Category Archives: Writing

Warmer in the Winter Concert – Lindsey Stirling

Hi everyone!

Last night, my fiancee and I had the exciting experience of attending Lindsey Stirling’s Warmer in the Winter concert!  This is the fourth Stirling concert I’ve been to, and as is always the case, I was not disappointed!

Image Source – https://twitter.com/lindseystirling/status/931781927937261568

But why am I talking about concerts on a blog about writing?  Because of Stirling’s history, where she was and how far she’s come, and how she’s gotten there.

Because there are days when I need a reminder…

I know I’ve talked about Lindsey Stirling before, in fact it was after the first concert I attended that I made the decision to self-publish.  Not only does her music speak to me, but the story of her rise to stardom has inspired me.

And last night’s concert reminded me why.  During one of the breaks between numbers, she spoke of how she gets to live her dream every day because of her fans, but before her rise, she would play anywhere and everywhere she could get a gig, even in school cafeterias.  She did anything she could to get her voice, or rather her violin, heard.

Image Source – speakola.com

She got her shot when she tried out on America’s Got Talent, but was shot down by the judges.  I can imagine how she must have felt, being told she wasn’t good enough.  And somehow that reminded me of Peter Dinklage’s speech that I wrote about several months ago, when he mentions how the world will keep telling you that you aren’t ready.

Now Lindsey is one of the most popular performers out there today, and her star shines brighter than ever.

How many times have people told me that I’ll never make it as a writer?  That it’s impossible?  That it’s a pipe dream?  There are days when I find myself wondering if those people are right.

But there was something else Stirling spoke about that struck a chord in my heart and helped me regain my composure.  It was when she spoke about her battle with depression, when she used to look in the mirror and wonder if she had anything worth contributing to the world.

Fast forward several years later, and the answer is yes, she did have something worthwhile to contribute.

These concerts, her story, they remind me that though I may run into roadblocks often, though I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder…I believe I do have something worthwhile to contribute.

And so I keep going.  I keep writing.  I keep publishing.  I may never have a rapid rise to stardom, but I know that if I keep going, if I keep working hard at it, then no matter what happens, I’ll have left something behind that is worthwhile.

Plus, I’m reminded often that there are people who like my stories.  I’ve sold hundreds of copies of the first Sword of Dragons novel through Kindle and print, and the Amazon reviews may not be numerous, but they are positive.

Not to mention the positive things people say to me when they meet me.  Or when they send me emails.  I recently received an email from a long-time reader of my fan fiction series, expressing his sadness that I’m shutting down my fan fiction website in the near future.  He was emailing me back in the early 2000’s when STDragon was still live!

So I just need to remember all of those facts.  Remember the fans, those who have read all of my work, who encourage me to write more, and just keep going.  Someday, I’ll get to write full time, even if it isn’t until I retire from I.T. work.  Until then, I’ll just keep going.

I’ll never give up.

Advertisements

Where Do You Write?

Hi everyone!

Where do writers write?  That’s an interesting question that came up when reading a blog by friend and fellow writer M.L. Humphrey.  In her blog, she mentions that she writes in a dedicated office at home, while another of her friends writes in a bar.

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

For me, I can’t write at home.  I used to be able to, but these days it’s difficult for me to find my focus when I’m at home.  Usually I go to a coffee shop of some sort, throw on my ear buds, and get to work.

What happens if I try to write at home?  Most often, I sit at my laptop and stare blankly at the computer screen.

Why is that?  Why do I write better in a coffee shop?  Why does my friend write better at home, and why does her friend write better at a bar?

Location, location, location

One of the things that caught my attention in my friend’s blog was when she says she works in a dedicated office at home.  I recall reading a long time ago something about separating work life and home life, and that people who work from home need to have a dedicated space to do so.

According to several articles, one of the big reasons behind this is to maintain work/life balance.  If you don’t have a dedicated home office, one blog suggests, then your temptation to check your work email or phone ‘after hours’ is strong and your home life starts to suffer.

But it also goes the other way around, I think.  If you don’t have a dedicated home office to your writing pursuits, the distractions of home can be too great and make it difficult to focus on writing.  Especially if you have a family.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is either way for Dads and Moms with kids that aren’t yet going to school, or are on breaks from school.  Distractions would abound!

But if having a home office is the answer to undistributed work, then why does going to a coffee shop work for me?  Distractions abound in coffee shops, don’t they?

It all comes back down to mindset, and separating home from work, even writing work.

Have you ever walked into a room, then stopped, looked around, and forgotten why you went in there?  Surprisingly, there is an explanation for this in science – the Doorway Effect.  To put it simply (probably too simply), the mere act of walking from one room into another changes the context in which your brain is operating.

I believe this is a big part of why going to a coffee shop works for me.  And why I used to be able to write at home, but have great difficulty now – I don’t have a dedicated office these days.  But back when I lived with my parents, we had a dedicated ‘computer room.’  And when I lived in Las Cruces, I had a spare bedroom where I kept my computer.

I didn’t start going to the coffee shop until I moved to Denver.  Every time I’ve had a 2nd bedroom since I’ve moved here, I’ve had a roommate.  And now that my fiancee and I have moved into a 2-bedroom together, we’ve made the 2nd bedroom into a craft room.  I was more than okay doing that, because at this point, I’ve gotten used to writing in a coffee shop, and even prefer it these days.

Which brings me to one other point that my friend M.L. Humphrey made in her blog: sometimes what worked before might not work now or later.  And that’s okay.

Writing in a coffee shop works for me now, but it might not always.

Find what works.  When you do, go with it.  When it stops working, find something else that works.  Life is ever-changing, ever-evolving.  It’s up to you to keep the writing going.

Final Thoughts

Something I just thought of: when I was in high school, part of my routine for doing homework was to go into my bedroom, close the door, turn on the TV, and start working on my homework.  If the TV wasn’t on, I had trouble doing my homework.

Again, shouldn’t it be the other way around?  First, there’s the white-noise phenomenon.  Some noise in the background helps me focus, where as no background noise is too ‘loud,’ and I suspect this is the case for many other people.  It’s also why I put on ear buds and listen to Lindsey Stirling when I write (seriously, any other music usually distracts me too much.)

But I’m also wondering if this is part of the ‘separation of work and home.’  That routine of going to the same spot, turning on the TV, tuning out the rest of the world, and working on homework was the best way I could set my mind to ‘homework mode.’

So now I’m wondering…could finding a place at home, putting on earbuds, and tuning out the world around me allow me to write at home?

Something to try in the coming days :)

What’s your favorite place to write/work/read?

-Jon Wasik

A Brief Holiday

Hi everyone,

Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :(  I’m really sorry!

However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!

Rise of the Forgotten

First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten!  I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy!  I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!

And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page.  I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it.  I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:

What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before?  Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?

Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!

-Jon Wasik

Do Constraints Mold The Best Art?

I read an article not long ago that made an interesting claim: placing constraints on an artist helps create the best art, while giving an artist total free reign, IE “the sky is the limit” often results in monstrosities.

Of course, I don’t have the article to re-read, and so I cannot remember the examples they gave.  But, the idea came back to me today and I realized that in some ways, there may be truth to it.

Let’s take the most basic (or perhaps extreme) example: spelling, grammar, punctuation.  If you tell a writer “no rules” you’re going to get something that’s difficult to read, if not impossible in some cases.

An example:

“OMG can u imagene readding a entire 300 pg b00k likE THis?”

…That was painful just to write!  Almost as painful as reading Washington Irving’s run-on sentences!

But what about less obvious examples?  As I’ve found out the hard way, there are rules about genre, and while it might not be too bad to bend those rules to make it interest, flat-out breaking them might work against the writer.

Image Source – https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com

The best example I can think of is a topic I’ve already talked about: novel cover art.  When I first started considering cover art for The Sword of Dragons, I remember looking at the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble and thinking, “All these covers look similar.  I know!  I’ll do something completely different, that’ll make my book stand out!”

Except…it didn’t.  Not in the way I wanted it to.  Yes, I made it look very different from regular fantasy novels.  And so anyone looking to read a fantasy novel didn’t even bother to pick it up, or more likely, didn’t bother to click on it on amazon.com to see what it was about.

But there’s more than just cover art to consider…

Tropes of Fantasy

I’m a fan of taking a typical fantasy trope and turning it into something just a little different.

Image Source – http://dartgarry.deviantart.com/

For instance, a typical trope about dragons is that they are fire-breathing creatures who live in caves guarding a hoard of treasure.  In the first Sword of Dragons novel, there is, in fact, a dragon living in a cave, and she is indeed guarding something of incredible value, but rather than an evil beast greedily guarding gold, she is protecting the most powerful weapon in the universe.

Is it possible to take this too far?  Initially I might say yes, but then I look at examples like Game of Thrones.  In most fantasy novels, the heroes live and achieve their goals, and the heroes are often very clearly defined from the villains.  Neither of these tropes are true in Game of Thrones.

But is that an exception?  What was it about GoT that made it so popular?  Honestly I don’t know, but it seems like this has created a sort of sub-genre of fantasy.  I’m curious to see how many more venture into this type of fantasy, successfully.

And in all honesty, I’m not sure what rules should or shouldn’t be followed, when it becomes okay to break rules or tropes.

For my own part, I do enjoy a lot of fantasy tropes, they are why I like the genre.  Dragons and magic in particular draw me in.  I intend to continue to toe the line, keeping some fantasy tropes intact, while turning others on their heads.

Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/smokelight/dwarf/

For instance, dwarves will start to play a bigger part in books 3 and 4, but they won’t be exactly what you’ve come to expect from dwarves.  You’ve already seen in book 2 that they once lived underground, as is typical for dwarves…but they definitely don’t anymore.

I also do not like the “Damsel in Distress” trope.  Even if there’s ever a female character in need of rescuing in my novels, it’s usually not done in the typical way (for instance, Elaria in the first Sword of Dragons novel.)  I’m all for ‘damsels in distress’ rescuing them selves, like Princess Leia did!

In any case, to answer the initial question of this blog, I think it helps to have constraints.  Movie productions have shown that an unlimited budget aren’t necessarily going to create a better product.  But sometimes, just sometimes, there are those that can break the typical rules and succeed.

It all depends on the circumstances, and perhaps even the luck of the draw.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

When Is It Too Late To Add Something New?

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for the lack of a blog post last week.  It was a busy weekend, plus my ADHD was extremely bad :(  I sat down to at least write a “Sorry no blog post this week” and just…nothing would come out, I couldn’t focus at all.

Adding New Genre Elements

Anywho, on to today’s blog topic!  When is it too late to add something new to a series?  A new element, a new story line…I guess that’s rather vague, so perhaps I’ll jump right into why I’m asking this question.

My previous blog entry talked about developing the story for book 4 of the Sword of Dragons series (which, by the way, is already shaping up to be more complex than book 3, story-wise!)  Part of the development has involved trying to give more time and attention to the supporting characters.

This led to an element I’ve known for years I wanted to introduce: airships, and an airship captain as a character.  But I didn’t know who to make that character, what that character would be like.  So I started thinking about that.

Image Source – http://wowwiki.wikia.com/wiki/Gnome

Initially I started going down the path of a gnome.  In some fantasy stories, especially Warcraft, that is typical: gnomes are steampunk engineers in the Warcraft universe.  I also wanted this new captain to flirt heavily with one of the female supporting characters already introduced (I’m intentionally not saying whom at this time, spoilers ;) )

But then I thought, no, because of Warcraft, gnome engineers and airship captains has kind of become a staple of fantasy, and I wanted to do something different.

I still don’t know exactly what species, but I’ve also tried to increasingly show women in strong positions, so I decided I’m going to make the airship captain a woman…but then, I still wanted to do the story line involving the flirtation with the supporting character I mentioned.

Image Source – http://legendofthecryptids.wikia.com/wiki/Airship_Captain_Sally

And that’s where I come to the meat of this post.  To avoid spoilers, I won’t say if a relationship ever sparks up between these two characters, but I have not yet explicitly shown or featured homosexuality in my series.

Why?  I could go into a detailed explanation, but it basically boils down to the fact that when I first started developing Sword of Dragons over 15 years ago, it was still a very taboo topic and I didn’t give it much thought.

First and foremost, I know that this would alienate some existing readers who are extremely anti-homosexual.  But it would also attract readers from the LGBTQ+ community.  I don’t want to get into the topic of “is it right or wrong” at this time, that is not the focus of this blog post.

But this does mean that I’ll be introducing a completely new element into the 4th novel of the series.  Actually, 2 elements, one that has been intended for some time, and one not.

This does not mean that the Sword of Dragons series will become a steampunk novel series or a homosexual erotica series.  It will remain, at its core, a fantasy adventure series.  But just like all fantasy adventure or sci-fi, it is a genre that can include elements of many other genres without it being out of place.

Image Source – https://digitalart.io/digital-art/fantasy-art-horror-warriors-wallpaper

Fantasy stories can also be romances (and often are.)  They can be horror.  They can even be buddy-cop type stories (that could be an interesting story to write someday!)  Or murder mysteries.  They can be about individuals or about entire worlds, they can cover small personal struggles, massive interplanetary wars, and everything in between.

If you’ll pardon the pun, that is the magic of fantasy.  It can be just about anything!  It can take the writer and the reader anywhere their imaginations can fathom.

The hard part is making something new and fresh while also keeping it consistent.  So what do you think, dear readers?  Is book 4 too late to introduce these new elements, whether planned or not?

In case you’re thinking back and wondering, both of these elements were previously hinted at in the series.  The steampunk is a combination of magic and technology, IE science and magic together.  That has been hinted at in that I’ve made the physics of the universe, outside of magic, work like reality.  Planets orbiting stars, etc.  And the LGBTQ+?  Well, I’m still wondering how many people have picked up on it, but let’s just say you might take a closer look at the final episodes of The Orc War Campaigns :)

Update on Rise of the Forgotten

I’m about halfway through chapter 27 on editing!  I’ve been focusing more on the edits than the map-making lately, mostly because that has aligned with my schedule and opportunity.  But since I’m almost finished with edits, that means it’ll soon be time to finish the map and get a proof copy of the novel ordered!  I’m hoping by December I’ll have the first proof copy in hand.

I can’t wait to be able to release it for you all to read!  :D

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

When Inspiration Strikes – Developing The Next Novel

Hi everyone!

Whenever I start actually writing the manuscript to a new novel, by that point it has been at least a year or two in the making (the one exception so far being the Chronicles of the Sentinels.)  I first come up with the general idea, either for the story or for a character, and start to unravel the entire story surrounding that idea, as well as back story to go along with it.

So it shouldn’t surprise me, and yet it still does: I’m smack in the middle of 2nd edition edits, still need to finish writing the first draft of book 3 of The Sword of Dragons…and suddenly inspiration strikes, and I start unraveling the entire story for book 4 in my head!

Not to say I don’t already have a general idea of all six books anyway, but I mean actual full story details.  And the best part is that I started coming up with the details when I started thinking to myself, “how can I start to give the supporting characters more attention?”

And it just started unraveling in my head like the story was already there in my mind, I just hadn’t brought it forward to my conscious thoughts yet.

What’s really exciting is that, just like  with my 7-year run on my fan fiction, things that I wrote in the earlier books are coming together to create the new stories.  Things that happened in the first 3 books as well as The Orc War Campaigns will become important in book 4…some things I didn’t even mean to make important later on!

I get so excited when this happens!  I love that, somewhere in the back of my mind, everything is connecting together from the beginning and building on the foundational story.

The Importance of Supporting Characters

Image Source – http://sunniersartofwar.com

More and more, I’m learning just how important supporting characters are.  Often times supporting characters become fan favorites in stories.  Samwise Gamgee, for instance, or Ron Weasley.

In the past, this was something I struggled with.  In my fan fiction, I focused a lot on the two main characters, the Captain and his first officer.  To the suffering of all other supporting characters.  I started to rectify this in the last two seasons, but I realized this was something I should have done from the get go.

For The Sword of Dragons, I tried to ensure I at least had good back stories setup for Reis, Sira, and Dalin.  Yet I feel like I still haven’t given them the time and attention they deserve.  That’s definitely changing starting in book 3, and most definitely now in book 4.

But, I have a question for everyone: are you usually willing to read a longer novel due to more time and attention being given to supporting characters?  For instance, book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will have about 1/4 of the chapters devoted to Reis going on his own adventure without Cardin or Sira.  Plus several other chapters branch off for other supporting characters.

All of these instances are integral to moving the main story line forward, and I think that’s probably the key: any time a novel goes to a perspective of another character, it must be with a legitimate purpose, and not ‘just because.’  What do you think?

Status of 2nd Edition Edits

I have less than 100 pages of edits left for Rise of the Forgotten, which means I’m more than 2/3rds through it!! :D  I’m excited, I really like how the changes are affecting the flow, I think it’s making for a much more enjoyable story.  Of course, that’s my own opinion, I just hope everyone who reads it will agree :)

Much to my surprise, so far I’ve reduced the word count of book 1 by 1400 words!  I’m kind of glad to see this overall trend, though, mostly because I’m trying to get rid of redundant phrasing and make each paragraph have more impact.

I haven’t had time to work on maps.  I also just realized that the artist doing my character sketches, Centalynn Artworks, should be back in country now, so I need to go back to review her latest iterations and make choices to send to her.  I don’t currently plan to include any character sketches in the novels, but I’d love to have them on the website as soon as they are finished :)

That’s all for today, thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Are Writers Too Close To Their Stories?

Hi everyone!

Back in March, I wrote an article about software that analyzes a passage and tells you whose writing style it is similar to.  One of the things I was surprised to learn was that my writing style has changed over time.  More than that, I’ve even come to realize that my writing style changes depending on what I am writing.

I’m not just talking about the difference between fantasy and sci fi, but within a single novel.  The first Sword of Dragons novel (Rise of the Forgotten), I initially got Arthur Conan Doyle, and later on, JK Rowling.  I’ve put in a few other passages from Rise of the Forgotten (all edited versions) and got Dan Brown for an action sequence, and then JK Rowling for another random section.

However, back in March, I was surprised when passages from Burning Skies and the unfinished book 3 came out as Ursula K. Le Guin, the writer of the Earthsea series.  I’d never read any of her work, so wasn’t sure what to make of it.  So I went out and bought the first Earthsea novel, The Wizard of Earthsea.  About a week ago, I finally started reading it.

…and I don’t see it.  I don’t see any similarity to her writing style.  I was shocked by that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t like her writing style, I actually rather enjoy it and I’m getting through the first book very quickly.  In fact someone said she’s a master of character development, so the comparison is flattering.  But I don’t see the similarity to my style.

Or at least, I didn’t think so at first…

Am I Just Too Close To My Own Writing To See It?

I mentioned this to my friend Liza the other day over IM.  She kinda paused for a bit, and then replied that she actually could see the similarity, and started going into details about how.  One of the thing she said is that we both write very matter-of-fact in many instances.

I see that in Earthsea, but I wasn’t seeing that in my own writing.  And I started wondering…is that just because I’m too close to my own writing?  I know that’s why they say a writer should always get an outside editor (hard to do when you can’t afford one…)

It’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, though, it’s just my style.  Some people will like it, some won’t.  I started wondering if I should find a way to adjust my writing and make it less ‘matter-of-fact’ but then I realized that it works for me.  Not to say my writing style is perfect – I will never stop trying to make myself better.

But that’s an important thing to remember.  Find your voice.  It may be like someone else’s, but that’s okay as long as it is your voice and it isn’t a struggle to write in that style.

So Do Outside Opinions Matter Or Not?

This becomes a rather difficult question to answer.  Not everyone likes my writing style.  And I truly do think that I’ll always have room for improvement.  But who would be the best judge of my style and what direction I should go to improve it?

Honestly that’s something I struggled with in the writer’s critique groups.  There were writers from all genres there, and some of the other writers there were criticizing aspects that were staples to fantasy.  As much as I like to turn some tropes on their heads, if you do that too much, you can actually drive readers of your genre away.  Finding that balance is difficult.

I find that writers often try to impose the rules of their genre onto others when they get into a critique group.  Just ask any die-hard literary fiction writers.  (And now I’m having flashbacks to my college days…)

So does that mean that only writers from your story’s genre can be good judges?  Actually…not necessarily.  Because even within a genre, writers have their own styles, and readers can have preferences to styles.

So the question is…who is the authority?  Is there an authority?  I honestly don’t know.  Even within a single genre, ‘famous’ writers can have extremely different styles, and some of those famous writers break every rule that’s out there.

I don’t have an answer to that question.  At all.

So my only advice: go with your gut.  Trust the opinions of your target audience and don’t stop trying to improve your writing.  In fact, pay close attention to what your target audience says.  That may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik