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Prying It Loose: On Writing Poetry Again

Like many teenagers, I wrote poetry in high school. I cobbled together a journal from spare ruled notebook paper and a used binder, hand-sewing and gluing the spine. The pages were deckled (not intentionally) by my inability to cut straight. I filled this upcycled journal with confessions, story snippets, and poems.

I wrote far more fiction than poetry in the years between, but I indulged on occasion. I used to post Wednesday poems on this blog some years back. I’d mess around with metaphor and meter in my stories, but not to great effect. (Rhyme was always hard for me.)

Since my writing block last year, I’ve struggled to find ways to put words to screen. I practically reinvented my writing process twice, but that didn’t seem to fix things. Even blog posts have been difficult and sporadic, though to be fair my topics have been difficult, deeply personal, and met with a great deal of hostility.

Earlier this month, unsure of what day exactly, I started writing poetry again. The first poem was excruciating to write, like turning a rusty nut off a threaded bolt, but the threads caught and subsequent poems have been easier.

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Embracing Boredom: Why I’m Ditching Streaming Video in January

Though I no longer do New Year’s resolutions (too ambitious, too inflexible, you’ve heard this already), I’ve decided to do some month-long commitments. Among my commitments this year: abstaining from most streaming video, i.e. Netflix, Disney+, etc.

I have several good reasons for this.

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NaNoWriMo 2019: The Preppening

As November 1st approaches, I’ve begun preparing for this year’s marathon of words. Read on for the details.

This Year’s Project: Continue working on Field of Shards

Although I eventually stalled out at ~17K words, Field of Shards had a great start last year. I’ve learned from NaNos past that you should never start a new project if there’s one you’d rather be doing, and this story’s pretty decent, if I may be conceited for a moment.

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2017 In Review

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

You want more details, dear reader? Well, then, read on.

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Shorter, Shorter, Shorter

I’ve been fighting a bad case of pneumonia for the past couple weeks. I caught it sometime in New Orleans during General Assembly, probably due to travel stress. I missed a week and a half of work because of it.

So I’ve had to prioritize. For a week I didn’t have the energy to sit up in an office chair. Yesterday, a church service left me winded and pale. The most I’ve been able to cook on the stove has been eggs and turkey sausage. If you ever doubt Spoon Theory, just remember the last time you came down with the flu or any other medium-term illness.

I’ve had to prioritize my writing as well.

This year, it seems as though I’ve written nothing but short stories. I write monthly articles for The Daily WTF, of course. This weekend I wrote a short piece for a contest, and earlier this year I wrote and workshopped a story called “Juicers,” which I’m finishing up this month. Also, I recently sold a short story to an anthology (more details at a later date, I promise!). Frequently, I’ve been revisiting “brain dump” files for potential story ideas.

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Every Part of You Is Papier-mâché

Earlier this month, I was elected to my church’s Board of Trustees….

…A week later, I was invited to a new critique group….

…Recently, I was given incredible leeway in refactoring a major project at work….

People keep giving me opportunities. And that feeling that it’s all undeserved? Still it remains.

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Come and Take It

The Alamo church.

“Remember the Alamo” has two primary connotations, depending on the audience. It’s either a jingoistic rallying cry, a justification for the incursion of white settlers into Spanish-held territory. Or, if you’re a certain kind of Texan, it’s a reminder of the nobility of sacrifice, when things are worth fighting for.

Not being Texan myself, nor a believer in the peculiarly American kind of Manifest Destiny, I fall into the former category.

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NaNoWriMo 2016: Yes, We’re Doing This

It was Stephen King, in his mandatory book On Writing, that described his writing desk at two stages of his life. Early on, his desk was gigantic, “T-rex sized” as he puts it, in the middle of his writing space. But later, he got a smaller desk, placed it to the side, and filled his room with other things.

Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to my writing was walking away from it. After my output slumped in June, I decided to break from anything that wasn’t paying me (basically, everything but The Daily WTF) and focus on everything else in my life. I had to get rid of the T-rex desk in my own life to get some things in order, but coming back, I realize that writing never left me. It’s always there, no matter how long I break from it. The trick is, as King discovered, not letting writing run your life, but to live as broad a life as possible and still be able to write.

So, this year’s NaNoWriMo is an extension of last year’s. Altars and Acolytes, the most recent title of what’s been called A Buried Stone Gate, The Coral Gate, and (dubiously) That F


ing Novel, will finally see its most recent draft done.

See, Altars was an easy first draft but an immensely difficult revision. Writing it through several years ago, I went on flights of fancy, creating darlings left-and-right. Stream of consciousness? Check. Style changes? Check. Way too many POV characters? Check. Too long for my genre (YA Fantasy)? Check. Italicized thoughts? Dune has more, but just barely.

I did one revision shortly after finishing the rough draft, but upon reading it later, it was clear that the story wasn’t working. Everything needed streamlining, the tension was as slack as a wet noodle, and I had converted to avoiding italicized thought narration. (Sorry, Frank Herbert.) Plus, there were character changes I could make to strengthen the narrative, but they would require a lot of revision.

So, v3 was what I started on last year, and I soon found that writing around existing scenes wasn’t the fastest way to make a new draft. I continued on after November, despite moving to a new apartment, getting hospitalized for heart trouble (just a vasospasm, not a heart attack, but damn did it scare me!), and acclimating to my new job. I took a break when my output whittled down to next to nothing every day, and since I was ramping up work in my church, my headspace wasn’t focused on writing at all for several months.

On Thursday, as my friends were three days into NaNoWriMo, I lamented not having a project to work on. I was considering starting from scratch, but I had no fresh ideas. My friend DM Bonanno suggested that, since we both have novels that need finishing, that we work on them simultaneously for NaNoWriMo.

While I didn’t take a totally “scorched earth” policy, I did decide that the halting progress of revisions on Altars could be sped up if I did something drastic: tossing out my existing third act. I had already stripped out unnecessary and obsolete scenes, but the rest depended so much on deleted characters and plot developments that stitching them together would take forever. So, taking a page from 2K to 10K, I made a new, detailed outline of my third act, tinkered with it over a couple days until it was just right, and put it into action.

And the words came back in a tidal wave.

I want Altars and Acolytes done. I mean, it still won’t be after this draft — it needs a thorough low-level pass and a polish — but I haven’t had a coherent draft of this story in literally years. It’s a story I love with characters that are writing themselves at this point. I just needed to clear away the debris of past drafts to let them.

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Just What On Earth Do You DO?

Being multifaceted has some drawbacks. People speak about having exactly one lifelong passion (and jobs sometimes demand this from employees), which doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like the concept of a soul mate, that mythical person that’s perfectly matched to your strengths and weaknesses.

That is to say, it’s equally bollocks.

So what is it that I do?

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Twine: Some Impressions

For someone who likes both writing and programming, it took me a long time to try out interactive fiction. See, I love prose fiction, and I enjoy narrative-heavy video games (such as Gone Home or Heavy Rain), but in-between was a no-man’s land. I never cared for text-based adventure games, and visual novels (not to be confused with graphic novels) didn’t have much appeal.

So it was with some reluctance that I tried out Twine. It’s designed to mimic the “choose your own adventure” books of yesteryear, using HTML as a compile target. Creating something like this had tickled my brain occasionally, but I didn’t want to take the time to build an entire engine from scratch. Luckily, someone had already done that.