So You Want To Write? Blog Challenge: Prompt #3

So you want to write? Part 1

The Challenge this week is to give writing advice, specifically your best advice. I’m going to approach it from the point of view of thing things I would have like to know when I was younger, and what I think would be helpful to those that are already writing today.

To the younger me: Three bits of advice of take to heart.

Read the Things You Want to Write.

The first step in writing is reading. While I think there are few absolutes when it comes to writing, this is one that I feel applies across the board. While you can learn from everything you read, if there is a specific style or genre that calls out to you as a writer, immerse yourself in it. If you want to write science fiction adventure stories, read them. If your aim is to publish science fiction novels, read the bestsellers. Even if you don’t like the bestsellers those are the books that are making money. It’s not being a sellout to analyze and learn what is making sales. Some of that is timing, marketing, etc, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what sells. Then, when you sit down to write, it is a conscious decision to write in that vein or not. If you are unaware, you simply don’t know if what you want to write is similar to what the bestsellers are writing.

Write Every Day and Keep it Organized

Journal, brainstorm, write a scene, write out the idea for a scene, whatever you have to do, GET WORDS ON THE PAGE. Yes, you should have a goal in mind and set deadlines, and get better at your craft, but if we can get over that first step of making writing a habit, all the other parts will come more easily.

And while you are writing all this stuff, keep it organized. Give yourself time to take all those scraps of character ideas, possible blog posts, a story beginning and organize them in a sensible manner where you can find what you need later. That way, when you are in the mode to actually get work done, you will be able to dive in faster and not lose your focus because you have to organize the mess.

Submit Your Work aka Ask to Get Paid

Isn’t this about writing advice, why so much talk about business and money? Well, I am assuming that you want to the time to do this, so the more you can get paid for the work, the more seriously you will take it. Also, you are going to get rejected. It will hurt, but the sooner you can learn to just accept that is how the game goes, the better. If you are lucky, some of those rejections will come with the reasons why.

Submitting your writing is asking for feedback. If they accept it, awesome, you’re doing well. If nobody accepts it, take a look at your submission, Did you follow the guidelines? Is there an error that you missed in the first paragraph? You can even totally sidestep the industry, but even if you self publish you are getting feedback. In that case it will be in the form of sales, reviews, and maybe even some offers. However, if you never put it out there, you will have no feedback. And since you are me, I know that you actually want your work to mean something to others, so look for all the feedback you can get. (But do always consider the source.)

That’s it for now, keep an eye out for part 2.

Blog Challenge: Prompt #2

It’s been a while but I have my writing completed on the second part of the blog challenge. This time it was a bit more personal.

“Prompt #2: Make a list of five things you’re afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to your character.”

Five fears prompt

  1. Going blind
  2. Fire
  3. Being Homeless
  4. Degenerative or fatal illness
  5. Losing my wife

These are my greatest fears. I of course have others, but these are the things which worry me the most. I see that I have chosen the particular fear of my wife dying, rather than saying a family member, and I suppose that while I would not enjoy losing other family members that losing her in particular would have the largest impact on my daily life and create the most uncertainty and sadness.

That said, I knew from the start which fear I would pick. I will write a story about a character going blind. I think that perhaps I will use a character that exists in a my story already, but I am not sure that I will have this particular event befall the character in the actual narrative I am working on outside this exercise.

Prompt Response Text Below

I didn’t notice the textures before. They were there, but now they are everything. My blue polo shirt that has the floppy collar is softer than the other one that is slate blue. It has small bumps and whorls. Is that what they are called? I’m not sure but I pay more attention to those things now.

Shopping was never that fun for me, but today I have to get fitted for a suit. All I have to do is stand there. They will ask me what size I think I am, but there will be tape and being told to raise my arms, stand still. I will have to stay calm when they walk up behind me. I know there is a name for that sense, the feeling of somebody behind you. I can’t remember what it is. I don’t want to go through the hassle right now. I’m still figuring out this new phone.

I am on top of every podcast though, and have even found time for a few more. I just let it play all day now. I know I still have to worry about my ears, but the voices keep me company. I don’t wear headphones all the time anymore though. I’ve also started to use the speaker to sort out how far I am from the room. I was never all that good with maps, but I can get around in the dark pretty well now.

“I’ll still be able to hear your voice,” I tell her. She is sad. I’m trying not to cry. I make a joke about enjoying building my new sense of her. I already know her touch, warmth, the smell of her hair, the texture of her skin. I almost start sobbing when I think about never seeing her eyes again, looking at me in that way where they seem so big and like the paint is still wet, like the love is newly put in place.

And how will I know what she is feeling? I listen to her words, yes, but I won’t be able to see the tension in her hand, the way she scrunches her nose to hold in the wince when her back hurts and she needs an ice pack. I’ll have to ask her to be louder about her pain.

I always dreaded this, the day it might all become too fuzzy, but I didn’t think that I would have it scheduled. Cancer leads to strange decisions. My appointment to become completely blind is tomorrow. And I’m strangely thrilled. I don’t want it to happen, but how will the world of sound and touch, the world of scents and texture compare to all the colors and lights? How will life be when I never see a word again except in memory?

Life will go on, and all the books I have been meaning to read will fade away, and be replaced with books I will hear. And I may still scribble words down, but I will never see them again. But I always was a chatterbox. Maybe I will finally get that podcast off the ground, write those songs.

But will I ever get this internal editor to shut up? I’m writing this without my glasses, with the colors inverted on the screen, one last hurrah of me seeing this world as only my body allowed me to see it, and I still have the urge to look up small things, unimportant things for this diary entry. Should my own feelings be well researched? Or should I just feel them, touch them, hear them, and stop trying to see them already explained for me?

Life is a quest, I’m still on it no matter what difficulties lie ahead I want to see this through to the unknown ending. Suddenly I’m reminded of all the people I cannot see, even if my vision were to last forever. Those who left too soon, those who had more time than they ever dreamed of. Did I ask them what they saw? Did I ever see the world through their eyes? Maybe I should have listened more, talked a bit less. Checked in.

I’m as ready as I will ever be to listen, and I know I will get frustrated in the future, but I am done mourning the man I could have been, the man I could be, and I am looking forward to meeting the man I will become. END


This story started as an abstraction, a character picking out a suit, a character who was soon to go blind. But if you know me well, you understand why this is a personal fear of mine. I did actually write this without glasses on, and with white letters on a black screen. The short story is my eyes are somewhat broken (amblyopia in one; some scarring and highly irregular astigmatism in the other, the result of a nasty laceration, cataract, healing, stitches), but they see well enough to let me read, write and get through the day ok.

So the story became less abstract and more my own thoughts about eventually going blind. To be clear, I have no cancer, my fears are simply not knowing how aging will affect my already impaired vision. Also it made me think of how, impaired or not, we all have our own unique vision. In my particular case, despite it often being a nuisance I am occasionally struck by the beauty, the haloes, the scattering whirls of light that I see because of my injury. I would never say I am glad for it, but it is interesting to see things in a different way and ponder how people physically and metaphorically see the world differently.

Blog Challenge: Prompt #1

As part of the continuing blog challenge I will be writing fiction from prompts. The first prompt challenge is:

"Write a story including the following three elements: A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger." *Full post here.

For those of you that don’t know what a writing prompt is, in essence it is a short bit of text or an image which you use to inspire writing. Most people use them as a way to get out of their comfort zone and explore different styles of writing. They can be viewed as the writing equivalent of playing scales for a musician. In my case, I write my prompt response in one sitting and don’t allow myself to research anything. Sometimes I end up with a scrap, other times I end up with a short story or something I can weave into a bigger story later.

Prompt Response

“As you can see clearly in the picture here, the eyes of the spider are emeralds, and the ring itself seems to be made from a mixture of gold and silver known as electrum.”

Doctor Hartwright paused and hoped nobody noticed him shudder. Normally his work on Egyptian antiquities had him looking at birds, feathers, grass reeds which were pleasant enough to look at. The ever present scarab beetle was still slightly repugnant to him, but he could admire the beauty of the craftsmanship. However; this particular specimen confronted him with a rather lifelike spider, far too lifelike for his tastes. He had never liked them, something about the way they moved, and all those spindly legs.

“Now, the scarab beetle is known as a symbol of royalty, but the craftsmanship of this design indicates that the ring was made for a very rich person. Perhaps not royalty, but most definitely a high ranking official in court. It is a mystery which we have yet to unravel.” The professor noted the sound of chairs squaring as students leaned forward. This was why he had gone into this field, and why he loved teaching. They might be insufferable at times, but watching them light up with the same excitement he felt when he pored over the hidden knowledge of the past was what kept him going.

“For you see, the photographs theses slides were made from are all that we know about the ring. Shortly after they were taken, the ring went missing. There are some clues we have found in other sites that give us the slightest inkling about when it was made, but that is all.” He looked over the now alert students.”Perhaps one of you will be the one to learn of its secrets.” He turned the lights on and watched students blink and start to gather their books.

“But only if you pass your classes. Papers are due next Friday. Do well and you might actually get to see more than pictures. Do very well and I might even recommend you to help with future curations.”

Hartwright turned off the projector and gathered his own papers into a leather satchel. While he did not like looking at the ring, it did fascinate him. He was bad sad for and jealous of the students that made their way to the exits. So many discoveries had already been made, and he had been there for a few, but he knew there were more things hidden in the sands, and across the world.

He thought about all the artifacts that had made their way around the world; stolen, sold, displaced, lost, far from their ancient home, as he walked to the parking lot. He was getting old, but maybe he was still young enough for one last adventure.

The plane ticket was in his satchel. It was sent by an old friend, Jem Helmdall. A recent construction project had uncovered some promising finds already. Construction was halted and they were in the process of obtaining permits to increase the excavation site. The local experts would be pushing their way to the front, but Jem had connections, and was pushing hard to have his old friend along for the ride.

But with finals coming and retirement looming over the next year, Doctor Hartwright wondered if it was worth upending his life and plans. He could get a sabbatical for sure, but what if there was simply nothing there?

He was still turning over the decision as he saw somebody standing in front of his car. The stranger had a long coat and gloves, and though it was brisk, he seemed overdressed. Hartwright slowed down and clutched his satchel. The man was shorter than him, but younger, fitter, but he did not look like a student. Was he a new faculty member? The professor began to approach, but the stranger pulled a cellphone from his coat and started cursing immediately, then began kicking at the car. Hartwright stepped out and yelled at the stranger, momentarily forgetting his fear and worrying about his car.

The stranger noticed him and held up a finger, listening intently to the phone. Hartwright found himself waiting and irritated, but also realized that he had never been in a fight in his life. He began to back away and the stranger held up his finger again, and mouthed, “wait,” before returning to the phone call.

Hartwright didn’t want to turn his back on the man, and felt his legs trembling as he sped up, still moving backwards. The phone call apparently over, the stranger nodded, then began walking towards him. The terrified professor turned to run and walked into a column in the parking lot. He scrambled to get up but the man was on top of him, pressing his shoulders down with a firm grip.

“Please, I don’t know what you want, please, You can have my phone, I have money-“

“Doctor Hartwright, my apologies. I am not here to hurt you.” The stranger helped him up, and the professor let out the breath he was holding. “Quite the contrary. Jem sent me here. I’m your bodyguard.”

THOUGHTS: So I don’t actually do prompts as often as a lot of my other writing friends do, but I have been doing more lately. I used to be rather antagonistic to them, but they are growing on me. This particular prompt seems to have made me write a sort of Indiana Jones scene. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook.

Why I write: How writing has changed from something I do to part of who I am

It's funny that I don't actually think that much about why I write, but honestly I don't. I think about what I want to write, how I want to make my writing better, what I would like to happen with it, but why do I put myself through this? But this is the first part of the blog challenge I mentioned here so let's have at it.

I guess that fact that I don't think about it that much speaks to how deeply ingrained the compulsion is to keep doing this every day. The writing I do on a regular basis moves between two major types: My general thoughts about what is going on in my life where I used the writing to sort those thoughts out and make decision, and fiction which explores the the reality of nature and my relationship to that reality, which I suppose I use to help make my way in the world, but on a grander or more philosophical scheme. 

I often encounter people who when asked how long they write they say something which amounts to basically when they learned to put letters on a page. With a few exceptions I feel this is just not really the case. My personal answer would be that while I have been making fictional stories for much of my adult life, I feel that I have only moved from making it an interest to a real solid pursuit in the last year or so. I can credit my wife being an English teacher as a big push to consider literature and writing more seriously, as well as reaching out to other people who write and having it become a more social part of my life and something that I am involved with on multiple levels every day. I don't just write, I talk to other people about it, I read their works in progress, I get jealous and on the better days I turn that jealousy into motivation. I attend writing events (and help host some, here's looking at you nanowrimo). So even when I am not writing myself at the moment, it is now a constant topic in my life. 

My current work has changed immensely from its conception years ago. It started as a basic concept: an angel that feels helpless in his role and is on the verge of damnation, but for the right reasons. It now has taken that germ and become an exploration of religion in general (and in a large way particularly gnosticism) technology and how it shapes our thinking and beliefs, as well as a philosophical dive into the idea of creation, death, and how we deal with being small people in a very, very, big universe. 

And the exploration of writing and reading has led me into some very interesting and strange places. I don't think I would have found somebody like my friend over at if I had not made such a big place for writing in my life. In the past I don't think I would have sought writers out and I certainly think that in my naivety I wouldn't have spent so much time talking to somebody who writes stories so far out of my chosen genres of science fiction and urban fantasy. 

So I guess the answer is pretty simple now: I write because I have to, to help me make sense of this world, and to hopefully make people question their own relationship to this shared reality that we have all created. I am a writer because I write, yes, but also because it is something which has seeped into every aspect of my life, brought me friends, challenges, victories and heartache. 

And I feel pretty damn good about that. 

EDIT: One of the other writers participating in the challenge put together this OneTab link of all the participants so far. Check 'em out when you get a chance. 

Here I go again...with a little help from my friends?

Writing, music, cooking and just being creative; whether it's making a story or crafting an omelette, creativity  has been important to me for a long time. I imagine it is to most people, but some of us pursue it a bit harder, sometimes to the point of obsession. Thankfully I've always had company in talking about my interests, but not always in their pursuit. 

That's why I am happy to say that starting in June I will be embarking on a blog challenge with Amanda McCormick at the helm (Thanks to you and everyone over at our little slice of weird on discord) and a mix of people of all ages and levels that have one thing in common: the compulsion to write. 

And we have explored that compulsion largely alone. As connected as the world is, writing can still be a very solitary thing. Will people like my work? Am I wasting my time on this when there are so many other important things to do? Am I getting better, worse? And couple the doubt with procrastination and you get blank pages, and broken promises.

So I'm glad to get started (again) I'm not sure where the journey will end up this time, but I'm sure I will learn something along the way.