How Not Tetris explains my planning process

I’m a planner. Ever since I wrote my first novel in 2010, I’ve usually had many different story ideas tucked away in their own Word documents. Each time a new idea comes to me that would apply to one of these stories, I open up the document and jot it down so I won’t forget about it. Even though I plan my writing projects out years in advance, there are usually plenty of ideas I never use in the finished manuscript. Either the flow of the story prevents their use, or I find they aren’t as strong as I initially thought they were. While I’m not nearly as fastidious about collecting ideas together before starting a project as I used to be (First Name Basis had 35 pages of notes), I do continue to plan and research well ahead of when I finally sit down and write the first draft. There are plenty of ideas I never use. Recently, I’ve re-discovered a free...
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What it takes to do it all

There are days I see the benefits of going with the traditional publishing route. When you are signed on with a publisher, they provide some of the hard work it takes to make a manuscript into a polished and publishable product. From editors to formatters to cover artists to distribution, these publishers have the resources to help an author be successful. But what about the self-published author? One of the common misconceptions about being an author (especially a self-published one) is that we only have to write. In reality, a self-published author needs to perform the entirety of the publishing process by themselves. Now, you may be asking yourself, “OK, you have to do it all, but what does that even mean?” Let’s start at the beginning of the process, and I’ll walk you through it. If you want to self-publish, you have many jobs to do. Many of the most famous authors have a research department (or person). These are the people...
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How traveling improves your writing

With the invention of the internet and the ease of access to an endless supply of research materials, practically every aspect of the writing process can occur on a home computer. We all know the cliché of the writer who holes themselves up in their house and spends days upon days in a disheveled state writing their book. While I always encourage writers to get out of their house and write somewhere else once in a while (especially when they have writer’s block), many successful writers have found what works for them, and it often involves a routine centered on making themselves the most productive they can be. Depending on their home situation, they could very well spend most of their time writing from the comfort of their favorite desk or table. Unfortunately, a limitation of spending so much of the writing process indoors is that some of the best research needs to happen in the field. One of the best...
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Why exoplanets aren’t as reachable as you think

One of the tenets of science fiction is that of inter-planetary travel. The dream of boarding a spacecraft and launching out to the far reaches of the universe is an exciting idea, but the reality of this happening anytime soon is slim to none. Despite NASA’s Kepler mission identifying almost 3,000 exoplanets in its mere three years of research, there are limitations to reaching any of these newly-discovered planets. Through some research I’ve done for my science fiction novel, Frozen Planet, four boundaries are keeping us from traveling to the thousands of planets in the known universe: Habitable Zone Distance Gravity Slings Escape Velocity The first problem with many of these planets is that they aren’t the right distance from their respective star for us. Too close and we’d burn up, too far and we’d freeze to death. The zone right in the middle is known as the “Goldilocks Zone” for being just right to sustain life. Fortunately, because the research that discovered these planets...
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10 years of journaling (and what it has taught me)

Earlier this year, I started polishing up the first draft of Fourteener Father, which I wrote last November. Because the time span this memoir covers was so vast (20+ years), one of the details I needed to flesh out had escaped my memory. It did not, however, escape my journal. Knowing the date I climbed the mountain in question; I used my journal entries of the nearby dates to nail down the detail I had forgotten. However, I was surprised to learn an interesting fact when flipping through my old journals. I have been journaling for over ten years now. That's a decade of my life written down and kept for posterity. Now, there's been plenty of changes in my life since I began writing to myself on January 1, 2007. I've graduated college with a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Engineering, moved to Alabama, written numerous novels, moved back to Colorado, dated and eventually married my wife. These simple, daily...
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When a short story is no longer a short story

Over the years, I've usually planned out my writing pretty well. I always felt that each element of the plot had a purpose and a place that added to the cohesive whole of the story. Consequently, I've really struggled with the concept of "killing your darlings." For those of you who haven't heard about this writing tactic, it essentially boils down to being able to let go of certain aspects of your story, especially when they don't add anything to the plot. Part of the reason I've been unable to remove some of these sections from my writing is because I find they're usually quite intertwined with the rest of the story and to remove them would require massive restructuring of the whole plot. To kill your darlings, you must be able to recognize them for what they are. In writing my short story for the next Midnight Writers' Anthology, I suddenly found the story I wanted to tell was much longer...
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What you need to know about your fandom

I don’t have a fandom like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien (maybe I don’t have enough initials in my pen name). In fact, I don’t really have a fandom at all. However, I am certainly a fan of certain franchises. Sometimes I find myself cringing when these franchises are either rebooted or remade. Sure, there is always some hope that the new material can successfully capture the elements that made the original the hit that it was. However, this is rarely the case. Before we give our fans what they want, we need to understand what it is. For example’s sake, let’s look at two famous sci-fi franchises that have some very die-hard followers: Star Wars and Star Trek. Everyone agrees that these two franchises are similar in that they are both in the science fiction genre, but that’s essentially where the similarities end. In fact, these fandoms are almost so vehemently adamant on the superiority of their source material that you...
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3 Simple Tips when submitting to an Anthology

3 Simple Tips when submitting to an Anthology

Despite the almost ubiquitous availability of affordable self-publishing these days, sometimes it can be difficult to make your mark as an author. In fact, I would almost argue that the proliferation of self-published works has made it much harder to reach an audience of readers, as they now have a multitude of options when it comes to reading material. With this challenge in mind, one of the ways you can boost your name recognition is through anthologies. While you won’t have as much control over your written work as you would if you self-published a series of your own short stories yourself, the benefit of an anthology is being included in a book with a number of other authors who have fanbases who might be similar to the people you are trying to reach. In fact, someone might buy an anthology because they know one of the authors, only to find that they really like your story as well, thus increasing...
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Case for the Gigasecond

Time is such an odd thing to measure. Depending on the circumstances, time can feel a lot longer or shorter than it actually is. What’s really strange about time is the fact that it can never be measured twice. Sure, you can measure the same amount of time again, but you will never be able to measure that exact same section of time again. It’s gone, relinquished to the past. Does this mean that scientific measurements involving time cannot be repeated? If we want to be bogged down in semantics, nothing is ever repeatable because the time will never be the same. In fact, the ever-changing nature of time could almost be considered the purest universal constant. Now you might be asking yourself why I’m currently so focused on time. Well, as a matter of fact, my birthday is at the end of September. Last year I turned 30 years old, and it struck me that I had actually reached “full...
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Why you should NEVER throw away a good idea

When I first heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I thought it sounded like quite the novel idea: commit a full month to putting words to paper and by the end of it you have a first draft of a book. While my first year was quite the challenge, once I had completed it, I knew it was in the realm of possibilities. Even though writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a challenge, I was already starting to think of ideas on how to break up this daunting task into smaller, more manageable chunks. One of my ideas was to write about my experiences on Colorado’s 14,000+ ft. peaks (known locally as “the Fourteeners”). Since there are 58 named peaks above 14,000 feet, I would have to only write 863 words about each mountain to accomplish the NaNoWriMo challenge. As a result, I will be writing the first draft of the aforementioned “Fourteener” book this November. Ideas are easy,...
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