Categories
Craft

March by the Numbers

Tracking your writing can be kind of brutal after a while, especially if you have a month where it feels like you didn’t hit your goals. March was one of those months despite the fact that I was actually very productive in a few important ways.

First off, a lot of my writing time in March was devoted to several weeks of my screenwriting class. We read scripts (written by class members) and watched a few movies to understand their structures. We were also given the occasional homework assignment specific to our script ideas.

Categories
Craft

Writing the Heming-way

As an experiment, I decided to start using Hemingway to proof my blog posts and work assignments. Hemingway is a free web-based tool that catches a few common grammatical sins and rates the “readability” of your text.

My corporate writing is meant for a wide audience known for their short attention span, so making sure that my newsletters and documentation are clear and simple is a priority. Hemingway works really well in this scenario, and it’s okay if the results come out a little bland.

As for my blog, the most common posts I make are book reviews meant for a general audience. If someone finds my site from a Google search, it’s important that my content be accessible. That said, I do tend to make the occasional rhetorical flourish when I’m passionate about a book, and those are oftentimes my favorite posts. I’m confident that my best writing would never pass Hemingway’s readability standards.

Categories
Entertainment

What I’m Patreonizing

I’ve Kickstarted a few things over the years, but I’m much slower on the trigger these days. There aren’t any projects I regret funding, but there are definitely categories I don’t fund any more.

I have more than enough games to play, for example, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the ones I funded through Kickstarter. Instead, I put most of my funding dollars towards fiction magazines and anthologies. They always seem like worthy causes even if I never get around to reading the stories. Also, magazines tend to deliver their rewards on time.

I’ve also shifted most of my funding towards Patreon instead of Kickstarter. Most of the creators I want to support release content on a regular schedule. They’ve all realized that it makes way more sense to send them a few dollars every month instead of hoping they reach full funding for their newest campaign.

Categories
Craft

Collaboration Is Key

Writing is a bit of a contradiction: the physical act of writing usually happens in solitude, but the only way to succeed at writing is through collaboration.

When I say that, I don’t just mean the sorts of collaborations where two people sit down and try to write one story. I also mean collaboration in the sense that everyone who gives you feedback or helps you brainstorm is a collaborator.

The people in your support system can be some of the most important collaborators you’ll ever have, even if the only credit they’ll ever get is in the acknowledgements or a thank you speech at an awards ceremony.

There is this romantic idea of the writer who disappears into a cabin somewhere and whips up the Great American Novel, fully formed. It’s complete bullshit.

Categories
Craft

February by the Numbers

The second month is usually where it all falls apart. My dedication to a goal starts slipping and I start coming up with more and more reasons why I don’t actually need to keep doing it.

The last few times I’ve tried to commit to a daily writing habit, I’ve given up pretty quickly after that first month. I’m sure that one of the reasons I’ve had a hard time sticking to my goals is that I made it very easy to fail. This time around, I’ve done what I can to give myself more ways to succeed, and so far it seems to be paying off.

I had a bit of a dip in productivity in February, but I still reached a few milestones. My overall output was lower versus January, but I finished a second draft of my newest short story on February 10th. I sent it off for feedback and received some very thoughtful responses, but I haven’t actually sat down to start my next (and hopefully final) revision.

Categories
Craft

From Draft to Draft

I recently finished the second draft of a new short story, and at the moment I’m feeling pretty good about it.

The story was inspired by a prompt from The Five Hundred that I used as a jumping-off point and then ultimately ignored. The story wasn’t finished after 500 words, and I was feeling inspired, so I just kept going.

I finished the first draft on January 17th with a total of 3123 words. I sent it off to a few people to read and got two sets of feedback, both of which were very helpful.

The next step was to print out the draft and read it aloud with a red pen in my hand. I ended up doing rewrites and tweaks throughout. I think the combination of reading it aloud and working from a printed copy helped me get some necessary perspective on the story.

Categories
Craft

January by the Numbers

Writing in January went pretty well overall. I started by writing a little bit of fiction every day and I eventually pulled off a streak that lasted through the end of the month.

Right near the end I decided that I needed to figure out a way to count working on an outline, because I spent that last Friday and Saturday getting ready for my screenwriting class and all of my energies were devoted to my outline instead of writing or rewriting.

I updated my spreadsheet so that I could count the hours I spent in class or working on my outline. Problem is, it feels a bit like cheating even though it’s a pretty important part of the process.

Categories
Craft

Screenwriting Class, Round Two

I signed up for the 201 level of Tom Vaughan’s Story and Plot class a few weeks ago, and I’m really looking forward to it. The class starts next Saturday, and this time around we’re actually going to be writing script pages. I enjoyed the 101 class a lot, but it’s definitely time I started writing a script of my own instead of limiting my creative energies to short stories and The Leet World.

I have two ideas that feel like feature films, but of course I’m planning on using the idea I didn’t bring to class last time around just because I want to make things difficult for myself.

The idea I brought last time is a contained sci-fi thriller about what might happen if teleporters existed and garage inventors started tinkering with them. The problem is that I couldn’t figure out what the character arcs needed to be; it was more of a philosophical premise than an actual character-based story. I never spent the time necessary to develop it into an actual working script, but I don’t plan on abandoning it entirely. I’ll just come back to it some other time.

This time around, I’ve decided to focus on an idea that I originally thought might work best as a web series. It’s a story about a home-brewer who stumbles into a world of magical beer recipes and secret societies. I have a much clearer idea of the main character’s story arc, so I think I’ll be able to come up with a decent outline pretty quickly and start producing pages.

As for the outline, I’m using Amazon Storybuilder to create a corkboard version. I feel like I have a pretty solid first act mapped out, but I’m not sure where the script needs to go from there. I’m planning on using the rest of this week to complete the handouts from the 101 class and fill out the outline as much as possible before class begins.

Categories
Web

How to Turn WordPress Into a Static Site Using AMPPS and Simply Static

After much tinkering, I finally figured out how to make a decent static backup of my old WordPress site. I kept running into problems no matter my approach – whether I tried the web interface or wget – but I had a brainstorm recently that solved a lot of my issues.

The main problem with trying to create a backup in the WordPress web interface is that my site is on shared hosting and WordPress is a resource hog. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to switch to Jekyll in the first place. I’m unlikely to ever be able to afford dedicated hosting, so switching to a static site was definitely an economic choice.

Categories
Craft

What I’m Writing Right Now

OK, so: I’m writing every day, and doing my best to maintain my streak, which means I have a few different irons in the fire at all times. Options are good! That’s how I’ve met my reading goals year after year – by reading at least a half-dozen books at the same time.

I have three (maybe four) stories that I would currently consider “active” right now. What I mean by active is that I’m actually trying to complete them and get them ready for submission. On days when I’m not ready to dive in to one of my stories, I’ve been trying to prioritize blog posts, although there are a handful of days when I’ve fallen back on writing a journal or rewriting an existing story.