Tag Archives: Writing Biz

“How to Write Funny,” this Saturday

This Saturday, May 26th, I’ll be teaching an online workshop called “How to Write Funny.” The focus of the class will be how to refine and improve your written humor using some very intuitive techniques.

Being “born funny” is absolutely not required. It helps a little, but understanding these techniques will make your written humor better. You’ll also be better equipped to troubleshoot jokes that aren’t working, whether they don’t fit the tone of the rest of the piece, or because for some reason they’re just not coming across funny.

We’ll explore these techniques by looking at examples, both good and bad, and by applying the tools to some of these examples to see how things can be improved.

The class is $99, and it’s a class, not a comedy routine. Funny things will certainly be said, but only so we can take them apart and re-assemble them to be funnier than before.

NOTE: we are only recording this workshop for the use of the students at the streamed session, and seating is limited.


Our Slightly Ambitious Goals for 2018

We just sent the files for Random Access Memorabilia: Schlock Mercenary Book 13 off to the printer¹. Yes, we sent those about three months later than we wanted to, but they’re off, and we know what went wrong with our process.

It’ll be the first book we publish in 2018. Our goal is to publish two more: Broken Wind, and Delegates and Delegation. The current plan is to gang those print jobs together, so that you can save money on shipping while still getting both books as soon as they release.

Sandra has the core content for those books—two and a half years of daily TIF files—at her workstation, and is laying them out in InDesign. I’ve got a stack of notes for making cover art, and we’re looking at bonus story outlines together.

Meanwhile, running in parallel, we’re planning a t-shirt project. Designs are being refined, and we’re maybe a month out from a shirt-specific Kickstarter. This was one of the stretch goals from the Random Access Memorabilia project, and we’re excited to make good on it. We’ve engaged a designer, and have budgeted for prototypes and all that other stuff that needs to happen in order to ensure that we only make the best stuff.

Alongside that we’re designing the Planet Mercenary 2018 GenCon Adventure, which will be a single-session module for four to eight players, similar in scope to “The Damaxuri Deception” and “Size Might Matter,” but along a different mission continuity².

And of course there’s the daily comic, which continues to update daily despite the universe’s best half-handed attempts to interfere with the schedule³. These daily installments are significant, because the current outline for the Schlock Mercenary mega-arc has the story of Tagon’s Toughs wrapping up triumphantly just two and one-half books from today. We’re about halfway through Book 18, and “The End” lands at the end of Book 20. We’re writing our way toward that point right now.

As I’ve said before, “The End” will not mean an end to daily updates. It will simply bring closure to most of the characters we’ve been following for (by then) twenty years. The next day there will be another Schlock Mercenary strip, but familiarity with prior art won’t be required to enjoy it.

This brings me back around to our 2018 goals. If we release three print editions this year, then the current online volume, Book 18, will end in the same calendar year as the publication of books 13, 14, and 15. Should the schedule work out well, we shall endeavor to do it again in 2019, with Book 19 ending online in the same calendar year as the print publication of books 16, 17, and 18.

You see where this is leading, right? Our ultimate goal is for the print editions of books 19 and 20, the final volumes in the twenty year (seriously, it feels weird saying that) telling of the story of Tagon’s Toughs, to be available at about the same time Book 20 wraps up on the web. Our 2018 goals are tied very closely to our goals for 2019 and 2020, and the next three years can be considered on some level as a single project which fulfills the past eighteen years of work we’ve done.

This is ambitious, but among the many things we’ve learned in the last eighteen years it’s that we can do difficult things, and things that younger versions of ourselves would have thought impossible are merely challenging.

New Year’s Resolutions are lovely and useful, but Sandra and I don’t currently have the luxury of planning everything one year at a time.

¹ The cover image here is not the final image. It just happened to be handy. 
² The cover image here is from the Planet Mercenary core book, and coincidentally depicts a bit of the landscape upon which the current outline places the adventure in question.
³  Aside from six bouts with pneumonia, a separated shoulder, and that one time the UPS exploded in the data center where schlockmercenary.com lived, the universe hasn’t really been trying all that hard to stop the daily updates. And I’m quite happy for the lazy universe to keep not throwing meteors. The current difficulty level is just fine, thank you.

That One YA Dystopia With The Ridiculous Premise

You know that one YA novel? The dystopia with the ridiculous premise? Well, my fourteen-year-old daughter was given an assignment to write a similar sort of story. Specifically, the assignment was as follows:

Create a dystopia in which one of the rules of our society is either no longer a rule, or is enforced to an extreme. Write a story* in this setting.

(*I do not know what word-count was assigned, but I’m going to assume it was something less than novel-length.)

I struggle to enjoy that one YA novel with the ridiculous premise, but as assignments for fourteen-year-olds go, this is pretty awesome. “Take a piece of our world and change it. Now pour enough thought into it that you can tell an actual story.” I like assignments that require synthesis rather than regurgitation, and to me this is the very best kind.

I’ve recently made peace with the ridiculous premise of that one YA dystopia, but only by treating it as a thought experiment played out as a story, and designed to capture the imagination of the reader. The reader can then play out the same sort of world building exercise my daughter was assigned, and begin thinking about how our world might actually change in the future,  mulling over the full suite of implications rather than going all in on one ridiculous premise. It’s not prognostication, or futurism, but it builds the brain-muscles required for that sort of activity.

The pot is totally calling out the kettle for its fire-blackened state here, of course. I write comedic social satire wrapped in a future that is “plausible” in the same way that distilled water is a useful construction material. I have to carefully maintain some conditions, and occasionally throw some blinders on the the reader in order to prevent them from melting the whole thing down.  But this very exercise shows me exactly where the blinders are when I’m consuming that one YA dystopia, and I’m not very far into it before I realize that the scaffolding of the world has turned into a puddle, and now I’m sitting in it.

I appreciate how much thought got poured into that puddle, but that doesn’t mean I have to love having wet pants.

Naked in Public

Today I published my creative non-fiction story, “No. I’m Fine.”

NoI'mFine-CoverIt’s just 1,730 words long. It’s free. It’s here.

It’s intensely personal and it makes me nervous to have it out there, but I want people to be able to read it, and maybe understand their depressed, anxious, or otherwise mentally-challenged friends.  Of course, in order to accomplish that I let the reader all the way inside my head.

So. Naked in public.

The publishing process–making an ebook out of a Word document–was educational, and very time-consuming. I still don’t know how to add the cover image shown here to the epub and mobi files, at least not without buying software for the job. Also, I learned that I can’t make an ebook “always free” on Amazon. I don’t want to charge money for this, and I certainly don’t want to make people pay Amazon in order to read it.

But the salient point is that it’s available, and you can read it for free, and after reviewing the feedback from a bunch of volunteer beta-readers, I’m pretty sure you can read it on just about any device.