Category Archives: Writers/Illustrators of the Future

Stay Fit

A Guest Post by C Stuart Hardwick

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how infirm! In action how like a potato!

My first stories were played out in childhood, in the badlands and ghost towns of South Dakota, in tree forts and sandboxes, woods and bicycle trails, onto magnetic tape and 8mm movie film. We did not stop to create stories, we left them behind like breadcrumb trails leading back to alternate worlds.

Flash forward a few decades to when I finally decided to get serious about writing stories down. I was already married, with kids and a white-collar job. I was already suffering from a life of too much TV, too much office work, and too little sun. The last thing I needed was another few hours a week sitting in a chair, but that’s just what you need to do to be a writer. What to do?

First, I set up a standing desk. I figured, standing’s better than sitting, right? For two years, I did most of my writing at a laptop perched atop a high chest of drawers in my bedroom. I had to buy a rubber mat to keep from wearing holes through the carpet. I wrote half a million words that way. I went through my creative writing courses at Berkeley that way. I didn’t loose any weight, but at least I didn’t gain any.

Then in late 2012 several studies came out warning of the health effects of sitting. It turns out, not only do those cushy middle class office jobs make us fat, they cause potentially irreversible spinal curvature and stiffening, reduce hip flexibility, cause insulin overproduction, soften bones, obliterate posture, and cause deep vein thromboses and varicose veins. Oh, and they make us stupid.

See, humans didn’t evolve in office buildings. We evolved on the African savanna, where we were marathon hunters. Sure, it’s nice to have a comfy pad under our backside with a cup of jo and an air conditioner. It’s comfortable. But it’s not good for us. These studies were proposing something radical—we should get up and walk.

American’s should ditch the office chair and switch to a treadmill desk they said. We could loose a few pounds a week just by walking instead of sitting, and address all the other health impacts at the same time. We are not evolved to sit around, nor to stand around, but to hike.

Hardwick_walking deskSo okay, I decided to give it a try. Treadmill desks are stupid expensive, though, so I made my own. I put a laptop and $10 worth of wire shelving on a $600 Horizon T101 treadmill. I learned to touch type while walking at 2.2 MPH on an incline—just enough to barely crack a sweat. I started loosing weight.

After two months, I was so impressed, I decided to splurge on an upgrade.

I bought a dedicated workstation and bolted it to the treadmill with a monitor arm and a theatrical clamp (I blogged about it here: https://cstuarthardwick.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/upgraded-treadmill-desk-2/). My weight kept falling. In addition to the treadmill, I also started spending time on the exercycle as well, and I used MyFitnessPal to track my net calories. In six months, I lost 45 pounds.

But? There is no but. I felt great. I looked great. I thought great. Walking on the treadmill takes a certain amount of brainpower and I usually stop when working on something really mentally taxing, but it’s highly conducive to writing, especially to finding and maintaining “the flow.”

And then I went and hurt my leg and had to take an extended break. Now that I’ve started back up, I’ve worn out the tread and broken a siderail (stepping off to drink coffee), but that’s okay. New parts are on order. While I wait, I’m taking advantage of the springtime weather, taking to the neighbor hood trails, and taking Kevin J Anderson’s advice and giving mobile dictation a fair chance.

And that’s good, because some new papers have come out suggesting that many of the ailments of modern Western society may stem from inadequate exposure to sunlight…

Take care of your body. The writing muscle can’t work if the other muscles keep flopping over. We only get one stab at this life thing.

 

C Stuart Hardwick:

C Stuart Hardwick is an L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future winner and a Jim Baen Award finalist. He writes scifi and fantasy, lives in Houston, and is married to an Aquanaut. You can follow him at www.cStuartHardwick.com, or on Twitter, Quora, or Facebook.

 

I Finally Finished a Novel

Nearly three years ago, I attended Superstars Writing Seminar in Colorado Springs. I had been writing for about a year and was excited to learn how to become a published author.

It soon became apparent that I was ahead of my time in attending. Not that it didn’t totally propel my development as a writer, but one fact kept slapping me in the face—I had never finished a book. I had started several, they had great ideas, great premises; yet I hadn’t finished any of them. I would write a few chapters, get stuck, and abandon the piece indefinitely.

Several in the group claimed to have written terrible novels of which they were too ashamed to let see the light of day. But they had finished them all the same. I envied them.

I left Superstars with the resolve that I needed to finish something, anything, regardless of skill or quality.

Well, three years later, I’ve thrown out hundreds of thousands of words. I almost finished a novel about a year ago and almost completed it, solely out of principle, to be able to claim that I had finished a novel. But after taking a writing seminar from David Farland, I knew it was garbage. I abandoned the 90% finished work for a new project.

This year I did a lot of things and learned a lot of things that have helped my writing. Each of these has a synergistic effect on my writing. First, I took another class from David Farland (this time online). I set monthly goals. Some of these goals required me to submit my short stories for publication. I hired an editor to perfect a couple short stories, and learned from this experience a great deal about self-editing. The culmination of these led to the completion of a novel. I completed a novel.

In February, I’m returning to Superstars, this time having completed a novel. Also, from my goals and endeavors, I am now a published writer. I had no less than three of my short pieces published (one in a paying market). I received my first rejection letter from Writers of the Future. And this year was my first to participate in NaNoWriMo. I wrote about 42,000 words (8k shy of winning).

These are exciting accomplishments, but the grandest of all, the one that will make me a successful writer one day, is the accomplishment of not giving up. I’m still writing.

I’m planning on taking another David Farland class or two, attending Superstars, winning NaNoWriMo, and writing throughout the year, finishing at least one other novel. I’ll submit each quarter to Writers of the Future. And I’m looking for an agent for my finished novel (despite being my first, it’s actually pretty good).

 

jace 1I live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I’ve got an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can visit my author website at www.jacekillan.com, and you can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page.

 

Growing Community

Evan’s 1000th post yesterday made me nostalgic. When my son showed me the Superstars Seminar advert, I never imagined how much that event would affect my life. But, of course, that could be said of quite a few events I’ve attended over the years. And it all started by submitting a story.

Intrigued by the concept of FTL travel and the suspension of time, I wrote a short story about a planet with aliens who travel from one end of their speed-of-light-rotation planet to the other, in opposite directions. It was terrible. I submitted to the only short story market I’d heard of, Writers of the Future. The rejection letter from Joni Labaqui, though I’m sure it was a form rejection, is still the nicest rejection I’ve ever received. Somehow, WotF has managed to put together a letter that says no while still telling writers, “you’re great, what you’re doing is great, keep at it and you will get there.” That was my community seed.

If my piece could be rejected and me still feel good about writing then I should be able to handle the rejection of my local peers. Thus, I joined the local writer’s group. If they enjoyed my writing and supported me then I could find the courage to attend my first convention. Thus, I attended World Fantasy Convention. There, I met a wonderful published author and I realized that if she saw promise in my work and was willing to take time on me then I should take the opportunity to learn from other well-published authors. Thus, I ended up at Superstars Writing Seminar and we eventually formed The Fictorians.

With my Superstars/Fictorians support I branched out further, attending more seminars, workshops, conventions and eventually I started having my own launch parties and signing events. Recently, I released the third book, Mwalgi Justice, in my “Mankind’s Redemption” series. I’ve had the series compared to Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon’s work. I also released the first book, Fourteen, in “The Number Prophecy. “I couldn’t have done it without the wonderful community that has encouraged and helped me move forward. Of course, not every interaction has been good, but most have, and the journey has been worth it. I have fabulous friends.

I encourage all writers to take the time to reach out and grow their community. Even if you’re published and attending conventions, do you spend time with people or hole up in your room. People remember how you treat others and your community can grow or shrink and it’s not all about the quality of your work. Get brave or get humble, whichever is necessary, and reach out a hand. Because a community holding hands can create miracles.

Just another reminder: There are a lot of great books waiting to be taken to a loving home. Just click on the buttons in the right sidebar and enter. Tomorrow, come back and enter again. If you’d like to try out my new series, “The Number Prophecy,” Fourteen will be one of the prizes next week. Happy Reading!

On Motivation and the Quest for “It”


A Guest Post by Kary English

Somewhere between 25 and 30 years ago, I gave up on writing. I was fresh out of high school, and my dream career was to be a fantasy writer. I’d written two or three short stories, a play and the first pages of a few novels.

We didn’t have Duotrope or The Grinder back then, so I dutifully bought myself a copy of The Writer’s Market and sent off a few submissions–all of which were soundly rejected, though a particularly kind editor encouraged me to keep writing. My final submission was to a quarterly contest for new writers that I’d read about in the back of an anthology. Surely this would be the one.

Nope. Rejected.

Clearly, I didn’t have it, whatever “it” was, so I gave up. I stopped writing and focused on college and career, marriage and motherhood.

But the thing is, I never really stopped writing. Oh, sure, I stopped writing stories intended for publication, but I wrote lots of other things instead–academic papers, classroom handouts, book blurbs, textbook chapters and anti-bullying materials. And whenever my tabletop gaming group met, I wrote up our sessions as if they were stories.

Then the Great Recession hit, and I lost my job. To make ends meet, I started writing columns for Yahoo! in the areas of news, politics, travel and gossip. It didn’t pay well, but it was fun and it got me back into the habit of writing every day. Not long after, stories started pressing their noses against the glass again.

Maybe, I thought, I could give this writer thing another try. I checked out recent issues of Analog and Asimov’s to get a sense of the field, and I hit the internet to see if that contest was still running.

The contest was Writers of the Future, and not only was it still running, but it had become one of the best ways for a new writer to gain recognition in a crowded field.

So I sat down and wrote my first story in nearly three decades. When it was finished, I sent it to Writers of the Future.

A few months later, boom. Semi-finalist.

My placement earned me a few paragraphs of feedback, and that’s where I discovered that finalist selection had come down to my story and one other, and the judge had chosen the other story. It wasn’t a win. Heck, it wasn’t even a finalist, but it was close enough that I knew I was on the right track, that whatever “it” was, maybe I had a little of it after all. And maybe if I kept writing and worked on my craft, I could acquire more of it.

That semi, combined with contest’s quarterly structure, gave me the motivation I needed to write regularly. Over the next eighteen months, I attended several workshops and wrote six more stories. Every time I sat down to write, I mapped out the elements of craft that I’d be working on in that particular story. For one of them, it was fast pacing and a convincing male POV. For another it was a complex, non-linear structure and an ending that would make the reader cry.

Those six stories garnered four professional sales, a ghostwriting contract, a Hugo nomination and three finalist placements in WOTF, one of which went on to win. And this from a writer who thought she didn’t have it.

In the process, I also figured out what “it” is.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged in this business, and discouragement can strike at any level, from the newest aspirant to the seasoned bestseller. It–that thing you have to have to get anywhere in the writing world–isn’t talent or contacts or good ideas. It’s perseverance.

You write, and you keep on writing no matter what happens. Rejections, family obligations, your day job, moving, job loss, depression–keep writing. Take a break if you have to, but come back as soon as you can.

On the Writers of the Future Forum, we tell hopeful writers that there are only three ways out of the contest, but the advice applies to writing in general, too.

1) You win.

2) You pro out.

3) You stop entering.

Number three is entirely under the writer’s control, so don’t quit. As long as you don’t quit, you’ve narrowed the possibilities to #1 and #2, both of which lead to a career in the field. If you do quit, come back, even if it’s been decades since the last thing you wrote.

It worked for me, and that means it can work for you, too.

About the Author:Author
Kary English grew up in the snowy Midwest where she avoided siblings and frostbite by reading book after book in a warm corner behind a recliner chair. Today, Kary still spends most of her time with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. To the great relief of her parents, she seems to be making a living at it.

Kary is a Writers of the Future winner and Hugo nominee whose work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Grantville Gazette’s Universe Annex, Writers of the Future, Vol. 31 and Galaxy’s Edge.