If Ever I Stray

I was racking my brain all weekend trying to come up with a post for today. But I got nothing. I headed into work this morning, thinking maybe inspiration would strike. But after working most of the day, I’m still coming up empty. Possibly because I just turned in a new revision to my agent this weekend, and my mind is catching up on some needed rest. Whatever the reason, I’m drawing a blank.

So I thought I’d turn the time over to Frank Turner for some words of inspiration:

Love is free and life is cheap
As long as I’ve got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can’t ask for anything more

I think this holds true for wherever you are in life. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative things and forget how much we really have. I can honestly say I couldn’t ask for anything more in my life, and I hope you can say the same. Keep smiling, keep living, and keep creating!

I Don’t Care if I Never Get Back

baseball1b

Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life. – Ernie Harwell

I don’t know if I have much to add to that. Because it’s absolutely true. Once again, baseball season has started, and once again I’m super excited for it. Both those handsome little men above are going to be playing T-ball this year, so we picked up the equipment we needed and started practicing in the back yard. I can’t really explain how happy it made me. I’m excited for my boys to play. To win and lose, to achieve and fail. I’m excited for the lessons they’ll learn, and I hope they’re able to apply those lessons to other areas of their lives. I’m excited for the endless possibilities of another season, and the endless possibilities of our lives.

Play ball!

You Are a Writer

Raise your hand if you’re an aspiring writer.

I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. You’re not an aspiring writer. You are a writer.

What does aspire mean? “To seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal. From Latin aspirare, literally, to breathe upon.”

I see you over there, in the corner, breathing onto your laptop.

“Shhh…I’m aspiring over here.”

No you’re not. You’re writing.

If you have, at one point, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and written something – a poem, a short story, a screenplay, the first chapter to the next great American novel, you are, in fact, a writer.

Now, if you haven’t, if you’re still just breathing on the paper, but not putting anything on it, then, I guess, technically you’re an aspiring writer. But that’s okay. The great thing about writing is all you need is that pen and paper or that keyboard. There should be very little, if anything, physically holding you back.

Now, you might say that I’m stupid for that whole breathing thing. You might be thinking “I really AM an aspiring writer. I want to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight or On the Road or Catcher in the Rye.”

And that’s great. It’s great to have those goals. But let’s go back to the definition of aspire. To seek to accomplish a particular goal. You are an aspiring best-selling author, which is something altogether different.

It means you’re serious about this whole writing thing. It means that you’re not just going to mess around, but that you’re going to take your craft and make it into something people will pay you money to read.

And that’s awesome. You need to have goals, whatever they may be. But that’s just it, The goals are the finish line, and you’re never going to reach them if you don’t pick up that pen.

So just write.

Some of you might be rolling your eyes and saying “Ok, we get it, can you move on to the next visual?”

The answer is yes.

This is me and my two sons at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con. The lady we’re with is comic book writer Gail Simone, who has written tons of comics, including characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Deadpool, etc. (My kids are obviously impressed) And this is right before I turned to her and asked if she had any advice for an aspiring comic book writer.

I’m pretty sure I even used those exact words.

I’m not even going to make an excuse for myself. The point is, the second you make that effort and start writing, You’ve changed into a writer, so don’t sell yourself short.

The reason I’m spending so much time on this is I’ve heard so many times from friends. “Oh, that’s cool you wrote a book. I wish I could.” Like it’s some magical fairytale thing that I somehow managed to do and that they’d never be able to.

But it’s not magic, it’s just a matter of working hard.

So stop aspiring. Start writing. And if you’ve already started, keep writing.

I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Happy New(ish) Year!

2013 already? Almost February already? Holy cow. Well, happy new year everyone! I’m sorry for this being my first appearance here in a while. Work and writing and life have been pretty busy lately. We have about seven weeks to finish up the movie Epic, which is what I’m currently working on. I’m really excited about it, and you can check out the trailer here.

As far as writing is concerned, I’m just finishing up a pretty major revision on my MG fantasy book. It feels like I’ve been revising this book forever and I’m pretty sick of the process, but I have to admit it keeps getting better. So I’m definitely glad I did it, it just wasn’t tons of fun. But that’s the life, right? So hopefully this will be the version my agent feels is ready to go out into the world. Fingers crossed!

At the beginning of the year, you know, exactly four weeks ago, I did a quick check to see how I did on my 2012 revisions. Overall I did all right. Still didn’t hit some things I really wanted to, but if felt like I put up a pretty good fight.

So I’m sitting at the (almost) beginning of another year, and I’m trying to come up with new goals for this year. I don’t know if it’s a copout or not, but I’m thinking about just keeping the goals I didn’t hit from last year.

Honestly, right now I’m pretty happy with life. I have an amazing family, great job, and I’m able to write and do side projects. There’s always room for growth and progress, and I want to keep striving for those. But right now I really just want to enjoy life, enjoy each day for what it is. I want to enjoy the little moments and not always be hoping and wishing and waiting for things.

Because hey, I’m alive for another day, and that’s pretty cool. All the best to you and yours this coming year!

My Stupid Book

Writing a book is a little bit like having a child.

I can’t really comment on whether or not it’s like actually giving birth, since I’m not equipped to make that comparison. And as hard as writing a book is, after watching my wife go through four pregnancies and c-sections, I’d say writing a book is, in fact, very tame. (p.s. My wife is amazing)

But, being a father, I think I’m qualified to make the case of books as children. You spend hours agonizing over decisions and choices and tiny little things that might have huge repercussions. You stay up late with them, you clean up their messes, you strive to make them the best they can be.

Sometimes they reward you for it and you experience emotional highs like never before.

Sometimes they throw up on you at two in the morning.

But at the end of the day, they’re your creation, and you love them.

Your parents and family and friends will adore them too. They’ll see past whatever flaws they might have and praise the good. At least they should. You need to have that support system, both as a parent and an author. But then things get trickier, because at some point, you send them out into the world, hoping that you’ve prepared them as well as you can for what’s to come.

And here’s the hard part. Your kids and your book are going to be judged.

They’re going to be judged on how well they perform, how well they can exist in the outside world, and so on and so forth. And those judgements are going to be a reflection of you, of your skills, of your abilities, of how well you did your job.

I’ve heard authors say they never read reviews. While it might be noble to refrain from reading them, it’s not really for me. When a movie I’ve worked on comes out, I religiously check Rotten Tomatoes to find out what people think. I don’t read all the reviews, but enough to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t. The same with my book.

Criticism is good, to a certain degree. Not only does it keep you humble and grounded, it can help reveal problems with what you’ve created that can be avoided in the future. No one has ever written a perfect book, or raised a perfect child, and having the flaws pointed out can help in your next endeavor.

When my book came out, the reviews were generally pretty good. Like I said, family and friends were very supportive. And people I didn’t even know seemed to respond well to it also.

Then one day, I got my first one star review on Goodreads. Since it’s short, I’ll quote it here:

“Probably the stupidest book I have ever read. Just stupid.”

I went through a lot of different emotions when I got that review. I was mad, annoyed, frustrated, hurt, and many other adjectives. I considered responding to the review, then figured it would be a bad idea. After I’d cooled off a bit, I decided to just write a short note saying something along the lines of “Thanks for reading. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it.” But when I clicked to make a comment, Goodreads showed this warning:

“Goodreads has found that it is not in an author’s best interest to engage with someone over a negative review. Please think twice before commenting on this review.”

Fair enough. I decided to simply hit the “like” button on the review and leave it at that.

As time has passed and I’ve thought about it more, I’m glad I didn’t say anything to the reviewer. I’m also glad I “liked” the review. For those reasons listed above, I’m actually thankful for the criticism. Not only does it compel me to work harder on my next book, it serves as a reminder that not everyone is going to love my work, no matter how good I think it is. And really, that’s fine. It’s just a book, and I’m glad the person took the time to read it.

That’s all we as authors and parents can really ask for. Give our creations a chance. Let them show you what they can do. Hopefully you’ll find something of redeeming value in them. If not, we’ll simply move on. No harm, no foul.

But fair warning:  If you ever call my kid stupid I might punch you in the face 🙂

Thankful

Is it cliche to write a Thanksgiving blog post about being thankful? Of course it is. But I’d feel like a huge jerk if I didn’t express how I feel. Over three weeks ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, including the area of Connecticut where I live. We were without power, water, and heat for almost four days. Now, that’s not at all easy to do, especially with four kids under the age of 7. But we made it work. We all slept on the floor of the den in sleeping bags. We ran around and played outside, we generally had fun. And honestly, it was a good experience. It was cool for us to be without those things. It really made us appreciate what we had. On that fourth night, we came back from Target, and as we were driving up our street, saw that our neighbors had electricity. We held our breath, not wanting to get too excited in case our power wasn’t back on yet. But it was! We ran inside, turned on all the lights, and enjoyed being able to see each other at night without the aid of flashlights. We still slept on the den floor that night. But it was a much more peaceful sleep. We were warm, we knew the power was on if we needed anything, we knew we could flush the toilet anytime we wanted. I remember how thankful I felt laying there, as the kids drifted off to sleep.

I just didn’t realize how thankful I should be.

As we started to get connected to the world again, we saw the devastation Sandy had wreaked across New York and New Jersey. It looked awful. Houses were flooded or completely swept away. People had lost everything.

But it still didn’t really hit me until this last weekend. On Sunday my church chartered a couple school buses and drove down to an area of Queens known as the Rockaways. It’s a little peninsula of Long Island, and as such, is almost completely surrounded by water. On one side, the Lower Bay, on the other, the vast expanse known as the Atlantic Ocean. With absolutely nothing to break up the hurricane, the Rockaways were slammed hard by Sandy. We went down there to help wherever we could, and it turns out they needed help everywhere. Power was still out. Homes were destroyed, ruined cars lined the streets. Six hours later, after mucking out and hauling mud from basements and breaking up concrete and sweeping and all sorts of related activities, we were back on the buses, heading home to our warm, well-lit homes.

That’s probably when it hit me.

I have so much to be grateful for. I have a wonderful family I love. I have a job that allows me to be creative and also keep my family fed and clothed and sheltered. If that’s all I had I should be considered lucky. But I have so much more to be grateful for. And thanks to the Rockaways trip, I have an even greater perspective of that. Just as it’s kind of silly to have one day set aside each year to profess your love for your sweetheart, it’s equally silly to only have one day set aside for giving thanks. But I’m glad we have the one official day at least. I just hope we’re thankful the rest of the days too. And hopefully I never forget. Hopefully if I ever think to complain about traffic, or taking the trash out, or some other minor thing, I’ll think back to the people who lost everything, and I’ll be a little more thankful for what I have.

People are still struggling to get back on their feet. If you can afford to spare anything, here’s a list of places you can donate time and money to. Happy Thanksgiving!

The YAmazing Race (Take Three!)


Hello! Welcome to the next stop in the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes! It’s a crazy blog hop featuring over 50 debut authors and prize packs consisting of ARCs, gift certificates, swag, and many other cool items. I’m super excited to be a part of this awesome contest, and I hope you’re enjoying it! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the Apocalypsies blog for more info, as well as the starting point (and the rules) to the race. It runs from Oct. 22 at noon EST through Monday, Oct. 29 at noon EST.

I participated in the first two YAmazing Races and had a blast. It’s awesome being a part of such a cool blog hop, and it looks like this one will be just as fun!

Here’s the cover and a little bit of info about my book OLDSOUL, which came out in April:

Jason Gouvas doesn’t want to believe he has special abilities or that he’s an Oldsoul– a vessel for the souls of people who have passed away, but the dead girl in his mind can be very persuasive.

Her name is Erin, and through her Jason is able to access the knowledge and skills of the souls within him. And with a group of power-hungry immortals bent on destroying the Oldsouls and overthrowing humanity, he’s going to need them all.

It’s available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon, and paperback and Nook at BarnesandNoble.com.

That’s about it. But wait a minute!

That’s right! Bonus contest! I have a (signed if you want) final copy of OLDSOUL, as well as some bookmarks. Want to win them? It’s easy enough. Either head to OLDSOUL’s facebook page and “like” it, or add it on Goodreads. Easy enough, right? Feel free to do both and double your odds! (PS if you’ve already added it in those places before this contest, leave me a comment down below and I’ll add you into the drawing. And thank you!)

Ready to move on? Your next stop is the website of Marissa Burt, whose book STORYBOUND came out in April and looks fantastic. Here’s the link: project-middle-grade-mayhem.blogspot.com. Thanks for stopping by and best of luck!

Hard Work and Inspiration

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge White Stripes fan. I like a few of their songs, but I never got super into them. But a friend recently passed this video on to me, and not only does it give me extra appreciation for their music, it gives me a lot of respect for singer(/songwriter/guitarist/etc) Jack White.

He talks about dreaming of being able to record an album, dreaming of being able to play on stage. Once he finally achieved those things, he could have probably had a long, lucrative career coasting along, making so-so music and relying on his earlier hits to make up for later mediocrity.  Instead, he came up with a unique way of keeping the hunger there, of keeping the immediacy. He limits himself. He makes things hard to do when performing live. Little things that no musician of his stature should have to endure, he endures. And he does it to keep things raw and fresh and real.

So…this all relates to writing, right? I think it does. I’m going through a revision right now, and I’m coming to realize sometimes I just coast by. I write something that’s adequate and move on because it would be too hard to stretch and try to go down a certain road. But when I do that I end up leaving so much behind that could be better.

Doing hard things makes us better, and working hard makes us better.

As Jack says, “Inspiration and work ethic ride right next to each other…Not every day of your life are you gonna wake up and the clouds are gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you’re gonna write a song from it. I mean sometimes you just get in there and just force yourself to work and maybe something good will come out.”

Good will come of it, but we have to push ourselves. It’s the difference between telling an adequate story and an exceptional story.

Which one do you want to tell?

Catching Up

Hey folks! I know it’s been a while since my last post. The last month has been a pretty crazy one for me. My family had been living in Southern California for the last 5 1/2 years, and for the most part, we loved it. What we didn’t love was the lack of job security. So when a really good job offer from Blue Sky Studios (They do the Ice Age movies) came in, we jumped at it. The only problem? It was literally on the other side of the country in Greenwich, CT, 2802 miles away. But it was a great opportunity, so we rented a truck, piled all our junk in it, and hit the road. (I’m purposefully glossing over the packing process, which was awful.)

I’ve driven cross-country a few times, and loved it. But I’d never done it with four kids under the age of seven. Thank goodness for dvd players and Disney. Speaking of which, on one of our last California days, we hit up Disneyland one last time and grabbed a plush Perry the Platypus, and decided he was going to be our traveling buddy.

I highly recommend driving across this amazing country. There are a million things to see, and even things like the open expanses of Kansas can be breathtaking. But again, maybe don’t do it with little kids and a moving truck. (All said and done, the kids did great, though.)

After five long days on the road, we finally pulled into our new home in Connecticut. It was hot and humid, trees blocked the horizon in every direction, and there were spiders everywhere. I know I wasn’t alone when I thought we should just turn around and head back.

But one word that kept coming up when we told our friends and family about the move, was “adventure.” “This is going to be such a fun adventure” they’d tell us. And you know what? They were right. Getting lost and adjusting to new things and leaving our comfort zones and seeing my kids’ faces when they saw fireflies for the first time. This is an adventure. And what’s life for if not to have adventures?

A great American hero, Neil Armstrong, passed away this last weekend. As I was reading about his life, one quote of his really stuck out to me. He said, “I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” Great words to live by, and ones I hope I can follow. I don’t want to miss out on adventures because I’ve become complacent, even if it means leaving behind everything I know. The clock is ticking, and so are our hearts. Let the adventure begin!


Interview: Comic Book Artist Ryan Stegman

I won’t be at Comic-Con until Saturday, but in the spirit of the event, today I’ve got a special treat! An interview with comic book artist Ryan Stegman! Ryan is an insanely talented guy who’s been working at Marvel for a while, and he just jumped onto Fantastic Four as the new monthly artist.  I’ve been in touch with Ryan on Twitter for about a year now, and he’s an incredibly nice guy. I’m sure his schedule is crazy, but he was still nice enough to answer some questions for me. So without further adieu…

What are some things you do for fun when you’re not drawing?

Watch sports, talk about sports, run, drink (booze), and hang out with my lovely wife and son. Oh, and eat. I love to eat.

Who’s your favorite comic book character and/or superhero, and are there any other mainstream characters you’d love to work on?

Spider-Man. Then Hulk, then Thor. I guess there are a lot of heroes that I’d love to work on that I don’t really know I’d like to work on, y’know? Because sometimes you don’t realize it until you do some work on them. I always knew I loved Spider-Man, but I don’t think I would have realized how much fun it could be to work on the Hulk until I did it. Thor is one that I have enjoyed reading so much, but I haven’t really had much of a crack at him yet.

Do you remember what your first comic book was? Do you still have it?

I believe my mom bought me an X-Men book at a 7-11 when I was about 6 or 7. I have no recollection of who drew it, but I think it had the Brethren in it. And I also think it had a character asking another character if they wanted to go “neck”. I learned what necking was and what brethren meant from that book.

I don’t still have it, but I’d love to see it. It’s become so jumbled in my head that I’m sure I’m mashing up a bunch of things into one comic. But it would be a nostalgic moment, that’s for sure.

How did you get into drawing comics? Was art always something you wanted to pursue?

I always, always, always wanted to draw for a living. My sister and I drew all the time as kids and it was just what I did. I wanted to be a Disney animator for the longest time, I thought, because I was massively into Disney animation as a kid. In fact, I think animation was one of the first things I ever became a snob about. I knew what was good and what was bad.

As I got older, I held onto that dream. But then in high school, I was re-introduced to comics and it all knocked me over. “Oh, THAT’S something I could do with drawing”. And I became obsessed with it right then and there, and never let it go.

Who are some of your influences, both in comics and outside?

In comics I’m influenced by a lot of the cartoonier artists of the 90s. I love Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo, J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira etc. The list goes on and on. As for outside of comics, I guess I’d say I’m influenced by my parents, but who isn’t? And the Beastie Boys. Ha. But sort of seriously.

You’re coming off a six-issue run on Scarlet Spider. What was your favorite part about starting that series off?

Oh man, it was great. I got to design the new costume, and essentially create characters and environment from the ground up. I guess if I had to pinpoint a moment, it would be when I went to Houston when issue one came out. The support there was overwhelming and it just really made me feel like I was doing something significant.

Can you tell us about your inspiration and the process for designing the new Scarlet Spider costume?

I wanted something menacing, but also that fit into the Spider-Family. Red and black are always a great color scheme. And I wanted something simple and classic that could withstand the test of time. And that’s basically it. It’s not much more complex than that.

(Head to Comics Alliance for more on the process, including a bunch of Ryan’s costume ideas and sketches.)

You’re moving on to Fantastic Four now. Is there any difference in how you approach more established characters like FF, versus a newer one like Scarlet Spider?

Yes. I try to adhere to what other artists before me have done on FF. There have been so many greats that have done it. With Scarlet Spider it was all me, but FF is so much bigger. So I just try to be respectful of those that came before me.

Are there any storytelling problems you come up against regularly?

I have a tendency to want to “over-establish”. Meaning, I am so overly careful about environment that I can forget to get up close and show faces etc. And I also want to make the establishing shot the biggest panel, and that’s not necessary. Obviously since I’m conscious of it, I am adjusting it. But it was something that plagued me for a long time. The key is to be smart with what you show.

You said recently that action scenes are your bread and butter. Do you prefer when writers give you a Marvel Style script and let you go crazy, or do you prefer some structure?

I guess I’ve only really had structured scenes, so for now I prefer it because I don’t know any better. But I think working with a writer that accepts that you are going to change up some stuff is great. With [Christopher] Yost on Scarlet Spider, I would take his direction as a suggestion and sometimes tweak things. But he is a very visual thinker, so it didn’t happen often.

I think the key to it all is to just make sure you’re adding to what the writer writes and not subtracting. If you do that, generally everyone is happy.

I’m a huge fan of your art. I’ve noticed your style has become a bit more cartoony lately. Is that a conscious effort or is it just happening naturally?

Definitely naturally. I love cartoony art. I guess that one of the things that is occurring is that I am using less photo reference on figures. Actually, I’m using none. I used to take photos of poses and that would tend to skew my stuff towards realism. But now I pull it all out of my head, and apparently my head is cartoony!

Do you listen to music when you draw? If so, who?

Yes, I listen to all kinds of stuff. Currently I’m obsessed with Jack White’s album “Blunderbuss.” But I go through phases. Generally it’s a lot of hip hop and lots of classic rock. I’m a Beatle freak.

Any advice for those looking to break into comics or any other pearls of wisdom?

If you want to break into comics, just work really hard and get really good at drawing. There is no shortcut. Networking is only necessary if you have skills to apply. I feel like a lot of guys get really networked but aren’t good enough and they don’t understand why their networking hasn’t paid off. You can’t look at it that way. If you’re good, you’ll get the jobs. So GET GOOD!

Thanks so much to Ryan for taking the time to do this interview. As you can see for yourself, he’s an extremely talented guy and is well on his way to becoming one of comic’s superstars. Be on the lookout for upcoming issues of Fantastic Four, check out his Tumblr for sketches and updates, and be sure to follow him on Twitter!

Back It Up!

By Dan Haring

Is there anything worse than pouring your blood, sweat and tears into something you created, only to have it disappear?

Oh, well sure, there’s THAT.

But I’m talking about non-life-threatening things.

More specifically, your manuscript. You know, that thing you’ve been slaving over in the hopes that someday the world will read? What would happen if it got deleted?

I’m sure there would be a fair amount of this.

But that’s not going to get your book back, is it?

Trust me, it won’t. And you’ll just feel ashamed for, A. losing your work and, B. doing the ugly cry.

This actually happened to me with my last post on this blog. I posted it and everything was fine, then I went in to edit it and *poof* it was gone. Luckily I had a backup, and I can’t stress how important it is to do the same with your work.

How? You might ask. 

There are plenty of ways, but I’ll list a couple that I know about.

When I told Jordan about my problem, she suggested something called Windows Live Writer. I haven’t looked into it too much, but it looks like a good option.

But let’s say your computer pulls one of these:


Your files are just gone forever, just like Sarah Jessica Parker, right? Not if you’re smart.

The first option is the external hard drive. These are great and for like a hundred bucks you can get a 2 terabyte drive.

For those non-techspeak people, 1 terabyte will hold a couple million pages of text files. So grab one of those drives and you should be set for life, even if every book you write is longer than Ulysses.

Unless you accidentally knock the hard drive over.

A friend of mine in animation school had all his files on an external drive and he accidentally kicked it, and he totally did the Dawson cry.

So if you’re going to get an external drive, I’d recommend a solid state one. They’re more expensive, but also more durable.

But what if you’re travelling when your computer spontaneously combusts and you don’t have access to your external drive?

There are a number of online options for file backup. I’ve used MediaFire.com and Dropbox.com. You can get a free account with a couple gigs of storage space or pay some money and get a bigger storage limit. Be warned though. I just got an email from Mediafire saying they might delete some of my files because I hadn’t accessed them recently. (It’s probably been about a year) I’m not sure, but Dropbox may have a similar time limit.If you’re accessing it regularly you should be fine.

But my favorite method is free, easy, and allows me to have access to my document wherever I have internet access. It’s called….Gmail.

That’s right. My email account. I actually wrote my first book, all 76,000 words of it, in an email that I saved in my drafts. That way I had easy access to it wherever I had internet, and it would have been very hard to delete.

I’m still a little paranoid about losing my work, so on my recent manuscript, which I wrote in Word, in addition to cutting and pasting the text into an email and saving it, I would periodically email the Word document to myself. Easy enough, right? That way my computer could get nuked and I wouldn’t have lost a word of my work, because I could just download it from Gmail whenever I wanted. It ensures I don’t lose my work, and it keeps my keyboard free from those bitter tears that might otherwise fall.

So that’s what works for me. What about you?

It Takes Work

Look at that picture again.

Good.

Why are you still here?

Well, since you are, I’ll elaborate a little on what Batman is telling you.

In the last five years I’ve been able to accomplish some of my bigger personal goals. I worked on a comic book movie. I worked on a Disney animated film. I wrote a book that got published.

I’m not trying to brag, I’m trying to illustrate a point.

A few people have told me they wish they could do some of those things.

Guess what? They can. There’s no secret to it, just like there’s no secret to any success in life. You work hard, you hustle, and you try to be in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes you win.

Sometimes you lose.

It’s hard.

It’s supposed to be.

I’m not telling you I never procrastinate. I do. I’ve probably wasted hours looking at baby English bulldogs.

I mean seriously, how adorable are these little guys?

But I’ve also been able to buckle down and get things done.

Because I had dreams and goals and didn’t just sit there wishing they’d come true.

I wanted them, and I worked for them.

Comic book artist/writer Faith Erin Hicks tweeted something a while back that really stuck with me.

She said, “What did you do this weekend to get closer to your goal of working in comics?”

Substitute “working in comics” with “writing a book” or whatever your goal is, and then think about it.

What did you do?

And more importantly, what are you going to do now?

It’s not going to fall in your lap.

You have to work for it.

But you can do it.

I believe in you.

And so does Batman.

Reaching “The End”

I’ve been on a pretty tight deadline the past few weeks, but finally Sunday morning, at 2:23 AM, I wrote two glorious words at the bottom of my Word document:

The End.

This is pretty much how I felt:

Followed by a good dose of this after I woke up later that day.

This is only my second time doing it, but finishing a book is a pretty awesome experience. (and don’t bring up revisions. I’m still on a high, okay?)  It’s so cool to be able to get to those last few paragraphs and realize it’s actually going to happen, that this story bouncing around in my head is finally going to be completely written down.

I know the hard parts are far from over. Even after I’ve made it as good as I can, it still might not find a home at a publisher. That’s how things go in this industry.

And even if it does get published, it might not sell well. It might get panned by Kirkus. Who knows?

But I’m not worried about any of that right now. I hope anyone who has ever finished writing a book takes the time to enjoy the accomplishment, because it really is a big one.

Whatever the future holds for you and your story, you wrote a book. That’s pretty darn cool, and you totally deserve one of these.

There will be plenty of time to plan for and worry about the future of this book, and I’m also excited for that part of the process. For right now though, I’m going to celebrate and enjoy the fact that this little story I’ve created has actually made it into the real world.

Right after I do this.
 

Should I Plot or Pants? Yes!

The debate between plotting and pantsing your manuscript is one for the ages. People on both sides swear by their preferred method. The thing is, what works for one person could be the worst thing ever for another. I’m going to say right up front that I don’t think one way is better than the other. You might prefer to work one way, but there are aspects of both that can be really helpful.

First up, Plotting. (or Plodding to those who don’t enjoy it.)

Just like those awful reports you used to have to do in high school, having an outline can definitely help. It gives you a clear path to follow, which can be really nice. To oversimplify things, once you’ve finished plotting, the actually writing is like finishing a dot to dot versus drawing something from scratch.

I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be!

Another nice thing about plotting is you can catch inconsistencies and logical issues before you write yourself into a corner. Again, having a clear path to follow when you write can ease or negate later headaches.

Next up, Pantsing. (or What The Crap Are You Doing? That’s Not How You Write a Book! to its detractors.)

Writing fiction is a creative, artistic endeavor, and for the most part, artists don’t like being told what to do.

Or what not to do.

With pantsing, you can add fun and exciting (or horrible and awful) things to your story as you write, often coming up with things that you might never have thought of if you were sticking to a rigid outline.

Pantsing can also be fun and exciting for the writer because you’re able to let the story take you on a trip. It can be easier to stick with a project because you’re excited to see where it’s going to go next.

Of course, with these positives come some negatives. That’s why I really don’t think you should stick with just one method. When you start, it’s probably best to have at least a rough outline of things that are going to happen. Otherwise you could get well into your story and realize you’re lost in happy fantasy land without a good way out.

…can I go home now?

But at the same time, you can spend so much time plotting and creating a beautiful snowflake for your story that you lose all interest, and the project dies before it even starts. I think it’s best to find a happy medium. A little bit of both works for me, and it might for you. Have at least a rough outline, with clearly defined points you want to make. Then you’re not wasting too much time meandering. But allow yourself some freedom to meander as you write. Characters and events and fantastic things are there to be discovered.

I agree with Robert McKee when he said, “We rarely know where we are going; writing is a discovery.” But I also think it’s good to take a map.