Meta Post – Writers Block Strikes Again

The last time we spoke, which was this Tuesday, I believe, I was on a path to stardom fueled by the sweet embrace of heroin. I’ve run out of heroin, and as I’ve discovered, the only thing worse than failed stardom is failed stardom with massive heroin withdraw. Who would have known that donning a skin-tight spandex suit, learning four chords on the bass guitar, and pumping my veins so full of Moroccan candy that I got addicted wouldn’t guarantee me a place in the rock and roll hall of fame?

So I’m back at the keyboard, putting one word in front of the other. And it’s not going so well this week.

It happens. You get into a rut. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to my writing group about writing comedy. I started off with a joke that fell flat, but the rest of the presentation went pretty well. I made a pretty bold claim near the beginning, though. I said writing, like all other art forms, is created to evoke an emotional response, which are pretty big words for a guy who’s a recovering heroin junkie. Whether it’s writing, or painting, or sculpturing, or making music, the point of these things is to stir something in your peers.

But…

Writing is kinda different. Sure, writing can stir things in people, but it’s a delayed gratification. It takes a while to read a novel. If you hear a song, it’s connecting to you right away. The second those sound waves start rattling the bones in your ear and your brain starts translating the waves to the beats, your butt starts to shake and you’re connected to the primal beast in your soul. If you see a painting, your eyes instantly devour it, the colors and shapes and textures of the paint hitting your noggin immediately.

Put it this way. We’re having a party, and it is off the chain. I mean, drinks are flowing, I’ve got a crazy spread going, and everyone is having a good time. I’ve brought three of my friends to this party; The Handsome Musician, The Stunning Painter, and The Sexy Writer. They show up, and they each start doing their own thing.

The Handsome Musician sees my guitar in the corner and heads over. He picks it up and starts playing some sweet riffs. His riffs are crunchy as all sin. The people around him start to gravitate towards him. Men nod in agreement. The women look at him doe-eyed. He’s not paying attention. His eyes are closed and he’s lost in the moment. Once he’s done,  he receives a small amount of applause. The dude doesn’t even have to tell people he’s a musician.

The Stunning Painter heads over to the snack table and gets himself one of my tasty hors d’oeuvres. A cute lady approaches, which is a bit of a letdown for my painter friend as he’s gayer than springtime. No matter, he’s a gentleman through and through. She asks what he’s been up to recently. He replies that he’s been painting. Before she has time to ask, he whips out his phone and proceeds to show her his work. Her breath is taken away. His work, even though it looks better in real life, is still amazing over the tiny pixel screen.

The Sexy Writer bee-lines it for the bar. He pours himself a scotch, neat. He downs it almost instantly and pours himself another one. He scours the room, somehow looking at everyone but managing to avoid eye contact with anyone. He sticks himself up in the corner and hopes he can drink in peace. He’s approached by a heavy-set man.

“Hey, you’re Sexy Writer guy, Mr. Charlton’s friend. How’s it going this evening?”

Sexy Writer guy tries to look somewhere else. “It’s going.”

The heavy-set man laughs. “It certainly is GOING, isn’t it friend? Tell me, do you have any hobbies?”

The Sexy Writer looks down at his feet as he mumbles. “I write…”

“I’m sorry, my hearing isn’t what it used to be. What did you say you do for fun?” the heavy-set man says as he leans in closer.

The Sexy Writer sighs. “I write.”

The fat man nods. “Really? Do you have anything published?”

Something snaps in the Sexy Writer’s mind. He grabs an empty beer bottle on the table, smashes it and holds it up to heavy-set man’s throat. He speaks, but his voice is high-pitched and shrill, like that of a maniac.

“Am I Published? AM I PUBLISHED?!?! No one asked the HANDSOME Musician if HE’S landed a recording deal, no one questioned whether or not the Stunning Painter had his artwork in the LOUVRE, and you want to know if I’m PUBLISHED?”

Before anyone can react, the Sexy Writer turns the broken glass on himself, stabbing himself repeatedly in the neck. Once again, my party is ruined.

The moral of the story is that writing is hard, and can be sometimes kinda thankless. If you’re going to write, you gotta do it for yourself. And hopefully, you won’t murder yourself at one of my parties.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Anyime I have writers block, I write about writing. Kinda like jacking off for a scribe.

p.s.s. Most readers don’t get feedback, but I get tons of feedback from wonderful people like you, so pat yourselves on the back.

 

 

Mr. Charlton is Fake News

Every once and a while Mr. Charlton makes a bold claim. I’ve been known to say some pretty outlandish stuff. I once told a guy at a bar that one day, one day, I’d become the world’s greatest farmer. Which is strange, seeing as how I can barely keep a houseplant alive. I’ve said that I’m not the second coming, but rather Jesus was a precursor to Mr. Charlton. This is coming from a guy who would burst into flames if he stepped into a church.

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Kat takes care of this thing. If she wasn’t here, this would be dead.

Not too long ago, I made a bold claim; I was going to get to the bottom of this whole global warming issue. I figured there are not enough journalists covering the topic, and I said to myself, you know what? I might as well get my feet wet. Might as well read some books on the topic of journalism. Might as well learn to dig for facts and report out some hard hitting news.

Well…

That was back in the summer of 2016, the halcyonic days where journalism was, at least from my perspective, still being taken somewhat seriously. Then Trump happened, and the world of the Republican fringe spilled out onto the rest of the planet. The newly appointed administration started to talk about ‘Alternative Facts’ and how anything critical of the White House was now ‘Fake News’. It’s only been a month, and it’s been a goddamn shit show.

I’ve always been wary of emotions. I don’t really like having them. They’re a pain in the ass, distorting logic and reason with feelings and sentimentality. I despise it when organizations use emotions to sway others. Trying to make me afraid and not having any data to back it up, in my opinion, should be a crime. It should be illegal to try and stir the pot without having anything substantial in the pot. An incredibly good example is when a politician tries to use crime as a scapegoat, in an effort to seem tough on an issue. Here’s the statistics for crime in Canada and here it is for the United States. Doesn’t matter in either case if the current administration was left-wing or right-wing on the political spectrum, crimes of all types have consistently been on the decline for decades. Arguing otherwise should result in some sort of penalty.

But I’m not here to talk about crime. I’m here to talk about bullshit. There’s too much of it out there, and I’m not helping the problem. I’m not a journalist. I do not have a degree in political science. I’m not an expert on anything. In fact, I know very little about the things many people consider me to be an authority on. The truth is, the more I learn about a topic, the more I find out I don’t know. The amount of ignorance that erupts when learning something new is staggering. When I took a class on wine years ago, I went from thinking I knew a little, to realizing I knew nothing at all about rotting grapes. You could spend your entire life learning about wine and never learn everything.

And here I was, plucky little Mr. Charlton, thinking I was going to set the record straight on journalism. That is some goddamn hubris right there.

Somewhere along the line, I got a face full of humble pie. It could be the fact that I have friends who are actual journalists. Maybe it’s that no one is going to bother to be interviewed for a website that gets five or six hits per post. But maybe, just maybe, it’s because it takes a lot of work to fact check your sources. Writing a post takes an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Proper research (and yes, I’ve done research on at least three of my posts) can take anywhere from an hour to three hours. Now, with all this goddamn journalism and research, my dumbass blog would take anywhere from two to four hours. Man (or woman), I’ve got a life! I have things to do. I have other things to write. I’ve got hobbies. Sometimes I want to just sit back and play video games or watch a cartoon. If I wanted to become a journalist so bad, I’d go back to school to become a journalist, and I’m already trying to go back to school to fulfill my dream of becoming a lion tamer.

My point is, my opinion isn’t fact. Facts are facts, and good journalism seeks out these facts. Me? I’m gonna keep writing, going to keep reaching for the lion taming stars. If you do care about facts, and you want them to be heard, do facts a favor and subscribe to some real journalism. In a world where facts are under attack, the only way to fight back is to support those who are seeking the truth.

It’s easy to rile people up with inflammatory opinion. It’s almost impossible to calm them down with rationality. Someone out there is selling you emotion, and that makes me so angry I could remember everything I just said, calm my ass down, look up the numbers on the situation, realize it’s not as bad as I think it is, and be slightly ticked off someone was manipulating my emotions in the first place.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m going to probably stick to satire mostly from now on, it’s the most fun to write.

 

Meta Post – The Big 100

Since the inception of the website, back in May of 2016, I’ve posted 100 blog posts. Every post so far has been at least 750 words (except for one post. I can’t remember for the life of me which one it was, but I was busy and the subject was pretty sparse to begin with). Now, I’m no accountant, but doing a little math shows that I’ve then written well over 75,000 words on the ol’ website here.

What that doesn’t include are the rejects that don’t get posted or that get erased. Combined with the 55,000 words I’ve written for my novel, a bunch of short stories, the writing prompts I did with the River Bottom Writers, well, I’ve written a lot last year. It’s a number, for sure. I’m going to be writing even more this year.

While I sit here and congratulate myself by patting myself on the back while researching information about removing a couple of ribs, there’s other things I have to mention when I talk about the craft of writing.

See, not only do I write a lot, I read a fair amount as well. Reading is a wonderful tool that allows me to look smarter than I actually am without really doing any work. I recently read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, where he talks about his job. Which is sitting down, thinking about a bunch of crazy stuff, then putting in down on paper. It was a fascinating read, especially since I’m not actually a huge fan of his work (I mean, I could be, I’ve just never read any of his stuff, besides the ‘On Writing’ book). One of the things that stuck out for me was he considered writing something he’d be doing anyways, even if he wasn’t a big name.

Now, this stuck out for me for a couple reasons. One, right now it costs me money to write on this site. Not a lot, mind you, but the space ain’t free. And two, the game has changed slightly. There’s a lot more people writing today than there was when Stephen started his journey. The market for paid writing is also a lot smaller. There was a number of magazines catering to his kind of stuff. There are websites that cater to it, for sure, but they pay a lot less than they did in the 70’s. Magazines and websites now hold contests instead of asking for submissions. The opportunities presented to authors today is less of a low-paying gig and more of a low paying chance to win.

I’m not complaining. I’m going to continue writing, even if I never get published, even if no one except a couple of close friends and family are reading. I’m alright with that, because writing gives me something I don’t have in real space, and that’s the ability to express myself. I’m pretty closed off in real life, and for whatever reason, the walls get torn down when I put myself behind a keyboard. It’s good for my mental health too, because I don’t bottle up everything inside and let it rot.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way about writing, some wisdom I hope to pass to anyone who might be delving into the craft themselves this year.

Getting Published means you’ll need an editor, and editors cost money.

A lot of money. If you have a book you want someone to go over with a fine-tooth comb, expect to pay somewhere between $3000-$6000. Keep in mind, there’re a couple of types of editors. Paying someone to do developmental editing means they’ll be looking over the story structure and they won’t be necessarily be paying attention to the grammar. Every time they go over it, they’ll want more money. That means tighten you work up and get some beta readers (friends who read a lot) and get their input before you hand it off to someone. Editors are people with jobs, and people have jobs to make money. They’re not going to work for free.

It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

There’s this notion that writers sit in quiet rooms, working away at their novel, free of distractions. And that’s absolutely true. You need a quiet space to work in to write. If you want to get published, however, you’re going to have to meet some people, rub some elbows, make some connections. Join a writers group. Move to a bigger city. Don’t quit your day job. There are zero paths to success that don’t require you working with other people. If you don’t know how to socialize and network, then learn.

Ask yourself why you want to get published.

If it’s because you want money, look somewhere else. Seriously, there are so many better ways to make money. Same with fame and recognition. I learned a lot of things in 2016, but the bigger lesson I learned was this; there’s a good chance I’ll never be a successful writer, whereas success is defined by money and people telling me I’m awesome. Writing is just too saturated of a field. This is going to come across as silly, but what I’ve found is that being a writer isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. I mean, you still have to do it, you have to write, but if you’re writing without getting paid, that’s perfectly fine. I write because it makes me better at recognizing my own emotions, and it makes me a better story teller. If I could also get paid for it, that’d be awesome, but it could be a damn long time before any checks roll in.

People are going to tell you that you’re not a writer.

Or they’ll tell you that you’re not a real writer. Personally, I’ve never had someone tell me this, mostly because Mr. Charlton surrounds himself with only the best people. My solution is having business cards made out. Business cards seem to legitimize it, and they’re cheap to get.

To wrap it up, if you’re writing, or painting, or playing music, do it because it makes you a better, more interesting person. Don’t expect applause or money, because it often isn’t there. Sometimes the art itself is the reward.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Also the sex. People like banging artists. Known fact.

p.s.s. Next milestone is going to be 1000.

Mr. Charlton Doesn’t Go to Calgary

Crazy thing. I’m supposed to be in Calgary right now. I’m not in Calgary, which may leave people who were expecting me to be in Calgary to ask the question “Mr. Charlton, why the hell are you not in Calgary?” This is a valid question. I wanted to be in Calgary, so very badly, but sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and bail on a situation when it’s appropriate.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine (We’ll call her Lisa) invited me out for drinks in Calgary. I don’t live in Calgary. Where I live right now isn’t even that important to the story. What you need to know is my current location isn’t Calgary. Now, there was a very long time where my location was Calgary, because Calgary was my home. I love Calgary, and I have a lot of friends who still call Calgary their residence. I was headed to Calgary to meet some of these people.

Here’s the thing. I have been stressing out these last few days. I took on a lot of projects recently, and I was getting worried about deadlines. They’re manageable, but between the coding I’m helping Kat with, the 3D modeling I’m doing for a friend of mine, plus work, plus the fact I’m still trying to write two thousand words a day, plus the coding I’m doing for myself, well, my time has to be managed properly.

I planned out the entire day. I had some time on the bus to get some stuff done, I had breaks in between meeting friends, I had my day sorted. I would get plenty of time to code, plenty of time to visit, and plenty of time to write. I was going to have a great time.

I didn’t plan on outside circumstances, though, like the bus being an hour and a half late. Where I live wasn’t important to the story before, but I guess it is now. I live in the wind capital of Canada, Lethbridge. I stood out in the cold wind for over an hour and a half. People waiting with me ended up leaving, or calling friends and sitting in their vehicles. Slowly, my day was being eaten up. And I was getting more frustrated by the moment. Plus, it was cold out. I dressed appropriately for someone waiting fifteen minutes, not an hour and forty-five.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

So I bailed. I said, “If the trip is starting out badly, then it’s a good sign to count my losses and chill for the day.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to treat myself to a nice lunch, and I’m going to work on some of the things I had planned on getting done.

There’s a lesson here. In our fast-paced world, we’re constantly bombarded with catchy slogans like “Live to Win” and “Bite off more than you can swallow, then chew” and “Gotta hustle every day” and “The man who stands upon the largest pile of skulls can see the furthest”. But sometimes, if you’re gut is telling you to slow down, that something ain’t right, then back off.

I’m not in Calgary, and it might be a good long while before I’m in Calgary again. That’s a shame, because I really do love the city. To all my friends, I’ll be out later than sooner, I’m afraid. In the mean time, you’ll find me right here, on the internet.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. ‘Ain’t’ wasn’t always a word, but it is now. Which is grand, as it makes me seem like I’m full of folksy bumpkin wisdom.

p.s.s. Just CHALKED full of bumpkin wisdom.

NaNoWirMo – A Retrospective

A lot of you may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past month, minus the electoral upset taking place in the good ol’ USA. Well, I’ve actually been right here, typing out much smaller blog posts, and not spreading the word via social media. Mostly because unlike my longer, larger and more interesting posts, these were updates regarding my the little journey to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of thirty days. As of Monday November 28th at about 3:30pm in the afternoon, I crossed that finish line.  So bear with me as I talk about writing 1,667 words a day for the month of November.

It wasn’t all that hard.

Now, I’m not diminishing anyone else’s little victory, but I’m saying is not once during this month I felt stressed out by the thought of sitting down and writing a bunch. It never felt like a daunting task. All I had to do was make sure I was ahead of the daily quota, and to keep plugging away every day at it. Some days I only got 800 words scribbled down. Other days I managed to blow through more than 3,000 words. No matter the day, I managed to get some writing done. Not only that, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I still managed to give this blog an additional couple hundred words. I know some of the people here are writers themselves, so I’m going to whisk you away on an adventure into how Mr. Charlton managed to get so much writing done in so little time.

The Bad

1) The novel (so far) is a complete piece of shit.

I’ll state this right off the bat; it’s not a good book. The characters stand around shouting exposition at each other. Sometimes a chapter will end with “And then they all went out to do the jobs they had to do”. There’s a couple of little flourishes in there that I’m proud off, there’s also complete chunks of novel missing, replaced with COME BACK AND WRITE THIS SCENE IN LATER or GO BACK AND CHANGE THIS CHARTER SO THIS PART WILL MAKE SENSE. I’d love to sit here and tell you I wrote a masterpiece, but I’d be full of it.

2) I still have a shit ton to write to make it an actual novel.

It ain’t over yet, I’m afraid. There’s still at least another two months of writing needing to be done before I could even call this a first draft. I’m happy I was able to complete the task National Novel Writing Month set out for me, but the truth is, 50,000 words isn’t a heck of a lot. Both science fiction and fantasy novels tend to be at least twice that number. Seeing as how this is a science fiction novel I’m writing, I’ve got a long way to go before I can actually call this a first draft.

3) Holy sweet Peter, is this going to require a hell of an edit once it’s done.

With the book being in bad shape, once it’s actually completed, the book will need a complete overhaul. There are sentences that will need to be pulled out into full paragraphs to better paint the scene, and there are entire paragraphs I’m going to have to widdle down into sentences because when you’re trying to get a word count in, you occasionally pad stuff.

 

The Good

4) Every damn novel ever written requires an edit once the first draft is complete.

What did I expect, that I was going to crap out ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ in the time frame of thirty days? Even a book like ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ needed an edit after the first draft and numerous edits after the first edit. Here’s some wonderful news; I like editing. I’ve got no issue going over things with a fine tooth comb and giving it some TLC. Heck, if you’re a writer out there and you want someone to go over a page or two of your stuff, pro bono, give a guy a buzz.

5) I learned I’m a fast typist, and I’m getting better every day.

Hand-eye coordination, people. Whoever told me video games were a waste of time can suck an egg.

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MAYBE HARD BOIL IT FIRST, AND GET A NUTRIOUS BREAKFAST, BITCH!

If the groove is going, I can crank out 1,500 words in an hour. That means I can crank out 3,000 words in two hours if the mood is right. And here’s the kicker. I could be faster and more accurate. Saying you’re a writer who can’t type is like saying you’re a chef who can’t slice an onion properly. Get better at your craft.

6) No such thing as the right time to write.

Picture a novelist. Maybe they’re in the nook of their home, a warm cup of coffee next to them, undisturbed. You’ll hear people say things like, “Unless the mood is right, and I’m in my special nook, there’s no way I can write”. Well, that’s fine and dandy for people living in some magical world that’s not populated by anybody else, but I live on planet Earth, and this shit can get wild sometimes. I would say that somewhere between 5-10% of this book was written on my phone. I’m on the bus and I have ten minutes? I can crank out 50 to a 100 words. I’m 15 minutes early to pick someone up? Another 100 to 200 words get put into an email and sent to myself. The right time to start something, whether it’s writing, or Ju-Jitsu, or learning to weld is right now. And if you’re lucky enough, the thing you want to learn is something portable, like writing or drawing or the harmonica.

Overall, I’m glad I did NaNoWriMo. I learned some things about myself, and because I hit the 50,000 word mark, I get a sweet deal on some killer writing software.

Don’t worry, next post I’ll be back to the usual garbage I normally write.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. My other big secret is not having children. My lord, do I have so much wonderful free time to myself.

p.s.s. Seriously, if you’re an aspiring writer, send me your stuff. I’ll give it the classic Mr. Charlton once over.

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Entry #8

The goal line has been crossed. I’ve hit the 50,000 word count, which qualifies me as an official NaNoWriMo winner. I still have two more days of writing. I’m going to try and crank out as many words as possible, and tack on a wrap up to the story.

The next post will be a NaNoWriMo perspective. I’ll be answering some questions I have for myself about the whole ordeal. Right now, I’m going to take a well-deserved break.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. regular posts resume on Friday.

NaNoWriMo – Entry #7

Five thousand words left. I’ve got well over five days to do it. I’m headed to a write-in tomorrow morning, and I’ll have a couple hours in between to write as well. It’s not a victory yet, but there’s still a lot of story to tell, and I have plenty of ideas. Long story short; I should have no trouble finishing the 50,000 words the NaNoWriMo challenge has put me up to. For that, I’m going to give myself a pat on the the back.

I’m also going to take the rest of the day off. It’s Kat’s birthday, and I’ve got a few hours alone before she’s back. We’ll be making sushi and taking it easy. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a nice, refreshing adult beverage, and maybe play a game or two.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Can’t wait to get my hands on a full blown copy of Scrivener!

NaNoWriMo – Entry #5

I’m sitting at 38,000 words, with nine and a half days left. This week is the last full week of the month, and I can taste the end approaching. It tastes like a poorly thought-out, quickly written story, with gaps and missing characters and so much required polish it makes me wonder if I should even bother finishing the novel.

It’s better to have a shitty novel than no novel at all. At least I will have something to edit, to change, to spruce up a bit before I have someone else look over it. I’ll finish the book this year. I will make it readable the next.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Thankfully, I haven’t had writer’s block yet. I just have periods of writing garbage.

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Entry #4

Halfway through the month, and I’m over halfway through the word count. I’m hoping to keep the pace up and finish strong. So far, it hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would be, but I’m also lucky to have a lot of free time on my hands, as well as a lack of children. I should have no issue finishing up on time.

That being said, even though I’m almost thirty thousand words in, it still feels like I’m starting out. The story is slow, and there hasn’t been a lot of action yet. I’m trying to limit the dialogue, but it seems at least a few scenes are people simply sitting down and talking. Once I’m done the first draft, I’ll go back and start sprucing the place up with furniture, if you get what I’m throwing down.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. To anyone who’s new to the blog. All kinds of apologies. Once this month is over, It’ll be back to interesting topics, I swear.

p.s.s. I feel bad for anyone who has to read this shit.

NaNoWriMo – Entry #2

It’s been four days into the contest so far, and I’m a little ahead of the game. Although it’s been going smoothly so far, each say has been getting a little tougher and tougher. Certain questions keep popping up in my mind. Here’s one of the big ones that has been rattling around in the noggin.

Has anyone explained to the other members of this national novel writing month group that 50,000 words isn’t really a novel? I mean, it’s not an adult novel, and even if young adult literature is popular is that what everybody is writing?

Yes, from the people I talk to, everyone seems to be doing young adult, typically referred to as YA.  Which is fine, I guess. After Harry Potter success, I can guess people are after that sweet teet of children’s fantasy.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Ok, that last sentence came out wrong.