Tuesday, August 23, 2016

7: Beginnings

It's the start of the school year and in this week's episode we're going to talk about 


 (Back to school) 

 Welcome to HuntingTheMuse.com's Creative Writing Podcast. 

This week's podcast episode is about beginnings. Summer break has faded into the past and it's the start of the school year again.

As my children get settled into their new schedules and meet their new teachers, I'm reminded of those days when I was a child. New pencils and notebooks, new clothes, and a new chance to have some memorable adventures.

While we mourned the loss of our summer freedom, going back to school symbolized exciting times.

I often feel this way when I get excited about a new writing project. Don't you?

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My Week

Hello, Muse Hunters! I hope you all had an excellent week and that you were able to get some good writing done since the last episode.

This last week for me was very interesting, and if you remember from the last episode, I ran into a huge slump and found myself trying to push through a lot of self-doubt. This lead to a lot of soul searching and revealed some great insight into the motivations of one of my antagonists.

Well, let me tell you, that discovery seemed to jostle a few more out of the woodwork and I began to examine how I've been approaching my writing. This has to be one of the greatest parts of doing this podcast so far. I'm really forced to examine my beliefs about writing and what I've told myself I'm capable of and that introspection has brought forth some very interesting fruit.

It's been a cooler, rainier August these last couple of weeks, breaking the streak of 100 degree (plus) days. It's much cooler than last year, that's for sure. The change has been nice, though all this extra water has encouraged the grass to grow double-time, so I guess I'll be out there with the lawnmower and some of my favorite podcasts this weekend!

It was time to go back to the VA hospital yesterday for my migraine shots, 32 of those little suckers, if you believe it. It sounds bad, but it's not quite as horrible as it sounds. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not pleasant, but when it saves you from some of the headaches, it all works out in the end. I'm not seeing a huge improvement yet, but this is just my second round and the doctors told me that a lot of patients see more benefit in the second or third batch. So I've got my fingers crossed.

Podcast News

I'm still trying to play around with my settings and the process I'm using to record these episodes. I'm still new at this, so if you've heard a few of my episodes so far or if this is your first one, please stick with me. If you have a suggestion for improvement, I'd love to hear from you!

Right now, there are no sponsors for this podcast. I'm doing my best to write and deliver helpful content, but it does take a lot of my time. I've made it a personal goal to do at least 52 weekly episodes. That means that if you're worried about whether you should invest your time in a new podcast, you can rest assured that I'll be sticking around for quite some time.

After that? Well, we'll have to see where this road takes us. If there's enough support and interest, this could definitely be an ongoing thing. I can honestly tell you, as a podcast listener, I know how sad it can be when you go to refresh that next episode on a podcast you've been enjoying, only to find an abrupt end.

Do you have suggestions for topics? Do you have comments about any of the episodes or want to say hello? Hit me up on Twitter, @BradyFrost, and I might read your comments on one of my future episodes!

Listener Shoutouts

Ben Marble (@BenMarble1) said, "Nothing wrong with a little passion in your work! I plan on listening on the way to work tomorrow. So far I've liked your cast"

Thanks, Ben. I really appreciate you saying so! Keep listening and let me know how I'm doing!
Ben currently has three short stories available on Amazon, all of which are available to read for free if you have KindleUnlimited. So if you're into short fiction with dark, horror/occult persuasion, and you'd like to support another Muse Hunter out there, give Ben a look.

Writing Updates

This week was pretty amazing for writing progress. First off, I'm learning not to compare my efforts and results with other authors, and that's a huge takeaway from the episodes leading up to this point. I know I still have to challenge myself to find out what I'm capable of,  but it's a journey.

While my word count wasn't massively impressive, I did make some great strides in piecing together more of the interwoven threads that make up Chlorophyllium 9. This novella is now sitting at around 23,000 words and won't need too much more work before I call it done and move on to the rest of the novel. Altogether, between Chlorophyllium 9 and what I have written for Final Hope, I'm about halfway to my full-length goal. I'm still aiming to be done before October!

For those of you who listened to the last episode, you might remember how I revealed a hurtful moment in my writing past and how I gave up on a novel I'd started over a decade ago. Well, I have some good news!

This fantasy novel, COMA: The Cataclysm, will take you to the magical and enchanting land of Velmoria, where the balance of power is kept in check by three Nethers, men and women who come from other worlds through portals opened by a being known only as the Catalyst.

I've decided to release this story for free, a chapter at a time, on my blog in a serialized format. But there's a catch. With everything I've got going on with my science fiction series, this podcast, and a bunch of short stories I'm writing for a collection I'll release sometime in the future, I need your support to make this project work.

I'm not asking for money. No. What would really help me out is page reads, comments, Facebook and Twitter shares if you enjoy it. I just need to know people are reading it, like it, and want more. If that seems to be the case, I'll post the next chapter, and so on. If you're interested, you can check it out at www.rbradyfrost.com/coma.

I also decided to participate in a writing project with the 20 Books to 50K crowd, where twenty authors each write a chapter of a novel (or novella, I'm not sure how long this thing will end up being when it's all done.) I chose chapter 2, thinking I would probably get tapped once I'd produced this episode and had a small break for the week.

Nope! Chapter 1 landed in my mailbox just before I got off work for the day and I only had 48 hours to get it written and turned back in. Talk about pressure! After reading what the first author, TJ Ryan, had written and set up in that first chapter, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Okay, it wasn't that easy. I freaked out for a few minutes and stressed about how I was going to put together an engaging chapter. I wondered if I would be able to create a strong, memorable character the readers will care about. And I wasn't sure if I could give her a purpose while also leaving the chapter with a punch.

But I started. I began the journey and it was slow at first. I moved forward one word at a time. Before I knew it, things were starting to fall into place. After a while, I knew what was coming next. Then the end of the chapter hit me and it was awesome. I knew in that moment how I could wrap it up and tie it in with the first chapter, while also setting up the next author with a solid footing.

The only thing that remained was getting there. In total, I wrote 1,970 words. I completed my chapter and turned it in within just a few hours. I was so happy!

Then I had nightmares all night. In my fitful sleep, my chapter wasn't as good as I thought it was while I was still on that writer's high. I woke up with a heart full of doubt. But I sat up, shrugged it off as best I could, and told myself that I did well. Because I did. It might not be a perfect chapter, but I wrote it and I wrote it fast and I think I wrote it well. It was something I could be proud of.


It's that time of year. Summer is winding down and those of us with kids are sending our spawn off to school. Well, okay, we homeschool our children, but they do a lot of that stuff online and have to interact with their teachers and other kids. But play along with me here, let's not lose that mental image.

Butterflies are flapping their wings and flitting to and fro, the kids are decked out in their best new duds, and your Facebook feed is full of other people's children all dressed to impress in their first-day-of-school pictures. 

Don't have kids? Never went to school? Don't have a clue what I'm talking about? That's fine, I'm going somewhere here, I promise!

You see, the beginning of the school year reminds me of that sense of excitement I had as a kid. Sure, I knew there would be work involved and, depending on the teacher, some homework as well. But there were so many new social prospects and other things to look forward to.

The Beginnings of a Writing Project.

Okay, that's better.

Starting a writing project is fun and different parts of the startup process can be addicting for different reasons. I imagine I've probably spent thousands of dollars over the years in coffee drinks, chai, and writing books -- all in the act of preparing to write.

I've somehow managed to keep myself from buying a single pre-made cover because I know that once I slide down that slippery slope, there probably won't be any semblance of financial recovery for me.

Research can be fun. I love to consume information and random facts. I like to think it makes me smarter and better informed as a writer. When I started writing COMA: The Cataclysm, I just knew I needed a copy of Sigmund Freud's book, The Interpretation of Dreams. It's around here somewhere.

In fact, I have boxes of books on writing and subjects I thought would be interesting to incorporate into my writing.

Beginnings are fun, sometimes they taste delicious and give us that boost of caffeine we need before, you know, life calls and we've got to leave the cafe and get back to the grind. Yeah, they can be kind of expensive if you let them get out of hand.

Planning is Good.

You have that idea and before you start to run with it, you set a plan in motion. Maybe you get around to writing a scene or a chapter and you just want to tell someone how everything will fit together. You want to write the story, but it's got to be perfect.

You need a better plan. Maybe you didn't think this out well enough. What if this happens instead of that? What's the significance of a dream anyway? A lot of people don't like Freud and he did have some pretty weird ideas. Maybe I need to research more?

The danger with planning is getting stuck in the planning cycle. Do you see where I'm going with this? Each phase in the writing process has these little slots in the ground. Some people seem to sail right over them without a care in the world. Some can't help but fall in and lose their way. 

The important thing is to realize when you struggle with certain things and be wary of where your feet land. 

Telling the Secret.

One of my biggest story-killing pitfalls happens when I allow myself to tell the secret of how things turn out. After all that research and planning, I've got it all worked out in my head (and spread across random pages in four or five notebooks that end up here and there and everywhere in between).

Nothing relieves the pressure of needing to get the story out like blabbing the freaking story! Trust me. My awesome wife, Tara, has seen this happen far too many times. I've gotten better at it, and part of it is allowing myself to work through story elements with her as my trusty sounding board, while also stepping up my determination to write.

Something that helps me here is allowing a bit of discovery writing (pantsing) to find its way into my writing plan. I can find myself scrambling to catch up when one of my characters does something different than I had planned or a new character pops in to say hello.

Who is this person? I guess it's time to figure out how they fit in the whole plot!
Look, we do what we have to do, right?

Just Like Going Back to School!

The initial excitement wears off after a while. But unlike going to school as a kid, you have a choice. Maybe it would be better if you didn't, but you do. You have to decide whether you're going to stick it out and grind through the tough bits.

It doesn't mean you won't get excited about the project again. It doesn't mean that writing is all work. It is going to be hard sometimes. We're going to lose our motivation and question why we ever started in the first place. We might even doubt our abilities and feel the temptation to succumb to the negative energies in our life. But whenever we begin creating something, we are committing ourselves to an idea. It is our responsibility to see that idea to fruition.

It's okay if it isn't your best work. It's okay if you decide to put it on a shelf and never show a soul. The point is, you saw it through. You showed up and you did your job and before you know it, you'll get another idea. Only this time, you'll be even better equipped to tackle it.

Avoid Perfection.

I remember when I went to school as a kid, I had two habits that haunt me still and one of those habits was hunting perfection. Sometimes I would really get into an assignment and go overboard. I did this with my Master's degree too. Sometimes I would completely stall because I didn't see a way to create a perfect response with the way the assignment was designed. 

One thing I wish I'd learned sooner was that there are no bonus points for perfect, especially when you spend way too much time on one assignment and neglect the rest. The law of averages just isn't in your favor.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's always important to try your best. But if you're waiting to finish something until your best is as close to perfect as possible, it might be that you're not respecting the process. 

Perfect products never ship. They get stuck in research and development and cost money and people lose their jobs because revenue isn't being generated. If we had one perfect story, we wouldn't need any others. It would perfectly satisfy all of our human desires. It would instruct and entertain, and surely save us all from every ill fate or act of hubris. 


The other habit I wish I would have broken sooner is procrastinating. I do this a lot. I always felt like I performed my best when the pressure was on. This resulted in more overnighters that I could count and a few crappy grades.

Meanwhile, other kids were starting on their assignments when they were handed out. Even if they weren't due for another two weeks. They worked regularly and rewarded themselves when the work was done and they had extra time to goof off while chumps like me started thinking about getting started.

This works the same way with our writing. Who is going to be that motivating force to tell you it's time to cram? If you're good under pressure, you've got to learn how to turn the pressure on. And hopefully, over time, you can learn how to even things out so you don't die of stress overload. 

That constant feeling like you're behind and you have to crank something out in the knick of time will kill you...

Find What Works...

As writers, we have to find the process that works best for us. That process will likely evolve over time as we gain skill and insight. We might see improvements by changing certain aspects which wouldn't have worked before when we were just starting out.

It's okay to make mistakes and have hangups, that's part of the learning process. The important thing is to keep moving forward and writing those stories.

The Sign-Off

Thank you for Hunting the Muse with me this week. I'll see you next week!
I've got some writing prompts coming up, so make sure you stay tuned through the transition. 

And now, for this week's writing prompts!

What you'll find below is a series of creative writing prompts to help get you through your week. There are no rules as to how you should use them, but I recommend taking your muse's hand; wherever she may lead you.

Whether you find yourself writing a descriptive scene or dialogue, a poem or prose, or anything else (even if it seems entirely unrelated to the prompt), you have won. Happy writing, and may you find success in hunting your muse this week. 

1. The Empty City

You are traveling with a few close friends on a spontaneous road trip across the country. Things started out great, but then a petty squabble erupted  into a full on argument, airing out some long-buried conflict. You decide to pull off the interstate at the next exit so everyone can take a breather, grab a bite to eat, and work things out.
As you pull into the main strip from the off ramp, you notice how empty everything looks and feels. A moment later, the argument hangs in the air as the rest of your crew feels the oppressive emptiness. Further investigation reveals that the modern-day ghost town really is as empty as it feels with life seemingly paused in what must have been an ordinary day. Cars still line the streets and the telltale signs of people are everywhere to be seen, though covered with thick layers of dust. 

2. Virtual World

Virtual Reality is making a resurgence, taking the tech world by storm after falling by the wayside for decades. New simulation programs allow gamers of all backgrounds, young and old, to experience life’s greatest adventures (real and imagined). But somewhere under the current of excitement lurks a dangerous secret.
A very small subset of users experience periods of displaced reality, succumbing to uncontrolled fits of paracosmic emersion, a sort of internalized, disconnected continuation of the VR simulations. 
After an amazing VR experience, you can’t help but feel haunted by the reality that never was. Are you just now waking from a dream, or are the events that have taken place since you disconnected the real reality? Who will you go to for answers and what dangers stand in your way?

3. The Fascination Machine

You’ve finally done it. After years of research and sacrifice, you’ve managed to invent the world’s first thought-activated neural-integrated circuit. With this tech, you can control remote devices with the power of your mind. A single thought can influence practically everything around you. 
This kind of technology will reshape the world, but before you officially release your invention, it’s time to have some fun. All in the name of science, of course.

4. Before the Sun Sets

It’s been three wonderful days since you were granted your last wish and now the payment for the genie’s services are due. You have until just before the sun sets to deliver, but one thing after another has set you back and it’s starting to look like you might not make it in time. 
What token of payment has the genie requested in exchange for your wishes, and what do you stand to loose if you don’t make it in time? Are the setbacks a coincidence, or has the genie set you up to fail? 

You best hurry. Time is running out.

5. The Spark Remembered

It’s been five years since you last saw your one-time secret crush. That’s long enough for the memory to have faded into the mist, but not long enough to prevent you from immediately recognizing them when they walk in the door of your small flower shop. Of course, they must be buying flowers for someone special.
After a few moments of catching up, you learn that they will be staying in the old town for a while and the flowers aren’t for a romantic interest. Their mother has been sick and likely doesn’t have long to live. Knowing how you felt when your father passed, you offer your sympathies.
Then you feel your heart race when they tell you how nice it was to catch up and admit they always liked you. Having been offered cupid’s unexpected arrow, will you pursue the opportunity or let them walk out the door forever?  

6. The Unwelcome Guests

A small rural town has seen a strange influx of travelers who all seem to be gathering for some unknown reason. At first, many of the residents were excited to see an upswing in the small economy, but now local resources are tapped. With no end to the migration in sight and large crowds camping out on the side of the streets, it’s clear that something must be done.
When the mayor and police chief approach the gathering, however, a leader from amongst the throng emerges. There is something strange about this character, something almost supernatural. The last anyone saw of the two town figureheads was when they stepped inside a large canvas tent to parlay with the visitor.

7. The Tumultuous Expedition

The year is 1883 and you are several days late on your unexpected ocean detour to Indonesia to witness and record details of volcanic activity rumbling within Krakatoa, the small, uninhabited island west of Sumatra. It was late May when you first heard the news, which spread like wildfire throughout the scientific community and was met with great fanfare by the indigenous peoples of Java and Sumatra. How could you resist the urge to be a part of such a momentous occasion? 
On August 26th, just as your navigator lands his sights on the northern shore of Sumatra in the distance and you’re certain that your voyage to the land of spices is coming to an end, a dark cloud billows up like a shadow in the southeastern sky. Early the next morning you hear the deafening explosion that tears the small island to pieces. Luckily, you had made it to port and the resulting tsunamis are largely absorbed by the land mass. 

Earth and ash rain down, coating everything in a soot-gray. What started out as a scientific adventure has turned into a rescue mission as you struggle to help those who were hit worst by the 120-foot waves. Tens of thousands have been lost forever to the angry depths, but there are still so many who need your help.

I hope you've enjoyed this week's episode and creative writing prompts.

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