Archive for December, 2012


Some authors can write the beginning of a book, short story or chapter off of the cuff. They like to see where the story goes without drawing a map to the final destination. I’ve done this myself a time or two, but I find that my work comes out best if I write my ideas out, look at them and arrange them into a story. No matter what school of thought you subscribe to, sitting down to write a map of where you intend to go with your story does have its advantages.

I like to write my stories a bit like TV shows, where each chapter is an episode and each book can be considered a season. In TV shows, the writers always get together and have a writers meeting to discuss where they are in the season, what the next episode is going to be about, which characters and what story lines will be included in the episode and how the episode they’re currently writing will impact the future of the show. I like to do the same thing whenever I outline the next chapter of a novel or a short story.

I’m currently working on finishing up my second novel. My first attempt at writing a novel is actually going to be the third novel in the series. I was halfway through when I realized that my characters have a backstory that I had yet to fully explore in order to do the novel and the series justice. At first I thought I could do that with just one novel, but it turned out that I actually needed two. In order to figure out the backstories of my characters, I had to get to know them. In order to do that, I had to sit down and “interview” them, see who they were before I met them, what they liked, who their family was, what clothes they liked to wear and what kind of music they listened to. Outlining is a great way to not only discover every facet of your story, but to also figure out who your characters are.

I admit that there is a thrill to simply diving into a story to see where it will take me. The act of raw creation brings a certain sense of urgency and an unpolished refinement that you just can’t get when you outline. Rather than sitting down and interviewing your characters, you allow them to possess you and tell the story purely from their point of view. It’s a bit like listening to the elegance of orchestral music versus the unbridled ferocity of heavy metal. One is very structured, very outlined and the other is undiluted and restrained. Yet both have their target audiences.

So when it comes to the question of outlining, I think it’s best to try your hand at both. If you’re used to outlining, you might want to try writing a poem to exercise those creative mental muscles. Poetry is another one of those raw forms of creation. Rarely do you hear of a poet, rapper, MC, musician or singer who outlines their material. Often they have the music, the verse or the song inside of them and they simply sit down and let it out, allowing it to write itself as they go. After the muse has passed, they go back and clean it up, much like a writer edits their work. If you’re more used to writing off of the cuff and would like to outline more, a suggestion to make the transition is to write out character histories or make up a character and write out their backstory. This will allow your mind to focus, discover and think before putting pen to pad or finger to key.

Take care out there.

Which do you prefer? Outlining or writing off of the cuff? Any particular reason why?  

What do you think? Are critique groups really all that helpful for writers or more of a waste of time?

The Red Pen of Doom

Every writer gets the notion — from college, from movies, from the Series of Tubes — that they should be in a critique group.

This notion is seven separate types of wrong.

It’s time for critique groups to go the way of the rotary phone — to make way for something better, faster and stronger.

Peoples of the interwebs: critique groups are obsolete

A critique group is useful for certain things:

(a) university professors who want students to break into groups and leave him alone for the next 45 minutes,

(b) writers who really, really like to read their work aloud,

(c) literary snobs who like to say silly pretentious things about the work of others, and

(d) happy writers who like to socialize with fellow writers and talk smack about the craft while drinking bourbon.

Sidenote: Yes, your particular critique group is wonderful, and you couldn’t live without it…

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Share and Share A Write

Is the above image too cute, too much, just right? For today’s post I thought’s I’d share some links to informational blogs and blog posts that I’ve recently discovered. All of them pertain to writing, self-publishing, finding agents, marketing yourself and the like. Get those pens ready!

“Using Twitter: Are You A Writer, A Brand, Or A Salesman?”

This post comes from self-published author Rachel Abbott. In it she discusses the many roles that authors play while on Twitter. You can be a writer and blog about your experiences writing, you can be a brand marketing yourself as a professional or a salesman building hype around your latest release. More than likely you’ll want to be all three. Any writers currently on Twitter or thinking of joining Twitter should give this post a gander. 

“How To Develop A Comp Titles List”

Publishing consultant Caren Estesen helps authors better find their market by identifying books and authors that complement their writing style and genre. If you’re sending out query letters and trying to find an agent, you need to have an idea of where and how to market yourself and your work. Think of it like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter.

“Indie Publishing in 2013: Why We Can’t Party Like It’s 2009”

Author and “writer mother” extraordinaire Anne R. Allen gives us a breakdown of what’s currently taking place in the world of self-publishing and the impact it will have on the future. One thing I really like about Anne is how she gives her readers honest, straight-forward facts without pussyfooting around. She also has a way of making readers feel better about the tumultuous changes taking place in the publishing business. She’s a true businesswoman, and I highly recommended following her blog. She’s also on Twitter.

“5 Ways To Send Guilt A Big Fat Rejection Letter”

Writer’s Relief discusses writer’s guilt. If you’re serious are getting serious about your craft and career, you may be experiencing certain hang-ups that are holding you back. This blog post explores five problems and five solutions to your writing dilemmas.

“How To Sell Self-Published Books: Read This First”

Successful self-published author Catherine Ryan Howard gives readers the cold yet honest truth about self-publishing. You owe it to yourself and your ego to read this post if you’re thinking about self-publishing or are thinking about self-publishing. I’m considering it myself, and the more I read about it the better prepared I am for both the good and the bad that comes with self-publishing.

“Barry Eisler On Self-Publishing And The Politics of Liberty”

This is an interview rather than a blog post. Traditionally published and best-selling author Barry Eisler discusses his decision to foray into indie publishing even though he’s had such wonderful success as a traditionally published author. This shows us that even traditionally published and successful authors have realized the power and freedom of self-publishing. Barry and self-published author J.A. Konrath (another self-published success) have a free book on Amazon titled “Be the Monkey.” It’s a dialogue between the two where they discuss ebooks and self-publishing.

I believe that’s enough…for now. Before ending this post, there’s one more blog I’d like to recommend. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner always has insightful and informational posts about writing. Since she’s an agent, she has insider knowledge about query letters, how to find an agent and how to polish up your manuscript before shipping out query letters. You can also find her on Twitter.

This sharing thing isn’t so bad! I feel like since we’re all in this writing journey together we should be informed of where we’re going and how to get there. I’m thinking about posting twice a week, one day for my regular posts and another where I share useful blog posts and articles. What say you, gentle reader? Til next time.

Take care out there.