Guest Post by Aaron Michael Ritchey: The Horror of the B+ and the Terror of the Pretty Good

What’s good, peeps? Today I have something super dooper special–a little somethin’ somethin’ from my dude Aaron Michael Ritchey, author of The Never Prayer. Check it out, and make sure to give his book a gander.

Scott J. Clemons.  Yes.  That is his name.  However, it might be my name, too.  What’s the old song?  John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?  I’ll stop now.  If you know the song, you are already singing it in your head, which is a sign of madness.

Scott and I hit it off because we just might be the same person.  When he offered me a chance to guest blog, I thought it would be kind of redundant.  But then we talked on the phone for an hour, and I had a flash of what I could write about.  And here I am.

I’m a complicated man.  Like Shaft, no one understands me but my woman.  And even she might be jivin’ me.

When I get done writing, I am either the most brilliant author to ever string words together, or I am a hack who should be muted and stuck in a hole.  I am either on top of the pile of writers, lording over them, or struggling underneath, looking for more mud to eat.

My wife videotaped me saying I was a good writer.  She had to.  Because when I’m in the dumps, I truly don’t remember anything good I’ve ever written, and it drives her insane.  John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt madness.  It’s a diagnosis in the DSM V.  I’m a child of a psychotherapist.  I know.

Talking with Scott, he said something similar, but I won’t out his crazy.  I’m here to talk about my own.  Yes, there are times I have wanted to throw in the towel, leave writing forever, and do something constructive with my time, like watch more baseball, or rescue puppies from burning buildings.

Because again, I’m either the best or the worst.  I should either quit my job and write full time, or I should never write again and look into a career as a puppy rescuer.

The truth is, I’m pretty good.  Not great, but definitely not in the “I should be killed for writing” camp.  Pretty good.  Which is a hard place to be for me.  In school, I either wanted an A+, or I wanted an F-.  When I got a B+, I would rage.  B+!  What the hell is a B+ good for?  Absolutely nothin’, say it again.

I’m a good enough writer to be published.  My debut novel, The Never Prayer, was shoved out into the world on March 29, 2012.  And you would think my stupid head would be satisfied.  But here is the lesson I’m learning—my stupid head will never be satisfied.

My mind is a tool.  It can help me plot my stories, it can create wacky characters, it can help me with the craft of writing, but it can’t help me with meaning.

Call it spirit, call it soul, call it what you want, but there is another part of me, not my mind, that knows the truth.  How I stack up in the grand pile of authors doesn’t much matter in the end.  I need to embrace the books I write, love them, and sing my songs to the world.  Yes, my voice might crack.  Yes, the Simon Cowell’s of the world might criticize me, but when I write, I am taking part in the sacred art of storytelling.  That transcends the stupid extremes of my thought-life.  It transcends me.  As it should.

Henry Miller said that the only reward for writing is writing.  If I’m good, I should write.  If I’m bad, I should write.  If I’m pretty good, I should write.  If I have a story to tell, I should write, no matter what.

And if you read my book, The Never Prayer, and give me a B+, well, logically speaking, that’s better than a C.  And if I touched you at all with my story?  That’s better than any grade ever.

Thanks, Scott, for letting me invade your blog.  Have you seen the other sock we wore last Saturday night?  I can’t tell if it’s in Colorado or Tacoma.  Or someplace in between.

For more about me and The Never Prayer, you can visit us both at www.aaronmritchey.com.  And of course, I’m on Facebook, as is the book at http://www.facebook.com/TheNeverPrayer.  And I tweet – @aaronmritchey.   If you are at all curious about the novel, our friends at Amazon.com would love for you to visit them!

If you are a try before you buy type of cat, hit me here for an excerpt: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/TheNeverPrayer.html

Aaron Michael Ritchey

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Two Full Cups of Awesome

What’s the good word, foolios?

Before I get started on today’s bloggity blog entry, I’d like to say thank you to all the folks who pushed that old follow button at the top of my page. Take a minute to check out the blogs of Malou, Aubrey, and Elisa. Each one of them is packing two full cups of awesome.

Now, down to business.

I sat down today and hammered out another 1,000 words of chapter two. The plot seems to be trucking along fairly well, but there are some real issues I keep running up against.

A little background for all you folks who are just catching up:

My approach with this draft is to start into each chapter with as few solid details as possible. This approach is totally based on the craptastic experience I had with my first draft. See, on my first go-round I had lots of great ideas all sketched out on note cards, but those note cards ended up being more of a hindrance than a help. For me, the process of writing always generates lots of on-the-spot ideas that I know will make the story super sweet. The thing is, when I try to cram my note card ideas with the spontaneous ideas popping out of my brain I end up telling two totally different stories in the same fricken book. What’s more is that when I go back to revise this two-in-one monstrosity I’ve got chapters that top out at 3,500 words at a minimum. Way too long for the YA novel I’ve got my sights on.

My problem now is that I get stuck on these little rabbit trails in the plot. I start flowing along with the writing, tapping out all sorts of fun-loving stuff when I discover that I’m writing Grade A crap that does nothing to advance the plot. But don’t despair, friend. There’s a serious sunny side to this problem. Because I’m not married to the plot in the same way that I was with the note cards I can just hit the old backspace button and start fresh from where the plot was still feeling good. Before I know it I’m cooking along and the story is wicked fun to write again.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Writing this book has been ridiculously tough but it’s also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.

On an unrelated note, you ought to check out the new Walking Dead episode. The tension between Shane and Rick is going to explode into a wild and crazy drama bomb. I can’t wait!

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.

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!