Tag Archives: Featured

How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

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Nearly 500,000 people participate in NaNoWriMo every year. Many are first time novelists who have decided to take the plunge, which means a lot of people are about to realize just how many hours there are in a day.

Here are some ideas to help you churn out a story as fast as possible.

Fortify Your Writing Space

The first thing you’ll to want to do is make sure that your bunker is stocked with nonperishable food items, water purification pellets, and enough Neosporin to cover a month’s worth of paper cuts. This way you can avoid the marauders that will be plundering your home in the wake of the election. Oh and once you’re several stories underground make sure your short wave radio is nowhere near the room where you’ll be writing. All those panic wrought police officers will break your concentration.

Now if you’re one of the poor souls stuck aboveground you’ll need a playlist to drown out all the screams.

I work to dark atmospheric soundtracks. This year I’ve been writing to the scores for Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, and Before the Flood (pretty much anything by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will get you in the right mood to write horror).

Scores for TV shows are perfect for writing because the composer has left space for dialogue, there’s room to hear yourself think, they’re usually slower than film scores, and there’s no lyrics to steal your attention. Continue reading How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

Happiness Anxiety: How the Pursuit of Happiness Can Bring Us Down

Anxiety comes in many shades:

  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Phobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific Phobias
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder.

Between these hues are even more subtle tones.

I’d like to explore two of the tones between General Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. One is called “status anxiety,” a form of anxiety experts are starting to recognize, and the other is a term I call “happiness anxiety.”

What is Status Anxiety?

Status anxiety is the fear of how our social status is perceived by our community. Author Alain de Botton coined the term “status anxiety” in a book and a documentary film of the same name.

Our anxiety over our status is why we project success, confidence, and happiness when we don’t feel it. We believe people will treat us with more respect if we exude these traits. We may not feel successful, but we know the best way to get there is to fake it until we make it. It’s why we collect status symbols to show off our value.

In and of itself the Apple Watch is a glorified fitness tracker, but as a material merit badge that slick LCD watch face tells the world we’ve got money to spare.

De Botton claims status symbols, like the Apple Watch, extend beyond our fashion sense into the items that adorn our homes, the degrees we’ve earned, our career titles, our social network notoriety, the relationships we’re in, and the meaningful milestones we’ve gathered through the years.

De Botton believes our endless quest for treasures and trophies is actually a hunt for love and approval and our anxiety over status will persist long after our animal needs are met.  Continue reading Happiness Anxiety: How the Pursuit of Happiness Can Bring Us Down

Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft

Become the Supervisor of Your Own Fiction Factory

Anyone can be an author. It doesn’t matter your age, academic background, or nationality, you have what it takes to write the great American novel.

Forget what you’ve heard. You don’t need to be born to successful writers with roots in New York or Los Angeles, you don’t need a knack for grammar, talent, or luck. You just need to learn the tricks of trade from a master of the craft.

Barkley Carver, pilot, and credited author of 15 books to debut on the New York Times bestsellers list, reveals his winning formula for franchise fiction (for the first time under his current pen name). In this online class, he guides you through every aspect of writing a serviceable novel, from finding cold cases to base your mysteries on to getting New York’s Department of Health to grant you access to the divorce records so you can see which publishers are on the rebound. Continue reading Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft

How Branding Can Help and Hinder Your Writing

Branding Defined with Artists in Mind

When you hear the word “branding” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

I see a portfolio pounding professional power-walking around a boardroom table. Over their shoulder is a screen with a venn diagram. It features an infographic, a polar chart, and a pie chart overlapping each other. The speaker jabbers in jargon, traces hieroglyphic stats with a laser pen, and high fives their colleges right across the cheeks.

“It is mission-critical for our business to leverage strategic bleeding edge synergizing techniques to push the envelope outside the box if we hope to achieve vertical growth.”

At least that’s what I imagine when I hear the word branding. As a fiction writer, I figured branding was a word marketers used to inflate the importance of advertising, but it turns out it’s relevant to what I’m doing.

Put simply, branding is the thing that lets customers know what to expect from businesses, products, and even entertainment.

Put even simpler: branding = expectations

Just like in the corporate world, fiction brands let audiences know what to expect, and just like in the corporate world, a handful of brands have a monopoly.

This is why iconic characters enjoy so many reinventions, fiction franchises outlive their originators, and big name authors can pass work to ghost writers. People don’t want to waste hard earned money on bad entertainment. Brands appear to eliminate that risk.

If you want a steamy romance about an untamable Harley driver with borderline disorder just look for the lathered abs on the cover. If you like psychological thrillers about scandalous women, find a book with the word “girl” in the title. If you want a mystery about women who went missing while running, find a book with a foggy forest on the front.  Continue reading How Branding Can Help and Hinder Your Writing

The Smilers: A Horror Story About Happy People

The first incident happened at the liquor store.

I had a bottle of pinot noir in one hand and tub of Peppermint Bon Bon in the other. I had taken my time settling on the wine. The ice cream had melted down my palm and puddled on the floor. It seeped through my slipper and pooled between my toes. By the time I felt it I’d already slipped.

The bottle rolled down my hand and up my fingers in an arch. I dove to catch it. It clinked on the linoleum, but it didn’t crack. It would’ve been a great save had it not been for the shelf I’d knocked over in the process. Cans popped out of six packs, rolled down the aisle, and spouted leaks.

I crawled around in my pajama pants collecting craft beers into my hooded sweatshirt. I wobbled up to the front counter with arms overloaded with aluminum and pockets oozing with ice cream and beer foam. Continue reading The Smilers: A Horror Story About Happy People

Newsreelmancer PART 2

Continued from Newsreelmancer PART 1

Welcome to the year 2036. Technology has changed, but society’s ills have remained the same.

Our hero purchased a pair of smart lenses off the darknet, so he could slack off at work. Too bad the first thing he saw with them was a terrorist attack. Three planes crashed into the Freedom Tower at the exact moment our hero turned his lenses on. Coincidence, or is there something sinister about these so called Oracle Eyes?

Newsreelmancer PART 2

The night the One World Trade Center was attacked I lay in bed staring at the applications on the ceiling. I scanned through those rune stone icons, opening and closing them. Apart from the News app, none of them opened with a strange flurry of pictures.

There was one app that refused to open at all.

This rune had a keyhole etched into it. I squinted at it but it wouldn’t enlarge nor would it ignite. After thirty seconds of staring all that appeared were the words DET HEMMELIGE KAMMER. I ran them through a Norwegian to English dictionary. They translated to THE SECRET CHAMBER.

I’ve seen applications that pose as other things: documents, system apps, or folders. Things a suspicious spouse wouldn’t bat an eye at. Developers marketed these apps as little black books for swingers, photo libraries for sexts, and lock boxes for corporate secrets.

Those apps hid in plain sight. DET HEMMELIGE KAMMER had “Secret” in the title and an icon that demanded inspection.

I kept trying, but the application wouldn’t respond to squints, nor would it give me a field to enter a password in. Stranger still, it wasn’t present in any of the Oracle Eyes beta operating systems I found online. Either these lenses were pre-alpha prototypes or they’d been modded after the fact. Continue reading Newsreelmancer PART 2

Newsreelmancer PART 1

The world can’t seem to go a week without a soul shattering tragedy. The news is getting harder to take, while the methods for viewing it are only getting easier. Imagine a future where tragedies are worse and updates come as easily as thinking. Would you be able to resist filling your head with all the bad news?

Newsreelmancer

The words 1 SEARCH RESULT projected on the wall.

I flung my tablet on the pillow, threw my fists up in victory, and jumped on the bed. My cat, Loki, saw my excitement as a threat and fled the room.

The page loaded. The logo filled the wall from the ceiling to the dresser: the pyramid, the all seeing eye, and the finger applying the contact lens to it. The perfect emblem for the holy grail of wearable technologies.

I caught the tablet before it fell off the mattress. I’d filled several columns with letter combinations and put checkmarks next to the ones whose searches produced nothing. I was finally able to circle one: Fern_Rep_Coy_Release.

The price hovering above my cactus was one grand.

I craned my neck. “Alfred, open my wallet.”

A refined English accent boomed over the surround system. “Which card would you prefer sir?”

Projections of four credit cards spread out over my action figure collection, three glowed red. One glowed green. I pointed to the green one, “Let’s go with the MasterCard.”

“Very well, sir.”

The price tag for the Fern_Rep_Coy_Release flipped around to PURCHASED. Continue reading Newsreelmancer PART 1

The Inspiration Killers: A Story about Monsters that Prey on Creativity

Most of the symbols on the crime map were self explanatory. The blue men’s room signs with guns represented armed robberies, green cars were thefts of motor vehicles, baby blue houses were residential burglaries, red fists were aggravated assaults, purple R’s were sexual assaults, and green dollar bags represented thefts of businesses.

The symbol for what happened to me was black. The image was a floating phantom with a pointed head, winglike robes, and a curved trail for legs.

This phantom symbol covered the map around the liberal arts schools, the downtown design firms, and the bohemian blocks in Uptown.

Zoom into the map and you’d see phantom symbols across the street from the bookstore that hosted poetry readings, on the bus stop outside of the improv comedy club, and the lot behind First Avenue, the concert venue.

If you scanned a crime map of Texas you’d find the greatest concentration of phantoms were in Austin. In Oregon they were in Portland, and in Minnesota they were in Minneapolis. That’s where one got me.  Continue reading The Inspiration Killers: A Story about Monsters that Prey on Creativity

Black Noise Podcast Episode 1: Red Flags

Welcome to the inaugural episode of my Podcast: Drew Chial’s Black Noise, where I premiere short stories in the spirit of the Twilight Zone. Unlike my previous audio shorts I plan on prefacing these recordings with informal thoughts on my writing process.

This first episode is largely unstructured. I’ve yet to develop any bits beyond the reading and an artist statement. So I winged it. Maybe next time I’ll have a checklist.

Feel free to share your ideas for future episodes in the comments.

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My audiobook Terms and Conditions is now free on Bandcamp. You can listen to it right here!

How to Swap the Light Bulbs of Inspiration

Robert A. Heinlein’s second rule of is writing: You must finish what you start.

Neil Gaiman would add: Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

This article is about doing whatever you have to do, even when the spark from your first light bulb moment has gone dim.

What I do When My Inspiration is Incomplete

Ding. A light bulb appears over my head. It’s faint and it’s flickering, but I get the sense it’s one of many lamps leading down a larger path.

Most of my stories come to me like this.

Ding.

“What if depression acted like a movie producer invading the set of a man’s life and it gave him all these ‘notes’ that ruined his day?”

Ding.

“What if the corporation that runs reality starts putting features, like gravity, behind a paywall?”

Ding.

“What if a guy has a different personality disorder for every day of the week?”

These blinking bulbs line the entrance of a conceivable composition. These lamps rarely cast enough light to show a story’s structure. I can’t see the exit from the entrance, but I have a vague sense where the front door is leading. I see movement in the windows, but only catch silhouettes of the characters.

A lot of writers need to see the floor plan before venturing into the building. I’ve found if I keep pacing the block looking for the brightest concept I never go inside. I’m the kind that goes in blind and screws the bulbs in along the way in.

Those first few dings of inspiration might lead me to believe I’m walking into a plot driven mystery, but with a little more light I realize it’s an intimate character study. My skill for lighting depends on my ability to adjust my expectations of the building I’m working on.  Continue reading How to Swap the Light Bulbs of Inspiration