Thursday, October 29, 2009

What did you write today?

Sit down in the chair! Do it now!
Get a pen and paper and write down 5 places you want to write for.
This is the life of a freelancer...

Got those 5 places you wanna write for? get up out of the chair and head to the library and find those publications and study the crap out of them.

Studied up? Fantastic! Now sit back down in a chair and with 5 pieces of paper. At the top of each piece of paper write the name of the publications. example-at the top of Page 1 The New York Times Page 2 Penthouse Magazine and so forth and so on....yes I'm aware Penthouse will not be at the library, but I digress....

On each of these 5 pieces of paper brainstorm and write down ideas of articles that you could potentially make query letters out of for these places....

Once you have done that find out how the publications go about accepting queries. If they don't no big deal because at least you had an exercise in brainstorming. If they do accept queries, then what the hell are you waiting for? Write one!

Write your best idea to each publication that you dream of writing for and then wait....and wait...and wait...hopefully soon you will receive a letter, an email or a phone call that your idea has been accepted...

While you wait to be accepted keep doing it. Constantly be studying the publications you want to write for and constantly be sending in good ideas to them.

As Dr. Wilber from the University of South Florida often said, EMBRACE REJECTION!!!

Why should you embrace rejection? Because not only did you at least attempt to get an article in your dream publication, you have now been given the chance to try again. 90% of the battle is trying. Eventually, if your ideas are good, you might get the dream gig. Never give up! Never surrender.

Happy freelancing ya'll!
Ashley Grant

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Myth of "Writer's Block"

More than two years have passed since I first intended to write this post, but like so many of my creative endeavors, it has managed to slip through the cracks of real life... you know, that pesky continous distraction that keeps us from nurturing our creative muse. But I've promised myself not to let the reality monster spoil my creative destiny.

A minimum of monthly Table posts is just a part of this package, and I figured the best way to convince myself (almost there! lol) that I'm going to slip into the dreadful dormant state of non-productivity is to return to a post idea I've been burying deep in my subconscious, beneath dozens of episodes of Family Guy and repetitive listens to my vast library of Michael Jackson music. Speaking of, have you guys... Nope, stay focused, Rob...

Anyway, writer's block. Ask any writer who's been at least trying to make headway on any creative endeavor - whether it's a song, a novel, screenplay, poem, short story... anyway, you get the idea - and he or she is destined to blame the lack of progress on that phantom menace (yes, a Star Wars reference... deal with it) known as writer's block.

Symptoms can include a general malaise of indifference when it comes to your own writing, hours spent staring blankly into an empty page and astonishment at the fact that words don't simply manifest out of thin air and perfectly articulate your artistic vision. It's almost as if the words themselves have somehow gone on strike, perhaps as retaliation for the writer's strike of 2007.

Perhaps just because they're tired of being trapped in the confines of your computer screen. Whatever the reason, writers often take extended sabbaticals between (or even during) projects, claiming that they too have fallen victim to the ire of writer's block, as if it's a writer's rendition of the common cold. I've heard this same excuse time and time again, and I have news for you, my friends, writer's block is bullshit.

As writers, we've become so accustomed to the concept of writer's block that whenever we hit even the slightest snag in our work - a character we haven't fully developed, a plot point we can't quite wrap our heads around or even something as trivial as a line of dialogue that's just not coming to us - we rush to blame it on writer's block (as opposed to the a- a- a- a- a- alcohol, that is... lol) like it's some emergency panic button that will alleviate all the stress of, you know, having to come up with a solution for the problem.

At the very least, writer's block functions as a go-to rationale for us to step away from the keyboard without feeling guilty. It gives us something to tell our friends when they ask how our writing is going, buying us a temporary reprieve so that we can instead squander our computer time on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.. without that lingering sense of dissatisfaction that I too feel when I realize that I haven't written a word of my novel in weeks. More often than not, writer's block is a rationalization for laziness. Yeah, that's right. I said it.

Laziness. "Ooh, I don't know what to write. Let's go see who's on AIM... Yada Yada Yada." Writer's block is what we attribute this to, but in reality, we can't write either because we haven't developed the story enough, because we're distracted by our social or professional attachments or because deep-down we're honestly not passionate enough about the project to weather the storm, trudge through the dark times of writing a project and actually get it done.

Sadly, a lot of people love the idea of being a published writer, of posing as an intellectual storyteller, visions of book signings and celebrity status spinning in their heads. Like any other kind of creative realm, the world of writing is filled with a lot of posers, people who want to be included in the group but who really aren't up to the task of earning it. Writer's block is essentially a way out, a way in which they can still be considered "writers" without having to do any writing. I should know. I used to be one of them.

For years, I touted that "I'm working on my screenplay, working on my screenplay" and yet here I am in 2009, 8 or so years after I decided to write one and the damn thing still isn't done. Part of this has to do, no doubt, with my lack of time and, more importantly, my lack of focus. I wanted to be a writer without writing, and though I had a collection of ideas, I had trouble coalescing those ideas into a cohesive whole, or so I thought.

Though I never necessarily used the term "writer's block" to describe my condition, I can see now that this is precisely the phenomenon I was blaming for my inactivity. I wasn't ready at that point to work for it. I hadn't made peace with the fact that I am not a poser, not one of these young people going through a "writer phase" that I would grow out of. This is who I am.

Storytelling is in my blood, and getting my stories on paper and out into the world is not something I'm going to be able to live with. Therefore, the longer I take, wasting time with all the distractions out there (and in the age of technology, they are greater than ever before), the older I'll get and the more resentment I'll harbor against myself for not making progress on these stories that I've been contemplating for so long.

Ask yourself this question: Is writing something you're really serious about, or is it just a passing fad, something that you'll abandon with no regrets whenever the next thing catches your eye? If your answer is the latter, then you're better off moving on from this writing thing, rather than wasting fruitless years pining after something that you really have no intention of ever getting to.

If you look at it in this light, it becomes kind of hard to blame a mythical creature like "writer's block" for your lack of progress. Let's just call it what it really is. You can't seem to a) make the time or b) find the motivation to make yourself put aside everything else going on in your life and just get it done!

Nobody has ever said that creative writing is an easy task. If it were, then everyone would be a published author. But if you're passionate enough about the project, you'll simply find other aspects of it to focus on. Try writing an outline of your story (even just a cursory one that hits the big plot points) to make it a bit easier. Writing a novel may sound like a momentous task, but if you break it down into chapters and then each chapter into a focused section with a natural breaking point, it becomes a lot simpler to get the work done, little by little.

I'll make a note to devote a future Table post to managing workload, but I hope my thoughts on the myth of writer's block have proven useful or at least caused you to question your own motivation to write. I'd love to hear your thoughts, as there's nothing I enjoy more than discussing this kind of thing (obviously... lol).

Remember that if you're serious about being a writer, the only thing standing in your way is you! I have faith in you, and together, we can beat back the myth of "writer's block" and get back to what we do best. :)

Happy writing,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A long-overdue update... and a call to join the Table!

Wow... So apparently, it's been several months since I've posted anything on the Table. As many of you know, my full-time job has been keeping me pretty busy, and to top it all off, I'm midway through the first draft of my first novel (Chapter 12 in progress!!!). So at least a valid excuse for stepping away from the table, even if it's been an extended leave of absence on my part.

All in all, things are going pretty well, and I feel like my creative side is starting to pick up the pace and finally become more productive again (hence this post). Every moment I can spare has been spent to either plugging away at my novel... which intermittently feels like it's going either great or terrible, though the end result is probably somewhere in between... or exploring some other part of creative outlet.

I've recently developed an interest in voice acting so I've been actively reading a book about that for the past couple weeks. This may surprise some of you... since it's not something I typically show off (in fact, only a handful of people outside of my family are aware of it), but I have long had a fascination with voices. Maybe that explains my fascination with animation (Family Guy, South Park, Robot Chicken, etc.). Anyway, I'm known to often bust out a movie or TV quote in character, and I considered it basically a useless skill good only to amuse others (and myself). But it's been great fun thus far to learn a little more about it.

In addition, I've been writing - albeit sporadically - for popular science fiction website, contributing movie and soundtrack reviews on a regular basis. Starting next week, I will also be posting weekly episodes reviews for the second season of Dollhouse, the new show from Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you haven't checked it out yet, you're missing out.

However, while I've been busy exploring other endeavors (and outlining the novella I'm going to write in November for NaNoWriMo - more on that later), my creative focus has remained locked on to the novel. I'm detemined to finish my initial 20 3,000-word chapters by the end of October, and because I know several of you are also working on novels or assorted other projects, I'm considering re-introducing the concept of The Crooked Table meetings. I'd like to get at least 5 of us to commit to at least monthly meetings so that we can discuss any issues we're having with our stories, our processes, etc... and also exchange some of our work for constructive critiques (yes, me too...).

So let me know if that's something you'd be interested in being a part of and what your schedule looks like. Ideally, we could arrange something for something in October so that we can discuss our goals for NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated). Either comment here or shoot me a message at

Oh, and one more thing: I'm planning on making more regular contributions to the Table and hopefully get its new home at up and running in the next few months. In fact, I'm currently taking a daylong HTML course to help me develop my web design skills, like right this very minute!

So stay tuned (and stay patient), the Table is far from dead, my friends...

Happy writing,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Life sucks no matter what so don't be fooled by location change."

I think I got that from a Daria episode....remember that show?

I used it because I've learned something very valuable.

You can't force it.

You can't force happiness.

You can't force feeling amazing.

And you sure as hell can't force writing.

I kept saying it.

"When I get to Michigan I'm going to write a book. Just wait. The muse will hit me again."

Well, I'm here.

And there is not even an inkling of effort in me to write a book.

It got me thinking.

Maybe I'm not MEANT to write a book.

Sure, I'm writing.

But have I ever done anything with writing other than for me or the small community of people I choose to share my writings with?

The answer is no.

It got me thinking.

(Seems to be the trend these days lol)

I dabbled in journalism. Guess what?

I hated it.

So that idea was thrown out the window.

I thought about selling some fiction.

But we all know that's a tough market and you usually have to HAVE money to start that process....which I don't.

Maybe being a "starving artist" isn't so bad?

I think it works for me.

I still write every day that I can. I still LOVE most of what I write.

And I get positive feedback all the time.

Do I really NEED to be a best selling author?

Is it my calling?

Wouldn't it have happened by now if it was?

Now, keep in mind, I'm not knocking anyone's writing goals/dreams/schedules at all.

I just know that they don't work for me.

Writing just works for me.

And writing about WHATEVER works for me.

If I sat here and cried every day because I've only been published in small community publications then I'd probably never pick up a pen again.

So I just enjoy it.

I enjoy reading what I write and sharing it with others.

If ONE person gets something out of what I've written....well then I feel my job is done.

And who knows?

Maybe when I'm dead someone will make a killing off of my old notebooks and whatever they find on my trusty hard drive.

Good for them.

Look at Emily Dickinson and a lot of our fallen comrades.

They didn't live to see their work go anywhere.

But I bet they're happy about it now.

Who knows?

We don't really.

So just keep doing it, fellow writers.

No matter what, if you love it.

And don't give up even if it's not producing the results you want.

If it's meant to happen it'll happen.

And if not....well it was fun to try now wasn't it?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What to Look For

I'm not exactly finished with my book. Ok, I'm not even close. But I have been reading up a lot on shopping for agents and sending out queries. Here's a good blog article on what to look for in an agent. Enjoy! :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

To the 'Twilight' haters: lighten up

So, if you all haven't heard by now a young woman by the name of Stephenie Meyer has written a book series about teenage vampires in love that have sold over 25 million copies and has thus sparked a movie deal where the second installment has (I believe) just finished filming.


Oh wait, Edward Cullen?

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about now, right? ;)

There isn't a person on the planet left who hasn't at least heard of the phenomenon known as Twilight and I'm sure that every one in five people on the planet knows someone who has the hots for the series' main character, everyone's favorite emo vampire: Edward Cullen.

Now, I'm a Twi-fan. I won't lie. After I saw the movie trailer for the first time I had to know what all the fuss was about. I finished the series in a week and saw the movie on New Year's Day. I wear the "Alice choker" daily and I stare at the Cullens who are hanging on my door before I go to sleep every night.



But, I'm ok with that. :)

What I'm not ok with are what I'm going to refer to as the "Twi-haters".

Twi-haters are people (who more often than not have never given the books or the movie a chance and just hate on it for the idea itself) who just hate on Twilight because of reasons like "it's gay", "it's lame", or "those aren't real vampires."

"Those aren't real vampires" is my absolute favorite!

"Sooo....vampires are real?"

Come ON, people!

Stephenie Meyer wrote her interpretation of vampires with the target audience being 12-17 year old girls and BANKED.

Bottom line.

Anne Rice did hers. Bram Stoker did his. Etc. Etc.

And these 12-17 year old Twi-fans of today will take an interest in vampire stories and read what we consider "cool" or "real" vampires when they are older.

Am I the only one who sees it for what it is?

A book series? A very (in my opinion) well-written narrative?

(*side note: Granted, I did get a little bored with being in Bella's head through the ENTIRE series but that's another post....*)

I may be a little biased and not because I'm a Twi-fan but because I'm a kids fiction fan in general.

Yes, like Whitney Houston, I do believe that children are our future and the messages in kids fiction (especially those in the young adult category) are excellent and many authors are pushing boundaries and actually writing about reality in these books to give our kids a better world view and understanding.

It's great.

Let's break down Twilight for what it actually is, shall we?

Picture yourself as a 14 year old girl.

You're a new student. You're kind of clumsy and awkward.

The hottest boy in school who no one can get to date them seems to want to date you but you're not sure because he acts so weird around you.

You like him a lot and can't stop thinking about him.

Weird things start happening in your town.

People are getting hurt.

You're worried about your parents and often times you feel like you're the parent.

You nearly get hit by a car.


Take these issues....serious issues that are tough for ANYONE to face....and throw in something dangerous and exciting to captivate their attention: forbidden love and vampires.


Stephenie Meyer = genius who has a lot of money right now :)

(Well, maybe not genius but do you see my point?)

She had an idea. She went with it and is extremely successful doing what we all love.

I congratulate her.

And I thank her because I actually enjoy the series. :)

So, yeah....Twi-Haters, it is what it is.

And it's ok to get your little sister that Edward Cullen action figure if she really wants it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Importance of Bad Ideas

It's been my experience that creative-minded people (myself included) are truly their worst critics... Not that there's anything wrong with that (to borrow a signature line from one of the best sitcoms of all time...), however. Honestly, I think judging your own work too harshly can be more of an asset than being one of those people that is totally in love with their own words. But one thing that I have noticed is that the former group can often cause writers to prematurely abandon ideas that have actual potential.

For example, I have accumulated well over 100 (probably closer to 150 by now) story ideas, and while a few of them are too terrible for me to ever share, I document them anyway. It's my sincere belief (as this week's quote from yours truly demonstrates) that most of the time a bad idea simply needs the love, devotion and development to be fleshed out into something worthwhile, and who knows, with some sculpting and polishing, that terrible idea that you were so ashamed of could end up becoming your best work.

I've experienced this first-hand. One of the many stories I'm developing (in my head, at least) began as an overblown, James Bond-esque spy thriller with action setpieces so ludicrous that Michael Bay would roll his eyes at the mountain of disbelief and lack of imagination necessary to conjure them. I'm happy to say I was 15 or so at the time and that the story is slowly turning out to be far more morally complex and layered than its original incarnation.

Anyway, getting back to my point, the idea is that writing is like sculpting. Nothing comes out as gold. Creative writing is a living, breathing thing, and like anything with a life of its own, it takes time to grow and mature. I've certainly seen that with my never-ending work on my first screenplay. So as ideas pop into your head, even if they're not related to your current project, be sure to jot them down. You never know when one of them might blossom into something special.

Happy writing,


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


You know you're a nerd if you title a blog "lore", but I is what I is. :)

Anyway, I've been taking a break in the last few days from pumping out chapters to work on my "world lore" for the fictional world where my story is set. I've been trying to build three different languages, each with a 500 word dictionary.

I'm not just doing that so I can impress all my nerd friends with having three made-up languages. The reason why I am doing that is very simple: I need place names. What is the region where my main character grows up called? Who named it? The dwarves or the goblins? And what are the names of all the cities that my main character passes through on her way south? What are the histories of those places? What are the people who live there like?

A big part of writing fantasy is creating a world that has depth and a sense of reality. Now, you don't necessarily have to go as deep into world creating as I like to. But that's just it: I LOVE world building. I love writing new languages and histories. I enjoy creating customs and mini-communities within communities. I love the quirky sayings you find in foreign places and the questionable foods that you are forced to eat. It's all so much fun to me.

And, at least so far as I am concerned, world building has to start from the ground up. It begins with a place: where a group of people settled. Why did they settle there? What features of the land made them decide this was a good place to settle? What did they call the place (and the surrounding places) when they arrived? How did the settlement in that place change from it's point of conception until the time of my story? Are there any important past-events that will affect my character when she arrives there? What do the people there look like? How do they dress? Who are the prominent people there? How do they live? What do they eat? What do they do in their spare time?

As you can see, I can get carried away with world building. Just as with character building, you have to make choices about which places you really NEED to develop. For example, there are four or five areas that will be the dominant settings of my book. THOSE really need to be fleshed out. I need to be able to see/smell/hear/taste/touch them in my mind. But the others? I need to at least be able to know what they'd look like if I was driving through them in a car. I distinctly remember certain places I've seen on road trips even though I only just drove down main street.

And, as always, it is important to give the evil places (the home of the bad guys) just as much attention as the good places. In too many fantasy stories the villains and their settings are neglected. (Poor guys). It makes them seem flat and contrived in many cases. I'm not claiming that my villains and their settings are jaw-droppingly deep and complicated, but I'm going to do my best to make them and their worlds seem real.

So...that's what I'm doing during my three hours a day where I have time to write. I think it's going to take a few weeks to get my three languages to a semi-functional state. I just need them to work well enough so that I can name places and things without having to make up words out of thin air that have no meaning. After the languages, I am starting work on the histories of my main "areas". Don't worry, I'm still writing sections and chapters. I just have to leave blanks for the names and skip some of the setting descriptions until I get my world into a more fleshed out state.

(By the way, I have a day-to-day writing blog: ) I post stuff there every couple of days, but I'm going to force my brain to remember to post some of those posts here!).

Monday, February 23, 2009

I got a little secret....

....that all of you Table-rs will be interested in!

I can't tell just yet but once I know all the details and it's all set up I will pass along the info!


It's something that we've all been waiting for I'm sure. :)

So, fellow writers, just keep your eyes peeled!

P.S.- Sorry I've been absent so long....I'm still dealing with my PKD but now that I have good insurance things are looking up.

I'm still writing poems and journaling a lot so don't worry, I haven't stopped!

I'll do my best to work on a real post soon!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What do you do when you're not moving forward (fast enough)?

As most of you know, I have been talking about writing a screenplay for about 9 years... Roughly 2 and a half years ago, I finally started writing it, and yet here I stand... still unfinished. Don't get me wrong, I've completed 2-3 drafts of it, but the story still hasn't reached its full potential. Moreover, I know that I can do better.

To make matters worse (or is that better?), the story has changed numerous times throughout the writing process. I suppose it's because much of it is semi-autobiographical. As I change and experience more, my main character and his story continue to evolve, becoming crystallized and hopefully more focused.

So while the work is improving, I feel like I'm getting further and further from the finish line. Throw in recurring laptop issues (which have cost me somewhere around $350 to repair thus far), a busy schedule and an ongoing struggle to get in "the zone" and you'll get some sense of why I still feel like I'm at square one.

Part of me thinks it'd be better to put my script on hold and move on to some shorter (and easier to sell) proejct just so I can try to get something out there. I have literally more than hundred story ideas stirring in my head (some of which I could probably start writing immediately). But the other side of me feels like that's a cop-out. If I've devoted so much time to my screenplay, I should stick with it... If I don't maintain that commitment to a story I'm working on, I might end up with a stack of unfinished manuscripts and nothing to show for it.

Anyway, that's my dilemma folks... Thought I'd bring it to the group...

What say you??? Should I continue plugging away at my screenplay or shift focus for the time being?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Where the f**k do story ideas come from?!?!?

Really, the first step to writing something, especially in the creative realm, is to come up with an idea. It really perplexes me that some people can't seem to come up with things to write about. To me, generating story ideas is really all about those two little words that writers cling to incessantly: "What if...(insert story idea here)?" It comes down to imagination, to your ability to explore the possibilities or even develop some that aren't plausible within an everyday context (these falling into the fantasy, sci-fi and, often, horror genres). Looking back, I can see that I have, in fact, been exercising my imagination in some form for as long as I can remember, and being a writer is simply an extension of that. Anyway, to keep this post from rambling on too much (lol...), I'll get right to some tips that have helped me develop the 100+ story ideas that I currently have in stock.

-Carry a notebook with you at all times.
It's been my experience that inspiration often strikes at the oddest times, whether you're seconds from falling asleep, in the middle of a project at work or driving at 70 miles per hour (though I don't recommend writing and driving...:)...careful with that). For the last several months, I have been carrying a little black book (not that kind...) with me everywhere I go, and in that time, that book has miraculously begun to fill up with story ideas, song ideas, additional notes for existing stories... you could even write down some inspiring quotes that you come across... (The current Table quote would be a good one to start off your new notebook). Unfettered by the anxiety and self-inflicted pressure that you (or at least I) put on myself during the actual writing process, the best ideas often turn out to be the spontaneous ones. If you don't write them down ASAP, they'll be lost forever. There's no so thing as bad ideas... you never know when something will prove useful. Write it down!

-Read the news.
Likely, you're not going to get a story idea based on the wars in the Middle East or Obama's economic plan, but you'd be surprised at some of the wacky and unique stuff that goes on in the world. In the last week alone, I got two fairly awesome (if I do say so myself...) story ideas just from reading the AOL Welcome page. Keep an eye out for the latest happenings, and you might just find the spark you need to develop your own story idea out of it.

-Speculation is your friend.
As I briefly mentioned in the intro to this post, "what if?" is an unbelievable tool to identify story ideas. Though it can sometimes be a burden, overthinking things too much can sometimes be an advantage (guilty as charged!). Some of my favorite story ideas have derived from my own moments of paranoia, curiosity about what the world and people around me and other musings that would otherwise have been lost amidst the sea of thoughts that swim through my head each day. Remember: even the smallest seedling can turn into an amazing story with a little bit of creative nourishment (I'm speaking from personal experience...).

I'm sure there are many other little tips I could impart to you, but so as to not spend my entire Saturday in front of my computer screen (don't I already do that Monday to Friday!?!), I'm going to leave you with these three, since they are my biggest tools to develop stories. I hope this has been helpful, and if you have some of your own strategies about how to create memorable story ideas, please feel free to share! Every little bit helps... :)

Happy writing y'all....

Rob out.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hate Craigslist Right Now!!!!

Sorry ya'll just had to vent a little because I'm so tired of writers (and freelance photographers) being screwed!

Freelancers have enough trouble chasing their money and getting writing gigs. Being a freelancer myself I know this all too well. Waited almost 6 months for one check!!!

Sites like Craigslist are really starting to annoy me. Everyday people post links to new writing gigs that offer "great exposure", "article needed" and blah blah blah and every dang one of them says compensation:no pay. This is ridiculous!! Why would any writer send a free article to anyone that is in turn going to use your words for profit? The fact that users of Craigslist expect it all the time is annoying enough, but the fact that there are repeat offenders, including ones that want pieces 2,000 words or more makes me even more upset.

If I'm going to write anything for free it will be because it's on MY website or MY blog and then I'll sign up for frikkin AdWords or sell ads on my site so that if anyone makes money off my work-it will be me!!!

Screw you Mr. No Pay! Any writer with at least 2 clips should be able to get at least a little bit of coin for good work!!!