How to Get Set for NaNoWriMo!

It’s that time again, when a million new authors throw caution to the wind and commit themselves to writing a complete novel, yes sixty-thousand words or better, in 30 days. All hail NanoWriMo! I have some thoughts about the contest itself, but before I talk about them, let’s talk about you. Do you plan to write a novel next month? If so, here are some suggestions on how to get set. I hope you find them useful as you prepare to write a super-awesome story that takes you to the stars.

The Dirty Truth About National Novel Writing Month

The Truth About Writing a Novel in a Month

13 Ugly Truths About Nanowrimo

The Truth About NaNoWriMo

3 Ways to NOT Fail at NaNoWriMo

Like those? I hope you find them useful. NaNoWriMo isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can lead you to some great places. Best wishes on your next project, and may it be the story you always wanted to tell.

Microfiction – RenFaire for Real

Took a few days off of writing in /r/writingprompts. Now I’m back with a new piece of microfiction. This time, in response to the following prompt – “You’ve always had a passion for writing since an early age. Now, right after you published your first book, the story somehow has transferred itself into reality and you’re the main character.” – I decided to take a new direction. What if you were a fantasy author, now stuck in his weird Pseudo-European Medieval universe? Cosplaying will never be the same after you read ‘RenFaire for Real’ –

They always say “Write what you know,” but nobody tells you what to do when what you write becomes all you know.

Endless rain falls across the green forests of Kylldale. I’ve never been to Ireland, so I kinda fudged the details. Stone walls, cobbled streets, ancient inns. It’s green, so it must rain a lot, right? I worked myself into a lather over those details; the sights, sounds and smells of a Middle Aged-village in winter. Reality force-fed through a bucolic meat grinder of pastoral scenery. It sounded like an escape, but now it feels like a prison. For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, I’m trapped inside my own novel.

If only I’d written the Internet into my book. I’d can send a nasty email to my agent.

Continue Reading RenFaire for Real

The Character Arc of Marty McFly

It’s fall in Oregon, which means we’ll get beautiful, crisp mornings and brilliant colors. You can watch nature in progress over at the Owen Rose Garden webcam. I, of course, am not thinking about nature at all. No, I’m thinking about Back to the Future, as one does. More specifically, I’m thinking about Marty McFly and the character arc he takes throughout the first BTTF movie. There’s a stack of things you can learn about character development by watching Back to the Future, so let’s talk about how Marty McFly can help you write better stories.

First things first, let’s talk about Marty in the first BTTF movie. The other two movies were written after the success of the first, and most of his character growth happens in the first movie. Yeah, yeah … he couldn’t stand being called chicken, but that was a bit of lazy storytelling. A kid who can travel through space and time gets triggered by the word ‘chicken?’ Gimme a break. No, Marty’s character was interesting in the first movie alone and demonstrates a very solid storytelling arc by the end of the first movie.

So to recap, Marty McFly is a teen living somewhere in suburban California in 1985. He has a single friend, a local ‘mad scientist’ who engages in eccentric science projects like synchronizing all of his clocks and building the world’s biggest guitar amp. We quickly find out that Doc Brown has invented a working time machine, and Marty ends up using it to travel back in time.

He quickly finds himself stuck in the world of his parents, now teenagers, and ends up potentially creating an alternate reality where he is never born. With the help of his now-younger friend Doc Brown, Marty manages to undo the time paradox, fix his powerless time machine and return to the restored world of 1985. Along the way, he manages to fix his broken family, and that’s where the magic happens in terms of Marty’s character. Continue reading

New Microfiction – Earth Problems

Caught an interesting writingprompt the other day and turned it into a new piece of microfiction called ‘Earth Problems:’ “In the far future, humanity has successfully colonized the Moon, Mars, and set up outposts on Mercury. Trade among the planets is common, and has been so for hundreds of years. Then, with little warning, a comet half the size of the Moon struck earth. The impact was visible from all colonies.”

Click to Read ‘Earth Problems’

Five Storytelling Rules of Brad Bird

I loved Brad Bird’s work before I knew who Brad Bird was. Back in the 80s, Steven Spielberg put on a TV show called ‘Amazing Stories.’ One animated episode featured the strange, stressful life of a family dog. I remember laughing at that episode, and later noticing Bird’s name on a number of other animated projects I liked: The Simpsons, the Iron Giant, and the Incredibles. Over the past forty years, Brad Bird has proven himself to be a master at the business of storytelling, and with that in mind I wanted to jot down some notes on five rules his projects seem to follow.

To be fair, there are other blog posts like this that talk about Bird’s storytelling and they have value, too. However I want to dig deeper into what the rules are, what they mean, and how they apply to people like me who want to tell stories for a living. Let’s start the discussion with the most important rule:

Catch the Feels

One cool think about a Brad Bird project is, it’s never boring. Laugh, cry, or explode, Bird is going to make you feel something deep, and you can’t say that about every movie. Think about the emotional gut-punches you got in ‘The Iron Giant,’ or even the boiling frustration of Mr. Incredible as he grinds away in that office job.  Brad Bird knows how to tell a story that will catch you in the feels, and that’s why we love him. We want to feel something, we want to believe something. If you want to be a good storyteller, and lord knows I do, then you have to make your reader / audience feel something.

Continue reading

New Microfiction – Pest Control

Created a new piece of scifi microfiction in response to the prompt: ‘Humans never managed to developed laster-than-light travel. Instead, they developed ways to discretely piggyback on ships that can. The other races in the galaxy are getting suspicious.’ So, I decided to write a story where humans are treated like pests. Guess how they decide to treat us? I hope you enjoy ‘Pest Control.’

“Oh god, here’s another one!”

“Quick, deploy the sentinel.” A whirring airbot hurtles from the darkness, lidar scans searching for the critters. They can’t hide forever, sentinels know what to look for. Air composition changes, skin oil deposits, spoor. Little beasts are cute in a way, but they’re dangerous to the traveling elite.

“There, there!” The airbot responds to the chief engineers shout, tracking to the left. They listen to scurrying sounds, feet scraping against metal and plastic. “seems to be more than one. I can hear two sets of mandibles.”

His assistant, the one responsible for sentinel maintenance, nods his head. “Should install vermin guards on the cargo bays. Keep waiting for them to appropriate the funds.”

“It’s in the next phase of ship mod work. We’ll get there. In the meantime, watch the fun!” The chief engineer cackles, one of six green bellies drapes over the handrail. “Go, go. Run you little turd!”

“Hey!” a third voice joins them. It’s Ry’legh, the midshipman. “I got five credits, says this one lasts longer than ten minutes against your sentinel.”

“You’re on,” the assistant replies. “I sent our best. This little booger don’t stand a chance.” His airbot seems to sense the new tension in the air and chirps with determination. This isn’t a matter of life and death, it’s a matter of cash! It re-acquires its target, another dirty-faced, nearly-sentient human, running for its life among the hulks of cargo containers in Cargo Bay 7.

Continue Reading ‘Pest Control’ here

Some Great Free Writing Advice

Chuck Wendig just tweeted about it, so I went through this Twitter thread and BOY are there some nuggets of free writing advice. Malinda Lo’s been doing this for 15 years and she’s accumulated some hard-won insights on the writing game. She passes them along in this doozy of a Twitter thread, so grab a cup of coffee and get reading …

No, Mesh is Not a Stephen King Rip-Off

I was watching the Colbert Show today – catching up on Youtube as one does – and I ran across Stephen King talking about his new book, “The Institute.” King described his book as a story where kids ‘fight the power,’ and I immediately got scared. Would readers of The Institute think Mesh is a rip-off of Stephen King? I’m happy to say the answer to that question is: no.

Here’s how I know. Quick google-fu gets us to the synopsis, which reads as follows:

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

My story’s about kids going to a school for super-smart teens. No murder, no telekenisis, no brutality. Here’s the synopsis again, for the curious: Continue reading

Mesh – Crowbard

Apologies for the delay in posts. I got some feedback about Mesh that essentially required me to take a look at the entire novel. Not a fun exercise, but valuable. It’s forced me to streamline the exposition, trim the fat, and add a new character. As frustrating as that can be sometimes, I’m happy that my Beta Readers are honest with me and I think ultimately it will help Mesh be a better book.

I use the crowbar metaphor to talk about the new character, because you can’t just force a new character into the story with a crowbar. They must be included in the story organically, and get a chance to grow and flourish along with the other characters. To give Mesh the right level of attention, I turned off blogging for a while.

Eventually, I’ll get back to posting. I have some thoughts on old sci-fi, bad storytelling, and whatever is going on with Walter Mosley at Star Trek. The book, the story, has to be first priority. I hope to have more to share with you soon.

The Rocket – Now Available for Free

You’ll be happy to know that I’m now including The Rocket in my list of titles available for free over at Free Stuff. The Rocket, of course, is my Twilight Zone-esque tale of a man confronting his absent father, right before humanity’s extinction. Not a bad read, according to people other than myself. Here’s the description:

In the last few hours before life on earth ends, a young dad has a chance meeting with his estranged father. Will this be a moment of reconciliation, or recrimination? How can you communicate with someone who refuses to listen? Mike Crane takes one last shot to save his father’s life before he boards THE ROCKET.

Get The Rocket For Free Now