What Happens at Comic Con …

… get’s broadcast all over the world, so behave yourself!
Crank the kid-bot introduces bio-kids to the "Hub's Adventures" books.

Crank the kid-bot introduces bio-kids to the “Hub’s Adventures” books.

Business has definitely taken me away from blogging the last few weeks. Some of you may not know that my “day job” is as a sales representative for an educational book distributor. It’s a great job, visiting school librarians and teachers every day! The school year has already started in our region and I have been on the streets – and the road – and away from my leisure time writing.

Last weekend, though, I broke away to Chicago for the Wizard World Comic Con. We had a great weekend, introducing our sixth-grader robot, Crank, to hundreds of kids and selling and signing over 175 books.

A comic con is a great, friendly atmosphere with dozens of artists and retailers (I think I counted 10 full-scale comic book stores set up in the exhibit hall) and thousands of participants rolling through – some costumed, some sightseeing, some looking for that special comic/sci-fi/horror-related item. I had an artist’s table with all my youth books – including the newly released “Hub’s Adventures” books, hot off the press for the event.

The green robot you see in the photo above was built by a sculptor friend based on my illustrator’s depiction of my sixth-grader robot character in “Hub’s Adventures.” He was a big hit with the kids, introducing them to stories of the future where humans and robots will be best friends.

A spider-man stopped by to get some "Hub's Adventures" books!

A spider-man stopped by to get some “Hub’s Adventures” books!

I also found a very robust market for my books – the perfect market for a guy with my temperament. I love meeting people, especially kids interested in reading. Many parents bought books for their kids – and some kids spent their show budgets on my books! I’m very grateful for all the attention and for the purchases, which make more books and more show appearances possible.

The Delphi Trilogy books sold very well, too, introducing teen readers to the first two books in advance of Book III’s release October 1.

Next, I plan to be at the Wizard World in Nashville (a little closer to home) September 26-28. I look forward to meeting more readers there and at other comic cons.

 

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 great things about being at comic con:

  1. People assume my unfashionable clothes are some kind of costume.
  2. I can yell, “Look! It’s Spiderman!” and no one calls the cops on me.
  3. All day long I get to pretend I’m living in an A-ha music video with other cartoon characters.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!
Categories: Books, Comics, My Books, Readers, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good

Finally, you get to prove what an awesome writer you are!

#3 of the 3 stages of a manuscript – for writers who want to actually finish something – and for readers who want to know why writers are crazy.

 

If it's wrapped in red string with a bow, it's Good.

If it’s wrapped in red string with a bow, it’s Good.

In recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve described a working mantra that helps me get over my mental impediments and get a manuscript or short story to THE END.

The mantra is: “Done; Right; Good.”

Sufferers of the of the malady Writophrenia can identify with the symptoms and use this simple remedy to work through it.

In Stage 1, we talked about how to just plow through the work to get the first draft Done without a ton of concerns and no excuses – because if you don’t have a manuscript that’s done, you still only have an idea. Stage 2 is about getting facts, details, and adherence to the rules of your story world Right. If you’ve done those, then you’re at:

Stage 3: Good

You’ve put in a lot of work. You’re chomping at the bit. You’re ready to show the world – or at least yourself – that you really can write. So, what can you – the writer, the artiste – do to polish the manuscript and get it ready for a debut?

Make it Good.

What does “Good” mean?

Two words come to mind when I ask that question: Precise and Authentic. I’ll hit 0n a few aspects of each as examples of how I manage Stage 3 in my own work.

Precise

Precision can also be called Economy. Ask: “Am I as the writer saying what needs to be said with the least amount of words necessary?”

This does not mean that every book/story needs to read like a haiku. The word necessary means the least amount of words for your genre, universe, style, characters, etc. – not junked up with a bunch of big words, flowery language, and great side notes and ideas.

Usually at this stage my answer to that question is “No” and I get to fix it. Here are some places to apply Precision.

Shorten the scene setting and descriptions.

I’ll admit this is one from me as a reader. I just don’t have the patience for trying to digest every single detail of every single scene.

As a writer, I don’t have the patience to write it – yet I still tend to have too much. There’s a sense of investment in the story and the world it takes place in that creeps into every chapter. I feel like I did all this research and thought up all this stuff and it should be in the book. And I’m usually wrong about that.

Not quite enough (from the writer’s point of view) is often enough for the reader. They’re smart and they’re recreating the world in their mind. Give them some room to do it.

For effective cleaning I recommend the Neighbour model 1148189 Horsehair Hand Broom with matching dustpan.

For effective cleaning I recommend the Neighbour model 1148189 Horsehair Hand Broom with matching dustpan.

Shave off extra words.

I’m from Minneapolis and have seen John Sandford, author of the exceptional crime thriller Prey series, speak several times. He’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with decades of experience, so I was surprised to hear him say that at this stage in his writing he’s learning to do little things like shave off the extra two words from each sentence.

His example: She closed the door behind her. If the narrator described her stepping into her apartment, are the extra two words “behind her” really necessary?

I was amazed by his analysis and it changed my writing. This is something I do now at the Good stage. Sometimes those extra two words are appropriate, but as I read through the manuscript I examine each sentence and delete them where they’re really not needed. It’s less burden for the narrative to carry.

Delete unnecessary or repetitive narrative.

Ugh! I hate this – because this is the step where I realize what a crappy writer I am sometimes. Usually, I’m trying to stay in the head of my narrator and – in a passive way – I’m trying to remind the reader that we’re seeing only what the narrator sees. So I overuse phrases like “I think”; “I see”; “I know”; “I realize” (replace I with he/she for third-person narrative).

When I write the first draft, I try not to worry too much about these bugs because it will slow me down getting to the Done stage. But, God help me, the gnats swarm in the Good stage!

Repeating words in close order become a distraction quickly for the reader and seem lazy to me as a writer. I try to eliminate and rewording them where possible – time to use my vocabulary and my thesaurus!

One other major thing I must look for is setting up and re-setting up a scene, an action, or a conversation. Often I find that I’ve doubled my work and, in Stage 3, must take the chapter apart and trim and combine the duplicate setups or dialog.

Eliminate passive language.

Passive language apologizes for what you’re writing. Stop it! You’re the writer, you have my attention, now get rid of the passive language and get BOLD – say what you intend to say!

One easy way to spot passive language is to look for -ing words: running; saying; reaching. These words always come with an auxiliary verb (I had to look that up) that flatten the power of your narrative: is running; were saying; am reaching.

Which sentence is stronger?

He was running across campus.

He ran across campus.

[By the way: I revised the first sentence in this section because of passive language. Which is stronger?

Original: Passive language is apologizing for writing what you're writing.

Revised: Passive language apologizes for what you're writing.]

Here are 3 variations of another common example – with a hidden -ing word:

I am not going to go to the store.

I am not going to the store.

I won’t go to the store.

Another way to break passive language is to commit to an action or point of view:

He was running across campus as fast he could.

He raced across campus, legs burning with the effort.

The second sentence says “as fast he could” with one word – raced – allowing me to eliminate passive words was, as, and could and add another layer to the experience that connects the reader with the character’s pain (legs burning).

Click here for J.T. Evans’ great and simple system for checking passive language in your writing.

Those are a couple of basic passive language elements to look for. Strong language is yet another skill that comes with a lot of writing and editing practice.

Ask trusted writer friends for an honest opinions before going on.

Tip: Ask trusted writer friends for an honest opinions before going on.

Authentic

Authenticity is a quality about which most people would say, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” I’ll use the same cop-out because I don’t have time to sit and contemplate a definition.

Your readers know when Authenticity is missing but they usually can’t say why. Prospective agents and editors, because of their experience, can spot Authenticity (or lack of it) immediately – like in the first sentence of a manuscript. So, being “real” on the page is a crucial part of knowing the craft of writing. To achieve Authenticity in your writing, you can:

Ask: Would this character say/do that?

Uncharacteristic actions and words clutter the relationship your reader has with the characters you’re presenting. When a reader has to work hard to figure out what a character is saying/doing and why, the magic of the reading experience is broken.

You owe it to your reader – and your characters – to be consistent within the story and not take cheap shortcuts to advance plot or elicit phony connections. The harder work is making sure that everything gels naturally. That’s your job as the writer.

Punch up the dialog.

Observe the shorthand people use when they talk in real life (NOT ON TV!). Go to the mall or the grocery store and listen. Evesdrop on one side of someone’s cell phone conversation. People don’t often talk in complete sentences with perfect grammar. Even so, they understand what the other is saying, don’t they?

One thing I see in a lot of new writers is very stiff and correct dialog that in no way represents the way their characters would actually talk. It sounds more like a grammar textbook than a novel. There are lot of places in our writing where we must walk the line between being realistic and being clear – dialog, in my experience, is the un-engaged battlefield.

Good dialog that says just enough between people to advance the story and keep it moving (pace) is GOLDEN. Learn how to use it well – and by that I mean listen, listen, listen; write, write, write; edit, edit, edit!

[Note: Be careful about realism. One problem I tend to have when trying to be realistic, for example, is too much "Um ..." "Uh ..." and lots of repetition. People really do talk that way, but I need to get the flavor of realism without slowing the dialog down and sludging up the pace of the story.]

Dedicate to a Point of View.

A major part of Authenticity is choosing a Point of View for your story and sticking with it. This is also an issue of passivity – being afraid to choose the narrator’s and characters’ attitudes, their ways of expressing themselves, and how they experience the world.

Choose a Point of View - even if it's a crazy one - and stick to it.

Choose a Point of View – even if it’s a crazy one – and stick to it.

How to choose a point of view? Ask what your character/narrator wants. If you and your character/narrator want different things to come of the story/situation/scene then you’ll have to adjust one or the other.

I honestly believe that trying to negotiate and meet in the middle is a huge mistake because what ends up on the page is a mishmash of (at least) two different people’s points of view – the character/narrator’s and the author’s – and neither is entirely clear or fully developed.

A lot of new writers I’ve read have this identity crisis with point of view. They have an opinion they want to get across through their characters and story and don’t make room for the surprise of a character speaking for themselves. Some people who write for years without success have the same problem – sticking to the writer’s point of view rather than investing in and expressing the unique experience of the character. This is sometimes called “editorializing”.

My best advice – developed through years of experience – is that if your character/narrator and you disagree on what to say and how to say it – GO WITH THE CHARACTER/NARRATOR. Believe it or not, this is a person trying to express themselves.

Point of view is the first layer of Authenticity in a story and it’s what agents, editors, and readers crave.

Develop your Authentic Voice.

Authenticity also includes your Authentic Voice. I won’t go deeply into Voice here because I’ll post about it later – it’s a crucial element for writers who want to succeed. And it’s something that typically only comes through hard work over a long period of time. I’ll just say here that “being yourself” on the page is something to consider in Stage 3: Good. It’s also something that comes naturally to the page once you develop it. Look for more on Authentic Voice later.

Keep working at it!
Wax on. Wax off.

Wax on. Wax off.

One pass through Stage 3 won’t be enough for new writers. Good may take several drafts. Get used to the idea that in the early days you’ll work your manuscripts over multiple times. What you’re really doing, Daniel-san, is making these elements more automatic so you can unleash your inner power and unique expression.

This is the phase where you work, work, work and learn, learn, learn. A frustrating feature of this stage is that you think you’re finished and that all this editing is cramping your creativity. I’ve been there – still am there sometimes! But I try to keep in mind that there is a lot of work to honing one’s craft.

It’s not the reader’s job to meet the writer halfway in their development. If one truly wants to connect with readers on a deep level – that is, to be an Author – then the writer is the one obligated to learn the craft.

Once it’s Done, Right, and Good then you’re ready to submit it to agents and publishers and bring it to writing conferences. Congratulations!

Next week, the writophrenia clinic continues with a discussion on Authentic Voice. Come on back for coffee and day-old donuts.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 simple joys of a Good manuscript:

  1. You can tell your high school composition teacher to suck it! (But not to their face, because you might still get detention.)
  2. You can take a day off from writing and do something – if you still remember how to have fun.
  3. Rereading a passage or two that you especially like but that no one else will ever notice.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

Paperback amazon Delphi Deception

Delphi 2 kindle

Ingram Delphi Deception
THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!
Categories: Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Right

What panics a writer more than the daunting idea of writing a full manuscript to the “Done” stage?

#2 of the 3 stages of a manuscript – for writers who want to actually finish something – and for readers who want to know why writers are crazy.

 

Get it right the second time.

Get it right the second time.

In recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve described a working mantra that helps me get over my mental impediments and get a manuscript or short story to THE END.

The mantra is: “Done; Right; Good.”

It goes a long way to alleviating some of the stress and hangups of the malady Writophrenia.

What’s the deal with “right”?

What panics a writer more than the daunting idea of writing a full manuscript to the “Done” stage? Worry over getting the book “right” to avoid mistakes and embarrassment.

This may be a vestigial neurosis of our school days, when getting an “A” was the goal. “A” means that everything we did with that paper, test, book report, spelling quiz, etc. was 100% correct – according to someone else’s rules.

So, there’s a “right” way and a “wr0ng” way to do things – including writing your book or short story, right?

WRONG! Well, wrong and right.

First the WRONG:

When I set out to write my first manuscript (still in the drawer, but a great learning experience) I hid it from everyone. I didn’t know if I would be any good at writing or if I would ever get anywhere near finished.

About three months in, when I discovered that I really enjoyed writing and thought what was showing up on the page was decent, I told my wife what I’d really been up to those late nights in the den with the computer on.

She’s a good writer – a career journalist – and her opinion really matters to me. I told her one of my worries was that I didn’t know the rules for writing. In other words, I wanted to make sure I was “doing it right.”

She said, “There are no rules. You just write.”

Great answer for a creative-tempered guy like me. She’s a keeper!

Her words took a load off and freed me up to write the book the best way I could with what I had at the time and get it to Stage 1 – Done. In that sense: No, there is no “wrong” way to write a book. So, I’ve just taken away one of your writophrenic excuses for not proceeding with your manuscript. Sorry.

If you’ve read the post on Stage 1: Done, you know that there are simply no excuses for not sitting down and plowing through to THE END of you manuscript. You’re going to suck at first – we all do – and that’s OK. The first draft may be dreadful (probably won’t be that bad) but at least you’ll have a manuscript, which will distinguish you from [an unscientific] 90% of people who set out to write a book.

Now the RIGHT – the real Right:

There are some legitimate considerations to keep in mind when you hit Stage 2. Here are few:

Is it right for the Genre?

Audiences have expectations. Stories within a given genre have specific elements that must be included. As the author, you are obligated to deliver on the genre promise. Think, for example, of a movie trailer that makes the film look like one thing then you watch it and it’s something else. Bummer, right?

If you’re writing for a specific genre then you’re probably a fan and reader of that type of story. You may or may not be sharply tuned in to the crucial elements. Some of us don’t notice them until we start writing and ask, “Wait. Why isn’t this story working? It should be easy for me to write this stuff!”

But the good news is that many writers and reader/critics have deeply analyzed their genres and have codified the elements in books and articles. Find out what the requirements are and make sure they’re included in your story.

If what you’re writing is not right for the genre you love or your intended audience, then you’ll need to adjust the story or switch genres.

Are the Facts right?
Writers have to wave off the perfection gremlins.  - Johnny Depp stars as the troubled writer Mort Rainey in Columbia Pictures psychological thriller "Secret Window." (AP Photo)

Writers have to wave off the perfection gremlins.
– Johnny Depp stars as the troubled writer Mort Rainey in Columbia Pictures psychological thriller “Secret Window.” (AP Photo)

This is a step that blasts many writers out of the process before we even get started on a story – research, research, research, facts, facts, facts! We get so compulsive about it that it destroys our ability to get our first draft done.

WARNING: research can actually be counterproductive when done inefficiently, obsessively, or at the wrong time.

Author Steven Pressfield, in his great books for creatives, “The War of Art” and “Do the Work” sets a limit of 3 books for research before starting your manuscript – no more. This is because the obsession with getting it “right” the first time around blocks our creativity and flow – you know, the part of writing that actually gets the writing done.

Stage 2 is where I start to concern myself with facts, figures, dates, addresses, trash bin colors, etc. Now that I have a finished manuscript to work with, I can go nuts with the facts.

[One caution here: Allow close enough to be good enough. Don't be lazy - do your very best - but don't stop a project from going to Stage 3 and ultimately out the door by locking it into a research loop that you never leave. You will make mistakes, but it's better than having no book to show because of fear of the details.]

Is it right for its Universe?

I borrow the term universe from the comic book world. It means the world, realm, reality that your characters live in and where your story takes place. This may or may not be your fantasy universe where the sky is purple and people walk on their ears. It might be a plastic surgeon’s office or the world’s deepest cavern.

I might want flying attack pigs using voice-activated lasers for my story, but I don’t get to have them if my universe is a realistic 1928 pre-crash Wall Street.

A minor example of this that annoyed me was a book by a writer whose series I really liked. In this murder mystery set in the late-1970’s/early-80’s, a crucial clue to the resolution was a digital date stamp on snapshots taken by one of the characters. I – and the author – are old enough to know that those digital date stamps weren’t common on consumer cameras until the late-80’s at the earliest. It was a huge disappointment to me as a reader and I felt kind of ripped off by the writer’s lack of research.

Wherever your story is set, you need to make sure that your characters act, and your plot progresses, and your technology works, and your wisdom is correct within the rules, limitations, and possibilities of the world you’ve chosen. You’re the writer – it’s your job.

Is the Story Structure right?

This is a topic I’ve been digging into quite a bit with my own writing lately – one, I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten quite right in all of my work yet. I will post more later on story structure because it’s a big and important topic for those of us living with writophrenia.

Simply put, there are classic (and, I suppose, modern) story structures that are standards in the storytelling world – novels, theater, film, TV, oral storytelling, etc. The writer has an obligation to understand the structures they intend to use and apply them properly and completely.

When story structure is ignored due to laziness, ego, inexperience, petulance (all of these affect us creatives), then the reader is left unfulfilled. Don’t complain that no one is buying or reading your books if you don’t fulfill your obligation to them. (Been there, done that.)

Know the story structure - no matter what the story is made of.

Know the story structure – no matter what the structure is made of.

Is the Grammar, Punctuation, Sentence Structure, and Vocabulary right – for your style?

Here’s a callback to the “no rules” lesson above. Sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary – including slang – should be correct for your style and the universe of the story.

I hear a lot of people say they want to write a book but never could because they weren’t good at grammar in school. Is this just a cover-up for fear or is it a legitimate worry for a creatively minded person? Either way, it doesn’t matter, because in Stage 2, you get to fix it or not fix it based on the needs and nature of the story. Don’t worry about it during the first draft. You’ll get to it now. Further down the road a good editor will have a say in it, too.

I’m tired and I have to get back to work.

So, those are some basics that demonstrate Stage 2: Right. It’s by no means a complete list, but hopefully it’s a starter that can help you proceed. You’re smart, you get the idea.

Now, I have to get back to work on my manuscript. I appreciate getting to burn some time with you – and I’m really starting to enjoy the fact that, for me, getting a break from writing means a different kind of writing. Pretty cool.

Next week we’ll circle the chairs and talk about Stage 3: Good.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 benefits of waiting until Stage 2 to make your manuscript Right:

  1. No one can tell you it’s wrong – Everheart said so!
  2. If you’re stupid enough to try writing anyway, you’ll need the extra time to study up.
  3. You can indeed include flying attack pigs using voice-activated lasers in every first draft – just for fun.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

Paperback amazon Delphi Deception

Delphi 2 kindle

Ingram Delphi Deception
THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!

 

Categories: Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Done

Done, Right, Good: Stage 1 – Done
#1 of the 3 stages of a manuscript – for writers who want to actually finish something – and for readers who want to know why writers are crazy.
So ... now what?  Get it DONE, that's what!

So … now what?
Get it DONE, that’s what!

It’s a dirty little secret that we writers start and stop a lot of projects before they’re finished. But in recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve described a working mantra that helps me get over my mental impediments – some natural, some unnatural, some perhaps supernatural – and get a manuscript or short story to THE END.

The mantra is: “Done; Right; Good.”

Part of my writophrenia – an insidious affliction affecting creative, wordy types – is the illusion that my creativity is all I need to be an author.

False! Look at a shelf in your local bookstore for an idea of how big a factor creativity is in the publishing world. There are lots of copycat authors, lots of publishers saying, “Hey, they’re selling a bunch of those XYZ books [we pros call these 'genres']! Let’s get some of our own!” That makes for heavy parity in the publishing business.

So, what really makes a writer an Author (capital-A) is not creativity on its own, but producing FINISHED written works.

Don’t get me wrong – developing your unique Voice is crucial if you want to be an Author (more about that in a later post), but first, you have to get yourself in the habit of taking y0ur ideas through to completion. Otherwise, you have nothing but a bunch of interesting story ideas to talk about with your other writer friends over coffee. [Trust me, I've done a bit of that myself and it goes nowhere.]

“What are the components of Done; Write; Good?” asks the writer who’s tired of brushing off questions about the state of their manuscript.

Today we’ll start with Stage 1: Done.

I’m glad you asked, fellow writophrenia sufferer. You’ve come to the right place with this concern.

Look, you’re already identifying yourself as a writer. When people ask, “What do you do for fun?” you shrug shyly as if you really don’t want to brag, but reluctantly admit that you’re working on a book.

“Oh! What’s it about?” they ask.

You oblige by rattling off the setting and the characters and the plot and the details of the world you’ve created and the wicked twist you’ve built into the story that makes it different from all the others of the genre.

Then comes the dreaded question: “When can I read it?”

This is the moment you wish you’d said that for fun you do something easier like extreme mountain skiing – you know, the kind where you jump from a helicopter onto a rocky ledge at 14,000 feet and barrel downhill too fast, nonstop, and out of control – because that’s where you’d rather be at this moment. It would be more fun.

“Well, it’s not quite finished yet,” is the best you can come up with.

Mercifully, the conversation quickly moves on to diaper changing or herb gardening or cyst removal. You’re spared – until the next coffee-klatch-mine-field when you’ll have to answer these cruel questions all over again.

So, how does a writer avoid such torture in the future? GET IT DONE!

You said you’re a writer. Believe it or not, this declaration comes with an obligation – writing something with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the problem is you’re not sure that what you’re writing makes sense, is appropriate for a given audience, or is even any good.

This type of thinking is a symptom of writophrenia and actually has little to do with truly being a writer.

Let’s admit it – you’re not that good yet. You’re writing because you love it and you’re excited about it. You want to create something – a story that has not been written – so it takes some real work. And you can only start from where you are.

There’s a quote out there from someone way smarter than me: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.”

The art of sucking.

In other words, your first attempts are going to suck. The first draft of that book is going to suck. The first run at a short story will suck. Your dialog will be stiff and too obvious. You’ll have giant info-dumps that block the flow of your story like garbage in a mountain stream. Your characters will be 2-dimensional at their most fully formed. And you’ll be too nice to them, which makes for a boring story.

It may be painful to write it, definitely painful to read it, and nearly impossible to share it with anyone.

But here’s the good news: There is nothing you can do about that until you’ve plowed through the beginning the middle and the end. Then you can see it and admit how awful it is (and how good some parts are).

Why is that good news? Because sucking is an art that must be developed in order to become good. You just have to work through that stage of development – we’ve all had to do it. This and a lot of other benefits only come from practice – that means hours and hours of writing.

Yes, we all want our stuff to be good and to be read. Problem is, we put these concerns before any stage of completion of a project. These concerns are not necessary and they’re not practical, because, unless you have a completed manuscript, you have nothing to work through the next two stages – where you will get the chance to worry about the other issues and do something about them.

What does Done mean?
Tired, but Done!

Tired, but Done!

So, DONE means plow through it, get in on “paper” – beginning, middle, and end. Do it badly if you must, but DO IT, get it DONE.

[Hint: Even as an experienced writer, sometimes I sit at my computer and think, "I can't do it - I cannot possibly write a good book today." To get myself going further along into the 3 stages, I have to give myself permission to continue. "Then write the worst book you can today," I tell myself. "Because if you want to be an author, a bad finished book is better than the best unwritten one."]

Next week, we’ll discuss Stage 2: Right.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 other benefits to having a manuscript Done:

  1. You can prove to your partner you weren’t spending all those hours watching cat videos on the Internet.
  2. You get to tell people the book is done but, no, they can’t read it yet – artist’s prerogative.
  3. There’s nothing more satisfying that writing “THE END” – especially when you’re not experienced enough to know that you have 7 more drafts to do go before you’re really done.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!

 

Categories: Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Writophrenia!

The new diagnosis for the old disease that’s sweeping the world – one writer at a time.

Writerphrenia affects the whole writer, evidenced by clouds steaming off the head.

Writophrenia affects the whole writer, evidenced by stiffly pointed toes, rigid spine, “Nosferatu fingers”, gritted teeth, and steaming head.

There’s a very frustrating affliction that affects us wordy, creative types, one that over time gets us worrying about diagnoses like Schizophrenia or fevered Malaria or worst of all, the dreaded Writer’s Block. In recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve come to think there’s a diagnosis that could explain a lot of our subversive insanity.

I’m coining a new disease – Writophrenia!

It’s a subtle and seemingly complex condition featuring loads of denial, volumes of rationalization, and resulting in self-isolation and crippling self-doubt. How do I know? I’m a fellow sufferer. But as the old saying goes, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

I want to make Brain Burgers a safe place for writers over the next few weeks, a place to unwind and open up about how Writophrenia has affected our lives and the lives of those around us. Readers might be interested in these little glimpses into a writer’s mind and perhaps develop a little understanding for the “suffering” of those of us who have one of the greatest jobs on earth.

I want to offer a brief description of the condition this week. Then we’ll move on and delve into the details, the twists and turns of the afflicted writer’s mind.

Keep in mind a guiding principle: One must be at least a little crazy to want to sit alone and write down stories of people and worlds and events that – until it’s in on their page – have existed only in their minds.

Here are just a few symptoms of Writerphrenia:

Talking too much about our story ideas.

We writers are creative, some of us cursed with story-a-minute minds. But talking too much about a story can have the negative effect of scratching the itch that makes us want to write it. Yet we do it anyway. Let’s discuss how to knock that off.

Starting and not finishing projects.

Having a great idea, a great scene, a great character, a great opening line – it’s all great, but what about finishing the thing we started? Nothing great has ever come from a half-done book. We need methods for finishing what we start – if we want to be Authors.

Worry over how “good” our work is.

Someone once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.” We’re afraid to suck at writing at first. We struggle against this monster in our own minds and it cripples our ability to actually write anything. How to get over this hurdle will be a big part of our little group.

Author envy.

Jealousy for other writers’ success is a natural – and unnecessary – pastime. I’ve indulged in this corrosive emotion myself and we can discuss it here to scrub it from our minds and enable healthy professional development.

Claiming Writer’s Block.

“Writer’s block” is an amateur’s affliction. Want to step into the Big Leagues? We’ll talk about what the block really is and how to stop giving it your precious energy.

Hiding from “Authentic Voice”.

There are a lot of risks to be taken in writing. Stripping away the influences and cliches and expressing your true, unique way of telling a story is the greatest risk of all. Let’s talk about how to step out and be willing to get hit by it, instead of hiding from it.

Ignoring classic story structures.

Every one of us wants to tell a “unique” story. Amateurs (I’ve been one myself) think we can bulldoze all the standards aside and tell it “our way”. Truth is, we have an obligation to know what story structure really is – and the education actually gives us more options and freedom, not less.

The first step is admitting we have a problem.
The meeting place will be ready for sufferers of Writerphrenia and interested observers.

The meeting place will be ready for sufferers of Writerphrenia and interested observers.

If you can identify yourself in these symptoms, please know that you’re not alone. I feel I can safely write about this stuff because I’ve been afflicted with Writophrenia and have overcome much – but certainly not all – of the symptoms to publish over a dozen books and stories. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t have some degree of Writophrenia.

I’m opening a Writophrenia clinic right here. If you like what you’ve seen so far and feel you can relate, come back for more group therapy. I’ll have the coffee pot on and the circle of chairs set. See you next week right here.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 quick remedies for Writophrenia:

  1. An old-fashioned, finely sharpened yellow No. 2 to the frontal lobe.
  2. Publishing a flop [not considered a permanent cure for the severely afflicted].
  3. Bribe supportive Mom and Dad to tell beginning author their books are terrible, breaking the crucial delusion of future success.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!
Categories: Readers, Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Burger is Back!

Where has my blog – Brain Burgers – been for the last few weeks? Well, where the brain goes the burger goes, too.
Brain Burger on a Break: Writing; Editing; Working; Traveling; Speaking.

Brain Burgers on a Break: Writing; Editing; Working; Traveling; Speaking.

Someone asked YA author Rick Riordan on Twitter “Why don’t you blog?” He tweeted something like, “If I blog I won’t have as much time to write books.” I know what he means. Writing is work and, because there’s no clock to punch or boss to shake their head in disapproval, a lot of things can get in the way. Blogging is a little bit of work, too – and a lot of things get in the way.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

I’ve been writing a lot. Over the winter and into spring, I wrote three books on contract that should be coming out next year. I also wrote the first couple of drafts of the last Delphi Trilogy book, titled THE DELPHI REVELATION. Then over the last couple of weeks I wrote a short novel that I’m thinking of expanding into a bigger novel (if my agent likes it).

Editing is a big part of writing – often more work than writing that first draft. [Hint to aspiring writers: I say there are 3 stages of a manuscript - Done; Right; Good. Maybe I'll burger on that sometime soon ;)] So, editing on three books plus the Delphi III draft has taken a lot of time. But it’s an absolutely necessary part of the process. No book comes out right the first time. Heaven help me, though, I hope I’m getting better and will need a little less editing as time goes on.

I started a new job in January that I love and the work fits me perfectly. I visit school librarians and sell books for a very well-respected company. Meeting with dozens – if not hundreds – of librarians this year alone has been great. Come fall, I want to start giving them a quick interview and posting their answers on Facebook, Twitter, and here on Brain Burgers. I love those librarians!

Traveling is part of that job because I cover a good-sized territory here around the Mountain Empire. I like a good road trip, so hopping in the car and going a couple of days a week is always fun. But it does take a lot of time – time I might otherwise be writing or blogging. So, there’s that.

I spoke to three groups of 100+ students at Delphi Middle/High School.

I’m one of those weirdos who likes speaking in public. (At Delphi Middle/High School in April.)

Some of that traveling has been for speaking engagements and author visits with schools and libraries. The highlight of the year so far was my visit with the school and library at Delphi, Indiana in April. You read about it in my post “Home to Delphi”. But that’s certainly not all for the year. I’ve got a few author visits lined up with public libraries for the summer. I’m one of those weirdos who loves speaking to an audience, so don’t fret for me. In fact, if you’ve got anything you’ve always wanted to say in front of a large audience but have been afraid to, send it to me and I’ll see if I can slip it it.

So, yeah, I plan to start blogging again regularly, if you’ll keep sharing your time and attention with me. Blogs, like books, are meant to be read. So keep I’ll Brain, you Burger, and we’ll keep this thing rolling.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 reasons to start reading Brain Burgers again:

  1. No trans fats.
  2. If you don’t give the author your attention he’ll just go get attention on the street – and none of us wants that.
  3. You can tell everyone you found a burger that’s calorie-free.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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Home to Delphi

My author visit to Delphi, Indiana on Monday, April 7
I spoke to three groups of 100+ students at Delphi Middle/High School.

I spoke to three groups of 100+ students at Delphi Middle/High School.

When public librarian Lauren and middle school librarian Bernadette invited me to visit their students a Delphi, Indiana, I thought it would be kind of a cool thing. When I got there Monday, I was delighted to find such a welcoming crowd. One girl said “Hi, Chris Everheart!” when I walked in the door.

Full disclosure: I hadn’t done my homework and didn’t know that their school mascot is The Oracles! What could be better than bringing a thriller story about a 3,000-year-old conspiracy involving teenagers and the Oracle at Delphi to a group of kids living in Delphi, Indiana?

Reading to the teens at Delphi Public Library.

Reading to the teens at Delphi Public Library.

After an afternoon of school visits, the public library put on an event with a group of kids who’d all read the book and made trailer videos. That was a blast! In thanks, I read the entire short story The Shadow of Delphi: A Short Delphi Prequel. (I think they liked it.)

I have to admit that I was a little overcome at one point. These kids had put a lot of attention on the Delphi books I and II – and are hollering for number III – and I felt like I was bringing this project home. That was really special.

I only hope I gave the kids at Delphi as much as they gave me.

 

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 reasons to visit Delphi, Indiana instead of Delphi, Greece:

  1. You don’t have to bring a gold statue to get into town.
  2. A Hyundai and a GPS can get you there – and back home.
  3. Instead of a scary oracle in the Adyton, there’s a Dairy Queen on Main Street!

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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The Product of Failure

The gift of struggle in learning – and how getting it wrong can actually pay off.
Struggle now can pay off later - he hopes ...

Struggle now can pay off later … he hopes.

A superb article by education writer Annie Murphy Paul caught my attention this week – When, And How, To Let Learners Struggle. Murphy Paul reports on a study published in the Journal of the Learning Sciences called “Designing for Productive Failure” that shows mind-bending results.

In the study, two groups of kids were given a mathematical problem to solve – and it might surprise you to learn that the group who got the answer right scored lower when tested on “what they learned” than the kids who got the answer wrong!

How can this be? It’s in the experience the kids had – not the answer they reached. Group 1 was given extensive support by a teacher and ultimately led to the correct answer. I’ll bet they felt pretty good about it.

Group 2, on the other hand, was “… directed to solve the same problems by collaborating with one another, absent any prompts from their instructor. … in the course of trying to do so, they generated a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and about what potential solutions would look like. And when the two groups were tested on what they’d learned, the second group ‘significantly outperformed’ the first.” I wonder if the kids were as surprised as I am.

Reminds me of the axiom that if you help a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, you rob it of the wall-busting strength it must develop to survive in the outside world.

I’m assuming that even though Group 2 was not given significant help from their teacher, it’s likely that their learning environment was overall supportive and healthy. If an adult had been standing by blowing a whistle and shouting insults every time Group 2 went “offtrack,” you can imagine the kind of confusion and self-mistrust those kids might have developed. Such a negative feedback environment might have pushed the “what they learned” score down significantly. So, environment must matter too.

The point of the “productive failure” observation is to point out how kids can learn confidence in their creativity and thinking skills even if the exact correct answers to questions and problems elude them. (A reflection on some Common Core methods here?)

It goes for adults too. I have a friend in business who says, “Fail fast.” In other words: We know we’re going to fail on some levels. It’s an experience we must have to get smarter and sharper and ultimately become successful. So get through the failing process as quickly as possible and get on to the success. You can’t do that unless you have a “healthy” attitude toward failure.

I struggled a lot with learning as a youth. I think that, unfortunately, I had the idea that failure was permanent. (Anyone else out there have a negative feedback environment?) As a curious and driven adult, it’s taken me years of inside work and outside experience to befriend failure and learn from it. The results: more self-trust; the ability to laugh at myself when I “fail”; the ability to work quickly through the process of grief over bad experiences; the overall sense that whatever “this” is, it’s not permanent; a sense of ultimate success through building on repeated “failures.”

I’m not happy about my childhood learning struggles, but I do see the value in the creative analysis of subjects and problems that I developed as a result. Author Simon Sinek says that the “survival” skills we develop as children to make up for our deficiencies become our greatest assets as adults. In our youthful creativity we develop personal ways of learning, working, and communicating which are unique to the individual – and much needed by the world – later in life.

I’ve always struggled to some degree with reading – but I somehow became an author! I’ve come to believe that one of the things that makes me an effective writer is the fact that I read slowly, trying not to miss any of the content, and have unconsciously picked up on a lot more information about writing style, grammar, voice, etc.

So, maybe the trade-off is worth it. The earlier we understand the true nature of “failure” and befriend it, the better off we can be throughout the rest of our lives – whenever the rest of our lives begins.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 other ways failure makes the world better:

  1. You think those geniuses got the Twinky right on the first try? Yum!
  2. I’ve never heard someone say, “If at first you don’t succeed … ah, forget it!”
  3. We never would have had all those iPhone 1 jokes to laugh at.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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Duking it Out

Who’ll take the belt – upstart digital or good ol’ print?
Digital and print go toe-to-toe on the shifting canvas of today's market.

Digital and print go toe-to-toe on the shifting canvas of today’s market.

A couple of articles grabbed my attention this week – just for seeming so different from each other.

The Christian Science Monitor posted a story about America’s first bookless library. You read that right – a library without books in San Antonio, TX is packing the patrons in from around town and around the world. I’m not a “this changes everything” kind of guy, but “… stocked with 10,000 e-books, 500 e-readers, 48 computers, and 20 iPads and laptops, the $2.3 million library has been compared countless times to an Apple Store with its rows of glossy devices.” The Biblio-Tech definitely looks like the future we were promised in the early-80’s of a future paperless society.

It’s weird because, even though I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of a paperless society, when I think of libraries, I get images of the Library at Alexandria or Green Town’s library in Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (which I picture as a classic Carnegie library). These are buildings stocked with books. Bookie-books. Paper books!

But there’s good news for the old champ, because PBS reports that “Americans prefer print books over e-books” based on recent Pew Research polls. Only three in ten adults polled read an e-book in the past year, while seven in ten read a book in paper. The amazing thing is that half of those adults polled own a tablet or e-reader on which they could read e-books, but they still prefer paper. So maybe Alexandria and Green Town will stay in the bookie-book business.

Elephant books.

Elephant books.

Yes, there’s an elephant in the room. How are the kids reading? Scholastic reports that kids are reading e-books, but still overwhelmingly prefer print books. In my work writing, promoting, and selling youth books, I’m learning that e-books are becoming more relevant but print books don’t seem to be going anywhere. I remember as kid liking the idea of owning a book (and I didn’t love reading back then). According to librarians and teachers, this hasn’t changed. Kids like books.

Holding and owning a book is still important to the little ones – and, apparently, the big ones too. So let’s not do the digital count on the old hardcover pug yet.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 differences between an all-digital library and an all-print library:

  1. You can’t get electrocuted spilling coffee on a print book.
  2. Turning out the lights in an all-print library = no more reading.
  3. Read the pages or read the pixels – your choice.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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Cover to Dusty Cover (Dusted Off)

The secret ancient library behind the walls of the world’s oldest monastery.//

The fortress-like Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai houses the world’s oldest continually operating library. -SacredSites.com

Bloggers note: I’ve been visiting a lot of libraries lately but none as old as this old, old, old library. This a re-post of a piece I wrote a while back. Enjoy.

Ever heard of the Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai? No? It’s also known as Saint Catherine’s Monastery. Nothing?

If you haven’t heard of it, that’s because this ancient monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai is so remote that until modern times only the most devout of seekers could get there via ten-day camel ride.

The monastery was built in the mid-6th century AD at what is considered to be the spot where Moses saw the burning bush. Known to have been occupied by Christians since at least as far back as the 4th century AD, the site, in fact, claims to host the original living bush that Moses witnessed.

Monk studying at Saint Catherine’s Monastery library – among the world’s most exclusive libraries. -beautiful-libraries.com

Just as amazing is that Saint Catherine’s also claims the worlds oldest continually operating library, stuffed with 5,000 early books, 3,500 manuscripts and 2,000 scrolls – a collection rivaled only by the Vatican. This is also one of the most exclusive libraries in the world. Only the monks of the monastery and select clergy and scholars are allowed in.

I am so fascinated with libraries – especially old ones – that I made a monolithic, centuries-old library the central battleground of my thriller The League of Delphi. And the fact that this library is surrounded by a virtual fortress makes it ten times more fascinating and meaningful to the story.

After a millenium and a half of cloistered existence Saint Catherine’s is now bringing the collection to the world through the tools of the digital age but the library itself remains inaccessible to most outsiders.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 books you might find in the world’s oldest library:

  1. Twilight: The Dawn of History
  2. The Genghis Khan Cookbook: Feeding a Band of Marauding Barbarians on a Budget
  3. Fifty Shades of Black: A Monk’s Wardrobe Confessions

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

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-

What librarians are saying about The Delphi Trilogy:

“The League of Delphi by Chris Everheart is super suspenseful and unputdownable in the best sense of the word. A great readalike for kids who have plowed through Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games. We have multiple copies of the book and they have not been on the shelf since we bought them. Teen patrons have loved The League of Delphi.” – Hannahlily Smith, Teen Coordinator, Johnson City Public Library, Johnson City, TN.

“Fast-paced and well written, this thrilling mystery sucks readers in and leaves them anxiously waiting for the next installment of the trilogy. This is exactly the type of book teens enjoy and it will draw in even the most reluctant readers.” – Kiersten Doucette, Teen Services Librarian, Naperville Public Library, Naperville, IL

Readers rave about The Delphi Trilogy:

“Read. This. Book! Each chapter leaves you on the edge of your seat, and it all leads up to one of the most exciting endings I’ve read in a long time.”

“It has it all: romance, intrigue and suspense… and very well written characters.”

“From the very first page to the very last page I felt like I was on this wild ride.”

“Even the most reluctant of reluctant readers will have a hard time putting these books down.”

Related articles
Categories: Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Secrets, archaeology, Hidden Archealogy, My Books, The Ancient World, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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