A to Z Challenge: You

A sad update on Damyanti’s mother-in-law. After being bitten by a venomous snake a couple of days ago, she has passed away. Please pray for Damyanti and her family as they go through yet another difficult time. 

I want to point out something supposedly obvious today. Unfortunately, it’s something that gets missed a lot by novel writers.

Writing is about you.

You write the book you want to read.

You write the characters in your head. The way you want them to be. Unless they decided to disabuse you of any notion of control and ran away with your story ages ago. It happens. Trust me.

Writing for the market is stupid. Repeat after me. Writing for the market is stupid.

Don’t believe me?

Okay… sure. I hope you enjoy writing stories that you don’t care for because the one you love above all isn’t in the market. And let me just mention that the Reichenbach falls happened to Sherlock Holmes because his author grew to hate him. Why? Because no one wanted him to write anything else. Agatha Christie apparently killed off Poirot for the same reason.

And imagine you do succeed (by some miracle) at writing a novel that you hate, but it makes money. And no one ever ever wants to read something else by you again.

It’d be like being trapped in the seventh circle of hell. Just remember the waterfall has been done.

Now you get what I’m saying? Feeling a little nauseous at the thought of a writing career based on something you hate?

Good. Repeat after me. Writing for the market is stupid.

I’ll draft only for myself. What I love.

And then edit in line with market expectations.

M Pax: You Can’t Take the Sky From Me

I was one of the few original watchers of Firefly when it aired on Fox ten years ago. The first episode they aired was Train Robbery. It caught my attention with a vengeance, and I was devastated when the series was cancelled. Unshiny. Very unshiny, Fox.

Like Star Trek [the original], the mix of trying to survive on a new frontier with the awesomeness of exploring space, is a match most space opera fans can’t resist. At least, I can’t. I aimed to capture that same spirit when creating my universe. So, The Backworlds was born.

Like Firefly, my characters are at the edge of the galactic frontier. There are thugs, thieves, mercenaries, and scam artists. The Fireflycharacters often swayed between what was morally right, what they needed to survive, and their own goals. My characters often battle similar dilemmas. They’re far from perfect, but they are redeemable. Just like the beloved crew of Serenity.
Life isn’t shiny and perfect in Firefly. It’s raw survival and gritty, ripe with an atmosphere I did intend to capture. Maybe I didn’t, but I know the Backworlds aren’t shiny and perfect.
I couldn’t copy Firefly exactly, because it’s just not my style. I like to be somewhat original and need to do my own thing. [That belief may be a delusion] So my humans have been genetically engineered to deal with less ideal environments on flawed worlds.
I figure it’d be easier to change ourselves to suit less ideal planets than to change entire worlds to fit our needs. And sooner or later, if we intend to survive, we must figure out how to leave Earth and establish humanities on new homes.
You can try the first in the series, The Backworlds, for free. It’s available for all ereaders. LINKS. It’s also available in paperback for not free from Amazon.
Boomtown Craze is the latest release and the 3rd book in the series.
In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe.
To secure his future, Craze must propel his world into a more prosperous era. Only days away from the grand opening of his new and improved tavern, he is confronted by a loony Backworlder intent on mucking up his plans. Gaunt and trembling, she claims her spaceship is possessed. She also has a connection to the underworld that shakes loose the dark past of one of Craze’s closest friends. It all threatens to end Craze’s prosperity before it begins.
Meanwhile off world, Captain Talos works desperately to outwit the mercenary Jixes and lure them away from his and Craze’s budding prospects. The mind-control weapon Talos uses against them is wearing thin, and his next move may be his last.
Will Craze and Talos’s efforts bring about a grand new age of boom or damn them to forever struggle in the dust?

Available in ebook at:

M. Pax is a Browncoat and SG fan, she’s also slightly obsessed with Jane Austen. In the summers she docents as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory where the other astronomers now believe she has the most extensive collection of moon photos in existence. No fear, there will be more next summer. She lives in stunning Central Oregon with the Husband Unit and two lovely, spoiled cats.

How we write

Before I start, I’d like to thank Misha for hosting my post on her blog today.

Most of us are happy to talk about how we write and the methods we use – which room in the house, by hand or by computer, with or without music etc. And if you’re anywhere near as nosy as I am, you love to find these things out and compare notes. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am just as nosy when it comes to finding out about the way famous authors write.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across a number of quotes from some well-known writers as I was thinking about this post. Each one talks a little about what they do or how they write, or offers a little advice for the writer who just doesn’t know what to do next.

First of all, some straightforward advice from HG Wells: ‘I write as straight as I can, just as I walk as straight as I can, because that is the best way to get there.’ Starting at the beginning and working through to the end seems the most logical way to write, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out like that. And it’s easier said than done, sometimes, particularly when the words stop coming and writer’s block sets in.

What about inspiration and new material? PD James recommends that we draw upon our own lives. ‘Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ That’s where the small notebook in my bag comes in handy. You never know when you might visit a place or hear a snippet of conversation that you think is interesting, or perfect for a story. And you know you aren’t going to remember it when you get home…

‘Proceed slowly and take care.’ So said Annie Proulx, the writer of the short story on which Brokeback Mountain was based, and in saying that she’s clearly a woman after my own heart. There’s nothing better (in my opinion) than knowing who is going to say what when and where the story is going. Planning, planning, planning – for me that’s the key to easier writing.

For all you pantsers out there, I have the perfect quote from a great writer: ‘I have something in common with Doctor Who? I make it up as I go along, except I am better at it than they are.’ The person who said that? Terry Pratchett – a man with a fantastic sense of humour as well as an amazing imagination! Whether you enjoy reading his books or not, there’s no denying he is a very talented writer and for some people, spontaneous writing is the way to go.

You could try taking the same approach as Michael Moorcock who said: ‘Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.’ I like the sound of this, particularly as I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like being told what to do very much! But on a serious note, why can’t we bend the rules? As writers, if we can’t create our own rules, who can?

And last but not least, we have the words of Joyce Carol Oates: ‘Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst.’ There’s nothing more I can say about this – it’s the best advice I have seen for dealing with the submission process, which is where we all end up when the hours of careful writing and editing are finished.

There is no one right way or wrong way to write. There may well be a right way for you, but you have to do a little trial and error to find that out. I tried making it up as I went along, but that turned out to be a big disaster. I know that, like in my life generally, I need to be organised when I write. I need to have the notebooks full of notes (I lovenotebooks, but that’s another story) and know exactly where I’m going. For other people, that’s a complete waste of time because they’ll just go and write something completely different anyway. You write in a way that suits you.

But that’s not to say you shouldn’t do your research into how others write. Keep being nosy. I know I will.

Which of these writers do you relate to the most? Or is there another writer that you identify with more?

Stacey Mitchell is a writer who lives in south Wales. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, and has an obsession with all things historical. Her bitesize biography of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven is being published by Collca in April or May this year.



Thanks so much for stopping by, Stacey. I’m looking for Guest Posters for the first two Friday’s of May. If you are interested in filling one of those slots, please check out this post and contact me. Have a great weekend everyone! X

Others have said: Just write.

Don’t get it right, just get it written.

James Thurber
If I had a cent for every new writer I find who is overwhelmed by all the “rules” and “prescribed methods” to good writing, I’d be on my way to Tuscany by now.
The Internet is a wonderful place, and the blogosphere a treasure trove of knowledge and advice on writing. I love it. But I was lucky. I had too much of a confidence in my own abilities to be overwhelmed.
Why? Because I’ve written for about eight years before I decided to take the plunge and start a writing blog. So by the time I started nosing around the blogs, I already knew what worked for me and what didn’t. I already knew where my writing needed help.
I knew that if I had conflicting pieces of advice, that I’d be able to pick the one that works best with me and the way that I write.
But note the words: FOR ME.
If everyone writes according to the way that works best for them, is there really a right  way to write?
Short answer: No. The only way to write is your way.
Sure, you can take advice. If it works for you. You can deviate from the “rules”, if you’re willing to stand firm in the belief that you did the right thing.
Writing isn’t about writing to a set form. If it was, every book would be the same. Who’d want that? Especially if it’s a book you wouldn’t like?
So, while it is excellent to see what options are out there (and I’ve seen some brilliant suggestions that I never would have thought about), don’t sacrifice your own writer’s identity in order to implement them.
Forget about being right. Get that story written, by any means possible.
What’s your favorite writing “rule” or “best practice” to break?

The Best “How To” Books for Writers

One thing that’s probably on the shelf of many writers is at least one “How to” book with respect to writing. Filled with sagely advice on everything from pacing and pitfalls to publishers and point of view, most contain at least a nugget of valuable information. Some writers swear by them. Others, well, swear at them.

I’m in the middle ground on this. I’ve read a few and they’ve given me a few pointers and ideas, but I firmly believe that there isn’t one out there that contains the ‘secret formula’ for writing a bestselling novel. A good “How to” can prod a writer along and point to possible solutions when a wall has been hit.

If one is interested, the two I’ve found most useful are: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card and On Writing by Stephen King. Card’s book provided me pointers and some basic do’s and don’ts. King’s book provided some straight-forward advice on writing and what it takes to succeed—or have a chance to succeed.

But really, I consider the best “How to” books for writers simply to be what we’ve all read since childhood: published novels. They’re what taught me how to tell stories, how to write a story, and helped me to improve my writing skills—how to write better.

Let me explain further.

It’s generally accepted that writers should also be readers, if for no other reason that it helps the writer keep abreast of what’s out there in his genre. Reading, I think, also affects a writer’s subconscious. By reading, a writer internalizes things like story structure and pacing. A close analogy would be a person learning how to tell jokes. It takes more than just uttering a series of memorized words. Proper inflection, subtle gestures, appropriate pausing, and on-the-mark timing are required.

If a writer is struggling with characterization, or how to write a battle scene from a particular point of view, I recommend he goes back to his favorite authors, his favorite books and read them. But read them with a purpose. Study how the author accomplished the task. Take notes. Compare it to other books by other authors. Taking what’s learned, the writer should apply lesson to his project while incorporating (or modifying it to) his own writing style.

The process takes far longer than reading a chapter or section in a standard “How to” book, but what’s learned will be more than superficial knowledge. Beyond that, the writer will be applying to his work, proven methods/techniques that resulted in a published author’s work not only finding a publisher, but a reading audience—including the writer in question.

Most recently I employed this process to write Blood Sword, my second novel in the First Civilization’s Legacy series. While Blood Sword is the sequel to Flank Hawk, my goal was to write it in such a way that even as it complimented the first novel, it could also stand alone. With established characters returning, and actions and events from the first novel impacting the plot of the second, it wasn’t going to be a simple task.

What I did was select several authors whose works were written in first person POV as part of an ongoing series. In addition, the novels in the series, while related or through recurring characters and impacted by events that happened earlier in the series, were to varying degrees standalone novels.

I read and reread, and also listened to audio versions when possible, the first five books in Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series, The early novels in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, and scattered novels in Steven Brust’s Vlat Taltos series. I paid close attention to when and how the authors made references to situations and events that took place in previous novels. Even trickier lessons gleaned included how the authors referenced important events that occurred between or were shared by characters, while continuing/growing the character relationships previously established.

In the course of my study I learned more than a few things about employing character thoughts, observations, and dialogue. When and where to do it, and when to be direct and overt, and when to be indirect and subtle. When to recount and when to let the readers, both new and veterans of the series (if readers of the first novel can be called ‘veterans’ with respect to reading my published works) fill in the blanks.

I think I got right. And while I could tell you how I did it while writing Blood Sword, that material would be better placed within the pages of a ‘How to’ book. Since I won’t be doing that anytime soon, if it’s a concern you’re struggling with, do what I did—find appropriate authors you enjoy reading (since you’re going to be spending a lot of time delving into the contents of their novels) and study how they did it.

Or, posing a more self-serving suggestion, consider reading Flank Hawk and/or Blood Sword. Not only for learning purposes, but also for enjoyment!


Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is an editor for the speculative fiction magazine MindFlights and a guest contributor to Fiction Factor, an ezine for writers. Gryphonwood Press published Terry’s debut fantasy novel FLANK HAWK and the next novel in the First Civilization’s Legacy series, BLOOD SWORD, is now available.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website or his blog Up Around the Corner.

How do you learn how to write? 

Writing Influences

Hi all! Welcome to another GPF. Today I welcome Theresa Milstein from Substitute Teacher’s Saga.

She’s also one of my older bloggy friends, so please go say hi for me. 🙂

Writing Influences

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post “Reverence for Rowling” that discusses why the Harry Potter series made me become a writer.  Certain influences came together to start my story.

1.  The whimsy of Harry’s magical world in comparison with the darker fantasy books of my childhood, made fantasy much more appealing.

2.  I’d seen the author Melissa Glenn Haber speak.   She mentioned that many fantasy protagonists are orphans or somehow the parents are absent.  I thought it would be nice to have a fantasy book that dealt with the relationships between children and their parents in the realm of a fantasy book. 

3.  I used the quirks of the place where I grew up as a setting.

Thus, my first manuscript was born.  I’ll admit the story borrows a little too heavily from the Harry Potter world.  But it got me writing. 

Each of the stories we write are inspired by several factors.  They can be books, songs, overheard fragments of conversation, a NEWS story, or something from our personal lives.

My most recent short story, “My Moment”, which will be included in the Tiny Dancer anthology in October, had a number of inspirations.  It’s boggling that so many influences could’ve come together in a short story.  

1.  I had just watched an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  One mother admonished her daughter for dancing like a stripper.  That horrifying line stuck in my brain. 

2.  Then I got the opportunity to write a speculative fiction piece.  I read the back of the book, Like Mandarin, by Kirsten Hubbard, which mentions child pageants. 

3.  I recalled XVI by Julia Karr, where she created a society based on the sexual availability of girls ages 16 and over. 

What if I wrote a story 200 years in the future where beauty pageants were a way for poor girls who couldn’t afford college to find well-off husbands?   A story was born.

Writers, will you share you story influences?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Theresa

If anyone still wants to guest post before the end of the year, you better move quickly. I only have two more Fridays left. Contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com if you’re interested.