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Showing posts from February, 2017

Writing Discipline

One of the most important skills I think writers need to cultivate is discipline.

For the last 600 plus days I've put my butt in the chair and written. There have been days when I haven't felt like it. There were literally days where I was in the hospital. There were times when I was so distracted by Star Wars that I could only eek out a few hundred words. But I made a commitment to discipline that I would sit down and write every day. 

It was important for me to learn how to sit down and write even when I didn't feel like it.

Part of the inspiration to learn that discipline was this quote from Neil Gaiman:

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.  You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that s…

Science Fiction: World Building and Technology

Tomorrow, I will be teaching a class to a bunch of high school students about world building, technology, and tropes in science fiction. I've been thinking a lot about what I'll be saying to them and thought it would be a good topic for the blog this week.

Mainly, I'm going to be telling them to ask themselves questions.

When you're building a world in a science fiction story, whether that's a planet, a system of government, or the equilibrium of an entire galaxy, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions. Why is a thing like this the way it is?

Take the planet of Mustafar, for example.

This is the volcanic lava planet from Revenge of the Sith. The designers behind the planet had to ask themselves what the structures and creatures on the planet would look like. And to do that, they had to go back and ask how it would evolve over time? Well, start with the idea of who would live on a planet like this. It's inhabited by an insectoid race well-suited to the hea…

World Building Without Bogging Down Your Novel

I was asked to talk today about how you build a world without bogging down your novel. And it's something you see all too much of, not just in the work of those working toward becoming professionals, but in professionally published manuscripts as well.

Part of the problem is that writers become so in love with their world that they hit you with as much of it as they can right from the beginning. There are dumps and dumps of exposition that are supposed to paint a vibrant world, but too many colors of paint hit the canvas and instead of a beautiful sunset and a happy little tree, you're looking at a big smudge of brown where too many colors mixed.

That's not to say you can't get away with some florid description. Sometimes, my favorite passages in books are descriptions of the world that leave my breath taken.

But you don't need all of it in your book.

The question you need to ask yourself is this: does it add to the story?

If you're creating a fantasy or a sci…

Your Writing is More Important Now Than Ever

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows they're bad. Times are crazy. But what can we as writers do?

Well, write, of course.

Our stories matter.

Look at the stories from the last time our country was in a major crisis, whether that was World War II or the Great Depression. Some of my favorite stories from these eras taught me how to be a better person, or how to feel about things. Look at what Grapes of Wrath did to make people aware of the plight of those suffering the worst in the depression. Or all of Charlie Chaplin's shorts, where he's a down on his luck hobo, but still lovable, just trying to scrape by. Look at all the material the Walt Disney Company produced during World War II to combat the Nazis.

Art was used to elevate understanding and empathy for the issues we hold dear in the face of demonstrable evil in the world and inaction (or downright opposition) from our own government. We need to use stories to do a lot of things. We need them to…


I've been doing a lot of free-writing lately and I didn't quite realize how much it could help my ability to write.

The technique I've been using is to take a random letter of the alphabet and start a word with that letter. And then see where that sentence takes me. And then I see where that paragraph takes me. And as soon as I realize I'm consciously in control of what's coming out, I pull back and start over, using that same random letter. A new word comes out and my imagination takes me away to a different place. The goal is to keep your subconscious in the driver's seat to just see what comes out.

I've always done free-writing in my journal, but not in such a structured (but unstructured, too) way. Usually my free-writing consists of asking myself questions about my stories, talking about my struggles, or trying to just make sense of what it is I need to do on a given day. But this way frees my imagination and forces it to work quickly.

So, I think it&…