Story a Week #1: “After the Stop”

Yesterday I made a vow to follow Ray Bradbury’s advice and write a short story a week. The night before I was relaxing in bed and an entire story popped into my head, and today I finally decided to write it down. The entire story was written in an hour.

The working title is “After the Stop” but I can almost guarantee that it will change when I’m done editing and working it into shape. As with most stories I manage to finish, this one is a crime story with my first experimentation with suspense elements. Originally I envisioned it as something around 2000 words. The end count was a little less than 1200, but since I tend to ramble a lot there’s a chance it will be even shorter in the end. Which is fine, because the story is about a cop pulling a guy over. In the very best case scenarios, you don’t want those situations to last very long. Ray’s main point of encouraging the writing of short stories was to compact things, and flash fiction certainly does a good job of that.

Another interesting thing about this story draft is that it takes place in my San Rapids universe. For my mysteries I created a fictional California city years ago, and despite my burning passion for science fiction the only things that ever want to come out of my fingertips is crime fiction. I feel like Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. Fortunately, I am an unknown and mostly unpublished author so I still have a chance to make my own name for myself *wink wink science fiction writer wink wink*.

No, Ray would be disgusted with me and Harlan Ellison would kick my ass with my own foot if either of them ever heard me say that. Genres don’t exist to those giants; Writing is simply writing. Moving forward, I’m eager to see what writing awaits me in the weeks to come!

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Some Things I’ve Noticed While Writing My Blog

I have only seriously been blogging for three weeks (as of June 15, 2018). I came into blogging knowing nothing about it, with only one or two serious sites I have been following for years as my inspiration. I decided to treat blogging as any other kind of writing I do, refraining from outlining and planning ahead and writing my posts on the cuff. So far, it has worked out GREAT for me. Not only have I had the chance to practice my writing several times a day but I’ve also held myself accountable for some other non-blog goals I have, such as my nightly Ray Bradbury-inspired reading program. From a writer’s standpoint, it has also given me ample opportunity to reflect on the process of writing and blogging and to discover how my own inner creativity works and how it translates itself into the screen. I want to share some of these blogger-related insights with you all.

1) Writing prompts and I are not a fit. I guess because I am a fiction writer and my mind is traveling every which way all at once, I never run out of things to talk about. Whenever I’m burned out, I shit my brain off and go to the Trending side of Facebook. That’s where most of my political post ideas come from. Whenever I see bloggers and websites promoting various prompts I also turn and walk away, after reading through the lists, of course. In my eyes, using somebody else’s ideas as the sole basis for your own post takes a lot out of the blog. I started CrapPile as my personal depository for all my thoughts and ideas. Call me selfish, but I want what I write to be mine, not anybody else’s. I get that other people might need a little jumpstart, so for them prompts might be great. But as a serious author I find prompts hampering and detrimental to my own creative process and avoid them like the plague.

2) Writing on the fly not only works, but is stimulating. Out of nearly a hundred blog posts, not a single solitary one of them required any kind of planning ahead of time. They were all born out of pure thought. It’s the same way I write my stories, by the seam of my pants. I have found that this sort of writing not only is easier and faster, but also extremely stimulating. One thought always leads to another, and before long the post is written. Reading it over and over again, usually an hour or day after it was originally published, I can look back and sort of see how my mind was working as I was writing. It’s like peering into the soul in a way. There have even been times where watching how all these little ideas were made and brought together in the post actually has caused new ideas to form in my head. This leads to another post being written, and so on. It’s usually extremely hard for me to want to stop writing at that point, but thankfully I have willpower enough to know that I require sleep, a shower, food, and a paycheck to go after at the factory.

3) I’ve noticed strengths and weaknesses in terms of the way I think about things and approach them. For instance, re-reading my political opinions, I’ve found them to be much weaker than, say, my film review of Avengers: Infinity War. The longest, easiest, and most fun pieces that actually show in the work themselves are my various writing and blogging posts. It shows that despite my desire to write about anything and everything, I cannot write about them equally. My mind seems to be allotting more power to the creative side of my brain than it does to the more logical parts, making any of my argumentative pieces that don’t pertain to writing poor in quality. That either means I need to steer clear away from politics as a topic of interest for the blog or force myself to become better and better at political commentary so that my political writing is on par with my other topics. That one seems like the most fun to me.

4) My blog posts typically come in three categories: essays, informational, and “Facebook status” posts. Essays speak for themselves. My informational posts are usually the ones where I usually lay down the law and ask people to behave themselves or warn them that they might not like everything that they read and to not take it too personally. Just like on Facebook, there are a lot of times where I post that I’ve reached a new level of followers or that I’ve started work on a new book or project. Every night I make a note on CrapPile what literary works I chose for the Bradbury Program. There is sometimes a fourth category, but that one requires its own explanation.

5) Re-blogging is not cheating as I had led myself to believe. Believe it or not, I have found several blogs on WordPress and Blogger that are composed almost entirely of re-posts from other blogs. Instead of being actual blogs themselves, they are more like a databank of various posts the administrators like. I see no point in that whatsoever, unless the “blogger” is simply collecting them for his or herself. That’s fine, I guess. When I started my blog I promised myself I wouldn’t do any re-blogging, wanting the readers of CrapPile to only get posts from me. After a week I had already broken that rule, and to confess it was because I was extremely dead tired that day and did not feel like conjuring up a long essay as I had been several times for days on end. So I looked through some of my followers’s blogs and found a couple pieces I liked and shared them with a comment or two. When I woke up the next day, I found that they were as popular as anything I had written, and even got a comment from the original writer thanking me dearly for sharing and that because of me her own site had gotten twenty or thirty more views than usual. It opened my eyes wide. I realized that I had inadvertently shared my audience with her and was contributing to her blog, and being the nice guy that I at least always try to be that filled me with great pride. Later on I re-blogged a few more pieces of the same writer and she ended up becoming one of my most loyal viewers, with even one of my own posts being shared on her site. I feel like blogging is more of a shared community than it is competing for followers or views, so my policy on re-blogging totally changed after that. I still hold myself to the highest standards or writing and professionalism, so I am very picky about what I will or will not share on CrapPile, but luckily with (currently) 820 followers I have a lot of material I can choose from.

The last little tidbit I gleaned from my blogging thus far is this; despite my followers, despite the views, despite wanting to build up a personal community for when the time comes to start promoting and selling my books, I still write this blog for myself more than for the viewers. I know it pisses a lot of people off when I share my right-leaning opinions on here, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. In fact, I might just write on those topics more because of it. I take great pride in my website. I have already in three weeks invested more time and energy in this thing than anything else in my life except my girlfriend. I own it. I’m going to write what I want on here and will get very defensive when somebody tries calling me out because of it. People are more than welcome to share their opinions in the comments. As long as they aren’t racist or threatening they will stay up; I am the most easy-going moderated on the web. I am quite certain of that. Because of my protective nature of the site and not being afraid of criticism, I am 100% sure that I write for me first before anybody else. That’s the way it should be.

It’s quite a lot of revelations after less than a month writing a blog. I knew it would be a journey, I just didn’t know how much of a journey it would be. I have learned that when you truly put your heart and soul into something, it shows. When you want something really badly, you find a way to make it happen. If your heart is telling you to write and your mind is in agreement, you have all that you need to get going. And you can never stop.

803 Followers!

One of the good things about working thirds is that I’m not on my phone all night and when I go on break and can check it I can be surprised, like I was when I saw that I surpassed the 800 follower mark during my shift!

You guys make blogging so worthwhile and fun for me. Thanks for stopping by and reading. Much, much more to come.

Part 2 of the Bradbury Program is About to Commence

As I write this, today is the seventh day in a row that I have taken Ray Bradbury’s advice and have read a short story, poem, and essay every day. This first week is the first seven days of a one-thousand day commitment, and it is going along great.

There were many, many other pieces of advice that Bradbury gave the audience at Point Loma Nazarene University in 2001. I made a personal promise to myself that as I restarted my writing journey I would make the best effort possible to eventually follow every word of what he said, and since I have disciplined myself to completing the reading, I figured it was time to start on another point.

The next step in my “training”, as Ray affectionately referred to his advice, is to write one short story a week. Instead of wasting time writing novels when you don’t know how to write or don’t have enough experience writing, he was adamant that a writer writes a short story every week. Even if the story is crap by the end of the week, you would have written something, and he was convinced beyond a doubt that if a writer followed his advice that at some point by the end of 52 weeks he or she would have written a really wonderful story. Writing 52 bad stories in a row just wasn’t possible, he said. He even hinted that writing two a week was even better, but with my blog, nonfiction book in the making, and reading I think one story a week will be challenge enough.

I already have an idea for what my first story in this program is going to be, and I will be starting it tomorrow morning after my shift.

Stay tuned!

Chapbook Nearing Completion

I haven’t posted about it before, since it is a very recent development I chose to work on, but in the midst of writing my full-length book I decided to put together a little chapbook of essays. Some are expanded articles from the blog, others freshly-written just for the occasion.

While a chapbook is nowhere near as long or as recognized as a full-length book, nevertheless I am excited that I am finally nearing the end of my first writing project.

I have some secret plans for it for this blog in the future, but as usual I want to thank you all for your kindness and your strong support. For the first time in 28 years, I feel like an actual writer.