Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Finally Completing That First Draft

Today is December's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Knowing that I’m about to enter a new stage of my writing career.   

I had many writerly goals for 2019.  Most of them won’t be met—no surprise there—but I feel fairly confident that I will finish the first draft of my debut urban fantasy by the end of December. There is still plenty of editing to do before it’s ready for publication, but I’m on the home stretch.
Photo courtesy of VisualHunt

As happy as this makes me, it also means I’ll have to start worrying about the rest of this writing business. Cover designers, formatting concerns, figuring out the Amazon system, marketing, mailing lists, reader magnets, social media. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying these topics over the past several years, which means I now know enough to know what I don’t know. It all sounds very exciting, if not outright daunting, but I’m ready to dive into the deep end. 

And, of course, while all this is going on, I need to be writing the next book in the series, since the experts say that long periods of time between releases tends to kill interest in a series. 

This month's IWSG question is:

How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream?

If I were really living the dream, I’d be living in a castle somewhere in Britain, living off the proceeds from my writing, and sharing tea with J.K. Rowling. In reality, I’d hope that 

1). the writing would come more easily after having a few books under my belt. 

2). I’d have moved on to my next series (or two). 

3). That most of the marketing stuff would be running on automatic. 

In other words, I’d want my writing to seem more like a real job and less like a pipedream. 

Until next year!


Thursday, November 7, 2019

My Belated IWSG Post for November

Today is November's belated contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Not knowing what the coming months will bring.  

Needless to say, despite last month's post that I might be doing NaNoWriMo this year, a lack of progress on my outline had caused me to decide I won't be competing this year. A variety of life events, including a cat who's been ailing for the last month and a half, have kept my attention elsewhere. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who can't concentrate on writing when I have other things on my mind, especially when it comes to health issues for family members (which, of course, includes all our cats.) 

This month's IWSG question is:

What's the strangest thing you've ever googled in researching a story?

I can't think of anything particularly strange, but I've done plenty of research into alchemy and old legends, both of which can be huge rabbit holes once I get started. I've come across some seriously weird stuff in there. 

I've also been researching chemistry for my current WIP, deciding what my antagonist's secret plan for taking over the world should be. I don't find much of the chemistry strange, but I suppose a non-chemist might disagree.

In other sad news, Halloween is over. 😔 And to add insult to injury, last night it snowed. I was hoping we could put it off a little longer.

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck!


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Insecure Writer And The Run-up To NaNoWriMo

Today is October's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Not knowing if I’m participating in next month’s NaNoWriMo or not.  

NaNoWriMo, for those of you who don’t know, stands for National Novel Writing Month, and is all about writing 50,000 words during the month of November.  Despite being a slow writer, I attempted it once years ago, but only made it halfway through before calling it quits. Although I had a rough outline before I began, that outline rapidly fell apart as the days passed (new ideas occurred to me, old ideas suddenly were no longer plausible) and there was simply no point in writing another 25k words that I knew would be thrown away anyway.

But as I near the completion of my debut urban fantasy, it’s occurred to me that I should already be working on, or at least thinking about, the sequel. After all, the best way to market your book is to write the next one in the series. Allowing two or three years to pass between books is a great way to kill interest in your books. In addition, knowing what the next book will be about will allow me to add the necessary hooks to the first book.

This year, I’m going to have a much more detailed outline in place. Or at least that’s the plan. Something I’ve thought long and hard about before I begin writing on November 1. It won’t be a perfect outline—many of my best ideas don’t come until I begin writing—but as long as I don’t veer too far off the range, it should be good enough for 50k words. 

So October marks my prep month for NaNo.  I’ve given myself 30 days to concentrate on the sequel, jotting down as many notes and ideas as I can. If I haven’t made any real headway by November, then I’m calling it off. But if I have a real idea of what the story will be about, then I may go for it.

I’ll let you know what I decide on November’s IWSG day.

Until then, wish me luck.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Are Your Fight Scenes Boring the Reader?

Photo courtesy of Sander van der Wel on Visual hunt.

After many years, I’m finally approaching the climax of my urban fantasy. It’s been a long time coming, but as I struggle with the final chapters, I realize the journey isn’t quite yet over. My heroine is breaking into the antagonist’s hideout, ready to take him on, and based on the obstacles I’ve set up, it’s going to take a bit of thought to get everything to work out the way I want. 

I’ve gone back and searched through my collection of urban fantasies and space operas for inspiration on fight scenes. This has been useful, but along the way, I’ve been reminded of things NOT to do in fight scenes. Here’s a partial list: 

1. The author sets up a scenario that appears pretty much impossible for the MC to win, at least based on the author’s description, then promptly has the hero successfully fight their way through all the obstacles doing the same standard stuff they’ve done throughout the book. What the heck happened? Did the opposition go on break? And no, having the hero take some minor damage in the process doesn’t make up for this. 

2. The author tosses in a battle scene simply because there hasn’t been any conflict in a while, or because it’s the only way the author can meet their word count. This is an especially common problem for writers who pump out a lot of books per year. Generic fight scenes don’t amp up the tension. Readers skim through them. At least I do. 

3. The fight scenes scattered throughout the story are so generic most of them could switch places and readers wouldn’t notice. Don’t be lazy, folks. Spend time crafting each battle until it’s unique. Use the setting to set up interesting problems for the MC to solve, or that allow the MC to find novel ways to defeat the bad guys. Add some factor that neutralizes the methods that worked for the MC in previous fights. Let knowledge gained by the MC over the course of the story be used to develop new tactics. 

Several examples of entertaining fight scenes can be found in Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson. They’re fun to read and almost always do double duty by delivering important story information along the way. No one is skimming over them. 

Have you ever come across fight scenes/battle sequences that leave you yawning?


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Transitioning Into a (Mostly) Full Time Writer.

Today is September's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because  after six months, I’m still not settled into the routine of being a (productive) writer.

Some of you may know I was downsized from my job at the end of February. Although it was a bit of a shock at the time, I eventually considered this to be a sign that I should devote myself to writing (at least during my more optimistic moods). However, the transition to writing has not come easily.

Feeling guilty for not bringing in as much money as I had before, I dabbled with the idea of taking a less well-paying job, at least for the short term, in order to cushion the financial blow to the family. Not only did searching for such jobs take away from my writing time, but guilt made it harder to concentrate on writing. 

Eventually I began tutoring chemistry students, and although the pay isn’t nearly as lucrative as a job in industry, it lessened my need to find another job.  Still, learning the ins and outs of the tutoring business took more time than I expected, further limiting my writing time.

And then there was the constant feeling that the time I spent writing was taking away from things that were “more important,” like helping my wife around the house, interacting with the kids, or tackling projects that have been on my to-do list for years. I felt pulled in all directions, guilt gnawing at me every time I sat in front of my computer.

But all that is in the past. Six months later, I’ve come to accept my new position in life and no longer feel guilty about not having a regular 9 to 5 job. I’m definitely more productive on the writing front and no longer find myself having to write feverishly at the last minute so as to have something to submit to my monthly critique groups.  However, my transition to being a writer isn’t complete. It may be easier for me to sit down and work on my WIP these days, but there are plenty of other writing related activities where I’m falling short. For example:

•  My lack of blogging. Last week was my first non-IWSG post in several months. Heck, I use to post twice a week back when I had that 9 to 5 job!
•  I’ve been bad about visiting other writer’s blogs, except on the first Wednesday of every month.
•  I haven’t touched my Hogwarts fan fiction in months, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be uploading the chapters to Wattpad once a week.
•  I haven’t been making contact with other authors in my genre, although that task was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve come to realize I will have to structure my time better if I expect to become a productive writer. At the moment, all my focus is on finishing my debut novel. Not that focusing on the actual writing is a bad thing, but sooner or later I’m going to finish the darn thing and then the real work will begin (editing, publishing, marketing, etc.) So, I better have a structure in place by then or things will get very ugly, very quickly.

Let’s move on to more enjoyable topics, like this month’s IWSG question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one’s a no-brainer.  It would be in an old castle somewhere in Britain (preferably Scotland), surrounded by fog shrouded moors, preferably in the autumn.  If you don't know why… well, I guess no amount of explanation would suffice. 

My future writing space

Be sure to stop by and say hello to the other ISWG co-hosts this month: Gwen GardnerTyrean MartinsonDoreen McGettigan, and Cathrina Constantine


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Do Readers Really Become the Viewpoint Character?

Every so often I come across a piece of writing advice, or rule, or opinion that leaves me perplexed.  Here's one I've been seeing a lot lately.

Readers become the POV characters in the stories they read.

What? Really?

Here's an excerpt from Deep Point of View, by Marcy Kennedy.

As readers, we're not simply experiencing the story along with the viewpoint character. We become the viewpoint character. We climb inside their mind and body.

I don't know about you, but that's not the way it works for me. I may feel that I'm in the same room as them; I may even be peeking around inside their heads, but I'm definitely not them. Not even close.

I've often wondered if the people who say this don't quite mean what they appear to be saying. Perhaps they really mean "We ride along with the viewpoint character.", But I've seen this sentiment voiced so often I think they really mean it. So are they wrong, or am I simply different from everyone else?

I don't mean to imply that I sit back and watch the scene at a distance, like I'm at a movie, although that can be the case when the POV is distant enough.  But no matter how deep the POV, no matter how much I'm inside their head, I'm still a separate observer. I may be sitting in the same roller coaster as the viewpoint character, experiencing the same sorts of thrills, but there's no overlap between the two of us.

To be honest, I don't understand how anyone could feel as though they were the viewpoint character.  He/She constantly makes choices or says things that I would never consider doing, so I'd never be able to maintain the illusion of being them. Heck, authors typically go out of their way to have characters do the exact opposite of what we readers expect them to do. For example, when the POV character sees the magic ring that will allow them to vanquish the bad guy, and  we're yelling at them to pick the damn thing up and fulfill their destiny, but the character says "no way" and does their best to ignore the ring. Or how about when readers scream at a character because he's not asking the girl to dance even though the girl is so obviously smitten with him that my cat rolls his eyes at the character's stupidity. Are we screaming at ourselves?  I think not.

So is it just me, or do the rest of you become the viewpoint character when you read?



Wednesday, August 7, 2019

On Vacation!

I'm returning home today from a family vacation at Virginia Beach, and since I somehow convinced myself that the first Wednesday of the month would not occur during the trip, I don't  have an IWSG post ready for this month. However, I can still answer this month's question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

I'm still early in my writing career, but the first big surprise I received from my writing was the first time I looked back at an earlier chapter and realized it wasn't a mess (which up until then hadn't been the case). I guess practice makes perfect after all.

I won't be visiting other IWSG sites today since I'll be on the road, but I look forward to seeing you all next month when I'm one of the co-hosts.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Approaching the Publishing Threshold

Today is July's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I’m approaching the point where I'll be transitioning from a wannabe writer to a published writer who needs to worry about all the many facets of marketing.

For years, I’ve contemplated all the things I’d have to do if I ever got around to finishing a book. Things like setting up an author website, learning to format ebooks, newsletters, street teams, Amazon keywords, email lists, finding a cover designer, finding an editor, learning how to get reviews, Facebook ads, social media, book trailers, audiobooks... The list goes on and on. Almost makes me think writing the book was the easy part. (Please tell me it's not!)

But the time has come where I can no longer just fantasize about these duties.  I’m three-quarters of the way through my urban fantasy, so the clock is ticking, especially since many of the aforementioned items should be started long before a book comes out. 

It’s not like there aren’t a ton of resources out there to help guide me.  The IWSG website has a section devoted to marketing tips. Our very own Chrys Fey has 100 marketing tips on her site.  This month's IWSG post by Tara Tyler discusses how to get buzz for your book.

Now I just have to get around to implementing all this advice without going crazy. 


This month's question is:  What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I usually give my main characters a sense of inferiority, often plucked from somewhere out of my own past. My characters worry that people will think they're too young or inexperienced, or that their skills aren't good enough for them to do what they need to do to win in the end. The kinds of things that used to bother me. Like the experts always say, write what you know!

Have a Happy Fourth of July! 


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Feeling Guilty

Today is June's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I only manage to update this blog once a month, just in time for the IWSG post.  And that’s kind of depressing.

There was a time when I used to update this blog with a writing related post at least once a week. Twice a week if you counted the Friday writing links. And yet, now that I’m only working part time, I scarcely even think about the blog. 

Bad author! Bad, bad author!

On the plus side, I’ve spent the extra time working on my stories, so they are progressing at a nice pace, but that doesn’t make me feel any better when the first Wednesday of the month day comes around.  I don’t want to let this blog slip any further. Heck, my plan is to start a new website somewhere down the line, designed more for my eventual readers, while keeping this one for communicating with other writers.

What it basically boils down to is guilt.  I feel guilty that I’m not posting more, but I feel even more guilty if I’m not working on my book. (Even as I write this post, my stomach is churning because I’m not adding any words to my WIP.) I know I should be doing more on social media to prepare for my career as an author. I know I should be attending conferences and reading the latest craft books and making connections with other writers in my genre, but that only takes away from the writing time. I’m sure the guilt will lessen once I start releasing books, but in the meantime, guilt is what drives my schedule.
And that’s not a good way to write, or to live.

I suspect the answer is to do what I’ve been putting off for years. Set up a schedule for all writing related activities. A schedule that forces me to set aside time to focus on this blog, or read other blogs, or keep in contact with my writer friends.

The only question is: Will I stick with it?

This month's question is:  Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

My answer is definitely fantasy. I like reading science fiction too, but as far as writing goes, fantasy gives me more leeway to do crazy things without worrying too much about how they could have happened.  When I write science fiction, I feel somewhat obligated to make sure everything has a logical, scientific reason for existing.

Until next month week!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Picking A Genre

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't not sure what genre my story belongs in.

You'd think this would be a pretty simple question to answer.  My story is a simple fantasy, not particularly ground-breaking in any way, but fantasy is too vague a term these days.  There are all sorts of sub-genres under the fantasy umbrella--urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and paranormal romance to name a few.  And based on what I've learned about marketing books over the years, picking the correct sub-genre is extremely important, especially if you're selling through Amazon. Pick the wrong sub-genre and you'll miss many of the readers who would like your work as well as outraging those readers who did read your book expecting something else. And outraged readers typically leave bad reviews. 

I've always considered my story to be urban fantasy.  It takes place in the present, in an urban setting. The heroine gets caught up in an alchemical war that's been raging on our world unbeknownst to the general public for centuries. And these alchemists have the power to manipulate chemical reactions. So far, so good.  Sounds like urban fantasy to me.

But there are other ways in which the story doesn't follow urban fantasy tropes.  There is no magic. Period. The powers wielded by the alchemists may seem like magic to the normal person, but they are never presented as magic.  In fact, there are very specific scientific rules concerning how those powers can and cannot be used--kind of like the powers in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. Will urban fantasy readers be disappointed there aren't any spells?  

Another trope involves the inclusion of various fantasy creatures such as werewolves, vampires, wizards, witches, the Fae, dragons--you get the picture.  I only have one such creature, the tiny subatomic beings that work with the alchemists to give them their powers. That's it. Would not having any other creatures be enough for urban fantasy readers to turn up their noses at the story? 

This isn't an academic question. To be successful in today's market, the book's cover has to convey the sub-genre at a glance.  My inclination was to have a female character on the cover, much like other urban fantasy covers, but instead of having her glowing with magical energy (as most of those UF covers do, see below), I would surround her with chemical and alchemical imagery. 

So will having an urban fantasy type cover cause the wrong readership to consider purchasing my book? That's the question I'm struggling with as I finish my book.

Any comments or suggestions?


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Rescuing Mara's Father Blog Tour

Today, I'm pleased to welcome a fellow Michigander to the blog.  Diane Burton is an accomplished writer with many stories under her belt.  Although her usual genres are science fiction, suspense, and mystery--usually with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure--her newest book marks her foray into middle grade.  

Rescuing Mara's Father is about a young girl who will do whatever it takes to rescue her father. The fact that it takes place on another planet is the icing on the cake! Diane's style is relaxed and easy to read, and she does a wonderful job of capturing Mara's feelings. I highly recommend you check out her book. And don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!


A Middle Grade Science Fiction Adventure
By D.M. Burton
Approx. 75,000 words
ISBN:  978-0-9990452-4-4 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9990452-5-1 (print)


Her father is gone! Taken by the Queen of Compara’s agents. Mara has to rescue him before the Queen tortures and kills him.

Instead of the kind, loving father she’s always known, he’s become demanding, critical, with impossible expectations—not just as Father but also as the only teacher in their frontier outpost. Mara would rather scoop zircan poop than listen to another boring lecture about governments on Central Planets. Give her a starship engine to take apart or, better yet, fly, and she’s happy. Now, he’s gone.

Never mind, they’ve had a rocky road lately.

Never mind, Father promised she could go off planet to Tech Institute next month when she turns fifteen, where she’ll learn to fly starships.

Never mind, she ran away because she’s furious with him because he reneged on that promise. Father is her only parent. She has to save him.

Along with her best friend, eleven-year-old Jako, and his brother 15-year-old Lukus, Mara sets off to find her father. Her mentor, old spaceport mechanic, seems to know why the Queen captured Father. In fact, he seems to know her father well. But, does he tell her everything? Of course not. He dribbles out info like a mush-eating baby. Worse, he indicates he’ll be leaving them soon. And Lukus can’t wait to get off our planet. Mara’s afraid they will all leave, and she’ll be on her own. Despite her fears, Mara has to rescue her father.


At spaceport, the sound of voices, two male and one female, make me stop. They’re coming from the back side of ‘port and speaking Coalition Standard. Strangers. Nobody in our village uses Standard. After school hours, Father teaches those who want to learn Standard—like Lukus and Wilanda. He makes me stay, too, so whether I want to or not I’ve learned the language of the Central Planets.

The speakers pass within a meter of where I’m making like a statue. They’re so busy talking in low tones about the target and their mission they don’t even look my way. As they head toward the village center, I slip around to the back of the ‘port building. I gasp at what’s parked there. A sleek Gilean Cruiser. What a fine ship. Jako would go ballistic if he knew. I’d seen one before, just once when Magistrate from the Consortium of Mines came after the riot. Basco let me work on it.

Okay, not really. I got to hold his tools as he repaired a small leak in the hydraulics. Father thinks I don’t want to improve my mind. I sure do. I want to learn to all about starships like this. And fly them, too.

I linger for a moment, wanting to reach out and touch the shiny skin of one of the fastest ships in the galaxy. Only the thought that they might have left a guard on board prevents me. Reluctantly, I make for the hills and the safety of the scrub trees. They offer some concealment, especially now that the clouds are breaking up. Looks like no rain tonight. First Moon is setting behind the mountains. Soon, larger Second Moon will rise in the south. When it does, it will flood the farmland and illuminate the foothills.

Heavy footsteps come from the southeast. I crouch under the thickest scrub tree in the copse and hear grumbling. The Dunpus brothers. If they catch me out alone, I’m done for.

“. . . gonna get that Teacher’s kid, teach her a lesson.”

“Yeah, and the little brat, too.”

“It’ll take too long for that little brilium rat to come out of the mine tunnels. The girl is easier. We’ll wait outside her house, and when Teacher leaves . . .” The oldest one’s voice trails off as they stomp away.

I’m clutching the tree so hard I have splinters. Jako and I’d better make sure we see them coming or we’re going to be in deep planetary poop.

After I climb toward a mine that was played out years ago, I crouch behind a rock near the entrance. I don’t want to run into any packs—especially not the two-legged variety, like the Dunpus brothers. Gangs usually roam the village late at night, searching for anything people haven’t locked up or just wreaking havoc. I’m lucky I haven’t run into them. Whoa. Maybe that was why Lukus pulled a knife.

Jako lives in one of the tunnels. He would be good company. With Lukus at the café, Jako will be alone. Finding him is my biggest problem. I could search the tunnels, call his name. But then I might run into a gang roaming the mine. Or, the Dunpus brothers could return.

When I took off from home, I didn’t think about the dangers. I guess I didn’t think, period. Running away is a stupid idea. Coming up here alone is even dumber. It’s one thing to come with Father or to explore with Jako during the day. Everything looks different at night.

I square my shoulders. I can’t depend on anyone except myself now. Father forbid me to go to Pamyria, to the Tech Institute. I’m going anyway. I just have to figure out how.

About the Author:

The first time D.M. Burton saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope, she was hooked on science fiction and space travel. The Star Trek movies made her want to travel to other planets. Alas, she is still Earth-bound. D.M. and her husband live in Michigan, close to their two children and five grandchildren.

Join D.M. Burton's readers’ group on Facebook.

For more info and excerpts, visit D.M.’s website:

She writes adult fiction as Diane Burton, where she combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries.

For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website:

Connect with Diane Burton online.

Goodreads: Diane Burton Author

Sign up for Diane’s new release alert:

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Dreaming(Worrying) About the Future

Today is April's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't know what my writing future holds.

I suppose every writer worries about their writing future. Heck, I'm pretty sure I've already used this insecurity in a past IWSG post.  But this month, my insecurity has taken on new significance. 

Before I lost my job, contemplating my writing future was mostly an academic exercise.  Although it would be nice to earn some extra money with my writing, I wasn't depending upon it as a source of income. But now that I'm working part-time and tapping into our savings, my outlook has changed.  

I've spent much of this month wondering where my writing career will be in ten years.  Will I learn to write faster and have five (or more) books out by then, or will I be struggling to finish my current WIP? (Don't laugh, it could happen!) Will five books be enough to gain traction in the marketplace? Will enough people enjoy my style of writing that the Amazon algorithms begin to take notice?

I don't expect to make a living based solely on my writing, but my hope is that it will provide an additional revenue stream sometime in the future. I just don't know yet whether that revenue stream will be more useful for paying off the mortgage or paying for a White Castle burger.  

Unfortunately, it might be a long time before I know the answer.

This month’s IWSG question is: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

My first inclination would be to say the first chapter, because that's where an author has the best chance of hooking the reader. But that seems like the easy answer, so I think I'll pick a kissing scene instead, since I would probably have no idea how to write one without a ton of telling. Hmmm... I wonder if you can hire ghost writers who will write single chapters for you.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to stop by the other co-hosts this month:J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, and Patsy Collins!  


Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Advantages of Sidekicks

Sidekick.  Get it?

What is this, you ask? Activity on this blog other than on the first Wednesday of the Month IWSG post!? Armageddon must be right around the corner. Sigh. 

Life has been busy these past couple of weeks, but I seem to be settling down into a somewhat chaotic routine where I alternate between online tutoring sessions for chemistry and working on my story. It’s not full-time writing, but it’s more time than I’ve ever had before. My hope is that with practice, this will translate into finishing my story at a much-accelerated pace. In fact, I’m bullish enough about writing that my critique partners and I have agreed to meet every other week instead of once a month. Ah, nothing like a little pressure to keep things interesting. 

Earlier this week, as I was reading over one of my earlier chapters, I suddenly realized that I could make the scene much snappier by replacing some of the main character’s internal thoughts with a few snippets of dialogue from the character’s sidekick. Instead of forcing the character to “think” about things so that the reader understands what’s going on, a few well-placed quips by the sidekick was more than enough to explain the situation. 

Although I have yet to finish a story (other than my fanfic), I’ve noticed a common theme among the partially completed stories littering my hard drive. I always seem to have a sidekick to ride along with my main character. It wasn’t a deliberate choice, just something that always happened, but over the years I’ve learned that having someone for my MCs to talk to makes my scenes much more active. When my characters are allowed to be alone with their thoughts for too long, my story stagnates and my writing becomes stilted. My prose degenerates into either sloppy telling or a convoluted mess of showing. 

Of course, I have to be careful not to rely too much on these sidekick conversations. My crit partners have dinged me in the past for overly long and bloated stretches of nothing but talk, with too much on-the-nose back and forth dialogue between the participants. Perhaps this tendency comes from having had to write detailed research reports at my job over the years, reports where I’m expected to explain everything. Regardless of the reason, there’s no denying my conversational infodumps are a problem. 

Still, there’s nothing like having a sidekick for the MC to bounce ideas off of. He’s the perfect vehicle for dropping subtle hints you don’t want the reader to notice until later in the story. The comedic value he can add to break up a tense situation can be invaluable. And the interactions between the MC and the sidekick is great for revealing character—for both of them. 

So, the next time you begin a story, think about adding a sidekick. Your readers (and maybe your editor) will love you for it.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Insecure Writer And Finding Time To Write When You're A Full Time Writer

Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I've been thrust into the position of becoming a full-time writer much sooner than I expected.

Today's post is about four hours late, and that ties in with today's topic. Last month I revealed I had lost my job due to the company's downsizing and that I was about to become a full-time writer--whether I wanted to or not.  From a financial point of view, I think we're going to be fine. We have other sources of income, and I've started offering my services as a chemistry tutor. And to my surprise, it turns out the need for chemistry tutors, both online and in person, is higher than I expected.  We'll have to tighten ours belts a bit, but we'll be okay. 

Unfortunately, this tutoring business is more hectic than I realized. Adding new students, keeping track of my ever-changing schedule, learning the ins and outs of the various online tutoring interfaces, plus helping out more around the house is taking a lot more time than I expected. I postponed my critique group meeting twice because I mistakenly scheduled a tutoring session at the same time.  

I've had a couple of good writing days, but my writing has mostly stalled.  I know that when I adjust to this new life style, I'll once again have time to write, but in the meantime, it's kind of frustrating. Even now I'm hurrying to finish this post because I have a tutoring session coming up in 30 minutes. Sigh, seems like I had more time to write back when I had a full-time job.

This month’s IWSG question is: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

Definitely the hero, because he/she is learning to become a better person as the story goes along, and I enjoy watching that progression.  I've yet to write from the villain's perspective, so maybe I just don't know what I'm missing.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to stop by each of this month's co-hosts too:Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClureErika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard! 


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Stepping Through My Very Own First Plot Point

Today is February's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I've been thrust into the position of becoming a full-time writer much sooner than I expected.

A few months ago, I mentioned that my company was downsizing. Yesterday, I was one of several thousand employees who were released in the process. 

Considering the job market in my area, I have serious doubts that I'll find anything that matches my skill set in the near future. I've applied for some local teaching and tutoring positions, but I have no idea how viable those options will be in the long run. Fortunately, we've built up enough savings over the years that we should be okay financially, though we'll definitely have to curtail our spending. 

Despite the financial burden this situation places on my family, however, I have to admit there's a part of me that is intrigued, a part of me that has always wanted to know if I could hack it as a full-time writer. Based on my part-time writing productivity so far, that goal seems rather daunting, but I'm ready to give it a go. In writing terms, I've just stepped through the one-way door that is the first plot point of my story, and I'm ready to move forward. 

I only wish I could skip forward in the book and see how it turns out in the end. 

Wish me luck! 

This month’s IWSG question is: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

To be honest, I spend almost all of my creative energy these days working on writing, so the answer is none. Sad, I know. Now that I have more time, I suspect I'll pick up a few new creative outlets, but what they'll be I have no idea yet.

Thanks for listening!


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Insecure Writer and 2019

Today is January's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't know if I'll be able to finally finish my debut novel this year or not.

One year ago, I set myself the goal of finishing my Hogwarts fan fiction and uploading the chapters to Wattpad by the end of the year. I accomplished this (barely), and it was such a huge relief. Ten years is long enough to work on any story.  This year, I’m setting a goal of finishing my urban fantasy by the end of the year. Since it’s over halfway finished, you might think this would be a piece of cake, but alas, I’m a slow writer, so I know it’s going to be close. Time has a way of zipping by at my house, with days turning into weeks, which turn into months. But I hit my goal last year, so I have some hope. Wish me luck.

This month’s IWSG question is: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

To be honest, the only people I tell I’m a writer are other writers. My family knows, but I feel no compulsion to mention it to anyone else. At least, not until I finish a book. In the meantime, I guess my least favorite question would be: When will your book be published? It's a question I ask myself all the time.

Happy New Year everyone!