Writing Advice, Writing Process

What Writing Is (and is not)

Writing is not an arcane activity. You don’t need to be an expert in anything to be able to write. Having good grammar, spelling, and punctuation helps, but as long as you have a story to tell, you can write fiction. You don’t need to take a writing course or follow certain rules. You can self-publish a book, and the only critic that can deny you that option is yourself. (The only exceptions to this are that companies have policies against publishing illegal or other extremely objectionable content, but this isn’t about your writing.)

So now that I’ve talked about what writing is not, here’s what writing should be most of the time: fun. Yes it can be hard, scary, or even boring at times, but it’s often fun. Reading stories is fun, and so is writing them. Most fiction is read for entertainment purposes, and even works with great literary merit can and should be enjoyable to read (and write.) Creating a good story is hard work but so very rewarding and entertaining.

If you don’t enjoy writing, think about why not. If you do, consider why you do. Maybe it’s the genre, the characters, or the setting. If one of those really makes the words fly onto the page, keep going! If not, change one of them. Just because you like to read a certain genre of novel, doesn’t mean you will like to write in it. It’s always fun to try a genre and find out if you like writing in it.

Once you really get into a story, it tends to tell itself. Your hands type on a keyboard or move the pen, but the story just is.

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NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Process

What I’m Doing This November

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and last year, I wrote one novel and started another.

This year, I’m going to write one novel, but every day, I’m going to post what I’ve just written to this blog. My regular features will be suspended during November, so if I’m in the middle of a piece of short fiction on Fridays, it’ll resume on the first Friday in December.

I won’t have much time to revise, so there will be typos and probably plotholes in the story.

I can’t wait for November 1!

Genres, NaNoWriMo, Writing Process

Science Fiction

Because it’s May 4, I want to talk about science fiction, even though this post has nothing to do with Star Wars.

In November 2019, my NaNoWriMo novel was a sci-fi story called On Ice. It’s still in the freezer, waiting for me to take it out and revise it, but while it’s coming up to room temperature, I’d like to talk about the genre in general.


When I read sci-fi, I’m sometimes unconvinced. I think that sci-fi has great potential, but often it seems like the story is buried beneath military-style space travel, or it’s so technical that it becomes impossible to find human nature in it. There’s certainly room for talking about piloting ships and exploring the boundaries between humans and machines, but I think the mundane everyday aspects of people’s lives are often missing or underrepresented. In a universe of possibility, we need to find a balance between exploring the frontiers of technology, life, and existence, and the daily grind that I am sure even robots feel.
Besides daily life, sci-fi stories should always include relationships between characters, and also explore how those characters cope with space travel, high levels of technology, and machines with intelligence that rivals their own. How do the characters overcome hardship, become better people or robots, and how do they come to terms with the world (or worlds) around them?


Keep writing, and May the 4th be with you.

Books, Letters, Random, Short Stories, Writing Advice, Writing Analysis, Writing Process

Two Weeks

I’ve posted something each day for the last fourteen days. I find myself wanting to harmonize the spelling of “week” and “streak,” so instead of calling it a “too weak streak,” I’ll go with a “strong two-week streek.”

Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Indie April Why I Write What I’ve Learned The Choice – Part 1 The Choice – Part 2 The Choice – Part 3 The Choice – Part 4
The Choice – Part 5 The Choice – Part 6 My Writing Space and a Question for Readers Writing Advice – Dialog Attribution A Letter to the Pacific Ocean – Ocean and humans, / Pacific, no more conflict, / World without stories. Tempo The Dark Tide – Part 1
Writing Advice, Writing Process

Writing Advice – Dialog Attribution

You’ve probably heard the phrase “show, don’t tell.” I’d like to show you why I think this is good writing advice when you’re writing dialog.

Here are a few sample sentences written solely for this post.


“Not again,” she sighed.

“My best friend forever doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, and I’m completely and absolutely heartbroken,” she sighed.

“That’s hilarious!” he laughed.

“I can’t believe you bought me a new TV after all these years of saying TV was bad for me,” he laughed.

“I’m so happy to see you,” I smiled.

“I understand,” I nodded.

“I disagree,” I disagreed.


Now, try to act out these sentences. Can you sigh, laugh, smile, nod, and disagree them out loud? Do they sound natural?

“Thahahat’s hihilahariouhous!” he laughed.

“I ca-han’t be-hee-hee-lie-hieve you-hou bough-hought me-hee-hee a tee-hee-vee-hee-hee ahh-hafter all-hall thee-hee-heese yee-hears o’ say-haying tee-hee-vee-hee-hee was ba-had for me,” he laughed.

I suppose you could have a character laugh a sentence like tha-hahahaha-hat, but then you don’t need to say that he’s laughing; it’s already there.

I don’t know about you, but I had a really hard time nodding anything except “yes.” I also found it physically impossible to smile what I wanted to say.

I think that what people really mean when they write things like that is that the character is nodding or smiling before, during, or after speaking. The problem is how it’s being written. You could certainly go with these.

“I understand,” I said and nodded.

I nodded and said, “I understand.”

“I’m so happy to see you,” I said. You don’t need to include the fact that you’re smiling; it’s built into the phrase “I’m so happy.” You only need to include it if it’s at odds with what your character is saying.

I frowned and said, “I’m so happy to see you.”

As for sighing and laughing, you can definitely do that with one or two words, but it gets harder to believe the longer your sentence is. I think it should also be limited to a few instances in your story to keep things more realistic and less repetitive.

If you want people in your stories to sigh and laugh, they can do so, just like they can nod.

He laughed and said, “That’s hilarious!”

“Ha! That’s hilarious!”

Reader sighed and said, “I hate writing advice. I’m going home.”

“Please, stay just a little longer,” Hyacinth said. “We haven’t talked about the verb ‘to disagree.’ When your character says, ‘I disagree’ in the dialog, you don’t need to add that verb into the attribution. You can use the verb ‘to say,’ or if it’s clear who’s speaking, you don’t even need an attribution.”


Are you interested in more writing advice topics? If so, please leave a comment.

Are there times when “show, don’t tell” causes you headaches? I’d love to hear about your writing experiences.

Writing Process

My Writing Space and a Question for Readers

I write best when I’m alone. Whether it’s a blog post or a novel, I can write anywhere, as long as nobody else is in the room. In practice, that means my home office, where my computer lives.

I don’t need anything special. As long as I have a computer and am not too hot or cold, I can usually write. I don’t try to cultivate a certain atmosphere in my writing area, because When I write, I tend to disappear into my “zone,” so I don’t really notice my surroundings so much. It’s usually fairly easy for me to get into that special place where writing happens, but I do sometimes have trouble. I often find that when I’m writing, especially if it’s something new, the beginning of it ends up needing a lot of revision and rewriting, but I’d rather do that than not write at all.


Now, I have a question for you. What kinds of posts would you like to read on my blog? Please leave a comment below. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, please send me a private message via my

Contact Form

. Suggestions sent privately, if used, will be credited to a Reader. If I use a suggestion from a public comment, I will credit you using the name shown in the comment.

Writing Process

What I’ve Learned

  1. Blogging is a great sport.
  2. Reading about writing makes me want to write more.
  3. I can rarely resist an upgrade.
  4. I should pay attention to things I don’t know about, such as using tags in blog posts, because doing so could bring more people to my website.
  5. Trying a suggestion, such as writing a list for this “Everyday Inspirations” writing course, can give me writing experiences I might not have thought of.
Writing Process

Why I Write

I write because I enjoy writing. I also deeply feel the need to express myself through the written word. Writing helps me to deal with my emotions in a safe and liberating way.


Let’s take the current coronavirus pandemic as an example. I don’t want to blog or tweet about how I feel about it. I’m saving up those emotions and putting them into future books. I can write an entire novel about somebody living through a pandemic or I can have characters in my detective series be concerned about, talk about, or even come down with COVID-19. I can decide exactly what happens in the fictional words that I create with my own mind and with the help of hands and keyboard. I can both work through how I feel about things and control what happens in my stories. I’ve heard that one way of dealing with difficult events is to take one thing that we can control and control it a lot. I think that my power to write is my way of controling something and I also have something at the end — a finished novel!


There’s another extremely important reason that I write: it is just plain fun. There’s one book in my detective series where a character comes up with a plan to get out of a bad situation. The adrenalin rush I got writing that, and that I’ll probably get again when I revise it is as good as the thrill of reading such a book. Knowing what was going to happen didn’t diminish the thrill at all. In fact, I think it made it even more fun, because I knew the outcome, but not how I’d manage to get there.


I also tend to fall in love with characters. They aren’t real, but in my mind, they are. I write to find out what happens to them. Sure, I can decide what happens to them in my head and never write it down, but having their lives on paper (well, okay, on my computer) is more profound than just keeping them in my thoughts. And when the book gets ordered, printed, and sent to a customer, those lives that I have created with my imagination take on even more meaning.


The reason that I blog is because I love talking about writing. I’d like you to know that writing is a pleasure and to try it, not tomorrow, but right now. I also blog because I enjoy sharing my experiences writing. It’s also nice to have some content on my site in between books, which take a heck of a lot longer to write than a blog post!

Books, Booksellers, NaNoWriMo, Writing Process

Indie April

This is the first Indie April for me as a new author. I have heard mixed opinions about self-publishing, and this blog post is an examination of some of them.

Is it hard work, or is it just vanity? You may have heard the term “vanity publishing,” meaning that anybody with money can have a book published. It is true that money is needed, and it’s also possible for anybody to publish a book. So depending on the Author, it could involve hard work, vanity, or both. Most Authors put their heart and soul into their books. This can be both a good and a bad thing. The writer knows the story or the topic, but often, they don’t see the big picture and don’t realize there are plot holes, typos, or other problems with the book. Hiring an Editor is a good way to fix those things, and many Authors do so.

There are also different reasons people have for publishing a book. Some may want to do so as a project with their kids, and I think this is a great educational project. If you’d like more information for young writers, please visit

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

. I’m also working on a children’s book and a website for young readers. Please visit

Hyacinth Grey’s Books for Young Readers (HGB4YR.com)

.

Another reason people self-publish is to see their name on a book. Call it vanity, call it a dream come true, or call it good news because books written in “vanity” might turn out to be great reads!

No matter how you’re published, you still need to do the hard work of writing. Yes, you pay an Editor to edit your work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any more work. Sure, you could accept all of the changes without even reading through your manuscript, but Editors are human beings, and they could have misunderstood something you wrote, asked a question in their comments that you might want to answer by rewriting part of a chapter, or they might have made a typo.

No matter what their reasons are for publishing a book, almost all Authors engage in hard work at every step of the publication process. Furthermore, hard work and vanity are not mutually exclusive.

Many Authors write because they love to do so. Writing a book can be great fun, and even though it is also work, it’s rewarding, and I think that very few people write for money alone. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, and it takes patience and practice, just like any other skill. The first song you played on the guitar probably sounded about as good as the first short story you wrote; hesitant, with a lot of pauses and some strange notes, but it was your first, and it started you down the road to playing that song that had your audience sellbound, or that book that won several literary awards. Yes, there may be people who publish that first draft of their first story and then, once they’re holding a copy of it in their hands, never write another word, but they may find they enjoy writing. It may also be that that one story was the one they needed to tell, even if it may not be considered the best or even good, it was a personal experience that person needed to have. Readers have a choice to buy the book or not, and because anybody can publish a book, it means there’s always going to be something good for everyone.

If you’re thinking about writing a book, pick up a pen and some paper, or open a blank document. No matter what your reasons are for wanting to do so, today is the day, whatever the hour, now is the moment.

Once you finish it, I recommend

FriesenPress

.

Please support me and other Indie Authors this month and throughout the year, by visiting the

FriesenPress Online Bookstore

. My book,

Wounded Bride

, is available in Paperback, Hardcover, and eBook editions. There is also a Teaser Trailer video, and you can find it here on

YouTube

.

Writing Process

Write about what you know

Lots of people say to write about what you know. This is good advice, or is it?


What is “know” anyway?

How much would you need to know about something to be considered knowledgeable on that topic, and who decides this? I probably don’t know a great deal about engineering, but I could learn enough about it to make a character convincing as an engineer without needing to become one myself. I could also write about characters who are writers. I haven’t published in every genre yet, so if I wrote about a character who had published ten romances I wouldn’t be writing about something I have lived. If the measure of “knowing” means to have lived something, then that is a huge limitation of what people are “allowed” to write about, as most people haven’t lived more than one or two careers.


The best thing to do?

Isn’t writing about what we know and have lived what we should do? Yes and no. People who have had unusual experiences can benefit from that knowledge and put it into their characters. Readers will enjoy that. But…


It’s Fiction

If we wrote only about what we knew, then fantasy, science fiction, and most other fiction wouldn’t be written. The very nature of the stories we tell means that we don’t need to “know” anything to imagine them. Yes it helps to have some medical knowledge to write a realistic medical thriller, but Google is able and willing to answer most questions people can ask. You don’t need to become a doctor in order to write a medical thriller. You don’t need a definition of “knowing” to be able to write any kind of fiction.


Conclusion

Writing what you know best might help you get started. This can be writing about a character who has a similar career to yours, or writing in a genre you’ve read a lot of. But there’s no limit to your imagination, so take what you know, and what you don’t know, and put them together into that place in your mind where inspiration, imagination, fantasy, and reality converge.