Category Archives: Thoughts on Writing

Apocalypse: The Second Fall

In this post I’m going to share a bit more about my book.

In todays economy, there remain many doubts about our ability to rebound. Some say there is an elitist group controlling basically all events in the world, trying to bring about a New World Order. The United States debt is nearly insurmountable, and word is spreading that the dollar could be dead by 2012, meaning the United States would no longer hold the worlds reserve currency. If that were to happen, the results would be disastrous. Back in January, the Chinese President (Hu Jintao) declared the present US dollars domination as the world currency as a thing of the past and highlighted moves to turn the yuan into a global currency.

As the worlds reserve currency holder, the US is able to print billions of dollars we don’t have to cover its massive debt. If the dollar dies we will no longer be able to print money we do not have. Inflation will take the nation by storm. Basically, the world stands on the verge of monumental crisis.

So what does this have to do with my book?

Well, my first novel, in what will be at least a two book series, maybe three, deals with a Legend that brings about an Apocalypse. My world had gone down a thousand years ago to another Apocalypse, called The Fall. The Legend wasn’t fulfilled in its entirety and the world endure. Now, I begin my story when the world is on the brink of a Second Fall.

As I look around the world today, I see similarities between my story and the real story we all live in. When I began this story nearly two years ago I had no idea about the crisis the world faces today. The Middle East is falling into turmoil. Oil supplies are being disrupted and prices are rising quickly. I don’t know if there will be a solution or end to the growing chaos, and neither do my characters as the apocalypse heats up in book two. Book one could resemble this year, 2011. Things are changing, it would seem. Book two could resemble 2012, the year the Mayan calender has labeled as the end of an age. Some believe the Mayan calender calls for the end of the world on the winter solstice of 2012.  Others believe it is merely the end of one age and the beginning of another.

Regardless, the world grows dark in my story, but there is always a glimmer of hope. If my characters can discover the intricacies of The Legend, they can stop the “bad guys” from fulfilling it and ending the world… or is it simply the end of an age? When my book comes out, you will find out.


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More on Originality

Sorry the posts haven’t been coming as quick and fast as they were in the past. I’ve had a super busy past week and my life has been consumed with other things.  So here is a quick quote on originality to chew on:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” – C. S. Lewis

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Failure Breeds Success

I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn.” – C. S. Lewis

All writers hope for success. Duh. But can you persevere through failure after failure before finally becoming successful? As Thomas Edison put it, “I failed my way to success.” The greatest works in the history of mankind, in literature, science, or anything else, have almost always been proceeded by failure after failure. I read somewhere that C. S. Lewis was rejected 800 times before being published. Today, he is considered among the greatest writers of the 20th century. Those hundreds of rejections seem daft in light of the reputation he carries today.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley

Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.” – Jon Bon Jovi

As I continue to edit my novel, I believe the disappointment of not trying will be greater than the disappointment of failure. Anytime you take on something challenging, whether you “succeed” or not, if you give it your best shot, you’ll grow stronger. Keep failing. Some kind of success will come if you don’t give up.

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Writer’s Block: Part 2

This is my second in a series of posts in which I hope to lay down some thoughts and tips on overcoming writers block. You can view part one by clicking here. Don’t think that because I’m writing on how you can overcome writers block that it doesn’t affect me. It is a battle that not only authors have to fight, but students and anyone else who writes on a regular basis. I struggle with it at least a few times a week in my writing.

You know those days when the words just flow so freely from your keyboard that you can hardly type fast enough?  It’s the dream scenario for those who love to write. It’s like catching every green light in town on your way to the store. You just keep going. Nothing can stop you. I’ve churned out 20 pages before on such days.

Then, there are those days when you sit down at your desk, knowing you need to write, even knowing what you need to write, but you can’t find the words. It’s like there is a mental block. You begin to wonder if you have digressed back to the third grade. This isn’t how it is suppose to be. You are a writer! You’ve done this before. The words should come freely. Nonetheless, you just don’t know what to put down on paper. Everything you start writing seems stupid and senseless. You delete that first sentence you took ten minutes to cook up and start all over. Writers block.

Tip #3: Write something else. If you can’t find the words you need on one writing project, work on another. Once you have your creative juices flowing it will be easier to go back and get something going on that first project. I’ve tried this many times and it seems to work.

Tip #4: Realize nothing is going to be perfect! This is huge. I’m such a perfectionist, especially when it comes to writing. Every word has to be perfect. Some days I become consumed with this mentality and spend almost an hour on just a few paragraphs. A few hours on the opening paragraphs of a story is one thing. What I’m talking about is excessive. Sometimes we think too hard about things. If you can remind yourself your project will not be perfect (especially the first draft) you may find yourself able to continue. Don’t sit and wait for words from above… write.

When it comes to “perfection”, remember: “The greatest achievement is to outperform yourself.” – Denis Waitley

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How to Become a Better Writer

What you want is practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what we write (at least this is my view) at our age, so long as we write continually as well as we can. I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on.”  – C. S. Lewis

That’s right. Becoming a better writer is really that simple… and that hard. You have to write, and write , and write. As C. S. Lewis said, you learn something nearly everytime you write, even if you throw it away in the end. In the novel I am editing, I completely trashed three chapters and rewrote them. Four chapters evolved out of the revision process. It was difficult to do, but I definitely improved the story by doing so.

You learn things as you write. Reading enough blogs or attending more classes won’t guarantee better writing. If you want to turn that pen into a sword, you have to wield it constantly. Think of all the writers you respect who have their style and voice down. It took them years to get to that point. I’m still searching for my style and voice. As with anything else in life, if you want to excel, you have to work hard. Just as pro sports players spend thousands of hours in the gym to become the best they can be, you have to spend hours upon hours at your desk.

Keep writing. You will become better with every page.

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Impromptu vs. Outlining

What kind of writer are you? Do you write going from scene to scene, making it up as you go and not really knowing what happens next? Or are you the type of writer who plans everything out?

I like to call my style of writing “impromptu”. I don’t know how legit of a name that is, but it is what I like to use. Basically, I dive into all my stories knowing very little about where they are going. Yes, I have images and scenes in my head I want to implement into the story, but oftentimes they are the epic scenes of the climax, near the end of the story.

For example, most people are familiar with the story The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. If you know the storyline, imagine sitting down to begin those books with only a few things decided. You have developed the idea of The One Ring, the Dark Lord, and your world in general. You have hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, men, and have even cooked up some of Middles Earth’s history in your mind. Knowing you want to start the book in the Shire with one of your main characters, Frodo, you sit down and begin writing. You might have epic mental images of a fight underground with a massive beast of fire (The Mines of Moria, The Balrog), and of a vast swamp full of dead people (The Dead Marshes), but you really have no guidelines or plan. It’s all just scenes with no names. You have no idea how you are going to get there.

As you write, you create new and unexpected characters and throw them into the fray. Your imagination is the limit as you invent your story. It goes where it wills and in retrospect you realize you unconciously took one road out of hundreds. The story, as you write it, could go this way or that way, and ultimately you choose a path and dozens more paths open up. The story grows and grows. Slowly, everything starts falling into place and the skeleton begins to fill out, forming a solid body of work. Before your eyes lays an evolution of literature that had no plan, no sense of direction until it finally evolved to encompass all those grand images you began with.

I start my stories with just a few images and scenes to inspire me. The hard part is creating the scenes in-between that connect the dots and to do it in a way that makes sense. However, impromptu writing is a sure recipe for breeding writer’s block. When you make up everything as you go you will find that some days you just don’t know how to direct your story. Your characters begin to scream back at you “this is stupid! Turn us around and start over!”

What do you think? How do you approach stories? Which style do you think is best? Personally, I love the evolution of impromptu writing but know an outlined story is worth the time it takes to make one. Maybe someday I will actually outline a story before I write it. For now, the story I am editing continues to evolve, just as it has since the first day.


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Descriptive Writing

“We are all apprentices in a craft that no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

Descriptive writing. That and character dialogue make up most of a novel. I personally abhor books that drag on and on and on with descriptions. Others might enjoy the lengths authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien go to set a scene, but I tend to strive for a quick action, movie like approach to writing. Sometimes I find myself feeling smug in the fact that if my book has any problem, its briefness, not excessive descriptions. However, have I taken my intent to be more brief too far?

You need a perfect blend of descriptiveness to make a scene (and novel) work. In some areas you will need to cut or revise descriptions. In others, you will need to add. Below are some ideas for revising, cutting, or adding descriptions.

Idea #1: Let your characters “describe” during their dialogue. Let them discuss what it is you are trying to get your reader to envision.

Idea #2: Most of the time, less is more. Try to keep this in mind. It’s hard to not have enough description. Oftentimes, your (intelligent) reader will fill in any gaps you leave with their imagination. This is typically a good thing. Give a framework, but allow your readers individual and unique imagination to create the rest of the scene.

Idea #3: Sprinkle descriptions. You might want to cut that huge paragraph (or paragraphs) you have setting the scene and spread the description through the scene as your character interacts with it.

Idea 4#: Ensure your descriptions add to the story and move it forward. Don’t add description for it’s own sake. Sometime it’s tempting to describe things that are relatively irrelevant to the story. Don’t do that. Even if you have a great description of a character but that character doesn’t really play a role in the story, leave it out. Only describe what you must.

I love great descriptions. They really add to a story. But remember, when it comes to descriptions, quality is better than quantity.

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Listen and Write!

Writing to music. It’s like writing on steroids, for me.

This is one of the best things for writers, I believe. People talk about situation and atmosphere in writing and how it can effect your tone and levels of inspiration. Having a good situation and inspirational atmosphere help immensely. Music is perhaps one of the art forms that inspires and affects the human soul the most.

I love music. A lot. Most people do. I particularly enjoy trance and techno but find movie soundtracks inspirational in writing as well. I listen to music during most of my writing periods. It just helps the words flow. If I’m writing a battle scene, I listen to intense music. If I’m writing a scene about the natural beauty of the world, I listen to serene music. If I’m writing an epic description of something, I listen to epic music.

If I can’t seem to find the words for what I want to say, I change the song. Suddenly new images flash into my imagination and the words begin to come. As the music moves me, I begin to write, hoping to move my reader in the same manner.

Music and words have a lot in common. Music provokes thoughts and images. I hope to use the music of my words to provoke thoughts and images as well. It’s like a dance. It’s like poetry. Poetry is word music. It’s lyrical. Novels aren’t so poetic, but they can be as inspiring and moving as any great song if done correctly. This is an aim of mine: to move people with my words as much as the greatest songs of all time have done. Knowing the power of music, if I can do that, my writing will be successful.

Listen and write!

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The Dichotomy of Good and Evil

Good vs. Evil. It is the classic conflict of nearly every story ever created. It is the classic conflict in the world we live in at large. The interesting part is that those we perceive as being evil often view themselves as the “good” ones, or, at least, never the “evil” ones. Even Adolf Hitler believed he was acting rightly in exterminating the Jews and advancing militarily on his neighbors in Europe.

“As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” – Adolf Hitler

Often, it is one’s worldview that influences what you deem to be good or evil. The real world aside, how you portray good and evil in your stories is significant. The foggier you can make the two sides, the more suspense and mystery you add to the story. That is the challenge, I believe. Taking the dichotomy of good and evil and smoothing over the divide.

You may be asking what purpose could that serve?

Well, how much more exciting is a story in which the good guy could be the bad guy or vice-versa? Leave the reader in suspense. The greatest villains of all time tend to be those who are charming, handsome, wise, smart, even lovable but have some corrupt flaw or flaws at their core that turns them into the ultimate Supervillain. As Ben Bova puts it in his Tips for Writers:

“In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them.”

If you have a villain that is easily identifiable as such, in all likelihood, you do not have a complex Supervillain. Make your villain charming and lovable. Even make his ends seem, in a way, desirable and good. I don’t know if I have this idea mastered in the novel I’m writing but it is definitely something I have been thinking about recently. I personally believe if a writer can master the art of creating a protagonist and villain that are shrouded in uncertainty it will make for a superior story. The unsure protagonist versus the is-he-really-evil?-supervillian.

“This is a brilliant observation that has served me well in all my writing. (The bad guy isn’t doing bad stuff so he can rub his hands together and snarl.) He may be driven by greed, neuroses, or the conviction that his cause is just, but he’s driven by something not unlike the things that drive a hero.” – David Lubar

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Edit, Edit, and… Edit

Want to fine tune that manuscript you’ve had sitting around? Think three steps.

Step 1: Edit

Step 2: Edit

Step 3: and… Edit again

Seriously, I am finding out that getting a novel ready for publishing requires almost just as much editing as writing. I think I heard somewhere that a novel is 10% planning, 50% writing, and 40% editing. It took me two years from start to finish to complete the first draft of my book. Will it take almost two years to edit it? Probably not, though it seems like it. I was balancing high school and college work over those two years I was writing. Today, I am able to spend much more time editing so it won’t actually take me too long to edit. However, I’m about two months into the process and there is still a lot to do. I have at least a few more weeks worth of editing.

I should clarify that any plan you have for editing shouldn’t be as simple as I stated above, obviously. I was simply ranting about the enormous task of editing a manuscript without hiring a professional. And yes, I hope to do most of the editing myself. It is way too expensive to higher a professional. I sent in my first chapter to a professional editing company to received a sample edit. The sample edit came back and they wanted me to give them the go ahead to finish editing chapter one… for 80 dollars. With 27 chapters in my manuscript, it would be over two thousand dollars for a professional edit at that rate. Sure, they probably have a quantity discount, but still. They even claimed to have some of the lowest rates. Scary.

As I am discovering, editing should entail some steps. You should have order; a plan of action. Basically you should begin with general content editing. Plot holes, additional or deleted scenes, character voice… etc. That should come before grammatical edits. I was doing both (content and grammatical editing) at the same time and ended up throwing out three chapters, adding four, and rewriting another. I then had to go back and edit those new chapters. Lesson learned? Save grammatical editing for the final stages. If you are looking at your manuscript with a truly critical eye there should be plenty of content editing to keep you busy.


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