Category Archives: Writing Blog

August 2017 Status Update

August has arrived and here is where I stand.

 

  • Horror Stories Underway: I began The Dark Beneath with the intent of keeping it to 2 parts. In fact the story is now looking to conclude in its fifth installment this Friday. My second story underway is looking to be 5 parts (~10,000 words) and has been delayed while I work on a few additional story ideas.
  • New Sci-Fi Story Underway: I began The Silence of Alium with a five-part short story in mind. Upon delving into a writing community and thinking about my sci-fi work I am considering changing course to a novel or at the very least a novelette. The second chapter is underway now.
  • Delving into Wattpad: Story submissions continue to Wattpad, where you can engage directly with my stories paragraph by paragraph.
  • Arcas nearing completion: Art is nearly done and I’m working on a few revisions, polishing the script.
  • Novelette by late 2017: Calling Mr. Nelson Pugh, still has final edits underway. My hope is to have it published by late 2017 and available as an e-book, though I will be soon submitting it to a new group of Beta readers for additional feedback.
  • Short Story Horror Anthology: I am still planning to publish an anthology of horror shorts. This would include material from this site (but having been vetted through additional edits), and previously unpublished material, with close to a 50/50 new to reprinted ratio. I have passed my 70,000 word minimum goal. Edits will likely take six months to a year depending on availability of editors, and some additional connective tissue is being drafted. With that being the case, I expect a late 2018 publication.
  • Horror Novel underway: I am about 35,000 words into my first full length horror novel. It is too early to predict a completion date, but I am considering posting chapters to this site as I get further along. I would love to know if there is interest in reading it chapter by chapter as I push through the first draft. Feel free to sound off in the comments.
  • Co-written Sci-fi Comic: Finally I am also collaborating as a co-writer and creator for an additional science-fiction comic. My writing partner and I are in the early stages of this project, but I hope to have more updates soon.

There is probably a little I missed, but that’s enough for now. If anything in there strikes your interest, chime in. I’d be happy to discuss. Bye for now.

Happy Writing, All!

Delay

          I won’t be pushing a traditional post today.

          Part Two of my Plodding, Perilous Quest for Readers blog will be updated soon. I have spent most of the past three weeks exploring a writing community, and have used my usual blogging time in delving deep into that platform. I hope to have strong enough an understanding of strategies within that service to soon add those details to the Periolous Quest blog post in a meaningful way. So, in what is a fairly long stretch now, I continue to delay this post to ensure it actually is drafted to my satisfaction. More soon.

          My Friday post, however, shall not be impacted. Part four of The Dark Beneath will post then.

          Happy Writing, All!

Quick Update

          Just a quick update today.

          I am currently out of town for a conference and unfortunately time is not on my side. I have most of Part Two of my Plodding, Perilous Quest for Readers blog finished, but I want to be sure to give the piece the time, research, and dedication that it deserves. With that being the case, rather than scramble together a subpar end to the post, I am dedicating myself to one more week of research and revisions to ensure my best quality work.

          I apologize for the delay, but I can discuss at least one recent finding from this research: a site called Wattpad. The site is the platform for a pretty amazing online writing community, with an easy interface, a mobile friendly app, and an engagement model that seems to be of the highest quality. I’ve only begun my exploration of it, but you can find me there at @ChristopherOpyr. Please check it out. If you like to write it seems to be a great place to build an audience. You can vote on other stories, comment directly paragraph by paragraph to other author’s work, enter competitions, etc. I’m already finding myself gravitating to a small set of authors and a spirit of collaboration seems to be building. It’s a thriving community and well worth at least a look to see if it is for you.

          More next week. In the meantime I’ll have the second part of The Dark Beneath live on Friday.

          Happy Writing, All!

July 2017 Status Update

Continuing the new format on this one. Short and sweet. Not much has changed from June to July, but here’s where I am.

 

  • Two New Horror Stories Underway: The first story is another true short story for once, per requests from my first poll. It will post in 2 parts. The second story is looking to be 5 parts (~10,000 words) and has been delayed to meet the poll requests. I will continue to work on it and post when you’re ready for a longer story.
  • New Sci-Fi Story Underway: I don’t know how long this one will be, but I have a more action-packed sci-fi short story in mind for once. Progress on part one is underway and I will determine posting based on results of engagement with you, my readers.
  • Joined Wattpad: I am now also submitting stories to Wattpad, where you can engage directly with them paragraph by paragraph.
  • Arcas nearing completion: Art is nearly done and I’m working on a few revisions, polishing the script.
  • Novelette by late 2017: I have a horror novelette, Calling Mr. Nelson Pugh, with final edits underway. My hope is to have it published by late 2017 and available as an e-book.
  • Short Story Horror Anthology: I am cementing plans for publishing an anthology of horror shorts. This would include material from this site (but having been vetted through additional edits), and previously unpublished material, with close to a 50/50 new to reprinted ratio. I am about 5,000 words shy of a 70,000 word minimum goal, which I foresee crossing soon. Edits will likely take six months to a year depending on availability of editors, and some additional connective tissue is being drafted. With that being the case, I expect a late 2018 publication.
  • Horror Novel underway: I am about 35,000 words into my first full length horror novel. It is too early to predict a completion date, but I am considering posting chapters to this site as I get further along. I would love to know if there is interest in reading it chapter by chapter as I push through the first draft. Feel free to sound off in the comments.
  • Co-written Sci-fi Comic: Finally I am also collaborating as a co-writer and creator for an additional science-fiction comic. My writing partner and I are in the early stages of this project, but I hope to have more updates soon.

There is probably a little I missed, but that’s enough for now. If anything in there strikes your interest, chime in. I’d be happy to discuss. Bye for now.

Happy Writing, All!

The Plodding, Perilous Quest For Readers: Part One

© Andreiuc88 | ID 64280096

By Chris Hutton


          The quest to be read is a path littered with disappointment. If you are a writer and you are reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that. If, however, you are just beginning your trek into the world of professional writing, then perhaps this may be of some use to you. Take it as a cautionary tale if you will, not to dissuade you from venturing forth to conquer the written word, but rather to aid you in stepping out that door prepared for the path ahead. As Bilbo once told his nephew, “It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”


Hello, Is Anyone There?

          Back in the nineties when I was scouring the Internet teaching myself HTML (because how better to spend a Friday night in the prime of your high school years?) there was a common exercise used in teaching. The web tutorial would cover a few basic tags, then instruct the learner to type in the phrase ‘Hello, World!’ Sometimes if the Tutorial was really fancy it would teach you to make the text different colors and blink.

           For me this is a fun little anecdote, a nice stroll down the proverbial Memory Lane, but it is also very relevant. If you write, and you put yourself and your writing out there, you are daily going to feel as if you are shouting this phrase, this blinking ‘Hello, World’ out into the void of an Internet that does not know you exist.

          Sometimes you may get lucky, you may receive a reply, a voice in the darkness letting you know that you have been heard, but more often than not your efforts will meet, at least initially, with nothing more than crickets. Try not to despair. Most writers become acquainted with the deafening silence of the non-response. If you are going to succeed you have to keep moving forward, often not even knowing if anyone is reading at all.


So What Are The Numbers?

          Okay, you’re pretty sure that you are being read, but how many people are reading you? No problem. You’ve got a 1,000 Twitter followers, 100 fans on Facebook, 150 Instagram followers and ten subscribers. So what’s that, 1,260 readers, right?

           Yeah, I didn’t think so. Believe it or not I’ve been in many professional situations where organizations try to calculate their reach this way, but a simple addition just doesn’t account for overlapping followers.

          Oh you’ve already accounted for that and you have 1,174 unique followers so that’s your readership, right. Well, no, not really. How many of those followers are clicking through to your site? Well first off a large chunk isn’t even active that day. You have to sort through a lot of noise to find average stats regarding twitter followers, activity, impressions and engagement. I’ll save you the burden of sailing that sea. We’ll use the following blog as our base for metrics:
https://meetedgar.com/blog/201407this-is-why-nobody-sees-your-tweets-2/

          Assuming the post to be accurate only 46% of your twitter followers are active on a given day, so let’s drop your 1,000 followers to 460. Only 34% check multiple times a day and let’s face it, your tweet isn’t reaching all 340 followers that check multiple times a day. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say your tweet received 200 impressions, or 20% of your audience. That’s a huge benefit of the doubt as I’ve read some analyses that estimate only a 6% average impression or 60 of your 1,000 followers on Twitter. Still, we will go with 200. Great, at least you have 200 readers.

          Wrong. Many of those twitter users saw your post and did nothing about it. Setting overall engagement aside, what is the click-through-rate (CTR) on that tweet? We’ll use the average 1.64% CTR on your full 1,000 followers. That would suggest 16 clicks per tweet. I’m dubious of that average. If we apply that percentage to your impression audience I would imagine that might be more realistic, giving you about three clicks per tweet. Your results may vary of course as the average CTR is actually higher for accounts with fewer followers, decreasing as follower count increases (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/twitter-increase-clickthrough-rate).

          Blah, blah, blah. Who cares about Twitter click-through-rates and how does that reflect my readership at all? Great point. A click is one factor (of many) that indicates audience engagement. We could go into stats on that as well, but I think we’ll save that for another day (unless you just can’t wait – https://www.google.com/amp/s/sproutsocial.com/insights/twitter-engagement/amp/; warning: this link is from a org with a Twitter analytics service. Great info, but keep in mind they have a product to sell). The point is clicks indicate some engagement and reflect how many persons click through to your site where I am going to guess you have writing available to read. Still even these clicks might bounce right off your site. Let’s assume you have a bounce right of 50%, which is actually not bad. So you have 1.5-8 one time readers from that click on your tweet. I am assuming it is the 1.5 as the numbers are more realistic. Now you just need that one time reader to become a returning visitor and you have earned yourself a reader!

          Depressed yet? This whole conversion can drive a writer to the dumps pretty quickly. Hell, many of us writers are the cliche, anti-social hermits. We barely socialize let alone like to market and this is the return on our invested time. It can be enough to make you walk away and call it quits for your blog.

          What about site analytics you say? Assuming they are functioning correctly you can get some measure of readership. I suggest looking at your monthly returning visitors. Still there is some measure of uncertainty. And that is the whole point even if you are being read, it can be extremely difficult to know if more than a few friends are reading your work. So, brace yourself for that.


Get Them Engaged!

          Yes, engaging your followers, building up a community can get you reads, but that is so much easier said than done. Moreover, everyone seems to have different ways to engage their audience, so what it means to engage can be somewhat unclear.

          Again, I’ll focus on twitter for now, but some of this will be relevant elsewhere. So first off, what does it mean to be engaged? What exactly is engagement? I like to use as many sources as possible, so let’s jump over to SEO Chat and Sprout Social on this one (http://www.seochat.com/c/a/social/twitter-engagement-measure/ & https://sproutsocial.com/insights/twitter-engagement/).

          Engagements on twitter include:

  • Retweets
  • @Mentions
  • Favorites / Likes
  • Follows
  • Replies
  • Profile Clicks
  • Permalink Clicks
  • Tweet Expansion Clicks
  • Link Clicks


          As a writer I’m thinking of the Follows (build an audience), Retweets (expand my reach), LIkes (pique interest), and link clicks (potential conversion to readers).

          Still to get those engagement metrics, I need to first engage the audience. There it gets trickier. There are a few tactics here: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/twitter-tactics-to-increase-engagement/ and here: https://adespresso.com/academy/blog/23-strategies-increase-twitter-engagement/. I can’t vouch for all of them, but I’ll pull out a few that I’m currently exploring or actively using.

  • Tweet during daytime hours
  • Tweet on Saturday and Sunday
  • Use images in your tweets
  • Ask for retweets
  • Use hashtags
  • Include links
  • Calls to action
  • Engage with your followers and other users
  • Retweet others
  • Respond if someone tweets at you
  • Find out your peak hours
  • Twitter ads
  • Offer quality content
  • Space out your tweets
  • Ask questions


          Some additional ideas include:

  • Poll your audience
  • Know your audience / Target your content
  • Research your hashtags
  • Seek out the right audience


          We’re going to need more time to speak to that last point, because no matter how much you engage, if you aren’t targeting the right audience, you’re not going to convert a meaningful amount of readers. And that is the whole point of this, right? Finding readers. If you haven’t picked up on it, building a following isn’t enough. You have to create engaged followers that will read your writing, and that, that takes a lot more work than it would seem at first glance. Bear with me, because I’m still pushing through on this one.

          And now that I have completely dragged you down, I’ve gotta go. We’ll pick this up again in a couple weeks, after next week’s monthly status update, and I’ll see if I can’t pick you back up. More coming soon…

          Happy Writing, All!

Diving Into Polls

© Arbi Babakhanaians | ID 6533043

By Chris Hutton


          This week, we’re taking a break from my 7 Lessons Learned series to announce a new feature on the site… or, perhaps more appropriately, a new feature that I am exploring for my author’s platform. If you haven’t already noticed, I’ve created a polls section on the main navigation. Periodically I will be pushing new polls onto the page. My intention here is to provide the opportunity for my readers to more actively engage with the content creation for this site.


Topics:

          To that end, I will be asking about such topics as:


          Upcoming Story Types:

          My first poll provided the option to vote on one of my upcoming stories and whether it should be horror or science fiction and how long of a story you as a reader would like to see.


          Prompts:

          In the near future I intend to request story prompts, whether a line of dialogue, a title, or a phrase. After I collect a set number I shall post my favorites in a poll on which my readers can vote to choose the prompt for an upcoming story.


          Preferences:

          What genres do my readers prefer? What story lengths are most suited to their reading style? What content engages you in social media? Basically, I may poll about general preferences to better understand what my audience enjoys.


          Getting to Know You:

          Quick polls on topics such as preferred authors, favorite books, films, etc.


Why, Why, Why?

          Every time I think that I have begun to understand social media I slip just a littler further down the rabbit hole. That doesn’t quite answer the question, does it?

          I started looking into social media polling with one simple goal: engage my audience. I wanted to encourage a back and forth communication between myself and my readers and to help generate a sense of community. Polls seemed like a great way to do this. I could ask a reader what type of story they wanted to read next or if they enjoyed some types of content more than others. Essentially, I could allow my readers, you, to have a voice in what content I create.

          Sounds good, right?

          Well, it doesn’t work unless you can get your readers to take the survey. Or find your readers. I have a lot of followers, but that doesn’t mean I have a lot of readers. I wish it did. I’d be ecstatic to have some 3,000+ readers. Hell, I’d be ecstatic to have 100, or even 10 that I don’t know. I have plenty of followers, but very little evidence of how many people are actually reading my work.

          One kernel of advice that I came across recently suggested that it is better to have 100 engaged followers than 1,000 inactive followers – or something to that effect. I’ve seen this same sentiment in so many permutations in various blogs now that I’ve lost count. The point is that in building a community of actively engaged readers, you create a lifetime audience rather than a passive reader that maybe checks your site once or twice and then never again.

          Hell, I came across a whole article on how to get your first 500 engaged twitter followers (though coincidentally that had nothing to do with polls). Yet the point stands. Engagement is key. Polls are one way I am seeking to create that engagement.

          Is it working? Well, I just started so I can’t really say yet.I can, however, say that I am currently lost in a sea of polling apps and articles on online surveys and marketing. Personally I’d love some advice to cut through the noise. I barely know where to begin. So I guess, if you’re reading this, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes, and/or my progress depending on how this goes. Also, if you happen to know of a polling app that embeds polls directly in social media posts and websites across Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, while sharing votes across all platforms, please let me know. That’s the current Holy Grail for which I quest.


Should I care?

          That’s all good and all, but why am I telling you this?

          That’s a fair question. I could have simply started a poll on my site and left it at that; but that doesn’t guarantee my interested readers would know about it. How often do you check a site’s main navigation to see if it has been updated? If you are like me, probably not too often. You look for changes on the front page (which I am still exploring), and you read the new content. So, dedicating a blog seemed like a good way to get readers aware that I had begun polling and why I was doing so.

          Plus, I tried to post it under the radar, but, well, it remained under the radar. I put out my first poll and received two votes (technically four, but two were me testing the polling system, so I don’t think that they count). The point is, my first week of polling did not go so well, and I thought that a blog post might at least raise some awareness.


Quick Resources on Social Media Polling

          That being said, if you’re interested in increasing your own social media engagement for your author platform, my primary advice is to do your own research. I’m just getting started, so what do I know? However, if that doesn’t sound so appealing, feel free to piggyback off of some of mine. Here are some articles for you. I’ll update this blog entry in the future as I explore the topic more.


4 Facebook Tools for Your Social Media Strategy

Focused specifically on Facebook, the article provides a brief argument in favor in polling then jumps into reviews on 4 different Facebook polling tools.


5 Reasons to Include Polling in Your Social Media Strategy

This one is more relevant to companies and brands, but most of its takeaways can still be applied to writers and bloggers.


11 Ways Marketers Use Twitter Polls

Quick callouts to different uses for polls and clear examples of each. I wasn’t convinced I’d find it useful when I clicked the link but after reading through it, I am already rethinking my polling strategy. I even just posted my first Twitter poll, so there we go. And in ten minutes I’ve had more engagement with the twitter poll than the one on my site had in an entire week. That’s something.


How to Use Twitter Polls to Engage Your Audience: 13 Examples from Real Brands

Another article on effectively using Twitter polls to engage your audience. Huh. There’s that keyword, again: engage.


How to Supercharge Your Social Media Presence with Online Surveys

An article reviewing the pros of engaging your social media audience with surveys.


          Anyway, I hope that this is useful to someone.

          Happy Writing (and Polling), All!

Want to Write? Read!

© Photographer: Ginasanders | Agency: Dreamstime.com

By Chris Hutton


          This whole post could be as short as this. You want to write, read. There blog done for the week. No…


Okay, a bit more then.

          If you don’t read novels, don’t write them. Don’t read short stories, don’t write them. Don’t watch tv, don’t write television. Or….

          To put it in a more positive light:

          If you want to write novels, read novels. If you want to write short stories, comics, or for film &/or television, read short stories and comics and watch tv and film (and better yet, read teleplays and scripts).


Why?

          Because it makes you a better writer. Beyond writing itself, there is no better training ground for the craft. Read great works, read crap works, just read. From the greats you can pick up on what it is you like so much, and what they do so well. Even more, from the not so great work, well, you can pick up on what bothers you. What techniques drive you up the wall? Do you hate adverbs? Does passive voice grate on your nerves. Do cliches, like those littering this paragraph, make you want to scream (see what I did there (twice)). I once had a professor that told me there was never an excuse to starting a sentence with ‘it.’ It’s not advice with which I completely agree, but I imagine that he picked that up from one too many sentences starting with ‘it’ in something that he read.

          Of course, the items entailed so far are more grammatical than anything else, but there is so much more to be learned. What stories excite you? What stories bore you? How do you feel about starting in the middle of the action and then flashing back? Personally, with rare exceptions, I prefer the straightforward narrative, What about the types of work you like? Do you want your horror pumping with gore, or exuding dark psychology? Both? What about your science-fiction? Perhaps you prefer slow tales of humanity at its limits, or maybe you want hordes of aliens and laser fights around every corner. Reading will let you know what you love and what you hate. In the end, I hope that we are telling the stories that we love, not the ones that we hope will impress. I could try to write some piece of modern literature, but I don’t read it. I read King and Hill and Cutter and horror and James S A Corey and near-future science-fiction. And if that is what I read, that’s what I write.


But so many reasons…

          I get it. For those of us who want to write, it can be hard enough to find time to put pen to paper. Now some nobody with a blog is saying you have to read as well. Jerk.

          There are a million reasons why we don’t read enough, although perhaps the crux of the dilemma is the usual culprit for so many of the things we don’t do – time. There just isn’t much of it. Again, I get it. I do. I want to read a lot more than I do, but I can’t make the time; but I do make some time, even if only a few pages a day I make sure to read. Usually I aim a bit higher, but the point is, when you find yourself having no time, exhausted from the stresses of everyday life, try to push through even just for a page or two. Make that effort.

          Beyond helping you become a better writer it is a matter of respecting your audience. If you don’t enjoy the medium enough to spend your time on it, how can you expect anyone to spend their time and hard earned money on your stories? You can’t.

          Oh but, beyond time, I frequently hear one other excuse – one for which I have far less tolerance: I don’t want to be influenced.

          To that I say, “Well, that’s just ridiculous.” If you are going to write, you need to know what has been done and what hasn’t. You need to know what works and what doesn’t. You need to know the craft and you can’t know that if you’re not reading.


Not just words…

          And lest you think that I am talking out of my ass, here is a rundown of what I have been reading over the past six months.


Comics:*
Marguerite Bennett

  • Animosity, Vol. 1

Ed Brubaker

  • Fatale, Book 4
  • Fatale, Book 5
  • Kill or Be Killed, Vol. 1

Jonathan Hickman

  • The Black Monday Murders, Vol. 1

Joe Hill

  • Locke & Key, Vol. 4
  • Locke & Key, Vol. 5
  • Locke & Key, Vol. 6

Zack Kaplan

  • Eclipse, Vol. 1

A.J. Lieberman

  • Harvest

Jeff Lemire

  • Descender, Vol. 1
  • Descender, Vol. 2
  • Descender, Vol. 3

Michael Moreci

  • Roche Limit, Vol. 1
  • Roche Limit, Vol. 2

Rick Remender

  • Black Science, Vol. 1
  • Low, Vol. 1
  • Low, Vol. 2
  • Low, Vol. 3

Scott Snyder

  • Wytches

Charles Soule

  • Letter 44, Vol. 1

Michael J. Straczynski

  • Midnight Nation

Brian K. Vaughan

  • Paper Girls, Vol. 2
  • Saga, Vol. 4

Joshua Williamson

  • Nailbiter, Vol. 1

          *includes only trades that I read during this period


Novels:
Dathan Auberach

  • Penpal

William Peter Blatty

  • Legion

Michael Crichton

  • Sphere

Michael Connelly

  • The Concrete Blonde

James S.A. Corey

  • Caliban’s War

Sara Gran

  • Come Closer

Joe Hill

  • Horns

Michael Koryta

  • The Ridge

David Wong

  • John Dies at the End


Currently Reading:
Ania Ahlborn

  • The Pretty Ones

Isaac Asimov

  • Foundation

Michael Phillip Cash

  • Stillwell

Blake Crouch

  • Pines

Nick Cutter

  • Little Heaven

Lily Brooks-Dalton

  • Good Morning, Midnight

Arthur C. Clarke

  • Childhood’s End

Lev Grossman

  • The Magicians

Joe Hill

  • 20th Century Ghosts

Stephen King

  • 11/22/63

Scott B. Smith

  • The Ruins

Ian Whates

  • Solaris Rising 2


          If for some reason you take pleasure in long lists of what I am reading (like this one), you can follow me at goodreads and keep tabs on my reading progress. Not sure the benefit there, but hey, transparency.


Don’t just trust me

          What do I know? Hell, you don’t know me. I could be a gigantic liar. So now that everything I’ve written is called into question, let’s throw some quotes at you from people you might trust (if I’m not making them up).


“If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it’s not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source.”
– Natalie Goldberg 1


          Over the years, I have read many books on storytelling and writing. Many are forgettable, others like Natalie Goldberg’s (quoted above), not so much, but I take all with the proverbial grain of salt. Yet of all the books I’ve read regarding the craft of writing, Stephen King’s On Writing is my most cherished. King, as always, doesn’t mince words or attempt to fancy up the process to sound more profound. He tells it simple and straight. The book has a few basic sections, CV (his personal journey as a writer), The Toolbox, On Writing, and On Living: A Postscript. In that third portion (On Writing) King delves into the importance of reading to a writer, and every time I glance through those pages I imagine the title Read, Damn You! sitting above the text instead of the simple – 1 – that actually acts as the header. The quotes that follow are taken from that portion of his book and are some of my favorites among many.


“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
– Stephen King 2


          And although King mentions that his reading is done for pleasure, not specifically learning, and entails an incredible 70-80 books a year, he admits that even when reading for the fun of it, we are learning.


“[T]here is a learning process going on. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
– Stephen King 2


          Beyond that, he makes a strong point about the encouragement we can feel from reading a bad book.


“What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff? One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose – one [bad] novel… is worth a semester at a good writing school, even with the superstar guest lecturers thrown in.”
– Stephen King 3


          And to my earlier point regarding the importance of quality reading, he has this to say:


“Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling… Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing – of being flattened in fact – is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
– Stephen King 3


          I could spend a whole blog quoting just this one section from King’s book, but that seems vastly inappropriate, so I’m going to leave it at this overabundance of quotes and just encourage you to pick up the book yourself (Look, you can find it here). It’s worth the time.

          My apparent love affair with King aside, he is not the sole voice on the importance of reading to the writer. A quick Google search will turn up a plethora of quotations.


“Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”
– William Faulkner, interviewed by Lavon Rascoe for The Western Review, Summer 1951
Found in Writers on Reading: 12 Quotations on Learning to Write by Reading



“Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You’ll find what you need to find. Just read.”
-Neil Gaiman
Quoted in Donalyn’s Miller’s Reading in the Wild
Found in Buzzfeed’s 17 Writers on The Importance of Reading


          Or check out yet another blog on the importance of reading to the writer. Try this one:
https://www.writingforward.com/better-writing/read-more-write-better
Sneak Peek at “10 Core Practices for Better Writing” – Read More and Write Better by Melissa Donovan on WritingForward.com.

Wrapping her up

          Still don’t take my word for it? That’s probably wise. Don’t. Make your own call. But if you do believe me, then just read already. I have some short stories you can start on. Try my free reads if you’re desperate for some material, but no matter what, if you’re a writer and you want to excel, then read. Read anything. Read everything. Read as much as possible. No ifs, ands, or buts.

          So…

          Happy Writing (and Reading) All!

1Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986), p54.
2King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2000), p145.
3King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2000), p146.


Back to 7 Lessons Learned

Fall Down. Get up.

© Flynt | Dreamstime.com – Falling down the stairs

By Chris Hutton

Ring-a-round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

          At some point everyone stumbles, everyone falls. The key to success, at least so I’ve heard and believe (though admittedly using anecdotal, and therefore questionable, evidence) is not who doesn’t fall, but who stays down and who stands back up.

          Recently I disappeared from my blog for over 3 months. This was a huge misstep. My writing trickled from a steady 3-4 times a week to nearly non-existent. I had my reasons. We all have our reasons. I went on vacation, got back with a flu that evolved to strep throat that evolved to a sinus infection that devolved to a flu that ended in an ER visit. Suffice to say, I had a fun few months (and way too many visits to the doctor).

          The point is that I fell. Now I am standing back up. That is what has to be done if you want to write. You will lapse… you will slip, but hopefully you will also get back to that keyboard and jump back to your writing.

          This falling and getting back up is all about the long game.

          When I came to Los Angeles for school (yes, I am a former film student) one of the first bits of advice that I was offered, beyond always take Fountain, was to give yourself ten years. Each overnight success in this town could easily take ten years.

          Mind, that’s not ten years of sitting on your ass hoping to make it, or piddling at your craft but never putting in the big effort, but ten grueling years of working your ass off, making connections, and honing your craft whether you are in the mood to do so or not. I don’t know if the theory is solid (there may be better paths), but there is some grain of truth to it. Time and again I have witnessed people arrive here with huge aspirations only to leave after a few years and move on. For some they realized that they had different dreams. Some became jaded with the industry, others realized they didn’t love it or it wasn’t for them. Some loved it but relocated and continued the fight from a new home base.

          But everyone that I know that succeeded, they fought for it. Whether they stayed in LA or fought the good fight from afar they kept writing, kept competing, meeting, networking, and above all working until they reached their aspirations.

          In my time here I have fallen. I’ve landed in jobs that didn’t leave time or energy to write – jobs where I worked 60, 70, 80 hours or more a week; jobs where I returned home to eat, sleep, rinse, and repeat. My life has changed and rerouted down many new paths.

          Yet after every adjustment, I have pushed myself back to the keyboard. My ten year mark approaches and I refuse to give up. Rather than take each misstep as a failure I stand up and learn from them, hoping to carve some modicum of success from those stumbles.

          Some of those deviations led to numerous connections within entertainment, helping me to build a network. Others introduced me to project management, entertainment marketing, web and print promotion, and social media management. Now my skill sets here vary, but strengthening each of these areas, focusing on what I have learned rather than dwelling on perceived failures, has allowed me to keep looking ahead with a positive light. I work with my connections and apply my knowledge of marketing to move forward with a stronger plan, one that has hope of getting my writing out there and in the hands of the most important people in the process of storytelling – the audience.

          Even with this most recent fall, I learned. I learned the value of a backlog and am now hard at work generating that glut of content before pushing forward, so that the next time unforeseen illness strikes everything doesn’t come crashing to a halt.

          My point here boils down to this: everyone stumbles, but we can learn from our failures, and if we stand back up rather than dwelling on our mistakes, then and only then does anyone have a chance of succeeding. So while I took a misstep and allowed my blog to lapse, I am now picking myself up and moving forward with hope.

          Thanks, and Happy Writing!

June 2017 Status Update

          I’ve decided to change things a little this month. In the past I’ve gone through a lengthy update of where I was a month ago, what I accomplished in the previous month, the things on which I had made progress (and what progress that was), and what my next steps were for my writing. That’s really coming across pretty dry and way too detailed. So, moving forward I’ll just give a top level of where I’m at and what I’m doing.


          First off, I was absent from this blog for roughly six months. My bad. Completely. I’m working to guarantee that this does not happen again.

          Moving on from that obvious point, what’s going on with my writing:

  • Ablation is complete: The final segment of the story (part 7) will post on June 5th. For anyone who bore with me on this story during the long gap, thank you!
  • Two new horror stories underway: The first story is looking to be a true short story for once, coming in at 1-2 installments and likely 5,000 total words. That will post mid-June. The second story is looking to be 5 parts (~10,000 words) and should post late June into July.
  • Arcas nearing completion: Art is nearly done and I’m working on a few revisions, polishing the script.
  • Novelette by late 2017: I have a horror novelette, Calling Mr. Nelson Pugh, with final edits underway. My hope is to have it published by late 2017 and available as an e-book.
  • Short Story Horror Anthology: I am cementing plans for publishing an anthology of horror shorts. This would include material from this site (but having been vetted through additional edits), and previously unpublished material, with close to a 50/50 new to reprinted ratio. I am about 10,000 words shy of a 70,000 word minimum goal, which I foresee crossing by July. Edits will likely take six months to a year depending on availability of editors, and some additional connective tissue is being drafted. With that being the case, I expect a late 2018 publication.
  • Horror Novel underway: I am about 35,000 words into my first full length horror novel. It is too early to predict a completion date, but I am considering posting chapters to this site as I get further along. I would love to know if there is interest in reading it chapter by chapter as I push through the first draft. Feel free to sound off in the comments.
  • Co-written Sci-fi Comic: Finally I am also collaborating as a co-writer and creator for an additional science-fiction comic. My writing partner and I are in the early stages of this project, but I hope to have more updates soon.

          There is probably a little I missed, but that’s enough for now. If anything in there strikes your interest, chime in. I’d be happy to discuss. Bye for now.

          Happy Writing, All!

Be Lenient

© Alexander Raths | Dreamstime.com – Vintage typewriter

By Chris Hutton


          You have a right to fail. Dwell on that for a minute. Sometimes as writers we forget that we will fail and that failure is okay. It is just one stop on a very long road.

          Now by failure I don’t mean that all writers are destined to the status of eternal starving artist, but that all writers will hit stumbling blocks. We will miss a deadline, lapse in our writing, or just write something plain awful.

          Expect this failure. Accept it, and take solace in knowing that you can find successes after the fall. If you expect perfection that’s just a sure way to never finish anything. Admittedly this is a superlative statement and thus somewhat questionable, but the essence boils down rather simply. Seeking perfection we will dwell too much on every detail and in so doing impede our momentum and our ability to move forward with a larger whole. The strain of that task shall become too great to bear.

          Take one of my favorite examples. In Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft he discusses writing his first novel, Carrie. At the time he started the novel he had been aiming to write a short story for submission into a men’s magazine. Very early on he decided to abandon the story altogether. It didn’t move him, he didn’t like the lead, he wasn’t writing what he knew, and he knew the story would be too long to be accepted for submission. In one sense you could say he had failed in his goal. He’d gone over the word count and found himself disliking the story that he was telling. That being the case, he literally threw the pages away. If his wife had not discovered the manuscript in the trash and encouraged him to finish it, if he had accepted it as a failure and left it behind, his first novel as we know it never would have come to be.1

          Looking at my own writing, when I push through the first draft of a story I can dwell on crafting the perfect sentence or I can push forward with the larger story. If I focus sentence by sentence I may have a few well-crafted lines at the end of the day, but my story will have barely progressed. This approach kills my momentum and I am likely to never reach the end of the story, the slow-pacing of focusing on the minutia dragging beyond the limit of my inspiration. If, however, I allow for imperfection, then I can push through that initial draft of the story, mapping out the overall movements, and fine-tuning sentences and editing in subsequent drafts. The short stories featured on my web site for instance are first draft stories. I push straight through not allowing myself the benefit of a second draft. I do this to meet the time constraints of weekly postings, but also to force myself to complete the stories rather than to hold on to them and fine-tune them over the course of years (which I would do without the promise of an imminent audience).

          Even if you do strive for perfection in a rewrite, you can once again find yourself stuck never finishing the rewrite process. There will always be more that you can do to perfect a story, but at some point you just have to call it finished.

          Again looking at King’s On Writing, he describes his own rewrite process and his limit on drafts, holding himself to a strict two drafts and a polish. Conversely, as King also mentions, Kurt Vonnegut rewrote every page of his novels until he had them perfected, sometimes only covering 1-2 pages a day.2 To each their own. No rule is universally applicable.

          In my own work, I first started my teleplay for Dream Walker in the fall of 2006. I continued tweaking that script through 2012. To this day, however, I could still return to that script, but factoring for diminishing returns at some point you have to move on.

          Natalie Goldberg described the art of writing as practice in her book, Writing Down the Bones. Here she detailed the story of how her writing students could set too high of expectations for themselves, deciding to “write the great American novel,” and not writing “a line since.”3 As she describes, setting that expectation of perfection, of greatness, writing becomes a “great disappointment,” and furthermore “that expectation would also keep you from writing”.4 If we refuse to bend, to accept our own failures, then every act of creation becomes too burdensome and impossibly Herculean.

          So next time you find yourself daunted by the prospect of perfection and your inevitable failure, remind yourself in the words of Natalie Goldberg “I am free to write the worst junk in the world”.5 It is extremely freeing, and you just might actually get something finished.

          Happy Writing, All!


1Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2000), p76-77.
2Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2000), p209.
3Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986), p11.
4Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986), p11.
5Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986), p11.