Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: A Year of Writing

As a writer you can’t underestimate the importance of belonging to a critique group—and we’ve got a great one. We’ve met monthly throughout the year and have written a ton—but here are a few specifics on where each of the Scribblerati were in 2012 with their individual writing (both high and low points).

Lisa Bergin
My own writing low-point: Getting overwhelmed by a new job and not sending my query out to agents, even after I was ready.
High point: starting to write new material again, even with the overwhelming new job.

Shawn Enderlin
Personal writing highlight 2012: Getting To Kill the Goddess professionally edited. But that’s a separate blog post. ;-)

Claudia Hankin
My writing low point: It's the usual. For me, there's no such thing as "writer's block," there's only "writer's blah." If I just haul my keister up to the computer and make myself start clicky-clacking on the keys, I will eventually get lost in the process - and voile! I'm writing. It's the hauling of the keister part that can seem ridiculously hard. 
My writing high point: I finished the second draft of my novel! Not only that, but after my beta readers gave me feedback, I realized that I'm closer to being finished than I thought. 

Jon Hanson
Mine was a high and a low point. I finished the first draft of my latest work, but I'm not happy with it or looking forward to trying to fix the second draft.

Mark Teats
Writing high point(s): I think I had a few in 2012. I finished my 4th draft of BLACKHEART in January. I finished my 1st draft of my second novel, SUNLIGHT in September (and am about 1/3 of the way through a 2nd draft with the help of the Scribblerati). In October I was accepted into graduate school for creative writing starting next spring. I wrote a lot, blogged a lot and even took a writing class or two at the Loft.
Writing low point(s): At least one short story I entered in a contest failed to win, place or even show. Although I completed one more revision of BLACKHEART early in the year the manuscript sits on my desk untouched now for months. I know it needs to be gone through again. I know the last few chapters need fixing—but it’s so much more fun to work on new and shiny projects! But BLACKHEART is not forgotten, only waiting for the right time (like 2013) to be picked up again and completed once and for all.

Happy New Year!

2012 Top Entertainment Picks

After much deliberation, here are our top picks for movies, TV and books in 2012. Items in each category are presented in alpha-order, mostly.

The Avengers (unanimous pick).
Jon says: The sheer size, the amount of characters, the end result... An incredible achievement. Loved it.
Shawn adds: Everyone’s seen it, right? So I won’t blather on. However, submitted for your approval, a candidate for the best cinematic moment ever: the Hulk side punching Thor just after they finished taking out a bunch of bad guys. Perfection.

Chronicle (pick by Mark)
Three high school students struggle with the dark side of their newly found super powers. Well done and creepy. What would superman do if he just wasn’t that nice of a person to begin with?

Cloud Atlas (pick by Lisa)
Tho' perhaps hard to understand if you hadn't read the book, and taking various liberties with the book, I thought the Wachowski siblings made some interesting choices in trying to capture one of my favorite books of all time. For me just thinking through those choices was entertaining. Plus, it was beautiful. And I immediately wanted to watch it again.

The Hobbit: An unexpected journey (pick by Jon, Mark).
Jon says: Always a pleasure to visit Middle Earth.
Mark adds: Delivered what I expected—LOTRs goodness. Great effects, mostly stuck with the book (my family and I “read” the book again on CD this summer crossing South Dakota—and in certain parts of the movie my son leaned over to me and whispered that he knew what was coming next, based on the book—and he was right—the movie held pretty true to Tolkien. Giant eagles rock! (in case you were wondering)

John Carter (pick by Lisa and Mark)
Lisa says: I saw it in my favorite second run theatre, the Riverview, across the street from Scribblerati's hang-out. I wasn't expecting much: a so-so sci-fi movie. But I loved every moment of it. And it has a great puppy, Woola, the super speedy half worm-rhino, half dog.
Mark adds: One of my favorite book series as a boy. I thought Disney did a nice job with this film.

Looper (pick by Lisa and Mark. Comments by Lisa)
I love time travel. I loved how tiny details introduced without fan fare early in the movie become integrated into the plot as it went on. Plus, I've always been a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Moonrise Kingdom (pick by Claudia)
I love Wes Anderson's films, but his current effort is my favorite since The Royal Tenenbaums. I really like the casting of untrained child actors in the leads, they come across as truly untainted by the world. Just a charmer of a movie, with Anderson's usual cast of superiorly talented actors, and his attention to detail which makes every shot a framable photo. 

Daniel Craig in Skyfall, particularly in this coat: Oh, yeah. The movie was really good too. (pick by Claudia)

Santaphone by the Southside Aces (unanimous pick)
New Orleans street beat meets classic jazz. Christmas tunes like you've never heard them before - from the reverent to the hilarious, traditional to the brand spankin' new and original. Swing your hips - Santaphone style. You can order the CD here.

TV Shows

Dire wolves, undead, swords, sorcery, nudity, violence, struggle for kingdoms, characters both valiant and vile, warfare and even a trio of pint-sized dragons. I’m excited to see where Season 3 goes.

Justified (pick by Shawn)
I came late to this TV series. I stumbled onto season three in January, fell in love, bought seasons one and two, and finished those up just within the last couple of weeks. Justified, if you haven’t watched it, is an awesome show. Think: old West gunslinger meets modern-day police drama, using the drug-infested hills of Kentucky as a setting. The characters are awesome and the writing is exceptional.

Key and Peele (pick by Claudia)
I actually have only watched a handful of skits by these guys, but they were all really, really funny. It's been too long since the world has given us a great sketch comedy show. Mr. Show is the last one I can think of. Watch this.
And then go find their "Liam Neesons" sketch. (pick by Claudia and Jon)

This show on AMC is one of my favorites, and the pacing and story was much improved over the previous season. The scenario of the zombie infested prison made for some interesting programs, as well as some of the interplay between the sword-wielding Michonne and the “Governor.”


The Avengers: The comic (pick by Jon)
Jonathan Hickman has started a new era in the Avengers and if his run on Fantastic Four is any indication, it will be brilliant. Plus the art is great.

Red Country (pick by Jon)
The latest in the series by Joe Abercrombie, a fantasy/western in the classic tradition of A Man with No Name, The Wild Bunch, etc. and featuring the return of a long thought dead character, it's a classic tale of revenge mixing fantasy and western tropes with stunning prose. A great read. (pick & comments by Jon)

Cifiscape Vol. 2 (unanimous pick)
Different stories about the wild and weird future Twin Cities. Featuring the short story "Harris" by Jon Hanson. You can buy it on Amazon, btw...

Cloud Atlas (pick by Claudia)
I was blown away by David Mitchell's ability to write in such diverse voices and genres - all in one book. There's no neat bow at the end, nor thematic hammer over the head - it wasn't until after I had finished reading it that I found myself dwelling on the book's larger ideas of systems of power and control - from the microcosm of an old folks' home, to the complete enslavement of a race.

Although I read a number of fiction books and graphic novels this year, my favorite read of all (based on the way I flew through it) was the non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand about the real life exploits of Olympic runner and WWII bombardier, Louis Zamperini. He met Hitler, survived more than one close call in flight over the Pacific, was almost eaten by sharks and spent time as a war prisoner in Japan. My biggest regret: missing Mr. Zamperini’s book tour (he’s in his 90’s).

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (pick by Shawn)
I must admit as to being skeptical. The Dark Tower 4.5? Really? But it works. I mean, it really works. It starts out with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy on their way to the Calla, and then rather quickly delves into the Roland’s past. But that’s just the start. From there, past Roland tells another story, a fairytale, if you will, set in the world of The Dark Tower. Yes, that’s right. It’s a story, within a story, within a story. And it’s beautiful, and wonderful, and it makes me wish there were more. Say thank ya.

Journey into Mystery (pick by Shawn)
This has easily been my favorite comic of the year. Brian Michael Bendis’s Spider-Men is a close second, as is Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga (which is cropping up on more formal best of lists), but Journey into Mystery was the one I looked forward to most consistently. Kieron Gillen’s run on this title told the tale of Kid Loki, who was brought back to life by his brother Thor. Kid Loki wanted nothing more than to be loved and accepted, but he was haunted by the specter of his past self, manifest in the form of his bird companion Ikol. There was also his frenemy Leah, handmaiden of Hella, Goddess of Hel. Their antics were a constant joy, as were Loki’s endeavors to do the right thing, despite the pull of his trickster nature. And maybe the best issue of all? The last one, where Kid Loki confronts his former self. Agonizing, beautiful, and again, perfection.

Reading The Secret Garden out loud (Claudia’s pick)
I read the classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett to my husband and a friend. It was my favorite book as a child - I think I read it 10 times by the time I was 10. I'd never before read it as an adult, and I was stunned at the depth and complexity of this children's book. (Also, the 19th-century language plus thick Yorkshire dialects made it quite the challenge to read aloud.) There were sections of such truth and beauty that we'd have to stop, read them again, and then pause to reflect before we could read on. 

“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it ... sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone's eyes.” - Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

On the Pleasure of Re-reading

There are many kinds of re-reading. The re-reading we do as we edit our work, letting the critical mind hover alongside the creative mind. The re-reading we do when we want to spend more time with our favorite characters. I'm often re-reading difficult philosophy passages to try to make some kind of sense out of them. Re-reading sentences of my student's papers trying to figure out what they meant to say so I can help them say it more clearly. There's a value and a unique pleasure to all these re-readings.

But there's another kind of re-reading that I find intensely satisfying. After reading a well-crafted story, after I've pieced it together as I read and then at the very, very, last moments of the tale, the whole thing falls into a different kind of place. The strands I thought were just pretty embroidery suddenly show themselves as the very stitching that holds everything together. And what I thought I knew is turned topsy and now I really, really know what was there all along.


And then I have to start over from the very beginning and re-read the whole damn thing and marvel at what was there and yet hidden from me.
Pure joy.

I've tried to do that in my latest short story, Supersedure. Scribblerati helped to point out all those sentences, paragraphs, passages where, like my students, I haven't said what I need to say clearly enough. But even with those more surface fixes, I'm mindful of how hard that story is to write. (And why writing mysteries seems impossibly intimidating to me).

How to weave and dye the fabric of the story so that on the first read through the reader thinks the story is blue, but once finished they realize it was green all along. How to write it so they don't feel tricked, or worse, don't see the green at all. How to write it so that they immediately turn back the first word, re-reading as they marvel at its blueness, its greenness.

Now that story. Writing that one, that would be something to treasure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Vampires

Pumpkin pie, turkey, time with friends and family, all makes me think of one thing:

Well, I guess I was thinking about them anyway. In my novel-in-progress, SUNLIGHT, they are the plague that has destroyed the world of man, and I am trying to put my own spin on them, as much as I can.

But, to me, vampires have long established lore, and need to have certain things going on to be scary. For instance: They only come out at night (afraid of the sun), they drink blood, and they’re fast, smart and evil.

Here are some of my favorite vampires (and vampire stories and films) of all time, in no particular order.

My nomination(s) for Best Vampires of all time:
  1. The vampires from Vampire$ (the novel) by John Steakley. The vampires have super-human strength and speed, and the men who hunt them rise to the challenge with some of the best vampire hunting tools ever imagined. Smart heroes, smart and scary vampires.
  2. Mr. Barlow, the smart and charismatic vampire from Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot.
  3. The Vampire Lestat, from the Anne Rice book of the same name (I enjoyed the depiction of Lestat in the 2002 movie Queen of the Damned.)
  4. Blade, from comic books and the Blade Trilogy movies. I still remember going opening night of the first movie and having teen blade fans lurking around the theatre in vampire garb. Fun!
  5. Eli, the creepy little vampire from Let the Right One In
  6. Nosferatu—from the 1922 silent film. Ugly, creepy and a model for many vampires that came after him. Worst. Soundtrack. Ever.
  7. David and his vampire brothers from The Lost Boys.  (1980’s film) Campy vampire fun. This might also be one of my favs because my wife and I watched this movie on our first ever date. Who says vampires aren’t romantic?
  8. The vampires from I am Legend (in all it’s movie and book forms). The story about a vampire apocalypse is by Richard Matheson in which the vampires are scary and intelligent. The movies have featured Charlton Heston (The Omega Man), Vincent Price and Will Smith. I like ‘em all for different reasons. I count this story as one of my inspirations for my book Sunlight.
  9.  Bill and Eric (and many of the other vampires) from True Blood. I’m a sucker for this show (and I know many people who’ve enjoyed the books by Charlaine Harris).
  10. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  11.  Dracula (no list would be complete without him) by Bram Stoker. One of my fav versions is Dracula 2000 (I believe Gerard Butler played Dracula). I actually don’t mind the Gary Oldman/Winona Ryder version (although I know many people who put that on the “worst” list.) Both these movie versions try to explain a back-story of why/how Dracula came into being.
  12. Necroscope by Brian Lumley. Scary vampires and an interesting twist—the people pitted against them have psychic powers.

Honorable mentions: Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite (beautifully written); Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (funny); 30 Days of Night (the graphic novels moreso than the 2007 movie); The Fright Night Movies (original and most recent versions) and any vampire from a Hammer film.

My Least Favorite Vampire Stories/Characters:
  1. Edward Cullen, from Twilight. Clearly this series is a huge success, so my opinion is outweighed by many—but this shiny daywalker fills me with boredom and anger whenever he crosses the movie screen. Shouldn’t a hundred+ year old vampire get over his teen angst?
  2. Every vampire in From Dusk Till Dawn (maybe except Salma Hayek)
  3. Vampire’s Kiss (film, 1988) starring Nicolas Cage. Terrible. Touted as a dark comedy this is the only movie I ever asked BlockBuster for a refund on—and got it.
  4. John Carpenter’s Vampires (film, 1998). Meh. Based on the book (that I love) by John Steakley, it’s pretty standard fare—but the cool concepts and smart characters in the book mostly didn’t make it into the movie. Too bad.
  5. Van Helsing (film, 2004). Too much CGI schlock for my tastes. Cool scenes were interspersed with terrible writing. Vampires reproducing (thousands of them, it seemed) via some sort of giant boogery vampire eggs (?) made no sense at all. I still recall the theatre audience laughing out loud at certain scenes that clearly weren’t supposed to be funny.

And your favorite vampire or vampire story is....?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Ah, the holidays. A time of gluttony and sloth and drunken vindictiveness. Take a deep breath, my friend, taste that rarefied air. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year. A time when family gathers around your edges like slavering wolves lurking just beyond the firelight. A time of crowds, seething and surging, a greasy tide of humanity smashing through the poorly maintained levees of good manners, drowning decent behavior, and swamping class and taste with a stagnant backwash of sweaty desperation, trapped within the gaudy confines of the Mall, damp and reeking. 

I'm just kidding, you're all wonderful, really.

So yeah... Thanksgiving. You know what I love? Cornbread stuffing. That is some good shit right there, my friends. If you haven't had it, I highly recommend rectifying that little error ASAP. There's still time, the groceries stores as of yet, are not completely looted. Just a friendly tip from me to you, amigo.

So... Holidays... Holi-DAZE, amirite? Know what I mean?

No? Well, allow me to explain.

With all the crazed running about of this time of year, with all the panic and petty anger and opportunistic backstabbing and what-not that looms over the next few days as we gather to "celebrate", there's one thing that always, inevitably, ultimately suffers.

What? No. Children? No. What the...?

Your WRITING. The answer is: Your writing.

Your writing always suffers during all the hub-bub and what-cha'doin' of this time of year. It gets lost in the shuffle. One day skipped becomes two, three, a week very easily. The holidays can be momentum killers and as we all know, forward momentum? That's your book right there, my friends. You gotta keep rolling, you gotta push, push, push to the end. Finish. When it comes to your first draft, it is of the utmost importance: Finish the story.

So what do you do?

Good question, Ponder Cat, what do you do? Well, here's 5 suggestions straight from my pie-hole.

1. Make time
Be a little bit selfish. Take some time for yourself Why not? The rest of the free world will be busy setting new records for selfish behavior, so who can judge you for taking an hour or two a day to scribble away in a corner somewhere? Here's a tip for those of you traveling out of town: Get a hotel room. Sure, it costs more than staying for free at a relative's house and sleeping in one of their ridiculously uncomfortable beds... or does it?

2. Adjust your expectations
Okay, your output is going to be lowered. You're probably not going to be able to pull off a 2000 word day for the next week or so. Accept it. It's not a big deal. Maybe you won't get chapters done, so what? Shoot for a few scenes instead. Family visits are nothing but Time Leeches, they will suck up every available moment and employ it towards their own horrible and twisted agenda, it's not the end of the world. Remember, my friends: Thanksgiving isn't forever, we'll make it.

3. Be prepared
Have your note book and pen ready. Have your tablet and laptop charged. Keep your Jump drive close. You may have to snatch moments where you can, so don't waste them hunting around for your stuff. Keep it with you.

4. Adapt
If you're one of those people who needs a perfectly balanced environment with the right chair and the right desk set up at exactly the right angle of slanting sunlight, with only one specific recording of a certain band with the volume just so and the perfect vase of very specific flowers perfectly arranged before you can actually set pen to paper and begin writing... then you're screwed. I can't help you. Get lost. And honestly, I question whether or not you really want to write and whether or not those conditions you set are actually roadblocks set up to act as excuses as to why you never seem to get anything written, except those first 25 pages you keep re-editing and re-editing...

But I digress--

Anyway, be ready to write not just when you can, but where you can. Is everyone watching football, snoring and farting away on the couch, and is that really the only place to sit? Then sit down. Write there. Tune the noise and distraction out. If you want to do it, if you want to write, here's your chance. Get some work done. Hey, at least they're all too busy to bother you, right?

5. Alternate progress
Ok, fine, maybe you can't settle in and relax enough for the ol' Imagination to properly kick in. Don't worry about it. No problem, it happens. But what about your plotting? How about some notes? Even just sitting there and thinking about stuff is something, right? (Although, I suggest you write your thoughts down, memory is not as reliable later as we believe it to be in the moment.) Snatches of dialogue, character bits, it's all important. This is what that little notebook you carry around with you everywhere is for.

Put it to use. Get to work.

And there you go...

Happy Thanksgiving!
Jon (and the rest of the Scribblerati, I assume.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Indie Publishing: Editors, why you hide?

Hey Scribblerati fans, today I'm blogging about my experience as a first-time Indie Author looking for an Editor.

You can find my post, Indie Publishing: Editors, why you hide? over on my blog.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Darth Disney

So, the Internacles in the last few hours have positively exploded with the news that Disney has bought out Lucas Film, and is going to be making Star Wars: Episode VII.

There are two very consistent reactions out there. One: "Aaaargh! This is the end of everything decent in the world!" and Two: "Well, they could hardly make the Star Wars franchise any worse at this point." Often these thoughts are coming out of the same person's mouth. (Or, well, fingers.)

I'll go one further, and bear with me... this is a good thing. Okay, yes, it would have been better if the rights would have been purchased by, say, Peter Jackson or Joss Whedon (although that would be a death sentence for Princess Leia, amiright?)

When Disney bought The Muppets all those years ago, I was pretty horrified. But that was a franchise for the most part unspoiled. Not so, Star Wars. Not so.

I can't blame Lucas for selling. I mean, no matter how rich you are, it's got to be difficult having the most rabid fanbase in the history of pop culture, since, say, Rudolph Valentino, and then watch them all turn from you in disgust. Well-earned disgust, mind you.

Star Wars was the first film I remember seeing in the theater. The series had a profound effect on my childhood, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. Most of you are in the same boat with me. Don't get me wrong, the first three films (in our chronology, not the Star Wars universe's) are hardly perfection. Empire is the strongest of the three, but in Jedi, the Lucas-induced cracks are already beginning to show. Still, they are great stories, with great characters, despite some clunky dialog and Ewoks.

Lest we never forget.

But those OTHER films. You know the ones. I can't... I just can't. Kids seem to like them, and one friend of mine, who otherwise exhibits impeccable taste, but most adult humans think that they're a big pile of poo. Why should George Lucas touch Star Wars ever again? He's already killed the beloved family pet, nobody wants to watch him poke it with a stick for another 10 years.

So then... some other creative minds are taking over the franchise. Good! Very good! I hope they go off of Timothy Zahn's post-Jedi novels, I rather like them. But whatever they do, it will be done by fresh talent, by people who, hopefully, understand the appeal of the first three movies (Again, our chronology. Just gonna head you off at the pass there. Yes, I'm looking at you.)

And let's not forget, Disney may be a corporate monster, but it has in its fold other, more likable monsters. I, of course, am talking about Sully and Mike Wasowski. Pixar, people. They may not get on with Disney all the time, but they've managed to put out some of the most consistently terrific films of the last decade, despite the looming Mouse.

Let's hope some similarly great creative minds are put into place to bring Star Wars back to life.
And even if it's not very good... it can't be worse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Quash the Creative Mind

From my son's First Grade Homework:

1. Which words go together?


2. Which could really happen?

A rabbit goes bowling with a tulip.
A rabbit hops behind a bush.

And the dilemma of the writerly mom: do I encourage him to conform so he doesn't get his homework "wrong"? Or do we write that story about the monkeys exploding out of the Birthday Cake, bounding about the room with candles grasped in their tails?

Take that Minneapolis School System!

Monday, October 15, 2012

To begin

I don't know if you happened to see this or not, but I recently finished the 1st Draft of my latest Work in Progress (or WIP to all y'all in the know, y'know?). You can read all about it here at my blog, if you're interested. Go on, go check it out. I'll wait... No problem... I don't mind.

Doop-a-do... ppppphhhhbbbbbtttt...

Still looking? No, no. No rush. I said: we'll wait. Don't worry. I just want everyone caught up, is all. Nooooo pressure. Hmm-hmmm-hmmmmm... Hey. Hey, everybody else who's waiting... you guys saw this right?

Never. Stops. Being. Funny.

Okay, everybody back? Great, good to see ya'. And just FYI, feel free to swing back by my blog any time. It's open and free to all.

So yeah. Like I said, the 1st Draft of my current WIP is done, but I'm not quite ready to dive back in and begin the 2nd Draft. Not yet. I don't trust my eyes, for one. They've been too close for too long and they may not see clearly at the moment. And secondly, I need a little break, which is tied into the whole "fresh eyes" thing. Walk away for a bit, take a break, let things simmer down. Then, when you go back again, things will look new... hopefully.

That's the plan, anyway.

In the meantime, I've got plans. I've got new ideas. A new book, I think, maybe (and maybe a new short story too, but that's cooking currently, so we'll see) and I was thinking maybe, while my newly completed 1st Draft is cooling, I would do some work on this new idea/book/thing.

Hmmmm...But how does one start a new project?

Actually, I've done this before, so I've got a process and I thought I'd share it with you. This is what I do, of course, so your mileage may vary, but I've found it works for me. Maybe that's the key to it all: You figure out what works for you and you stick with it. After all, the point is to finish something, right? If your process works for you, great. The flip-side being: If it ISN'T working for you, if you find yourself more often than not staring at a blank page with "so many ideas in my head, if only I could just get them all out..." maybe it's time you switch something up, my friend.

This works for me, so let me break it down for you.

The Outline

This is where I begin. Now, outlines are usually considered bad words in writing circles. They're considered stifling and restrictive and generally lacking in creativity. Conjuring up images of the traditional outline format, many writers sniff, noses in the air, claiming that following such a strict course means your characters will never get the chance to truly walk and talk on their own, it means that your story is locked down before it even starts and as a result, any possible better ideas that might occur along the way are locked out...

Unless of course you prefer to use an outline, in which case the belief is that those who do not lack the focus needed to complete projects, and that those who do manage to finish often miss crucial pieces or forget to capitalize on narrative oppurtunities. They believe that the organization merely allows one to order one's thoughts, to see the shape of the story as it develops, to track the character arcs, and to ensure your narrative is on track. This side of the debate believes that outlines allow the writer to focus on the writing itself by taking the pressure off the writer when it comes to having to remember all the little details and ideas that may randomly occur to them throughout the process.

The two sides can get heated.

Maybe not as much as that classic bit of tomfoolery: Traditional Publishing versus Self-Publishing, but it does get folks riled, and like that other great bru-haha, the majority of the most strident are really just full of crap, because really, who cares? Outline? Don't outline? Who cares? Whatever works for you, right? That's what we're talking about here; that's our motto for the moment, right? Of course, it'd be nice if it were shared by all, but in reality, if you bring up the term "outline" when discussing your process with a bunch of writers, it almost guarantees that the conversation will quickly derail and boil down to an argument between the last standing pair of fools.

Ronnie prefers to outline, while Jwoww likes to "let shit happen".

So let's back up. Instead of Outline, let's call it: Notes.

Yes. Notes...

Take Notes

This is key. It's very important. Especially in the beginning. You're never going to remember all the random crap that floats up out of the dank idea-hole in the back of your head. Never. You think you will, but you won't, that shit is like smoke, Mon Frere, as soon as a breeze blows through that space... it's gone. GONE gone. And when that happens, the only thing you will be left with that you know for sure, is that whatever it was you forgot, it was the most awesome thing ever. Too bad, sucker. And that will drive you nuts. So, trust me, it's better to avoid this feeling. It sucks. And the easiest way to avoid it?

Get some books and write that shit down.

And while yes, it's true, eventually I do put it all in a Word file for easy writing reference, that's for when the ideas are starting to get a little more solid. When I first start out, when I'm still just jotting stuff down and things are still really loose, that's when I prefer to go with Long-hand. That's when I use the books.

Here are my current books:

The reason I find long hand works best at the start, is because it somehow doesn't seem as set. It's just a bunch of scribbled notes, scrawled in blocks and columns, it's snippets of dialogue, bits of scenes, light character sketches. No pressure. At first glance, it's just a jumbled catch all mess, but it's a mess with a purpose, all broken down into a couple of different specific sections.

The Sections
This is how I do it...


This is where I keep track of the basics. Names. Moments. Details. Phrases. Descriptions. Snippets of ideas that may go somewhere or nowhere. The random bits. The stray thoughts, like: "Should they even make it to the school?" or "Should there be a friendly Orge? Well-spoken? (Not like Hank McCoy)". This is where I write down the beginning and the ending. Which is very important at the start, I think. It is my firm belief that you should know these two things before you start. If you don't, how do you even know what your story is? Also, this is where I put down the idea: "What if you were special and could do special things. What if you were chosen to attend a special academy, a secret place of magic and wonder, a place where only the most special people with the most special abilities were chosen to attend? What if you went to this special academy and discovered it was evil?" Now, is that the whole of the idea? No, but that's the kernel, that's where it starts.


This is where I work bits out. I kind of slog them around and see how they shape out. I question them, if you will. The who, what, why, how, and the where. This is where I start to make some of the bigger story pieces, everything from the character motivation to the setting to the thrust of the conflict. Here's where I figure out the world details, how things work. Knowing these answers are important, even if they never appear in your story, especially if they never appear in your story.

The way it goes:

This is the part that some writers poo-poo, because here's where I sketch stuff out. Here's where I put down what happens first, what happens next, and where things go after that. This is the map. This is the way the story goes. Personally, I like to keep it vague.

"Abby in back of cop car. Rainy. Lots of lights. Her mom is pissed."
"The other world, the rebel ambush, the mass escape, chaos, and into the river."

Short reminders, just enough for me to see and remember. I don't think you need more than that. They're notes, after all. I figure, if you keep it vague, you keep it loose, you leave yourself and your story some room to stretch and grow. Best of both worlds.

Things to remember:

This last part is for specific things that don't have a home. These are the things that are off in the distance still, things that I want to happen, but I just haven't planned up to that point yet. "Find the mech suit" Or maybe it's details that don't need to be in the outline. "The corporate logo is multiple earths spun out into the shape of a C, the beginning of the name: Croatoan. Beneath it says: Worlds of Possibilities." Or "The first child born in America by colonists was named Virginia Dare." Or "Al-taneen means Dragon, in Arabic." These are things to remember. They'll probably be useful.

To begin...

This process takes a little while. It's not something you just sit down and do one day like a math assignment. It's something you start and let build, something you can't linger over. It takes a kernel of an idea. I think it takes the knowledge of a beginning and an ending. Maybe an concerning a few characters too. Maybe a scene. I don't know, your mileage may vary. At a certain point, I take the good stuff, the stuff I'll probably use and transfer it to a Word Document, then this notebook loses it's purpose. It becomes nothing but scribbles and half-baked ideas, but that's later, in the beginning, I find it to be a good place to start.

Of course, once you start your project, you're on your own, sink or swim, baby. Doing this is not a guarantee of any kind of success or anything. How, and if, you ever finish something is up to you; I only share this in the hope that it might help you figure out what kind of story you're going to tell.

Hopefully, it will help you begin.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fallen Jedi - Padawan

Okay, show of hands. How many of you knew there was such a thing as Star Wars Reads Day?

No? Me either. Not until a few days ago, anyway, when I saw it in my Twitter feed. At first I was like, meh, because Revenge of the Sith kind of killed Star Wars for me.

But then I remembered.

You see, I have this bit of fan fiction I've been sitting on for a long time. It's just a short little thing, something I wrote shortly before Revenge of the Sith. Back then I was reading a lot of Star Wars novels and my imagination was churning, dreaming up all the exciting places the franchise could go. I never once considered that Lucas would kill off all the Jedi in one movie.

This little story takes place in a Star Wars universe where Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth Vader and killed many of Jedi, but not all of them. Those who remained were on the run and Darth Vader was tracking them down, one by one.

So, in honor of Star Wars Reads Day, I present Fallen Jedi – Padawan. I've dusted it off and polished it a bit, but it's essentially the same story I wrote all those years ago.


Fallen Jedi

A story by Shawn Enderlin

Kile ran, skimming along the building’s side as fast as his short legs would carry him. Hot ozone and blaster charred duracrete choked the air while the all too familiar sound of colliding lightsabers hissed and spat behind him.

Run, the mocking voice said in his head. While you can.

Heart pounding, Kile rounded the corner and darted into a busy street. He lost himself in the crowd, moving away from the ambush.

Good, the voice said. Run away and hide. You're too young to help her. Too slow. Too clumsy.

Kile pounded his fists against his head. It was true!

Master Marion’s voice echoed in his head. Control, Kile. Remember, the only one who can make you feel inferior is yourself.

Grinding his teeth with frustration, confusion, fear – the dark side! – Kile struggled to bring his emotions under control. Master Marion was right. He couldn’t afford to let fear control him. Not now. Not with death so close.

Give in to your fear, Padawan. Give in to your hatred of your own weakness. Only then will you discover the power you crave.

“Out of the way, boy!”

Kile looked up into the angry eyes of well dressed man who had. The man took in Kile's braid and the lightsaber hanging on the clip at his belt and the man's contempt melted into terror.

“Jedi!” the man blubbered, backpedaling.

The flow of people slowed to drink in what was happening. Kile felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end as the thoughts around him bent on that one dreaded word.

The crowd pulled away, their fearful glances searching for clone troopers. Or worse. Kile knew better than to ask for help. Most hurried away, cold with fear, but there are always a few whose shock hardened into calculation, for the bounty on a Jedi could feed most families for a year. Those were the ones to be afraid of.

Kile turned, poised to flee, and nearly ran into an old woman who dragged a reluctant boy along behind. Her crazy gray curls, deeply wrinkled cheeks, and too thick rouge should have been alarming, but something in her sharp green eyes said otherwise.

“Come with me,” the old woman said with an authority Kile was only too glad to obey. Her bony fingers clasped his arm, steering him through the crowd and into a nearby shop. She and pulled both him and the boy away from the windows and behind a large rack of clothes near the counter.

“Can I help you?” asked a distinguished looking man who wore the same fine clothes found on racks.

“Leave and lock the door,” Kile said, motioning only slightly with his hand.

“Of course,” the man said, politely inclining his head and backing away.

“Jedi!” the boy whispered, making the word sound like a curse.

“Not a Jedi,” the old woman said. “A Padawan.”

“Who are you?” Kile asked. She didn’t feel like a Jedi, but her emotions were remarkably calm for a woman who was risking death by the simple act of associating with him.

Her smile intimated a past he could only imagine. “I’m not a Jedi, if that’s what you are thinking. But I’ve known Jedi.”

“Ga’ma!” the boy said, scandalized.

“You don’t understand, grandson,” she said to the boy. “All of you kids, all you know is to fear the Jedi. You never knew the Jedi as I did, as guardians and teachers, masters of lore, compassion, and all that is good.”

“I wish they were dead,” the boy said.

The old woman grimaced. “I’m sorry that this is all that is left to you, Padawan. A boy your age should have better companions than fear, misunderstanding, and bigotry.” She touched his forehead, pushing back his hair. “How old are you? Ten?” He nodded. “Then you must have been in one of the last classes?”

Kile nodded, but kept to himself the memories her words evoked. He barely remembered his life before the Purge. Sometimes he dreamt of the Jedi Temple and of the web of aircars that flew overhead. Mostly it was Yoda he dreamt of. Kile almost smiled. Once, after practice, Yoda had pulled him aside and told him he would be a great Jedi someday.

Kile stuffed the memory back into its safe place then reached out and took the old woman’s hand in his own. “Thank you, ma'am, but I have to go before they find me.”

The old woman nodded sadly, hiding her face as she brought up a hand to dab at her wet eyes. “Yes,” she said. “You should go, but before you do…” She grabbed her grandson's shoulder, turned him around, and pulled off his jacket.

“Hey!” the boy protested.

Kile was even more surprised than the boy when she put jacket over his shoulders.

“Stop it Ga’ma!” the boy sputtered, reaching to take back his jacket. The old woman slapped his hand, stunning him into silence.

Then, before Kile even realized what she was doing, she grabbed the braid that marked him as a Padawan and cut it off with a tiny laser knife she pulled from her pocket.
He watched the braid fall to the ground.

Should have done that long ago, he thought, without anger.

“Now you can go,” the old woman said.

The urgency in her voice rang true and the weight of the world settled onto Kile’s shoulders. Master Marion would be dead by now. He was on his own.

A sudden wave of fear washed over him and he looked up at the old woman, asking, “What if I’m the last one?”

Sympathy and sorrow rolled off of her, but she kept it from her face and instead smiled encouragement.
“You're not,” she said. “There must be balance in the force.”

“Thank you,” he said, and then he looked over to where the boy glared angrily. “Thank you,” he said to the boy.

Eat nerf dung, the boy mouthed.

A feeling of disquiet washed over him.

It had nothing to do with the boy.

“They're coming,” he said at the same moment glass shattered.

“He said they went in here!” a clone trooper’s rough voice said.

“Find the Padawan!” shouted another voice.

“Run!” the old woman fiercely whispered, pushing him behind the counter and pointing him towards the hall before pulling her grandson close and stepping into the open.

“You can't have him” she cried. “He's my boy!”

“What?” the boy shouted. “I’m not a Jedi!”

“Sure you're not,” said one of the clone troopers as he roughly scooped the boy into his arms. “No!” the old woman screamed.

Kile, crouching behind the counter, closed his eyes. “A real Jedi knows no fear,” he whispered, giving voice to Master Marion’s well worn mantra.

Standing, he looked over the counter, to where the sobbing old woman clutched at the armored troopers. He whispered, “A Jedi protects weak, comforts the needy, consoles the distraught.”

Kile stepped around the counter. “A Jedi does not let others die for him.”

The clone trooper with the boy caught sight of him and pointed.

The other clone trooper backhanded the old woman and drew his blaster.

“Another Jedi?” said the first.

“Just some kid.”

“He’s the Jedi!” the boy screamed.

Kile drew his lightsaber from beneath the boy’s coat and thumbed the trigger. It blared to life.

The clone trooper fired. Kile swatted the bolt back into the leg armor on the trooper holding the boy.

Another bolt went wide. Kile leapt across the room, deflecting a third shot back at the shooter and dropping him like a dead dewback. Kile sensed movement and reverse thrusted his lightsaber up into the other trooper's stomach. 

He deactivated his lightsaber and silence filled the room.

For the first time in months his breathing and heart rate were as calm as if he had just woken from a long sleep. Emotionless, he bent down next to the crumpled old woman and turned her bloodied face towards him.

She said, “You should have ran.”
Kile shook his head. “A boy would run. A Jedi would never let you die for him.”

A deep, mechanical voice rumbled, “Foolish sentiment, Padawan.”

The old woman's eyes flashed fear and even though Kile knew who that voice belonged to, her fear couldn't find purchase.

He turned and reignited his light saber.

“Fighting you will be a waste of time,” Darth Vader said, gliding into the room. “Your master was disappointing as well.”

Kile walked forward.

He died a Jedi.

A great Jedi.