Writing

My Writing Space

I always find it fascinating to see how other writers and creators organize their spaces.  Organization has been sort of a thing for me lately, as I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  This is probably the best my desk/office had looked in years, so keep that mind.  When I’m in the midst of writing a story or working on a project, it is often covered with papers, pens, my bullet journal and planner.

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I keep two calendars on my wall as well, I happen to be a very visual person, so having several places to see deadlines and plans is helpful to me.  One calendar is just to keep my blogs planned out for the month.  I don’t always stick to this calendar, but It helps me keep track of which blogs I have written and which ones I still need to write.  The template I use for blog planning is here, and I really love it.

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Along with my calendars, I keep a lot of art and inspirational quotes above my desks.  I also have a few notes about writing, so that they are easily accessible when I need them, though you can’t see them in the picture above (they are off to the side).  A lot of the art is from the lovely and talented Vylla, but I also have pieces from Kate Leth and Becky Cloonan.  The quote on the right side about “Failing Better” is one of my favorites, and something my best friend and I often remind each other of.

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The bookcase next to my desk holds some of my most prized knick-knacks, including my Funko Pop dolls.  I’m not a huge collector, but I have 4 Black Widow dolls, two Peggy Carters, a Sharon Carter and a Cap doll.  The book displayed on the shelf is a version of Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech.  It was actually the first book by Gaiman I ever owned, I was a fan of his writing advice for awhile before I fell in love with his stories.

The bookcase also is home to all my errant papers, books and notebooks.  I mostly try to keep writing books that I really like, or ones that have given me good advice in the past.  There is also a very cute tentacle kitty on the top shelf, who I got at Denver Comic Con.

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I have a lot of new organizers on my desk, most of which I got at Joann when they had them %60 off.  I’m a fan of the color pink, so the pops of color are kind of fun to me since my desk is black.  The Star Wars coloring book was actually a gift from my husband this year, for my birthday.  In that back organizer I keep the coloring book, my Erin Condren planner, my bullet journal (not pictured), my sticker booklet, bookmark and blue sticky stuff.  I’m a huge fan of the blue sticky stuff because my walls change a lot and it doesn’t leave a residue.

So there you have it.  That is what my space looks like.  Feel free to share a picture of yours in the comments!  I always love to see how other writers/creators organize their space.

 

Book Review

Review: Ready Player One

I had heard about Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One from a few different sources, but I recently saw preview pictures of the set of the movie version of the book and decided to check it out.  If you love video games and 80s references this book will be right up your alley.  It also has an interesting take on the future of virtual reality and tackles some issues that are very relevant today.

The plot of the book centers around a young boy named Wade, who goes by Parzival in the OASIS, the virtual world that most of humanity accesses.  Parzival and his friends are each working to complete a great puzzle/hunt within the OASIS, left by its creator, James Halliday, when he died.  Whoever completes Halliday’s Easter egg hunt receives the keys to his kingdom and his multibillion-dollar fortune.

This makes the stakes high, because whoever wins gets to control the OASIS as well, and that is where our antagonists “The Sixers,” men and women who work for the company Innovative Online Industries, also know as IOI.  IOI hopes to cheat to win the contest with their employees and take over Halliday’s company, which would forever alter the virtual world of the Oasis.

Ready Player One is set in the year 2045, about 30 years in the future.  There were several things I found interesting about Cline’s vision of the future in the book.  As someone who has ventured into virtual worlds like Second Life, I have definitely seen people who are addict to a world that is not their reality.  I believe that Cline gives us a realistic show of what the future might be like for people that would prefer to live in a fantasy world.  The protagonist, Parzival, also talks about how though he has not met many of his friends in “real life” he still feels very close to them.  Even now, the Internet has caused people who would never have met to form friendships and make connections.  One vision for the future of gaming I wasn’t a fan off was the fact that even 30 years in the future, girl gamers are still a rarity.  This is mentioned when Parzival talks about his love interest in the book, Artemis.  Since trends are changing about who plays games and there are many women who engage in virtual worlds.  Cline also later shows that even though women may seem rare in the virtual, that the ability to create an avatar that looks and sounds different than your real world counterpart may be part of the reason for this.

All in all, Ready Player One has a fun and compelling plot that raises some interesting questions about the future of gaming and our world.  It’s a classic hero story, so the plot may feel familiar at time, but it’s also filled with nostaglia which may appeal to people who lived through or were born in the 80s.  I know it was fun for me, being born in the middle of that decade.  I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves gaming and pop culture from yester year. The movie adaptation is slated to come out March of 2018, which gives you plenty of time to get through the book.

 

 

 

Comics · Writing

It’s Okay For People To Like Things…I Promise.

My head has been down the last few weeks as I tried to finish costumes for Salt Lake Comic Con and continue the decluttering project I’ve decided to do on my entire house.  I still check Facebook and one pattern of posts struck me as really strange and kind of bothersome.

The Harley Quinn Haters.

Let me explain, these are not fans who hate Harley, quite the opposite, they claim to love her but in the same breath, they make memes that shame new fans of the character. I saw several of these memes in various geek spaces online, and some were in regards to the many girls and women at SLCC that dressed up as Harley Quinn and how they needed to stop.   Some of these memes were accompanied by images of Margo Robbie as Harley Quinn and the original incarnation of Harley Quinn from “Batman the Animated Series” claiming that if you weren’t a fan of Harley from the start, don’t start now.  Because gasp! then you’ll be a fake geek girl. Apparently, we can only like things if we liked them all along.

What I found even more odd is that I found saw lots of Leto Joker cosplays at SLCC and yet, I saw no memes whatsoever shaming those dudes for their expression of fandom.

Harley Quinn holds a very special place in my heart and if her story resonates with other women, I say there’s plenty of room at the table for more fans.

It all boils down to this for me though:  It’s okay for people to like things.  It’s okay for them to start liking something only once it becomes popular.  Not everyone had awesome parents who took them to the comic shop every Saturday, or bought them an NES when it was first out.

I grew up loving all things DC, but in my early twenties I dove deep into Marvel comics.  I have a collection of West Avenger and Defender comics I cherish, and no one is going to tell me I can’t like something just because I got into it later in life.

Personally, I want more people who love geeky things in this world, not fewer because we shamed them out of their adoration.

So let people like what they like.  Geek culture should not be a test or a competition of who can prove they liked something first, or know the most about it.  That’s a competition we all lose, because we miss out on awesome new folks joining our geek community.

 

 

Writing · Writing Guide

A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline

I am not great about setting goals.  I mean, I do set them, but I am the kind of person that will easily be distracted from the things I am pursuing.  The thing is, without a goal a dream is just that, something intangible and not achievable.  The goal is the thing that gives you a map to work towards, a way to get to that dream.

I’ve met lots of writers who have said something to the effect of “I could have a story published if only I had all the time you have.” or “I could have a story published if only I didn’t have other obligations.”

I do not have a 9 to 5 job, but I don’t lack for distracting obligations that would love to keep me away from the writing desk.  Writing gets done thanks to dedication and goals, not thanks to a wealth of time (though that may help).  Many hugely successful writers were not able to sit at their desks all day, but they still managed to write and finish their stories.  This is because of dreams, deadlines, and dedication.

If you aren’t sure how to start or what kind of goals a writer should set and how to go about being successful at them, here are some tips for you.

Set a daily word count goal

It doesn’t have to be an ambitious goal like 1000-3000 words a day, it can be something small like 200-500 words a day.  It adds up quickly if you stick to doing it each day.  In a week, 200 words a day will equal 1,400 words.  500 words a day will equal 3,500.  You do not have to set goals that are hard to achieve in order to be successful.  Set a goal that you know you can accomplish and then see if you write more and need to set your bar a bit higher.  There are lots of word trackers out there, but my favorites are from Svenja Gosen, who has several available here.

Treat writing like a job

Don’t get me wrong, writing should still be fun, but if you treat your writing like you are a professional, you will get very different results than your friends that treat it like a hobby.  I still write for fun, but I also have set hours each day during the week that I devote to my “Job.”  I show up on time and I do my work.  For some, this will mean writing for 30 minutes each night, uninterrupted and not distracted.  For others it will mean spending a few hours doing writing sprints each day, working toward their goals.

Give yourself a deadline

Make a deadline and do your best to stick to it.  Tell others about your deadline, so that they can help hold you accountable to it.  Your deadlines may shift, mine almost always do.  If you write shorter fiction, find places to submit that have deadlines that you can’t wiggle around.

Be accountable to someone

This can be a writer’s group, a group of friends, or just someone on the internet.  Just make sure it’s someone who knows what you are working on and will expect you to finish it.  You should do the same for them.  I have a group of women (including my best friend) that I email when I want to do writing/work sprints, most of them are working on their PhDs.  We might be doing different work, but we are excellent at making each other accountable and cheering each other.  Writing can be lonely work, and sometimes a good “Hooray” or a good kick in the pants can be just what you need.

Book Review · Writing

Review – Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t

I’m a fan of Steven Pressfield’s books on writing and creating.  If you have not read them, his books “The War of Art” and “Turning Pro” are amazing and their influence literally changed my life as a writer.  I went from haphazardly writing stories that I never finished, writing whenever I felt like it, to treating writing like a real endeavor that I wanted to pursue.  They are perfect for the artist/writer/creative types who just can’t seem to get their fire going.  If you suffer from chronic writer’s block, I definitely recommend picking them up.  Pressfield refers to that sort of stuck-ness as the Resistance and shows you how to beat it and move beyond it, for the most part.

The first two books in the series teach you how to become a professional and practice the right habits to become more successful as a creative person.  His third book in the series, “Nobody wants to read your sh*t” takes you in a slightly different direction.  In this book, Pressfield talks about how you shape a story, what you need to have in your story and why concept and genre are important.  This book is very much one where you can learn the rules of writing a story, and then later break those rules.

Pressfield also outlines things in a very simple fashion and revisits the lessons he has taught throughout the book.  Not all of his anecdotes were interesting to me, but I greatly prefer being taught things with a story alongside them, so it still worked.

When I started this book, I thought there might be some magical tidbit of information about how to get people to read my writing.  Instead of a fancy how-to guide on getting people interested in your story, Pressfield teaches you the basics of writing a good story, one that will satisfy the reader and make them want to read more of your work.

This book also reminded me that good writers are always learning.  Writing a good story is not an accident, as so many people who are not writers might think.  It’s intentional and a significant amount of work goes into such a story.

If you are a writer/artist, especially one at the beginning of your career, I would definitely recommend picking up all of Pressfield’s books on the subject.  This third installment was a quick read, just as the other two were, so they are worth both the investment and the time it takes to read them.

Writing · Writing Guide

Capturing the Muse – Writing for the uninspired

With the advent of the internet, it’s easier than ever for writers to connect with one another.  Because of this, I have met lots of writers who have very active muses, those that do not wait for the muse, and those that can only write when their lazy muse feels like it.  I consider myself to fall in the second camp, I don’t wait for my muse or for inspiration, to write.  If you’re like me, this can mean tricking yourself to producing.

Okay, tricking sounds simple.  It’s not really a trick, it’s a series of carefully planned habits and practices that help me make sure I show up to write even when my muse doesn’t.  Here are some tips to get you started down that path:

  1.  Create a daily writing habit – Stephen King and several other professionals will give you this advice.  Whether it’s setting a word count goal, or setting aside 20 minutes a day to write, create a goal and stick to it.  Even if you write just 200 words a day, that’s 73,000 words a year.  That’s a small novel.  That’s several short stories.  This writing may not feel inspired at first, but if you show up to do the work, you’ll be surprised how often it starts to feel inspired.
  2. Find a process that works for you – I have several work sheets for story planning.  When I start writing a story, especially short stories. I pull one out and start the very fundamental process of character building on them.  I usually start with 3-4 characters, give them names, 4 personality traits (at least one negative trait).  From there I add a setting if I didn’t already have one in mind and I build from there.  I am the sort of writing that likes plot that stems from character, so that is why I start with characters.  Once I have plot, I work on world building and theme.   The worksheet I use the most is here, which I based off a story workshop I attended taught by comics author Kelly Sue Deconnick.  It gives me a great building block to start with, whether my muse had chosen to show up or not.  Sometimes the traits I choose are literally random ones.  Other times I have an idea of the characters and they come naturally.
  3. Writing prompts – Find a prompt you like, set a timer (15-30 minutes is usually the best) and write.  The scene can be random or with characters you’ve already created, but write and see what happens.

If you want advice beyond what I can recommend in the space of this small blog post, I have a few books to recommend.  They are as much about creating a writing practice as finding inspiration, but they have helped me immensely over the last few years.

Both of Pressfield’s books are relatively quick reads, but they shine a good light on the practices of a “Professional” even when you don’t feel like one yet.  He also just released a another book, Nobody wants to read your Sh*t, which he released for free to start out, so you might still be able to grab a free copy.  I’ll be reading and reviewing that book, in a couple weeks.

  • On Writing – Stephen King

I’m not a fan of horror, but I’m smart enough to know that Mr. King has some amazing advice on writing.  I listened to the audiobook, which he reads, and it’s one I’ve gone back to time and time again.

  • Fantastic Mistakes – Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech

I own the hardcover book, but you can also watch Gaiman give the speech here.  This is something that is great to read or listen to when you feel like you can’t do this.  His voice is kind and encouraging, which makes it seem almost like his advice is coming from a dear friend.

 

 

 

Writing

Comic Writing Resources

Even though I had read comics for years and wanted to be a writer, it was not until I attended a comic writing workshop that I realized writing comics was an option.  Over the last few years I’ve collected a few resources that have helped me figure it out along the way.  I haven’t had a comic published traditionally yet, but I did get to participate in a really fun fancomic that centered around Wanda Maximoff.  I wrote the first two pages of the comic script and you can see the finished product here.

As for resources, when starting out in comics the hardest thing can be understanding not only how to write a script, but what makes a good script, how the industry works, how to find collaborators, etc.  Here are a few places to find help:

  • The Comic Book Script Archive – Here you can find PDF or word docs of many different comics from many different writers.  I’ve sat down a few times with the script from a comic and the comic itself, to see how the writing started and what became of it.  You can also see how the masters write their comics, who sticks to a certain script style and who deviates from it and why.  I would suggest both reading the scripts and the comics that came from them, to get an idea of how the pages and panels took shape.
  • Jim Zub’s  Website – Jim has a TON of tutorials about writing comics.  If you look on the right side of his website, you’ll see tutorials on writing comics, how to pitch comics, as well as many other things.  If you see him at a Con, he also has a great panel that covers the basics.  I attended his panel at Salt Lake Comic Con and he gave great advice during it about how looking for people to work within the industry is “fishing” not “hunting.”  This changed my approach completely about how I go about finding people I want to work with.
  • Making Comics – Making Comics did a great MOOC about writing a comic pitch, but they also have a lot of great resources on their website.  They have stuff about writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, and everything beyond it.  It’s a great website to check out when you’re not sure what to do next or if you want to learn a skill that you don’t have quite yet.
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Tips for Writing – The workshop I mentioned at the beginning of the post was taught by Kelly Sue.  It opened my eyes and changed my path as a writer.  This is a great tumblr post with some of the wisdom she shared about writing and writing comics.
  • Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis – This is the one resource on this list that is not free, but well worth it.  It has not only info from Mr. Bendis, but many other great writers, artists and creators within the comics industry.

Are there any other great resources you’ve found?  If so please share!  I’m always looking to learn more as a writer.

Writing

Try, Try Again

In the last few months, a lot of my projects have gotten away from me.  Some have been finished and I’m satisfied with the work I’ve submitted, while others sit dead either on my computer or in the back of my mind.

It’s easy to get disheartened when you don’t finish a project you loved, or when you finish it, but it gets rejected.  I’ve thought a lot about my own writing, feeling stuck and the need to keep trying despite the worry that you’ll never be good enough.  There is a great quote by Ira Glass about creativity and how you have phases where your talent and ability do not meet up with your vision for you work.  You want your work to be special, but you haven’t quite put all the work in yet for it to be.  It simply takes time.

My writing is better than it was five or ten years ago, partially because I’ve worked hard to improve it.  I seek out articles, podcasts and books about writing.  Recently I worked on a comic script for a contest and though I’ve written a few comic scripts now, I still pulled out examples of scripts from writers I love to see what I could do to make my writing tighter, better, more descriptive.  The best writers I know, my favorites, most of them are still trying to grow and learn too.

My best advice for when you are stuck or unable to keep trying, is to find a buddy who is also working to better themselves.  Check in with each other.  I do this with my closest friend, we actually email on a daily basis (several times a day even) about what we’re working on, what our goals are, and what we are actually getting done.

The best part of this?  When one of us fails, the other tells them to pick themselves up and keep trying.  We comfort each other.  Writing and other creative work can be impossibly isolating, having someone in your corner to tell you to keep going is incredibly helpful.

So ignore that voice in the back of your head that says “Give up.”  Find someone you can be accountable to and that will be accountable to you.  And keep going.

Writing · Writing Guide

Bleed on the Page

You’re probably looking at the title of this blog post and going, “Umm, that’s a little violent, Aubrey.”  It’s okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  Let me explain what it means to me.

I usually have my best friend proofread/edit my writing before I send it off into the wild blue yonder to be published.  Sometimes her feedback includes, “Bleed on the page, Aubrey.”  What this has come to mean for us, is that the writing is either not deep enough or it doesn’t have enough of my voice in it.  I need to dig deeper, I need to expose more of my core in the writing.  My blood needs to go into that story.

The hard part about writing, even writing fiction, is that you tend to expose the parts of yourself that make you vulnerable.  Not only do you bare it for the world to see, but then the world can come back and say they don’t like your weak spots, they don’t like the things you love, and the worst of all, they don’t like you.  There’s a flip side to that, though, and really, that is what matters.

Pain and vulnerability are universal.  If you are speaking from the heart about real feelings, it is more than likely that your story will feel real and weighty to your reader.  They will be able to relate to your characters because you’ve put real emotion into them.

That is why we bleed on the page.  I let my life force drain from me into the words I craft, in the hopes that someone will read it and go, “I see myself.  That’s what’s inside me too!” as they read.

The first piece I ever got published was all about a verbally/emotionally abusive relationship I was in.  It was raw and sore and I got to write a better ending for my character than perhaps the one I got myself.  It was cathartic and I’ve had more than one person ask if they could share that piece with a friend or family member that had been in an abusive relationship.  I think that is part of why we bleed on the page, to share our stories and to feel a connection with others.

Neil Gaiman put it much better than I could in his book Fragile Things:

“I believe we owe it to each other to tell stories.”

I believe that too, and when we bleed on the page and dig a little deeper, we’re sharing our truth.  That’s what makes good stories into great stories.

 

Writing

Got You Covered – Music Monday

I’m a fan of cover songs.  Always have been.  I particularly like songs that either replicate the magic of the original or deviate in a way that creates a new magic all it’s own.  Some of the songs below are covers I’ve been a fan of for awhile, others are new to me.

Here’s the tracklist:

  1. How Deep Is Your Love – the bird and the bee
  2. Bad Romance – Lissie
  3. Little Talks – Julia Sheer & Jon D
  4. Come As You Are – Civil Twilight
  5. Viva La Vida – Sofia Karlberg
  6. Bette Davis Eyes – Sexton Blake
  7. Dreams – Gabrielle Aplin & Bastille
  8. Young Blood – Birdy
  9. Edge of Seventeen – The Wind and The Wave
  10. Fast Car – Michael Collings