December 25, 2019

Non-Writing Advice for Weary Writers

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!

To all you good writerly girls and boys (and the bad ones, I suppose), I offer this advice. Not writing advice, though. That's overplayed. No, I offer good, sound advice to make your life easier, which will, in turn, make your writing better.

1) Don’t worry about “making it”.

What does “making it” even mean? Landing an agent? Being published? Being a best seller? And what is “it”? A novel? A published novel? Life as a professional writer? I think that we’re all in this writing game for different reasons, but mainly for the love of it—by which mean writing. We don’t set out to “make it” profitable or marketable, because we don’t write for the profit or for the market. We write for us. You write for you. Are you writing? Then you’ve made something, and that’s good enough.

December 10, 2019

Common Misconceptions About Character

Characters are the heart and soul of any story, so it makes sense that those of us who write or analyze stories focus much of our time on the ins and outs of character and characterization. Yet a lot of this analysis ignores certain types of storytelling, unfairly idealizing some story and character types over others. Worse than that, even, is that which misunderstands the relationship between an author and their characters. I've noticed three particular misconceptions which crop up the most, and I have a theory as to where they come from (Hint: it's moralism!).

November 17, 2019

Library Life Update

Salutations, dear readers! I'm a little late, as you can tell, but not without reason.

October, as you may know if you follow me on Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram, was very busy, what with my being a writer-in-residence for my library, picking up a million shifts, doing a craft fair, and attending a wedding. I hadn't had an actual, unclaimed-by-various-obligations day off since the beginning of November.

My life isn't going to calm down anytime soon, though, owing to my new job. That's right! I am no longer a library specialist! I am now a fully fledged, honest-to-goodness librarian (I would have said card-carrying, but isn't that all of us?). Technically, I'm also a library director though I prefer "Librarian" as my titlebecause I'm now in charge of the Williams Public Library.

October 30, 2019

Thoughts on Twists

Every story ever told can be broken down into three parts. The beginning. The middle. And the twist!
Goosebumps (2015)

There's something about a good plot twist: the shock, the awe, the feeling of having your world turned upside down. A good twist might make you see a character in a new light, or rethink everything you thought you knew about the setting. A bad twist, on the other hand, can ruin an otherwise decent story. Bad twists feel cheap and stupid, and make what might have been good, even great stories into muddled and unbelievable messes. So what makes a twist good or bad?

October 16, 2019

Video Games as Interactive Storytelling

As previously established, video games are a worthwhile form of storytelling, combining the best aspects of books, movies, and comics. They are unique among mediums, however, for being a truly interactive form of media. They are games, after all, and thus incorporate aspects play and choice.


Because you, the player, control the character, you experience the world as if you were in it, much more than in any other medium. You explore the environment. You fight the boss, and experience the struggle of battle. You help various NPCs, or non-player characters, with tasks. You make friends and allies, and fight alongside them. Although I never like my favorite characters getting hurt in any medium, when people attack my allies in video games, it's personal.

September 20, 2019

Poem: Writer's Block

First of all, let me apologize for not posting on Wednesday, and secondly, for this not being the follow up video game post. I've been swamped with work and other obligations and haven't been able to focus on putting together coherent ideas. Also, there is a current discussion in the gaming community (namely, must games have an easy mode if they are story-focused?) that I think I ought to address in my post. That being said, the poor little post hasn't been written yet. In the meantime, please enjoy this poem I wrote a few months back.

Writer’s Block

September 5, 2019

Video Games as Textual, Audiovisual, Spatial Storytelling

Video games are worth your while and are a unique form of storytelling. Games combine the best aspects of books, movies, and comics, while offering one other element, which we’ll get to later. First, let’s talk about games’ use of textual, audiovisual, and spatial storytelling.

Text and Subtext

Like a book, many games use text to tell their story. Older games rarely had voice acting, instead having each character’s words written or typed out on the screen. Games that now have voice acting still usually reserve it for cutscenes and use text for the majority of encounters in the game. This is somewhat equivalent to a comic’s use of speech balloons.

August 22, 2019

Comics as Visual, Spatial Storytelling

Comics are worth your while, and are a unique form of storytelling. We've already discussed books as verbal storytelling and movies as audiovisual temporal storytelling, so what of comics? Comics—which includes comic books, graphic novels, webcomics, manga, and even comic strips—employ semi-verbal, visual, and spatial storytelling. 

A Way with Words

Like movies and plays, comics don't rely on words to tell their story. In fact, there are graphic novels out there that use no language at all. They are still semi-verbal, however, because the vast majority of them include words in the form of dialogue—usually in white balloons—narration, sound effects, and other uses of text.

August 7, 2019

Movies and Plays as Audiovisual, Temporal Storytelling

Movies and plays are worth your while, and are a unique form of storytelling (Yes, that is almost exactly how I opened my last post; this is a series, after all!). Now, theoretically, I should talk about these two mediums separately, as they have some major differences. I could even do another post about TV shows as a sequential form of movies, but I think "serial storytelling" will have to be a topic for the far future. I believe, however, that these two mediums have much more in common than they have different.

Movies and playsincluding musicals and TV shows as welluse semi-verbal, visual, temporal, and auditory storytelling.

July 24, 2019

Books as Verbal Storytelling

Drink tea, read books, be happy.
Books are worth your while, and are a unique form of storytelling. I probably don't have to convince most of you of that, since you're probably following this blog as someone familiar with The Styx Trilogy or my short stories. Also, I'd wager that most people think that books are important. But what makes them unique? Why read—or write—a book instead of watching a movie or playing a video game?

Lets begin with the basics. Books—and I'm going to include novels, book series, and even short stories under this umbrella—use verbal storytelling. They are the only medium to be completely without a visual component. This means that the author must choose his words carefully in order to convey what the characters, scenes, or actions look like to the audience. At the same time, there is a natural disconnect between what the author sees in his mind's eye and what the reader will imagine. This is a good thing. Each reader will have a somewhat unique experience of the book, while still getting most of what the author intended.

July 10, 2019

Reader Viewer Gamer Spy

Ok, maybe not that last one, but anyway...

If you've hung around this blog long enough, you've likely noticed that I tend to talk about "stories" more often than books, and that I use games, manga, and movies as well as written works to discuss writing concepts. This is because I think all those stories, in whatever medium, have something interesting to say, or something worth examining. Yet there exists no decent word for a person such as myself, a lover of stories, if you will.

June 25, 2019

The Obligatory Strong Female Character Post

What constitutes a "strong female character" (or SFC for short). As a person on the internet, I’m obligated to weigh in on this. Everybody’s doing it! But what do we mean by “strong”? Is a strong person the same as a strong character? And do we need more SFCs in fiction?

June 10, 2019

Libraries Are a Writer's Best Friend

There are a lot of resources out there for writers, from helpful websites to books to workshops, but the oddly overlooked one, in this day and age, is libraries. I'll chock this up to people assuming they can find everything they need on the internet (which, to be fair, is mostly true) or to thinking that libraries and physical books are passé (which is blatantly false). Sadly, many writers—who, if they do well, will have their books in libraries someday—don't understand how much libraries can offer them, for free.

May 28, 2019

MacGuffins Matter

If you know what a MacGuffin is, you're probably thinking that they actually don't matter in the slightest and that I'm full of nonsense. If you don't know what a MacGuffin is, here's a definition from Merriam-Websteran object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance. The most famous example is the Maltese Falcon, in the film of the same name. It sets the plot in motion, in that every character wants the statue for himself, but lacks intrinsic value in that "the Maltese Falcon" could be swapped out for the treasure of your choice: the Abyssinian Monkey, the Peruvian Chinchilla, the MacGuffian Beast.

May 15, 2019

Writing Q & A #3

For this Q & A, I combined two short "Asks" from my Tumblr. Feel free to use these questions, as well as those from the first two Q & As, in your own blogging, fellow writers!

Poetry Questions

Q: Do you tend to focus more on word play or imagery in your poems?
A: I do a little of both. Although I like stark, clear images, I tend to write about abstract concepts, which don't always lend themselves to imagery. I'm actually not that into metaphors, but I love using wordplay to create connections between unlike concepts instead.

May 8, 2019

One-Third Year's Resolution

As of last week, one third of 2019 has past! As far as New Year's Resolutions go, I'm doing... okay. My goal, if you recall, was that every week I would write something, outline something, research or edit something, and take or make one picture for social media. I also decided on doing two of any one of those four things, so that I would, in total, do five writing-related activities every week. Pretty quickly, however, I began missing goals. I didn't outline one week and bumped it to the next, or I only wrote half a blog post, or just... didn't write or outline anything! Technically speaking, I pretty much failed at my resolution by February at the earliest or mid-March at the latest.

May 1, 2019

Editing Advice Part 4: Copyediting

Now that you have checked your WIP for continuity, addressed every plot hole, and finished all rewrites, it's time to put on the final touches by copyediting!

Now, just to be clear, the term "copyediting" usually refers to when an editor, not the writer, reads the manuscript looking for errors, and it actually does include a lot of continuity editing and fact checking. But this series is for writers editing their own work before another soul reads it (regardless of if the work will then be self-published or sent out to agents and editors). It is my belief that, for a writer, continuity editing should come long before the final stage of the editing process. Thus, for our purposes, I'm going to use "copyediting" to refer to correcting errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other such things.

Obviously, this involves going through your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, on the lookout for misspellings and typos. However, there are a few items to especially  watch for, roughly broken down into the categories of spelling; grammar, usage, and style; and punctuation, spacing, and everything else.

April 18, 2019

Editing Advice Part 3: Rewriting

Last time, we discussed how to address plot holes and keep world building internally consistent. Today, I will share my thoughts on rewriting, specifically on when you should rewrite, and when you should stop. I should mention, though, that parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series can and should be done simultaneously. That is, while you're rewriting, you can fix plot holes and issues with timing, and when you're looking at some inconsistencies in world building, you might find a section you need to rewrite. So the first answer to "when should I rewrite" is "when you have to fix the problems with continuity, world building, and plot".

But what about in general? First of all, what do I mean by rewriting? I'm not talking about tweaking a sentence here or there, or find/replacing a character's name, nor am I talking about changing the details of how a certain magical creature looks or wether the moon should be waxing or waning in one scene. I'm talking about full on changes to scenes, chapters, or entire books. This is hardcore stuff. Fun, but hardcore. First, let's talk about dealing with different drafts.

April 3, 2019

Editing Advice Part 2: Plot

Part 1: Continuity
Part 3: Rewriting
Part 4: Copyediting

Last time, I discussed the importance of editing for continuity in the categories of time, place, and people. This week, we're going to focus on the plot-centered issues of internal consistency and plot holes. The line between these two categories is vague at best, but I'm still going to discuss them separately. For our purposes, let's say an internal inconsistency is a problem with the world building and a plot hole is a problem with the plot (as the name implies).

April 1, 2019

Fan Art Round-Up!

I've received some fan art recently, and not so recently, so I thought I'd make a little round-up post about it.

The Tumblr user a-whole-lotta-heck drew an adorable Roly PoliceChief for Goblin Week (Did you know there is a goblin week? There is!), and the-greedy-king drew the lovely Delilah wearing her favorite dress.

I also received several character sketches (I especially like Delilah, who does do whatever she wants!) from Adreon Williams, as well as a heartfelt letter illustrated with the whole cast: 

March 20, 2019

Editing Advice Part 1: Continuity

Part 2: Plot
Part 3: Rewriting
Part 4: Copyediting

Although I said I wouldn't be giving writing advice on this blog, I never said anything about editing advice. Plenty of people give (unhelpful, short-sighted, or far too niche) writing advice, but few focus on the crucial final part of the writing process, and yet, editing is what gives a lot of writers the most trouble. I personally love editing far more than the initial writing stage and so am here to offer my advice in not one, not two, not even three, but fouryes four!blog posts!

First, let's look at continuity, in three categories: Time, Place, and People. Technically, you ought to keep continuity in mind throughout the writing process, but it's still easy to forget one or two things. Thus, when you finally decide "I'm going to edit this WIP!", you need to double check that everything is consistent, not just from a plot standpoint, but from a spacial, chronological, and personal standpoint as well.

March 11, 2019

The Music of Styx!

Last week, I received a special treat. A reader, Aaron V., sent me musical compositions he had written that were inspired by my books! All authors dream of getting fan art, but fan music is more than I ever hoped for! With Aaron's permission, I thought I'd share his compositions with all of you:

March 5, 2019

Why I'm Running Off to Become a Hermit

Okay, okay, so I'm not really running off to become a hermit, no matter how much I want to, but I am doing the modern-day, cyber equivalent. Let me explain.

Last week I got up early, opened my curtains for probably the first time in several months, and sat in the sun, typing up a blog post. A thought hit me: "Wow, it's so quiet!" It was warm enough that the heater was momentarily off; no music or videos were playing in the background, no one was talking. It was so peaceful, so non-distracting. I got a lot of writing done that morning, because I could actually focus on writing, rather than noise.

February 20, 2019

Magic by Any Other Name

I, like most fantasy writers, think a lot about magic. I mean, a lot. I love thinking about different magical systems and how they work, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they can be employed to make the coolest story possible. Dark magic, light magic, elemental magic, you name it. Magic cast with wands, or words, or motions. Magic that comes from special creatures or from the hearts or minds of humans. I love magic. What I don't love is when writers have weird hang-ups about magic.

The most notorious example of this is when a character says something along the lines of "It's not magic, it's bending/semblance/alchemy/etc." I assume this is an attempt by the writers to make their magic system seem more interesting and original, despite the fact that it's clearly magic with a different name. I wouldn't mind this, except that by coming out and stating "it's not magic", you're acknowledging that your setting has the concept of magic. So... what exactly is the distinction between "totally-not-magic" and, you know, regular old magic?

February 6, 2019

Thoughts on Slice of Life

A frequent lamentation of many writers is, “I have all these characters, but no plot!” or “I’ve come up with this awesome world, but have no story!” Though this may cause trouble if you really wanted to tell a gripping and exciting tale from the get-go, I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem in and of itself. This is because not all stories need a plot, or at least what many people might consider a plot. These stories focus on the small moments of life and relationships, and fall under the genre umbrella of slice-of-life.

January 23, 2019

When a Plot Hole is Not a Plot Hole (or, at Least, When It Doesn't Matter)

Much like 45 million other people, I have recently viewed Bird Box. I also watched The Ritual and re-watched A Quiet Place. All of this got me thinking about the horror genre, yet again, but it’s too soon for another “Thoughts on Horror” post. Thankfully I also watched a Youtube video about world building in the Divergent series, which gave me an idea for a more far-reaching analysis not just of horror, but of genre and plot holes in general.

January 9, 2019

New Year's Resolution

Happy (slightly belated) New Year! Since the beginning of December, I've been thinking of what writing resolutions I wanted to make in the coming year, but my future is a little uncertain at the moment. I'm still job hunting and have applied from everything from a supervisor job to overnight work to overseas work, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to devote to writing. That being said, I really want to finish my novella-in-verse this year, as well as complete a few other projects that involve more editing and planning and less actual writing. “Write everyday” is of course not my speed, and even “do something writing related everyday” can be difficult, so I’ve settled on weekly goals instead.