Sunday, April 22, 2012


Today, I started writing my book. It was only one paragraph, but I am proud. Life is good.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thoughts Before the Fall

Why, hello there. It's been a while.

Hey, didn't you start another post like this?

Yeah, besides the point. Originality is overrated, especially within my craft. I've decided in advance to throw topic focus down the well for the duration of this post, so I ask your forgiveness for the wandering nature of my thoughts. I have a few things I want to talk about before I officially begin NaNoWriMo, as I feel these things are important for me to remember this month.

When I started this blog, my original intention was to use it for building a readership for my writing. It was going to be my "author blog," which, in short, was supposed to give people who love hopefully like my work a place to go to learn about me. Also, I wanted to document the experience of writing my first novel which, if I'm published, might provide some other new writer inspiration in the future. I find that I am always in need of encouragement and validation as a writer, so hopefully someday my words as random bits of advice might help someone in the future.

While these things are well and good, in practice, my blog has become a place for me to write about what I'm learning as a new writer. I can't be bothered to do the research, but I remember someone saying that "the best way to learn something is to teach it." I have found this to be 100% true. Whenever I talk about some aspect of writing or the creative process on the blog, I am forcing myself to think critically about it, making myself better understand my topic by putting it into words. As practice and reminders to myself, JJ's Magical Rag has proven it's worth, and I hope to continue using it as such for months and years to come. I humbly ask you to bear with me.

Oh no, not the bare/bear thing again...

So, as I might have mentioned in the past, National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo) kicked off Tuesday, the 1st of November. As of yet, I have not started. Shame on me. Truth is, I'm scared. This thing called "fear" happens to me a lot with writing. Luckily for me, this kind of writing stage fright is not uncommon. The solution (which, don't let me fool you, I know very well) is to just plow through it. All I need to do is start.

Well, tomorrow, I'm going to do just that. I'll even prove it. Look for a link in a special "Day 1 which is actually Day 3" blog post. There are a few things anyone who is considering participating in NaNoWriMo should remember:

   - Turn of your internal editor. That douchebag will just get in the way and show your progress.Your goal is 50,000 words, and you'll never get there unless you learn to initially ignore some of your mistakes.

   - Outline your story before you start. Even though it won't be perfect, your story will be better and more usable at the end of the month if you know where you're going when you start writing.

   - Don't be afraid to commit. There are some late night ahead if you want to reach 50,000 words. Accept it and work through it. Sleep is for the dead.

   - Have fun! I have heard it from a number of sources that NaNoWriMo is an extremely valuable experience whether or not you can actually use the material you wrote during November. Don't let the stress make you sick.


That'll about do it for today. Thank you for reading my irrelevant NaNoWriMo tips. Remember, by reading them, you help me help myself. Until next time....

Take the leap with me.

See you at the bottom


Friday, October 14, 2011

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble

Alas, there was a time, long, long ago.....a time where this blog was supposed to include "written triviality." I sat here last night, drinking Woodchuck's last fermented apples of the season (Try the stuff, it's great) when a wild flight of fancy took me. I want to write a Halloween story! Buh...buh....

BUH! Get it? Dramatic woodchuck? I know, I crack myself up.

Why, you ask?

    "Jarryd, a holiday-themed story will never sell. The markets and time-frame are too narrow."

I agree, it will likely never sell to a professional market. But that's not my purpose. My purpose is simple creative fancy. You see, before I got home to sit in front of the computer and drink fermented cider, I attended a meeting of my bi-monthly writer's group, the Palm City Word Weavers. We are a motley crew of experienced veterans and new talent. I am neither experienced nor talented, yet I do my best to learn from both. Anyway, at this meeting, several of my fellow writers presented Halloween-themed stories for critique. Needless to say, I was inspired. I had the privilege to listen to whimsical stories about magical pumpkins and creepy stories about the weird guy next door. As I listened, I got to thinking.....

    "Hell, fall is one of my favorite times of year. A time when harvest apples, leaf-diving whimsy, and the spirits of the dead all get together. Why can't I write about that?"

Good question, Jarryd.

I want to write this story. I may not be able to sell it in the traditional sense, but it'll give me something fun to read at Howl at the Moon next week. Plus, if it turns out well, there's this little contest the story would be perfect for.

So yes, the prospect of a sale on this one is a bit slim at the get-go. Who cares. Sometimes, you just have to write what you like. Until next time...

Be sure to fly all of your fancies,


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Into the Middle of Things

As I mentioned last time, I signed myself up to participate in NaNoWriMo 2011, which challenges me to write a 50,000 word novel in a little under one month. As I also mentioned last time, I'm scared to death. When I'm scared or nervous, I tend to fret endlessly about everything regarding the subject of my nervousity. (ok, I totally didn't know "nervousity" was a word before I wrote it. I guess you learn new things every day *cue thumbs up*)


OK, back on topic. When nervousity gets the better of me, I worry. Not surprisingly, I'm currently worrying about my novel. The world I've created is of utmost importance to me and, like a child on their first day of school, I want to present it in the best possible light. It will be the first time most people will see my world, and I want to make sure it doesn't trip over the proverbial steps and land on its proverbial face.

Not pretty.

If my first novel is the first most people will see of my world, the beginning of said novel is the first part anyone will see period (.)

Gee pal, thanks for dragging us through the unecessary logic chain on that one.

I know it's tedious, but I just want to emphasize how important the beginning is to me, and therefore why I'm having so much trouble nailing it down. Not only is the beginning the first part of a novel potential readers (read: customers) see, it's also where novels are potentially sold or rejected by editors and agents. It lays the groundwork for the entire book, and often a book will sink or swim based on that groundwork. You might see why I'm concerned.

Anyway, there is a terrible precedent in the fantasy genre to start books slowly. In some of my favorite fantasy series, the first book starts by carefully laying out the protagonist's humble beginnings, usually as a Luke-Skywalker/Frodo-esc farmboy, who will eventually lose their family and humble beginnings to fiery tragedy. Hero will then promptly grow up to save the world in some fashion from glossy black rebreathers, magical lightning, and cyclopsian black towers. It's such a classic and mythical archetype that the farmboy-orphan beginning persists as a bit of a cliche within the genre. Now, I'm not one to buck tradition. I want my protagonist to follow similar lines, because, well, I like it. My only problem is that I actually want to sell my book. If I persisted with my preferred beginning, the only result would be a pile of pink rejection slips. So, in the interest of my future livelihood, I've been hard at work trying to find ways to subvert and disguise that particular trope.

After several sleepless nights, I remembered something I'd heard on an episode of Writing Excuses. They referred to something called "in medias res." According to God, in medias res translates from Latin as "into the middle of things." It is a narrative technique used by some authors to break out of slow and exposition-heavy beginnings by starting the narrative in the middle of the story (read: the action and fun parts) while periodically filling in the needed exposition (read: beginning). Homer was a fan, as he employed in medias res in both the Illiad and the Odyssey.

Who am I to second guess Homer?

Through much thought and careful plotting, I've decided to start the first novel with the end of the final novel. By allowing the reader to see what happens near the end of the trilogy, I hope to lend the first two books a sense of tragic inevitability before the story finally catches up to itself near the end of last book. While this technique doesn't exactly fit the exact definition of in medias res, it fits somewhere in between in medias res and a classic frame narrative. It's not exactly an original technique, but it's unique and interesting enough that it should serve to get people through the boring exposition to the meat of the story.

Remember to sign up for NaNoWriMo if you haven't yet, and check out my entry for the 150-word Reader's Digest contest =). If you have trouble getting to my entry, "Like" Reader's Digest, and disable "Secure Browsing" in your Facebook security settings. Until next time,

Be wary of faceplants and cyclopsian black towers,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

NaNoWriMo and Other Fatal Maladies

This week, I'm proud to announce my status as an "Official Participant" in NaNoWriMo 2011. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for "National Novel Writing Month," which takes place annually in the month of November. My goal will be to write a 50,000-word novel in about 25 days. In short, I'm terrified.

So terrified.

According to Microsoft's Calculator suite, that equals 2000 words a day, or roughly 1.4 words a minute for 25 days straight. Why subject myself to such rushed literary torture? Three reasons:

1. I eventually want to write full time, which means writing (almost) everyday. I want to see what that's like, and NaNoWriMo gives me a good excuse.

2. I have a problem with accountability. With NaNoWriMo approaching in November, I now have a hard deadline for finishing my short stories, allowing me to move on to my novel.

3. I've been challenged. Fellow writer and blogger Candice Coghill threw down her proverbial glove on Facebook earlier this week, and I am now honor-bound to kick her literary tail.

Since I promised to document the experience of writing my first novel, I will be releasing frequent updates throughout the month of November, providing fresh and exciting updates from the gritty novel-writing front lines. Wartime press coverage will boldly go where no split infinitive has gone before.


Lastly, I've recently submitted a piece to the Reader's Digest contest, "Your Life....The Reader's Digest Version." The contest consists of 150-word stories, lessons, advice, etc. The winner receives $25,000 as well as publication. The contest was a great exercise, as it forced me to condense my message to a strict word limit and trained me to make every word count. I highly recommend everyone to give this a go. You can read and vote for my entry here.  Best of luck to anyone who enters!

Also, I've added my NaNoWriMo profile to the links on the left sidebar of my blog homepage. Check me out, or better yet, sign up and friend me. =) Until next time...

Game on,


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Art of Trailblazing and Remounting Steeds

Last week, I received my first rejection slip.

It hurt. Bad.

Well, I can't say I expected anything else. Now that my minor cardiac laceration has had time to heal, I'm taking a longer view on things. My story is good, I have no doubt. It was well executed and original, and my writing group liked it. I feel like it was good work. However, there is something vital, something extremely important I forgot during my time of wretched inconsolability. (yeah yeah, not a word). My story is good, yes. But it can be better. Much better, even. To me, this is good news. Even though they sent me a form letter rejection after two months with no feedback, I believe I have identified the things that, while relatively minor, caused my story to be rejected. My story, for instance, is fairly short. At 2000 words, it falls short of most professional market's preferred length of around 4000 words. There are several parts of my protagonist's story that could stand to be fleshed-out and clarified. Doing so, I know I can easily double the word count of my story.

Rejection, whether literary, professional, or romantic, is never easy. Just like dating, however, it's important to carry on. For me, it's time to get back on the proverbial horse.

*cue triumphant whinny*

With life doing its best to put me on my back, rejection is just what I needed to pick me up. I've been in a bit of a creative rut lately, so there's nothing like a good kick in the pants to get me moving again. All I can do is write, revise, and submit again. I know that if I keep at it, it will only be a matter of time. Comments, advice, and consolation are always encouraged. =)



Sunday, September 25, 2011

We Can't Repel Bias of this Magnitude!

This week, I've been cooking up a short story inspired by the Five for Fighting song posted at the top of my home page. It takes place from the point of view two characters with two very different perspectives of both the world and their shared situation. Sometime around last month, I posted my thoughts on bias and stereotypes as they relate to writing characters. It's an important topic and it highly relates to my current project, so I've decided to cover a slightly different aspect of it.

"Oh no," you say. "Not the dreaded and much-maligned repost!"

It's not that bad, I promise. Bear with me, it'll be worth it, I swear.....wait, I can never remember if it's



Oh well, I guess it doesn't really matter. Anywho, once more unto the purpose of this post.

Today, I want to talk about perspective. Everyone, as in us humans, perceives the world in different ways. As I discussed before, people form personal constructs or stereotypes based on how they view the world. Because we all have different personal experiences or beliefs, personal constructs and simple perceptions therefore vary from person to person. And because fiction, at its heart, is simply a simulation of real or imagined life, we generally want our characters to reflect this. A classic example of this (stolen shamelessly from the guys at Writing Excuses) is to have a hypothetical full cup of water sitting on a hypothetical table in a hypothetical room. 3 people walk into said room and see the cup. Each person (if they were real) would have somewhat different thoughts regarding the cup of water. For example, a nomad from the desert would view the cup of water differently than someone hailing from a more fertile climate.

Now, because I love fun examples, I'm gonna try to demonstrate this further. The example I'm going to use is...

wait for it......

Oh, yes I did. And yes. It is a trap.

Herein lies a valuable lesson within a lesson for everyone: You can learn something for everyone and everything. I promise you that Admiral Ackbar, commander of the Rebel fleet and failed University of Mississippi mascot candidate, has something to teach us about writing perspective.

At the time Ackbar discovers the potentially-fatal Imperial ambush and emphatically delivers his famous lines, several different things might have been going through his fishy head. Let us consider some of the things we know about our dear Admiral:
  1. Admiral Ackbar is a member of the Calamari species (I can't believe Lucas named them that), who risked everything to support the fledgling Rebel Alliance. If the Alliance fails, his people will most likely suffer greatly and/or be wiped out by the Empire.
  2. Ackbar is an Admiral and leader of the Rebel Fleet participating in the Battle of Endor. By nature, the small Rebel Alliance must be a tight-knit group. He likely cares a great deal about those whom he commands.
  3. Lastly, the Admiral is in a dire situation. He has just discovered that his hopes, friends, entire species, and own life are likely about to go up in a fiery miasma of Death-Star-operational-ness. 
So, when he utters his famous lines, "It's a trap!" and "We can't repel fire of that magnitude!", it initially seems a bit absurd and sensationalist. However, when we viewed through the lens of his perspective, Ackbar's reaction is quite understandable and appropriate.

When we write characters, we want to get into their heads. What are they thinking and feeling at the moment? How does their past affect them? These questions and others must be considered when we make our characters, and once considered, their actions should match accordingly -- for characters are simulations and analogs for real humans, and they must be real to us for them to be real for our readers. If we fail, and write characters based on stereotypes and give them no motivations and thoughts to inform on their action, the results will be flat and uninteresting. Remember, everyone (and every character) perceives the world in different ways. Write accordingly.

As always, thank y'all for reading. If you like it, feel free to share it and/or comment. I love hearing what everyone has to say. Until next time...

Beware of traps,