Talking NaNoWriMo and Trek over at StarTrek.com!

Ah, November.

It’s the month writers of every stripe anticipate or loathe; that period of thirty days where many take the challenge of casting aside anything and everything as they attempt to write 50,000 words as either a short novel or a pretty decent chunk of a longer one.

That’s right. National Novel Writing Month is once again upon us.

While I’ve participated in this exercise a few times, myself, this year I don’t find myself in the position of writing a novel during this time of year, and for that I say HUZZAH! Yes, I do have other writing projects on my plate, but they’re smaller efforts which all told will I don’t believe will add up to a 50k, so I can’t even fudge a bit by combining them for NaNoWriMo purposes.

For those of who you are taking the challenge and especially those of you who may be doing so for the first time EVAH, I’ve taken the liberty of pulling together some nuggets of unsolicited writing advice for a new piece posted on StarTrek.com. With that in mind, I’ve included emphasis on how I’ve previously used the NaNoWriMo challenge as a way of logging some serious progress for a few different Star Trek novel projects over the years. The result is a new piece now available for your reading, dining, and dancing pleasure

StarTrek.com: Trekking Through National Novel Writing Month

STdotcom-NaNoWriMo

The fine folks over at the website also posted a companion piece, written from the point of view of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Jake Sisko, the resident writer within the Star Trek universe, who also offers a few tips for achieving NaNoWriMo success:

StarTrek.com: Jake Sisko’s Do’s and Don’ts for #NaNoWriMo

JakeSisk-NaNoWriMo

Many thanks to the good folks over at StarTrek.com for inviting me to come play in their sandbox for a bit. It’s entirely possible I may be showing up there again in the near future. Muwah-ah-ah.

Talking about writing Star Trek novels with David R. George III and Trek.fm!

For reasons which continue to surpass my level of understanding, people want to talk to me. About writing.

Further, they want to record what I have to say on the subject and make it available for other people to hear. Like it’s some kind of punishment or humiliating task they need to accomplish before they can pledge to a fraternity or sorority or something.

I don’t get it, but here we are. Again.

Sandwiched between the normal news updates and reviews from the world of Star Trek publishing in all its various forms, the latest episode of Trek.fm‘s Literary Treks podcast brings me together with friend and fellow Trek wordsmith David R. George III so the show’s hosts, Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther, can grill us about the crazy world of writing Star Trek novels.

Let’s face it, calling it “crazy” barely scratches the surface.

Over more than an hour, Bruce and Dan hit us with a pretty wide range of questions about this rather odd niche of writing. We discuss our secret origin stories and how we got into the game, the wickets a Star Trek story must go through from concept to finished novel, the differences between writing media tie-in fiction and original fiction, what “rules” exist when working with someone else’s characters and settings, collaborating with CBS, editors, and other writers to maintain something resembling consistency when working on larger efforts like ongoing series or “event series,” and the challenge a new writer faces when attempting to break into the realm. We even find a moment or two to lament the gone but not forgotten Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest, which we all know holds a special place for me.

Have a listen, if you’re of a mind to do so:

Literary Treks 276: There’s A Line We Can’t Cross

lt-276-th-sq-1440

Many thanks to Bruce and Dan for having me on the show once again, and also to David for inviting me to be his wingman for this outing. I hope we didn’t crush too many dreams, but if we did know it was done out of love.

Wait……what?

Today is “National Day On Writing!”

Wait, isn’t that supposed to be every day? Did I get a different memo from everybody else? Hmph.

Launched ten years ago by the National Council of Teachers of English, the “National Day On Writing” seeks to increase awareness about writing and its critical connection to literacy in our everyday lives. As posted on the NCTE’s website devoted to this day:

“You see, people tend to think of writing in terms of pencil-and-paper assignments, but no matter who you are, writing is part of your life. It’s part of how you work, how you learn, how you remember, and how you communicate. It gives voice to who you are and enables you to give voice to the things that matter to you.”

My wife and I are very fortunate in that both our daughters seem to have taken an interest in writing, whether it’s keeping a personal journal or writing stories and other papers for school. They’re also big readers, so you can bet I’m knocking on every piece of wood within reach.

Instilling an appreciation of writing as a necessary skill to navigating life is essential. For kids, this means both in school and at home, and includes challenging perceptions that some writing is somehow “better” or “more valuable” than others.

When you consider how much “casual writing” we all do every day (texting, e-Mail, Tweeting, Facebook, blogs, notes to self or others, etc.), and how much of it is dismissed for one reason or another, it starts to put things into perspective. Learning to appreciate all of that along with more traditional or “accepted” forms of writing as having its place when it comes to developing strong writing skills is important. Connecting it to the ability to read and research and to think and convey one’s thoughts is vital, especially when it comes to teaching our kids the value of writing not just as something “writers do” but what we all do in order to better communicate with others and even ourselves.

For more information about the National Day On Writing initiative and its goals, along with resources such as writing tips and other references and how to get involved furthering the message, be sure to visit their website:

Why I Write.

Oh, and check out the #WhyIWrite hashtag on Twitter to read inspiring (and sometimes humorous) insights from various folks about….well, why they write. Example:

So, you know, that’s me. Your mileage may vary. Tell me why! 🙂

Write on.

ReWard: The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.

Every once in a while, my little blog here strives to be something more than a platform for the shameless whoring of myself and my various scribblings. There are the infrequent reminiscences and ruminations about favorite books, films, or TV shows. On rare occasions, I might see fit to delve into a current events topic. Rarer still are those entries where I try to offer meaningful writing advice, or at least a pithy anecdote gleaned from my time in “the trenches” of writing for a so-called living.

This is one of those pieces.

A couple of years ago, while faced with a deadline to have a post ready for the Novel Spaces writing blog along with being caught up in the grips of a Writing Project That Would Not Die, I came up with a list of things that seem able to confront any writing project regardless of size or scope.

The result made for a handy Novel Spaces column, and now seems like a nice thing throw into this space as a “ReWard” piece, in a desperate bid to make this site look like it’s generating fresh content on a more or less regular schedule.

So, from January 2016, I offer the following:

Continue reading “ReWard: The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.”

Another scam targeting writers? An update!

best-story-award-
This could’ve been yours…if the price was right. $14.95, as it happens.

So, last night I spent a little time talking about something I along with…conservatively speaking….forty or fifty bazillion people on the internet took to be some kind of possible scam, which if true had apparently set its sights on the oh-so lucrative pastime of trying to separate inexperienced or maybe even desperate writers from their money.

(Would you like to know more? See “Another scam targeting writers?“)

When a fair number of those aforementioned forty or fifty bazillion people–most if not all of them some form of writer just trying to make their way pushing words through this crazy messed up world–took to their blogs or Facebook or Twitter or other venues to report, dissect, condemn, and generally mock the very same email I described in last night’s post, things quickly devolved to the point of absurdity, culminating in what can charitably be described as a dumpster fire shit show train wreck very poor attempt to “set the record straight.”

Presented here, without any edits or changes to formatting, is the *second* email I and most of those forty or fifty bazillion people received from this group:

Continue reading “Another scam targeting writers? An update!”

Another scam targeting writers?

Well, maybe “scam” is too harsh a word.

“Shady,” I can hear one of you saying. “What about ‘Shady,’ Dayton?”

Yeah, we’ll go with “Shady.” For the moment, anyway.

So, I get this email over the holiday weekend:


best-story-award-Dear Dayton,

I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas! My name is [redacted], I’m from the NY Literary Magazine.

Congratulations! You have been nominated for the “Best Story Award”.

Visit this page to submit your entry: [link removed]

Submission period ENDS on December 31st, 2017.

Happy Holidays!

The NY Literary Magazine

PS: You can now add to your bio and credentials that you are a Best Story Award 2017 Nominee.

The NY Literary Magazine is a distinguished print and digital magazine.

“The prestige of such literary awards is immense for an author…awards drive up sales” – The NY Times

“Can do wonders for your writing career… one of the best ways to get your writing noticed!” – Writer’s Digest


Holy dogshit, Private Joker! I’m a winner! They like me! They really like me, don’t they?

Wait. Hold on a minute. Let’s unpack this a bit.

Congratulations! You have been nominated for the “Best Story Award”.

Um…’scuse me? Hello? There seems to be something missing here. Hang on…it’ll come to me. Just give me a sec to think about it. Oh. Right!

The email didn’t list which story of mine had been “nominated,” or offer any hints that they meant “novel” or “short story” when they said “story.” This would seem to be a an important nugget of information at this juncture, don’t you think? I mean, *I* kinda sorta thought it might have a bearing on the direction of the conversation, and so on and so forth, but what the hell do *I* know?

Strike one.

Visit this page to submit your entry: [link removed]

Being the suspicious curious sort, I opted to click the link and see where it took me. Sure enough, I found myself at the oh-fish-eeee-al website of the NY Literary Magazine. What was waiting for me? The chance to submit a story to one of several categories they’ve identified. There are “only” 200 such “submissions” accepted each month, in each category, so I really needed to ACT NOW IF I WANT TO CLAIM MY SPOT.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a submission fee?

$14.95 a throw. Boom.

Now, there are some legit literary contests and journals that charge modest reading fees – a few bucks or so – to help offset the actual costs of running such competitions. However, assuming these folks get their 200 entrants for each category every month, and there are (at least) eleven categories, that’s a tidy little haul–almost $33,000–every 30 days or so, just for “reading fees.”

Oh, and that $14.95? It was the super dooper special Christmas discount price.

Strike two.

Then, just for giggles, I Googled those quotes listed in the email, like that one from The New York Times. You know, this one:

“The prestige of such literary awards is immense for an author…awards drive up sales.”

I’m happy to report that the quote is legitimate…..albeit from 1992 and pertaining to a completely different thing. So far as I can tell, the NY Literary Magazine‘s available online “archives” stretch all the way back to July 2016, so you know…hmmm…..

Strike three.

With all that said, I can’t come right and tell you conclusively that this is a scam. At best, it looks shady as fuck, and my Spidey sense was tingling the whole time. I therefore opted not to submit any story (duh), and I don’t think I’ll be adding “Best Story Award 2017 Nominee” to my CV.

Oh, and just to tie all of this up in a nice, neat bow, I saw on Facebook and Twitter that a whole lot of people got hit with this same email, which…if you think about it…would seem to sorta dilute the whole “exclusive” nature of the thing. Of course the email’s originators got roasted on those platforms and elsewhere. Meanwhile, a check of the “magazine’s” website now reveals this new message:

Due to technical issues, we are suspending further contest entries till we can resolve them, once our technical support is back to work from their holidays. Apologies, please email our support via our website contact form if you wish to be notified when entries are functional again.

Oh, those pesky “technical issues.” It always amazes me how they’re able to crop up at the most convenient worst possible times. Dang, y’all.

Strike four. Because I’m not the biggest baseball fan, that’s why.

So, if you got one of these emails or something like it from someone else and are understandably suspicious curious, my advice is to avoid this sort of thing with the same determination and zeal you’d exhibit if a horde of fire ants was bearing down on you and trying their damnedest to plant their flag on your taint.

But, I happen to like my taint unsullied by opportunistic fire ants. YMMV.
Write on, boys and girls.

ReWard: Writing for “Exposure?” We’re Still On That?

While culling through this morning’s batch of e-Mail, I came across not one but two — count ’em, TWO — “invitations” to write for someone or something. No payment was offered, of course, and the language of the e-Mails themselves suggested none would be forthcoming. Indeed, perhaps my even wondering about such things might be viewed as a crime against the purity of the written word, blah blah blah.

Yep, you guessed it: I’d been offered the chance to write “for the exposure.”

Setting aside my initial thought that I’d never heard of a) the people sending the e-Mail or b) the publishing endeavor they claimed to represent, I next reaction was, “Are you fucking kidding me? We’re still doing that?”

Of course we are.

A couple of years ago during my stint writing for the Novel Spaces blog, I wrote about the long debated “writing for exposure” chestnut. Rather than regurgitate the gist of that earlier column, I figured I’d just make a few updates and tweaks before regurgitating it in full right here! Read on:

Continue reading “ReWard: Writing for “Exposure?” We’re Still On That?”

ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

In one of the…let’s see, three, four, carry the one…six bazillion Facebook threads or updates I post, or the ones I visit, the topic of my personal writing “rules” came up. I was reminded of an “Ask Dayton” question I answered last year that touched on this very thing. On that occasion, I was asked about my “10 Commandments” of writing. I was also asked about my thoughts about such rules for existing in and moving through a fandom community, but the bulk of my long, bloated, meandering answer to the question was focused on the writing “rules” I was dreaming up.

After the more recent Facebook conversation, I dug up that post from last year, and tweaked the “Commandments” I had devised back then. For this go-around, I’ve removed the parts about “fandom” rules, because now I’m thinking they deserve their own post, too. We’ll see about that.

(NOTE: I thought about cleaning up the language a bit, since this was originally written for my curmudgeonly “Ask Dayton” persona, but I decided to leave it as is. You’ve been warned.)

So, without further ado, let’s revisit “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

Continue reading “ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.””

Ask Dayton #121 on the G and T Show: “Rewrite or Wrong?”

Well. Golly gee. Lookie what happened, today.

It’s been a while, but I finally was able to answer a query that’s been in my possession for the G and T Show‘s occasionally recurring “Ask Dayton” segment. I’ve had the question for awhile, but schedules and such kept me from getting to the poor thing.

What do we have this time around?

Dear Dayton,

How do organize your rewrites from first draft to finished manuscript?

Signed,
Dave Chapple

I can’t speak for other writers, but I lay my edits out in counterclockwise fashion.

Thanks for the question.

ask-dayton

Okay, okay, okay.

I don’t know that I’d call my rewriting process “organized.” I’m not even sure I’d call it “sensible.” I suppose if I had to classify this part of the writing cycle, it’d slot in somewhere between “necessary evil” and “too scared to submit this festering pile of elephant shit to my editor for fear of having a contract put out on me.”

Here’s my deal: I tend to edit and rewrite “as I go.” Basically, I might play with a sentence even as I’m writing it, trying out different words or phrases, or reordering it so that it flows better after the preceding sentence, and so on. Once I get a paragraph or two, or maybe even a whole page put down, I go back over that section and make sure it’s the way I want it, then repeat that process for as many times as it takes to complete the novel. Sometimes I get on a tear and write for longer periods without spending a lot of time reworking things, but usually I end up revisiting that output before moving on.

The result of all these shenanigans is that when I finally get to “The End,” the manuscript is probably eighty or eighty-five percent of where I want it to be. Next, I do what I call a “polishing draft,” which along with a check of spelling and whatnot is where I verify that I didn’t leave any plot threads unresolved, and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. You know, using a character killed in an earlier chapter, or turning a left-handed character right-handed, or flipping somebody’s gender, or whatever. Hey, goofy shit happens, sometimes.

What I don’t do is go over and over and over the manuscript multiple times, at least not before I deliver it to my editor. A writer I admire, Dean Wesley Smith, cautioned against that years ago, and it’s one of those bits of advice that’s stuck with me. Basically, he believed that all those rewrites usually served to drain the life or energy from whatever creative spark gave birth to the original story. Instead, he’s a big advocate of writing it, doing a quick edit, and calling it done. Over time, I adapted my process along those lines. Now, years later, I’m usually fairly confident that what I deliver to my editor is going to pass muster, and the notes I get back are almost always pretty minor.

It’s when I get the copyedited manuscript returned to me that I give the whole thing another, comprehensive read-through. At this point, it could be as much as two months since I last looked at the thing, so I’m able to bring fresh eyes to it. I also know that this is likely my last chance to make any major changes, so I take advantage of this window of time and fix things I’ve decided need revising all while addressing the copyeditor’s notes.

A month or so later, I’ll get the typeset manuscript, which is basically a PDF of what the final book will look like. This phase represents my last chance to make any sort of changes or fixes, and except for extreme circumstances those updates have to be very minor, like replacing a word choice or something similarly limited. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wild rides, like finding out that the entire middle section of a book was nothing but blank pages, or that the page headers at random intervals change to show a different author or book title. Yep, those are real things that really happened.

I think they do shit like that as a test to check whether I’m actually reading the damned thing.

So, there you go. That’s my process, which I’ll grant you might come off as six or seven different flavors of fucked up in the minds of some people, but hey! It works for me. I’ve developed this approach over time as I’ve grown accustomed to writing pretty much everything on a deadline. I simply don’t have the luxury of torturing myself with a manuscript or dicking around with “writer’s block” while waiting to engage my “muse.” There are bills to pay, faces to feed, and other projects waiting in the queue, so I’ve learned to just get on with it and leave the second-guessing at the door.

I can’t say I’d recommend my method to anyone who’s just starting out, and still finding their way through the various twists, turns, and other weirdness to be confronted as one attempts to tame the written word. As with pretty much every other piece of writing advice out there, your mileage may vary.

Good luck, you glutton for punishment, you.


This question and its answer was read during G&T Show Episode #270 on March 12th, 2017. You can hear Nick read the answers each week by listening live, or check out the replay/download options when the episode is loaded to their website: The G and T Show. Listeners are also encouraged to send in their own questions, one of which will be sent to me each week for a future episode.

As always, thanks to Nick, Terry and Mike for continuing to include me in their little podcasting games.

It’s a new interview! Because, that’s why.

dayton-speaknoevilOh, hell. What did I say this time?

Author/interviewer Michael Prelee put some questions to me a short while back, in the weeks leading up to the releases of Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone and Headlong Flight.

Unlike other Q&A sessions I’ve done in recent weeks that focused on those two new publications, my virtual sit-down with Mike was more general in nature, with the questions covering a variety of writing related topics. Everything from my secret origin story to how I balance(d) writing with the demand of a full-time job, my brief forays into editing, and why the short story format can be just so gosh-darned fun.

The result?

MichaelPrelee.com: An Interview with Author Dayton Ward

Hope you dig it, and many thanks to Mike for reaching out.