Recent Entries in Writing

This is an interesting article at the The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog which examines how today's writers are reclaiming Lovecraft, and writing about the mythos from a modern perspective. As someone who was influenced by HPL, and who writes modern mythos tales, this is a welcome read.

There's interviews with Kij Johnson, Cassandra Khaw, and Ruthanna Emrys about how H.P. Lovecraft influenced their writing and their lives ... and not always for the better.

While writers have long toyed with Lovecraftian tropes, this year brings a confluence of new works that look on the Mythos with new eyes, and wrestle with what is lurking there, both the vile and the transcendent. We asked three authors who have done just that--Kij Johnson (The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, out now), Cassandra Khaw (Hammers on Bone, available October 11), and Ruthanna Emrys (Winter Tide, out in April 2017)--to join us for a discussion of Lovecraft's legacy, and what modern writers can do to decontextualize the troubling, enduring work of New England's strangest son.

The interview with Kij Johnson is especially telling:

Kij: Lovecraft always bugged me because he had no women. Zero. In the entire Dream-Quest, he mentions females I think once, a terrified farmer's wife in a sentence somewhere. That said so much about how he perceived the world. He lived in our world, where (one assumes) the population was half female even then, and yet we were invisible to him, not even worth being wallpaper in his fiction. As a little girl and as a woman, this was and is infuriating.



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(Image Credit: http://lovecraft.wikia.com)


(via www.barnesandnoble.com)

This is an interesting article for me, as I'm reworking the first chapter of one of my books. I had what I thought was a great opening scene, but it lacked any kind of interest and urgency; it was basically two guys talking in a coffee shop. I changed it so that the first scene was the main character delivering a monologue to the reader, but that didn't seem to be a good opening either. I finally changed it so that it looked as if the main character was investigating a crime scene ... and he was the murderer. Worked much better, and I hope it's something that will get more reaction for the reader.

Here's an example of good first opening page:

A Powerful Opener

The power of the opening line or paragraph cannot be overstated. These are the first words a reader will see, so that paragraph can serve many purposes, like introducing the world, characters, or plot while giving readers an attention-grabbing taste of your writing.

For example, the opening lines of Kerry Kletter's The First Time She Drowned use unique imagery and prose to suggest a deeper emotional storyline: "My mother wore the sun like a hat. It followed her as we did, stopping when she stopped, moving when she moved. She carried her beauty with the naïveté of someone who was born to it and thus never understood its value or the poverty of ugliness."

(via authornews.penguinrandomhouse.com)


This article by Jane Friedman is an interesting one, because it looks at other motives besides money. Do you want the validation of working with a traditional publisher? Do you have a lack of patience? All good points to consider when deciding whether to self/trad publish.


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All this could be yours. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

But, of course, some of it comes down to money:

On the issue of earnings

Perhaps the biggest argument offered in support of self-publishing--at least within the self-publishing community itself--is that you will earn a lot more money than you would with a traditional publisher. That may be true. It's possible to sell far fewer copies as a self-published author and yet earn more than a traditional deal would pay you; it's also possible to sell more copies as a self-published author but not earn as much as a publisher's advance and royalties. It all depends on the book and the type of deal or contract you're offered.

The success rate for self-publishing is really not that different from traditional. A few authors end up as bestselling superstars. Some authors do very well. And the majority do not make a living from it. Self-published authors may find that marketing and promoting their book is much tougher than they imagined. Self-publishing careers typically take years--and four or five books--to gain traction and produce earnings that are meaningful. Are you committed to producing more work, and marketing that work, month after month and year after year?

(via janefriedman.com)

This article is a must-read for artists and writers who want to impress people in shows, and on the back cover of their books. As a guy who occasionally curates art shows and wrangles artists together, I often have to edit and post artist bios. This can be a problem, since artists, unlike writers (or perhaps exactly like writers), aren't used to selling themselves, and aren't used to writing about themselves. They tend to treat the bio like an interview, or a conversation, and while it may work some of the time, the most common way to write a bio is to write in the 3rd person.


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I spent how much on coffee?

Write in the third person (most of the time)

Writing in the third person distances yourself from your author bio, which actually makes it easier to write. Use whatever author name you have decided upon to begin. Writing ' J.A.Smith lives in California with her husband and two dogs. 'A storm In The House' is her third novel...' sounds much more professional then saying 'I live in California with my husband and two dogs etc...'

That being said, the About page on a blog is less constrained by this, and since a blog has a more conversational tone (especially a personal blog, like mine), you can be more conversational, and less cold and detached. A newspaper blog, on the other hand, should always be using 3rd person for the About the Blogger blurb.

(via www.writerslife.org)

Sometimes you just can't get a word out. You're staring at the page, the title says "Chapter 1," but there's nothing else below. You're stuck. And this was supposed to be your big novel.

Writer's Block is something that affects everyone (except perhaps Stephen King and James Patterson), yet there are a lot of people out there who believe it's a myth. It's not surprising, really. In many cases, Writer's Block just means you don't want to write.

And why should you? You've already done a lot of writing, and maybe you're getting tired of it. Maybe you're bogged down in some heavy plot work, or perhaps you've sent out a dozen or so queries, and you're eagerly waiting for a response (which will come in 12 weeks, if you're lucky). Maybe you've finished your first draft, and common sense tells you to put it aside and go do something else for a while.

Here's a helpful list of 10 things you can do instead of writing (reading this article doesn't count, btw). It will help address your Writer's Block, or whatever other reason you have for not writing.


Pictured: Me, not writing

Pictured: Me, not writing

  1. Blogging - So maybe reading this article doesn't count, but writing it sure does. Writing a listicle or other blog post is a great way to grow your content base, and it gets you writing in a way that doesn't feel like the usual slog of writing your novel. It takes you out of that moment, and lets you run free on a whole host of other topics. Having content is a big part of being a writer. For one, it's really helpful to have writing samples for freelance writing jobs. Maybe you want to write about your writer's experience, or maybe you want to help other writers get through a phase which you just encountered. Maybe you just like collecting porcelain bagels, and you want to share that passion with other people. Get to it!
  2. Researching - Sure, surfing the Web may be 90% of your daily routine anyway, but that doesn't mean it's useless. Researching is one of the best things you can do to make your books and characters seem more realistic. Nothing takes you out of a book faster than a glaring inconsistency, such as your 1980's detective using an LED flashlight to illuminate a darkened room. Research it up! Just be sure to research smartly. No sense in adding yourself to a government watchlist because you were trying to figure out the best way to murder someone using household items.

    Researching is one of the best things you can do to make your characters more realistic.

  3. Watching Television (of your genre) - This one's kind of a cheat. I watch TV all the time. However, it's important to understand your genre and your readership demographic. This can be done by watching corresponding television shows. Trust me, no one wants to read a cozy mystery where there's a graphic description of the killer vivisecting his victim. They never did that on Murder She Wrote. Don't you do that. Some genres have very specific rules. That's why Wikipedia cites 47 different subgenres of Science Fiction (yes, including Feghoot). Pick your favourite Sci-Fi show, and watch it for a bit, then try to define the subgenre. It's a good exercise, and you may notice the subgenre changing from episode to episode.
  4. Reading (anything and everything) - Reading is fundamental (and a clever reference to the nation's largest literacy nonprofit organization). The more you read, the better your grammar, vocabulary, and ideas of plot and character development. Once you've read a book, go over it again, and figure out what made it good/bad. Try looking at the book from a reviewer's perspective, and when your own book is done, you'll have a better understanding of why it sucks (and how to fix it). And really ... you're supposed to be a writer. You should always be reading.
  5. Growing Your Online Profile - This one's a little trickier, but you know what I'm talking about. There are dozens of useful social media sites which you'll want to be using to sell your book once it's finished. And how are you going to sell a book on Instagram, if you only have 3 followers? Each social media site has its strengths and weaknesses. Learn what those are, and focus on the strengths. Instagram's good for pictures; Twitter's good for small snippets of content and announcements; Wattpad's great for One Direction fan fiction; and Facebook is great for racist memes and Minion pictures ... I mean, for drawing fans to your blog (remember all the content you were going to put up there?). Ultimately, if you've got a solid online profile, people will come to you when you're ready to publish.

    If you've got a solid online profile, people will come to you when you're ready to publish.
  6. Learning How to Publish - This is a great non-writing activity which will help you, whether you're going for traditional publishing or indie publishing. Once your agent gets you a contract, it's tempting to just sit back and let the profits roll in. But it doesn't work like that, not even in the regular world of publishing. You've got to be out there and engaging your audience, making them want your book. It really helps if you know what's going on.
  7. Learning How to Query - Maybe I should have moved this one up a bit. Obviously, before your agent gets you a publishing deal, you have to have an agent. Think of it like a job interview, except that everything's backwards, and you're the company trying to recruit a hot new talent. You've got to prove to them you're the company to work for, that you've got the best working environment, the best free soft drinks and hot lunches, and you'll promise them the most money. Yeah, that's kind of how it works. You have to entice the agents to you, but they ultimately work for you and they're your ticket into a big publishing house. Does it seem fair? No. Is it how things work in publishing? Yes. Learn how to query properly.
  8. Editing - I could also say "Learning How to Edit" here, but let's assume you're already familiar with the MLS and Chicago manuals of style. I'd say about 50% of editing is also learning, because cleaning up your manuscript makes you a better writer. After you've spent a day trying to figure out why a story isn't flowing, you tend to remember that kind of tedium, and you avoid that problem in the future. Either that, or you're more familiar with the problem, and you'll look for it in your next project. Editing old projects can also make them like new, and worth looking at again. Go find something you wrote in high school, and see if you can make it into something that doesn't embarrass you.
  9. Engaging Beta Readers - Part of your social network should include people who will read your book for free, while giving you useful feedback. Beta readers are incredibly helpful, in that they will tell you if your book sucks before it goes live. That stuff is like gold to an aging prospector. It's even better if they're not close friends or family, and have no vested interest in making you happy. Beta readers are the litmus test for your book: If they don't like it, you're in trouble. If they mostly liked it, but had some issues, take those issues to heart and fix them before you launch. Keep in mind that beta reading can take time. Weeks, even. Engage them early.
  10. Writing - I know this article's about things to do instead of writing, so calm down. Hear me out. It doesn't have to be your novel. Many of the previous points here involve a degree of writing, or learning about writing and the industry. It all helps out. Write an article. Write a short story. Write a list about things you'd need to do on a deserted island after the zombie apocalypse. Try some writing prompts. Here's one for free: Write a small story about the most embarrassing thing your villain ever did. Make it a thousand words long. BAM, you just wrote a short story. Publish it somewhere.


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D. H. McKee is a writer and contemporary abstract artist.

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This is a good read, if only because it's a lot of information from a lot of authors, and you're bound to find one or two nuggets of educational gold.

The following tip is great for me, since I've been sending out a lot of queries recently, and in each case, they expect something a little different: A summary; a synopsis (very short, 1-pager, 2-pager, or 10-pager); a blurb; a logline; the first chapter; the first x pages; etc. This is much easier to do if you begin with a summary, or a simple sentence which defines the novel. You expand the sentence to a paragraph, then expand the paragraph to a page, then to two pages, and so on. Before you know it, you've got yourself an outline, and can seal up most plotholes from the very outset.

Keep a summary of your novel as you write it. Different from the outline-if you work from one, or even if you don't-the summary is the actual shape the story takes as it goes onto the page. I keep a note not only of the plot as it unfolds, but how much time goes by, if it's raining, if any of the characters are carrying injuries, or if I'm laying in a plot thread I need to remember to pick up later. I do a paragraph for each scene break or chapter, and also jot down if there's a time gap between scenes/chapters. When you come to the editing stage, any major alterations-adding a subplot, removing an extraneous character, etc.-can be worked out on the summary rather than having to work with the whole typescript, which can be very unwieldy by that stage.

(via www.diyauthor.com)

Sometimes an editor's job is a crap job.

Mainstream publishers can, frankly, be a bit crap. One sent me a travel manuscript to edit and three days later rang to ask, "Is it any good?" She hadn't read it. But there was a publishing date with publicist and advertising booked, so it was published even though my answer was "No." (It didn't sell.)

The same publisher sent me a manuscript, another rush job for similar reasons, but I couldn't check anything with the author because she was about to give birth. OK, fine. But the manuscript... She had written it on a computer, using it as if it was a typewriter, so had put a hard return at the end of every line. Dear old Word treated every line I could see on the page as a paragraph. There was no way I could think of to get an editable text other than deleting these hard returns manually and recreating paragraphs as I went. I asked a typographer who agreed: manual it was. That took three days, possibly the most tedious three consecutive days I have ever spent since working on a lathe in the Masport factory.

(via thespinoff.co.nz)

Here's some advice to give your queries an edge. One thing I'd add to this list is that you should always adhere to the query guidelines. If the agent asks you to use specific wording in your subject line, pay close attention. As one who parses a lot of emails in lists, I like to look for the outlier ... and delete it.


1. Make your subject line clear and distinctive. If you're a published author, a bestselling author, if you have a mystery, a romance, an offer of representation make it clear in the subject. Adding more than just query can help your query stand out. Even if all you have to add is the title of your book. It's very common for the title alone to be a deciding factor in why a book is first requested. Just ask Sally MacKenzie, author of The Naked Duke.


Check out the full article at: BookEnds Literary Agency

Some good resources for writers from Mark Tilbury. I'll be going through this list when I get a chance. #amediting

Self-publishing authors have a fair bit to do: Write, edit and format books, design covers, learn how to use Kindle Direct Publishing (and other publishing outlets) and explore how to best make use of social media to market their work. The following is a list of resources which I found to be the most helpful with the self-publishing process


Mark my Words

I feel for this guy. I've been there.

This is the third time it has happened to me, and it prompted me to think about the reasons why it happens. Lack of motivation, a poor idea, weak characters or simply a lousy plot are probably common elements, but these can usually be fixed in one way or another. What I believe happened is that I just didn't attach myself to the main characters and failed to have an underlying message I wanted to get across. With this most recent admission of failure, I have to say that I completely lost my way, and although thinking I was following my plot outline, I was in actual fact wandering off in all directions.

The Vandal
The blogging alter ego of author, Derek Haines

Some good stuff to put on your author checklist, including the obvious one: don't be a jerk on social media.


Be active in Social Media

  • Social media is effective because you can have a conversation with the readers of your books.
  • Join readers groups, writers groups, and book clubs, in social media and interact with other authors and readers.
  • Certain social media sites such as Goodreads will allow you to set up a blog on their site. It's also important to create an author page on these sites, which is a very effective way of branding yourself.
  • Provide interesting content, photos, and humor in your posts on your social media sites. If all you do is promote your book you will not be able to maintain interest in the long run.

Book Marketing Tools Blog


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I suppose if you've been reading my site for any length of time, you're probably curious to know who I am, and why I think people will read my blog. Online, I'm known as Zuckervati, mostly because it's easy...
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