It's almost time for the 2014 "30 Days, 30 Stories" Project!

Look for details for this year's project soon!

Last year's project was great! We had a fabulous selection of work. To read (or reread), click HERE for the first story.

And remember to leave a comment! We *LOVE* comments!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jump Start Your Writing with Poetry

by Scott Rhoades

Deren's post this week reminded me of something that has been such a deeply embedded part of my writing routine that it often slips my mind that I actually do it.

Except lately it seems like it's so ingrained that sometimes I forget to do it, but let's not talk about that.

When I sit down to write, and especially when I mean to start writing but the words are failing me, I find that I can jump start the writing portion of my brain by reading a really good poem or two. There's something about poetry that touches the creative cells of my brain like very little else. It gets me thinking about words and putting them together well, and puts me in the right frame of mind to create.

I subscribe to the free Poem-a-Day service from poets.org, so I get a poem in my email every day. Those are often enough to get me going. Of course, I don't get to choose the poems I get each day, so I don't always like the one I get. Fortunately, I have several poetry books that can remedy the situation. When in doubt, I need only reach for William Stafford or T.S. Eliot, or my beloved aging "The Theology of Doubt" by Scott Cairns. There are several others I turn to on occasion, depending on what I feel like reading and what I'm wanting to write that day.

How do you jump start your writing on days when your creative engine doesn't want to turn over?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood

by Deren Hansen

I have been haunted by Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken,” [http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536] ever since I blundered into the poem in a high school English class. The final stanza should be familiar:


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two Roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Is this a lament or an expression of quiet gratitude about the road not taken?

The notion of opportunity costs is a poorly understood economic concept for similar reasons. As part of an effort to quantify what it will cost to pursue some line of endeavor you should add in the cost of not doing something else. In the relatively simple case of an investment, the opportunity cost of buying stock is the interest you would have earned if you left the money in the bank. The analysis, however, rapidly becomes much more complicated as you move from the predictable to the unpredictable. For example, what is the opportunity cost of taking one job instead of another, or marrying one person instead of another?

Artisan publishing doesn’t preclude other kinds of publishing. There are certainly cases where an artisan publishing effort led to a lucrative contract with a major publisher. But a simple fact of life is that the more time you put in to one line of endeavor, the less time you have for others.

In the third stanza, Frost says:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Your good intentions notwithstanding, way inevitably leads on to way and the road of artisan publishing will take you to different places than the well-marked path of traditional publishing.

It isn’t simply that in addition to writing you will have to become skilled at production and marketing, it’s that as an artisan publisher the nature of the projects you undertake will be different: you may choose to go ahead and publish a manuscript that agents and editors say isn’t sufficiently commercial; you may produce a collection of short stories or a novella that would have stood little chance of being published in the past because it was too long for a magazine and too short for a book; or you may simply write more or less than a traditional publisher is willing to absorb.

The differences arise not because one road is better than another but because they simply go to different places. What counts as success for an artisan is different from what counts as success for a large organization. Making money is, of course, part of both roads, but questions of how and why have different answers depending on the road.

If, instead of being fascinated with the new prospects opening up before you as you go down the road, you find yourself looking over your shoulder and spending more time wondering about the other road—the one more traveled by, and better marked—perhaps artisan publishing is not for you.


Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is Your Writing Too "Tell-y"?

By Julie Daines

Show don't tell. It's a phrase we hear over and over again. But how can you know if you have too much telling and not enough showing?

Here is a quick list of signs that indicate you are telling instead of showing:

* Using too many adverbs. A few well placed adverbs are great. Less is more.

* Using inactive verbs. Such as to be, including was, am, is, are etc. "She was running through the trees" is weaker than "She raced through the trees."

* Using look or feel. A sign that you're taking the easy way out. "Angie looked sad" or "Mark felt tired" are both weak and telling. See my post on never naming emotions and using an objective correlative instead of telling.

* Using cliches. "flashing a perfect set of white teeth" or "steely gray eyes" tell us what the teeth and eyes look like, but not anything deeper about the character. Find a better, more meaningful way to show it. A way that makes us care.

* Too many adjectives. Just like with adverbs, less is more. Find a better way to write description. When in doubt, limit description passages anyway.

This list is from author Deborah Perlberg's book Writing for Young Adults.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

NaNo week 3 & wifyr


How has your NaNo been? Hopefully more successful than mine.

My school district has given a five-day break for the holiday, beginning on Wednesday. I had some time then and on Thanksgiving Day between family and guest arrivals. Black Friday is not even on the radar so there’s an extra day there.

My goal this week was to up the word count. With the extra time I aimed for a thousand words-a-day average. I broke 700 last week and felt like I was on my way.

Then the wheels fell off. My story skidded to a stop. It had no legs. I had all that free time to write but major holes prevented much progress. Someone suggested October should be NaOrgYoNo – national organize your novel month. I was a tad busy then, too, and had the best intentions to work out some details. I did do some structuring. But these gaps in storyline were unforeseen.

Each week has seen a moment of uncertainty and doubt. This week’s was more crippling. I considered myself to be winning but now I’m not so sure.

So it languished in limbo a few days. It seems like it’s got something, but too many faults and defects began to show. What is the purpose of this character? If she takes this course of action it is incongruous with other parts of the story.
I’m doing an historical fiction so I stopped and researched and took notes. I included the notes in the daily word total so I had something to show. Throwing up words for the sake of word count makes for writing in circles.

The whole NaNo idea is intriguing. Having a story permeate your into you life, your month, even when it is not working, is enthralling. My brain is on it the whole time. I fall asleep trying to work it out and it’s the first thing I wake up with in the morning and random thoughts come anytime during the day or night.

Changing subjects, WIFYR is preparing for next summer and host Carol Williams again is pulling in some incredible instructors. Supposedly we can begin signing up sometime in early December. The site to learn more is http://www.wifyr.com/

One week to go. Happy NaNo-ing.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Miles for Pages

by Scott Rhoades

A few years ago, when I started tracking my reading for the year, I made a game of it, for my own amusement. This game could work as encouragement for kids to read. With a little tweaking, it could even provide motivation when you are writing.

It's pretty simple. Each page you read counts as a mile traveled, and you track your progress on a map or online map service, like Google Maps.

That year, I went from Orem to Denver, then veered south into New Mexico, cut across Texas to the Gulf, followed the Gulf Coast around to the southern tip of Florida, then went up the East Coast all the way to Newfoundland, went around the coast of Newfoundland to L'Anse aux Meadows (just because I've always wanted to go there), went from there to Greenland, where I went around the southern coast, then around much of Iceland, then traveled through southern Norway. Then the year ran out. The whole way, I tracked my progress on online maps.



One nice thing about this little game is that it could work for any age. It could even work for kids of multiple ages. You could set a goal, like from home to Grandma's house or Disneyland, or whatever works for your family. You could include little Geography lessons or projects along the way so the reading progress is more than a line on the map.

As a writer, you could modify the game to encourage you to write. For example, maybe every five or ten words you write put you another mile down the road. Tailor it to your writing goals to make the game work for you.

A game like this might add an extra level of fun to your child's reading or to your writing. Reading or writing your way from Salt Lake City to New York City might be, for some people, more fun that saying you read ten books or wrote 25,000 words. It worked for me, at least for that one year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing, In Perspective

by Deren Hansen

As consuming as our cares about craft, promotion, and publishing in general are, every so often it is good to step back and put our problems in perspective. There are far too many people who are unable to join us in bemoaning the changes buffeting the culture of letters because they’re distracted by trifling annoyances like not starving,  succumbing to disease, or becoming a casualty.

Humans have always dreamed and told stories. That we have the time and the means to catch those dreams and render them in an enduring form, which has the potential to touch the lives of far more people than could ever fit around a campfire, is something our forbearers would find miraculous.

For much of our history only the rich and powerful were able to leave a durable legacy because palaces, temples, and monuments of stone were about your only options if you wanted future generations to know you were here. In time, books provided a more effective way to preserve your thoughts and feelings for those who would follow, but they were still the province of an elite sliver of society. Now billions of us can write for the ages.

Of course, nothing is ever certain. A host of calamities, from asteroids to zombies, could reduce us to fossilized traces. But in the grand scheme of things, we’re incredibly fortunate to have words to worry about, rejections to receive, and the perpetually perplexing publishing industry to enjoy.


Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Do you have MICE in your story?

Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. quotient is a concept from his books Character and Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction.
M.I.C.E. stands for Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event, and can serve as a way to identify what kind of story you’re telling, and which elements you might need to spend more time fleshing out."

This is an interesting concept and I wanted to share it with you.
 M= Milieu=Where the story takes place
The world, planet, society, weather, family, etc
The character gets to see strange places, see all the things that are interesting, is transformed by what he seems and then comes back a new man. The story begins the moment the character enters a strange land and ends when he leaves.
For example: Wizard of Oz ends when Dorothy leaves Oz and goes home to Kansas.

I=Idea=Idea stories are about the process of finding out information
The idea story begins when a question is raised and ends when the question is answered.
For example: Most mystery stories follow this structure.

C=Character=When the story is about the transformation of a characters role in his community.
The story begins the moment when the main character becomes so unhappy, impatient or angry in his present role that he begins the process of change; it ends when the character either settles into a new role or gives up the struggles remains in the old.
For example: Romances are a good example of character driven concept.

You can embed character sotries as subplots within milieu, event and idea stories but in that case the characters' changes are not the climax of the whole work.
Even within a character story, the main character is not the only one who will change.
Much of the plot in a character story rises out of the other characters resistance to change. Your main character is the one who triggers all the others transformations.

E=Event=The story begins, not at the point where the world becomes disordered. But rather at the pint where the character whose actions are most crucial to establishing the new order becomes involved . It ends at the point where a new order is established.
For example: Harry Potter. Every book starts and ends with Harry being unhappy with his state in life.

My book, IT'S NOT ME, is a character driven story.
What is your book? Character? Milieu? Tell us!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NaNoWrMo week 2

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We’ve crossed the halfway point so we all are up to at least 25,000 words.

Yeah, right.

I spent the day with some writing friends at Cheryl Klein’s plot class and the number people not doing NaNo this year surprised me. The obsession with word count and winning seems to be at issue. It is a worthy goal for some, yet a source of discouragement for others.

Cheryl Klein’s workshop was excellent, by the way. It deserves a post of its own one of these days.

This is my first NaNo so maybe the lack of experience equates to indifference, or low standards. I almost didn’t enter, knowing I simply do not have the time to slap down 1600 words each day. And if I’m doomed from the start, why even try?

If I get to 25,000 by the end of the month, I will be happy. In the middle of the week, I started keeping track. I’ve topped 700 once. My current rate is somewhere between 450 and 475 words per hour. I don’t have four hours a day to write. I can’t find much more than an hour a day.

NaNo calls for a different writing strategy. I get too meticulous, too compulsive in my normal writing mode. I can’t go onto chapter 2 until everything is right in the first. Each chapter requires perfection of the previous. This is on the first draft, mind you, bound to be re-written anyway in later drafts. NaNo has been nice in that I’m forced out of my comfort zone. You just throw it down. The heck with whether it’s right and it is liberating. Don’t need to worry about spell-check, only about ignoring those irritating red underlining the offending word. When I come to a difficult part, I write a note to myself to have the character do this or say that then move on. It moves the story and pads my word count.

Problems have arisen in the storyline itself, some minor, some not. I hate my main character’s name and have tried on three or four on him. None of them work so far, but it’s not a deal-breaker. There have been moments of doubt and realization that there is no story. Now, that’s a showstopper. It takes more wind out of the sails than low word count. So I’ve had to halt and spend part of my hour a day planning or Googling something for accuracy. I did write out my research notes and included them in my word count, too. Every little bit helps.

50,000 words by December 1? It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. A rough draft of a story? Maybe not even that. I will have a several thousand words and notes and other superfluous crap to edit through and mold into a story. That’s a win for me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Show Me the Money!

by Deren Hansen

If you’re toying with the notion of becoming an artisan publisher because you want to get rich quick, stop immediately. There are many other ways to make money that take far less effort and produce a more timely return. Some people have indeed made their fortune writing books just like others have become wealthy by winning the lottery, but neither approach offers a predictable, repeatable path to instant riches.

In a world where entire factories are optimized to produce as much of one thing as quickly as possible, the artisan’s handcrafted approach can never compete purely on price. Of course, artisans can make a living but they will never enjoy the profits that can be generated by the economies of scale in a large operation.

You might argue that the old economy-of-scale distinction between artisans and major enterprises doesn’t apply to electronic books because production costs have dropped to almost nothing: an artisan publisher can “publish” just as easily as a major publisher and, as a smaller operator with lower fixed costs, they can afford to undercut the big houses on price.

But the changes that have opened new prospects for artisan publishers have also given large organizations new ways to gain advantage. Specifically, established publishers continue to enjoy economies of scale in marketing and discoverability. Because they have been producing a great many books for a large audience they have the attention of an army of reviewers and booksellers. You won’t command the attention of as large an audience until you are as well established as they are.

Don’t make the simplistic mistake, as you’re dazzled by the prospect of a 70% royalty, of thinking all you have to do is sell 50,000 copies of a $2.99 book to earn a six-figure income. Even with a dedicated sales force and standing orders from bookstores, major publishers rarely sell 50,000 copies of a title. On average, books published nationally—which includes bestsellers—sell between three and five thousand copies.

You may sigh and ask, “Are you saying we should publish for love, not money?”

No. It’s simply that the money will not come quickly. Unlike ancient artisans, who were paid once for their work and depended on the next commission for their continued livelihood, an artisan publisher gets paid every time someone buys another copy of the books in his or her catalog. In web terms, artisan publishing is all about the long tail—the slow growth in the value of the collection of published work over time.

What this really means is that artisan publishing operates under a more traditional model than current publishers. Before most large publishing houses became divisions in even larger corporate entities they earned their ongoing income from their backlist—books published prior to the current year that were in print and on sale. Your goal as an artisan publisher is similar: because you can never compete with the major players on the number of titles you release or marketing to create a false sense of urgency your best bet is to supply a steady stream of high quality content which will, in turn, generate a steady stream of revenue.

There’s money to be made as an artisan publisher, but it won’t come all at once.


Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo Success--It Can Be Yours!

By Julie Daines

Here is yet ANOTHER post about NaNoWriMo. We're getting close to the halfway point. We should be coming up on 25,000 words on Thursday.

Personally, when it comes to NaNo, I'm a believer. My first NaNo year was 2010. I did it. I wrote my whole novel in one month. Then I spent the next year revising it and running it through my crit group--the amazing Sharks and Pebbles. Then I sold it to a publisher and it's coming out in February.

I am a SLOW writer. So if I can do it, anyone can!! You just have to find the NaNo method that works for you.

So, in case anyone out there finds this helpful, here are some tips that work for me:

~ Some great advice I picked up I can't remember where is to take the first 5 minutes of each NaNo session and brainstorm a few BRIEF bullet points of what needs to happen in your plot next. You only need to worry about the next scene or two. Once you have that, it's A LOT easier to get those words out. 
I'm not much of an outliner in general because things change so much as I write. But if I take these 5 minutes to plot out the near future, it makes a huge difference in how quickly I meet my daily goal.

~ DON'T SELF EDIT! Everyone says this because it is the hardest rule to stick to. If you feel you've written something awful or derailed the plot, just strikethrough those paragraphs to remind yourself you hate them, then move on. That way you still get the word count, and if you change your mind later and decide keep them, there they are!

~ Keep your fingers on the keyboard! It's so easy to simply stop typing and lean back to think, or check Facebook or twitter, or go get a snack. Resist! Keep those fingers on the keyboard and type away. If you're not sure what comes next, just keep typing the scene you're in, even if it will all be deleted later.  
I had a scene where my two main characters were eating, but I wasn't sure what needed to happen next, so I dragged out the meal, describing in detail the most mundane parts about their burgers and fries. It kept me writing until the inspiration on how to move on finally came. NaNo is an exercise in free-flowing thought, not creating a masterpiece in one month.

Find what motivates you. For me, it's watching that little target bar in Scrivener slowly change from red to green. 

Please, please, please share with us your tricks and secrets for a successful NaNoWriMo!!

Happy writing!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo week 1


It sounded like a good idea, but I knew there was now way I could plunk down 1666 words a day. Since I was doomed to fail from the start, I wasn’t going to do NaNo.

Now I’m in the thick of it.

Honestly, there is not enough time in the day. My wife still insists on normal things getting done. She hasn’t approved a 30-day hiatus from obligations. We’re used to three meals a day, so eight hours of it is spent at work. How you people with children in the home can add that extra load is beyond me. (Ann Dee Ellis had some words about managing all that her blog this week. http://throwingupwords.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/swimming/ )

My word count is low, terribly low. The NaNo site has a great personal word tracker. I’m averaging 474 words a day and my count on the bar graph falls far below the upward moving goal line. At this rate they project February 2013 is when I’ll reach 50,000. I guess that makes it NoNoWr4Mo. I need to pump out 2155 words a day to make it by December. Have you ever tried to write that many words a day? Last evening, I sat down to reach at least 1666. I wrote until midnight and I only got 667, exactly a thousand short. See? I knew I wouldn’t be able to “win.”

Yet, I still think I’m winning. I’m getting a new story cranked out. I’ve had this one in mind for a while and other commitments have kept it on the back burner. I wish I had planned it last month so I could write it this. I took one day off (couldn’t stop watching the election results) and that threw my momentum off. Then on Wednesday my story went sour and it took Thursday’s writing minutes to sketch a few things out. The only way to repair it was to re-write the first several chapters. But that’s revision and NaNo is pure rough writing. Too bad. That’s what it needed and now I’m back on track. My track, mind you. I’m not one of the Kenyans at the front of the marathon. I’m bringing up the rear. But I’m winning. For now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

by Deren Hansen

The problem with asking a child what they want to be when they grow up is that they can only see the cool parts of the job—they have no idea how much work it takes to become something or how much drudgery there is between the exciting bits. Firefighters, for example, spend more time sitting in the firehouse waiting for something to happen than racing through town, lights flashing and sirens wailing, in their cool trucks.

As we grow, we learn that wishes often come with a price. In W. W. Jacobs’ classic 1902 story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” a family receives the titular talisman along with a warning that while it would grant three wishes it would do so, “to their sorrow.” They wish for a sum of money sufficient to settle their mortgage and receive that exact amount in settlement after the son is killed in a horrible industrial accident.

Publishing yourself looks easy—and glamorous—when you hear about ebook superstars laughing all the way to the bank.

The reality for the vast majority of people who release their own work is at best unremarkable and often disappointing.

Part of the reason is simply structural: much of our social and economic world is ruled by what’s called a power law distribution, where a few elements—be they cities, celebrities, or songs—stand out by orders of magnitude from their peers. Some things, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, become runaway social phenomena. But those blockbusters are always the exception, not the rule.

A more important reason—because it is a matter over which you have some control—that many people are disappointed with the results of their efforts at self-publishing stems from the weight of expectations they bring along with them. The electronic pioneers help inflate expectations because their experience comes from a time when demand exceeded supply. But the deeper and more pervasive problem is something akin to the gamblers fallacy: you believe that you will be the exception—even though sales of most books are best measured in hundreds of copies; your book is going to sell tens or even hundreds of thousands of copies.

But the deepest reason many people find the path disappointing is because they didn’t understand what they were signing up for. Beyond the straightforward matters of quality and integrity you make a commitment to your readers when you publish something. The nature of the commitment is nebulous—you generally have no further customer obligations after someone purchases your book—but it is real enough that businesses account for it under the heading, “goodwill.” If you want your books to continue to sell, you have to continue to market the book. In order to live up to the title, “publisher,” you have to periodically release new material. Continuing to show up in the marketplace reassures your readers that they have bought into a going concern. If you “fire and forget,” a few books, readers will return the favor.

Artisan publishing is not something to be undertaken on a whim, but in the full and sober knowledge that you may be setting out on a long, difficult road that will yield success slowly at best.


Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Character chart

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I’m going for NaNoWriMo and it’s kind of exciting. Never done it before and almost didn’t do it again this year. I know I will not accomplish the goal. There are too many things going on, still. Plus I signed up for Cheryl Klein’s plot class. That’s an all-day Saturday in the middle of the month and the lady has a labor-intensive pre-class assignment. Plus there’s election night and Thanksgiving. And do I have my new project planned out enough to go? Doesn’t matter. I’m trying NaNoWriMo anyway.

I’ve got the write-it-in-30-days storyline roughed out in mind. Now I need characters to carry the story. Middle grade boys need something to read so there’s my MC. He’s got to have a dog; every kid needs a dog. It’s set suburban modern day so he has access to technology, social media, 5th grader mode of transportation, etc. So now who is my kid?

Charlotte Dillon at www.charlottedillon.com has a very nice site to help you get to know your main character. Besides sage advice on the people in your story her site has some great links, though some of them are no longer active. She also offers a character chart. You can cut and paste into a Word document then fill in. The chart is designed for adult characters, but children’s writers can pull from it as well. The exercise is obvious for your main character, but the antagonist and other major players deserve a chart of their own.

Dillon starts with the basics: character’s name, nickname, age, physical features, family and friends, etc. She suggests tag lines or gestures such as “holy moly” or cracking of knuckles so when those things are done or said, the reader knows whom. Dillon goes deeper with what she calls the character’s character. What are their good points or bad, their attitude and temperament, their weaknesses and phobias? What do they want, what’s their motivation, and how driven are they to achieve it?

Similar to Kathleen Duey, Dillon has questions to ask your character to get to the heart of them. They include:
-If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
-What do you do when you are angry?
-Do you have a secret passion? What? Why is it a passion? And why is it a secret?
-Deep down, what does you really think of yourself? Are you fair, moral, honest, etc.?
-How do you deal with anger, sadness, external/internal conflict, change, loss, jealousy, hurt, etc.? Why?
-And my personal favorite: If you had a weakness for one of the seven deadly sins, which one would it be and why? (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth)

It’s still early in NaNoWriMo. It may be worth your time to get to know your characters before you get too far into it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Joy of Daydreaming

by Scott Rhoades

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those
who dream only by night.”  -- Edgar Allan Poe


I recently spent part of an evening going through a Box Of Things My Mom Kept. The box included old newspaper articles, school assignments, autographs, and a few report cards. Much of what was in the box had to do with my boyhood fantasies--fortunately, mostly from when I was still too young for those fantasies--like my obsession with baseball (OK, some fantasy worlds linger). One parent/teacher conference report from Fifth Grade reminded me of something I heard over and over as a kid:

"Scott spends a lot of his time daydreaming."

As if that's a bad thing.

There is tangible evidence that I never stopped spending a lot of my time daydreaming. In my final high school yearbook, my girlfriend--who, by the way, I married 22 years later--said she wouldn't want to live in my head because it was a scary place.

According to Freudian psychologists, daydreams express repressed instincts like those that come out when sleeping. They say daydreams are often about wish-fulfillment, "based on infantile experiences and allowed to surface because of relaxed censorship."

Freud claimed that where nighttime dreams are often incoherent and confusing, we engage in "secondary revision" when daydreaming, making them more lucid and coherent.

I read somewhere that one of the reasons artists tend to have psychological issues is that the creative person has a less distinct barrier between the conscious and subconscious and is able to pull from the subconscious at will. Similarly, Freud called daydreams a state between sleeping and waking. This, they say, affects the psyche because it can lead to an inability to distinguish between dreams and reality.

Again, that's supposed to be a bad thing.


An adult, boring people say, accepts reality and does not indulge in fantasy. Imagination is a waste of time, unless it improves business and brings in more money.

If you're reading this blog, you know how ridiculous that is. That same parent/teacher conference paper that chided me for daydreaming also said "Scott writes entertaining stories."

To state the obvious, writing stories is nothing but daydreaming on paper. Those of us who write for young people might well be proving Freud to be correct. He claimed that dreams, whether sleeping or awake, have to do with some "infantile" mumbo jumbo whatever. I stopped reading the sentence. It might be right, but I don't care. I don't need to analyze it.

I like daydreaming. I like night dreaming. I love those moments when I'm blending the two. And I love that writing gives me a way to capture those daydreams. I worry sometimes that if one of my daydreams comes true, the one where I can quit my day job and write full time, I will slip into an adult world where my imagination becomes wholly acceptable because it's being used for the purpose of commerce.

Being an adult has already damaged my daydreams somewhat, by creating filters that are sometimes too prominent, barriers that direct my daydreams into (mostly) acceptable channels, reminding me that some lines of dreaming are pointless, dangerous, crazy, or otherwise unacceptable. That "scary place" my wife referred to so many years ago still exists, but I've learned that, in the adult world, I can't always reveal it like I did when I was younger.

Sometimes I hate that.

There are interesting stories in that scary place, fun little daydreams that are probably better left unshared. However, it's exactly that place that, when it surfaces, makes stories come to life, even if I'm not always aware that I'm letting those dreams surface. When I am aware that I'm delving into the darkest depths of my dream mine shaft, I polish the gems that surface so that they are no longer so raw and scary.

It's probably a good thing that writers and other artists learn to filter the parts of their dreamworld that they share with others. It's also a good thing for writers to dig into those uncomfortable places for certain story elements, although many of us are afraid to go there.

To me, it seems like drawing a line between daydreams and sleep dreams creates a wall that limits imagination. Treating imagination as a childish thing that should be let go unless it makes money is a crime against our own humanity.

So what if obscuring that division between conscious and subconscious can lead to insanity? It's an artificial barrier. Whether conscious or not, both sections of our mind are parts of who we are. There are lessons and stories in there. But lessons and stories are an adult way of looking at it. How about adventures and fun, scary places to explore?

So dream away. Recognize that the best dreams happen when you're supposed to be paying attention to something else, like work or church or school or some other bit of the grown-up world. Don't be afraid to let your dreams go where they want or need to go. Be smart about what you share, if you must, but let your dreams go where they want, like you did when you were a kid. Be yourself--all of your self--even in your own mind.

If your report card says you spend a lot of time daydreaming, consider it a successful report card. Enjoy that time. Here be dragons? Good! Bring them on!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year!

And I'm not talking about Christmas. I'm talking about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. November is the month set apart as the month in which people around the world actually act on their dream of writing that book they've been talking or thinking about writing for a long time but never "had" the time to actually do it.

I found out about Nano on November 6th, 2008. I had already "lost" six precious days, but I thought that if I could write 50,000 words in 24 days, I could do anything. Keep in mind that November is my busiest month of the year, including three birthdays and our annual Thanksgiving Feast that we host for our extended family. That year my baby was two years old, and against all the odds stacked against me, I "won" NaNo, that is to say, I reached and even passed the 50,000 word mark. I had never had a feeling of euphoria as fantastic as typing The End a couple of hours before midnight marked the end of my month of literary insanity.

Don't spend so much time online though. You'll  beed every minute to work on your story. But here are some links with great advice for this month: 

From former agent and now author Nathan Bransford's blog

From the Galley Cat blog.

And from Larry Brooks, the master of story architecture.   

I love NaNo because the deadline gives me an incentive to get the first draft out of my system, but most of all because it's fun. I imagine writers all over the world, cranking up the words, these worlds and peoples and stories coming to life. 

Take the challenge, have fun, and in December, when you have a brand new manuscript, rest for a few days (or weeks!) and then go back and revise it. 

If you wish, "buddy" me on the NaNowriMo website. That way we can cheer each other up as we strive to achieve this crazy goal, my NaNo name is cheboricuas.

Good writing!!!