Friday, January 25, 2013

My History as a Writer (3/3)

(Continued from last week)

I made a few more attempts at writing full-length novels, but I can't remember what those attempted stories were about.  I'm remember thinking that the stories would probably end up being more like practice instead of being finished.  By the time I got to college (2002-2006), I replaced fiction with non-fiction by posting my thoughts on Myspace, a website that was really big at the time.  This was the first time I really felt validated as a writer because I could track views, know that I my articles were being read, and I would receive comments and praise with almost everything I wrote.  My articles were mostly about current events in the news, hot topics around campus, and notable events in my life.  I eventually stopped using Myspace after they began changing their interface, but I think the original layout was something I would still be using if it hadn't changed.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I tried to write a story that I intended to take over the 60,000 word mark.  The story was about a girl obsessed with death after fighting, and winning, her battle with cancer.  She would unwittingly trap herself within a tight-knit circle of cannibals.  I planned for the story to be a member of the thriller/horror genre, and wanted to depict realism while engaging in some of the most horrific and surreal imagery I could imagine.

After another long attempt, I put it that story away for a while.  Yea, that seems to be a trend with me, but I intend to break that trend in favor of actually completing a full-length book.  One of the biggest problems for me in the past was the big "slush pile" scenario that kept running though my head.  For anyone who doesn't know, "slush pile" is a term used for the stack of manuscripts that end up at a publishing company.  That sad reality, until very recently, was that if the guy reading the first few pages of your manuscript deemed you unworthy your story would be scrapped.  Hopefully, he or she would send some advice along with your rejection letter.  If not, you might be left with a nice, simple "Sorry, but your story isn't right for us."  With work, relationships, and all other life stresses, I let myself lose the confidence I needed to continue in that kind of environment.

This year, I have successfully self-published two short stories.  This isn't the end goal, of course, but knowing that the stories have been downloaded, put into libraries, and actually read gives me the confidence to continue.  Not only that, I'm back to writing a full-length book again.  Will this one get erased?... No, it will not.  This book has a firm outline, and not only do I see the story clearly in my head, it also comes out as it should onto my word processor.  Does it still feel hard to attempt a novel?  It's one of the hardest things I've ever done.  That being said, only the worst case scenarios would drive me away from finishing this science fiction novel.  If it's harder than I think, I will push back my self-imposed deadline, but I'm finishing this book... This year!  The change in the environment is obvious, and I've never felt better about being a writer.

While working on the full-length book, I'm also a member of the Yahoo! Contributor Network, where I post non-fiction articles, reviews, how-to's and opinions (just like in college).  I get paid according to page views, and will leave a link to my page at the end of this entry.  Getting paid the first time by Yahoo! for writing an article (about something I was genuinely interested in) was like having a small portion of my dream come true.  I was writing for money.  While I'm not able to make a living from writing articles, I still enjoy the work.  You will learn more about me and my interests by taking a look at some of my articles, and will be helping me earn a little extra income by doing so.

I've also been writing some short stories to keep my interest in writing fiction high.  I have a wide range of interests, and will compile the stories into collections to be released at a later date.  Because the novel I'm writing is science fiction, I'm almost certainly releasing a book of science fiction short stories.  I'm probably going to focus on two other short story books before coming out with a second full-length novel, one focusing on insanity, and the other focusing on the paranormal.  Short stories have always been easy for me to write, and I've learned that writer shorter stories is a learning process, making it easier to write longer stories as I gain experience...  As for the story about the death-obsessed girl who lives among crazed cannibals??  That's the second full-length novel on my agenda, and I'm already looking forward to writing it AFTER I finish the first one.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for something different.

My Smashwords Account - Currently, this is the only place you can find the two short stories I've self-published:

My Yahoo! Contributor Page - Non-fiction, reviews, how-to's, and opinions.  Whenever I write something that's not going to go into book format, it's going here:

Friday, January 18, 2013

My History as a Writer (2/3)

(Continued from last week)

Later, I wrote a story called "Glass Ducks."  It was my first attempt at writing horror, and it was a hit.  I can't remember everyone who I read the story to, but I remember my younger sister asking me to read the story on several different occasions.  I also remember holding the attention of two of my cousins.  Causing energetic kids (some around my own age) to settle down and pay attention to written words - my written words - was an amazing feeling.  The story, appropriately titled, was about the decorative glass ducks my grandmother kept.  The ducks were in the same room as the computer, and I remember them being present while I was reading the story.  In the story the glass ducks started moving and attacking people.  Although alive and moving, the ducks were still glass, so the main characters were able to break them.  It was a simple story, but was imaginative and contained enough suspense and action to entertain my age group.

It didn't occur to me until my mid-teens that I might be able to write a full-length novel.  My first few attempts were tragic, ending in the deletion of thousands upon thousands of words.  I didn't understand structure.  I wanted to start out with a character, put him somewhere with a bunch of other characters, and then I would try to come up with stuff for them to do as I wrote.  What was missing??  The plot.  More specific than a missing plot, I didn't even have an idea for a story; I just wanted to write.  But that wasn't entirely true... I had ideas.  I just didn't know how to get to them.  My best first attempt at writing a full-length story with a plot was soon to come (and soon to be erased when I knew it still wasn't quite right).

The plot went a little like this:  A boy would wake up with no memory of who he was.  Throughout the story he would come to learn he was created through genetic testing to be the first of his kind.  The boy's name was Adam (a shameless reference to a biblical situation).  Not too bad in my opinion, but with some help from friends and online communities I was able to see how the actual story progression was flawed.  It dragged out too long, didn't contain the necessary motivation-reaction storytelling elements, and readers could tell I was making the story up as I went along.  Multiple thousands of words, probably over 10,000, were erased on a whim, and I don't regret it.  It's true, I could have saved the story, but it would have required a major overhaul and I really wasn't in the mood to save the story... and didn't have that kind of patience at the time.

(Next week I'll enter into more modern times [if a decade ago can be considered current], starting with my newfound interest in writing non-fiction articles during college, and ending with a discussion about my current work, both fiction and non-fiction.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

My History as a Writer (1/3)

How long have I been writing?  I'll go ahead and use a cliché, and tell you that I've been writing for as long as I can remember.  More specifically, I used to sit in front of the television with a notebook in which I would draw one curved line after the next, pretending to transcribe the show in cursive handwriting (a skill I hadn't learned yet).  But this wasn't fiction, and it didn't satisfy me for very long.  Soon, I started creating my own stories.

One of my first original stories was a comic strip called "Mix-up Man," a character that could change into anything to accomplish his goals.  The black and white comics were usually a few pages long, and had simple plots that were easy to resolve.  Regardless, the villains were always new, and Mix-up Man would always find new things to turn into.  My need for creativity was being satisfied, but was also starting to grow.  My first all-text story would come shortly after I got my first computer in the early nineties.

My first computer was basic.  Some of you around my age will remember using the computers that had green text and required floppy disks (real floppy disks, that made warbling sounds when you shook them like Polaroid pictures).  I can't remember what brand it was, but I was excited to get it.  It came with some old video games, and more importantly, blank disks for storing data.  Holding those disks gave me a feeling reminiscent of looking at pages of blank white paper; they were waiting for me to add something, to give their existence meaning... Unfortunately for those little, inanimate objects, I was just a beginner.

The first story I wrote on my computer was called "Bonus."  I borrowed the name from the brand of floppy disk I was using, and it also represented the fact that I never wanted the story to end.  There would always be more to write.  The story began with a man who built a rocket in his backyard... something a close friend would make fun of in years to come.  As a matter of fact, he brought the story up again after watching The Astronaut Farmer, a movie featuring a main character who builds his own rocket.  Granted, the movie was better thought out than my story, but my story was something you would expect from a twelve year old who is just starting to take writing seriously.  My story left the realm of reality when the main character got into his rocket and flew to a different planet, suddenly finding himself involved in intergalactic warfare.  What twelve year old boy wouldn't enjoy a story like that?

(Next week I'll go over the "success" of my first short horror story, and my failed attempts at writing full-length fiction.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

After the Holidays

I try to post one new entry every week, but I decided to skip last week's post and use the holidays as an excuse.  There really is a lot going on around Christmas and New Year's Eve so I didn't think anyone would have time to read my blog even if I had found the time to post a new entry.  Now that the holidays are over it’s time for me to stop making excuses, and get back to my writing commitments.

First of all, I’m back to writing my science fiction novel, “The Dream Machine” (more on this in a future blog)... I’m intentionally being vague about this book, because I want it to succeed.  I’m still writing it, not even to the editing process yet, and I think it would be better to talk about the book closer to completion.  Then again, I don’t have a clue, because it’s going to be the first full-length novel I ever publish.  I’m learning as I go, and I’m having fun.

Speaking of learning as I go, that’s one of the main topics of this blog.  I’m here not just to promote my books (I only have two at the moment), but to create an open window to the life of a writer.  It’s been a long road getting to this point, and I still have a long way to go, but never before have I been able to share my stories with the world.  Self-publishing is a wonderful thing, and I’m extremely happy to be a part of it.  That being said, I’m going to post an entry about my writing history next week, probably a two or three-parter.  I’ll talk about my previous writing attempts, failures, and successes.

How was the holiday season for the rest of you?  Counting Christmas Eve and Christmas day I spent twelve hours on the road, driving.  It was short and sweet, but it was nice.  I got to spend some time with my family and got some nice gifts.  My favorite gifts so far:  an audio book about John F. Kennedy, and a gift card for Amazon.  The audio book was useful during the drive home, and I’m anxious to buy some new books using my gift card.

As for the new year... I'm happy to be a part of it.  I'm excited about what I might be able to accomplish as long as I can keep my motivation up and my procrastination down.  Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for reading.  There’s plenty of work to be done this year, so keep checking back for my new blog posts.