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I Wrote a Thing

I wrote previously about just jumping into the writing process if you’re feeling stymied by much of the popular advice regarding screenwriting (namely: don’t even start writing unless you have a very detailed outline to work from).

Well, I managed to follow my own advice and very recently finished my own ~120-page feature script. Here’s what helped me get it done:

– I wrote it with the help of a couple friends who were there to keep me on task and provide guidance and feedback. I think this is pretty key. Writing is pretty lonely otherwise.

– Each week, I would write 5 pages, due by end of day Wednesday. We’d discuss the pages on Friday, and then the cycle would begin all over again. Having it be a regular schedule, but not a strenuous one, was useful. It ensured I never hit burnout and that regularly I would go into the next week eager to write down what was still kicking around from the week before.

– I specifically made it a point to never review prior sections. I did absolutely no editing as I wrote and this was a crucial part of the process. If I had stopped to correct errors, I never would have finished. Now, what is finished is a piece of garbage, but it is finished. And now I can get to work crafting a second draft.

That was basically it. Have support, write regularly and don’t look back until you are done. You’ve probably seen that advice all over. There is a reason why.

What now? Well, now I’ll be making an outline.

Now that I have finished writing a script, I can see why everyone says to write an outline first. I found myself lost in the weeds quite a bit while writing this script and an outline would have stopped that before it even started.

I set out to make a Hollywood script. Not that I necessarily intended to ever try and market this script (I mean, among many other reasons, it’s my first script, which means it was always destined for the file cabinet), but I didn’t intend to write anything but a by-the-numbers Hollywood script. And now I can’t watch a by-the-numbers Hollywood film (Bad Boys, The Rock, ummmm… really anything Michael Bay has touched is what is coming to mind [which is not a dig on Michael Bay, even if you want it to be]) without going “Dammit. I don’t have that part in there.”

I’m missing strong B-plots. I don’t get into the personal lives of the heroes. I have no “Save the Cat” moment. I don’t have call-backs. There’s no real thematic goal. I don’t think I’ve made enough room for large action set-pieces. I lack catchphrases! Oh, and the plot doesn’t really make, as they say in the biz, “any sense at all”.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot that needs to be done.

To help with my outline, I plan to look at my script and break each major scene or plot element into a notecard. Sort those notecards by act and then decide what needs to stay and what needs to go. I’m going to steal heavily from Blake Snyder, whose Save the Cat was just as gimmicky as I expected but also broke things down in a way that really gelled with me, and a bit from Edgar Wright. Specifically, this. (Yes, yes, I know this is just Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, but something about seeing how it actually gets applied made more sense to me than reading that entire damn book.)

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The Deep End

At this point, I’ve read kind of a lot of stuff about screenwriting. There’s Syd Field and Robert McKee and Blake Snyder and a few more talented guys you probably haven’t heard of. I’ve read a ton of actual scripts. I’ve studied my favorite films. I listen to John August’s podcast about screenwriting.

I have learned a great deal from these sources. Much of it has been helpful. However, I feel there is a consistent thing I hear across the board about screenwriting that I think is pretty deadly.

Almost every screenwriting guru, at the same time that they are telling writers that the way to succeed is just to write write write write write will tell you that you shouldn’t even start writing if you don’t know what the start of your story will be, what the climax of your story will be, how your character will arc through the story and typically what your inciting incident should be.

Despite all my desire to write and what I think is at least a perceptible level of talent with the written word, I would read or hear that over and over again and it stuck with me. So I would rattle my ideas around in my head and maybe for one story I would just have a beginning and maybe for another I just had a character concept and maybe for the next I would just know what a great ending would feel like, but I couldn’t just brainstorm out of thin air the rest of the frame for a screenplay outline and so I would just freeze up and I would do nothing.

The norm for teaching seems to be that screenwriting should only begin once the script has been meticulously plotted out and outlined beat for beat. This may be the only way to really be efficient once you’re in the big leagues (and, indeed, it’s where I’d like to be, skill-level-wise) but it seems awfully restrictive for a newbie.

Screenwriting is an odd beast. You must write to communicate a specifically visual medium. You must worry about fairly technical formatting concerns. You should even worry about how much white space is visible on your page (Seriously, John August and Craig Mazin both state that they can spot an amateur script just by looking at how much white they can see on a page). You want to have a pretty deliberate construction for your plot itself. Being able to visualize all this in a relative vacuum is a daunting task. For someone like me, who learns best by doing, actually sitting down to write a script is actually the most essential part of the process and it’s the part I was being told I wasn’t ready to do.

So, with the help of my friends, I recently started to ignore that rule. Each week, I produce 5 pages of script. I turn in pages on Wednesday and meet with a friend each Friday to discuss what works and what doesn’t and to plot the next 5 pages. If we want to switch something up, we just do it. I make a note at the start of the next set of 5 pages what the new assumptions are about the plot and I go from there. I’m not making revisions at all (that would be all I end up doing if I start), but I do make notes about needed revisions.

I’m 20 pages in and it’s magic. The script is a horrible mess, of course, but I can feel myself learning what needs to be done to make it better as I go. Once I started writing, the words just sort of figured out what should be going on in the script. My story idea was evolving as I wrote without my really thinking about it. Solutions to problems I had about what to do next were getting solved as I wrote. Is it a crushing problem that I’m writing a script without having it all plotted out? Is it a problem for George R.R. Martin to be writing a sprawling multi-thousand page fantasy epic that is considered a masterpiece of modern fiction where he doesn’t plot anything in advance? I’m not saying I’m George R.R. Martin, but I am saying that there is clearly more than one acceptable way to write, even for something as meticulous as a screenplay and especially for a newbie who is still trying to find his method.

As I go, I can feel myself getting a sense for how many pages (and therefore how much screen-time) certain set-pieces will take. I’m learning how much dialog looks like too much dialog for a character and how much scene description makes a page look like a bummer. I’m sliding in characters just because I think that they may make for great subplots later. I’m tweaking the overall plot so that it’ll be easier for me to have a second act with steadily increasing challenges. I can already tell how I’m going to revise my script to make it better.

This is what writing gurus should be saying. They teach that you need to write tons of scripts to succeed. But they never say to just jump right into the deep end and run with it. Probably because that’s not super marketable as a concept. Considering that a successful script will be born out of endless revision getting held up on the nitty-gritty for a first draft seems to be a poor plan.

So I’ll just go ahead and give that advice for them: Jump in. Start writing. It’ll be bad. It’ll get better. Don’t slow down. Don’t revise until you are done because then you’ll just be revising all the time. Just make a note of what you’ll need to go back and fix and forge on ahead. I don’t care if you started writing a romance and now you’re writing a kaiju movie. Don’t look back until you’re done. When you’ve finished that first draft, then you can obsess over the specific pacing and construction of your plots. Doing the work is the best education you can get.


EXTRA NOTE: Here’s another thing not to always listen to like “they” say. Your main character does not, necessarily, need to have an arc. Think about a couple action-movie classics: Speed and Die Hard. Do Jack and John change at ALL during the movies? Is there any emotional point to their characters? John McClane’s personal arc ends before Hans opens fire in the lobby at Nakitomi. Jack… well… he’s Jack the whole time. Of course if you CAN work something in, do so. Ellen Ripley is basically the perfect action hero in the perfect action movie and has just a beautiful personal arc. But that arc ties in very integrally to the plot of the film itself and indeed to the film that preceded it. It won’t work everywhere nor does it have to. Why shoehorn it in if it won’t fit and isn’t critical for the story? I’m sure some people will be aghast at this, but I’m just saying it’s not a hard rule.


Great Expectations

The countdown is running. As of today I believe I am 15 weeks into a 40 week timeline. And yes, you read that right, everyone calls it nine months, but it’s 40 weeks.

One of the most frequent questions you will be asked after telling anyone you are expecting a child is, “Are you excited?” It’s such a loaded question, but the expected answer is that you will be absolutely ecstatic. After all, you’re both fulfilling some sort of biological imperative AND you get a cute (maybe) baby out of the deal. Sweet, a two-fer!

To me, that question is far too complex to ever possibly hope to answer truthfully and completely, so I just place my hands in my pockets, shrug up my shoulders, tilt my head, crook the corner of my mouth and say “Oh, yeah. Excited.”

I am excited. I’m pretty good with kids and spend a fair amount of time whenever I’m out spotting and pointing out cute little kids to my wife. But I also am  equal parts terrified, unsure and already not looking forward to certain things, and I think that’s entirely natural. I am excited to welcome a new baby into the world because baby’s are fun. They’re cute and have hilarious rolls of fat in awkward places (fat knees! Who has that?!). They make fun noises and it’s a blast to watch them learn things, especially if you’re the one who taught it to them (a crowning achievement for me remains when I taught my niece to run around going “Om nom nom nom”). I mean, come on, it’s a baby. It’s pretty hard to not find anything at all to like about a baby.

But see where things are going already? I’m excited, but what am I excited for? Cuteness and fun. Those have to rank easily in the top five of things that it’s pretty easy to be excited for. Cuteness and fun do not, for the record, a baby experience make.

I’m terrified about how I’m going to assist a child to grow up into a functional human being. Have no doubts about it, there are approximately eight hojillion bazillion ways to just totally screw up a kid. And I have no doubt that I will instill a healthy numbers of flaws despite any and all of my best efforts. I just hope they’re the small ones. I like to think that I’m good at giving advice. These things are common sense, by and large. When I offer advice, though, I’m shooting from the hip, working on the fly. Frequently I’m postulating ideas about situations and people and the world as I talk, fitting pieces of a puzzle together as I go. A child takes planning. There are behavioral patterns to establish. Examples to set. Disciplinary measures to mete out. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think any number of books on child-rearing are going to prep me for that.

I’m unsure about how much my life is going to change. Another question you’ll get is “Are you ready for it?” Pfffft. Anyone who says they’re ready is a fool. Hit them in the face, too. They might be on the drugs. You may as well walk up to me and say, “Hey, how are the next two decades of your life going to turn out?” I hope it’s going to be nothing but ridiculous, uncontrollable fun. I know that it won’t be. There are going to be hard times. Sickness and injury. I’m going to powerless to help in situations that will be tearing me up inside many, many times. My wife have been together since May 28, 2001 (note to self: bookmark post in case in a few years I can no longer remember anniversary date). We’ve been married since May 28, 2006. We are not party animals by any means, but we are accustomed to a certain lifestyle. What will happen to my friendships? I don’t doubt that some will change and perhaps even fade away. What will happen to my hobbies? Can I keep writing? What about playing games or watching TV? Reading comics? Hanging out with the guys on Sundays? I don’t know that any of these items will still be things that I can enjoy. I may not miss their lack when the time comes. The decision as to whether or not I can continue them is not mine to make, though. The needs of raising a child will dictate that to me when the time comes.

And what of my wife and I? In close to nine years together, we’ve still never had a major argument. We’ve never yelled at one another. We fight and annoy each other plenty, but they’re the kind of spats you’d have with any of your close friends and forget about as soon as a commercial comes on that you both like. Soon, we’re going to be tired, stressed and opinionated. It’s going to be difficult to tell how we’ll be able to maintain the same degree of emotional involvement and attentiveness with one another. I plan to focus very heavily on keeping this at current, optimum levels, but it might not be possible because that’s just how things go.

I won’t spend too much time on things I’m not looking forward to already, as I have plans for other posts specifically devoted to those items. Suffice it to say that I’m not a huge fan of handling poop.

I’m sure I’m painting the portrait of someone who is not, in fact, jazzed to be having a kid. What I am, though, is a dude who wants a kid, wants to have one around this time in his life, and is trying to be very realistic and very prepared for the ups and downs. I don’t want to have a kid and then be disillusioned by the child. Things are going to change, and be funky and difficult and awesome.

So, am I excited?

Oh, yeah. Excited.


It’s a Mom’s World

The Mom gets a pretty raw deal. To start with, there’s the actual carrying of an infant to term. There is no analogy for a man. Outside of contracting a disease that plays havoc with your hormones and having a tumor weighing on the order of eight pounds in your abdomen and then trying to pass said tumor through your more sensitive bits, there’s no possible way a man can really fathom the process. By all accounts it’s a very unnerving, sometimes wonderful, typically uncomfortable proposition. Once the child is born, its apparent the process has wreaked no small amount of havoc on your general physique. If you are breastfeeding, you are then, by necessity, up every few hours all night long for a few months to respond to a hungry newborn. And then, all to often, let’s be honest, the lion’s share to entirety of the responsibility for raising the child is hefted upon their shoulders. Throw in a day-job and you’ve got a party.

But that’s not what we’re hear to talk about. What of Dad? Browsing through the staggering amount of on-line and print material related to childbirth and childrearing, the answer is clearly, “Who? Oh, that guy. He’s got a chapter over there in the back.”

These books take the standpoint, a priori, that the father is an afterthought. Entire chapters of content will bear the impression of being written for both the parents in mind until a throwaway sentence drops in, “Try to encourage Dad to do this as well.” Or “This is something the father may enjoy doing with the baby from time to time.” There are little breadcrumb hints scattered about that suggest that you’ll need to prompt a father to give a rat’s ass about his child. He will need to be cajoled and convinced that his help is appreciated and that it might even be fun to hang out with a baby.

Books that are for fathers tend to be thin, or primarily focused on humor in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge, stand-up comedy in the 1990s “What’s up with women, huh guys?” kind of fashion.

This is my principle impetus for this blog. I wanted to create a resource for Dads in any phase of their Dad development. I wanted to write something that assumes at the outset that you are or would be the kind of father that wants to help out. You want to be involved because it’s not your partner’s child that you are allowed to see (well, the court’s may have deemed that to be the case for some of you—but I can’t help you there), it’s your child together. It was created via a joint effort (sexiest way of phrasing that ever) and will be raised the same way.

But at the same time, you are still a guy. Nay. A dude. You have hobbies, fears, concerns, expectations, a job (maybe) and these are all things that are part of the process. Sure, once you and your partner are pregnant it becomes basically the only thing you talk about. It’s an omnipresence, a nine-month time bomb. It does not, however, become your entire life. Even if you’d like it to be, the outside world marches on and you need to remain lockstep with it.

I’ll be covering it all. I write this thing three times a week. I’ve got six months left until the baby is born and I can’t imagine I’ll have less things to say about the process once I’ve been through it and there’s an actual child in my hands. You can expect a great many posts about all of this. There will be a pretty good breadth of topics, from observations to what amount to diary entries to tips and tricks, but I want my central message to remain the same.

You’re a Dad, and you’re not alone.


A Journey of 50,000 Miles…

…certainly begins with a single step, but it also consists of all 50-damn-thousand miles. Don’t delude yourself with helpful little platitudes. Starting to work is not the battle. Continuing to work is.

This was the principal lesson I took from my own little journey to 50,000 words in 30 days as a part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The trickiest part of the process was, predictably, being consistent with the work. The biggest revelation for me was how easy it actually was to put together.

For the week prior to the start of the month, I focused on trying to cobble together a loose outline for my work, and I told myself that for the 30 days of November I would be sure to write 1,666 words each and every day to keep things manageable and paced well. I kept to that schedule until my trip to Boston in the middle of the month, which took me a few days out of the game and dropped me about 8,000 words behind schedule. However, once I was back from the trip, I just upped my daily writing count, cranking out 3,000 a day over the Thanksgiving break.

1,666 words is something that, if I’m in a groove and in a spot of writing that I’m not too unsure how to phrase out, I found I can do in about 30 minutes. More regularly, it will take me from 60 to 90 minutes. This is a pretty acceptable timeline. I had nightmare visions of needing to spend 2-3 hours a day just to scrape by. I also benefited from deciding that I would try to do most of my writing before bedtime. This ensured that my writing time was at the end of the day when chores and distractions were out of the way. It meant I went to bed a little later, but not so much so that I felt it impacted me at all. For a writer who is constantly worried about how his work will fit into the timing of everyday life, this was another pleasing discovery. Much like my view of many social events (traveling downtown to a club or concert, heading to the stadium for a game, etc.), my expectation for roadblocks and drama before I can get to the creamy nougat center of fun was totally blown out of proportion.

The other thing about a really large journey is that you can’t know what it looks like (not that you don’t—you can’t). You can know where you start, where you plan to end and where your waypoints are along the way, but the trip will change and deviate as it needs to regardless of your input. I found myself many times over the last month convinced that I was writing some truly shitty stuff. A page later, and I’d be golden again, the crap I was shoveling previously leading me to a new jumping off point. Getting discouraged about your work before it is complete is silly. It’s inevitable, but it’s silly. How can you say it’s bad? It’s not even done. It’s Schrödinger’s prose at that point. It’s good and bad all at once and you can’t open the box to see what it actually is until you’ve finished.

I’m not done with my novel yet. I’ll probably need to get to at least 80,000 words before I’m done. I’m confident I’ll get there because I’m allowing myself to just let what I’ve done so far exist in its undecided state. I’ve been forcing myself to only read the paragraph or two before what I wrote previously to pick up my thread. I’ve not stopped to edit or adjust anything. The one time I went back a few pages to make a change, it was only to add an extra couple of paragraphs—I wasn’t editing so much as amending. I think this has been really critical for me as well. A first draft should remain a first draft until it is totally complete. NaNoWriMo places you on a timeline to force this issue and it’s a really critical lesson. If you want to drive from San Diego to New York you don’t keep driving back and forth over the Arizona state line.

This is something to really commit to. There is a gaping plot point in the center of my novel that needs changing. As I was writing, I began to set my protagonist up to get embroiled in a full-fledged Lord of the Rings style war—but as I wrote I became more and more sure that I hadn’t set up a conflict of that scope properly. I’m not a Tolkien or a Martin. I don’t think I could pull that off, but I had at least 5,000 words that thought I could. At about the 45,000 word mark, I decided I was just going to change the conflict to something more personal and manageable—a rescue mission. So I just started writing as if that’s what I had intended the entire time. I didn’t hunt back through and adjust the text for continuity, and why should I? It’s a first draft. It’s not supposed to be good, it’s supposed to get done. It shouldn’t be good until a third draft, really.

I’ll be continuing on with my writing on a 3-days-a-week basis for the novel. I’m going to shoot for about 2,000 words a week now. A much more modest pace, but one that will allow me to continue to work regularly on the blog, keep my novel going and not feel like it’s controlling my life.

Blog announcements coming up on Friday!


The Triumphant (Sort-of) Return

Where have I been, you ask? I have been to Boston for a wedding (not my own) (also, not my wife’s) and have been swamped with falling woefully behind in my NaNoWriMo writing schedule. About 7,000 words behind, to be sort of precise.

The weekend was great. We wandered through Boston, walking or taking public transit, bought ourselves tasty treats and enjoyed a cold in the air more refreshing than oppressive. There seems to be an odd reticence among Bostonians to wear sunglasses that I found unnerving. I’d throw on my shades and walk the streets and catch side-long glances, as if I’d donned the preferred facewear mobsters everywhere. I must be hiding something behind polarized lenses. Considering that the city this time of year is filled with with men and women wearing gigantic coats you could hide entire mercenaries inside of I wasn’t sure what earned me special attention.

Wearing a huge coat is immensely satisfying. It’s a layer of fashion you don’t get out on the west coast and while I’m not sure that I would trade the ability to wear one comfortably for weather that would cause me to need to, it is depressing that splurging on a really bitchin’ winter coat is an excess I don’t particularly need to indulge in. Wearing a heavy, calf-length, double-breasted winter coat over a suit is one of the surest ways I can think of to look like a total badass. Throw in the sunglasses and then…

I find that I enjoy weddings much more now that I am married myself. I can imagine the feelings shared by those involved and what it means for them and their families and trying to look for the little moments when they are most nervous or touched or surprised really make the whole event richer. This wedding in particular was wonderful, despite the best efforts of the pastor.

He didn’t miss anyone’s name or trip and topple the wedding party like so many dominos, but he did belabor a point. Before he began his officiating, he asked that photographs be, preferably, foregone entirely with the exception of the professional photographer at the event. This, in and of itself, is fine. “No flash photography” has become one of those rote commands that we obey in a Pavlovian manner. I don’t imagine anyone would have thought twice about that admonishment and most would have taken it to heart (or trained reflex, as it were). But, verily, he was not done yet. He then explained that taking the photos meant that you were distracting yourself from participating in the special event that you had been invited to be a part of. Again: who can argue with this? It is sentimental as well as accurate. Savor the event along with the bride and groom. And then this.

“Besides, let’s face it. Your photographs wouldn’t be any good anyway.”

Record scratch. Spit-take. Scooby and Shaggy saying “zoinks”.

The ceremony ground to a halt before it had begun for me. There’s a delicate line between firm reminder and surprising chastisement, and clearly Father LastName had figured out where it was. I don’t know about you all, but I know I like to start my joyous occasion by reminding all in attendance that they are in some way sub-par.

It may be that I pay too much attention to amusing phrasings, though. Maybe no one else held onto that phrase as if it were covered in adhesive, but I couldn’t stop focusing on it. This habit paid off the next day at the airport as the gate attendant in Boston’s Logan International Airport proclaimed at least three times over a loudspeaker to one-hundred-odd people (perhaps also one-hundred odd people) that: “We will have a full flight today and so we may not be able to accommodate all rolling carryon luggage. If you would like to check those bags we will be doing that today free of charge to help extradite the boarding process.”

And now for some photo outtakes, click to enlarge, if you please.

Mixed Messages

Mixed Messages

This is pretty much exactly what it looks like.

This is pretty much exactly what it looks like.

It does not get better from other angles.

It does not get better from other angles.

Not a bad view from the hotel room.

Not a bad view from the hotel room.

Milady takes a pretty mean night shot.

Milady takes a pretty mean night shot.


The Late Halloween Post

It’s okay, dozen-or-so-readers-who-are-not-immediately-related-to-me, I haven’t forgotten about you. Just because National Novel Writing Month is here doesn’t mean that I love you any less. I just love you different for a bit. It will all be over in a month, though, and then we can let the good times roll once again.

Let’s get a late Halloween post going on. It’s a poor substitute for me doing any real work, but here we are.

I struggled finding a costume this year, as I do every year. Inspiration struck early in October, though.


I would go as Edward Cullen. But tongue-in-cheek Edward Cullen. See, the vampires in Twilight can’t go out into the sun. It’s not because they’ll be incinerated in the light of day. It’s because they sparkle. Yes. Like glitter. Essentially their greatest problem is that they are perhaps TOO fabulous for everyone else to handle. This aggression would not stand, man. Something had to be done.

So, I set out to transform myself into Edward Cullen, Sparkle King of Chicago (I didn’t add the subtitle, but I really should have).

First, the end result:


Let it be known that at the start, I was fully bedazzled, but that scrapbooking rhinestones don’t adhere well to the face. Please note how hard I’m already selling my vampiric angst:


Let’s not forget to give the hair its due. I work hard on my hair. It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but I probably pulled an extra 6 to 8 inches of height from my hair.


Let’s also not forget that clearly my wife loves me, because she wakes up each morning to hair that is, very unintentionally, styled about the same until I take a shower. Stand back. You may not be able to handle this sexy:


Speaking of Janelle: Cute Ladybug costume + Fun Alien Cupcakes!



Marathon Writing Techniques and You

This post title originally featured the typo “Marathong”. I had an amusing and uncomfortable vision of a lot of long-distance runners experiencing a lot of chafing.

More importantly, this awkward little non sequitur is a perfect example of a good thing to do when you’re trying to write, and write a lot. Writing smaller pieces (such as blog posts) benefit from careful thought and adjustment as they are being created, writing something much longer though requires you to essentially spam the page. You need to overwhelm yourself with words on a page. It doesn’t matter if it’s all perfect, because chances are if you agonize over a sentence for five minutes before completing it, it will just end up being something you want to change when you come back later on and give your work a first review.

Slow, measured, edited-as-it-goes writing is something for an accomplished (and compensated) author. When you’re still trying to get your chops, the finish line is your target, no matter how ugly and filled with vicious cheating and swearing the race may have been. You’re a busy person, and if you’re not being paid for the work (chances are that you’re not), it’s happening during your free time—and you can’t spend ALL of that time on your writing. Write too much and you miss out on the life that informs and improves that writing. You need to write like a maniac until you’re done to ensure that you have time for yourself and nothing jumps in the way and distracts you from your project.

So, like any race, you should prep before you sit down to write. In my recent NaNoWriMo fervor (16,130 words and counting, thank you very much), I have honed my method.

Before You Start

– Check all your e-mail accounts. Respond to anything that catches your eye. This way you can avoid thinking about it.

– Check all your social networking sites. Anything where you might want to talk to you friends or can refresh obsessively to see the next new bit of information.

– Cue up your music playlist. Make sure whatever it is is long enough that it covers the entire time you’ll be writing. You don’t want a search for new tracks to distract you from the task at hand.

– Grab a snack, or have a snack at hand. Same for some water. Typically I’d say avoid something that will make you twitchy like caffeine—but that doesn’t always apply. I can really only handle coffee when I’m IN a coffee shop. Being in one is Pavlovian for me. I only go there to write, so I’m immediately in writing focus mode, caffeine or no caffeine.

– Set your writing program so that it covers your entire computer screen as best it can. It should appear to be the only object worth focusing on in front of you.

While You’re Writing

– Be disconnected from the internet.

– Be away from a TV.

– Have your phone on silent.

– Don’t get up.

– Don’t rewrite sentences (unless they’re just nonsense).

– Don’t stop.

Just keep writing. If you get into an ugly spot, you’ll get out of it by powering through it. If you stop short, the problem doesn’t go away, it just gets more cemented. Thinking too hard about the writing is, oddly enough, not helpful. You’re far too close to the material at this point in time to know if it’s good or bad anyway, so what’s the point in agonizing about it?

Allow yourself to write anything and everything and have the faith that you’ll be able to make it work. After all, even if you have the best outline in the world, there comes a point in time where you’re making it up as you go. You’re improvising, so take it all the way there. When a thought occurs to you (like how “marathong” could make a funny intro sentence), go with it and let yourself find the way. You’ll gain confidence and get closer to being done without slowing down.

And on that note… I’ve got another few hundred words to cram onto a page.

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An Open Letter to San Diego Homebuyers

Dear San Diego Home Buyers,

Time’s are tough. I get it. Unemployment is high. The economy is on the rocks. The housing market, however, is pretty great for a buyer. I know it’s tough, but try not to be quite so eager. It’s kind of a turn-off.

Home prices are high in San Diego. They are staggeringly high compared to certain portions of the country. You could travel to, for example, Texas, and buy what would qualify as an estate in San Diego for about 1/3 the cost of the most basic home here.

The fact that home prices here have dipped along with the market around the rest of the country is not, however, an excuse for you to act a damn fool when you’re shopping for a home. Just because something is cheaper than it once was does not automatically mean that it is a good deal at its current price. The housing market being in the state it’s in does mean that you should be taking the time to research and bargain when homebuying.

What you should not do, for example, is bid for a home at a price that rounds out to be more than $330 per square foot when comparable sales in the area average out at about $275 per square foot. You don’t need to have taken much math at all to see that this delta means that you have just paid nearly $90,000 more for a 1,600 square foot home than market value would suggest. I know that we all want to see the housing market recover, but you don’t have to be the person to single-handedly kick it all off.

Do me a favor, consider that a home’s worth is not the same as its listing price. A home is a product not unlike any other object you’re going to buy. The fact that it costs as much as it does just means you should be that much more prepared for your purchase and informed as to its actual worth relative to others of its kind. Would you pay full list price for a car? (Hint: No.) You owe it to yourself to become educated just a bit about the market you’re shopping in.

So please, San Diego Home Buyers, let’s make an effort to help each other out. Let’s not inflate prices past where they are now. We can all find homes at cheap rates. We’re in San Diego, we need them this way.



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Project Updates!

Yikes. Is this my first missed deadline for an actual post? It’s been a bit busy.

First order of business! Battalion: Ghosts has been released! You can mosey on over to Kongregate to play the game. The third title in the Battalion series will probably be forthcoming in a few weeks, if not sooner. I’m pretty happy with Ghosts. Happier than I had thought I would be and the script is getting a lot of great feedback. Granted, a lot of it is from People on the Internet, which is sort of like saying that it’s getting great feedback from a lot of various rocks and mushrooms. I’m trying not to let it dampen my glory that most of the appreciative comments I’m reading seem to fixate on the fact that I used the word “poop” in a joke.

Work for National November Novel Writing Month continues, and will be the reason why I will likely be very spotty on posting for this month, so apologies in advance. So far, I’m well on track to produce about 1,666 words a day to hit my 50,000 word goal by midnight on November 30. It’s been liberating for me to realize that I can write that much text, when I’m on a roll, in about an hour. Faster than I had expected.

My largest concern and goal as I write this novel (more like a novella) up is to try and expand my ability to present scenes. I’ve found that my writing is very lacking in all but the most necessary descriptions. I tend to climb right into a character’s head and explain what they see and experience only in terms of actions and emotional responses. I handle dialog just fine. I handle outlining a character’s internal monologue well. I handle action sequences well. I do not, however, handle setting a scene very well. I can’t seem to find the right point and pacing for lengthy descriptive passages. My novel is going to involve a lot of fantasy elements, so I’m hoping that placing myself in a scenario where I need to acquaint the reader with what they are “seeing” will force my hand. The world will be filled with creatures, locations and persons that require a few lines of sensory introduction. I can’t simply say that “Jane drove up in a Honda Civic” and let your cultural knowledge fill in the blanks.

And I’m off! It’s time to finish my quality assurance testing on Battalion: Vengeance!

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