The (sort of) Daily Westin: Whiny Writer Edition

Good morning, friends!

So, I don’t know how many of you have stuck around, but for those who have, thank you. I am sorry I have been away for so long. You wouldn’t believe how crazy things have been lately. Work is busier than ever. I know I say that all the time, but that’s because it’s actually been getting busier and the help is minimal. Hard to find good help anymore.

The biggest reason, however, that I have been away is something much deeper. 2017 was a weird year for me. I felt very creative for most of the year, too creative in fact. There were so many things I wanted to do with writing and blogging and, quite frankly, I didn’t even come close to getting any of it done. It wasn’t until just a couple days ago that I came to the conclusion that I am kind of in the midst of an existential crisis. Today is my 30th birthday and, as I look back on the last twelve years of my adulthood, it’s hard for me to come up with a list of accomplishments. It’s also hard for me to remember a time when I was genuinely happy with life as a whole.

I love my wife and kids, and those are my greatest accomplishments. I have a job that allows me to live a comfortable life. But, aside from my family, I am not happy. I try to make the most of my job, but I don’t want to do what I do for the rest of my life. The bad thing is, I don’t even know what it is I want to do. I know I want to write and I know I want to create for a living. But what do I want to create?

I don’t know if everyone who is creative has a hyper-creative brain like I do but I think that one of my problems is that I have so many ideas. I have too many ideas. I want to write books. I want to write screenplays. I want to start a YouTube channel. I want to paint. Someone please tell me how to do all of that and work 70 hours per week as well as being a husband and a father. I can’t see how and it’s killing me.

It doesn’t help that I am suddenly beginning to ponder all the things in life. I am no longer living for today, though I am excessively aware that today may be all I have. I’m not healthy and I know that every day could be my last. Which is why I am so frustrated that I have not accomplished more. I have nothing to leave my family if I were to die today.

So, it’s time for that to change, right? Right. 2018 will be better. I will be successful.

I will write a book this year.

I will write on this blog and work on a screenplay I have wanted to write for years.

I will paint a picture.

Through all of those things, I will tell a story, one that I know my children will be proud of. To say, “Hey, that’s my dad’s story.”

That is all. I will blog more, I promise. Be ready!

Thank you so much if you read this and thank you for sticking around. See ya next time!

–Trevor

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10 Things Every Writer Needs to Succeed: Thing One

Welcome back!

Today I want to share with you the first of 10 things that every aspiring author needs to have in order to succeed. This will apply to all writers whether on the traditional publishing route or planning to self-publish.

This should be a pretty in-depth subject encompassing all things from tech to thought so I am going to break this up into 10 parts.

Thing One: The Laptop

This may seem like the most obvious necessity for writers but I don’t think it can be over stressed.

Many writers create their stories on paper, and that’s fine. I am sort of a mixed bag when it comes to the medium through which I tell my stories. One day, I will write by hand in ink or pencil, another day I will use a typewriter, and yet another day I will go back to a computer. I ALWAYS go back to a computer.

The thing is, no matter which way you choose to write, it will need to be digitized at some point, namely when submitting to most agents for representation. This is why I think that having a laptop is so vital. While any computer is fine, I will strongly suggest a laptop because 1.) they are fairly inexpensive while having many of the same features as a desktop, and 2.) chances are, you are a mobile person and having the ability to move around is a true blessing when it comes to writing.

Here are some of my recommendations for laptops:

Basic Laptop

For the most basic of tasks, I recommend getting a Chromebook and, in particular, I recommend the Asus Chromebook.

Asus - C202SA 11.6" Chromebook - Intel Celeron - 4GB Memory - 16GB eMMC Flash Memory - Silver, Dark blue - Alt_View_Standard_17

The thing with Chromebooks is that they operate with what is essentially a web browser as an operating system. This means that you won’t be able to run software that operates outside a web browser (Scrivener). This is a small disadvantage but the goal here is to provide a device that:

  1. is light and portable
  2. has word processing abilities
  3. has good battery life for all day use
  4. and finally, doesn’t break the bank.

This laptop achieves all of those things and will only set you back $209.00 USD.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DBGVB7K/ref=psdc_13896615011_t2_B01HBJ60ME

Mid-Range Laptop

This area of laptops is an incredibly broad one and encompasses countless brands, styles, and prices.

When recommending a mid-range laptop, I like to think of machines in the range from $600-$1100. The one that comes to mind here is the Dell XPS 13, which is right at the edge of the price range at about $1190.00 USD.

This thing is amazing! It’s such a workhorse for writers and creatives in general. I put it in the mid-range category because of it’s price, it’s processor, and it’s hard drive.

  • Intel Core i5 7200-U Kaby Lake processor- This is Intel’s mid-range processor, middle child to the i3 and the i7. It’s perfect for handling most of your multi-tasking needs. You can have Srivener, Word, and a browser with 1,000 tabs open (okay maybe not 1,000) all at once.
  • 8GB Ram- Also great for helping your processor remember what’s in those 1,000 browser tabs.
  • 256GB PCIe Solid State Drive- This is the one area I am always skeptical about. My laptop (which just crashed after 7 years) had 750GB of hard drive storage on a conventional 5400RPM  drive. What you get with an SSD is often less storage but far less boot up times and less time spent searching for data on the drive. It’s also much quieter, stronger, and uses less power. It makes a huge difference and it’s not a huge deal for me as I also have multiple 1tb external drives to store things I don’t really need on the machine.
  • 60Whr Lithium Ion Battery- Dell claims up to 22 hours of continuous use, but that’s not practical at all. Most people are getting around 10 hours.

For what this machine costs, it’s a powerhouse. If you go to Amazon right now, you can pick this up with a QHD+ Touch screen for $1,186.00 USD. On Dell’s own website, you get the standard Full HD screen and a 128GB Hard Drive for $1,074.00 USD. I’d say it’s a no brainer to go for the touch screen, though your battery life will inevitably suffer by a couple hours.

High End Laptop

This one was a tough one for me. There are so many great ones to choose from! However, I wanted to give you guys a laptop that could do everything while still maintaining a decent battery life. What I came up with was the 2017 MacBook Pro 15.

Apple - MacBook Pro®  - 15" Display - Intel Core i7 - 16 GB Memory - 512GB Flash Storage (Latest Model) - Space Gray - Alt_View_Zoom_11

I don’t see a better option on the market right now. If you’re not working on a budget, this thing is the way to go.

For just under $2,000.00 USD you get:

  • 15.4″ Retina Display
  • Intel 7th Gen. i7 Kaby Lake Processor @ 2.2 GHz (Turbo up to 3.4 GHz)
  • 16GB DDR3 Low Power Memory
  • 256GB PCIe SSD (the 512GB model runs around $2,800.00 USD)
  • Around 9 hours of battery life.

I could have easily chosen something like the top-end Dell XPS 15 with better specs at a lower price but one thing I take into account is how Apple is notoriously secure. That’s something that’s important to me as a writer. There is a far less chance of getting a system crashing virus with Apple products which is one of the main reasons I would be willing to pay the premium price.

 

Well, ladies and gents, that’s the end of the first in a series of 10 things you need to succeed as a writer. Come back next week for Thing Two, in which I will cover the books all writers should be reading and have by their side at all times.

Happy writing!

–Trevor

 

NaNo and Me

Hello guys and gals!

For all of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo this month, I hope you are doing well meeting and exceeding those word counts!

For me, well, let’s talk about that, shall we?

I had high hopes when I started this NaNo, even going back during PrepTober. I felt like my story had come together, despite not having a full and proper outline. I hadn’t fully fleshed it all out but I had the main points and it was all great. I was excited.

Then November came, and it did so with what seemed like zero notice whatsoever. Seriously, where the hell did October go? I blame the crazies who started celebrating Christmas on October 1st. I kid, I kid. Mostly.

And here we are nearly a third of the way into November and I’ve gotten so far behind there’s no way I can catch up, not with work never letting up. So. Who am I kidding. I’m not winning NaNo. Why am I giving up? I’m just not good with the pressure I guess. I don’t know. I need to do things at my own pace, whatever that may be.

I love writing and I will write without NaNo. It would be so cool to say I won NaNo and was able to tackle such a challenge. I just don’t have it in me. I have so many things I want to write and sometimes I can’t stick to just one, which makes NaNo virtually impossible.

So I’m going to continue to write no matter what. It’s my dream. And I’m going to continue to share my dreams with you all. I hope you’ll continue with me on my journey.

As you may have figured out by now, I have a problem with Story A.D.D (it’s a thing, look it up) and I don’t want to leave you today without telling you about a project I am working on.

About 8 years ago, I was really big into screenplays and film making as a whole. I bought and read (many times over) several books on both subjects and began writing multiple scripts in various genres from comedy to drama to crime. One of my biggest undertakings was a comedy which mimics a sort of gangster story where five groups of people go against one another in something we would look at as trivial but which they take very seriously. It was a huge project because there were so many characters, so many personalities, and so many moving parts.

While I never wrote a single word to the script, I did do a metric ton of planning. I built the world, named the characters, built broad descriptions for the groups of people involved, and outlined the story, more or less, completely.

Well, I was looking through one of my screenplay books the other day to get some tips for my NaNo project and, tucked within the pages, was the bulk of the planning notes I had made for that screenplay. It had been nearly eight years since I had touched those pages so, naturally, I had to read over them. Immediately, I felt the fire. The same fire I felt back when I first wrote those pages years before. Now, I cannot tell you why I put the project down. Hell, I had even contacted some people who were willing to participate in the making of the film. I was on the right track but something happened.

Well, I am picking it back up. I can’t let this one slip away, not again. I have learned a lot in the years since starting that story. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I don’t want to make films and, because of this, I can write the script as I would write any story. I can write it as an author, not a director, camera man, set designer and builder, location scout, none of that. This is what I needed to write this story, to think about it as a story and not such a demanding project.

So, I am going to spend some time on this one. I hope you all will understand what I am doing and I hope you have at least some interest in this aspect of writing because there are some things I would like to share with you about the project as it grows.

I am sorry I wasted your time as far as NaNo is concerned. Maybe I will make up for it next yeat by actually winning. We will see what the cards hold.

If you read this all, thank you so much for spending some time with me.

All the best!

–Trevor

On Rebranding My Blog

Hey readers!

So I have been thinking a lot lately about the route I want to take with this blog. As most of you who have stuck around know, I write about writing most of the time but I also like to do product reviews.

Here is my dilemma. I still want to write about writing. I still want to share my journey to becoming a published author with all of you. That hasn’t changed and will never change. However, I also really love doing product reviews. It is honestly a joy for me to reach out to various brands, get their products, take the best photos I can, and then write about my experience with those products.

No, no, that wasn’t the only part of the dilemma. The biggest part of the dilemma is that my current brand doesn’t really fit too many niche’s. It’s not entirely difficult for me to get journals and pencils to review as a writer. It’s when I want to reach out beyond those things that I find a problem. I want to review all sorts of things. Tech, food, toys, all sorts of, well, lifestyle things.

So, here’s what I am thinking. I am going to find a way to rebrand this blog as sort of a writer’s lifestyle blog where I will still bring my readers along with me on my journey, but I will be able to share with you all some of the things I love and use on a day to day basis. I hope that sounds a little more fun to you guys.

It will take a little bit to get my brand figured out and then adapt the blog to it and I hope you all will stick around to see what comes out on the other side. I truly believe this is going to be fun.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave them below.

I hope you all are having a wonderful day!

–Trevor

The Daily Westin- 10/11/2017

I’m so torn.

I have always just used Microsoft Word to do all of my writing. That is, until the past year and a half or so when I started using the famous (or infamous) Scrivener.

The thing about it is that Scrivener has a huge learning curve. I will use it for a while and then get discouraged because I don’t know all there is to know about it and go back to Word before I even give myself a chance to figure it out.

I really want to use Scrivener though. But it’s not enough to just use it, I want to use it effectively. Word is easy because all you have to do is create a new document for every chapter and place it in a folder for the novel. Unbelievably simple.

Scrivener, on the other hand, is easy in the sense that all you do is create a new project and all the files and documents that have to do with your story are right there in front of your face. You don’t have to create a new file somewhere on your computer (and let’s be honest, it can be anywhere, even somewhere that the rest of your story isn’t) and try to keep track of it all. When you want to write, just open the project and it’s all there. But there are so many nuances. Things that are supposed to make it a more streamlined experience. But you have to learn all the things first. Ugh.

In trying to plan during PrepTober, I am also trying to decide where I want to write this novel. This is tough. The only real benefit to Word, aside from it being simple and being able to save a copy to the cloud so I can edit on my phone, is that when I send this to publishers, it will likely have to be in something like Word. Not Scrivener format.

I don’t know. If any of you have any suggestions or want to share your thoughts on either program, please comment!

Sorry about the rant, just wanted to share my PrepTober struggles.

–Trevor

On PrepTober

I am failing miserably at PrepTober. We are 1/3 of the way into the month and I am not 1/3 of the way done planning for my #NaNoWriMo novel.

I started the month with big plans. I was going to begin to use a bullet journal and plan out times when I would prep. I would split the tasks up by days, world-building Monday, character creation Tuesdays, outlining Wednesdays, something to that effect. Yet here I sit, having only fleshed out a small piece of my main character and, though I know the world in my head, I haven’t gotten it down on paper. Outline? Ha! Not even close.

Queue the excuses. As per the usual, work is wearing me out. I truly hate my job anymore. I love writing and that’s what I would rather do so I also spend a lot of time getting product reviews ready to publish. I have countless products that I need to review and they can’t take a backseat anymore. It’s something I am truly passionate about. I love taking the photos, editing them if I have to, and writing about my experience. It’s fun to try and craft my words into something that can best represent my experiences with a product. It’s challenging and hurts my brain sometimes, but I love it.

Also, finding and reaching out to brands I’d like to work with isn’t as easy as you may think. So that’s what’s been taking my time.

No more of this not prioritizing my novel. I have to get back to getting ready for Nano, because dammit I’m going to win this year.

I hope you all are doing better than me if you’re spending October prepping for Nano.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

 

–Trevor