Category Archives: A Writers Journey

A while back, while writing my first novel, I got myself stuck in a major rut. Not just a writers block, but a major life rut full of bad habits. One of the life saving tools, that got me finally writing, and thinking about writing in the best way possible was doing morning pages. It’s a practice from a book called “The Artists Way”, by Julia Cameron.

You’re supposed to just sit down and write 750+ words every morning before you do anything else. They can be about anything you want. Things your going to do, how your feeling, free flow writing, or anything else your heart desires. And they’re supposed to be private. Only for you. I however have made the decision, to make mine public (mostly unedited).

I thought, it might be helpful for other struggling writers to see what I’ve gone through to publish my first book, or perhaps for my readers to see the twisted recesses of my mind. I’m currently pushing for 365 days of consecutive morning pages, and am already well past 200,000 words in total. That’s enough for a couple of novels I’d say. I’ll be posting these a few at a time, whenever I get the chance.

I should also say, that these journal entries are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, and I have no intention of correcting them. One of the tenants of morning pages, is that you just write and don’t worry about spelling and grammar. It’s more important to get the words out, than to worry about syntax. So, I’ve posted them here in all their tattered glory, as I first put them down.

Also, you may notice a few missing days here and there. There were a few days where I deemed the pages to be too private for public consumption. Those journal entries will remain forever secret … at least, while I’m still alive.

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?

flickr.com/photos/michaelandannabel/
flickr.com/photos/michaelandannabel/

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.

20 Seconds Of Insane Courage

https://www.flickr.com/photos/state_library_south_australia/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/state_library_south_australia/

Which means what?  I suppose, to everyone it could mean something different, but to me, it’s pretty obvious. It means, just get started. It means getting past the fear, and the indecision, and all the reasons for not doing whatever it is you need to do. Basically, for me that means stop thinking. Stop thinking, and just go. Leverage the momentum. Do you ever notice, that just so long as you can start doing something, that the thing; whatever that thing is takes over.  It’s like it has a mind of it’s own. It starts to fill your brain with ideas and suggestions … and for a change, they’re all positive. It’s like once you’re in the thing, your brain knows that the best possible solution to the problem, is to just figure out all the answers. Figure out all the possible plot moves. Figure out all the possible character emotions. Figure out all the twists.  Figure out how the overriding theme of the story can be enhanced by a clever turn of phrase or action on the part of a character … be them minor or major.

The best part of all this, is that it works for anything. It works for getting past the pain of working out. Of knowing, that the next set of 25 push-ups is going to hurt like hell, but not giving your brain the chance to think about it. That’s the problem, with having an over-active imagination … a writers brain. The longer you dwell on something, the more real it becomes. It’s an invaluable tool, when it comes to composing a scene. Being able to play a movie in my head, is what I do when taking my characters through a scene … or when they’re taking me through a scene. But, if you’re just trying to get through the next set of pushups, dips, and squats it’s not helpful.

I suppose, that’s the keys to being an artist. Being able to control your emotions, vision, and imagination for the appropriate moment. Sure, that’s not such an easy thing to do in the heat of a moment, but not every little decision in life has to be life or death dramatic. We may like to think that it is, but really, it isn’t. Grabbing the apple or the chocolate bar. Pushing one more squat out, or pushing the remote control for one more Netflix show. Going to bed, or playing one more round of Everquest. Those aren’t life and death decisions. They’re just everyday life moments. No need to be dramatic. No need to overthink them. No need to be afraid of them.

Summon up that courage … you know it’s never far away. It’s lurking there, just below the surface … just under the skin. Right next to fear and loathing and indecision. It’s a quiet little fella though. He doesn’t feel the need to make a lot of noise like the other annoying  fellas. He knows how strong he is. He knows none of the other stand a chance once you bring him forth. You just, need to remember that he’s there … waiting patiently. Summon the courage; insane or otherwise. It only takes 20 seconds.

What It Means To Be A Writer

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sachac/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sachac/

It may seem somewhat presumptuous of me to suggest, that I know what it means to be a writer, but to my detractors I’d ask the question … why wouldn’t I?  Of course, as of today, I’ve never made the New York Times best sellers list, and it’s inconceivable that I will any time in the near future. I have made it to a few top seller lists in a number of rather obscure Amazon book niches so far,  albeit for short bursts of time. Irregardless, I do think I have an inkling of what it means to be a writer. My preferred definition of the term belongs to that of another author, who’s name at the moment escapes me, but it’s one that is shared by and repeated often enough by other purveyors of  pen skills. That being, that …

He who writes, is in fact a writer.

Or in other words, we are what we do. Since I write on a daily basis, I am in fact a writer. That’s scary.  At least to me it is. It also ticks off a lot of boxes for me in terms of living a full life, but more than anything else, it scares the hell out of me. Pretty much on a daily basis. That is by far my biggest hurdle in life right now bar none. Trying to find the courage every day, to sit behind a keyboard, and pour myself into my next work in progress. It’s not the fear of coming up with new ideas … that’s simply having a process for me, and putting in a bit of time. It’s not the fear of disappointing others either. I’ve always been the sort of person, that’s indifferent to what the rest of the world thinks, and to a writer it’s one of his most powerful instruments. It’s not even the fear of going unnoticed, and ergo never turning my writing into a financially viable endeavour. I’ve learned log ago, that writing has it’s own intrinsic rewards. Just the act in and of itself is rewarding and fulfilling joyous. I would be happy for the reset of my days, if I could do nothing more than fill volumes upon volumes of my imaginary characters travelling the heroes journey (thank you Joseph Campbell).

I think, what scares me the most, is that what I’m writing won’t be good enough for me. That, my writing won’t live up to my own expectations of greatness. I know. I know. That makes no sense. Don’t ever let the illogical fear of something stop you from getting good at something. Believe me, I know how that works. I apply it to virtually every other aspect of my life, and I’ve seen it do wonders. It’s not the logic that escapes me.  It’s the courage.  So let me leave you with a quote I read the other day that resonated with me. It’s from the movie “We Bought A Zoo”, and it’s spoken by the Matt Damon character.  It goes …

Sometimes, all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage.

Starting today, I make a promise to all my future readers, to find my 20 seconds of insane courage … every day.  Today, my courage brought me to post on this blog for the first time in a very long time. Who knows what it will get me tomorrow.