In which I subvert my nature and become a morning person…

I’ve always been a night owl. 10pm rolls around and suddenly I’m full of ideas and a burning desire to start projects and be creative. This is especially true for my writing, since the late evening is generally the only part of my day that offers any quiet or solitude.

The drawback to this is that when I’m really on a roll with my writing I tend to start keeping vampire hours, writing from 10pm until 3-4am. Sometimes I greet the dawn with bleary eyes before retiring to my coffin. This wreaks havoc with the rest of my life, of course. Responsibilities and commitments suffer, my family never sees me, and the house looks a mess. Make dinner? What do you mean? I just woke up! 

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What I’ve Learned About Learning to Write

There are a lot of people who don’t believe in studying the ‘craft’ of writing. Writing is art, they say. You need to find your passion and let it flow through you. Don’t worry about structure or voice or character arcs. That only inhibits the freedom of your unique magic.

I like to imagine these people say these things while wearing lots of tie-dye and flowy skirts. And doing yoga.

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Brainstorming, Pt 2.

Jumping back in where we left off in Brainstorming, Pt 1, we’re in the middle of brainstorming a premise for our hypothetical fantasy novel.

Spaghetti strand #3 is a good one, but just for fun we’re going to go back and check out the others.

WOMEN IN POWER – Why would a feudal society be controlled by women?
1. Women are physically dominant instead of men.
2. Religion or tradition dictates a matriarchal society.
3. Women are superior in magic, giving them an edge.
4. Men really screw up the world, so some supernatural force curses the male royal line.

#4 is interesting to me because it also seems to have a lot of conflict built right in. Remember, conflict = gold. You, the writer, love conflict. Conflict makes ideas into stories. The first question that I come up with while looking at #4 is ‘what kind of curse keeps men from taking power in our little fantasy world?’ Hmmm. Time for another list. Read more


Some people just don’t know how to brainstorm.

Jeff is one of those people–brilliant in many other ways, but with no natural gift for brainstorming. Recently, I spoke with another writerly friend who struggles the same way.

At first, I was rather shocked. What do you do when you can’t brainstorm? Do you just wait for a brilliant idea to spring fully-formed into your mind like Athena from the forehead of Zeus?

Well, yes, apparently.

Just like being hit by lighting, this DOES happen occasionally. There are plenty of anecdotes running through the writing community about someone eating three day old pizza, having a trippy dream, then writing it all down and voila–instant bestseller!

Unfortunately, this is sort of like winning the lottery. Yes, it could happen, but it wouldn’t be smart to bet your livelihood on it. If you ever want to be not just a writer but an author–you know, someone with text in print, preferably PAID for said text–you have to figure out a better way. That better way is brainstorming. And, luckily for my better half, it’s a learnable skill. Read more

Music & Writing

Collective_Soul_-_Hints,_Allegations,_and_Things_Left_UnsaidWhen I was 13, my sister bought Collective Soul’s first album (Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid), and played it all summer long. As a result, every time I hear a song from that album, I am suddenly and very vividly 13 years old again. My brain has linked that music so irrevocably to my 13th year, and all the things that happened then, it’s the next best thing to a time machine. What memory my own mind has not been able to keep hold of over these years, that music has stored away for me, perfectly preserved.

I wrote a post on characterization a while ago, and I mentioned the idea of giving your characters a theme song. You can take advantage of the mental link between memory and music to help you keep your characters separate and defined in your head–very useful when you’re dealing with a large cast of characters, or you’re one of those writers that likes to story hop, working on more than one project at once. Read more

Outlines and Writer’s Block

writersblockLeft to my own devices, I tend to be a by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of writer. More often than not, this gets me into trouble–not only do I end up meandering all over the place, it’s hard to finish things, and it makes writer’s block a true dead end.

When I stalled out on my current novel project, I read a book called First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Weisner, which I recommend to everyone who wants to learn how to outline. The title is a bit misleading, because at the end of the 30 days, you don’t have a true manuscript, you have a very, very detailed scene-by-scene outline. Although I didn’t go through the entire 30 day process, the book helped me get somewhat of a grasp on the method, and I am now a thorough convert. Read more

Lying Fallow – On Seasons and Creativity


Growing up, I lived in a little fishing town in Alaska. Season is a very important thing in Alaska, perhaps the most important thing. It is present in everything we do, because in any part of that wild, often unforgiving country, there are times when simply surviving in the face of the omnipresent forces of nature is all we can do. This isn’t the hyperbole it may seem to be. Even with microwaves, TV, and modern medicine, survival—both physical and emotional—is a very real and conscious concern. Read more

Skill vs. Talent

Recently, on the FWO forums, the subject of talent came up–and how much it matters versus skill.

This is all generalization, of course… but I think that for the majority of writers, a large part of writing is acquiring skill sets–language, grammar, how to structure a story, and (perhaps most important) your own creative process. In my experience, just learning how to get inspired is something I’ve had to really grope after, not something that has come to me like some magically bestowed talent. However, I do think that seed of talent is essential–it’s what not only makes us predisposed to storytelling, but what makes us want it.

Here’s my take on the difference between the two. Read more