Getting Over the I-Suck-At-Life Blues

You know those times where you feel like you can’t write worth a crap? Yeah you do. I can see it in your beady writer eyes.

I don’t know if those periods of feeling crappy are just a matter of perception or if I’m really just striking out when it comes to putting words on the page, but I do know that it doesn’t matter. Nope. Not one little bit. Whether it’s reality, or just perceived reality, the result is still the same: I feel like I suck and that’s no bueno for producing anything worthwhile.

While I’ve found that those periods of feeling crappy are always going to happen, I try to take time to balance them out whenever they start to crop up. My most recent means of feeling better is reading through the “How I Got Published” section of James Dashner’s blog. In this little section he talks about how he busted his heiney to go from a schmuck with a scrap of writing talent to author with a whole boat-load of publishing credits including the NTY best-selling Maze Runner trilogy. How awesome is that?

So check out Señor Dashner’s blog right here. Once you get to his page scroll down a whole bunch and look on the right. The link is kind of hard to spot but I know it’s there (I just checked!).

That’s it for today. Happy writing, ya filthy animal.

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Chapter One, Part 2: The Re-Chaptering

Whoa! Rewriting does not suck as bad as I’d thought it would. Who knew?

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Lemme back it on up real quick for the folks playing catch-up (That word makes me think of ketchup. Or is it catsup? I vote the former). I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’m starting this whole novel thingy from scratch. Deciding to scrap the first draft was tough, but I’m 99% sure it’s going to pay off. Let’s just hope the 1% doesn’t come in and ruin it for me.

[insert rimshot punch line sound here]

My first draft had about a million little loose ends–stuff that made no kinds of sense to me. So I figured, “Hey, if something I wrote doesn’t jive with me, then what are the chance that someone else is going to be into it?”

“Not good,” I said in my best Gollum voice. “Not good at all, my love.”

Anyways, I’m on the second day of pounding away at this thing and I feel pretty okay with how things are panning out. When I thought about rewriting I didn’t plan on reworking the whole story, but as I got deeper into the process I started to figure out that I was going to have to make an entirely new story if I wanted to make the thing work. The characters are pretty much all the same–that is to say that they have the same motivations and such–but the way the plot plays out is quite a bit different. Looking at the first draft showed me that the scenarios I was putting them in were not dramatic enough. I needed to make them hurt, make them bleed a bit more. That might sound really weird, but in my brain-grapes it makes perfect sense.

So that’s where I’m at. I did a thousandish words today of chapter uno but I’m going to plug away at it some more this evening. When things go sideways (and they always do!) I’ll be sure to come on here and lay out my plan for getting through it.

Spinning Yarns: An Ode to Presidents’ Day

Until twenty minutes ago I was ultra-excited to write this blog post. See, I’d had this idea for a post a couple days ago where I would list all the American presidents who have published fiction over the years. I figured that listing a bunch of presidential fiction publications on my blog would be a sweet way of ringing in this favorite holiday of students and mail carriers alike. Sadly, it was not to be.

Based on my research–I use the word “research” in the loosest sense, as I only “researched” for five minutes at the most–there is not a single publication by an American president that is classified as fiction. Of course, some people might say that everything coming out of the Oval Office constitutes fiction in some sense, but for the purposes of this blog post I was looking for something they’d intended for us to read as made-up.

But don’t stress out, friend. I have another idea that’s still fun, just much less fun than my original idea. Here’s a list some of the great political fiction, but I’m taking a page out of M. Night Shyamalan’s book for a bit of a twist.

1. The Man Who Opened the Watergate

Remember when Tricky Dick had his broskis break into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters to try and make them look all bad and stuff? And then afterwards he came out and said that he didn’t do it, but then later said he pretty much did? Yeah. That was a good story.

2. Rod Blagojevich and the Gilded Chair

Once upon a time, there was a prince in a place called Illinois. This prince wanted so badly to get a whole bunch of money so he decided it would be a good idea to try and sell a Senate seat to whoever was willing to give him the paper. Then he got caught and went to prison. The end.

3. Fly Away, Pretty Bird

There was this one time, at hunting camp, when the Vice President of the United States got away with shooting a dude in the face. Turns out that 78 year-old lawyers look a lot like quail.

4. I’d Trade My Arms for a Hostage

So there was this one time when Ronald Reagan went on television and said there was no possible way that there were any sort of weapons going to Iran, but then later he came on and was all like, “Well, maybe I was wrong.” Yeah, good times.

I’m sure you can think of a whole bunch more but I’m going to leave that list as it is. Don’t hesitate to comment below with any other escapades into the ethical grey-zone.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Will Blade-Running Aliens Be The End of Us?

Evening, folks. Actually, seeing as it’s 12:30 AM I guess morning would be more accurate.

Have you heard of this new movie, Prometheus? It’s the new Ridley Scott flick that started as an Alien prequel but ended up not being the Alien prequel. If that sounds confusing, that’s okay. I think it’s confusing for all of us.

Prequel or not, when I saw the gigantic display for it in the theater I immediately tossed the title into the Google machine and watched the trailer. My immediate reaction: “WHOA!”

So check out the trailer. It looks epic.

All My Friends Live On The Internets

I fricken love the internets. Seriously, there’s so much awesome stuff out there just waiting to be seen, read, and loled at. Just take a second to think about anything that’s not on the internet. Nothing, am I right? It’s all there. Why just the other day I bought a new pair of glasses online. Yeah, dude. Glasses. And I got them on the cheap for just $89.00  What a screaming deal! You can’t beat a deal like that with a stick.

Know what else the internets are good for? Finding people who are into the same stuff you are into. Think about it. Before the web was super accessible, geeky kids like me were enjoying more than our share of lonely lunch periods. Now all you have to do is type a few key words into the Google machine and blamo! You’ve just found loads of people who are as excited as you about the new [insert fandom here] episode/book/comic/movie.

Seeing as I love the internets so much, you can probably guess about how much time I spend on computers. Mostly I like reading made-up stuff (check my Spec-Fic tastes at the top of the page!) but I’ve been known to pass the time watching interesting videos, reading what other bloggers are up to, or checking out assorted lulz.

It’s boring, but it’s my life.

It was during one these typical perusing sessions that I found something pretty darn sweetical (that’s a combo of sweet and radical–use it if you need to). It’s a YA fiction blog straight out of the Windy City and run by a lady named Anna. I know, I know, there’s a bajillion blogs about YA fic, but her blog really struck my fancy when I saw this post.

The post is about trends that the author would like to see in 2012–more straight up sci-fi, less hot-and-heavy romances–and I can get down with almost all of them. While I’m definitely on board with her desire to see more sci-fi without all the woe-is-me dystopian overtones, I’m not so much down with her point about seeing more stand-alone novels.

See, I think book series are wicked fun to read. That’s why finishing a book that is packed with characters I’ve fallen in love with is the bummer to top all bummers when it comes to reading. However, if I know the series is going to keep going then I know I’m going to get to see those characters get wrapped up in a whole new mess of wacky adventures.

But that’s not even the most important part of the deal.

Maybe you didn’t know this, but writing is really really hard. Seriously, it’s tough–one of the hardest things in the world to do well. Believe me, I know. I write a lot. That’s why I think it’s awesome–and I mean super amazing crazy awesome!–when a writer gets a book deal and the books take the heck off. Considering that a writer puts so much of their lives into a book there’s not many sweeter payoffs than being popular enough to warrant a series.

So yeah, check out the link to Anna’s blog, and don’t forget to like her post. Maybe even give the old follow button a click, eh? Oh, yeah, and read lots of books.

Bon weekend!

The Dead, They’re A-Walkin’

Don’t like spoilers? Well you better turn the wagons around and head back toward this post instead, partner.

DOOOOOD! The new Walking Dead episode was fricken sweet-ass-sweet! Shane was being all extra crazy and power hungry, Hershel pretty much waved the finger in the Lord’s face and started boozing again, and Rick blew away two goodfella wannabes who were on a zombie-motivated vacation from Philly. Whoa! Can you handle all that? I stuck the trailer for the newest episode in the bottom of this so go ahead and give it the old clickeroo.

On a bummer note, Dale stayed true to character and wore the same expression of horror and shock that he always does–Am I scared, or did a bug fly into my mouth? You decide.I’m sure everyone saw that one coming though. Honestly, Dale, just do the group a favor and let the zombies eat your face off. Plus, there’s the whole “concerned father” thing he has going on. Ack! That fricken guy bugs the crap out of me! Every time he gets up in everybody’s business I just want to go Street Fighter on him with a shoryuken uppercut.

Anyways, enough ranting from me. If you haven’t checked out the newest episode then you are missing the express train to Awesome Town. Download it, borrow it, *hack the AMC website–whatever you do, it just needs to happen now.

SO SAY WE ALL!

*The Bloggity Blog of Scott J. Clemons in no way advocates hacking into any website, unless it’s for the purpose of taking one cent at a time from an evil corporation like in that movie Office Space.

How I Quit Being a Baby About Editing – Part Two

Where did I leave off? Oh, yeah. I’d been sobbing.

Just kidding, foolios. I was talking about editing and how rough it is. More specifically, I was writing about how I don’t know what the %#&! editing is all about. Or at least I didn’t know. Not completely. I’ve got a few plans on what I’m going to do next. Here they are!

Wading my way through the process of writing a novel has been messy. Super dooper messy, man. But thankfully, messy isn’t the same thing as impossible. No, sir. Not even close.

I starting off editing where I left off: my writing. I had the manuscript, notebooks full of character sketches and plot ideas, not to mention a fatty pile of notecards that I’d stacked. I sorted through all of it, flipping from manuscript to notebooks to notecards but I couldn’t really felt like I was getting my footing. Good golly, it was about the biggest bummer ever. See, I had this expectation about how I was just going to plow through the editing process the same way I’d done with the writing. But this whole editing thing? Not the same at all. Everything I tried felt like I was spinning my wheels in the mud.

Whenever I get stuck on some writing I like to mix things up a little bit by doing something out of the ordinary. Picking up my wife’s cat Lola and spinning around in circles until we’re both super dizzy is one of my more solid methods for getting the old cerebral juices pumping. Usually it takes just one kitty spinning session to get things working but seeing as this was a pretty tough problem I had to take her for three separate sessions. By the end of it Lola was in a serious hissing mood, but I my brain was back in working order.

I started over by asking some questions. Why was this sucking so bad? Why wasn’t I getting anything done? What did I need to do to make this thing work? I decided to take a look at the manuscript and try to figure out a way to start working on it by making a list of all its nasty flaws.

  1. The thing is 120,000 words long–holy crap, that’s big! Way too big for a YA novel, even with the typical fat that gets trimmed in revisions.
  2. There is way too much internal dialogue. Why did my protagonist need to always reflect on what she was doing?
  3. I have too many scenes that serve no purpose. If a scene does nothing to drive the plot then it needs to go the way of the buffalo.

Looking at these flaws led me back to my stack of notecards. On a sidenote, I think I’m going to post a picture so you guys can see the level of shenanigans that got to. Seriously, that stack was fatter than Dudley Dursley after Christmas dinner, not to mention that every single card was totally packed with a million gazillion notes.

But wait, I thought. Could that be it? Could it be the million gazillion notes that were the problem? Yes! It all made sense now. What a dorkus maximus I’d been. In trying to build the framework for my book I’d gone totally OCD and overdid the thing. In trying to plan things out so as to not lose the trail of the story I’d gone and made the thing too complicated. The result? 120,000 words of YA science fiction.

That was so dumb. That was really dumb. Fo’ real.

But it’s not all bad. Writing that bloated manuscript taught me what not to do when I rewrite. Now I know that I need to pull waaaaay back. I need to plan things out, but I need to do a whole lot less of it. And that’s where I’m at now. I’ve got a bunch of chapters plotted out, but not in the extreme way that I did before. It might not end up being the way I stick through the process, but it’s a place to start.