Writing Is…Seeing the Details

Writers are observers. We need to observe life in all its grand scope and small detail—places, things, people, events, words, emotions.

A couple of weeks ago, I moved from one state to another one—literally across the country. Since everything about my new home is new, I’m in major observation mode right now. There are so many details that may or may not ever make it into a story. But whether a certain detail actually makes it into a book or not isn’t really the point. Every detail observed and pondered is another wrinkle on the brain, another thought or sound or smell added to the richness of experience.

Details like the dirt road I drive on every day that leads up to the house where I’m staying. I’m learning the spots along the road where the rain has eroded the dirt into a washboard surface, and the spot that looks smooth but the dirt makes the car fishtail ever so slightly whether the road is wet or dry.

Details like the lichen that grows in abundance on the trees. So many different kinds and colors:

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How to be a Good Critique Partner

Over the past several years, I’ve been very blessed to be a part of some very good critique groups. Even though writing itself is a solitary endeavor, I believe that associating with other writers – whether it’s with critique partners, a creative writing class, or a big writers conference – is vital to any writer’s growth.critique

So what are the benefits of joining a writing critique group? How do you know if your critique partners will be helpful or useful? How can you make sure that you yourself will be a good critique partner?

Details Matter

Critiquing a fellow writer’s work involves much more than just saying “I liked it.” It’s also much more than line editing, where you call out every unnecessary comma and misspelled word. Every critique group has their own set of rules and expectations, but usually groups are made up of writers submitting a first or maybe second draft, and looking for overall feedback. Does the story flow? Is there too much head-hopping or other issues with point of view? Are there confusing plot points? Do the characters feel real, or just one-dimensional? These are some good aspects to consider when you’re critiquing other’s work. Continue reading

Writing Tip: Get out of Balance

It’s good to have a balance in all things, right? Like a well-balanced diet – not too much protein, not too many carbs, lots of vegetables. Or a good work-life balance – yes, you want to advance your career and make money, but not at the expense of neglecting your family.

Balance and moderation are good things usually. We could all probably do with more balance in certain areas of our lives (like finding that perfect balance of staying connected on social media without letting kitten pictures on Instagram or trolls on Facebook suck up all of our time and mental energy).

Anyway, as lovely as balance and moderation are, sometimes you have to get out of balance to achieve a goal or to grow yourself in a certain area. For example, one of my goals for 2017 is to get out of balance with my dedication to writing. Continue reading

New Year, New Goals

I always like to start out the new year with a list of goals and a renewed vision. I prefer the term “goal” rather than “resolution,” because to me a resolution sounds like something so permanent and inflexible that if you mess up just once, you’re done. A goal, on the other hand, is something that you are always progressing towards. A backwards step is okay, as long as you take another step forwards again.

One of my goals for this year is to blog more. I’ve been blogging regularly once a week for several years now, but I want to do more. So every Monday, I will be sharing a picture, a quote, or a track of music to help inspire you and get your week off to a positive start. Whether you’re looking for story prompt ideas or just an encouraging word first thing in the morning, check out my blog every Monday for my #MondayMotivation!

On the story writing side of things, I’ve got a plan in place to publish several works this year. I just sent my sci-fi novella off to an editor (my first time hiring a real editor! Whee!) I’ll also be rewriting the historical fiction I drafted last year, and also releasing some short stories. Stay tuned for more info as I progress with these stories!

Last year, I got through less than half of my intended reading list (although I did read a few books that weren’t originally on the list). This year I’m going to be more diligent about reading, because every good writer is first a good reader.

So those are my goals for 2017. What are some of your goals for this year? Write more? Read more? Subscribe to my newsletter? 😉 Please share!

5 Things Watching Sci-Fi has Taught Me about Writing

It’s no great secret that my favorite genres to read and watch are fantasy and science fiction. I’ve actually watched a lot more sci-fi than I’ve read (unless you count comic books). But anyway, I’m doing this post as a follow-up to last week’s post about things that Star Trek has taught me about writing.

For this post, I’ll branch out, and draw examples from some of my favorite sci-fi TV shows ever: Babylon 5, Stargate (all the series, but mostly SG1), and Star Trek (all the series, but mostly TNG). And don’t worry if you haven’t seen all or any of these – my point is to illustrate how good writing is good writing, regardless.

Consistency in world-building is vital to believability

This is the most important thing that I’ve learned about writing. Whether you’re writing sci-fi or a YA contemporary romance, a short story or a 10-novel series, you must be consistent within the world of your story. Consistency helps create credibility and believability, even with a fantastical subject matter. In Star Trek, regardless of which series you’re watching, the ships always fly with a warp drive. This is one thing (of many) that the audience can always expect from any story set in the Star Trek world.

Characters are what truly make the story

Citizen G'Kar of Babylon 5 may be an exotic-looking alien, but he's also a deeply complex, and surprisingly human, character.

Citizen G’Kar of Babylon 5 may be an exotic-looking alien, but he’s also a deeply complex, and surprisingly human, character.

Of course people watch sci-fi for all the special effects, the exotic aliens, and the epic space battles. And in books – sci-fi and otherwise – the adventures, snappy action, and rich settings are important. But without fully-developed characters, all you really have is a cool travel brochure of the world you’ve created. For a story, you need plot and characters. Readers and viewers need people they can connect with.

The three sci-fi shows I mentioned – Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Stargate – have no shortage of characters. What makes an engaging story is the relationships between the characters – their friendships, the different ways they handle challenges, their enemies, their likes and dislikes. In Babylon 5, the overarching plot is war encroaching on peace. But what makes the audience keep coming back for the next episode is not just the dramatic space battles and the epic story of the Army of Light versus the Shadows. It’s the characters who make up that Army of Light, the characters who have hopes and dreams and a reason to keep fighting. If the audience didn’t care about the characters, they wouldn’t care who won the war. Continue reading

So I Just Published a Book…

Not much in the way of wit or writing tips this week. Just an announcement that I published my first book! 

I know, there was no fanfare or promotion leading up to it. I actually wanted to keep it low-key, because I did it partly just to figure out how the self-publishing process works on Amazon. You can read a hundred blog posts about it, but until you actually do it, it’s still theory. The uploading and book prep process through Amazon is relatively painless – except for the bit about their Kindle conversion program not liking tab indents in Word. Gotta figure out how to fix that for my next book.

But anyway, here it is – my first official publication, a self-published short story collection. Pop on over to Amazon, if you’d like, and give it a read!