The Writing Processes of Vonnegut, Pratchett, Gorey, and Tolkien in Links

In an interview this week with a fellow blogger, I was asked who inspires me. I answered with four different authors, each chosen for a different reason (in order to find out what those reasons are, you’ll have to read the interview). This week, I decided to seek out any wisdom that my four favorites might have to share on the topic of writing.

I was introduced to the writing of Kurt Vonnegut in an ethics course offered by the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University in my freshman year. We read Slaughterhouse Five and explored the morality represented within its pages. I’ve always enjoyed books, but I haven’t always enjoyed them when they were required reading for school. When I first read Slaughterhouse Five though, I couldn’t put it down. I think I read it twice before the due date and then again before the end of the semester. “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time…” Even just talking about Vonnegut’s work now makes me want to pick up a copy and read it over again. The link here features Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing. If you are a writer, I hope you click through.

It was sometime in my first year of working at Baker Book House when a coworker exposed me to the genius of Terry Pratchett. I think we were talking about sci-fi and fantasy stories when she told me that she was doing a paper for one of her literature classes on the topic of rule consistency when creating a fantasy world. “It doesn’t need to be just like it is in the real world, but it needs to be consistent within itself,” she said. She went on to tell me that she was using the works of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as an example of consistency. When no flicker of recognition flashed on my face, she insisted that I read some. The next day, she brought me three books. “When you finish one of these, you are going to want another to start on right away,” she said. She was right. This link is for an interview that Pratchett did a few years back, and the relevant portion for writers begins about midway down the page.

I ran across Edward Gorey in college on a random excursion with my roommate, friend, and sometime muse, Adam. Together, we would visit Barnes and Noble and search through the bargain racks for anything that looked interesting. I picked up one of the Amphigorey books and was instantly in love with the mixture of dark humor, brilliant illustrations, and tales that forced the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. Alas, I could not find any advice to authors from Edward Gorey, but this link is for his book The Unstrung Harp or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel, in which Gorey illustrates the creative process of novel-writing though at the time he wrote this story, he himself had never written a novel. Still, it isn’t far from the truth.

My last author for this list is actually the one that I read earliest in my life. My dad handed me a copy of The Hobbit when I was in 7th or 8th grade and told me that I might enjoy it. I devoured it. Tolkien’s style, characters, and voice drew me in (as they do for anyone who dares to read The Hobbit). After that, my dad gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Rings which I breezed through as well. And then I hit The Two Towers and got bogged down along with Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes. Sadly, I set the series down for a full year before attempting another go. But by that time, I had forgotten half of the details of the story, so I decided to start the whole thing again from the beginning. The Hobbit, check. The Fellowship of the Ring, check. The Two Towers, I powered through it this time, check. After I finished The Return of the King, I was sad the journey was over. LOTR was all I could talk about with my dad for weeks. And then he asked if I knew about the Silmarillion, which I hadn’t. So I decided to start again with The Hobbit, plowed through LOTR, and picked up the Silmarillion. Oh man, I was in nerd heaven. So many things in LOTR were explained, origins of the races, where the wizards came from, what a Balrog is, tales from the first and second ages of the world before the third age (when LOTR is set)! I am helplessly a Tolkien fan, so when I saw this post on Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers by the wonderful blogger, Roger Colby, I knew that it was going to be good. Colby culled through Tolkien’s writings and interviews where he discussed his craft and came up with a solid list for writers to use as a reference. Be sure to check it out, as well as the rest of his site.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Last, for my writing report card, I’m going to give myself a B+ for the week.

I got the most hits in one day to date on Wednesday, I did a blog swap with another blogger, and I had fresh content everyday. The only thing was that I didn’t get a chance to write much on my novel, but I’m not going to let that get me down. Good job, me!

Breathe Rachelle, the Baker Can’t Be Older than Jesus – or – Links

Link and Report Card Day! I hope you are as excited as I am. I’ve scoured the internet in search of the best, and I’ve come back with 4 links that won’t disappoint.

Breathe Christian Writer's ConferenceFirst is the website for the Breathe Conference. It’s a writers’ conference organized by The Guild, a group of published ladies who live in West Michigan and gather regularly to support each others’ writing. The Breathe Conference is unlike other writers’ conferences in how incredibly supportive it is. When other conferences leave you feeling intimidated and unfit to write, Breathe encourages while it teaches. The conference is in October, so there is plenty of time to sign up. There are even scholarships available, so if you want to check it out, try for one of those.

Older Than Jesus is the blog by Alison Hodgson, a member of the Guild and one of the organizers of the Breathe Conference. Alison’s writing captures her personality well, both the funny bits and the more serious bits. She’s one of the nicest and snarkiest people I know, and she holds a special place for me as a reader in that she was the person who introduced me to the writings of Jasper Ffrorde.

Rachelle GardnerI learned about Rachelle Gardner’s blog from my coworker Chris Jager. Chris runs the fiction department at Baker and writes for the store’s fiction blog as well as the online magazine, Family Fiction. But back to Rachelle’s blog… Rachelle is a literary agent with a lot of great information for writers about the world of publishing. If you are a writer, do yourself a favor and check out her blog.

The final link is for the academically-minded Christian. My friend and coworker Louis McBride started the store’s academic blog, The Baker Book House Church Connection, at the behest of Andrew Rogers as a way to connect to churches in the area and inform the pastors about the newest and best books available to them. I remember Louis being skeptical, but like he does everything else, he grinned and gave it his best effort. Now, it is a well respected blog among Christian academic circles, the influence of which spreads far beyond the West Michigan church arena. Louis is always insightful, and if you don’t feel smarter after reading his blog, you may not be able to read (how are you reading this right now then?).

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Now for the report card portion of the post. I only added about 500 words to my novel this week, so I could have done better there. On the upside, my blogging is going like gangbusters. If today’s post goes over like last week’s post, I’ll get pushed over the not-at-all-important-in-the-long-run number of 1000 all-time visits, which is still a pretty cool thing. Overall, I’m going to give myself a B- for this week’s writing. Better luck next time, me!

Two last plugs, if you somehow missed the contests that I am running, this one ends Monday and is super easy, and this one ends at the end of the month and is considerably more difficult. Either way, I’m giving away books, so check it out and share the news with your friends. Thanks for reading this week!

PS – I’ll be continuing my Bookstore Symbiosis series next Monday, in case you were interested in such things.

Why I Sold Half my Facebook Friends to Mere Inklings in the Waiting Room – or – Links

This is Frigg, the reason Friday is called Friday, as in "I'm so friggin glad it's Friday!"

Friday is named for the Norse goddess, Frigg, wife of Odin, step-mother of Thor. Now you’ve learned something you can share with your friends tonight when you go see the  Avengers movie. Just point to Thor and say, “His step-mom is why today is called Friday.”

I like the format of listing interesting links on Fridays for two reasons. One, the internet is a vast and potentially frightening place and it helps to have a guide. Two, it doesn’t require as much time, so I have more time for working on my novel.

That said, here are four links that I think you should click:

Why I Sold Half of my Comic Book Collection by Andrew Rogers | First, the disclaimer, Andrew is in my writers’ group and he’s a good friend of mine. Second, the pitch, this is a good post the helps us evaluate whether we are hoarding things that would be better sold in order to gain things that would be better applied. Be sure to leave him a comment if you visit.

Mere Inkling | This is a site dedicated to the writers’ group, The Inklings, of which C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were members. The blogger, Rob Stroud, does a wonderful job in looking at life through the works of The Inklings. If you enjoy Narnia or Lord of the Rings, check out Rob’s blog.

The (Writer’s) Waiting Room | I stumbled across this blog this week and think it is a must-read for anyone with hopes of getting published. The blog is hosted by Hannah Karena Jones, an assistant editor at Transaction Publishers. She is insightful and encouraging as she guides would-be authors through the publishing process. I particularly enjoyed her post on query letters.

My Facebook Profile | Are we friends on Facebook? If not, we probably should be. Here are a couple reasons why you might want to befriend me: if you are a writer hoping to be published, publishers like to see a big friend list because it says that you aren’t afraid to self-promote and you have a built-in network of people who might buy your book; if you are not a writer, it is still good to have friends; I’m quite nice. All potential stalkers please ignore the above reasons and stop being so weird and stalker-y.

But Josh, how did you do with your writing goals this week?

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Good question, faceless stranger! I did pretty well. Twice in the last week, I set aside a few hours at a time to work on my novel. I feel like the story is coming along nicely (probably about 1/3 of the way there) and my characters even gave me a plot surprise that was pretty good. After posting this week’s book review, I wrote to the author of the book and she wrote back, which was a lovely surprise. And last, but certainly not least, I posted something every weekday, which is my goal. I’m going to give myself and A- for the week.

Thanks for reading this week. If you’ve made it this far into the post, you are probably either related to me or genuinely interested in my blog. Either way, your thoughts matter to me. I would appreciate any feedback or post ideas that you would care to share in the comments below!

Report Cards, Writing, Blogging, and Hidden Messages, Oh My!

Here we are. It’s been an eventful week on the blog. I had my most hits to date on Monday (65 for those of you who like to know that sort of thing). I introduced the main character from my WIP, and posted a review of a book within the same genre. And, I started my first book giveaway (you can still enter to win until Monday morning when I pull the winner).

How I did this week. Also, fun links!As far as a grade for my writing report card goes, I’ll give myself a B. In taking time for blogging (which is totally worthwhile in its own right), I’ve not taken as much time to work on my novel.

Perhaps I’ll do better this next week.

Perhaps I won’t. But I’ll try.

You should visit me again to find out.

But I digress, let’s get on to the week’s top links!

In first place, I’d like to share another link to my writer friend Bob. He and I made a gentleman’s challenge this past week to see who could get a certain amount of hits on a given day. I’m new at this, and Bob has been blogging for a while, so it was an ambitious challenge for me to make. Anyway, I’m convinced that Bob is cheating, because he did a post this week that was pure quality. If you are a writer or have ever encounter’s writer’s block, check out this link.

Right up there with Bob’s post is this post from a blog called “Writing is Hard Work”. Truer words were never spoken (or written, as it were). The post linked here gives 6 ways to begin a novel. So if the reason that you haven’t experienced writer’s block yet is because you haven’t started a novel, here are some good ways to get started.

Then, for other bloggers out there, I came across this post on blogging mistakes that is quite good. I got permission to link to it here because I found it helpful as a guy just wading into this murk we call blogging.

Here’s one for all of my non-writer, non-blogger friends. Jessie Clemence and her husband Eric were one of the first people to befriend me when I got to Western Michigan University. After only one year of getting to know them, they graduated and I didn’t expect to see them again, but after a year or so, they moved to Grand Rapids and we reconnected. As it happened, in one of the summers between school years, I had two jobs. I worked in a dirty warehouse in the morning, then moonlighted as a waiter at Big Boy at night. My own house was too far away to be able to go home and clean up between shifts, so Eric and Jessie let me come over and use their shower. They are truly some of the nicest people out there. Anyway, check out Jessie’s blog. It’s filled with spiritual inspiration for people in general and families in specific.

Dare I forget to mention my contest again? If you just stumbled upon my blog, I’ve got a contest going, the prize for which is a shiny used set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Maybe you’ve read it, maybe you own it, but wouldn’t you like to tell everyone you know that this contest is going on? Come on, please?

And that’s pretty much it. If this week’s contest goes over well, I’ll do another one. I work at a bookstore and have access to lots of great books that I can use to giveaway. I’ve already got some good responses and suggestions for my blog, so I hope to continually improve it as I go. Thanks for stopping by!

Yowsa! (Did you catch the hidden message in today’s post? If you did, pass it on to my brother here.)

Part Time Steampunk Ninja, Julia… Also My Report Card

It’s FriHow I did this week. Also, fun links!day! I had a couple ideas for what I could do with this blog on Fridays. My one thought was to just feature a link to something cool that I found online. The other thought was that I would use the post to hold myself accountable for my week’s writing goals. My last thought was that I should do both.

So, here are 4 places in cyberspace that I think are worth a visit:

1. Part Time Novel – This is Bob Evenhouse’s blog. Bob is in my writers’ group, the Weaklings and is at least partially responsible for the fact that I’m writing as much as I am (my wife accounts for the other portion of responsibility as I take no responsibility for my own actions).

2. Dr. McNinja – It’s a webcomic about a doctor who is also a ninja. Also, there are raptor-riding bandits, a clone of Ben Franklin, a time-traveling astronaut/mayor, and more. If you’ve never read this sort of thing before, it is worth starting at the beginning and working toward the present comics. Trust me.

3. Julia’s Place – I just stumbled across this blog yesterday, but I think it is worth looking into. I love writing exercises, and this place has weekly word challenges. Even if you don’t submit an entry, it’s a good way to challenge yourself and your writing.

4. The Steampunk Forum at Brass Goggles – My current WIP (Work in Progress) has a group of kids who are into Steampunk. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Think Jules Verne, or better yet, click the link. Be sure to visit the Tactile pages to see the things people make.

And as for my week’s writing goals, I didn’t do too bad.

Last Saturday night, I got some good writing done on my WIP at the local Tim Horton’s. Monday night I met up with my writer buddies, Andrew and Bob, and after a few minutes of catch-up, we all got some good writing done. I’ve successfully posted something new on this blog every working day this week.

I’d like to thank my friends who encourage me, my beautiful wife who makes my writing a priority, and anyone reading this because I get disgusting amounts of joy when I see that people are actually clicking into my blog. Thanks.

Come back next week. I’ll be doing my first book giveaway.