New Writing Goal

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nh131-45e45686-fdf8-4fd8-bdfd-a4b90f35293c-v2I’m officially announcing a new writing goal — to enter the Writers of the Future contest every quarter, beginning with the most recent one, until I either win or pro out.

To this end, I have two immediate goals. The first is to actually write a short story this month, since the current quarter ends on June 30. The second is to read every story in the five most recent Writers of the Future volumes.

The writing is the easy part for me. What’s always been difficult is reading short fiction in anthologies and magazines. That makes sense, though, when you think about it. By their very nature, anthologies and magazines offer stories by a variety of authors, and about the only thing these stories have in common is the fact they were selected by a particular editor for a particular venue. There’s a lot of room for a lot of different kinds of story, some of which won’t be to my taste. Which means … I always feel like I’m cheating when I start skipping more than two or three stories I don’t like. So in generally, I stick to collections by favorite short story writers: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, and Orson Scott Card, just to name a few. I don’t necessarily like everything these writers have written, but I like almost every story in their collections.

But I’m going to force myself to read and analyze every story in the most recent WOTF volumes. Those I love, I’ll enjoy and then analyze, and those I don’t like, I’ll try to figure out what it is I don’t like. Not what the writers did wrong. Because they did nothing wrong. They won the contest, by gum. But knowing what I don’t like about a story can help me understand what I do like … and, consequently, help me understand how to be a better writer.

Basic (Dungeons & Dragons) Fantasy RPG

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Next week, I’ll start leading my kids through the old Basic D&D module that came with the old blue-boxed Expert Set, The Isle of Dread. 

A few months ago we finished one of my all-time favorite adventures, The Keep on the Borderland.

Time will tell how my kids do with an outdoor adventure.

One thing I’d like to do with The Isle of Dread is to give it a better story. Borderlands is great, but it feels too much like a video game, moving from cavern to cavern, clearing out the monsters.

For Dread, I’m not going to invest too much time into creating a story line. I’m just going to make it up as I go, but there will be an overall goal to the adventure, not just tromping across mountains and through jungles all in the pursuit of gold.

To prepare for this adventure, I’ve been “updating” it to match the rules laid out in the Basic Fantasy RPG

sitecoverFor the most part, the merging of Basic D&D to Basic Fantasy is pretty seamless. The two big changes are 1) to make the old armor class system and transform to d20 rules and 2) to update the experience points, which are higher in Basic Fantasy, but then, treasure doesn’t go toward experience.

I’ll be the first to admit: D&D is Dad’s thing, but my kids are interested in playing … provided we play every other week. Any more than that, they get bored. And, frankly, so do I.

D&D is at its best when you’re gaming with good friends — that is, people of your maturity level. Only then is it possible to game for hours on end, day after day. Like I did a few summers of my youth.

My kids often rush in where angels would dare to tread, and they lack the attention necessary to take on some of the puzzles that makes D&D fun for adults. And I suppose, when I was their age, I just wanted to hack-and-slash my way through an adventure, too.

Still, it’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to see their expression when they encounter their first dinosaur.

Writing Out Of Order

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Does a novel need to be written in order, from the first page to the last?

I used to think so … and maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve had trouble writing novels in the past. But unless you’re a very detailed outliner, is it really possible to write a book “in order”?

I suppose we should ask: What does “writing in order” mean?

I’m not like Kris Rusch, who, I believe, writes the scenes that come to her, as they come to her, and later figures out the story’s beginning, middle, and end, filling in the gaps as she smooths the out the tale. Rather, I’m more like Brandon Sanderson, in that I write in a viewpoint until I get to the part of the story where what the other characters have been doing become absolutely necessary to know, and then I switch viewpoints, go back in story time, and write those scenes.

Dean Wesley Smith told me this is cycle writing at its best.

(Of course, I’ve never sat down with either Kris or Brandon and talked extensively about their process; what I said above is based only on what I know of their process via blog posts and interviews.)

While I’m not convinced I’m a full-fledged “discovery” writer like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, or George R.R. Martin, accepting that writing out of order is a valid way to go about the telling of tales is liberating.

It means … I don’t have to know everything before I start writing.

It means … I can really have a “guy with a gun” walk into a scene when things are slow, because I can always go back and layer in his story later.

It means … I can focus on the viewpoint(s) I find most fascinating (the hero’s!) and worry about writing other viewpoints when necessary.

I realized that these alternate and necessary viewpoints are fun to write — once I start writing them. But they’re dependent on the main story line, and it seems I can only write them when I have certain narrative goals in mind.

84 Books and Counting

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That’s how many writing books I have, both in print and on the Kindle. Wow … a staggering number.

Next series of question: How many have I read?

I dunno.

Fewer than half?

Yes.

Fewer than a third?

I think.

Fewer than a quarter?

Hmm … maybe.

At any rate, I figure if I take the time to read all of these books (and reread the ones I’ve already read) — and if I keep a writing journal – and if I maintain a regular writing schedule – and if I keep on reading novels and short fiction for pleasure – it all boils down to time.

Time to learn. Time to write. Time to grow as a writer. Time for my short fiction to circulate through the markets. Time for readers to find my work.

In the writing game, patience is needed.

Much patience.