30 Day Blogging Challenge Wrap Up

The 30 Day Blogging Challenge is over and I’m pleased to say that I did make a post to this blog every day for 30 days.  The thing that I found the most surprising was how easy it was to write and post every day.  The first two weeks were hard to just sit down but after that, I wanted to write every day.

I’ve taken about three days off and I can really feel the itch to keep posting on this site, which is great.  I have always loved the idea of blogging ever since I stumbled upon the concept in 2003.  Yeah, I’ve been blogging on and off for over ten years and this is the first time that I feel like I really have something to say on the constant basis.  I really do think I will keep posting on this blog and writing about all the strange projects that I’m working on or the thoughts that I’m having that day.

And now some metrics

So how much did I really write?  I added up the word counts of all my posts and found that I wrote 15,487 words over the course of the challenge.  That gives me an average of 516 words, which was higher then when I calculated the average I wanted to hit over the course of the challenge.  (That was 450 words.)

The shortest post that I did was Drunken Phone Typing coming in at 212 words.  Even though it came in below my minimum of 300 words, I’m still going to count it because I wrote it on my phone which didn’t have a word count.  I had to guess when I was done and I guessed wrong.

The longest post was The Burrito Must Die, which came in at 776 words.  Apparently, more than any other topic, I have the most to say about burritos.

What did you win

In the post where I announced this challenge, I said that I should pick a prize to give myself if I completed it.  I couldn’t think of one at the time but I have two that I’m going to give myself.  First, I finally bought Skyrim for the Xbox.  I figure since I was good all month doing writing that I can give some of my free time to a time sink like that game.  I have an old save on my Xbox from when a friend lent me the game so it’s nice to pick up where I left off even if I can’t remember what the hell I was doing before my eight month break in playing.

The other thing I’m going to give myself is some desicresionary spending money for URL’s and web hosting.  I’d like to give this blog an actual URL and some solid web hosting.  With my podcast, I have web hosting but I’m looking at moving.  Keeping up with a WordPress install is a pain in the ass and my current hosting company is going to jump up a cost in January, so I’m going to shop around.  I’m currently looking at SquareSpace.  While they are more expensive than other hosting solutions, they take care of updating the content management software, which is worth its weight in gold for me.

Yes, I am a geek and I love to tinker, but I like that to be a choice and not a chore that I have to take care of all the time.  Nobody wants to sit down to write and then have to configure something.  I just need stuff to work.

What now

Now that the challenge is over look forward to most and different posts from me.  The word limit and 12 pm time limit where constraints that forced my posts over the last month into a certain shape.  I’d like to do more shorter posts and well as some long more well thought out posts. These are not things I could really do when I have to hit one post every day at at least 300 words.

Would I do the challenge again?  You bet your ass.  I’m going to do it again next November.  In fact, you might see me do other challenges that don’t just relate to writing.  I’ve been thinking about do some project challenge to help me learn some new skills.

So the ultimate take away from this challenge would be that if there is something that you would like to be doing, then this month give yourself the mandate to do it every day for 30 days because that is the amount of time it will take to turn whatever you want to do into a habit.  It’ll be hard but as the band Flogging Molly once said, “Nothing ever came from a life that was a simple one.”

Mythology, Cthulhu, and You

One of my favorite things in the world that I don’t talk about enough is mythology.  When most people hear that word they think of the Greek myths.  Of Zeus.  Of Hera.  Of Kevin Sorbo.

Not me.  Especially that last bit.  While I love Greek metrology, I am more enamored by the human mind’s ability to take the world around it and create myth.  That’s not just the wind, a god is blowing because if they don’t the world will end.

When I first heard the concept as a child, I was blown away by it.  It, of course, was in conjunction with the Greek and Roman myth.  Here were two groups of people who fought, and died, and created empires over something that we now know isn’t true.  There is no god of thunder.  The wind does not blow because a god wants it.  But that didn’t matter to the Greeks and it didn’t matter the Romans.  It was true to them.

I don’t want you to get me wrong, I don’t think they were stupid.  This fiction helped to explain the world around them.  That’s a great thing, there has got to be things that I believe that future generations will know are wrong, so if the Greeks wanted to believe in something awesome like a woman can be born full formed out of a dude’s head then who am I to judge.  I live the in same hard world they did.  As long as it doesn’t hurt other people, do what you want to get through the day.

Once I new about the Greeks and the Romans, I wanted more.  But it had to be something contemporary.  I was into conspiracy theories for a while.  I loved hearing what some people what the “truth” behind Roswell and JFK.  It’s American folklore at its best.  It also didn’t hurt that while I was getting into conspiracy theories that the X-files was the biggest show in the country.  Nowadays, they don’t seem as fun as they used to.

Another really good mythology is the Cthulhu Mythos from H.P. Lovecraft. To be honest, his writing isn’t the greatest and I’m not the biggest fan of horror fiction, but he plays with the best ideas.

And at the end of the day, that’s all mythology is: the exchange of ideas.

In fact, Lovecraft knew he was onto something by creating his own mythology so he got other writers to add to it.  He open sourced his pantheon.  And he did it back in the 30’s.

A lot of others have followed in his foot steps.  We have mythology all around us now.  That’s about all science fiction and fantasy are.  We have Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings.  Super Heroes rule the box office now.

Basically what I’m saying is: if you are into mythology, it’s a good time to be alive.

13 Practical Fiction Writing Tips

A while back a friend of mine asked me for some advice on writing fiction.  I have a degree in creative writing, so I’ve done a lot of writing as well as reading a ton of books on the subject.

Most books on writing will give you a lot of floaty advice about “finding the story on the page” or give you a lot a definitions of writing terms like “theme” or “tone.”  While these are good ideas, they were never very helpful to me.

After all the writing I’ve done, here is some practical advice for someone who is trying to be a writer.  A lot of this is from personal experience, some of this is from books I’ve read.  I’ll try to site the person I’ve got some of this off of when it’s not mine.

  • Get a dry-erase board or a wall calendar.  When you write, mark and “X” for that day.  After three days, you’ll have a chain.  Your job is not to break the chain. –Jerry Seinfeld
  • Once you are done writing for the day, stop in the middle of a sentence.  On the next day, it will force you to get back into the head-space you left.-Some book on writing I can’t remember.
  • You should write notes in a system that you trust.  You may not feel like they count as “real writing,” but you wouldn’t let an architect build you a house without a plan, why should you expect that from an artist.
  • Get a library card.  The rate that you should be reading should necessitate this or you’ll go broke.  If you don’t read enough to get to this point, stop writing until you are.
  • Every time you use “this,” “that,” “just,” or “well” God cries.  Remove them from your drafts whenever you can.
  • Never revise until you have finished a draft.  If you go back and fix what you wrote the day before, you will never get to what you need to work on today.
  • Your second draft is your first draft minus ten percent. –Steven King
  • Every character in every scene must want something.  I don’t care if it’s to get out of the room.  If they don’t want something, they aren’t characters.
  • Once you have finished a draft, put it away for a at least a few weeks before working on it again.  It’s the only way to look at it in the cold light of day. –Steven King
  • Leave out the part everyone skips.  Nobody skips dialogue. –Elmore Leonard
  • Make a list of all the words you like.  This can be for any reason.  Words are the only things we have.  Collect the good ones.
  • Start or become part of a writer’s group. Talking about writing is great and having someone to look over your stuff is even better.  Also, make sure there is always lots of food at the meetings or the group will fall apart.
  • Metaphors and theme are fine, but if you don’t have a well plotted story, you’re just preaching.  Plot is story.

The best part about writing is finding all the little tricks that work.  These are the ones that work for me.  Feel free to share yours.

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Week 4

I only have two days left of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge, so I thought I would check in.  I didn’t get much writing done over my Staycation, but I will say that I liked the quality of posts that came out of this week.  It’s getting to the end of the challenge and I’m just now learning how to do this.

As I said at my check in last week,  it’s getting so much easier to just sit down and write something.  The plan after this challenge is to try and work on a novella that I have been kicking around for about a year now.  We’ll see how well I do after I’m no longer posting the days work for everyone to see, but I’m optimistic.

As for the other goals on my Staycation, I really didn’t get the media server off the ground.  That might be a project for this week.  I do have a script that can set up a desktop computer for me, so that’s nice but I don’t have much worked out for a server.  There’s really not a lot of work to do in setting up what I want to set up, you just have to sit down and do it.  All the research is pretty much done.

I did start work on my first paper craft project.  It’s a model of Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan.  The site I got it off of said it was an easy project, but I underestimated what learning this new skill was going to be like.  You would think that cutting something out and folding it together would be relatively easy, but I don’t think I have the best paper and I know I don’t have the hobby knife that I really need to do this justice.  So it’s been a rough go of it.
Today is the 28th day in a row that I have written.  I know this because I have an app on my phone that I keep track of this with.  That app also tells me that this streak is tied with a chain I did last year.  That chain was the longest I had ever gone with writing every day.  That means that if I write tomorrow, I will have written more times in a row than I have in my entire life.

See you tomorrow.

Why Your Collection of Action Figures Is Bigger Than My Collection

Remember a few posts back where I outlined all the things that I’d do on my Staycation?  Did I do any of those things?  Not really, but I did watch all of the IT Crowd.

If you don’t know, the IT Crowd was a british sitcom about an IT department at a large, faceless corporation.  Most of the humor doesn’t actually come from geeky, computer in-jokes, but from the interpersonal relationships with the characters.  It’s really funny and it has some of the funniest comic acting I have ever seen.

Future Josh is going to put out a point detailing the network environment of the IT Crowd, so look forward to that, but in this post I wanted to talk about the set used on the show.  I’m sure a lot has been said about it, but I wanted to have my say because it is pretty fantastic.

While the dialogue on the show is not littered with geek in-jokes and references, the main set is.  It’s full of old computers, EFF stickers, action figures, table top board games, and posters.  Hell, there’s even a poster from the web comic XKCD.

The set is really cool and some place that I would love to live, and that got me thinking about the place I actually live.  It looks nothing like that.  That’s not to say my place doesn’t look nice, it does but it’s not a patchwork quillt of nerd culture.  Let me say this better, I do have quite the collection of comics and sci-fi novels, as well as comic art, but’s not shown off very well.  The bookcases are very muted and don’t show off the few art books that I have.  In fact, my personal collection doesn’t really have much in the way of art.  If it doesn’t have a narrative, that is to say if it’s not a comic, book, or movie, I don’t have a lot of it.  I don’t have a lot of action figures, or art books, or movie props, or art pieces.

I don’t have a lot of what I would call “static art.”  Things that are just made to be looked at in and of themselves.  This isn’t really a personal choice.  I’d like to have a lot of that stuff around me for visual stimulation, I just don’t seem to have a lot of it.  I guess that’s because most of it costs so damn much and you really have to know how to show it off or it’s just clutter.

I’m playing with bringing more of this sort of thing into my life.  I’ve been playing with paper craft and I have a few statues that are pretty cheap.  (I just can’t bring myself to drop $400 on a bust of Batman.)

I’ve always wanted a collection of interesting objects to show off.  Something to let people know who I am and what I’ve done.  I always figured I have something like that by now, but my life has only recently moved into a shape that could accommodate something like that.

Time will tell what my living room looks like in a years time.  Who knows, it might end up looking like the show playing in it.

All My Favoriate Writers Write While Smashed and Why I Can’t

So Hunter S. Thompson, and an entire generation of writers before him, used to write completely smashed.  And not just on alcohol.  My book shelf is littered with books written while high.  I have written pretty concistanly since I was 14 years old and I have to say that I have no idea how the hell they did it.

I’ve written about once a little tipsy and it was a trail of biblical proportions.  All writing, even fiction, is stringing together an argument.  Be it, “you should believe this,” or “you should feel this way about this character,” it’s all an argument. I have no idea how all the writers I admire where able to produce the works that they did while bombed out of their minds.

Bill Mare has a quote, “I don’t mind drugs, they’ve never hurt my record collection.”  The implication being that all the musicians that he likes where able to produce the works they did because they were high or drunk.  He put this quote to Steven King on one of his shows.  Now anyone who has ever read “On Writing” will tell you and Steven King was a functioning alcoholic and a coke addict.  Steven’s reaction was that drugs had a negative effect on his record collection because they kill most of the musicians that he liked.

I have to say that I agree with King on this.  I was one of the biggest Sublime fans you have ever seen and I feel like they could have had a lot more albums if the lead singer hadn’t over dosed on heroin.

I have no idea how my favorite writers where able to write while drunk or stoned on mushrooms, and to be honest with you, I don’t want to know.  I’m really not sure how they were able to produce great works while under the influence. But I really like writing, I would want to retain the memory.