Can Playing Games Make Me A Better Writer?

The little gamer deep down inside sure hopes it does.

Or is it just wishful thinking on my part?

I’ve tried so many things, to break my out of my writing blocks that playing games woudn’t be the most ridiculous of them. I’ve read countless books on the topic, tried multiple types of organization techniques, everything from Google Calendar to Bullet Journals. The bullet journal approach is my latest, so I’m holding out hope that this will be the one that finally tips the scales in my favor. I’ve practiced typing other great works like Lord of the Rings into a word document, in the hopes that the great Tolkien will wear off on me through my eyes on the page and my fingers at the keyboard. It did help a bit at the time, but here I’m am again stuck with very few words generated in the last few months.

So why not? Why wouldn’t playing a video game help? To me, at least at first glance, it seems like it should. I mean, just look at all that eye candy exploding on the screen in front of me. Isn’t that a bit like looking at art? Those of you that scoff that video game graphics can’t hold a candle to the exquisite pieces hanging on the walls of your local art gallery, clearly haven’t spent much time with current games. Try checking out the stunning vistas displayed in games like the latest incarnation of the Uncharted series.

Then, there’s the whole adventuring in distant lands thing. Travel to distant places is supposed to help stimulate many a writers prose. Just check out Ernest Hemmingway’s biography. His writing chops are undisputed and the man clearly liked to get around.

How about writing research? Sure, you could spend hours ruminating over tomes of Wikipedia pages looking for those little bits of minutiae that are guaranteed to saturate your reader in your story world but don’t dismiss the opportunity to journey to the sweeping mountains of Syria as Laura Croft in Tomb Raider. 

Here’s a couple of resources that provide more reading:

An Author’s Prayer

I want you to imagine for a moment a few feelings of excitement. Something that you can genuinely get excited about. Think, about how exciting it would be to have an entire novel outline laid out before you complete with chapter titles, synopsis, commentary, imagery, sensory and character reveal details. All thirty or so of those scenes all laid out, nice and neat … color coded and ready to have an interesting, insightful and fun story written for each one.

A story that will come easily and fluidly, because you take this moment to become introspective, and think about things that matter to you and how you live and the world around you. You incorporate things from your memories into the story. Things from your recent memories and your childhood. Things from yesterday. Things from today, and things that you dream about for your future. You find little lessons and morals … you incorporate them subtly and not so subtly into your story.

You make it fun, to imagine what your characters would do and say in those same situations. You know, that your beliefs are not always their beliefs, but you don’t care. They have their own minds and imaginations and biases. That’s what makes it all so fun. That’s what makes telling a story exciting.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if you have a moral or larger theme to get across. Sometimes you find yourself in the heat of the moment, and just want to relate a funny, violent, gross, heart-breaking, boring, pleasant, disastrous scene. That’s OK too, and your readers will love you for it. They’ll love you, because your being honest. Honest about yourself, and your view of the world, as seen through the eyes of many different characters.

Now, imagine what it’s like to have done a good days worth of writing. How happy that makes you feel on the inside. Knowing, that you put some good ideas out there … some shitty ones as well, but that’s OK. How else will your readers know the good ones are good, if you don’t have the shitty ones to compare them too. Think, about how good you’ll feel after a full week of writing and hitting your word counts every day. 5 days in a row … 10 days in a row … 100 … 1000 days in a row. Think about all the stories you’ll tell.

Now, think about how good it feels to hit that publish button on KDP. Think about that sense of wonder … how many will love it? How many will hate it? Everything seems new and possible when a story meets it’s readers. There will be thousands of people reading what you wrote. Thousands of people getting to peer into your mind, and understanding or disagreeing a little bit with your view of the world. That new novel could be a smash hit. It could be the best thing you’ve ever written, or the worst. To someone out there, I’m sure it will be both. That’s the excitement. That’s the fun. That’s life. But … the best part of all, is that you get to do it all over again, starting … NOW!

The First Published Works Of Chris Campbell (aka Norman Christof)

So, here’s something a little bit fun and frivolous. My father was a school teacher/principal of a two room school (that no longer exists) in the small south-western town of Courtright Ontario called Saint Charles Borromeo. I attended the school for grades one and two before moving to a different school. My father Norman published a little creative writing newsletter every week called “The Little World of St. Charles.” The articles were all submitted by students of the school. I happen to still have a copy from October 27, 1972. The reason that I still have it, is that I was the official guest writer of that edition. No, it had nothing to do with my father being the editor.  And yes, lucky you, I’m reproducing a copy of it here for your reading pleasure and or ridicule. Whichever you prefer 😉 I’ll also attach photos of the original at the bottom in case you’d like to peruse the other writers in the edition. You can find my story on the last page of photos. I was 10 years old at the time.

The Alien Monster

In the year 1992 a strange U.F.O was spotted by a boy who was at the beach. He saw a space ship splash into the lake. He ran home and told his mother. She called the U.F.O station. Within a week there were signs posted that said, “No Swimming.” There were scuba divers, submarines, and ships with big drills and cranes. Soon the ship was pulled up. Inside was a 9 ft. tall monster. It was hairy and very strong. It was brought to the U.F.O hospital . It was put under the x-ray. All the picture showed was red hot lava. The doctors were puzzled. They could think of nothing, not even the smartest doctors who had been called could find out anything. That night the monster got loose and the whole town was in a panic. The monster used the hot lave in his body to melt down the houses and streets. It killed about thirty people and melted about fifty houses. The whole army was brought out including the air force, big tanks, laser rays were brought out to. Nothing could stop the monster. It just melted all the weapons down. A group of the smartest scientists met and decided on one thing. One of the scientists had been working on a machine that absorbed hot lava, so they would try it. The monster was spotted within an hour. The machine was ready to go to work. The machine was turned on the monster. The monster halted for awhile but kept going. The scientists met again and came to an answer. “It must have its own supply source,” said one of them. They asked for the reports of the hospital. When they got them they started to look over them. Then one of them said to listen to this, “There is a strange soft purple spot on the monster’s back.” He said, “This must be his supply source. If we could destroy it we may be able to stop the monster.” At that time there was a man who was boss of U.F.O. station whose name was Mark Atkinson. The scientist asked him if they could use the gun with the code name X2ZY. The X2ZY was a special gun which was invented by a man who was ahead of his time. The gun had never been used before because it was too dangerous. The chief said they could use it. They aimed the gun at the monster’s back and hit the spot but the monster was still alive so they used the machine they had used before and drained the monster’s lava which was his energy so it died.

There you have it. Feel free to unleash your literary criticism on me at your leisure.


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When Will Amazon Share Pages Read With The World?

Or, at least with authors.

I would assume, that ever since Amazon implemented the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, it’s been keeping track of how many pages people have been reading on their kindles. Currently, that’s how they know how much to pay their authors. I know, because I watch my sales figures, like a crack addict waiting for their next fix. I say “assume”, because I can’t be sure that they were really counting pages read during the early days of KU. In those halcyon days, they were paying authors based on the number of times their books were borrowed in KU. They could have been tracking pages read back then, but not actually using it to pay authors.  For all I know, they could have been tracking pages read, from the very first time the original Kindle device was used. Paying authors based on pages read, of course makes much more sense. Not only do authors that publish longer books make more money, but authors that write well enough to entice their readers to complete their books, make more money as well.

Now, here’s another safe assumption I’d like to make. If Amazon knows how many pages readers are reading, then I would assume, they know how many people actually finish the books they start. They would know how many people stop half way through a book, or a quarter of the way through, or never get past the first page. There are probably a whole crap load of statistics Amazon has on how people read their books. How fast they read. How often they go back and reread sections or entire books. How long people put a book down before picking it up again. What are people’s favourite reading times … morning, lunch hour, evening?  The list could be endless. Sure, all this data collection sounds creepy, what with the current concern with privacy and all.  Which, I have to assume is part of the reason that Amazon doesn’t do much publicly with this data.  But, for anyone that thinks about it (yes I do), you have to know that Amazon is using it behind the scenes. Hell, I would if it was my company. And, as long as they do it as an aggregate, then there’s really no need for the public to be alarmed. Although of course people will be … just ask the folks at Google about all the backlash when Gmail was first implemented.

I’m actually looking forward to the day when they start sharing some of those numbers.  I want to know how far people get into my books. I want to know how many read till the end. I want to know what sections they read the quickest or the slowest. I want to know every statistics about my books that some anal retentive statistician can dream up.  Hugh Howey made a post a while back where he talks about this kind of data sharing before KU was even a thing.

That would some real honest unbiased feedback … or maybe totally biased, but who cares, it’s REAL feedback. Better than a small handful of reviews by Joe Smoe. Wouldn’t it be much more meaningful to customers, if they could see how many people finished a book they started. That would be an incredible useful statistic to whether the book was good or not. Far more superior that the crude 5 star rating system currently in play.  Imagine how much better pages read in a book would be than reviews. Who cares about some blowhards opinion of my book? What potential readers should know, is how many people actually finished reading my book. How many readers read half my book? How many readers read the first page of my book then deleted it off their Kindle? Holy crap, would that ever be awesome! Scary … yes for writers! But, incredibly helpful as well.

Plus, imagine how much better an author I could be, if I knew exactly where people stopped reading in my books, and all the other stats Amazon could show me. Imagine, how much better my next book would be if I had that kind of feedback on my last book. Man, that would be so cool. As of right now, my readers have read 193,730 pages of my latest novel America’s Sunset. Given that my book is 251 pages long, that works out to about 772 (with rounding) books read. Yes, I’m bragging a little here, because the book has only been live for 17 days. But, I don’t know if that’s really 772 people who finished the book all the way through, or 193,730 people who lost their lunch trying to get through the first page. Which is it Amazon?  C’mon tell me, I really want to know. It’ll make me a better writer, which puts better books in your store, and makes your customers happier.  We all win.

America’s Sunset Live In The Kindle Store

AmericasSunset_Book_OneAmerica’s Sunset, my first foray into the world of prepper fiction hit the Kindle store today, and I must admit to feel mixed emotions. It’s been a long time coming, and a moment for which I will be very grateful. Irregardless of how the book does on the sales charts, it feels pretty damn good to see it in the store. It’s been a long road to get the book there, and I won’t go into all the reasons for the long time in publishing, but let’s just hope the next one takes a fraction of the time. And, oh yes, there will be another book. It’s already about 80% outlined. I have a new process for outlining, thanks to Chris Fox and his wonderful video series. I went through a number of process for this book, and I must admit, that I spend significantly more time learning the craft of writing, than actually writing. I suppose, that’s a good thing, but here’s to hoping it makes a more enjoyable experience for the reader.

Writing is certainly an ongoing process, and one of the things that I rather enjoy about it.  Learning new things and experiencing challenges is a what life is all about for this writer. I feel, that at the moment I’m only a fraction of the way there, but that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s the anticipation of what comes next that is more enticing than actually getting to where you were heading. That’s the feeling I’m going through right now, and even yesterday more so before I hit the publish button for the book.  I actually got everything ready to go, then sat back for a few hours and just savoured the moment. I knew it would feel good to put the book out there, but I just wanted to wait a little and have some fun with the thought of being freshly published once again. I gotta admit, that even this morning it feels pretty good. Plus, I’ve seen a couple of sales already for the book.

So, it’s off to the next book … right? Well, maybe tomorrow. Today, is a day for celebration. This is a big deal for me. One of many more to come I’m sure. So, let the party start!