Tag Archives: Brandon Sanderson

Quitting – A Guest Post by Nicholas Ruva

A guest post by Nicholas Ruva.

When I was asked to write a guest post on quitting, I wasn’t exactly sure how to react. I am a journeyman writer. I’ve completed several shorts, and two novels, but nothing has seen the light of day outside of writing groups and Editor’s slush piles. As someone who has tried my hand at this craft for the past decade, after finally giving in and finishing a minor in Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, I should probably take a hint and throw in the towel. After a decade, if you’re still toiling away, trying to form writer groups, and producing content that gets polite, but definite, rejection letters, well… Shouldn’t I quit?

It’s been a topic on my mind for the last year. After a hellish turn of personal events, a sick dog, stress at work, the dog sick again, bills piling up, and the internal thrumming of a voice that says, “Make this happen, or move on,” yeah, I feel this topic through and through.

However, I don’t think that’s exactly the point of this series, and this topic, and let’s be honest, the majority of you reading this are probably wearing similar pants, and have also been rut-writing for nearly a decade with little to show. It comes with the territory, and eventually you get to this point and you say, “This is who I am. There is no real quitting this.”

So, Okay, fair enough. Let’s not all collectively quit writing for the new year. Let’s bury our nose into that old manuscript. Let’s hammer out that short that’s been sitting unwritten for a long time. Let’s send that submission out to Clarkesworld, Glimmer Train, the Atlantic, the New Yorker. Let’s put butt in seat and fingers on keys and finish that opus!

Well, maybe. I’m guilty of that too. The albatross. The chain wrapped so taut, and so heavy around the neck that it is hard to even make it to my desk. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year you put that old manuscript down. Maybe this is the year you say to yourself that the story in your head will never make it to the page, and you free yourself to do something new, something amazing. Maybe.

That’s hard advice. I have a book, two in fact, that I’ve lugged around for the past decade. The first is complete, but it’s terrible. It’s woefully bad on a level that I wouldn’t share even with my closest friends, though I was giddy to submit it to my writing class at USC. I was so sure they would recognize the brilliance that lay untapped. I was shocked when only one person in the class could even follow my magnificent work.

It was horrible. Going back to it now it’s painful to read, but there’s a glimmer there. The story idea is still strong, and sticks with me to this day. I know, given ten years of experience and a hell of a lot less ego, I could really do it justice. I want to do it justice, but sitting down to it is hard, so it sits.

The second work I should quit is more recent. I started a novel three years ago, and it was a fever-pitch writing session. I tore through fifty thousand words in a little under three days. I brought the rough story to workshops, and it gathered praise from students and instructors alike. It isn’t a big idea story, and probably won’t sell worth a damn, but it is a good story and it deserves to be finished. Still, the longer it sits, the harder it is to bring myself to conclusion.

I know how the story ends. I know exactly where I’m going from here, but sitting down to it is complete brain paralysis. All of that fever and excitement is gone, and it sinks into my creative conscious like a cork, bottling up any desire to move forward, and keeping me from tackling other larger works.

I’ve completed several short stories during the time I’ve been working on this novel, and come up with a few great ideas for other full length works. One idea in waiting I am almost certain will become a series of books, and that excites me completely, but when I go to sit-down and work on it, my WiP haunts me and taunts me from the depth of my creative consciousness.

In my head, I hear the advice Brandon Sanderson gave us at the Out of Excuses retreat in 2013. He warned of the same exact problem I suffer from today, that if you have this great work you’ve been trying to tell for a number of years, a story that you’ve carried with you afraid to finish due to not having the skill, or wanting to perfect over and over until it’s paralysis. If you have such a story… Kill it. It’s better to put that one in the ground then to allow it to weigh on your writing.

It’s solid advice that I can’t take. I feel invested. I feel so close to finishing, but I know it’s the right advice. I know the power spontaneity can bring. Over the past year, I’ve released three full albums of new music, most of the tracks completely improvised and then reworked, not unlike how I approach my writing. The experience is exciting, and I am often shocked at the results. Even my current work in progress novel was a completely spontaneous writing session that turned into a blistering paced seed of a novel. Allowing myself to remove the shackles of my previous work would free me to be more creative.

I am a computer programmer by trade. An odd one that specializes in automation, and removing manual steps from mission critical processes to optimize and standardize work. That’s a really long and drawn out way to say I am successful at my day job if I am able to remove myself from the process. To me, nothing is more satisfying than letting the gears move freely and getting out of the way of the collective machines so they can run at their best.

Although writing is, of course, wholly different in approach, the idea of clearing away obstacles and creating an environment where things run optimally is basically in my genes. I have no problem excessing legacy routines, rewriting bad code, or completely throwing away an entire way of thinking in order to ask, “What am I really trying to solve here?”

If I was to take that same approach to my writing, I’d have pulled the plug on this novel years ago, but it’s a part of me, more so than the code I write, or the job I do every day. The characters speak to me, and through me, and demand to have their story told. These darlings are damn hard to kill.

My monitor is rimmed with sticky notes for daily tasks, a product of the Agile development method. I use various colors for various tasks, but pink is set for personal goals. In all capital letters, stuck to the left side of my monitor, directly at eye level, a pink sticky note reads, “WORK ON THE NOVEL.” It is joined with other pink items with less urgent capitalization, but it’s there to be a constant reminder, a constant goading. It’s tough to quit on something so personal, especially when you know where it goes from here, and how freaking awesome that payoff of an ending will be. So, the novel sits, and I try and convince myself that this is the year things move forward with the work.

When I was approached to write about quitting, I didn’t know it would trigger such a response from my collective writer subconscious. I thought, maybe I will talk about buckling down and getting through it, but I’d be a phony if I did. I know how hard this can be, and maybe you are in a similar situation. If you are, I can’t offer you any advice other than you should probably quit on the work. I know I should have quit on this story last year, or even the year before, but I didn’t, and I likely won’t this year either.

Maybe, eventually, the guilt of it will spill over into another three-day-binge-session that sees me through to the story’s conclusion. Maybe it will be wholly mediocre, but cathartic in all the right ways to finally free myself. If this hasn’t happened to you. If you are the type that finishes everything they start, I envy you. I’ve met folks like you before, and their productivity was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I hope that’s you. Me, I’ll offer myself the advice I know I won’t take: Sometimes it’s alright to move on. You can quit and still be successful. Sometimes quitting is exactly what you need.

I wish I could take that advice, but, then again maybe this is the year I finally finish that novel.

 

About Nicholas Ruva

Nicholas Ruva is a writer, musician, and DevOps Engineer living in Los Angeles, California. When he’s not creating, he’s likely in the kitchen working on a new recipe, or in front of a keyboard trying to complete a catering job in Cook, Serve, Delicious. If you’d like to follow him on his publishing journey, you can find him on Facebook, Instagram, or toss a few fractions of a penny his direction by listening to his music under the name of Lake Onondaga on Spotify or pretty much anywhere music is streamed.

Anthologies

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile you have probably heard of Superstars Writing Seminars. Each of us Fictorians participated in the seminars and as such are considered Tribe Members. Not only did we get to spend several days rubbing shoulders with the greats like Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, James A. Owen and many other top notch authors, we also have had the chance to meet one another.

Through Superstars I met my crit group. I also met the fine folks that started the Fictorians and through my association was invited to join. Another perk is the opportunity to participate in an annual anthology.

A few years ago, I hadn’t attended the most recent Superstars (usually in February, in Colorado). I followed a thread on Facebook introducing an anthology about purple unicorns. I couldn’t understand why, of all the awesome things to write about, would such a talented group of writers put out an anthology about purple unicorns. It seemed rather silly to me and I didn’t participate.

Later, I learned that the idea stemmed from a part of the seminar discussing the submission of what an editor/agent/publisher was looking for. If they want purple unicorns don’t write about dragons, even if they’re purple dragons. And don’t write about pink unicorns. Give them the best story you possibly can about purple unicorns.

When several of my friends and fellow tribe members were selected to participate in the anthology, I realized what I had missed. They were published by WordFire Press alongside Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye and others. I kicked myself for not at least trying. Then I read the fantastic compilation of stories, one more unique than the next, each about a purple unicorn. It was incredible.

The next year, I didn’t hesitate to submit a story to the anthology about red unicorns. Even though I didn’t make the cut, the process was educational and worthwhile. I ended up selling my story to another anthology that will hopefully be released soon.

This past year I worked extra hard. The anthology went a different direction, dealing with dragons. It also took on a charitable purpose, named after a fellow tribe member who passed away. All profits support The Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund, providing tuition to Superstars for those who are awarded funds by other tribe members. About 6 scholarships were awarded last year.

This time I made the cut. My story, HIS GREATEST CREATION, was selected alongside some incredible writers including Brandon Sanderson.

And now, in 2017, we are anxiously waiting the results of another Anthology, this one dealing with underwater sea creatures. My story, THE SHARK KING, has so far made the first cut.

Because of Superstars and WordFire Press, I can claim the status of a published author. It has been fantastic to participate in the process and learn from incredible people like Lisa Mangum who has edited all of the anthologies thus far. And each of the anthologies has been illustrated by James A. Owen.

So, if you want to write and you hope to get published, Superstars is the way to go. Not just for the anthology opportunity but because of all the training and awesome people you’ll meet in the process.

Jace KillanI 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 hold 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 read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.

Meet the Fictorians: Kim May

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a crisp Fall day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Kim May

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Kim! How are you doing and what are you drinking?

Kim May (KM): Nothing exciting. Just water.

KL: If you don’t mind me sharing, you live in the beautiful state of Oregon. Do you like living there, and do you find that it influences settings in your stories?

KM: It definitely does. Oregon has very diverse terrain which makes setting research much easier. I think tundra and tropical rain forest are all we’re missing. Plus there’s fun historical sites like the Shanghai Tunnels (which I did set a story in) and places so full of enchantment that it’s not hard to imagine fairies flitting between the firs.

KL: Besides blogging for The Fictorians, you have your own successful blog Ninja Keyboard. Tell us about it!

KMNinja Keyboard is where I post updates what I’m up to, new release announcements, general thoughts on the industry or a movie, or anything else I feel a burning need to talk about. I try to keep it all about me and my work. You’ll never see a political rant or religious treatise on my blog.

KL: You’ve been published numerous times in Fiction River. Tell about your stories and how we can purchase Fiction River.

KM: Fiction River is a bi-monthly short story magazine published by WMG Publishing. Each issue has a different editor and different theme that can be anything from historical mystery or thrillers to sci-fi and steampunk. There’s something for everyone! It’s a lot of fun writing so many different genres and it’s definitely expanded my capabilities as a writer. Before I got involved with Fiction River I never thought I could write anything other than sci-fi and fantasy. Now I can say that I have published stories of four different genres.

Another great thing about Fiction River is because they’re published like books, none of the back issues have gone out of print! They’re available for purchase online on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and on the Fiction River and WMG websites. Reader’s Guide and Powell’s stores in Oregon have print copies of the issues I’m in on hand as well.

KL: Of your short stories published, which one is your favorite and why?

KM: Gosh! That’s like picking a favorite chocolate bar! I love all of them for different reasons. I love Blood Moon Carnival because that’s the story I channeled my grief for my 19 year old cat into. (She died the day I finished it.) I love Void around the Sword’s Edge because it’s my action packed “stripper saves the world” story. Moonshine is a tribute to my favorite grandmother. The Fukuda Cube was my first RPG tie-in story, and it was by far the most challenging to write. In Keep Portland Weird I got to do an ode to Pacific Rim in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter universe. In When A Good Fox Goes To War I got to play in feudal Japan, and Schrodinger’s Bar has my coolest ending!

KL: All of those sound really fun and interesting! Are you working on any longer fiction right now?

KM: I am! I’m finishing up two novels. The first is a new adult contemporary fantasy that I’m going to indie publish sometime next year and the other is a techno-thriller I’m going to pitch around.

KL: What are some of your writing goals for 2017?

KM: I just want to survive 2017. I’ve got three short stories and a novel coming out next year…and that’s just what’s on my publishing schedule right now. I’d also like to write the sequel to the new adult book I mentioned earlier. That’s all in addition to working a full-time day job and managing my arthritis, which are exhausting by themselves.

KL: What’s some of the best writing advice you’ve received so far?

KM: This is something I’ve talked about on this blog and on my own. It’s WTFS. Write the (bleep) sentence. I used to spend so much time agonizing on what the perfect phrasing would be or if description A was better than description B. I needed to understand that a first draft is just that: the first of many drafts. It doesn’t need to be perfect right away. It’s better to put something, anything, on the page and fix it later.

KL: What writers are most influential to you and why?

KM: Anne McCaffrey, Brandon Sanderson, Jacqueline Carey, Peter S Beagle, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Patrick Rothfuss are my favorite storytellers. I easily get lost in the worlds they’ve created. Choose Your Own Adventure books were pretty influential too. As a kid I read each of them three or four times. The first time I’d find the ending I liked best and then backtrack to find the path I had to follow to get there. After reading it that way I’d re-read it to find out why the other paths ended the way they did.

KL: What is your favorite Fictorians post so far?

KM: My first post is my favorite: Stockholm Syndrome Barbie. It’s a slice of me with a cherry on top. Stockholm Syndrome Barbie – The Fictorians.

***

If you have any questions for Kim, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

The Genius of Mistborn

Generic-Les-Mis-website-news-icon3While I was working with Brandon Sanders at Salt Lake Comic Con a couple years ago, a fan asked him what his favorite book was.

Les Miserables,” he shot back without hesitation.

Mine too. I read the book in high school a couple times and a couple times since. Victor Hugo was a genius.

Now I had heard of Brandon Sanderson, but admittedly had never read any of his stories, but that comment drew me to his work.

I started with the Stormlight Archive then moved to the Reckoners series. And then, while going through Stormlight withdrawals I delved into Mistborn.

The story takes place in a fantasy world with a unique magic system. I like fantasy.

The curtains open on this fantasy stage to a criminal outfit running a con. Now, I like fantasy, but I love cons and heists. I’m hooked.


mistborn-covers

Soon this becomes less about conning the nobility and more about fueling revolution. I start to notice the intertwined reference to a significant piece of history—the French Revolution. I love history. And coincidently this event also surrounds the story in Les Miserables.

There’s more. Religious philosophy and political rhetoric mixed along with military stratagem. It’s a fascinating read. What Sanderson does so beautifully in Mistborn is to combine elements of seemingly different genres to tell an incredible story. Think Oceans Eleven mixed with A Tale of Two Cities and throw in some Robert Jordan. And it works perfectly.

art credit Marc Simonetti

 

Jace KillanI 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 hold 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 read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.com.