Use a Word Cloud to Write Better

Use a Word Cloud to Write Better

As I’m writing, one of the things I’m afraid of is using the same words, phrases, or descriptors over and over again. As much as I love Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, it became a running joke in the first trilogy how many times he could use the word ‘sardonically.’ It bugs me to think that I might do the same thing, so what to do? I hit on an idea that seems to help and I want to share it with you: Use a word cloud to write better.

Scrivener has some tools to identify over-used words, and so does Grammarly. But what other ways can you visualize the words that your readers will see most often in your stories?

As a test, I tried this Wordcloud app in Microsoft Word on my existing draft of Mesh. These are the words that appear most often. Is that right? Is that wrong? I’m not sure yet. I have to make an author decision to either leave the words as-is, or go back and re-shape my prose.

Not a big ‘eureka’ idea, but I found it helpful and you might find it helpful, too. Write on!

Amazing Author Advice – ‘Book Failure is Normal’

Whoa … just found something that broke my head. A thread on /r/yawriters came up with some AMAZING author advice, and let’s us all in on an important secret: Book failure is normal.

That’s important information for me. Is writing a good move for me, or is it a huge mistake? I wrestle with that every single day. Yet, something inside demands that I push forward, and the advice below made me feel a lot better about my journey. I’m including some scifi concept art I found that I like. I hope you enjoy the art, and the advice:

Some thoughts today about what it’s like to write a great book that never finds a wide audience. Did you know that the 4 books of the Shadow series have received a total of 7 starred reviews? That’s kind of a big deal. And yet… no one’s ever heard of it, really.

We thought Wake of Vultures would land with a splash back in 2015. I went to SIBA, I went to sales conference and spoke w Mario Batali. The book did ok, but not great, was never in Target or the airport, despite amazing reviews. Why? NO IDEA. No one knows! Because publishing.

When you’re a new writer, you think that if you just write a great book and do everything you’re told to, the book will find its wings and soar. You tick all the checkboxes and wait for the world to love your book. Sometimes, even w publisher support, it just doesn’t happen. Continue reading

Mesh Update #10 – 50K and rising!

Happy to say that I cracked 50,000 words on this draft of Mesh. I’m closing out Act three, where the Mesh comes to life. After that, we move onto Acts 4 and 5, where the Mesh and the kids of Miramar will come together to save the world. I’m so excited by how the story and characters are coming together.

I can’t wait to show you the weird, crazy world of Roman, Zeke and their friends, the Snow Foxes. I just got a Wacom tablet, so I’m going to start making use of it to draw a few concept pictures to give you a sense of what the Mesh, their virtual reality system, Miramar, and everything else looks like.

I’m also going to start posting some fun scifi stuff every Friday, so look for a few category called ‘Sci-Friday.’ It’s an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes.

Onward!

New Writer? Start Here

Just ran across this awesome list of advice for new writers from other authors. If you’re a new writer, this is a good ‘Start Here’ for your journey.

11 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers With Incredible Advice

After years of sifting through blogs about how to get started or how to succeed, I love the idea that the process is really simple when you get down to it. We are telling lies for a living. Don’t get crazy. Don’t get intimidated. Nobody’s going to die. It’s supposed to be fun, so enjoy it.

In the end, I think my favorite advice came from JK Rowling:

Starting is easy. Continuing is hard. Finishing is the reward. Go.

Next Gen is Anti-Hollywood Scifi

Next Gen is Anti-Hollywood Scifi

Hollywood should be scared of Next Gen, a throwaway animated project released by Netflix that looks like a rip-off of Big Hero 6. Before you can say ‘Are you satisfied with your care?’, Next Gen blows the doors off of every kid-movie trope over the past ten years. Strap in, sit back, and hold on. Slide to a stop two hours later, gasping to catch your breath with one unmistakeable conclusion: Next Gen is Anti-Hollywood scifi.

And oh man, does that feel good.

Why do we need anti-Hollywood scifi? Why is this movie important? The answers to those questions go to the heart of the conflict playing out in science fiction at this time. Where casual readers decry the lack of variety in mainstream sci-fi, where Hollywood bemoans a lack of interest in non-Superhero scifi, Next Gen plants a flag in the ground and says: “Here you go.” It’s important, then, that we talk about a movie that would otherwise slip through the cracks. There’s a lesson here that spreads out to the rest of the genre. Continue reading

New Microfiction – Nanobreak

Thanks for waiting for my next post – I think you’ll be pleased. I picked up a writing prompt on Monday: “You research pathogens for the CDC. You’ve been given a blood sample from a frozen corpse that is over 70,000 years old. As you start to resolve the image, you realize the sample is filled with nanomachines and they are coming to life.” I broke the story up into two sections and I’m calling it ‘Nanobreak.’

We always imagine outbreaks taking place in third world locations, but what if they begin as a pathogen our systems can’t protect because they don’t understand?

Click Here to Read Nanobreak

 

New Microfiction: Lone Survivor

Started some new microfiction over at Reddit that seems to be winding down now. ‘Lone Survivor’ is based on the writing prompt: “it’s been 14 months since the bombs fell. For 14 months you have had no one to talk to, no variety to your diet and nothing interesting to do. But today the air scrubbers in your bunker have stopped working. You now have to leave in search of repair parts or die.”

Inspiration for the story comes from several places: Cloverfield 10, Firefly, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and the artist pictured to the right: Simon Stålenhag. I wanted to paint a portrait of a simple guy, with a painful past, facing an uncertain future. I even named him ‘Chad,’ because I hate the name Chad and thought it would be fun to create a hero I immediately disliked. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!

Read Lone Survivor Here

Real Writers Have Day Jobs

After the Geoffrey Owens thing last week, I thought it might be interesting to talk about how creative people support themselves. Creators don’t exist in a vacuum, after all. We have bills, mortgages, relationships, and checking accounts. What am I trying to say? I’m saying real writers have day jobs, just like you.

I got curious earlier this week and decided to ask other writers about this. I started with a very simple question – “How Do You Support Yourself While Writing?” What I got back were a number of interesting insights.

Yes, real writers have day jobs. But what kind of jobs? It turns out, authors more often than not work a corporate gig somewhere. Keep that mind the next time you talk to your favorite IT guy, cybersecurity expert, developer, corporate trainer, or hotel A/V guy. They might be using your conversation as material, or turning you into a character they can murder.

I met one writer who is also an EMT, and one who works in probate registry. One way or another, many authors support themselves by helping others. Some writers teach English, like Stephen King, did. Other writers are in communications, are ghost-writers and marketers, or even chainsaw artists.

All that sounds cool on the surface but real talk: does working in writing hamper your creativity? Asking for a friend.

Many authors work in ways that are less white collar or career-focused. Some work at Trader Joes, like Geoffrey Owens did. Others are baristas or cafe managers. Sometimes this can suck, but if you have ‘easy hours and a great boss,’ you’ll get ‘lots of time/mental space to pursue your artistic endeavors.’ Still other authors are retired and living lean.

Finally, the last category – there are many writers like me, living with a disability. ” Before I got too sick to work I was finishing my masters in neurological psych and forensic psych, already had degrees in Criminal investigations and forensics. I was fast tracking for the FBI ViCAP,” says TwistedMune. “A lot of my ghostwriting jobs are psychological analysis and true crime books.” Reading that made me feel a lot better. There are a tribe of writers out there who know the struggle.

So if you’re considering a career as an author or writer, you may want to remember that writing is often what you do after you get done with work every day. It’s not all book-signings and late nights with William Strunk. However, if you’re up for the life, it can be quite rewarding.

It’s the ‘sex and cash’ theory of creative professionals. Find joy in the art, do the gig so you can do the art. I live pretty lean on my disability check, but that’s ok. I’m in love with making a chapter or a scene come together (Like the chapter of Mesh I’m working on right now, for example). The fact that I’m cruising EatCheapandHealthy for recipies is just part of the trip.

So I hope you found this interesting and insightful. Addtionally, if you’re looking for a job to support your writing, you might check out the suggestions mentioned here and here.

Write on!

Mesh Update #9 – Stars Can Collapse

This is a tough one. I talked about David Hahn before, but  it wasn’t until today that I knew how the story ended. Hahn died in 2016 of alcohol poisoning. They found David’s body in a Wal-Mart bathroom, 18 years after building a nuclear reactor in his back yard. This tragic conclusion illustrates what I said earlier. We need schools to nurture budding stars like Hahn or Taylor Wilson. Stars will collapse, if they don’t have the right conditions to shine.

There is no question, for example, that David Hahn had a tremendous amount of potential. After all, you can’t be both a sniper and a master helmsman unless you’re both bright, and talented. But what went wrong? Continue reading

Still Cranking …

Just a quick note to say ‘Yes, I’m still breathing.’ Personal medical stuff has gotten me down, but I’m still kicking. I submitted two short stories to new publishers (see the Short Story production page for details) and now it’s back to work on Mesh. I have health problems, but my health problems don’t have me.