Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

So Broadswords and Blasters is dead. At least for the foreseeable future. Why? A lot of reasons, but the amount of time and money Cameron and I were pouring into it, and the relative lack of return we were seeing on it was draining. From most objective standards, our experiment to launch a New Pulp magazine was a glorious failure. Even with our shoestring budget, we didn’t quite break even. We didn’t win any awards[1]. Hell, we weren’t even nominated for any to the best of my knowledge.

And yet.

This past month, with the announcement of our closing, showed that what we did mattered to a number of people. We were the first paid publication (hey, you could buy a burrito at least) for a number of writers. For others, we gave them a confidence boost when they needed it. I’m sure a few people stuck around for our social media feeds (okay, by that I mean Twitter, because I ignored Facebook for the most part), including our allegedly legendary Follow Fridays where I tried to highlight our contributing writers, fellow publications, and friends of the mag. We worked hard to be apolitical in a time where everything is political (how much we upheld the status quo is probably up for debate, but it isn’t one we’re all that interested in having).

We did succeed in one aspect. Our goal, from day one, was to publish action-adventure stories. We weren’t interested in avant-garde structures or allegories or Big Idea stories. We still managed to get stories featuring morally complex characters, plots that tended toward shades of gray as opposed to black and white, and damn if we didn’t get some stories that made us laugh and others that brought a tear to the eye. If there was one big failing, it was that we didn’t get enough readers exposed to the great writing going on in the indie scene and that will be my biggest regret.

So what’s next? For me, at least, it is chipping away at a fantasy novel featuring Liam the Black (a short story featuring Liam is set to be published some time this year by Kzine). I’ve already got stories in upcoming issues of The Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine, Econoclash Review[2], and Cirsova.

It’s working on more short stories for more markets. It’s reading more. Reviewing more. It’s submitting more places than I did the year before. I should also finish this[3].

Anyway, that’s my year set out now that we’re one half of one twelfth through the year.

None of us getting younger, you know?

[1] We did come in 3rd place among Fiction Magazines in the Critter Poll of 2019.

[2] Now an imprint of Down & Out Books

[3] Seriously, me? 2017? I know at least one person was enjoying it.

(Yes, I had more thoughts on NaNoWriMo. This list is related to the post below.)

  1. Do your research now. If you’re having to spend time looking things up while you are writing, you are wasting precious, precious writing time.
  2. Be excited about what you want to write. If you hate everything about your story, what makes you think readers are going to like it any more than you do? Related: what do you not see enough of in fiction that you would like to see? Now is your chance even if the only one that ever sees (or hears) the final product is your cat. Or dog. You get the idea.
  3. Related to number one: organize your research. Index cards, word doc files, scrivener notes, post-it notes, pencil scribbles on bar napkins. It doesn’t matter what it is, but if you can’t access your research while you are writing, it doesn’t matter how much research you did. Time spent finding your notes is time you could have been writing.
  4. Speaking of time: you will never “find” enough time. You have to carve out time for yourself with a butcher blade and a chainsaw.
  5. You should know what’s going to happen in the story. I can’t stress this enough. Approaching the story as a magical mystery tour where you are writing to find out what happens is a good way to get yourself trapped by plot holes or needing to save everything with a Deus Ex Machina. Plan. Outline. You’ll thank me later.
  6. NaNoWriMo isn’t the time to be looking for the perfect word. If you are struggling to find the medical term for bruise, know you could have written bruise and the next four sentences in the time it took you look up ecchymosis.
  7. Don’t be afraid to steal. Steal from other books. Steal from movies. Steal from TV. Steal from life. Steal from lots of different places and everyone will think you are original.
  8. Break it down into manageable chunks. I get it, 50k words seems like a lot of words. It is a lot words. So what about 2,000 words? Write 2,000 words a day for 25 days and you won’t only be done, but ahead of schedule.
  9. I mentioned characters in the last post. Antagonists are characters. What’s making the bad guy do what they do? What’s in it for them? How do their goals run counter to the protagonist?
  10. Think in terms of scenes. We don’t need to see the entire journey from Point A to Point written out. Is that trip uneventful? Great. SKIP TO THEM ARRIVING.
  11. The only person you are really competing against is yourself. Comparing yourself to how other people are doing is good way to get discouraged, especially if this is your first attempt. Think of it this way- the only who can tell this story in this particular way is you.
  12. No one is going to judge you if you don’t get to 50,000 words, except maybe you. No matter how many words you get down, it’ll be that many more than where you started November 1.
  13. Finish. Your. Shit. You got to 50k…buuuuut your story isn’t finished. So sit down on December 1 and work to finish it. Even if you aren’t planning on it ever seeing the cold light of day, it’s important to finish what you are working on. (And just ignore that drawer full of half-finished stories I just slammed close- this is Do As I Say not As I Do time, and we’ve all got our flaws). This is about finishing a draft you can then polish, not, “Yay! I wrote a story I don’t ever have to look at it again!”
  14. Don’t let anyone tell you NaNoWriMo is for people who aren’t “real” writers. A lot of people who write can get pretentious about what constitutes a “real” writer. Do you write? Good, you’re a writer then. We all gotta start somewhere.
  15. NaNoWriMo isn’t actually the end. What happens next is you let it sit until January 1. Get through the holidays. Get some distance and perspective. On January 2nd (because, let’s face it no one does much of anything on January 1), you get to phase two – editing. That’s where you get to take your word slurry and try to make it into something coherent. That’s where the real work starts.

Extra special bonus tip: Get rest. Be sure to eat and drink. You’ll write better rested and cared for than exhausted and distracted by being hungry or thirsty.

Feel free to comment, like, and share!

The question is a simple one. “Why do you write?” Why do you take time out of your day when you could be doing so many other useful things? Why do you feel the need to inflict upon the world your fantasies and fictions?

Because I can. Because I have to. Because sometimes the only way to silence the voices is to write it out, and I’m too damn narcissistic to perhaps do the humble thing of locking away what I write in a drawe, never to see the light of day.

I write because I have stories I want to tell, characters who speak to me that want to speak, that want to act, that want to live. I write because I can and because it is the one artistic talent I have.

I can’t draw. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I can’t paint, sculpt, or play a musical instrument.


I can string words into sentences into paragraphs into stories. On occasion I can spin a phrase into something beautiful.

I write because I was an awkward, nerdy kid in school who escaped into books, who liked fantasy and science-fiction because it was so very different from everything else I was experiencing at the time. I could disappear into books, and I admired and envied those able to spin stories.

As I got older, I learned to pull stories apart, study the bones and entrails, divine what made the stories tick, how they were put together. What separated good writing from bad. Something that nowhere near enough high school or college classes are good at teaching, at least at any level prior to grad school maybe. By learning how stories work, I learned to put together my own. I learned how to juke left when the predictable thing to do would be go right.

I write because it is still an escape. For me, for others. People get to disappear into my words for a time, and maybe there’s a nerdy, awkward kid out there who needs that. Who connects with what I’m doing. Who finds their own inspiration.

And hell, I write because it’s fun. It’s exciting to write action scenes. It’s fun writing punch-drunk dialogue, the back and forth sniping of two characters. It’s fun making terrible things happen to fictional people, to pull the strings and make them dance.

I write because I can’t stop. I’ve actually gone months without writing a story, and when I do I feel like a piece of me is missing. And then I’m back, blank screen in front of me. Filling it up with words into sentences into paragraphs into stories. Maybe I’m an addict. Maybe I can’t stop. And maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’m not the type to go out to the bar and bullshit with the regulars. Maybe this is my stool, my space, and I get to tell the stories I want to tell.

Why do I write? Because it is something deep within me, something inextricably a part of me that needs this like a junkie with his fix. And even if it goes no further than this and a couple of stories out there in the world, well, so be it.

But I’m still writing. Still submitting. And I’m not stopping any time soon.

[This week’s Chuck Wendig Challenge]