Save the Cat. A book I've never read, but I'll discuss it anyway.

This semester, I took a class called Intro to Film. It was basically just a filler credit to get my Fine Arts requirement, but I'm happy to say that it has become more than that. It seems that I fell into a wildly beneficial learning experience without even realizing it. How's that for good luck? I'm only three weeks in, but so far we've discussed a variety of subjects, each one either directly, or at least feasibly, relating to novel writing. The format of the class runs like this: we have an hour lecture, a two hour movie, and an hour discussion. I've already gone into this in a previous post, so I'll be brief. In the hour lecture, the professor teaches us something about narrative structure, themes and motifs, character development, set dressing, lighting, or music, etc. Some of it is amazingly helpful in my own writing, and even the other stuff, such as set dressing and lighting can still be taken for what its worth.

Let me explain. There is a term in the film business, mise en scene, which basically means the style of what you see. The Director and Production Designer of a movie try their best to keep this consistent, and it's what gives the film its "feel". It can include furniture, set design, color palette, lighting, makeup, costuming etc. Think of films like Moulin Rouge, 300, or any Tim Burton production. These have a very strong mise en scene. The same goes for an author writing a book. While reading a book isn't a strictly visual medium, the visuals are still important, if you know what I mean. The author acts as the Production Designer, creating a world through description, not images. A good, or shall we say, successful writer, can plant a literary mise en scene right in the reader's mind. By keeping descriptions of objects, clothing, and buildings consistent, a writer can maintain a distinct style that persists in the reader's mind throughout the story. Not only that, but the way in which a writer forms their sentences or uses pronouns and adverbs can give the actual words a recognizable style. Harry Potter, The Wheel of Time, and the Codex Alera books all accomplished this in my opinion.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I've come to appreciate movies as a learning experience for my own writing. This leads me to the subject of this post. In class last week, we discussed narrative structure. I've done a lot of my own self-learning about this, listening to podcasts, attending panels, etc., but I've always been a little hazy on how to properly structure my stories. My professor told us about an old Hollywood staple, taken from a book called Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. It's intended to be a help for screenwriters, but it applies just as well to novelists. In it, the author outlines a series of "beats" that every successful story should touch on. It's not a formula per se, simply an outline of what will keep an audience/reader interested in the story. Since you can find it on the web in a million places or in any film class, I'll outline it really quick here:

Opening Image (where we see the character, and get a basic idea of who they are):
Theme Stated (the viewer/reader gets to see what the movie/story will eventually tell them):
Setup (Characters living life):
Catalyst (the big "thing" that happens):
Debate (where we see the characters trying to sort out their options, figure out what to do):
Break Into Act Two (this is where they take their first step toward and attempt to resolve the problem):
"B" Story (a different, but associated character's story, many times this is a romance):
Fun and Games (think training montages, newly dating couple having shenanigans, etc.):
Midpoint (disaster that commits character to their path, halfway through the story):
Bad Guys Close In (this is where stuff begins to escalate, become more serious):
All Is Lost (low point, everything bottoms out and the worst has happened):
Dark Night of the Soul (kinda self-explanatory, characters question everything, superhero hangs up his cape in despair, oh crap):
Break Into Act Three (Where things begin to turn around, characters begin to fight back in earnest):
Finale (the big finish, sword fight, dog fight, Luke cuts off Vader's hand, and the Emperor is thrown down the ventilation shaft):
Final Image (new life, we see the aftermath, people are reunited, usually a happy ending, but not always):

I may have misconstrued some of those points, and if I did, let me know. But the general idea is there. A successful screenplay hits all of these beats at some point, and so does a novel (in my opinion). Today I went through, and applied my own book to these beats. I was surprised to find that most everything was represented, though the order was a little out of whack. I'm not saying this will work for every novelist, or even every genre. As for me, it's been a big help. Take a look at it, try to assign your favorite movie or book to these beats. I guarantee you'll be able to. Then maybe try your own book. Story and character are the most important thing in any novel, so take some time and give them some love.

Connection to Characters.

Before I dive into the main subject of this post, I wanted to share a quote from the late Bob Ross. I feel like it applies to writing just as much as painting, so just insert the words "write" and "pen-and-paper" where ever you feel like:

"Talent is nothing more that a pursued interest. With this technique, it is not necessary to draw a straight line or any kind of line for that matter. We begin with paint and brush--the object is to capture the dream quickly, while it is still alive."

Today I want to talk about characters. Not so much what makes a good character, or techniques for developing them, but more about why we can feel such a deep connection to them. Many writers have different things that sparked their initial desire to write: the joy of world building, the challenge of writing great plot, or creating magic systems. For me, it was the friendships I developed with the characters from Redwall, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings that first made me want to write. The hares of the Long Patrol from Brian Jacques books made me feel like I was part of their strange and thoroughly British circle. Harry, Ron, and Hermione felt like real kids I was hanging out with, getting into scrapes and learning magic. Frodo's inner struggles against the greed and corruption of the ring, along with the feelings of loneliness that came with it, spoke to me when I felt down and helpless. These were personal relationships, not just a passing identification with superficial qualities.

I remember the first time I cried while reading a book. I was young, maybe nine or ten, just finishing the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. I read the last sentence, closed the book, and stared at the cover. I couldn't understand the feelings bouncing around my head. I know now that I was dealing with a feeling of loss. The people I had known so well, that I had lived beside while I read, were gone. There was no more. I was devastated. Of course, as time went on I read more books and re-read Narnia. I came to accept that end-of-book feeling. I stopped crying after I finished a series and learned to cope with the end of a relationship with the characters. Then, when I read Lord of the Rings for the first time, I once more cried at the end. I still do, even when I watch the last scenes of the Return of the King. When the last book of The Wheel of Time comes out this year, I'll ball my head off. I may even take off work just so I can let myself wallow in sadness for a day.

This might all sound pathetic, but when you look closer, it begins to make more sense. One of the miracles of being a human is the ability to create. Some might say it's the one thing that carried over from the God that put us here (or space aliens, whatever). Not only can we build skyscrapers, make art, or write music, we can make new people. Think about that. Make new people. With a pen and paper, or keyboard I suppose, a writer can form a person so convincingly that his/her readers fall in love with them (romantically or otherwise). This is a fictional person that feels so real, and fills a hole in ourselves so thoroughly, that we actually grieve when the book ends. To me, this is the most wondrous thing I can think of. It speaks of our imagination, our mental reach, and our ability to dream.

It's incredible, and I completely fell for these author's creations. Isn't that the most amazing thing ever? If I could only do that for someone else, just once. Can you imagine? This is why I started to write. So far I haven't accomplished this goal, but I have managed to convince myself that Chale, Astrid, and Spigworth are real, at least in the very darkest, unused parts of my mind. I guess that's the first step.

What characters have you felt a bond with? Which books drew you in the most, and left you hollow inside when they ended?

Aspiring Writer Interview: Alison Ash

Alison was lucky. I asked her to do this a whole week in advance. I'd like to take the time to apologize to my previous interviewees for the stupidly short amount of time I gave them. (But they all rose to the challenge and helped me out, so thanks guys!) I met Ali last year, when I responded to an ad for a writing group looking for members. I was really nervous about talking to anyone about writing at that point (I was still in the "writing closet"), but she was extremely nice and when all was said and done, they accepted me into their group. As some of you may know, I refer to this as my "pretend writing group", because I've only made it to three meetings. Ever. But they are all great people, so they haven't kicked me out yet. Some day, I'll make it I promise! Anyway, Ali is the group leader, and has a book of her own, one that I have had the privilege to read (half way so far, and loving it). She's startlingly hilarious, and somehow manages to hit my funny bone at least once per page. I really hope to see her published someday, so I can say "I liked Alison Ash's stuff before it was cool" or something hipster-y like that. Alright, let's get to the questions.

Alison Ash
How old are you?
I just turned the very unremarkable age of 31.

Are you married? Kids?
Single. Two spunky daughters age 10 and 6. It feels strange having a daughter who is a decade old.

Where do you live? 
Utah, west side!

How long ago did you start writing? 
My first book was written when I was five. It was called The Duck Robbers and I made several copies. It was about a robber who stole baby animals from the forest. Looking back, the villain didn't have a very strong motivation. He just seemed to get his kicks off locking up woodland creatures under his stairs and then disappearing so the parents of those creatures (fully-equipped with opposable thumbs) could unlock the cage and free the babies. After this emancipation, the robber must have died or left for Hollywood because he never came back for a sequel. He also looked suspiciously like the Hamburgler.

Have you published anything? 
Does 40+ rejection letters count? No? Oh.

What are you working on right now? 
I will speak to the novel I finished in early 2011, tentatively titled The Lost Location of Sunday City. I am in the submission stage.

How long have you been working on The Lost Location of Sunday City
I began writing the book during a bad bout of the flu in January 2007, but fashioned the idea in my head while driving years earlier in 2002. At the time, someone I cared had been victim of a violent crime and had changed tremendously as a result. As I drove, I remembered how she used to be as a child, very bright and innocent, and probably the most beautiful girl I had seen in real life. After the crime she was changed. Her eyes were hollow, and she spiraled into a ghostly waif of a person. All the spark and life had been sucked out of her. As I passed a ruined building with a missing roof and only window wells left, I imagined her adult self standing on the inside and her child self on the outside. The adult was warning the child about what was to come, so it could be avoided and innocence preserved. I then wondered what I might warn myself about if I could could speak to my child self. I passed that building daily with this image in my head. Eventually I combined the idea with the phrase "Time Trees" (a cast-off from a novel I started but never completed) and dreamed up the idea of a grove of trees that were tied to time. The idea seemed very simple and I thought I could write a quick little book about a boy who warns his past self about misfortunes in the future. I made a primitive outline while high on cold medicine. I wrote diligently for six months and had a nice little first draft of the first act (which was looking less and less like my hasty little outline, but isn't that always the way?) when I decided to rebuild my computer. I won't get into the technical details, but suffice it to say, I thought I had backed up my novel only to find the file had been permanently deleted! To say I was devastated is an understatement. I cried for the first day, went through a deep depression for the following two weeks. I had difficulty eating and sleeping. Neighbors started knocking, asking if someone had died. Eventually I started again, only to have the same thing happen a few months later after a virus hit our server. Luckily I only lost a couple of chapters that time. I was so angry with myself I couldn't bring myself to rewrite those chapters. I decided to start on the second act and go back later when my emotions had settled.

Other strange things started happening surrounding the novel. When I would go to write, something would always prevent me (an illness, emergency, etc). I began to have dark dreams about it. Also, the overall quality of my life was lowering. Several disasters had strained me and my family. One day I realized the bad luck all started after that flu in January when I decided to write the book. I joked with myself that the novel must be cursed. It was at that moment that I realized my main character should be cursed! I rewrote those lost chapters with that element and it ended up dominating the entire novel.

I thought often about those lost efforts and realized something. The rewrite was much better and far stronger than the chapters I had lost. Had I never experienced the pain and depression of losing a combined eight months of work, I would have never come up with the key elements of the plot. The idea of good coming from suffering became the theme of the entire book and the lesson the main character learns.

(Incidentally, my friend who was the victim of the crime did eventually recover and is now a happy, productive adult)

Tell us a little about it.
The novel concerns Gabriel Gussie, who's got himself a Muxy—a family curse that causes terrible things happen on his birthday. Cow pie rain, flukes in gravity, trailer-park terrorizing tornadoes, each year the disasters get worse. The entire community is afraid of him, kids at school avoid him, and his parents are sure that someday they’re going to wake up dead. But when Gabriel starts seeing visions, warning him that his curse will cause the death of his baby brother on Gabriel’s thirteenth birthday, he knows he must find a cure quickly.

A mysterious family friend named Tuck shows up, promising just that. If Gabriel will come with him to Sunday City, a ghost town closed to outsiders for a century, he will find his cure.

But Gabriel is in for a surprise. Upon arrival, he learns that not only does everyone in Sunday City believe that Tuck died thirty years ago, but Gabriel is the heir to his vast hoard of gimcracks—antiques with magical properties. Tuck has plans for Gabriel and his Muxy. As Gabriel’s birthday looms closer, Tuck’s dark secrets reveal a plot to destroy Sunday City from beyond the grave. His weapon of choice: the Muxy.

With the clock running out, Gabriel must dodge possessed deer, thwart greedy gimcrack-grabbers, uncover the history of his Muxy, save his brother’s life, and rescue the city he has come to call home before his birthday curse blows out more than candles.

In The Lost Location of Sunday City you somehow manage to cram a massive amount of humor into every chapter, most of it of the crazy variety. How do you come up with the ideas for all the intensely strange things people say and think?
A lot of the humor are real-life failed jokes put in the correct context and given the right timing. That's the beauty of writing, you have time to decide if you've gone too far. In real life that luxury does not exist, so unfortunately, my friends and family do a lot of head scratching after they are done talking to me. But I am laughing in my mind, so that's what counts!

What are your goals for The Lost Location of Sunday City
I grew up with a desire to be traditionally published. However, I have seen a lot of authors gain success in self-publishing. I don't believe we can predict where technology is going to eventually bring books, but I am excited to see that publication is no longer run by "gatekeepers." I have no plans to self publish but that may change.

What is your favorite book or author? Why? 
Dr. Seuss was a prophet. I believe Oh, the Places You'll Go should be government issued to new parents. But I can't rule out Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece which is a perfect allegorical representation of the duality of human nature and how we crave both individualism and coupling. I have a copy on my coffee table and pick it up when I need a good, unanswerable question.

What has been the hardest part about writing your current work? About writing in general? 
Finding time is always a challenge. Especially with children, a full time job and a host of extra hobbies. I often have to take entire weekends and dedicate them to whatever writing task is at hand. 

What has been the best or most rewarding aspect of writing? 
Reading the entire work from start to finish and realizing it makes sense and is actually a book! The first time I did so I reached the last chapter at two-a.m. with surprise. I couldn't believe it was over and wanted it to continue. I wanted to know what would happen next with Gabriel and Ebony and their friends. It was a strange, disconnected moment. Stephen King describes it as "'like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin perhaps."

Do you have any "technical" suggestions for new writers? 
One thing I hate is the cliche. I really try to avoid the first solution that pops in my head. When I need to brainstorm new ideas I talk into a tape recorder for as long as it takes for the "Eureka!" moment to come. This has helped me puzzle out scenes and integrate threads into later chapters. It gives me an artificial sense of collaboration, as if I am discussing my book with my future self.

Do you have any sage advice for new writers? 
I really believe if we all just keep pounding at it, dedicating at least an hour a day at our books, we will eventually see publication. You never hear of a person who wrote and wrote and kept submitting their whole lives that didn't eventually see publication. We may write a few scrappers first (I wrote two horrible ones in my twenties), but that's just the awkward adolescence of talent that everyone has to go through before they become good at their craft. Just keep swimming!

Well, there you have it! It just goes to show that we can never give up, you and me. So get back to writing!

More updates on TSS 2.0, LTUE, and a quick bit on Voice (and I use too many parenthesis).

School has started. Alas, but it is true. Spring Semester 2012 is in full swing, and I wasn't really prepared for it. I'm not too worried though. I'm taking fewer classes (and easier) than last semester, so I can handle it. In part, this more laid-back schedule is because I want to devote more time to writing. College is my backup plan (not plan A), so I feel like every once in a while I should stop trying to do the "smart thing" and really go for my dreams. This is easier said than done. I'm well aware that many writers finish books and get published despite school, a full time job, and a family. Well I'm not that guy. I'm the guy who gets addicted to World of Warcraft over Christmas break, and falls so far into depression he can't even be pulled out with an ice-cream cone. I'm the guy who spends more time bemoaning his failings (quietly of course) than trying to correct them. Come to think of it, it's a miracle I was ever able to finish my first novel.

I am working hard at it though. Every week I have set days and time where I normally had classes that are now dedicated to writing. I've kept to it so far, even though the first day was excruciating (I'm telling you, writing is not like riding a bike, you can forget/get out of practice). Today's holiday is an opportunity for me to get in another huge chunk of writing time, and I'm hoping I can persevere. (Yes, depression and addiction to WoW can sometimes feel totally out of your control, even though they're not.)

Anyway, a quick update on The Sometimes Sword 2.0. I'm now at 30k words, roughly 90 pages at it's current font and margin settings. I'm not quite a third of the way through, so its going to be running 20-30k words longer than version 1.0 (this kind of scares me). Other than the slow progress, I feel like it's going well. I've been hitting dialogue a little closer to the mark this time around, and I've been working hard at making plot points cooperate better. My characters have started with a bit more mass and volume, and I've worked out some of the kinks in my story telling. Aside from the motivation to actually sit down and write, I'm feeling pretty positive about it on the whole.

For those of you in Utah (and perhaps without), you may know of a writing convention called Life the Universe and Everything (LTUE), held in Orem (I think?). It's an annual event in February, and from what I hear, it's the bee's knees. I'll be attending all three days (if I can swing it with work), backpack and tape recorder in hand. Yeah, I'm one of those over eager amateurs, so what? If you're going, hit me up so we can chat and attend a few panels together. Just a side note, membership is FREE for current students with college ID. So yeah, no excuses.

One last thing. As some of you may know, I'm a bit obsessed with the idea of a writer's "voice". It's something that has always eluded me, and I can't even define to myself, let alone other people. I can see it in the writers I read, but not myself. It's more than a bit frustrating. Today I happened upon a post on, a writing website run by Chuck Wendig (I highly recommend you check him out). I wanted to highlight part of that post and link the rest:

"Writers are at the outset a scared species. It’s not our fault: we’re told that it’s a bad idea and unless we want to prepare for a life lived inside a palatial piano crate we should just buckle down and become accountants. And so I think there’s a lot of bad psychic voodoo that clogs the works, and until we start to clear that out, it’s really hard to find out who we are on the page and what our voice looks and sounds like. Finding your voice is then synonymous with losing the fear of not just writing but of being a writer."

You can read the entire post here, and I very much recommend that you do. I love this dude's stuff, and it has helped me a ton. A word of caution though: he does use a hilarious amount of vulgarity and straight up insanity. It enriches the experience. He is very serious about writing though, and writing well.

So that's it folks. That's what's going on with me. What about you? What have you been up to, and what's your "Plan A"?

How watching films critically can help you write better.

I had my first Introduction to Film class yesterday, and despite the four-hours-in-one-really-old-theater-seat syndrome, I'm pretty excited for it. As I'm sure you can guess, we view a film once per class, book-ended by an hour lecture and discussion afterward. This gives the instructor a chance to teach us about a particular concept, allow us to watch for it, then discuss and identify the film-maker's usage of that concept.

As most of you know (at least, I hope so), movies begin with a screenplay. Which is writing, btw. Instead of writing a five-hundred page novel, a screenwriter writes something like one-hundred twenty pages (about 90 minutes of movie). Both novels and screenplays share a lot in common, from the basic structure (generally three-act, though there are always exceptions), to the need for natural, but informative dialogue. As always, characters and plot require hard work and probably tears of frustration in all forms of writing.

The interesting thing about watching a movie with critical eyes (as far as the writing portion goes), is that its format is perfect for catching all the ways the film makers handle the story elements. Such a condensed version of a story makes it east to identify character conflicts, quirks, and flaws. It's readily apparent what character's hold which place in the plot, and who does what.

We watched Little Miss Sunshine, a pseudo-indie film made back in 2006 or 2007 (maybe). We were instructed to watch for motifs (repeated themes), character parallels (and foils), and metaphors. During the discussion we talked about what we had found, and it struck me how easy it looked on screen. Of course the VW bus breaking down was a metaphor for the family's steady deterioration. Of course the beauty pageant at the end symbolized all of the character's misplaced dreams. Why can't it be so simple while writing a book? Well, maybe it is.

Next time you watch a movie, try to look at it with a screen writer's eyes, instead of a movie-goer's. Try to identify the techniques the film maker uses to draw you in, to define character, to advance plot, etc. See if any of those things might benefit your own writing. Hopefully I'll find some good stuff of my own.

Aspiring Writer Interview: Leigh Covington

This week's interview is brought to you by Me. And Leigh Covington from right here in Utah. I was pointed toward Leigh's blog by Melanie Fowler (another Aspiring Writer interviewee, click that there link) and I decided to ask her for an interview. She got back to me right away, which I very much appreciated, so thanks for that Leigh! It's referrals like this that help me keep up this feature, so keep them coming!

Leigh Covington
First, some of the boring/invasive questions. How old are you?
*sigh* Can I lie?

20’s would be awesome! But alas. I am in my low 30’s.

Are you married? Have any kids you'd like to brag about?
Yep! I am a city girl who married a farmer! He loves being in the middle of nowhere and would be perfectly content there as long as he lives. I, on the other hand, prefer civilization, although I do love to visit remote areas too. I have 3 kids. A boy, Kai (8), girl, Haydyn (5), and girl, Paisley (2). My entire life revolves around them. They are so much fun, but at the same time --- I love bedtime!

Where abouts do you live?
I live in West Point, Utah. It is west of Clearfield of Layton (depending on which you have heard of.) And very near the entrance to Antelope Island, which is fun.

How far back did you start writing?
Oh heavens! I have really been writing my whole life. I get a lot of requests for poems for people or skits for church groups. It is fun. But I was always afraid to go for something more – like being published. However – last August, I finally took the plunge and jumped into the blogging world (for writers) and I am working more fervently on some of my MS’s.

What are you working on right now?
I have put some of my picture books on the back burner for the time so that I can work on my YA fantasy, STAIN. It has been an adventure, and thanks to some fabulous crit partners, as well as blogging buddies – I have learned so much & it is constantly improving.

How long have you been working on it?
Hmmm – is it weird that I don’t know? I think since about September or October. I didn’t make get as much done as I wanted, with my school schedule, but I plan to have the first draft finished by March 31st.

Tell us a little about Stain.
Skye, and her best friend, Logan escape from an Island where they were used as slaves for their country. The King executes them at the age of 17 in order to prevent an army from rising against him. Skye and Logan happen upon The Guardians, where they are told more about why they were enslaved on the Island, along with the other children of Selaesia. From there they must journey to the Oracle to find out if either is the one that will be able to lead The Guardians in a war against the King in order to save the children of Selaesia. What they didn’t realize is that the king can use the stains that mark their arms against them, and he does whatever he can to stop them.

Where do you see yourself going with Stain?
I hope to find an agent and publisher, although I don’t have anything against going Indie. Mostly, I think that through an agent and publisher I can learn a lot and I won’t have to fully rely on ME!

Have you sent out any queries?
If this book ends up being everything I hope it will be then I will start querying this fall. *crosses fingers.*

What is your favorite book or author? Why?
Right now I am on a Brandon Mull kick! I love his MG series, FABLEHAVEN, and I am also enjoying the BEYONDERS series that has just started.

What has been the hardest part about writing Stain? About writing in general?
#1 hardest thing for me – is TIME! When I get the kids to bed, I want to curl up in bed and WORK! However, my husband thinks that his time to watch TV. We try to trade off, but I think I’m going to have to come up with a new plan. #2 thing that I am working on is using “active” voice. That can be tricky, but once again – I have awesome crit partners to help me out.

What has been the best or most rewarding aspect of writing?
Learning, growing and meeting awesome writers in the blogosphere. Honestly – the friendships and support are phenomenal!

Do you have any "technical" suggestions for new writers?
I think writers should attend as many workshops or conferences as possible. You learn so much and meet great people. Also – look into WriteOnCon. I wasn’t sure what to expect from that last year, but it was wonderful and I look forward to it this year. AND… do blog hops! Especially if they are writing related. It’s great to practice and get feedback!

Do you have any sage advice for new writers?
I think it’s important to “NEVER GIVE UP!” Honestly – there are pumps and valleys along the road to publication, so don’t give up. I also think it’s important to keep an open mind and use feedback. I know that I don’t see my book as others will, so I need to take their advice into consideration. It doesn’t mean I need to use it, but I should be open about my writing and not consider myself perfect. (Don’t tell my husband… as far as he knows… I am always right and always perfect.)

Have you published anything?
I did submit my 2 short stories from the Campaign Challengers on Rachel Harrie’s blog. It has been a fun experience to see a few of my things available to the public.

How about some links to any blogs, websites, or other online media you run?

Thanks  for helping me out and giving our readers something to distract themselves from at work! Keep at it, and one day we'll all be published and share snooty drinks at a snooty writer's club or something. That's what Stephen King and Brandon Mull do right?

New Year's resolution? No thanks. But don't go away yet!

I'm one of those anti-resolution snobs. I don't believe in them. Now don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I can't or don't support those that do. I think it's great to try to better yourself somehow, to make a fresh start. The problem is that I know myself well enough to realize that any sudden decision to change won't last long. Instead, I favor resolutions based around things already in my life. For instance: school starts once more on this coming Monday and I've decided to base a resolution around that, and not just the new year. To explain, I haven't been writing very much lately during the holiday break. Sure I've blogged a bit, even tapped out 1600 words in my book, but those are so small they almost don't count. So with the start of school I face a dilemma. All the free time I've become accustomed to in the last weeks will disappear in a puff smoke, and my reluctance/aversion to forcing myself to write will become even worse. In order to combat that, I'm taking this last week of freedom back from World of Warcraft. My goal is to write everyday this week, as much as I can manage. That way, when I finally start school again, I will already be in the habit of writing. I can't risk losing my drive to write. I have a dream dang it! I can't let it fall by the wayside.

It's my opinion that goals are better realized when tied to something solid, like the beginning of a school semester, rather than a year-spanning blanket promise to yourself. So wish me luck on this next semester, when I plan to finish my rewrite of The Sometimes Sword (60k words of 80k to go).

Me at The Outer Rim (now closed) with
 A Horrible Night to Have a Curse.
I had one more thing to say in this post. It's not directly related to writing, but it's been on my mind a lot. Some of you might not know, but music used to be my "thing", not writing. I was the vocalist in a local deathcore band for about three years. We were called A Horrible Night to Have a Curse (yeah, thats a Castlevania reference), and played shows weekly, sometimes even two or three in a week. We had the opportunity to play some really awesome shows with bands we always dreamed of playing with, and got to know a lot of people. It was a great time in my life, despite the incredible stress that goes along with running a band with four other young dudes. It's now been over two years since we called it quits, and I still miss it. At first it was really difficult to have nothing in my life that I was passionate about, and I even got bitter. All I was left with was my full time job, one that I hated. It was a rough two years at that job, but I eventually got over the painful cravings to perform and write music. Writing has since become my life, and I'm glad for it. If I had stayed involved in the hardcore scene as deeply as I was, I most likely would never have started writing seriously. But every once in a while, those cravings to get on stage and feel the music invade my heart and brain comes back. I know I never will again. Today is one of those hard days. I guess my point is that no matter what change happens in your life, you never know what the outcome will be. Let life happen, and take charge of yourself, despite what may happen to you. Also, don't be afraid to look back fondly, maybe even sadly. Just make sure you stay looking forward the majority of the time.