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DO YOU NEED MATH SKILLS TO BE A GOOD WRITER?

September 15, 2021

            Okay, the article isn’t really about that, per se, but about the subject of additional skills in general required to be a writer.

            Last week (as I write this), or maybe the week before, that exact question came up on one of the forums (Facebook, of course), and my answer was a resounding NO! Of course, I was polite in my response, but I did mention that I’m allergic to math.

            When I think about it, it IS a legitimate question. There’s some logic to it.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT…

            When you’re a plotter, it could be assumed it takes a mathematical mind to map out a plot in a logical timeline or linear way, and to lock all the elements into place.

            That seems like a logical assumption.

            However, that’s not the case in real life.

            People with math skills don’t necessarily have anything to do with people with plotting skills. In fact, people with extreme or too focused logic skills might have a very hard time with imaginative creative skills. I’m not saying some don’t, it’s just that there’s no direct correlation. On the other hand, without skill at logic, one cannot put together a plot that makes sense. It’s a matter of degrees.

ONE DOES NOT MAKE ANOTHER

            While one may well be very good at one skill does not make them very good at another.

            Someone very good at math, might also be decent or very good at plotting or writing. A good mathematician might be terrible at plotting, or so rigid that their stories are flat and dry and have no life to them because their imagination is too stripped due to their rigid logic.

            Another person with no math skills may be great at plotting and writing and be no good at math only because they were introduced to that skill in the wrong way. Or, it could be that they really aren’t any good at math. They can plot and are decent enough at logic to put together a good plot, but when it comes to numbers, that all falls apart.

            On the other hand, having skills at many things can play into your writing by being able to draw from those experiences into your writing. We’ll get to those in a moment.

            Someone very good at proper English and grammar may still suck at writing. One does not make another. Properly being able to put sentences together is a huge help. However, if one doesn’t have any imagination, there’s no point in having a great skill you can’t use for anything except technical writing.

            At the same time, having a super wild imagination does one no good if you can’t put it down into something comprehensible.

            Being a good athlete does not make one a good writer any more than being a good mechanic or a musician. Those skills can all be great to draw on for story purposes, but the key to writing is imagination AND an ability to be able to put sentences together AND be able to write, have a desire to write, AND be able to put something together in a logical fashion. The extraneous skills, whether math, accounting, English, grammar, bird watching, carpenter, mechanic, spelunker, are all things you can draw experience from. The key is still being able and having a desire to tell a good story.

SUMMARY

            You don’t have to be good at anything else in particular to be a good writer except be decent enough at English and grammar so as not to be too much of a burden to your editor. The desire to write and it being a passion, at least to me, are the most important. If it’s a desire instead of a hobby, then you will not only find the time to write, you will continually hone your skills. You will find the method of writing that works best for you, whether it being a pantser or a plotter. You will draw on life experiences, and/or research for your ideas. Some of those life experiences may include other skills you already have, but I’ll just bet a lot of them DON’T. For many, that may include math!

            Happy writing!

WRITING SOMETHING OUT OF YOUR NORM

September 8, 2021

            For many of us, we have a certain genre, or style we’re used to when we write.

            For some, we’re all over the place, especially starting out.

            For others, there IS not one set style. This probably isn’t for you.

THE NORM

            Let’s consider the average writer, someone who’s been at this for at least a few years.

            You’ve been busy working on a (or a series) of novels. More than likely, you’re used to writing a certain way. In other words, you’ve developed a style, so you’re used to writing to that norm. Maybe you’re diversified and also write other things on the side. Is that writing out of your norm? Maybe.

            You’re a busy writer. You write both novels and short stories. They’re both fictional. You write both in either third or maybe even first person. You may use past or present tense as your go-to style as well.

            You could be a non-fiction writer. Your books may be historical, technical or scientific. The same for your short stories.

            You may be writing nothing but memoirs as your forte.

WHEN YOU VEER OFF YOUR NORM

            This is where you mix things up.

            Let’s take my case.

            In fiction, I cannot stand to read first-person. However, when it comes to autobiographical writing, I write first-person. Why? Because I’m writing it from my own myopic perspective. It happened to me, it’s from my point of view.

            I’ve stated over and over again here at Fred Central that I’ll never publish my memoir, at least as a book. That doesn’t prevent me from doing the occasional short story. In fact, I’ve published quite a few.

            Does the transition from third to first cause an issue with me?

            In a word, no.

            Since it’s my perspective, myopic or otherwise, it’s easy. I have no trouble with either the perspective, the pronouns or any other part of the story. The key is that it’s SHORT. I’m quite capable of creating a short…as in a chapter-length-short-enough story to maybe hold a person’s interest. However, in my case, since I don’t have a compelling life story and am not a celebrity, I don’t have enough to keep that going to justify an entire novel-length tome.

            I even once wrote a very short, as in one-page, fictional story using present-tense. The reason I did it was to throw people off, them all knowing how much I hate present-tense. I pulled it off and nobody guessed it was me. I eventually turned it into a regular past-tense story.

            I went out of my norm to write something else.

            Seeing as how I’ve been at this twenty-six years, plus I was a technical writer for a decade, I have the chops to pull this off, at least I hope so!

            For you to do the same, it all depends.

            If you’re relatively new to writing, and are still experimenting around, maybe you’re already all over the place. You may already do all of this in a single book, given a few I’ve read, or tried to read recently. On the other hand, maybe you DO stick to one style, but are stumped when you want to try something out of your norm.

            What do you do?

FOR MOST PEOPLE

            For most writers, switching out of the norm isn’t going to be rocket science. Maybe you’ll stumble a bit. Then again, when you try a style you’re not comfortable with, you may end up with a huge mess. It could be that going out of your norm is just not right for you. Then again, maybe it’s all mental and these roadblocks are artificial.

            Why are you writing out of the norm in the first place?

            Do you want to try something new?

            Do you want to try a novel instead of short stories? How about short stories instead of a novel?

            Do you want to try first-person instead of third? Present instead of past? Past instead of present?

            Do you want to do non-fiction instead of fiction?

            Do you want to switch genres?

            All of these things can be done, but maybe they’re not meant to be. Then again, as you gain your chops as a writer, you SHOULD be able to do any of them if you set your mind to it. I know I can. It’s just a matter of wanting to or needing to. In my case, I know what I like and what I know works for me. I’ve been at this a long time and know what works best not only for me, but for my audience and for a lot of other people, regardless of genre.

            While I can maybe go places others can’t, at least as easily, I choose not to.

            You, maybe starting out, or as seasoned as I am, can make your own choices and do what you want. You can go out of the norm and not be traumatized by it.

            Now, why am I bringing this up?

            Right now, I’m writing an autobiographical story for an anthology. It’s in first-person. You’ll NEVER find me doing that with any of my fictional stories. It’s out of my norm, per se, but when I think about it, for short stories, especially given what I’ve had published, I guess it IS the norm.

            Okay, you will NEVER find me writing another present-tense story of ANY kind! I’ve been outed already so they’ve got my number on that one!

            Happy writing!

WORLD-BUILDING – PRE OR ON THE FLY?

September 1, 2021

            My original article on world building appeared in 2014 and I’d already alluded to the subject numerous times in the 186 articles I’d written by that time. Jump now to 2021 and the count is 563 articles. I’ve covered it in numerous forms, many more times.

            Something that has come up lately is do you world build first, and then now what? The specific question that stuck with me is this one writer who spent a lot of time building a world, but is now stuck and doesn’t know how to start writing.

            I had to do a double take on that.

            This person had some huge inspiration to create this vast fantasy world, yet never bothered to do the basics, like had a story in mind before they ever thought of creating the world in the first place.

            I suppose that could happen. The cart before the horse, and I don’t apologize for the cliché.

            I may not have the circumstances quite right, and maybe the person DOES have a story in mind. The problem may be that he or she doesn’t know the fundamentals of story telling yet. It could be that they never formulated A and B. It could be a host of other things as well.

THE THING ABOUT WORLD BUILDING

            I’ll say right off that world building isn’t story.

            World building is just that. It’s building the world in which you tell the story.

            It’s not like the world you build tells the story itself. It just sets up the environment, or the frame, in which you can now create some kind of tale without worrying about the semantics of place.

            Therefore, worldbuilding isn’t story, it’s PLACE ONLY.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORLD BUILDING AND OUTLINING?

            Aha!

            Here we go. They aren’t the same thing. They could be blended in as you go, but strictly speaking, world building is creating a setting for the story, but has little (or may have) little to do with the story itself.

            In general terms, creating a world may have certain influences and consequences of how the story develops. Things like the weather, creatures, magic or magick, races, geography can all have an effect on the plot, story, and influence the actions of the characters.

            However, that’s not the outline.

            The outline is a separate thing entirely.

            With the outline, it would be prudent to refer to the already built world as you outline.

            That would make your story come in three steps.

            #1 Build the world.

            #2 Outline.

            #3 Write the story.

PLOTTER OR PANTSER?

            If you’re a plotter, are you going to go through all three steps in order, like our hapless person who was stuck at stage two (or three)?

            Or, are you going to go right into #2 and start outlining?

            Or, are you going to do a combination of #1 and #2 before you ever start working on #3?

            There’s no hard and fast rule.

            As for me, being a pantser, I cut to the chase and just go for #3 and don’t even worry about either #1 or #2. That would just suck the life right out of all of my creativity. This is something I’ve discussed many times here at Fred Central.

            It’s like I don’t agonize over every word, every sentence and every paragraph. I blurt it all out and get the ideas down and worry about editing later. Of course, over the twenty-six years I’ve been doing it (so far), I’m a good bit more proficient at it, so my chops are a bit better than when I first started. Therefore, when I get to the first edit, I have less of a mess to fix. That gives me the freedom to create on the fly. My key, of course is to always have A, B and the title before I ever start. That way, I have a start (A) and a finish (B) and a title (main theme) to write to.

            Any world building I do on the fly. I keep track of it with an encyclopedia which I constantly refer to as I add new terms. NOTE: I also add new names and terms into the spell check so I consistently spell them the same way.

EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT

            Not everyone can work on the fly.

            World building first seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse, cliché again. Maybe that works for some people, but I’d think the writer should at least come up with the stories they want to tell first. At least jot the main ideas down, THEN build the world. During that world building process, the story may tweak a bit, but that’s okay. At least you’ll still have some idea of your direction when you finish building this big wide world.

            I may have got this writer’s intent wrong with his question. If so, it still doesn’t change my point.

            YOU NEED TO HAVE A STORY FIRST.

            As tempting as it is to create this big fantastic world, you’d better come up with a story to tell and not expect this world to inspire you. Maybe it will, but it might tell you nothing at all. Don’t let that happen.

            Happy writing!

THE THRILL OF WRITING A BOOK

August 26, 2021

            Being a pantser, I can relate to this from the adventure of creating as I go. Maybe if you’re an outliner or some combination inbetween, it comes during that process.

            What I’m talking about is the thrill of creating and/or discovering your story as you go along.

DISCOVERY OF AN IDEA

            I’ve alluded to this many times, especially when I’ve talked about new writers who come online and beg others for ideas about what to write about. In my mind it’s like What in the hell are you even doing here?

            Part of the thrill of writing, the joy of it, the urge of it, is the thrill of the discovery.

            You may be sitting around, standing around, driving around, doing some of a thousand mundane things when the idea hits you for a story. It may creep up on you, or it may hit you like a bolt of lightning.

            Whatever the case, when this idea hits you, it can and probably is a real thrill because all you want to do is drop everything (usually) and write it down.

            For a good pantser, it’s figure out A then B and maybe the title. For an outliner, it’s well…sit down and outline it all out, maybe with an actual chapter by chapter outline, or maybe with a bunch of ordered sticky notes.

            Whichever method you use, the thrill never wanes.

THE EXECUTION

            This is where the excitement and thrill starts to wane for some people. While the huge burst of thrill is there when your grand idea pops into your head, once the reality of it all comes crashing down on you, well…you have some work ahead of you!

            For some, that means actual work!

            Not only the mechanics of writing are involved, but plotting and testing that thrill of an idea. Is your idea realistic? Can it be put to the smell test?

            Uh oh!

IMAGINATION IS THE KEY

            There’s nothing that says the thrill has to be dampened just because reality takes a swing at it.

            Once your great idea gets that huge dose of reality thrown at it, you find while the original concept sounded great in your head, on paper, there were issues. That doesn’t mean you still can’t make it work. None of this means the thrill can’t be any less.

            Imagination is a key part of all this. Your imagination is the doorway to maintaining that thrill, and in fact, is the key to keeping the thrill going.

MY CASE

            While writing to some is considered work, because they may either not have the chops, or just don’t like the mechanics as well as the outcome, the thrill may wane considerably once they get to work.

            In my case, the thrill never wanes from the time I first think of the idea until I type “the end” figuratively at the end of the book. Oh, and just to be clear, that IS figuratively because I never actually type “the end” at the end of my books!

            I enjoy every part of the creative process. The whole thing is a thrill. To give an example. Right now, I’m editing Palmdale Gold. I wrote it over a decade ago and I’m still getting a thrill on the umpteenth edit! I got a thrill writing A and B and the title, and a thrill as I wrote every single chapter. It never ends for me.

SUMMARY

            If you’re one of those tortured soul types, go ahead and grovel in your misery. There’s nothing I can do for you.

            However, if writing is a passion for you, if you’re really in this for the thrill, then from the discovery of the idea right through the creation and on to the editing should be a thrill.

            I wish you all the best of luck on your journey and happy writing!

SPEAKING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE

August 18, 2021

            In May of this year, I talked about interviews and what, as an author, you’ll eventually have to do if you expect to ever market your book. Okay, some of you may NEVER market your book, but don’t expect it to sell like hotcakes, or at all.

            Some of you can maybe get away with the bare minimum, and some of you may do okay, sort of. Then again, if you put all the time and effort into writing a good book, why not overcome your terminal shyness to at least take on a question/answer session with someone? That form of an interview doesn’t mean speaking in front of a crowd. Then again, I’ve already discussed that issue in the former article.

            Today, I’m going to talk about something else. That is passing on your knowledge. In other words, paying it forward in a more direct way by teaching a class or conducting a training session, two terms for the same thing?

THE TRAINING SESSION

            Since I have a background in training, speaking in front of people goes with the territory. Not to put too fine of a point on it, just being a member of the Henderson Writer’s Group, which is a critique group, reading chapters of any one of my books to the group means I have to speak in front of from tens to dozens of people all at once.

            Aaaagh! Oooh! Aaaah!

            Am I paralyzed with fear? Am I trembling in my shoes?

            Do I barf before I go on stage?

            Uh, no.

            I’ve been speaking in front of people in one form or another since I was in elementary school.

            Just yesterday, as I write this, I was at the Local Authors Literary Fair and there was a signup sheet to volunteer to teach classes at the library. I’ve done it before, so of course, I signed up.

            Why?

            Because not only do I have a background in teaching, but I like to pay it forward.

            These classes can be fun, and the payout can be tremendous.

CROWDS

            For someone terminally shy, the fear of failure is often a phobia. It’s like any other phobia. Quite often it’s not a phobia at all, but a self-imposed fear brought on by something that is nothing more than an unknown. Why?

            Because you haven’t done it before, and don’t know how to handle it.

            That’s all it is.

            Speaking in front of a crowd is no different that chatting with a group of friends. While some terminally shy have that wallflower syndrome and don’t even speak up amongst friends, some have no problem speaking up among a small group of friends.

            Strangers?

            That’s another story.

            Why?

            Because they aren’t friends yet.

            Some of them may never end up being friends.

            Oh well…

            Consider this.

            Many of them are just as terminally shy as you are.

            Ever thought of that?

            Yup.

            Just think of this. Many of the people in the crowd are in fear of you, the instructor or speaker, of eyeing them, or calling on them. In fact, one of them could be you.

            Ever thought of that?

            Before you get worked up about being the one up there on stage petrified that you’re speaking in front of a crowd, think of those in the audience petrified and hiding in the back, or even somewhere in the middle, that won’t make eye contact with you. They sort of scrunch down, listen, but keep to themselves and try to hide. They’re just as scared as you are that you might pick them out and call on them for some reason.

            Do you think they’re going to point and laugh at you because you stumble over a word, or stutter, or get a fact wrong?

            No. They’re afraid you’re going to pick on them for not paying attention!

            It works both ways.

            Of course, there are those that are aggressive, paying attention, and that are looking at your every move, but they’re more often than not polite and will give you the chance to make your point. As you progress in your talk, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and let you have your say.

            You may be bombarded with questions afterward, but the more you speak, the more confidence you gain. You will never be able to do it if you don’t start.

SOME PEOPLE

            Some people are just not made for speaking in front of a crowd.

            However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do it and do it effectively. That also doesn’t’ mean you can’t face your fear.

            It also doesn’t mean you have to do it every day, or often just to torture yourself.

            As an author, you only have to do it as often as necessary to let your readers know you are there for them.

            In a way, you owe it to your readers to be available for them.

            That doesn’t mean you need to pay it forward by teaching classes like I love to do. Some of you are not cut out to be teachers. No rule says you have to. An occasional event where you speak to your readers to let them know you appreciate them is fine.

            Maybe a chapter reading, and a pre-talk or pre-speech at a book signing would be nice.

SUMMARY

            Speaking in front of a crowd isn’t the end of the world. As a writer and author, it’s part of the deal. However, it doesn’t have to be a psychological barrier to keep you from your readers.

            Happy writing!

WHEN YOU DON’T SELL A THING REVISITED

August 11, 2021

            By the time this gets published, I’ll have just participated in my first book event since COVID hit. It’ll be interesting to see how things panned out. It was called the Local Author’s Literary Fair and was conducted at the main public library here in Las Vegas. Will I have been successful? If so, I’ll tweak this accordingly. In the meantime, I think it’s a good time for a revisit.

INTRO

For those of you that’ve published books, by whatever means, there comes a time when you have to get out in the world and sell them…or at least attempt to.

            If you’re like me, you still have to work for a living. Even if not, you likely as not try to stay local. That means signing up for as many (or as few, depending on how active you want to be) book signing events as you can. If you live in an isolated area, that may mean zero events, but let’s consider a reasonable in-between situation.

            These events can be invitation only, or sign-up-until-there-are-no-slots-left.

            I can tell you they’re almost always a mixed bag. You never know what kind of crowd, if any, you’re going to get.

PRE-PUBLICITY

            At an event I attended a few years ago, while sitting around waiting for people to show up, we discussed pre-publicity. We were not sure how the organizer publicized the event for us, but as authors, we did our parts as much as we could. However, what does this mean?

            As for myself and many of my co-authors, we relied on social media to put out the word. The flaw with this idea is that we pretty much preached to the choir, to borrow a well-worn cliché. What does this mean? It means that we basically advertised to friends, family, and people that have already bought our book or books! At best, we might see a few of them at the event for moral support, or they might actually buy a book from another author. There’s that possibility.

            On the other hand, I mentioned in an earlier article how I spent significant bucks on pre-publicity on Facebook for my book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. Though it was a successful event, not a single person who showed or bought my book heard about it through Facebook! I know, because I asked.

            That begs the question: Why spend money on a social media blast for an event where there’s a good likelihood nobody at all will show up? I think the gamble would be better at the local slot machines (I live in Las Vegas, after all).

THE CROWD

            Sometimes you can just tell when you’re setting up that things are probably not going to go well. You always hope for the best, but since I’m a glass is half full type person, I get the mindset that I’m there for networking. Then, if I sell one book, it’s a better than total success.

            When and if people start showing up, your job is to get them to your table. This is where reading them comes in handy as well. Standing around your table yelling at them to come over doesn’t always cut it. Some people you can just tell have no interest in your stuff. You can wave at them, say hi and invite them over, but if they give you that “look,” don’t press it. If they surprise you later and wander by, fine. If not, move on to the next person, if anyone comes along at all.

            Sometimes, the crowd is so sparse, you end up with other authors wandering by to say hi. This is the networking aspect of the event. Take advantage of that so the event isn’t a total loss.

            If someone stops by to look at your stuff, be prepared! Show interest, have your pitch ready, and make sure to give them your business card(s) and try not to look too disappointed when they nod and move on.

            As I’ve said before, just sitting there twiddling your thumbs, reading, or with your face in your cell phone isn’t going to attract people. On the other hand, even if you have a big crowd of people traipsing by, you can say “hi, what do you like to read” until you turn blue in the face, but if they just walk on by, avoiding eye contact, or make a bee-line to a certain author, don’t press it.

            Oh, and don’t forget the candy bowl, or something to entice them to stop by. At this particular event, I had plenty of takers.

THE PERSON PARTNERED WITH YOU IS MAKING A KILLING

            We’re a diverse bunch, we writers, and nobody writes the same book. That means, if you’re sharing a table, or sunshade, or booth with another writer, don’t be surprised if your partner sells like hotcakes and you don’t. It goes with the territory.

            Just remember that it could very easily be the other way around, and one day it will be.

            One time it just happened to be his day and not mine. I was very happy for my friend. He well-deserved it.

            On the other hand, at this most recent event, we tied and both sold two books.

WHAT TO GET OUT OF A NO-SALE EVENT?

            Folks, when you’re a no-name author, which unless you’re with the big six, or on the New York Times best-seller list, face it, that’s you, pretty much, you’re going to attend book events where you’re hot and cold.

            I’m sure in comparative ways, this even happens to the big names at times, and it certainly did when they were starting out.

            When any author sells nothing at all, what to do?

            No, and I mean NO event is for nothing.

            Why?

            You were there.

            Your name was on the marquee or publicity flyer.

            People saw you there.

            Other authors saw you there.

            You talked to other authors and networked.

            You may have connected with and caught up with old friends.

            You must’ve learned at least ONE tidbit of info that may or may not be useful to you in the future.

RESULT

            I just had a two-book sale event. All of the above was true as well. Since I sold two books instead of just one, I consider it a resounding success, instead of just a success. Two is better than one is better than zero.

            Until then, happy writing!

DEPICTING RACES IN A FANTASY WORLD

August 4, 2021

            This article isn’t about what we would normally consider race in the real world, such as African American, Latino, Asian, etc. While it could encompass that, this is more about employing some of the classic races or creatures, or icky bugs such as elves, dwarves, fairies, and such, drawn from Lord Of The Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, or other fairy tale and/or fantasy lore.

            A question that comes up a lot is people asking about portraying these (or even more) creatures accurately.

            Accurately? In a made-up fantasy world? Are you serious?

STICKING TO CONVENTION

            When it comes to world building and research, this can be a two-edge sword. When writing fantasy, to me, at least, it’s kind of the point to make up the world. Therefore, any research involved is not so much races and creatures, it’s realistic physical things like castles and flora and fauna and sword fighting and geography, and basic science UP TO A POINT.

            To me, in a made up world, you well…make it up. The only catch is that you have to have some basis for reality as a starting point before you can go off the rails, then it has to make some kind of sense. When you make up rules, you have to make sure these rules are based on logic and you stick with them. That requires you have at least an inkling of the real world before you bend things for your fantasy world. That’s where convention veers into fantasy.

            When it comes to fantasy races and creatures, there never was much basis on reality in the first place! Therefore, why in the world are you bothering with convention in your made up world?

FANTASY RACES HAVE LITTLE BASIS IN REALITY

            This is the biggie.

            Fantasy races and creatures have little to no basis in reality. They all came from fairy tales, legends, and most were just plain made up.

            A few were obviously based on reality such as dwarves. Then again, given the way they’re portrayed in fantasy, they’ve gone far astray of reality in many cases.

            If you’re building a world and are sticking to convention because you don’t want to be called on it, my question is why?

            It’s your world! It’s fantasy and is totally made up! There are no rules that say you have to stick with Lord Of The Rings or D&D tradition.

            You don’t have to stick with Grimm specifics for your story.

            While it may be fun to research this stuff, why get uptight about it or freak out because your elves don’t have the correct shaped ears or hair the correct color?

            Why worry because your fairies don’t have the correct color wings or don’t weigh the correct amount?

            Why worry because the dwarves in your world aren’t all miners and some practice magick?

            Why worry if your dragons can’t fly?

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

            In a completely made up fantasy world, even urban fantasy, which is based on fantasy mixed with the real world, you have a free reign to do what you want. There ARE certain conventions you have to follow.

            The biggest one is that IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE, whatever you do.

            That’s it.

            Does it have to comply with Rule #17B of the D&D Monster Manual (I just made that up – not a direct quote) or Lord Of The Rings, Chapter 37, paragraph 44?

            No, it does not.

            Get over it.

SUMMARY

            The reason the genre is called fantasy is because that’s what it is.

            Fantasy.

            It’s a made up world.

            It only has to make sense, and the writer, YOU, has to set rules based on some kind of reality that you set. The biggie is that these rules have to make sense to the reader.

            Sure, they may have to follow convention to some degree, but that’s the physical aspects of the world. The populace doesn’t have to comply with any of that.

            If you’re going to have an elf that’s eleven feet tall, that might be a stretch. Or, maybe a dwarf that comes in at five hundred pounds? Both of these examples compared to normal sized humans are pushing it. Then, you might want to think of another name for them. I’m just saying.

            Happy writing!

NEW IDEA PREDICAMENT

July 28, 2021

            Over the course of the past year or so, just to pick a timeframe, I’d say the subject of working on multiple projects at once has come up at least a half a dozen times on the various forums I participate in. While not the most popular question, it still comes up often enough.

            My usual answer is to stick with one and finish it before you move on.

            Why?

            If you work on multiple projects at a time, you can lose focus, and therefore, the quality doesn’t necessarily win. It’s plain as that. Plus, you can have issues with mixing up stuff between the projects, to the point where you can’t recall which is which.

            How do I know this?

            I’ve done it very early on with short stories.

            Luckily I’ve never had to worry about this with novels…yet.

            Why do I say yet?

MY PREDICAMENT

            Currently, I’m working on a new Meleena novel, Rumblings.

            I’m also doing an edit to my very first novel The Cave.

            Plus, eventually, I need to get back to book #3 of the Meleena series, Across The Endless Sea, which I finished, but which I set aside for a few months, more like a year now, to start the fresh-set-of-eyes edit.

            That’s three projects on my mind.

            As Lloyd Bridges infamous line from Sea Hunt goes, “And then, it happened.”

            Yup, Thursday, a week ago, out of the blue, I came up with a super duper, ultra-spiffy idea for a new icky bug. A supernatural thriller that takes place in Las Vegas. I’d tell you more but I’d have to kill you. At least right now.

            As this idea formulated on Thursday and Friday, I wanted to drop everything and start writing furiously at my new icky bug.

            The issue?

            I had not completely formed either A nor B.

            As of that Friday, I had not decided on a title.

            All three of those things are a big no no before starting ANY story, novel OR short.

            Well…that Friday evening, as I was lying down for bed, about to go to sleep, the title hit me. I also had inklings on how to begin (A) and just the beginnings of the ending (B).

            As of that, Sunday, I still didn’t have a fully formed B yet.

A CROWDED HOUSE

            My plate is already full.

            Okay, The Cave has been sitting since 1995, so if I let it slip for another year or two, it’s not going to matter that much.

            Rumblings is another matter. I’m on a tear with it, creatively. I’m just getting started and my characters are deep into the beginnings of that adventure.

            Across The Endless Sea was the next book to be on the slate for my publisher. Eventually, was going to have to hold off on Rumblings, book four, and get back to Sea and get it ready to submit.

            Oh, and one other thing. Not long before the pandemic, I’d submitted another icky bug, The Greenhouse to my publisher and still had not heard word. After this long, I had a suspicion that it was a big no, but until I got final word, I had to be prepared to make a go with that one if I suddenly got the go ahead to get it ready for publication.

            Then, last week, things got turned on their head. After talking to my publisher, they want me to go back and dig up book number three of my Gold series, Palmdale Gold!

            That’s right, I need to drop everything Meleena and concentrate on the next Detach adventure. The advantages are that I’ve already read Palmdale Gold to the writer’s group, but it was in 2011 or 2012! That means I need to look at it with a fresh set of eyes and a whole lot more experience! Plus, I based it on a real lake. Because it’s privately owned, I needed to get hold of the caretaker. Ever since I wrote the story, I’ve wanted to use the real lake in the story, but the owner didn’t want me to. To avoid getting sued, I changed the name and location of the lake.

            Then, guess what? With another tweak, the publisher also wants another crack at The Greenhouse!

            That means dropping everything else and taking on two books at once. So, while I’m not exactly starting from scratch with either one, that’s still multitasking, just with a slightly less workload.

GENERALLY SPEAKING – MULTITASKING?

            There’s nothing wrong with multitasking. However, how much can you take on and still keep your creativity and originality?

            Since this is a passion and not a hobby, and let’s not get into the differences, which is an entire different discussion, I love to write. I do it because I need to, I have to, and I love to. That all goes without saying. Yet, I also don’t write on any phony self-imposed deadlines, or schedules.

            Now, if you think all of the above sounds like a schedule or deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, it isn’t really. My publisher isn’t pressuring me for the next release. It’s something I want to do, in my own time. I just want to get some things completed because they’re almost already there, but at the same time, I also want to start something new. In the case of both Palmdale Gold and The Greenhouse, I called and asked what they wanted next, so I solicited them. There is still no deadline, but since I just published Spanish Gold early this year, I figured it was time to see what I could get in the pipeline.

            Can I multitask?

            That is the big question.

            Can I multitask and still keep the creativity original and fresh?

            Can I find the TIME to work multiple angles?

            Or, should I stop one thing dead in its tracks, and concentrate on something else, one at a time? If so, will I forget or lose steam on the other stuff?

            Obviously, I can’t stop everything and work on this new icky bug when I now have Palmdale Gold and The Greenhouse to get ready. However, it looks like I’ll have to shelve Across The Endless Sea, Rumblings, and The Cave at least for now due to time constraints, if nothing else.

MY ANSWER MAY NOT BE THE SAME AS YOURS

            Time is not a factor when it comes to my enthusiasm or commitment.

            I wrote the original draft of The Cave in 1995. As I started editing it a few months ago, even bit by bit, the original excitement was still there even after 26 years. It has not ebbed one iota.

            As I’ve had a somewhat erratic writing schedule with Rumblings, has my enthusiasm or creativity waxed or waned when I sat down to write with it?

            Not one iota.

            Time is not a factor for me.

            I could take off a few months or even years to write on any one of my latest masterpieces (ha ha).

            The question is, could you? Could you stop everything and concentrate on your latest, greatest idea? Or, could you multitask and do both?

            Would working multiple projects suck the life right out of your creativity?

            In the case of Palmdale Gold and The Greenhouse, they are both FINISHED manuscripts that just need tweaking. Tweaking is a whole lot different than creating from scratch. Those two can be multitasked just fine.

            My advice still stands for most writers writing entirely new stuff.

            Complete one project at a time. That way you will have at least completed SOMETHING first. I’ve seen way too many writers create half-cocked fits and starts of stuff and in the end, never finish ANYTHING.

            That’s my biggest point.

            There are way too many writers that are great at starting stuff but way too many of them never finish anything.

            Don’t be one of them!

            Happy writing!

TYPOS REVISITED

July 21, 2021

            I last talked about this in 2017, but due to a recently formed forum on Facebook, and through several others, with similar posts, I thought it warranted a revisit. I’m including the original post, tweaked to include the latest info.

I originally blatantly copped this inspiration from a Facebook friend. He ranted that several of his “friends” complained that though he was a writer, some of his posts were full of typos. What gives?

Most recently, another poster who is a total stranger ranted about people who corrected grammar when people speak. This is irritating to the extreme. I’ve seen it in movies and TV, and in real life. It’s like your annoying friend who has to show how intellectual they are.

            Back to regular texts, I’ve talked about typos in past posts, directly and indirectly but in the context of editing.

            In this article, I’ll just talk about typos specifically.

JUSS CUZ YOU’RE A WRITER…

            Maybe this goes back to the days of pen and paper or something. Think technology.

            When people had the time to manually write something with pen/pencil and paper, they had to think about what they were doing in a long-form manner. It took manual dexterity and physical ability, effort to form those letters and words. Because of that, more immediate in-the-moment thought went into every word. An experienced writer, if not on a tear, was more likely to spell correctly way back when.

            Well, maybe. Given some of the hand-written letters and manuscripts I’ve seen, that’s not always a given. There are plenty of examples of glaring typos in manuscripts. Let’s just say, sometimes an author getting on a hand-writing tear could’ve been an example of being in slower motion than in today’s world of the computer keyboard.

            Today, with keyboards, where you can type a mile a minute, it’s a lot easier to create typos. If you don’t go back over every word, every sentence, those little nasties slip by. Sometimes, EVEN WHEN YOU DO go back over what you wrote, something will slip by. This doesn’t even include thumb typing and auto correct on phones. Aaagh!

            There’s an old adage. You see what you thought, not what you wrote.

            You can be the best author in the world, or to be more realistic, the mostest, biggestest most best-selling author in the world. However, by that, you’re that way because you have an army of proofreaders and editors to back you up before any gibberish you write ever gets to print!

THERE’S SELF-EDITING AND THERE’S SPONTANEOUS

            When you’re speaking through writing, off-the-cuff, it comes with all your baggage. We all have typing quirks, no matter how good a typist we are. Some of us are a lot better than others when it comes to tapping keys. The better we are, the fewer “tot he’s” we make (that’s “to the”) or “form” instead of “from” and such… leaving letters off etc. Now, knowing or not even knowing all of our typing quirks, how many make a spontaneous burst, like on Facebook, then go back and self-edit before hitting SEND?

            Yeah, I thought so.

            How many are so sure we already did self-edit and can’t see the forest through the trees?

            How many type with their fingers or thumbs on a phone and have auto-correct as I alluded to above? Have you tried to edit some of that crap and just gave up in frustration when the app keeps trying to correct it back? Yeah, I could rant all day about apps.

REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE

            Back when I originally wrote this article in 2017, I had just launched a new Facebook page to get ready for the first Gold Series novel Lusitania Gold. The page is called Detach And His Search For Gold.

            I worked at a furious pace, did all the preliminaries, uploaded a few images, set up an initial story and had everything set. Then I sent it out and invited a bunch of friends.

            Guess what?

            After inviting what I figured was all my interested friends, I happened to glance at the title of my page.

            Deatch And His Search For Gold.

            Aaaagh! In my haste and quick edit, I misspelled Detach, the main character’s name. I’d just invited a whole bunch of friends to my page and couldn’t even get the spelling of my main character right.

            I was an established author with one book, #2 on the way, and I made a big blunder.

            Typo.

            Aaagh! Double aaagh!

            I fixed the error after going through a process with Facebook to figure out how to do it. Apparently, it wiped out all my invites and I had to do them over again. Maybe those invitees got the invite twice and thought I was dogging them. I don’t know.

            My rush, or maybe forest-through-the-trees mentality caused a semi-embarrassing typo.

            It was semi-embarrassing because I’ve been at this long enough to know that this stuff happens. You can’t beat yourself up about it.

I repeat.

            You can’t beat yourself up about it – stuff happens. So don’t let others.

DON’T LET ANYONE BEAT YOU UP FOR TYPOS, JUSS CUZZ YOU’RE AN AUTHOR

            Just because you’re an author doesn’t mean you can write letter-perfect.

            If that were the case, why would there be editors?

            I rest my case.

            Happy writing!

EVERYTHINGS A CLICHE

July 14, 2021

       I’m sure I’ve talked about this plenty of times in the past, but especially after a movie I watched the other night, everything has been done before and everything is cliché.

            Does that mean that you have nothing to write about?

            Far from it.

            Read on…

THE FIRST ORIGINAL IDEA

            Maybe the first original idea, that we know about, was chipped in stone, or painted on a cave wall. Then again, who’s to say, those authors didn’t cop the idea from someone else in the telling?

            Was their such a thing as influencing, plagiarism, or copying other’s works back in the stone age? Did anyone care?

EVERYBODY INFLUENCES EVERYBODY ELSE

            I have to digress back to rock and roll for my most memorable example.

            One time during an interview, guitarist Richie Blackmore was asked where he came up with some of his guitar licks. He said he stole many of them from other artists.

            That’s right, guitar shredder and god Richie Blackmore admitted he stole licks from other guitarists just like everyone else.

            The same is true for every artist no matter the medium.

            Whether it be directly or indirectly. We all beg, borrow or steal ideas or influences from our mentors, peers, or heroes. We emulate and are influenced in style by those we admire.

THERE’S THIS MOVIE…

            There’s this new movie that just came out.

            It’s loud, full of monsters, and full of cliches.

            It cops a lot of things from a lot of different movies.

            The critics are having a field day with how many things it stole from other movies.

            Those that loved it, including me, don’t care.

            This movie reminded me that once again, not only is everything cliché, but there are few if any original ideas. It’s a matter of how you shove everything together into your own unique blend and make it your own.

            This movie did in such a way that some thought was too close to several similar movies in the past.

            Some people took offense to this. Others could care less.

THINK OF ALL THE BOOKS

            People don’t seem to get so bent out of shape when you have thousands upon thousands of books that come out every year that do exactly the same thing. They all have a plot, they all have characters, they all have some kind of genre. They’re all full of exactly the same things you find in a thousand other similar books.

            Why aren’t people getting so upset about books doing the same thing the movies are doing. Music?

            Okay, in music there are those that sue and in very few cases, they make a case. A melody can go only so far before it becomes a complete copy. In a few cases, the artists demonstrated to a court that the twelve notes, who can be combined in a finite way, were combined in such a way as to be a direct copy. In a few cases, the court was not convinced those same twelve notes were similar enough to be considered a direct copy.

            However, when it comes to thousands upon thousands of words, there are a lot more combinations, which given the much more limited number of plots, genres etc, would seem to still give way to the same thing as music. Plagiarism. However, the big difference between melody and words is voice. I don’t mean vocal quality, but author voice.

AUTHOR VOICE

            There are a finite number of plots, then when you add in genre, it’s those same finite plots just with the face of a genre thrown in. However, what makes every single one of them unique is author voice.

            Author voice can’t be duplicated.

            What can be duplicated is the exact same place, characters, and phrasing. THEN it becomes plagiarism.

            That is so extremely rare as to be almost nonexistent.

            It can happen, but not often. I’ve never actually seen it.

            I have seen many movies that are basically the same thing, yet they’re tweaked enough to be considered different. Same plot, a lot of the same phrasing, but different actors. That’s about it.

            A lot of music is homogenized so it all sounds the same. Same phrasing, same intros, same basic structure. The vocals all have the same quality. The words all talk about the same things. The only differences are a few twists and turns in the basic musicianship and the vocal qualities. Oh, and even many of the album covers look the same. Yet, they’re all just different enough to get away with it.

            Author voice?

            The last thing you should worry about is if what you’re writing about has been done before.

            YES, IT HAS BEEN!

            The last thing you want to get hung up on is whether or not your story has been done before. What you need to concentrate on is writing what you feel, finding your own voice, but also finding your own characters. If you’re not using generic character names, fine. If you are, it might be a good idea to get on Google, or whatever, and look those names up and see if they’ve been used before. A name change might be a good idea!

            The best cure for your trepidation is to read. A lot.

            If you’re writing noir detective, read a lot of noir detective so you not only get a good feel for the genre, but have an idea what you can do so it isn’t a direct copy.

            It goes without saying if you are inspired to write a particular genre, you must love it enough for some reason to be influenced by it. That means, you probably know it well enough not to directly copy someone else. At least I hope not!

            A good healthy mix of genres isn’t such a bad thing either.

SUMMARY

            The fact is that everything is a cliché. What you need to do is figure out what you want to write and forget about the albatross hanging over your head called “am I original?” Nobody is in the big picture. However, everybody is in voice. In a way, that’s really the big picture.

            When someone browses books at the store or online, they go to the mystery section because they love mysteries. They aren’t looking for some unnamed genre that doesn’t exist. They expect mysteries. Think about it.

            Happy writing!