Friday, December 30, 2011

Freelancing: Fiction and Reality

I was experiencing a dream in fiction, then I discovered the ultimate reality of my dream. Let me explain. These past two weeks I dedicated myself to the editing and partial rewriting of my novel The Masterless Apprentice. I arrived home from college late at night. I hugged my parents, talked a little bit, and then went to bed. The next morning, a Saturday, my alarm went off at 6:30AM. I got up, showered, dressed, and grabbed a breakfast of bagels and Shredded Wheat. Precisely at 7:00AM, after checking my e-mail, I got to work on my novel.

I started at page thirty because I had done some editing while at college. Two hundred and ninety pages left to go before the 31st of this month. That was my goal and I have beaten my goal by two days! For a while, those first few days, I was living my dream. I was living, working all day, as a writer and making progress at it. I wrote several short stories, a book review, a devotional, and made good progress on the editing during those few days. I worked 7AM to 5PM. My watchwords were dedication and quick meals.

I was in paradise for those days. Then came the holidays and my demise. I transferred from my fictional dream of what freelancing is like to my probable reality. I liken it to being a young, single freelance writer and being a married freelance writer. My probable reality is the married freelancer with kids and parties to help with.  Instead of 7 through 5 solid writing, my days became something more like 7 to 10 writing, do some housekeeping, 11  to 12 write, 1:00PM to 3:00PM write after having lunch with family, 3:00 to 5:00 PM watch children. I did a lot of catch-up work late at night.

My fiction world faded last Wednesday. Ever since then I've been living in what I imagine my probable reality. I am sure I would have failed my goal if I had given up on my watchword, dedication. During the second week of probable reality I stopped writing short stories, only did one book review, and dedicated my every writing hour and spare time to editing my novel. Yesterday, the 29th, I finished the editing process. I then went back through my comments and rewrote parts that needed rewriting. The novel still needs some work, but I feel that it has improved greatly since the beginning of these two weeks.

Honestly, there were times where my motivation sunk to a terrible low. These were painful times when dedication became as a rope covered in ice, by which I hung with one sore hand. I clung on though, I clung on for my life. Sometimes that is all the writer can do when it comes to editing and rewriting. Laying the words out unto the paper (or computer document) is relatively easy in comparison to the final editing and rewriting process in which we polish our work. At least, this is my opinion about such differences in difficulty levels.  If you have a different view, please, let me now.

Joshua A. Spotts

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Subconscious Experience #2

Christmas is gone. It has passed by once again. I am not too sad, it will come again next year. Christmas seems to be an eternal celebration. At least, it is a very reliable one. The reliability of Christmas reminds me of how I rely on my savior, Jesus Christ. I rely on the fact that Christmas will come again in the same way I rely on the fact that Christ has saved me from my sins. I wish I could spend this entire blog post speculating on Christmas, but I promised to continue my considerations from the last post. I, Joshua A. Spotts, do not break my promises. At least, I sincerely try not to. ;) But I am a fallen human.

Here goes. In my last post I discussed a writer's sense of color and their symbolic meaning. The attributes put forth in this post will be less specific and easily applicable to the dedicated reader. But all writers are readers, aren't we?

Born writers enjoy reading and discussing books with their friends. I know that I saw deeper into the books than any of my friends and have a knack for analyzing a book's positives and negatives. I can also see deeper into the characters and predict what is going to happen much more easily than my friends, with the exception of one, who is a writer himself. This attribute applies to movies as well. My friend Nathan Sturgis, an expert at predicting things and a fellow writer, has cemented this observation in my mind.

Born writers have an active imagination even when grown out of childhood. This is one of the traits that places me particularly at the knife's edge of some people's patience. I tend to drift off in my thoughts if the current things happening around me aren't strong enough to keep my mind anchored down. Sometimes I even give myself away to a character that has been on my mind.

There a vast treasure chests full of peculiarities and traits of born writers. I cannot even began to examine all of them, so I have placed before you the three most common attributes within this post and the last. Many of the peculiarities of born writers are personal and scattered. Yet there are many more that unite us all. Indeed, I attended a writer's conference once and found it so very easy to talk to the people there. We all had one connection, we were writers. Sure, we wrote in different genres, different styles, but we were all brave warriors. We writers must be brave to occupy this career of ours!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Subconscious Existence #1

Let's not deny it, writing is a gift. There are certain people who are born writers. Then there are those who choose to become writers and, given enough training, practice and perseverance, they can do so. I am not advocating whether or not people who aren't born writers should become writers or not. I am not saying that born writers are better than people who work really hard to become writers. I am simply saying that the ability to write is a gift and certain people have what I like to call "A Writer's Mind." {reference to title, eh? ;)} 

Here I want to concentrate on the subconscious existent of the born writer, untrained as he may be. I will use a story to illustrate one of the attributes of a born writer.

When I was younger I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I did not realize all the vast areas to be a writer in. I was set on being a novelist, but I was not very good. I could describe a scene, but I could not make the readers feel what I wanted them to feel. In truth, looking back, I despise what I was. Yet being that made me what I am today. And I am a much, much better writer today. Well, I'm rabbit trailing again. It is time to slap myself upside the head and get on to the story.

I entered the house and frowned. It seemed bright and cozy enough, but something told me otherwise. The blood red couches and the black carpet and walls made me feel something. I could not place it. A black and grey picture of a child in the rain hung on the wall above the black entertainment cabinet. Above the red couches hung a picture of a stone street. On it stood a man and woman. Rain rushed down from above, splashing off an umbrella as the woman pulled the man towards her. The entire picture was black and white except for her lips, they were bright red.

Moving on into the kitchen I was confronted by bright red appliances and black marble counter tops. I was amazed at the wife's obsession with those colors. But I was even more amazed at the indescribable feeling in my gut while I sat in that red and black house. I knew I used those colors to bring a sense of foreboding into a scene, but foreboding was all I knew they provided. Ultimately my feeling about that house of those colors was right. The relationship broke and died. It caused great pain.

A few years later I was told that red symbolized pain and black symbolized death. I had discovered this beforehand, but the memories of that house flooded back into my mind afresh. Now I'm not saying anyone with a black and red interior for their house is going to get a divorce, but I am saying there was something in her character that made her obsession with those colors pop out at me. As a writer I analyze everything, most of the time subconsciously. It was my subconscious that was warning me of the relationship in that house and its ultimate end. The ability to understand color symbolism and use it effectively, to show and to know, is one of the subconscious traits of a born writer. By subconscious I mean without the writer having to concentrate and bring the thoughts to the foreground of the mind.

I shall continue considering these traits of the born writer next week. For now, may you all have a very merry Christmas!

Joshua A. Spotts

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The internet is a massive community. The more someone interacts with it, the more they get from it. Guest-blogs work in much the same way. In the basic scheme of blogging, guest-bloggers are fellow bloggers that you invite to write a blog post on your blog. It is a mutually benefiting thing. The guest-blogger gets exposure to new people and the host-blogger, not only is he freed from having to write a blog post, he often times gets some exposure to the guest-blogger's readers as well. Another benefit for the host-blogger is the fact that the guest post is likely to be very good, seeing as the guest-blogger wants to attract attention.

With all this being said, I want to announce to you, my dear readers, that I have written a guest post! It is a very interesting post. I was able to use an illustration I had always wanted to. So, if you will take a look at it I would be very appreciative.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Schedule an Edit

6:30 AM. The red numbers on my alarm clock declare. I stare at it for a moment as the perpetual beeping progresses up in volume. I don't see the numbers at that time in the morning. All I see is a red blur. I slip on my glasses and the world becomes solid and shapely once again. I see new numbers, 6:35. My finger seems to switch of the alarm by itself as I sit up in bed.

Stark reality slapped me as I got out of bed and felt the icy floor beneath my bare feet. I curled my toes inward, raising myself on them, to avoid full contact with the sheet of ice that made up my floor. At least, that's what it felt like so early in the morning. I wondered if I was still sleeping, but this feeling was too familiar, as if it had happened several times recently, for it to be one of my dreams. As I put on my slippers I knew this sharp world to be reality because, fortunate me, I received a present from the floor. A sliver.

Well, 'tis the season of giving, I thought as I pulled the sliver out. Heading downstairs my mom caught me, not literally of course. I'm not that clumsy. She asked me to get my little sister up. I knew it wasn't seven yet; I had time. However, getting a little girl up and ready for school takes a lot more time than I had anticipated. By the time I got back here to my desk, it was 7:30 AM. I was a half hour late.

Welcome to my Christmas break! It turns out I get up earlier on break than in school. You see, I dedicated the hours 7AM to 5PM as editing/rewriting/writing time. Most of that time is used editing my novel The Masterless Apprentice.  I plan to have the novel through two edits by the end of this break. I also plan to write two short stories, one under 1200 words and the other above 1500 words, by the 31st. These were my goals coming into this break and they will be my completed goals heading out.

Sometimes I have to take breaks to help my parents with the kids. For example, today I am going to drive my little brother to his Basketball practice and back. But, nevertheless, setting the time frame of 7AM-5PM for my writing day (often I'm working later too) has helped my make great headway toward my goals. I force myself to bed at 11 each night so I can be, at least, moderately rested for the next day. Tomorrow morning I'll wake up at 6:30 again, but hopefully this morning's process will not repeat itself. Maybe it would be a good idea just to sleep here at my desk.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The god Writer's Block

I'm feeling funny, perhaps someone is tickling me. One moment. Oh, I guess not. So, Writer's Block. Yep, I just capitalized it. Why? Well, to some writers It is a god. It controls them and frustrates them, yet they worship it. They cannot be free of it, but they use it willingly as an excuse. I know how it feels. I have experienced the ice block your brain becomes when there is no inspiration to provide heat. So, in fear of that cold pain, you turned to the god Writer's Block. I know why you did it. I, too, fell prey to that fiendish demon of our invention. Writer's Block is an excuse of the weak. Be strong, fellow writers, conquer that demon. Keep writing, it is the only way to destroy Writer's Block. But, for your amusement, I have compiled a list of things that people try or that I have just invented. It is for you to judge which are which.

1. Pace, like a lion! There is nothing like walking in circles to get the old ice block melting. Friction does that right? Admittedly, I do this while I am writing, but NOT while I have told myself I am a victim of Writer's Block. It just doesn't work if you keep dwelling on the Block.

2. Stop sitting at the desk and staring at the screen. Get up! Go and watch a movie then come back. Sometimes this has worked for me, but only when I need to mull over an idea. Once again, it will not work if you continue to worship Writer's Block.

3. Stand two thumbtacks upright on your desk and hover your wrists over them while you concentrate on your computer screen. In this way, if you give up, a sharp prod will remind you to keep staring. Just keep concentrating, eventually you will overcome your own mental block...that you put there...that you are maintaining....let me know how that works out.

Well, that was a short list, but I think I got my point across. The only real way to stop worshiping the god Writer's Block is to develop the mental attitude required to just discard the excuse of Writer's Block and just get on with writing. Who cares if the first draft comes out terribly, at least it came out, at least you have progress! Sit in your seat, stop complaining about the Block, and get to writing. You can edit later, comrades, just keep writing!

P.S. Any other methods of dispelling writer's block? Perhaps an argument for a working cure? A method of motivation? Please, let me know your stories. Post in the comments section or e-mail me at

Joshua A. Spotts

Keep on writing!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Final Chicken

For this week's weekly challenge I decided to write something different than I normally would. It was an interesting experience. I formed the entire story from my head, I never experienced anything like it, yet there is a strange connection. I think the connection grows from my being its creator. Ah, well, enough speculations. I'll let you read the story for yourself and decide whether I am any good at this different genre (modern-day, slight romance, bullies, and a bit of funny).

The Final Chicken
By Joshua A. Spotts (Final/Stare/Elated)
Ben Bean glanced around the corner. They were there. He pressed his back tight up to the wall, so tight that he felt the indents between the linoleum tiles. He inhaled the pungent mix of cologne, sweat, perfume, and shampoo. A football player and a cheerleader, how original, he thought. He almost choked on powerful scent, but he stopped himself from coughing. He heard their footsteps approaching. It was time to run.
His sneakers squeaked as he bolted from his hiding place. He heard their gruff shouts. They were giving chase. The hallway seemed to shake with their pounding feet. The sneakers squeaked again as Ben made a sharp turn to the right. He dodged into a bathroom. The door swung shut. The picture of a stick figure is a dress smiled at Ben’s pursuers as they barged into the boys’ bathroom.
Glad it’s after hours. Ben thought as he unlatched the narrow window close to the ceiling. He grabbed the outside ledge and pulled himself up from the sink where he had stood. He tumbled face first toward the ground. He flipped and landed on his feet like a cat. One hand went deep into the dirt and he brushed it off on his pants. As Ben mounted the bus he saw the bullies rush from the school. “Get back here, you chicken!”
The bus pulled away and headed up the street. I may be a chicken, Ben thought, but I’m still alive. He eased his skinny frame into the torn, vinyl bus seat. His heart’s pace slowed. It no longer ran a marathon. It rested, but Ben knew it could not rest for long. Tomorrow they would chase him again and he would escape again; at least, he hoped he would.
The next day crept in much as it always did for Ben. His alarm screeched in his ears and his eyes snapped open, welcoming his mind back to consciousness with the picture of his little sister standing above him with a syrup container. “Emily!”
She giggled and rushed from his room. Ben felt the cold panels of the wooden floor beneath his feet as he stumbled over to the closet mirror. He saw a reflection of himself, the zombie version that is. He ran a numb hand through his hair. He patted it down and stumbled down the stairs, following the scent of his mother’s waffle iron. He rounded the corner, elated that she was not making her infamous blueberry waffles. Those were the ones she always burned.
 The bus came at the exact same time as it did every day. So far, so good, Ben thought as he sat in his seat. But something was different that day. There, in his seat, right beside him, sat a girl. He had to glance at her twice before he fully realized that she was a girl. She did not dress in the same promiscuous way as the other girls. Her hair was pulled into the gentle pony-tail, brown and long. Ben could not help but stare at her.
“Excuse me,” Ben choked on his words, coughing into his sleeve.
 “Pardon,” she turned towards him, as if noticing him for the first time.
“I said, ‘excuse me,’ but I do not remember ever seeing you on this bus before.”
“You haven’t.” A twinkle vanished from her eye the instant it appeared. “I am Claire, Claire O’Carie that is.”
“I am Ben Bean.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“I am sure, gah.” Ben slapped his forehead. “I didn’t mean to say that.”
Claire chuckled, it wasn’t high-pitched, but it wasn’t disturbingly deep either. In fact, it was perfect. “You are funny, Ben.”
“I try.” Ben blushed and turned away. “You’re new to the school then?”
 “Would you like to be shown around today?” Ben knew he might be involving her in his own war, but he didn’t realize it until the words escaped.
“That would be wonderful. How generous of you,” Claire declared.
 Isn’t it? Ben mused. 

He exited the bus before her, glanced both ways and then, in a bold move, grabbed her hand. Before she could object he pulled her into the school. She jerked her hand from him, but felt a small tingle in her heart. She reprimanded him. “What do you think you were doing?”
 “I don’t know what I’m doing currently.” Ben told her. The sincerity in his eyes informed her that she needn’t worry about his strange behavior. After all, there is a story behind everything.
The couple made it through most of the classes that day. Claire laughed several times at Ben’s witty comments and Ben felt calmer around her. He stopped glancing over his shoulder. He was at peace. He had broken every line of his personal security that had once governed his existence. He did not know it, but he was about to break the final line.
When the classes ended that day, Ben stepped from the classroom. Claire grabbed his hand, entwining her fingers with his. They were there. They stood before them. The bullies had ambushed Ben, something that would not have happened before. “Hello, chicken! Why don’t you run?”
“I am done running. This is the final line I am drawing. It is here that I will stand.” Ben quoted from one of his own poems. He squeezed Claire’s hand. It gave him courage and purpose. It gave him a reason to stand up for himself and break that final line he had established.
The head bully gave Ben a hard shove. It sent him stumbling back, but he did not fall. Claire upheld him. Ben Bean squared his shoulders and gripped her hand. The bullies slapped him around a bit, but he stayed upright, Claire was behind him. The head bully spoke. “Come on guys, this isn’t any fun anymore.”
His minions followed him away and Ben Bean and Claire O’Carie lived on in peace.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Headaches and Paragraphs

Oh, the tragedy! Alas, forsooth, and all that mumbo-jumbo! I forgot to post yesterday. I feel as though I am eternally shamed. I have failed my readers and I apologize from the very entirety of my soul. With all that said, I'll move onward to today's topic: paragraphs.

Remember when you were in that English course in High School or College? Remember that massive compilation of tiny print classics. For the writers, I am sure that you enjoyed the classics or, at least, recognized the art in them. You all know that feeling of dread when you cracked open that dumbbell-weighted volume and saw a massive block of text spanning two whole pages.

In their book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Browne and King warn writers to "be on the lookout for paragraphs that run more than, say, a half-page in length." Our purpose as writers not only entails giving the reader pleasure, but teaching him something as well. How can we teach the readers anything if they only open to page one before closing our book and leaving with a headache? The answer in each and every one of your heads is simply, "we can't!" So, fellow writers, look out for those long paragraphs.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tech Black Out

Last night at approximately 10:30pm the internet at Taylor University slowed way down. Some websites wouldn't even load. Youtube videos were interrupted. Hulu made people mad. Gmail became equivalent to Snail-mail. It seemed that in those darkest of technological hours Facebook was the only thing that worked, but only slightly. I was amazed at the reactions. It was as if the world had imploded. It is amazing how much people rely on something they take for granted and then, when it is gone, they feel that it is owed them.

As a Christian, I find it sad when I reflect on the reality of this with my fellow Christ-followers. I have seen a growing amount of passive Christianity. I must admit that I too am guilty of this at times. The gift of God in His son Jesus Christ's death is an amazing reality that we take for granted and overlook. At times even, we feel that He owes it to us! I cannot express how ludicrously terrible this feeling is. The gift of Christ is freely given and freely received, but it is NOT to be undervalued and we are NOT owed it. A gift is not a debt.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Home, sweet or sad? 'Tis still home.

It is good to be home. My brother and sister are here along with my aunt and uncle. My Grandma was also here for awhile. It is amazing how my family can gather so quickly, interact, and go our separate ways still bound by love's tie. I appreciate my family. I apologize that this blog post isn't as deep or profound or interesting as some of my others, but I spent most of my day in school, traveling, and then spending time with my family.

In brief, I want to say that my family is a wonderful source for writing material because we are not always happy-dory, we have our sad moments, our wrong choices. We are, however, still a family and will always remain as such. Think about what you can be thankful for about your family as we transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, both seasons should be about thanksgiving and, if you think about it, both seasons are about giving. There will be more on that come Tuesday.

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