Author Archives: Jace Killan

Keeping the Day Job

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

C.S. Lewis

45382430The other day I found myself shopping for a spiral-bound, college-ruled notebook for my son. Holding the notebook, brought to mind a series of memories. As a child I saved up to purchase similar notebooks, then I would fill their pages with adventures. I dreamt of someday becoming a famous author, sharing my stories with the world.

At the beginning of 2013, I found myself wanting, craving that childhood dream. It had been years since I had written anything, though I often felt the stories inside me, demanding to be heard. I fantasized about the day I would have enough financial independence that I could quit my day job, allowing me time to dedicate to my craft.

I realized that I had found many, many excuses not to write. I had friends with families, busy jobs, and demanding schedules that still managed to produce a novel, and see it published. It came time to commit to my dream or move on. I began to write.

I used 2013 as an opportunity to better my craft by composing a series of short stories to practice various aspects of good writing. I found a tribe and continue to build relationships with those that support and encourage my endeavors. And I attended Superstars Writing Seminars where I received a barrage of information related to becoming a successful, professional writer.

 “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Zig Ziglar

Superstars helped me clarify my direction. As the presenters adamantly suggested, I decided to abandon the fantasy of quitting my day job. I took some time to discover why I am driven to write, and have determined that I do so, not for fame or fortune, but to inspire. With this newfound direction, I began planning and setting goals.

My greatest hurdle isn’t vocabulary or punctuation (though I tend to use too many commas). It isn’t voice or point of view or plot development. My greatest impediment is me, more specifically my time–those 24 hours a day.

In a matter of priorities I have evaluated those things that occupy my time.

  • My day job, at times can be very demanding. I seldom work less than fifty hours a week and have occasionally logged seventy or more.
  •  A lot of my free time is spent in volunteer service for the Boy Scouts of America; I estimated about 30 – 40 hours a month.
  •  And of course there is my wife and five kids that support my writing as long as I fulfill my other expected duties first.
  •  Though I call it research, I do spend several hours a week watching television or playing videogames.

 “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve decided that work and family time will be and should be what they are. I’ve resigned from several duties with the Boy Scouts that will significantly reduce my time commitment there, and I have budgeted the remaining time between writing and research.

Writing everyday has helped in the past. I notice that as work and other responsibilities grow more demanding causing my writing to suffer, it becomes more difficult to pick up where I left off. To counter this, I write daily, if only just a hundred words. Additionally, I read my stories to the kids. This allows me to rough edit and gather feedback, all while being a good dad.

A good goal is attainable, measurable, and within the maker’s control. While getting published is a dream of mine, it wouldn’t be a good goal because it is outside my control. The following are my goals for 2014.

  • This year I will write something everyday, if even just 100 words.
  • I will write at least 20,000 words each month.
  • I will submit at least one work to be published each month.
  • I will finish writing at least one novel this year.
  • I will attend at least one writing seminar and at least one con this year.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Henry David Thoreau

 Share your 2014 writing goals in the comments below.







Feedback is a Gift

FeedbackI participated in a writing group where we’d take turns submitting a few chapters of our work for critique. I submitted a portion of a novel I had been working on, excited for the group to see my talent.

During the feedback session they started with the good. Most stated that they loved my dialogue and two pointed out the beautiful imagery of a particular scene. Then came the bad. I had misspelled some words, my punctuation was a mess, and I brought a number of things into the story that I didn’t use, but the worst was my misuse of point of view. In one chapter, I switched POV seven times.

My first reaction was to give up. I obviously was not the writer I thought. But as I read and reread the comments I began to comprehend and see what my friends were pointing out. As I applied their suggestions, I could see that my writing ability increased.

I have had several similar experiences over the years. As I accepted and applied the feedback I was given, my craft became stronger. I love receiving helpful feedback; it really is a gift.  Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

The following is a list of thoughts in receiving and giving feedback.

In receiving feedback:

  • Actively solicit feedback. I have learned that everyone has an opinion. The smart ones don’t usually share that opinion unless they’re asked.
  • Check your ego at the door. Sometimes criticism can be tough to swallow. The worst thing I can do is to argue with feedback, especially if it is solicited. Besides looking like a dope, arguing closes the receiver’s mind but may also shut down a valuable source.
  • Be grateful for good feedback. Over the years of soliciting feedback, I’ve gotten the impression that many tread lightly, not wanting to hurt my feelings. As I’ve shown my gratitude, I’ve received more than criticism; I’ve been given greater feedback and encouragement.
  • Not all feedback is good advice. I spent some time, sharing my work on a website known as Absolute Write. They have an extensive critique section, and most of what I received there was good advice. Some however was not. I’ve learned not to take every critique as if it were coming from a qualified source. I’ll often research the source to determine the value of the feedback. If there is advice that I don’t agree with, I’ll research it or solicit other opinions. By doing this I’ve usually been able to conclude whether the advice is sound or garbage.

In giving solicited feedback:

  • State your qualifications. This will help the receiver know how to value your feedback.
  • Start with the good. I have learned just as much from the positive feedback that I have received as the negative. In my example above, I studied what it was that made my dialogue good, then worked to improve on it and incorporate those techniques in other aspects of my craft. Praise can also help settle the receiver’s insecurities and soften any criticism.
  • Be honest and specific. There have been times where I have softened my solicited feedback in fear of hurting another’s feelings. I’ve since realized that by doing so, I probably did more harm than good. People will respect honesty and those that are honest. Also it doesn’t help to just say something is good or bad, instead indicate why with specifics.
  • Offer some solutions. The group that evaluated my work pointed out the problems I had with point of view. They took the time to go over specifics with me, showing me each of the seven POV changes in the chapter and then they referred me to several sources where I could learn more about the subject.

The greatest gift that I have received as an aspiring writer is the time others have taken to help me learn how to improve my craft through good honest feedback.