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Information Technology Leadership
(& Congenial Geek)


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I write because I have to.

A compulsion not of duty, but the reality of living with a brain that doesn't tend to stop spinning (except during meditation, and only if well rested at the time). I've often been struck with ideas, either through paths of contemplation or random epiphany. They may not be profound or earthshaking, or particularly unique - but they come anyway. When this happens I have 2 choices: put it somewhere physical or lose it forever.

I used to rationalize that if it was a remarkable thought, whatever had produced it in the first place would be sufficiently provocative to ensure its semi-permanence in memory (or an ability to retrace steps and reproduce a predictable synthesis). I would then, at a more convenient and constructive time, sit to explore it in depth only to find the plane barren. Not even vague shrubbery of the formerly fertile and lush concept remained; no outline, no shadow. No seed.

This led to an immense frustration at the loss of creativity, which I've solved by jotting things down furiously whenever they arise. Then fertilizing them, exploring in gedankenexperiment, wandering to distant conclusions. Most fall apart upon casual scrutiny, but some weather repeat analysis and appear to be well resolved. These are the ones I then work to evolve into a finished product.

Immersing in that evolution really turns on the creative juices and repeats the process in a delicious cycle. Nugget by nugget the hoard is collected, and with careful patience something can be refined and built for the edification and enjoyment of others.


Much of my writing has taken place across disparate media, quite a lot of it entirely disconnected from the web. I plan on introducing that content here over time as it's converted to something more conducive of electronic distribution. Those works which are available can be found below, categorically separated by length.

The Process

  1. Inspiration

    This certainly applies less to writing by assignment, where much of the material is already provided and need simply be slotted into place in support of a definite (sometimes predefined) conclusion. Dealing strictly with prose fiction (nonfiction is a different bag I don't know well) then:

    Getting An Idea is of course the first stop. If something doesn't come along on its own, it'll have to be invented: but I don't recommend forcing the process unless there's an undeniable itch to write which simply lacks direction and will take anything that comes along. If the desire is there then working indiscriminately will likely entice other inspiration by virtue of activating similar mental circuits.

    The main rule is that ideas can come from anywhere: I once composed a lullaby based on a trio of notes my mother's cat depressed when stepping off her piano (largely for bragging rights to be able to say exactly that, but that's unimportant). Literary composition can happen in exactly the same fashion, though does tend to require a little more source material. That greater volume is easily produced with a few basic exercises.

    Probably the most basic and reliable tool is the "What If." This is followed closely by its sibling, "If This, Then..." Together, these 2 guiding phrases tease out gaping holes and tender nuances alike as one moves through uncharted territory. Suspension of disbelief can be supplied liberally so long as internal consistency is maintained: otherwise it's impolite and confusing to the reader unless the material is provided with a disclaimer of deliberate farce up front.

    I've also relied on a coin: given a list of options, use a flip to narrow the field as well as reveal any subconscious preference. If re-tries are being done to change the outcome, or if there's any hope for it to land one way or another, the choice has already been made. If not, then there's nothing to lose. I once started with a list of genres, then time frames, characters, settings, attributes, etc., and came away with:

    An enamored but unwed pair hiking in familiar territory encounter a few obsidian shards of unique quality: hot when touched on one side, but cool on the other. It is eventually discovered that this is an exotic dielectric material used in the window portholes of an unknown and possibly extra-terrestrial source. Embedded nanofillaments trap radiation of harmful wavelengths and work to convert them to usable energy while other emissions are either reflected or allowed to pass based on their usefulness to the occupants of such a craft.

    The significant turmoil resulting from the find circa 1970 caused international upheaval, re-ignites an arms and science race, and spawns violent religious indignation in parts of the globe. Not to mention the strain it places on the famous and quickly forgotten pair.

    I can write things other than sci-fi, I promise. This is what the quarter chose. No, really! I also never completed the story, but have it on a shelf somewhere for later use: I didn't feel the market needed another obscure alien encounter at the time (despite the exact origins of the piece never being revealed, and no other encounters are hinted at).

  2. Outlining

    The first part of any story begins with its silhouette: the briefest sketch to give (very rough) shape to the thing. This allows for the essence of imagination to flow unimpeded while still catching enough from the stream to be practically useful.

    Hierarchical outlines are classic, but tend to force strict chronological or lexical movement counter to the intuitive process. Bubble outlines or "Mind Maps" can be abstractly useful but do take some time to become comfortable with.

    Whatever the tool or process used, the intent is to brainstorm through as many facets and elements as possible. Take just enough information to recall (and expound on) them later, show association relative to each other and main threads where appropriate, but don't focus too much on organization up front. That's not what this step is for.

  3. Composition

    This is where most stories fall apart: not for lack of intent, or energy, but focus. This is the protracted step of giving flesh to the ideas which came easily, breathing life and reality into them to a believable degree. Loose threads will become more visible but are usually easily worked out.

    The reason for the abandonment then is that this is work: hard work, and can be challenging to the uninhibited flashes of genius which felt so infallible before. The wrenching and retooling required to make a story compelling and entertaining, as well as true to its sources and the voice of the author, is exhausting and humbling.

  4. Editing

    A la William Faulkner, "Kill Your Darlings." Don't be afraid to hack apart, or allow others to hack apart the work at the essential layers. This does not mean to look for failings where they may not exist, or turn on such a high-powered microscope that no flaw is left undiscovered and paraded about as an infidel to the cause.

    Here the intent is to let the story shine: remove that which may distract from it (even if it's good in its own right) and boil down to the real meat. The recent advent of suddenly pervasive extra features on DVD releases has offered a unique glimpse into the film-makers parallel of this stage: the Deleted Scene. Far more often than not, the vignettes in the Bonus menu would have diluted and contorted the story into a different feel and flavor, and not in a good or helpful way.

    Reread and review the work many times during composition. As the universe expands and characterizations fall into their proper niche, necessary alterations will come to light: adapting to this early on is gentler and simpler as less change is actually called for.

    Poor assumptions and language also stand out and beg clarification, inevitably leading to a stronger presentation when scrubbed.

Altogether, this is completely iterative. Each step relies heavily on the others for success and will be engaged in endlessly as focus moves and contracts. For me, the most difficult part psychologically is taking a scene from its small home in a separate text file and attaching it as an official member of the manuscript. I never feel ready, and though I'm certain I'll come back to and change it later, it's a level of commitment exposing a weak opinion of my own work.


A craftsman is hardly defined by their tools (wherein the talent doth not lay), but would be very nearly paralyzed without them. Below is a listing of those I rely on with a fair amount of regularity to help me keep things straight as I move through The Process. My time and habits as a professional geek show through the selection quite strongly.


Stuff I rely on while I'm writing.

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