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.”

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.

30 Day Blogging Challange: Week 3

Three weeks in and the 30 day blogging challenge is going pretty good.  I guess I’ve started the home stretch, and it’s starting to strain my stamina. The everyday grind is something that I was both under and over estimate.  Coming up with concepts for each night is becoming more difficult, but it’s becoming easier to sit down each night and start writing.  That is the exact opposite of how I thought all this was going to go.

The hardest part of writing for me has always been sitting down to write.  Once I get in the chair I’m usually okay, but starting writing has always been a problem.  But not for the last two weeks.  It’s been getting easy and easier to just start writing.  I guess that’s because I have a separate desktop that I use only for writing.  (On Macs you can have more than one desktop and switch between them.  It’s a great productivity tool.)  That way I can just sit down and start writing because I’m in my “writing space.”  That I and I give myself permission to just write anything and throw out what I don’t like.  I do that with fiction writing as well, but it seems more real to me when I’m blogging.  Not sure what that is.

I also write a hell of lot faster when I’m blogging.  Normally I’m so slow when I’m writing fiction, but I just fly on a blog post.  Sometimes about four times as fast.

So this week presented itself with a unique challenge that I was wondering when it would show up: I was at a party and drunk when it came time to post.  I was actually going to let myself slip past my deadline by a few hours but my friend were very supportive and convinced me to write the post on my iPhone.  Something I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while now.  The post turned out okay, even if it was a little raw.  Strictly speaking I was a few words under my minimum of 300 words, but since I didn’t have a word counter on the phone and I’ve been a few words over my maximum of 600 on some other posts, I’m going to count it.

I only have week and two days left until the end of the challenge.  Luckily the holidays are coming up and I’ve taken a few days off which should give me more than enough time to work on some really good ending posts.

Stay tuned.

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Week 2

It’s the second week of my blogging challenge and how am I doing?  Well, I haven’t quite yet, but I still haven’t wrote a post ahead so I’m always working on my posts about two hours before the midnight deadline.  I guess I haven’t talked about that before.  Another rule to this blogging challenge that I set myself is that I have to have the blog posted before midnight for the post to count for that day.  This keeps me for putting it off and putting it off until this three in the morning on a work day and I just give myself permission to go to bed.

I’ve been down this road with these kinds of self challenges before so I know all of my sneaky tricks that I use to get out of them.  It sounds like I don’t like writing doesn’t it?  Like if I was so in love with this, why don’t I just easy bang out thousands of words at a go?  Why all the games?

Because writing is hard.  That is why I love it, but to do it well takes a lot of effort.  You have to dig within yourself and find the Good Stuff that buried within a lot of just Okay Stuff.  It’s not always the most fun process.  Cupled with the fact that writing when you aren’t getting paid for it requires creating a habit within yourself.  I have been very, very bad at this.  Even in college when I was writing the most, I only did it a few days a month.  And I still managed to write over 20 short stories in just a few years.

But the writing has been easy for the last few weeks.  And something happened to me this week that should make things a lot easier: I got new glasses.  Normally that shouldn’t impact writing but I haven’t had new glasses in about six years.  In that time, my old ones had been screeched to hell and back, so it would get a little annoying to write at the computer for  long periods of time.  I could just focus on what I was doing and ignore the scratches but after a while It would get to me.  More the fact that I hadn’t gotten around to fixing the damn things than my eyes, but both were in play.

As far as the other things I’ve been doing aside from just writing, adding the blog to StumbleUpon was one of the best things I could have done.  My added readership has just about doubled, so if you have a blog, I highly recommend it.  Look forward to me trying more things with the blog.  I’m going to try finding some free pictures to add to posts so that they pop a little more. And I’m probably going to connect the blog to Google plus at the very least.

The challenge is going well so far.  I’m at the halfway point so I think I might be able to do this one.

Is Self-Publishing Worth It?

Self-publishing intrigues me.  As someone who has had their nose pressed up against the publishing industry since there early twenties, the idea that I could just put something out there without asking any editor or publishing house for permission is a very tantalizing prospect.  One thing that you can attribute to the Internet is that it has nocked down any barrier between the people who want to read content and the people who want to make content.

There have been many times where I have thought, “Screw rejection letters.  I’m just going to publish my own book.”

Back in the early 00’s the self-publishing industry – also known as print on demand – was still in its infancy.  You could do it, but it was kind of career suicide.  Espeically if you were like me and haven’t been published through “traditional” means before.  So I did what I was supposed to do and sent out short stories to publishers even as websites and blogs cut the guts out of print media.

(Oh and as an aside, I don’t hold to the standard wisdom that the print is dead.  People still like books as physical objects.  They’ve been around for thousands of years, one decade isn’t going to make them extinct. They may one day go away but not in the fabled “soon” that a lot of tech journalists would lead you to believe.)

And because there were less print markets, there were less slots for stories, and I got rejected more.  Does this mean that my stuff doesn’t still need work? Oh god no.  But the playing field is being stacked against me and after writing so much, it would be nice to see someone say, “You are good enough.”

That leads me to why I haven’t pulled the trigger on self-publishing my fiction.  I still feel like I need the approval, or at the least the help and guidance of a publisher.  Sure I could self-publish on Amazon and have my stuff given most of the same chances as a lot of the other things on Amazon, but I would still be alone in figuring all that stuff out and advertising the thing.

I might not ever self-publish a novel but as the technology gets cooler and cooler and the stigma of self-publishing goes away, I might throw out some short stories out into the world and see what they are worth.  I’m not going to get rich off them, but I might get what I would from some random short story publisher.

If nothing else, it might be a interesting story to tell on here.  Stay tuned.

30 Blogging Challenge: Week 1

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The above is an app is called Goal Streaks and I use to keep track things that I want to do regularly.  Each day I write or post, I click the day and get a little X.  It sounds silly but it keeps me writing.  You’ll notice that with today’s post, I will have written a posted to this blog for seven consecutive days.

Since this is the end of my first week of posting, I thought I would do a little write up on how I’ve been doing so far with the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.  It started out pretty easy, I had about two posts in my head and I was sandbagging by writing a day ahead of when I would publish.  I’ve subsequently lost that lead by getting writer’s block in the middle of a post and having wait until the next day to get over it.

So right now, I’m writing this post on the day I’m going to publish it, but I have a few hours until I have to go try out a new coffee shop, so I’ll try to recapture that lead or at the very least clean up my damn desk which is covered in clutter.

One thing I didn’t count on was how long the posts were going to be.  My range for a post to count on this blog was between 300 – 600 words.  I figured that the average was going to be in the low three hundreds because  I would be struggling for something to say.  In fact I average around 530 for a post.  Maybe that means I take way to damn long to get to my point, but I think it means that I’m getting back into my pure love of writing.

In the If-It-Was-a-Snake-It-Would-Have-Bit-Me Department: the day after a published the post with my intent to do my 30 Day Blogging Challenge, I find that there of course is an official November blogging challenge called NaBloPoMo – or National Blog Posting Month.  I didn’t actually sign up for it because I had missed the dead line by one day.  Such is life.  It hasn’t seemed to’ve stopped me though.

The weekend was kind of rough with me coming in about 20 minutes before midnight both nights.  So that’s something that I have to be aware of for next week because I’m probably not going to be any more motivated next weekend than I was the last.  I’m really going to have to make a concerted effort to regain my day lead time.

Now that I have a little bit of a body of work on here, I’ve started experimenting with the blogging medium itself.  Last night I registered the blog with the social media site StumbleUpon.  I’ve gotten more traffic to this blog in one day then I have in its entire life.  So if you are here from StumbleUpon, thanks for visiting and feel free to come back.  If you’re a regular visitor to the site, you’ll notice that I keep changing the layout.  I’m still trying to find something that I really like.  I can’t currently edit the CSS of the site, but I’m going to start playing with that on my development computer and if I come up with something good, you see it soon.

I think that about covers it for now.  I’m going to mess with some stuff on the back end of the site and try to do some more writing on other posts.  I think this challenge is going well so far, so I can honestly say this: I’ll see you tomorrow.