06 Jun

Rapid Idea Generation with “If … Then … Why”

Rapid Idea Generation with If ... Then ... Why

Rapid Idea Generation with If ... Then ... WhyI used to have troubles coming up with writing ideas. Nothing I did felt interesting, or if I managed to come up with something it would fail in practice – the ogre in the musketeer uniform would be just that, a dressed up ogre, and nothing more.

A dressed up ogre is boring. Just mashing together two concepts isn’t enough. You need something more.

That’s where the double whammy of “if … then” and “why” works wonders. Read More

30 May

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and CrashplanSome years ago I lost all of my writing in a hard drive crash. I’m not crying over spilled milk – the writing was rather horrible – but it did set me thinking about redundancy and safety. I started doing backups.

At first, I did backups to CDs. That worked all right, until I thought I had done a backup and formatted my hard drive. Of course, I didn’t have any CD with my latest stuff on it. And then, when my computer crashed and I had to reformat it, I lost a few months of work as well.

So instead of CDs, I started using an external drive to backup all of my files. Which worked fine, except that it’s a pain in the behind to hook it up all the time. And I didn’t want to leave it hooked up and out in the open because part of the reason of doing backups was to protect me in case my computer got stolen.

But, two years ago, I found my main backup and sync solution. And last month I found the perfect way to work across multiple platforms, multiple computers, in complete safety, without having to do anything. Read More

02 May

Copyright, Plagiarism, and Writing – Explained

Copyright explained

Copyright explainedSo you’ve got this great idea: world championship weightlifter Barry Hotter is approached by an enchanted dumbbell and invited to the magical Mugwart’s Academy for Jocks. There he learns ancient Tibetan psi-powers that help him lift weights with his mind, finds true love, and defends the world of non-weightlifters from the evil Lord Lift-a-Mort.

Question: should you expect a call from J.K. Rowling’s lawyers[note]Or, since Rowling’s a Britt, solicitors.[/note]?

That’s where copyright and intellectual property law comes into play.
Read More

25 Apr

Writing 100 Novels Without an Outline – Interview with Dean Wesley Smith

Writing 100 Novels Without an Outline

Writing 100 Novels Without an OutlineLooking at Dean Wesley Smith’s resume, you can’t help but go “wow”. Dean’s written far in excess of 100 original novels (Amazon lists 211), a couple dozen Star Trek novels, the only two Men In Black novels ever published, and scores of novels for licensed properties such as Smallville, the X-Men, Aliens, Roswell and Quantum Leap.

In addition to this Dean Wesley Smith has published several hundred short stories. Since October 2013 he’s been publishing his writing in an original magazine, “Smith’s Monthly”, containing one new, original novel and several short stories in each issue.

Calling Dean prolific is a bit like saying that the Niagara River is a large stream – it just doesn’t capture his output. He does it in a way that a lot of writing teachers say you shouldn’t: edits as he writes, writes one draft and sends it out, and doesn’t use an outline. Dean’s an unapologetic one-draft discovery writer. Read More

18 Apr

How I Beat the 1000 Word Writer’s Block

1000 Word Block

1000 Word BlockI can’t write past 1000 words.

Up until that point I spin, I flow, I tap the words out like a prima ballerina flying across the keyboard. But once I start to approach the dreaded limit I slow down, meander, erase and finally stop.

For years I thought that this was some sort of magic limit, a curse that would strike me the moment the count reached 999. It didn’t matter how great the idea was, how motivated I was, how rested, how revved. Come word 1000 and everything fell apart. I resigned myself to writing short pieces.

But about six months ago I sat down to write up an idea which had been bouncing about my head for a while: an introduction to Intellectual Property law aimed at game designers. Read More

11 Apr

What Type of Writer are You? – Stages of a Fiction Writer review

Stages of a Fiction Writer

Stages of a Fiction WriterSo I’m a stage 2 writer. Or maybe early stage 3. I don’t know. And until I read Dean Wesley Smith’s “Stages of a Fiction Writer”, I had no idea what any of that meant.

Stages of a Fiction Writer is a short book. Very short. It doesn’t have very much concrete content. And yet it’s eminently readable. I should know, I’ve read it twice now. Read More

04 Apr

A Simple Guide to Writing Games

Writing Games

Writing GamesI’m a writer. I’m also a game designer, game player and game lover. And, folks, I hate what writers do to games – most writers simply don’t know how to write games.

Let’s take a prime example: Harry Potter’s Quiddich. Harry’s the Seeker of his team, meaning that if he catches the Golden (or Silver, if you’re a fan of the books) Snitch ball his team gains 150 points and instantly wins[note]OK, there’s a plot point in one of the later books where the Bulgarians are 160 points behind when they catch the Snitch and thus lose.[/note].

So what would this do to the game, if it was real? Since catching the Snitch is worth 150 times as much as scoring a goal, why is there only one guy (Harry) chasing it? Well, those are the rules. I buy that. There are plenty of dumber sports[note]Such as competitive cheese rolling. It’s real. And don’t make me mention chess boxing.[/note]. But why should the players at Hogwarts be written as dumb? Read More

07 Mar

The No Strings Attached Guide to Spectacular Publishing Success

Start at the Top

Start at the TopIf you want to be a successfully published writer, all you need are four words.

Start at the Top.

You can debate what successful, published or writer means (do self-published writers count? do exposure markets count?), but I’ll define it very simply: a successfully published writer is a writer who makes money from her writing. Simple as that. So how do you achieve it?

Start at the top.

That’s it. Start at the top. Start by pitching your top market, the best paying one, the one that responds the quickest, the one which has the most readers, or favorable reviews, or chocolate chip cookies. Doesn’t matter how you define your top market. Just find it and start there.

Why? Because 1 percent of something is a million, billion times better than 100 percent of nothing.

And yet, most writers won’t submit to their top market. They’ll throw away their chance at achieving their dream before they even try. I know, I’ve been there. And I tossed away a lot of chances before buckling down and sending out to top markets. And getting published. And if I can, you can, too. Here’s how. Read More

15 Feb

Dressed in Black – SF Flash Fiction

Dressed in Black

Dressed in BlackTwo-mom bends down so that her eyes are level with Rao’s.

“We’re here, Rao,” she says in what Rao recognizes as her patient voice, “because she was your real-mom and we show respect.”

“What’s resect?” Rao says. He wipes his nose on the sleeve of his boring, no-glow jacket. The jacket is black, like everyone else’s, and he hates it.

“It’s when you don’t stick your tongue out,” says Nima. She’s half a head taller than Rao and knows everything in the world. She pokes Rao’s shoulder and sticks her tongue out. He answers as he always does: by flailing at her with his little fists. Nima laughs. Read More