Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing Prompt #94

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You awaken into the world of your favorite novel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

In his book, No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty (a founding member of National Novel Writing Month, often known as NaNoWriMo) makes it his entire goal to get the reader excited about writing a book, from a measly idea to an entire 50,000 word first draft, in one month. He uses personal experience, both his own and other NaNoWriMo "winners," to show that this crazy endeavor is entirely possible. And at the end, the reader is going to be so jazzed about this prospect that they're not going to want to wait for November, but are going to want to start the writing month as soon as possible.

At least that was my reaction when I finished the book.

Mr. Baty does an excellent job in both describing why writing a book in 30 days is a hard, labor-intensive process, but is also quite a good way to get the thing done. So many people say they are going to write a novel someday, but they never get around to it. If one takes a 30 or 31-day block (he suggests starting at the beginning of any month) and simply gets started writing, that someday will turn into now. He also explains the benefits of the process itself, and how it can make for better prose. He truly believes that writing a first draft of 50,000 words is the best writing process there is.

Throughout the book, Mr. Baty gives plenty of advice. He goes over what should be done by the writer leading up to the month-long marathon. He gives tips on what each week should entail, as well as outlining the likely moods the writer will feel throughout the process. He talks about what happens when the month is over. He hands out advice on where to find characters, plot, setting, and other basic building blocks of a successful novel. And he gives an abundance of support and enthusiasm, which can be quite catching.

I found myself caught up in this 30-day plan. I've attempted to write books without an outline, and it has never ended well. But Mr. Baty's plan was infectious. I just hadn't tried hard enough, and this time I would not only complete a first draft without an outline, but I'd also do it in a month. That was the plan, but it didn't last a week. I simply couldn't get the words on the page without an outline. So while I abandoned my personal 30-day attempt, I still view this book as a success. I plan to try again, but this time with an outline beforehand. Even if you goal isn't to be a NaNoWriMo winner, there are plenty of tips about motivation and getting words on the page fast to warrant any writer to give this book a look. Give it a read, and I dare you not to be excited about giving a first draft in a month a go yourself.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

#FridayFlash--The Funeral

The Funeral
by Eric J. Krause

"Priscilla Peabody lived a full life. She brought joy, not only to those of us in this family, but to everyone whose life she touched. She will be missed the world over.

"I remember the first time we met. Neither of us said a word. We didn't have to. We shared a bond right from the beginning. I saved her from a life of retail and neglect so she could live in luxury amongst treasure and all she could eat.

"As we say our final farewell, I hope everyone truly understands how special she, Priscilla Peabody, was. She will be missed. Each and every day. For as long as the world turns."

"C'mon, Dad, it's just a stupid fish. Flush it already so we can get on with our lives. Why do you have to make a ceremony out of everything?"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Reviews: Writing Books

Last month I wrote a book review of Page After Page by Heather Sellers. I received a few comments of thanks because it's so hard to know exactly how practical or helpful writing books actually will be. They all seem like they will be the best book to help forward a writer's craft, but far too often they end up disappointing. That's why I want to review more writing books. I plan on having a review next week for the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, one of the founders of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I also have a few other books on my shelf waiting to be read and reviewed. Hopefully these will help some of you decide if you'd like to give these books a shot.

So why this post? I'm glad you asked. I have a question for you fine writers. Are there any writing books you'd like me to review? I'm not promising anything (depends on my available funds and such considerations), but if the books you request look like one that might help me, too, I will gladly buy it, read it, and report on it. As I said, I already have a few I plan on reviewing, so hopefully those will help, too. So let's have 'em in the comments, folks! What writing books would you like to see me review?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Writing Prompt #93

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

There's a new app available that lets you control minds.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This Week: Back and Forward (6)

Didn't hit my 5000 words (missed by a couple hundred), but that's okay for this week because I finished the first draft of my middle grade time travel book. After I finished it, instead of jumping right into something else and writing, I took some time to do a little plotting for future projects. Doesn't show up in the current word count, but it's productive nonetheless, so I'm fine with what I did this week. I did start working on a manuscript I abandoned last summer, though, so I'll be writing plenty in the coming weeks. I wasn't happy where that one was going, but I figured out a way to fix it so I'm excited about the story again. If I don't hit 5K this week, I'll be upset with myself, but that should be no problem.

Monday will have a new Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt. Wednesday will be a new blog post. As with last week, I have no idea what it'll be yet, but no worries--it'll get done. I'll have a Friday Flash this week, so look for that late Thursday night. Other than that, I'll be working on the draft I restarted, so I'm sure I'll have a productive week. I hope everyone else has a productive week as well! Happy writing!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pandora Internet Radio

I know I'm late to the party on this one as people have been using Pandora Internet Radio for years. I recently discovered this, and I want to make sure those who don't know about it, or haven't given it a shot yet, are at least familiar with it. Pandora is a free service that lets you listen to some great on the Internet or on an app on various mobile devices. Since many of us writers love to listen to music while we write or edit, and we often have our computers out anyway (or, like me, your iPod on a wifi connection), why not take advantage of this? If you're already aware of this service, then there's not much in this post for you--though I do have a couple of cool heavy metal songs that will appeal to horror writers at the end of this post. If you've never heard of Pandora, or you've heard of it but never checked it out, I'll give you a brief overview.

As I said, the service is free. There are short ads every few songs, but that's it. Fifteen to thirty seconds later you're back into your music. That's much better than the two or three minutes of commercials you're forced to listen to on the local FM stations. And you can listen to pretty much any type of music. Simply type in an artist's name or the name of a song, and Pandora will create a station filled with songs that are like what you typed in. You can't choose what songs you're going to hear, but in my opinion, that's part of the fun. And you can create plenty of stations for your various moods and tastes. Among my stations, I have a Heavy Metal Writing station as well as a Film Score station for when I don't want lyrics when I write.

If your station plays a song you don't like or don't want to hear again, you can skip it, and Pandora will remember that you don't want to hear it again. You can't skip very many songs (only 6 per hour on one station, and 12 per day across all your stations), but if you choose your stations well, you won't have to worry about that anyway. Or at least I don't. Your millage, of course, may vary.

As I said earlier, I'm aware quite a few of you already know about this service, but if I can introduce just a few new converts, I'm happy. I absolutely love this web service. So, if you've never heard of Pandora, or have never thought about trying it, go ahead, click here, and give it a shot. Did I mention it's free? Anyway, until next week, happy writing!

P.S. Since I'm talking about music this week, I thought it would be fun to post a couple of songs that will appeal to the horror writers and readers (and heavy metal fans) out there. Enjoy "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" by Anthrax and "Sleepwalker" by MegaDeth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing Prompt #92

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A tiny dragon, no bigger than a hummingbird, befriends you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This Week: Back and Forward (5)

As I said last week, I had a short story picked up by the online zine, A couple of hours after I made the post, the story went live. Give it a look. I'd love to hear what you think!

I didn't hit my word goal of 5000 words last week, but that's okay. I'll make it up. I don't consider the week a total loss as I worked on plenty of other writing things, but I have to admit I spent too much time reading (though that's a good thing for writing) and watching movies/TV (also not too bad, as ideas come from what I watch). I didn't finish my middle grade manuscript, but this coming week it will be done.

Also in this coming week, I'll have a Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt on Monday, and a blog post of some sort (I have no idea what yet) on Wednesday. No Friday Flash for me this week as it's the off week of my bi-weekly Friday Flash schedule. After I finish my middle grade novel, I'm going to jump right into an adult horror manuscript I started last summer and stopped working on. I got discouraged with it then, but I've since looked it over again, and I really do think it has potential. I'm going to finish it and see if I can mold it into something great. I also plan on plotting a couple of projects, so it should be a busy week.

I hope everyone has a productive week! Check here on Monday and Wednesday for new posts.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

#FridayFlash--Sunday Morning Walks

Sunday Morning Walks
by Eric J. Krause

I loved walking on early Sunday mornings. I felt like I had the world to myself; no one wanted to move before eight or nine. Just me and the occasional other walker or jogger, whom I sometimes acknowledged and sometimes didn't. Depended on how groovin' the song playing on my iPod was. Or how crappy my week at work was shaping up to be.

That particular morning was bliss. I saw only one other walker, and she was on the other side of the street. I didn't need to play the ignore-or-say-hi game in my head. After her, no one else existed.

About halfway through my walk, I must've snapped fully awake. That or an inexplicable super mood hit me, overtaking my already good one. The world seemed bigger, brighter, in Technicolor. My shoes felt lighter, my legs springier, and my lungs stronger. I could walk all day. Even my iPod, loaded only with my favorite bands, played nothing but the absolute best songs. The only blight on the otherwise perfect morning was the sound of sirens wailing in the wind.

I stopped walking, but kept my legs and arms pumping for the sake of my heart rate. I looked back, but no sign of any police cruisers or fire trucks. Same with straight ahead. In fact, there were no vehicles at all.

Something up ahead, though, did catch my eye. If I was seeing clearly it was at the corner of my street, about a mile down. It made me think of a shimmering doorway, though I guessed it to actually be a full-length mirror catching the sunlight and other reflections at odd angles from this distance. A figure stood next to it, though I couldn't make out any details.

As I continued on, the sirens still pierced the morning air. At times they seemed right behind me, though I found no sign of their source. I turned up my music, but I couldn't mute their screaming voice.

The shimmering thing on my street corner captured my attention. The closer I got, the more it looked like a doorway. Maybe the person next to it was waiting for a delivery truck? But this early on a Sunday? And what could be causing that weird, swirly refraction of light? It couldn't be a normal mirror, if it was even a mirror at all.

The closer I got, I still had no answer. The man waved at me, and I saw he was nothing but skin and bones. I also noticed the sirens had stopped.

"You've arrived," he said in a voice that growled with disuse.

"Yeah," I said. "Just went for my Sunday morning walk." Before I could ask who he was, he pointed a bony finger behind me. I turned and gasped.

I was back at the halfway mark of my walk, looking down at paramedics fiddling with a dead body. Wait. My body. A car with a cracked windshield and dented hood sat half on the sidewalk and half in the street.

I turned back to the strange figure and even stranger doorway. We were again on my corner. I felt like I should be in pain, both physical and mental, but I wasn't. An air of ease, the same I'd felt the entire walk, stuck with me.

The figure said no more. He pointed to the doorway, and I nodded. The shimmering, swirling patterns were so pretty. I stepped forward.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My New Writing Sessions

I've never really had a structure to my writing sessions. I've always simply sat down and put words on the page. I wrote until I didn't feel I could do anything more creative, and that was it for the day. Sometimes, like when I'm in the middle of writing a novel, that's not a bad thing. I would write until I got to a good place to stop, usually after a fairly significant amount of words. Other times, usually when I was in a spot that was proving difficult to write, where the words simply didn't want to come out, very few words would be written. I have to say, this process has worked marginally well--I've finished three novels and have over twenty short story publications to my credit, not to mention a good many Friday Flash stories right here on this blog. So why not keep doing what I'm doing? Easy! I've found a way that works better for me, and I hope will result in even more productivity.

I've learned this month that if I work for a half-hour, take a ten minute break, and then work for another half-hour, I get a lot accomplished, even if I start out not feeling very creative. The fact that I know I'm going to be planted in my writing chair for the next half-hour gets my mind moving. I give myself permission to simply stare at the clock for the full thirty minutes, but how boring is that? My mind, conscious and sub-conscious, would much rather spend that time writing than mindlessly count down the minutes, so I inevitably find my pen dancing across the page. And since I know I'll get a ten-minute break shortly, the time doesn't seem like an unendurable chunk.

Why a ten-minute break? It's a good, quick refresher. I get up to get a drink of water, I read an article or two in Writer's Digest or a few pages in a "how-to" writing book, I count the number of words I've written in the previous half-hour (what can I say, it relaxes me), or I work on a Sudoku or logic puzzle. Anything as long as it's not pertaining to what I've been working on. When the ten minutes are up, I find I can slip easily back into work mode for another half-hour blast.

The great part about this is it can be tailored to any amount of time. I've been doing it for an hour (or an hour and ten minutes if you count the break), but there's no problem adding on extra half-hour chunks with breaks in between if you're feeling more ambitious, or if less time is available some days, a single half-hour block with no break afterwards. The key is to keep the creative mind motivated. If my mind knows it only has to produce at half-hour clips, it's going to get the work down, and the world count is going to rise (hopefully with words that are working for that story--but that's always the worry, right?).

So what does this mean for you? Try it and see. Figure out how much time you want to spend on a writing session and break it down into chunks. Have an hour exactly to write? How about two twenty-five minute sessions with a ten minute break? Two hours exactly? How about two thirty-five minute sessions with a half-hour session added in (and two ten minute breaks sandwiched in, of course). Play with your schedule. See what works for you. Find out how the time limit mixed with short breaks does for your creativity and productivity. And, above all, have fun with it!