The Impact of Character

I shouldn’t be writing this right now–I should be working. You know, productive writing that will pay the bills and prevent the few fans I have from forgetting about me. But, I’ve never been one for all work and no play. So, here we go…

The point of this blog post (aside from the fact that I’m making a point of writing more of them in 2014) is that I recently saw a movie that struck an interesting chord in me–interesting enough that I wanted to ramble on about it in a public forum.

On New Years Day, which is becoming a tradition since moving to Texas, I went and saw a movie with my aunt and cousins–The Wolf of Wall Street. Aside from it being awkwardly graphic (something that I feel was actually necessary for its purpose, and not gratuitous), I was blown away by a few of its elements that normally would have bothered me.

A brief history…

Ever since I started telling stories professionally, I’ve become very observant of how story telling operates in a wide array of mediums. I watch a ton of TV shows because of love the episodic and serial forms, I watch movies because I love to see how they pace things, how they develop characters, and how they use structure to tie everything together (something this blog post is lacking).

So what did I notice about The Wolf of Wall Street?

The character arcs were lacking. The lead character, Jordan Belfort, doesn’t grow or change from the beginning to the end. For better or worse, he stays true to who he really is The same can be said for the other characters, perhaps with the exclusion of his second wife, Naomi.

The plot was pretty stagnant. Aside from a few tangents, it’s pretty easy to see where things are heading, and there are no real surprises. That said–the movie fascinated me.

But why?

The characters were interesting. They were one of a kind. They were like cartoon characters brought to life. There were scenes that didn’t even attempt to move the story forward, yet they weren’t boring–I loved them. They sucked you into their world and made you forget that you were watching a movie that clocks in over twice as long as your average flick.

As a writer, I’m very scene and goal driven. I’ve studied and employ a very tight structure to my stories, and anything that isn’t serving an immediate purpose to moving the plot gets cut in post-production (my revision stage). But this movie has opened my eyes to new possibilities.

I’d like to see myself incorporate more of these same elements into my own stories. I’m going to make a point of letting myself ramble and get lost in a scene. To let it take me where it will and see where I end up. I think this ingredient is crucial to building interesting and unique characters that can carry a story, and it’s the biggest thing I think is falling short in my own stories.


2013 In Review

It’s been quite a year. It’s been filled with ups and downs, but decidedly more ups than downs. I wanted to take a moment and reflect on both my achievements and my short comings, as well as lay out the way I see 2014 taking shape.

I set out at the beginning of 2013 with a few goals in mind. One of those goals was to publish 350,000 words. Coming off of 2012, where I only published 80,000 words, I knew this was going to be a big feat. However, being a professional writer, I knew it was something I had to shoot for.

So how did I do?

I published a total of 202,000 words, falling pretty short of my target mark. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel! While I only published that many words, I actually wrote another 120,000 words on top of that. About half of those words are slated for release in 2014, with the other half possibly being released, or possibly being used as a virtual doorstop on my hard drive.

I will say that, while I didn’t hit my target word count for 2014, I did learn quite a few things about other aspects of the publishing business. Things such as successful book launches, marketing, and building a readership. There were some other very positive takeaways from the year as well. I joined a few writing groups and connected with many writers in Houston. Continued, active participation in these groups is high on my priority list for 2014.

So what’s the plan for 2014? Well I’m going to adjust my goal a little bit. Word counts can be a bit finicky, though I still enjoy using them. My overall plan for success is that I will publish no fewer than 8 novels (a novel being no less than 50,000 words) during the year. Some of you are probably dumbfounded that someone might attempt to write that much in one year–but I’m no stranger to doing things that sound crazy on paper.

This past November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that everybody interested in writing a novel gets together and strives to write 50,000 words of their novel within the month of November. That’s 1,667 words a day. More if you don’t want to work over Thanksgiving! In mid October, I was sitting in a coffee shop planning my NaNoWriMo novel with my friend Alyssa, when she informed me that there were people who were crazy enough to attempt the full 50,000 words in ONE DAY! So, me being me, I informed her that I would be doing that as well, and that I would be doing it on November 1st.

How did it turn out? I hit the 50,001 word around 11:30pm on 11/1/13. It was one hell of a day!

So, to wrap up this too-long-winded blog post, I’ll reiterate that my 2014 plan is to write 8 novels, no less than 50,000 words each, and then reassess where things will go from there. I appreciate all of the love and support everyone has given me over the last two years. I know I couldn’t have done as much as I have without it.

Happy New Years!


Nano Challenge Prep

It’s only 20 hours now before this challenge starts, and I’m beginning to get a little nervous. I still haven’t finalized my scene outline, though I do have a strong sense of all the major plot points that will be occurring throughout the story. At the very least, that will help me free write a lot faster than normal.

I wanted to take a moment and share the tools that I’ll be using to complete this. The number one tool I’ve discovered since becoming a full-time writer is Scrivener. In short, Scrivener is amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone who does any writing. Blogging, research papers, class projects, fiction, nonfiction, journals, anything. The only other tool I’ll be heavily utilizing is an app called Write or Die. This tool allows me to set how two different criteria for my writing sessions–word count and time limit–and forces me to keep writing until one of the two criteria is met. This is the tool responsible for some of my more insane hourly word counts (I’ve hit as high as 4k in one hour, I believe–though that is very abnormal).

Here’s a screenshot of Scrivener in action for the project I’m working on. This is the cork board mode that I use when putting together my scene outline–it’s quite nifty!

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Here’s a screenshot of Write or Die’s setup screen (along with my typical settings–I’ll probably modify these tomorrow). If you want to see it in action, just punch it into YouTube and you’ll find some videos–it’s pretty awesome if you need a little encouragement to get some writing done!

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Well that about sums it up for this quick blog post. I’ll be recording my progress every 2 hours, and will likely be tweeting some pictures of the progress.

Be sure to follow along (@mattabooks) and #50KDayOne.


NaNoWriMo Challenge!

It’s that time of the year again–November! For those of you not in the know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s the one month of the year when people from all around the world (we’re all one “nation” under some higher authority, right?) huddle together in every nook and cranny of every Starbucks they can find in an attempt to write a novel. More specifically, they’re trying to write 50,000 words of a novel within the month–and then they’ll be winners, and then there will be rejoicing, and then there will be women. And that’s what we’re all after, isn’t it?

For those of you who HAVEN’T written a novel (I’m guessing most of you fall under this category…), 50,000 words is about 250 pages of a printed book. Now, those pages aren’t your piddly little double spaced, 5-inch margin joints that you handed to your professor after an all-night cram session the night before your term paper was due. Those pages are 250 leaflets of blood, sweat, and tears. And then more tears.

Think back on high school when you groaned and balked because of your 500-word homework assignment. Now multiply that by 100. Now cry. Now rock back and forth… and cry some more.

For the average writer, 50,000 words in a single month is a monumental task, reserved for the most dedicated of dedicated souls. Successful completion means cars, women, booze, blow, and women. There are no delusions of grandeur here. Last year, I was among the most dedicated of dedicated. I climbed to the top of No Life Mountain and declared myself Victorious. I would never make this shit up.

So why am I taking the time to explain what NaNoWriMo is all about?

Because I’m about to take it to the next level.

What’s so special about writing 50,000 words in one month? Been there, done that, and the t-shirt was lame. This year I want to climb No Life Mountain and I want to build my castle on top, like Emperor Kuzko with his charming summer retreat.

This year I’m going to write 50,000 words in one day.

November 1st.

Yep… you read that right.

November the First.

Screw National Novel Writing Month, I’ll be dining on NaNoWriDa, this year. Thank you very much.

By the 2nd of November, I will have completed 50,000 words of my next novel.

How insane is this? Well, let’s break it down…

To write 50,000 words in 24 hours, I’ll need to be writing at a pace of 2,084 words an hour. That little gem of a number breaks down to roughly 35 words per minute.

35 words per minute.

All Day.

I know people who would be happy to maintain a pace of 35 words per minute for 60 minutes a day. Forget about 1,440 minutes in a row.

In short, I’m writing this to let you know that I’m a certified crazy person. Come the 2nd, my fingers may only exist as piles of fleshy mess caked to the top of my keyboard, my mouth may only speak in tongues understandable by the imaginary people floating in my head, and I will most assuredly be in desperate need of a shower.

But I will be victorious.

I’m not going to lie… I’m scared. But I’m also excited. Life gets exciting when you push yourself, when you really find out what you’re capable of doing.

I hope you will be there to cheer me on. I’m going to need your words of encouragement to carry me through.

Now I’m off to get my mountain climbing gear ready. It’s going to be a long day.

PS–the above post was 603 words long… WTF am I thinking?! )


It’s September!… 2013…

So I haven’t updated this blog in entirely too long, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing. Starting around the time of my last blog post (July 2012), I started writing under pseudonyms. I never finished editing my manuscript, for various reasons, and decided to get more writing practice and business acumen before returning to some of the early stuff that I had planned.

Well, I’m happy to say, that time is drawing very near. I’ve published a few novels already, and have cleared more than 13,000 in sales! Incredible! I haven’t gone public with my successful pseudonym, and I’m not sure that I ever will, but I have learned quite a bit along the way. I’m about ready to apply what I’ve learned to some other works that I’d like to return to.

That said, one of my goals for this month is to write 100,000 words. That’s a monumental task–I think the most I’ve written before is around 60-70K (which is still pretty impressive). Those words aren’t all going to come from one novel, though most of them will. I want to publicly blog my progress throughout the month so as to keep myself accountable.

With that, I’m going to end this quick post. I’ll be posting throughout the month with my progress, and hopefully I’ll be able to figure out how to include a little progress tracker in the sidebar for a better visual representation.

I hope everyone’s had a great summer. It’s time to get to work!


My Work Space

So I’m plugging away at the first major edit/revision of the novel and thought I would take a quick picture of what my workstation looks like. It’s simple and to the point, and pretty plain. The window overlooking my backyard adds some pleasant scenery – especially since it’s been raining here in Houston for the last week straight.

The edits are coming along nicely, though taking more time than I had anticipated (this problem is more compounded by the fact that when things go slowly I tend to get distracted more often – it’s a vicious cycle). I will be making a huge push both today and tomorrow to get as much completed as possible. I want the manuscript in the hands of my editor ASAP – but at the same time I don’t want to compromise quality. I’m willing to get it to him a bit ahead of when I am 100% done revising just to get comments on high level topics (flow, structure, themes, plot, etc); and while he reads it I can continue to hone and sharpen the prose.

The next major step after finishing the edits will be to engage a cover artist. I had a really good time when I pulled together BROKEN and am looking forward to this part of the process again. Once that is complete, I’ll begin both preparing and executing my marketing plan. Formal marketing will begin prior to the release of the book, which should help sales – hopefully ;).

OK, now it’s time to get back to work. Just thought I’d make a quick post since I feel like I don’t post nearly enough :).


Symmetry In Life

First off, I am sorry for not updating this blog more frequently. It was my goal to update this a bit more often; then I began focusing on my own writing and the blog went to the wayside. Such is life; I’ll try not to let it happen again.

Things have been pretty exciting for me lately. The release of my first short story BROKEN went more or less as I had expected to go. The sales from the first month weren’t anything to write home about. I never believed they would be. It was more of a trial run so as to better learn the process of self publishing along with assist me to better set my expectations in the future.

I have been working on the follow up novel and have nearly completed a full outline as well as written the first draft of Act 1. Once I have completed the full outline (hopefully this weekend; read: tomorrow) the writing will come quickly as I will know exactly where the story is going and what needs to happen. Knowing where I’m going and being able to write quickly is important because I have some other big news to share that has been the inspiration for the title of this post.

At the end of this month I am moving back to Houston. I have lived in Phoenix for nearly 18 years so this i going to be quite the move for me. I was born in Houston and lived there until I was the ripe old age of 12. At the time the move to Phoenix was traumatic and took a lot to get used to; but it has definitely played a very large part in shaping who I am today.

The impending move has sparked quite a few thoughts to contemplate lately. The thought of “returning home” has crossed my mind. This thought begs the question: where is home? Many of my family would likely say that Houston is home to me. How can it be home when I’ve spent 18 of my 30 years in Arizona? Surely the roots of my family run very deep there, but the roots of me run very deep in the desert.

Another thing I’ve contemplated is the life of my mother. She uprooted her family and moved them to Phoenix just before her 30th birthday; and here I am uprooting my own life and moving back to Houston just after mine. I remember back on those early days in Phoenix and try to imagine myself being in her shoes. I’m reminded that, while the adults in our life may look like they have things all figured out, it’s much more likely that they’re just winging it and making the best of the circumstances they’re given.

Despite my cool and collected demeanor lies a man who has no idea what the future holds for him. A man who lies awake in the dark of the night wondering what the next day will bring. The unknown is exciting, exhilarating, inspiring, and terrifying.

I’d like to think that I’m moving forward to something new rather than moving back home. My future is as known as next month’s weather forecast. Things are going to  change no matter the choices I make, so it’s my job to make the most of the situations I’m given.


Free The Distractions

Today should be a busy day. According to my calendar I’ll be getting through 3K words of a new story I’m working on, along with doing a final revision of my first short story, BROKEN. I haven’t been able to hit my 3K mark yet this week, but perhaps today will be different.


Yesterday I only made it to about 1K words (which is pathetic when considering my goals) but I was able to finalize the cover art for BROKEN. I’m very excited about it and feel that I really lucked out. I’ll do another post later this month when I publish the book on Amazon and I will debut the cover art for everyone to see. I was also able to get some time in on updating this very web site. I’ve never created my own site so there is a bit to learn (though to be honest it’s not incredibly difficult). I hope to get the site in rough working order by the end of the week (including an author bio and some pictures or art work).


In the mean time, I need to get back to writing. 3K words can be daunting for me due to the fact that I’m easily distracted. I’ll be doing a more in depth post later on regarding the goals I have outlined for myself. Successful creation and completion of goals are what allow people to succeed and anything they want to do with their life, and I need to renew my focus on mine.