I Need an Intervention

Good day, my friends. 

I hope you don’t mind, but I felt the need to address something nagging at me earlier today. 

On a Storycrafter chat, hosted by Faye Kirwin, she asked, “Which books have you emotionally connected with more than any other?”. I had no response. I couldn’t think of one book that resonated with me the most. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized a more pressing problem. I haven’t read a lot of books.

That’s right. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not something I’m proud of. Reading so many writers’ profiles and biographies, a common thread is how certain books influence what they write. (I find this especially the case with fantasy writers.) I can’t say that there’s a book that influenced me to write what I write.  I read books that were “required reading.” And that’s it. I didn’t take the initiative to read anything past it. I didn’t explore all that was available. And I regret it to this day.

It’s been said that we have to read if we are to write better. Regardless of genre and format, we need to learn from the past. Study the techniques from authors we admire. Learn what works and what doesn’t. And then, create something unique to us, even if the story’s been told hundreds of times.

The problem is that I’ve consumed so much “visual media.” I let TV and movies give me unrealistic expectations. For example, I expect a story to jump me right into the action, allowing no time for backstory and exposition. Now, this may be frowned upon in books generally, but I developed an extreme intolerance for it. If something doesn’t grab my attention right away, I don’t consider it worth reading. And on that note, I don’t take the time to properly invest in a story and all the aspects. I indulge YouTube, Twitter, whatever social media is out there rather than take the time to let my imagination run wild. 

So, I’m staging an intervention on myself. I need help in developing a healthy taste for reading. I don’t want to be limited to one genre and one format. I know there are classics I’ve never read or heard of. There are modern novels that might be considered classics in the future. There are numerous book series waiting for me to ingest. There’s so much to learn about the world today that stories can tell in their own unique way. And I’m missing out. 

So, for everyone reading this post, I’m asking for your input. I’m tackling this issue with an open and flexible mind. Name a book that has impacted you the most. A book or series of books that you think I should read. 

I will not use genre as an excuse. I will not use format as an excuse. I will not use time as an excuse. And I want you to hold me to these promises. I need this. If I am to be a better writer, I need to read more than I ever had before. 

Thank you in advance for your support. Until next time, take care. 

Book Lovers Tag

Good morning. 

I read a post from Sarah Brentyn, the Lemon Shark. She participated in the Book Lovers tag. It sounds fun, so I’m jumping into the game. Now, I admit that I’m not a voracious reader, but as Stephen King eloquently puts it, “To write a lot, you must read a lot.” So I try to follow that mantra. 

Now, let’s get going…

Do you have a specific place for reading?

I don’t have a room where I can read in peace. My house is so small, so I have no privacy. I have to read during the evening. And I pick a spot where I’m most comfortable. 80 percent of the time, it’s my bedroom. 

Bookmarks or random pieces of paper?

I can never seem to keep up with bookmarks, so I stop buying bookmarks. I’ll tear off a piece of paper, and it does the job. This is especially true when I borrow books from the library. I’ll use the receipt that shows the due date. Besides, if I want a decorative bookmark, I can do it myself. Just don’t ask for any fanciful designs. I don’t have that kind of talent. 

Can you stop anywhere or must it be at the end of a chapter?

I can pretty much stop anywhere. But most of that is due to limited time. I prefer stopping at the end of a chapter, but if I can find a good point in the middle, that suits me just fine. 

Do you eat or drink while reading?

No to either one. I’m too focused on reading to think about eating or drinking anything. 

Music or TV while reading?

Since I’m a visual person, I’m easily distracted by TV. So I turn the TV off while reading. Music is another story. I try to find a playlist that councides with what genre I’m reading. Most of the time, it’s light classical. That mellows me out and gets me in the mood, especially after a long day. 

One book at a time or several?

One book at a time, for sure. I have no skills when it comes to multitasking. So trying to read several pieces at a time is near impossible. 

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I say reading at home, but it’s not by choice. I lost books and notebooks at work, so I’m nervous bringing them with me. The fear is too great. I may not have the privacy I want at home for reading, but I have security, and that’s what matters. 

Read out loud or silently?

I can’t imagine reading anything out loud, unless it’s instructions. Besides, most stuff I read are not suitable for younger ears. 

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I kind of do both. The only time I will skip pages is while I’m reading short story anthologies. I won’t read something like that cover-to-cover. An actual novel is another story. I can’t see myself skipping pages. I want to take in all the details, major and minor. 

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

It’s inevitable that the spine will break after reading something a few times. I try to keep anything like new, as impossible as that sounds. 

Do you write in your books?

Absolutely not. This goes along with the previous question. I try to keep things as new as possible. If I need to make notes, I’ll buy Post-It’s. Besides, there is the occasion where someone wants to borrow a book from me. So I want it to be in pristine order when I give it to someone, and expect it in the same order when I get it back. 

Well, that’s the Book Lovers Tag. Instead of tagging specific people/blogs, consider yourself tagged if you’re reading this and want to play along. All I ask is that you insert a link to your blog so as to acknowledge where the tag came from. 

I strongly encourage you guys to play. It’s a lot of fun. 

Until next time, take care. 

Quitting Time: An IWSG Post


Good afternoon.

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another post for Insecure Writers Support Group. Bloggers like me write a little something to inspire and encourage fellow writers. We either write an original post, or answer a question provided to us by the group. If you want to know more about the IWSG, click here.

For today’s post, I am going to answer this month’s question:

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

This is a topic I covered before on my blog, as well as read on others. It’s one of those things that never gets old in the sense that we’ve all felt like giving up on our writing. The reasons are different, but it doesn’t change the fact that at some point in our writing journey, we wanted to throw in the towel. 

I wanted to quit–and have–on several occasions. One time, I quit because I wasn’t doing anything with my degree. I wasn’t taking that next step in writing a novel. Another time, I quit because I wasn’t writing as often as I “should have.” I took it as I wasn’t serious about writing, even though I had a degree. And even when I decided to take my writing more seriously, I felt like giving up for the reasons I just mentioned. 

I jumped off the wagon too many times to count. Just recently, I wanted to quit because I felt like I wasn’t getting the support I hoped for on social media. It sounds silly, like the afore mentioned “reasons,” but allow me to elaborate.

I’m a member of a few Facebook groups and I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. I say about 90% of the members and writers I follow are writing novels in either science fiction or fantasy. And most of them are geared for young adults. The hashtag games I follow on Twitter feel like it’s skewered toward those genres. Nothing wrong with it, but those are not my interests. I’m set in writing short stories in contemporary fiction. That’s what I know. And it’s been hard finding writers who share my interests in the format and genre of my choice.

To move this subject more towards writing, I dreamed up of writing numerous series of short stories to post on my blog. Recently, I had an idea of writing stories set in a barbershop. But I gave them up because I felt there were too many issues that couldn’t be ignored. I chalked them up to a number of reasons. Not having enough experience in the matter. Not having enough conflict in the stories. Too many characters in the stories. The list can go on and on.

So, as you can see, I have a history on giving up on writing. And until now, I spouted a lot of reasons. But the more I think about it, I’m coming to understand a single trend. Writing, no matter the endeavor, requires two things: passion and commitment. It’s one thing if you’re burnt out. It’s another if you aren’t passionate or committed to push through when the times get tough; when you feel like no one supports you. I haven’t been either committed or passionate. I gave up on my projects way too easy. I wasn’t willing to stick with it. 

So, I have a commitment issue. I have a passion issue. But…I still write. So the question is, what keeps me going, knowing the issues I have? The answer: I love to write. I can’t imagine not writing. I believe it’s in my blood. And no matter how many times I’ve fallen off the horse, I get back on. Why? Because I love it. So maybe it’s not a passion issue in terms of the whole spectrum; just a specific area. And, contrary to my beliefs, I have support. Support from many writing friends on social media. Support from my family. And I have hope. Hope that regardless of what I write, I will find someone who shares my passion and will spur me to write the best damn story I can. That’s what keeps me going. 

I want to hear from you. Have you wanted to quit? Be honest. What keeps you going when you feel the urge? Let me know in the comments, and let’s talk.

Until then, take care…

Weekend Coffee Share: Questioning My Writing

Good afternoon,

Welcome to the house. Glad you can make it. I have plenty of San Francisco Bay K-cups. So help yourself. My wife likes this brand a lot. I also have almond coffee creamer. Kind of a nice alternative. So let me know what you want. I’ll wait. 

… …

Okay. Let’s talk. 

I don’t have too much to share about this week. We’ve been counting down the days until Zoe finishes kindergarten. We’re so proud of her. In the meantime, we’re making plans on what to do over the summer.

I wanted to talk about my writing. Rather, my writing woes. I’m in a slump. I’m not writing as much as I had in the past few months. I haven’t written in my journal as much. I don’t have any ideas for my next story. And I lost interest in finding a contest/magazine to submit my barbershop story. It’s just been a flat month thus far. I can count it up to being burnt out. But that’s not much of an excuse, even though it happens. I’m not “inspired” to write these days.

But the more frustrating thing about writing is that I wonder if social media is right for me. The writers and hashtag games I follow on Twitter. The Facebook groups I joined. The multitude of writing prompts I collect on the Internet. I feel like they focus on writing novels in the sci-fi/fantasy genre for young adults. Don’t misunderstand. They’re wonderful genres. And that’s the trend these days. I’m just wondering if there’s room for the kind of fiction I write: short stories in Mainstream Fiction. 

I expressed my grievances on Twitter and Facebook. About me not writing as much and about the lack of support for my genre and format. I even tweeted a call to find short story writers. I received random statements of encouragement from both platforms. Someone asked on Twitter why I put the call out for short story writers. I just know they’re out there. And I understand that short stories are a hard sell. Even the anthologies, as good as they are, don’t translate to best sellers. I feel chided and shunned, but I can’t be the only one that feels that way.

But regardless, this is the path I’ve chosen. This is what I believe my calling is. And I love the short story format. So make fun of me all you want. I don’t care. 

Sorry for the ranting. That’s what I’ve thought about this week. Maybe next week, I’ll have more to talk about.

What about you? How was your week? Anything exciting planned? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time, take care.

An IWSG Post: What Motivates You?


Good day.

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for the The Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. The first Wednesday of every month, bloggers from all around write posts designed to encourage writers of all levels. We share our progress throughout this writing journey. We express our fears and share our joys. If you wish to join in the fun, click on the link here.

The A to Z Challenge wrapped up a couple of days ago. This year, I declined to participate. There are a few reasons. One, in the two years prior, I was disappointed in the lack of responses. I felt like no one cared about what I had to say. Two, coming up with random topics for two years was challenging. Brainstorming a new set of topics was near impossible. Three, my experience was limited, at best, about certain topics. I feared what I wrote would be taken out of context. And four, with all that’s going on now in my daily life, it wouldn’t be easy to set aside a set time to write and post something. Valid reasons, all of them. But the truth is, my heart wasn’t into it this year. I didn’t have the motivation to take the time out of my schedule to write anything. 

This got me thinking about what motivates us to do what we do. We set goals in every facet of our our lives. Career, financial, relationships, whatever.  I believe motivation—the reason(s) behind what we do—determines whether we succeed or fail. And many ideals factor in what motivates us: morals, lifestyle, finances, etc. 

For example, many writers, including myself, have a goal to write a novel. Here’s where motivation kicks in. If I say I want to write a novel because I want to be published, that’s fine. But if I write a novel just because I want to make money as a best-selling novelist, chances are I will be disappointed. Having a novel published are slim because everyone has the same goal in mind. Even with putting in the marketing work, researching trends, and receiving reviews, odds are still unlikely that hordes of readers will run to bookstores just to buy my book. And what if my book is not a bestseller? What if I don’t receive positive reviews? What if I’m too late latching onto the trend? Then what? What will motivate me to write another book? Possible answer: nothing, if my motivation is to make money. 

On the other hand, if I want to write a book because I want to tell a story. If I want to share an experience or address an issue through the written word, then more rewards are possible. It’s more likely I will be satisfied with what I wrote. It’s possible that I will enjoy and appreciate the process, not matter how long it took to write. It’s possible sales and reviews will not be the driving force—not saying that they’re not important. Bottom line, there’s a greater feeling of satisfaction, even if it’s the only book I write.

Now these situations are hypothetical. Everyone’s writing journey is different. Some writers might not want to write a novel; they feel more comfortable writing short stories or memoirs. Some might not go into writing looking for a big payday; they want to write as a hobby or an opportunity to challenge themselves creatively. Regardless, the motivation behind writing will determine whether or not your journey is worth the hard work. Now this is not meant to sway your thoughts on why you write. What I will suggest is to take some time to learn about your motivation, especially if you’re feel disconnected with your writing.

What say you? What motivates you to do what you do, writing or otherwise? Feel free to comment. 

Until next time…

Cutting Edge: An IWSG Follow-Up

Good afternoon,

I want to share a little something about what I’m writing right now. In my last IWSG post, I evaluated some goals for this year. One is to start a short story series. I tried the past couple of years to get the ball rolling, but I hit dead ends. Regardless of reasons, I failed to meet this goal. But this year, I believe I am on the verge of something. 

It started with a dare. My wife challenged me to write a light-hearted story set in a barbershop. I laughed it off, but wrote it anyway, thinking it was a waste. But I showed it to her and one of my writing friends on Facebook. They enjoyed it, much to my surprise.

I wrote the first draft three weeks ago. I’m on the fourth draft now. It’s much different than the first draft, including a new title (still temporary). I’m on the fence on whether or not to post this story on my blog. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing, so I want everything to be perfect. (I’m working on purging that mentality from my thought process.)

While writing drafts on this story, I thought about this as the first of a short story series. If I do post this story on my blog, the series will be exclusive. I have a title for the series, Cutting Edge. (The idea came from the name of a barbershop I visited when I was younger.) I’m brainstorming characters and storylines. I created a Pinterest board for the series, pinning hairstyles, models, and barbershops of course. (It’s a secret board for the time being.) And I spoke to a couple of friends on their experiences with the barbershop institution. I gained a lot of insight from the conversations. Insights that can lead to potential conflicts in and out the barbershop.

As I mentioned in the IWSG post, I am particularly passionate about this goal. I hear it’s better not to share your progress on a project. I know this to be true because I shared goals on this blog before and I felt disappointed when I failed to meet those goals. Too much pressure on myself, I suppose. But I learned another way to look at it. I believe seeing my goals on my blog gives me something to strive for. And, if other people see my goals, it can lead to accountability. So I’m taking a chance.

Until next time…

My Writing Journey So Far: An IWSG Post

Here is my latest post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Every first Wednesday of the month, I and many other bloggers publish posts in the hopes to encourage writers of all levels. 

Today, I am assessing my writing goals for the first three months.

I didn’t announce all my goals in previous posts for fear that I would be a failure if I didn’t accomplish said goals. That being said, I think it’s about time I bring these goals to light. It’s like losing weight. You need an idea of where you want to be. And you need a plan to reach that “finish line,” whatever that may be. Equally as important is having people to hold you accountable, to spur you on when you feel like quitting and give you a swift kick in the rear when they see you’re waning. I’ve been lucky enough to find some writing buddies that I can pass my work along and will be honest with me. I need that in many facets of my life. 

Okay, on to the assessment…

Goal #1: Write a short story outside my genre. For those who don’t know already, I write Mainstream Fiction. It’s what I “know.” But I want to try other genres to give myself a challenge, especially in the short story category. I hear writing in genres to a hardcore degree is difficult. But a writer seeks to push himself; to not limit himself to one genre. Out of the genres and subgenres out there, I chose Science Fiction because it’s a genre that fascinates me above all else. I have a rough draft, but nothing past that point. I’m going over it and realize there’s more I need to add to the story. That’s what a rough draft is for, obviously. For now, I’m putting it on the shelf until I can work out the details better. 

Goal #2:  Compile short stories for a series. I’m focusing on this goal more than the others. And this is a goal I sought after last year, but failed. I think the big reason was that there weren’t enough stories to build on. But now, I believe I have legitimate stories I can build serials on. One idea came from a story I wrote on a dare; a story set in a barbershop. I wrote it thinking I wasn’t going to like it. But the more I invested, the more it grew on me. So now I’m brainstorming ideas for stories in this barbershop setting.

The second idea, again from a story, is a series of stories set in transit stations. Bus stops, subway stations, wherever. I shared the “first” story to a writing friend. She said it has potential. That’s something to go on. Juggling between these two will be hard to do, but I believe it can be done. 

Goal #3: Submit a story for publication. This is another work in progress, but this is more about overcoming the mental blocks I’ve put up over the years. I follow one blogger who posts writing contests once a month. I read them and make note of entry fees, deadlines, rewards, and so forth. And a friend on Twitter sent me an email with links to writing magazines. I’m researching them, too. And I receive emails from two websites always looking for submissions.

Despite these resources, I have yet to follow through on any of them. Why? Because I fear rejection. The last time I had a story published was Freshman year of college. Taking classes on Creative Writing and reading stories from my peers reinforced my fears. Obviously not intentional, but I kept comparing their works to mine, like it was second nature. I doubted myself then, and doubt myself now. I’m working on overcoming those doubts and taking the plunge. Being on a deadline helps. 

And finally…

Goal #4: Write a short story a month. It’s been said that a writer should be able to write a short story a week. The same blogger I follow posts a story a week on her blog. I’ve never been a person to write that fast. But I can, if I apply myself. I cite schedules, duties to family, lack of energy, not having enough ideas. You get the point. But all that’s false; all I’m doing is making up excuses.

There are three reasons I can churn out a story. One, I don’t have to be on a laptop to get words down. I have a notebook. I have a smartphone with Google Docs. Two, I can make time to write. I can “sacrifice” free time to write scenes out. And three, after I read a post on a writing blog, I realized I’ve been approaching short story writing wrong. There’s a formula that breaks down the steps to writing a short story. So within my goal of writing a story a month, I shall attempt to write a story a week.