Category Archives: Adventures

Free, Fast, and Fearless – Three Fs to Accomplishing Anything

20130720_103323You can catch me running on the trails in the greater Denver area. I’ll run past you, blasting an audiobook so loud that you’ll be able to hear the narration yourself for a few seconds. You might also see me sitting in a coffee shop, writing until my fingers go numb during a marathon two-hour writing session (marathon for me at least).
I’ve been horrible at updating this site in 2014—no excuses from me. Sure, I’ve been uber productive in exceeding my fiction word count goal to this point, but there’s still no excuse.
Free, Fast, and Fearless became my focus in 2014. Running trails is freeing. Writing books and stories—even more so at times. Things have been going fast too. I feel fast on the trails, and I write one thousand words in thirty-five minutes of writing. Fearless is writing one thousand words, not knowing if what you’re writing is a steaming pile of shit not worth reading. Fearless is hanging in there the first three miles of a ten-mile run, enduring the pain (that everyone feels, believe it or not), in order to feel the euphoria that eventually comes out of finishing ten miles faster than you ever have. Continue reading Free, Fast, and Fearless – Three Fs to Accomplishing Anything

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Crushing your 2014 writing goals

A lot of people strive to write a novel as a new year’s resolution, but how easy is it to let the goal fall through the cracks? We all have jobs, families, friends, and a social life, so it’s not always easy to find time to get your daily writing done.

How does anyone get this done? They make it a habit. I don’t know many other writers personally, but I’m pretty sure that those who put out new material fairly often make sure they have writing figured into their day. Every day. It’s easy to make excuses, we all do. But if you want to write a novel by the end of the year, here are a few steps that I found helpful when I accomplished my goals in 2013.

Make it a habit

I can’t say this enough. If it’s not on your to-do list every day, it’s easy to put it off.

Oh, I’ll write tomorrow.

I can just do it all this weekend.

I’ll wait until the summer when I have more time. 

Wrong! The more that you put it off, the easier it is to keep putting it off. I find that if I don’t write on a given day, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much of anything. Once you have that mindset, it’s easy to keep it going. Until then, develop your habit of writing daily.

Know that it won’t be any good, and make your peace with it

Yes, we all think we’re going to write the next great American novel right out of the gate. We’re not. The first draft is going to be filled with typos, grammar errors, punctuation errors, etc. Doubly so if it’s your first time writing a substantial amount.

That’s okay…that’s what editing is for. When you write your first draft, don’t go back and read it until you’re done. You’ll only get discouraged. Instead, just keep plowing forward as if you’re writing the best book known to man. It makes the process so much quicker.

Watch less T.V.

We all love T.V. It’s a great, quick way of receiving stories and information. That being said, it’s a big waste of time for the most part.

I don’t know what it is–put me in front of the television, and I can’t get anything productive accomplished. It’ll hypnotize you. If you want to get serious about writing, you’ll need to sacrifice some T.V. time.

Read more

It seems counter-intuitive. Reading takes time away from writing, right?

Kind of. But it’s necessary for inspiration (for me at least). It also allows you to see the tricks of the trade: what works, what doesn’t, how to _____, etc. Reading about writing is good, but I think reading the types of stories that you want to write can be even better.

Make it visible

As in, make sure you know how close you are to your writing goals. I suggest word count goals since that’s the easiest way to tell whether or not you’re getting anything done as a writer.

I have:

  • Daily writing goals (1,000 words when I’m working on a project)
  • Project writing goals
  • In 2014, I have a yearly writing goal (300,000 words)

I know that I’ll need to write a few books and a lot of blog posts as well. I have a spreadsheet marking my yearly goal, and I utilize the ‘project target’ window in Scrivener (the writing software I use) to track the others. Do whatever works for you, but make sure that you track your progress. Hell, even offer rewards to yourself when you hit certain milestones if that’s motivates you.

 

I hope this post was helpful to those that want to knock out a manuscript in 2014.

Happy writing!

How to Edit a Novel Without F’n Around

One Step Closer to Hell 360x540 WebsiteInstead of NaNoWriMo I’m participating in NaNoEditMo–National Edit a Novel in a Month (real contest that I just made up). I’m currently editing my second novel One Step Closer to Hell. I learned a lot after the first one, and this one is going better so far.

I’m pretty sure all new writers finish a novel and wonder what in the world comes next. Do I know? Debatable. But here are my steps for getting that all-important 2nd draft completed.

1. Make a plan

Yes, I get it. Some of you are ‘pantsers’ and don’t plan anything when it comes to writing your book. I tend to lean this way when writing, but I’ve found value in making a plan before editing. You can’t do it all in one pass–you’ll miss plenty even after three edits (which is why it’s important to let someone else do the final few edits). When editing, try to focus on one thing at a time.

2. Take a break

Every novelist that I’ve come across has talked about the importance of taking a break in order to distance yourself from your work. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve forgotten many parts of my second novel. I even wrote a novella during my break so I could completely dive into another project.  This definitely helped me attack the edit with a ruthless eye.

3. Fix the awkward

I know, I know. Most authors tell you to read it all of the way through and simply take notes when you finally come back to your book. However, I can’t do that. I find my work littered with sentences that sound like they came straight out of a toddler’s mouth. I have to fix that before I can read it and pretend it’s a real book.

I do this by reading the entire manuscript out loud, and fixing every sentence that reads like a meth head wrote it. Yes, that makes you look like a crazy person–but who are we kidding? We wrote an entire book of imaginary characters; that makes us a tad bit crazy in and of itself.

4. First Read-through

Now that I can get through more than one chapter without beating my head on my desk, I read the book and take notes. Only big picture notes–plot holes, inconsistencies, character development ideas, etc.  I look for issues that will take additional writing to fix–or issues that will be as simple as highlighting and hitting the backspace button.

5. Tear it apart

This is where the novel takes its shape. I add the parts I noted from above, delete scenes, move scenes around, break scenes into chapters, and chapters into parts, identify key plot devices that I can play around with, determine narrative structure, and shift the pace to my liking. This is where the rough draft becomes a legitimate manuscript.

6. Very important

I delete every instance of the word ‘very’. I tend to use this word a lot, but it’s a word you only put with weak adjectives.

Example: If I have: “A very big couch sat in the corner.” I would alter it to: “A ginormous couch sat in the corner.” or something like that. We use very so often that it doesn’t do much to change the meaning of a sentence.

I do something similar to the phrase, ‘a little bit’.

I’m pretty sure every writer has that one word or phrase that makes a reader want to choke a puppy if used too often. It’s important to take those phrases and light them on fire.

7. LY Adverbs

Here’s another crutch that writers like myself use to ‘make a sentence sound better’. Like the word very, people say these all of the time to convey a stronger meaning. If you use too many of them, it looks like you’re trying too hard.

Example:

Bill ferociously dialed the phone.

Alice picked it up contemptuously. “Hello.”

How clumsy does that sound? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

No, we can’t part with all of these. Hell, I have a hard time parting with even half of these. But for the love of God, try to mitigate the awkwardness (see #3).

8. Give your characters their own voice

This was easy in my second book because I already nailed down the characters’ personalities, but this was an issue in Deadly Colors. All my characters sounded the same. I had to go back and change the way they spoke in order to differentiate who was who. This is arguably the most important step in character development. Is your character mean, loud, socially awkward, smart, dumb, shy, nerdy, tough, or confident? Dialogue is the best way to demonstrate these traits.

9. Proofread

It’s best to save this for the end so that you don’t have to keep doing this during every step in the process. Yes, you’ll naturally get a ton of this during the other steps, but it’s good to have an edit devoted to this. I use a program called Grammarly to accomplish this step, but MS word should be sufficient if you know what you’re doing grammar-wise (which I don’t).

10. Rinse and repeat

Cool…you have a second draft now. That’s probably not going to cut it either. Repeat steps 3-9 until you’re finally happy with it.

11. Throw in the towel and call 911

You get to the point when you’re so sick of your own work that you don’t even want to read it anymore. This is when it’s as good as you can make it on your own. This was the hardest moment for me when getting my first book ready to go.

Call for backup.

Now it’s time to send it off to beta readers and your editor to see what they think. Now is the moment you let go. Sure, there’s plenty of other work to do after you get feedback, but compared to what was already done, this should be a cakewalk. Either they’ll love it, or someone will finally call you out on your bullshit. Either way–this moment is both terrifying and exciting.

Keep tweaking it until it’s finally ready to go. High-five yourself and grab some coffee…you’re a writer now.

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day Six

30 day challengeAlmost a week deep in this challenge–so far, so good.

This one might be one of the harder ones to do.

What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?

‘What’s the hardest thing you have ever experienced?’ could mean several things. Physically it would definitely be my college football conditioning test my sophomore year. If it’s interpenetrated as your best accomplishment/hardest thing you’ve done, it would be graduating from Colorado School of Mines.

I think of it as the hardest single experience I’ve ever been through. It those terms it would be watching my Aunt die of A.L.S. I remember everything about that day: the long drive from Texas to Indiana, the bright and sunny day, the angle of my aunt’s left arm as she lay in her bed, motionless. Everything about that day is permanently etched in my brain. I loved my aunt very much–I’ll always miss my Aunt Denise AKA Aunt Neicey. Watching her last seconds broke my heart. It’s something I’ll never forget.

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day Four

30 day challengeThis blog challenge has been a blast so far. Is anyone reading? Not really, but I’m enjoying it. I suppose that’s all that matters.

**Update Deadly Colors is coming soon as an ebook. Just submitted to KDP. The print version will be done in a week or two**

This should be fun…

List 10 Things You Would Tell Your Sixteen Year Old Self If You Could

  1. Cut you cornrows off–like right now!
  2. Get some clothes that actually fit while you’re at it.
  3. Keep working hard on the football field. That’s the key that will open a chance at a higher education for you.
  4. But work just as hard in school–and pay attention or you won’t learn near as much as you could have. You’ll regret that.
  5. Get rid of Jackie [high school sweetheart], she’s not worth it.
  6. Turn off the T.V. and pick up a book every once in a while.
  7. Have confidence in yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
  8. Don’t try to be such a hard ass. Be yourself.
  9. Your true value in this world isn’t the numbers in your bank account. It’s what you can do for others.
  10. When someone is talking, shut up. Listen to others like your life depends on it. That’s the quickest way to get respect.