Tag: Chuck Wendig (page 1 of 2)

500 Words on Carving

No, we’re not carving you up, little calf. It’ll be okay. Here, have some sprouts.

We cool?

Okay, then.

Last night, I went to see Chuck Wendig. He’s an author I’d had the privilege of meeting once before, way back in 2009, at a tiny game convention in Philadelphia. We played a role-playing game together, jammed about writing, and I tried not to make an ass of myself. No small feat, back in those days. He was excited to see me again, and we talked about Seattle and writing with another man I’m very glad to have finally met, Phil Brucato, mastermind of Mage: the Ascension and a game I’m dying to try out called “Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy“.

All three of us, at one point, talked about carving the time out of the days in order to write.

“In large, bloody chunks,” I recalled Chuck writing at one point.

Both men gave grim nods.

From professional novelists to fanfic enthusiasts, writers cannot merely find the time to write. We have to make the time. That’s just as difficult as the writing itself. The world at large makes all sorts of demands on our time and energy. There’s always another chore, another commitment, another distraction. We want to give ourselves a break, try to get other things done, clear our decks to do nothing but write.

The insidious truth is that such a state of being, where nothing but writing happens, rarely if ever exists.

Writing happens in a particular space, a conflux of physical, mental, and emotional states, and we writers need to assure ourselves that we can, and should, ask for that space. It’s possible to think that you don’t deserve it, because you haven’t been writing anyway, or those dishes have been stacking up, or seriously I need to spend more time with my partner. It’s also possible to feel that you’re somehow entitled to it, and shirk everything else just to write, which is arguably worse than the former possibility.

Bottom line? You have to carve out the right slice of time, and make the most of it before you balance it with something else.

We cannot, and should not, exist in a vacuum. We have our writerly spaces, sure, from libraries we prefer to sheds we build just for writing — and perhaps slugging whiskey and howling and throwing poo at the walls. What happens in the Mystery Box stays in the Mystery Box. Thing is, we can’t always be there. How can we relate our words to the world if we’re not in the world more often than not?

“Carve the time,” Chuck admonished me when he wrote in my writing journal. A reminder that while the world makes its demands, I deserve to make the time to write. I shouldn’t seek to let writing dominate my time, either. I can strike the right balance, with my sharpened metaphorical knives. That’s a skill in and of itself.

He wrote something else, too.

“Finish thine shit.”

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Photo courtesy The Dodo.

The Aftermath Review: Let Go Of Your Hatred

There are a lot of people out there who don’t, and won’t, like this book.

I’m pretty sure I know why, and it has nothing to do with the plot or characters of Aftermath: Star Wars. It has to do with the book’s very existence.

Courtesy Del Rey Books

You see, Aftermath, written by Chuck Wendig, takes place between the end of the original trilogy of films, Return of the Jedi, and the upcoming JJ Abrams addition to the franchise, The Force Awakens. It chronicles the effect of the fall of the Empire’s leadership and the loss of the second Death Star on one of the far-flung worlds in the galaxy, and how its people struggle against an Empire that refuses to surrender or fade into the night. I won’t go into laborious detail about it, because in the end equation, it’s not anything terribly original. Oh, the characters fill out their roles quite well, coming across more like people and less like cardboard cut-outs, and the use of present tense keeps the action well-paced and immediate rather than getting bogged down in exposition or pontification. For what it’s worth, Chuck does what Chuck does best: punchy dialog that doesn’t mess around, Hemingway-esque connective prose that’s just as short and to-the-point, and just enough intrigue and provocative ideas to keep the action from feeling too shallow or the characters too weak.

For the record, I don’t think this book as quite as good as some of Chuck’s other work, such as Blackbirds or The Blue Blazes. Merely my opinion.


The point is that, as Star Wars novels go, this is a good one. While it doesn’t quite have the grandiosity of Timothy Zahn’s works or the space swashbuckling of Michael A. Stackpole, it also doesn’t suffer from the byzantine structures of the old expanded universe. And that’s a big part of the reason why people hate it so much.

They might say negative things about the plot or characters, but I cannot imagine that a large portion of the negative reactions come from a biased perspective. While I may be biased towards Wendig’s writing in general, I am also a long-time Star Wars fan, and I mourned the loss of Zahn’s trilogy and the exploits of Rogue Squadron when it was announced that the old canon was being ejected. It hurt, to be honest.

But things change. And we move on.

In the end, you really can’t ask for a better bridge than the writing of Wendig, both between the two films and the old EU and the new. It does its job, workman-like, moving the story towards its ultimate destination and using enough familiar faces to acclimate open-minded readers to a universe both old and new. All we have to do is let go of our hatred of change and the unfamiliar. Much like a black stormtrooper, a three-bladed lightsaber, or a woman in shining armor, change is good even if it seems strange or unnecessary, and it is up to us to embrace it and see where the new journey takes us. Anything less cheapens our beloved stories, derides the creative endeavors of people like Wendig, and makes us look foolish and childish. Do better, Star Wars fans. Be better. Let go of your hate.

From the Vault: Write Angry

Today feels like it’s going to be a big change for me. Which is good, I have needed it. But I have also been struggling with a lack of inspiration, so while I head downtown for what is hopefully the first day of a new endeavour, here’s a reminder to myself – and to you – about the best time to write. Even on a Monday.

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

Mondays can be difficult. Yesterday especially was a trial. The days in which I am legitimately frustrated, angry, or stressed about a project in front of me have been few and far between, but this was a doozy. I drove home from the office hours after I’d usually leave, thinking about how tired I already was, the level at which I was enervated, and keeping the fury from informing the hands on the wheel.

It occurred to me that it was the perfect time to write.

Neil Gaiman has said you need to write when you’re uninspired. This is true. Chuck Wendig’s advice on when and how to write tends to be condensed into little profane gems like “Art Harder, Motherfucker!” and I agree with him, as well. Indeed, it applies no matter what emotional funk you might be in: a dark one, a dour one, a sad one, an angry one.

If you’re a writer, it’s important to keep writing. Remember that the words you don’t write will never be read by another person. That world in your head will never really come to life. Just keep that in mind.

500 Words on Chuck Wendig

Courtesy terribleminds
Courtesy terribleminds

If you don’t know who Chuck Wendig is by now…

First of all, watch this.

Second of all, what the hell is wrong with you?

I’ve worshipped at the Altar of the Terriblemind more than once. It involves sacrifices of coffee, whiskey, tacos, and an outpouring of creative swears while dancing naked under the light of a full moon. While it’s yeilded quite a few fantastic books, which I’ll get to, it’s also given me the sense that I need to kick my writerly ass.

The last few months have been surprisingly stressful at the dayjob, which is perhaps due to extenuating circumstances in my head and diet and whatnot, but that’s not really an excuse. The dayjob only lasts a certain number of hours per day, and I could easily carve out more of the remaining time for writing. Hell, Hearthstone has long queues, as does Heroes of the Storm (waiting on my invite, Blizzard!), World of Warcraft has pauses for travel and queues of its own… and those are just the Blizzard games! I like to write posts like this while watching Crash Course or The Cinema Snob. It’s possible to pour the words into the cracks between the day’s longer hours. I just need to do it more often.

A while back, Chuck posted a photo of where he writes. It’s beautiful. Isolated. A window to the outdoors, a rig for his iPad (disconnected from the Internet, I’d imagine), a place for his coffee. I’m reminded again that not only do I need to make the time, I need to make the space. Sitting here tapping out blog posts isn’t too difficult, writing-wise, but it’s still incredibly easy to be distracted and if I want to get anything done, I need to focus. I must do that more often, just like I should work out more often. I can make all of the excuses I like about the dayjob or my mental/emotional state or what have you, but in the end, the only way to write is to write.

Wendig reminds me of this because, damn, that motherfucker’s prolific. He’s writing novels, novellas, serialized fiction, non-fiction about writing… basically everything a canny genre writer can write to keep writing. He’s got various points of entry if you’re not up on his work, too. Are you into vampires and/or zombies? Read Double Dead. Want a powerful female protagonist? Blackbirds is for you. How about urban fantasy mashed with gripping crime drama? Try The Blue Blazes. Young adult reader looking for something unique? Under The Empyrean Sky might be your bag. Just need advice/a kick in the ass for your own writing? Buy The Kick-Ass Writer already.

See what I mean? Whenever I worry that my ambitions are too “all over the place”, that what I write can’t possibly make it, Chuck reminds me that such thinking is bullshit. All I have to do is get off my ass. Or at least sit my ass down and write.

Book Review: Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey

Courtesy terribleminds

I’m sure you’re familiar with treasure maps. They lay out the land for you. They show you a path to some sort of prize. They’ll tell you what dangers you will face. What they don’t tell you is what the treasure will actually be, or how valuable it will be to you.

Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey is like that. Just imagine the treasure map is smelling faintly of booze, covered with profanity scrawled in Crayon and smeared with… …well, it’s smeared.

Kidding aside, it’s a valuable resource if you’re a writer or aspiring writer of any kind. Novelist? Magazine writer? Game developer? Postcard scribe? Coffee mug actualizer? Executive Vice President of Placemats? There’s something for you in this book.

(I said kidding aside, didn’t I? Dammit.)

Admittedly, the writing and advice of Chuck Wendig is infectious. This is a book that will make you laugh, make you think and make you question your own sanity. You’ll wonder if Chuck somehow crawled inside your head while he was writing Cannes-worthy screenplays and juggling his freelance gigs with the new baby his intrepid wife just had. Because a lot of his experiences feel like they are talking to or about you, personally.

At least, they do to me. So maybe I’m the crazy one. I’m sure some doctors would back that one up.

I could go through article by article, post by post, and tell you exactly what is in Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey. But doing so would cheapen the experience. The journey laid out in its pages, a trail blazed in the posts of his terribleminds blog and bounced off of the rubbery brains of his peers, is one that should be taken (if possible) without preamble, explanation or tutorial save for the following: Get in, sit down, shut the fuck up and hang the fuck on. The book includes more notes on his thoughts, expansions and even reversals of his opinions, frank questions posed to the author and plenty of Chuck’s signature style. It will brighten some days, and others may quickly tire of it. Your mileage may vary, but the advice and anecdotes are more than the sum of their stylistic parts and worthy reading for any would-be author. It’s just hard to say how much each bit will help said would-be author, which again falls into that whole variable mileage thing.

The mind of a writer is a dark, confusing and occasionally frightening place. Chuck wades in with a knife between his teeth, a shotgun in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other. The path a writer must take to publication is fraught with danger and pitfalls. Chuck shows you how to sidestep the pits and tell the danger to fuck off home. The excuses of a writer that keeps them from writing are many and varied. Chuck demonstrates the proper technique in beating the shit out of those excuses with that bottle after you’ve drained it of its biting but somehow soothing contents.

Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey is the writer’s life in microcosm. The insanity, the drive, the laughter and tears, the deepest valleys and the dizzying heights – Chuck Wendig covers it all and somehow emerges on the other side with a smile on his bearded face. If you have the wherewithal to pick out the gems that are missing from your experience, you can do the same. Hell, you might even grow a beard of your own while reading it, and for you lady writers, I apologize on Chuck’s behalf if you weren’t planning on growing one.

If you’re a writer, thinking of being a writer or wondering exactly why that writer you know is chained up in the corner frothing at the mouth and grumbling to himself about unicorn semen and candy-apple witch tits, you should already own Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey. It’s a collection of advice, anecdotes and cautionary tales bound together by a love of the written word and the power of good booze.

Get it, and if you do so in actual print as opposed to some sort of electronic hoojeywhatsis, put it on the writing shelf next to Elements of Style. And let me know how that goes. I’m pretty sure Chuck can take those Strunk and White dudes in a fight.

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