Friday, September 23, 2011

Contest Announcement

Hello everyone! I have now reached over 200 followers on The Twitter. I know it's not exactly a milestone, but it's something I'm excited about nonetheless. So to celebrate the big 200, I'm going to have a contest. Don't worry, it's very simple. All you have to do to enter is post your name and email address in the comments section of this post, and on Saturday, October 1st I will announce the winner. PLEASE NOTE: I promise that I'm not aquiring your emails so I can spam you with info about myself (unless you just want me to). You will only recieve an email from me if you are the winner of the contest.

So what is the prize? Well since I have over 200 followers, I'm giving away a gift certificate in the amount of $20 to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon; the winner can decide which. There will only be one winner, and you have until midnight EST of the 30th to enter. This is just my way to thank you all for following me, and to encourage you to read. And if you choose to buy my books with the monies, well, that's your call.

If enough people enter, then I may have another giveaway for a higher amount when I reach 500 followers. ;)

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Job

So as of last Friday I have a job. You know, the kind where you actually go into a place of work, and exchange for your services they pay you the money. I always considered my "career" as a writer a job, but since I've barely sold 100 books (most of which were purchased by me and given to friends) some people probably don't consider it a "real" job. Which is understandable, but I still treated my writing like a real job by doing a certain amount of writing each day, setting hours and goals for myself, and making sure I met deadlines.

Ok, so the deadlines were set by me, and no one would know if I didn't meet the deadlines, and that is where there was the flaw in having people take my writing career seriously.

I'm still a writer, and no matter what kind of job I have, I'll always be a writer first. My new job is nothing terribly exciting, I'm a server for a breakfast and lunch joint. So far, it has really kicked my butt working from 7 to 3-3:30ish, because I'm not used to being on my feet all day (one of the best parts about being a writer is the sitting, in my opinion). But it's been great exercise, and even though my muscles have been sore, that hasn't stopped me from being able to go in the past three mornings. Those were actually my "training" days, and let me tell you, for someone who has never been a server before I've learned a hella lot. I still haven't quite mastered everything, and yesterday was quite the test. Sundays are our busiest days, and since it was my last day of training the boss decided to give me my own small section to look after instead of just shadowing my trainer. The reastaurant has an upstairs section, so I had four tables up there, but the boss and hostess were nice enough to never give me more than 3 tables at a time.

And let me tell you, that was difficult for ole' Shawn. I didn't mind running up and down the stairs, but I hated being so far away from the kitchen. Numerous times someone else had to bring up the food to my tables, because my timing was so bad. I wasn't just sitting up there with my thumb up my butt, I would go down to check on the food, see that it wasn't ready, then go back upstairs to refill drinks and take a new table's drink order. See, we have to take their drink orders within 30 seconds of them being seated (although the managers prefer it if we greet the guests immediately). So I would go down to the kitchen, see that the food wasn't up yet, then on my way upstairs find out that I have a new table. After going upstairs taking drink order, then getting their drinks, someone would show up with my other table's food, and even though they're just making sure people get their food while it's hot, I still felt like a royal D-bag.

Not to mention, I forgot to put in two side orders of fries until after their food showed up, then put the fries on someone else's ticket in the computer, and dropped someone's bicuit right as I was putting it on their table. Yeah, that person didn't tip me. I also haven't memorized the entire menu yet, so I kept having to go back and ask questions like (what kind of bread do you want, which side with that omlet, how do you want your eggs cooked, your burger?) I'm not a meat-eater, so it doesn't occur to me right away that people can be picky about their meat. Ok, not picky, they just want it cooked a certain way.

But even after all my mess-ups, I must have done enough good to get scheduled for four days this week. Occording to my co-workers that's good for a newbie, so I'm pretty excited. I'm just dreading next Sunday, but I'll deal with that biatch when she gets here. For now, I'm just happy that I have a job that pays me regularly, allows me to have time to write, and will be fairly easy once I get the hang of it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Guest Post on Inspiration by Dill Werner

Allow me to give an introduction; I am Dill Werner, a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and a Bachelor’s in German language. During my first three years, I attended the College of Charleston, where I encountered Shawn C. Sproatt. I now work at my Alma Mater and will be studying for my MFA in Creative writing next year. I am writing on more novels than I can count on my fingers, but my most important is a book called “Status: Positive.” The introduction can be read on my deviant art page:

Currently, I have placed myself in a creative bubble as I write my next novel. The following blurb gives a simple explanation of the plot for “Status: Positive.”
Blue Stevens is a teenage girl struggling to find her identity in a world divided between Positive and Negative, Gay and Straight. She's spent ten years living on the Southampton Reserve for Segregated Homosexuals, a contained community cut off from the general population, with same-sex parents. Join Blue as she tries to find her place as a positive person living in a negative world.

I have barred myself from reading any books or short stories that my influence my writing. I won’t read “The Hunger Games” or see the new “Atlas Shrugged” movie. This is a direct contrast to my normal research-based method of writing. Normally, I wade through mountains of pictures, articles, books and films. I find inspiration comes easiest to me through visual stimuli. If I am writing a wedding scene, I will research different patterns, fabrics and cuts of dresses to use for the bride. When I have an image in my mind, the story plays out like a movie. I will see her getting dressed, slipping on her shoes. Then another character comes in to play. What are they wearing? What is special about their facial features? How do they interact? Little bits of color allow the reader to make a connection to the characters and to the story.

Now, I have faced my greatest challenge; starting from scratch. The novel I am working on is a dystopian, coming-of-age tale. I have a list of literature that I could read; “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “The Bar Code Tattoo” by Suzanne Weyn, and several others. I will admit that I began listening to the audiobook for “Under the Dome” by Stephen King, but stopped due to cross-contamination threats. I do not want to be influence by so many authors who have come before me. From the beginning, I knew I would face the threat of “borrowing” from other writers. How do you write something that has been done before while still being original?

Thankfully, I haven’t been exposed to many dystopian novels. I know their themes, but have tried not to be formulaic with my plot lines. When creating your own world, it is easier to make up new rules. I find that some questions answer themselves while others don’t need to be answered at all. I developed a looking glass version of our world. For example, the area where my characters live is called the Anglo-Continent. It’s a large island divided into five regions: North, South, East, West and the Middle region. Each region is self-sustained while being governed by a set of rules. This allowed me to build the Reserves in remote areas of the continent, which has concentrated populations due to its size. Imagine only being able to live in certain cities in your state. Not only does this allow me to control a smaller population, but it explains how the government is able to have such strict control over its people.

I will admit that I was first inspired to write this novel while reading Mary Anne Moody’s “Coming of Age in Mississippi” for an American History class. One scene in particular stuck out in my mind. Moody described how she and her fellow civil rights activists would be taken away from their sit-ins hot vans. They would then be locked inside of the cars, sometimes for hours, in the hot Mississippi summer sun. Other times, they were contained in makeshift pens much like those that would contain cattle. First, my mind turned to concentration camps. Being half-German and having German language as one of my majors meant I’d had a plenty of experience with World War II survival stories. My main theme came to me; segregation.

There, in my bedroom with Moody’s book in my hand, I saw a little girl entering a bus with her father. What was special about her? Where was she going? Then, I saw the looming walls approaching. She was being placed into segregation. At the time, I was taking my final Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop during my senior year. I was faced with a task I still find to be impossible; writing a short story. I am a novelist. I believe that I lack the physical ability to write a contained short story that is less than 30-pages. My first attempt was horrible, but the foundation was there.

I have had this desire from the beginning to make sure everything I was writing came exclusively from my mind. I didn’t want someone to pick up this novel and say, “Oh, she borrowed X and Z from Orwell” or “This is just another version of Ayn Rand.” If I have been influenced by other writers, then it was by mistake. There are so many practical questions which must be asked. I do have to research certain architectural facts. I by no means have any idea how cities are built. My biggest question was and still is: How can a community exist while completely segregated from the rest of the country? I’ve found it’s easiest to address the most practical questions and not dwell too much on the minute details.

I could easily open one of the several dystopian novels in my local library to find the answers. I won’t let myself take shortcuts. There’s something so rewarding about being able to say, “I did it myself.” If I get things wrong, then I get them wrong. The best thing about developing your own world is being able to revert to the classic because-I-said-so mentality. I shall continue writing, working, and living in my bubble until my novel is completed. I wish all of the readers of Shawn C. Sproatt’s blog the best of luck in their future writing. I hope I provided a little inspiration and asked a few questions you’d be happy to answer.

Feel free to contact me on twitter @dillwerner or Facebook
You may read more of my writing on at
Happy Writing!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Surprised...Not So Much

Ok, I enjoy a good book/movie/TV show. Heck, I even enjoy the bad ones (although I have yet to see an episode of "Jersey Shore," and I intend on keeping it that way). But one of the problems with being a writer, and even a theatre person, is that it's really hard for a plot to surprise me.

I know what you're probably thinking. "Oh, great. Another person who thinks they know everything." Trust me, I know I don't know everything (quantum physics is really confusing!). And I'm fully aware that I'm very much to blame on figuring out plot twists, and book/film endings. It's just that I've studied the formula for how a script should unfold so many times. In college I had to take Script Analysis, and I also took Playwrighting I & II. Plus, I've watched a lot of TV, movies, and I've ready many books. I'm sure we can all figure out how things are going to end, and even if it's obvious we at least enjoy the ride.

In fact, I actually enjoy trying to figure out if this character is really a bad guy who has been deceiving us all along, or if he's actually the main character's long lost twin brother. Nowadays it's not hard to figure out that something is going to have a happy ending. That's usually a no-brainer, unless you're reading someone like George R.R. Martin, who apparently is notorious for killing off characters left and right. So it's really a shocker that I'm not really into the "Mystery" genre, but I think that mostly has to do with the fact that I hate how there's always such a high dead body count. Unless it's a child molester who winds up dead, then I'm not a fan of finding a dead body simply for the fact that it leads the main character to the killer.

And don't get me started on how annoying it is that the victim is very often a dead hooker on these crime shows. Seriously, if I had a dollar...

In fact, sometimes when I read a book, or watch a movie, I'll just tell my brain to turn itself off so I can be surprised for once. But I think one of the reasons why I enjoy figuring out plot twists and endings is because it just makes me feel smart in a way. I'll be honest, I was never the best student, so having this one thing that not everyone else does just makes me feel good about myself.

Also, I think I get a little bit of it from my dad. There have been times when we're watching a movie, and I've decided to just sit back and enjoy it, and he'll figure out a plot twist right before it's revealed. But I'm not one of those people who blames their parents for their problems. I'm also not one of those people who will give away a surprise once I've figured it out. I'm just the jerk at the end of the movie saying, "I knew it!"