Category Archives: Writing Advice and Lessons (Painfully) Learned

Hey, Did You Know There’s a Military Writers Guild?

So I learned a couple days ago there’s something called a Military Writers Guild!

I found this out when I was reading an article in Defense One – an online military magazine – about how the military needs to innovate more like Silicon Valley. It’s a favorite talking point for people whose deepest subconscious desire is to have a threesome with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

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How to Self-Publish a Book

Greetings my dozens of fans!

(…Is it presumptuous of me to assume I have fans in the double digits?? Probably, but I feel like indulging my massive ego today!)

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been hard at work getting my next novel, The Colonel and Her Sergeant, ready for publication on June 14th. I’ll post more about my future Pulitzer Prize winner later.

(I’m just gonna assume the Pulitzer Prize committee accepts self-published novels. NO I’m not going to Google it…my kids tell me if I just believe enough all my dreams will come true so I’ma gonna do that cuz as you know, in reality Donald Trump is my boss so it’s off to fantasy land for me!)

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5 Reasons Why You (Probably) Shouldn’t Query Literary Agents …And What You Should Do Instead

It’s the Wheel of Query Responses Lady again! I remember you. I hate you.

A few posts back, I answered the question of “Should I hire a professional editor before I self-publish my novel?” (TL;DR answer: probably not). In that post, I mentioned I was on the cusp of recommending writers not bother querying literary agents at all.

After years of personal experience in the self-publishing and traditional publishing worlds, and after hearing about other authors’ experiences, I’ve now officially reached that conclusion—don’t query literary agents. It’ll almost certainly be a negative return on your investment.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Never Skip The Inciting Incident

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

“Hmmm…I need to start my story off with a bang because I’m told your average reader is a narcoleptic millennial with ADD…I’m just gonna start it in the middle I guess…Dammit, why is writing so hard??”

Maybe I’ve been cursed by the book gods and need to sacrifice another virgin at the secret blood altar they keep in my local library’s basement (all the best libraries have one), but I’ve had crap luck with books lately. I’ve DNF’d the last four out of five books I’ve read, primarily for story mechanics issues. They’ve either dragged or didn’t establish a solid foundation before jumping into the action, or just weren’t very compelling stories. I’m a slow-as-shit reader, so slogging through a book I’m not that into can take weeks to reach the payoff of a “meh” experience. If a book doesn’t hook me within the first ~30%, I peace out and move on.

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How To Create “Real” Characters

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

Another terrible Hemingway quote. Why was this guy popular again?

Characters in your head are not real people, no matter what a platitude typed in Corsiva font scrolled across a picture of a quill tells you. They are not people, and they don’t do anything you don’t make them do. To think otherwise is to have a fundamental break with reality, and please see your doctor to adjust your medication dosage accordingly.

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Do You Need A Professional Editor?

Say you’ve finished writing a book—congrats! You’ve made a few editing passes through it, roped a few of your friends and relatives into reading it, gotten their feedback, and tweaked it into what you think is an acceptable form to show to the world at large. Maybe you’ve even queried a handful of literary agents and received either “Thanks but no thanks” rejections or (more likely) radio silence.

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Where Have All The Blogs Gone?

Someone asked me recently why I haven’t blogged in a while, to which I replied, “You read my blog???”

…Which is why I don’t blog more.

A few years ago, while I was investigating other author’s websites to emulate, I was surprised to see very few regularly blogged, and most only did so in conjunction with a new release or event promo. I remember thinking this was lame.

But now I know why. You see, there are only so many hours in the day. When you work a full-time job, are contractually obligated to stay ingood shape, need to spend time with the kids/spouse so they don’t leave you cats-in-the-cradle-style, plus friends, plus eating/sleeping/hygiene, etc. …you get the picture…then you need to be ruthless about how you spend that tiny sliver of writing time. So every day I ask myself—what’s value-added? What’s a positive return-on-investment of my time, and what’s not?

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Good Books To Read If You Wanna Be A (Better) Writer

[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]


Writers are always giving out advice on how to write, assuming for some reason that people care. I mean, you don’t see doctors prattling on to whoever will listen about the best ways to reset a bone or writing blog posts about identifying infectious diseases.

Maybe writing is unique in the sense it seems like something everyone should be capable of doing. With some sad exceptions, everybody is literate, everybody’s got “What if…?” story ideas, and everybody can
tell a good story from a bad one. And yet only a tiny handful of people can sit down and complete a coherent story; even fewer a GOOD coherent story. So there’s a certain mystique around writing, as if people capable of doing it have some kind of magical power that transcends schooling and is divinely revealed ala God’s proclamation of the ten commandments. Continue reading Good Books To Read If You Wanna Be A (Better) Writer

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The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 2 – Grammatical Correctness

[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]

Got some bad news about pet peeve #3…see newly-added definition #4 at Dictionary.com. And this is why “grammar” rules aren’t really rules.

I used to wonder what was more important—wordsmithing or storytelling. This was when I was on my O. Henry Prize kick, reading dozens of beautifully written short stories that received high praise despite lacking plots or any deep meaning (to me, anyway). As a result, for a while I believed wordsmithing was more important and focused a lot on improving my prose. Then I realized short stories were a career dead end and began focusing on novels, where I came to the opposite conclusion, and the one I believe today: ideally you want to be good at both wordsmithing and storytelling, but storytelling should always take precedence. Beautifully constructed sentences and imagery are great and all, but if they don’t coalesce into anything meaningful it becomes tiresome after a while, like the O. Henry stories did for me; it’s the literary equivalent of navel-gazing.

In the end, words are tools you use to tell your story. Continue reading The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 2 – Grammatical Correctness

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The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 1 – Show, Don’t Tell

[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]

See? Even Hemingway said stupid crap sometimes!

I’m generally of a mind that rules are lame. You don’t know how much trouble I’ve ended up in because of this attitude, being a military member and all. Example:

Me: Why can’t I put my hands in the pockets of my uniform? It’s winter and it’s cold.

Severe-Looking Instructor: Because it’s unprofessional.

Me: Frostbite is also unprofessional.

Severe-Looking Instructor: Drop and give me twenty. Continue reading The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 1 – Show, Don’t Tell

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