Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Insecure Writer and Being Late With My Post

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I completely forgot that today was the first Wednesday of the month.  Where are my priorities? 

To spare myself any further embarrassment, I'll jump right to this month's optional question. 

It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

It seems that every time the season changes, I'm inspired to write. The onset of fall is still my most productive time, but I get another little boost when winter starts. It's time to head indoors and the thought of working on my story with a cup of hot chocolate next to me is enough to keep me writing for a while. Spring is another great time to write, but as you can see from the title of this post, it can also lead to short attention spans.

 Thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How Being A Writer Has Changed My Book Buying Habits

Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

I’ve noticed a trend in my ebook buying habits over the past year. My purchases tend to fall into one of two camps. Camp number one represents either a book by an author I love (and hence a no-brainer purchase) or the rare book that really catches my attention (interesting premise, great voice, etc.). Camp number two involves books that are merely okay, but which have a voice or style similar to mine. I buy these books because I want to learn from them, to see how to craft sentences that work—not because the story is great. In other words, I buy it to satisfy the writer in me, not the reader. 

Not that I can't learn from the first group of books, but their writing is usually so far above my station it’s difficult for me to pick out the nuances. What I learn from this group involves aspects of story structure. Where did the character arcs occur? How did the authors pull off that intricate subplot? Why did they choose one method over another? The high level stuff. 

The end result of all this is that I’ve become jaded in my book buying habits. If a book doesn’t grab me immediately, then I won’t buy it unless I think I’ll learn something from it. No more middle ground. No more fun little reads. I already have so many TBR and IKINR (I Know I’ll Never Read) books on my Kindle, there’s no incentive for me to do anything else. 

Is it just me? What are your book buying habits these days?


Friday, April 13, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 187

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

After not being able to write for two weeks because of bronchitis, I had to speed-write for a week in order to complete my submissions for my two critique groups, both of which met this week. I plan on spending this weekend relaxing, although my wife may have other plans in mind. 

We saw Pacific Rim: Uprising last weekend and were moderately entertained.  My my, how computer graphics have evolved over time. Mass destruction never looked so good.  The story itself was rather contrived and full of plot holes, but I've come to expect that in these kinds of movies.  Just load up on the popcorn and soda and watch the explosions, thank you very much.

Enjoy the writing links! 


Showing vs telling: ‘Show don’t tell’ in narration

How to Publish with Createspace & Ingram Spark at the Same Time

How to avoid spam filters and reach the inbox

Pros And Cons Of Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing

Writing a Synopsis

Mining Our Characters’ Wounds

7 Ways to Master “Show, Don’t Tell” During Exposition

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Insecure Writer And Knowing If You've Got the Skills To Be A Writer

Today is April's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I still wonder if I'm one of those people who'll never be a good/,average/passable writer. no matter how much I work at it. 

I’ve read posts and listened to podcasts that say anyone can be a writer if they work hard enough at it, but I know that’s not the case. We may not wish to discuss it in public, but the truth is some people will never be able to grasp the concept of being a writer—whether it’s an inability to write coherent sentences, or a lack of imagination, or being unable to describe a scene so that someone other than the writer understands what’s going on, or any of the dozens of other skills a writer must have. 

I have a knack for chemistry. I don’t know why; I just do. It makes sense to me. It’s not always easy, but I can solve complicated problems because I don’t have to worry about the basics. I used to think that anyone could pass a chemistry class if they worked hard enough, but after years of teaching I was forced to admit that some people will never get it. They might be smart and/or hard working, but chemistry will never click for them. And that’s okay—assuming they’re satisfied with never being a chemist. 

It’s the same for writers. Even passable writers wield words in a way that are beyond the ken of non-writers. They breathe life onto the page without consciously thinking about it. They may struggle at times, but the basics come so naturally to them they don’t even think about them anymore. Unfortunately, there will always be those aspiring writers who will never "get" these basics, no matter how hard they work. 

I’ve met all sorts of aspiring writers at meetings and conferences. Their skill levels vary widely, but I can see the understanding in their eyes. But I’ve run into a few people I know will never have that understanding. They’re enthusiastic and attend conferences and read books, but after speaking with them for ten minutes, it’s clear they’re never going to get it. I recall helping someone with their synopsis once and when I asked her to explain what her story was about, it was an absolute mess. When I suggested her story needed some kind of conflict she just stared at me like I was an idiot. 

It's a dirty secret, but some people will never be writers. It’s not their fault, and I feel bad for them. My only question is: Am I one of those people? 

Oh, by the way, I'm one of the IWSG co-hosts this month. Don't forget to stop by the other co-hosts too.   Olga Godim Renee Scattergood Tamara Narayani 


Friday, March 30, 2018

Is The Three Act Structure No Longer Useful?

Photo courtesy of VisualHunt

As some of you may know, I’m big into story structure. My ability to take a scene in my head and convert it into words on the page may be lacking, but story structure is a whole 'nother beast. Three-act structure, along with its requisite story beats at well-defined points, just makes sense to me. So much so that I’ve given a few lectures on the topic at local libraries and my SCBWI writing group. I can scarcely watch a movie these days without noticing the first plot point or the midpoint reversal. Heck, I’ve talked about it enough that even my wife and daughter can spot the “All is lost” moment. 

But lately I’ve come across a few writers who suggest that the three-act structure is no longer necessary for a good story. That writers can use whatever structure they want. And that makes me want to go hmmm… 

I first saw this advice a couple of weeks ago in the book Layer Your Novel by C. S. Lakin. I enjoy her books on the craft of writing, and this book does a good job of defining the important story beats and where they should go in the story, but she spent several pages at the beginning of the book telling writers that they don’t have to use the three-act structure if they don’t want to. She even pointed out that one of her books had seven acts. All a writer really needs, she said, is to have the proper story beats in the right places. 

I have to say I found this attitude rather confusing. First of all, there’s nothing about the three-act structure that says you can’t break it down into more than three parts. All you really need is the story setup, the journey, and the final battle. Pretty basic stuff. I haven’t read her seven-part story, but I suspect that it follows the three-act structure more than she would lead us to believe. In fact, if her story follows the story beats that she espouses in Layer Your Novel, then I’m positive it follows three-act structure. Because if you have all the necessary story beats and you put them in the right places, then you basically have the three-act structure whether you call it that or not. 

And then yesterday I watched a video by John Truby, another writer attempting to explain the art of writing. Not only did he knock story structure, but he claimed that following “The Hero’s Journey”—another method of characterizing three-act structure—would lead the writer to disaster. (I think his explanation was that since everyone else was doing using it, new writers would be better off doing something different. Yikes!) What I found most amusing was that the three stories he constantly held up as examples of what writers should aspire to—Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings—all follow the Hero’s Journey to the letter. 

Hey, I’m all for not being a slave to writing rules, but I see no reason for telling newbie writers that the three-act structure is obsolete. All good stories follow it to some extent and writers would be wise to learn what makes a story tick before discarding it.

Have a great Easter weekend and enjoy this week's writing links!


5 Most Common Mistakes with Setting

Understanding Your Ebook Formatting Options

What's So Wrong With Clich├ęs in Our Fiction? This.

The Dangers of Premature Editing: Pruning Our Stories vs. Pillaging Them

Publishing Tips for 2018 and Beyond

Word Choice for Character Strength

7 Frequently Asked Writing Questions

Monday, March 26, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 186

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

For all those asking about my wife's ankle last week, I can announce she's much better now, although she's a bit slower than the usual.  The bad news is that she proceeded to catch my cold and ended up with bronchitis. :(  Actually, my cold turned into bronchitis too, so we were both coughing and hacking around the house this week, much to the annoyance/amusement of our kids.  A round of antibiotics seems to have done the job, which means my head is finally able to concentrate on writing again.  It's about time, too! We're almost a quarter of the way through the year and I'm already falling behind my goals for 2018. 

My wife and I saw Tomb Raider this weekend. It was your typical treasure hunt movie--a fun action romp with well choreographed action scenes--but it didn't have much in the way of plot.  There were a few twists, but nothing I didn't spot coming a mile away.  But my wife will watch almost anything if it means she gets to eat movie popcorn, so a good time was had by all. 

Enjoy the writing links! 


How to Link your Kindle Book Edition to your Paperback Edition on Amazon

Book Description Basics

Writers: Grow Your Instagram Account Organically

Turning Points: Three Act Structure for Novelists

Can Slick Marketing Sell Bad Books?

Characters in Cars Thinking, or, How to Deal with the Passage of Time

Stealing Hollywood - Character Introductions

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 185

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

Between being sick with a bad chest cold all week and my wife spraining her ankle, there wasn't much progress on the writing front. And now I have to focus on critiques I owe three other authors.  Spring can't get here quickly enough. 

The family and I saw A Wrinkle in Time last weekend. It was okay, in my opinion, but I admit I was expecting more. I never read the book, but my impression was that they skipped a lot of the story in order to give us lots of visuals. 

What did you guys think? Did you enjoy it? How did the book compare to the movie?

Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy the writing links! 


Foreshadowing in a sentence: Connecting story events

Assemble Your Street Team: How to Mobilize Your Fan Army to Promote Your Books

Want to Push Your Protagonist Over the Edge? Add an Emotion Amplifier

Back to Basics--Imagery

The Difference Between YA and MG Novels

3 Tips to Hook Your Reader’s Emotions

Character flaws: Creating lovable imperfections

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