised in the same science fiction magazines in which the short stories originally appeared (randomhouse.com). According to the author, the science fiction community was tight knit and the returns expected by these authors were less than lucrative until the 1970’s. This can be attributed to the limited print run of the magazines and their eventual demise due to advances in technology, specifically the television in the 1960’s (wiredforbooks.org). Despite the rough start science fiction has grown to be one of the most popular genres in modern literature; people like Issac Asimov and Robert A. Heinline have become renowned for their innovation and unique visions of the future.
            In 2006 Daniel Suarez, a systems analyst in the Los Angeles area had realized much of the technological visions of early science fiction and was inspired to present the current reach of existing technologies in his novel, Daemon.  Initially the novel was marketed under the pen name Leinad Zeraus due to the fact that the author was concerned about how his existing clients would react to the content of Daemon. Suarez was unable to find a publisher for his work so he turned to self-publishing and his vast knowledge of the internet (bookbanter.net). His marketing approach was unique to say the least, Suarez promoted the book to technology websites and into the blogosphere. As a result his debut novel received endorsements from Craig’s List founder Craig Newmark, Google’s Rick Klau and the white house cyber security chief Billy O’Brien. After receiving rave reviews on the limitedly distributed novel Suarez was given a two book contract with a major publishing house and has had the film rights optioned by Paramount studios (Memmott).
            The change in the industry as a whole can be seen in the processes that authors must take to make themselves and their works marketable. Many of the most common approaches to modern marketing were not available to the pioneers of the industry and most of the original advertising and promotion mediums were made obsolete by the advent of the internet. Technology seems to have complicated the publishing process, but these complications are a small price to pay for the increased content available to consumers. However, regardless of time period quality works always seem to rise to the top, becoming part of our beloved lexicon.
Works Cited
Memmott, Carol. “Tech Thriller ‘Daemon’ Rises from the Underground – USATODAY.com.” USA Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2009-01-05-daemon_N.htm&gt;.
“BookBanter Interview with Daniel Suarez.” BookBanter. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://www.bookbanter.net/episodes.html&gt;.
“I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.” Random House, Inc. Academic Resources | I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553382563&gt;.
“Isaac Asimov Interview with Don Swaim.” Wired for Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013. <http://www.wiredforbooks.org/isaacasimov/index.html&gt;.

Hello everyone,

I was terrified to realize that it had been nearly two months since I last posted to Horrors of the Horror Business (HOTHB). I wish I could say that I was far away, without computer access, or that Stephen King and Neil Gaiman invited me to a secret writing camp deep in the heart of Transylvania. Of course, none of these things were the cause of my absence; in fact I was barely aware of my being absent. With a re-write of my most recent screenplay, the busy season at my day-job, as well of the constant blessing and obligation of family and friends I was living my life in a blur.

Many great artists have their own take on writer’s block, some think it can be debilitating, others think that it is no more than a myth. I have to say that I fall into the later category; but somehow I allowed my HOTHB content to be blocked! I have been putting words on the page but my poor wordpress account has been left alone in the cold.

Included are a couple of links for overcoming writer’s block in all of its devious forms. http://grammar.about.com/od/yourwriting/a/wblockquotes.htm

http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/

And of course some advice from Neil Gaiman!

Until next time Horror Fans!

Jim