Guest Post: Sunk Costs in Writing

Because of the awesomeness of all my followers, I managed to secure a guest post from one of my good blogging friends, Leinad.  He’s been around for quite a while and has many good ideas and arguments about what I say, and even better ideas and arguments over at his own blog.  In his post he takes an interesting spin on writing motivation— I hope you enjoy it.


Hey, I’m Leinad — also known as Keras. You probably know me as the fellow who writes all those long, but pretty harmless essays in the comments section of this blog. If you participated in the December Teens Can Write Too blog-chain, however, you will know that I’m a much more dangerous sort of bore: I’m the guy who wanted to be the economist of Middle Earth. That’s right, I’m the one who wanted to take your favourite fictional world and curse it with the most diabolical brand of monotonous quasi-science. And I won’t stop there. The next victim of my economics-obsession will be your favourite hobby: fiction-writing.

Specifically, today, I want to talk about sunk costs in writing. Now, a sunk cost may seem like a boring, economic concept whose only redeeming feature is that it contains only words of one syllable. (If you are a particularly verbose writer, even that may not be a redeeming feature). To me, however, sunk costs are fascinating, and relevant to almost every aspect of life.

So what is a sunk cost? A sunk cost is a cost you’ve already incurred, or a price you’ve already paid. Imagine John spent $1 buying the first lot of bricks for the new skyscraper he’s building. He can’t get that $1 back (skyscraper brick-sellers are notoriously stingy), it’s sunk. Similarly, maybe he spent an hour laying the first row of bricks for his skyscraper. He can’t get that hour back (assuming the Doctor doesn’t stop by), it’s sunk. (more…)

For Lack of a Time Machine (TCWT)

The Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain asks a lot of hard-hitting questions, and this month’s is no different.  The question is “What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?”  Of course, this will be different for everyone, but one thing remains true: you can’t answer this with a very specific answer.  “Don’t use passive voice” is no help to a writer who can’t master compelling characters.  “Remember to use similes” doesn’t help someone struggling with plot.  And my current favorite advice (just because it’s so unknown yet useful) about transitions would be useless for someone with no grasp of setting.  Furthermore, advice about plot, character, or setting will be no use to someone who hasn’t yet begun to write.  So when I first began writing, I think the best advice anyone could have given me was the advice I ignored over and over and over, from all my favorite authors: just write.

I first started writing in first or second grade, when I wrote a 500-word short story over the course of a couple weeks.  I wrote another story of similar length in third grade.  I continued to write in tiny bursts of inspiration and notebook availability over the next four years, until I started a family newsletter and came into the blogosphere.  There I learned about NaNoWriMo, which I attempted for the first time three years ago.  I wrote 50,000 words easily, almost casually, then left my novel alone.  At that point, I would have long breaks where I wasn’t writing anything, then pound out a novel for a NaNoWriMo challenge or a novella for the blog, along with intermittent blog posts.  Were they all good?  No.  But they got better over time. (more…)

On Speaking

Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to quite a few speakers.  I’m proud to say I’ve learned from each of them– and not about their topics.  Instead, I learned about the art of speaking.  I’ve taken speech classes over the years, but none of it was as useful as learning straight from the masters.  Here are a few of the biggest things I learned.

Make your audience care.  The first speaker I heard was by far the best of the bunch, and it showed.  He began his speech by making his audience like him.  I’m sure there are many different ways to do this, but this time he made himself envy the audience.

Flattery is definitely one of the most powerful tools for making people like you, because few people are so modest that they automatically deny praise.  Yes, they pretend to for appearance’s sake, but everyone likes being complimented.  Except when it’s overdone.  This speaker, however, did it perfectly. (more…)

On the Benefits of Word Wars

Word wars, or word sprints, are contests in which the participants “war”, or “sprint”, to get the most words written in a short period of time.  For the past week, I have been participating in several word wars per day with different friends, and they have paid off.

The purposes of word wars are varied.  Some people compete against the other participants to get the highest word score– others simply compete against themselves.  However, the power of word wars are not in the competition, but in the format.

In a word war, you’re essentially forcing yourself to write without distractions.  You’re setting aside 15 or 30 minutes to write as much as you can, and after that you’re free to check your email and comment on blogs.  Instead of having an hour of mixed work, where you write a sentence, then check Facebook, you are instead forcing yourself to wait on Facebook until after the time period has ended. (more…)

I Am Heartily Ashamed Of Myself

Do you think this blog is helpful?

I do, under a certain set of conditions.  It helps me a lot.  You have no idea what you never knew until you write a thousand words about it.  If it helps others in the process, excellent.  However, its true purpose is to help me.

And does it?  I think it does, under a certain set of conditions.  Unfortunately, the more frequent advice comes through this blog, the less often those conditions are met.

What are those conditions?  That I write.

None of this helps anyone if I don’t write.  I could write ten thousand words a day about character development, plot twists, and story structure, but if I don’t write, it all goes to waste.  But wait… I’m writing ten thousand words a day.

I meant writing fiction.  Story structure and character development don’t help essays. (more…)

How to Give Writing Tips

Someday, you’ll be famous for your writing.  Right now you might be reading this to procrastinate, after which you’ll look at your Word Document and go back to the internet.  But don’t worry– you’ll still be famous eventually.  When you’re famous, everyone will want to know how you got that famous.  You can’t just say, “I wrote” and walk away.  You can’t tell the truth (that it was an accident).  You’ve got to have something prepared, something awesome to tell your waiting fans.  While you aren’t writing, you might as well think something up. (more…)

Tips on Fantasy Writer Spotting

Fantasy writers are notoriously hard to find. Fantasy writers, as we all know, like themselves to be secretive and shrouded in mystery, when in reality they’re probably just behind the counter at your local McDonald’s, or dead at the hands of a giant mega-awesome ultra fantasy beast. Thing. So next time you’re searching your phone book for fantasy writers to go mob, just consult these tips.

  1. Capture a few dragons and set them loose over your town. The only person (besides you) that will be standing out in the open, looking up in awe, will be your fantasy writer. Try not to let your dragons burn anything to the ground or eat anyone, because that has the potential for being extremely messy.
  2. Hang around McDonald’s restaurants and look for employees that stare off into the middle distance for most of the day instead of watching that burger they’re burning cooking. That’s the writer. And try to avoid eating the burger, because it won’t be cooked too well.
  3. Drive around the city/town/hermitage you live in after dark, and look for lights in windows that are still on. The best time for this is about two o’clock in the morning, when everyone will be asleep except your writer.
  4. Look for anyone around your neighborhood who doesn’t seem to care what they’re wearing, or better yet, is wearing clothes covered in dragons. It’s possible that the person is just someone who likes looking strange, but chances are good that it’ll be the writer.
  5. Look for anyone who looks behind them repeatedly during the day, as if someone is following them. It might just be someone paranoid, but it’s quite likely that he’s a fantasy writer. If you find someone like this, tail him wearing a large dragon costume, or just large pointy ears and a longbow. That fantasy writer will be your friend before the week is out.
  6. Look for people who contemplate things like, say, ping pong balls as possible intelligent life forms, and people who name inanimate objects.
  7. Search bookstores for people who seem to stay in the same place, day after day, but never buy anything. Chances are the person is a fantasy writer trying to see if his book is popular, and in doing so frightening everyone away.

Follow these tips and you’ll be finding fantasy writers all over the place. Unfortunately, this search also picks up on fantasy readers, but they’re pretty close to what you want. Have fun!