Some things I’ve learned about writing

(Note: This post was originally published to my personal Tumblr. I’ve made some tweaks before posting it here.)

In the past four-ish years, I’ve managed to finish and publish a couple of manuscripts (one ~44,000 words and the other ~96,000 words), which for someone who’d never finished anything longer than ~5,000 words is a really huge deal. Here are some things I realized/started practicing that helped me get to this point:

  • “Writer’s Block” isn’t a thing. That’s not to say that I didn’t sit down to write and have nothing come out, but the thing that got me past those times was realizing that there isn’t some outside force called “writer’s block.” When I couldn’t put words down, it wasn’t because there was a thing separate from me that kept me from doing it. It was because I didn’t know what happened next. When I realized that, it became a lot easier to deal with because “all” (scare quotes because even knowing this didn’t make it easy) I had to do was figure out where I was going and I could get back on track. Which leads in to…
  • Talk it out, even with yourself if that’s all you have. This is the main thing I used to get past my slumps. Sometimes I’d talk with friends (seriously, I love all of my friends who are willing to put up with me talking about fictional things pretty much non-stop). Sometimes I’d just “talk” it out with myself in a separate document or inline using square brackets (which was a technique that Piers Anthony once told me about when I was way too young to understand the value of the advice). It wasn’t always quick, but talking things out always got me past the parts giving me trouble.
  • If it’s boring you, you’re doing it wrong. Another huge momentum-killer for me was feeling like I had to “show” everything, even the boring bits. But if I’m bored writing it, my audience will certainly be bored reading it. Which means I need to find some other way of coming at the scene/chapter/whatever to spice things up, or just “tell” about the boring bits for the sake of advancing the story. Sometimes that’s resulted in things being really weird, and sometimes I ended up dropping the scene/plot thread entirely later, but that’s what revisions are for!
  • Embrace crummy drafts. I kind of hate all the teachers who praised me for having such clean “rough” drafts because they gave me a complex about how drafts ought to look. It took a really, really long time to let myself start having drafts that look like crap. I’m about 14k words into the sequel to AMIND and it’s littered with so many instances of “and then this happened” or things in square brackets where I haven’t decided exactly what goes there yet. Instead of stopping to figure things out exactly, I just sketch things out and let it go. It can be fixed when I do revisions.
  • Notes, notes, notes! So literally everything I write these days I have either a Google Docs or Evernote file full of random bits and pieces of musings about plot/outlines. AMIND’s Evernote file is about 5k words long, most of it copied from Hangouts chats I had with folks during the initial development of the plot and world-building. I would often go back to this document to remind myself of where I was going and what I hoped to accomplish. The version of the manuscript that I have now doesn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to the notes anymore, but those notes were imperative to me getting the damn fool thing done.
  • Outlines, outlines, outlines! I used to be really bad about being a “pantser,” which is to say just writing without any idea where I was going in any but the most broad sense. This was Not Good because of the first bullet point up there. If I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t write, and nothing got done. I’ve started doing the vaguest outlines for scenes and that has helped keep me on track and writing consistently. I doubt I’ll be producing more than 300-900 words a day any time soon, but the fact is that with my skeletal outlines I can produce those words every day. And trying to sketch out about 2/3 of the story before I start (the arbitrary number I gave myself before I let myself start on the sequel to AMIND) gives me enough wiggle room to surprise myself while also keeping me on-track.
  • Schedule writing time. This was kind of hard and is also a very new thing but it seems to be working well. I wrote most of Bodies Are Disgusting in spare minutes wherever I could, and probably about 50% of it was written on my smartphone. With AMIND, I tried to set more goals for myself and stick to them, and that seemed to help. Now I’m trying to write at least a little bit every week-day after I get home from the day job. I am getting really militant about achieving a certain word count goal during the week, and I also try to give myself the weekends off.
  • BONUS: Writeometer! Google rec’d this app to me and HOLY COW, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I don’t even use the whole “guava” and “treats” thing. Just having a way to record words and see a chart and set goals… oh my goodness, it has helped motivate me so much this past month. It automatically calculates what you need to do in order to meet your deadlines and you can set alarms and it’s FREE. If you have an Android device, I can’t recommend this app enough.
  • BONUS BONUS: Scrivener! This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how awesome a tool Scrivener is for putting drafts together. I still do most of my writing in Google Docs, but once a large chunk of a draft is done, I’ll bring it into Scrivener so I can tweak scene placement and chapter arrangement. There are other cool things it can do, too, but it can  be a little intimidating. Even so, I still really really really recommend it.

So, yeah, sorry, that got a little long, but I just wanted to share these things with y’all in case it helps anyone who’s struggling with their own writing. I’m certain that none of this is new information, but this is the specific cocktail it took to get me to the point where I could stop saying “I write” and start saying “I’m a writer.”


Since CorgiHat is out the door and things are settling down after MomoCon, I’ve had the chance to plug away at Alonso Munich Is Now Dead, and I’m eager to share a little more of the story with you all. This part takes place immediately following the first post (so I highly recommend catching up before jumping below the cut).

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Bodies Are Disgusting: Art II

In continuing the artistic tour through Bodies, I figured it was only fair that I share the picture that started it all:

ori and dougThis was the very first image I ever drew of Ori and Doug, not long after I started picking at the story a couple of years ago. They’ve both undergone some changes since then, especially Doug, but it’s always important to recognize one’s roots!

Bodies Are Disgusting: Art

It’s hard to believe that Bodies Are Disgusting came out over five months ago. In the interim, I’ve been working on multiple different projects (CorgiHat and Alonso Munich Is Now Dead, I’m looking at you), but that doesn’t mean that I never think about Bodies anymore.

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to share some of the art that goes with Bodies, including some of the art I did and some of the things my friends have done.

Kicking it off in style is a piece done by my friend Luke (AKA Ludicrousbox/Studio Under The Stairs):

bodies pixels by lukeAt the time, Luke was doing pixel commissions. From left to right, top to bottom, we have: Ori, Doug, Lucien, Amanda, and Simon.

Looking at them all together like this still makes me ridiculously gleeful.

A little taste of what’s to come!

I know that I have not been providing a lot of updates recently, particularly in the art and writing department. Part of that is because I’ve been spending a lot of energy on work, and part of it is because it’s getting close to release time for CorgiHat. However, I’ve definitely been writing, and thought I’d share the first couple thousand words of my current project, tentatively titled Alonso Munich Is Now Dead. This project is less horror and more supernatural mystery. The sample can be found below the cut.

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CorgiHat User Experience Survey

As I’ve mentioned before, my father and I have been working together on an Android application we’ve dubbed CorgiHat. It’s been a labor of love for about the past six months, but we’re finally coming into the home stretch, where we’ll have something tangible to show to the world.

To celebrate this, we’ve created our first User Experience Survey over on Google forms. If you are an artist/artisan who does commission-based work, it would mean a lot to us if you could spend a few minutes to fill out our survey. None of your information will be shared with third parties, all of the fields are optional, and the only purpose your responses will be used for is to make our application better.

Bodies Are Disgusting on 8tracks

bodies are disgusting

To celebrate the fact that I’d finished the draft, a few months ago I decided to distract myself by putting together a Bodies Are Disgusting mix on 8tracks. Since I’ve been seeing a lot of folks take advantage of the free reviewer copy offer in the past couple of weeks, I figured it would be appropriate to share the mix with you all.

Bodies Are Disgusting – A mix for when you realize that an eldritch abomination is about to devour the world, and it’s all your fault.

Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman) Tool | White Ashes Peter Gabriel | Just Another Day Oingo Boingo | A Thousand Angels Rachel Macwhirter | Bad Wings The Glitch Mob | Der Ring Der Nibelunging E Nomine | We’re In This Together Nine Inch Nails | Sound the Bells Dessa

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