Posted in General

Stay At Home.

As of writing this post (around 10:30, Thursday morning) Arizona has 508 confirmed cases of COVID-19. On Wednesday we were at 401 cases. 251 of those cases are in the county where I work: Maricopa county. While Maricopa is a big county, the explosive growth of cases is alarming.

UPDATE: As of March 28, 10:15, Arizona has 773 confirmed cases and 15 deaths.

I know you all are sick of hearing this. I know, staying at home is hard to do and it’s boring but please, stay at home. Some of you cannot, and I understand that. Your jobs have not been closed down (and for some of us, they likely won’t be). If you can, make sure you’re protecting yourself and anyone you come into contact with. Sanitize and disinfect your work surfaces as often as possible. Wash your hands as often as necessary (and don’t forget to use some lotion so your skin doesn’t dry out).

To those of you who are already doing these things, thank you. Thank you so much for following advice and doing what you can to try and limit the community spread. This is an incredibly difficult situation to be in and your efforts are noticed and appreciated.

I understand staying at home is boring and can get tiresome. If you have any sort of outdoor yard (especially one that is fenced in), now is a good time to use that space. Grab a blanket and have a picnic in your backyard. Play a game of tag with your kids if possible. Use a spare pillowcase for capture-the-flag. Make a scavenger hunt out of items like holiday decorations you have in storage. These can also be hidden around your house, not unlike an Easter Egg Hunt.

Try to avoid community outdoor spaces like pools and open barbecues. Hiking trails have become crowded as people try to find some way to both social distance and entertain themselves, don’t make the community spaces around your neighborhood into a danger zone for spread as well.

If you don’t have a reserved space outdoors or your weather makes the outdoors unusable, take your activities inside. Build a pillow fort. If you have kids or old children’s toys, go ahead and play with them: no one will judge you and you’ll entertain yourself. You can try clearing out a space to do an at-home workout, plenty of which you can find online.

Alternately, create something! I’m running a challenge this April if you’d like to get in on it. This also coincides with Camp NaNoWriMo. If writing isn’t your style, grab some paper and doodle, sketch or draw. I find artprompts.org a great place for inspiration. Alternately, I use the app What to Draw (on Android). You can also find hundreds of free coloring pages online. A quick search through your preferred platform can find you lots more.

You can also take this as a great time to expand skills or learn something you’ve been considering for a while. Duolingo is a good place to learn languages. You can also find  free courses through Alison and a rotating handful through CreativeLive. YouTube is another great place to find instructional videos, and a web search for free online classes will turn up even more.

While you’re at home with nothing else to do, go ahead and binge watch something (just remember to take a break and stretch every once in a while). Many streaming services have free-trial periods you can utilize. If you’re looking for something to read, there is a free Kindle app for both computers and smartphones–no e-reader necessary. Many books can be found for free (or check in with the authors you favor, they may know when their books are scheduled to be free or have other options for reading material. For instance, you can check out all of my free short stories and the links on my short stories page.) I also highly recommend The Drabble.

UPDATE: April 4th. Crimson and Gold is free today! Aurarin’s Song will be available for free from the 4th to the 6th.

If the lack of socializing is bothering you, hop onto Skype or Discord. Skype is great for video calling and sharing what you’re doing with others, while Discord can be used to set up groups like an online book club or DnD game, as well as stream between friends. You can also join up with friends in lots of online games, many of which can be found through the free-to-play section in Steam.

I know it’s hard because this is such a drastic change in lifestyle and routine, but please do what you can. Stay at home. And again, if you already are doing these things, thank you.

Posted in General, writing

Co-Authoring

There’s a good chance at least one of the books on your shelf or in your digital library has multiple authors behind it. And, if you’re a writer, you may have thought you’d love to work with another author or writer some day.

Writing a novel is a huge endeavor. Writing a novel with someone else (or several someones) is even bigger. There are a lot of things to take into account when you decide to co-author.

Examine Your Process before you even start writing with someone else, take a look at how the both of you write. If one of you is a hard-core plan and the other can’t stand to have even a basic, that’s a major obstacle you need to be aware of and come up with a solution to. There’s no easy solution here, it’s going to require compromise and working together to figure out how to make your processes mesh. There’s likely to be less work if you have a similar process.

Communication is a huge factor here. Remember that your process likely won’t be the same as their process. Communicating how you work and what you need to complete your work is absolutely vital or the entire thing can grind to a halt. This also covers expectations: do you want to set particular requirements for each party such as timing?

Compatibility in a creative project is a tricky one to define. How well your voices and styles work together is different than how your processes work together. Genre is another important factor to consider when co-authoring: if you’re not reading and writing in the same genres, chances aren’t high for success. While this is the biggest factor in how well a co-authoring project works, it’s also the most subjective. This goes back to the above communication: Being open and talking to your writing partner about what you want from the story will save you problems and headaches later.

What are your co-authoring experiences?

Posted in General, writing

On Different Approaches

Last week while speaking with a friend, we ended up on a discussion of worldbuilding and where to start it. In essence, she wanted to write a story, but complained she didn’t have the world for it. My response caused a bit of confusion for us both: Just write the story.

The fact that I did so surprised her, if only because she’s also heard me complain and grump about editing when my story contradicts the world I have for it. She’d thought that I, like her, built the world first and wrote the story second.

I however, had a hard time grasping how you would build a world that you don’t have a story for at all. I tend to write the early draft, and pull out any details from it during editing to build the world as I build the story.

Both techniques work, and there’s something to be said for both of them on where you begin.

Worldbuilding First gives you a solid structure to work from. It provides plenty of places for conflict as well as giving you the details needed to make your story seem real. On the other hand, worldbuilding is a massive undertaking and it could be very easy to get bogged down on trying to figure out everything before you put pen to paper.

Story writing First provides ideas to help spawn details and new features for your world. It can help you populate the world with realistic characters. But, it also leaves you open to contradictions and possible continuity errors.

Whichever approach you choose, choose the one that works best for you. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.

Where do you start your worldbuilding?

Posted in Exercises, General

Using the Zero Draft

In full honest confession, I actually didn’t know what a zero draft was until a couple of years ago when a writer friend mentioned she was about twenty-thousand words into one. I asked her what a zero draft was, and the answer I got surprised me: It’s the earliest draft of your story, in which there is no order.

It’s fairly well established at this point that I’m a pantser. I write based on whatever inspiration I have on hand. Up until I’d heard about a zero draft, I figured drafts that meandered, made no sense and generally had gaping holes were rough drafts.

Dependent on your particular process this might still hold true. Your rough draft is for you and no one else. A zero draft however, is often where you throw things in for the story before you write a proper draft. In other words, rather than looking anything like a first draft, it might just be a conglomeration of notes–such as ‘Come up with Witty Banter. Will needs to sound smart.’ or perhaps just a few rough ideas of dialogue. There might be a random character that pops up and then vanishes until two chapters before the end.

More or less, zero drafts are unstructured pieces of writing. This might mean a free writing exercise that takes up dozens of pages. Alternately, it’s just a collection of scenes to help you explore what you want to write. There’s really only one rule:

Write.

More specifically, write uninterrupted. If you get hung up on trying to come up with clever dialogue, then leave a note. If you don’t know what the next scene would be, skip to the one you do know. You can leave a note for what you know should happen next, or you can just hop from one scene to the next and back.

Do not edit. Don’t rewrite anything. Don’t even use the backspace or delete key. Just keep writing.

Give yourself permission to make the worst piece of writing ever. Title that document as your Worst Version Ever. Leave ridiculous notes in the middle of sentences. Ignore basic formatting or even start a new line every sentence. Whatever it takes to just get the ideas down.