Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be a writer

I just did a round of book signings for my new book, Time Gangsters. It seems like at least once every signing, someone comes up to me and says, "I'd like to be a writer." I now answer them by saying, "Then be a writer." I'm not trying to be a smart alec, but I really do think it is that simple. There are a lot of people who want to be writers but they seem to be waiting for something.

Some say they'll write when they're not so busy. Well, my answer to that is get an iPad or smartphone and a bluetooth keyboard and write a few words whenever you get a chance. I experimented with this last year when I was on the UVU campus a couple of days a week. I had little 10 to 15 minute gaps between my saxophone students, so I'd get out my iPad and start typing. In a month I was 5000 words into a novel. If I'd continued that, I could have had a whole novel in three semesters. My experiment ended, though, when I got so excited about the story that I started working on it during my 3-hour writing blocks on the other days of the week.

Also, when I wrote my first book, The Dragon War Relic, I was working two jobs and having to squeeze in writing here and there wherever I could. I had to sacrifice some things, like TV watching and computer games. This doesn't just go for writing, but music and many other things: if you want to become an expert at something, you have to give up things that distract you from it.

Here's another one I hear, "But I don't know enough about writing." Sheesh, if I waited until I actually knew what I was doing I still wouldn't have written a single book. As it is, I'm currently working on my tenth book in six years. I still don't know what I'm doing but I'm learning. Every book I write I learn something new. Now, some of those books will not ever see daylight because they are so bad, but I still learned a lot from them and the next book became better because of it.

This leads me to the next thing. Some people want to wait until they have their ideas and thoughts all perfectly figured out. Maybe they can do that, but for me, I have to see my stuff in print before I can figure out what to do with it. The analogy I use is that it is like making a clay pot on a spinning wheel. You first have to get the lump of clay on the wheel before you can begin to shape it the way you want. For writers, that means just write the stinkin' first draft, warts and all. Then worry about perfecting it through editing.

I can't think of other excuses that people have, but I'm sure there are plenty more. Let me know if you think of any and we can air them out. Mainly, though, if you want to be a writer, take action. Do a little bit every day toward that goal, even if it is only 5 minutes here and there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on LTUE

Last weekend was "Life, the Universe, and Everything" symposium hosted at UVU. This was the 30th year of the symposium but the first time it has been held away from BYU. There were a few growing pains, but overall it went well and was enjoyable. One nice thing about it being at UVU is that it was closer to my house, only a couple of miles away, and I have a faculty parking permit. The best thing about it, though, is the quality of writers that are there to speak on the panels: Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, David Farland/Wolverton, Tracy Hickman, Larry Correia, Dan Wells, and James Dashner, just to name a few.

Oh, and of course, I was there, too.Which was quite humbling. I ended up leaving this LTUE feeling a little discouraged. Not because of the quality of the event, but I just came away with the feeling that I really don't know what the heck I'm doing. The panel I was on about writing suspense was great and I even had a few worthwhile sound bites, but Jeff Savage, Clint Johnson, James Dashner, and Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury all said things so profoundly that I wished I could have been in the audience taking notes. It made me wonder why I was even trying to write.

Now this isn't the first time I've been discouraged. It's par for the course when you're a writer. For me, though, it ends up being a positive thing. Sure, I feel like throwing in the towel for a few hours, but usually I wake up the next morning and think, "Well, I'm not where I need to be so I better get busy." I'm taking those areas that I feel inadequate at and making efforts to strengthen them. I guess this is the musician in me that does this. That's what learning music is, finding our weak areas and then practicing them like crazy until they become strengths. Heck, life it like that for that matter.

So, fear not, I'm not giving up. I'm just knuckling down and trying to make myself better. Oh, and happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I just finished a read through of my second draft of Slave of the Sphere. This is a different kind of project for me that I still think has a lot of potential. The problem is, it is going to take a huge amount of work to fix it. "Sphere" is a lot bigger project than any of my others. It is a darker, more epic kind of project that is nothing like the light-hearted adventures I've done thus far. Character relationships are much more complex and the world more detailed.

So, after finishing reading the draft and comments from my writing group, I'm torn between abandoning the six months work I've already put into it or if I should just knuckle down and fix it. I discovered that I so much more enjoy writing the light, middle-grade stuff and it is hard for me to want to go back into this dark world.

But at the same time, I've always wanted to write epic fantasy. And this idea is completely different than anything else I've ever seen. I hate to give up on it. That said, I've learned a lot about being a writer from this. By doing a project over my head, I've had to stretch myself as a writer. Even if this story never reaches the light of day, it should hopefully help me with my other, lighter stuff.

For now, my plan is to do a new outline for it, with comprehensive character analysis. I'll then let it sit for a while as I go back to working on Memoir of a Teenage Sidekick. I'll let my subconscious continue to work on it while I stick with the more comedic works that I love. Maybe I'll get another draft done this year to help me improve my writing even further. For now, though, I've decided to put this more complex project on a longer developmental path.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Return of Share the Love


Okay, so this blog post is part of a contest. Blog about it and I'm entered in it. Well, I'm actually excited about this one because last year, I was one of the winners. What is it, you ask? If I blog and tweet and all that stuff about the Storymakers conference coming up in May, I could be one of three winners to sit at a table with some of the conference VIPs. Last year, I sat between James Dashner and Larry Brooks and got to chew the cud with them for an hour.

I suppose I should backtrack and explain what Storymakers is. Its a fantastic organization that I'm a part of. It consists of LDS authors as a sort of guild/support group. Every spring, though, they have an awesome conference for writers here in Utah. I haven't been to a lot of conferences, but I have to say, if you're a writer, this is the best one I've ever been to. There are lots of fantastic classes taught by great teachers. For instance, this year Kevin J. Anderson will be one of the guests. So, if you live in Utah or can get here by plane, train, boat, or stage coach and you write books, you should check it out. You can register and find out more about it here: http://ldstorymakers.com/conferences/registration/

For those who want to get in on the 'Share the Love' contest, here's the link to that: http://ldstorymakerauthors.blogspot.com/2012/01/show-your-love-for-ldstorymakers.html

Oh, you're probably wanting some advice with this posting. Here it is: if it's below freezing, don't go outside with wet hair.