Writing Project, Title Unknown

I’ve started a new writing project. I’ve got three different names for it currently and I’m not sure which one suits it best. Here are some stats on it:

  • Title: Unknown
  • Word Count: 0 fiction / 1700 outline
  • Total Words: 1700
  • Deadline: March 30, 2016
  • Genre: Fantasy

I’m going to try writing daily and posting about my progress at least weekly.

Stress Relief

I’m working my way through some tough depression, stress, and anxiety. Right now, I have a lot of triggers: my career choice (thanks to my father), some OCD-type things, and a number of PTSD-related issues.

Usually, I get so wound up after getting triggered that I can’t do anything. I sit staring at a wall, not doing a thing. And that’s all I’m capable of.

To try to get past that, I’m focusing small, working on one thing at a time. The first thing I’m trying is to work on my career issues. The root of the issue is huge, but can be summed up as: my father wanted me in a technical career, which is where I am. While I enjoy what I do now, I had always planned on being a writer (novelist, journalist, etc.) and an editor.

One thing I’ve realized recently is that I’ve spent too long listening to that voice of my father saying, “Writing isn’t good enough.” And waiting for someone else to come along and tell me that it is good enough. Others have told me that writing is good, that I’m a good writer, but none of it has made a difference.

So I need to change myself. I can’t rely on others to do it for me.

Today, I spent some time getting my computers situated. Rather than going with a “simple” set up of having everything on one computer, I’ve now separated things out: I have one computer that is dedicated to my WordPress development work, and another that is devoted to writing and editing. My personal computer doesn’t have any of the data or apps I’d need for work, so it eliminates the usual temptation I have when I sit down to write to, instead, do something for work.

Now I can truly take a computer, with the tools I need, and sit down to write. I’ve dropped my social networking profiles, which has saved me a lot of time already. With this additional change, I feel good. I feel like I’ll get more writing done.

Hell, I’ve already written an almost 400-word blog post, which I normally don’t do.

Things That Bother Me When I Read A Book

So, I read a lot. Usually at least one or two books a week, unless I’m particularly busy at work, or stressed out with life.

Given that, there are a number of things that bother me when I try to start a new book. I’m going to spread these things out over multiple posts. So today, here’s my first thing: the line at which an author goes “to hell with the details of my world.”

To rewind a bit, I chiefly read science fiction and fantasy novels. Mostly fantasy, these days, unless I know the SF author well. In fantasy novels, I particularly enjoy an author who does really, really, really good world-building.

It seems as if there is currently a trend towards laziness in world-building, though. I picked up one book a night or two ago and read about five pages. I’m usually impressed with this author’s world-building. This time, I was impressed with the attention to detail, until we got to the religion.

The religion was Christianity with the names just barely changed. I was into the flow of the novel, the rhythm of the world — and then I was jolted straight out of it.

I immediately put the book aside and found a different one to read.

Not because I have a problem with religion, or Christianity (far from it, actually), but because this book is a fantasy novel, a Not Of This World story. I had suspended my beliefs to submit myself to the belief structure of the author’s world. The author had not led me to believe this was a post-apocalyptic fantasy (i.e. our Earth several thousand years in the future).

There are always little things that pester at me when I read a book. Spelling or grammar issues. Word choices that I don’t agree with. These are disturbances that I can usually ignore, if they aren’t too many or great, and generally follow the flow of the story. But something like this breaks the flow for me because so much attention and detail has gone into the rest of the world that it doesn’t make sense for the religion to be a semi-skewed photocopy of a real-world religion. Why not spend the time and create a brand new religion to go with the brand new world?

This has been happening more and more often, in my experience as a reader, and it’s a curious trend. I’d understand it if it were science fiction, as SF is a projection of what our world will become.

I’d also understand it if the story were cast as alternate history fantasy or such. Maybe this is a trend I’m missing?

In any case, that’s today’s thought from me to you on the things I read.

Taking the Bull by the Horns Might Get You Gored

But sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.

I’ve been on the fence about writing for awhile now. Lots of backstory (read: I have issues, some of the same as any writer (Dad says writing “isn’t a career” and was generally unsupportive), some that go a bit  deeper into the psyche).

In any case, I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection and work with a therapist over the last several years. Finally, I’m at a point where I can handle all the voices in my head well enough to tell them to take a hike.

I’m lining up some writing projects for myself:

  • A couple of articles for WordPress developers (likely applicable to generalists too). One on project management, one on an undecided topic.
  • A couple of book reviews (one on the first two books of Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series, another on an ARC of Jon Sprunk’s new book).
  • A short story that’s been burbling in my head off and on for four years. Writing and sending it as my application to Viable Paradise.
  • General writing goal of doing some writing every day.

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

The magazine I volunteer for, Strange Horizons, is running an annual fund drive right now. Details:

This year’s fund drive is underway! We’re aiming to raise $11,000 to fund the next year of Strange Horizons. You can read more and donate here, see the list of donor prizes here and read bonus content as it is published here. We just published Maureen Kincaid Speller’s review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho. Help us get to $3,000 to read our next piece of bonus content: “Teffeu: From a Library at Taarona”, a new story by Rose Lemberg, with podcast reading by Anaea Lay!

Please, go donate now and spread the word! You can see our progress below, or on the Strange Horizons site.

Maintaining an Active Blog

What’s the trick behind maintaining an active blog?

Writing.

I have a hard time with this for a number of reasons. Rather than going into that, here’s my plan for getting this blog off the ground and giving it fresh content daily.

  1. Book reviews – I’m volunteering with Strange Horizons as a web master and US contact manager. I get to see a number of the upcoming releases, and potentially read/review some of them. I also read a lot on my own (eight to ten books a month, usually). Rather than just reading and shelving the books, I’m going to start writing my thoughts of them down here to share.
  2. WordPress goodies – I’m a WordPress developer by trade and have a lot of nuggets packed away in my head. I’m an autodidact, so I have a lot to share with how I got from being a run-of-the-mill English major to a software developer at a leading start-up company, Automattic.
  3. Personal writing – I’m college-trained as a writer and editor, and have rarely used the skills, despite it being a large part of my self-identity. I’m going to start going through my writing archives, pulling and re-writing pieces, and posting them here. I’d also like to get involved more with editing, so if anyone reading this has opportunities (doesn’t have to be paid), please contact me via the Contact link.

Three steps. The last key ingredient for this to work is to write every day. No matter what it is or how long it is, I must publish something here every day.

It’s A New Year

As I look back over the last year or so, there are a lot of things that stand out to me.

My oldest daughter turned 4 in December; my youngest turned 1 in September. This is unbelievable to me because I don’t know where all the time went and I don’t want them to grow up so fast. Every moment (aside from the tantrums/screaming (okay, even those moments, as painful as they are)) is a precious moment to me. I don’t want to miss anything with my girls and I feel like I’ve already missed a collective 5 years.

I’ve traveled close to or sightly more than 50,000 miles in the last year, which, when compared to how much of a homebody I was before joining Automattic, is a major achievement unto itself. Even with this many miles under my belt, every time I think about and start planning a trip away from home I get butterflies in my stomach. I don’t like leaving the girls behind; I’d like nothing more than to bring them with me, though I know I wouldn’t see them because I’d be working with my team.

I also realize this marks three years or so of being disconnected from my family. Through the therapy I’ve been in and the disconnection, I’ve solved a lot of emotional blocks I’ve had for years and grown a lot as a person. There was a lot of fear and personal stigma that was holding me back before that, now, with a lot of help from a lot of people around me, I’m finally overcoming. It feels great to be coming into my own, so to speak, and finding my footing in the world.

There’s a lot going on at work that has me excited for the future, and I’m getting started on my writing again, which makes me very happy!

Random Tidbit: New music: Mumford and Sons, Flogging Molly

A Writing Tip

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do is write more every day. I’ve tried blogging, but that can be cumbersomely public. I’ve tried journaling by hand, but medical issues prevent that day-to-day. But, I did find something that, for the last couple of days, seems to have helped increase my writing productivity.

Months ago, one of my coworkers mentioned 750words.com to me. I didn’t give it a try then, because I still had it in mind that I wanted to keep everything on my blog, if I was going to do something online. Fast forward to now, and I’ve come to realize that I need to do something and I don’t like to have to remember to mark entries as private, nor do I want to take the chance that something will slip through the cracks. Better to have everything separate.

So the idea behind 750words is simple: it is just simple, private, unfiltered journaling on a private site, every day. You can see who else is writing, but not WHAT they are writing. There are monthly challenges, badges, daily points, and other encouragements to keep you posting every day.

I’m only two days in, but I’m already liking the concept and can see myself sticking with it for awhile. You should give it a shot, too.

Tim, On Writing

One of the most common questions out there for writers (and I’m as guilty of anyone of asking it) is, “How do you get published?” It comes in many forms: how to break-in to the business, what is the best genre to write in or the best story to tell, etc.

None of that really matters, though.

Why?

Because you aren’t writing, that’s why.

This is a hard and painful truth, especially for me. I call myself a writer and a storyteller. I consider myself one and have since I was a kid. But the hard and fast truth is that I don’t put ass in chair and write often enough to “break into the business” or “get published.”

I daydream a lot, write myself notes, scribble story ideas here and there, and generally have some fun with the idea of being a “real storyteller” someday. I read a lot of books, enjoy the stories, and find things in them that I would like to be able to replicate, or do better, or just know that I’ll never be able to do.

If I want to get published, I know that I need to put time into the words. Like I’m doing now. Any type of writing, even random posts like this, is good. Getting words from brain, to hands, to keyboard or paper, is good. It is a creative act. The more I do it, the better I will get, and the closer I will get to the dream I’ve had since I first picked up a book: becoming a published storyteller.

So, if you are like me and want to get published, stop reading this, and go write something of your own.

The Art of Overbuilding

Have you ever noticed how we humans have a tendency to overbuild and focus in the wrong areas? Go look at the speedometer in your car. If you have an average car, it’ll probably have a maximum number of 120 or 140 mph. Now think about how fast the typical speed limit is in your average daily commute. I bet you rarely, legally, get above 75mph. Do you feel safe driving much faster than that? I used to think I could drive safely at high speed, but I don’t anymore. And I’ve only once ever gotten a car up to its speedometer’s maximum speed…

This is the Art of Overbuilding. Rather than focusing on better fuel efficiency or more environmentally conscious engines, our focus has been on Making It Go Faster. Fast is good, I suppose; it makes the adrenaline pump, which makes us feel good for a bit. But there is no “need for speed.” We make speed limit laws and spend countless police force hours and tax dollars enforcing those laws. Lives are horribly altered or lost because of this Making It Go Faster principle.

Everything should be held in balance. We’ve gone over the deep end with the speed of our vehicles. I believe that some speed was and is need; it is reasonable to have vehicles going 60 to 80 mph in ideal circumstances. I don’t think it is ever going to be reasonable to allow a human to drive faster than that because, just like with alcohol consumption, human reflexes aren’t capable of managing.

The current focus in the automotive industry is fuel efficiency, which is nice. But again, I hope it doesn’t turn into another Art of Overbuilding exercise.

I can see other examples in software, fiction and non-fiction writing, and education. How do you see the Art of Overbuilding applying in other areas?