Category Archives: The Writing Life

Free Lance Friday & Discounts!

Freelance ain’t free [except when it is].

It’s that time again–time for you shy or procrastinating or wary people to send your stories, poems, articles, research papers, opening novel chapters, book proposals, etc. and I send them back to you, line-edited, critiqued or written free of charge. It’s only this Friday, and it’s first-come-first-serve. Two things you should know:

Limited Availability still applies. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to everyone last time and some of the people I did get to got short-changed because of how much I attempted to cram in. This time, I’m going to turn more people down–so get your stuff in!

For the entire month of August, I’ll be offering 50% off of all my charges for students and teachers. Consider it back to school love from me to you.

Either fill out the form on The Writer page starting today or shoot an email to lanceschaubert [at] gmail [dot] com and reserve your spot.

Much love.

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Twenty Seven Reads for Writers

My writing journey continually morphs this list. These twenty-seven have whipped me back into shape more than any others. I classified each into one of nine categories. Enjoy.

  1. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (story construction) first clued me in to the basic arc within all stories – the voyage and return. The hero journeys out from the norm into the unknown, suffers trials and returns to society with some gift–enlightenment or a magic item–that will somehow help society. Campbell can be best described either as a panentheistic transcendentalist or as a neo-western Hindu.
  2. On Faerie Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien (writing & life) taught me that I wasn’t crazy spending so much time in another world, that escapism in this sense is one of the healthiest things we writers do. This book applies first to fantasy writers, but beyond that to every writer of fiction.
  3. The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker (story construction) takes Continue reading

Bad Thinking: “Wait Until You Have Something to Say”

There’s a rotten thought running around lecture halls, councils and writing groups these days. That idea goes like this: “You’ve nothing to say when you’re young. Wait until you’ve lived a little, then you’ll have something to say.” People tell themselves this while staring into the mirror or preach this to others all the time.

I talked to a old man the other day who owns thousands of books. He reads over a hundred every year. I asked him, “When are you going to write?”

He said, “Everything’s already been said.” Continue reading

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Thanks to Free Lance Friday participants!

Thanks to everyone who sent something in for Free Lance friday–I enjoyed contributing to your work. I was able to:

  • Diagnose a novella (yes, I read the whole thing).
  • Edit several short stories
  • Line edit & diagnose the first chapters of a memoir
  • Copywrite the vision & purpose statements for a non-profit
  • Critique and edit a query letter

All for free!

For everyone I couldn’t get to, you can always contact me through my Writer page and hire me for your project. Apologies for the limited availability, but I’d love to help you in any way I can.

And of course for the rest of you who don’t care about all of that, you can enjoy the most majestic moment in film:

 

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Free Lance Friday & Story Our Life

Hey gang,

First, I want you all to know that Friday is another FREE DAY! If you need an editor, writer, or story consultant (which you probably do whether you know it or not), Friday’s your day. Simply fill out the form at the bottom of my writer page and I’ll work on your stuff for free this Friday until the work day ends… within reason. (No, I won’t line edit your 500,000 word autobiography in Swahili. Sorry). Two words:

Limited Availability!

Last time, I didn’t get to everybody. I already have submissions for this friday so get yours in ASAP to reserve your spot.

Second, some of you might be wondering “What’s the Story Our Life page for?”

So glad you asked…

I started Story Our Life back in 2008ish after starting The Brothers Karamazov. Someone told me that Dostoevsky’s characters in that book represent him at different portions in his life. Whether that’s true or not, it collided with my then quest for self-preservation via biography. No, I didn’t think my life was worthy of biography at the time. I just felt finite, small, mortal. I wanted a legacy, to live on.

When the legacy and the Dostoevsky collided, I thought, “What if a community did that? What if there was a novel that summed up the life stories of some seven-hundred people.” I set up storyourlife@gmail.com and started collecting stories. The idea is once I have three-to-five life stories that overlap in theme, content, or relational position–I combine those stories into a character. That character embodies the life stories of those three-to-five people. Then I take those roughly seventy characters and make them main and side characters in a novel and let them interact. Continue reading

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The Last of the Tellers – Five: Of Songs and Hues

Previously in The Last of the Tellers, Lest (the Teller) enjoyed his first apple. Conversation moved toward Graham’s trade and he revealed himself to be a singer, a trade that takes a lot of nerve in their society…

“A singer? Haven’t seen a singer since…”
“The Flight?”
“No. Not that long, I think, but close. It seems I met a commune twelve years back.”
“Of singers?”
“Yes, and Tinters like a hive.”

The Singer Graham sat quiet for a time
in which he sipped his coffee, thought, and stared.
“A commune,” Graham began, “of song and hue.”
“But only songs and color, nothing more.”

“But what if Continue reading

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Write the Breakout Novel

I get that clammy, slimy, gag-reflex-inducing feeling in the back of my throat when I read formulaic promises hidden in a book title like Writing the Breakout Novel. However, I’m happy to say this one kept my lunch down. (Thanks to Ellie for another great rec). For one, Maass promises no short cut. Hard work pays. For another, he shifts the blame for bad book revenue from the editors, agents, publishers and publicists to where it should be–on the author. If your story does not sell, you have no one to blame but yourself. That’s why I talk about the reformation of rejection. Most e-book writers don’t boast stacks of rejection letters from editors of journals for short stories they’ve written. If e-book writing is your short cut, Maass has bad news: no short cut exists, neither in surgeon residencies nor authorial bootcamps.

Instead of giving it this book the old one-two, I figured I’d list out my favorite Maassian thoughts: Continue reading

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Short Stories

Pay close attention to this post, regulars and literators. It’s short, I promise.

After spending the last couple of years getting advice from other writer friends, close friends, logging some 2,300+ hours writing and editing hundreds of pages of fiction, I’m reaching a saturation point. The good part is, my own fiction’s infinitely better than it was seven years ago. The bad part is, my friends are either burned out, busy or (like I said) other writers. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate them–I’m indebted to all of them beyond repayment.

However, there comes a time where it’s helpful to get the broader opinion of readers or people you know solely through the avenues of career. In some ways, that’s you guys who read this. That’s when I thought, “Hey, I’ll just toss some fiction into my website and see what catches fire.” Continue reading

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“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

Recent Work Miscellany

The following articles by yours truly will come out next month, this month or next year at this time:
  • “To Prevail or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Flak’” in Hollywood and Vine (article, May/June 2012)
  • “Poker in the Pokey” in Poker Pro (article, June 2012)*
  • “Stamping the Name” in Encounter (article, May 2012)
  • “Choices Make the Man” in Encounter (article, Spring, 2013)
  • “The List” in Encounter (article, Spring 2013)
  • “Remember My Death” in Encounter (article, Spring 2013)
  • for older stuff, see published works and projects under the Writer tab
*This was cowritten with another writer under the pseudonym Thom Schriver

Continue reading

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On Being a Public Figure Before Peforming

This post is one of my unicorns.

What I mean is I have inched toward this post without warning of its approach for years. In Southern Illinois, as is the case in other parts of the world where they don’t junk cars but “let ‘em rust down,” high school morons hill hop. Hill hopping fits onto the roster of hick track and field, those games that need “don’t try this at home” stickers. Young sixteen-year old men (and women on the coasts) rev up their car engines and catapult over hilltops on country roads, daring other cars to meet them head-on. Thing is, not all other cars are chicken–some just play chicken. Another dozen teens will die this year meeting unseen cars while hopping hills.

Somewhere between hill hopping and unicorns lies this post. No one can catch a unicorn. Unicorns find you. No one expects to die hopping a hill in a Pontiac, but it happens. I’m blindsided by this post because for the last seven years, in the midst of all of my other writing, I have worked on my world of Gergia. No other novel existed–only Gergian books and notes and maps. If Rowling and Rothfuss can work on one series, win a writer’s contest and instantly publish a best seller, anyone can, right? That’s what I thought anyway, and so I pushed off all other projects — twenty novel ideas, dozens of short story ideas, screenplays, journalistic things — for THE SERIES.

The last few weeks, my writing slowed and stalled. I… Was… Crawling… Through… Sentences. It was block in the proper sense of the word–my discipline was trying to force words like water through a clogged toilet. I stalled at the 52,000th word. I would rework scenes, attack the story from another angle and stop at the same place. Another angle, more resistance. It was like trying to chop down a cherry tree with a brand new axe WHILE circling the tree like a foe from some spaghetti western. Only the tree was no bringer of cherries. It was this colossal inbred monster of its cedar mother and redwood father. My axe also turned out to be a cheap camp hatchet.

Something happened this weekend that changed all of that. This week I was armed with an axe and a maul…

Continue reading

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Storyssentials: Sentence

Brevity and depth–that’s what you can expect from this post if you reflect.

It would seem trivial to call “sentences” essential bits of story. Part of this comes from people who assume that writers toil for words. Photographers use photoshop, but they toil for photos. Graphic designers use illustrator, but they toil for graphics. Writers use words, but they toil for stories. The medium of a writer is story-essence, not words. Because of this, I ask one thing today: what do stories teach us about sentences and what can sentences teach us about stories?

Three key parts of a sentence follow:

  1. Subject
  2. Verb
  3. Ending

That sounds stupid, but hang with me. We’re building off of what we assume. By “ending” I don’t mean “object.” I mean what word ends your statement? Sentences are microcosms of story. Your understanding of how they work reflects your story-consciousness. The most important part of the story is the subject, or the protagonist. The second most important part of the story is the verbage, the escalation of conflict, what the subject chooses to do. The third is the climax and resolution. What goal is the protagonist working toward? Do they succeed? Continue reading

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A Secretary and a Rocking Chair

Hard chair, soft chair.

That’s the dichotomy my greatest rhetoric professor taught me. For a twenty-minute talk, spend ten hours of research in the hard chair and the soft chair’s for the ten hours of reflection on the relevance of your talk. Hard chairs discipline us to grind through the big books. Soft chairs encourage us to think like the people. He uses both when he writes oral manuscripts.

For me, I’ve isolated my work away from my office desk and dining room table to what’s called a secretary, this wall-mounted fold-out writing desk with shelves on top for incoming and outgoing letters. (I’m still hand writing to my pen pals for those of you who want to get in on it). At first, I used this striped, low-backed wooden chair with padded seating. Hard chair with a slight cushion. Good blend, I figured. My chiropractor disagrees… vehemently. So I set that one to the side to hold my satchel (something else my chiropractor hates. He seems to think I’ve got the spine of a retiree. What does he know?)

I fell into the rocking chair by accident. It was one of those days where you’re on a roll and need to make a quick change Nascar style. I switched out chairs and went back to work. Over time, I noticed more back support, but that’s not the only thing that came…

Hard chair and soft chair. Research chair and “so what?” chair. These are the chairs where we nurse and rock our kids to sleep. Soft chair. And yet these are the chairs of old men in old English wings who still tell the old stories to their students. Hard chair. In rockers fathers hold daughters as they cry. Soft chair.A rocker tested Benjamin Martin’s carpentry skills at the start of The Patriot. Hard chair. Continue reading

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