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Showing posts from 2016

Common Writing Mistake: Directionless Plot

Plot, by definition, is the main events in a story or play.  A key thing to note here is that plot shapes the story like the framework for a house.  Details should be filled in but without logical framework the structure will collapse.

Something that I see during the beta reading process is the trap of directionless plot.  To continue the construction metaphor, the author gets so fixated on putting one piece of framing in a particular space that he fails to notice how it might affect the entire structure.

Every piece of plot should build off each other.  Do the characters really need to explore that mysterious tomb?  Or do you just want to have a scene where it might be cool to fight the living dead?  How does exploring that tomb add to the other plot points?

Now, this is not to say that there cannot be subplots that veer away from the main plot.  In longer stories, subplots and character development are what make a story memorable.  But the main framework should always be in focus.  …

6 Years Writing

.... and I forgot my own writing anniversary.

But that's ok.  I don't think that's a bad thing.  I've stopped thinking about writing milestones, to be honest.  Writing is now something that I do as part of my day, no questions asked.

This is interesting because it's the same for music, I've found.  When first learning a musical instrument we are very goal-oriented.  I'm on "the next" piece in a book.  But if you tough it out long enough you lose track of how many pieces you know and it just becomes a thing.

Over the past two writing years I've noticed that I've become less profit-driven with writing.  Getting more sales was highly motivating to me when I first started on this publishing journey.  But I noticed that my mindset has switched from needing to get sales to "Oh, look at that I got a sale.  How nice."

My mindset right now I think would have frustrated freshly-published me a few years ago.  But something I've realize…

Why I Write about Elves: Terry Brooks at TEDxRainier

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Prolific bestselling author of epic fantasy literature, Terry Brooks shares what inspires him to write, discusses what writers and readers bring to written works, and explores how fantasy literature can be a domain for resolving challenging questions and issues.

Common Writing Mistake: World Building

World building is a tricky subject because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem.  Ask ten writers how they attempt to make their fantasy world rich and immersive and you will probably get ten different answers.  And this is not necessarily a bad thing!  World building is what gives a story its flavor.

When I work on beta reading projects I would say that world building issues usually falls under one of two categories:

1) The Information Dump

or

2) The Assumption

The information dump is exactly how it sounds.  Instead of creating a rich, sensory experience for the reader in gradual pieces, the author dumps everything the reader needs to know about a character/place into one huge blob of text.  Why is this a problem?  It's boring for one thing.  For another, a huge blob of text does not necessarily enhance the reading experience.  Just because the reader received the explanation once does not mean that he/she will retain all that information.

Readers need to be care…

Review of "Never Chase Space Potatoes with Teenage Girls," a short story by Mack Moyer

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Summary: Mike takes his dying mother to a desolate island resort, eagerly awaiting his inheritance once the old gal kicks the bucket, then finds himself in the company of a beautiful teenage girl. Naturally, Mike and his new friend are visited by what could only be described as the cutest space potato of all time.

Review: Moyer's short could be summarized with one word: trippy.  Whether or not this works entirely boils down to taste.  A reader could find this story amusing just as easily as he could find it ridiculous.
I found myself favoring the amused side of the spectrum.  It was weird and random but I couldn't help but smile as I read about killer potatoes.  My only gripe was the the story felt just a tad too fluffy.  It would have been nice if it was a little bit more about a bitter son waiting for his mom to die and less about a drug trip.  I feel like it would have made the twist at the end more profound.
Regardless, it's a fun, fast read.
3.5/5 stars Reviewed by Alai…

Creative Writing Lessons: Bestselling, award winning author Neil Gaiman on writing

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Common Writing Mistake: Spacial Awareness

I brought up in a previous post the idea that writing is like an RPG game.  For me, I like the Role Playing Game comparison because it uses numbers and strict rules.  Numbers and rules are not ambiguous like plot.

This idea of strict rules continues when it comes to spacial awareness.  If a character can only move three spaces per turn then it would take two turns to move six spaces.  This is a limit to movement and actions.

The same is true for characters in a book.  Unless a character has magical abilities or super powers, there is a limit to what the standard human can do.  If the character is on one side of the planet in one chapter, that same character cannot suddenly appear on the other side of the planet that same day.  Enough story time must pass that allows for the character to travel that journey.

This is a trap that I see authors fall into quite a bit while beta reading.  All too often I see the movement and actions of characters dictated by the plot because it's conven…

Common Writing Mistake: Illogical Characters

Creating characters is like playing a role playing game.  In fact, now that I think about it, games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder are fantasy writing.  The point being that you have to create your characters with abilities and limitations and then adhere to them in order to create a believable adventure.

Continuing with the RPG (Role Playing Game) example, if a character has 20 health left and a sword with 5 attack, that's all that character gets.  It's very straightforward.  It means that once that character's health gets below 20, he's dead.  If that character is facing a monster, the maximum amount of damage that he can inflict with one hit is 5.  So a monster with 10 health would require two hits.

I'm using the RPG example because it involves numbers.  Numbers are simple and creating an immersive world for readers is not.  However, the "environmental logic" is the same.  Characters must adhere to a set of rules--that are created by the aut…

Review of "The Suspect and other tales," a collection of short stories by K. Morris

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Summary: Tales of the unexpected, ranging from stories of crime and vengeance through to ghostly happenings in an ancient mansion.

Review:
A pleasant collection of flash fiction length pieces.  The stories are engaging and fun to read, though a bit simplistic with their twist endings.  Most veteran crime readers will be able to predict the ending of each story before it happens.  With some polish I could see Morris' style becoming quite thought-provoking.

Still, the flash fiction was written well.  Each story was a complete experience and didn't feel rushed, which I appreciated.  It's worth picking up a copy if you want an easy afternoon read.

3/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez
Buy this collection on Amazon.

Common Writing Mistake: Show, Don't Tell

They say that more than half of our communication comes from non-verbal cues.  Naturally, this has led to a hundred studies trying to figure out exactly how much communication is verbal.  But you get the idea.  Suffice to say that if you were to watch a movie and put the sound on mute you could still generally tell what sorts of emotions the characters are experiencing.

Unfortunately, this is something that tends to get easily lost during the writing process.  Writing is about words... the verbal part of communication, right?

Wrong.
To me, the most memorable books are the ones that create a world for you to become lost in.  You love the characters because they seem real even if the setting is in an alternate universe.  In order for that setting to become real the writer must give the reader non-verbal details to latch on to.
For example, telling the reader that a character is angry doesn't create much of an impact.  How angry is angry?  Forcing the character to stand by and watch…

Common Writing Mistakes Seen During Beta Reading

I've been beta reading for authors for quite some time now.  It has been an interesting process, to say the least.  I love that it allows me to meet fellow authors that are all in a different stage of their writing career.  The process of helping them has, in turn, helped me a great deal.  Beta reading forces me to take a much closer look at the flaws in my own writing and to try and figure out ways to fix these issues.

What's interesting to me is that many writers suffer from the same mistakes while working through that first novel or short story.  I've done enough of these beta projects to now see patterns in what I come across.  So I thought it would be useful to do a blog series on these common mistakes.

In each blog post in this series I'll address the mistake and a possible solution to this type of mistake.  However, I feel the need to add a small disclaimer: I'm not a best selling author that makes millions of dollars from my writing.  Like countless others,…

Canceling Out the Distractions

My new favorite thing is noise canceling headphones.  I've had a pair for years but lately I've been using them to write.  Game changer!

I'm generally very focused once I get into a focusing zone.  However, everything about my brain requires long stretches of start up/shut down.  It takes me at least an hour to fully wake up in the morning (and that's with coffee) and when I go to sleep it's a several hour long process.  The same goes for focusing.  I can work for long stretches of time but calming down enough to actually get into the focusing zone can require some work.

So I took the advice of a friend and tried headphones with music.  I made myself a playlist of classic music--no words!  It took some getting used to.  I'm a musician so my first instinct when I hear music is to focus on it.  But I kept the volume turned down low and I made a point of having the music on only when I'm writing.  If I turned away to look at my phone or check my email, I pause…

Review of "This Long Vigil," short story by Rhett C. Bruno

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Summary:   After twenty five years serving as the lone human Monitor of the Interstellar Ark, Hermes, Orion is scheduled to be placed back in his hibernation chamber with the other members of the crew. Knowing that he will die there and be replaced before the ship’s voyage is over, he decides that he won’t accept that fate. Whatever it takes he will escape Hermes and see space again, even if it means defying the regulations of his only friend -- the ship-wide artificial intelligence known as Dan.
Review: Turning fifty is a mental milestone for most people.  But it's a bit more than that for Bruno's main character, Dan.  Fifty marks the end of his life.
This is a phenomenal short story.  Bruno cleverly touches on a number of everyday life and aging issues in a very short space of time.  The setting of the space ark traveling for 200 years to the next closest inhabited planet was brilliant.  Dan literally has nowhere he can go but forward, a perfect metaphor for life itself.
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Getting Back Into the Word Count Saddle

Now that the wedding chaos has finally died down, I'm forcing myself back into a more intense writing schedule.  To my credit, I did keep up my daily writing!  How many words I got down on the page fluctuated greatly but Monday through Friday I would sit my butt in the chair and do something.

It was actually a nice way to spend the year.  I mentioned this before in earlier blogs but it allowed me the freedom to enjoy writing again.  I wasn't adding words for the word count sake, I was writing them because I liked the way they connected to each other.  Given everything else that was going on, it was perfect for the time.

But now it's not so perfect.

I have finally reached the mental state where publisher me has resurfaced.  Author me reigned supreme for too long!  The slowness in which I complete stories is now starting to bother me because it feels like I have too much to tell and never enough time to write.

So I'm forcing myself back into daily word counts again.  It …