Thursday, October 30, 2008


Just reminding everyone that NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. If you're still on the fence, you should give it a try. It's worth it. If you still don't know what it is, then you can find more info here:

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Holy Freakin' Crap!

I just realized, as of October 7th, Scribblings of a Madman has been running for 2 years. That's way longer than I thought I'd be blogging! I'd like to thank everyone that visits here, and all you guys who send on words of encouragement and stuff*. It means a lot. I never thought I'd have people read this thing, and it constantly amazes me that people actually give a rip about my random ramblings. (Ah...aliteration.)

Anyway, so Happy 2nd Birthday, Scribblings of a Madman!

*I wouldn't like to thank the nay-sayers and haters. You know who you are! As a matter of fact, I anti-thank you. That's right, I did it. Billy, who picked on me in lunch, and that old lady on the bus who gave me weird looks, I'm talking to you! What about you, crazy old man who talks to the birds? You said that the Earthling people wouldn't allow my alien race to take over this planet, well, what now old man?! What now!?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October Ovation

This is something that Barrie Summy talked about doing, and I signed on eagerly. We're supposed to write about someone we admire.

I thought a lot about who I admired. I mean, I admire a ton of different people for different reason. I admire Stephen King for struggling through his early years as a writer and not giving up to be where he is now, and also over coming a drug addiction and an alcohol problem in the mean time. I admire Holly Lisle for her pay it forward beliefs in sharing how and why she does certain things to help amateur writers become better at what they love to do. I admire Harriet Tubman for helping to free many slaves during the American Civil War, risking her life and freedom for the lives and freedoms of others.

There are a lot of people I admire. But, then I thought of someone who I've learned a lot about recently, and I'm fascinated by them.

While I would love to write, I also realize it will take many, many years -- more than likely -- for anything to develop in my writing career. They often call that the "10 Year overnight success." In the meantime, I'll be teaching high school kids about English and literature. I've had a lot of English teachers; some of them were great, some of them weren't so great. I've learned from things that I want to do in my class, and things that I hated that I need to remember to stay away from.

There is one teacher especially, who I admire and who I hope that I have the courage and ambition to stand up for what's right and do what she did. Her name is Erin Gruwell. You have heard of her. The movie Freedom Writers is about her experiences with a Woodrow Wilson High School class in 1994.

She had to work extremely hard to help her students overcome a plethora of problems. She dealt with racism, poor grades, illiteracy, gang violence, death, and so many other things. And through it all, sometimes at the sacrifice of her own happiness, she worked to make sure those kids had learned something before they left her class. While other teachers treated it as a job, she realized that she was responsible for these students lives and in turn spent a lot of her own time helping the kids with reading, but more importantly, helping them work through personal issues, whether they be gang problems, home problems, or race problems. She had the courage to look those kids in the eye and say "I'm gonna make you better whether you like it or not."

"You don't feel respected? Well, maybe you're not. But to get respect, you have to give it."

-- Erin Gruwell, in Freedom Writers
*sorry for this being posted late. I forgot to set this to auto-post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

End of the Week Writing Update

Well, this is kind of an end of the week wrap up. You might not hear much from me on into Tuesday because midterms are here and baring their ugly teeth. I've got a World Literature test, an American literature test, and a Intro to Film test. Yuck. Shouldn't be too bad though. My Psych test was last week, so I least I don't have to worry about that.

So, yeah, writing. My friends and I are trying to start a writer's club where we meet and critique and stuff. The last one was kind of a bust. Since it was just basically us friends who hang out all the time, nobody took it too seriously, and some people only came to make my roommate feel better. One girl stopped caring halfway through the meeting and complained if anybody wanted to read anything longer than 3 pages...and then she read the longest poem I'd ever seen a student write. It was, like, 14 pages. Another girl there just didn't care and talked during the readings and just didn't take anything too seriously. Most of what was accomplished was...well...nothing. We still don't even know when to set the usual meetings. We're setting them for Tuesdays at 6:30, but that's just a tentative schedule, and we still don't know whether we want to meet every week or every other week. Meanwhile, my friend has been trying to gather up some people other than just us friends so the meetings will be more formal and structured. This thing will probably collapse, but I think it's cool of them to try.

As for actual writing, I've started a new story. I've decided that free form is just not the structure for me. I can't do "seat of your pants" writing, I go off on irrelevant tangents, and I catch myself with a whole lot of scenes where the main character is just doing mundane tasks. I realize that in scene something should change to make it significant, even if it's a small change, and with that in mind, I've been trying to make sure all of my scenes involve a change or action of some kind. I also laid out the basic ideas that I wanted, which I've done before, but I've been using a technique I got from Holly Lisle's plot course where I can fill in the blank spaces between key scenes with relevant scenes instead of fluff and filler. So it's been going pretty well.

Interestingly enough, when I finished mapping out the basic concept of the story, I realized that it's very similar to a story I tried to write before, but with a slightly different take on it. It's more organized, more streamlined, and hopefully it'll flow better because of that.

Also, for you writers who are a bit more disciplined than I am, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. In case you don't know, that stands for National Novel Writing Month. If you don't live in the US, that's fine. National doesn't really mean anything. Anyone can participate, and if you think you're up to the challenge, you can go here to register. I want to participate in one someday, but I never have the time. And by never have the time I mean that I don't want to risk my scholarship and my schoolwork. I'm not very good at balancing my daily tasks -- it's one of the things I'm trying to work on -- and I'm hoping I can work towards participating in one in the near future. If you have anymore questions about NaNo you can look here, and I hope you guys have fun.

That's all I've got right now. Have a good weekend guys. I'm going to hit the books.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I want to talk today about failure. It happens to all of us, and it sucks when it happens. Specifically, I'm talking about failing as a writer. I've gone through this feeling multiple times since I was in the first grade.

I've been writing short stories and the like since first grade. In the first grade, there was a series of books that was out about different animals. Usually the titles were alliteration like Bobby Bobcat, Sandy Skunk, Ricky Rabbit, etc. Those aren't actually the names of the books, but that was the gist of them. Anyway, I wrote some short stories for a contest where the winner would get his story published. It didn't win. That was my first failure. I tried and failed, however, being a kid, I quickly got over it. Kids have the amazing ability to bounce back from things like that. I continued to write, despite my rejection, but eventually, the bug seemed to die and I lost interest in writing.

In sixth grade, for some reason, the writing bug came back strong. I think we were doing something that had to do with creative writing in my reading class, and when she was explaining what a prompt was, she gave us an example of a kid finding a gigantic hole in the playground and investigating it. I was immediately seized with an idea, and I went home and started writing. The story actually turned into something way different from what I thought it would be, but I loved it. It was the first time I ever wrote a fantasy story. It was about some kid that was the decendent of a king and how he had to fight the evil wizard from back in the day in the modern world because he was up to no good. After that, I wrote constantly.

I didn't think about it at the time, but I never finished any of my other stories. I had some great ideas, and I would start them, but eventually I'd run out of steam and go on to something else. I did finish a few more stories, both of which were sequals to the first story I wrote in the sixth grade, but over the next several years, nothing else got finished.

By the time I got into high school, the writing bug had died again. Not for long. Eventually, I was talking to one of my friends who liked to write, and that got me started again. By then, I had discovered that writing was a career and I had chance to become one. A slim chance, but a chance nonetheless. So I started writing a "novel." I started with a map. I was just bored one day, and started doodling, and eventually, I had the idea for this great fantasy epic. This was just after I'd gotten into the Shannara books. That story, however, died. I wrote a lot -- probably 68 pages, which was a lot for me at the time -- but I just ran out of steam. Over the course of my high school career, I would restart on it every now and then, trying to rework it and make it better. Eventually the notes were long gone and I was just working on what I remembered, but I always fizzled before I really got started. Once

Senior year, I got the idea to start fresh. If you guys have followed this blog far enough, you'll see where I planned stuff. I designed a really detailed culture, a pretty good religion that based itself off of Christianity, but also threw in some ideas from other religions that I had studied during World History. It was going to be even more epic. I had probably 40 pages of notes alone, with tons of notes on characters, notes on cultures, religions, customs, clothes, and a HUGE amount of back history that dated back probably 4000 years before the story took place. Eventually, I felt I was ready to start writing. However, same as with all the other times...EPIC FAIL. The story died a horrible writhing death. I tried desperately to save it, but there was no way to do it.

Of course after that, I began to wonder about myself as a writer. I mean, I kept losing interest, I kept quitting and moving on to something else, or leaving writing behind altogether to pursue other interests. Was I really cut out to be a writer if I was so undisciplined that I couldn't come home and write and stick with a story until it was finished?

With that in mind, I decided to start experimenting. I wrote one short story in the theme of stuff I used to do as a kid -- sort of dark, horror/thriller/paranormal stories. It came out okay. I posted that a while back. Then I wrote a murder mystery because I'd been reading a lot of them and wanted to give them a try. It came out okay, too. They were finished though, and that was a big victory for me. I decided to send them off to a magazine -- a first for me, and a huge step. They got rejected, though. ...FAIL. However, rereading them, I can obviously see why, now. Not my best work, in my opinion.

So, then I tried to write a science fiction short story. I decided it would run toward the long-ish spectrum of the short story section, and I wouldn't consider the story at all. I would write "by the seat of my pants", as some people say. Well, it fizzled and died, too.

What is my point from all this rambling? I seriously began to doubt myself as a writer. I mean, what kind of writer hasn't finished any but a handful of stories? What kind of writer starts huge projects and doesn't finish them? And more importantly, what kind of writer gives up writing, the thing that's supposed to bring them the most joy? Surely I just wasn't cut out to be a writer. I decided I didn't have talent, I needed to give up on my dream and settle on something else, something easier, that I wouldn't epically fail at all the time.

Well, I've learned something I didn't fully connect together until recently, but each one of those failures taught me a lesson about writing. My failed novel in high school? I had not planned anything at all about my story, just vague concepts of plot and characters. Because of that, I had a ton of random scenes that didn't further the plot at all. The second novel? I learned from the first time. I took a ton of notes for my worldbuilding, but still I had no real idea where anything was going. I basically had a setting. My short sci-fi story? Once again, with no idea where it was going, it fizzled and died.

So basically, I learned that I'm not a "seat of the pants" writer. I tried an "outline" for my first high school novel, but what I actually had was a list of what Holly Lisle calls "candy bar scenes." There were huge gaps where I had no idea what I wanted to do, and so I tended to ramble and pad my novel with filler scenes and fluff.

So what you could say I took away from this was that I learned that I need a general guidline to get me from start to finish, but I also learned, and I think this is the more important lesson, that just because I haven't finished many projects doesn't mean I'm not cut out to be a writer. I obviousy love writing, or I wouldn't keep coming back to it. From now on, whenever I fail to meet one of my writing goals, I'm going to step back and examine the failure from another perspective and see if I can't find the lesson in that "failure" and view them instead as "opportunities for growth."

So what about you? Have you learned from any failures?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Doing Something For Yourself

You know, reading in college is sometimes a chore. I love to read, but there are just times where the thought of reading makes you want to bash your head against the wall until the voices go away. It's often mind numbing to sit through pages and pages and pages of uninteresting drivel, usually written by some dude with a Ph.D and no memory of what it was like to be in college with a life and other classes. And, with all due respect, you have to wonder where they dig up some of those essays and stories for anthologies. I mean, I understand that they're broadening our horizons, but can't they do that with something interesting, like Mark Twain or Mary Shelley or C.S. Lewis?

Since almost every night you're subjected to dissecting some stuffy expert's overly complicated explanations about such-n-such course, or you're sifting through the horribly flowery language of the early 15, 16, and 1700's. Let's face it, the people of that time period were experts at saying nothing. There were pages and pages and pages of pointless rambling in one of the stories I read earlier in the year -- usually information that had nothing to do with the actual point at all. I think at one point they were describing cobblestones in the road.

Well today, I had my homework done early and I decided to crack open one of the books that I had been reading but put on hold for college. It felt so nice. I was immediately sucked in, and before I knew it, two hours had passed and I was gonna be late for class. I felt like a new person. The sky seemed bluer, and the grass seemed greener. Every now and then, you just gotta read for yourself.

The same thing can be said for your writing. Holly Lisle helped me remember this with a recent update I read. When you're writing something, whether you enjoy it or not, it sometimes becomes more of a job than for pleasure. Even if you really enjoy what you're doing, it sometimes becomes too much of the same and you have to shake things up. It's alright to give in to that little story and peek into windows of places that you might visit soon. It's always nice to get a little taste of somewhere else to break up the monotony.

Sometimes you just gotta do something for yourself.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Promised Explanation

Hello everyone. Long time no hear, eh? Yeah...sorry about that.

So how have things been going for me? Well, after the play finished, I went and visited my roommate at his house for a week. It turned out to be a fun but troublesome trip because when I tried to leave, my windshield wipers quit working, and I had to have them re wired to work temporarily until I could get them more permanently fixed. The plus side is after, they were fixed, they worked like they were supposed to. I can now proudly say I have the ability to delay my wipers, and even have washer fluid sprayed with the flick of a switch if my windshield needs to be cleaned.

After that I was back at school, and that has been what has kept me the most busy. I've been reading more than 50 pages a night, and it's not easy reading either. At first it was Columbus's letters to the queen, which sounds like it would be an intriguing read, but was about as interesting as having rusty needles pushed underneath my fingernails. And that was the trend that they stayed for a while. They're getting a little (a very little) bit easier, and are becoming a little more interesting with each assignment, but they're also getting longer. I just had to read Gulliver's Travels in one sitting, and The Coquette in one sitting the next night. It's been pretty rough.

On the writing front, I've had absolutely no time for my own personal writing. I've been writing about a paper a week. They aren't always necessarily long, but each one requires consideration and thought. I'm not just gonna churn out garbage and hand it in, I pride myself on working really hard on my essays. Speaking of, I've got one to write tonight I think.

My two favorite classes are Film Class and Psychology, with World Lit following close behind. Psychology is just extremely interesting in everyway. I love learning the inner workings of the mind, and hearing lots of myths debunked in the process. And Film is just great. My teacher is a real smartass, and she loves to poke fun of uptight people. She also points out symbolism in films I've never seen it before. I mean, I don't always agree with her. I mean, I sat through her lecture last year on Alien, and I'm pretty sure when they made it, they weren't going for sex. Who cares if the alien's head is shaped like a penis? So are cucumbers, but that doesn't mean that making a salad is a sexual ennuendo. Anyway, so far we've watched Hitchcock's Rebecca, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and this week we're watching Rear Window I believe, which I've seen before, but I love it all the same. I can't wait to see what she points out.

Speaking of writing, though, I've been trying to get back in the groove. It seems my writing always suffers from my rude re-introduction to school, so I'm trying to get back in the groove. However, it's harder than it seems. Balancing my life is what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to work out more, eat healthier, read and write more, watch less TV, and make more friends. That's a lot to cram in, though, and writing has been one of the things that has fallen to the wayside. However, there's something that might shake it up a little, and that's a writing club. The first meeting is on Tuesday, and I'm gonna check it out. I know writing clubs face lots of problems -- it could just be an hour long pat on the back section, or you could be diving into a swimming pool full of sharks and pirhannas. We're gonna try to make it clear up front that the critiques should be thorough, but also not rude. Explain your complaints without insulting the writing, and possibly offer suggestions that you think will improve it. There's not much known about how things will work, but it sounds promising nonetheless...if it gets organized.

Beyond that nothing really interesting has happened. This weekend, we had family day. All the parents came to see their kids and there was a concert and a football game. I was glad to see the concert. It was 38 Special, who I've never heard of before, but I enjoyed their performance quite a bit, actually. Then we went to the ball game so my brother -- who's in band -- could see my school's band in action. He had a blast. Of course, our team got stomped, so we wound up leaving early. The last I saw it was 45 - 24, and there was only 1:30 on the clock.

So, how have things been with you guys lately?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Long Time No Speak

I'll write a much longer post later with catch up news. I only have one thing to say right now. I just got back from seeing Wall-E for a second time. My college showed it as part of some special thing they do. You know a movie is really fantastic when an auditiorium of cynical, hard nosed, smart ass college students break out into applause at the end of the movie. That movie always leaves me with a smile on my face.

That's all for now. A real post later.