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.

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

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!)

Continue reading How to Self-Publish a Book
Share

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.

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

5 Things You Absolutely Need To Know Before You Start Writing

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

Ah sweet Jughead – bearer of the dumbest hat and stupidest name in all of Riverdale – will you ever finish your terribly pretentious book so the world may finally understand your misunderstood genius??

In my last article, I discussed how authors often fall into the trap of obsessing over irrelevant character details at the expense of info that matters. You don’t need to know everything about a character, only certain critical details: desires, strengths, and weaknesses. The same holds true for starting a story: you don’t need to know everything, only certain things…but you NEED to know those key things.

Continue reading 5 Things You Absolutely Need To Know Before You Start Writing
Share

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.

Continue reading 3 Reasons Why You Should Never Skip The Inciting Incident
Share

Forget Your Protagonist’s Favorite Color: The Only Thing You Really Need To Know About Your Characters

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

“But what should my hero’s favorite color be? Dammit, writing is so hard!”

Please don’t tell me you’ve got a binder or notebook stuffed with pictures you found on the Internet of what your main characters look like, along with facts about them like their favorite color, the first song they danced to, their ideal vacation spot, etc. I mean, you can do that if you’re bored…okay I did that on my website as part of a promotion for my book Reckoning. But don’t mistake this for character development, because it’s not.

Continue reading Forget Your Protagonist’s Favorite Color: The Only Thing You Really Need To Know About Your Characters
Share

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.

Continue reading How To Create “Real” Characters
Share

Baking Literary Bread, Part 1: The Basic Ingredients Every Story Must Have To Succeed

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

Everybody who’s ever attempted to bake a delicious loaf of bread from scratch knows firsthand the endeavor is part art, part science. The delicate balance of flavors and textures—that’s art. Ensuring the loaf doesn’t dissolve into a puddle of goo—that’s science. There are an infinite number of different kinds of bread you can bake—banana, zucchini, raisin nut, marble wheat, etc.—but they all have certain ingredients in common—flour, yeast, baking soda, salt, water—and require a certain order of preparation—mix ingredients, bake, let cool. Without the right ingredients in specific quantities and in the proper order, you end up with the aforementioned inedible goo.

Continue reading Baking Literary Bread, Part 1: The Basic Ingredients Every Story Must Have To Succeed
Share

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.

Continue reading Do You Need A Professional Editor?
Share

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?

Continue reading Where Have All The Blogs Gone?
Share