Monday, March 14, 2011

Motivate To Write Through Non-Writing Projects

After about 2 months of working out, training, and happily sweating off about 25 lbs, I finally tested last Saturday and earned my second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  Of course, one of the best aspects of that was the fact that my six-year old son was there to watch it.  He seemed more interested in his iPad for the most part, but took notice sometimes when Daddy got up for sparring, grappling, and board breaking.  What dad doesn't like to succeed in front of his child? 

For the most part, I've done no writing or editing work on my own projects during this time, but I'm hoping to change that some now.  In some ways, I think this break is good for me as a writer.  I'm in the best shape I've been in for a few years, I have a renewed sense of self-confidence because of what I have just achieved, and now I can come back and look at my projects with a fresher perspective.

I know some people who seem so dedicated to their writing that there's no room for anything else.  I don't think that's good for anyone.  Too much focus on one thing will lead to burnout and frustration that much faster.  Don't be impatient.  Sometimes it will help writing to walk away from it and do something else.  Some science fiction writers are former military.  I've seen how some writers are also artists or have other hobbies. 

Another consideration is that I believe that my martial arts training helps my credibility as a writer.  I remember in writing workshops hearing people say, "Write what you know."  Incorporating outside interests into writing helps the credibility of a story, and makes associated research easier/more pleasurable (less like "work").  Also, think of your favorite writers.  When reading the bio on the backs of the books, how often do you see that they've had military service, or other activities where their expertise shows clearly in their writing?  As a reader, does that make you more interested in the author than if the book bio simply listed a college and no "life experiences?" 

Personally, I like reading good books written by interesting people.  I'd be very proud to include things in an author bio as: former member of the United States Army.  2nd Degree Tae Kwon Do Black Belt (maybe 3rd by the time I actually publish).  Of course, my most important credential is, and always will be, Daddy.

Get out, take on the world and

Write On.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stargate's End

I'm sure those who read this have already seen some other posts regarding the upcoming cancellation of SyFy's Stargate Universe (SG-U).  I've seen some of them and agree with some things while disagreeing with others.  Let me make a comparison with the prior shows, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (SGA). 

SG-1 and SGA had so many similarities that the shows really didn't have a lot of things that differentiated them.  Both had balanced ensemble casts who seemed very familiar.  The immediate leaders Col O'Neil (replaced by Col Mitchell) for SG-1 and Col Sheppard for SGA were competent military commanders/pilots who basically came off as likable goofballs.  Each show had their scientific genius (Carter/McKay).  The addition of Ronan on SGA was their answer for Teal'c.  In some ways Daniel Jackson and Teyla filled the same roles.  While they were very different people, they both seemed to play the role of the team's conscience/wisdom.  SG-U didn't have the chemistry those characters developed.  And fans noticed.

Overall plot similarities.  When it came right down to it, both shows were about protecting Earth against malevolent entities.  For SG-1 it was the Goa'uld and then the Ori.  Both similar concepts - highly advanced races that consider themselves gods and plan to enslave humanity.  For SGA it was the Wraith.  While not having delusions of being deities, the Wraith were obviously a threat.  They wanted us to eat, which does indicate a level of superiority even if it's not god-like.  Face it, we think we're better and more deserving than our dinners.

The producers of SG-U wisely wanted to come up with something different so it didn't look like another spinoff/new names and same types of character.  Good idea in concept, but unfortunately they took it too far from a formula that worked.  I never really got that into the characters.  I looked up a couple of things to refresh my memory (since the show couldn't keep my interest enough to make me care to follow the broader plot).  IIRC, early in the show, Destiny seemed to be following seed-ships that were dropping Stargates on planets.  However, I thought I saw more recently a big reveal that Destiny's true mission had to do with finding the origins of the universe?  If Destiny's the ship that's looking for this great truth/solve this great mystery, why is it following the seed ships?  Shouldn't it be leading? 

Lastly, regarding the overall plot.  SG-1 and SGA had threats to humanity and the fans liked having a constant threat/villain to boo (or even cheer), while SG-U was looking for the source of the universe or something (literally) more cosmic.  The broad plot for SG-1 and SGA, while possibly more cliche, were at least exciting.  For SG-U, I give it's reveal a big "WHO CARES!" 

Better luck next time SyFy.

Good Quote For Writing and Life

This Saturday, I'm finally taking my second degree black belt test.  At my school, ETO, one requirement is to write an essay.  Since I'm testing for second degree, my topic was how a black belt turns to back into a white belt.  A friend of mine gave me a good quote from author Louis L'Amour that fit this perfectly:

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning."
Obviously this relates easily to writing and editing and how often do we, as writers, hear that?  I've heard other versions, like "When you think you're done editing, you're half way there."  It really is similar in concept to martial arts.  Getting my first black belt was great, but I knew I still had so much I could learn.  And more importantly, I wanted to learn more.  Writers have to carry that same hunger.  Once the story is written, you must WANT to go back through it over and over and over again to make the manuscript sparkle like the brightest diamond.  Then, take a step back, rest and start again.