Thursday, August 28, 2014

Scrap (p.4)

(Part 1 is here)

A girl rushed into Sallie's, her eyes wide. She went behind the bar and whispered into Sallie's ear.

Sallie glanced at Johnny, nodding her head. After the girl was done, Sallie whispered something in her ear and put something in her hand. Sallie walked over to Johnny's stool.

Johnny's stomach dropped. Maybe he didn't have until morning.

"Seems Hal's not waiting until morning," Sallie said. She rummaged under the bar and started pulling out guns.

"Wait, Sallie, listen," Johnny said. "Just let me out the back and tell him I'm gone. I don't want to bring this trouble down on you and yours."

"This trouble was coming sooner or later. Hal don't want anything operating that ain't under his thumb." She looked at Johnny, her eyes keen. "But tell me, why's he want you so bad?"

Johnny hesitated, but Sallie was about to head off against the meanest most powerful man in the village, and it was his fault. He leaned in. "I found something in the Heap. Something big."

"How big?"

Johnny sighed. "It will change the world."

Her eyes widened. She shook her head and jumped onto the bar, standing over everyone.

The singer in the corner cut off her song.

Everyone looked at Sallie.

She stalked up and down her bar, resting her rifle on her shoulder like a soldier at ease. "There's going to be trouble here fast so I'd ask you all to head to the basement to wait this out. I apologize for the inconvenience. Girls, boys." She gestured to her workers to come to the bar.

Johnny found the girl who'd brought the warning and sent her off with a message.

Sallie let herself down off the bar. "What'd you tell her?"

"To get out of here before the shooting starts. You got a gun for me, Sal? Mine's empty."

She couldn't help smiling. "That girl took your bullets too, didn't she?" She handed over a heavy handgun. "Take care, she kicks."

Most of Sallie's customers were making their way to the trapdoor underneath the stairs. One of Sal's boys held it open.

Sallie addressed her workers. "Susie and Sharon, you get yourselves down in the basement too, I won't hear nothing else." The two youngest-looking girls left, the others looked determined. "Now, boys and girls I call you but you are men and women, able to do what you want. If you'll stay and protect this place, I'll appreciate it but I won't force you. The basement door is open if you want to take it."

Not one of her workers moved. They looked determined.

Sallie looked pleased. She started handing a variety of firearms out, rifles, shotguns and handguns. She sent her boys to keep watch in every direction.

The few customers who remained made their way to the bar, having talked with eachother and looking like they decided something.

"Sallie," one said, a grizzled man with a lengthy black beard. "You've been here long since I showed up, only real place of civilization left in this barbarian's wasteland of a planet and damnit, you better be here long after I'm gone. This place is neutral, always has been and if someone's messing with that, I want to help, we all do." The men and women with him nodded their heads in agreement. They looked withered and aged, but also rock hard. The village didn't have room for anyone soft.

Sallie nodded. "I appreciate it much, Gril, but you all know you will be going against Hal on this. I won't begrudge anyone stepping back and heading down to the basement."

Gril shrugged, glancing at the others. "We already figured as much."

Sallie handed out the last few weapons she had and spare ammo clips to go with them.

Johnny shook his head, lost in thought. He'd spent most of his life in the village, it's parts and people familiar, reassuring, the status quo never really changing. It'd been a safe place, for the most part, for a family to raise children, for a farmer to bring their crops, and most importantly for Johnny to scavenge in the Heap and bring back old-tech to sell off.

No more.

He swore, checking the clip in the gun before shoving it back in with a snap. "I didn't want this, any of this," he muttered.

"Hey," Sallie said, smacking him up side the head. "Get the hell over your self."

"Sallie," one of her boys said from the front.

A gunshot resounded and one of the front windows shattered.

Everyone ducked and clutched their weapons with white knuckles, waiting.

No more gunfire.

Sallie left her men watching the back and sides. The rest of them made their way to the front, taking positions by the many windows.

Ten men stood out front, each carrying a machine gun. One man stood out, pudgy and with a scar across his face. He was Theodore, Hal's second.

Johnny took a slow breath. If Ted was here, Hal wasn't playing around.

"Sal," one of her men hissed from the back. He held up five fingers and pointed outside.

Sal sent Johnny, Gril and another one of her patrons who'd stuck around to the back.

Johnny crouched by the bouncer, a broad-shouldered man with a shotgun.

"They're hiding but just wait and watch."

Johnny did so, making sure to keep out of clear view.

Men poked their head from behind two buildings. Another peeked from the roof of a third. Two more could be seen between gaps in a pile of wooden crates off to the side. They each were armed and seemed to be waiting for something.

"Sallie!" Theodore cried out. "We don't want trouble."

"Sure looks like you do," Sallie shouted back.

"We just want Johnny, that's all. Let him go and we'll leave in peace."

"What do you want him for?"

"Trespassing and theft on Hal's land, the Scrapheap. He's broken the law and he needs to pay."

"Ain't the law Sheriff's business?"

Theodore shrugged. "Seeing how Hal was the one offended against and the Sheriff is a two-bit coward, Hal's the one who will see to the issue."

"The Heap ain't Hal's to own. Never was and never will be."

"Now see, he would disagree with you."

"Seeing how he's breaking the laws of this here neutral ground, I don't much care what he thinks."

Theodore laughed. "We all knew this place was only neutral ground long as Hal let it be. C'mon now, Sal, you don't want to do thi-"

She leaned out of the window and fired.

Theodore took the round in the shoulder, spinning around and hitting the dirt.

The world filled with gunfire.

The men at the back made their appearance, whipping their guns up and peppering the back with bullets.

Windows shattered. Tables and chairs were hit, sending woodchips flying into the air. The bottles behind the bar broke and crashed to the floor.

Johnny peeked out when he could, found the closest man, creeping up the side of a house. Johnny held the gun with both hands and fired. The kick took him by surprise, making him step back.

The man bounced off the wall and hit the ground.

Johnny threw himself back from the window as gunfire followed him. He found Gril dead and the other patron dying from multiple gunshots.

The man didn't last long.

Sal's man raised up and fired, scattershot catching the man above and sending him tumbling from the roof.

Johnny glanced at the front.

One of Sal's men lay on his back, his hands to his gut as another of Sal's customers put pressure on the wound. Sal herself looked calm and collected, her mouth a thin line of concentration as she moved from window to window, shooting here and there.

Johnny moved to another window, a surprisingly intact one and smashed it with the butt of his handgun. He waited a moment, then looked out. He fired a couple times at the crates but missed.

The men behind the crates dashed out of sight beyond a house.

Johnny thought of the people living in that home, in all the homes around them, in the whole village itself, exposed to an avalanche of violence and death. He cursed Hal for this, he cursed the Sheriff for not being able to protect them as he promised to do. He cursed the world that reduced them to this. He leaned out the window, spotted another of Hal's men clambering over a nearby roof, and fired.

The round took the man's leg off. His scream cut off as he hit the dirt.

Johnny saw the window of a house break as a man's elbow went through it, followed by the barrel of a gun pointed in his direction. Johnny was slow to move and he knew it. A gunshot fired, impossible to catch amid the many others, but the man in the window stumbled back and fell.

Johnny looked at Sal's man with a thankful grin but he had a curious expression on his face.

"Who was that?" the man asked.

Johnny glanced out the window and his jaw dropped.

The woman with goggles and short hair stood just outside, reloading the handgun she'd taken from him, at a time that felt so long ago. "This sides clear," she said. "Get to the front, we don't have much time." She ran off around the corner of the building.

Johnny didn't bother asking questions and headed for the front. He didn't bother thinking too hard about what just happened because it wouldn't matter anyway. It didn't make sense. Trying to understand would just make his head hurt more, and the gunfire hadn't done much to help with his headache in the first place.

He found the battle dying down, Hal's men wounded or dead, Theodore having disappeared. He must have been wearing some fancy armor to survive Sal's shot. Sal's wounded man's eyes were closed and one of her women had taken a round in the throat, her eyes open and unblinking.

Sal looked mean, blood on her face and hands, her eyes hard as diamonds. "Whose that woman?" she asked, gesturing outside. "She might have just saved our asses."

Johnny watched as the woman with goggles walked around, finishing off the wounded, executioner-style. He sighed. "That would be the lady who robbed me."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Writing Place

I recently created a "writing room" in my apartment. I set up a six-foot cheap foldable table and put a spare chair in the spare room that is mostly used for storage. It's not much, the walls bare, most of the space taken by beer-brewing equipment, cardboard boxes and christmas ornaments, but it's something. I've only used it a few times but it's useful. Having a space devoted to writing makes me write more. I think it's important for a writer to have a space devoted to writing. You have your job space, your sleeping space, your living space, dining, etc. You should have a space for writing if it's truly important to you.

Now, this could be anything. It could be an office or study, or it could be simply sitting up in your bed with your laptop in your lap. It's simply a space where, for a time, all you do is write in that space. It could be at your dining table, in your living room with the television off. It could be outside under a tree at the park, or in a lovely cafe while sipping an iced latte. It could be multiple spaces. The point is, it's a place where you go to do one thing and one thing only for a certain amount of time. A place to focus on writing, troubles left behind, distractions gone.

Having a specific place helps you write more. It will aid you in sustaining a good writing habit, especially if you get into a routine with it. Maybe an hour before work every day, you go into your writing space and write for an hour. It's just a place where you can go and get work done, leaving other things, ideas, distractions, problems, at the proverbial door. I like my little storage room because when I go in, with a fresh glass of water or coffee or beer(depending on the time of day...usually), I know what I'm getting into. I'm not going to waste time on games of tv. I'm going in there to write goddamnit.

Roald Dahl had a tiny hut. Neil Gaiman has a freaking writing gazebo! What do you have? It could be anything.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Plot Problems

Sometimes, you get bogged down in the plot of the story. You know the beginning, you know where you're going, but you don't quite know how to get there. You've got A and know C but B, the connection between the two, is a mystery.

In my current story, I've got the initial scenes finished and I know what's going to happen when the detectives confront the suspect, the difficult part is getting the characters to that point. I have to trickle clues that make sense, establish realistic leads for the detectives to follow and get to where I need them to be. I think I've got it mostly figured out, for the moment, but these kind of plot problems can be tricky. They can halt you in your figurative steps, tank your word count and demolish your drive.

So how do you deal with them? How do you write when you don't know how to get from A to C? How do you write something down you haven't even figured out yet? There's a few things that might work. It's helpful to think of these strategies as tools in your writer toolbox. One might work for one story and another might work for something else. Who knows? It's always better to have more tools than you need.

Often, when this problem affects me, I do have a solution in mind, it's just a weak one, it's one that doesn't fit perfectly in the plot, doesn't quite work as well as I would like it to. If that's the case, if you do have some idea of how it works but you just don't like it....write it anyways! Write it down and move on. At least you have something, at least you are still putting words down on paper. You can always come back and fix it up, completely rewrite it if you want to. Getting past the problem, even with a weak solution, will move you forward, will get you towards the end. You know you will have to edit the story after the first draft anyways, it's fine to have a weak moment or two. You will probably have more than you know, anyways. That's what editing is for, I find it's much easier to punch up scenes after I've written the whole story and know where I'm headed. If you've got any idea, go for it, use it. It might work better than you think it will anyways.

Another tool is to simply skip the problematic part. You know what's going to happen later so write it. At least you're getting words down, at least you're working on your project and getting shit done. You're going to have to write that later part anyways, aren't you? Get it done now! Come back to the problematic scene later, when you've had some time to think about it and after you've written what will come after it. Writing the scenes ahead of it may give you some insight into what the problem is and how to solve it. You might find clues in your future scenes that help you solve your problem or maybe just giving your brain time to mull the problem over will help you solve it.

A third tool and one I wouldn't suggest using often, is taking a break. Take a break from writing for a day or two, if a problem is really working you over. I don't like to suggest this because starting and working on a habit of writing regularly is something you should always strive for. Habits take repetition and even just one day of not writing can set you back, can get you off track. But sometimes, you need a break. Your mind needs a break. Doing something completely different can jog your brain into solving problems. Letting your subconscious work can do wonders. There are times where you will wake up and have the answer just because your brain was working on it while you slept.

That's it for today, and remember, WRITE FIRST AND ASK QUESTIONS LATER.

Also, what do you do when you have 'plot problems'? Difficult situations that hinder your writing? Forge through or take a break and think? I'm interested to hear.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Scrap (p.3)

(Parts 1 and 2)

Ten minutes later, Glen had rigged a set of speakers so the chip could speak and a microphone input so Johnny and Glen could talk back.

Or something. Johnny didn't really get what was happening.

"It's a data chip," Johnny said. "It's just information. How can it talk? Why does it want to talk? Why it does it want anything? How-"

"Stop," Glen said. "You can ask her, now." He finished setting up the computer and stood back.

Johnny looked at the computer. "Her?"

"My name is Galant," a robotic voice crackled out of the speakers.

Johnny nearly jumped out of his seat. He settled back down and looked at Glen.

Glen took a seat slowly, just watching the computer and waiting.

Johnny looked back. "What are you? How are you speaking? You're just a data chip."

"I am a non-biological-sentient-being. Your kind first called us Artificial Intelligence. I can speak as you can speak, only I use speakers while you use various biological mechanics to utter sound. I am a mind without a body. Data Storage Unit 0113455432 currently contains the information that makes up my being. I set up an emergency program to transfer myself to it in case of system-wide failure."

Glen poured himself another drink. He seemed in shock.

Johnny leaned forward. He thought of all those ships in the Heap. "System-wide failure? You were part of the ship I found you in. What happened to it? There are hundreds of downed ships out there."

There was a burst of static. "I have lost much in the transfer process, including some memory storage. I do not know what occurred to bring down Terra Former 02234, The Siren, or the other ships I traveled with."

"The ship you were on," Johnny said. "What was it's purpose?"

"The Siren was a class-4 ship, specifically created to carry and utilize a Terra Former machine on other worlds, to make them habitable for the human species."

"Wait, what? Make other planets habitable? What did the Terra Former do?"

"The Terra Former can affect a planet's surface, change it's climate and seed the land with organic life. It can, depending on the planet, convert a climate into a hospitable land for humans in months. It can create a utopia in a year."

Johnny's hand found the bottle of liquor and he drank straight from it. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "What fuel do the old-tech ships need to run?"

"The ships run on hydrofusion, the only fuel needed is H20, or water."

Johnny grabbed the gun off the table and leveled it at Glen's head.

Glen had his glass in hand, half-raised to his mouth. He froze. "What the hell, Johnny?"

"How deep are you with Hal?"

Glen carefully set his glass on the table. "I'm the only techie in town so you know he keeps a close eye on me. I give him what I have to, to keep him off my back, that's it."

"You wouldn't tell him about this?" Johnny asked, looking into his friend's eyes over the barrel of the gun.

"Of course not, Johnny," Glen said, throwing his hands on the table. "This is bigger than Hal or the Sheriff, or even our little-shit town. This is bigger than everything, do you understand? Someone with that could-"

"Create a new world and control the entire thing? Yeah, I think I got the gist," Johnny said. He kept the gun on Glen and stood up. He took the chip out of the computer. He took a breath, then holstered the gun. "I need this more than you."

There was a clatter outside, then footsteps.

Johnny ran to the window, pulled the shade away and looked out. A boy sprinted down the street and out of sight. He'd been listening in.

"Shit," Glen said.

"One of Hal's boys," Johnny said, feeling something sinking in his gut. "He keeps 'em around the gates to follow people. I didn't see him before."

Glen frowned and shook his head. "I'm not going to tell you what to do with that chip but..." Glen sighed. "You have the ability to change the world. People are going to want that."

"I never wanted the ability to change the world, I just wanted a meal and a place to sleep," Johnny muttered, slipping the chip into his pocket. "And now Hal's going to know."

"What are you going to do?"

"Hide it."

"Then what?"

Johnny shrugged. "I'll play it by ear." He walked out of Glen's and the town felt different.

The buildings looked more run-down. The dirty streets seemed filthier than ever. For the first time, he noticed nothing green grew anywhere in the town. The sky even had a brownish cast to it, as if dirt and dust were in the air itself.

It could all be different, he thought. He imagined fields upon fields of crops, forests filled with trees, entire jungles of plant and animal life. He'd seen old-tech vid-clips of other planets, planets teeming with life. They had seemed...impossible to imagine. Now, he could see it here.

It could happen.

He heard the click of a gun and felt something hard press against the back of his head.

Or maybe not.

"Hello again," a feminine voice said behind him.

His headache suddenly got worse.

The woman from before.

"Really? Robbing me twice in one day? Isn't that a little much?"

"I just wanted to make sure you didn't come looking for a little revenge. The gate guards in this town are awfully easy to bribe." She took his gun.

He closed his eyes and mentally swore at Ken and the new guy. "I wouldn't have come for revenge. I'm  not that kind of guy."

"Oh yeah? You would have just been fine with letting me have all your stuff?"

"Well, I might have taken back my stuff, but I would have left it at that. Bygones are bygones. We do what we have to, I don't blame you."

She came around in front of him, holding a gun in each hand. Her goggles were pushed up and he could see her blue eyes. She holstered her own gun, then unloaded the rounds from the other into her palm, which she pocketed. She gave him back the empty gun. She still had his bag over her shoulder. "Nothing personal," she said and walked away.

He watched her leave and swore under his breath, jamming the empty gun back into his holster. He headed the other way, hoping to never see her again. The sun dipped towards the horizon as evening came on.

In Sallie's, business began to pick up as night came on. Farmers and Hal's gun-thugs alike came to Sallie's for a bite to eat and a few drinks. The biggest building in the town, it held tables for hundreds and a long bar against the wall. Sallie's gals walked around delivering food and drinks while Sallie's boys, four big brutes leaned against the wall and made sure there wasn't any trouble.

There usually wasn't any, surprisingly. Both the Sheriff and Hal considered the place neutral. It was basically holy ground, Johnny thought, walking in and smiling. The place felt like home. At the corner tables, men were throwing dice or playing cards. On a stage in the opposite corner, a young lass sang a song about romance that a few listened to. At other tables were men and women, drinking and eating their fill.

Sallie herself was behind the bar, pouring ales and mixing liquors together to make drinks, chatting away with customers at the bar. She had a buzzcut and black tattoos across her face. She was lean and mean, her body taut with muscle and she'd been known to throw out rude customers without the help of her 'boys'.

Johnny walked up to the bar and sat at an empty stool.

She came up to him, shaking a cocktail in her hands. "Johnny," she said. "Ain't seen you around in a few days. How's the Heap treatin' ya?"

Johnny shook his head. "Not so great, Sallie. Think I could get the regular on credit?"

Sallie stopped shaking and poured the drink into a glass with ice. She gave him a look. "I don't give credit and people don't keep tabs here, Johnny, you know that." She went down the bar to give the glass to a customer, who dropped a couple chits on the bar, which Sallie took. She came back to Johnny. "You got nothing, really? What the hell happened?"

Johnny looked down. "I got robbed by a woman today. Twice."

Sallie burst out laughing. "Twice by the same woman in the same day?"

Johnny nodded. "Try not to laugh too much," he muttered.

"Alright, alright," Sallie said. She poured a beer and slid it in front of him. "Meal from the kitchen will be out in a minute. You get one just because I feel bad for you." She reached underneath the bar and pulled a room key. She put it in front of him. "One night. And you owe me." She looked into his eyes, a dark glint in them. "You. Owe. Me." She turned, smile leaping onto her face as she walked down the bar to serve another customer.

Johnny licked his lips and took a long swig of beer. He needed it.

They came for him halfway through his meal. It was the usual, a bowl of stew with a few ragged vegetables in it.

Johnny had hoped he'd be finished before they showed up but thugs always had the worst timing.

Two men showed up and each placed a hand on Johnny's shoulder. "C'mon Johnny," the one to the left said. "The big boss wants to see ya."

"I'm eating," Johnny said.

"Not anymore." The thug to the left said and pushed the bowl away.

Sallie made her way over, pretending to clean a glass with a white rag.

Johnny shrugged. "Gentlemen, I'm fairly sure you don't want to be starting trouble in here."

"You're right, which is why we're leaving." The two grabbed his arms.

Johnny clamped his legs around his stool and gripped the bar with both hands. "I don't think so."

"Excuse me," Sallie said, leaning over the bar. "Are you hassling one of my customers?"

The two thugs let up an inch. "Nah, Sallie, we're just going to have a chat with Johnny here outside."

"Looks like Johnny doesn't want to have a chat," Sallie said.

"Sure he does. It's in his best interests," the thug growled.

"Let him go. You know that shit doesn't fly here," Sallie said.

"Look, Sallie, this is important. More than you know."

Sallie slammed her fist into her bar with a thud. Everyone in the bar had stopped talking and started watching the confrontation.

"What I know is you two have come into my bar and tried to rough up one of my customers." She gave a nod.

Two of her 'boys' grabbed the thugs from behind.

"You don't want to do this, Sallie," the speaking thug said. "You'll be starting something big."

"Tell Hal to keep his business outta my business," Sallie said.

Her boys shoved the thugs out into the street.

She pushed the bowl back over.

"Thanks," Johnny said, adjusting his tussled clothes.

"Didn't do it for you," Sallie said. "Tomorrow morning, you leave here, you're on your own." She walked away.

Johnny finished his soup and drank the last dregs of his beer.

He had until morning, at least.

An hour later, Hal's men opened fire on Sallie's place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Get Out

Taking a break from my regularly scheduled Wednesday Writing post to show you a picture I took from Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor, Maine. 
Sometimes, you just have to get out and do something. 
Get out of wherever you are, for a weekend, a day, an hour. 
Experience something. 
Do something. 
Take a break from your regularly scheduled life. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Distractions and Hindrances

(Last week I talked about falling into a hole of research. This week is about the drags you might struggle with while working on a project, meanwhile new stories in your mind try to get you off-track)

Distractions are constant in a writer's life. It's difficult to get beyond real life and enter the imaginary one in your head sometimes. I've found myself being pulled in various directions by various projects. I've been keeping up on my blogging, but it's making me lag behind in writing on my actual story, not to mention a piece of flash fiction I started on Friday, inspired by my brother's writing he sent me, has grown into something larger than just a short one-off. I'm enjoying it but it's just another thing taking me away from the story I was previously working on.

Finishing things can be incredibly hard. Newer ideas are more exciting and enticing. You don't have to fiddle with characters or figure out how the plot is going to go from A-Z, or struggle with making your writing halfway decent. Old projects get stagnant, fast. Something slows the process down or hinders you and the new idea beckons, with it's lack of problems.

In my current story, I have the first long scene mostly finished, a fairly simple one in which two detectives go through a crime scene investigation, find a few clues, figure out a few things and leave. I thought it would be simple but was far from that. I realized, though I had watched numerous 'crime shows', I had no idea how an actual crime scene investigation would go. I didn't mind if it was a little off but if it was so much so that the reader wouldn't engage with the story, what was the point? So I struggled and am still struggling with maintaining realism, while also wanting to get on to other bits of the story, the real meat and potatoes of the thing. I've also been waffling on a specific supporting character, trying to make them strong, independent, three-dimensional. Bits and pieces of the scene I've already written are rewriting themselves in my head, trying to make everything fit better which stalls me on continuing it and makes new ideas look more interesting.

The problems can make your story seem boring or stupid. Maybe you realize you need to cut out a whole part and wonder 'what's the point'? Why try to continue with this obviously hopeless piece of writing when you can just start anew, fresh, on something awesome? Because, of course, the grass is always greener, the new story will lose its luster as well, and then you're in the same boat you were in before, until all around you are leaky boats you never finished working on and you sink to the bottom of the ocean and I'm not really sure where I went with that metaphor but it works.

But you just have to get down to the gritty nitty. What a strange phrase, by the way. What the hell does that mean, really? Anyways, you have to get down and do it. Write. Which is what I need to do. So I'm going to. No more talking about writing, or writing about writing, or listening to other people talk about writing, or watching people write....Just writing. Period. Start writing before the distractions take hold, before the problems build up, before the hindrances trip you up, before your new ideas tantalize you with their new-ness.

And guess what? I spent time doing that. I spent time cutting away the crap that needed cutting away, rewriting the bits that needed rewriting, and it felt great. Just keep writing.

Scrap (pt. 2)

(First part here.)

Johnny flicked the flashlight back on and set it behind a bank of electronics. He had one chance. He used the faint illumination to circle away from the light into a dark corner. He heard footsteps just outside the bridge, near the hatch.

It was close. "Hey, show yourself!" A male voice called out from the hallway. It was a man and he must have seen the light.

Johnny creeped along the wall toward the open door, from where the voice had come from. His head thudded with pain and sweat dripped down his forehead as he moved closer and closer. He saw movement, a blur.

The unknown man took a few steps onto the bridge. He stood feet away from Johnny, facing the source of the light.

Though the man stood close, Johnny couldn't make him out at all. Though the illumination from the flashlight was faint this far away, Johnny still should have been able to see a figure, a silhouette, something. All he'd seen was the blur of movement. Johnny waited, every muscle tensed. The man had living camo on, a piece of old-tech Johnny had only heard about. It was rumored one or two of Hal's men had it but nobody really believed them. Johnny realized that was why he had never caught a sight of the guy in front of him, only felt a presence, just on the edge of his vision.

"Show yourself or you're going to regret it, asshole," the man called out again. "This is my home."

Johnny saw the blurry movement as the man took a couple more steps.

A warning shot rang out, loud. It ricocheted off the ceiling. The man must have had a big gun.

"I'm not screwing around." The man approached the source of the light.

Johnny took his chance and ducked into the hallway, running. He spotted the light from the hatch. Just a few more steps.

"Stop!" The man behind shouted.

Johnny jumped, catching the edge of the hatch. He pulled himself up.

A burst of gunfire echoed in the hallway.

Johnny scrambled out of the hatch and onto the hull. He didn't stop. He took a running jump onto the hull of another ship, then dropped down it's side, hit the ground and kept running. He crouched and crawled under the belly of another craft. He planted his back against a wall and waited. He tried to control his breathing and listen over the sound of his pounding headache and thudding heart. Outside of his own body, silence dominated the Heap.

He felt the chip in his pocket and shook his head. The camo guy must have been living in the ship or maybe near it. Whatever it was, the guy obviously felt it was his territory.

Johnny was fine with leaving it to him. He started the long way back to Terra.

"You look like shit, Johnny. You been to the Heap again?" Ken, one of the gate guards, asked.

Johnny shrugged. "You know as well as I do, Ken. Hal doesn't want anyone out there. It's dangerous, he says. He doesn't want anyone getting hurt."

Ken chuckled at that. He pulled a crank that opened the metal gate with a screech. "Get anything good?"

"A headache." Johnny walked in and glanced at the other gate guard, a young man wearing a weary look. "Whose the new guy?" Johnny asked, looking at Ken.

Ken looked at the new guy. "This is Stan. Stan, meet Johnny."

The two looked at each other for a moment. Stan had his hand on the butt of his pistol, holstered at his side.

Johnny turned back to Ken. "So, you or the new guy reporting to Hal tonight?"

Ken sighed, then nodded at Stan. "Him."

Stan's gripped his gun but still kept it holstered. His eyes widened. "Shit, Ken, what the hell?"

"Easy, easy," Johnny said. "Ken, we're friends right?"

Ken frowned. "Yeah, Johnny, we're friends. Why?"

"I got you that medic-tech that saved your son, didn't I? Didn't even charge you for it, if I remember right."

"Of course, Johnny. I didn't forget that. How could I? What are you going on about?"

"Just this," Johnny said. "I need a favor the new guy to neglect to mention to Hal that I came in."

Ken took a step and put a hand on Stan's shoulder. "Ease up, rook. Johnny's a good guy." Ken looked at Johnny. "I'll make sure Stan doesn't say anything."

"You could just have asked me, you know. Jesus, what's with the runaround?" Stan asked.

Johnny shook his head. "I don't know you. I can't trust you. Even if I did know you, Hal's got half the village in his pocket, one way or another, including half the guys who say they're loyal to the Sheriff. But Ken here, Ken owes me. So I can trust him. For now."

"Hal will find out soon enough anyhow, you know that," Ken said.

Johnny shrugged.

"Wheres your bag? Your gun?" Ken asked. "What the hell happened to you out there?"

"A girl."

Ken laughed out loud. "No shit."

"It's true. You got a smoke?" Johnny took a cigarette and a match from Ken. He lit it and took a puff. "Say, a woman come through here earlier? Short hair and goggles?"

Ken nodded, having a smoke of his own. "Yeah. She had a black bag too. Shit." Ken smirked. "She the one that got ya?"

"You might say that."

"Well, she's probably at Sallie's if you wanted to know."

"Thanks," Johnny said. "Nice to meet you, new guy." He left the two at the gate. He tossed the cigarette as he walked into the center of town.

The dirt streets were mostly clear, though the afternoon sun blazed in the sky. The farmers would be out tending their crops and the rest of the people disliked heading outside these days. Firefights had erupted more than once in the past week between the Sheriff and Hal's men.

That tended to keep most folk inside.

There were a few women and men in ragged clothing carried buckets of water from the well back to their homes, padding through dust. Homes in Terra were cozy things, a couple rooms at most with the basic necessities. A couple children played in a puddle of mud until their mother called them inside.

Some men and women stalked the streets as opposed to walking along them. Their eyes were narrow and their faces grim, expecting trouble at any moment. It was easy to tell them apart. They carried big guns. You could tell the Sheriff's men by the badge on their coat. Hal's men simply looked mean. The two passed occasionally, sharing looks of hatred. A few glanced at Johnny with suspicion but he just kept walking. Though Johnny had a reputation for scavenging in the Heap, the village was large enough that most didn't know his name, only those he'd traded with and, unfortunately, the two men who controlled the village. Turns out they liked to be informed about those who scavenged old tech.

Johnny saw the largest building in the village, a three story wooden shack that rivaled ten homes in size. Sallie's, the only inn, restaurant and bar in the village. It didn't have a sign but it didn't need to. Johnny left the main street. He had business to attend to.

He found a home larger than most and banged on the front door. The front windows were covered with cloth. He banged again. "Glen, let me in."

The door finally opened, revealing a large man in a animal hide glaring out. "I'm busy," Glen grunted and went to shut the door.

Johnny stepped forward and put his arm against the door. "Wait. I got something worth interrupting you for."

Glen shook his head. "You say the same thing every time." He turned around and left the door open.

Johnny went in and closed the door. Light came from two lanterns hung from the ceiling, banishing all shadows. Wires and electronic hardware hung from nails in the wall. A workbench stood against one wall, a lantern directly over it, a tiny set of tools unrolled upon it. A small device lay open, it's mechanical innards revealed.

There was a table in the center of the room, cluttered with random pieces of old tech and two chairs. Johnny noted a handgun on the table. "You working on that or you nervous about something?" Johnny asked, taking one of the chairs.

Glen shrugged. "It's getting worse. You know how it is."

"Remind me," Johnny said. "I've been out a couple days."

"Well, the Sheriff and Hal ain't getting on better terms, that's for sure. Sheriff ain't got enough loyal men to rout the boss and Hal's got too much support from the townfolk anyhow."

"Through fear," Johnny said.

"Support is support." Glen took the other chair. It groaned beneath his weight as he leaned back. "Along with that is food is getting more and more scarce, crops ain't catching and the old-tech is failing, which is bad for the crops and fresh water as well. We live on a desert world, John. Ain't going to last forever."

Johnny shook his head. "We humans been here for hundreds of years. We'll go on."

"We've been scratching out a living using old tech to survive where survival ain't possible otherwise. Old tech can't last forever and we can't make new tech."

"You been thinking about this alot, haven't you?"

Glen nodded.

"Got a drink?"

Glen got up and reached into a cabinet underneath the work bench. He pulled out a bottle of amber liquid and a couple clay cups. He poured a healthy amount into each cup and slid one over.

Johnny took it. They clinked cups and drank. "What about the Scrapheap? I tell you there's loads of tech still in there, waiting to be found."

"Stuff that's been sitting around for centuries. Won't do much better than what we got now. Besides, Hal's taking everything he can from there and loaning it out until his clients owe him for life. And let's say you or another independent scav finds something out there. We scratch out another decade or so of life, what then? It's all just temporary." Glen took another drink. "This world ain't fit for life, ain't nothing going to change that."

Johnny sipped at the brackish liquid. It burned like fire down your throat and tasted like ashes. It helped his headache though. "Sounds like you've given up."

"If it's our time, it's our time. If not, it's not. I'm not going to be like those hopeless crazies, preaching that other humans are going to come save the day, their ships suddenly appearing in the atmosphere to bring us to a new planet. It's bullshit. Too easy. Life ain't easy." Glen finished his drink. "I just fix useless shit and make it work temporarily. Speaking of, let's get the hell down to business. What do you got?"

Johnny pulled the data chip from his pocket and put it on the table. "Got that from a ship that looks awfully like the one in the center of town."

Glen went to the work bench and grabbed a small computer pad that he flipped open, revealing a keyboard and screen. He brought it to the table and picked up the data chip.

Johnny finished his drink and poured himself another. His headache was finally going away.

Glen plugged the chip in. "Let's see what we got here." Though Glen was a big man with big hands, his fingers flew across the keyboard with the delicate finesse of a piano player. He eyes widened as green numbers scrolled rapidly across the screen.

"What is it?" Johnny asked, peering over the big man's shoulder, unable to understand what the text on the screen meant.

Glen got up and went to the cabinets under his workbench. His movements were frantic and he couldn't seem to catch a breath.

"Glen, you alright? What are you looking for?"

Glen turned to him and gulped. "I'm looking for speakers. I need to give it sound."

"What? Why?"

Glen turned back to the cabinets, searching in a frenzy, tossing things out of his way. "Because," he said.

"It wants to talk to us."

(pt. 3 here)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Scrap (p. 1)

(This wasn't meant to be a series, it was meant to be a short flash piece, something quick and written off the cuff. It was inspired by a sci-fi story and start of a novel that my brother sent me. I don't know how many parts there will be but it will be continued and soon. )

Johnny wasn't sure what he'd found in the Scrapheap but he had a feeling it was important. There was always things to find in the Scrapheap, a graveyard of ancient spaceships that had all crashed in the same area. Hundreds and hundreds of them across miles of rocky terrain. Nobody knew how to use them anymore, if any were even still capable of flight.

You could find some good scrap in the Heap, if you scrounged long enough. Though it'd been picked over by scavengers and looters time and time again, Johnny usually managed to find an old trinket or two that'd get him room and board for a week at Sallie's.

He knew the Heap well, a veritable jungle of steel machinery, filled with rusting hulks, extinct creations of man. There were labyrinthine passageways, mazes of metal to get lost in. Hills, valleys and mountains of shining glass and metal, all useless but for the treasures within. Johnny knew the hot spots that had been picked clean and the deeper zones that hadn't seen a human hand since the crash centuries ago.

Nobody in the nearby village of Terra knew what had caused an entire armada of ships to fall in such a way centuries ago and many thought the place cursed because of it. Others claimed Terra's ancestors came from these very ships and considered the place holy.

Well, Johnny had spent half his life there. He'd seen more skeletons and rotten corpses than he could count. Nothing seemed holy about it. As for curses, his livelihood came from scrounging the place. If there were spirits, they weren't so bad and he thanked them now and again, when he thought of it.

There were dangers, that kept most folks away. Scavengers and looters could be cruel. Losing yourself or getting stuck in a ship, dying to dehydration. And there was something else. Something Johnny had felt more than seen. A presence that lurked near a particular ship, the same model of a ship that stood in the center of Terra. Johnny wanted to check it out but he'd always been cautious and the presence had kept him away. He wasn't sure what the thing could be, a man living out there? Some creature from the jungle come to investigate?

On the day he changed the world, the presence was gone. He watched the ship for awhile, watching from the cockpit of another ship, using old-tech binoculars. Nothing moved for hours. It was gone, had to be. Maybe the creature had gone back to the jungle. Maybe the man had died. Regardless, he was going into that ship. He popped his binoculars into his pack and slipped it on his shoulder. He checked the handgun and flashlight at his side. The sun showed mid-morning as he slipped out.

He had to scramble over a pair of behemoth-sized spacecraft, huge transports and slid down the side onto the roof of the vessel he wanted. It was smaller than the behemoths, though still large. The model in Terra could be seen from the flatlands miles around.

There was a hatch on the roof with a datapad beside it. Johnny crouched down and set his bag down, pulling out a hand-sized keypad. It had a wire with an input on the end that slid right into the datapad on the ship. The keypad was the reason he fared well in the Scrapheap where as others did not. Getting into the spaceships wasn't as easy as just opening the door. It required a code or code-breaking software and not many had either. The only guy Johnny knew who could make anything like it was Glen, the techie in Terra and only Hal's men got them. Hal didn't want anyone else getting access to old-tech. Luckily, Glen was a friend of Johnny's.

The keypad beeped and the hatch slid open, albeit with a rusty screech of metal.

Johnny put his pad into his bag and put it over his shoulder. He held on to the edge of the hatch with his fingers and let himself down. There was another hatch but a simple lever within opened it. He dropped to the floor of the ship. He grabbed his flashlight and flicked it on, illuminating a hallway he was in. Though it was daylight outside, none of that reached the insides of the ship save for the open hatch. Johnny made his way toward the bridge. He found corpses in spacesuits, long since rotted away. The screens above the ship's controls were broken and black. He hit a few of the buttons just for fun, a tradition of sorts, that he had. Nothing happened of course. His hand passed across something sticking out and he gripped it, pulling out a datachip that had been sticking out of the command console. He whistled. Datachips were highly valuable. Ancient knowledge came at a premium price. He couldn't help feeling this was something big.

A flashlight flashed at his back, splashing light around him.

"Turn around slowly," a female voice called out. "I have a pistol aimed at your skull."

Johnny palmed the chip up his sleeve as he turned around, hands up in plain sight. He held his flashlight pointing to the side and kept his other hand open. "I'm not looking for trouble," he said.

"You shouldn't be looking around the Heap, then."

"Can't help myself." He took a step toward her. "Curiosity, I suppose."

"Don't move," she said.

He couldn't see much beyond the bright orb of her flashlight. "Could you maybe point the flashlight out of my eyes, at least?"


He sighed. "Can't we settle this without harm? You don't want to kill me and I don't have anything worth killing for anyhow."

"I'm just supposed to believe you and let you walk?" The light came closer as she walked toward him. "Scavengers are just robbers by a different name."

He shook his head. "Not true, the thugs just give us true scavengers a bad name."

She stopped, close and shined the light down at the ground, still aiming the pistol at him.

He could see she had short hair and wore black goggles. He didn't see anything else because she hit him in the face with the butt of her gun. His head rocked back.

She hit him in the stomach, hard.

He bent over, gasping for air.

She hit him in the head again, knocking him to the ground. "Nothing personal," she said. "Guess I'm a thug, not a true scav like you." She took his pistol and his bag. She even took the cigarettes and matches from his coat pockets.

Johnny's head rang. He could smell and taste blood. By the time he could get up, she was gone. He felt across his scalp for a split but all he found was a very tender bump. He wiped blood from his nose before pinching it to stop the bleeding. "At least she left me my flashlight," he muttered. When he stood, something fell out of his sleeve and hit the floor. He reached down and grabbed the data chip.

Something heavy hit the roof and walked across it.

Johnny felt the hairs on the back of his head stand up. He heard something drop down the hatch. He slipped the chip into his pocket and flicked off his only weapon, the flashlight.

The presence was back.

(pt. 2 here)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Research is a vital part of the writing process. It can add life to your story, strengthen details and fill in background. We, as authors, have the ability to write about anything but with that comes a certain responsibility to our readers. We have to present a believable world in which the story happens or the reader will lose interest. If they can't believe in the world because things just don't work right or sound right, they can't believe in the story and they can't enjoy it. When it comes to a story, we have to do our homework. A gun has to work like a gun, a car has to run like a car, a character's job needs to make sense, etc. Now, we can often gloss over certain things. The character can simply get in the car and drive off, but we can't do that with everything or the story will feel flimsy. When you can add specific details, just here or there, a bit of knowledge, can really get the reader interested. If I read a story, get enjoyment and learn something? That's awesome!

There is such a thing as putting in too much detail. It's good for you as an author to know how things work in your story but you don't need to try to teach your reader every single fact involved in your story. If your story is about whaling, that doesn't mean you need to inform the reader on every aspect of whales, whaling, whaling ships, paintings of whales, etc. (I'm looking at you Moby Dick).

So you don't need every detail of every system involved in your story but you do need to know the basics. If you don't understand how something works, it's likely that will come across in your story and the reader will be able to tell. Research adds depth and realism.

Now, you might say "my story is set in a whole new world so I can make everything up HAHA I WIN I TRICKED YOU BOOYAH!" or "I'm writing sci-fi/fantasy so I don't need to do research". False. Wrong. Research can still strengthen your story. Knowing how medieval combat was actually carried out can really make your fantasy battles that much more believable. Knowing particular topics in science that relate to your sci-fi story can make it that much more interesting to the reader.

There is another form of research you have to go through when you create your own world. What do I mean by that? Call it....Internal Research. You need to act like a researcher. You need to ask questions about this new world, the history, the politics, the systems in place, the people, etc. Though you are creating the answers, the questions still need to be addressed and 'research' still needs to be done.

There can be such a thing as doing too much research. When you've got twelve tabs open in firefox, each filled with pages upon pages of text and you've been looking for hours, leaving your story stagnant and stuck, it's time to buckle down and just get to writing. Research is important but of course, writing is more important. You can always come back after learning new things and edit in what you've learned through research.

Write first, ask questions and research the answers to those questions, later.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Falling Into A Hole

Research is a necessary part of an author's vocation. We write often about things we don't know about and need to provide at least a minimum amount of realism to our stories. For the short story I'm working on and more projects set in the same world, I plunged into an ocean of content while trying to do some research.

It started with me checking out "The King In Yellow", an old book of short horror stories that was referenced in the popular HBO show, "True Detective". It's not an amazing book filled with stories that will blow your mind, if anything, the stories are rather mediocre, but his work did inspire many authors, Lovecraft included. At the same time, I was looking over Lovecraft's work and trying to find what may have inspired his unique mythos and tales. I started looking into other authors of the time writing similar things, all with an underlying theme of ancient horrors and beings beyond our comprehension, which, if witnessed, would inspire insanity. The genre is called Cosmic Horror.

It fascinated me. I found that Lovecraft had littered his stories with references to real and imaginary texts, ancient books of magic and he even created the famed "Necronomicon". I don't mean that he wrote "The Necronomicon," but he made it up, thinking up a whole history of the text and referencing it in many of his stories. In fact, there was a group of writers who referenced each other's made-up ancient texts, almost as a way of respecting one another's work and perhaps, showing that they shared a similar world in their own stories.

I learned a great deal, in fact. 'Grimoire' is a word for a book on magic, which is pretty awesome, if you ask me. I also learned that grimoires actually existed, that people thought they could perform magic and wrote books of magic, rituals and steps to summoning demons and the like. That sounds so completely crazy today, a how-to book on magic, written in all seriousness, blew my mind. I mean, if I had thought about it, I suppose I would have realized that people obviously did once believe in magic and why not write a book on it? It's just, in this day and age, that sounds so crazy to me.

Now you might be wondering why am I delving into this old world filled with magic and horror and things. My current project is set in modern day but with the idea that some of what Lovecraft written might be true, there might be Old Things, beyond our comprehension attempting to break into our world, there might be cultists with true grimoires performing sick rituals in an attempt to summon dark beings, and with these things there also comes a ragtag band of people who have been secretly fighting to keep our world together throughout history. Sound cool? I hope so. The short story is sort of a prologue, with novels coming after. The dream is a rotating cast of characters telling stories in first person....and that's as much as I'm going to say, for now.

Research can be incredibly fun for an author, learning things they never would have even got into, otherwise, but it can also be a time sink. You can find your writing time dwindling as you dive further and further into details, history, etc. At some point, you need to say you've seen enough, at least for the time being, and get to writing. You can always edit things later after more research.

If you are a fellow writer, how does research apply to your writing? How much or how little do you do? Does realism matter in a story that much? Does getting certain things right matter or is the story itself enough to keep the reader invested?

Further Reading:

The King In Yellow

List of 'Real' Grimoires

Grimoire Wiki

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Three Sentence Story

(Friday Fiction will be a piece of fiction writing, whether that be a short story, flash fiction, or a selection from other writing. Today, it's a three sentence story from a challenge by Chuck Wendig a couple weeks ago.)

“Don’t worry, I’m here to fix things” the time-traveler said, his face young and full of hope. 

“I know,” the old man said, sounding resigned. “You are not the first.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


(Writing Wednesdays is when I talk about anything related to writing at all. Today, it's about the great act of journaling)

I used to think writing in a journal was not for me. Why would I? Write by hand? Waste of time, I told myself, when I can just type on a computer. It's faster, easier to edit, and I don't have to transfer the writing from the journal to the computer. Much more efficient, I told myself. I was a fool. I told myself I didn't need a journal, why cramp up my hand for a less efficient form of writing? It didn't make sense to me.

Over a vacation to cape cod, I spotted a journal in a quaint little store and made the decision to purchase it. The thing is, it's not always practical to write on a laptop. Say, on the beach or next to a slumbering significant other, it just doesn't make sense. Know what does make sense? Pencil and paper. I figured I'd try it out, see what the big deal is. One of my first entries was about why I got the journal in the first place, which I have replicated here.

'Why get a journal? I'm not sure why I find it so difficult to write. A new journal forces my hand. Noting down the day's activities forces my hand. Maybe it's not difficult to write, it's just so easy to not-write. So many distractions, reasons and excuses. So that's why. The journal caught my eye, inspired my hand, excited my interest. In a journal you can write about anything and you can write about nothing. I can jot down ideas, quotes, lines, poems, limericks, etc.

There's also something about writing by hand, I'm not sure what. I know I prefer typing. It's clear, faster and easier. So what, then? I suppose I can hand write anywhere, on the beach with a beer at my side, like I am now, with an incredible view in front of me and my lovely significant other by my side.

There's also something I find appealing about my "chickenscratch" handwriting. It's personal, unique, my own, my signature. It's dirty and crazy and disorganized, much like my mind. It's completely different from the distilled, generic words on the screen. My handwriting is awful and gross and unappealing and for some reason, I love it because of that.

The next question is "why this journal?" The title caught my eye at once. "Remember, ideas become things." So simple, yet so important for a writer to know and learn. Ideas become things, if you make them. The simple typewriter illustration, the tiny pencils within, the various quotes and doodles, the imperfect green lines all combined to make the perfect journal for me.

I don't know how to write in a journal. My style is to act as if I have an audience even though I may be the only person to ever read this. How do others write in journals? In this highly connected digital age, perhaps it is always in my mind that someone somewhere will read this eventually and I write as if to them. Should I write as if to myself? Is that what others do? Saying "I had a good day today, I went to the beach and it was warm." I don't know. I write as if writing a blog post because my blog is a journal, of sorts, an open one. Will these entries make their way to my blog? Perhaps, if I find them interesting enough. And when this is filled, what then? Will I buy another journal? We will see when I get that far.'

Not a bad journal entry, if I do say so myself. Those questions still linger, though. Do any of you keep journals and if so, how do you write in them? Do you write to yourself? To an invisible or nonexistent audience? To your dog? Let me know!

Who knows. Not me. I'm a journal newbie, but I'm finding it incredibly useful. It's handy to be able to write in at night or in the morning, on the beach on vacation or on the train going to work. It's freeing to simply write without thinking about other people reading it or what they may think. If you are a writer, I would suggest getting a journal and trying it out. See how it works for you. And if you're not a writer, maybe you should get a journal anyways. Writing out your thoughts and emotions can help keep you grounded. Or something. Sure. Sounds good.

Until next time, write first and ask questions later.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Beginning a New Project

(Mywork Mondays are posts about my current writing projects and the difficulties I come across as I go)

Starting a new project is always refreshing, yet difficult. I've started a new short story set in a fresh world I've been thinking about. It could almost be seen as the prologue to the novel that's only in my head at the moment. I figured starting with a short story would be easier and faster, while also allowing me to flesh out my ideas of this new world.

Beginning is hard. You have this great idea yet you can't seem to get it on paper. You can see the story unfolding in your mind but the translation to written text just doesn't come easily. It's hard to find the right words for the opening sentence and paragraph. There's this feeling that the opener needs to be right, needs to be perfect right away, or else you can't get on with your story. It's almost as if, getting the opening wrong will cause your entire story to be crap, that if you start on the wrong foot, you won't make it to the end of your journey. That's bullshit. If you have an idea in your head that you think is good enough to actually put down on paper, then start with anything! Anywhere! Just get the ball rolling and good things will come. Throw the characters you have in your head together and see what happens. If you can't get the beginning right, start in the middle! Or the end! That's the great thing about writing, it's your idea, you can start anywhere.

I know, we want to start it off right. We want that perfect scene where the character comes alive, catches the readers attention, some fantastic action happens, conflict, emotions, etc. End scene. Right? That perfect action movie first scene? Sometimes we think, if we just get this part right, this first scene, the rest will be perfect too. But it won't. Nothing is perfect the first time. Editing must occur. So why spend so much time just getting started? It slows you down. If you get bogged down trying to write the first page, you won't get to the second and third page. If you struggle to write the first scene, there's no insurance the second scene is going to be any easier. Every scene is a struggle. everything you write needs to be looked over and edited. The first draft is just to get shit down on paper. Get the idea down so you can shape it into the great (or just okay) story you want it to be.

I do this to myself. I want the characters to look awesome, the action to be frenetic and exciting, the first line to be this amazing opener, and it stalls me. I write and rewrite and rewrite the first sentence and it never really feels right. I spend my precious writing time fiddling with one sentence and let's be honest, as writers, our writing time is precious, it should not be wasted. I get little to nothing done.

The thing is, the beginning can (and likely will) be rewritten, the opening line can always be adjusted later or replaced. The purpose, the entire moral behind this blog is to write first and ask questions later. I urge you to do this when it comes to the beginning of a new project. Get something down and move on. Ask those always-pestering questions later. (Is it good enough? Does it show the character the right way? Is it engaging? Is it exciting?...etc.) Quantity is better than quality, especially in the beginning of a new project, a rough first draft. Maybe this is only for me, as all writers can have different tendencies, but getting more words down on a page is more important than focusing on rewriting or getting a line exactly right. I would take ten unpolished pages over five polished, especially for a first draft. It's simply more important for me that I get more of the story down than making sure every line is great. Get it out on the page, then you can improve it, is my philosophy I suppose. In other words, write that shit down and ask questions about it later.

What works for you, when starting a new project? Do you focus on quantity or quality? Do you try to make it perfect as you go or get the content down and look over it later?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Making a Schedule

This blog has been slacking lately. I can blame it on being busy but we all know that's simply not true. It's something we writers tell ourselves to make us feel better about not writing, meanwhile our stomach tightens up and we get a bad taste in our mouth, the ideas in our head always growing, held in chains in our mind until unleashed on the page.

I have to write. I need to get these ideas down on paper. I came up with a plan. A schedule to keep me motivated, deadlines to force my hand, organized lists to keep the chaos within me ordered. Three posts a week. Monday will be about my current project, where I'm at, what problems am I having, how it's coming along, etc. Wednesday will be a writing grab-bag. Could be about writing in general or specific aspects or someone else's post on writing or whatnot. It will be something to do with the craft of writing but not specifically about my current project. Friday will be fiction, either a section of something I'm working on, some off-the-cuff flash fiction or short story, something like that.

I also set up a 'writing room' in what used to be our 'storage room'. It still has all the things we stored, but now it has a foldable table set up with an old crappy chair, the idea being, if I have a desk and a room to write in, it will help me concentrate more than being on the couch in the living room with access to my gaming computer and television right in front of me. So far it's working. I think just having a separate space for writing just helps set your mind right on what you are going to do. The room is quite bare at the moment but maybe that will change. I can spice the place up a bit in the future but whatever, it works for now.

I now also own a journal, a place I can scribble down notes whenever I feel like it, a little book of ideas I can turn to when I need to, or use to hold my random thoughts at random times. It's handy and I can use it at times when it's not practical to use a computer.

Three changes, a journal, a place to write, and a schedule. These will keep me on track. Now, you may be wondering when the writing begins. The first post of the new schedule will be up tomorrow, Monday, August 4th.

*cracks knuckles*

That's when this thing really begins.