On taking the plunge

Like many authors before, I have often wondered what it would be like to take the proverbial plunge and be a full-time writer.  To exit my full-time, steady job and take up writing as my job.  It’s pretty scary to consider.  It’s entirely unknown.  You’d need to have some money saved, friends/family/loved ones who are encouraging but realistic.  You’d need a plan for what you were going to do to make sure you could keep a roof over your head.  And, most importantly, you’d need a hell of a good idea.

So I was reading Ms. Ana Spoke’s Blog yesterday, and I found myself considering what she is doing.  Ms. Spoke is the author of Shizzle, Inc (Book 1 of the Isa Maxwell Escapades).  She is also taking the plunge.

Ms. Spoke is making a brave, and highly bold, move as an author – she is taking off (six months!) from work to focus on writing.  This is a huge step.  One that I am nowhere near making.  But on reading her blog, I had to think about how that decision must feel.  While I doubt that Ms. Spoke is making such a bold move without careful consideration, I can only imagine how terrifying and exhilarating her decision is.

Per her blog, she intends to devote a great deal of time (six months) to being an author full-time.  She has even stated that her goal is to write not one, but two sequels to her first novel. Ms. Spoke is taking the plunge.  I hope that her experience works out well!  I certainly believe it will.  I can only wish her the very best of luck in this endeavor.

Someday, perhaps I shall follow in her steps.  Leave the relative safety of the steady known for the unknown.

Tarry not in those small, safe, comfortable places, for in them we find little more than comfort.  Eventually, that comfort can become our prison.

On my Short Stories

I’m a big fan of a well-told short story.  I think that it’s the limited word count that impresses me the most.  When you can tell a good story in under 2-10,000 words, that’s just magic.  It’s even more impressive when you see someone write a story in even less.  I still get chills from the six-word stories: “For sale, baby shoes.  Never worn”  from Ernest Hemingway is just amazing.  My stories tend toward much longer word counts by comparison.  The Toothfairy clocks in at about 2800-ish words.  Art and Artisans (the whole thing) clocks in at nearly 6000.

This is where the blog becomes challenging.  I would love to put the entirety of Art and Artisans on, in one shot.  But the issue is: it’s a wall of text.  Most blog readers would rather not see a wall of text.  This – to answer the question I received on the matter – is why I’ve broken the story into three parts.

Is there a magic upper/lower limit for a word count on a blog post or page?  A point where the reader is just overwhelmed?  Perhaps.  Well until I hear differently I’ll try to keep my posts to sub-2000 words.


On Outlines

I have been writing my stories off and on for about 20 years now.  My early stuff is horrific.  A true affront to the English language.  That’s saying something since I feel that English (the language) took the best parts of like six other languages, drug them behind a dumpster and beat them with a shovel.  I had a tale that was about the early European colonization in the Caribbean; it was horrible.

I was recently asked about what, if any, planning and outlining I did when I sat down to write my first book, Grenheim’s Thorn, I had decided just to post it here.  I write very “organically.”  When I hear authors say this, what I hear is, “I write when I feel like it and will probably miss my deadline.”  There’s nothing with writing “organically,” I know, I do it.  The real issue is that when you write this way you can sometimes wander far afield from your original story.  Wandering like this happens to me all the time.  I like to say that it’s because I want my characters to “feel real.”  They (my characters) have their responses and impulses.  I put them into a situation and then try to see what they will do.  Here is where I run into trouble.  I know what they are supposed to do, but my brain just wanders with my imaginary friends, and they sometimes do their own thing.  Makes for some interesting stuff.

Due my wandering imagination, I must use an outline.  I hate outlines.  I sincerely, hate them.  I hate writing them; I hate following them. But they are pretty much the only way I stay on course.  So my outlines are very – ahem – sparse.  I prefer to write using an outline like it is a compass rather than treating the outline as a map.  When you have a compass, you know the general direction you want to head.  You may wander off the trail a bit, but odds are, you are going to get where you’re heading.  With a map, you’re never going to investigate that unusual sign and find something cool six miles off the highway.

So, yes, I have an outline.  Or more, I have a good understanding (which is written down) of where the story is going.  I know all the key characters and events.  But outside of that, I am just winging it.  I know who dies.  More importantly, I know when and why.  But when I had two characters make a bet early on in my book, I didn’t plan it.