Write a Novel in 30 Days – FICTION UNBOXED (Days 2 & 3)

Fiction Unboxed Day Three

So the guys, Sean Platt and Jounny B. Truant, are “steaming” along with their ideas for their 30 day novel and the process is FASCINATING. Getting to sit on their story meetings has given me some valuable insights into a working method for collaborators that could really help writers pump out the kind of volume the guys have been pumping out.

For the first three days they threw around a lot of different ideas based on the Steampunk genre. They’ve already written and discarded tons of words.

They worked hard to come up with a world for the characters to live in and a story line that they would both be excited to keep exploring. This process is difficult enough when you are working in private, but adding the stressful element of everyone watching has to be affecting the guys in some way. They do discuss how strange it is and how aware they are that people are watching, even incorporating it into the story idea. It will be interesting to hear them talk more about this as they move forward.

They’ve also been posting their pages. As of today we’ve seen emails, beats, and a first draft of Chapter One. You can check out where they are in the process by visiting FICTION UNBOXED. There are some FREE levels you can still take part in.

Here are a few take-aways from the past few days:

Discipline is key to getting this accomplished, what the guys call “ass in chair” time. Agreed.

When talking about their protagonist Johnny B. Truant said, “You can’t desire something you don’t want and you can’t want something if it’s too easy to get.” I think that’s really good advice for creating a character your readers want to follow. Give them something they want more than anything else and make it REALLY hard for them to get.

While trying to figure out the beats, the guys discussed how they wanted to find the story that is true to them. They used a great term while describing themselves – genre agnostic – and said that no matter the genre, “our voice is what matters.”

As they work, there is not a lot of changing the other person’s ideas by saying “how about this instead.” What they do is ask a lot of questions about WHY the world works or doesn’t work as they are creating it. They also say, “I like that ” a lot and then riff off of the given circumstances they are creating for the characters to live into. You can see why they are a great team by how they communicate their ideas to each other.

At one point Sean Platt says he talks to his wife, Cindy, about the ideas and immediately feels like he can expand on it, this happens for me as well. It seems that if you start telling the story to someone else and get caught up in it yourself, that can be a really good sign that you are headed in the right direction.

They continue to spin the story out as they go along and keep comparing it to other stories and tropes, mixing and mashing them up into new combinations. “Good writers borrow, great writers steal!” (this quote and versions of it is attributed to various people: Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, T.S. Elliot, Austin Kleon even Steve Jobs)

They keep talking about what they like, “I like this, I love this, I want to get that” and they laugh and curse and make fun of their own ideas and get excited about them as well. It’s strange to watch because it is very similar to the process that goes on in my head.

The last quote for the day that I’d like to leave you with is “Our hero has this itch that she can’t scratch for her entire life.”

This is brilliant because if we build characters that have something they have a deep longing to accomplish or solve or acquire, we as an audience will want to go on the journey with them.

This experience is just like that, too.

The guys have a deep longing, or itch, to get this book done in 30 days and we are following along on their journey fascinated by how difficult it is and wanting to know what their process is and if they are going to accomplish it, even though we know they will (but do we?). We started with nothing and by the end of this journey we will have watched them build a whole new world with all of its bumps and bruises and false starts and unknowns. In some way, watching them do it, can give us permission to do it too.

You can get insights and inspiration like this to help you on your writer’s journey straight to your inbox by signing up to be a Stories are the Wildest Things Insider. Just click on the Become an Insider menu link or sign-up HERE.

Write a Novel in 30 Days – FICTION UNBOXED


Fiction Unboxed, from the guys at Self-Publishing Podcast, has started and it’s very exciting to participate in this “never-been-done-before” online event. I put that in quotes because I think that most everything has been done before, but that brilliance comes when people combine things that have been done before in new ways. This is a great new combination that is generating a lot of creative energy and excitement in the self-publishing world.

Over the next 30 days the guys are opening up their writing process to those who invested in the project on Kickstarter. I kicked in at a higher level than I normally have for other projects because the guys are funny, dedicated storytellers that believe we can change the world with a story.

As usual, the guys are giddy and unfocused at first, but after a short segment of rambling they get down to the nitty-gritty of world building for this 30 day book. If you know their podcasts, Self Publishing Podcast and Better Off Undead, this style of working will be familiar to you. If you are just coming is as a supporter of the project, it might be a little distracting at first. Hang in there, though, because what happens is a fun and truthful way of approaching story building.

The world they are describing sounds really fascinating and watching the guys “spit ball” and toss ideas around is enlightening. They bring up their favorite movies, books and television tropes to create their new world. As they describe their ideas, they go off on side tangents, double back on themselves, joke around and as Dave says, “It’s an awesome thing.”

It’s like a question and answer session with their own imaginations and each of the guys contribute in different ways. Sean has logorrhea and is the cheerleader. He drives the conversations forward and wrangles the random tangents and ideas into some kind of cohesive whole. Johnny B. Truant is the calculating mind, adding and subtracting the value of each idea and how he can use it to get the first draft on the page. Dave is the dark and stormy naysayer who quietly drives the story into the shadows so that Sean and Johnny can steer it back into the light.

I think it’s extremely helpful to see them work in this way. My takeaway (to use a business term) is that you have to pump out a LOT of ideas and then ask yourself questions about how these ideas will work when you begin telling the story within the world.

If you haven’t been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast, check them out. As Sean says, “You can tackle any creative idea if your how and your why are good enough…it’s stupid and/or impossible but we believe anyway.”

This blog, my current MG paranormal adventure novel, and several other projects I’m working on now are because of these guys and their inspiration (and the ongoing encouragement of my four-year-old and lovely wife).

Thanks guys!

I’m looking forward to seeing where their process takes them and, as a result, takes me as well.

I’ll be posting about Fiction Unboxed and my experiences for the next 30 days as well. Please follow and like the blog to keep updated.


Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

Vassar College’s student bookstore is moving their premises and they are liquidating all of their hardcover books.

This is great news for me because I got to pick up Josh Bazell’s Beat the Reaper for $1!


Get your copy on Amazon.com click the photo

Here’s the NY Times review: “Josh Bazell is an unusually talented writer….[he] more than earned my indulgence as a reader. If there’s a better recommendation for a story than that, I don’t know what is.”

I agree. I always know I’m going to have a great time when I pick up a book in a bookstore and before I know it, I’ve raced through Chapter One.

It’s a fun read and there are sharks and mobsters and medicine and doctors and plot twists and turns and a lot of violence, but a really funny voice in the first person narration of Pietro “Bearclaw” Brwna, the narrator.

If you find it, pick it up, (or click on the image and order from Amazon) it’s a great summer read.

Leonardo DiCaprio was slated to play Bearclaw if they make into a movie. (That was five or more years ago) I didn’t know that before I read the book, but I could definitely see the film as I was reading it. 

Drop me a line if you pick it up and let me know what you think!

Sylvia Plath – Writing Quote Wednesday


Ah, Sylvia, the brute, brute heart of a brute like you.

The self-doubt you spoke of creeps in and sits inside my bones.

Help me to have the “outgoing guts” to write about everything in life and to have the imagination to improvise.

I want to split my life open like a ripe juicy watermelon and watch the pink juice and black seeds run together.

I want to sit in the cornucopia of life’s left ear, out of the wind, counting the stars of all colors, not just the plum and the red.

Help me today, and on all dark days, to unclench the owl’s talons from my heart

so that even among the fiercest flames

I can write about – everything.


Write Now! The Time We Have Left (in Jelly Beans) from @BuzzFeed

What will you do with the jelly beans you have left?

I want to spend mine on grand adventures of the mind and body and spirit, laughing as much as possible, hugging my four-year old and being with my family, learning new things and writing down stories for others to spend their jelly beans on.

Let me know what you’ll be doing with your jellybeans in the comments below.

Have an inspiring Tuesday!


What We Can Learn from Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

ImageAt first glance at the Dickens infographic created by RJ Andrews on Info We Trust and my lame attempt to copy it for myself, you would say Charles Dickens and I have nothing in common.

According to the chart, Dickens slept a good seven hours while I fitfully get my 3 hours in between my writing and my four-year old jumping on my stomach to wake me up.

Dickens had no “making ends meet” job, while I put in my eight hours in the trenches of higher education.

Dickens wrote for five hours a day while I’m lucky if I can cram in four at the end of a long day of working and running errands and spending time with my wife and taking care of my son and eventually falling asleep on the sofa with my laptop burning my thighs.

One similarity we do have, however,  is that Dickens spent five hours at the end of his day with friends and family.

I like to do that, too, but my time is often spent with them on social media because we are so scattered around the world. I like to Twitter and Facebook and Google Hangout and  Skype, ways of communicating Dickens didn’t have.

As part of the digital age,  these are some of the many ways we spend time with our friends and family.  Using these technologies have allowed us to engage in our communities in deeply meaningful ways and reach wider audiences for our stories.

That being said, I do think we as creative people need time away from social media and technology so we can hear what our true selves are trying to communicate. With so much constant demand for our attention from the interwebs, how do we listen to that still small voice crying out to be heard over the roar of the infinite variety of content instantly available to us?

Netflix. Reddit. YouTube. Hulu. Google Play. Amazon On Demand. Funny or Die. After being on the internet for too long, clicking on link after link, I start to feel like I might have had Balzac’s 50 cups of black coffee.

Andrews says in an interview with Jillian Steinhauser on Hyperallergic.com that it’s harder for us to have dedicated time like the people on his poster because “technology completely fragments lives and fewer and fewer people live creative routines for every hour of the day.”

Some people looking at the poster might lament that the famous people listed were able to  “live creative routines for every hour of the day,” but I find Andrews’ infographic comforting in many ways. The details of each famous person’s schedule seem “of the past” and different from our experiences but all of them are still very universally human here in the present.

Victor Hugo liked to wake up every morning by “Daily gunshot from fort” and Charles Darwin had a leisurely two hours at night to just think about the problems of the day. Maya Angelou would go to a hotel or motel room to write for seven hours a day. Thomas Mann would listen to gramophone records.

All of these details show creative people working out ways to set up their lives to be creative. Also, these infographics are only a sample of their real days, much like my silly one, of a specific time period in a person’s life, edited for public consumption. My routine is never exactly the same every day (this one is exaggerated to prove a point) and I’m sure most of theirs weren’t either.

While working on this post, I decided to change my routine a bit and try something from Dickens’ routine. Instead of taking a “vigorous walk through the countryside” though, I took a vigorous bike ride on our rail trail. I actually rode more than 10 miles for the first time in a long time. It was exhausting, but felt really good to ride through the woods on a gorgeous evening. When I came home, I was able to finish this post and get a lot more creative work done as well.

So you see, Charles Dickens and I have a lot more in common than you may have originally thought.

Part of my nightly routine is that I also have a glass of red wine or two at night. (Thank you, Tim Ferriss and The Four Hour Body!) Yes, it’s milder than W.H. Auden’s four-and-a-half hours of guests, “strong vodka martinis” and dinner, but then again, I don’t have to go to bed with the help of Seconal. Something else I’d like to add to that routine is Ben Franklin’s ritual of asking, “What good have I done today?”

I hope this post is one of those things.

Keep searching for your creative routines and let me know in the comments anything interesting that you do to support your creative life. I love hearing from you.


For a great video on the cool things we did BEFORE the internet, click HERE.


10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

Demian Farnworth has some pretty smart ideas on this poster from Copyblogger about how to get that first draft done.

I suppose if you follow number 5, however, you don’t really have to follow any of the others.

With the series of MG paranormal adventures I’m working on right now, my biggest problem is going back and editing nitpicky details before I’ve gotten a big enough chunk of writing done.

I struggle sometimes with letting a mess happen and trying to clean it up after that first draft is complete. I worry that I’ll forget which direction I was heading in with the ideas if I leave it and come back to it later. I’m trying to put more trust in that part of the process right now and the ideas on this poster are helping me with that.

How about you? Which of these rules speaks loudest to you?

Tell me when you write…


If you’re like me, you’re curious about when writers are putting in their writing hours. Are you someone who gets up early, stays up late, or writes when you can? There’s a lot of advice out there (and some science – click on the link). I’m interested in finding out when writers are actually putting in writing time to see if there is a trend.

If you could pass this quick poll along to your writer friends and other bloggers, I’d sure appreciate it. It would be nice to get a big enough sample to share the results with everyone in another post. Have a great writing day!

Stories are the wildest things.

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Stories are the Wildest Things 

They chase us down in the middle of the night and we wake up, breathless and sweating, asking, “What happened?” and “Why?”

They sneak up on us while gazing out an apartment window at the young couple shuffling around in the apartment below saying, “This life, too, is odd.”

They beg to be told, nagging and pleading and throwing themselves at our feet until we give in and sit down and compose them and send them out into the world.

They define who we are and what we want and why we are here. They attempt to order the chaos. They make beauty and magic where once there was only the mundane.

They take us on journeys to the far edges of the multi-verse and deep inside us to the depths of our being.

We live in stories like fish live in water and stories are the wildest things.