Writing Styles Career Advice: 6 Things to Consider

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Making Characters Feel Like Real People: The Becky Chambers Way

I’ve only read 2 books by Becky Chambers, A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit. Both are from her Wayfarers series, books that have easily jumped to some of my favorite of all time, and if you read them, I suspect they’ll be some of your favorites as well.

For what reason, you might ask, have I made such a bold claim? It’s because I love the people in her stories. Notice, I said people, not characters or protagonists, not heroes or villains, but people. Chambers excels at something that writers (including myself) have spent their entire career trying to learn to do well. She excels at making fictional characters seem like real people to a reader. She does this so effectively that even though most of the characters from the first book don’t even show up in A Closed and Common Orbit, it doesn’t mater, you still want to read it, and keep reading it until you finish. I literally pulled an all nighter just because I wanted to keep listening.

4 Steps of Making Real Characters the Becky Chambers Way

There are four things I think she does to accomplish this feat of character creation:

  1. Even though her characters live in space and among aliens, Chambers gives her characters problems that could be our problems in real life.
  2. Chambers makes her characters good people first (even if they seem bad at first), then makes them choose good repeatedly.
  3. Chambers makes them great at one thing, and terrible at others.
  4. Chambers makes a universe seem small because every character’s story ends up being connected to the rest in a completely believable way.

Specific Character Case Study: Rosemary Harper

Take Rosemary Harper from A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Without spoiling anything, Chambers gives us a mystery with Rosemary.

  1. We know something’s off about her history, but we don’t know what until near the end of the book. Rosemary struggles to fit into a tight spacer crew, she makes mistakes she has to fix, and she desperately wants to prove herself. For being a crew member on a ship that punches tunnels through the space time continuum, her problems of wanting acceptance are something we all experience.
  2. To make Rosemary a good person first, Chambers gives us just enough about her backstory that we know she’s running from something bad, and yet despite that, she tries to do as best she can for the crew of the Wayfarer and the people. She then has to constantly work to do the right thing, to try her best, and at times, ignore her own needs to keep things going. At any point if Rosemary just gave up, we’d hate her. If she chose to not help the crew, we’d hate her. If she chose anything else but the good she already had, then we wouldn’t love her so much we want to know everything about her. See Random Aside below number (4) for an example of how Chambers takes a character we don’t like and turns them into a good character we can care about.
  3. Rosemary fulfills a very important job on the crew, the accountant of sorts. She not only is a good at it, but she’s great at it. The only complaint she gets on the job is when she orders a part that is one serial number away from the actually requested part. But while she’s great at the records and money, she’s bad at just about everything else required of a spacer. This immediately puts her into state of separation from the rest of the crew, who have worked long enough that they know how they fit with everyone else in both the day-to-day and emergencies. One of the greatest parts about the thing she’s good at is that she’s able to use her talent to help the crew in an emergency as well, making her ability worth it for more than financial gain.
  4. Now I definitely don’t want to get into spoilers, but when we finally learn everything about Rosemary’s past, we find out that things from her past have created situations that the crew has either already had to deal with or are currently dealing with somehow. These connections made the universe seem small but were completely believable because of the nature of her past. Then Chambers goes another step forward and brings out the tension of the crew about the situation making the crazy, strange and beautiful universe she created feel even smaller.

Random Aside

The best example of how Chambers takes a character we think is bad, and then endears them to us by making them good, is a character from A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet named Corbin. For much of the book, Corbin is an ill-tempered perfectionist that seems to enjoy being difficult. He’s also kind of speciest (essentially racism except that its discrimination based on species). Without revealing his story, you find out that he has a lot of very justifiable reasons for being the way that he is. To start his transition into being a good character, Chambers does something akin to the master stroke of a painter, she forces Corbin to rely on his crew to save his life. She not only does that, but she forces Corbin to rely on a specific member of his crew (one he doesn’t get along with) for a full year. Because of this, Corbin learns how to respect others and makes decisions to help others that then endears him to us just as much as Rosemary or Sissix or Dr. Chef.

This making a universe feel small is a common way to make the characters of a movie or TV show quickly relatable. It’s like what The Office did for general, white collar America and what Parks & Rec did with general government bureaucracy. Those shows took a very broad, and widely variable setting, filtered it down to its most base parts, and then making the characters interact in the constraints of those base parts. Once they did that, everything about how the characters interact follows from that base setting.

We writers (especially fiction writers) seem to get so fixated on world building, when authors like Becky Chambers are showing us that it’s not about how detailed the world it, it’s about the people in it. Instead, we just have to do one thing.

To make a world and its people feel real, practice making your world feel small instead of expansive. It will force you to examine character motivations to a higher level because we won’t be able rely on world building exposition to get in the way of character dialogue.

I wish I could outline the character Sidra from A Closed and Common Orbit because the character exemplifies the 4 steps better than Rosemary does, but no amount of talking around a bush or trying to be sly about it would stop me from spoiling A Closed and Common Orbit for you. You’ll just have to go read them and see how amazing Becky Chambers is as an author. These 4 categories will fit any character you choose in her books, so I definitely suggest you go read them, if not for the learning value of them, then for the entertainment value. I literally cried, got angry, and couldn’t stop reading at the end of A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and then cried, was elated, and put of a freelance project when finishing A Closed and Common Orbit.

Summary

Becky Chambers uses 4 major categorical tools (as far as I can tell) to make characters feel real, which in turn makes the universe her characters are connected feel real.

  1. Give your characters relatable problems, even if the universe they live in is very different from our own.
  2. Make your readers love your characters by making those characters good first, then make them choose good repeatedly (think Mal from Firefly).
  3. Give your characters something to be great at, and then make them terrible or mediocre at best in everything else.
  4. Make all of the back stories for your characters connect together (without being obvious) in some way.

If you haven’t read anything from Becky Chambers before, now is definitely a time to start! You can click any red link on the page (or these: A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet or A Closed and Common Orbit) and it will take you right to Amazon where you can buy her books (which yes means I get a little bit of a commission which will help me produce more content!).  

I think I’m going to do a writing prompt on this, so stay tuned for that! And as always

Keep Writing!

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Mid-Death Crisis

Mid-Death Crisis

Here’s another prompt, my first fantasy post. Let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Writing Prompt

Write a scene from the point of view of a front line grunt in an undead army, the one who gets thrown against enemy spears, dies, and is reanimated.

Source:
Writing Excuses (aka The Best Podcast Ever) – Season 1 Episode 22 writing prompt near the end.
https://mbarker.livejournal.com/76247.html

My Entry

            I’m think I’m having a life crisis right now, which is strange, because I’m dead. And just in case you were wondering, it’s completely unrelated to the spear that just separated my skull from my spine. I have been fighting for three months straight and my only rest is when my bones fall apart at the joints. You see, I’m an undead skeleton under the control of the Necromantic King Bob. Yes, his name is Bob. He sits on a throne of animated skeletons so he doesn’t have to walk. And right now, he’s trying to destroy the elven king, Gia the Eternal.
            I’ve been here every moment of Bob’s hostile takeover of the world. My crisis? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be any more. I mean, I’m an undead skeleton soldier now, but when I was first raised. I was the first undead servant of Bob, back before he’d become the Necromantic King. Back then, I felt just one thing, happy. Happy that I wasn’t dead and happy to serve the man that saved me. That continued, up until my master starting raising more powerful creatures, creatures who soon replaced me as his go-to soldier. I’ve been with him from the moment he discovered his powers, and now I am just another nameless minion, Skeleton Solider #243. I didn’t even get to keep #1, even though I was the first. And, if I approach him, he breaks me into pieces, leaves me there for hours, then brings me back.
            If I remembered who I was before being raised, that might be something, but I don’t. If I could do anything but hold a sword with my clumsy bone fingers, I would. I’d pick up carving since that seemed like a worth while endeavor. But, because of my fingers, that wasn’t option.
            And so I die, over and over. The only thing I am sure of anymore is that the bones I’m made of are still mine, still the same ones I had when I was alive. When I ‘die’ I don’t really die. I just can’t move. I can feel every bone in my skeleton no matter how far away it gets kicked, how hard it gets trampled, or how thoroughly it gets blasted. Here in lies my crisis.
Can I die? Is it possible for me to enter that void that the newly raised undead talk about? It’s been so long since I came out of the void that I can’t remember it. The joy of not being dead has worn out long ago, and I’m now just feel frozen.
            Actually at this moment, I really am frozen. King Gia has an ice mage, one that I’m sure my master will want to raise when we kill the elven king. But for now, I’m just locked in a block of ice, so with nothing better to do, I think. And my crisis continues. Maybe he won’t raise me this time, and I’ll finally find out what I’ve been missing in the void.

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Vision vs Visions

Let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Writing Prompt

Your left eye can see the worst in everyone, your right eye can see the best in everyone.

Source:

[WP] Your left eye can see the worst in everyone. Your right eye can see the best in everyone. from WritingPrompts

My Entry

            David tapped the tiny machines that covered his eyes. Neither lens was working which meant he was flying blind, literally. Slowing down his flying car as much as was possible without falling to his death, he struggled to get his Vision to turn on again.
            “Gladys, take over driving would you, my Vision isn’t working,” David said aloud. He could barely make out the tiny screens that projected the world around him on to his retinas, but David couldn’t risk taking the eye pieces off. Even on a fast traveling sky speedway, he’d see someone and be lost to the visions.
            “David, you know my autopilot functions aren’t properly calibrated for the skyway. You will have to remove your personal inventions and take the car off the skyway if we are to proceed.” A melodic yet flat sounding voice said over the speakers of the car.
            No matter what he did, he couldn’t get Gladys to call his “personal inventions” Vision. It’s true that he had built the flat cylinders that rest on his eyes himself. People thought he was wearing two monocles until they noticed the tiny red light at the center of each. Vision, as he call it, allowed him to safely see the world without envisioning both horrors and miracles. They allowed him to see the world as it really is, not what might have been or might be. Calling them personal inventions was like telling Edison that the light bulb was a cute little firebug.
            Growling in frustration, he took off the Vision slowly. He hadn’t taken them off for months, adjusting to sunlight would be difficult. “Gladys, can you place a filter on the window that will help me adjust to the light?”
            “Already done, David.”
            “Great,” he said as he lifted the Vision lenses up to his forehead. Keeping his eyelids closed, he could see the light filter through, colored red by his skin. Involuntarily, he smiled. Seeing the world without his Vision was obviously better, but seeing people was not.
            Opening one eye, his right one, the good one, he grabbed the steering wheel and tried to get off the skyway. But he was on the wrong side and would need to look left, which mean opening his bad eye.
            “Gladys, I don’t care if your autopilot isn’t calibrated, if I see someone, try to get us off the skyway in one piece.”
            “I don’t know what you want me to do but…”
            “Just try Gladys, maybe hack into a nearby car and see if you can copy their autopilot functions.”
            “Alright David, but that almost never works.”
            Turning to the left, David opened his left eye as little as possible. And immediately, despite the speed everyone was traveling at, made eye contact with a young woman who was flipping him off, “Gladys take over now.”
            Desperately, David tried to look at the woman with his right eye so both horror and miracles could mix, but, just like always, he wasn’t faster than the horrors. The woman bullying her siblings, girls at school, and random women in public. The woman was yelling and screaming at her kids and husband.
            “Ahhh,” David said, holding his hands to his eyes. He felt a shift of momentum as his car stopped flying forward and started falling down.
            “David, we are plummeting towards the city below due to an autopilot malfunction. You must take control,” Gladys said.
            “I know Gladys,” David said, “I can’t stop them—”
            The woman stood over a body holding a gun, the barrel smoking. She was attacking other girls, cutting up their bodies to fit into designer dresses that couldn’t fit her anymore.
            “David, we have t-minus 17.64 seconds before we hit the tallest buildings beneath us. There is a 100% chance of being fatally wounded.”
            “Yes Gladys,” David said, opening his good eye, “I know.” Shaking his head, he took a few deep breaths and flipped the lens from his Vision down back over his bad eye. Lifting on the controls in front of him, they started to slow down until they were hovering in the air. Looking out the window, David could see the garden that lined the top of an apartment complex with green.
            “That was very close,” David said. As he started to look away, he caught sight of a little boy, who was jumping and pointing at his car.
            “Oh no, Gladys, it’s happening—” David tried to say, before his visions became to powerful.
            The boy grew up and passed school with top marks. At university, he volunteers with disabled children, planting rooftop gardens for apartment buildings, and singing to the elderly. He graduates with a triple major in philosophy, biology, and literature, all in less time it takes others to graduate normally. He becomes doctor and saves thousands by curing all cancer. He becomes a politician that eventually unites the world and takes the human race to the stars.
            “Oh, goodness,” David said, shaking his head again, “If half of the good stuff I see about people was true, we’d live in a very different world.”
            “David, the police have surrounded your vehicle. They are trying to enter my program routines to guide your ship to a safe place.”
            Carefully, David looked up just enough to see the flashing red and blue lights, then he flipped his Vision lens over his good eye and started tapping them. After a few seconds, the lenses kicked back on, allowing him to see the officer hovering next to his window.
            “Oh, so now you stupid things work,” David said, opening his window, “Hello, office. What can I help you with?”

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Avoid Writer’s Madness: 6 definitive ways to stay motivated as a writer

Avoid Writer Madness
6 definitive ways to stay
motivated as a writer

I don’t know about you but staying motivated to write is hard. There’s always something family or friends related that seems more important, or something that actually makes money like a job or a freelance project that gets in the way. Writing always seems to be a third or fourth item on my plan for the day, and other things always eventually push in.

Writer’s Madness

           If I don’t have a good writing session for an extended period (usually about a month) I start to feel anxiety about getting things done. I’m more direct and short with the people around me. I will even find myself skipping out on fun activities I actually do have time for because I have this feeling I haven’t done enough that day. I like to call this state of mind Writer Madness. The reason for the name is because I often can’t figure out what the problem is. I toss and turn when I sleep. I wake in a bad mood each morning, and I often stop the little steps I should take each day to reach for my other goals.
           It feels like I’m crazy, and the longer I don’t write, the longer the madness lasts and the more anxious I get. My Writer Madness got worse when I finally decided to make writing a career choice rather than just something I might do one day. Now, if I don’t write, I feel like I’m putting my future family in danger.
           Ironically enough, this anxiety doesn’t make being motivated as a writer any easier. But I’ve talked with hundreds of writers and many other publishing professionals and there are a few things you can learn and do that will help you out.

1. Realize that writer’s block is a myth.

           Writer’s block isn’t some mental barrier holding back the flood of words we are trying so desperately to capture. Writer’s block is more like a sixth sense, an intuition that something isn’t right. If you feel like you can’t continue writing a story, it’s because something is wrong with your story. Whatever is wrong in your story, I can’t tell you, but your reader and writer intuitions are telling you that something in your story isn’t right. It might be a character or your plot, it might be that you have used to heavy a hand in forcing your characters down the path you planned before you started writing. It can be something as small as an individual word choice, or something as big as a character that needs to be ripped from the story. Whatever it is that is stopping you from writing, it isn’t that invisible and impenetrable wall we believe it to be. It is just something wrong, some issue you can fix, which will then free up your mind to keep writing. This was taught to me by one of my writing teachers in college, and since then, it’s been a guiding principle for my writing. If I’m stuck and can’t figure what’s wrong, I’ll switch to writing something new based on a writing prompt. If when I come back, I still haven’t figured it out, I’ll switch to a project I might be working on strictly for fun or one that I’m revising. Eventually, when I come back to the manuscript that had me stuck, all of that other writing will have helped me figure out what is wrong. This one thing has helped me work through writer’s madness more times than I can count, because now I have something to focus on, and I know I can write something else if I’m too stuck to continue.

 2. Writing Groups.

           I’ve had a writing group for the last three years. We met in a creative writing class and kept in touch by forming the group. There’s four of us, we meet weekly, but we only focus on two people each week. That means I have a two week period in which I can get an entry together for my group. Having that deadline socially enforced (since I feel bad when I contribute nothing) has kept me writing around 1500 words every two weeks. It might not be much, but it’s allowed me to finish a novel, pitch a couple news ones, and share knowledge about writing and world building. My writing group has been one of the best motivators, because not only is my writing getting finished, but someone is looking at it right away and giving me immediate feedback on how I can improve. Finding a writing group can be as simple as a google search, since there are tons of online groups. If you aren’t as comfortable with that, you can find chapters of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators or the SCBWI. They will often have a chapter in your city or in a more major city nearby that will have a monthly group. But the best way I’ve found to find a group is to take a writing class that focuses on your genre or go to a writing conference workshop, preferably a workshop that spans an entire week. This allows you to get to know the people before you ask to form a group with them, eliminates the need to group with online strangers, and lets you see what kind of writing advice they give. Once you’ve found a few you’d like to invite, approach them and simply ask. You can only benefit from having a group. It holds off Writer’s Madness because you have to write weekly or monthly, and keeps you motivated to write so you can contribute to the group.

 3. Celebrate the small victories.

           As writers, we can be very down on ourselves if we don’t see the wordcount on the page that we want. We say to ourselves, “You only wrote 300 words today, what’s wrong with you?” or we start blaming the world or our distractions. If you turn that dialogue around, and say to yourself, “Today was awesome, I wrote 300 words. In those 300 words I did ______” and you fill in the blank with something achieve in those 300 words, it’ll change a lot of your outlook on writing. You’ll get up the next day having had a positive experience with writing the day before, a small one I know, but a positive one, which will make it easier to sit down and keep writing, holding off the madness for another month.

 4. Give yourself a deadline.

           Despite this one not working very well for me, I know many writers that give themselves deadlines to have the novel finished, or even smaller ones like getting a chapter finished in a week. As soon as they set themselves a deadline, they get it done. While personal deadlines don’t work for me, external ones work wonders. National Novel Writing Month (NanoWrimo) is a “competition” set in the month of November (there are sometimes groups that do it over the summer) that gives you a month to write 50,000 words. I’ve only done it once, but that once I finished my first ever completed draft of a novel. The competition element is only with yourself. You’re challenging yourself to write 1,700 words or so a day for 30 days, and if you do it, you get this great certificate of completion. You also can find groups of writers that are participating in your area (another place to find a writing group) and have a great time writing with people. I’ll have to tell you about my experience meeting up with a group of ten people at a coffee shop to write another day, but it was incredibly motivating to be surrounded by writers who were simply set on making that deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days.

5. Personal Consequence Contracts.

           This one is what works best for me. A personal consequence contract is essentially like any other contract you might sign. It states what your responsibility is to fulfil the contract, as well as the consequences if you do not fulfil the contract. The difference is that you make the contract with yourself, and then have someone you trust enforce the consequences. For me, that person is my wife. If I haven’t gotten my words in, she takes my phone, puts away the PS4 controllers, and makes me write. Admittedly, this option does require that you have someone close to you, or someone that you interact with every day who will enforce the contract, but I found that the simple knowledge that my consequences for not writing are not solely in my own hands has helped me to keep writing each day.

6. Same time of day or restricted time limit.

           If you’re someone with a regular schedule, setting a regular time to write each day takes the scheduling guess work out of it. You know that you write from 4am to 5am and that’s that. You don’t have to try and fit it in between family and work, unless that time is the best time. Extending this concept, maybe you don’t have a regular schedule, but you usually have about an hour at some point in the day where you don’ have anything. What you can do is then write for that hour, whenever it shows up. As soon as you have some time, set a timer for an hour (or less or more) and just write. Don’t let yourself be distracted, just write. By the end of whatever time period you’ve set for  yourself, you’ll have achieved some word count, a word count you can then celebrate because you did it 

However you do it, keep looking for ways to motivate yourself. Writing is a very solitary art, and when we can motivate ourselves to write, we can finish any manuscript, any blog post, any article. I use everything I listed above personally. Try them all, try them one at a time, or try none of them, it’s up to you. But if you don’t try these suggestions, find others and, as always,

 Keep Writing!

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The Cost of Duty

The Cost of Duty

This was a prompt I did a while back. Enjoy!

Writing Prompt

Riding a horse requires a lot of effort on your body because you connect with it like in avatar. Why would it be worth it?
Source: I can’t remember and couldn’t find it again, so probably from a post on Reddit that was taken down eventually.

My Entry

            Walking up to my horse in the big steel room of the stables, I couldn’t help but hesitate. I hated my duty, but I was the only one that could do it. No other runner could ride a horse the whole distance of the camps in one ride. Patting the horse, it nuzzled up to me, his eyes slightly desperate with the need to connect. Taking a deep breath, I attached my link, a long cord that attached to a small port behind my ear, to the port on the back of the horse’s head.
            We ride now? Shallow asked me, nudging me with his nose.
            Shallow was my horse. He and I were water runners. We made sure fresh water passed through the pipe system to the survivor camps. We had to open seven gates for seventy seconds once a week, otherwise the water would be stopped at those gates. But that was just one of our duties. We carried messages, packages, supplies, and especially dehydrated food since it could be rehydrated with a miniscule amount of water. If we didn’t do what we did, people would die.
            But it was killing me. To link with Shallow, my brain required thousands of calories every ride. I had to eat a weird green goop for an hour straight previous to a ride, the goop giving me the calories I needed. They wouldn’t let me sleep after I ate either, even though I swear that goop has some kind of sleeping drug in it. Not that it mattered though, no one was allowed to sleep after eating. We needed to use the calories to rebuild the world. But me especially, I needed those calories to make it through all the camps. If I left a minute to early or ate just a couple mouthfuls less than I was supposed to, the link would start to consume my brain. I’d already lost some of my long term memories during emergency situations when I had to keep riding for hours.
            I once did a double loop of the camps in sixteen hours, and that had nearly taken my sight. Climbing up onto Shallow, I sighed.
            “Yes Shallow, we ride now,” I said, patting the horse on the side of the neck, “Let’s get going.”

            With no need for encouragement, Shallow bolted out of the stables through the metal doors that would slide shut behind me.

 

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My 3 Reasons For Being A Writer

      Everyone has a different reason for writing, and among those that write, many have even more reasons for wanting to be a writer. Some get into  writing for the adventures and stories, and others for the community. Some grew up writing, dreaming of being published (until they learned that isn’t the ultimate goal) and yet others started writing as just a hobby. But for me, writing is my business. From the creative freedom to the technical skill, writing is one of the foundations of my life. Here are my reasons for writing.
      Regardless of how you got to my site, or how you started writing, I want to welcome you to the world of writing! Now, before we get to my main 3 reasons for being a writer, I feel like having a little background about how I got into writing will help preface my reasons.

My Story

      My story is probably a very common one. I grew up with a mother who read fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries nearly nonstop. My father would read some of my mother’s books and read nonfiction books he enjoyed. I learned to read very early on and started reading everything from Harry Potter and modern children’s fiction to old science fiction by Niven and McCaffrey. Growing up, I ended up being that weird kid that liked school and didn’t like sports. For the 90s, liking school was weird (apparently) and loving to read was even more weird (according to my first grade teacher…yes you read that right). I would bring books to recess, which didn’t help the situation much (but it was way more fun than kicking a soccer ball around…at least for me).
      So, almost naturally, I started writing my own stories. I can remember the very first idea I ever had that required me to write more than a couple of pages. I called it Map of the Hidden World and it was about a man who inherited a map from a grandparent. The map led him to a giant tree that, once you walked through its gate-like root system, led to a magical world. In that world, he bonds with a baby dragon and ends up with
Power Ranger-like powers, the dragon becoming the power suit and providing the powers. I even remember the scene at which I stopped writing, it was a magical race that the main character had to win to get some information. I realized it was essentially a mashup of the Power Rangers and a book called Magical Kingdom For Sale….Sold by Terry Brooks that I had just read, and so I moved onto another project.
      Since then (5th grade) I’ve never stopped writing. In high school I always took the creative writing options for projects. I worked through writing a book called The Orb of Toadeye Hall which was essentially a rip off of Harry Potter with a Tron-like disc game except using magic. I worked through a book I called River’s Ignorance, which mashed together air and water benders with a Brandon Sanderson-esque magic system. My ideas ranged all over the place, but usually they were some adaptation or twist on the books I was reading at the time.

Series of Incredible Events

After some dark years where all of my teachers said writing novels wasn’t a good career choice, I had the best series of events happen to me.

  1. I took a class from Brandon Sanderson. The first thing he said to me (and the class) was that writing is a completely viable career—if you put in the work and treat it like a career.
  2. Then, I took a class from Carol Lynch Williams who told me I had real talent and could make it as an author—if I put in the work.
  3. Then Ben Grange, and agent in New York, told me (and a class I was taking) about the publishing industry, and overnight I switched majors from Computer Science to English with an Editing minor.
  4. I started going to writing conferences like WIFYR and LTUE where I met authors who talked about how they made it their living. I realized (after a few conferences) that this industry was a place for me.

      But the most influential moment that has made me want to go all in on being an author, and make everything else the backup plan, happened at a conference in Provo, Utah called Life, the Universe, and Everything in February of this year (2018 for those people reading in the future).
      A author named Myke Cole, who is also a New York City cop, told a room full of maybe a hundred people that we hadn’t sacrificed enough. He said that if we really wanted to be an author, to write books as a major part of our income, than sacrifice would be needed. After he explained what he had sacrificed to be a writer, I realized that I had held onto excuses for too long. So I started writing more. I went to other conferences. I came up with new ideas that were not just mashups, but original ideas (as original as ideas can be anyway).

My Reasons for Writing

And that’s what brought me to now. So here are my 3 reasons for being an author.

  1. I want to help people of all ages, but especially kids ages 8-18, learn how to creatively solve problems. Books taught me how to navigate the real world as I applied what my heroes did in stories to my real world life.
  2. I want to show the world that applied imagination can create viable career options. I dreamed up and created my content editing and design business called Hybrid House. I’ve also learned how to used the Adobe Creative Cloud and how to build a website with WordPress. And it all took applied imagination, and then the work ethic to make it happen.
  3. And, ultimately, I want to get better at something I’m good at. This is a business, my writing is the product, and making my products and skills better will always be on the forefront of my mind.

And if those are too specific for you, than the easy answer is that I want to influence people (in a good way) with my writing. Thank you for reading!

Now, Keep Writing!

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Writing Prompt: Note Cards and Backup Plans

Hey everyone,
This post will be first of many! Every Monday at 5 pm, I’ll post a writing prompt exercise and the words I wrote based on that exercise. Free writing through these writing prompts not only give you a ideas and topics to write about, but also help you increase your writing skill. This Friday (June 22nd) I will be posting my story as a writer and I will also tell y’all what you can expect as far as content from me each month. So stay tuned for that, utilize the prompts to write your own free writing fun, and then enjoy the short prompt writing response I have for you below. Keep writing!

Writing Prompt

On the galactic scene, humans are universally seen as the weakest and most under powered race alive. However everyone knows not to tangle with a human, mostly due to their ridiculous paranoia and ungodly amount of contingency plans

Source: 

My Entry

            I flipped through my color coded note cards until I found the pink one. This was a pink card situation after all. Staring up at my station readout, I watched the little red arrows move slowly across the screen, heading directly for my ship.
           “Bert, I pray your cards have a backup plan. We’ve got the Althiree on our left and the Kosai on our right. Our ship barely has shields and our weapons are basically sticks and stones compared to what we are facing.”
           Staring forward, I looked at the
wavy blue ridges of my first mate’s back and sighed.
           “Stheral, my cards always have a solution. This time, pink should do nicely.”
           “Pink! But I was just starting to like this ship…” Stheral said.
           I watched as she left her station and headed towards the back of the flight deck.
           “Where are you going?” I asked, spinning in my captains chair, trailing my hand across the low ceiling above.
           Stheral stopped walking and turned around, hands on hips, tongue flashing out to taste the air, and said, “You said pink right? I’m going to go pack my things. Last time we went pink, I lost a years worth of shed-scales. Do you know how much that was worth?”
           “A lot, I know, but that’s the danger of being a pirate,” I said, as I stood and hit my bald head on the ceiling, “See, doesn’t that illustrate my point?”
           “That’s what you get for stealing a ship from a Tinurian,” Stheral said, turning back around to walk out.
           “I don’t want to pull rank, but—”
           “You will—”
           “—I am captain—”
           “—and I still won’t listen,” Stheral said, opening the hatch to the rest of the ship.
           “Oh come one Stheral, I need to know which ship is the best one out there, the best ship with the least number of aliens,” I said, “You know I don’t like killing anyone when I steal.”
           I watched as Stheral sighed and let her shoulders slump, “It’s the reason I stick with you, even though you’re human.”
           “Alright, there we go,” I said, sitting back into my seat and slipping the pink card back into my jacket’s inside pocket, “now get your beautiful blue scales back over here. Your captain commands it.”
           “I’ll tell you which ship to steal after we launch the pod,” Stheral said, “get packing captain, or we’ll leave your stuff behind too.”
           Before I could say anything, I heard the hatch close. Looking back, I said, “Stheral? Stheral?!”
           Behind me, I heard a clicking noise. Turning back around, the communicator screen had lit up. It showed a green furry alien, with a bright blue beak.
           “Captain Bert Reynolds, you stole my daughter’s honeymoon cruiser, I’m here to get it back.” The alien said, the beak clicking at the B in my name.
           “Tora-Ka of the Kosai, it is an honor to meet you,” I said, standing to bow as best as I could with the low ceiling, “I do not know who this Bert Reynolds is, but I will assuredly help you find the fiend.”
           Another screen popped up into view, this time it was a woman with metallic silver hair, metallic bronze skin, and bright emerald green eyes, “Bert, that won’t work this time. I already showed him a picture of you.”
           “Rolindi, you’re looking so beautiful right now. You’ve been to the blacksmiths and had those forged, haven’t you?” I said, smiling.
           “Actually, I have—”
           “Rolindi of the Altiree, remember why we are here.” Tora-Ka said, his beak clicking along with the English words.
           “Oh right,” Rolindi said, she tied up her hair with copper wire and smiled, “I’m here to take back my dowry. I need it for another marriage, since ours ended so badly.”
           I looked back and forth between them multiple times, trying to convey to them that I understood I had no choice but to surrender. Sighing, I made a big show of slumping my shoulders.
           “I see. I have been caught, you may board my ship.” I bowed to both of them until their screens popped out of existence, then I turned to leave.
           “Pod, five minutes,” Stheral yelled over the ships comm system.
           Tapping the comm unit on my collar, I said, “Make that two. These aren’t just aliens, one is the king of the Kosai, and the other is my ex-wife. Everybody move.”
           Opening the hatch, I tapped my front jacket pocket and smiled. My color coded backup plans never failed.

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