Zack Umstead, Young Writer

November 12, 2012

Just a Quick Announcement…

Filed under: Announcements — Zack @ 8:30 AM

I am currently writing this post from my school (which, thank God, has finally repealed some of the dumber webfilters). As part of my Creative Writing class, we will be writing our free writing on our blogs on Mondays from now on. As many of you know, I prefer to write fiction over anything, so the majority of those posts will be fiction, unless I am explicitly told not to. So check back every Monday for a quick post!

I still will be posting other stories occasionally, so don’t worry about that, they just won’t come out as regularly as these Monday posts. Stay tuned for those, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter to hear about all the work I do!

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November 6, 2012

Business Card Fiction

This year, one of the classes I’ve been taking is Creative Writing. Sounds like a ton of fun, right? Well, it does to me, but so far, we haven’t done a heck of a lot of writing in Creative Writing, and what we have done is mostly nonfiction. But we are now finally beginning to write fiction, and I couldn’t be happier. Whenever I get the chance (and the story’s good), I’ll post what I’ve written on here. This first post was an odd prompt – we were given a picture prompt, the painting by George Tooker you see here, and were told to write a piece of fiction about it. Simple enough, except there was a catch – we could only write it on the front and back of a business card-sized piece of card stock. Not the easiest thing to fit a full plot arc on. I tried my best, and I think you’ll like it. Go ahead and read below!

The Bureau of Time

Walter shuffled forward in line. “Name, please,” the man asked.

“Walter Robinson.”

“How long are you requesting?”

“Eight years.”

The man behind the counter punched a few keys. He had the same face as everyone else behind the counters. That was for protection – there were dangers in this job. “I can’t give you that. At most, you have seven months.”

“Seven months!” Walter cried. “I need more than that!”

“I can’t give you more than that, sir. I suggest you live your life while you can.”

“Oh, you’ll give me more than that!” Walter pulled a handgun and pointed it right at the clerk’s face.

“I’m sorry sir,” he said without emotion. “I can’t help you.”

Walter pulled a trigger and the bullet punched a clean hole through the robot. He emptied the rest of the clip in the two guards coming toward him, also robots. As he was taken away, he heard the clerk say, “Enjoy your life, sir.”

And just for a bit of fun, here’s a picture of the front and back of the card, with a quarter for scale.

October 4, 2012

Guest Post by Spencer Brokaw – Why I Write

Filed under: Guest Posts — Zack @ 3:57 PM

I’ve been corresponding on Twitter with a great young author, Spencer Brokaw, for a while now, and he recently released his second book, The Impenetrable Spy: Future Dreamer. I’d say more, but this blog post isn’t about me, so I’ll just let him speak for himself and say a word about why he writes (which, by the way, contains some awesomely true points).

Why I Write

Hello everybody! My name is Spencer Brokaw, 13-year-old published author of The Impenetrable Spy series, available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and in paperback. I wrote part of The Impenetrable Spy when I was 10, finished it at 11, published it at 12, and wrote a follow up—The Impenetrable Spy: Future Dreamer soon after. That was published in August. I am currently working on a spin-off prequel, and am in the middle of editing my first book so the writing is just as good as my newer works.

I believe that writing is the best way to express thoughts. I guess this is one of the many reasons I like music so much, and all the arts for that matter. Being able to express your thoughts and ideas and share them with other people is amazing. I love to write for my own self-enjoyment. I only write for myself. When I sit down thinking of my next story, I’m not crafting a story in mind for 100s or 1,000s of people to read, I’m designing it for myself.

You know when you’re reading a book or watching a movie and you want to change something? Even if it’s the smallest detail, it’s still something you want to change—maybe the way an action scene ends or how a character dies. When you’re writing a story, you’re the artist, director, actor, and screenwriter all combined. You have the choice to do anything you want, and have fun with it in the process.

When I’m writing, it’s like I’m watching my own movie. I can picture the characters, and I see everything exactly as I want to see it. The challenge isn’t putting those thoughts to paper for me, the challenge is the editing and making it as good as it can be afterwards.

I guess my main point is to write with passion. Write because you like it, and if/when you don’t anymore, don’t do it. Do only what you like. I learned some great advice recently: “The day you wake up miserable to go to your job is the day you quit.” This is cliché: but you only live once, so don’t waste life doing the things you don’t enjoy. Don’t write to sell books. Your writing will lack the passion, and it will show. Write because you like it. That’s why I write, and always will.

Like I said, some awesome points. For Spencer’s books on Kindle, click here and here. Also, check out his website, or follow him on Twitter!

July 13, 2012

Spark

Filed under: Shorts — Zack @ 1:39 PM

I wrote this short story a few weeks back for a contest on a great blog called Teens Can Write, Too! Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but I figured “Hey, why not share it on the blog?” A little detail, though: the contest required the pieces to be around 200 words, and the prompt was “Beginnings”. Trust me, I would’ve loved to write more than 200 on this particular piece. But, due to those constraints, I cut it down to this, which I titled “Spark”. Enjoy!

 

“The end is nigh!”

The man stood in Times Square with his basic cardboard sign. The word ‘repent’ was scribbled across it in black Sharpie. His companion a few yards away carried a professionally printed sign and handouts, which he was currently attempting to force into the hands of a man in his late thirties. The man politely declined and tipped his derby hat at the owner of the cardboard sign. He then straightened his tie and walked off.

William’s hat had caused a few beads of sweat to form on his head, and his wrinkled brow allowed them to coalesce. The liquid was suddenly shaken loose as he allowed himself to chuckle at the irony of being told the world would soon end. William didn’t need flyers to tell him what to do — he was going to do it.

Today was the beginning of the end of this imperfect world, and William had the honor of being the spark for the fire. Soon, his companions would continue the work of ending this world and building the utopia that humanity desperately needed.

But William would never see this future. He walked to an officer writing a ticket for an illegally parked painter’s van. “Is there a problem?” he asked in his thick Welsh accent.

“Yeah, this van shouldn’t be ‘ere. What’s it gotta do with you?”

“Well, that happens to be my van.”

“Is it? Well, ‘ere’s your ticket.” He ripped the slip off his pad and handed it to William.

“Cheers.” William reached into his pocket and flipped the switch.

July 2, 2012

Finding Time to Write During Summer Vacation

Filed under: Tips for Teens — Zack @ 1:10 PM
Tags: , , , ,

I can say this with complete certainty – if you are a high school student and reading this post right now, you are on summer vacation, and chances are you’re probably a little bored (I know I am). So what to do with the oodles of time you now have in your day? Well write, of course!

But I know it’s not quite that easy. There are summer camps, family vacations, and friends to hang out with. Sometimes, these can be quite hard to juggle. As much as you don’t like to admit it, though, you do have some small gaps between events, and these gaps can be when your best ideas come to you. If you have your phone with you, jot it down in that. Or if you prefer the more traditional method, keep a pen and paper handy. Then, when an idea comes to you, you won’t forget it.

Now we’ve got an idea for a story. See, that wasn’t that hard! Now comes quite possibly the hardest part – expanding upon it. An idea can sound great, and you might be able to write a thousand words about it, but without a full plot, it won’t go anywhere. You need to think of secondary characters, backstory, and the range of emotions you want your readers to feel. Is it humorous? Or serious? Or will you try to combine the two, knowing when to use one and not the other? All of these things and more need to be thought of. Most of all, make this a book you would want to read. If you would read it, then there is some random stranger who would read it, too.

I find the best time to expand on an idea is on a Thursday night with a cold glass of milk nearby (2% milk, of course). This will be different for everybody. Find a time when your creativity flows and use it to take your idea to the next level.

So now what we have is a full plot arc, planned out so that you know exactly what you want happening when. Now what? Now you write! Sit down at your computer and find some music fitting the mood of the scene you’re writing. I listen to Foo Fighters while writing an action scene and Incubus when writing the introduction of a new character. Again, find what works for you – just don’t listen to metal while writing a tender love scene, I guarantee that won’t work out too well. When you have your music, let the words flow out of you. If you find a sentence that could use some revision, but you’re three paragraphs ahead, go back and revise that sentence. It will often help to form better sentences going forward.

The most important part of the writing process is not to let your outline rule you. If you want to end a chapter differently, then do it. Go ahead, introduce a new minor character. Just don’t make any huge changes, like a new major character or plot twist, without first consulting your outline to make sure it fits. It is absolutely key to not lose sight of where your story is going; without that, it’s a runaway train waiting for a derailment.

Oh, did I mention have fun? Well have fun! You’re writing a story, and this is your story. You can do whatever you want with it, and your English teacher can’t do a thing to stop you (just please use proper grammar). This should be a fun project to do in your free time, not something to take over your summer. If you become stressed out, then stop. Take a break, then come back. Are you happier? Then the story will be better.

Now, it’s time for me to go put these into action. Yes, I’ll be writing this summer. Expect some new pieces from me soon…

Your favorite 14 years 319 day-old author,

Zack Umstead

November 25, 2011

Exciting News

Filed under: Entanglement — Zack @ 4:32 PM

I may have, erm, stretched the truth a bit when I said Entanglement was to be done by November. Well, I fell behind schedule, but it’s done! Minutes ago I finished my second piece! It’s being sent off to beta readers as I speak, so look for it in ebook stores soon. And I have one more date-related promise that will definitely come true – it will be available before Christmas!

Your favorite 14 years 99 day-old author,

Zack Umstead

October 4, 2011

Announcing… Entanglement!

Filed under: Entanglement — Zack @ 3:18 PM
Tags: , , ,

I have been working hard on this story, and I’m pulling in to the last leg, so I’ve decided to officially announce my newest piece, Entanglement! It’s a stand-alone novel that should be around 25,000 words when all is said and done. I’m not going to give any clues as to the topic besides saying that it will be another young-adult, sci-fi story. However, look for some excerpts as it pulls closer to the release date. I’m hoping it will be available by early November, so look for it in the same places as Shifter.

Your favorite 14 years 47 day-old author,

Zack Umstead

July 23, 2011

Shifter Now Available for NOOK!

Filed under: Shifter — Zack @ 1:07 PM

The pipes have been cleared, Shifter is in the NOOK Store! And even though I am excited, I’m not being annoying and capitalizing NOOK every time, it’s actually the correct spelling. I personally use a Touchscreen NOOK (8th grade graduation present) and was psyched to see it in a store on my own device. This now means that Shifter is available in the three major e-book stores: Kindle, NOOK, and iBooks (see my previous post). I look forward to the new spectrum of readers who own NOOKs.

If any links do not work, please leave a comment so I am aware. Any and all reviews of Shifter are welcome, and you can leave them on either the blog or the store (or both if you feel so inclined).

Your favorite 13 years 339 day-old author,

Zack Umstead

July 22, 2011

Shifter Now Available!

Filed under: Shifter — Zack @ 2:19 PM

Shifter, the first book in the series, is now available in three e-book stores for numerous devices! Those of you with Kindles, you can buy directly in the Kindle store by clicking here. The wide array of people with iDevices (that’s either an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch) can purchase it through the iBooks store here. Shifter has been sent to the NOOK Store for Barnes & Noble e-reading system but is still making its way through the endless maze of pipes inside B&N HQ. I will keep everybody posted on when this process is finished along with other stores. If you’re itching to read Shifter and can’t wait for it to hit large e-book stores, then check out Smashwords, the site I publish through. There, you can buy Epub version along with many others, then manually load them onto your e-reader.

If any of these links don’t work or don’t send you to the right place, please leave a comment so I can fix it. “Like” my Facebook page for another way to find news and check back here regularly for updates.

Your favorite 13 years 338 day-old author,

Zack Umstead

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