Write Without Fear

It sometimes takes a while for the topic of these posts to come to mind. This one had come from a seed of an idea that I had earlier in the week.

The seed wasn’t quite what I was looking for – although I didn’t know it at the time. Back on Tuesday, I was thinking, “Post idea. Awesome.”

So it took a bit of time to coalesce, but coalesce it did – while I was washing dishes on Saturday morning.

Sidebar: That housework? It’s not always procrastinating. Ok, A LOT of the time it totally is procrastinating, BUT whether it is or not, those semi-mindless tasks help ideas bubble up from the subconscious soup.

The idea that formed was to take a look at various pieces of writing “Advice/lore/rules” and examine what they mean to me.

The initial idea back on Tuesday was part of that, so I’m going to kick things off with the first half of:

“Write Without Fear – Edit Without Mercy.”

What do you think of when you read “Write without Fear?”

For me, this means a couple of things. I’ll start with the hardest for me.

Write without worrying about what other people might think about it.

This worry is at the heart of every time I’ve ever wondered if I was “Good Enough.”

Good Enough for whom?

I already know (and I hope that you do too) that I’m never going to please everybody with something I’ve written – no matter how good it is. The simple fact is that there are some folks who are going to bounce off what I’ve written. And this holds true for every story. And the real kicker is that just because someone dug (or bounced off of) the last story, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to dig (or bounce off of) the next one.

I can’t keep up with that. I know this, objectively, but the thought is there. “Write without Fear” by itself, is too simplistic. It doesn’t take into account the amount of work it takes to…Not “Get there” – because I don’t think that worry will ever go away. I base that statement on accounts from well established writers who mention that they worry about this sometimes.

But let’s call it the amount of work it takes to get past that point. And it does take work – and practice. Consider a guitar: six strings. That’s it. You can press them in specific combinations, strum or pick some of the strings or all of them. So pick up the guitar and play.

Ridiculous right? You’ve got to work at that. Practice that. Develop the skill. That’s what it takes to get to the point where you Write without Fear.

This next is no less work but, somehow, easier for me. It ties in with the earlier idea about writing things that are different from you, or that you don’t know much about. It fits in with “Write without Fear” Like this:

You’re going to have to write the thing eventually, so jump right on in.

We can’t know everything about everything, so there are going to be instances where you need to include something in your work that you don’t know much about at all.

Naturally, the first thing you’re going to want to do is research that thing. Check it out, get down and roll around in all that knowledge. Let it soak in.

But remember: No amount of research is going to get anything Actually Written. One day, you’re going to have to write the thing, and when you do, just write it.

Kinda like how you’re standing on the edge of a dock, above waters that you want to swim in, but you know are going to be cold in the beginning.

Best to jump right in and not prolong it.

Begin. That’s the hardest part, and once you’ve started, Write without Fear.

Note: This doesn’t mean that when you’re done, you won’t have to run that past some people who are actual experts. Write and accept that you’re going to get it wrong in some spots. And when folk point out where you got it wrong, you fix it.

It’s a process – one where you’re learning as you go – but you’ve got to kick it off by jumping into the work with both feet and getting down to it.

This too is a skill as much as it is grim determination to get past that first step – to leap off the dock. Dropping into the water is unavoidable once you’ve gone past that point – and you know that you’re going to have a good time swimming.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

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Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

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Five Thing Thursday: September 24th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: Being ahead of schedule is awesome. I wonder how long I can keep it up.

Thing #2: The Next installment of my Monthly Newsletter is going to go live in just 7 days. If you want to keep up with what I’m up to, where, I’m going to be (Virtually or otherwise), and more, you can sign up via the finely-crafted link at the top of the page.

Thing #3: Amaranthe – Another one of my favorite bands has a new single out from their upcoming (October 2nd) album: Manifest. I’ve already pre-ordered. There’s some good stuff here. go treat your ears.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Amaranthe

Thing #5: I don’t know why it took me up until now to realize that I could use Google Drive to work on these posts, since I’ve got it on every freaking platform I own…

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What am  I reading this week?

A Big Ship at the End of the Universe by Alex White

Trapped by Kevin Hearne

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Autumn is coming. Truly one of my favorite seasons. I’ve been spending more evenings outside with a darker beer and just being.

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Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe. Be Excellent to each other.

Thanks for reading.

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Backstory

Every character has a past.

When you set out to tell a story, you’re starting at a particular moment in your character’s lives, but what about everything that went on before? It’s been said that the sum total of our pasts comes together to make us who we are today and the same thing goes for your characters.

Like always, there are lots of different ways to go about figuring out who your characters are and where they came from. Some writers make it up as they go, keeping notes to keep themselves internally consistent. Other writers (Myself included) prefer to do this before hand.

Coming up with a character’s backstory is an integral part of character creation for me – equally important to their physical description, and developing a 50 word description. While I don’t write pages and pages of backstory, I do get pretty in depth.

Now your mileage may vary, but this is my approach. I start out with the time they were born. This actually isn’t as time consuming as you might think. By the time I get this far, I’ve got this character in my head for the most part and coming up with a time isn’t that hard for me. It’s more than just plucking a time out of the aether, the character’s personality has something to do with it.

Along with the time, I make sure to include their parents – up to the point where I’ve created names for them. From there, I describe their childhood – and I’m painting with broad strokes here: Was it like for little Character as they grew up? Were they happy? ignored? Abused? Doted upon? Spoiled? Did they have any siblings? How did they get along? What was the age difference? That kind of stuff.

From there, I move onto what they were interested in, and their education (Both in school and what Life has taught them).

Again, I don’t get down to the granular level. I’m focusing on a few defining moments and how the character reacts to them. Part of this comes from work done earlier where I’m asking myself questions about what this character likes to do and what are the tings that are important to them. The nifty part of this is that the two parts of this process influence each other. If something in the backstory makes more sense for the character, it can change other decisions I’ve made earlier. The point is to be flexible.

A word of caution: You’re going to be spending time on this and you may be tempted to put as much of it as you can into the story. Don’t do that. Like world building, you should view character backstory like an iceberg. The reader only needs to see the ten percent that’s above the surface.

You, the author need to know the other ninety percent so that you can make informed decisions.

Say your character speaks more than one language. That adds a bit of depth to that character. Now say they do it reflexively under certain circumstances – anger, whispering endearing terms, etc. It’s enough for the reader to know that it happens but you, as the author need to know why it happens.

The work is worth doing so that you have a good idea of how your characters are going to act in a given situation. Knowing about what went on before to make them who they are today can be invaluable as you’re writing. Additionally, you never know what might be important. That little bit of a character’s past that you brainstormed up, may turn out to be useful later on.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

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Five Thing Thursday: September 17th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: It’s been a week. I want you to know that it’s ok to take time for yourself to recover/recharge. So if, (like I am) you’re feeling guilty about slowing down or stopping briefly, Remember: Your Work – that thing that you do *Cannot* happen without *You.* Take care of yourself.

Thing #2: The Women’s Rugby Podcast is back for a second season! You can give them a listen here.

Thing #3: I’m finding brainstorming (out loud or not) with myself, in an environment where I don’t normally write to be pretty helpful when I get stuck.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Godsmack

Thing #5: Mornings are definitely “Heavy Sock” time now, and I’m here for it.

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What am  I reading this week?

A Big Ship at the End of the Universe by Alex White

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Like I said above, it’s been a week and while I’m getting the right *Amount* of sleep, I’m not always getting it at the right time (OK, I’ve stayed up much past my bedtime) and that’s having an impact on the rest of my world, so I’m going to try and settle that score this weekend.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe. Be Excellent to each other.

Thanks for reading.

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Find What Colors

I did a lot of work yesterday. Purely physical stuff, cleaning out stalls, mowing, etc. and this morning I’m still coasting on the mental high.

During the later part of last evening, I started to examine why it was I felt so good about doing all that work.

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to take a step back. Over the past few days, I’d been running into a concept that kept pinging off my consciousness. Nothing overwhelming, just little bits of an idea that struck and kinda…chimed. Think of a wind chime: That tinkling ping of noise and, if the sun hits it just right, a bit of color.

Without getting into the nuts and bolts of it, I’ve always believed that if you notice a recurring thing in the randomness of life, it might be a good idea to pause and give it some consideration.

That recurring thing revolved around breaking free – pursuing those things that bring me joy and add color to life.

Back when I started this blog–

Sidebar: It’ll be five years ago, come October.

I talked about a concept that I’d called the “Meh” of the day to day. You can find it here. Granted, that was under vastly different circumstances, but I think that with everything that’s been going on lately, there’s been a build-up of “Meh” that has been sucking the color out of the world lately.

I’ve seen it happening out there. Folk jokingly mentioning that they don’t know what day it is most times, one day flowing into another that’s just like it.

And I’ve identified so hard with that.

So what happened?

First, there was the notion of “Breaking free” that kept chipping away at the layers of “Meh” surrounding me. Then there was the idea of pursuing the things that bring you joy. That was part of what contributed to my decision to mow the lawn.

I know that seems like an odd transition, but hear me out:

I need music like I need to breathe. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, this wont come as any kind of surprise. The thing is, I haven’t been listening to much of it lately. There have been other things: Audio books and podcasts mostly.

But I can’t hear any of that over the sound of the tractor – so I switched over to music. Now I’ve got a lot of things on my playlist – you never know what you’re going to be in the mood for. Turns out, I was in the mood for loud and familiar. If it didn’t instantly grab me, I skipped right past it.

I wanted songs that hit me. Music that reached into me and played my spine like a seventh string.

And I got it. I broke free to the sounds of grinding guitar and the thunder of drums.

Color flooded back into the world and I no longer had tasks to do, I had challenges. Things I hadn’t planned on doing, became things I wanted to test myself against.

That’s why I’m feeling so good this morning. Not because I did a bunch of physical labor, but because the scales have fallen away. The world isn’t any different, but I’m seeing it differently.

If you’re reading this (Thanks), I want you to find that thing that brings you joy and turn that up as loud as you can for as long as you can. You might not have it in you to go for very long and that’s fine. Duration isn’t the point. Getting the juices flowing again is what matters. Sloughing off the buildup of meh is what matters.

Bringing the color back into the world is what matters.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

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Five Thing Thursday: September 10th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: There are so many good books being released, from so many fabulous people. Go great yourself to one.

Thing #2: I am, at the same time, not ready to start including socks as part of my daily wardrobe, and kinda looking forward to it.

Thing #3: In retrospect, it kinda is funny when you put the electric blanket on the bed, only flipped so that your controller warms the other side of the bed…

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Blind Guardian

Thing #5: There is nothing wrong with a mid-day spot of coffee. At least that’ll be my opinion up until it’s time to go to sleep – then we’ll see

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What am  I reading this week?

A Big Ship at the End of the Universe by Alex White

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Rugby is back on in the UK! Almost all of it is being played in closed stadiums, but it’s back! Also, I’m reading more – dedicating at least 30 minutes a night every night to the TBR pile and that feels good.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe. Be Excellent to each other.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5-Thing Thursday | Tagged | Leave a comment

Multi-Tasking

I’ve never done this before, but this year has been full of all kinds of firsts, so why not try something new, right?

For the first time, I’m working on two projects at the same time.

For those of you who know me, this is going to come as a bit of a surprise. For those of you that don’t know me, I am a linear writer. So much so that if I get stuck on something, I’m stopped until I figure out my way through it. Working on more than one project is something of a massive departure for me and I’m having mixed feeling about it.

On one hand, I can see how it could be a useful skill to have. Developing the flexibility to switch projects without needing a lot of time to get into a particular headspace can be invaluable.

On the other hand, the feeling of something left undone is present, like a stone in your shoe. You might not always feel it, but it’s there and you’ll feel it soon enough.

There’s a part of me that’s worried that I’ll lose my grip on the story that I’m not working on at the minute – whichever one that is.

I’m adjusting to it by keeping reminders of each story around, and so far that’s working.

Now, the second project is of shorter length than the first – a Novella, rather than a full Novel. I don’t know if the difference in length makes it easier to manage. Might be that it’s just a matter of scale. I don’t know if I can juggle two novels at a time. One day I might be keen to give it a shot.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Posted in Challenges | Tagged | Leave a comment

Five Thing Thursday: September 3rd.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: I should probably watch more movies.

Thing #2: The latest newsletter went live on the First. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m up to, you can sign up, using the finely-crafted link at the top of the page.

Thing #3: My left hand may not be good for much more than keeping my left wrist from fraying at the end, but it can twirl a drumstick.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Unleash the Archers

Thing #5: Related to Thing #3: When I’m trying to puzzle something out about a work in progress, I will often pace while twirling a drumstick in my hand. I find it helpful to be doing something requiring relatively low processing cycles. The ideas will bubble up to the surface.

I still won’t call it an idea-stick.

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What am  I reading this week?

A Big Ship at the End of the Universe by Alex White

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Rugby is back on in the UK! Almost all of it is being played in closed stadiums, but it’s back! Also, I’m reading more – dedicating at least 30 minutes a night every night to the TBR pile and that feels good.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe. Be Excellent to each other.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5-Thing Thursday | Tagged | Leave a comment

Research

One of the great joys of writing is doing research on a project. If you spend any time at all around writers, eventually you’ll hear the topic of conversation swing briefly to research. Most of the time this comes in the form of strange subjects or how someone’s search history has probably landed them on some kind of “Watch list.”

And that’s cool. Researching for stories makes us all fonts of unusual knowledge. Go ahead, ask me about explosive decompression, or what would happen to you if you were exposed to the vacuum of space.

But how much is too much?

Certainly you want to be able to show that you know what you’re talking about. Getting the details right is a necessity. Additionally, you’ve put a lot of work into the research and you want to put that work in to your story without piling it on top of your reader through unending exposition or dialogue.

So you’re looking for the coolest, most piercing bits of information for your readers to chew on. You want that cool little bit of knowledge to gleam on the page. You also want the reader who happens to know something about what you’ve researched to think, “Yes, they got that right!”

But how do you know when you’ve done enough? How do you know that you’ve got it down?

The first thing you’ve got to do is remind yourself that you’re not writing a dissertation on the subject. At least not right now. Who knows, someday you might, but right now you’ve got a story to write.

For me, it comes down to how much actual time I’m spending researching vs. time spent writing. Naturally, when you’re beginning your research, you’re going to be closer to the researching end of the scale. But as you progress, you’re going to slide toward the writing side of the scale.

Sidebar: Ok, my metaphor is going to fall apart here, because the sliding scale – for me at least – implies some kind of eventual balance between researching and writing, but I don’t see it that way. There’s going to be a point where most – if not all – of what I’m doing is writing.

If, after that initial dive into the subject, I find myself spending all my writing time digging up nuggets of minutiae, session after session, I know that I’ve gone too far and that I need to reel myself back.

Certainly those nuggets are valuable. They’re like bits of Literary Gold, but they have to do more than just look shiny. They have to *Belong* in the story somewhere.

Like Worldbuilding, Research is an iceberg. The reader is only going to see the 10% above the surface but you, as the author, need to know about the 90% that the reader might only get the barest glimpse of.

And I know that sounds like a lot of work is going to waste, but it really isn’t. First, you never can tell what’s going to turn out to be useful, what’s going to help you dig yourself out of the corner that you’ve written yourself into.

Second, it will impart the sense of a deeper, more fully realized world that your characters are moving through.

Believe me, research is time well spent – as long as you don’t end up spending all of your time doing it and not, you know, writing.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Posted in Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Five-Thing Thursday: August 27th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: Unleash the Archers has a new Album out. It’s called Abyss. Go check it out!

Thing #2: Even after 50 years, one of the hardest things for me to learn is to accept that sometimes the schedule shifts a bit, for a moment, and that’s ok.

Thing #3: Focus on the truly important stuff and you’ll be fine.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Unleash the Archers

Thing #5: I have come to the realization that my days of blithely slotting a movie at Midnight and expecting to be awake at the end of it have come to an end. Star Warzzzzzz…..

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What am  I reading this week?

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

I’ve been trying to keep to a regular schedule and am having mixed success with it (See Thing #2). Still sleep is the priority. And I’m reading more – dedicating at least 30 minutes a night every night to the TBR pile and that feels good.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe. Be Excellent to each other.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5-Thing Thursday | Tagged | Leave a comment