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

 

Warcross by Marie Lu: A Book Review

Warcross by Marie Lu: A Review

NOTICE: This review may contain spoilers! I will do my best not to spoil any major plot points but I won’t make any promises. Proceed at your own risk!

Hello all,

Today I will be sharing with you my thoughts and opinions on a popular Young Adult novel. I’m sure most of you have heard of a book called Warcross by Marie Lu. If you haven’t, I would be amazed as this book is literally everywhere.

Marie Lu is the author of the best selling series Legend as well as The Young Elites. Her work is very popular among readers of young adult sci-fi and fantasy. This book, the first in what will most likely be a duology, is no exception, as it is also a New York Times best seller and has been well received throughout the book community.

Warcross is a story about a young girl who is a bounty hunter and an avid video game player and hacker. Her name is Emika Chen and she never would have expected what comes her way following a hack gone wrong. She’s thrust into a world she’d never been further from, where she had all the things she could have ever asked for be it money or love. It isn’t long before she realizes she’s simply a pawn in a much larger game and her life is changed forever.

Brief Thoughts

I wanted so bad to like this book. I spent an Audible credit on it, after all and thought that it may live up to not only the hype but to the reputation of such a well-loved author. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

I thought Marie Lu could have done better. This book had so much potential and I thought she didn’t do her own story justice. Let me explain myself.

The Good

There is no denying the author’s ability to world-build. This, in my opinion, was the best part about the whole book and is the main reason I feel like she wasted so much potential.

To go along with her amazing world-building abilities, I feel like she did a good enough job when it came to fleshing out her characters as well. There were some spots where I remember asking myself why she would have a character do something or say something but, for the most part, I connected with at least the most important characters pretty well.

And that’s all. Yes, I really mean it.

The Bad

I hated all other aspects of this book. I know, hate is a strong word, but I found myself wanting to scream or pull out my hair more times than I can count.

Where to begin. The dialogue. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to throw my phone because the author did such a poor job with dialog. Some of the things these characters say to one another just would not be things that you or I would say to one another in real life. I understand it’s fiction, but seriously. It’s not just the person to person dialogue either. The narration is horrible. This story is told through the eyes of our protagonist which, to me, means that the story is told as if she were recounting it to us either verbally or in writing. I have never in any of my writing referred to the color of my own hair more than once, if that. Our MC, on the other hand, refers to it at least five times. I think I’m being conservative there but what matters is that no one would do this. “My rainbow hair streaming behind me.” That’s an actual quote from just one of the infractions. The character is recounting to us how she felt when the music carried her away as she closed her eyes momentarily. I can live with saying something like “my hair flowing in the wind as I zoomed through the streets on my electric skateboard.” There’s just no reason to keep mentioning color. We get it. You have rainbow hair. Can we move on?

Another thing that bothered me was that the author seemed to have tried to portray Emika as a strong-willed person while, at the same time, telling us how shy and standoffish she is. Marie did this sort of thing multiple times throughout the book and I never got used to it.

Let’s talk about this romance, shall we? I have never been more confused about a romance in a book. Here is this girl who hacks into your game on it’s biggest night (mind you she’s a bounty hunter for people who illegally bet on the game) in an attempt to make some extra money. You call her up while she scared to death that she will be arrested and tell her you want to offer her a job. Okay, fair enough. That’s not enough, however. You meet her and you basically both fall in love with one another instantly. In a nutshell, one minute this girl is trying to steal from you, the next you have her naked in a hot-tub at your mom’s house sharing memories with her via your super cool contact lenses, which oh by the way, are only meant to control the world. Yeah, that’s plausible.

Yet another annoying bit was how Hideo and Emika had practically just met and his best friend had to tell her to “talk to him” because he would listen to her and not him. Give me a break.

The last thing I will talk about is the backstory of his brother. I feel like it took so long for the author to explain that in such great detail but the story didn’t require it. Sure, it created a connection for us which allowed us to feel some level of anger in the end but I think you could have done that in just a couple paragraphs. I began to lose interest pretty quick.

My Rating

I rate this book 2 out of 5 stars.

The only reason I am giving it two stars is because I think this world was so much fun. It could have been so much better. That, together with the character development, I think deserves no more than two stars, and that may be too generous.

Thank you guys so much for taking the time to read this review and I hope I haven’t upset too many people, as I know so many love this book. It just wasn’t for me and I don’t know if I will even bother picking up the next one.

–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

Diversity in Books 

I don’t want to write this post. I’ll be one-hundred percent honest with you. I’m afraid that it could singlehandedly ruin any chance of me ever becoming a successful author. The thought that, as soon as this post goes live, the internet will have record of my opinion on this matter terrifies me.

But fuck it.

I just watched a few videos on YouTube by two different personalities. I want to name names. More than ever, I want these people to know how stupid they are, one in particular. But I won’t. The video that spurred this is one from a rather new person in the AuthorTube community and it is titled, in part, Writing With Diversity. 

Now, I feel like I have to mention that this particular person doesn’t seem to have any sense of originality whatsoever. They seem to have watched a few of their favorite AuthorTuber’s videos and said “Oh hey, I like her. I want to be just like her when I grow up and make my own videos”, then went and did just that. This person has copied the mannerisms of the other person in what seems like an effort to, I don’t know, be cool like them or something.

This particular video is the personification of that mentality. Here was their message on diversity in books, in a nutshell:

  • If you don’t write with diversity, you’re an asshole.
  • You MUST tell your reader what color someone is, otherwise they must be white, and you’re an asshole.
  • If you don’t write interracial relationships, you’re an asshole.
  • There are some sexualities that we don’t even know about. If you’re not writing about various sexualities, you’re an asshole.
  • The fact that YOUR characters are straight is stupid. Asshole.
  • If you don’t write about trans or non-binary characters, you’re writing isn’t realistic. Oh yeah, I forgot. Asshole.

This was seriously the person’s message. And here’s what I gathered from it.

This is the most important thing. What this person is asking writers to do, no demanding, is to conform to their ideal book. If I, as a writer, don’t do this, then I am doing something wrong. Fuck you, YouTube Person Who Must Not Be Named. Fuck you.

What makes this so much worse is that they are not the only person making these types of demands. So many popular BookTubers and AuthorTubers are doing this. And it is sad! Sad because they are willing to conform. Sad because they are perfectly fine with someone telling them how to write their story. Sad because they are okay with changing their vision to some cookie-cutter bullshit dream of this perfect world that, quite simply, does not exist.

  And let’s be honest, sometimes you can tell the cookies are homemade when they don’t all look the same, right? 

Writers write their visions. These could be visions of some utopian society where everything is perfect, they could be of a dystopia where nothing at all is perfect, they could be of a relationship they wish they could have but are too afraid to pursue it so they make up a story about it. Let me tell you something. When I dream, I don’t dream what anyone else wants me to dream. When I picture certain situations, I don’t picture them the way anybody else might picture that exact scenario. It’s not how our brains work!

Did you know that Hermione from Harry Potter was supposed to have been black? JK Rowling said she always saw her as black, but I bet you never would have guessed it.  There never were, in the early days before the films at least, any inferences to her color. You could have read her as black and the story would not have told you any different.

Did you know Dumbledore was thought by the author to be gay? There were literally never any parts of the story, be it in the books or the films, that would have ever suggested that, unless of course you count his lack of a partner at all. But JK Rowling told us that in the years after she typed the last words to a Harry Potter novel.

What I am getting at here is that I shouldn’t have to point out to you a color or sexuality to begin with. Now, if I do choose to specify, and I should only do so because it moves the plot forward, then I should do so respectfully and tastefully. However, you have no reason to expect me to include these things just for the sake of including them. You shouldn’t want me to! If my vision doesn’t include a transexual, why the actual fuck would you want to see one in the novel? It makes no sense!

If my vision is of a boy riding a dragon through over fucking Castlevania and I want to tell you his ethnicity, I will. If it is pertinent. But would you be any more amazed by the fact that this person riding the dragon was Indian? Fuck no.

If my vision involves a man fighting ninjas in back alleys across the globe, do you have to know he’s bisexual? Or what if he identifies as non-binary or gender fluid? Does that intensify the appeal of his fighting prowess? No. No it doesn’t. He can kick some ninja ass, no matter who he’s banging when he gets home and if telling you about it doesn’t move the plot forward, then I’m not going to tell you. 

I want you to know now that, just because I don’t tell you a character is bi or anything like that, doesn’t mean he or she isn’t. Believe me, I flesh my characters out and I know who they are. If them being bi doesn’t move the story along, I won’t tell you. Also, if the color of their skin is not important, I will not tell you. Instead, I will let you decide if they are black, white, brown, yellow, whatever.

And after all this, if I do write a book without any representation of a particular group of people, oh well. It’s my vision. Don’t buy my book. Naturally, I want to write a book that the world will love to read, but I refuse to conform. I refuse to alter my vision to suit any of these snowflake’s needs.

While I understand the need for people to consume stories with which they can relate, there is much more to being able to relate than just the color of a character’s skin or the people they choose to have relations with. Yes, our real world is not vanilla and it makes sense to have diversity, but not at the expense of changing a story to make it happen. If the story didn’t specify a certain diversity, simply dragging and dropping it into that story only seems disingenuous. Why would you want to read something like that?

Enough is enough. No more demands. No more templates for stories that don’t offend simply because they include the types of characters that meet specific requirements. No more.

If you read this all the way to the end, thank you so much. I love you all.

Happy writing!

–Trevor

 

 

The Weekly Westin

Total Manuscript Word Count:  4,330

Hey guys and gals! Happy Monday! If that’s a thing. It’s a thing, right?

I hope you all had a productive and enjoyable week last week. Mine was busy of course. Work was crazy. I feel like I say that all the time but it’s been the absolute truth lately.

If you didn’t notice, my manuscript didn’t grow very much. I technically only added 108 words to my story last week. However, if you read last weeks post, you’ll know that I decided to change perspectives. I figured I may as well do this in the fourth chapter while my gut told me to. Naturally, this was almost like a first edit, not to mention some things that work in first person just don’t work in third. That said, even though my total word count didn’t grow, my novel did. There were parts that even I didn’t know were going to happen until I changed perspective. So this is a good thing.

Also, I had a major revelation on Saturday, but I can’t tell you what that is. All I can say is that I know how this book will end. As most ideas do, it just came to me out of nowhere. But I do think that this is how it has to end. I can’t wait for you guys to read it when it’s done.

Another bit of interesting news, I’ve acquired another analog writing tool. Well, I ordered it anyway. Can’t wait to show you guys. I bought a late 40’s to early 50’s Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter. I’ve been wanting a typewriter for a while now and finally had the funds to get one so I did. I don’t know how much I’ll use it versus longhand or computer but I’m definitely excited to see how it works.

Well, that’s about all I have for you guys. I, unfortunately, have to get on the road to work. I cannot wait for vacation starting Saturday!

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Happy writing!

–Trevor

The Daily Westin

Hey guys and gals!

It’s time for a quick update on my writing, or lack thereof.

I’ll be honest, I’m in a super weird place with my writing right now. If you keep up with my blog, you know that I decided a few weeks ago to go full analog in my writing. It was a huge leap considering I have always written on a computer, save for the times when I was in school.

I have kept this up and, for the most part, I plan to still. I outlined a full novel with nearly forty chapters, all in pencil and on a legal pad. I even began to write it in a Leuchttrum 1917.

During this time, I have also began to pursue multiple product reviews, from pencils and notebooks, to sharpeners and even pens. Needless to say, I have gotten in WAY over my head. I’ve gone down the proverbial rabbit hole. I’ve ordered more pencils than I know what to do with, I have literally six journals I need to review, and all of this is on top of my writing goals.

All of this sounds like a shit ton of excuses and, well, I am damn tired of making excuses.

I say I am in a weird place because I am simply not getting as much writing done as I want to and I don’t know what to do. Even when it comes to blogging, I am not getting anything done and I feel like I am not doing what I set out to do with that.

I also don’t know that I want to continue writing fully in longhand. It’s so time consuming and, sometimes, inconvenient. Writing digitally, I can use my laptop at home and my phone while I am away to do my writing. On the other hand, I love writing longhand but I am so worried about taking it to work and my journal/pencil getting messed up. I work a dirty job.

I am wondering if there is a happy medium. Perhaps I will try writing the outline longhand and writing the draft digitally.

I just don’t know. It sucks not knowing. I’m sorry I always seem to have negative updates, but this is how my mind seems to work.

Thanks for reading!

–Trevor