Tag Archives: writing

NaNoWriMo–11,635 words down. A little behind.

I am still attempting NaNoWriMo.

But I admit.  This week was tough.

I’m feeling the pressure.

My daughter was off from school for two days this week.  So that changes the schedule just a little bit.  She did spend a fair amount of time at her baby sitters, but the change in schedule just threw me.  It happens.

And then I got sick the last couple of days.  I got some stomach virus, and as I write this I think I got it from the children’s museum I took my daughter to on Tuesday.  I’m surrounded by dozens of kids, there’s bound to be a rogue germ around there.

So, I’m behind.  By about 5,000 words.  On the 10th of November I should be at 16,670 words.  So I’m behind.

I’m going to keep trying, but we’ll see.

NaNoWriMo Day 2 1883 words–stayed up too late with the World Series

I got 1883 words done today.

That’s above the recommended pace of 1667 words per day.  But it’s less than what I want to hit of 2,500, that allows me to skip Saturday and Sunday if needed.

More than needed, but not what I was hoping for.

Today was a fun writing time, because I was able to get all these words done, between 9:45 and noon.

I stopped at noon.  I’ve been running on too little sleep watching the world series.  Congrats Houston you deserved it.

(I am useless…)

today was fun too because I also added Dragons to the story.

I needed a reason for why things are bad in the future.  So why not aliens that attacked earth and call them Dragons.

Me writing:

Okay, I need something to have attacked the world from space.

Bugs…

No that’s been used in Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game…

Dragons from space.

Sounds good to me.  Keep going.

Remember this is play.

First day of NaNoWriMo 2,400 words

Today was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month).

Now that I no longer teaching, I figured I would have the time to try it out.  I like the idea of using a deadline and public community.

With NaNoWriMo, you’re not supposed to start until November 1.  Meaning no writing, outlining, just an idea.

From Day 1 of writing.

All I had was this idea for a science fiction idea, a 10 ten year old boy is arrested and placed in a prison that is located on the dark side of the moon.

So the questions: why is he in prison?  What is the universe when there is a prison on the dark side of the moon?  Why is he so important that he needs to be placed in the most secure prison?

With that I began typing.  Using Scrivner I would outline as I went.  When a new character came along, I would write a very quick note about this character, same with setting, write a quick sketch when a new setting comes into play.

I have no idea if I can maintain the pace to keep it up to finish it by November 30.  I have also never written a novel at 50,000 words.  My longest work so far is The Dolbin School 3: The Return of the Professor which clocks in at a little over 45,000 words.

But I enjoy writing first drafts when the words flow, and the story just plays in my head.  That is fun.

So to get myself I wrote a quick chapter to get myself going:

The prison door slid open and prisoner 8311 stepped forward into the center of the room, his binders came off as the doors slid in a hush behind him. Prisoner 8311 rubbed his wrists and sat down on the bunk that extended from the wall. The pristine, white room had a sink, a toilet, a small video screen, and a white rug in the middle of the small cell.

“Prisoner 8311 meal time will occur in fours hours, you will be notified when to be ready,” said an electronic voice from the speaker high in the wall.

Prisoner 8311 laid down on his bunk, put his hands behind his head, closed his eyes and napped.

Prisoner 8311 dreamed about his tenth birthday party when he was not referred to as Prisoner 8311, but was referred to by his given name–Quinton Alexander.

Which was yesterday.

 

Then I was off and running.

The writer that wrote stories in bookstore windows

Could you write a story on demand?  In a store window?  With a first draft that is error free?

Harlan Ellison writing in a bookstore window.  Source

Apparently that is what award winning sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison did.  And he didn’t do it once.  He did it several times over the years.

I first heard about this feat from Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, and then I decided to do some research on it, and I found this post on Mental Floss.

Ellison would sit with a typewriter.  A TYPEWRITER—not a laptop.  You see you little whippersnappers you couldn’t always go back and remove a letter or a word.

Ellison says that he did this because:

“I do it because I think particularly in this country people are so distanced from literature, the way it’s taught in schools, that they think that people who write are magicians on a mountaintop somewhere,” he told NBC after one such performance in 1981. “And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much illiteracy in this country. So by doing it in public, I show people it’s a job … like being a plumber or an electrician.”

After doing this several times people began to question if he already had the stories in his head.  So, he started taking prompts from people.  One came from none other than Christ Carter, the creator of the X-Files.  His prompt: There was a 102 year old corpse.  Harlin would hand the pages as they finished and a clerk would post them in the window.  The pages were immaculate, double spaced, and error free.

I would love to be at this level.  

But as I think about this, I contemplate how many myths of writing Ellison takes down here.

Outlining–He doesn’t outline here.  He writes.  He stops to read and research, but there is no outline here to his process.

No rewriting—Have you ever heard of such a thing!  No rewrites!  Try telling that to your English teacher.

Writing taking a longtime—These are short stories, but he didn’t slave over these stories for years on end.

Ellison shows that writing doesn’t have to be a big esoteric exercise.

Solid creative writing is work—just like a plumber.

(This post originally appeared on my Steemit blog.)

Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost–part 4

I am experimenting and putting up this story as I write it.

 

Click here for part 3.

Click here for part 2

Click here to begin at part 1 

The sun was bright. The air was warm. The sand was hot. The sound of the waves was rhythmic.

Irving and his family wondered onto the beach, carrying towels, chairs, umbrellas and fishing gear. After several minutes of searching, they settled on an area near the walkway to the main street.

As soon as Lucas took his shirt off he ran toward the water.

Irving’s grandfather chuckled, “I see now why you have to put the sunscreen on before we go to the beach!”

“Yeah, it’s very difficult to wrangle him when he sees the water,” replied Mrs. Williams.

Irving took off his hat, shirt, and flip-flops and grabbed his boogie board, ready to sprint to the waves.

“You on the other hand mister are able to wait.” His mother handed him a blue bottle of sport suntan lotion.

“Put it on. Remember how painful it was last year when you got sunburned. It was no fun for you, and it was no fun for us.”

Irving hung his head, took the bottle, and lathered himself in white lotion.

Carrie covered herself in her own special sunscreen. She placed her sunglasses on her face and she laid down on her towel.

“Hoping to see Aaaadam!” Irving teased.

She looked up at him, “Are you hoping to see tomorrow?”

“You two! Just one day!” said their father. “Irving you’re covered in sunscreen, head onto the water. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Irving bolted to the water. He gasped at the coolness of the water, but he kept going. He jumped and put the board out in front and landed on the board. His body rose high into air as the first wave lifted him and brought him back down. We wiped his hair out of his eyes. He turned his board and began swimming back to shore. He looked over his shoulder for the next wave.

It came quickly.

It lifted his feet and legs up, and pushed his body forward. His arms worked fast to keep his board on top of the wave. He felt his legs going higher into the air. His right shoulder went under first. His body tumbled like in was in a washing machine. The water pushed him forward. He came up on the shore on his stomach.

He wiped his eyes.  When his vision cleared, two legs stood in front of him.

“You wiped out on the first wave of the summer?” said a voice from above Irving.

Irving looked up in a daze.  “Hey Alec!”

Irving stood up. He wiped the sand off of his face, and shook Alec’s hand. “My grandfather told me you and your brother were in town this week.”

“We got here this morning.” Alec replied.

“Where’s your brother?”

“I don’t know. Probably looking for girls.”

Alec looked over his shoulder for his brother Adam.

“My sister will be in an even worse mood if she sees him talking to other girls,” Irving replied.

Alec laughed.

He lifted his boogie board and looked at Irving, “Now, let me show you how this is done.”  The boys raced back into the ocean to catch the next wave.

The many things to learn from Neil Gaimen–Ideas for writers and other artists.

I published my first book in 2013.  It was a children’s picture book.  

At that time I thought I would keep writing picture books.  I felt out of sorts when my second book was not a picture book.

But then I learned about Neil Gaiman.

He does everything.

neilgaiman1

I knew that he had written Coraline.  I had read the book and seen the movie and liked it a lot.


Then I saw him appear on Youtube with a wonderful commencement speech.

And an amazing speech at Bookfest in 2013.

Then, I read American Gods.


Wait?  The guy that wrote Coraline is the same guy that wrote American Gods?

How is that possible?

Then it seems he writes many other things.

He takes the time to write short stories.

 

Hold the phone–

He began his career writing comic books.

 

And before that he was a journalist.

And it was as a journalists that he learned to write fast and under a deadline.

What I did was work as a journalist. It forced me to write, to write in quantity, to write to deadline. It forced me to get better than I was, very fast.

Oh, and P.S. he didn’t go to college.

HE. DIDN’T. GO. TO. COLLEGE.

And yet he has an honorary Doctorate.

Oh, and now he does audiobooks.

Yes, his books aren’t made into audiobooks.

But not only that….He narrates them.

Seriously,.

And he does pictures books

Now he’s just showing off.

My favorite book of his is, Fortunately the Milk.

Just wonderful.  I remember reading it and thinking “Man, this is the book I wanted to write.

(Seriously I can’t recommend this book enough.  Just pure joy from start to finish.)

Here’s what I learned from reading his books and reading about his career.

  1. Write many different things.

  2. Learn to write fast.

  3. Be creative in different domains

  4. Enjoy the process of writing.

I’ll leave you with his eight rules of writing.  Very beneficial for anyone trying to write.

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Check out my post about Neil and the need to market like a dandelion.

Also check out my latest book:

 

What to do when you have no idea what to write about

When you don’t have any ideas.

I had dinner with some friends tonight. One friend, like many teachers, has always wanted to write a children’s book.  But she says she doesn’t have any ideas.

There is the mistake.

Most people who want to write but don’t, make a fundamental mistake.  They wait for the idea first and then they begin writing.  This is wrong.

Wrong.

Louis L’more said “In order for the water to flow you must first turn on the faucet.”  Or something like that.  I’m not looking it up.

In other words, come to the paper (or computer) first, then you write.  Then come the bad ideas, and then later come the good ideas.  But it is, always, first write.

When I decided to try and write a children’s book, I had no idea where to start.  So I did what any good teacher does.  I gave a writing prompt.  When writing Kevin and the Seven Lions I sat down at the computer and wrote several sentences as writing prompts.

Kevin slept in class.

That was the sentence that started the Kevin series.  That sentence didn’t make the final book, but it started the whole thing.

Here are some of the other sentences I wrote

Bobby rounded third and slid into home plate.

Sally was a shark.

I am still thinking about the shark book.  The baseball reference above I don’t think has anything to do with Baseball and Aliens.  But just writing down words.  ANY WORDS.  Got the ball rolling.

When you are completely stuck my recommendation, just write a sentence.  Any sentence.  Put your fingers on the keyboard and let the fingers talk.

Seriously any sentence, and see what happens.

If you are stuck.  Write your sentence.

Trust me on this.

 

P.S.

Get this blog post early, free short stories, and my next book for free if you join my Insider’s List.

Four reasons why teachers should write books

This is an updated post that I guest posted over at AJ Cosmo’s blog.  Check my interview I did with him a year ago.

I am a teacher.  I think more teachers should write books.  They just should.

Cats.  Internet.  I win.

Cats. Internet. I win.

Here are four reasons why.

 

1)      Writing a book is hard

 good-writing-is-hard-work

 

Even in this new world of indie publishing, with the gatekeepers falling away, completing a book is still hard.  I have seen teachers tell me they have an idea for a book, but as time moves along-no book.

A colleague told me she always wanted to write a book, but she had no idea of what to write.  Another one apparently started, but never finished because the illustrator was an unpaid family friend who didn’t complete the work.  So the project was abandoned.

Finishing a book is hard.

Which is exactly why it needs to be done.  When you finish such a difficult task students will look at you differently as a teacher.  Your colleagues will look at you differently.  Your boss will look at you differently-with more respect.

 

2)      You will inspire your students

 

This past year I taught fifth grade.  After sharing illustrations and rough drafts with my students, they all were inspired to write their own books in class.  During literacy station time, a lot of students spent time creating illustrations and writing their own stories.

There was a whole series about Zompires in my classroom.  What is a Zompire?  Why the combination of a zombie and a vampire. Apparently zompires don’t eat your brains, they just suck your blood.  But you need garlic and to cut their heads off to stop them.  I liked reading about Zompires.  I would actually have to remind students to work on other projects outside of making books.  I had a whole chart up in my room about it.  Too much book writing, nice problem to have as a teacher.

As a side, I teach in a high poverty school with a lot of English language learners.  These aren’t students with lots of books in their house.

See my link about my first fan fiction.

 

3)      You will bring added value to your career

 

I taught first grade for several years.  In Virginia, the fifth graders are tested in writing.  I published a book.  Boom.  I got moved to fifth grade.

Moving from first to fifth was a challenge.  But I enjoyed the challenge.  Having experience at first and fifth brings me a lot of value.

Teachers teach read reading and writing.  With a book a teacher will bring credibility to their lessons, students and colleagues will respect you more.

When you write a book, BAM!, you’re an expert.

School administrators need experts in their buildings and their classrooms.  Write a fiction or a nonfiction book, doesn’t matter, put it out in Kindle and paperback format and you are now an expert.  You’re an author.  You’re officially different.  And different in a very good way.

4)      You will experience a tear in the space-time continuum

Space time continum

What! You say?  Stay with me.

Early in the year I ordered classroom copies of two of my books, Kevin and the Three-headed Alien, and Dolbin School for the Extraordinary, and put them in my class library.  The students competed on who would read each book first.

During one lesson, the students were to get out a book we were reading.  One student was reading one of my books.  He didn’t put my book away.  I instructed him again to put away other books and get the book we were working on.  He still didn’t comply.  He was more interested in reading my book.  I was so confused.  The writer in me jumped for joy.  The teacher in me was frustrated.  My body was split in two over the meta-physical problem that was occurring right in front of me.  Seriously.  Who has this problem?

Who has students who would rather read books written by their teacher, as opposed to books the school system tells them to read?  I do.  I have that problem.

I love having that problem.

I want you to have that problem as well.

 

P.S.
One of my books Dolbin School for the Extraordinary is free for a couple of more days.  Check it out.

P.P.S. Join my mailing list to be the first to know when my new picture book comes out.

Captain America 2 and the indie writer

I caught Captain America last Friday on its opening day.  Marvel has a thing going now.  They have broken out of the linear prequel-sequel story lines, and now they have an entire universe to play-in.  All of the other Avengers were mentioned in the movie, yet they didn’t appear.  At the end of the credits we get a notice, a la James Bond, that Captain America will appear again in Avengers 2.

.Captain America 2 Winter Soldier Poster

Actual Comic books made from paper have been doing this for decades.  Movies based on comic books have only recently caught onto this idea.  I think Disney is also about to take the Star Wars franchise down this road as well, with a new trilogy on the way and then two other side movies in the off years.  (As a side note Disney, I am available for any parts…)

Cool poster.  If you know who did this let me know so I can give proper credit.

Cool poster. If you know who did this let me know so I can give proper credit.

But as writers without corporations or committees needing to be appealed too, writers, and indie writers in particular could really do well with this approach.  The general wisdom on the street is to write in a series.  Well, why limit ourselves to a linear series.  Create a single world and write all about it.  I have thought about it.  I have three books about Kevin.  Maybe I could spread the universe out a little and write about one of his friends, and have Kevin be a sideline character.  I have no idea what I would do, but again this is a possibility.

Maybe we need to stop thinking linearly, and thinking about whole universes.  After all, we create.

 

The math behind getting creative stuff done.

Looking at my posts I realize that I have been neglectful of this blog over the holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and work responsibilities can get overwhelming.  But stuff still gets done.

In 2013 I put out three books for children.  I have a lot of teachers ask how I was able to put out three books in the past year, while also teaching.  First, let me say that there are other writers that are able to get more work out than I have this year.  I try not to compare myself to others in how much work gets down or how successful it is.  But I fail at that.  I am human.  I compare.

Maybe that is why teachers ask me how I have done it, they’re comparing themselves to me.  So here goes my plan.  And it is very simple.

Maybe I am stealing from Tim Ferris here.  I don’t know.  He advocates a 4 hour work week.  I am not even suggesting that much for a side project.

15 minutes a day.

That’s it.  That’s my goal.

15 minutes a day equals 250 words.

Just 15 minutes a day.

Just 15 minutes a day.

During a normal day I teach 5th grade.  That alone is enough.  Lesson plans, meetings, parent conferences, grading.  You know, teaching.

Then there is family time.  I have a two year old in the house.  I want to spend as much time as possible with her during this time.  So I do.

But if I set a goal of 15 minutes a day I can get stuff done.  Not blazing fast.  But stuff gets done.  And that’s the goal.  Get stuff done.

Here is the math.

For my writing speed, 15 minutes is about 250 words. 250 words is about half a regular sized paper.

With 250 words a day you can have the text to a picture book in 4 days.

With 250 words a day you can have a rough draft of a 10,000 word early chapter book in 40 days.  (At that rate you can have 9 rough drafts done a year.)

With 250 words a day you can have a rough draft done for a 50,000 word novel in 200 days.

But 15 minutes is the minimum.  Most of the time I go over that 15 minutes.  You get in the flow of writing and you can’t leave.  Before you know it, you have 500-1000 words in front of you.  But aim for 15 minutes or 250 words.  Set yourself up to win.

If you set yourself up, to say, I am going to write 1,000 words a day.  Well.  You write only 750 words.  You’ve failed.  Set a goal of 15 minutes a day and you can easily surpass your goal daily.

What happens when you set a goal and you consistently fail at it?

You stop trying.  You’re human.

What if you set a goal and consistently surpass it?

You keep going.  Before you know it you find that you are creating on a regular basis.

In order to help me with my goal, I am writing this on the first laptop I have ever owned.  It is my hope that the laptop will help me get more writing done.  I won’t be stuck to the desktop to get work done.  So far it seems to be working.

But ultimately we are busy.  We have work, family, friends.  But small chunks of time really begin to add up.  Before you know it you have a work of art that you can be proud of.  All while holding a day job, with family responsibilities.

The math examples are directed at writing, but the concept can be used for any sort of creative side project, photography, illustration, design.

And what happens when you finally publish that first picture, chapter book, or novel?

Well, your life changes.

And it changes for the better.