Meet the New Year…

…with any luck, it won’t be the same as the old year.

To be fair, while 2017 was challenging at times, there were still some really great parts of it. For one, we welcomed our newest addition to the family, baby Jennifer. I got to spend time with friends and family, traveling to both the Pennsic War for the first time in almost twenty years, and heading down to Dragon*Con on our annual pilgrimage. I marched in my first protest, and then my second. My romance writing got picked up by Boroughs Publishing, and I made the decision to rebrand and relaunch the Rick Keller series. Also, I won NaNoWriMo for the first time in a really long time.

2017 was also a time of learning. I took a hard look at what I wanted to do as a writer and writing coach. In a manner that was half-experiment and half-throwing pasta at the wall to see if it’s done, I tried a bunch of different things, from a SkillShare account (too much noise to signal ratio), to sitting my butt down and putting words on paper (very effective!), to starting a bullet journal (so far, pretty helpful.)

So, coming up to 2018, I’ve got a few, focused goals and actions.

  1. Finish the Wilmington romance series for Boroughs Publishing. Grow my audience through social media and blogging.
  2. Finish and relaunch the Rick Keller Project for Untold Press.
  3. Finish more than just the first book of the Blues series and write my submission plan.
  4. Expand/promote my Patreon page to not only attract followers, but build a community of storytellers.

I’m also going to pursue attending conventions and workshops as a presenter/panelist. So far in 2018, you’ll find me at Arisia in Boston, where I’ll be leading three panels, two workshops, and sitting on a few more. Then, in March, I’ll be at the Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference, where I’ll be leading a workshop on writing military heroes.

If you’re going to be at one of these locations, drop me a line! Let me know if you’ll be stopping by. If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year you finally sit down to write that story/novel/memoir, get in touch, or stop by Patreon, and let’s make a plan.

2018 is going to be great. Let’s do this!

 

Introducing: Scribbler Coach

Good morning! I hope that your week is short and started with a bang–at least for all the folks on this side of the pond, and squished between Canada and Mexico. Which has got to be the most awkward way of saying, “Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans.” But hey, that’s what edits are for!

Speaking of edits, I am posting to introduce a new service on this site. Scribbler Coach, an on-site offshoot of The Infamous Scribbler, will offer a full suite of coaching, writing, and editing services. Whether you are trying to figure out how to start, or you’ve gotten halfway and gotten lost, or if you are done and are trying to figure out what to do next, I can help you.

How did this come to be? I started receiving requests from authors and aspiring authors, with whom I worked in various writers’ groups, for extra help on the side. Some of these authors needed a beta reader, others needed help putting their thoughts together for an outline, and some just needed the motivation that a deadline and a willing ear could give them.

Also, as I started introducing myself as an author (a helpful tip if you’d like to let people know about your work), I started getting variations on the response: “Oh hey, I have this great idea for a book, I just …. don’t have the time/don’t know where to start/am not sure if it would be viable/would like someone else to write it for me, how about you?”

And I thought to myself, you know, I can help people with all of those issues–except the last one. If you need a ghost writer, I’d advise advertising on Upwork, because I do not have the time to write anyone’s novels except my own. And even that is tricky.

If you take a look at the Scribbler Coach page, you will find the services broken down with descriptions of and rates for what I am offering, as well as some testimonials from people I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve got a some discounts for students and military/veterans, and as a biz launch incentive, I’m offering every fifth coaching session free. If you like what you see–drop me a line at infamous_scribbler@yahoo.com.

Happy Writing!

#WriteFridays Number … Something … Writing Exercise

It’s been a while since I posted a writing exercise or prompt, but I’m feeling inspired. I sat down with one of the ladies from my writing group, who mentioned that she was having a hard time coming up with a certain part of the plot of a short piece she was working on. She just couldn’t think of what to have the character do, or what part of the plot to develop. I looked around and found a few exercises that might help, but this lady in particular had responded well to a timed exercise previously, so I wanted to add in a personal touch.

So, here is a writing exercise if you are trying to sketch your way through some writers’ block. It may also be a good technique if you are doing some pre-writing and outlining. Hope it helps!

WriteFriday Exercise: Character vs Plot

Character/Plot Exercise

Instructions: Print out or fill in on the document. Before you start, read through the questions to start them percolating. When you have reflected on the character and the questions, start a timer. Give yourself 15 minutes per section for 1-3 with a 1-2 minute rest in between (shorter or longer if necessary.) Once you are done, sketch down a few notes for Section 4. If you start to feel inspired, get back to your story!

Section 1: What is the BEST thing that could happen to your character…

This year?

This month?

This week?

Today?

Right now?

Ever?

Section 2: What is the WORST thing that could happen to your character…

This year?

This month?

This week?

Today?

Right now?

Ever?

Section 3:

What does your character fear most?

Who/what does your character love most?

What does your character hope for?

What does your character need RIGHT NOW?

Section 4:

Take a look at the section you are stuck on. Which of the above make the most sense to use in order to heighten a sense of conflict and let the reader know WHAT’S AT STAKE? Push the intensity as far as you can. And—go!

#WriteFridays Exercise 23

With all the traveling I’ve been doing for Con and drill, and trying to write a book, polish another, plot another, and put together two book proposals (because why not), (and oh yeah, start up a new literary journal) these Friday exercises have been taking a little bit of a hit. Actually, so has my whole blogging life. However, the writing must flow–or the spice, or a little bit of both. So here is this week’s #WriteFridays writing exercise, designed to put a little conflict into your characters.

Exercise 23: Cutting the Feedback Loop. One of your characters is desperately trying to carry on a conversation with another, but no matter how he or she tries, it’s not happening. The partner either can’t or won’t hold up his or her side of the back-and-forth. What are they trying to talk about? Why can’t they talk? Is it a physical block? Or a mental/emotional wall? Can the characters resolve it, or are they doomed to part ways or worse, stay together forever without being able to talk to each other.

Sketch a dialogue–such as it may be–between your two characters. Use actions where necessary to communicate when words fail. See what happens when you let a conversational block/conflict push the scene forward.

Mom's all like, "Blah, blah, blah, get off the bed." But whatever, I'm a dog.

Mom’s all like, “Blah, blah, blah, get off the bed.” But whatever, I’m a dog.

#WriteFridays Exercise 22

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and a few friends had posted about a firm that is developing an “augmented reality” game that shows monsters in your house. Apparently your phone takes a map of your house, and then the game shows you what may be lurking in the shadows.

It took less than a fraction of a second to think of all the places this game could go, and all the myriad of horror movie endings that the twists and turns could bring. Because, you know, Night Terrors. Which brings me to…

Exercise 22: What evil lurks in the heart of your phone… Is it The Shadow? Is it your little brother playing a trick on you? Is it a digital ghost given corporeal form through an ill-advised game to wreak havoc and pursue vengeance on the non-virtual world?

Sketch a quick scene in this sequence. It could be from the beginning (the decision to play the game), the middle (is something going wrong? I think something’s going wrong! SCREAMING!!), or the end (things went horribly, horribly wrong–call the Winchesters!)

As always, when you’re done, feel free to post your results or link in the comments. 😀

If this is what's lurking in my garden, I frankly don't WANT to see what creepy sh*'s hanging out in my hallway...

If this is what’s lurking in my garden, I frankly don’t WANT to see what creepy sh*’s hanging out in my hallway…

#WriteFridays Exercise 21

You know what’s hard? Writing. You know what’s hard to write? Unpleasant things.

Now, I’m not just talking about writing a character’s death. For some writers–actually, for more writers than I feel really comfortable mentioning–it’s par for the course when one of our characters goes to the big literary Elysian fields in the sky.

What I’m referring to is the sort of writing that can give us a protagonist like Humbert Humbert or Doctor Faust–main characters who are straight up evil or downright unpleasant to be around, and yet we still enjoy reading their stories, finding ourselves entranced from the first page to the last period.

There are a number of techniques for making an antihero compelling reading. There’s the “villain with a heart of gold” technique. The “I used to be good until faced with great personal tragedy” technique. There’s the “good person placed in a bad situation who secretly wants to be good” technique. There’s the “unrepentantly bad person who still has one point of redemption” technique.

Whichever technique works for you, it’s tricky to implement, but if you can pull it off, these characters can be some of the most entertaining and intriguing.

Exercise 21: Making The Bad Guy Good Reading. Pick a technique that works for you, and write it at the top of a blank sheet of paper (or your computer screen). Divide your worksheet into two: Character traits and Events. Let your pen wander as you brainstorm your evil character. What makes up his personality (character traits)? What has happened to make him the person he is (events)? When you have enough to get started, sketch out the introduction to the character. A few paragraphs to get started will suffice.

Once you’ve sketched out your scene, find someone who is willing to read it (or share the link in the comments). Would they read more? Would the character entrance them or are their negative traits too negative? Head back to the drawing board and see what else you’ve got for that character. Good guys all the time can get somewhat tiring–let’s see who you’ve got that we can sink our ambivalent teeth into.

Writing bad guys? Or do you mean … my biography?

Writing bad guys? Or do you mean … my biography?

Happy writing!

The Return of #WriteFridays!

Last night I sat at my friend’s table for a mutual writing session, attempting to grind out just a few ndred more words. I’m stuck at the place in this manuscript where trying to get the story out feels like pulling teeth with a rusty chainsaw–not very effective, and kind of bloody. (I was also laboring under the misconception that once I hit 40K words, I only had 15K more to go. After hitting 40K, and celebrating, I realized that it was actually 25K more to my goal of 65K. Why do I even bother doing math?)

What, ho, I thought to myself. Time for a writing exercise! At this particular place in the novel, my two characters are sitting outside a Whataburger in the middle of Nowheresville, TX, in the early morning. It’s one of those towns I’ve often driven through, that is basically the incorporated confines of a stoplight, a hotel, and a couple of fast food joints. Although it’s winter in my novel (it usually is, I think probably because I start writing them in November…) it’s also Texas, so unseasonably warm. So where is the exercise?

Well, I managed to write about seven hundred words from the beginning of the scene, went to write an action where one of the characters adjusts his clothing … and realized I had no idea what they were wearing.

So for this week, let us don our sartorial lens, peruse the racks of our mind’s eye, and head into …

Captain shares his sharp-dressing secrets.

Captain shares his sharp-dressing secrets.

Exercise 20: You Are What You Wear. For many of us, our clothes immediately convey to those around us a certain amount of information about ourselves. Whether we’re wearing high-fashion couture, fast food polyester, a wool jacket in 100+ degree heat, or shorts in the middle of winter (hello, my significant other), much information can be gleaned from a character’s wardrobe.

For this exercise, write a paragraph that includes very specific choices in your character’s (or characters’) clothing choices (or lack of choices.) This could be an introduction to a new character–or a new way of seeing an old one.

Happy writing!

#WriteFridays the 19th

I’m sneaking on to post a quick writing exercise, which I realize will not only be the 19th #WriteFridays exercise, but will also be posted on the 19th. Small things like that make me happy. Yes, I’m a dork. Anyway, this will be the last one before I take a few weeks’ hiatus to go fulfill some other obligations. But not to worry! Check back in after the July 4th holiday, or simply after July 4th for those not in the States, and I will have resumed my writing exercise and coaching goodness.

This week’s exercise comes from both a conversation I had with one of my clients, as well as the opportunity I had this week to read and review a story excerpt written by a gentleman with whom I deployed in 2003. Reading through his work was like a short glimpse into some of his personal experiences in the military, which got me thinking…

Exercise the 19th: Think back to an event in your life that you remember with some amount of clarity. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering or life-changing memory, it just has to be a strong one. When you have captured some of the sense details (what did you see? what did you hear? were there any strong smells?), it’s time to begin.

For your first paragraph, begin writing your memory. This could be from a first-person point of view, or you can try writing it out in third person. As you move into the second paragraph, write what happens next — but make it up. And also, now it’s happening to someone else.

Good luck!

#WriteFridays the 18th!

This week I started to formally hang out my shingle as a writing coach, and one of the ladies from my critique group took me up on it. We met up, and after discussing the issue that she specifically had questions about, she mentioned that sometimes it was hard to start writing without worrying about the end product. Even with these exercises, she felt pressured to come up with a full story, or something that was already polished.

This is not the first time someone has told me that they get a mental block between wanting to write something–and actually sitting down to write it. So, for this week, I have an exercise specifically designed to break through that block. Below are three mini-exercises. Before starting this week’s #WriteFridays exercise, sit down with your pen and paper (yes, your pen and paper), and a timing device of some sort. Then, read further.

Each mini-exercise includes a prompt and a time. When you are ready, start your timer. The minute the seconds begin ticking, your pen starts writing. Even if you don’t know what to say. Even if you are just writing the prompt to get your ink flowing. Write whatever you want to until the timer buzzes–just don’t lift your pen from that page, or let it rest in one place.

In between each exercise, set the timer for two minutes. During those two minutes, do something away from your desk. Do some jumping jacks. Drink a beer. Wash a dish. Pet your dog. (Just don’t go online … Try to avoid social media. Instead, do something that engages you physically.) When the timer pings–back to your seat for the next one!

Mini-Exercise 1 (3:00 Minutes): It is early Sunday morning. You are barely awake, when you notice, out the front window, a postal vehicle. A woman gets out, carrying a package. She walks up to the door, lays the package on the porch, and hightails it out of there. You open the door and reach down for the package…

BREAK

Mini-Exercise 2 (5:00 Minutes): You walk into your house to find your partner at the kitchen table. Eyes wet and rimmed with red, it takes a moment before he/she can compose him/herself. “I don’t know how to tell you this…”

BREAK

Mini-Exercise 3 (7:00 Minutes): You are walking through an outdoor marketplace, filled with the stalls of local farmers, artisans, and crafters. Some of the stuff seems pretty cool, but it’s hot outside and you’re ready to head next door to a local coffeehouse and grab an iced espresso. Just as you pass the last couple of stalls, an old man with a beer belly and an impressive mullet jumps out in front of you. “Quick, come over here,” he says, grabbing your arm and pulling you into his stall. “I found it!”

Or, you could totally pet your cat. That would be great, too.

Or, you could totally pet your cat. That would be great, too.

#WriteFridays Exercise 17

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy and perspective, and it put me in mind of an exercise we used to do in my acting class in college. For this exercise, we would have to put ourselves in the mind of someone we obviously were not — a five-year-old, someone of another gender, someone from a foreign locale, a puppy — and improv a scene using this new perspective.

As writers, we are called on to do this all the time. Unless we are writing a story about the last person on Earth, chances are we are going to have to reveal the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of a wide range of characters — and woe betide the novice who finds all her characters starting to sound the same.

Exercise 17: Perspective. Choose a character — either one from your writing, or someone brand new — who is as far-removed from your typical genre/gender/experience as possible.  Write a short excerpt from his or her point of view, doing your best to relate the story first, underlain by this new perspective.

I like rainy days, long walks on the boardwalk, pine cones, and treats … Go!

I like rainy days, long walks on the boardwalk, pine cones, and treats … Go!