Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Hacking Your Way to Better Writing

I just finished reading Larry Brooks book, Story Engineering, and although it certainly isn’t anywhere close to weird enough to feature in its own Bizzaro Book Review, I gotta say, you people really need to pick this thing up, if only for the section on structure.

But while I was reading this book, I came across a theme which seemed to be repeated with alarming regularity. Namely, that some writers simply refuse to accept the idea that there might be a basic format with nearly all good stories follow and that learning and applying that format can vastly improve your chances of getting published.

It boggles the mind to think that someone could write a book saying, “This is the structure on which 99% of all financially successful stories are based. Disregard it at your peril,” and struggling writers would choose to completely ignore it.

It would make sense if you didn’t know about fundamentals of structure, but to know and refuse to apply them seems completely nonsensical. Yet according to Brooks writers do this all the time. And I think I know why.

Writers want to feel special.

Sure, maybe all those other hacks need to pay attention to things like story structure, but not you. You’ve got something unique. And while I don’t want to tear down anyone’s self-image, I do have a bit of cold hard truth for you to swallow:

You’re not special.

I know you’re hackles just went up. After all, you’ve been told that you were special by wonderful well-intentioned people for your whole life. And here’s the thing: pretty much everyone else was told the same thing.

Now, are you unique? In some ways, sure. Do you have something valuable to offer the world through your writing? Probably, yes.

But trust me when I say there are thousands, possibly millions of writers out there who think they’re the ones who’ve really got what it takes if only the big mean publishers would get out of the way and print their stuff.

This is not to say you are not a good writer. You may be a great writer. You may be a great storyteller. (These two things are not synonymous by the way, a topic which deserves a post of its own one of these days).

But the odds are good that as long as you keep thinking of yourself as the next greatest thing in the literary world, you’re not going to be able to learn as much as you need to learn to get better.

Instead, try taking a page from fellow blogger The Hack Novelist. When I first saw Hack’s internet moniker I thought, “Well, that’s odd. I wonder why someone would choose to be so self-deprecating.” But the more I think on it, the more I believe he’s got the right idea.

See, if you start to think of yourself as a hack, it’s very liberating in a way. For one thing you’re freed from the obligation to write the perfect story. After all, you’re just a hack right? You do the best you can and move on to the next project.

You also create a better psychological environment for learning. Because if you’re nothing more than a hack pounding out pulp fiction for the masses, you’re going to be open to any advice you can get.

As always, the single biggest thing getting in the way of your success is you. And the same advice goes double for me. The more I can get out of my own way, the better my chances of success become.

Bottom line: we need to check our egos at the door. It’s a good practice for writers and for life in general. Only through humility can we achieve greatness.

How to Collaborate on a Book Without Killing Yourself or Your Partner

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that me and Ellie Soderstrom are working together on a new story called…well I’m not sure what it’s called yet. Definitely not Stinky and the Cheese Have an Adventure I can tell you that much for sure.

If you’re wondering how such a collaboration gets started, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. Basically I sent Ellie an email saying, “Hey, you ever think about collaborating on a story?” and the next thing I knew I was run over by a train full of awesome.

But while I was on my little blogging hiatus last week (oh and I’m back by the way, so hooray for me) I thought, “Maybe there’s someone out there in internet land who could glean something with three whole weeks of experience I have with this.” So without further dithering these are my top five tips for success in collaboration.

1. Trust is essential.

I’m not talking about the, “I’m willing to lend you my wallet full of money and I expect you not to spend it all on hats,” kind of trust. I’m talking about something deeper. When you collaborate on a story like this you’re sharing a small part of yourself with the person you’re working with. You’re throwing them ideas, and working with the ideas they throw at you, and you’d really better be sure that you and your partner are going in the same direction writingwise.

I’d known Ellie for a good while before I approached her with this idea. I’d been reading her blog posts, so I knew she had a healthy respect for the importance of story and character, and she’d done some edits on A Prairie Home Apocalypse: or What the Dog Saw so I knew she really understood the fundamental mechanics of prose. Also, and this is crucial, I knew she wasn’t lazy. Because the last thing you want to have in a collaboration is one person doing all the work.

No, scratch that. The last thing you want to have in a collaboration is one person doing all the work when that person is you.

2. Your partner isn’t psychic.

Actually, hey what to I know? Maybe you’re partner is psychic. But I’m not, and neither is Ellie. It sounds obvious, but there have been a number of times when I’ve been rattling on about some story element or other and Ellie would say, Wait where did that come from? Which means when I have an idea for a plot point or a character trait or…whatever I have to communicate that. It sounds obvious, but with all the intricate details that go into constructing a story like this, it’s easy to get lost in the fog.

Oh, and speaking of communication

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

This is a collaboration. On an entire book. Which means you’re going to spend a lot of time shooting ideas back and forth. For me this has been the most amazing phase of the process. Because it’s here that you really see the value of true collaboration. Me and Ellie have spent hours on the phone hammering out plot points, asking questions, making suggestions, fleshing out characters, you name it.

And there’s something about that time that really makes the story come alive. It’s different than just sitting in a room by yourself dreaming all that stuff up on your own. I’m not sure why it’s different, but trust me, it is.

4. We’re gonna need a bigger outline.

You’ve heard me talk about outlining here before. Outlining is my thorn in the flesh, my Achilles heel. But if you’re going to collaborate you have to outline.

Well, okay no. You don’t have to. You don’t have to do anything. You could do the clunky, “I’ll write a chapter then you write a chapter” thing. But in addition to the danger of falling into a Head You Lose style tiff with your writing partner, you’re also tying your hands timewise.

With a good outline and the clear sense of the direction of the story, me and Ellie can be working on different scenes simultaneously. And let me tell you, there’s nothing more encouraging to a writer than to take a look at the document your working on, and see that it’s grown by several thousand words while you were sleeping.

5. Learn to let go.

I hear a lot of writers say things like, “I want to have control over my work.” If you are this person, then collaboration is not for you. Because in every stage of the process you’re constantly having to give things up.

Maybe it’s a plot point that really sings to you, or a character that is just so cool. Whatever. You’re partner starts asking questions and you don’t have all the answers, and she says, “I’m not sure we really need that bit.”

And the thing is, she’s probably right. But you love that character with the tiny head growing on his thumb for no reason. You love that scene with the rodeo clown and the power outage. And you’ve got to let them go.

Because if you can’t convince your writing partner that they make sense, how are you going to convince your readers?

Bottom line: collaboration is great. If you can find the right partner. To be honest I’m having so much fun with this I’m not sure how I can go back to writing solo.

There’s more I could to say, but this blog post is already way over standard length anyway. Maybe I’ll come back to this topic in the future though. Until then you can check out what Ellie has to say about the whole thing.

Insert obligatory end-of-post “Have you ever gotten to collaborate with another writer?” plea for feedback here.

The Musical Fruit

I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. And don’t get me wrong, I try. My parents even had me taking lessons for a while. Maybe its the fact that my lips get tired after a while, or maybe emptying my spit valve is just too disgusting for me to think about. I don’t know what it is, but after years of trying I’ve decided that becoming a professional trumpet player just wasn’t in the cards.

So I decided, “Hey, I’ll become a writer. No tooting of horns required there.” Only I was wrong. The horn of need follows me, it HAUNTS me. It lives in my dreams, and I am forever falling into the darkness of its terrifyingly smooth and circular mouth.

That’s right. Because as a writer, I have to do a little something called, (gulp), self-promotion.

I have to get out there and tell people, “You know that money you were planning on spending a deep-tissue massage for your gerbil? Well maybe you should take some of that money and spend it on my book instead.”

And it terrifies me.

Why? Well for one thing there’s that tiny nagging fear at the back of my mind whispering that I’m really not that good. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had a number people who are not my mother read my story and generally conclude that it is of acceptable and even admirable quality. I still can’t help thinking of myself as a hack. A wannabe.

And that’s a terrible place to be. Because what self-promotion is saying is, “There are people out there who would love to read what I’ve written, and it’s my job to make sure they know about it.”

Wow. Just writing that sentence was hard. In fact, you know what? Writing this whole blog post has been difficult for me. I’ve been dithering away the morning by doing chores and finishing a book I’ve been reading all because it’s become increasingly apparent to me that I’m not good at this self-promotion thing.

That has to change.

It’s not that I need to become some egotistical windbag, constantly spamming my Twitter feed with how great my work is, but there’s no point in putting the work into writing the book if no one ever reads it. Otherwise I might as well stuff it in a trunk somewhere.

Because the truth is, if I’m going to have the balls to sell my work at all that means I have to believe that you want my story more than you want your dollar. That you will, in fact, find my writing to be worth more than many of the other things your dollar might have bought you.

Still, it isn’t easy. This isn’t an instruction guide. It’s not me telling you that I’ve solved the problem and here’s how you can too. But maybe just recognizing that I’ve got some issues is a good place to start.

If you’ve got some advice to share I’d love to hear it.

In the mean time, this might be the proper place to announce that I’m giving one of my short stories a nice official roll-out announcement on this blog tomorrow. I’ll be wincing at my keyboard as I try to say nice things about my own writing. So stay tuned for that.

How to Write a Book

The other day I was considering doing another round of search term bingo, so I did a quick scroll down through search terms that have led readers to my site. I found some real gems including, “Alien coming out of a space ship,” “White lima bean pills,” “Is it ok to eat larger lima beans after you run for the daty for dinner?” and my personal favourite, “I’m not paid enough to answer stupid questions.”

(Incidentally the single search term that brings the most readers to my site from Google is “Clockwork.” What is up with that?)

But then I came across one that read, “How to write a book”. And it got me thinking. Because I’ve never done a basic bare-bones rundown for someone looking into getting into this whole writing thing.

What would I tell someone like that? How would I advise them?

Of course the obvious answer would be for me to scream at them to turn back, that this whole writing thing is an emotional drain and a waste of time. I would try to tell them that they’re not going to get rich off of this. No, it doesn’t matter what they heard about whatever famous author getting paid truckloads of money for his first book, that isn’t going to be them. They’d be better off playing the lottery.

Except I know better. Facts aren’t going to deter this person. They’ve got stars in their eyes. They’re special. They’re not like all these other wannabe hacks.

So instead I’d tell them this:

‘You want to write a book? Here’s what you do. You sit down and you write the freaking book.

That’s all.

No. Really. There is no magic formula. I mean, I’d suggest maybe having some kind of plan for where you want to go with this thing (we call these little jewels “outlines; do not disregard them) and reading books about style and story can’t hurt, but writing at it’s core, especially at the start, is just sitting down, setting some kind of goal for the day, and doing your best to hit that goal.

For anyone who’s interested I tried to write a thousand words a day when I started. If you want to do more or less, that’s fine. But I’d say keeping a schedule is important.

Odds are pretty good you’re going to have some missteps along the way. That’s okay. You’re not the only one. My good friend Ellie Soderstrom just had to scrap two years of work, because it just wasn’t working out right.

Maybe now would be a good time to bring up that whole, “Get out while you still can” thing? No? Still determined to write a book, huh? Then keep writing.

And while you’re writing keep reading. Pick up whatever writing books you can, and do your best to absorb the wisdom of those who have walked this path before you.

And one day, you’ll write “The End.” And you’ll prop your chair back with your hands laced behind your head, and think, “Well I’m glad that’s over with.”

And we’ll come in and push your over backwards and laugh, because you are so not done. There’re rewrites, and edits, and looking for an agent, and dealing with the crushing despair of rejection and….’

So yeah, that’s what I’d tell them. Not the most upbeat and encouraging bit of advice, but then if you’re looking at writing a book your life isn’t going to be upbeat or encouraging. Writing is work. It can be fun work from time to time, but in the end work is still work.

And here’s the thing. I’m not sure you can teach someone to write a book. I mean there are things they need to know, but writing and all the mess that goes with it is something you have to learn for yourself.

You have to learn to discipline yourself to write consistently. You have to learn how to deal with the depression that can come with rejection, with fear and self-doubt, and no one can teach you those things. You just have to go through them. You have to build up your strength and endurance a little at a time until one day you can look back and say, “Wow, I was kind of a loser back then. Good thing I kept at it and got better.”

And that’s the key. Keep at it. Never be too proud to learn something new. Never stop growing.

That’s how you write a book.

Say Hello to My Little Friend: the Wonders of the AlphaSmart 3000

There isn’t any special equipment required to be a writer. There’s no super secret pencil and paper combination that makes the best stories, no ultra exclusive word processor of the gods that you must use in order to craft a gripping tale.

But let’s be real here, you’re not going to be chiseling your work into stone tablets anytime soon, and neither am I. Few of us write our stories with pen and paper anymore, and the image of the writer hunched over his typewriter, keys clacking is largely an anachronism. We use computers for the most part, because they’re both versatile and powerful.

I’ve been writing on my laptop from the very beginning, mostly because it was portable and it served my needs well enough. But over the last couple of months I’ve had my eye on something a little different.

See, I like to take my laptop to work with me, so that I can write on my lunch breaks, but it can be a pain to lug it in from my car and then back out again when I’m done always slightly terrified that someone might crowbar open my trunk and steal it. I swear to you, every time I get home and open the trunk (that’s a boot for those of you who don’t live in Awesomeville aka America) there’s a tiny moment of terror when I’m sure it will have been stolen. Also, the battery life on that thing sucks. I get MAYBE half an hour out of it before it beeps at me once and promptly shuts off without giving me so much as the chance to save my work.

So yeah. Not the most ideal piece of equipment in the world. Well today I’m here to announce that my troubles are over, and to introduce you to my little friend:

Okay, okay, stop laughing. Yes, I know it’s like a ten-year-old piece of technology. My wife  told me she used to use one when she was in grade-school.

But you know what? This baby is AWESOME. Shall we go down the list?

How about a 72 hour battery life? Check.

Ultimate portability? Yeppers.

And the best part? The twenty-five dollar price tag.

I’m telling you guys, this is my new writing machine right here. I’ve been wanting one of these babies for years. Ever since I saw an article in Popular Science about how they were being used in the jungles of Africa by scientists who were away from civilization and without power for long periods of time.

But the best part about the AlphaSmart 3000 is this: it has no wordcount feature.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. “Albert, wordcount is essential. Wordcount is god. How will we ever be able to chart our progress without the manifold blessings of wordcount?”

Well believe me when I say that at first I saw it as a drawback too. And then I started writing on the thing.

And I’m here to tell you that knowing exactly how many words you have written isn’t nearly as important as you think it is. Because once you know, then you start to set goals, and once you start to set goals, you start to feel obligated to complete those goals, and once that happens there’s a hint of drudgery starts to sneak into your writing. Or at least that’s how it was for me.

But with the AlphaSmart 3000 I don’t have to worry about all that stuff. All I have to focus on is telling the story, and so far my daily wordcount hasn’t suffered at all. If anything it’s actually gone up a little.

Bottom line, if you write on the go, I’d highly recommend this little machine to you. If you do your shopping you can find a decent price for one on ebay, and it offers a convenient and distraction free writing experience.

Overall a super piece of equipment.

On Self-Publishing

Last week I put my book A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw out for Kindle on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Since it has been an entire week since my book’s debut and since a number of people who are not my mom bought the book, this means that basically I’m an expert now.

Okay, so maybe that’s stretching things a bit, but you’d be surprised how your perspective on things can change in a week. With that in mind, I’m going to give you the top (whatever number I get to before I run out of material) things I have learned from and about being self-published.

1. People Are Awesome

You think you’ve gotten a sense of this through blogging and tweeting and such, but trust me when I say that nothing you’ve experiences will match the outpouring of support from people who desperately want to help you sell your book. They may not actually buy it, but they’ll jump off a cliff for the chance to retweet your announcements.

This is part of what I love about the writing community. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed. There’s no jealously, no sense of snobbery. If one of our friends puts out a book that we like even a little bit we’re gonna promote the crap out of that thing baby.

So even though I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again. Thank you. To all of you.

2. Being Self-Published is Hard Work

I should clarify here. The actual state of being self published does not require any effort on your part at all. You’re surely welcome to toss your book out into the cold dark digital world and hope that it maybe can get somewhere on it’s own merits. But if you want to have anything like a realistic chance of success you’ve got to promote that puppy.

Over the past seven days I’ve been on a number of different social media platforms, some of which you’ve probably never heard of getting the word out to all my online acquaintances and asking them to help me spread the word. I did my first blog interview. And then there’s all the questions to answer: the “is it out for the Nook yet?” people, and the “I don’t have a Kindle will you send me a PDF?” people. (And for the record, yes I totally will, just shoot me your email, and we’ll make that happen.)

I hope this doesn’t sound like whining, because it’s really been a blast, but all this promotion does take extra time out of your day.

3. Interviews are Awesome

I did my first interview ever with Cynthia Stewart, which should be going up on her website sometime later today, and let me tell you something, that was fun. Maybe it’s just my oversize ego talking here, but I really got into answering her questions and talking about the things that have shaped me as a writer. I really hope I get to do more of these in the future.

4. Self-Publishing is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme

When I was growing up one of the things my dad told me over and over was this: “There are no honest get rich quick schemes.” And self-publishing has proved to be no exception to that maxim.

In spite of the fact that I’ve had some modest sales, the bottom line is that it isn’t easy to get people to click that “Buy This Book” button. I know this because I’ve been on the other end of that transaction with my wallet in hand thinking, “Do I really want to spend my three dollars on this?” And a lot of times even though I may like the premise and the author’s writing style the answer is still no.

Overall, taking into account the money I spent on the cover, I’m still in the red with this thing. I hope to change that in the coming week or so, but the bottom line is that I’m not gonna be quitting my job tommorow or the day after that.

So yeah, that’s the rundown. Sorry to end on a down note there, but I hope that something I’ve said has been useful to those of you who hope to tread this path someday soon.

Also, if you haven’t bought my book yet, you totally should.

Peace out ya’ll.

Quitting Time

You know that feeling you get when a relationship starts to go sour? I’ve been getting that feeling lately. At first everything was fine. We were happy together, the world was a rosier place whenever we spent time together. But lately things just haven’t been the same between us.

Which is why I’m announcing a separation.

I’m not talking about my wife. I’m talking about Babel and Icarus, the story I’ve been working on over the last month or so.

A while back I mentioned the concept of Babel and Icarus in my blog post titled Thaddeus S. C. Lowe and the Steampunk Space Race. Basically I wanted to tell the fictional tale of a space race between the North and South during the Civil War.

I was in love with this idea. It had all my neurons firing at full speed, and I really got sucked in to crafting a storyline that I felt had a lot of potential. But the Devil, as they say, is in the details, and when I actually sat down to write this tale I thought I had fallen in love with I felt myself grinding my teeth over each word, forcing myself to eek out one pathetic page at a time, hating each and every moment of the work.

I started to stress about my writing. I worked my routine over in my head trying to find the flaw in my plan. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, no doubt you’ve seen the fruit of that struggle. But eventually I realized that my problem was simple: I was really starting to hate this story.

Maybe hate is too strong a word. But I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. I know writing is hard work. I know it’s not always going to be fun. I know sometimes we have to push through the hard times to get to the good stuff.

But there has to come a time when you can say, “Enough with this thing. I’m going somewhere else.”

Because I don’t know about you all, but I have to do things I don’t really want to do every day of my life. I don’t want writing to be one of those things.

I’m not a freelancer. I don’t have a problem with freelancers, but I’m not sure I could be happy in that profession. Writing is something that I love, and I want it to love me in return.

So for now, Babel and Icarus is on ice. I have a feeling I’ll come back to it, because I’m not going to stop loving the idea, but it may be years before I ever finish a rough draft, and I’m okay with that. For now, I’ve gotten myself sucked into a bit of weirdness with an old woman and a talking corpse trapped in the world strangest book store ever.

In spite of my preaching about outlining and planning at this point I have zero idea where this tale is going to go. I may be getting on the fast train to nowhere with this thing, but so far I’m having a great time on the ride.

Again, please take this with a measure of balance. I’m not suggesting it’s a good idea to give up on a story every time you don’t feel like writing. But I am saying that forcing yourself to keep working on something that you hate, is a fast track to misery.


For more on the benefits of giving up, I thing you might find this to be rather informative.

A Modest Proposal for the Preventing of Writer’s Block

No such thing as writer’s block.

You heard me. Don’t bother arguing. Chuck Wendig said it first, so you know it must be true.

But, but…well you’ve been there. I’ve been there too. You sit down at your computer, or with a clay tablet and chisel or whatever it is you happen to use to write an and…nothin’. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Diddly has moved into your brain and Squat is measuring for the new drapes. It’s not a pretty picture.

But you tell yourself it’s all in your head. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Gas station attendants don’t get gas station attendant’s block. Carpenters don’t get carpenter’s block.

So what’s your problem?


See, there are days when I don’t feel like going into work. There are days when I get in my car and I hate the thought of staying so long inside that the sun will be long gone by the time I come back out again.

But I do it anyway. Because I like to eat. Because I like living in a house with air-conditioning and running water. Because I like the idea of my wife not dying from acute ketoacidosis due to lack of insulin. Because I have to.

Writing is the same way for me. Every day I get up and I write a new blog post. Some days I really honestly don’t feel like doing it. But in the back of my mind there is someone out there who is expecting this post. You’ve got my blog in your RSS feed on your phone and if it doesn’t show up before you take your lunch break at work you’re going to wonder what happened to me.

Maybe the person I just described doesn’t actually exist. But in my mind he does. And I’m accountable to him. I’m accountable to all of you. But my other writing? You don’t know about it. You don’t know if I wrote a hundred words today or a thousand. I’m not accountable to anyone for that writing.

Maybe you’re stronger than me. Maybe you’ve got the self-discipline to sit down and work whether you feel like it or not, day in and day out, rain or shine. If you are, congratulations. You will go far in life.

But for me it can be a struggle. There are so many distractions available out there and even though I’ve written about staying committed to your writing before I still struggle with it myself. A few days ago someone tweeted this quote:

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

And it’s true. I do my best to encourage you all, and give you a kick in the pants when I think you might need it, but the truth is I haven’t got it all sorted out either. I’m working on it though.

I think fellow blogger The Hack Novelist is onto something. He opens his blog posts every day with the phrase “I wrote x words today.” He makes himself accountable for the work that no one but him sees.

I’m not going to do the same thing exactly, but what I am going to do is find someone to be accountable to. Probably someone out there in Twitterland. Someone who I’ll go to every day and say, “I wrote x words today.”

You may not like that specific scheme, but I encourage you to try something similar for yourself. Make yourself accountable to someone else and see if it doesn’t help you be more consistent with your goals. Because somewhere in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking, “I don’t feel like writing today, but if I don’t I’m going to have to tell Steve that I wrote all of zero words. Guess I’ll pound out at least a few hundred so I won’t look like a total bum.”

I think we’ll all be better for it. Because even though writing often seems like a solitary process, the truth is that this is the place where we need each other more than ever.

Doing Battle with the Green-Eyed Monster of Wordcount Envy

Oh, Twitter. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Let’s see…carry the one…adjust for inflation…taking the Kentucky windage into account…um…seventeen. No wait! Eighteen.

Twitter is a great thing for writers. And I’m not just talking about the whole, “build your platform and get your name out there” kind of thing (though that’s on the list). Twitter is host to a whole community of writers. And I’m not just talking about the big names here. I talking regular people like me and you, people who are still struggling to be published. Maybe they’re even still working on their first book.

When you’re feeling down, they’re there to encourage you. When you feel like no one in the world understands what you’re going through as a writer, chances are someone in your Twitter stream does.

But sometimes Twitter is a double-edged sword. At least it can be for me.

Lately I’ve been struggling a bit with my novel. Actually struggling is probably too strong a word. I know where I want to go with the story, but because of the fact that I’m doing research as I go, added on to the fact that I’m writing a slightly different voice than normal, things just haven’t been moving as fast as I’d like them to.

And then I log on to Twitter and I see Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher and Kristen Lamb talking about the thousands of words they’re writing each day, and I start to get a little discouraged about my measly 700 words.

Maybe you’ve been there too. But I’m here to tell you not to worry about it.

Why? Because no two writers and no two stories are the same. It may be you just don’t have time to churn out daily word counts in the thousands. Or maybe you’re like me and the story you’re writing requires you to be more painstaking than usual.

The details don’t matter. What matters is you. If you let wordcount envy get you down, the next thing you know you’ll be saying to yourself, “Well, if I can’t write as much as those guys maybe I don’t have any business writing at all.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

Wow. That word looks weird when you repeat like that. Kind of like when you say a word over and over again and it starts to sound like…no wait. I was going somewhere. Yeah okay. You can only write as much as you can write.

Profound huh? But it’s true.

Terry Pratchett only wrote four or five hundred words at a time when he first started. Chuck Palahnuik wrote Fight Club in fifteen minute increments on his breaks at work.

It’s less important that you write a lot, and more important that you write consistently.

If you can only manage a couple of hundred words a day then commit yourself to those couple hundred words. No, you won’t be finished in a month. You may not be finished in a year.

Possibly the most important key to your success as a writer is that you make writing your habit. It should be something you do day in and day out, rain or shine, muse or no muse.

And I think you’ll find that if you keep going you’ll find yourself stretching the limits of what you’re capable of further and further. You’ll look back at those early days of writing and say, “I can remember when I thought a thousand words was a really good day. What was I thinking?”

That’s what we call growth my friend. And growth is what it’s all about.


I haven’t done this in a while, but I’ve got a reading assignment for you all today.

First up is a fantastic post by Jody Hedlund about why it’s so hard to be objective about your own work.

Second, go check out Chuck Wendig’s post about the closing of Border’s. It’s powerful stuff.

What To Do When You Hate Your Writing

Writing can be a wonderful thing. There are times when the words will flow like magic, and make you feel almost as if you’re flying, completely giddy with the rush of composition.

But writing can be a terrible thing too. Because sometimes when the rush is gone, and you look at those words that carried you so high, you start to see cracks in the foundation, flaws in the structure. You get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. You ask yourself in a trembling voice, “Did I write those words?”

Because now you can see those words aren’t the heady and glorious constructions you thought that were. In fact, the longer you look at them the more they start to look like utter garbage. What went wrong?

Well, maybe nothing. Lots of writers go through this. Its natural enough at some point to look at your work and think, “I kinda hate this. This basically sucks.” But does it really? Well, maybe yes, and maybe no.

It’s perfectly normal for a writer to hate a book as they’re in the process of writing. Why? Writing can be hard, and unforgiving work. Can can loom over you like a massive mountain you never think you’ll be able to climb. And so after weeks and months of throwing your heart and soul into this work you’ll start to resent it, to look at all the work you’ve done and wonder whether it was worth it.

If that’s the spot you’re in, then the best thing you can do is just keep pressing through. Maybe you need to take a few days break to relieve yourself of the stress you’ve built up in your mind, but now is not the time to turn back. Keep at it, and finish. Odds are good you’ll look back at the things you hated and wondered how you could ever have been so blind.

But what about when you’ve finished your book and let it set for a month or two? What happens then, when you start to get that squirmy uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach? It’s time to face that fact that your manuscript may have some flaws.

Why? Well that cooling off time between writing and editing is designed to give you emotional distance. When you were in the throes of composition you were too close to the work to be able to make a good judgement as to what was good and what wasn’t. But now, after letting it sit in a drawer for several weeks, you’ve had time to move on, to forget, to spend some time thinking about other things.

When you go back after that cooling off time and you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach it may very well mean the something is really wrong.

Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. I doesn’t mean you should trash your manuscript in a fit of despair. What you need to do, is fix it.

This is what rough drafts are for. They give us the opportunity to go back and look at our mistakes a missteps. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that no writer yet has produced a perfect first draft, and you’re not going to be the first.

So get in there and make some changes. Delete that sentence that doesn’t quite sound right and write it again. Plug up that plot hole over in chapter five. Tighten up that ending for maximum effectiveness. And for the love of Bob, get rid of that bizarre dream sequence with the god-tree in the forest. Actually that last one is probably just me.

Point is, don’t turn your back on your book because you’ve started to see the flaws. But don’t ignore the flaws either. Swallow your pride, admit you’re not perfect, and then go make it better. When you’ve finally got it right, you’ll know. Because you’ll read through that book you spent so many painful hours making right, and you’ll think “This book is pretty darn good.” And that moment will make all your hours of work and frustration seem completely worthwhile.