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Learning From Your Previous Work

It's hard for me to go back and look at my old work.

Like, really hard.

Sometimes, I try to block it out of my mind. It's not bad work, but I know I can do so much better now. I look back and think, "I'd change this. The prose could be better there. This description is a bit too much cliche. This bit of structure could have been more elegant."

Then I ask myself why I didn't see it all then. All the flaws seem so obvious. I understand that time helps you see those things. I make sure I put distance between myself and a book I've drafted and need to revise. But looking back at this old work it's somehow worse.

And I keep thinking about why it seems so much worse.

The only answer that I can come up with is because I'm learning more. I don't think the writer I am today would have made any of the mistakes that the writer I was then made so easily. And I got to thinking about Aaron Allston again. He was my mentor for a time before he passed away. W…

Thoughts on National Novel Writing Month

We're two days into National Novel Writing Month. As I write this, I'm 10k words into my novel and it feels good to finally be working on it after a month of prep work.

But how can NaNo help you?

Well, it can do a lot of things.

Personally, I think the two most important aspects of NaNo are the community you can find and the encouragement into a daily writing habit.

During November, writers seem to come out of the woodwork like termites. They're everywhere. Some of these writers are only NaNoers, though, and they're not going to help you maintain your habits through the year and be part of your regular community. But you're going to be going to write-ins at your local area, mixing with others who are dedicated to at least write one book. You'll find people you click with. You'll be on the forums and in the chatrooms, finding that tribe of people near you that you need.

I feel like all writers need that tribe of creative people who know exactly what their a…

Why You Should Write Short Stories

In some of his books, Kurt Vonnegut lamented the diminishing magazine market because that's where you found short stories. And short stories were the best place for writers to hone their craft. There are a lot of ways this system helped writers do this, and, in a culture with allegedly dwindling attention spans reign, short stories can still be a great place to learn.

But what should you be doing? What should you be looking to get out of short stories? How can they help?

Well, here's a list of ideas I have about the subject:

Short stories are short - This might sound obvious, but there are a lot of layers to this one. In a format so short, it gives you a lot of room to stretch your creativity and try out new things without feeling chained to them. Sometimes, writing a novel or a screenplay, even one you love implicitly, can get to be sort of a slog. When you weigh taking new stylistic risks you might hate 20,000 words into a novel, you might not go for it. A short story, thoug…

Hints for Revision

Welcome back, everyone. I've had a lot of conferences and conventions over the last month and feel like I've been neglecting all five of you who faithfully read this space. I'm sorry. I'll try to let less time pass between each post.

Though I must admit, November will probably be light, too, as I'll be cranking on a book for National Novel Writing Month. I haven't been working on drafting a new novel in a few months. I did take a break and wrote a feature-length screenplay in the time between this post and my last.

But I've been doing a lot of revision lately. Like, a lot. I got into this cycle of just writing novels and then writing the next one. And then the next one. I literally have 11 manuscripts I'm sitting on. And I'm in the midst of editing my fifth one in this cycle. It's slow going work. I feel like it takes me longer to revise a book than write it. It's more thoughtful work. And it's more discerning. You're rewriting thin…

Salt Lake Comic Con 2017 Schedule

It's time for another year of Salt Lake Comic Con and another hectic schedule for me. But! that doesn't mean it's not a helluva lot of fun. I hope you're able to join me at any of these panels. Especially if you like Star Wars. And please, please, please come to my signing and visit. Get some books signed. I'd love that enormously.

Here is my Thursday schedule:


Everything here is a highlight. That first panel about behind the scenes of the prequels is with Pablo Hidalgo and I'll be asking him questions about what it was like to be there on set for most of the prequels. Then I'll be asking questions of Michael Biehn, who I've been a fan of since I was a little kid. Aliens and Terminator were favorites. If you want to ask him a question, please hit me up on Twitter with it. I will ask it at the panel.

And you don't want to miss Fauxthentic History's Infinity Gauntlet live episode. It's going to be soooo good.

Here is Friday:


There's a lot…

A Surprise Writing Award....

Some of you may remember that I'm working on a short film. It's been a long process. We started filming in April. I'm still working on post-production. The film only clocks in at 19:11, even with credits, but there's a lot of work packed into those minutes. And I'm still doing it.

So you can imagine my surprise when I messaged a friend and said, "Do you know anyone who can help with audio?"

And he responded with, "Yes, but can you get a 10-minute version of your rough cut together and preview some scenes at a film festival? In a few weeks...?"

Imagine my surprise when I said yes.

I worked really hard to get a cohesive version of half the film together that would be worth the time of a festival going audience, something that would show what I was capable of if the film got finished and a taste of what the film would feel like.

I spent a great day in Helper, Utah, the most fascinating mining town nestled right up next to the mountains. I've a…

My Dragon Con 2017 Schedule

It's time again for another year of Dragon Con. This is one of my favorite conventions every year and they keep me busy.

Here is my tentative schedule and I hope to see you there. (Especially for my reading. There's nothing worse than reading to an empty room.)


Title: The Last Jedi Fan Speculation 
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: A601-A602 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: *SPOILER ALERT* *PURE SPECULATION* We are not insiders. We are not members of the Star Wars StoryGroup. We know what you know, but we're not afraid to dream & speculate. Maybe we'll finally find out in December who Rey's parents are--and where has Luke been...?

Title: Reading: Bryan Young 
Time: Fri 05:30 pm Location: Vinings - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Author, geek, podcaster, magazine and comics writer; documentary producer reads from his works.

Title: Better Diversity for a Better Story 
Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Hanover AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: There are a l…

Anatomy of a Scene: The Third Man

It's time again to break down a classic scene. One that's well-written and, in my view, a fine example of excellent craft.

I've done some of these articles from books (like The End of the Affairand Starship Troopers) and other movies (like Citizen Kane, City Lights, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but now it's time to take a look at a scene from The Third Man. It blends the best of Orson Welles (as he's in the film and drives this scene) and Graham Greene, who wrote this particular screenplay.

Before we get to the scene, we need some context.

The Third Man is a tale of the black market in Vienna, just after World War II. It's about a cheap, dime-store Western novelist named Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotton) and his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles.) Lime offered Martins a job in Vienna, so Martins leaves America and arrives, only to find that Harry Lime is dead. Penniless, without a friend or reason to be in the country, h…

Character Development

After my last post about side characters, I was asked to write about main character development and I thought it would be useful to offer you some of the quirks of my process and how I think of characters.

For one, like anything in writing, this comes down to asking a lot of questions. We can assume you've answered the major questions like name, gender identity, sexual preference, job, home, physical etc. But how do you get deeper with your character than the surface?

Why don't we take a character I'm working with in the revision process right now and answer some questions I ask myself about her. As a bit of a primer, this is for a sci-fi noir book I've written and am preparing to query called The Fatal Woman. 

Let's start with the basics. Her name is Monika Archer. She is a cis-woman who is attracted to women. She was a self-employed smuggler and pilot and lives aboard her ship because she lost her apartment aboard her home space station. She's lean and muscl…

Side Characters

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an expert in creating side-characters. I think those that I've created have worked well in my stories and part of that comes from a bit of a sixth sense. So, I wouldn't take any of this advice as anything but the ramblings of a person trying to figure it out on their own as well.

But, like every part of writing, creating a good side character is about asking a lot of questions.

What would be interesting? What purpose would they fill? What would their life be like without the conflict of the main character? How would they add to the conflict? How will they aid in the conflict? 

I mean, a lot of it is instinctual. For the fantasy book I'm working on, the main trio of heroes are the way they are so that they can have different abilities and perspectives. Each of them is from a different spot on the map so they all have a different way of looking at things. And they don't always agree with each other. Having conflict between …

Thoughts on Editing

I've been swamped in edits on my fantasy novel lately and I've had some friends in the process of editing as well. Naturally, we've all been talking about things and one asked me if I would write a blog post about editing, specifically about word choice.

And that's a lot of what editing is, right? Word choice might be the single most important part of a manuscript. I mean, you have to choose every single word in your novel. How do you revise to maximize the impact of your word choice?

Well, there are different strategies I take for that. For me, editing is a pretty layered and long process, so take all of this with a grain of salt, too. But, as I go through drafts of a novel, I first have someone else read it and they'll be able to tell me what my bad habits are. For this novel I'm working on right now I had a few. First, I would use sentences that included phrases like "seemed to" and "began to." These are really passive and add extra word…

The Balance Between Reading and Writing

I'm of the considered opinion that in order to be a good writer, you need to be a voracious reader. It's how we, as writers learn. There's no way an architect could become a better architect without inspecting the plans of other architects and keeping up on what's going on in advances in the industry. There's no way a doctor could stay up on current science and medicine if they didn't have to trade notes and do continuing medical education to keep their licenses. For writers, reading is our continuing education.

It's not something that's mandatory for us, either. And it's not just books about craft, we need to be reading all kinds of books. Because all of them, good or bad, within our genre or not, will teach us something about what we're doing. I love reading. And I am constantly analyzing what it is writers are doing in their texts. That's my version of pleasure reading. If you're not in love with that analysis and deconstruction, may…

The Importance of Honest Advanced Readers

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to read a book from an acquaintance. They'd been religiously promoting their book and I decided I would give it a shot.

Sadly, I never made it past the free sample that Amazon offered.

What I was most shocked by is that this book made it through editors and was published by a publisher. Which is a different lesson: watch out for scam publishers, though I'm not sure who got scammed harder here, the author or the publisher. The writing was largely incomprehensible, the repetition of words was the mark of a middle-school writer, the scene setups and action descriptions sounded more like a game master bluffing their way through a scene they have no idea about. The characters were paper thin, the diversity was lacking in every significant degree. In fact, the only female character in the preview was a victim of severe male gaze in a situation the author seemed to have no first-hand experience with, either. The preview was littered with errors on ever…