Category Archives: The Writer’s Battle

The Writer’s Battle – Reservoir Dogs – Non-Linear Storytelling, Doing More with Less and Setting Your Story to a Soundtrack

Are you going to bark all day little 3.5 doggies, or are you going to bite?

BQB here with a little green bag of a discussion about Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film debut, “Reservoir Dogs.”  What can you 3.5 aspiring writers learn from this flick?  A lot.

Non-Linear Storytelling

Tarantino was the main pioneer of this type of storytelling, namely, when a writer starts at the end and works back to the beginning, rather than start from the beginning and work the story until its conclusion.

In this case, we get an introductory scene where a group of criminals are sitting down for breakfast in a diner.  They trade jokes and we get a sense of each individual’s style.

Next thing you know, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) is driving Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) to a hideout.  Mr. Orange has been shot in the gut, an apparent sign that a planned diamond store heist went bad.

You’re never actually shown the heist.  Most of the film takes place in a warehouse/hideout as the characters try to figure out how their heist went so wrong, why the police were waiting for them, and most importantly, which member of the crew is the rat who told the cops about the job?

From there, the film goes into flashbacks where we see bits and pieces of the escape from the heist that went wrong, as well as some past “get to know” some of the characters scenes.  The film always returns to the warehouse as the characters move the story forward, trying to figure out who did the crew wrong.

Tarantino could have done this a different way.  He could have started with the backstory of the characters in the beginning, put the heist that goes wrong in the middle, and have the fighting over who the rat is at the end.

Wouldn’t that have been boring though?  Instead, Tarantino chooses to put the most exciting part first.  You jump right into the action – a blood soaked back seat, a pained Mr. Orange screaming out in terror about his impending demise, a calm Mr. White driving a getaway car while holding Mr. Orange’s hand, telling him he’ll be ok.

Your mind immediately asks the question, “How did this heist go so wrong?”  And now you want to sit back and let Uncle Quentin tell you how.

Doing More with Less

This was the first film Tarantino directed.  Sure, he had a bigger budget than any of us indie writers, but still, he didn’t have much compared to other big name films of the day.

Even so, he did a lot with very little.  Consider:

  • Mr. Blonde’s soda cup – We have a scene where Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) have turned guns on each other, both men starting to lose it as they’re trying to figure out who the rat is and how to avoid going to jail.  Suddenly, we are interrupted by a tell tale sip.  Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) is sipping soda out of a fast food cup through a straw.  The implication?  Mr. Blonde does not give a shit.  He is an unfeeling psychopath.  Any rational person would be scared out of their minds, consumed with fear that the cops will bust down the door any second.  Mr. Blonde?  He murdered a bunch of people in a heist, and then during a citywide search, he stopped at a drive-through to get some food.  He literally did not give a shit that he’d get killed or sent to prison, he was not unsettled by the murders he committed, he was perfectly content to stop for fast food and have a bite to eat while there was a manhunt for him and his crew in progress.  Keep in mind this is not stated.  It’s all about show and tell.  Here, for the price of a ten cent soda cup, Tarantino told us an epic shit ton about Mr. Blonde’s character.

 

  • Steve Buscemi’s gunfight with the cops – So many gun scenes are cliches.  Both sides fight.  No one gets hit.  No one has to reload.  The guns are easy to control, there’s no kickback, everything works out.  Here, Tarantino shows us the furious side of a gun battle.  Buscemi empties his gun at incoming police until his clip runs out.  You see police officers fall in pain, you see the stress on Buscemi’s face.  The message?  Real life gun battles aren’t all summer blockbuster hocus pocus.  Shit gets really terrifying, really fast.

 

  • The nonlinear format itself – I have a hunch that the nonlinear format helped Tarantino save money.  He could have dropped a ton of dough on a major heist scene, show the criminals in an elaborate robbery, followed by epic gunfights and car chases.  Instead, he trusts the actors to tell us about it as they try to piece together the mystery of the rat and the actors do well, the stress they are obviously feeling tells us they were just involved in some heavy shit.

Setting Your Story to a Soundtrack

Tarantino invents a 1970s music station that everyone is listening to throughout the film.  It makes for a retro vibe, and Tarantino was surely trying to pay homage to the cheesy Beretta style crime dramas of his youth.

Playing “Little Green Bag” as the criminals walk down the street gives us a sense that these are some hardcore pricks.

Meanwhile, in an iconic scene, Mr. Blonde tortures a police officer set to the sounds of “Stuck in the Middle with You.”  This song is a happy song, one that makes you want to smile and dance…but it shows what a psycho Mr. Blonde is, namely, that he is enjoying dancing to this happy beat while he’s cutting off a cop’s ear and setting him on fire.

Most people would never do such a thing.  The few that would usually know that this would be no time to dance.  Mr. Blonde is a special kind of crazy.

Of course, you don’t have the rights to use popular songs like Tarantino did.  However, I find that my writing is helped when I listen to songs related to time periods I am writing in.  It puts me in the mood.

How Nonlinear Storytelling Can Fix Plot Holes

Suppose you are a hardened criminal fresh off a botched diamond heist that went wrong due to a rat.  Who would you immediately suspect?

If you said, “The New Guy,” congratulations.  You’re acting like a stylish, early 1990s diamond robber.

The irony is the film goes for most of its length with the characters fighting over who the rat is.  We aren’t told there is a new guy until we get towards the end.  Then we discover Mr. Orange is the new guy and also an undercover cop.  Spoiler?  Shut up, you’ve had since 1992 to watch this thing.

But that’s the thing.  You’re not a stylish early 1990s diamond robber, so you weren’t thinking like one.  Maybe “the new guy” might have popped into your head, but you don’t find out until the end that there was a new guy.  Once you do, you realize the whole crew is apparently very, very, ridiculously stupid.  I mean, they knew he was the new guy.  Why didn’t any of them go, “Hey, I think the new guy might be the rat…”

Had Tarantino followed a linear format and told us up front that Mr. Orange was the new guy, he’d of been the obvious rat suspect, giving away the story’s most vexing question.

Conclusion

With this film and its followup, “Pulp Fiction,” Tarantino inspired a generation of filmmakers and writers, challenging them to abandon the rules in favor of coolness, style, and better yet, to grab the viewer’s attention and draw them in.

Think about writing like dating.  If you are super rich and have a ten foot King Kong penis, you might want to drop that information sooner rather than later.  If you make your date wait until the tenth date to find out your most amazing qualities, she might get bored by then and switch you off, like your audience will do with your writing.

In other words, Tarantino dares us to start with the ice cream first, and then we’ll work our way to the meat and potatoes.  Give us that bloody gunshot victim screaming in pain in the backseat right away, and then we’ll stick around to fight out how he got into such a terrible state.

You can do this too, if you dare.  Begin with the most awesome part of your story, then explain how we got there.

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The Writer’s Battle – Are Readers In Control?

Happy Sunday, 3.5 readers.

Bookshelf Q. Battler here.

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I just read this CNN article in which George Lucas says he’s “done with Star Wars.”

“You go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized,” Lucas told Vanity Fair. “People try to make decisions about what you’re going to do before you do it. It’s not much fun. You can’t experiment. You have to do it a certain way.” – CNN

ON THE ONE HAND – I see his point.  The great part of the Internet is that nerdy fans can comment and discuss their favorite movies, TV shows, books etc.

The downside is that its a great environment to make a lot of back seat drivers.  “No!  Those two characters can’t fall in love and WHAT?!  You’re going to kill off so and so and WHAT that guy changed his mind and he’s no longer a bad guy now?!”

Hollywood listens to all this mumbo jumbo.  Sometimes that turns out well when the fans know what they are talking about.  Other times it falls flat when a director or actor or someone puts the kibosh on an idea that’s a little out there, beyond the norm, that would have paid off big time but they didn’t want to draw the fans’ ire.

Probably the most recent example I can think of is the latest Avengers movie in which Black Widow kicked ass all throughout the film and fans were like “Joss Whedon’s anti-woman!  He didn’t give her enough to do!”  Boo.  Bad nerds.

ON THE OTHER HAND – The CNN article linked to above went on to say:

“The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories, and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans,’ ” Lucas said, presumably referring to Disney, which purchased Lucasfilm — including the “Star Wars” franchise — in 2012. “People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera, and it’s all about family problems; it’s not about spaceships. So they decided they didn’t want to use those stories. They decided they were going to do their own thing, so I decided, ‘fine. … I’ll go my way, and I let them go their way.’ ” – CNN

Pbbbhhht.  Well, true – Star Wars does have a lot to do with that damn dysfunctional Skywalker family…BUT, did we really need that Sound of Music-ish scene in Attack of the Clones where Anakin and Queen Amidala prance around in love in the field?  No.  More lightsabers and space ships please.

Revenge of the Sith was pretty solid, and when I was younger, I enjoyed The Phantom Menace and Clones mostly because I was just happy to see Jedis back on the screen.

But let’s be honest, those films were more about loading up on as many quirky, merchandisable characters as possible just to sell kids toys.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  Bills need to be paid and that’s what these new films will do as well BUT I have a hunch that it will be done in a way that fans will be like “that was badass!” and “wow what a badass toy!”

The nerdy adults will be anyway.  If your kids are yelling “badass!” they probably need a time out.

I get Lucas’ frustration though.  It must suck to create this wonderful universe, bring it to the big screen, become the modern day father of science fiction and then be told by your fans that you, the creator of your own universe, are doing a bad job of running your universe.

That’s probably how Darth Vader felt when those pesky rebels started calling for rebellion.

SIDENOTE:  One other example of fans taking over that I’ve seen lately comes from The Walking Dead.

SPOILER ALERT – REPEAT: SPOILER ALERT 

Did you notice there’s a spoiler alert in effect?  OK don’t say you weren’t warned.

Glenn may or may not be dead.  The writers of the show have made it look like he totally is, but also left it open to a possible interpretation that he might not be.

Fans have been up in arms on social media, complaining that they have to wait to find out, how dare the writers toy with their emotions like this and so on.

I’m going to channel my inner Uncle Hardass and say, “get a job, hippies!”  Hell, I love that show as much as the next guy.  I’ve invested a lot of time into it.  But when it appeared that Glenn died my reaction was “Awww, that’s too bad…*pause for 5 seconds* OK I better brush my teeth and get ready for bed.”

Seriously, who has time to worry about the fate of a fictional character?  JOBLESS HIPPIES WHO NEED A JOB AT THE SALT MINES, THAT’S WHO!!!

Wow.  I’m becoming an Uncle H. clone

What say you, 3.5 readers?  Who calls the shots, readers or writers?

Personally, it’d be a great problem to have.  I only have 3.5 readers and none of them have started calling the shots yet.

I suppose when I reach the point where people are like “We want more Yeti!” or “Alien Jones is like a hairless ALF, you hack!” then I’ll know I’ve made it.

Get bossier, 3.5 readers.  Actually, please don’t.

 

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My Ideas for Next Year

Hello my 3.5 friends.

As we approach the end of the year, we also approach the end of the one post a day for a year challenge.

Sadly, this means that once next year rolls around, I must switch my focus from blogging to novel writing.

I don’t intend to abandon the blog obviously.  I’ve worked too hard to build it up.

However, I will have to cut back to make time to write novels.

I have a number of potential projects rolling around in my head.  I feel like completing 2 projects a year is a valid goal so heres what I’m thinking about pursuing next year:

IDEA 1

A SPACE OPERA – Set 1,000 years in the future and rife with BQB’s underlying sense of humor mixed in with enough seriousness to keep things flowing.  A wayward rogue who only looks out for himself finds himself in the middle of a vast conspiracy.  He’ll need to start caring about others and quick.

NOTE:  Alien Jones will be the as yet unnamed rogue’s sidekick/pilot.  I’ve toyed with various possibilities for an alien sidekick and figured I’ve already created the perfect one.  AJ has a long lifespan and it is set 1,000 years in the future, long after BQB.  There might be a minor reference to him once befriending a human in the early 2000’s.  For mysterious reasons, he’s been ousted out of the Mighty Potentate’s good graces, stripped of his magic-like powers, and now earns his living as the rogue’s pilot.

AJ will be a secondary character – he’ll provide comic relief, be the rogue’s conscience and confidant, but the rogue will be the main character of the novel.

I have an idea to release it as a TV style book serial – not as a way to simply chop up a long book, but I legitimately have ideas where parts could end with cliffhangers where the reader would be like “Well, I gotta know what happens next!”

Alternatively, I realize maybe I should realize one book before releasing several small installments.

I don’t want to give too much away at this point other than the rogue and AJ find themselves in possession of a powerful something that various bad people/groups want and they must race against time to get it away from them.

POP CULTURE MYSTERIES – I feel like I’ve written so much of Season 1 that I should just see it through.  So I’d like to finish a season’s worth of blog posts, put them up on a spin off PCM website, and follow it up with a novel about how Jake punched Adolf Hitler in the face.

I do have many other ideas.  Many of them I love, one I love dearly.  But I also have to realize nothing gets done without committing to something.

This is like a marriage.  You’ll never develop a loving relationship with your wife if you keep cheating on her with every other bimbo you see and you’ll never develop a finished novel if you keep dumping your current project for the next pretty idea that walks along.

So I have to pick 2 ideas and focus.  Also, I realize given the rest of my life, this might be too much for one year.  If that’s the case and I need more time than so be it.  I hope to finish them both next year but ultimately, as long as I get a book of some kind published on Amazon next year, the year will be considered a success.

What say you nerds about these ideas?

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The Writer’s Battle – What Can We Learn From Pizza Rat?

Holy Crap.  Will you 3.5 readers drop what you’re doing and look at this little jerk?

This rat has got to be the last true believer of the American Dream, let me tell you.

Look at him!

Other rats see a slice of pizza.  Maybe they’ll take a bite.  Maybe they’ll push it a little, get tired, and scurry away.

But here this little schmuck is, carrying this piece of pizza (WHICH IS BIGGER THAN HE IS) down a flight of stairs, one step at a time, presumably in an attempt to cart it off to his rat lair to feed his rat wife and rat children.

God bless you, Pizza Rat.  You’ve made me believe again.  Shit, let’s elect this rat president.

What can writers learn from Pizza Rat?

  • Writing is hard work.  It’s one thing to think about doing it, but only determination and sheer will gets it done.
  • When others shrug their shoulders and give up, you get in there and get that pizza!  Other people give up on writing all the time.  By keeping at it, you’re doing better than all the other writers, just like this rat did better than all the other rats.  You see any other rats out there becoming a viral video star?  I think not.
  • Success comes one step at a time.  Get the pizza slice down one step.  Then another step.  Then another one.  Don’t skip steps. This furry little contagion infested dynamo look at the stairs and cry, “Oh my God!  Too many steps!  I give up!”  No, damn it, he took his slice down one step at a time.  Unfortunately, the video cut short and it does appear like he abandoned his slice at one point, but I like to think that he got nervous around the humans and went back for his dinner once the coast was clear.
  • The same thing goes for your writing.  You start your blog.  You think, “Oh my God!  That other blog has thousands of readers!  I only have 3.5!  SO WHAT?  You get in there and you entertain the ever loving shit out of your adoring 3.5 readers, just as I do every day.  I’ve dragged my pizza/blog down the 3.5 readers step.  One day I’ll drag it down the 100 readers step.  Then the 200 readers step.  Before you know it I’ll be back at my rat lair, chomping on my pizza, or rather, enjoying an audience of a thousand readers.
  • Apply the Pizza Rat model to your daily word count.  Don’t be like one of those lazy ass rats who looks at a pizza, shouts, “Too big!  No thanks!” and scurry off with an empty belly.  Don’t look at your computer screen and go, “A hundred thousand words!  I’ll never type that much!  I’ll just give up on my dream!”  No.  Be like Pizza Rat.  Type a few words today.  A few more tomorrow.  After awhile, you’ll have one delicious novel.

Patience.  Determination.  Guts.  Glory.  Be strong enough to do the work others are too weak to even try.

God damn it, Pizza Rat, if I were a hot she-rat I’d be so turned on I’d have a million of your pizza rat babies and send them out to spread the plague all over the five boroughs.

So remember, 3.5 readers/aspiring writers, today, your writing career might make you feel like a tiny rat and success will appear as far away as the bottom of a long ass stairwell.  But go slow, take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be feasting on cheesy, gooey success.

Pizza Rat 4-Eva!

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The Writer’s Battle: How Many Books Should an Author Write Per Year?

Hey 3.5 readers.shutterstock_197378663 copy

So the fracas all began with this article in the Huffington Post.

Lorraine Devon Wilke argues, “Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year.”

At the outset, the premise reeks of establishment anti-self publishing flair, doesn’t it?

But in Wilke’s defense, she writes:

Unless they’re four gorgeously written, painstakingly molded, amazingly rendered and undeniably memorable books. If you can pull off four of those a year, more power to you. But most can’t. I’d go so far as to say no one can, the qualifier being good books.

I don’t want to stick words into someone’s mouth but the message I carried away was, “Don’t write four books a year unless you can put out four good books.”

That’s fair.

Further, she has self-published so I can’t accuse her of being an agent of “The Man” i.e. traditional publishing.

Wilke noted recent Pulitizer Prize winners who spent a great many years on their masterpieces.  Donna Tartt, for example, spent eleven years on The Goldfinch while Anthony Doerr took years to craft his tale.

It’s about quality over catalogue, and Doerr only had four books to his credit before his prize winner, while Harper Lee only put out one book, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Larry Correia, author of the Monster Hunter series of books (and a dude who got his start in self publishing) had this to say on his blog, Monster Hunter Nation:

If it takes you ten years to write a book—which doesn’t win the biggest most famous award in all of literature—and you make $15,000 (I’m being generous), that means you made $1,500 for each YEAR of labor. Let’s say all that diligent proofing, unhurried imagining, and turd polishing only took up 500 hours a year. Congratulations. You would have made more money waiting tables at Applebees… before tips.

I don’t know about you guys, but A. I can’t bank on getting a major motion picture staring Gregory Peck and become mandatory reading for all high school students. B. I’m probably not ever going to win a Pulitzer Prize. And C. I like making a hundred bucks an hour a lot more than I like making $3 an hour.

NOTE:  If you read Larry’s entire response, you’ll see he is in no way bashing Tartt or Doerr and he gives them due credit for publishing high quality award worthy works.

His point is that those authors’ experiences are atypical.  As an aspiring author, the likelihood of you winning a prestigious award is small.

I don’t want to put words in Larry’s mouth either but the message I took was that one can spend years on one book for the small, unlikely chance of winning a prestigious award, or one could publish more books and earn more compensation.

WHAT SAY YOU, BQB?

Here’s how all this applies to your favorite nerd, 3.5 readers.

I’m not old.

But I’m not young either.

Over the years, I’ve discovered the following to be unassailably true:

Life does not give a shit about your plans.

Disaster does not wait until you’re ready.  Chaos does not take a powder until you’ve completed a goal.

Shit happens with a vengeance.  I know because I’ve been there.

I know what it’s like to be plugging away on a dream only to receive bad news one day and all of a sudden, said dream becomes deferred.

I have dreams of being a writer.

But I am also a human being with basic needs like food, water, clothes, shelter, utilities etc.

So I need to work a day job.

Then at night and on the weekend, I have to perform a variety of life sustaining activities.  Chores if you will.

I have to maintain my humble BQB HQ.  I need to iron my pants.

And damn it, someone needs to take Bookshelf Q. Battledog for a walk.

So after all that’s done, there’s not a lot of time to write.

I try to make up for it.  I stay up later.  Get up earlier.

Given such a schedule, I could probably put out one or two books a year.

I don’t know.  I haven’t tried it yet.

Here’s what I’m getting at:

Money is nothing to sneeze at, avoid, or to be treated as bad when it comes to publishing.

Sorry, but it’s true.

As a man who’s been browbeaten repeatedly by life, I know that the next ass kicking life has in store for me is just around the corner.

What could it be?  I hate to think about it.

What I know is that whatever said disaster is, I’ll keep working because the need to sustain life isn’t going away.

THEREFORE – If I can find a way to make enough money from writing so as to be able to turn writing into my day job, then I know the next disaster life throws my way will not stop me from writing because writing is my job.

BUT – I am at the point where I realize if life tosses me a disaster before I’ve gotten a writing career off the ground, then that’s that.  I’ll keep working.  I’ll come home.  Deal with whatever the disaster is in my spare time and then that will be life.

ERGO – I don’t have eleven years.  Sorry life, I don’t trust you.  I know at some point in the next eleven years, you’re going to deliver me a whopper, some problem I’ll have to face while continuing to work and earn a living.

We all have our own thresholds.  Personally, I can probably sustain this for five years without a profit but shit, if 2020 rolls around and I’ve yet to see dollar one, I’m going to start taking it easier and watch some more TV and play some more video games in my spare time.

CONCLUSIONS

The confusing part for me is I don’t think either writer said anything wrong.

Wilkes basically said don’t write four books a year…unless you can.  So if you can, go for it.  Many people can’t.

Larry’s saying your number one goal needs to be to get paid, but if you read on in his article, he notes clearly you can’t sacrifice quality.  Putting out a crap novel will irk your audience and therefore take away from your profits.

What say me, BQB?  People shouldn’t judge a book by the amount of time that was spent on it.  That’s not to say don’t applaud a writer who dared to hold onto a dream for 11 years and see it through to amazing results.

But on the other hand, if someone is so talented they were able to churn out a decent novel in a relatively short amount of time, there’s no need to discredit said individual either.

Further, we often talk about “how many years” but we don’t talk about hour counts.

Bookshelf Q. Battledog

Bookshelf Q. Battledog

Someone who writes full time for a living i.e. who wakes up, puts on the coffee, then clacks on the keys until the end of the day, could probably, in theory, put out more books in a year than say, a jerk face like me who’s trying to squeeze in some time to write between work, mowing the lawn, ironing my pants and walking my killer attack papillon.

Say I put one hour a day into a novel for 365 days?

Meanwhile, the established professional writer puts in a standard 40 hour work week, and after 9 weeks (and roughly 365 hours), has completed a comparable novel.

Does that mean I care more because “my novel took a year” while the other guy’s took “nine weeks?”

Thus, I guess in my typical BQB happy go lucky manner, I’ll say both authors are right.

What you can turn out in a year is a matter of a) your talent b) your situation in life c) your ability to be honest with yourself and determine whether or not your product is ready to go or crap that needs more work and therefore more time.  For that, you’re going to need professional help.  (An editor, not a shrink, though a little time on the black couch never hurt anyone.)

In short, if you’ve got the talent, don’t hold yourself back.  On the other hand, if you put out crap, your readers will run.  Only you (and your professional writing help i.e. editor) can determine whether your work’s good to go or if it needs more time in the oven.

All I know is I need to get my writing career off the ground before life delivers me that crushing blow that convinces me to say, “F it.  Bring me my Cheetos, it’s time to watch TV.  Writing, schmiting.”

What say you, 3.5?

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The Writer’s Battle: Self Publishing and Why I Miss The Man

Hello 3.5 Readers.

Yeah I know

Yeah I know “The Man” looks like Informant Zero. Shutterstock ‘aint cheap, nerds.

Ahh, my younger days.  That magical, pre-techno revolution time when I was able to blame my lack of a writing career on a mysterious, mythical, “man” or “The Man” as I called him.

Have you ever heard of “The Man?”  He’s everywhere, you know.  No one knows who he is or what he looks like, but everyone who isn’t where they want to be is certain this rapscallion is standing in the way.

Yes, 3.5, back when self-publishing meant you took the scribbles you made on a legal pad and sent them through the photocopying machine, I was able to sit back and blame my failure to become a published author on The Man:

BQB 1.0 (Before Self-Publishing)

Well, I might as well not waste my time writing because it’s not like The Man is going to allow anyone as sophisticated and subversive as I am to get published!  Pass the Dorito bag and get me my video game controller!

I don’t know who I was bossing around there. My entire life,  I’ve never known anyone willing to fetch me snacks or video game implements.  Sad really.

In other words, I felt better.  It wasn’t my fault.  It was The Man’s fault.

You youngsters might find that difficult to believe but keep in mind this was all in the days before social media, back when if you took a picture of your lunch and walked around showing it to everyone, they’d all call you an asshole.

Where are you, The Man?

Oh how I miss you, now that the self-publishing revolution is here.

Without my precious scapegoat, here’s what I go through now:

BQB 2.0 – Post Self-Publishing

I’m tired and I miss my precious video games but now I must attempt to follow my longstanding dream to become a published author now that The Man has been overthrown by technology!

Without The Man to blame, I have to come to terms on all the reasons why I blame myself for my lack of writing success:

REASON #1 – I’m Not Good Enough

That will enter my brain from time to time, then I’ll see a scene on TV that will inspire me to persevere.

CASE IN POINT:  On Game of Thrones, Tyrion was kidnapped by slaver traders who threatened to sell his dwarf appendage to a dwarf appendage merchant because in Westeros, dwarf appendages are thought to bring good luck.

MY RESPONSE:  Where’s my laptop?  George RR that sea captain hat wearing SOB is making a mint off this shit. Surely, I can come up with something half as witty as lucky dwarf appendages and at least make a little beer money.

Oh The Man.  How I miss you.  You used to keep this thought at bay:

REASON #2 – There Isn’t Enough Time

There is and there isn’t.  If you want to work all day and then come home and work all night, then yes, you’ll find time to write a novel.  It’s up to you if you want to work all day AND night and not do something crazy like sniff some fresh air, take a walk, or go to the bathroom.

The Man used to make me feel better on wasting all that precious writing time in the bathroom.  Now I just sit there on the bowl, cursing myself for losing those few precious moments of productivity that could have been spent writing.

Where have you gone, The Man?  Where have you gone?  I need you back:

REASON #3 – There’s No Assistance Available

CORRECTION:  There used to be no assistance available.  Now, thanks to self-publishing, there’s a whole cottage industry of editors and cover artists waiting to help you if you’re willing to invest in them.

Time was The Man stood between folks like that and myself.  Now they’re easy to find and their help is readily available.

Come back, The Man!

REASON #4 – I’m Not One of the Beautiful People

BACK THEN:  I’ll never get a book out because I have the looks and charm of a cactus and only certain well bred classy people get books published.

TODAY:  Underdogs are tearing it up in the self-publishing industry and everyone cheers for them.

Oh The Man.  How I miss you.  I was able to blame you for my failures, but now, thanks to self-publishing, the only man I can blame when my book isn’t out there is myself.

RIP

THE MAN

The Beginning of Time – The Past Few Years, Give or Take

Yes, I’m being facetious.  Yes, I realize even if my stuff never gains an audience wider than 3.5 readers, the time I spend writing is still better spent than being transfixed to TV (even though, holy shit, it’s better now than it ever was, let me tell you.)

I recognize what miraculous times we live in that whether your book is a blockbuster or a dud, at least the tech is available to allow you to say, “I GAVE IT A TRY” and check “WRITE A BOOK” off your bucket list.

I’m not “old” but I’m getting older and as the years move on, I realize:

  • I’m probably not going to be playing for the NFL.
  • The fine scientists at NASA might not recruit me as an astronaut as my younger self once assumed they would.
  • Katee Sackhoff, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, isn’t going to marry me.  (Don’t tell Video Game Rack Fighter I said that.)
  • I’m not going to be president, which really, is more of a detriment to the country than to me, what with my proposed, “Let’s everyone stop playing grabass and get down to some serious shit here!” initiative.

But while pro-football, intergalactic space travel, Katee Sackhoff, and the Oval Office are all dreams that are fading fast, I am pleased to say that “publishing a book” is a dream of mine that is more realistic and plausible today than it ever was when I was a kid, thanks to the marvels of technology.

Shit.  I’d better get a book out there before The Man figures out a way to shut this self-publishing thing down.

Back off, The Man!

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The Week Ahead

Happy Monday, 3.5 Readers.1371251154-2

I hope everyone is enjoying Pop Culture Mysteries.  I have to say I’m glad this idea popped into my head.

I’ve heard Jake says these stories are a joy to write and at the risk of offending Alien Jones, it’s the best writing to appear on this blog since it began over a year ago.

Part 4 of “Who Shot First?” will appear tomorrow.  Hatcher will once again enlist the help of Agnes the Librarian, an elderly woman who ironically knows her way around a computer (aka a beep boop machine) better than Hatcher.

But what can you expect?  He’s a 1950’s kind of guy, after all.

I’ll need some time to write the ending of the story, so the rest of “Who Shot First?” will come back later.  I’ll try my best to not leave you hanging for more than a week, but alas, my schedule is kind of hectic so who knows.

In the meantime, Bookshelf Q. Battler and the Meaning of Life returns soon.  I, Bookshelf Q. Battler and my new love interest, Video Game Rack Fighter, will continue on our quest for the answer to life’s most vexing question.

3.5 Readers, I wish there were more of you, but I take what I can get and knowing that at least someone is enjoying this motivates me to keep going.

We’ve talked about the week ahead, so what about the future ahead?

The best part of this one post a day for a year challenge is that it’s forced me to produce.  Without some kind of deadline, I’m likely to just fall into the trap of putting my writing off forever.

The worst part is there are times when I realize if I blogged less and worked on a novel more, that novel could eventually find its way on amazon.

But without an effort to expand my fan base beyond 3.5 readers, who’d read it?

It’s all about investment.  I’m putting in the time to become a better writer.

At the same time, I realize when you take time out of your busy lives, you’re doing so with the belief that I’m going to entertain you.

Rest assured, I’m doing my best not to let you down.

The “3.5” thing is a fun joke.  In reality, around 30-50 or so of you have been checking the blog daily, assumedly to find out what’s going on with me, or Jake, or AJ.  Hell, some of you even care about the Yeti or Dr. Hugo Von Science.

I appreciate it.  This blog is written during the few moments I get to steal away from everything else that’s demanding my attention, and as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep reminding myself its worth it to keep writing and to not just waste my time with the netflix bingeathons my mind so desperately craves.

I hate the marketing side and I hate to be “that guy” who asks his 3.5 readers for favors, but with that being said, if you have a favorite Bookshelf Battle Blog post, please consider sharing it somewhere on the Internet (or has Hatcher calls it, “the Interwhatever.”)

Twitter, Facebook, a Reblog, whatever you can do to bring more eyes this way would be appreciated.

Alien Jones, who believes his assignment to help me launch my writing career is beneath him, would certainly be thrilled if you can help me get this off the ground so he can focus on more important matters, like saving the universe from the dreaded Moloklaxons.

Remember when this used to be a book blog?  Ahh, memories…

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The Writer’s Battle: The Twelve Stages of Writing Denial

1371251154-21)  This is the greatest idea in the world!

2)  Oh my God!  I can’t believe how the words are just flying out of me!

3)  And…crap on a hat.  My characters have hit a wall and I have no idea how to get them around it.

4)  Double crap.  I have new ideas to improve this but it’ll mean starting all over and adding/taking away certain details from the beginning.

5)  This isn’t as good as I thought. I’m going to put it down for a few days.

6)  This is garbage.  I should skeet shoot my laptop and never write again.

7)  Six months later – Oh.  Hey look.  That novel I wrote.  I’ll take a peak.

8)  Hey!  This isn’t that bad.

9)  Well, it might be a little far fetched.

10)  Wait a minute.  The highest grossing fantasy show on TV just had a scene with dudes trying to sell a dwarf’s appendage!  The world wants far fetched!  I’m going to make millions!

11)  Ahhh maybe I won’t make millions.

12)  This is garbage.  Smelly, dirty, raccoon infested garbage.

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The Writer’s Battle: The Limits of Our Language (Examples from Fast 7)

BQB here.

Have you ever had a scene appear in your head so vividly and yet, you’re not able to come up with the words that do it justice?

Have you ever changed your story from what was in your head to what will work on paper?

Here’s an example that popped out at me while I was watching Fast and Furious 7.  Yes, I’m going to use an example from a car racing movie to discuss writing.  Shut up.

SPOILERS.

OK THE SETUP – Lettie, an amnesiac, remembers she used to be married to Vin Diesel aka Dom.

LETTIE:  Why didn’t you tell me we were married?

DOM:  Because you can’t tell someone that they love you.

OK, so what’s the problem?

“They” is a word used to refer to multiple people – plural.

EXAMPLE:

PETE: “Fred, did those hula dancing penguins steal my cheese sandwich?”

FRED:  “Indeed they did, Pete but don’t worry.  They’ll bring it back.”

Yet, a limit of the language, when you talk about “someone” or a singular individual where the sex isn’t stated in the sentence, your main option is to use “they.”

EXAMPLE:

PETE:  I can’t believe someone stole my cheese sandwich.

FRED:  Don’t worry, Fred.  They’ll bring it back.

See?  In this example, Fred has no idea who, how many, and the gender(s) of the culprit(s).  “They’ll” becomes an option, though I have no idea if it is proper or if it is just something that has become common in our vernacular.

What say you, fellow scribes?  What should Dom have said?

DOM:  You can’t tell someone she loves you.

ANALYSIS:  Eh, it’s ok but Lettie is right there holding him.  Seems odd to refer to her in the third person.

DOM (to Lettie):  I couldn’t tell you that you love me.

ANALYSIS:  Well, that becomes a whole other kettle of fish, doesn’t it?  Was he unable to tell Lettie she loves him because he wanted her to figure it out on her own or because he was choked up about the issue or some other reason?

So that brings us back to:

DOM:  You can’t tell someone that they love you.

Ahh!  I get it.  That great free-thinking mind inside Vin Diesel’s brain has come up with quite a concept.  The takeaway for the viewer is that Dom did not tell Lettie that they were married because Lettie, who remembers none of the past, would feel obligated to pretend to love Dom and Dom didn’t want that.  He wanted her to fall in love with him naturally like she did in the past.

And you thought the seventh sequel to a special effects saturated car chase movie couldn’t be deep and meaningful…for shame!

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