Category Archives: creative writing

I wrote fan fiction for my job and got paid for it and everything.

A few months ago, an editor at IDW reached out and asked me if I’d be interested in contributing something to their 400th issue of the Star Trek comic. I told her I was VERY interested, but wasn’t sure how much time I had in my schedule.

I offered a few options, presented in order from easiest (and least desirable for me) to most time-consuming, but most exciting for me to do: I could give them an essay that already exists, I could write a short, new essay, or I could write an entire new story.

She was like, how about that new story?

So I pitched something, and told my team that I was going to be working on this for a couple of weeks. One of them wrote back that I didn’t have time to do this. I told them I was creating time out of thin air to work on it, because it was that important to me. And that’s what I did.

My pitch was accepted, and I set my brain upon the task of developing it. It came in little pieces, out of order, until I woke up in the middle of the night about a week in, with an idea that was orders of magnitude more interesting and challenging. I got out of bed, transcribed what my brain was delivering, and hoped it would make sense in the morning. When morning came, I saw the shape of it, and I saw The Thing that I really wanted to do, The Thing that makes the whole story worth writing. (For shorts, there is always A Thing I want to tell in the story, and that’s why I write it. When The Thing revealed itself to me, it happened to be about 4 in the morning. It happens like that pretty frequently.)

We had to get approval, but time was already short. So I got to work before I even had permission and hoped for the best. I was fortunate to get broad approval, and the notes ended up being about small things that didn’t affect the narrative arc.

So a lot of the process to bring this together was watching and consuming Star Trek (thank you for your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time) so I was steeped in the universe. Think of living abroad for so long, you have to relearn what your cultural and language norms are before you go home.

It was the most fun I have ever had writing something. From the very beginning, I just had fun. I didn’t second guess myself. I didn’t worry. I didn’t let my anxiety or the relentlessly critical inner voice of the man who was my father speak up and distract me. I worked hard and without fear, and it was the best thing, ever. I have no idea how this will be received by the audience. I hope other people like it as much as I do. But even if they don’t, I love this story and I loved writing it. That’s all I care about, and WOW let me tell you what an incredible feeling that is!

I’m so grateful I learned how to separate the joy of doing the work from the anxiety of how it will be received. The rest of this post is collected from daily posts I made on Facebook as I tracked my progress.

July 11

I am having the BEST time writing this thing that’s due on Friday. I love EVERY SECOND of this process, even the parts where I don’t feel like I’m making progress the way I want to. I’m still making progress, and I’m learning to embrace that process so I can enjoy it more.

I’ve been at it all day, and I want to keep writing SO MUCH, but I am just totally out of gas and it’s time to go play NHL 22.

I love this. I love this so much. I love being a writer and a storyteller. I am so grateful for this life.

July 12

It’s another day on this project that’s due Friday. I’m on pace to wrap up tomorrow, have Thursday to polish it, and turn it in on time.

I think I’ve overwritten it (I usually do) and I may have to lose a substantial chunk, but that’s cool with me. I’ve learned how to save things, how to let go of my original idea when the collaborative process begins and the work starts to develop into its own thing. It’s pretty great.

I’d love to keep going, but just now, in the middle of a sentence, I ran out of gas. It happens, and I’ve managed my time responsibly enough to go ahead and call it for the day.
I’m still having the best time doing this, and I’m super excited to release it into the world.

July 13

I’ve been working on this thing that’s due on Friday for about a month, but I didn’t start actually writing it until last week, because WOW HAVE I BEEN BUSY.

I just finished the first complete draft, and I’m walking away to let it breathe until tomorrow, when I’ll rewrite. I am exhausted, but this has been so much fun. It’s going to kill me when I have to cut at least half of it, but I’m actually going to make this deadline, like I’m an adult and a professional, and everything.

July 14

So that thing that’s due tomorrow? Finished it and turned it in a couple hours ago. For the first time in my career as a writer, I actually got something in AHEAD of a deadline.
It wasn’t easy. This morning, while I was working on rewriting, tightening it up, raising the stakes, and all that, I hit The Valley of Despair. This is a part of my creative process, very close to the end, when I feel like everything I’ve done is terrible, I’m the worst writer in the world, they’re all gonna laugh at me, and I should just give up and quit right now.

When that happens, I know I’m close to the end, but too close to be objective and see the words among all the letters. (This took many painful years to learn.)

So I reached out to a friend I respect deeply, who has EXTREMELY relevant experience, and asked for notes. They gave me notes, some INCREDIBLE ideas that I absolutely LOVED adding, and they got me across The Valley of Despair. Once I was on the other side, everything came together so effortlessly, it was kind of rude.

It’s so interesting to me that I can struggle for so long to see where the cuts need to happen, never seeing them, feeling like each precious bit is too precious to cut, right up until the moment they are all suddenly so obvious, I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote them, and I never miss them when they’re gone. I cut a lot of stuff today that I enjoyed making up and writing, but I don’t miss it at all. The story didn’t need it. I’ve heard some writers talk about that stuff as the scaffolding they use to hold the thing together while they work on it. I like that metaphor.

Maybe the Valley of Despair is what happens when I take the scaffolding down. That’s a neat metaphor, too.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to get into details about this. Until then, I’m going to stay safely vague. But I’m super excited for this to be a thing in the world that all of you can read. It was really fun to imagine.

July 20

So I turned this thing in on Thursday last week, knowing it was overwritten and needed deep cuts that were going to hurt. That’s okay. It’s part of the whole creation process.

On Monday, I made some deep cuts. The manuscript sank into the swamp. Then I made more deep cuts yesterday. THAT sank into the swamp. I just finished ANOTHER round of extremely deep cuts today. If it follows, it will burn down, fall over, and sink into the swamp. BUT the next one will stay.

It’s fascinating to watch this happen in front of me. When I see the cut bits behind the green “cut this” suggestion thing, I REALLY miss them. But when I accept the cuts and read it all without the stuff I’ve cut, it still works and I don’t miss it at all. That is so WEIRD.

But it is so much fun, and so satisfying, to play with these toys. I still can’t believe I get to do this for my job.

Also, could someone get that guard a drink of water?

July 21

That thing I’ve been working on? That I couldn’t get specific about?

Well, now I can.

“IDW Publishing is celebrating 400 issues of Star Trek. This September, IDW will release the oversized Star Trek #400 one-shot featuring new stories from across the Star Trek universe. The stories include a brand new Star Trek: The Next Generation by series star Wil Wheaton, who recently reprised his role as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: Picard’s second season finale. “

I think this drops in September, around Star Trek Day. If you want to get one, tell your local comic shop so they can order it for you.

Writing fan fiction is never not fun.

I have been reading the Internet, as you do, and I see a lot of my fellow nerds are as excited to see the TNG cast back together as I am.

I’ve also seen a LOT of people — like, way more than I ever would have imagined –expressing dismay that Wesley isn’t part of it.

I share some of your sadness, for my own reasons, but I choose to focus instead on how special it’s going to be to see my family back together again, and how wonderful it’s going to be to talk with them about it in the Ready Room.

Still, I’ve been thinking all day … what would happen if Wesley DID show up? Why would Traveler Wesley be there? And my imagination did its thing.

So I sketched this out in my head, and … well, it felt like something that was worth sharing.

INT. CHATEAU PICARD – NIGHT.

Jean-Luc sits in a comfortable chair. He’s spent a lot of time here, lost in precisely this kind of thought. He’s sipping a glass of wine. Number One is asleep at his feet. The room shimmers in the golden light — but not the warmth — of a blazing fire. Deep shadows fill the corners, reflecting in their way the shadow on Picard’s face.

He looks up. Did he just sense movement in the shadows? He looks back to Number One, who is snoring on the floor, kicking his legs. Picard slowly stands up.

CUT TO WIDE. There it is. A figure in the darkness.

PICARD
(more curious than alarmed)
Hello? Who’s there?

A beat. We hold our breath. Is it Q?

The figure emerges from the shadows, instantly familiar to some of us. It’s Wesley Crusher. Older. Wiser. Maybe a little haunted? A Traveler who has seen some shit. He smiles warmly.

BACK TO PICARD

PICARD
…Wesley?

TRAVELER
It’s good to see you, Captain.

The fire crackles. Picard regards him for a long moment. It’s been 20 years. It’s a lot to take in.

PICARD
(feeling it)
Wesley, I haven’t been your Captain for a very long time.

Now it’s Wesley’s turn to regard him.

TRAVELER
You will always be my Captain.

Picard’s smile almost reaches his eyes. This is more than a simple reunion, and he knows it.

PICARD
Why are you here? In this place? At this time?

The Traveler takes a deep, deliberate breath. Before he speaks, Number One growls, then barks. Through the windows, it’s getting brighter. Is the sun rising? No, it’s too fast, too bright, to be the sun. This is more like a spotlight being shined directly into the room. Picard shields his eyes from the increasingly blinding light. The Traveler is unaffected.

TRAVELER
(as the light begins to swallow them)
… because this is where I am needed.

The white light fills the screen.

Black letters fade in: TO BE CONTINUED.


Writing fan fiction is never not fun, y’all.

i wanna rock (rock)

I was playing Donkey Kong yesterday, listening to my 80s Arcade playlist, and I got this idea to write something that like ten people in the world would find amusing. Because I am one of those people, and my friend, Josh, who gave me a good note on the bit, is another, I’d like to say a special hello to the eight of you who also enjoy this the way we do.

*Extremely Patrick Bateman Voice*

Twisted Sister found international fame in 1984 with their album Stay Hungry, powered by the success of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, which reached number 21 in the US. Some of the song’s popularity can be attributed to the ambiguity of what “it” was Dee Snyder would not take. Some critics claim it allowed a disaffected generation to claim the “it” for themselves, whatever “it” may be. Snyder spoke for them all, while simultaneously empowering their own voices.

But it is the album’s lesser-known single, “I Wanna Rock”, released in October of that year and only reaching number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 that is the true anthem for the moment. “I Wanna Rock” asks nothing of the listener. It allows for even less. It declares, “I Wanna Rock, and I don’t care if you’re going to take it or not,” and in so doing, defines the entire decade.

*Ax Swinging Intensifies*

if you don’t read my facebook, here’s what you’ve missed recently

For posterity, and for my personal ownership of stuff I’ve written, this is a collection of posts I’ve recently shared on my Facebook thingy.

I’ve been at this long enough to feel like posting on Facebook is … kind of icky, from my EFF-loving, anti authoritarian, fuck-all-Fascists point of view, but the shitty reality is that Facebook is where people are these days. When I post on Facebook, I’ll interact with hundreds of people, just like I did in the early 2000s right here in this old blog. But when I post here, it’s crickets. So I’ll go where the people are, but I’ll also x-post some of that here, for anyone in the future who cares to read it.

Okay. Here they are. From my Facebook, over the last week or so:

Reminder that your self care is really important. If you live with anxiety or some other super fun mental illness like I do, you may be feeling extra stress and pressure right now. That’s totally normal and valid!

It’s okay to turn off the news, to walk away from the information fire hose for awhile, and simply … exist. Read a book, have a tea or a coffee, play a game, take a walk if you’re able to do that while maintaining appropriate physical distance from your fellow humans. Draw something! Listen to some music!

Whatever you do, the news will be there when you get back. And, honestly? Things are changing so quickly, it’s okay to miss a few hours of breaking news updates.

I wonder if I’m writing this mostly for myself? I feel like I have a responsibility to be productive, and to stay informed so I can be the best husband and father I can be right now, and it can feel a little (or a lot) overwhelming.

and

Is this only funny to me?

I want to check in with a friend. So I type “Just thinking about” and I intend to type “you and [her husband]” but I see that the word “your” is in the predictive text thing. And I just *know* what it is going to lead to, but I have to see for myself, you know? So I tap it, and sure enough, the next word it suggests is “sexy” followed by “body” followed by the little smiley emoji with heart eyes.

I audibly groan and delete the predicted text, sanitize my phone’s screen, just to be safe, and send my intended text message, without the suggested, and thoroughly inappropriate, predicted text.

I’m not shaming anyone who texts that way, but I don’t, and I CERTAINLY do not text that to my friends.

It was just amusing af to me that this series of words gets typed enough that my keyboard app’s predictive text thingy was like I WILL HELP YOU, HUMAN. YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO SEND A CREEPY TEXT AND IT IS MY TIME TO SHINE.

Uh, no. Thanks. I’m good, predictive text.

and

Y’all who are on the front lines, going to work, ensuring that our society continues to function, even while everything is so disrupted, are major heroes.

I am so grateful for your dedication and your commitment to making sure your fellow humans have a place to go, and a person to talk to, when they need it.

Thank you!

and

A random person flipped out at Anne on Twitter, because she took a walk by herself, stayed far and safely away from anyone else, and had the nerve to post a picture of herself online while she was out.

She’s been getting all sorts of criticism for pretty much everything she does, from tons of random strangers online who seem to keep forgetting (or choosing to ignore) that she’s a grown-ass woman who isn’t doing anything wrong.

This one person in particular made me really, really, REALLY mad. I’m stressed af. I’m wound up as tightly as I’ve been wound up in maybe my whole life, and I feel like I could just EXPLODE if the wrong person says the wrong thing to me … or to the most important person in my entire world.

But I took a deep breath, listened while Anne expressed how frustrated she is feeling with people being shitty to her online, and I tried to maintain some perspective, tried to understand where this person was maybe coming from. I concluded that they feel afraid, and out of control, so they are lashing out, to give that emotional energy a place to go. It’s not okay that this person and so many people like them are telling a fully-grown woman how to live her life. It’s not cool to act as a gatekeeper, diminishing someone’s experience because *you* have decided that someone *else* has a worse experience.

I have the luxury of not being the stressed out mom and wife who is doing her best to get through a *really* scary and terrifyingly uncertain time. I have the luxury of not being the woman who was, once again, lectured by a man about how she is allowed to exist. Check that. I have the *privilege* of being a man, so that gives me an opportunity to depersonalize what happened to Anne, and use it as a teaching moment.

I’m doing my best to be the person I need in the world, and this is what I need today:

*gestures wildly at everything* all this is really hard for everyone, and I have to believe that everyone is dealing with it as best as they can. Yes, even the people who freak out at you online because you walked your dog (while safely staying 6 feet away from everyone). Yes, even the people who show up in every thread to act like this is a contest, gatekeeping who is and isn’t allowed to express frustration, boredom, or fear.

We are all scared, for a whole huge list of reasons that may all be wildly different, and humans don’t make the best choices when we are acting from a place of fear.

I’m scared, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m not. I would be a h*cking sociopath if I *wasn’t* scared. Basic math says someone I care about is eventually going to get sick, and may even die. The jackass president of my country makes things worse every time he opens his lie hole. The work I expected to be doing right now has all been pushed back by months, and I suddenly find myself staying at home, instead of having this amazing adventure, doing work I’m so excited to do.

But I’m not panicking. There is plenty of food, even if some things are scarce right now. I’m safe in my home and in my community.

I am remembering to focus on the things I *can* control, so I don’t obsess (and feel disempowered by) the things I can’t control. I’m listening to public health officials, trusting the scientists, and social distancing. I’m planning my meals with my family, and we’re going to the store as infrequently as we can. (And I wish I could go to the store more often, because a little bit of normal in all of this is SUPER IMPORTANT for mental health. I’m choosing to be grateful when I *do* go to the store.)

And I am doing my best, in my way, to be a helper, because I *need* to see helpers in the world, I need to know they are there. I need to believe that, for every person who is a jerkass online, there are a dozen out there right now, working in grocery stores and delivery services and hospitals and research labs.

Making the choice to be a helper has been really good for my mental health, in countless ways.

Can you be a helper, too?

Let’s do our best to choose kindness, patience, and empathy.
Let’s do our best to be gentle with ourselves, and with others.
Let’s be compassionate.

We are all in this together. This is, literally, our entire planet going through something scary, together, at the same time. And the thing is, it doesn’t care if you’re rich or what country you were born in or who you love. In the eyes of COVID-19, we are all equal, and we need to start acting like it. We need to take care of each other. The only way we are going to get through this, is by working together.

And let us remember that everyone is dealing with this as best as they can, and let us not be a dick to our fellow humans.

Thanks for listening.

and:

Another X-post from my Tumblr Ask Me thingy:

QUESTION: Would you be willing to donate your voice talents to an indie podcast for an episode or two? Should we contact your agents or would you be willing to handle it on your own? (The voice actors don’t get paid as most of us are doing for the love of it and what money we do make has thus far gone into promotion and production costs.) At the very least, would you be willing to listen to the show and mention it on social media if you like it?

ANSWER: I love that you asked me, and I’m going to give you an answer in public that I hope doesn’t turn too many people off: I *love* that you are being creative and making amazing new art. That is wonderful, and I wish you all the success in the world. When I was younger, I did projects like yours all the time and I loved it.

But I can’t be part of this for you, and I want to explain why.

I get asked all the time to donate my work, my time, my experience, etc., to projects, and I always have to decline. It’s not because I don’t believe in you, or want to support you. It’s because I’m working full-time as it is, and any spare time, energy, or creative inspiration I have really needs to go into my own projects, as I continue to build my career as a voice performer, narrator, and (hopefully) novelist.

I don’t feel your ask is unreasonable, at all, and I’m *thrilled* you had the courage to reach out. I’m also honored to be thought of as someone you want to work with. I hope you understand the practical realities of my life, and I hope you aren’t put off by my need to decline your kind invitation.

As to your final question, I rarely listen to podcasts these days, and I struggle to make time to listen to audiobooks. You can send me a link when it’s done, and I’ll make an effort to give you feedback, but I can’t promise anything.

I wish you the best of luck! I hope you’re the next Welcome To Nightvale.

and

Another question from my Tumblr ask thingy: So, I’m sorry if this is something that you’ve answered/been asked before. But I’m trying to start a DnD campaign. I’ve been playing since I was 4 (so about 23 years now), but I’ve never tried to run a campaign. I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where to start and staying on track with it. But I want to introduce my roommates to the game and I want it to be as fun and magical for them as it was for me when I first played. Do you have any advice? Thanks so much! I hope you’re doing well.

My answer, which I’ve edited a little bit to add some more thoughts:

When I was younger, I always put a ton of pressure on myself to write my own modules, build my own world, and do all that work that I wasn’t really able to do (and didn’t want to do). I have no idea why I felt that way, but it wasn’t until I was teaching RPGs to my own children about 15 years ago that I realized it was time wasted.

So with that in mind…

Don’t start out with the core books and one of the epic adventure books. You’ll all get there, eventually, but that’s a LOT to handle when you’re running a campaign for the first time, or playing the game for the first time. Players and DMs can *absolutely* start there, but I don’t recommend it.

I recommend starting out with the 5e Starter Set, or the 5e Essentials set. Both give you everything you need, for the players and for the DM, to play and experience everything that makes D&D awesome. They both take the players through several levels, and the writers take time throughout the whole thing to tell the DM not just what you’re supposed to do, but *why*you need to do it, to make the game work. You can sort of lean how to run a campaign this way, from some of the best DMs in the business.

But they do not overwhelm you with information, which is what sets them apart from the core books, for a new player. The important, foundational rules are all there, but they are streamlined just enough to prevent overwhelming new players with information they don’t really need. Nobody who ever plays them (and I’ve played them both) will ever feel like they are playing a slimmed-down version of the game. It’s just cleaner and easier to follow.

and finally:

I *need* to be creative, and until I have the creative energy to write my own stories, I’m going to do a thing I’m pretty good at, and narrate some public domain short stories.

As long as people are listening, I’ll keep recording. Your feedback is important to me.

Okay, that just about catches me up, here.

The captain dreams of flying but he’s oh so scared of heights

I’m having a bad mental health day.

Well, I’ve been having a string of bad mental health days.

Ten weeks or so, it seems, and every day is a battle just to get up and face it.

I’m paralyzed by a fear of failure, and that fear is stopping me from creating anything that matters.

Hell, it’s preventing me from creating anything at all.

So I gave myself an exercise today, to see if I can help move this ship that’s been trapped in ice.

I had a simple idea, and I gave myself permission to just spit it out without thinking too much. I decided to write in a style that I don’t normally use, just to crack the ice a little bit.

And because I’m so afraid of failure, I gave myself permission to share this unvarnished, unpolished, trapped-in-ice bunch of words that spilled out of my head.

The monster lives under the bed. It sleeps among the dust bunnies, wraps itself around the box of sweaters, stretches its legs between toys.

It keeps the lost socks. Lost things are desired to be found and that need sustains the monster when the children are not in their beds.

The children know the monster is there, as all children do, having felt its presence in the dark of night. Their parents don’t believe in monsters, as no parents do, having forgotten the truths they knew when they were children.

What the children and the parents don’t know is that the monster under the bed does not threaten on the children.

It protects them. From the other monsters.

The monster in the closet.

The monster who taps at the window when the wind blows.

The monster who lurks in the hallway, just outside the bedroom door.

The monster who stands in the room when the children hide beneath the covers.

The monster who lives under the bed waits for them to come calling. The monster who lives under the bed waits for them to tap on the window or scratch on the walls or creak the closet door open. The monster who lives under the bed waits and when the children are in danger, it reaches out with an impossibly long arm, covered with fur and scales and blisters and oozing pustules. It reaches out and opens a claw, snaps it closed on the neck of the monster who lives in the closet, crushes the life out of the monster who taps on the window, flays the skin off the monster who lurks in the hallway. When the children hide beneath the covers, it breaks the neck of the monster who stands in the dark bedroom.

It protects the children, as it protected their parents, as it will protect the children’s children long after they have grown into parents and forgotten it or any of the other monsters existed.

It protects them

and it waits.

It waits for all the other monsters to be driven out, so that it may uncoil itself, stretch itself out, creep into the bedroom

and feed.

Fifteen or so minutes, 352 words, a few images, an unexpected ending. Something where there wasn’t something before. Something unpolished and raw and imperfect. Something published for the sake a making a thing that isn’t perfect. Okay.

Maybe this will crack the ice, or at least sweep away a few snowdrifts.