Pretend Politics

I just turned 35 a few weeks ago. According to the Constitution, since I am a natural-born citizen of the United States, I am now eligible to run for President. With the latest Presidential election upon us, I thought I’d take some time to figure out what I would change if I were running this country. There’s clearly a lot that could use some improvement. One of the challenges of identifying what’s wrong with any situation is how easy it is to focus only on the symptoms instead of the root cause. One of the most memorable television shows I watched growing up was Connections. This PBS show that aired in the mid-1990s would take random objects/themes and show how they are all interrelated. I loved how these elements of “cause and effect” revealed how interconnected our world is. Nothing is truly isolated. As a scientist and writer, I can explore hypothetical situations. Granted, many of these scenarios rely on my knowledge...
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When did the writing begin?

Before this year began, I decided the idiom of “hindsight is 20/20” was an appropriate chance to reflect on the writing I’ve done over the years. While I managed to collect over 200 pages of my written works from the last 20 years in my latest book, The Ascent of the Writer (available today!), my writing “career” started well before then. I’ve never been one to throw away anything I’ve created. My basement has quite a few boxes and cardboard portfolios filled with all the visual art that I made throughout my elementary education. Among the pencil sketches and finger painting, I also managed to keep some of my earliest writings. These go back as far as 1992 when I was in the first grade. Some of my earliest stories were written in 1992. It’s quite a trip down memory lane reading some of these “stories” I wrote back then. I still remember the inspiration for some of them—some of which were just...
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Why I don’t make a living on my writing

Why I don’t make a living on my writing

Writing is my hobby. I have a full-time job, so there is no need for me to make a living on my writing. Since I do it mostly for fun, I’m not too concerned about making money. Most importantly, for tax purposes, writing is my hobby. Sure, I try to run it like a business by keeping track of expenses and sales, but overall I’m not doing much more than breaking even. This is fine. After all, a hobby is usually considered a “money pit” where you don’t expect to get a return on investment other than the pure enjoyment it brings you (think about other hobbies like restoring cars, reading books, or gardening as examples). A few years ago, I received a review request from someone who had written a book. They were self-publishing and admitted that they were currently homeless and that this book (that they had taken over a decade to write) was their only ticket out of...
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You may already be a writer

About three years ago, I decided that I wanted to take my writing seriously. In 2016, I had a bit of a gap in my self-publishing schedule, having published the Fluxion Trilogy omnibus two years prior. I learned a lot in publishing my first three novels, so this was part of the reason I was taking some time to ensure the future products I published would be of the necessary quality. I was still writing drafts of the books I wanted to write; I just realized it would take longer to get them into polished shape for publication. Since I still wanted to publish the stories I had backlogged, I needed to figure out a schedule where I would release one book a year for the foreseeable future—much like I had done with my first trilogy. This was my definition of taking my writing seriously. Expanding my bibliography of published works every year seemed like an achievable goal, so I started...
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What video games can teach us about writing (1/3)

Art inspires art. Sometimes a beautiful painting can give you an idea for a short story. Perhaps a beloved song is a jumping-off point for a novella. Maybe a great movie can get your creative juices flowing for a book of your own. Art can come in many forms, but one form most people don’t readily recognize is that of video games. I’ve already written about how games like Not Tetris describe my idea-collecting process, but recently I’ve played a few games I would consider artistic enough to pull some lessons into my own writing. Art inspires art. But, are video games art? Video games have come a long way from the days of Pong and Pac-Man. While these games were kept simple due to technical limitations, today’s video games no longer have these restrictions. I think one of the reasons why video games aren’t considered art is that most art is one-directional. You go to a museum to view paintings. You listen to music on your...
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How much should you write?

Writing is my hobby. It is not my full-time job. It is not paying to support my family. Sure, it can make some money on the side, but I generally write to be creative. I have stories and ideas that I want to get onto the page and out to the world. I started writing for fun in college, creating a series of intertwined short stories I wanted to collect into a novel-length book. Nothing ever truly came of these short stories, other than to convince me that they were possible. Then I wrote my first novel. I found it ironic that I didn’t pursue a thesis-based Master’s Degree, but ended up doing nine months of research to write a thesis-length book in roughly six weeks. This was the largest thing I had ever written. Unlike my previous short stories, though, a coupon to get five free proof copies of this book was the impetus I needed to edit and polish...
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An Engineer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo (or how I grew from a newbie to a veteran)

This post was originally written for the NaNoWriMo blog. You can check it out here (it's been slightly modified, but the content's basically the same). I’m an engineer. While most of my colleagues use this as an excuse to keep themselves from writing anything, I argue it’s the reason they need to be the best writers. The concepts engineers can create in their minds still need to be communicated to the world. Concepts never imagined before. Similarly, how many writers are out there with an idea nobody has ever read, just waiting to get it onto the page? As an engineer, I have a particular set of skills—some would say “quirks”—that have helped me over the last eight years of NaNoWriMo grow from just barely finishing to writing rapidly and voluminously. Most engineers are known for their problem-solving skills, and NaNoWriMo presents an interesting problem: how do I write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days? Like most problems, I resort...
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Why you should schedule your writing

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When it comes to writing, many will consider this alleged quote by Benjamin Franklin to mean that they should outline every single scene of their book, write FBI-level character bios, and practically have every part of the book already written in their head before they sit down and actually put it to the page. While this can sound like a daunting task, it misses the point of the quote. It’s not that writers should plan out their books, it’s that they should plan out their time. Time management is more important than you think. Back when I was becoming more serious about writing, I had all the time in the world. My job was stable, and I had a good work/life balance that allowed me to come home and do all the writing or editing I would need to complete the projects that I had started. Plus, at the time, I was single and...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 3/3]

Over the last few months, I’ve hopefully opened your eyes to some of the neat tricks you can use to help publish your book using the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Word is an obvious choice for writing, and Microsoft Excel can also be useful to manage lists and other planning information, but did you know there’s one more program that can help you publish your book as well? Up until now, the programs I’ve suggested are ones that you’d likely use anyway if you were trying to organize your work or polish your manuscript. The key was merely using the lesser-known tools within these programs to make your life as a writer easier. This month, I’d like to suggest something that might shock you and will require you to use a program in a slightly different manner than it’s usually used. That program is: MICROSOFT POWERPOINT Most people associate PowerPoint with corporations, presentations, and goofy animations. While these are the typical uses for the...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 2/3]

Last month, I told you how the Microsoft Office suite can help you with your writing. I covered Microsoft Word, and how it’s more powerful than just a standard word processor. By getting to know some of the more obscure features of these (usually) easily obtainable and available programs, writers can take control of their writing without having to purchase expensive computer programs. With Microsoft Word, I covered how Section Breaks, Styles, and Formatting can help a writer create a professional-looking book with less effort. Even though our next program isn’t used directly for the actual writing of a book, it is incredibly valuable for planning and prepping. It can also be used during the polishing phase of a manuscript as well. I refer, of course, to: MICROSOFT EXCEL As an engineer, I love to use spreadsheets, and Excel is the king of the spreadsheet programs. Any time I need to write a list or do some calculations, I open up a new...
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