My Favorite Writerly Moments of 2019

Instead of writing a new year’s post about my writing goals for the coming year, I decided to reflect for a moment about the year I just finished. On a non-writing front, 2019 was an odd year for me (mostly personal stuff), and I had some financial difficulties, but all in all it was a good year. I didn’t get nearly as much written as I’d planned at the beginning of the year, but even a little progress is good, so I’ve decided to focus on that. And so, on that note, here are some of my writerly highlights from the past year:

Favorite Book of 2019

Since the dieselpunk historical fantasy novel I’m writing has elements of a mystery story, I’ve started reading some mysteries. My favorite read was Silent Murders by Mary Miley, the second book in a mystery series set in the 1920s. I read the first book, as well, and enjoyed it, but the second book was the better of the two. I have the third book sitting on my book shelf, so I’ll be reading that this year. Continue reading

The Right Way to Write

So many blogs, books, and classes these days tell you how to write. Some offer craft of writing education, others (like mine), offer tips and ideas for genre-specific works. For example, I’ve offered advice from my own learning and writing experience about inventing fantasy words for your epic fantasy or sci-fi story, or researching for and writing historical fiction.

But a bigger, and perhaps more important, question is this: is there a right (and thusly, wrong) way to write? My answer is both yes and no.

First of all, in fiction writing, there are some basics that yes, you need to get right if you’re going to have a marketable (or even readable) book. Stuff like coherent plot, characters, and basic grammar and spelling really do matter. Studying writing crafts books, taking seminars from established writers, and just plain old reading well-written books are great ways to learn how to write right.

But what about the more abstract elements of writing “right”? Does that even mean? Continue reading

How to Write Historical Fiction

For those who don’t know, I am currently writing – and reading – historical fiction. To be specific, I’m currently writing in the historical fiction sub-genre of historical fantasy, retro-futuristic science fiction, or dieselpunk.

One of the key elements of writing historical fiction and its various relatives is, of course, research. And as any writer knows, the very act of doing research can often inspire other ideas – which can be great if you’re just at the start of putting together a book, but can also derail you from a good work in progress.

But anyway, let’s say that you’re wanting to try out the historical fiction genre. Where do you begin? As with most any writing, I believe good historical fiction writing comes from reading books in that genre. Also, most historical fiction writers have a love of history – whether it be a love of a certain place or time in history, or a broader love of anything that is old. So if you love history, how do you start writing a fictional story? Continue reading

The Value of a Writing Retreat

A few weeks ago I took a four-day writing retreat with the members of my monthly writing critique group. Last year we’d decided to try a retreat, and loved it so much that we did it again this year.

We booked a 6-bedroom cabin at a retreat center in a nearby town, and spent four days just writing. Yes, we did other things, too – went for walks or a swim, got together for meals and a movie every evening, and chatted here and there about our writing projects. We all get along really well, and even though we’re all writing different things in different genres, we enjoy talking about writing and even helping one another with brainstorming ideas.

A scenic view near our writing cabin.

Continue reading

Overcoming Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I believe that writers can get stuck, frustrated with, disillusioned by, and tired of their writing projects. I believe this because I’ve experienced all of these things.

However, “writer’s block” to me sounds permanent and insurmountable. And it is most certainly neither of these. So whether you’re experiencing writer’s block, writer’s pause, frustration with your characters, or uninspired by your plot, there is a way out. Here are three tips that I use when I get stuck.

Go for a Walk

Or a run, or a swim, or vacuum your house, or work in the garden. In other words, do something besides sitting there staring at the blank page. Physical movement helps—it gets blood flowing, and distracts you. And if you haven’t cleaned in a while, well, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Double your productivity! But seriously, I do some of my best thinking while I’m doing physical tasks that require very little conscious thought, such as vacuuming or talking a long walk. Continue reading