Some ways to write faster

Everyone these days wants to write more words. Or they want to teach you how to write more words. Either way, it’s kind of an ebook craze right now.

I’ve been reading a bunch of those “write faster” books lately – partly for research and partly because, well, I do actually want to produce more words – and I decided to put together a few of my favorite tips from what I’ve read. These are all really practical, and you can start doing them right away. As in, right now. Get to the bottom of this blog post and write, you animal!

Ahem.

Word sprints

Yeah, yeah, I know I harp on these a lot. But so does everyone else, because… they work. Chris Fox has it right: if you track your word sprints, you get a lot out of them. You start to really feel the progress you’re making, motivating you to keep writing, to keep sprinting. (Try out his tracking spreadsheet! I personally use something simpler, but he’s done a lot of work to make it easy.)

If it helps, challenge someone else – another writer or aspiring writer – to join you or participate in a friendly competition. NaNoWordSprints on Twitter is a great place to find strangers to sprint with, if you don’t personally know anyone who wants to participate in such chaos.

How to start: Set a five-minute timer, put yourself in a position to write using your favorite medium, and don’t stop until the timer’s up. Do this until you’re satisfied with your word count.

Invisible ink

As I wrote in a previous blog post, invisible ink is a tactic to keep you from looking at what you’ve been writing and therefore wanting to edit it.

How to start: Open your favorite word processing software of choice, and change the font to match the color of the window (in the case of Microsoft Word or OneNote, it would likely be white). Keep typing, because you can’t slow down to read what you just wrote!

The Parentheses Process

Another one I’ve written about before, the Parentheses Process basically goes like this: if you can’t think of it now, put brackets around the most useful description of what should go there, and move on.

How to start: Choose a piece of writing you’re stuck on, and use brackets right now to “skip past” the hard stuff. Keep skipping every time you reach something you can’t write right now, and you’ll get to the end faster.

Dictation

I’ve just started down this path, and I’m sure I’ll have updates for you soon. In fact, a good portion of this blog post was actually written with my voice! I’m lucky to have a very nice microphone, but you don’t really have to have a fancy setup to get started. All you need is a copy of Windows 10, a microphone of some sort, and a quiet room to talk to yourself.

I don’t actually recommend dictating everything. The system isn’t really optimized for fiction (not even Dragon Naturally Speaking, the industry’s leading dictation software). But this blog post, as mentioned above, was fairly easy to dictate. The style is conversational, and it’s not that hard to think about where I need to punctuate.

How to start: Make sure your Windows 10 computer is on (at least) the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Use the shortcut Start + H on your keyboard to open the dictation bar (it seems to work in Edge and Microsoft Office products for sure), and start dictating.

To make things a little easier, here is a starting list of phrases you’ll need if you want to punctuate as you dictate (full list of what the native Windows speech recognition can do is here):

  • “Period”
  • “Comma”
  • “Exclamation mark”
  • “Question mark”
  • “Open quote”
  • “Close quote”
  • “New line”
Cheatsheets

I’m working on a how-to book right now, intended to help aspiring short story writers get their sea legs, and the way I’m structuring the content, I’m going to create myself a cheatsheet, a tactic I’ve mentioned before. Content that is repetitive or structured in a certain way is ripe for this kind of “hack.”

How to start: Take note of all of the elements in the repetitive content. Are there headers, sections, common transitions? Build yourself an outline that touches on each of these elements, and save it somewhere for easy copying the next time you need to produce that kind of content again.

Setting your scene

I recently read a book called Novel Shortcuts, Chapter 4 of which was about setting up a scene before you start writing it. Whitcomb writes about three tactics she uses to ensure that she skips past a lot of “shitty first draft” problems, which I’ve found incredibly useful as I revise my novel “Portent.”

How to start: List out your scene’s physical and internal actions, beat by beat, including the goal, the conflict, and what is unresolved (whether or not it gets resolved in your scene). Next, write the dialogue version of your scene – “write out what has to be communicated,” is how Whitcomb describes it. (When you actually write the scene, this will likely get distilled down into just a few key crisp lines.) Finally, write the “heartstorm” version of the scene (instead of a “brainstorm”) – focus only on the sensory details the character(s) will experience.

Now, when you sit down to write the real scene, you’ll already have all of this raw material to draw from. This keeps you from going off track and keeps the scene moving in the direction the story needs to take.

Studiolog: Week of July 30th

This might be about the week of July 30th, but ’tis now my namesake month – my favorite, especially when everyone at work has to clarify that they didn’t mean “in August, in the month of August.”

Anyway. What have the Shames have been up to?

I just published my latest short story for The Accidental Magic Project: “Tea for Deux,” based very much on two of my dearest and oldest friends. This was a great example of a story that I’ve been thinking about writing for years; I remember my initial excitement when I first thought of it, and a flurry of note-creating as I explored the idea, and then it went dormant for a couple of years while I collected the necessary material. That’s pretty much how I write my best stories these days – pulling from ideas that struck me some time before and have been simmering on the back burner.

I haven’t been as steadfast about my 7:30 PM writing habit as I’d like, but part of that is having a vacation week this week and being out of town. Still, I’m tracking my word sprint counts using Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour method (in an Excel document), and it’s cool to see that number grow so quickly.

I printed out a bunch of my inspiration pictures – art and photos I’ve gathered (mostly on the curated blogs I follow on Tumblr these days) that remind me of various aspects of Portent – and put them in loosely-related collections on the wall around my workspace. Like this!

Inspiration pics for my main trio.

No real movement for the Shames on the Star Citizen front – I’m going to get a sprint-focused start on my articles for the fall issue of Ships Illustrated, but otherwise, we’ve more or less let this avenue go dormant for a little while.

Four of Jake’s guitars are currently listed on Reverb; if you have any interest in a pretty cool custom axe, check his stuff the heck out!

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

The writer’s guide to self-care

Writers are notoriously bad at self-care. Here’s a non-exhaustive questionnaire to get you on track to focus on getting the words out.

  • Have you brushed your teeth?
  • Have you had a glass of water in the last couple of hours?
  • Have you eaten today?
  • If you consume caffeine, have you had a reasonable amount of it?
  • Have you taken a walk today?
  • Have you stretched in the last 30 minutes?
  • Have you taken vitamin D supplements today, if it’s fall or winter where you live?
  • Have you taken at least five minutes to breathe deeply and meditate, if you do so?

Once you’ve brought your mind and body back into balance, this writer-specific self-care checklist can help you get past a block.

  • Have you read or watched something you enjoy?
  • Do you have a full glass of water nearby?
  • Have you skimmed Chuck Wendig’s self-care checklist lately? (It’s less tactical than this one, but good nonetheless.)
  • Have you warmed up by writing for at least five minutes about whatever’s on your mind?
  • Have you given yourself the freedom to spend some of your writing time on what you want to do, not what you have to do?

When a Dog Howls

Amy and I flipped through Black Cats & Evil Eyes to find headers that inspired us, along with my Story Cubes. This came out of a 5-minute sprint that combined the prompt, “When a dog howls, death is near,” and the image I rolled, “speech.”

Teddy is the worst.

I actually have the statistics to prove it. In the last year, I’ve dog-sat every canine within four blocks of my parents’ house, and I’ve kept a detailed journal for every obsessive, control-freak owner. For my own part, I’ve gotten ten stitches, about $3,000 in mad money, and a lot of data on the neighborhood dogs.

And, as it turns out, Teddy is the worst.

Today I’m keeping an eye on him because his owner Sarge is out of town, seeing his sister. I check the tracking app I created for my dog-sitting business. So far, I’ve suffered through one sneezing fit, three attempts to charge me out the back door, and two howl-fests.

Sarge claims Teddy hates being bossed around by anyone other than Sarge; I’m sure that what Teddy really hates is me.

He starts howling again, which I take to mean he doesn’t like me sitting in Sarge’s armchair. “Shut up, Teddy,” I snap without taking my eyes off the Cardinals game.

“Sarge may not be here, but Death will not simply skip his house,” Teddy shrieks back.

My finger is frozen on the Volume Up button. The announcers start to roar.

I manage to push my jaw closed and wrestle the volume back down. I turn to stare at the Chow-huahua in disbelief.

“Did you just…speak?”

“Death is near,” he intones.

Studiolog: Week of July 16th

The Shames had a heart-to-heart yesterday over the best tacos in town. We realized we’ve continued to try to do a little (or a lot) of everything — and while it’s nice that we can do whatever we want, we should probably focus (as I mentioned previously…but for real) on the things that will bring us comparable rewards.

What does that mean the Shames have been up to?

Jake’s team won the Roberts Space Industries 600i commercial contest with their fantastic cinematic entry! Super proud of Jake’s script and voiceover, and looking forward to collaborating with his team in the future, because with our forces combined

That said, we’ll probably take a short break from focusing on Star Citizen content, until the game is sufficiently ready for our filming endeavors. Even so, we’ll use video in support of what we really like to do: branding ourselves and others, creating music together, and publishing written entertainment.

Speaking of music, I’m on the lookout for some good resources for how to compose a song (not soundtrack music, but a pop-style song). If you have any texts or videos in mind, please send them my way! Amy and I would like to refine our songwriting abilities.

Structure is something we’re going to try out in this new Shames era. I want to be more disciplined about how often I’m writing, and when, and at least start with a small, doable everyday habit at 7:30 PM. (Even if I’m working late, I intend to set everything aside and write for 15 minutes. That’s time I can and should spare!)

I continued to devote some hours to reading this last week and plowed through “An Excess Male.” Very provocative topic and characters, with a strong writing style and four points of view that made for quite fascinating fiction.

Something about summer has brought my “Portent” characters to mind. I started re-writing the manuscript the other day, but it felt like a false start. I’m going to put my latest writing sprint tip into action and try to power through a few chapters to see if it feels right after a while. I know I’m rusty!

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Invisible ink (a word sprint tip)

As a kid I thought invisible ink was awesome. The stuff of mystery books, to be sure, but still very cool and with its potential uses in real life. I never did get around to using physical invisible ink, but I’ve happened upon a rather funny way to utilize it in the digital space.

On the theme of “trick thyself into creativity,” here’s a tip for maximizing the effectiveness* of your word sprints: If you can’t see your words, you can’t edit them.

Instead of sticking with the defaults in the writing program you use (I happen to use Microsoft Word and OneNote), where the “ink” is usually black, set the text color to the same as the background (in my case, that would be white).

Is this disorienting? Abso-freakin-lutely. In fact, it sort of necessitates that you just keep writing, and writing, and going and going and going, because if you don’t keep moving you won’t remember what you’ve already written.

You could end up with a few repetitive lines of dialog, sure. And you could also end up with an actual, factual manuscript that you can then edit, or have someone else edit. Smile!

Grit your teeth, turn the ink invisible, and spill it onto the page.

*Word sprints are most effective when you just pour out words without stopping, and get as many of them onto the page as you can. You’ll be shocked to learn that it’s easier to edit something kind of terrible that exists than something perfect that doesn’t exist…

Studiolog: Week of July 9th

It is so very summer around here. Too hot to function on a computer until after 10 PM!

So without their PCs, what have the Shames been up to?

Mostly Star Citizen stuff these last couple of weeks! All four studio Shames wanted to participate in the Roberts Space Industries 600i commercial contest – but there was a catch: teams could only be three people, max. So we ended up splitting up: Jake worked with our friend Hasgaha and another amazing collaborator, Utho, on a luxury car-style commercial; and Josh, Amy and I teamed up to make a jewelry-style commercial called “600 Reasons to Fall in Love.” (I’m really happy with the music Amy and I composed!) We should find out who won in the next week or so.

We also published the 6th issue of Ships Illustrated, on the theme of “Adventures.” Not our most popular launch, but we were excited to say “ship it!” (punintentional).

Guitars continue to go well. Jake is now working with a local expert to learn how to wire and set up guitars like a pro, and meanwhile he’s done some amazing finishes using Crimson Guitars Stunning Stains.

Personally, I read a few books the last two weeks: Security, Heartsick, and Novel Shortcuts. Highly recommend the first two as, uh, very much not light fiction reads, if you can stomach a fair bit of gore and torture. The writing styles were starkly different and yet both fantastic. Novel Shortcuts made for an interesting first half, then sort of petered out in the second – but I highlighted a lot of good material from that, which inspired portions of my last post.

I’m about halfway through my Accidental Magic Project short story for August, and it’s one of my favorites so far. Speaking of my short stories, Nicole will be illustrating scenes from some of my shorts for her MFA portfolio! I’m very excited to see what she comes up with.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

“I want an idea like that!”

When I’m perusing Half Price Books and spot a book with an amazing cover and jacket text to match, I often find myself muttering the title phrase of this post – half out of rage, and half out of sheer awe. How did not think of this? Oh, right, because I’m not as brilliant as the author who conceived of it, actually wrote it, and then got it published.

I say this despite having done this very thing. That’s because, it turns out, I approach every new idea with the same trepidation and terror I had with that first idea I successfully carried to completion. I’ve been writing for 25 years now, people, and I still get blocked in a major way.

And then there’s that feeling of despair that I experience when I’ve just read a marvelous book: How will I ever create something like this?!

If you, too, get this post-book angst, I’m writing this to intervene with your inner desperation. You can get an idea just like your new favorite one. It’s possible. I promise. It’s hard work, just like everything else in writing, but it’s very much a thing you can do.

Now that I’ve made that bold claim, I guess I’d better break down how I do it, huh? Disclaimer: This might not work for you, but the point of writing about writing is getting out something that works for me, just in case it could work for you too.

start by picking a focus, because the glorious problem with ideas is that they proliferate like mice as soon as you get two in the same room. So instead of starting a giant list of all my favorite everythings, I pick a single one that I’d really like to emulate right now, given my mindset and capacity. Then I answer all subsequent questions with that one favorite in mind. Otherwise, I’d end up in the same bottomless ocean of potential concepts I usually do, unable to pick the one that’s clearly better than the rest.

So you’ve picked an idea you’d like to emulate. After that, it’s time to make lists. And freewrite. Lots of lists, and lots of freewriting. Fair warning: that’s basically what the rest of this post is, so feel free to skip around between lists and illustrative paragraphs to find what inspires you to write right now.

Find the essence

This exercise is very subjective, but very, very important. You had this feeling of wanting an idea “like that” for a reason; the point of this exercise is to get at that reason.

You can choose how you’d like to go about this process: by making a list, free-associating, word-bubbling, freewriting… Whatever helps you write down what it is you love about the idea.

There isn’t a magical, pre-determined list of things that make an idea awesome or captivating or haunting. For example, if you ask me what I loved so damn much as a kid about The Last Battle, I’d start with the line that Jewel the unicorn cries out to his companions as they joyfully wend their way through the afterlife: “Come further up, come further in!” It captures the soul of the story in six simple words.

On the other hand, ask me why I adore Watership Down and regularly re-read it to this day, and I’m immediately put in mind of a character moment: Hazel, weighing up the flaws of a possible ally and deciding that kindness is more useful than criticism, tells Bigwig, “Good. We shall be glad to have you.” It’s Hazel who makes his story what it is for me, and if I were trying to emulate Adams’ novel, I’d likely begin with “an endangered family of creatures” and “a tenacious, reluctant leader as the protagonist.”

To keep things focused, as I’ve advised, I suggest that you make a list of no fewer than three things and no more than ten things that make the story what it is to you. Then go back and circle the ones it wouldn’t be the same without. I’ll call this the Love List.

This is what you’re going to start with to make your own amazing idea.

Gather the elements

Every story has certain components or elements, whether they’re explicitly acknowledged or utilized or not. These lists of exercises can help you understand the mechanics of getting to an idea “like that” by breaking the idea down into parts you can understand and change.

Start by creating an Element List that covers each of the following elements for your favorite idea, preferably in no more than 10-12 words at the most:

  • Title
  • Point of view
  • Voice
  • Character
  • Problem
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Device

This might feel like a book report, or just gushing to a friend about something you enjoy, but that’s exactly the point. Enjoy it! Then you can move on to fleshing out more details about your favorite idea.

You may find you draw from your Love List to populate the Element List. That’s a good sign.

Character

Characters are the lifeblood of a story, without whom a plot is just a timeline. Chances are good that even if you weren’t too keen on a story’s main character, the supporting cast at least stood out to you. Here’s your chance to find out why.

Before you get started, though, which characters in your favorite work would you gladly (or at least curiously) read some fan-fiction about? Those are the ones you should focus on for the other exercises.

  • List your favorite lines of dialog from these favorite characters. Try to limit yourself to the quotes that perfectly capture their personality and attitude.
  • Write down the physical and personality details about your favorite characters that make your heart squeeze when you think about them — the reasons you love them so.
  • What makes your favorite characters unique? Is it the contrast of their occupation (a thief) with their personality (a heart of gold)? Is it the way they don’t fit with their setting (a pot-healer in a synthetic future)? Capture these oddities.
  • What are your favorite characters’ secrets and inner wounds? List as many as you can remember.

Problem

What struggle does the protagonist face in the story you’re choosing as your inspiration? That’s the “problem” — also known as the conflict, or the central challenge. It lies at the heart of the story, and the protagonist’s (nearly) every move should be an attempt to solve this problem.

This problem is likely something simple and human at its core: love, family, home, safety, survival… Nearly all of us face these problems in our own lives, to some degree. It’s the specific mix of character, context, and setting that make the problem come to life.

  • What are the obstacles that stand between the protagonist and solving the problem in the story you’re using for inspiration? List them out one by one.
  • What one word or phrase (no more than five words) can you use to describe the problem (see the above list for inspiration)?
  • Go through the jacket text for the story you chose, and highlight the specific vocabulary words and phrases that refer to the protagonist’s core problem.

Setting

The where and the when of a story can inject personality in a way that nothing else can, not even perfect characters. Choosing a time and place that provides ample vocabulary and circumstance to flavor a story is a masterful art many skillful authors practice. Perhaps it’s the setting of your favorite story that makes it sing…

  • Describe the when and where of your favorite story in the simplest terms possible: “19th century England,” “a far-off planet in 2000 years,” “10 years ago in a city like mine.”
  • What are some of the unique features of the world that set your favorite work apart, even from other works in a similar setting? Jot these down.
  • How does the setting of your favorite story manifest in the narration? Come up with 4-5 examples.

Plot

A plot is a formula: character + problem + setting + time = plot. It’s what happens to who, because of where and when it’s set. Not all stories about naïve protagonists, set in space an ambiguously “long time ago,” will be Star Wars, in large part because of who those protagonists are and what happens to them. Think of the plot as the window through which you will see the characters: how long the audience is with them, and for what key events in their lives.

  • What plot twists do you find particularly satisfying in your favorite story? Spoilers are welcome for this exercise.
  • Which parts of the plot of your favorite story feel inevitable, but not cliche? Describe them in 3-5 words.
  • What is the cheesiest moment of the plot of your favorite work? How about the most dramatic? Where do these fall in the timeline of the story?

Devices

Devices are storytelling vehicles. They run in all shapes and sizes, from “one-syllable words only” to “Hans Christian Anderson-style fairy tale” to “the narrator watches the events unfold from a security room, so sometimes the story occurs concurrently.”

A good writer uses the device to squeeze the most emotional tribute out of their audience as possible. A fairy tale, for example, might set up the expectation of some sort of “happily ever after,” and if you choose this device, you can throw more and more seemingly impossible obstacles in the way and readers will still buy that things turn out alright.

  • What scenes or plot points does the device enable in your favorite story? (In other words, which would not be possible if the story had been told in another manner?)
  • Can you think of stories that are similar to the one you’ve chosen, but that use different devices? You may have to think hard on this one – a good device can disguise many elements.
  • Make a list of 10 or more devices you enjoy (from different stories). When you’re done with the list, go back through and circle any recurring themes.

Titles

OK, here’s a little secret: titles don’t really matter. Whoops! That’s going to get quoted out of context. Look, it’s not that titles don’t matter. It’s that you, the author, the person who’s closest to this work and its most fiercest defender, are probably not the right person to come up with a title that will matter. And when I say “matter,” I mean in selling your idea, in convincing a potential buyer to shell out some hard-earned money for it. Leave that to the marketers and publishers in your life; they’ll help you cross that bridge when you come to it.

But the right title sticks with you, and so if you’re inspired by the title of your favorite work – if you feel it’s so integral to that work’s meaning, it wouldn’t be the same without it – here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • What are some other possible titles that your favorite work may have been given? Brainstorm 8-10 options based on pithy quotes, character names or roles, dramatic events, cultural references, or whatever else was memorable material. How would these alternate titles change your perception of the story?
  • What is the cadence of the title? One syllable, or eight? Is it simple or full of complex meaning (or both)? Come up with some titles that “feel” similar, but are meant for entirely different works.

Point of view

A story’s point of view indicates both the perspective used (first-, second-, or third-person), as well as which character(s) the audience is privy to. Third-person limited point of view, for example, means that a character is not narrating the story themselves, but the audience will witness only that one character’s thoughts.

Genre and content can dictate point of view, but you should feel free to experiment on this element.

  • How does the point of view chosen for your favorite work help the storytelling? Does it keep the audience in suspense like the character, or does it give the audience a breath-stealing view into what will happen before the character is ever aware?
  • As a reader, you’re led along by the chosen perspective of a work. How does that of your favorite story help you better understand – or intentionally misunderstand – the protagonist?

Voice

Ahh, the buzzword of my industry. I purposefully chose to use “voice” here because it’s ambiguous. It means the writer’s own tone and word choice – and, by proxy, that of the protagonist – but it also means the characters’ dialog, the way they speak and what the writer allows them to say.

  • Go back through your favorite work and jot down 8-10 favorite lines. If these are dialog, even better.
  • Describe the style of your favorite work’s author in a few paragraphs. Pretend you’re writing a book report focused solely on the stylistic choices they made.
Put your spin on it

Ahh, 50 Shades of Grey. What a crazy thing! Someone took an extremely popular idea they loved that happened to inspire them, broke it down into its elements, changed just enough of those elements, and spawned another hit franchise in doing so.

Guess what? There’s an actual legal definition of “just enough.” It’s 20%. Twenty percent of your work has to be materially different from the original, and then it’s legally not the same idea. It’s derivative, sure, and maybe not every writer would be proud of themselves for walking as close to that 20% line as E.L. James did. But then again, she’s making bank, and I think artists should be proud of themselves for making something that people like enough to pay money for it. (I digress. That’s a topic for another time.)

So here are some ways you can put your own spin on your favorite idea. The thing is, even if you “only” change 20% of the elements you’ve been listing in the above exercises, your work will still be something unique born of your own voice, experience, and sense of wonder. Don’t worry too much about how far you’ve pushed the envelope. That can come at the revision stage, when an editor or sharp alpha reader can help you bolster the things that are unique about your work and downplay the things that aren’t.

Three degrees of separation

This is a pretty straightforward exercise. Take the Element List you created for your favorite idea, choose three of the elements, and change them. (Or use some of the material you generated in the more specific exercises.)

Now start exploring how these new elements affect the others. How would the characters act differently in another time period? What plot points would become irrelevant if the setting changed? How does the narrative change if you remove the device altogether?

Use this list for inspiration:

  • Make the story about a different character.
  • Give the protagonist a different problem.
  • Give the same problem to a different protagonist.
  • Put the same story in a different setting.
  • Put a different story in the same setting.
  • Tell the same story from the point of view of a different character.
  • Using the same point of view, tell the story of a different character.
  • Tell a different story about the same character.
  • Use the same device on a different story.
  • Frame the same story with a different device.
  • Throw in an unexpected twist to the plot.
  • Take the plot and set it in another time.
  • Give the story a different title.
  • Come up with another story that could share the same title.
  • Change the voice to tell the same story.
  • Try to emulate the same voice, but for a different story.
The final touches

By this point, you probably have something that you’re pretty excited about starting in on. Hold up, one last thing! Just to bring this whooole exercise full-circle, make a Love List for your new idea.

Of course, you don’t know yet what your future story won’t be the same without, or what your audience will savor forever about your story. But hopefully your writerly heart is beating a little faster and your word-ful blood is pumping a little harder, and you already kind of know what it is that makes you want to do all of the hard work of dragging an idea out of your imagination and into the world.

Whenever you falter, whenever you start to question why you bother, pull out the Love List for your idea – and remember why you once told yourself, “I want an idea like that!”

Studiolog: Week of June 25th

As a person who works on a product that synthesizes data and tries to help people make sense of it, I regularly wish there was an easier way to track my creative cycle. In my fickle memory, summers are a mixed bag: some years I’m on fire, some years I’m sluggish. I wish I could see the larger pattern somehow.

With or without data collection, life rolls on. So what have the Shames been up to?

We met last weekend and talked seriously about what kinds of projects we thought could bring some money in to the studio. The general consensus: music, guitars, self-published fiction, and our comic book project with Alex. That list is where we plan to put the majority of our efforts.

To that end, Amy and I have been working on a song called “Bloom with Me.” It’s melodramatic and ridiculous, and I’m excited that I got Amy to do the vocals for me, because she’s great at selling the tone of the song. I’m also pleased with the fact that I have a song, something I don’t have to care about too much but that I will be able to say I finished…when it’s done.

I’ve laid out the 6th issue of Ships Illustrated, and we’re expecting to launch that on July 9th. I created a trailer (I made the music too!) for the upcoming issue last weekend.

The Sharper Axe is almost finished with a few more guitars, which should go on sale this week. The Pinkie Pie guitar is still available, so if you’ve got a kiddo or a friend who enjoys My Little Pony, this would make a fun gift! My Seagull turned out beautifully, by the way.

The purple is a little more even in person, but it’s definitely this shiny.

I must admit, this month, I slacked on The Accidental Magic Project. I wasn’t able to find the time and motivation to contribute a story this month, so I’m going to save it for next month. I’m very excited about it, I just couldn’t do it! I look at this as a tiny victory for self-care.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of June 18th

Is this thing still on?

Man, what have the Shames been up to? Besides, of course, sprawling in the heat, getting more new jobs, and rescuing guitars…

Wait, rescuing guitars? Yes, Jake is now the lead artist at the shop in our garage we’re calling The Sharper Axe. He finished his first guitar this week, and yes, it IS inspired by Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. (It’s also for sale, if you have a kid or pal who loves the show!) There’ll be pictures of the avocado guitar (also going up for sale), the spectacular orange bass for Amy, and my own purple Seagull M4 very soon.

We’ve been posting semi-regularly on our musical collective’s Instagram, so if you’re interested in our weird little loops, you can find ’em there.

For The Accidental Magic Project last month, I wrote a short story called “The Chessboard“. Trivia that’s probably only interesting to me: it was inspired entirely by a visit to a pawn shop in West Seattle – I had none of this story when I walked in, and most of it when I walked out. Funny how some places and people can just grab your imagination.

I’m itching to work on a novel again, so I have a feeling I’ll be picking up one of my trusty inspiration books – like Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing or Lamont’s Bird by Bird – or one of the many “novel tricks” books that always get me fired up, and following that up with wrapping on the first draft of “Portent.” How long can I drag this damn thing out? Weeee shall seeeeee…

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Books and bytes