Skip to content

FITS AND STARTS

January 12, 2022

            A common question that comes up on the forums on Facebook is how often do you write, what are your writing habits, bla bla bla.

            As a writer, especially one that is somewhat proficient, we all have a pattern we usually go by that gives us results.

            When someone new to this asks, probably because they’re floundering, or are just curious to compare their output to the average, it’s something that may or may not be good to know.

COMPARING TO OTHERS

            Keep in mind that we’re all individuals, and success doesn’t sit with a single formula.

            Over the decades, I’ve heard it said many times that the only way to get anywhere is to sit down and write. While that’s true, the how of that may vary greatly between individuals.

            The most widespread piece of advice out there is “write every day.”

WRITE EVERY DAY

            Do you do this?

            What does that mean?

            Many assume it means to write on your major story or manuscript every day.

            For others, it means any and everything.

            For me, it means that I do what I do. I DO write every day. It’s just not necessarily on my current WIP, or Work In Progress.

            Then again, everything I write is a work in progress.

            Therefore, let’s just say the WIP is my current NOVEL in progress.

            However, just because I may not work on my WIP every day, that doesn’t mean I’m not writing every day, or to be more succinct, honing my chops. Or, to be even more direct, doing what I love to do which is write.

            Confused?

            What does honing my chops consist of?

            E-mails, reviews, short stories, or whatever I feel like writing about. It MAY be working on my WIP it may not.

INTENTIONS

            I have a feeling that the intentions of many of the people inquiring on the forums are specifically talking about their WIPs, and not even considering their peripheral writing. To them, they don’t consider anything else as either practice, or productive writing. It’s all throwaway. The only thing that counts is their WIP, which is their bread and butter.

            I’m assuming a lot and could be wrong, but after all, they’re trying to write and complete the next great novel, and that’s why they’re asking the question in the first place.

            They may just be starting out and are floundering.

            They may have reached an impasse and need a prompt to continue.

            Assumptions.

FITS AND STARTS

            I’ll be the first to admit that lately, my writing has been coming in fits and starts. I had not long ago resurrected the very first novel I ever wrote and decided to edit it. Why? It wasn’t as bad as I first thought. I’m about halfway through it now.

            My publisher wanted the third book in my Gold series, so I stopped editing that first MS and concentrated on this one to get it ready to turn in.

            I was already in the first third of working on book number four of my fantasy series. However, the publisher decided to go with the Gold series for the time being so I set that one aside. I already have A (of course) down and know B, so when I get back to it, no problem.

            In the meantime, I came up with a new idea for an icky bug that I just couldn’t let go. After I got book number three of the Gold series turned it, I pondered this new icky bug for about a month before I ever started writing it. I had to work the logic along with a solid A and B in my head.

            I finally wrote the first chapter, let it sit for a couple of weeks, then started in earnest as I did double duty burning vinyl albums to my computer so I can then burn them to CDs. Since I have to monitor the recording, I need to sit at the computer so might as well keep productively occupied.

            So far, I’ve done three sessions on three weekends.

            Fits and starts.

            This isn’t my normal writing method.

            Why am I doing this?

WHY THIS METHOD?

            I’d never recommend what I’m doing to a new writer. For me, it’s okay because I know what I’m doing and while going against all the advice I usually give to a new writer, I’m doing it my way because I have plenty in the pipeline to cover for me for a long time.

            I can afford to take my time.

            As a new writer with NO books under your belt, you should not do this because you’ll never get anything done!

            I know I’ll get it dun didded because I have the time, the creativity, the passion, and the motivation. My circumstances are just different at the moment.

            I have a lot on my plate with life and I don’t have the pressure or the burning desire to get that first novel published. I can afford to take my time.

            You, as a new writer, don’t have that same luxury, unless you just don’t care.

            If you just write for the love of it, for the passion, then press on and write in fits and starts. Maybe some day you’ll actually finish something.

            Of the three projects I’m working on at the moment, the first one is already done, just not fully edited. The second, the fourth book in the series, is a third done, just on the back burner with the third book is done and waiting to be picked up. The third project, is turned in and waiting on the publisher. The fourth, is fresh and my current WIP. I’m taking my time with it because what I didn’t say before is that I’ve already turned in another icky bug and am waiting to hear on it, plus I have a second completed one waiting in the wings. I have no reason to rush it.

            I can afford to work in fits and starts.

SUMMARY

            I don’t recommend working in fits and starts unless your circumstances warrant it. If you have a stock of completed MSs lying around, like I do, well, that’s different.

            However…and this is a big however, if you’re writing your first novel, a more steady workflow is highly recommended or you may never get it done, not to mention continuity errors.

            I don’t have an issue with continuity, and it’s never been a problem because I write so linear. That may not be your case.

            Happy writing!

BOOKS ON WRITING

January 5, 2022

            This is something I’ve alluded to countless times here at Fred Central. If you didn’t already know, I’ll go through it again. First, let me bring up the question.

            Should you go out and buy books on writing?

            There are countless books on writing out there.

            The two most popular that I can think of are Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and of course, On Writing by Stephen King.

            There are countless others.

            Some will swear by either.

            Don’t forget the basics either, the reference books like Chicago Manual Of Style.

            All of these are the biggies.

            Let’s also not forget the various web sources like here at Fred Central (of course) and the outstanding sites from Richie Billing and others.

            All of us do our best to dole out writing advice.

THE QUESTION IS…

            If you’re an avid reader, especially if you read more than just fiction, will you, in all practicality, make use of any of these tomes (or web sites)?

            Will any of this advice sink in?

            That’s the question of the day.

            Everyone has a different method of learning. Be it visual, reading, oral, or task-oriented, just like when you get a questionnaire from the doctor or when you get admitted to the hospital. They’ll ask you your best learning method (along with language). The same goes for these books.

            Just because you’re a writer and maybe already an author doesn’t mean reading and studying books on the subject is the best way to learn how to hone your craft.

            Maybe it is, to a point.

            An entire books-worth?

SUPPLEMENTING LEARN BY DOING

            The reality is that most of us are deep into writing well-before we have even heard about these books. Then, if we ever pick one up, do we read the entire tome, or just cherry pick what we want? Then, is the book organized so that we can cherry pick?

            Or…

            Is it a rambling tome with the writer’s thoughts jotted down in a disorganized manner?

            Say it’s organized.

            So what?

            How do you know where you need to look?

            How do you know where your problem is?

            Is the book organized in such a way as to clearly explain to you what issues you may have? Does the book clearly explain what you need to do to write that next blockbuster? Does it satisfactorily give you what you need? Does that web site allow you to cherry pick the info you want?

            For most writers, these books, and a lot more end up being supplements to their learning and writing process. None of them are the panacea they need to write their big blockbuster, or even maybe their first anything. They need a lot more. Therefore they (well most of us) end up with a shelf full of books.

MY STORY

            Through my decades at this passion, I once ended up with a shelf full of books on writing.

            You know what?

            I barely cracked open any of them except to smell the pages, glance at a few bits of text, and shelve them.

            Yup, that’s right.

            I never finished more than a single paragraph of any of them, except one.

            The only one I ever kept and used to any extent was the Chicago Manual of Style. I still use it. The rest I donated to the Henderson Writer’s Group.

            So, how did I learn, and continue to learn?

READING, WRITING, RYTH’METIK

            Okay, not the last part, but I learned by old school hockey. I typed until my fingers bled, hiked to the computer through the snow and tundra, uphill both ways, through the desert (okay it doesn’t make sense but go with it), and you know, hard knocks.

            I took one class on college writing for term papers in the Community College Of The Air Force (CCAF) back in 1985 or so. One of my old supervisors taught me the fascist method of writing, which I won’t go into here. Too long of a story.

            To make a long story short, I learned by trial and error and with some outstanding mentors and great (and one bad) writer’s groups. I learned by writing, and writing, and writing. The thing is that I never did it as a hobby. It was a passion, and I spent many hours doing it.

            While I may have veered here and there, I also kept focused enough and read enough, and worked by example enough that I didn’t stray too far off the beaten path. I studied what I read and worked by example. I mean the stuff I read for pleasure had a great influence on what I wrote for pleasure. The tenses, the point of view, the story flow all had an influence on how I wrote, and still write.

            So, when I see others write about how to do it in books, it’s rehashing the stuff I learned on my own by observation and trial and error.

            Therefore, sampling and smelling, and shelving those books was going to happen for me.

            Should that be what you do?

            It all depends on how you learn, how serious you are about this passion (or hobby), and what your goals are.

SUMMARY

            If your goal is to gather a library full of books on writing, go for it. If you actually use any of them, so much the better.

            If you’re looking for shortcuts, well…not sure if books on writing will help or not. I guess that all depends on how you learn.

            If you’re like me, I prefer learning by doing, observing, by example, and by reading others work. Sure, it takes longer, but then again, does it really? I was a reader long before I was a writer. Weren’t most of us? Plus, who says you can’t do both simultaneously?

            There are many paths to your goal. Use them wisely.

            Happy writing!

JUST START THE STORY WHERE IT BEGINS

December 29, 2021

            I’ve covered this subject countless times via prologues and flashbacks. It’s nothing new.

            So, why bring it up again?

            Not only does the question keep coming up on the forums, but it did most recently in my personal life, and no, it wasn’t me specifically. Let’s get that off the table right away.

            That brings up my main point.

            The original title was “Just start the damn story where it begins.”

            To be less blunt, I edited it down to “Just start the story where it begins.”

JERKING THE AUDIENCE AROUND

            As I have pointed out numerous times, and continue to do so, a popular plot device used in movies and TV is the flashback. They’ll start with the present day, then do a flashback to “six days ago” or “six months ago” or something.

            In a book the story might start with the much maligned “Prologue.” It may have a subtitle with a date or a “six days ago” or some such thing. Or…the author may use flashbacks to fill in the blanks.

            What this does is jerk the audience around. It disturbs the continuity of the story.

            While this seems to be a popular trend for a crowd that gets bored easily, or so everyone thinks, what about just telling the story in a linear fashion?

TELL THE STORY AS IT HAPPENED

            Here’s a novel (ha ha) idea.

            How about telling the story as it happened?

            How about telling the story from A to Z?

            How about depicting events without jerking the reader around, like starting with Chapter 1 and ending with Chapter Whatever?

CHARACTER BACKGROUND IS NOT THE SAME AS STORY BACKGROUND

            The plot background, in other words, the story, is not the same as character background.

            Let’s make this clear.

            So in so is solving a murder mystery. They’re after the killer who murdered the butler. Why they’re acting the way they are toward the suspects or the way they investigate isn’t necessarily part of this, unless it’s actually the plot and the murder is secondary.

            In that case, maybe the story should start with how the character got to this point before the murder occurred. How about that?

            Keep it linear. Then you’re not jerking the reader around.

            If it’s part of a series, same thing. If the reader is familiar with the character, past character development should’ve already explained this stuff or if not, start there with this part of the story before delving into the murder part of the plot.

            Now, back to character background as color for the story.

            As part of the normal goings on, there’s nothing wrong with throwing in bits and pieces of background, which is a normal part of the narrative. However, bringing the plot to a screeching halt for scenes and chapters, especially long ones to flash back to the past throws continuity out the window. A paragraph or two sprinkled into the narrative doesn’t do this, or dialogue between the MC and another character as well. This can all be leaked out effectively without destroying the timeline.

THE SMOOTHER THE TIMELINE, THE EASIER THE READ

            While it’s no hard-set rule, the fact is that the more linear the story, the easier the read. For some individuals, this may scream boredom, but for most, it spells more enjoyment. Among other things, it means there are more chances the writing will not get in the way of the story. Before you know it, you’ve finished the book, hopefully with a smile on your face. That’s the goal of every author.

            Jerking the reader around may work for some, but for many, a linear story gets to the point better and faster.

SUMMARY

            I repeat my well-used mantra: nothing here is a hard-set rule. You, as a writer and/or author, can do what you want. You may be bristling with ideas and want to get them out, in the easiest and most unimpeded fashion possible. This may be without rules or any restrictions. Go for it.

            What you may end up with is a huge mess, a hit, a no-seller, pure torture to read, or a pure pleasure to read.

            It’s up to you.

            Happy writing!

HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR BOOK TITLE?

December 22, 2021

            The original article came out in early 2013 and was titled “Does Your Title Have Anything To Do With Your Book?” The second version came out in 2019 and was simply called “Titles.”

            As long as Fred Central has been around, it was inevitable that this subject come around again. Now here it is, the third time.

            Why?

            As much as I read, write and observe, I’ve about seen it all, and since then, more and more examples have popped up.

THE IMPORTANCE OF A TITLE

            The original article was a sequel to a previous article. I’d talked about how not to punish your reader with words. To be exact, make your prose succinct and to the point. Don’t drone on and on. In that same vein, how about making the title somehow correspond to the subject matter?

            That thought still applies today, almost nine years later.

            The inspiration for the original title article came from an Amazon review I did of the book that inspired that previous article. Though the title played some part in the book, that was hardly the focus of events. I had to stretch to tie it in. My guess was that the author had to slap some title onto his lecture, because that’s ultimately what this tome turned out to be, a lecture on British occupation of the Sudan with a quest for treasure thrown in. Thinking back on it now, I avoid this author like the plague. I’d just as soon read a college textbook than his subsequent titles. While classified as fiction, they were quite a drudge to get through. To this day, all these years later, he still puts out an occasional book, so he has his fans. Good for him.

            To me, the title came off as a poor choice. It was an underlying theme, I guess, a common thread, but the majority of the story was about something else entirely. I could’ve thought of a hundred different titles, (some of them not so complimentary), but let’s not get off the track.

            Also, since then, and more to the point here, I’ve run across multiple examples of a title that had nothing at all to do with the story. If it did, I could not recall it…at all.

GETTING TO THE POINT/MARKETING & TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

            When I title my stories, I like to make sure the title has something to do with the actual story, something significant to do with the story, not just a minor thread to tie it all together. I suppose, given the original example and using the authors logic, the title DID tie it all together, but maybe it was because I wasn’t really happy with so much of the book that the title didn’t ring true.

            That still brings up my point about being careful to title your story. There have been plenty of cases of titles that didn’t fit (some glaringly so).

            What’s the purpose of the title anyway? It’s a form of recognition, a way for people to identify with what you wrote, a marketing tool. At the same time, that title should have something to do with what’s between the pages and not just a minor part, but a significant part. In the case of the book that inspired the original article, the beginning mentioned it, with an occasional reference here and there, and the very end in the author’s notes, which mind you, were just as droning and endless as the narrative! I guess that’s better than some others I’ve run across, but still a poor choice, in my opinion because the actual subject matter had nothing to do with that title.

            Now, sometimes the title is a pun, a cutesy play on words, a metaphor. What’s wrong with that?

            Part of the reason for a title is to have some significant connection with what the story is about. At least it should. It’s just like the back cover blurb. There’s another sore spot for me. Truth in advertising. The back blurb is designed to draw the reader in. However, it shouldn’t be there to drag in a reader under false pretenses. The blurb should describe something that’s actually in the book. It should not just be “click bait.”

SOME PEOPLE DON’T CARE

            Regardless to content or writing quality, when it comes to misleading titles, that just adds insult to injury. Then again, back in the seventies, I remember plenty of the goofy psychedelic-era tomes with nonsensical titles that didn’t have a thing to do with the content. They’re out there, and some of them are probably considered classics.

            The title is extremely important. It sets the whole premise for the book. If the title is called Horse and the book is about bank robbers who use VW Beetles and a horse is only mentioned once as a side comment somewhere in the middle, that’s a crummy title. If the book is called All The Boatmen yet the book is about a lumber mill, and the only reference to boats are two lovers in the story going on a canoe trip one weekend, that’s a misleading title.

            Those two examples I completely made up, so don’t think I took them from real examples. If they happen to be real books, that’s pure coincidence. If so, that really makes my point!

            I’ve seen more real examples but don’t want to disparage any authors directly, so I won’t go there. There are plenty of books titled after some off-hand comment, some zinger of a line that’s uttered by a character that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Some of them are classics, many are not.

HOWEVER…

            If it’s a catchy, nonsensical title, and the story’s great, it still might just work. There are examples out there with that wonky title attached to a great story. It does happen. Nothing in this world is absolute. If a catchy title draws in readers, regardless if it’s relevant to the story, more power to you. However, I still go back to the truth in advertising thing. Most people like to know what they’re getting up front. Honesty works better most of the time.

            Please do your readers justice and give them an accurate title!

            After a few recent experiences, I thought this was worth repeating.

            Happy writing.

DO YOU FIND THE HOLIDAYS INSPIRING?

December 8, 2021

            Since we’ve been talking about inspiration lately, what with traveling and all, and now this being the holiday season, I thought I’d expand things a bit.

            Do you find the holidays, whatever they are, inspiring?

            For me, I just take them as another day off, or wanting to get them overwith!

THE MEANING

            Without getting specific, some people get all into the meanings of each individual holiday. There are many, some which we get off, while if you are in retail, you may not get any off. In fact, if you work retail, holidays may be the worst or the best days of the year for you.

            The meaning of these holidays can be inspiring for various reasons.

A particular holiday may be integral to the plot line of your story.

It can be atmosphere to color your story.

It may not be part of the actual story but the inspiration for something completely different.

WHEN A HOLDAY INSPIRES SOMETHING ELSE

            When one thinks of the “holiday season” which we usually refer to as the end of the year from Halloween to Christmas, many stories may be inspired from this both directly and indirectly. Yet, the story itself may have nothing to do with the holidays. It may not even take place during that time of year.

WHEN A HOLIDAY DIRECLTY INSPIRES THE STORY

            When the holiday directly inspires a story, there are plenty of examples. I don’t even have to name them as there are so many titled movies, for example.

            I just did a short story for a holiday themed anthology that was published in late October.

USING HOLIDAYS IN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

            I’ve brought this up before but it’s worth a mention. Using holidays in made up worlds to color those worlds, such as in world building is a good way to make these worlds more realistic. However, has any holiday directly inspired you if you write this type of genre?

            Personally, no holiday has ever inspired me in either my science fiction or fantasy novels.

            That’s just me.

            Has one of the holidays inspired you in one of your made up worlds?

THE BIG PICTURE

            As writers and authors, we draw inspiration from wherever we can get it. This can include holidays. Never look a gift horse in the mouth. If it works for you, use it!

            Personally, it hasn’t worked for me yet, but while right now, I have a different view of the holidays from a lot of people, that doesn’t mean that one day, it might not happen for me.

            For some of you, the holidays, whatever they might be (even the obscure ones) might be the perfect inspiration for your next great novel.

            Never forget the big picture. While plots do come out of thin air, something gives you that spark. Never ignore it. Even I won’t ignore a good holiday if it nudges me the right way.

SUMMARY

            Inspiration can come from anyplace. All it takes is your imagination.

            Use it wisely.

            Happy writing!

ARE YOU A WRITER OR AUTHOR?

December 1, 2021

            This question has come up numerous times in my wanderings across the web, and again lately since I first published this article in 2017. Therefore, a revisit is warranted.

            Are you a writer or an author?

            What’s the definition of each?

            The prevailing opinions have been relatively consistent. Oh, sure, there’s always someone contrary. You have to expect that when you’re talking about hundreds to even thousands of people.

FIRST OFF

            Writing itself. I’ve stated many times that writing for me is a passion. It’s not a hobby or a job. It’s something I love to do. I’m going to do it whether I’m published or not. I’m going to put it out there either for pay or for free. If I can get paid, so much the better, but one way or tuther, it’s getting out there for the one or two of you to see. Some would consider that self-publishing. Okay, I’ve already done plenty of that unofficially over many years. Never paid a dime for any of it except with my time and effort. Is that still self-publishing? That’s a whole ‘nuther discussion.

            Writing has been a job for me. In that case, I still loved doing it, so it almost wasn’t even work, though by definition, it was employment, and I was getting paid to do it. In my other work, long before I took up writing, I did plenty of writing as part of my job as an Air Force maintenance puke. Once I found my muse, so to speak, I often liked the writing part a lot better than my “real” job!

            In all of that, I considered myself a writer.

WHAT’S A WRITER?

            By the generally accepted definition, a writer’s someone who writes. Whether for fun, or work, they write. For purposes of this discussion, we’re talking about stories, whether short, long, fiction or non-fiction, poetry, projects, etc.

            A writer is someone who writes and writes and writes. Their goal may or may not be to get published.

            I’ll tell you right now that if you’re a prolific writer and put in at least a little effort, the chances are, you’ll get at least something published.

            However…

            Writing and being good at it doesn’t necessarily go together.

            You remember the old computer term, garbage in/garbage out?

            That can apply to writing as well, if you just write with no regard for honing and improving your craft. If you slap your stuff down on paper (or in the ether), with no regard for cleaning it up or getting feedback—no attempts to improve your work, don’t ever expect to get anywhere with it.

            A small caveat I needed to get out of the way.

WHAT’S AN AUTHOR?

            Now, this is the meat of the matter. An author is a writer that gets published. When you see your name in lights, so to speak, you’re now an author.

            That pretty much sums up the difference between a writer and an author.

            A writer writes, while an author is a writer that’s published.

            How many of you are both?

            To get technical, I’ve been an “uncredited” author since the late 90’s when I wrote all those preventive maintenance manuals for the rubber extrusion plant in Frederick, Oklahoma. However, my first piece, credited under my name, was a short story for an anthology by the Highland Writer’s Group in Highland, Indiana in 2002. Now that was my first real credit as a named author.

            Even though I was writing much earlier, I first considered myself as an official writer for what I do now, fiction, since 1995 when I got serious about writing novels. Why? I guess it’s because I found my real muse and realized writing was a passion and not some passing thing. That time was my golden moment when I knew it’d be a lifelong thing for me.

            Here I am, twenty-six years later (as I re-write this), and I’m both a writer and an author. I’m loving every minute of it (well, except the marketing). After all, nothing’s perfect.

            How about you?

            Happy writing!

TRAVELING FOR INSPIRATION PART TWO

November 24, 2021

            This article piggybacks on my article, earlier this year on a trip to San Francisco. This time it was a trip to Disney, the happiest place on earth!

I’ve discussed inspiration a total of 11 times here at Fred Central, and to me, there’s something about this subject that never gets old. It’s important for you, as a creator to always have this tool in your box.

INTRO

It’s not just COVID that restricts travel for my family. It’s time and budget. Given that, we don’t get out all that much. When we do, it tends to have an impact.

            Back in the day, traveling meant something different. My job, the Air Force, gave me golden opportunities in the time before continual deployments. When we traveled, it was more or less permanent from one place to another. That’s why we lived in places like Spain and Turkey. When not overseas, we were able to live for several year time spans in different states. However, while overseas, when we took a “weekend trip,” it had an entirely different meaning.

            For the majority of those times, I wasn’t a writer or an author. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to catalog a vast “wyberry” of memories and photos from which I could draw inspiration. My memory is just fine.

            Nowadays, travel is not the same. Back then, a short jog almost always ended up in someplace interesting. Here and now, it usually means a long trip of one, two, or three days with hotels to get to someplace different. Plus, with COVID in the mix, we have to be more careful. Even being fully vaxxed and wearing a mask, we have to do our best to avoid crowds when we can. As our recent trip to Disney can attest, that was close to impossible.

WHAT CAN TRAVEL DO FOR YOU?

            It all depends on your level of inspiration.

            I’ve talked about inspiration multiple times here at Fred Central. What it boils down to is what your imagination threshold is and how you exploit it. If writing is something you have to do and it’s a compulsion, you should be brim full of stories waiting to get out. Everything inspires you. You have way more ideas filling your head than you can write down in a lifetime.

            Does that mean you’ll try and use all of them?

            Not likely.

            Does that mean you’ll use most of them?

            Not likely either.

            What you’ll do is cherry pick some of the best. When it comes down to actual practice, your adventure, wherever it takes you, will end up someplace that’ll probably surprise you. Even going to Disney, a place that I literally know like the back of my hand, despite an always changing landscape, always gives me a new spark.

            Then, you, like me, will end up with a head full of ideas. This trip to wherever is a little more inspiration for something new and different that won’t hurt to add to your extensive library.

            If everything you have in your head is all imagined, getting out and traveling is a great way to see something for yourself. Nothing beats reality instead of books or viewing it on the net. It breaks the cycle of myopic thinking.

            Now, what about those of you just dabbling, where writing isn’t a passion yet, or may never be?

            For you, inspiration is a mandatory requirement for you to write.

            Travel is an excellent way to spur your imagination.

            Maybe it’s time to have a convenient excuse to take the family or yourself out of the house and go to that place you were thinking of seeing for real, instead of just on Memorex. You may be surprised what it’s like in real life.

            A picture may be worth a thousand words, but seeing it for real is worth a million words.

SUMMARY

            There are many reasons to travel. For writers, it can be for research or inspiration.

            The key is not to think of it as a mandatory thing for legitimacy for your craft. That’s bull. Get that right out of your head. There’s no law or unspoken rule that says your writing isn’t legitimate unless you travel to the places you use in your books!

            The purpose of travel is to get away from home if you can afford it!

            Then again I have to think back to that old song by the 60’s band The Seeds. It’s called Travel With Your Mind. You can do that by staying at home or going there.

            Never forget that!

            There are some of us that will never be able to afford to travel. Some of us can barely afford to travel to the store, let alone across town. Therefore, the wyberry or TV is our only resource. Use it the best you can. There’s no fault and no shame in doing so.

            Second, while you’re there, whether for real or in your head, as a writer, it can be a place of great inspiration or research for something you are currently or may write in the future. A positive outlook and the desire to tell a good story is all you need. Use it wisely.

            Happy writing!

SHOULD YOU WORK ON MORE THAN ONE PROJECT AT A TIME?

November 18, 2021

            This subject comes up a lot on the forums and I was surprised to discover that I haven’t specifically dedicated an article to it. I’m pretty sure I’ve discussed it at some point, at least I think I have but I couldn’t find it, so here goes.

MULTITASKING

            Multitasking is a relatively new word, but it applies to a whole host of different things. In writing, it could apply to multiple projects. What does that mean exactly?

            We’re going to delve into that.

IN GENERAL

            Whenever one does a single project, there’s a certain amount of multitasking involved, or there can be, depending on the individual.

            If it’s just writing, you, as the writer, whether a pantser or a plotter, do the writing. You may do some editing, just write, stop and do a bit of research. You may keep writing and do research on the side, go back and fix something already written to tweak, then stop and rewrite something. Or, you may think of something great and research before you get to that point while still catching up to that spot, bla bla bla.

            All of this is a form of multitasking. While it isn’t working different projects, it’s in the same vein. The complexity isn’t on the same level.

            For a pantser it’s a lot different than for a plotter. Usually, I can only go by anecdotal evidence, since I’m a pantser. A plotter maps most everything out before they ever start writing. If, while in the process of writing what they carefully mapped out, they’re struck with another brilliant idea that upsets the entire process, do they stop and regroup? Do they stick with the plan? I don’t know for sure. I’ve talked with some, and the answers vary from sticking with the original idea, to scrapping everything past that point, to coming to a full stop and re-plotting past that point. The multitasking takes on a different aspect.

            Keep in mind that this is still the same single project. No other distractions are interfering.

DROPPING IN ANOTHER AND MAYBE ANOTHER PROJECT

            Some people are bursting with ideas. They can’t settle on one, or work on one at a time.

            Is this you?

            To me it seems like an easier task for a pantser.

            For a plotter, you must work multiple plots and draw energy away from each path. Then again, I suppose it isn’t any different from the pantsers deal either.

CONFUSING THE STORY LINES

            The biggest issue that comes up, which I’ve wondered about, is confusing the story lines.

            Luckily for me, I’ve never had this issue. While as a pantser myself, I usually stay focused on one major project at a time. That’s usually all I can handle in my head at a time. That’s not to say I haven’t tried multiple major projects, and successfully. It took a bit of juggling, but consider this.

TIME

            To work multiple projects takes time.

            To most of us, especially those of us that work for a living and have families, our writing time is precious. That means when we do get not only the time, but the motivation to write, that time must not be wasted or squandered. Spreading it out through multiple projects can dilute the creativity, despite our heads bursting with ideas.

DILUTING THE IDEA POOL

            While it might’ve seemed like a great idea at first, once you dive into the mechanics of it, is what you’re doing on each story all that different? Are you spreading yourself too thin?

            Maybe, maybe not.

CREATING ARTIFICIAL DEADLINES

            Once into these multiple projects, do you find yourself rushed to get one or both or all of them dun didded? Do you find yourself trying to get them overwith and rushing some or all of them just so you can say you completed something…anything?

            Does the quality of the work go down just to say you finished?

            Maybe, maybe not.

LOSING THE THREAD

            If you’re a pantser, in all the rush and initial bursts of ideas, did you somehow lose the original inspiration? Did you forget? Did the idea somehow blend in with the plot or idea from one of the others? Did you just rush (see above) and throw in the kitchen sink to make one work to get it done?

MY STORY

            I always like to end things up with my personal experiences. In 26 years, for the most part, I’ve stuck with one major project at a time. I have, in the past, tried multiple projects at a time and I ended up shelving the one to finish the other. It was just too much to concentrate on at one time. All of the above came into my head as I tried working the multiple projects and I just couldn’t let them happen. As a pantser, I had to stick with one. Then again, those others I started, at least some of them, I went back to and gave them a proper finish so in that way, I worked multiple projects and successfully completed them. I initially worked them together but ended up stopping to work one and finish the rest later. That’s what really happened so I wasn’t spreading myself too thin. That’s what happened with The Greenhouse and Lusitania Gold.

            On the other hand (a cliché phrase I use a lot in Fred’s world), that hasn’t stopped me from tossing in the occasional short story. When I do that, my main project comes to a cold stop for a few days while I whip out the short story.

            Why do I do that?

            Because it’s a short story!

            Usually, I get the idea, ponder what I want to write about, probably while I’m in the middle of writing one of my major projects, then I sit down one day or two, and whip out the story. That means taking an hour or two to write it, then on another day read it to the writer’s group, use their feedback to tweak it, then turn it in to one of the anthologies. Sometimes I just self-edit them and never turn them in.

            Then I go back to the major project.

            There are a few cases, where I’m working on a major project and have resurrected an older MS to edit at the same time. That’s not the same as writing something completely new. The older MS is already written. I just have to tweak it. That’s multitasking but not creating something out of the blue.

SUMMARY

            Working on multiple projects is, as usually taken in the context on the forums, writing two or more separate novels at the same time.

            However, multiple projects can be a lot more nuanced than that.

            I personally recommend one major project at a time for most people. It makes life simpler and the quality of the project better.

            Not everyone is built that way, but I guess most are, especially new writers.

            It’s up to you.

            Happy writing!

DEJA VU

November 10, 2021

            You would think after all this time and 573 articles later, it would be hard to come up with something new to write about. After haunting the multiple Facebook forums for years now, I think of the same ole same ole questions that come up every day, sometimes the same question from different people twice…three times in the same day. It’s like people jump onto a forum and don’t bother to read any of the posts and just post their question.

            Part of that could be that there’s no way to index anything in the forums. They’re just not built that way.

            I have enough trouble with my weekly Saturday updates for each of my book sites. They are a real pain to post in Facebook. Not user friendly at all.

REPEAT ARTICLES

            Those of you that have been following me a long time (I’ve been around in a web presence since 2012), must have noticed all my “revisited” articles. I try to wait at least a year or two before I repeat or revisit anything.

            It’s not out of laziness, but because the subject keeps coming up over and over again, and when it’s really hot, I feel it’s time to bring it up again. This may help attract new visitors to my web site (duh, marketing people), but also to help new writers. That is, after all, half the reason I do these articles.

            While I’ll admit I’m no best-selling author, in 26 years at this passion, I have gained just a tad of experience going through the ropes. With four published books under my belt, traditionally published books, I’ve learned a few tidbits and with my platform, which every author needs, why not pass on what I know?

IT’S WORTH REPEATING

            All advice is worth repeating to new eyes.

            I get new followers every week. It’s not like hundreds, but I get one or two here and there and to me, that’s a success.

            Whether any of you actually read this stuff I don’t worry about. It’s out there in the ether and there for posterity. Maybe space aliens or someone in the future will stumble across it someday and glean something useful out of it if you all don’t in the here and now. That’s fine with me.

            When I spot something on the forums, or in my rumblings around town or in my head or dealings with writing in general that I deem worthy of repeating, you all will be the first to know. If it’s a rehash, or déjà vu then so be it. It may remind you of something you forgot. You never know.

            You remember the phrase, “It bears repeating”?

            Happy writing!

SHOULD YOU HAVE RELIGION IN YOUR WORLD?

November 3, 2021

            I’ve discussed religion in your writing in both 2017 and 2019, but it keeps coming up in the Facebook (and no, I still won’t call it Meta) forums. While I harken back to (mainly) the 2019 article, I’m also going for my latest take on the subject, which is really how I’ve always felt about using religion in a story (or otherwise) context.

            In world building, I discussed that you cannot forget about “relijjin.” Yup, that often uncomfortable subject that quite often gets people riled up, fired up, on their toes and ready to rumble. There are many ways to use belief systems that color a world. This not only applies to fantasy, but real world stories as well.

WHY USE RELIGION AT ALL?

            There’s no rule book that says you have to use religion in any book you write. It’s purely a matter of taste and whether the story calls for it. It can be a matter of plot or just color. If neither calls for it, don’t add it “juss cuz.” There has to be a reason. On the other hand, if you’re creating a world, such as in fantasy, it adds more realism and color to have real-world cultural thingies like religion, just as there are different languages.

            If you’re a super-religious person, you may think religion goes hand-in-hand with whatever you’re writing about. However, it can also be a huge turnoff for a lot of readers. To gain a wider audience, it’s better to stay neutral.

REAL-WORLD FICTION

            This plays into regions as much as the characters you utilize in the story. If you’re story is in South America, Catholicism is going to play into local religion and culture. If you’re in the Middle East, Islam is going to be hard to avoid.

            Here in the You Ess And A, it can be a mixed bag of beliefs and you can go with one of hundreds of beliefs based on region, or any grab bag you want.

            You can disregard religion if you choose. It doesn’t have to be part of your world.

            I must mention that by religion, this could also include atheism, agnostic, and non-religious beliefs, because after all, they are beliefs – philosophies of life. If they somehow play a key role in the story, use them.

FANTASY OR SCIENCE FICTION WORLDS

            In world building for fantasy and science fiction, religion and belief systems are hard to ignore when creating your world. They’re integral parts of almost any society. With that comes the complexity of rules, prejudices, rituals, icons, and all the trappings. How far you want to go with it (or not) is up to you.

            Does said religion dominate the story?

            Does it only play a minor role?

            Does this religion affect the plot?

            Is this religion just color?

IS THE RELIGION OR LACK THEREOF A POLITICAL OR PHILOSOPHICAL STATEMENT?

            This is where things get dicey.

            It’s one thing to add real-world authenticity to your story, regardless of genre. It’s quite another to add an agenda. If it’s simply reflecting your observations of the world, fine.

            If you have an agenda, watch out.

            If you’re out to preach, you could alienate a lot of readers.

            You have to step carefully when you add in a religion and start doing stuff with it that comes off not only as preachy, but promoting a specific agenda.

            If you slip in a bit of philosophy, and don’t shove it down the reader’s throat, that’s one thing.

            If you bludgeon them over the head with it, jerk them out of the story with blatant preaching or bashing, you’ve not only violated their trust, but alienated them as future readers.

UNINTENDED/INTENDED CONSEQUENCES

            What you now have done is made yourself a pariah.

            What’s worse is if you’re so religious, you’re blind to what you’re doing. When someone points it out to you and you get upset/freak out because someone illustrates what’ll happen, you do nothing to change it. Your book fails to sell, and you become a pariah, labeled as a religious nut. I’ve seen it happen before.

            Some embrace that and your book does succeed in a niche market. However, a few have seen the light and changed their tune and had success in the conventional market.

Whether a niche is for the better for them is hard to say. It all depends on what their original goal is or was. For some, preaching was their point all along.

SUMMARY

            Religion can be used to great effect to color your world. It can also be avoided if so desired. Either way, if used correctly, it’s a tool to help your world come to life. Used incorrectly, it can ruin a good thing.

            Choose wisely, Grasshopper!

            Happy writing!