Tag Archives: amwriting

Why Do I Write For 15 Minutes A Day?

Why do I write for 15 minutes a day? Because it works for me.

You do you, fair reader.

What Came Before Was Terrible

Here’s my reasoning: I’ve spent countless days not writing a single word.

All those days when I wrote exactly ZERO words, I thought would be offset by days when I “finally have some reasonable time to sit down and focus on writing.” It turns out, that approach doesn’t work for me. I mean, I make some progress. I wrote around 3000 words of fiction over the course of the first five months of this year. Not super impressive, right? Well, it’s in part because I only found a couple of occasions to sit down for “at least an hour or two.”

When I did finally sit down to write for an extended time, I noticed two things right away:

  1. I couldn’t remember much about what I had been writing, and it took considerable time and effort to get back up to speed.
  2. Rusty doesn’t begin to describe the state of my writing when gaps of weeks or months come between sessions.

No bueno.

Where Did This Silly Idea Originate?

Which brings me to the inspiration for my idea to write 15 minutes a day. It is multifold.

I’m a programmer, a code monkey, or perhaps most applicable, a software craftsman by training. I don’t write a ton of code day to day anymore since I now manage several teams of folks doing it instead. As part of my experience and training as a software craftsman, I learned the tactic of practicing coding through the use of code katas. I don’t want to bore the non-technical folk, so suffice to say that katas are a something you spend maybe 15-30 minutes a day practicing to keep the old coding muscles in shape (or learn new things).

I took that approach and started applying it to learning Spanish (using the excellent phone app Duolingo). Hola, amigos. Yo hablo español un poco. No, no nececita hablo bueno, pero me hablo.

Anyway, it was going pretty well, and I thought, self– this Spanish thing isn’t eating up too much of my day. I mean, I’ve read/heard plenty of writing advice saying you have to write every day. I wondered how practical it would be to write for just 15 minutes a day. Probably not very, but at least I could get some of these ideas I’ve been hoarding over the past year or so out on paper.

Idea Meets Action

So I went to my notes and my voice memos. I wrote some fiction about several ideas I’ve been sitting on. Nothing earth-shattering, I assure you. But I did write. Next thing I knew, it was going so well, I decided I would move on to some former WIPs. I had Rue From Ruin in an unfinished state. Maybe I could finish it. At this point, I’d already put more words down in about two weeks than I had in the entire 5 months previous.

What did I have to lose?

So I applied the same discipline to Rue: sit down at the computer, start a 15-minute timer, and write like my life depended on it until the timer ran out. If you follow me on social media, you already know how it turned out. I finished Rue From Ruin in a few days. Note, it does need revising before I get it up on the blog. For any who are waiting, it’s coming.

Then, I felt like I was ready for something a little bigger. So I went on to one of the ideas I had written a bit about. I’ve been calling it GIAO.

I’ve been writing every day for at least 15 minutes for nearly two months now (**). What do I have to show for it? Confidence that I can finish my writing projects. Over 20,000 words (a quarter of the planned length) on a new book I’m really excited about. A bunch of great starters for other stories/books. A couple of new writing projects from external sources. How is this a bad thing? You let me know if you discover it.

The Method (For You TL;DR Folks)

For the sake of clarity and to put it in a friendly format, here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Sit down at a computer with my favorite editor (Scrivener in my case) open to the thing I want to write.
  2. Start a 15-minute timer.
  3. Write like my life depended on it until the timer ends.
  4. Perform steps 1-3 one or more times daily.

I hope it helps someone else the way it’s helped me.

** I wrote the majority of this article on 8/3/2017 and I’m leaving the word counts, dates, etc. from that time. Since this time, I’ve picked up some additional projects and seen them through the creation, writing, and revision process. I write almost every day, but not always on the same piece.

I’ll keep this short.

15MinuteClock120511300x300

K. M. Alexander posted a quote that struck a chord. For over a month now, my entire writing existence has centered around the idea he recently espoused here.

It works. I sit at the computer, and I say, “For the next 15 minutes there is nothing but writing.” Then I set a timer, and I go. Sometimes I get 350 words of total crap. Other times I can barely force 190 words, and none of them seem great. Other times, I feel like it’s all coming together. I feel like I’m writing something I would enjoy reading.

The other times are starting to outnumber the rest. It’s a good feeling.

Now back to work.

Kurt Vonnegut on Sci-fi

“I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal”

Kurt Vonnegut 

I believe fascinating concepts can be more thoroughly explored through the lens of the  possible future. Some circles are catching on. Some are not. 

Does it mean I’d never consider writing literary fic? No. It does mean I think limiting all stories to “our world” present or past would be ridiculous and boring. 

Genre labels are a bit silly. I’m with Kurt on this one. Don’t put any writing in a box/drawer/container by genre in order to better piss on it. Verify each recommended work on its own merits.

Tiny Role-Playing Games

Do you wish I’d quit blogging so much? Want to read more of my fiction? This is the post for you. I promise you a means to make me post more fiction. Read on.

—————–

Lately, I’ve been enjoying a personal renaissance of tabletop role-playing games. It’s been nearly 18 years since I role-played regularly. I’ll have another post soon explaining why I feel this is a valuable activity as a writer.

Today I’ll focus on a couple of specific games I think are great and, somewhat selfishly, I will pimp one of them to you without any shame or self-consciousness.

One of the fantastic things about RPGs is the time I spend playing them with my kids. I love the intellectual stimulation (for all of us) doing something other than watching movies or playing video games. Best, role-playing gets us interacting on a level I haven’t always been the best at as a father.

I have kids ranging from under 10 to nearly-legal adult so finding an RPG I could teach them the younger kids and manage to run successfully for the group was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was looking at Pathfinder and later D&D 5e, but these were way too detailed and crunchy.

Lucky for me, I know a guy.

Alan Bahr is a friend. If you know or have heard of Alan, then you know that he has probably read and played more RPGs than most people in the world. Being the insightful, enlightened guy I am, I scoured the internet for a game to play with my kids before I mentioned my dilemma to Alan. To his credit, he didn’t mock me (much) before pointing me to several great choices I could try with my kids.

One of the options was Tiny Dungeon, and it is the game that stuck with the family. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “WHEN ARE WE PLAYING TINY DUNGEON AGAIN, DAD?????” over the past several months. The number would be too large for display by 64-processors. When I can compose my blog from a quantum computer, I’ll give you an actual number. Don’t hold your breath.

Tiny Dungeon has a lot of things going for it, but its minimalistic rules are a clear winner in my book. You only need 3d6 (three standard six-sided dice) and an index card for each player, and you’re off to the races! Don’t get me wrong, the setting is lovely and lends itself to easy adaptation from other fantasy RPG adventures. The illustrations are fun, whimsical even, and the book also has a sample adventure that was a perfect intro for my younglings. Now, I’m writing my own fantasy campaign for the kids along with a short story that runs in parallel. Gotta keep those writing muscles lean!

My only complaint, if it can be called such, is Tiny Dungeons doesn’t work for a sci-fi setting. There aren’t rules for ships or mechs or alien races. If you know me, you might have a sense of why that would give me a giant sadface.

Enter Tiny Frontiers.

tinyFrontiers

As I earlier name-dropped, I know a guy. A guy named Alan Bahr. A guy who just happens to be an accomplished game designer with a high esteem for Tiny Dungeon. Alan has already made a big splash in the RPG world by designing the rules for the Planet Mercenary RPG. PM: RPG funded at nearly $350,000 just about this time last year. It’s been lauded by people like Steve Jackson. Yes, THAT Steve Jackson.

Alan and Gallant Knight Games have done an amazing thing. They licensed the Tiny Dungeon ruleset and created Tiny Frontiers. Not only will Tiny Frontiers scratch my sci-fi roleplaying itch, but it also features micro settings penned by amazing authors like Steve Diamond and Dan Wells.

Well- there’s a bit of a problem. Many of those fantastic micro settings don’t get made unless the Tiny Frontiers Kickstarter meets some stretch goals.

AND I WANT THEM.

So. Tiny Frontiers is already funded at nearly $6000. Here is the deal, folks. I’m offering two stretch goals of my own:

#1
In the spirit of sci-fi awesomeness, when the $12,000 stretch goal for TF is met, I will publish a beta version of Chapter 1 of The Galaxy and All Her Charms RIGHT HERE ON MY BLOG. I’ve been holding off sharing this with you. I’d like to wait a while longer, and I probably should. Tiny Frontiers means a lot to me, so I’ll take the risk!

#2
Also, if Tiny Frontiers should fund at or above $18,000, I promise to finish Rue From Ruin within one month. Cross my heart and hope to die.

I’ll put all extracurricular activities on hold. I’ll take time off work. I’ll do whatever it takes.

Am I manipulating you (and myself) a bit here? You betcha. Am I ashamed? Not even remotely.

So spread the word. Tell your mama. Tell your papa. Tell your friends. Tell anyone you know who roleplays or used to or thinks it might be fun or wants to get their kids into it.

Believe me; you won’t regret it. Tiny Frontiers is going to be amazing! Get on over to Kickstarter and back it now! Meantime, I’ll do what I can to make it worth your while from my end.

Clah and the Ship: a Bedtime Story

A fun thing happened the other day. My writing group got together, and WE WROTE! It was a really fun idea that Steve Diamond gave us while we were attending LTUE last month. We each picked two (or more) words from a list of random words and wrote a complete story with them.

You know. A. Complete. Story.

Beginning. Middle. End?

Anyway, the stories that came out of this exercise were really fantastic and further convinced me that I am the least talented member of our group. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the little story I put together and I’m going to share it with both of you! You don’t even have to fight each other for the right to read it!

I’m calling it a “bedtime story” because it feels fun and a bit whimsical to me, but beware– this bedtime story does have a bit of a dark side. Consider this the only content warning you will get: maybe read the story first before sharing it with smaller children.

—–

Clah and the Ship: a Bedtime Story

by William Munn

clahWave

The waves curled their way over the sparkling black sand and dragged it through craggy lava formations and out into the roiling surf. When the light caught the swells from the right angle, they shone with an inner light that was unknown anywhere else in the land. Those beautiful, rhythmic arms of the sea rose and fell with hypnotic and deadly regularity. Occasionally, ships could be seen in the distance en route to some far-off destination. No one attempted to make landfall on this beach for the rocks would make it sheer folly.

This day was darker than most. An ominous storm savaged the western horizon, tendrils of it reaching out to the onyx land of the isle like wavy boneless fingers. The waves rose higher, driven by the gales of the malevolent front, and the sea birds that oft frequented the craggy shore in search of dinner had flown off looking for a less precarious perch.

Clah was not afraid of such perils as changeable as the weather. Indeed, she willed the storm to her from her crag in the base of the cliff wall just behind the beach. The sheer basalt wall had been her home through many such encounters, and Clah knew that a storm of this magnitude could bring untold treasures to the isle. She walked out onto the sand on all of her appendages, her dark eyes scanning the coast for anything of interest. When she noticed it, Clah scurried back into her home and watched from the safe vantage because she was cautious, and the object of her interest was far closer than she had dared to hope.

The ship was quite large, and rising from its middle were two enormous poles as big as tree trunks from the jungle atop the cliff. They had crossbeams attached and swathed in bunched-up white cloths of wind-catching. To the wildly bucking rear of the craft, there was a raised area where many men scrambled about like angry ants trying to do something with a round, wooden object. The circular roundwood thing had a dozen or so sticks protruding from it at evenly-spaced intervals. It didn’t seem to be responding in a way that pleased the men, and indeed, the ship appeared to be making its way rapidly toward the stony shore broad side first. The waves had grown with the winds and the darkness in the West was doing the same. They propelled the vessel with effortless ease to the doom Clah had foreseen from the moment she first spotted it.

It collided with crushing force, the breakers thrusting it at a speed the ship would not have normally attained on its best day, the crashing groan was so deafening as to drown out even the mighty waves and shrieking wind. Men flew from the ship with the force of the impact, some of them flung through the air hurling toward the beach, only to be caught and impaled upon the cruel rocks or crushed upon them by the prodigious weight of the pounding surf.

But. One man was flung free. He was clear of the reefs, and the tall waves snatched at him as he fought his way to his feet, stumbling away from the vicious ocean and her mighty disdain for the lives of men. He shuddered at the booming crack, as the spine of the ship was defeated by the forces arrayed against it. He turned gasping to stare as the rest of the boat gave way and started to release its ribs, spilling interior contents out like the guts of a man disemboweled.

Clah chose that moment to spring upon her prey, hurtling from her crag, to sink her wicked teeth into the neck of the unsuspecting sailor. He was delicious if a bit gritty from the granules of black sand that still clung to his skin. She hadn’t had a treat this savory since two storms prior when a man and his son had taken refuge on a beach some miles to the north.

Sighing with the contentment of the truly satiated, Clah curled up next to the now slumped man and watched with pleasure as the waves continued to roll in stronger and more powerful. After a time, she drowsily made her way back to her home in the crag and let the rhythm of the storm and the ocean lull her into a tranquil sleep.

Friday Link Pack 3/11/2016

Hey there link likers!

I have some fun stuff in store for you today. First, let me entreat you. If you like my #FLP posts, you may also enjoy my Twitter feed. Feel free to follow me for occasional bits of random goodness. You may even get the jump on a few of the things I post here.

Alright. On to business. Link business.

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

Tor.com Gets Mushy About Rejection
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s repressed guilt. For whatever reason, and in a roundabout sort of way, Tor.com is telling us “It’s not personal” when they reject our manuscripts. We knew that, Tor.com. However, the article gets downright brilliant below the fold when the author starts talking about all the structural reasons manuscripts get rejected. Nice save!

TOOLS

Tabletop RPGs As Writer Trainers
polyhedralDice

Ok, this is an older article (2011 I think), but Chuck Wendig say it as only Chuck Wendig can. He lays out all the facts in his typical entertaining and CONTENT ADVISORY style. Don’t believe me? Clicky clicky, folks. Clicky clicky.

SCIENCEY

Chart of Cosmic Exploration
This chart may well be the most delightful representation of human exploration of the Solar System that I have ever seen. Don’t miss this one if you have a sciencey streak.

THINGS I LOVE

I’m Cheating Today
I don’t feel sorry. Today is their day. I used to LOVE this band. These days I only semi-aggressively like them. What can I say? It’s not them. It’s me. I’ve changed, and they didn’t. Still, nostalgia compels me.

Yesterday’s Demons Is Available For Preorder On Amazon
This is not a drill. Go directly to Amazon and order this book. I was a beta reader for it, and I’ve reserved my copy. You do the same. I’ll wait.

GIF OF THE WEEK

If I’m still learning to write consistently, this cat is still learning to cat:

vxhjk3o - Imgur

OH. YOU’RE STILL HERE. AWKWARD.

Soon, my friends (both of you), you will learn about Clah. Who or what is Clah? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out.

Friday Link Pack 2/26/2016

It’s Friday! Link pack time. Lucky you, I recently attended LTUE (Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium) and I’m flush with links on diverse topics. I attended sessions with various panelists such as Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Larry Correia, Steve Diamond, Kevin J. Anderson, Shannon Hale, Alan Bahr, David Farland, Peter Orullian, and the list could go on. You’re jealous. I understand.

Also, remember I’m collaborating on #FLP posts with Drew Gerken, and he had a great one last week. Check it out on his blog.

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

William Gibson – How I Wrote Neuromancer
This is a slightly older, yet still relevant article by William Gibson on the genesis of Neuromancer. The book is one of my favorites, so this story resonates with me as a writer. You won’t be disappointed by it, I think.

The Popcorn Theory of Success
Kevin J. Anderson gave a brilliant, articulate, funny, and inspiring keynote address at LTUE. Lucky you, he gave it once late last year, and it’s on YouTube. Do not delay, my writerly friends. Watch this video.

TOOLS

Spritz For Speedreading Without Loss of Comprehension
Cool new technology I learned about recently. If you wonder how you’ll ever get through that backlog of books on writing you’ve wanted to read, try Spritz. Their technology can let even typically slow readers read up to 700 wpm and more. Of course, I haven’t tried it with fiction, because I like to savor my novels.

SCIENCEY

The Death Knell of Moore’s Law
vaccuumtube.png
Guess they shouldn’t have called it a law, right? Anyway, the gist is this: computing power has been advancing at a highly predictable pace for a long time. Like 50+ years long. Yeah. So that’s over now (or very soon, rather). Computing power has virtually doubled every two years for decades, and it’s about to come to a screeching halt thanks to physics. Read the article if you want more detail. I could explain most of this, but they already did, and I don’t call this a Link Pack for nuthin’!

THINGS I LOVE

Galavant
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed watching both seasons of Galavant recently (thanks, Alan!). I’m going to try anyway! I’ll start by warning you; the show is the funniest twenty minutes of musical heroic, comedic fantasy you will ever watch. Yes. Musical. Don’t let that dissuade you — you would regret that. In summary, regret is bad — watch Galavant.

GIF OF THE WEEK

universeye

OH. YOU’RE STILL HERE. AWKWARD.

Psssst… since you stuck around, I’ll taunt you. Part 5 of Rue From Ruin is currently out to my critique group. You’ll get it next Friday.