Recently, in the Writing category…

I don’t understand — how can a cobbler even have children? And why would any dessert need shoes?

A few months back, I listed the places where I regularly publish online. I’ve added a few places since then, so I thought I should update the list. Here’s the list, in its entirety and formatted to fit your screen:

  • What I’m doing and attempts to be funny go on Twitter.
  • Links that I’m saving for my own reference get saved at
  • Links that I don’t necessarily need to save, but that I want to others to read — and thoughts that are longer than 140 characters — are shared via Google Reader.
  • Movable Type tutorials go on Devlounge.
  • MT news is posted every Monday on Blog Herald.
  • Mac and iPhone software news and reviews on MacApper
  • Blogging tips on… wait for it… Blogging Tips

The irony is, the more of these sites I write for, the more traffic gets directed here, where I don’t have time to write because I’m writing for these other sites (That is irony, right?). Hence my recent thinking about cobblers and shoes. My hope is that all this blogging I’m doing elsewhere — where I get paid and have real deadlines — will make me a better, more productive writer. And that, in turn, will lead to more posting here… which will lead to more blogging jobs… which will lead to my finally getting one of those drinking problems all the good writers have. Here’s hoping.

For anyone looking to learn about Movable Type, I’ve started writing a series of articles about MT for Devlounge. My most recent was published a couple of days ago and covers how to use the Action Streams plugin, which I’ve talked a bit about before.

And while I’m mentioning that, I thought I’d also talk about the various ways I’m publishing these days. Like a lot of people, I don’t post to my blog as often as I used to. Over time, this has turned into a place for longer articles, and short “link posts” just aren’t what I want to do here. But I see things all the time that I want to share, so here’s how I’m divvying them up:

  • Really short, of-the-moment type stuff goes on Twitter.
  • Links that I’m saving for my own reference get saved at
  • Links that I don’t necessarily need to save, but that I want to others to read — and thoughts that are longer than 140 characters — are shared via Google Reader.
  • And, as I said, longer blog posts go here, and MT tutorials go on Devlounge.

Of those, Google Reader’s shared items is the one I’ve really gotten into lately. Since they added notes and sharing anything, it makes a decent tumblelog. I’m hoping they continue to move it in that direction.

So that’s where I am with blogging. What about you — how do you publish these days, and how has it changed since you first started blogging?

Since I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past two years, I thought I should mention that I”m not doing it this year. I did Script Frenzy in June, and one month-long writing challenge per year seems like enough. I’ll probably do NaNoWriMo next year, with the idea of alternating between that and Script Frenzy.

Script Frenzy Participant After two years of writing novels for NaNoWriMo, I decided to give the first ever Script Frenzy a try. If I’ve learned anything from NaNoWriMo it’s that my writing tends to be heavy on dialogue, light on description — which seems like it would translate well to screenplays.

When I first heard the challenge would be 20,000 words in 30 days I thought, “This will be a piece of cake.” After doing 50,000 words in a month — not once, but twice — this sounded like a vacation. As June grew closer, I started to worry I was underestimating the task. Writing a screenplay is very different from writing a novel, which could mean it’s also more difficult.

Two days in I’m back to being pretty confident. I’m ahead in my word count, which is highly unusual for me. It’s also not taking me very long to reach my goal each day. Part of that is because of Celtx, an absolutely incredible piece of open-source screenwriting software. It’s very easy to use, and it takes care of all the formatting so you can concentrate on writing.

I don’t have aspirations of being a screenwriter, but it’s a fun little creativity challenge, and an adventure — and adventure is good for the soul.

Plus, if I ever encounter someone famous I’ll have something to ask them to read and therefore make them feel awkward about the whole meeting.

When I finished NaNoWriMo last year, I was pretty sure I would do it again. In fact, for months afterward I was planning my next novel, a sequel to the first that would pit my characters against a more evil, more brutal villain than they’d met before.

Then, a few weeks before the start of November, I had another idea for a novel. This one would be the first in a series, and would be a science fiction, action-adventure story. In my head I fleshed out the basic story, along with the general flow I wanted for the entire series. This, I decided, would be my next novel.

As NaNoWriMo got closer, I had another idea for a novel. This was also science fiction, but definitely humorous. Something of a buddy story set in an alternate universe. By this time November was only a couple of weeks away and I really didn’t need to be changing my mind again. But, as I got to thinking about it, I realized that the “sci-fi action” story was a lot like my first novel, and that the “buddy” story was completely different. Completely different sounded like more fun — especially since I hadn’t done anything with my previous novel since printed it for me.

So that’s what I did. I finished at about the same time I did last year. In some ways, this novel was easier to write. My first novel I’d been planning for a year before I wrote it, and the structure was pretty well set going in. This one had a much looser structure — most of it is a road trip — so I had more room to experiment. Consequently, last year I reached the end of my story at about 25K and had to go back and write filler. This year I hit 50K well before the story was finished and just wrote a summary paragraph and the final scene to finish things up. Also, this one was just more fun to write. I always enjoy writing humor more than anything serious. Plus, road trips and space aliens are less emotionally draining than torture and arms dealers. But maybe that’s just me.

Some things were harder, though. Not having planned much for this story, I didn’t really know where I was going with it and felt a little lost sometimes. Also, Angela didn’t participate this year, so I found myself putting off writing more than I did last year. Not because of anything she did — she encouraged me to write, prompting me to get back to work whenever she didn’t hear “clickety-clack” coming from my computer. Still, I found myself spending each weekend catching up, yet never actually getting caught up until the very end.

And so the question once again is: Will I do it next year? Probably, although it would be nice not to have to. I’ve got dozens of stories bouncing around in my head. If I could get myself to write as much throughout the year as I do in the month of November, maybe I wouldn’t need the kick-in-the-pants that is NaNoWriMo.

Oh look, it’s a blog. And it hasn’t been updated in over a month. How quaint.

I’m happy to announce two of the things that have kept me busy lately: NegativeArticles and AffirmativeArticles. Depending on your disposition you may prefer one over the other. Or you may find reading both is the closest you can get to a true zen experience.

Our writers at those sites, Joe and Willy, are a couple of, um, characters. I like to tell people we met Willy while we were visiting Tulsa. He came up to us on the street, recognized we were from out-of-town, and offered us money and a place to stay. We found Joe in San Francisco, selling water shoes on the Golden Gate Bridge. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The sites have been a lot of work to get up and running, but a lot of fun, too. They’re running on Typo, which is built with Ruby on Rails. As a blogging platform, Typo is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. The interface is great. The templating system is just RoR, but it’s real easy to customize, which is all I ask from a templating system. I’ve had some stability issues — I don’t know if that’s because of my host or because I’m running off development code. Things have been better the last couple of days, though, so maybe it was just problems with the server.

Just so you know, I haven’t forgotten about Gift Goat. I’ve just been busy with other things. I still plan to get it working in time to have my family (and anybody else that wants to) beta test it over Christmas.

I’m also working on a site for a local realtor, going to Webmaster Jam next weekend, and planning my next NaNoWriMo.

So… See ya next month!

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday, and I’m proud to say I won, finishing the story at 50,097 words at about nine last night. It was a lot of late nights and long weekends, but it was fun. I kept track of my time as best I could, and it took me about 80 hours of writing time for that 50K+ words. It helped that Angela and I were both writing novels—I can see where it would put a strain on a marriage to have one person tied to the computer that much for a month.

I learned a few things in the process:

  • I think I could write about 1,000 words a day with little trouble. At the rate I was writing, that would be about an hour and a half. That’s not that much time out of the day, but it would be a significant amount toward blog posts, articles, short stories, novels, etc.
  • My greatest weakness as a writer is descriptions. To give you an idea, I finished the story (as I had it in my head before NaNoWriMo) in about 25K+ words. I was showing what happened without setting the scene.
  • My greatest strength is dialogue. Most of the novel is dialogue—some of it is kind of clunky, but there are also some gems in there that hit just the right note.
  • I know absolutely nothing about guns, which is going to be a problem if I’m going to be writing contemporary thrillers like this one.
  • I like to write.

I’m going to take a break from this novel for a few weeks, then go back to it and see if I can revise it into something worth submitting to publishers. If I can, great. If not, oh well. It was an adventure, and adventure is good for the soul. I’ll most likely do it again next year unless, of course, I’m being chased by weapons smugglers. Then, no way.

(323. Sorry, old habits die hard.)

As promised, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The story has been rattling around in my head for a while now. I’ve visualized most of the major scenes, but the subplots are still a mystery even to me. It’s something of an action/thriller novel — I’ll give more details when I start writing it. In fact, I’ll probably post excerpts here from time to time.

I’ve finished a few small web sites recently. I’m doing on-going maintenance for one, another in development, and another that will probably be starting soon. I’m really hoping to have my plate pretty well clean going into November, because I have my own project I want to start. I’d really like to be working on my project during the day and my novel at night. And watching television. Sweet, sweet television.

Oh, and if you haven’t noticed the Red Cross link in the corner, please do. I’ll most likely leave it there for the rest of the year. If you can give, I highly recommend it.

On Saturday, Angela and I attended a writing workshop at one of the metro-area libraries. Author Harvey Stanbrough taught us about flash fiction — a complete story in less than 100 words.

It sounds impossible, but Stanbrough had some clever examples, and we even wrote some of our own. It was fun, and something I want to keep doing, even if I never have any of them published. I’m sure there’s a market for such things — magazines always need filler of various sizes. But, I’m not sure about the ROI. They probably don’t pay much per story, so you would have to be able to churn out a bunch of them quickly to make any real money off of it. But, as a writing exercise, it’s a good way to practice very tight writing — boiling a story down to the absolute essentials.

To give you an idea, here are the two stories I wrote on Saturday:

Continue reading “Flash Fiction”…

If things go as planned, my wife and I will start work on our book in April. We had planned to use a wiki to collaborate on the book, but I might try out Hieraki, a wiki-style app that has some book-specific features.

See more progress on: Write a book (nonfiction)