Saturday, June 15, 2013

In That Moment

Don't wait to write.

Write In That Moment.

Yes, I know what you are saying. Nobody writes in the moment. You have to wait for that moment. You must wait to be inspired. Well, sounds like a bunch of B.S. to me.

Why, you ask?

Well, because lately I've been reading Hemingway's A Movable Feast, an account of his early days writing in Paris. I'm beginning to see what he was talking about. Let's say you've got a scene in your head. Doesn't matter what story its for, just bare with me for a second. You know you have a scene in your head right this second. It's been one you've been toying around with for a while. One that you've been putting off because you don't think it's fully developed yet. You have to wait for that golden moment when everything makes sense and not one shred of it is tainted by clumsy dialogue or wooden prose. Am I right?

Well, would you do me a favor and write that scene right now?

Don't worry.

It may seem difficult at first but, before you know it, that one seemingly innocuous scene will come to life. Your characters will start moving around, talking to one another. The plot will veer in stunning directions you hadn't thought of yet. It will be like alchemy when the lead finally turns to gold. And it will all be due to the fact that you took five minutes and just wrote that one scene down.

I'm not talking out of my rear over here. It's been happening to me too. Every day, in fact, I find that I get a small glimpse of a scene in my head and automatically whip out a pad and pen and start jotting something down to see where it goes. Nevermind that it's not part of the short story that I'm writing. Or that it is a scene three books down the line. The point is that after it is done: you will have something written. And the goal to writing consistently is to have a lot of stuff written

Hemingway comments on how he would write things until he felt empty. Then, in time, he would feel his metaphorical writer's well of ideas filling up again. So, you see, if you are a writer who wants to write. Just write. Your well will always fill back up again and you'll have more stuff written.

(P.S. I tried it again tonight. This whole write-when-you-get-a-scene-in-your-head routine and it paid off. I got about 2,000 words out.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It Was A Dark And Stormy Day

Chicago is a great place but sometimes the weather can be annoyingly unpredictable. It changes constantly but it also changes moods as well. I would say that winter is my worst season for writing. Usually I'm so utterly frustrated that I don't have the heart to write anything down. But on rainy days, I'm a writin' fool. Lately, our fair city, has been getting quite a few of those rainy days and brother, the proof is in the pudding. A couple posts back I talked about a milestone I had reached. I had written and published 340,000 words. Not too shabby. It's all due to this excel program that my wife suggested.

With this program I've not only been able to keep track of the titles I have up now but I'm also tracking my word count progress on projects in-the-works. Altogether it totals to a whopping 387,334 words. Three short stories are done (Sci-fi, Humor, Fantasy), and several novellas are coming soon.

Back to the weather, today we had partly cloudy with a chance of HOLYS#*@! But the madness only lasted for four hours or so. The sky went from blue, to orange to green. And when the sky turns green you best believe that's the color for "leave the scene."

And as quick as it came, it faded into the distance.

Does this kinda weather bother me?

Not at all. I'm used to it. In fact, I say bring on the rain because if it takes severe thunderstorms to produce 47,000 words, you better believe I'm going to be praying for rain everyday!!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Insanity of My First Book Cover


Covers are the biggest tool to getting your books sold. But as an eager first-time author, I was unaware of just how important a good cover can be. I explained, early in 2008, that if you want a good cover, pay someone to design the cover. Don't do-it-yourself unless absolutely necessary. Believe me, I know the pain of what a so-so cover can doYou may have written a story that is spectacular, original even.

But all the originality in the world will not save you from a horrible cover design.

I recently read a blogpost from Failure Ahoy! which inspired the post I'm writing now. I feel ya, Edward Robertson.

Let me show you the first cover I ever had the displeasure of making.

Here it is, folks. Yikes, there's a lot wrong with this cover. So let's go through it and I'll show you how I got totally blindsided with what I was doing.

  1. Here's where I messed up. The way I had envisioned the cover was similar to a comic book or graphic novel. The only problem is, the series I wanted to create had only a few stories that were connected in some small way. They did a write-up in the local newspaper about me and how I planned to pen a twenty book series. Ambitious? Sure. Smart about it? No. I thought I should label each book in the corner  like it was a new issue every time.
  2. The D.F. in the bubble stood for the series name which I called Deranged Flashes. Doesn't make much sense does it? I thought it did. So I wanted each one to be labeled this way.
  3. So if I have D.F. in the corner, why would I spell out Deranged Flashes Series in the other corner? Also, if you look in the background you'll see black tiles with white grouting. Originally I wanted black bricks but couldn't find the image online and just settled with tiles.
  4. In staying true to the comic book feel, the title is in a yellow banner. So already we have too many colors colliding together: Black, white, yellow, green, red. Even though the font of the title is the one I wanted, I have to admit, it is too big. I also put the label A NOVEL underneath it. Y'know, in case you didn't get it the first time round.
  5. The main picture takes up about half of the entire cover and boy is it ever complicated. The man in the photo was my friend from grade school. I caught up with him in college, marveled at how much he looked exactly like my main character and asked if he could pose for the cover. So one day when he wasn't too busy I asked him to stand "menacingly" in a hallway that looked similar to a hospital corridor. I put the picture into simple photo editor, added a negative effect with a over-exposed print effect and then turned it blue. I thought each cover would look unique with a different cover scheme. The next book would've been brown with the third book being bright yellow. I don't know what I was thinking but obviously this whole setup does not work.
  6. Lastly, my name, sectioned off in a border of white and in the same font which, looking back on it now, makes me cringe. I read somewhere that if you put your name in red it is more likely to be noticed and easy to remember. Well, how can that be when there are so many other things distracting you?

I messed up. I messed up royally. But that didn't stop me publishing this with iUniverse. The book was public for 3 months and sold 15 copies before I wised up and decided to pull it from production. Even so, the book is still available at amazon.

I tried messaging amazon to have it taken down but that went no where. Every so often I see the book for sale for 400 bucks. On eBay I saw someone was trying to sell it for 10,000 bucks. Granted, it was an early draft, not my best, and had a crappy cover. So why that much money? Well, as I said before, I only sold 15 copies, so I guess in some circles that makes the book rare. But to me it will always be a costly mistake.

When the opportunity to re-publish to kindle arose, I didn't want to be too hasty. So I put up a collection of short stories to start with. Then I began the task of re-thinking the cover. Since I colossally complicated the last one with too much over-thinking, I wanted to go simple with the new one. I wanted something creepy and yet mysterious. Something that looked like a movie poster. So, as I was reading this one book by N. Frank Daniels' (Futureproof), and I noticed how visually appealing the cover was and did some research into royalty free images. I must have looked at a hundred pics until I settled for the one I have now.

But I'm glad that I did. Not only does the cover show the world you are about to get into but it also has shades of blue, which was the color that continually drove the style of the story.

So do yourselves a favor if you haven't already: admit to yourself that sooner or later you have to spend money on a cover for your book. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Which Tool is More Productive?

I was thinking about this earlier today and thought I'd list which writing tools I've used over the years and which were the most effective:

  1. Receipts - At most these tiny scraps of paper are good for writing titles, character names, plot points and premises. I doubt you could write a full book on them. (10 - 50 words)
  2. Moleskin Notebook - I've only owned a few of these. They work pretty well when you have an entire scene you want to block out or some snappy, yes, I just said 'snappy', dialogue that you want to get out. (50 - 100 words)
  3. Blank White Paper - 8x11 white printing paper has become the bane of my existence. Yes, you can carry out a scene on one, even several. But, damn are they easy to misplace. I won't write on these unless I absolutely have to. I use them to make lists of ideas. (100 words)
  4. Electric Typewriter - Used one once and nearly threw it at the wall. Typed only three pages and gave up because the damn thing was out of whack and kept erasing my stuff. (0 words)
  5. Legal Pads - If they are the small, spiral ones, I can get a lot of work done. I don't enjoy writing longhand but lately I've been able to attack my stories (10,000 words) at a time with these things.
  6. Laptop - So far, on laptops I've had quite a bit of luck. I pounded out one novel.  (90,000 words)
  7. Desktop Computer - First novel was written on an Acer Desktop that was very slow. (87,000 words)
  8. Tape Recorder - I was able to block out a few scenes from my first novel onto this thing. It helped with dialogue. (10,000 words)
  9. Blackberry Phone - Lately, I've been having a great time typing story ideas as well as whole chapter on my blackberry phone. Recently I had to discontinue my service on the phone to get a cheaper plan but I still keep the phone in order to write more books. Its great. It's portable, simple, and I can transfer all the files via USB port. Just like a compact typewriter in your pocket. (30,000 words.)

So what is your most productive writing tool?