Try Something New

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Most of you may not know this, but I work as the managing editor of a local publication. This has been a pretty recent development and I am still settling into the role. The biggest change for me has been an increase in my workload. Also, my schedule has gotten super crazy.

As I said, though, things are starting to settle down and I am finding balance once more. I am living my life and I am thriving.

I am also trying new things. I have picked up a new hobby, an artistic one, and I am really enjoying it.

I think that is something people miss out on sometimes. Doing things for fun. Making things. Creating things. Not every second of every day needs to be devoted to things that bring you profit.

It is okay to do things simply because you enjoy them.

Also, hear me out here, there may be ways you can turn your passion into profit. It may not turn into a fulltime job, but it can become something.

And even if it doesn’t, it can still be worth it. It can help you deal with stress, bring you peace. It can bring a small spark of creativity to an otherwise mundane, repetitive day.

It can also connect you with others who also enjoy that hobby. It can help lead you to your passion.

So, go on out there. Try something new.

Who knows? You may just love it.

Making Connections

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Sometimes life is less about what you know and more about who you know. This is especially true in business.
 
It may not surprise you to learn that I am a people person. While I do enjoy having time to myself, I also enjoy spending time with people. I like getting to know them, hearing their stories. I genuinely enjoy people.
 
I was introduced to the world of networking not long after moving to Texas. It started when I created my LinkedIn account junior year in high school. A few years later I was introduced to the world of in-person networking events. It took me a while to get the hang of this, but I did.
 
Online networking is a good place to start because it is low pressure and you have more time to think through what you say. It can be great for those who are more introverted or are not particularly comfortable in large crowds. It also allows you to reach out to a wider range of people than you would be able to in your day to day life.
 
LinkedIn is a good place to start, as it is a sort of Facebook for businesses. As I mentioned in the social media crash course post, Twitter is another great place for talking to people. Facebook groups can be a great resource as well.
 
For a long time, I have wanted to be a writer at BioWare. This is still one of my goals in life. Because of this, a few years ago I reached out to a few people there. One was a studio lead writer (who has since moved on) and the other was a creative director (who is still there). I told them about my love for their games and my desire to work there one day. Then I asked them for advice.
 
I got responses back pretty quickly and ended up doing a Skype call with the creative director. Since then I have benefited from their advice and I still keep in touch with both of them. I have also talked game writing and storytelling with several of the writers there on Twitter.
 
Reaching out to people on LinkedIn has also helped me land jobs and make some stellar connections.
 
Joining communities can be powerful as well, but that is a conversation for another post.
 
All in all, the key thing to remember is to treat people the way you want to be treated. And be confident in yourself. You have a lot to offer the world.
 
So get on out there and build your network.

So You Want to Make a Podcast

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Podcasts as a medium are exploding, and I mean exploding. People all over the world are making a living off of their voices. It’s kind of amazing.
 
I got into a discussion earlier with some friend on Discord about podcasting and what it takes to make one. There were a lot of us who always wanted to make one, but most people don’t know where to begin. It seems scary, complicated.
 
It doesn’t have to be, though. I have been thinking about podcasting myself. I want to share my love for storytelling and encourage others. I also want to tell stories. For a while, I didn’t know where to begin. Then I started doing research. I asked questions. I learned a lot.
 
Here is what I have done and learned so far in my journey to becoming a podcaster.
 
Hopefully, this will help you on your journey.
 

Step 1: Pick a subject

This can be the hardest part. Picking what you want to talk about. If you are doing a story focused podcast, then this is a little easier. But if you aren’t, never fear.
 
What are your interests, your hobbies? What are you passionate about? What is something you could talk about indefinitely and still have more to say?
 
Whatever popped into your mind when I asked those questions, you can make a podcast about that. I don’t care if you think it is silly, because it isn’t. There is an audience who shares the same interest as you.
 

Step 2: Start planning

 
Now that you have a subject, it is time to start planning out content. Start brainstorming a list of topics you can cover. Remember, if it is a bigger topic you can break it up into segments. You can do a series of episodes on a topic. There are so many options.
 
If you are covering a show, you can go episode by episode. If you are doing a more long-form story, like a movie or a book series, do a series of episodes on it.
 
You also need to start considering a name. When figuring this out, make sure it doesn’t already exist. That way you don’t get emotionally attached to a name you cannot use. Your name can be funny, clever, or simple as long as it is easy to remember.
 

Step 3: Get your equipment

Before you start worrying about how much this is going to hurt your wallet, take a deep breath. This doesn’t have to break the bank. Audacity is an excellent resource for recording and editing audio and it is completely free. Some people start a podcast using the voice recorder on their phones. Also free.
 
Buying a good quality microphone doesn’t have to cost a lot either. I bought mine for probably around $50 on Amazon. It may not be the nicest on the market, but it does an excellent job.
 

Step 4: Just do it

Don’t overthink it. Just do it. Start drafting. Start recording. Have questions? Ask them. Ask Google. Find other podcasters and ask them.
 
Teach yourself how to edit audio. Pre-record segments you plan on using a lot. Check out what resources are available online.
 
Don’t forget the music. A 30-second intro jingle can make a big difference. There are plenty of people out there who make music that you can ask to create one for you. You may have to pay for this, but some of them will be flexible for your budget.
 
Sometimes you need to get out of your own way, stop being afraid of what could go wrong and just go for it. Who knows, it might be a hit.
 
I am going to do it. Who is with me?

Looking to the Future

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There is one question that everyone, at one point or another, gets asked, and it always stumps me. And my answer usually takes more explaining than either party was prepared for.
 
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? X number of years?
 
My first reaction usually involves a momentary brain choke. Some people may jump immediately into panic mode. It seems like such a simple question but it forces us to stare straight into the great unknown and that can be terrifying.
 
There are some people who have their whole lives planned out. They know exactly what they want to do, exactly who they want to be. They make those of us who aren’t like that wonder what we are doing wrong.
 
I wondered that myself for a while. I wondered if I would ever get anywhere in my life.
 
It took a while, but I finally realized something. There is nothing wrong with me.
 
I just look at things differently.
 
You see, part of why the future is so scary is because of the unknown. Often times in stories the most powerful character is the one that has the ability to see the future. We want to have some sense of control over our lives.
 
The unknown doesn’t have to be scary, though. It can be wonderful.
 
Things in life rarely go as planned. Life is complicated. It is weird. And above all, it is chock full of the unexpected.
 
Its okay if you don’t have all the details figured out. Its okay if all you have is a general idea of where you would like to eventually be. It’s okay.
 
Right now, at this point in my life, given all the variables, I have a general picture of what my life could look like in five years. That is assuming nothing changes.
 
That assumption is what gives me hope. Because things change. There is no telling what amazing opportunities will wander into your life on down the road.
 
If you had told me five years ago that I would be sitting here, working on this blog post after finishing a Twitch stream (and the game I was streaming), with a YouTube channel, a few freelance gigs and plans to launch a podcast or two…I would probably have started laughing after the first few items. I never imagined that my life would turn out this way, but I am so glad it did.
 
Of course, I have plans for the future. A list of things that I would like to have accomplished and a picture of what I want my life to look like. It is all very general, though. Because I want to stay open to whatever comes my way.
 
There are benefits to being flexible, being adaptable. I learned a long time ago to go with the flow because you never know what will happen. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, you have to find a way to keep going forward.
 
Now, I am in no way telling you to not chase your dreams. By all means, chase it. Even if it seems impossible, never stop chasing your dream.
 
Your chosen job/industry may be hard to get into. I know mine is. It may feel impossible. It is possible, it might be difficult. These things take time, patience, and a fair amount of networking. Find something that will keep you afloat in the meantime. Use that income to fund your dream, and keep your eyes open for any unexpected opportunities.
 
You never know what life may throw your way. Keep your mind open and be ready for anything.
 
Never stop dreaming. And never stop hoping for tomorrow.

How to not Retcon

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I think we can all agree that retconning is bad. We have been there, covered that. Time to move on.

Now, how do we avoid retconning?

I have been putting some thought into this recently. As a writer, I understand how easy it can be to let details slip or lose track of where a particular plot thread was going. As the story grows and morphs, and you move beyond the first draft, things can get lost.

The one I am currently working on has gone through some drastic changes, and it includes possible character name changes part of the way through the book. I’ve trimmed down my cast of characters quite a bit, but there is still a lot to keep track of.

So here are a few things I am going to do to keep my story straight.

Note: there are wonderful programs, such as Scrivner, that help with this but as I do not have any such program, my suggestions will reflect this.

Plot, plot, plot

You may be thinking “duh, we all know how to plot.” Hear me out.

I’ve mentioned before that my current project has gone through a lot of changes. When starting on the most recent draft/iteration, I created a detailed plot outline detailing my idea. Then I talked through the plot with my friend, resulting in some of those points being changed.

I then went back and reworked the plot outline. Its a goal of mine to always have an up-to-date plot outline. The practice may seem like a waste of time, but as your story changes adjusting your outline can help you easier keep track of the current plot.

Also, by intentionally plotting things out ahead of time and throughout the process, this could help you create a smoother, more coherent plot.

It is easy enough to do and will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

When in doubt, leave it out

Perhaps “keep it vague” is a better way to phrase it.

Picture this:
A writer decides far into the story that they want to do something with a character or the plot that differs from their original plan. They have not built up to this in any way, and chances are they have already hinted that things were going to go differently.

I know I have seen it before and I am pretty sure you have too, at least once. It is super annoying and has a nasty habit of ruining whatever impact that moment might have had.

My solution?

If you aren’t sure where you want to go with something, keep it vague. Don’t give any direct answer as to which way it could go. Even better, leave hints that it could go either way. By leaving it vague or uncertain as to which way something could go, you make the reveal of the truth that much more rewarding.

It can also give you time to consider why you are thinking about doing whatever it is. If it is important to the plot, great. If it is for shock value, maybe reconsider. But that is a topic for another time.

Make a cheat sheet

This relates back to the first point about keeping an up-to-date plot outline.

Odd names for people and places. Important objects that exchange ownership. Convoluted plot threads. If there is a chance you could forget or lose track of things in your story, consider creating a cheat sheet.

Keep records of your characters, how to spell their names, their backstories, how they are related to the others. Write down what they look like and make notes of when that might have changed.

Trace the ownership of important items and note what was going on when they changed hands.

Use the highlighter to visually mark important events and add them to your cheat sheet.

Yes, tools like Scrivener make this much easier, but there are ways to function without them. Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to keep your story straight.

Get more eyes

Lastly, it helps a lot to have a second pair of eyes. Get a friend or someone you trust to read over your work.

I know you have spent hours upon hours pouring over your work. That is part of the problem. You are so familiar with every single word that you are bound to miss things. By having someone who has never seen it before (that may or may not already know the story), you are increasing the likelihood of catching any slip-ups.

I have done this for friends before and helped catch some name mix-ups as well as things that were not made clear. It can be hugely beneficial and, by giving it to a friend, you know you can trust their advice. Also, they are less likely to tear your work into tiny little pieces.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to hire an editor. Those are needed too.

Hopefully, you will find these tips and tricks useful when tackling your next literary adventure.

Next week we are going to be tackling one of my favorite questions and the uncertainty it can cause.

As always if you have any questions or comments, leave them down below. I am always looking for new topics to cover!

Until then!

Think Before You Retcon

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If there is one thing readers can’t stand, it is a retcon. Whether you are changing an inconsequential detail or something big, they will notice and they will not be happy.

Now, there are lots of reasons that a writer retcons. Stories can change a lot as they are being told. Sometimes this results in the writer wanting to go back and change something. If the work is unpublished, this can be easy. When the work is published, though, it can be tricky.

It can be very easy to do, especially if you are writing a series. It can be detrimental, though, to your reputation and your story. Here are a few reasons you should think hard before you retcon.

It irritates the reader

When you go back and change something that is already established in the story, it annoys the reader. If it is a small thing, then they might be able to overlook it, but if it is bigger…it’s not going to be good. At the very least you are going to throw your reader for a loop, and they are not going to like that.

You want your readers to be focused on the story, to become engrossed, attached to it. The last thing you want is to have them raging against your retconning.

Sometimes a retcon can undo the significance of an event, or damage a character arch. This can tank your story. Retcon something your audience loves, they will not soon forget it. If it messes with the arc of their favorite character…let’s just say you don’t want to go there.

You also run the risk of confusing the reader. The plot should have twists and turns, yes, but it should be solid. Steady. It should not sneakily rewrite itself (unless you are doing this intentionally, but that is another conversation).

It makes your writing look weak

When you retcon, it reflects poorly on your skills as a writer. Even if it is something small, such as a character’s hair color, your readers will not be impressed.

Retconning something small makes you look like you are forgetful, neglectful. Now, I know how much planning and crafting goes into telling a good story. It takes even more to write that story. So I get that it can be easy to miss the little details. There are some details, though, that you need to keep straight. Otherwise, the readers might think you don’t care.

Drastically changing your plot, despite things you set up earlier in the series, makes you come across like someone who has no idea what they are doing. We have all seen this happen in shows and movies. It either leaves you confused or frustrated, and wondering why the writer couldn’t pick a plot. They look like they either did not plan ahead, have no idea what they are doing, or both. Probably both.

There are a few other, smaller things that can cause a big impact. Changing how a character’s name is spelled, either partway through the story or every so often. Switching up how the characters are related. The first one is easy to do and, depending on how odd the name is, can be forgiven by the reader. Heck, they may not even notice. But with the second one, they are a lot more likely to catch on. This will not end well for you.

 

The moral of the story is don’t retcon. It can be annoying for the readers and it makes you look like a bad writer.

Next week I am going to share some tips on how to avoid retconning. As always, feel free to leave a comment if there is anything you would like to add or if you have any questions.

Until next time!

Write What You Need

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Write what you know. One of the most common pieces of writing advice you will ever hear. It’s not wrong either. As writers, we draw from our personal experience to help bring our stories and characters to life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way.

People are always going to tell you how you should be writing or what you should be writing about. Sometimes they have good advice. Other times they mean well, but they are the opposite of helpful.

Tell the story you want to tell. That you need to tell.

The stories we tell don’t always fit into our personal experiences. Just look at fantasy, sci-fi, and murder mysteries. Literally any form of fiction. While our experiences and opinions influence the stories, you are in no way required to write within your world. Sometimes you need to step outside of what you know and step into what you need.

Writing, in and of itself, is a form of exploration. It is a massive thought experiment full of “what if this…” It is a chance for people to think through things they have always wondered about. A chance for writers to create the world they have always dreamed of. We get to live in a world that is completely our own where, for once, we are in control.

It is a form of escapism for the writer as well as the reader. We all struggle. We all experience hardships. Some of us have struggles that never really go away. We have this baggage that we just have to learn to live with. We all have to face the darkness and there will always be something we wish we could have or experience, that we know will never happen.

Some of the most beautiful stories come from what we wish for, what we want. Writing gives us a chance to hold up a mirror and show the world what needs to change. How the world can be better.

When life gets crazy and things get messy, we don’t need a reminder of how scary the world can be. Life is hard. Life isn’t fair. We are all aware of this. We need to see that things can be better. That life isn’t all bad. That there is hope.

Instead of writing what you know, write what you need. Because chances are the world needs it too.