Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nuke The Site From Orbit

The topic for this month’s Ramble is Best Revision Techniques. What are the most effective ways to revise your writing in order to make it stronger, clearer, more concise, or more engaging? Honestly, this is something I’m still learning about. And while most of my colleagues will be focusing on specific edits, such as noun or verb changes, I’m going to take a broader approach, looking at the overall picture of your story.

So you write a story, or a chapter, or whatever your little heart desires, and you send it to friends, colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, and everyone under the sun who is willing to look at it. They read it, mark it up, and send it back. A lot of those revisions will be line edits; typos, pronoun confusion, misused words, etc. But, if your readers are really paying attention, they’ll have other comments about your characters, plot, motivations, or settings. They’ll tell you what didn’t work for them, and why. Maybe they’ll give suggestions on how to fix, or maybe you come up with the solution yourself. Either way, you then go back into your story or chapter, cut out the junk, and insert your fresh new ideas.

This is where the problems begin. Because as it was, the chapter had a certain flow to it, a feeling of cohesion and order. As you go back, cutting stuff out and shoehorning new ideas in there, the chapter starts to take on more of a Frankenstein’s Monster feel. In the same way that the monster’s shoulder may not match the arm that’s attached to it, your story may suddenly has these jarring changes of flow or voice. Maybe when you wrote the first draft you were in a poetic mood, so the writing was more flowery, whereas now you’re adding more functional components that just don’t jive with the current language. Even though you’ve made the correct changes to improve the story, now the writing itself feels clunky and mismanaged.

So what to do? Like adding a clump of clay to a sculpture, you can go back over it repeatedly, smoothing out the seams and trying to force it all to blend together, or, as the title of this post suggests, you can start over.

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” –Ellen Ripley

Sometimes, and I would even go as far as to say, most times, if there are major structural changes that need to be made to your story, the best approach is to start over. Which sucks, obviously, and this is not advice that I, myself, follow often. I’ve already put so much time and effort into what I currently have, why would I want to go back and do it all again?

Writing is like making cookies. Maybe you accidentally use baking soda instead of baking powder, (because who can ever tell those two apart, right?). Obviously, this is going drastically affect the flavor of your cookies. So, you have two choices. Try to pick out all the baking soda, which won’t be easy if you’ve already added flower, or eggs, or anything else that the soda will mix easily with. Or, scrap the batch and start over, making sure to use the correct ingredients on the second go.

It’s the same as your writing. If something doesn’t work for your readers, you can go back and try to pick out the offending parts, hoping to get out every grain so it doesn’t spoil the taste, or you can start over with a new recipe that includes the right ingredients. You already know what worked in your first draft, so you know what to write again, and now you know what needs to be included to make it a better story. Starting fresh with both of these in mind means you’ll get your chapter or story right, and it will all flow smoothly and naturally.

It may be extreme, and like I said, I rarely do this myself, but if you want your writing to flow like the lazy river at a water park, smooth and seamless, trust me, this is the way to do it. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'm thrilled to report that I was invited to give another guest blog post over at the writing blog,, this time about character development.

This is a great blog by writers, for writers, with guest posts by some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Dave Wovlerton, Brandon Sanderson, and Kevin J Anderson. I'm honored to be invited to participate.

You can find the article here:

The Fictorians, Character

You can also read the first article I wrote for The Fictorians here:

The Fictorians, Fear and Loathing in Writing Life

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lightning Flashes

It's October. And one of the greatest things about October is Halloween. And I'm not just talking candy and costumes. October is a time for tricks and treats, but also for frights, thrills, bad movies, and scary stories. The theme for the Writers Ramble this month is Scary Stories, specifically flash fiction. Each member of the Writers Ramble has written a spooky piece of flash fiction specifically for this month's post. Unfortunately, I got a little side tracked working on a guest blog post over at The Fictorians, and so I failed to write a complete flash story. Instead, I decided to try my had at micro-fiction, which, if you can believe it, is even shorter than flash fiction. 

Recently I read a collection of two sentence horror stories. Some were fun, some were kind of lame, some were actually pretty chilling despite the fact that they're shorter than the Trick or Treat rhyme your kids say at the door. So, working under a time constraint, here's what I came up with:

When I was a child, hearing my mother’s footsteps on the stairs down to my room always panicked me, because she might catch me in mischief. These days, those same footsteps terrify me…because she’s been dead for ten years. 

Now, it's not a great story. The idea, I think, has been done before. But it was fun to write. The feedback from our writing group was almost universally the same: "This is a great hook for a longer story." And they're right. Once I saw that, my mind started spinning, weaving a story out of these opening lines. I haven't put anything to paper yet, but who knows? Maybe something great will still come of this idea.

Since I failed to complete the actual task of writing a spooky flash fiction story for this month, I decided, along with my micro-horror story, to include a few flash horror stories that I wrote a few years ago. (That way this post is more than a half page long.)

So first up is a story I wrote in 2013 for an online horror flash fiction contest over at the Escape Artists forums.

Janette stifled a yawn and glanced at the clock. 1:05am, far later than she’d intended. She dog-eared the page and closed her book. A quick check of the house, turning off lights as she went, and— 
Janette stopped dead in her tracks. Outside the large front window stood a dark silhouette—a man, watching her. Janette’s breath caught. The figure, tall and broad shouldered, made no move, its features completely shrouded in the darkness.
The baby! Janette’s first thought. She raced to his room, wishing Tom wasn’t away on business. She pulled the baby from the crib ignoring his cries of protest.
The figure stood outside the baby’s window.
Janette ran from the room. He was still outside, but what if he tried to break in? She had to call for help.
She reached the stairs and skidded to a stop. The figure—still cloaked in shadow—stood at the top, silent, unmoving.
Janette screamed and ran. How did he get in? She raced for the cellar. The baby wailed as she clambered down the stairs slapping at the light switch as she went.
Reaching the dank cement room below, Janette slammed the door shut. There was no lock. She had to block it—
The figure hovered in the back corner of the cellar. Janette froze. He slid towards her. Terror overwhelming her, Janette backed away until she pressed against the closed cellar door. The baby choked on its screams.
The figure stopped inches from her face, its features blank; a solid form of black.
Run, it hissed. Get out...
The figure moved back and Janette flung the door open and dashed upstairs. This time she headed for the front door, bursting out into the cold night beyond.
She was met by a circus of emergency vehicles rolling to a stop on the street in front of her. Responders piled out, making for her house. Someone stopped to ask if she was all right. Confused, Janette turned to find the attic of her house consumed in flames.
How hadn’t she noticed the fire? It was the upper floor only that burned. She’d been downstairs the whole time.
The roof collapsed, imploding into the rest of the house. Janette gasped. If she hadn’t been running from the shadowy figure…
“Mrs. Buxton?” A voice said from behind.
Janette turned to find a man in a suit who introduced himself as the Chief of Police.
“It’s about your husband, ma’am,” he said. “I’m sorry to bring this to you, especially at a time like this, but there’s been an accident. I’m afraid he’s been killed.”
The Chief’s voice faded in Janette’s ears as the news washed over her. Tom was dead. And she’d nearly just died herself
She searched and found the shadowy figure standing under a tree not far off. He was still hidden in blackness, but his stance now seemed familiar.
Then he was gone.

Again, not a great story, but it did make it to the semi-finals of the contest. When I sat down to write this story, I thought about what the scariest thing in the world to me is. The answer is a black silhouette watching me through a window. That image in any movie or book has me crawling out of my skin. So that was the starting point for this tale. There are a few plausibility issues, and some severe coincidences to make this story work, but even with those faults, I was pleased with the semi-finalist outcome.

The other story I wanted to share comes from the same contest.

Abby Carter slurped the last of her daiquiri through the straw and rested the wavy glass on the table beside her beach chair. The taste of strawberries lingered on her tongue while foamy waves lapped at the sand before her. A seagull’s screech split the air, the only creature in sight.
Abby nestled into the wooden chair and pulled her sunhat low. Her bronze skin soaked up the rays of the sun overhead and she reveled in the warmth.
Her stomach growled. She took another sip of daiquiri. She didn’t know who had refilled it. It didn’t matter.
In this moment, she was happy…

Cory Steel’s knuckles glowed white as he clung to the cliff face. The midday sun baked his bare back, sweat trickling from his shoulders. He glanced up, the apex of the rock mere feet away. Cory dug the tip of his climbing shoe into a chip in the smooth stone and lunged, groping with his free hand. He found purchase and pulled himself atop the sandstone monument.
He reached for a granola bar, but found his fanny pack was empty. Though the view was glorious, the beauty to Cory was the climb itself. He longed to do it again.
A new stone monolith towered over him. He glanced up with a grin and began to climb. He didn’t know how he’d gotten there, but it didn’t matter.
In this moment, he was happy…

Michelle Davis whooped as Jimmy scored the final goal. Whistles sounded and Michelle clambered from the stands to congratulate her son. The throng of other parents parted for her. The community soccer team had no bigger fan than Michelle.
She high-fived the other children as she made her way to Jimmy, who wore a wide, gap-toothed grin. They talked about the game and Jimmy’s numerous goals. Michelle reveled in her son’s victory and the joys it brought. She wanted nothing but to cheer him on in every game possible.
A whistle blew and Michelle wished Jimmy luck before sitting back in the stands, scanning the crowd for the hotdog vendor. She didn’t know how another game could be starting so soon, but it didn’t matter.
In this moment, she was happy…

Zeniph Gunther looked out across his collection of people. A few he knew—Abby Carter, a co-worker; Cory Steel, the pizza boy; Michelle Davis, his neighbor. The rest were strangers, taken from the park, a darkened ally, or public campsites. They looked so peaceful lying on their gurneys, the neural transmitters attached to their shorn scalps with a thousand tiny fingers massaging their slumbering heads.
Zeniph sat back, replacing the receiver cap on his head. Emotions washed over him, a flood of stolen euphoria, and he relaxed.
He knew at some point the authorities would catch him. Maybe not before these people died of starvation, but eventually. The more victims he took, the longer the trail he left. But it didn’t matter.
In this moment, he was happy…

This was a lot more fun to me, because I tried to break out of the typical horror style and do something a little different. In fact, one of the comments the story received during the contest was that they thought someone had gotten mixed up and submitted a non-horror story to the contest. That's what I love about this piece. You have four seemingly unrelated stories that don't tie together until the last few paragraphs. If I did it right, the reveal at the end should have given you chills. 

Unfortunately, I don't think it's quite right, although this story did make the finals in the contest. It didn't win, because there are a few plausibility issues here. But again, that's ok. I have fun writing it, and to me, that's all that matters.

I hope you've enjoyed story time this month. If you have time, head on back over to the Writers Ramble to check out the other flash stories our members have shared this month.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Do You Sabotage Your Writing Time?

So this month's topic for the Writers' Ramble is Finding Time to Write. Which we all know really translates to Making Time to Write. Which is really just making writing a higher priority than many other aspects of your life. So my question is not how do you find time to write, but what do you let keep you from your writing?

I follow Ferrett Steinmetz on Twitter. Ferrett is a fairly new author with a few dozen short stories published and his first novel coming out this fall. In following his escapades online, I've learned that he writes every single day, no matter what. Sometimes he'll send out a Tweet that says something to the effect of: I only wrote for twenty minutes today. But it was something. 

This has been a huge testament to me on the importance of writing daily. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 Hour Rule. This states that you must first put 10,000 hours of work into a single task or talent to become a master or an expert at it. Then there's the saying that your first million words are basically crap. You have to write a million words before you will become an expert at writing.

Either way, there is a lot of writing to do in order to become a publishable writer. So how far are you in these long term goals? Last I checked, I had written somewhere around 400,000 words across my many, many short stories and few unfinished novels. I don't know how many hours that has taken. But needless to say, I still have a long way to go.

So how do I find (make) time to write? Honestly, I don't do it enough. Unlike Ferrett, I don't write every day. Currently I have a job with a lot of down time, which allows me to do my writing while at work on most days. Of course, I only work four days a week, and on my three days off I tend to let life get in the way and don't do any writing. Then there are all the distractions at work that keep me from writing. Besides the actual work I have to do, I let myself get caught up in Twitter, writing forums, games on my Kindle, daily crosswords, and other meaningless junk and suddenly it's time to go home and I haven't done any writing. Sure, some of those things, Twitter/writer forums/writing group submissions, are writing related and make me feel like I am still working on my craft, but that's bogus. The best way to hone my writing is to write. And I don't do it enough.

What keeps me from writing at home? My wife and kids for one, but that's not something I'm willing to sacrifice. Then there's yard and housework, church duties, extended-family functions, and such. Things that I could cut out, but really shouldn't. So then there's the very small amount of free time I have to myself on any given day. And what do I do with that? Video games and/or TV shows. Mind you, this amounts to only a few hours a week, but still, it's something that I could and should be willing to give up if I ever want to reach my goal of being published. 

I know a lot of writers who set daily goals and schedule their writing time at certain hours of the day. Some people get up early to write, some stay up late. Some use their allotted lunch break or kids' nap time to get a few words on the page. This is a great way to do it, and one that I highly recommend, even if I don't follow the advice myself. 

The bottom line is that you will not be successful if you're not willing to put in the time. If you want to be published, if you want to be able to call yourself an Author, you have to put aside the distractions, schedule the time, and put pen to paper (figuratively). 

Don't let your life sabotage your dreams.

For more thoughts and suggestions on this topic, visit the Writers' Ramble

Monday, May 12, 2014

Deus ex Offensus

"How are we ever going to get out of this?" Jan shouted, pressing her back to Nicholai's. Before her, Maalic's army of undead villagers stumbled ever closer, closing to just within bow shot. Jan nocked an arrow and took aim, but which to shoot first? There were hundreds of the rotting corpses and only twelve arrows left in her quiver. 

Behind her, Nicholai roared in pain. She half-turned to see him frantically brushing a glowing glob of lava from his armor. The hunk of molten rock was little bigger than a child's fist, but it had seared clean through the hardened leather to scorch Nicholai's exposed skin beneath. 

Jan hazarded a glance at the lava pit beyond Nicholai. The magma stalkers had amassed at the shore of the pool, and were now flinging large clumps of lava in their direction. Their aim was pathetic, but all it would take was one lucky shot to end it all for her and Nicholai.

Jan's mind raced. There had to be a way out. The tunnel that led them into the dormant volcano had collapsed. The open peak of the mountain loomed above them several hundred spans, too far too climb out. With hundreds of enemies, little ammunition, and no more magic, it seemed this would be the end. Her adventuring days with her brother were over, and the King would never get the Seer Stone tucked away in Nicholai's satchel. 

Well, she wasn't going down without a fight. Jan took aim at the closest zombie, drawing a deep breath to steady her shot. 

Suddenly a massive bolt of lightning shot down through the opening of the volcano, striking amid the sauntering villagers. Bodies flew in every direction, their tattered clothing catching fire. The undead villagers stopped, sagging eye sweeping for the origin of the attack. More lightning struck, quickly decimating the zombie army. Those corpses that weren't destroyed in the blasts were consumed in the quickly spreading fire. 

Jan groped for Nicholai, to ask if he was seeing this. At the same time, he pulled her attention his direction. On the far side of the lava pool. the side of the mountain had cracked. Through the massive fissure, a torrent of water gushed into the volcano, sweeping across the molten lake. Within minutes, the lava, and the the magma stalkers, had cooled and hardened to solid rock. 

Jan glanced around. They were saved, but how? She looked up into the night sky above the mouth of the volcano. Among the stars a face appeared. It smiled and winked at her, then vanished. Jan looked at Nicholai, speechless. 

Nicholai shook his head. "Saved by the gods. Who would have thought."


Wow, wasn't that a great story? Did the ending leave you satisfied? In this small example, maybe, but only because this isn't a story, but a scene. Imagine if this was the end of the novel you just read. You've invested hours and several hundred pages in these two characters, getting to know their personalities, dreams, and weaknesses. You know what they're capable of and what they're not. If this is the end of that novel, and you can see no way for them to escape, would the sudden and unexplained appearance of a god please you, or enrage you? For most people, it's the latter. It's known as "deus ex machina" and essentially means that when all hope is lost, god comes down out of the blue to save the day. In most cases, this type of ending is highly unsatisfying.

Endings are the most important part of a story. Yes, you can argue for any other aspect, plot, characters, setting, etc. But without a satisfying ending, none of the rest of those things matter. Imagine if, in Lord of the Rings, Frodo had failed at Mt. Doom. Or if the Deathstar had been destroyed by a clumsy stormtrooper accidentally pressing the wrong button. The characters, plot, and setting of those stories are incredible. But if the ending doesn't fulfill our expectations, they all may as well have been crap.

So how do you write a satisfying ending. Honestly, I'm not the person to ask. I struggle with this in my own writing. I can come with some pretty cool setups, have engaging characters and powerful questions, but inevitably, my answers tend to fizzle out.

So why write a blog post about how to write a satisfying ending? To teach myself, and hopefully you in the process, how to get better. How to do this right.

Writing a satisfying ending depends largely on the type of story you're telling. Orson Scott Card's MICE quotient tells us that there are four basic types of stories. Millieu (setting), Idea, Character, and Event. And each of these story types will have a different type of ending. But they can tell you where your story should begin and when it should end. For example:

Millieu - The millieu story is all about the setting. The story starts when the character(s) are taken out of their own familiar setting and dropped into someplace strange and unfamiliar. The story ends when the character(s) find their way home. Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels.

Idea - The idea story is about a question or problem. It starts when the question is asked or the problem starts, and it ends when the question is answered or the problem solved. Most mysteries are idea stories. The question is, "Who dunnit?" and it ends when the killer is revealed.

Character - Character stories are about a character trying to change his/her life. The beginning starts one of two ways: either the character is dissatisfied with life and sets out to change; or the character's life is changed for them and they set out to return it to the way it was. Either way, the story ends when either they succeed in making the change, or they give up and accept the new situation.

Event - All stories have events. But event stories are focused on that event, something that has thrown the world, or at least the characters' world, out of balance. The story starts when the character(s) decide to get involved, and it ends when they either accomplish their goals and stop the event, or when they utterly fail to do so. Most natural disaster stories are event stories. Dante's Peak, Gravity, Twister.

So, looking at your story and categorizing it can help you determine where/when your story needs to end. In it's simplest form, the idea is that your story ends when the problem is solved. Every story has a problem, conflict, whether it's external to your characters or internal. Once that problem is solved, the story is over.

Does that mean we end the story immediately following the climax, as in my example above? In most cases, no. Because your reader is (hopefully) emotionally invested in your characters, it's not enough to merely see them succeed at their task. We want to know what happens next. Do they live happily ever after? This is often called the dénouement. It's the conclusion that tells us where everyone ended up in the end and if they're happy. We get this in a lot of movies where, either before or during the credits, we get screenshots of each character and a paragraph telling us what they did after the movie ended.

One thing to be careful of in writing your dénouement is to not overdo it. The conclusion should be short and sweet and just give us a summary of how everyone is doing at the end. An example of overdoing it, in my opinion, is at the end of Lord of the Rings. If you haven't read the books, after Frodo destroys the ring and saves Middle Earth, then they all go back to the Shire only to find it overrun by bandits led by Saruman and Wormtoungue. This is known as the Scouring of the Shire and in the end the Hobbits have to defeat them, too. I know some fans see this as the ultimate end to the trilogy because it brings it all back home, where Frodo left to begin with. But in reality, the plot of the story begins when Frodo gets the ring, and it ends when Frodo destroys it. The Scouring of the Shire is really just an unnecessarily long dénouement.

Does your conclusion have to be happy? Not necessarily, it depends on your story. But for the most part, even in a tragedy, people are looking for some hope, so if you have a really downer climax, and then add a downer conclusion to the end, chances are pretty good you're going to leave your readers dissatisfied, and possibly even mad at you.

But in the end (see what I did there?) write the ending you want to write. Just be aware of the effect it may have or may NOT have on your readers. Make sure your ending fits the situation, resolves the conflict, and doesn't drag on after the fact.
Challenge Accepted

Your challenge for this post is to take story of yours and write four different endings. Vary them up, maybe end one right at the climax, and drag out the conclusion of another. Write a happy ending and a sad ending. Try different combinations and see how it affects the overall feel of your story.

Good luck, and write something.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hunting Treasure

As the last of the cannibals collapsed to the ground amid the blood spattered weeds and coconuts, his tattooed head bounding away down the hill as if fleeing for its life, Captain William "Cutlass" James roared in victory. All around him the bodies of both friend and foe lay mangled and lifeless. As the old crone had said, to fight the cannibals would cost a terrible price, that of all of Cutlass's men, but in the end the battle would be his.

Cutlass jabbed his sword into the dirt, leaving it standing tall like the palm trees scattered across this tiny island, and withdrew the torn and faded map from his pocket. The symbols, drawn in dried blood, had led him to this isle and now directed him to the trio of drooping palms at the crest of the small hill atop which he and his ten best men had faced the cannibal tribe. 

Snatching up the shovel lying beside his first mate's dead body, Cutlass made his way to the  three trees, seeking the "King Paw" as the map named it. The old crone back at Beggar's Port had deciphered that clue for Cutlass, pointing out that that "Paw" could also refer to "Palm", meaning a tree, and"King" would mean the "top" tree, or the northernmost tree on a standard map. So now Captain Cutlass stood before the Top Tree, shovel in hand. Normally Cutlass would make his men do the manual labor of digging up the chest, but as he'd sacrificed them all on the word of an old witch, it was left to him.

Thirty minutes of digging resulted in the uncovering of a moderate wooden chest clasped shut with a rusty old padlock. Cutlass's dagger snapped the old device off in a heartbeat. Taking a deep breath, Cutlass reverently opened the lid...

Why do I write? The million dollar question. Also the topic for this month's Writers Ramble. In short it's for the hunt, like a buried treasure. But in order to truly answer this question I have to start from the beginning.

I was born on November 16, 1978...

OK, not that far back. Maybe high school... See back then I did a lot of drawing. I loved to draw. Specifically I loved to draw comic book characters. I didn't draw comic books--although I did dabble a few times--I just drew the characters. And not just comic book characters. Anything Marvel, Star Wars, GI Joe, various TV shows, all went down on paper. Later, when I started playing RPGs with my friends, those characters went down on paper, too. And I was always making up my own superheros as well.

During my senior year I got into computer art and 3D modeling. Again my focus was on fantasy characters and sci-fi ships and weapons. This led to a brief attempt to break into video game design without any formal schooling. It only lasted a few years.

Then I was in a band. I play the guitar and some friends and I started writing music together. I can't sing to save my life, but I loved writing song lyrics for Mike to sing. I would write all sorts of crazy songs like one entitled "Cereal Killer" which focused on Wendell of the three Cinnamon Toast Crunch chefs and how he murdered his two partners in order to be the sole CTC chef and hoard all the money.

In college I started out as a psychology major, but ended up in a science fiction literature class for an elective credit. It was there that I finally realized what I'd been looking for all those years. From drawing to modeling to music writing, the one thing that they all had in common was this: The telling of a good story.

That's what I'd been looking for in each of these pursuits; the story. All the characters I drew, all the ships I modeled, had stories behind them, either someone else's or my own. The music I wrote all told tales, usually twisted or deranged, but always complete.

That's when I decided if I wanted to tell stories, I needed to quite hiding them in other mediums and just focus on the source. I changed my major then from psychology to English studies and started putting my stories down on paper. And the first short story I completed as a final project for my last class in college was awarded Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. At that point I was hooked.

So when asked the question of why I write, what I love about writing, I always say the same thing: It's the quest for a good story. I live for this quest and it will likely spend the rest of my life in pursuit. Because even when one good story is found, like my HM story, there's always another, better, story waiting to be found.

And I will find it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Resolve or Resign?

So our Writer’s Ramble this month is supposed to be about our writing goals and resolutions for 2014. Before I can get to that, I have to address a challenge that I’m currently faced with.

See, I’ve been writing pretty consistently since 2006. Almost eight years. I've written dozens of stories. And in all that time, I have exactly one publication to show for it. A publication that only came late this last year, in September 2013. And even then, it was a “paid by exposure” publication, for which I earned no money, and have seen no “exposure” benefits from. No one has contacted me to tell me they liked the story, my blog traffic remained as pitiful as it has ever been. Nothing has come from this, my first publication.

Except: Proof that I can do this. Someone out there enjoyed my writing enough to include it in their magazine. So I have hope, and believe me, I’m eternally grateful to Promptly for giving me my first boost.

Unfortunately, that boost hasn’t been enough. The end of 2013 saw my biggest writing slump to date. In the last three months, the most I’ve written are a few Drabbles (100 word stories) and Twabbles (100 character stories excluding spaces) on the Drabblecast forums. Don’t get me wrong, writing these ridiculously short stories is highly entertaining and extremely challenging, but they’re not really publication material. They’re just for fun. I haven’t written a serious story in months.

I started a new job recently, which I would love to blame for my current slump, “It’s not my fault, this new job is so demanding, I just don’t have the time or energy to write…” But it would be a lie. In reality, this new job gives me ridiculous amounts of free time with nothing to do but sit in front of the computer. ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD TO WRITE. And what do I do? Watch Netflix and play browser RPGs. (Card Hunter is a great one for anyone interested.;))

I try to write, really I do. But every time I start, I very quickly find some excuse to do something else. Why am I having such a hard time? Who knows? Maybe eight years of rejection is getting to me. Maybe the freedom at work is more than my willpower is able to withstand. Maybe there’s something in the air here that just sucks all my creative juices right out through my ears. I don’t know.

But I do know one thing: I’m not going to quit. I’m never going to quit. I love writing. Maybe not as much as I should. Not enough at this point to convince me to choose writing over playing the Xbox when such free time at home allows. But I still love it.

So here are my goals for 2014: Quit being lazy. Quit coming up with excuses. Quit not being paid for my stories. Quit sucking.

More specifically, I have some exact goals I want to accomplish as well. Penumbra Ezine is running a Superhero issue in May. I want my Superhero story, Lullaby (the name will be changed before submission) to be in that magazine. If/when EscapePod runs their next flash fiction contest, I want to win. I want to have both a Drabble and a Twabble accepted and read on episodes of the Drabblecast. And, as always, I want to win the Writers of the Future contest.

Now, I may not accomplish all of these in 2014, but I’m sure gonna try.

On the Escape Artists forums, someone recently started a topic entitled “6-Word Memoirs” challenging everyone to write a summation of 2013 in six words. Mine was this:
“Too much Xbox, not enough writing.”

I followed that up with a 6-word Resolution:
“Write more, game less, be successful.”

And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Even if it takes me all year; all decade; all of my life.