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.
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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

28 Mar

Analog Game Design 101: From Spark to Idea

Analog Game Design 101: From Spark to Idea

Analog Game Design 101: From Spark to IdeaThis week I thought I’d try something different.

I get a lot of ideas, for stories, for games, for products or ways to save the world. Mostly nothing comes out of them, but some intrigue me enough for me to start developing them. I had one such epiphany a few days ago and this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to describe how I take a game from an idea to a tested prototype, and possibly more.

I’m writing this as I go along. The game might turn out to be crap. It might turn out to be impossible to make. It might turn out all right and be submitted. I don’t now. This, folks, is game design reality TV. Here goes. Read More

01 Feb

6 Warning Signs that You Shouldn’t Be a Writer

6 Warning Signs that You Shouldn't be a Writer

6 Warning Signs that You Shouldn't be a WriterHalf of all the people who want to write never put down a word on paper, and half of those who do never finish anything[note]According to acclaimed writer/teacher Robert J. Sawyer’s analysis of Heinlein’s rules. Read it, it’s really good advice![/note]. So how do you know if you’re meant to be a writer?

TL:DR[note]Too Long, Didn’t Read. As in Internet.[/note] answer: you don’t. But you can see the signs that you’re not meant to be a writer. Here are the 7 biggest ones: Read More

25 Jan

10 Surefire Ways to Create Powerful Settings

Powerful Settings

Powerful SettingsSo you’ve got an amazing character. Let’s say she’s a combat diver for a secret government agency. And she’s battling her sister who’s a nurse-come-assassin. Everything is set to be awesome.

Except you can’t figure out the right setting.

Finding the right setting is hard. If the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug[note]That’s Mark Twain, baby![/note] then the difference between the right setting and the almost right setting is the difference between an amazing book and a blah one. Read More

28 Dec

How To Write and Make Money – Leah Cutter’s The Beginning Professional Writer

Make Writing your Business - Leah Cutter quote

Make Writing your Business - Leah Cutter quoteI finished Leah Cutter‘s The Beginning Professional Writer in one sitting, even though she explicitly wrote not to.

OK, it’s a short book. It’s got a bowl of letter cereal on the cover. It looks like it’s been designed as a junior student essay.

It’s also the most eminently quotable, fact packed book I’ve read in a long time. And I do mean that as a compliment because it is easy to read, too. And it will tell you everything you need to know as a beginning professional writer. Read More

30 Nov

Why you’re Writing Technology Wrong

Technology Stabs You in the Back - Carrie Snow quote

Technology Stabs You in the Back - Carrie Snow quoteI love technology in stories. It works. It doesn’t require upgrades, it doesn’t crash and there’s no need to read the fine print in the manufacturer’s warranty.

The Terminator never needs to reboot (ok, he does but that’s because he gets pummeled into prickly metal paste and we need that moment when the eye fades then goes red again). No one aboard the Enterprise complains about the poor User Interface, or requires captain Picard to install ergonomic touch screens. Everything just works.

What a load of crock. Read More