Tag Archives: Blogging

Writing Goals for 2010

As we approach 2010 I have an opportunity to reflect on my goals. It’s been a month since I wrote anything in my blog here – and what a busy month it’s been. My last post here was about my new writing group hosted at my interactive fiction/collaborative writing & role-play site Pan Historia called Write Together. I’m here to report that even in the middle of switching jobs and surviving the crazy holidays it’s been a great success for me so far. I re-committed myself to a writing regime and am currently twenty pages into a new novel. Not only have I written several chapters but I have been enjoying a great deal of inspiring research for the project. The novel is fiction, but it’s set in a very specific time period (mostly 1926) with lots of exciting historical characters that need to be authentic to make the story work.

With the holidays over (I don’t count New Years and intend to spend it sedately as always) I am recommitting myself to my blog as well. My New Year’s resolution, if you will, is to complete my novel in 2010 but also to maintain a steady stream of collaborative fiction and blog posts. Now I just have to remember all the good ideas I have had over the past month that I have been too busy to realize. I have a far better note taking system with the audio and notebook functions on my Blackberry as well as a nice little pocket Moleskin notebook, but somehow I still have to get ideas from brain to my devices, whatever they may be. I’ve been pretty diligent when it comes to the new novel but less so when it comes to other ideas, including poetry ideas, I have been slacking. Developing new habits is a matter of practice however and with all the ways that I can take down my thoughts for later I have no excuses this year for not improving.

My new job is going to help a lot. I haven’t really posted much personal stuff in my blog and that remains my intention, but I can share that when you are in a negative place, worried about finances and bullied by bosses that are less qualified than yourself, it sure can handicap your ability to be creative and productive in other spheres. My new job was a step back on the hierarchal ladder since my move across country, but it is a return to the sector that I excel in and where I have opportunities for advancement. My new bosses and coworkers all seem to be people I can respect, and I look forward to relaxing into my new position. My primary ambition in life is as an artist. Whether it is with paints, pens, or pixels, I have to remember that my job is not my career and sweat the small stuff a little less. I think 2010 promises me that freedom.

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Write Together

I’ve been even more quiet than usual when it comes to my blog and twitter but I have an excellent excuse. I had a brainstorm of an idea – one that helps to make Pan Historia an even better destination for writers as well as one that is helping motivate me to write my own novel. I started a writing group at Pan for those of us who want to move from just writing ongoing collaborative fiction to finally finishing and publishing a novel of our own. This concept does not exclude collaborative projects (I hope to include a version of my zombie novel in this mix one day) but does focus on story structure, discipline, craft, and actually sitting down regularly and making time to write.

For those of you who know me or know me through my blog you’ll be aware of my intention to write a novel and how I have been working on one based on the life of Wyatt Earp for just about forever. Mostly it’s been in the endless research phase with a sort of Mobius strip of trying to work out my new ‘fresh’ angle on this particular subject. When I started the new writing group Write Together at Pan I fully intended to finally write and complete this work. Our group is really fortunate to have a published author of a sort of mentor consultant and the first thing she asked me is “why am I writing this particular story” and I could no longer answer the question. I got some good feedback from my fellow writers and had worked out some possible interesting twists on the Wyatt Earp story and how to tell it in an engaging way, but there was no real purpose for me. I ended up answering that question with “I’ve been researching it? I have a book case full of books on the topic?”

Beep. Not good enough.

So I decided to shelve the project and immediately begun work on another novel idea that had been flitting around my mind for a while. This time I jumped into a genre that I have come to love writing in: horror. I’ve started work on a sort of supernatural thriller set in the 1920’s full of glamorous characters, many of whom are historical, and dark sinister magic. I’m very excited about the story and using all the resources of my novel writing group as well as the many great resources I have found since using twitter and blogging, I have already got a good working synopsis, a stable of interesting rich characters, and the beginning of an outline using a classic story structure. The basic storyline and characters has been something I have been working on for quite a long time on Pan as a collaborative novel, but my focus will be on my own ideas and characters and developing a plot that has not been told in the collaborative forum so it’s all original.


Why I Blog Less So I Can Write More

I have noticed that my blog postings are getting fewer and farther between – even the ‘easy’ ones where I repost already written fiction from my collaborative writing community. It’s pretty hard to maintain a good blog. Anyone that says “you need a blog” is making a suggestion that has merit, but also entails a whole butt load of work. There is the essential component of having a good idea that hasn’t been covered to death, then finding something to say abut that idea that hasn’t been said five billion other times in the exact same way, and then the craft of writing the piece. Once you’ve done that you have to do it all over again, maybe not immediately, but certainly within a timely fashion; say, once every couple of days.

For some people that process can take days right there. And if you’re an expert on something, or even just trying to be informative and give people value for their click, there is all the research that many topics entail. Oh – and you have to do all the links, the attributions, the editing, the keywords, and maybe even a nice little summary. Of course you’re trying to stand out too so you’ll grab hold of some images to pepper your writing with and catch the wandering eye and short attention span of your target audience. You need to promote your blog, post the link on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and perhaps Digg It, or Technorati it, and at the end of the day, after you’ve checked all your stats to see your traffic a whole fifteen people might have checked you out.

And if you’re like me and you’re hoping that your blog will alert people to the fun of your true love and get them curious and you find that you’re not driving any traffic there, you gotta start wondering: is it worth all this damn trouble? You have to start asking yourself “why do I blog?”. If the answer is “to advertise” than maybe it’s just not all that useful after all. The standard advice for writers and other professionals is that you have to self-promote, self-promote, self-promote, but is that incredible cacophony of sound that is the world-wide-web really doing anyone any good?

On Twitter, which I actually enjoy for more than it’s potential to advertise my wares, the majority of people that follow me are bots looking to advertise products. All the ‘in the know’ blogs by the ‘smart people’ tell you not to be a bot, but give value, but even those value-laden pundits can become overwhelming and tedious. Link after link is advertised sending you off to sites that tell you how to market, how to create great ads in Photoshop, how to sell, how to write, how to yell louder than anyone else, and it’s all just becoming noise, noise, noise. And we all know what happens next: we drown it out. We tune it out, we drop out, we find a secluded beach somewhere.

The only things that really give value in this life are the things you’re passionate about. I’m passionate about Pan Historia. I’m passionate about gardening, writing, reading good books, good games, good food, art, the people I love, and so if I don’t have the passion to tell you something interesting on this blog – I’m not going to waste my time and yours by making sure I post every few days to keep my blog on the top of the list.


I’m Nearly Famous

I’m very pleased to be able to post that I was interviewed for another blog. Read about Pan Historia in the The National Networker blog. The folks that run that site are really friendly and I’m chuffed as all get out that they choose Pan Historia as a topic.


Why I Love What I Do

Several times I have hit on the topic of the isolation of the writer. After all it’s pretty much just you and your word processor (or for the Luddites amongst us: typewriters or yellow lined pads and a Number 2 pencil). Of course the cliché of the lonely writer pounding on his keyboard is a myth created around the lives of previous writers. Reading an article in the recent New Yorker issue about the teaching of Creative Writing in America breaks through that stereotype to how many writers have learned as part of a group. Self-taught writers might go to local community college workshops or join a writing group on or off line. On Sundays writers join in #writechat on Twitter. The internet has, for many writers, stripped away the isolation and allows for writers to enjoy relationships with their peers and their readers directly.

While I regret the need for writers to be their own publicist these days I don’t regret the moves towards uniting writers with other like-minded people or allowing writers to bridge the gap from written word to the person that is reading that word.

Last night I was logged into my community site Pan Historia and I got a wonderful example of one of the myriad reasons that I love to be involved in a collaborative writing community. One of the members came to me to ask me about whether or not I thought that women during the 19th Century in the Old West would bathe naked or whether they would wear their undergarments. I don’t believe this is a question that could be answered definitively because of the nature of the record from the Victorian Era, but the interaction was fun as we tried to determine what would make a believable historical scene. The person that instant messaged me got immediate feedback and help on what they were writing right in that moment.

When I write a fiction post for one of my collaborative role-play novels there I can get instant feedback – which I hugely enjoy. It’s not always critical feedback, but that’s ok. As writers we need to expand and grow, hone our skills, but more often than not we just want to know that other people are enjoying the tales we spin. By writing and publishing at an online community with like-minded people, both readers and writers of tales, I can interact with my readers and with my fellow writers in one fell swoop. I can get advice, I can find research sources (more on that in a later blog), and I just plain jump up and down to announce my latest effort.

Besides the feedback I get my other pleasure on the site is giving feedback to others. The excitement of logging onto Pan Historia to find a post by one of my writing partners in one of my favorite collaborative novels is akin to seeing the latest book by your favorite author showing up at the local bookstore. With some people it’s just about the pleasure of reading their stuff, but I might enjoy a more critique based relationship with other trusted writers so that we might comment on each other’s work. Another added benefit is that I might get a fresh eye to catch those typos and other errors that slipped by me even though I edit all my work before posting it online.

I know a lot of this sounds like an ad for my own site (and yes, there is an element of shameless plug here) but it’s also probably true for other writing sites that you might have heard of or be involved in. I really think that the potential that resides in the internet is all about social media, interaction, and networking, and not about static information. I actually believe that all this interaction has allowed me to be a writer in a way that I don’t think I could have managed before it. I am far too social an animal to write alone. Having my peers and readers right here at my fingertips, whether on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or at Pan Historia, actually liberates and inspires me to write, and to write better.


Jack of All Trades

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

There is something compelling about being considered good at everything, and yet… I long to be a ‘master’ of my trade. The problem, for me, is my own nature. Neither side of my brain seems entirely dominant, and the entire world is full of wonderful things I want to do. Having started a new job my head is now full of botanical genus and species and tables of environmental requirements and micro climates.

I’m in the middle of a re-structure of my volunteer staff system at the community interactive fiction and role-play site I own and run. The ins and outs of refocusing people to create an even livelier and more community orientated site is a highly creative and rewarding task for me. Dealing with all the different personality types is challenging but in a really good way.

I still have a ton of little programming tasks to complete.

So when I sat down about fifteen minutes ago planning to write a little fiction for one of my collaborative novels I found myself unwilling. Over and over again I have pushed the agenda that to be a writer you need to write. Fortunately for me I have other outlets for my writing. Fiction is the left brain of my writing persona. Writing my blog or composing clearly written legible staff agreements that communicate my intent successfully is the right side of my writing self.

Writing is the one thing that I do that ties all the other areas together. Since my community site is online my only method of communication is through the written word. It has forced me to hone my skills. That, in turn, has synergistically impelled my fiction writing to new heights. Talking about any of my activities via my blog whether it be gardening, writing, or painting allows me to continue to sharpen my quill day by day.

The act of writing in all its forms has become essential to the core of me. I may be jack of all other trades, but in the end I aspire to be master of one. Wait … what does that remind me of?

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Bwahaha!


When Writing Seems to be a Chore

When you have to write your 1000 words for the day of your novel or even a short but essential blog post and all you can think about is doing the dishes instead or doing that project in the garage that you’ve been putting off people are apt to call it ‘writer’s block’. If you overcome that block to actually sit down and do the writing you have pledged to do then that’s when you become a writer. At this moment I’m really talking to those that would like to become professionals. As an owner of a site like Pan Historia I am fully a champion of those that come to write just for the pure fun of it. If you’re a surfer you don’t grab a surfboard and head to the beach on a day you’re not in the mood. In this post I am addressing those of you that want to be professional writers, and I place myself among you.

My inspiration this morning came from my own disinclination to write a blog on writing. Over the short time I have maintained this blog I have written a number of short articles on the craft of writing, both general and for the relatively new field of collaborative self-published fiction. All the standard advice for bloggers contains the advice to keep your blog fresh with new content, but what happens when you run out of ideas? There are only so many topics right? Or is that just me avoiding writing when I know I should? It’s very probably the latter. Actually it’s definitely the latter.

Whenever, as a writer, you feel ‘blocked’ it’s time to write around it, or through it. Several things can happen: 1) you can spend hours writing a crappy post/chapter (and I still say hooray for you because there is growth in failure, perhaps more so than success) and have to throw it away. 2) you find yourself picking up speed and really getting into your topic/story. 3) you can discover what is that is really blocking you in a particular piece. If the result of writing through a block is number one you still have to do it all over again your next writing period. You cannot let that hurdle cause you to stumble – not if you want to be a professional. Remember writing as a career has deadlines and schedules just like any other job. Because most writers are their own supervisors (if not their own boss) that means developing a strong writing discipline.

Even if you are as of yet unpublished it’s a really smart idea to establish good working practices. If you’re not being paid yet (oh, grasshopper) then it’s often even more difficult to overcome the roadblocks put in your path by your own mind and by others… oh yes, others. If you work from home you know how many times friends and relatives will say “you’re not doing anything, can you help?” If you have a significant other, even a supportive one, there will be lapses. “I was at work all day, and you were at home, why didn’t you clean the __________?” You can fill in the blanks. Creating a strong and regular writing schedule for yourself, that you don’t cheat on, means sticking to it, regardless of the views of friends and loved ones. You might have a lot of diverse responsibilities such as kids, jobs, or looking after a relative, but if you are serious about being a writer you still need to carve out the time.

I have talked on this subject before, and at length, but I don’t think it can be repeated enough. I have several friends who are published writers and when a novice comes to them for advice it’s always the same: you wanna write? Then write.

There: I have written.