Tag Archives: Inspiration

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

Advertisements

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

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

Writing Is Stress Relief

Hi everyone!

Life has become completely crazy this year, especially in the past few months since we had to move (and not exactly by choice, either.)  Between the chaos and craziness that has been my day job this year, wedding planning, and moving, I’ve found myself with very little time and energy to write, or do much of anything writing-related.

It suddenly occurred to me how much I missed writing, and how I’ve had few good methods to help relieve stress.  I remember one afternoon, while we drove to the grocery store, I turned to my fiancee and said, “I really need to find time to write regularly again.”  It was out of the blue, but I figured there had to be some reason I felt compelled to say it.

And not long after, I realized why: writing is one of my biggest outlets.  One of my biggest stress relief avenues.  In fact in recent years, it has become the biggest.  I no longer sing in choir, haven’t in years, and I don’t read as much as I’d like to, especially in the past 2 or 3 years.  But writing, that has been my constant.

Even after we finish unpacking, the craziness isn’t likely to end anytime soon, we still have a long ways to go in our wedding planning, and work isn’t going to let up anytime soon.

While TV and video games still provide some outlet, they still don’t have the affect on me that writing does.  They aren’t as powerful an outlet.  They help me wind down at the end of the day, which is needed, but they aren’t writing.

Why Is It So Powerful?

I don’t really have a definitive answer to that question, but maybe we can figure it out right now.  Storytelling has been a constant in my life, ever since I was a small child telling wild stories to my Great Grandma Marcis.  It was fun.  And then in 5th grade, I wrote my first short story, and have been hooked on writing ever since.

But somewhere after that, writing definitely became more than just a fun obsession.  Just like choir, just like reading, just like video games, it allowed me to shut out the rest of the world and become engrossed in something else.  With choir, when I sang, the world around me disappeared and my entire Universe became the director, the choir, and the audience.  When reading, the characters on the page were my entire Universe.  Same with video games.

Image Source – http://finalfantasy.wikia.com

But then, that still doesn’t explain why writing does more for me than any of those other outlets.  It certainly didn’t always.  I still remember how obsessed I became with Final Fantasy 7 when I first discovered it.  Same with EverQuest.

I think it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado, when I finally broke a 4-year writer’s block and finished book one of the Sword of Dragons, that writing became something far more for me.

In the past 5 years, I’ve written 3 complete novels and am developing many more.  The development, the writing, the publication process, it all makes me so happy!  I obsess over my stories (ask my fiancee, once I get on a tangent about a story, I don’t stop talking about it!) and they feel like they need to be told.  And that I need to be the one to tell them!

It’s my way of giving back to the world, I think, while at the same time giving myself something.  I’m able to satisfy both my need for stories, both to experience and to tell, while giving the world stories.

Image Source – http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Last_Jedi

Recently when watching the latest trailer for Star Wars The Last Jedi, it reminded me how great stories make me feel.  And I love being able to make others feel that way.  Maybe my stories aren’t as great as Star Wars – that’s not for me to decide.  But who knows, someday, maybe someone will fall in love with my stories the same way I fell in love with Star Wars, or Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings.

That would be truly amazing :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!
-Jon Wasik

The Cost of Self Publishing

Image Source – http://infocus.emc.com/

There’s so much advice out there about what to do or not to do for self-publishing.  Some of the most common include “Hire a professional graphic design artist to make your covers.  Even if you’re a graphic designer, don’t try to design your own, it’s a mistake.  Hire someone instead.”  Or, “hire an editor.  My god, hire an editor!”

That’s all fine and dandy, and perhaps even is sound advice.  Except…that all costs money.  And if you want someone who is actually good at it, it costs a lot of money.  In fact depending on the size of your manuscript, an editor will probably cost you more than a graphic design artist.  Worse still, if you want custom artwork made, hiring an artist will probably cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  Then that art still needs to be turned into a cover.

So, okay, you have a novel you want to self publish.  You want to publish it as strongly as you can.  But you don’t have a penny to spare, let alone $500 or more for just one of these services.  Sure there are cheaper ones out there…so maybe you’re lucky enough to find a cover artist who will do it for you for $100.  That’s still $100.  Not to mention an editor.  To speak nothing of advertising.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to self publish and you want to follow the advice of all of these people and pay for all of these services, you need a fair bit of money up front.  But what if you don’t have that money to spare?

Before anyone says it, I’ll say now what the two most common responses are to that question.  “Go traditional publishing” and “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”

To the first response, this usually comes from people, both those who are published and those who are not, that don’t seem to understand the challenges a writer faces finding an agent and/or publisher when they are an unknown.  Even if you have an amazing story written extremely well, you’re an unknown, and as I wrote in my previous blog about prequels, these industry professionals need to make money.  Not because they are greedy, quite the opposite: they need to live, just like you and I do.

So the other response, “You’ll find a way to make it happen.”  If only it was that easy.  Especially in today’s supposedly ‘recovered’ economy.  Perhaps my viewpoint is unique to where I live, but it would take me years to save up the money to hire editors and graphic designers.  For just one novel.  Let alone more.

“What’s your advice, then?”  Well, my advice is, if you have the skills, do it.  Take the time to do it right.  Research.  Work on it.  And if you have friends with the skills you need and they are willing to do it cheap or free, take advantage of that (but don’t expect them to, just ask, and if they say they can’t or won’t, don’t be offended by it.  Both editing and graphic design are serious and time-consuming skills to develop.)

I’m fortunate to have started developing both of these skills early on.  Editing for my love of writing, and graphic design when I was writing my fan fiction.  I’m no professional at the graphic design end of it, and I’m always learning.  But until I make enough money to hire these professionals, I have to rely on myself and my talented friends.

That is not a sin.  That does not mean your heart isn’t in it or you’re not willing to make sacrifices to make your dream come true.  It just means you’re willing to do whatever you can to work towards your dream.

Because if you don’t, if you say “I don’t have the money, therefore I’ll never get published,” then yes, you’re right, you won’t ever get published.  But if you take the risk, and take the time and make the effort to make your self-published novel the best that you have the resources to make it, then you’re taking steps towards making your dreams come true.

Taking steps, even baby steps, is better than doing nothing at all.

My Dream for the Future

I had an idea, and I hope there comes a day when I can actually make this happen.  I’d love to someday set up an organization that seeks out potential authors and helps them find affordable editors and artists, and even has funds to help them get their first novel off the ground right.  I’m not talking about an agency, we won’t publish it or find a publisher for them, we’ll merely provide them the contacts and resources needed for them to do it.  And education on how to do it.

Due to limited funding, I know we couldn’t help everyone.  But maybe if there were enough people working or volunteering, they could at least read manuscripts from potentials, and if the potentials don’t quite meet the standards needed to qualify, at least give them advice on what they can do to improve and have a better chance the next time they submit.

At the very least, help give budding authors the tools they need to make themselves better and have a chance at getting their names out there.

Here’s hoping I can gather the connections and resources to get something like that off the ground someday :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

The Star Wars Sin – Is It Okay To Change Direction?

Hi everyone!

I’ve touched on the subject of 2nd editions and how reviled George Lucas has become due to his revisions of Star Wars.  However, I wanted to touch on another aspect of that topic.

When is it okay to change the direction of a series, and when is it not?  This specific question came up a couple of weeks ago while chatting with Wayne from Show X about Star Wars.

Image Source – http://www.craveonline.com

In fact, Star Wars is a very good example to use in this case, because it has made changes in two ways.  The first is what was mentioned in previous blogs, how he took the original trilogy and modified it, much to the anger and angst of many.

However, what about the prequel trilogy?  There seems to be a sharp divide regarding whether or not the prequels are good or not, some stating that they are not part of the Star Wars saga at all, others who loved them.  It seems that there are few who, like me, like some of the prequels and their elements, but certainly not all (Episode 2…)

What came as a great surprise to me lately is that many of those who hate the prequels often say, “Had Lucas kept to his original plan for the prequels, it might have actually been enjoyable.”

Image Source – starwars.com

When reading and hearing this from others, somewhere in my head something clicked, and I do recall that the prequels didn’t seem to follow the original plan.  Furthermore, some other things didn’t make sense, so I started reading up on the development and production of The Force Awakens.

Sure enough, my vague memories turned out to be right: Lucas had outwardly stated in the early ’80’s that he had planned out both the prequel trilogy and a sequel trilogy.  And based on the quotes, it was in no uncertain terms that he had these plotted out, and he even made statements about what those stories would be about.

And yet…later on, Lucas started stating that he never had any plans for a sequel trilogy, just a vague idea of ‘wouldn’t it be cool.’  These statements directly contradict his earlier statements.

Image Source – http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

This is just an example.  There are other examples where Lucas had to give a back story during Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to production staff, and apparently he was very clear about the origins of Vader and the nature of the Force.

All of which was contradicted in the prequels.  For instance, the much-reviled idea of midichlorians being what grants people the power of the Force.  Or the fact that only some people can use the Force (Lucas was once quoted as saying anyone can use it, some are stronger than others, but it’s only the Jedi who train and dedicate to become powerful in it…a statement Lucas later denied ever saying.)

Where’s He Going With All Of This?

The thing is, Lucas said all of these things about the nature of the Force and Vader long before he ever created the prequels.  The stories weren’t actually created yet, the movies weren’t even in development, and nothing was ‘official.’  Yet people held Lucas to these statements as if they were gospel.  And have since crucified him, so to speak, for changing that direction.

Why?  Why is what he did so bad?  Is it because the prequels really were as bad as people claim, or is it because people wanted the story Lucas had mentioned in off-hand comments, and were disappointed for not getting that story?

As a writer, this is a very important question I’ve been asking myself lately.  Because, let’s face it, I change the direction of my stories all the time.  I come up with better ideas as I develop or write a novel or a series of novels.

In fact, from what I can tell with all story creators (whether novels or movies or plays or video games), this is very common.  As long as you don’t contradict what was explicitly stated or made known as fact in a previous story, because continuity IS important.

So at what point does it become a sin to change the course of your story from what you originally planned?  Other than breaking established continuity, anyway.

The answer became somewhat apparent in my discussion with Wayne: when you’ve promised your consumers one thing but then delivered something else entirely.  ESPECIALLY when it is something that has entered the hearts and minds of millions and is so important to so many people.

Cover by Christian Michael

This, of course, makes me reticent to ever post any plans or ideas for future Sword of Dragons stories.  I don’t want people to expect me to take the series in one direction, only to find I actually take it in another.  The progression of the series has already changed considerably from my original plans (I had intended for Cardin and Sira to have a child at one point, but I’ve completely scrapped that idea, for many, many reasons.)

It may be a little less important for a series that isn’t yet well-known like Sword of Dragons, but it still is a good idea to avoid spoilers and promises.  At least, I think so.

The Mass Effect Sin

I won’t go into too many details here, because I don’t want to spoil the story of the Mass Effect trilogy for my fiancee, but there’s another example of when changing things is a sin.  And that’s the original ending for Mass Effect 3.

Those who are curious can find and read copious articles of how hated the original ending was.  There even was an attempted class-action law suit over it.  Personally, I think this was taking it too far.

However, it does make one good point: stay true to your stories, to the spirit of your stories and its characters.  Mass Effect 3’s original ending did not in any way take into account your choices throughout the entire trilogy.  Considering this was one of the key mechanics of the trilogy, that every decision, even small ones, come to bear later on, sometimes in very unexpected ways, to not include that mechanic in the ending was kind of a slap in the face to fans.

Another, less recent example: Willow and it’s “sequel” novels.  I’ve not personally read the novels yet, I didn’t know they existed until recently, but they were pretty well panned by readers, and one of the many complaints was that the character of Willow was nothing like the character from the movie.

What do you all think?  Am I right on the ball or way off the mark with my assertions?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Who Do You Write Like?

Hi everyone!

Who are some of your favorite writers?  Can you point to why they are your favorite?  There’s probably a lot of reasons, anywhere from the stories they write, the characters they create, and so on.

One thing to consider, however, is how they tell their stories.  I love JK Rowling’s writing style, especially watching it evolve over the course of the Harry Potter novels.  I also really enjoyed Michael Stackpole’s writing style.

I know I’ve touched on this more than once in the past, and every writer has a distinct voice of their own…

…Right?

I mean, that’s what I’ve always thought: we all have our own writing styles that are unique to us.  However, according to an interesting website that analyzes text to compare it to ‘famous’ writers…my writing style seems to change over time.

My fiancee first mentioned it, that she once found a website that compared her writing to another author’s.  We searched and found it, and started putting excerpts from our stories into it…and were a bit surprised by the results.

The “King” of Horror

Her results were relatively consistent, and for someone who has never read Stephen King, according to https://iwl.me, she writes an awful lot like him.  Very consistently.

Myself, however…

I started by putting in the first page of chapter 1 into the tool, and was pleasantly surprised when I apparently write like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The same man who wrote Sherlock Holmes.  That was kind of cool to see!

However, I had the idea to see how much my writing changed after my 4-year writer’s block that was in the middle of the Sword of Dragons, so I took an excerpt from chapter 31 and put it in.

…and according to the website, my style matched that of JK Rowling’s.  This didn’t surprise me a whole lot, because during my writer’s block, I had read all of Harry Potter.  And all of my chapters from book 1 after the writer’s block period came out as JK Rowling.

That pleased me, because I really really liked her writing.

Then I began to wonder, how different was my writing style for Chronicles of the Sentinels?  I intentionally tried to write it differently.  So I put in the first page of chapter 2, and was not surprised to find I wrote that chapter, and action sequence with military-type action, like Dan Brown.

…However, a later chapter came out to say that I wrote like Stephen King.  That caught me a bit off guard.

So again, wondering if things were different in later books, I started putting in excerpts for Burning Skies.  And according to the website, I write like Ursula K. Le Guin, the same author who wrote Earthsea.  I’ve never read any of Le Guin’s work, so this also surprised me.

While some other chapters had other authors’ names attached, mostly book 2 was written like this author.  And when I put in excerpts from my work in progress for book 3, it again is coming out as being like Le Guin’s style.

This got me to thinking something…has my writing style matured?  Have I found my voice?  At least, for high fantasy?  Where as my style changed in the first novel, and my style changed throughout Chronicles, my latest two novels are giving me Le Guin as the result.

Is this good?  I think I might have to pick up Earthsea to see if I can pick up on the similarities, and see if I like her novels.

But if this is an indication that my writing style has matured, that’s kind of amazing…because it took 20 years to find my voice!  I wonder if that’s normal for a writer, or not.

I also can’t help but wonder…I’ve always thought it is important to try to improve my writing all the time.  Will this mean that, over time, my style will change and become comparable to someone else’s?

I guess time will tell :)

Thanks for reading!  Let me know if there’s a particular writing style you like.  Or if you’re a writer, check out https://iwl.me and comment below who’s writing style yours is similar to!

-Jon Wasik