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

14 Dec

The Zen of Reading Like a Writer

Read like a Writer quote - Francine Prose

Read like a Writer quote - Francine ProseI’m starting to read like a writer, and it’s a bit scary.

Reading as a reader you let yourself fall into the book. You skip across the words, sink into the hero, live a life of danger, despair and domination (not that kind of domination). You let yourself be absorbed, enter a different world and just enjoy.

As a writer you see the structure of the story. You’re like Tank in the Matrix, watching rows of glowing, neon-green ASCII/Kanji flow down the screen and read out what’s going on. It’s exciting but it’s an experience from beyond. You’re no longer in the book, you’re looking at the nuts and bolts that make it up. 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

23 Nov

How a 3-time Hugo Winner learned to Write Great Stories – An Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal quote
Mary Robinette Kowal quote

Image: © 2012 Rod Searcey

Mary Robinette Kowal is an award-winning novelist and puppeteer. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Her debut novel, Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010) was nominated for the Nebula, she’s won three Hugos and the 2008 Campbell for best new writer.

Here, she talks about how she learned to write good stories reliably.

In 2000 Mary Robinette Kowal suffered a wrist injury, forcing her to take a break from performing. Instead she picked up on her old hobby of writing fiction as a way to keep in touch with her niece and nephew and, in 2004, decided to start submiting her work to markets.

“I have always worked in the arts and my training was such that artists should be paid,” says Mary Robinette Kowal. “I rediscovered that I enjoyed writing, and it’s a little crass, but my thought was ‘how do I get paid for this?'” Read More

05 Oct

How to Write 15 Novels in a Year – An Interview with Jason Halstead

I write because I breathe, Jason Halstead quote

I write because I breathe, Jason Halstead quote Jason Halstead is a prolific writer. In the six years since publishing his first novel, he has added over 70 novel credits to his name – and that doesn’t include some 35 novels written under pen names or co-written with his wife Dawn Michelle. How does he do it?

“I write because I breathe,” says Jason Halstead. “It’s as important to me as eating, drinking, my family, and my hobby of lifting weights. It defines who I am not because I want it to, but because I have made it a core part of me.”

During the day, Jason Halstead is a regular Joe, spending 45 to 50 hours a week as a Lead Software Developer. He’s also a competition power lifter (in 2009 he set two state records in the Son-Light Powerlifting Federation of Michigan), a father, and a husband. On a typical day he gets up at 5:45 (he sleeps in until 6:30 on weekends), exercises, works, takes care of the business side of writing, and then writes a chapter or 2 500 words, whichever is less, before going to bed around 11 pm. Read More

02 Oct

How to Write a Novel without an Outline – Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith review

Feeling of reading, Dean Wesley Smith quote

Feeling of reading, Dean Wesley Smith quoteI’m a pantser, the type of writer who loves to go off unprepared and discover the story as I write it. Every single work on the technical side of writing I’ve read up to this point has, more or less explicitly, spoken of outlines. Made me feel like an idiot for not being able to use one.

Along comes “Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline” and it’s all about pantsing, or writing into the dark as Dean Wesley Smith calls it. Reading it was like being six years old and finding the secret hiding place of the cookie jar. Read More

31 Aug

An Overview of the Craft: The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer, Review

Boost of Motivation, Novel Writer's Toolkit review Quote

Boost of Motivation, Novel Writer's Toolkit review QuoteSometimes you get handed a book that you wouldn’t have bought in a million years and it turns out to contain grains of pure gold. Bob Mayer’s “The Novel Writer’s Toolkit” was one of those for me.


Bob Mayer is a rather accomplished writer, both in terms of books published (over 60) and money earned (unknown but from what he says “good”). He knows what he’s talking about and he isn’t shy about using himself as an example.

In The Novel Writer’s Toolkit (TNWT) Mayer presents 9 tools (read themes) dealing with everything a writer needs to know, from personal insights (common traits of successful writers, knowing why you write, etc.) to more commonplace advice on plot, theme, character creation and similar.

In some areas The Novel Writer’s Toolkit shines when compared to regular writer’s books, such as the focus on selling and making a career and the key to defining your kernel idea (writing to a premise sentence), which makes the book stand out from the pack. Read More

24 Aug

The Guide to a Professional Writing Career – Douglas Smith’s “Playing the Short Game” Review

Write and submit, rinse and repeat, Douglas Smith quote

Write and submit, rinse and repeat, Douglas Smith quote I can’t tell you what you should write. That’s entirely up to you. But if you are the least bit interested in having a career as a fiction writer then I can tell you what to read: Douglas Smith’s “Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction”. From now on this is my go-to book for all things related to starting and maintaining my fiction writing career. Read More