Monday, March 25, 2013

The Nature of Rewrites

Beta readers are invaluable. And so are critique groups. They show writers the flaws in their books, and more often than not, their opinions and advice should be listened to.

One particular example I have is a character in my current WiP that my critique group just didn't connect with. He was one of those characters that I made up because, in my head, it fit to have a character like him. I fit him in the outline, and he worked as a plot point. But my crit. group insisted that he needed to be rounded out more. He needed to have personality aspects added to him as a character.

But after my first round of revisions, where I DID make him a more important character and played with his personality to make him less of an invisible doormat, I actually saw what they were getting at. He just didn't work. I wrote in a scene where he dies, and there's no emotional impact because he's barely "alive" on the page to begin with.

So what are my options? I guess I could start over. Figure out a few ways to integrate him into the story better. But based on everything else that happens in this book, my best option, in my opinion, is to eliminate the character from the manuscript. Write him out.

Not just because it's easier than any of my other options. I think it'll strengthen the dynamic between the remaining three characters and help them work together when the time comes for them to be heroes. And when they're not working together, the two-on-one will create stronger tension that'll engage the reader and get them to read until early in the morning.

I hope. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Eb and Flow

It's funny how my brain works, sometimes. For a long while, I thought that blogging every day, or every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was one of the MOST important things I could do, both for my development as a writer and as platform builder to interact with audiences. Then several things happened.

First, I realized that, even with constant interaction on other blogs, links on web forums, and random postings on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, my traffic remained light, at best. Meaning that my reader base never really grew.

The second thing that happened was that several agents, editors, and full-time writers ALL said that "social networking" and constant blogging CAN help build a career, but in many ways it can create roadblocks for a writer.

As my regulars can attest, my blog consistency has waned over the past several months. Why? Because I feel like I've run out of things to say (and that's not always true, obviously), and I never want to just say something for the sake of saying something. More importantly than that, though, is the fact that I'm focussing more on WRITING. Telling stories. Creating works of fiction.

I know I've said that before, but my passion for this crazy obsession has grown over the past eight months to the point where I don't want to spend my energy writing anything else. There are many projects I'd love to get involved with in an attempt to expand my creativity, but I have to be selective. And with an active day job, often times I need to set blogging aside to get editing and revising done.

The honest truth is, I could blog all the time. Spend every free second integrating with the online community, and making people aware of who I am and what I do. But with how little free time I have, I would never get published. Which would make the rest of that work pretty near pointless.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Show Review: Strip Search

I don't watch a LOT of reality TV, but I LOVE the products from Penny Arcade. They make video game-based web comics and have been doing so since 1998. And this year they released their first reality game show called Strip Search! 12 web comic artists enter a house to compete against each other for $5000 and a year embedded in the Penny Arcade empire.

All in all, the show is rather mediocre. It's not bad, but it's not great. The production value is as high-quality as anything put out by A&E, Discovery, and NBC. But the host has absolutely NO personality. His voice drones through the Voice Over segments, and when he gets in front of the contestants, he looks bored and completely unsure of himself. Like having fun would disrupt what should be an entertaining, possibly funny show.

The contestants are all great, and I can't think of a better group to kick off this new series. The first set of eliminations intrigued me, and I think they picked the right show format. One that engages the viewers who may not be interested in comic artists or the process of running an online business.

The editing, like the host, leaves much to be desired. The show has been split into 12-18 minute episodes that "air" every Tuesday and Friday. But many of the segments within each episode take far too long. The opening credits alone are nearly a minute long, which is an eternity in broadcasting (listen for dead air on the radio and you'll see what I mean).

Now, the creators' justification for such short episodes is that the "average" internet viewer doesn't have the patience for a full 44 minutes (the average length of an hour-long show, minus the adds). But each episode is essentially a segment that would fit snuggly in the one-hour format. The problem there is that it doesn't work on the shorter format. Watching a reality game show is supposed to be exciting. Energetic. And suspenseful. But there's so much down time between the games where the bored host drones on about the activities of the contestants before jumping into the next challenge. Not enough time is spent getting to know the players, either, as they compete. Not enough cut-aways to get inside their heads.

And when they finally focus in on one of the competitor's tasks, they practically ignore the drama going through their minds.

All in all, I think it's a fun show, and I'll watch the entire thing. I hope it gets better next season, but I don't think they should change the game format. Just the broadcast format. In fact, a friend of mine (who tried to get into this season) said that the creators SHOULD have kept everyone in the house for the entire show, tallying up points to see who wins in the end. The problem with that is it discourages competition, takes away too much of the motivation to succeed with EVERY challenge. And this season, it would rob the show with the little drama that does exist and make it unpalatable to all but the most interested viewers. Mostly people who are into web-comics.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Will You Answer the Call?

This is my OFFICIAL request for beta readers for my current WiP! I'm just under half way through this round of revisions, and since I would like to get to round 3 quite quickly, I thought I would start out any interested beta readers with the pages I already have available.

I know a couple of my regular readers already have my e-mail address, so if you're interested, either e-mail me directly or post a reply in the comments section and delete it right away. I'll get an e-mail with your address, and it won't be all over the internet for people to spam :).

Friday, March 08, 2013

Star Trek Online: First Impressions

The first thing I absolutely MUST say about this game is that it's a LOT of fun! It great. And while I've played both games (Star Wars and Star Trek), this one has held my attention since I started it. The most important thing I noticed about this game is that, while Star Wars: The Old Republic starts you out in a very small section of the world map, practically discouraging any kind of interaction with other players, Star Trek Online sends you RIGHT into the action. Exploration isn't only encouraged, it's practically mandatory.

Exploring the universe is part of the Star Trek universe, and it would be absolutely pointless to put together a game that didn't make exploration integral. It's very easy to group with other people for a mission, play on your own, dedicate 20 minutes or 20 hours. You can explore or fight. You can put together diplomatic missions, science missions, rescue missions, and anything else you may be able to come up with. AND the geniuses at Cryptic put in a mission designing program!

You also get a lot more out of this game in the free-to-play mode. There are bonuses to paying for a subscription, but you're not a "second class" player if you don't spend any real-world money.

I want to delve into both games more because they're both fun. But for now, Star Trek has SERIOUSLY grabbed my attention. It helps that I've been watching the shows on Netflix.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Charity of the Month: Paralyzed Veterans of America

First of all, I want to offer my sincerest apologies for forgetting the Charity of the Month on Friday. But with that said, I think it's time to look at a new charity. I haven't featured this charity before, but I've been considering it for a few months, now. They have adds all over the radio. And I really like what they do!

For that matter, when I visited Paralyzed Veterans of America today, I was pleasantly surprised by how much they do for men and women to lost their lives for the sake of this country, but still wake up every morning to fact that loss. In fact, PVA GIVES them their lives back. They help train wounded soldiers for outside of military life, get them involved in athletic programs, and give them a supportive community where they can work through their struggles together. So they don't have to do it alone!

So please go donate. And have a great week!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Star Wars: The Old Republic - First Impressions

Last weekend, while enjoying some much-needed relaxation time, I installed two new games on my computer: Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. My favorite game a decade ago was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, so when Bioware announced an MMO, I got really excited! I also grew up watching both Star Wars and Star Trek with my dad, so STO held a lot interest for me, too. Since both games are free-to-play, I decided to try them out, engage in a little nostalgia, and putter around the universe looking for adventure. And today, I'm going to share my initial thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Star Wars: Even with free-to-play limitations, all eight character classes (four for the Republic and four for the Empire) are available, as well as three of the race options. Sure, you have to either buy Cartel Coins (the in-game currency that's purchased with real money) or subscribe to get more races, but there's a variety of playable options available without having to make a monetary commitment. So that's a great start!

The opening scenes for the characters are really cool, too, because all of the dialogue is voice-acted, rather than a bunch of text describing why the player is going into this section of the world. Yes, WoW does a lot of that, too, but as soon as my player landed on the planet, orders were given via MORE voice-acting. And I got to pick responses that made my own character SAY their own lines (a lot like Mass Effect).

The tutorial missions kick off right away, and they're very engaging. They pulled me into the story while teaching me how to play, and even though I only played Guild Wars for six months and WoW for two, the entire process was very intuitive.

Without dedicating days at a time, I managed to play through several side-quests AND progress through a small portion of the introductory storyline quests. I think, in total, I've played the game for three hours, and I'm already at level 6 (not high, I know, but I barely played the game). This is great because I don't want to have to dedicate four or five hours in a single day to this game. I have a book to revise!

The downside is that the missions, right now, are a little tedious. Sure, I want to know what happens next, but my character's just one of a hundred troopers jumping around this planet, trying to finish the intro quests. There's no built-in social interaction at the moment, no incentive to group with other players because I CAN'T progress along the storyline with other characters of my class. I have a brand new computer, too, and for some reason, SWTOR gives me lag issues. And this is with all of the settings at their bare minimum. I don't know if it's crowding on the server, my internet (which isn't slow), or my hardware, but it doesn't encourage me to play for very long, let alone invest in a subscription.

I'm going to keep playing for a while to see if I can get hooked more, but for now, it's just another fun game that will fight for the attention of the other fun games I have laying around my house.