On Being Clever

August 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Put on your writing cap and get to work!I like clever books. When an author does something unusual with structure or plot, it makes for more interesting, enjoyable reading—as long as it doesn’t hinder the storytelling.

I know I praise Iain M. Banks’ books often (and no, this isn’t another review), but one of his Culture novels—The Use of Weapons—is one of the most clever books I’ve read. He tells the story from both ends of its timeline simultaneously, in alternating chapters, and he does it so seamlessly that I didn’t even notice it until I reached the end.  « Read the rest of this entry »


Are you a NaNoWriMo?

October 30, 2013 § 4 Comments

ImageIt’s almost that time of year again. No, not the Holiday Season (although that is looming). And not Winter (although Winter Is Coming).

No, it’s almost National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.

If you’ve never tried to write an entire novel, start to finish, in a single month, now’s your chance to join the nearly 180,000 other crazy people all committing to cranking out 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several times, and even “won” (i.e., wrote 50,000 words) twice. I won’t lie; it ain’t for the faint of heart. You have to pretty much give up TV, your friends, your family, social events, and all other distractions to be able to hit the 1,667 words a day you need to write to make it across the finish line by the end of the month.


In exchange for all you give up, you gain a little self-respect for sticking to it. You gain a little insight into what it’s like to be a full-time writer. And most importantly, you gain a first draft of your novel.

You also learn—out of absolute necessity—to silence your internal editor. That’s because what you’ll be cranking out at the pace of 1,667 words per day isn’t going to be good. It’s going to be a lumpy, roughly sewn first draft, with glaring seams, bad transitions, stilted dialogue, and way too much exposition—and that’s perfectly fine. You have to be okay with that. Your internal editor won’t like it, but you have to ignore that voice in your head that’s telling you to go back and change that one scene or that one line or that one word, because once you start going back, you stop going forward. And you can’t afford that, not if you want to win.

And you want to win. Trust me.

You want to win, because you want that rough draft.

You want to win, because then it’s just a matter of polishing; the hard work is getting that first draft out of your head and onto the screen or the paper.

You want to win, because it’s a fantastic feeling to know you’ve written a novel in a month. (It’s probably like a runner’s high. I wouldn’t know, though; I only run if something is chasing me.)

It seems like a lot of words—trust me, I know. My current writing pace is wretchedly slow—300 words a day, if I’m lucky. That’s far less than John Scalzi, who writes (I think) 1,800 words a day, or Charles Stross, who cranks out 5,000-plus.

But 1,667 words a day is doable. I know because I’ve done it. It helps if you have an understanding spouse or supportive friends (and hey, as a WriMo, you’ve got 180,000 supportive friends). I think it helps if you have an outline, but others find it easier to make it up as they go along and fix what doesn’t make sense in the rewrite.

One of my WriMo friends believes in the power of her magic red wine. Another creates a writing soundtrack. Yet another will force herself to listen to the same crappy song, on repeat, until she hits her goal for the day. Some meet up in local coffee shops for write-ins, others schedule writing sprints with fellow WriMos on Twitter or Facebook.

There are all sorts of tips and tricks. The point is, you can do it.

So go sign up at NaNoWriMo.org, and write a novel next month! Then come back and share your secrets for WriMo success. And if you’re already a NaNo veteran, share your tips in the comments!


What is your creative process?

May 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

Here’s a little bit of humor for the weekend:

The Creative Process by Murray the Nut (www.murraythenut.com)

The Creative Process by Murray the Nut (www.murraythenut.com)


This pretty much represents my creative process. The binge eating and discouraged napping wedges might be smaller, but only because the random internet surfing wedge would be larger.

What’s your creative process?

No-Cost Book Trailers via Twitter Vine

April 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

I spotted this on Galleycat.com and thought it was worth sharing: A publisher called Grand Central Publishing is using Twitter’s new micro-video app, Vine, to make no-cost videos that act as trailers for books. Check it out.

Chuck this in the Guerrilla Marketing for Writers category.

What’s your opinion of book trailers — either low-budget or high-end? Have you ever bought a book because it had a good trailer? I don’t think I have.

Guilt-Free Creativity

October 9, 2012 § 6 Comments

So you may have noticed that this blog about writing hasn’t really been so much about writing lately. It’s become more of a blog about reading, hasn’t it?

Yes, it has.

The problem is, I haven’t been writing anything except book reviews. When I’m not writing, I don’t much feel like writing about writing; I feel like a fraud.

I’m not sure why I haven’t been writing — or, at least, I wasn’t sure until a few minutes ago. I’ve got the idea for a great science fiction space opera trilogy 90% written in my head (well, okay, maybe 50%), but when I sit down to type it up, nothing comes out.

Ditto with a short story that I’ve got the bones for written down, beginning to end, but I can’t flesh it out more than that. Nothing comes.

So what happened a few minutes ago that opened my eyes to my problem? I read an article called “Guilt-Free Creativity: Stop Kicking Yourself & Start Producing.” Particularly, it was this part:

Guilt That You Are Progressing Too Slowly

The Challenge: Once you have the time to focus on your creative pursuits, you may discover that you completely underestimated how long it would take you to make progress. Your grandiose visions of writing the next great American novel deflate to hopes of completing a few short stories. Or your desire to create a website that makes your designer friends drool diminishes to a hope that you’ll launch a site where all the hyperlinks function.

The Solution: Just because you have what you consider loads of time, doesn’t mean that you can get everything done at once. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the Sistine Chapel and some of the world’s greatest buildings took hundreds of years to construct. Instead of getting discouraged, record what actions you do on a daily and weekly basis and celebrate what you did accomplish. Also, try to find ways to get a sense of completion faster, such as publishing an excerpt of your book as an article, exhibiting the first painting in something that will become a series, or giving a presentation on your findings so far.

Is guilt holding you back, or have you overcome it? Tell me how you beat it, because I really need to get writing again.


The Power of Enchantment in Storytelling

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Emma Coats posted a great video of a talk Bobette Buster gave recently. I can’t embed it here, so click over to Story Shots and watch it there. Buster shares some very powerful insights, and I found the talk incredibly inspiring.

Emma summarized her favorite parts of the video:

One thing she said that blew my mind (cause it’s true): “Cinema is an experience, not a message.”

The video above is more about WHY we tell stories and is full of amazing quotes.

  • Audience wants “to be taken into a world they’d otherwise never get to experience, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary”
  • on sharing your own personal experience, your own dark times: “you can empower and embolden a person – that’s the power of enchantment in storytelling.”
  • “ultimately, all stories are about either someone becoming fully alive or becoming the living dead.”

Watch the rest of the video for 20 minutes of great storytelling thoughts.


11 Tips to Shake Your Creativity Loose

July 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

One of the most common questions asked of authors is, “Where do you get your ideas?” The most common answer is, “Everywhere!” But that’s not very helpful to the struggling writer who thinks all of his ideas are boring.

The good folks over at Mental Floss posted an interesting list today called “For Your Inspiration: 11 Imagination-Jarring Tips From Creative Geniuses.”

While there are some rather unique ideas on the list, I know there’s more than 11 ways to jumpstart your creativity. For example, I get a lot of my ideas from the news; I read a story and then ask, “What if it was really because of this?” I also like to riff off of others ideas and ask, “What would it really be like to be so-and-so.”

That’s why I’m putting the question to you: Where do you get your ideas? How do you kick-start your creativity? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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