Reading, writing, and stealing

I started writing, like, actually writing with the intent of finishing a novel, a little over two years ago. Yeah, I’m kind of a noob, but that’s okay ‘cause it works in my favor sometimes. You see, before I started writing, I didn’t read a whole lot. A topic I’ve already covered. Short story: The shit I had to read in school bored me and I didn’t know people wrote novels I wanted to read until much later.

Things changed when I started writing, though. I like to think of myself as having a bare minimum not-quite-stupid level of intelligence and the sponge residing in my cranial cavity told me something. Before you ask, it’s not an actual sponge. No, it’s more like a coral reef kind of thing. Either way, it’s alive and it talks to me.

So, the sponge said, “Hey, dumbass, if you’re going to write books, don’t you think you should read them too?”

To which I replied, “Why?”

“So you don’t sound on paper like the dumbass you are in real life, dumbass.”

The sponge is very fond of calling me dumbass. It’s like a cute pet name, only slightly less cute and less puke inducing. You know what I mean, Snookums?

The sponge had a valid point. How could I expect to string together words in a coherent way if I never actually read words strung together coherently? To satiate the sponge’s constant nagging as to my semi-illiteracy I started reading while I was also writing.

And now I come to my point. If I had read as much as I have now, I would never have finished my first book or any thereafter. Crippling paranoia of copying someone else’s work would have killed me deader than dead right on the spot. I find when reading it’s natural to compare to things you know, for reference sake, I guess. It’s set in space like Serenity or it’s about people trapped on an island like Gilligan, or it about bloodthirsty investment bankers that do blow off the wombs of maiden hyenas to retain their poster-boy good looks like Wolf on Wall Street. Disclaimer: I’ve never actually seen that last one, I’m just filling in blanks from what I saw in the trailer.

Comparing as a viewer is totally fine. It helps you define what you like. For example, Book F sounds a lot like book R. I really liked Book R so therefore I would also, probably, enjoy Book F. As a creator, comparing wreaks havoc on the fucking process. I start to write a scene and then I get all, “Man, that’s just like that one scene in Book F. Fuck my life.” *Slams delete key with all the anger of a thousand political talk show hosts*

The reason I bring this up is: I started reading a book, Devil You Know, it’s a good book that so far is very enjoyable. It’s about a witty, down-on-his-luck exorcist who has been retired for over a year and takes a job to help out a friend. My debut novel, Beasts of Burdin (Out February 10th, preorder today!) is about a witty, down-on-his-luck demon hunter who has been retired over a year and takes a job to help out his brother.
Sound similar? Yup.

Did I steal anything from Devil You Know? Nope. I hadn’t even heard of it when I started writing Burdin. But, I had heard of it then, instead of now, I can promise Burdin would have been a completely different book.

Now, I have a little more confidence in my creative abilities. I know that there are always going to be similar stories to what anyone writes; there are no new ideas, only new ways of telling them, and all that jazz. I also trust my integrity to never steal a person’s work or ideas. Sure, some things influence me. I see a powerful story and think, “Man, I want to write like that,” and possibly try to incorporate some elements of what I like into my style.

So in a short way, being ignorant of other books has helped my writing. Would I suggest an aspiring writer stop reading? Fuck no. Go read a book. Preferably mine. Not for literary content though. I’m still pretty bad at writing, obviously.

 

Writing & Raising Kids? Same Thing, Pretty Much

The other day I was thinking about all the ways parenting can go wrong. I’m not sure why that day in particular, just call it Parental Paranoia: PP for short. So I get hit with the PP, bad, and I start thinking about how hard it is to figure out what’s right to do with your kid’s upbringing, and shit. At this point the mush on one side of my brain overflowed into the mush on the other side and a theory struck me: There are many similarities between writing and raising a non-asshole child.

Think about it, when the idea first strikes you (I’m gonna make a new human/I’ve got a great idea for a story) you’re all about it. You can’t think of a single fucking thing that could go wrong because your idea is so perfect. So, obviously, you commit to the idea.

In the very beginning there is a lot of research and plotting. For example, you have to find out how to convince the stork to stop at your house on its next flyby. That can be a tough one, those ol’ birds are fickle bitches. Then you have all kinds of required reading: What to Expect While You’re Expecting, and, and…other stuff. Internet articles? Youtube videos? Actually, no, that is a terrible idea. STAY AWAY FROM YOUTUBE!

The writer has research to do too. Namely, how to make your novel not suck. That’s the hard one, I think. After that there’s Elements of Style and What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Best-Selling Novel. Okay, that last one’s probably not a real thing. Maybe it should be.

Now that you’ve got your research done and your story/hellspawn brewing you’re riding high. You’ve got this. How hard could it be? Millions of other people have done this very same thing and millions of other people aren’t like you, they’re morons. If a moron can write a book/make a human, you can too. And you’re well-read on the subject. You can tell me about Chekhov’s gun/proper placenta cooking methods.

Then comes the big day, the day the hellspawn bearing fowl drops off its package/the day you get, oh say, five thousand words in to your first draft. This is the first instance of PP for most people, and it usually requires a change of clothing on both fronts. All of the sudden, every. Single. Bit. Of research. Goes right out the fucking window. You officially know not one damn thing about infant raising/wordsmithing.

After days/months/years of PP (it depends on the length of the work/the difficulty of the hellspawn in question) you find a groove. You’ve read all the reading and taken tips from all those other “professional” parents/authors. All of the information has wormed its way in to your brain. At some point you will have the epiphany that every single word they said is BULLSHIT. It is true that some people raise really good children and some people write really good books, but what worked for them will almost certainly not work for you. The world just isn’t made like that. Especially the ‘no yell’ parenting people. Show me someone who says they haven’t flipped their lid on their kids because they were having a shit day and could only take hearing the same question repeated so many times and I’ll show you a liar, probably.

Back on task. You’ve been in your groove for a while and things are good. You’re children/characters are behaving mostly as they should and things seem to fall in to place. This is when things get dicey. Reviewers. You have put all of your palmflesh and vocal cords in to molding the perfect angel/work of art. Now you are forced to send it out to the world and see what other people think. Children get this in the form of teachers and authors get reviewers. There is nothing better than the feeling of being told your angel/art is really fun to be around, but it’s a very scary process either way.

The last part of the process is being finished. Finished? Yeah, it’s some more bullshit. You are never finished parenting/writing. You will always wish you could go back and change something you did in the beginning, but will have to settle with nudging what you have in the right direction and hoping for the best.

In closing, here is a thought on the matter from expert character-wrangler Danielle Shipley:

The similarities grow more starkly apparent when the characters are having toddler-like meltdowns. Character: Why do I have to suffer this plot?!

Author: Because I said so!

Character: YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM!

And then of course the author goes into the whole “I brought you into this world, I can take you right out again!” thing…

 

Well said, Ship, well said.

Anyone wanna write with me?

To all my writer-type buddies out there. I saw a funny story a while back about a college ‘tandem writing’ project where two people alternated writing a story one paragraph at a time. The story was written by a guy and girl and they end up destroying each others attempts at actually telling a story. It’s hilarious and I’ll try to post it at some point if I can find it.

Anyway, my point is, would anyone out there want to do this kind of thing for fun? I figure it might be fun to get a couple writers together to create a ridiculous story or two and I will post them to the blog. If you want to do this with a friend or with me it doesn’t matter. It’s just an interesting way to do some less-than-serious writing. Hell, if we got serious about it, we could even have readers vote as to who had the more enjoyable half of the story.

Anyway, if you want to try this, drop me an email or leave a comment or tweet me or write a letter or whatever.

 

***Update: Here is the original post that gave me the idea: http://www.snopes.com/college/homework/writing.asp

I’m thinking the farther apart in genres the two writers are, the more hilarious it could be.

Weekly update…a week late

I’m back with my occasional Thursday posts. I missed last week. No reason other than I totally forgot. On Friday my wife was like, “Hey, did you have a blog post this week?”. Oops. Now, I’m back, better then ever…hopefully.

This week I want to bring everyone up to speed on the million projects I’ve got going now. Not really a million, but a bunch.

I didn’t think line edits for Beasts of Burdin would be sent to me until late in July, so I figured I would have time to rewrite an old project I desperately want fixed and publish ready. Half-way through the rewrite I get an email with line edits for Burdin. Now, I’m taking a quick break from other project to get these edits done.

 

On top of that, lucky for me, I’ve already got the first draft of Burdin 2 (Which I’ve now decided will be titled “Ty Down”) finished. I am going to edit it immediately after finishing the line edits for Burdin since the story and characters will be fresh in my head.

Looks like my other project is going to be taking a back seat for a minute and I have no idea when I’m actually going to have time to actually write any new material. I’m going to get to it eventually though.

Oh yeah, and I’ve spent tonight catching up on like 6 blog posts I should have had written two weeks ago. Such is the life.

Until next time…

Fun to see an improvement in other people’s writing

Hey guys. I took last week off because I had a guest post on Terri Rochenski’s blog and figured there was only so much of me anyone could stand in a one week period.

Now, I’m back and better than ever. Maybe. I guess.

On to the point. The other day I started reading a book by a famous author I really like. The book was one of his first published works and the synopsis sounded like something I could really get in to.

Turns out, I couldn’t. I quit reading about halfway through because I didn’t like it. It’s a rare thing for me to stop reading a book, but I just couldn’t get in to this one. It’s even crazier considering his newer series is one of my absolute favorites. The older story just didn’t seem to be written as well as the new stuff.

This stands to reason. The more we do something, the better we get at it, practice makes perfect and all that junk. I’m just saying that as a relatively new author it’s refreshing to see that even best selling authors have room for improvement. It makes their writing seem somehow more achievable, I guess.

I could be a hypocrite, maybe

I’ve been thinking about something for the last couple weeks. I don’t want to turn things in to a political debate or any junk like that, just want to get some thoughts out there. Personally, I’m not a big fan of guns. I’ve shot a gun exactly two times in my life, the most recent of which was over 15 years ago. Both times were enjoyable, I guess.

Some days I have a bigger problem with firearms than others, but every day they scare me. Guess I’m just a wuss, but even holding an unloaded gun makes me uneasy. Getting to the point, I have finished almost four novels now. Guns are a large part of three of the four of them. And in the most recent two, the main character is a dual pistol wielding badass, although even he prefers to use a big knife.

So I can’t decide if not liking guns personally and writing about characters who use them at will is hypocritical. I don’t think so, and I guess it doesn’t really matter because I’m not changing my story, but still I wonder. I know it’s just fiction, but there’s a big part of me laced throughout that fiction. Then again, if I were face to face with a demon, like the character in my books, I’m sure my gun policy would be radically different.

Sunshine Award

Hey guys, quick break from the regular Thursday posts to share another blogging award. This one is the sunshine award and it works much the same as the liebster award. I’m more than honored that Felicity Burnett thought me worthy. I have to admit that I’m only half participating. I am going to answer all the questions, but I am tapped out for people to nominate. So, here goes nothing.

 

1.     What inspired you to start blogging?

        I wanted to learn from established authors and promote my upcoming book, Beasts of Burdin. (Look, I just promoted it a little just then. Seriously though, it great and you guys will love it. February 2014, mark your calenders or something. Okay, okay. I’m done now.)

2.     How did you come up with the name of your blog?

      I’m Alex Nader. I write. I’m literal like that.

3.     What is your favourite blog to read?

       I really can’t say I follow enough blogs to name a favorite. I mostly use twitter and click on blog individual blog posts that sound interesting. That being said I’m always up for some cool reading so if anyone finds a blog that includes cheeseburgers, good tv shows, steak, good movies, cheesecake, good music, french fries, mixed martial arts, red velvet cake, good books, and biscuits, let me know.

4.     Tell us about your dream job:

       I write. Novels, short stories, whatever. If writing were my only source of income I’d consider myself living the dream. Or if I could own a publishing company to watch my friends succeed around me.

5.     Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

       Somewhere in the middle. Not quite half-full, but not quite half-empty. It’s quite an interesting thing to see really. It helps if you turn your head sideways.

6.     If you could go anywhere for a week’s vacation, where would you go?

        I’ve always wanted to see Venice for no particular reason other than lakes for streets.

 

7.     What food can you positively not eat?

       Fish. I can’t touch the junk in any shape or form. Bad consistency, bad taste.

8.     Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

         Dark as of late, but tastes change as do the fickle winds of the great blue yonder. I consider myself like those fickle winds personified. As long as wind likes chocolate. If not, it’s no friend of mine.

9.     How much time do you spend blogging?

       A few hours a week. I usually use other forms of social media. Like myspace. I think that’s really going to take off one of these days.

 

10. Do you watch TV and if so, what are your favourite shows?

       I watch exactly two shows a year. Game of Thrones and Walking Dead. I love Game of Thrones, best show on TV. I want to like Walking Dead, but it just keeps disappointing me. Next season it’s really on my TV chopping block.

 

That’s it folks.

 

Thoughts on Thursday

Welcome to my second week of weekly blogging. I’m glad you’re still with me. No really, thanks guys, it means a lot. Okay, done with greetings, let’s get some meat to go with these potatoes.

This has been a pretty busy week for me. I spent a few days working out my cover for Beasts of Burdin, but there will be more about that next week. I’ve also gotten quite a bit of writing done. I’ve been working on Burdin II for three weeks and I’m right around 23k words. That’s sticking with my 1,000 a day rule. Good for me.

The more important part of all is, in the past week I’ve written probably one of the best scenes I’ve ever written. It’s a dream sequence with heavy does of creepy. Two days later I wrote probably the most believable character I’ve ever written. She’s just a little old lady with a crap family and she’s only in the book for a chapter, but something about her just comes off the page for me. Hopefully she does for you too.

What I’m getting around to is, maybe I’m getting better at this whole writing thing. I’ve been writing seriously for over a year and a half now as well as reading constantly for the first time in my life. I’ve also finished three books on grammar and style.

I don’t want to admit that I was bad before, but it seems like I’m constantly improving. I have gotten to the point where when I see a scene in my head it’s not a problem to get it on paper. I don’t think I’m a fraction of a percent of mastering anything, but I’m getting better and that feels good.

I’ve officially written far more than I planned, so I’m going to shut up now, but first I want to ask a question. If you’re a writer, how do you feel about your skill-set? Are you a pro? Beginner? If you’re not a writer, what is a serious hobby you find yourself as proficient in?

Keep doing what you do, you’ll get better at it, guaranteed.

Welcome to Thursdays with Me

Finally done with the A to Z Challenge. It was fun, but now I’m ready to slide into a slightly less daily blog routine. As it sits right now I think it’s going to be every Thursday unless I  have big news to share. I’m a pretty boring guy and I don’t want to clog up everyone’s inbox with “Well, I didn’t do much today,” posts. I’m off of both of my day jobs on Thursday so Thursday it is.

I plan on keeping this blog updated with my progress on publishing my book Beasts of Burdin as well as writing the sequel, which is yet to be named. I’m thinking Under Burdined, but I don’t know how I feel about it. Any thoughts?

As of right now I have done all I can do with Beasts of Burdin. I sent the final draft to my publisher and I think I’m not due to start line edits for another couple months. This works well because as it sits right now I’m about 20% done with my first draft of the sequel. I hope to be close to the final draft of it before I start line edits, but you know what they say about the best laid plans. I actually don’t know what they say, but I have faith that you, my reader do.

Hopefully this past month of blogging has helped you to get to know me and my style a little better. If your new to my blog you should go back and check out some of my A to Z posts to see just what I’m about. If you just can’t get enough of the mostly random things I have to say you can check me out on Twitter. I post much less important things there much more often.

Now I’m writing this on Wednesday and I really need a day off. Tomorrow (today when you actually read this) I’m turning off my phone and only turning my computer on if the urge to write strikes me, it usually does. So please comment, but it might take me a day to get back to you.

You guys are amazing, keep doing what you do…

W is for Whiskey #AtoZChallenge

ImageAlmost there, only three more posts after this one and for some reason I swear it’s getting harder to come up with things the closer I get to the end of the alphabet…Anyway, today is W and in my book W stands for whiskey.

Every writers’ favorite muse, right? Eh, probably not anymore, it seems like I see more writers talking about their coffee fix than their alcohol fix. Me? I’m a little bit of both, I’d say I enjoy ten cups of coffee a week and three alcoholic beverages a week (W can also stand for wine you know).

I’d say whiskey is my favorite alcohol of them all though. Not so much straight, I’m kind of a wuss like that. Whiskey sour is my go-to drink, but I’ve recently started making Tom Collins’ (I guess that’s how you spell that) with whiskey instead of vodka or gin and it’s delicious.

This inspires me, I guess. Maybe I just really wanted to write about whiskey. I’m not sure anymore. Well, it’s already done now. I’m not changing it. I guess this is where I close. My top three would probably be a good way to end this article. Sound good to you? If not I guess you could just stop reading and call this the end right now.

 

Still there? Okay my top three whiskeys:

1. Crown Royal

2. Jameson Special Reserve

3. Macallan’s 10 (I haven’t tried anything older, can’t afford it at the moment, but this is the favorite drink of the character Ty Burdin in my new novel)

Well, that’s that. Have a g’day folks.