Let Sleeping Babes Lie

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My six-month old puts his head down for a nap; it’s one of the two he takes during the day. When his eyes close, I jump all over the house trying to get things done.

A part of me wonders if I will ever be a productive member of society again. Once a master of organization, now I try to content myself with getting all the bottles washed before he wakes back up. In those odd moments when I have time, I spend most of it trying to decide what to do with it.  Watch television? Read? Edit? Work on my novel? Take a nap myself? Eat every unhealthy thing in the house? Tackle one of the countless chores needing to be done?

Or perhaps I could make a blog post.

I never really understood the value of time until I didn’t have any.  If fatherhood is teaching me anything (outside of patience, diaper skills, and baby fingernail trimming), it is to focus on doing one or two things well, because there isn’t enough time for the renaissance man jack-of-all-trades nonsense anymore.


Roughly a year later…

One of the main reasons I started this blog was so it could serve as a time capsule for me. A lot has changed in the year or so since this post was initially generated. For one, Thor is running all over the place and causing mayhem. Indeed, Past Corey had no concept of how little time he would have.

The irony of the original post doesn’t elude me. Past Corey believed he was taxed for time. With Thor napping only once during the day now, and my amazing wife consistently being away on a warship, time truly has become a precious quantity. Here’s my takeaways:

  1. Be willing to tell people “no.” When time becomes a premium, then you have to learn to say no more often, even if it’s a project/job/task you think is awesome.
  2. Don’t stress about the small stuff. And man, it took my a while to figure out what the small stuff was. Figure out what you can control and focus on that. You must tend to your garden of f***s and not give them too freely.
  3. When it’s time to work, play, or chill, don’t get sidetracked. In a world where multitasking is listed on resumes, I strive to do the opposite. Multitasking usually means I’m half-assing something. As Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

These lessons are about as deep as a puddle in the desert, but heck, I never claimed to be a philosophizer. I’m just a dad trying to sort through the madness one day at a time. That’s it for my blog time; I’ll update this post in another year.

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Blogging: Building Your Platform

 

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Thor sorting leaves. He knows where to find the good ones.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to update! I’m writing this post in my bedroom/office/box storage room. Yes, the prolonged move is taking forever, but I will be off to a new state and house by the end of the month. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the near future. Oh, Thor is walking/running now…so yeah, busy times!

Today I wanted to take a moment to announce a milestone on the QE page. I’ve met and surpassed 1000 followers! Oddly enough, the last 200+ followers have come during a period of non-activity on my page [insert excuses: moving, baby, editing, writing, stay-at-home dad, military spouse].

So how did the blog continue to generate activity without me at the helm being proactive? I mean, does my blog even need me anymore? Has it gained self-awareness? I wish…

thanksBefore I get into the platform building section, let me say “thanks!” People talk about followers just being numbers. You’ll only make X number of sales from X number of followers. It all seems so impersonal. Speaking from my experience, I’ve received awesome emails from people checking in on me and the family, gained clients,  found collaborative writing partners, joined a Legion, uncovered fellow editors (key wielding clones), and I’m very humbled and appreciative of these relationships. Sales are one thing, meaningful relationships are something much more. So again, thanks for reading and coming back for more.

Building the BlogNow that I’m done gushing, let’s talk brass tacks.

I wrote a how-to post about blogging before: Blogging: What Works for Me. I wrote that post in July of last year when I had hit 400 followers. People were curious about my process, and I’m always happy to share. In it, I offered some tips about how to craft your writing and your activity to increase viewership. Towards the bottom of that post, I wrote a very short paragraph titled, Technical Mumbo Jumbo.  It seems some of that technical hoopla is more essential than I realized.

The technical aspects of your blog are what allow you to reach beyond WordPress and start generating views from search engines and other sources. In the last two months, where I only generated a few posts, those 200+ followers were likely due to me taking advantage of some of the features within WordPress. It’s also due to the type of content I ordinarily post.

Looking at my site analytics I’ve noticed a massive amount of views are being generated from search engines. This was planned. *maniacal laughter* Here are some ways to make your blog more visible outside of WordPress and gain more traffic.

evergreenWrite Evergreen Content. When I say “evergreen,” I’m talking about the shelf-life of the post. Some posts we write are author/editor/blogger/life update posts. For many, it’s a given you will want to reach out to your readers. “I’ll be here at this convention” or “Check out my new release.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that those posts won’t be the workhorses on your page. In terms of search engine visibility, unless someone knows exactly what to type, they likely won’t stumble into those posts. The workhorses are the posts that don’t have a fuse or timeline.

There is little chance someone who’s never been to or heard of this page will type into Google, “Quintessential Editor Barnes and Noble Rant.” There is higher likelihood someone might search, “the herald archetype.” Both of these searches will bring up posts from this blog on the first or second page of Google, but one (the archetype post) is far more likely to pull a reader because it’s a logical search term.

The Barnes and Noble rant was a needed outlet for me to express my disdain, but it has little real usefulness to people.  On the other hand, posts about aspects of writing are tools people actively seek out. While your blog may not be centered around writing, finding ways to write content with no shelf-life and high applicability is a good move.

Your Blog Headline is Important. I didn’t realize this at first, but after studying the stats on my page over the course of the last eight months, I can’t refute the numbers. Writing and publishing clever headlines makes me smile, but they have little application outside of WordPress Reader. In fact, they can make your content nearly impossible for someone to stumble into from the endless sprawl of the interwebs.

harry-potter-newspaperThink of your blog headline like an internet search term. While the blog headline may be clever and will snag fresh readers taking advantage of the WordPress Reader, after a few weeks or months it will be buried. Yes, people can utilize tags and categories to find your posts here on WordPress (if they scroll long enough). However, search engines are a much bigger ocean and require more precision.

For example, I wrote about how to anchor readers using setting. I wanted to use a really clever headline for the post. Instead, I went with the very bland Setting: Anchoring the Reader. If someone types in “how to anchor a reader with setting” or “anchoring a reader with setting,” this post is usually on the front page of most search engines. The words a person might use to find this information with a search engine can be different, but the headline contains most of the words they would use.

Know the difference between a category and tag. Tags are the golden ticket. Not only will they allow people in WordPress Reader to narrow down their search and stumble onto your content, it also factors into search engine results. If you couldn’t tweak your headline to nail the topic entirely, you will want to add those missing words, individually, into the tag. Also add tags that are applicable to the topic.

For this post, I’ll likely have [writing, blogging, how-to, advice, WordPress, headlines, understanding, categories, tags, fiction, non-fiction, Corey Truax, dad]. You’ll notice dad there, it seems WordPress dads are always looking for kindred spirits so I always leave a breadcrumb trail. If you’re an author/editor/business person, it never hurts to toss your cats-dressed-vintage-photo.jpgname into the tag of each post. The more posts out there with your name on it, the more likely someone doing an internet search of your name will stumble into your blog.

[Here be rumors and unsubstantiated banter] I’ve read that some users will flood the tag area of their webpage posts. So let’s say you write a post about knitting sweaters for kittens. Some people will copy and paste more than 100 related and unrelated words into the tag field hoping someone searches for a topic and walks into their trap. In my opinion — you kitten sweater knitting maniacs — that’s a good way to ensure an unwary person never returns to your page. I’ve also read that certain search engines will boot your post from their search results if the tag seems like spam. [Here ends the trail of kitten tears]

labyrinthCategories Keep People on Your Page. Categories are how you organize your page. We don’t want readers to feel like they are navigating a labyrinth. I started with five or six main categories. One of them was “Writing.” This was a mistake because it lumped too many posts of different types into one giant category. If someone clicked the Writing category, a massive list of blog posts popped up. Some may have been what they were looking for, some weren’t. I broke “Writing” down into more precise categories: Conflict, Setting, Description, Dialogue, and so on. When I did this, repeat views from a single reader skyrocketed. Alas, some people who came to the page didn’t care about every aspect of writing.

If categories are a new concept for you entirely, WordPress has a page dedicated to explaining what they are and how to make them work for you. Check it out here.

You can really take advantage of your categories by using the widgets included with WordPress. Widgets offer different options that display navigation tools. If you are unfamiliar with widgets, WordPress has a page for you here.

That’s it for today. The last bit of advice I’ll give is this, take the time to understand how to leverage the tools I talked about above. It’s heartbreaking to see people grinding away so hard and not getting readership. Especially when their blog page is how they generate business. Implementing these small tweaks will add two minutes to your process — at most. Those two minutes will ensure your webpage is easy to find, navigate, and use. And heck, maybe your page will achieve self-awareness.

question-markDo you have any tips that have worked for you? Do you understand the bizarre search engine algorithms? There a few more tools I have under my hat, but this post is already well beyond my 1000 word cap. If there’s enough interest, I can write another one with some extra bits of info. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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Writing for the Busy Parent

Welcome to another Feature Friday…sort of. As always, the days are just whizzing on by. I’m doing something new for this Feature Friday. It’s my first collaborative post. I’d like to welcome Dillon, from over at From Rad to Dad.

Why thank you Corey! It’s a pleasure to be here! Hi, new friends!

dillon-fam-4A little intro about my family! Korina (my wife) and I are both 26 years old, and at the time I’m jotting this down our son, Killian Jaymes, is 10 months old. I work a normal 7 to 4 Monday through Friday job while Korina runs her amazing nerdy crafting business from home while taking care of Killian, whose occupation is currently pooping his pants and chasing our dog Lupin around.

We run a small Youtube channel where we document our life in weekly videos. Korina and I also both write our parenting blogs and work on our modern fantasy stories! Well, when we find the time to write on the side, which is actually what this blog post is about.

So writing is tough, we all know that. And parenting is tough too, even folks without kids can fully acknowledge that. But what’s it like trying to be a writer and a parent at the same time? That’s what Corey and I have teamed up to shed some light on!

With that great introduction, below are the five questions we are addressing. If you are tackling the challenge of being a parent and writer, feel free to Contact Me with some answers to the questions and we will link you into this post and point people to your page. If you’d like a photo(s) included, be sure to attach them. The parenting struggle is a bit easier when it’s shared.

Now to the questions.

  1. How do you balance work, home, writing, love, and life?
  2. How has becoming a parent changed your outlook on writing and reading?
  3. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve faced with stay-at-home parenting, or parenting in general?
  4. As a parent, where do you go to write? When is the best time for you to write?  
  5. Why do you write, and how does that reason impact your writing?  

QE’s answers:

family-11.) For me, scheduling is the single most important thing I do. I’ve found I have to constantly tweak my schedule as life changes (Thor grows). Allocating my time prevents me from over-committing to a single project and leaving others lagging behind. When Thor’s awake or my wife is home, I typically don’t spend too much time writing or editing and instead try to take advantage of the time as a family.

2.) When I became a stay-at-home dad, losing my work identity was hard. As Thor grows, he’ll never look at me as “His dad who was in the military or who was a cop.” I think children having a way to identify their parents to others is important. Dedicating my time to writing and reading lets me share stories with him, but also helps me feel confident he will know his dad “does” something other than just take care of him.

3.) The biggest misconception I’ve faced is that because I’m a stay-at-home dad I have tons of time and don’t really have any commitments. Most laypeople don’t look at writing and editing as a real occupation. When people ask what I do (which inevitably comes up), I tell them I write and edit books. This is usually answered with an awkward smile and look that says, “That’s not really a job.”  

img_23344.) I have a study where I write and edit. For me, having a space dedicated to work helps me focus in on what needs to be done and not get distracted. I usually work while everyone else sleeps, or during my son’s naps. Right now, I only sleep 4-5 hours on normal days. When my wife is home for her weekends, I try to catch up on sleep and recharge.

5.) I write because I love reading stories and have always enjoyed telling them. Reading stories to my son is one of my biggest joys. Even though he’s too little to understand them (almost a year old), he still stops what he is doing and listens, as if he’s trying to understand. I write with my son and family in mind. I don’t tailor the stories to them, but knowing they will read them is very empowering. Knowing after I’m long gone my son might have a book I wrote on his own shelf is even more inspiring.

Dillon’s answers:

dillon-fam-21.) In short, an unhealthy amount of coffee. Outside of work, my schedule changes frequently and I spend as much time with my family as I can. They recharge my batteries and motivate me to be better than I am — they are my greatest inspiration. I give myself every opportunity to write, I have Google Docs on my phone, so I squeeze in a few lines, or outline points while in line at the post office or even in the bathroom. I make small time throughout my day burst-writing as much as I can, and then I spend time editing in the same fashion. Piece by piece!

2.) My outlook on everything changed the day I found out about Killian. I wanted to write, not for fame or glory, but to simply have him look up at me and say, “my dad is cool, strange, but cool.” I want to write interesting things, motivational words to help him in the future when the rain pours down and I may not be there. I want to read so I know how to answer those questions that he’s going to come at me with. I want him to know there are a million ways to be creative and he can chase any of them.

dillon-fam-33.) Parents trying to be perfect. I thought, for a brief moment, that becoming a parent would make me picture perfect. It did anything but. So many parents have picture perfect Facebook lives, and that is garbage. We fight, we cry, we make mistakes, we show up late, we forget the diaper bag, we don’t read bedtime stories every night, we forget to write, we are tired and no one ever talks about all of that being okay. And IT’S OKAY, we are not supposed to be perfect. We are supposed to be human.

4.) I don’t have a dedicated place or time, a lot of my writing is done on my phone in lines or on my lunch break at work. Even though I don’t carve out dedicated time, I still write, I still edit, and I still post. Getting something done when you can is better than not ever getting to it. If I’m gonna pick a time, I really like writing in bed later at night with my wife sitting beside me and Killian sleeping in his crib. A small cup of coffee beside me as I type and a flurry of grammatically horrible words strung together is where I always end the night. Usually followed by me saying, “I’ll fix it tomorrow!”

dillon-fam-15.) Two reasons: To motivate other parents, and to remind us all it’s okay to fail and make mistakes. We are not perfect; we are parents. I love being a dad and I want to share the stories of how it’s changed me and hopefully help at least one parent out there not feel so worried about it all. As for my personal writing: I am a genuinely curious day dreamer, and when a character walks into my head I want to chase them down the rabbit hole and see where they go and how their story unravels. I have to know how they end up. I guess I just want to share these stories on both the blog and in my personal writing. I want people to be happy and confident.

question markThat’s it for today! Again, if you’re a parent, grandparent, or parent to fur-babies—we’d love to hear from you. How do you manage the madness?  Contact Me and I’ll update this post with your answers and link your blog into the post as well. Every now and then, Dillon and I will recycle this post on our pages and put our feelers out for more struggling writers/parents. From Dillon: Thank’s for taking the time to read! Hopefully you picked up some tricks for your own crazy writing style! Thanks Corey for having me!

Until we all cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp! As Dillon likes to say on his page, “You’ve got this!”

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The Time Paradox (Revamping the Schedule)

hourglassI posted my daily schedule a while back.  Due to the ghosts in the time machine, I must adjust and move forward with purpose.  Before I spell out the new schedule, I want to take a minute to discuss why the schedule must change.

When I started this blog page:

  1. I was writing a single book.  Now I have finished writing this book and started a rewrite.  Additionally, I am writing a novella, three graphic novels, and the discovery draft of another separate book.
  2. My baby boy was napping three or more hours a day. Additionally, he wasn’t mobile.  Now Thor naps for about half the amount of time and is moving at the speed of babylight (which is slower than a walk and faster than a crawl).
  3. I was working as a freelancer on websites like Upwork and Freelancer with limited success.  My clients were few and far between and many of the jobs were very short.  Now I own my own editing business. It has generated some awesome clients and a decent workload.
  4. My wife was working “normal” Navy hours.  Now she is working 12-hour shifts.

No Breaks

For these reasons, I must adjust the schedule.  It should be noted that I owe the success of my business to this page and the time I devoted to it.  I also owe this page for introducing me to so many brilliant people. This QE website has been a lightning rod of creativity and self-growth for me.

Personal ramblings aside, let’s look at the new schedule.

Monday:  Book blurb day or a new post.  I’ve read more than thirty books on writing since I started this page.  Every now and then I toss together a collage and write a blurb about a book. (My “reads” category contains examples.)  It’s not really a review, but an insight about the content of the book.  Again, this is my way of offering you all the resources I can and populating the page with useful content.

Tuesday/Sunday: Off days.  I wanted a couple days of the week to spend my allotted blogging time reading other blogs and commenting.  If I continue posting every day, I simply don’t have enough time to reply to comments and reach out beyond my own page.

Wednesday: Feature Wasteland Wednesday and/or author news.  Wastelander: The Drake Legacy publishes next year, but it’s the first in a very long Wastelander series.

As I will start the publishing process early next year, I want to make Wednesday a day to also share news about what’s going on with me professionally (failures, successes, conventions I’m attending, etc).

I‘m also working with some amazing authors as an editor.  I want to spotlight them here as well, when possible.

Thursday: A new and glorious post.

Feature Friday.jpg

Feature Friday.  This is one my favorite additions to my page.  I will continue taking a day each week to highlight other bloggers who are generating insightful content.  If you are sitting there reading this and thinking, Hey! He’s talking about me.  Contact me and I will add you to my reblog list.  I am fortunate to have great readership here at QE, and if my success can propel others, it’s a small way for me to give back.

Don't Know what to Blog

I have also decided to allow for reader contributions on Fridays.  This was a suggestion made to me by P.A. Kramer.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved the concept.  This is a great way for bloggers to take advantage of my readership and get some eyes on both their content and their blog pages.  Again, my goal has always been to bring like-minded people together.

I will only post submissions that are centered around some aspect of writing. Ideally, the content should be around 700-1000 words in length.  If images are included, they must be non-copyrighted images (I can generate images if needed).  Contact me if you have a proposal.

Saturday: Re-post day.  Recycling previous posts will help people new to the site or to WordPress connect with my older content.  It also helps me.  It allows me to continuously edit, improve, and add links to my archived material.  I learn a lot from my discussions with all of you, my work as an editor, and my labors as a writer.  I want to be sure my past posts reflect newfound knowledge and continue to be relevant.

That’s the new schedule.  Let’s see if this one sticks or not.  Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Update: What is QE Doing?

Photo for Human Legion.jpgI know it’s Wasteland Wednesday, but I wanted to take a day to share what I’m into these days.  I haven’t taken a day to talk about life for a while and Wednesday is as good a day as any.  Perhaps, in addition to wasteland updates, I will start offering some author/editor updates on Wednesday too.  As always, I’m tweaking this page as I go.

First off, some book updates.  My rewrites of Wastelander: The Drake Legacy will kick off here in two weeks or so.  I’m excited to get back into the mix, get the rewrites done, and start pushing the book out to my beta readers and my editor (yes, I pay an editor even though I’m an editor).

As for the novella, The Wastelander Survival Guide, it has been outlined completely and I have begun the first-draft.  However, I’m only getting about one hour a day (maybe two if I’m really lucky) of solid writing done toward that project right now.

The graphic novel idea is in its infancy.  The concept is to provide an origin story for Drake.  The current book starts thirty years after the fall of the United States.  So naturally, there is a lot of backstory I could condense into some graphic novels without repeating information from the main book.  This project is a lower priority, so I dedicate time to it when I can (mostly  when my wife has the day off and is spending some one-on-one time bonding with Thor).

As my digital artwork is slowly getting “better,” I am hoping to be able to dump a large amount of imagery on my artist for him to run with.  I know he can work faster when he has better blueprints to work from.  It’s rough, but I take a few minutes every day to practice and improve my artwork, or at least watch a video or two at Ctrl+Paint while I’m eating food (one of the best websites I’ve found that has free videos and content to improve your physical and digital art).  Here are some examples of things I have found on the internet for inspiration and digitally painted or sketched in Photoshop.

 

Also, obviously, I have been writing the content for the graphic novel.  This has been slow going as I have been reading a bunch of graphic novels to develop a style of writing to complement the imagery.  In the way of eating your greens (and really desserts too), graphic novels are perhaps one of the more enjoyable studies into writing mechanics I have embarked on.

The Editor

Now for some other projects I’m collaborating with as an editor (that the authors are okay with me mentioning).

M.L.S. Weech is currently busting through the rewrites of his new book, Caught.  We are old friends and have worked together on other projects as well (The Journals of Bob Drifter).  I know he is likely excited as he is closing down on the final stages on Caught.  For me, it’s really exciting to see how the book has improved with each pass he has made.  When he started, it was a great story.  Now, it’s even better.

Also on his horizon, we have been looking at his book, 1,200 (but that’s a book for him to introduce and talk about more when he is ready).  I’m also expecting to see a short story from him as he is collaborating as part of an anthology (good job bud). He wrote a post about that collaboration you can read about right here.

SleepingLegion_Book1_08.jpgI‘ve also just recently started collaborating with the Human Legion.  Tim C. Taylor and J.R. Handley are working on two separate military science fiction series over there (separate series, but in the same universe).  Currently, I’m working with J.R. and the Sleeping Legion series he is writing.  They were even nice enough to write a post about me and welcome me to their team.  (Thanks Tim!)

As I’ve just dipped my toes into that universe, I’ve been reading to familiarize myself with the content.  I’m about halfway through The Legion Awakes (Book 1 of the Sleeping Legion series), and I can say with confidence, if you like military science fiction, you are going to enjoy these books.

On the homefront, Thor keeps me on my toes and my atom splitting wife is on 12-hour rotational shifts.  Depending on what happens in the next few months, we could possibly be relocating to Virginia, Washington, Hawaii, Japan, California, or who knows where else.  While we are a Navy family, the Marines say, semper fidelis (always faithful).  I like to say, semper gumby (always flexible).  As such, I’m ready for every eventuality.

thor and me.jpgWith all this being said, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who find the time to stop by my page and give it a read.  I really love when we get to exchange some comments, and I’m always learning from all of you.

Given all the projects I’m currently working on, and the stay-at-home daddy daycare (which is highest on the priority list), I haven’t been able to comment on as many blogs as I would like.  I’m sorry for that.

When I find the time, I make every effort I can to browse and read all of your content.  Just know if you see a “like” from me, it isn’t a “spam like.”  I probably am reading your post on my phone while feeding Thor a bottle or juggling some other task.  Trying to write a comment of meaning on my iPhone is nigh impossible (my fingers are too big and clumsy).

Also, the days of me being able to reply to comments as they roll in have unfortunately come to an end.  Thor is only taking two naps instead of three, and that reduces my daily work time by about 1.5 hours.  I still am replying to all the comments I get on my posts, and I love getting them, but I am doing it all at once now.  So if your comment sits for a bit before I respond to it, just know I was likely managing some kind of diaper mishap or blistering my fingers on a style guide.

Did I mention semper gumby…

That’s the update!  Again, thanks for swinging in.  I’ll try to pepper in some of these author/editor updates from time-to-time so you don’t all think I’ve become some kind of cyborg blogging construct (not that I would divulge it if I was).  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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The Originality of a Beginning

guide to literary agentsSome of us spend a countless amount of time thinking about those first few lines.  We are told over and over again, by countless sources, those first words are absolutely essential.  In the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents it is explained that, “Writing a compelling first page is very difficult.  It’s a balancing act of action, description, and dialogue, and somehow – no matter what it is you are writing about – you’ve got to make it interesting and employ a unique voice” (p. 42).

While the above example is talking about the first page, others talk about the first sentence or sentences.  This article, 7 Keys to Write the Perfect First Line of a Novel, written by Joe Bunting, offers a bunch of famous beginnings you can sort through.  You’ll see all the usual suspects – Melville, Dickens, Rowling, Tolkien, and a few unexpected ones.

Nice Intro.jpgWhat this article offers, and the book I listed above allude to, is the idea that you need to find a unique twist to somehow blow the readers mind to pieces.  The underlying concept is that you must be original.

I don’t know if I agree with this sentiment of originality.  Not entirely.

When I think of beginnings I think of one I say almost everyday to my son, “Once upon a time.”  When you hear those words, what do you think of?  I think of magic beans, talking animals, witches, heroes, and princesses.  For many of us, those stories are the first stories we ever hear.  They are the building blocks of our own lexicon of stories and mythology.  It is stamped into our brains.  Hardwired.  When we see that line, it opens a door.  A door encouraging us to believe in the unbelievable, to dream, to hope, and to imagine.

once upon a time.jpgIs it any surprise when George Lucas penned, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” it became such a classic line?  When you see that line (assuming you are familiar with Star Wars) you think of Jedi, lightsabers, The Force, and a host of other Star Wars related concepts.  But at the core of, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…,” is, “Once upon a time.”  His first line tapped into the power of those countless childhood stories, and he wielded it wisely.

For me, when I saw that line for the first time I was a just a kid.  My dad said, “You’ll love these movies Corey.”  I shoved the tape into a VCR, smashed the tracking button until the image was clear, and carefully read the scrolling prompt.  That first line hooked me.  It threw the door open to imagination.

This door became harder to open the older I got.

The door became harder to open because the more I learned about writing, the more rules were shoved down my throat.  Teachers, instructors, and experts, tell us, “No, no, no, not like that – like this!” or, “It’s a good first line, but it seems pretty similar to [insert story].”

portal.jpgIn the struggle for originality, many authors stray from one of the core concepts of storytelling.  This concept is that the line should work to transport someone into your world.  It’s a cue, overt or covert, that opens the forgotten door and encourages them to once again – believe in the unbelievable.  It doesn’t have to be some crazy twist of phrase.  It doesn’t have to be packed with hidden metaphors and symbolism.  It can be, but it doesn’t HAVE to be.

I would encourage you to look at children’s books for inspiration.  This article, 100 Best Opening Lines From Children’s Books, is a great compilation of those works.  Despite the primary audience of these books being children, the opening lines have great impact.

They have great impact because all of us were children at one point.  It is a universal concept uniting each and everyone one of us.  All of us, at some point in time, dared to believe in the unbelievable.  We didn’t care how crazy it seemed.

For me, I spent hours of my childhood trying to use The Force to move things around in my room.  I believed, beyond reason, if I just tried hard enough, it might just happen.  I could be a Jedi.  I just had to believe.

It never happened for me.  I never did move something with my mind.  And here I am now with a child of my own.  Despite my childhood being long gone, sometimes, when no one is looking, I still try to move things with my mind.  I part of me still believes.

That’s the power of a story.  That’s the power of a beginning.  Don’t stress originality, tell your story.  If the story is yours, the beginning will be too.

That’s it for today!  Do you have a story from your childhood that impacts you to this day?  Do you have an opening line that really rocked your socks off?  I’d love to hear about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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A Writing Dad: Managing the Madness

Discussing Fatherhood.jpgSince I started doing this blog, I’ve been getting emails/messages from friends (new and old ones).  Some of the messages are really encouraging, and others are laced with hidden sarcasm.  Many of these exchanges, while on the surface are kind, hide this sentiment, “Oh…you’re writing a book, editing, and doing a daily blog.  Dad life must REALLY be busy.” *insert sarcastic eye roll*

Now, I know my friends and family love me.  I also know they aren’t intentionally trying to bust my proverbial balls.  But the truth is, dad life is busy.  Those of you who are parents (past or present) know it to be true.  So to save myself from explaining my process over and over again, I thought I would compile it here.

To preface this, it should be noted I am a stay-at-home dad.  My wife Heather is in the military and works as a Navy Nuclear Engineer.  She wakes up before Thor does , and usually gets home as he goes to bed (not easy for her at all).  Like I said, I’m a real deal stay-at-home dad.

So here’s an average day.

baby thor sleeping.jpg

Thor – my alarm clock.

I get up at six or seven.  Thor is my alarm clock. During the day, Thor takes three naps.  He’s still only eight months old so he is supposed to get around 3.5 hours of nap time a day.  This gives me three blocks of time to actually accomplish tasks like: write blog posts, editing, work on my own novel, clean bottles, scoop cat litter, laundry, engage in battle with the growing forces of dirt, eat, sit down on the couch and stare up at the ceiling fan.

Heather usually gets home around 7:30 pm.  We spend time together until she crashes out at around 9pm -that’s when I start working in earnest.  I usually go to bed around 1-2 am.

If you think about it in these terms, I have roughly 8.5 hours to accomplish everything I need to accomplish.  It’s comparably to a normal working day.  It’s just that around half of that time is split between everyday life tasks.  Also, if Thor is throwing lightning bolts and beating on his anvil (not napping well), time is even shorter.

The Workday.jpgI think what makes it seem like I have a lot of time is the fact I use all of it.  I’ve read studies where people who have normal 9-5 jobs only spend a fraction of that time doing actual work.  I know from my own experience in past jobs that I have easily wasted away days accomplishing little to nothing.  I would get one “big” thing done and say, “That made this day productive.”

Now I work for myself.  I also believe in what I do with a full heart.  When your passion aligns with you work, amazing things start to happen.  You find ways to weave those passions into your “free” time.  Work becomes habit, because it’s no longer a dreadful task to accomplish.

For example, I read to Thor everyday.  We don’t watch tv.  I don’t just leave him sitting in a playpen drooling on toys and plotting my demise.  I read to him.  We read about everything.  He has probably listened to me read more books on writing than most people have ever read.  We both benefit from this.

baby thor on the computer.jpg

Thor helps with the blog.

I blog everyday.  I blog about writing.  Even this “escape” guides me closer to my goals and aligns with the craft.

I talk about writing everyday.  Many of my friends are writers.  We talk about my projects, their projects, doubts, hopes, life, and everything in-between.  When my wife gets home she asks me how the book is coming along and what is happening in the blogospace.

So yes, I do have time as a stay-at-home dad.  However, it’s time I carve out with my own two hands.  I had to cut away the frivolous little things, and make space for the big things.  And honestly, it was easy.  This is the important takeaway.  When you key into the one thing that truly makes you tick – it should be fulfilling to build your life around it.

Thor and I reading.jpg

Thor and I analyzing literature (picture book).

Are some days harder than others?  Heck yeah.  Do I have doubts?  Sure.  Do I sit down and have to punch the voices in my head who say, “You are wasting your time with this Corey.  Writing isn’t a real job Corey.” Yep.  My knuckles are always bleeding.  But deep down I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  That’s a good feeling.

More of a rant than a writing tip today.  But honestly, the more time you dedicate to the craft (whatever your chosen one is), the more the muse will sing for you.  Time dedicated to the craft of writing offers you many escapes.  There is much fulfillment in the act of writing, studying the craft, and reading other authors’ works.

Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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