Tag Archives: advice

Authors Answer 126 – Is It Really Possible to Stop Using Adverbs?

Adverbs are something that people love to use in everyday speech. It’s very popular. But what about in writing? Do we really need to avoid using adverbs? Honestly?

Question 126 – Never use adverbs. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Disagree. I will concur that many writers these days rely far too heavily on adverbs, leaning on them instead of putting the effort into creating more descriptive prose. That said, every form of word has it’s place, and you can’t just discount adverbs all together. “Show, don’t tell,” is what’s often said, and I agree with that for the most part, but sometimes what is necessary for a scene is for the author to tell the reader exactly what’s happening. For example, if the narrating character has been struck blind for some reason, they’re not going to be able to describe the facial expressions or body language of whomever they’re talking to, so saying that someone said something “sadly” is a perfectly reasonable way to go about the scene. As with any writing method, we simply have to avoid abusing adverbs and use them only when they are necessary or work better with a particular sentence.

Gregory S. Close

Never use an adverb stupidly.  (I could not resist).

I don’t believe in absolute rules of writing like “never use an adverb.” However, I do believe that any time you use an adverb you should consider whether you’re expressing what you want in the best way possible.  Adverbs can be a short cut, and short cuts can be awesome in telling your story.  But if you use too many short cuts, it’s a little less awesome.  So, consider adverbs like seasoning – a little can go a long way, if you’re using the correct spice.

Jean Davis

Disagree. Adverbs add flavor when used sparingly.

C E Aylett

Oh dear, not that question again. Why doesn’t anyone ask about the use of adjectives? (Don’t over use them; don’t overstuff a sentence with them before a noun. Certainly don’t list them. That is how pedestrian description comes about.)

Don’t use weak adverbs (really/actually). Use adverbs when they make an impact on the meaning of the verb and twist it into something special/memorable. Make a list of unusual and strong adverbs (unequivocally/knavishly)  and keep them nearby. Slam unusual combinations together (he spoke haphazardly) When revising a piece, think about whether you need the adverbs you have and where you can either delete them or swap a weak one for one of the  more unusual ones on your list to make interesting contrasts.

In saying that, there will always be some adverbs that slip in through the net. As long as they are not overdone, why stress it?

Beth Aman

I would say use adverbs sparingly.  Adverbs tend to slow down the story, and often times they’re redundant.  It’s often better to use a strong verb instead of a weak verb with an adverb.  But there are times adverbs are useful; it’s your job to take them out when they’re not.

Eric Wood

I wouldn’t say “never”. However, I would say use them with care and caution. Be sure the adverb you’re using isn’t redundant. If the verb already states or implies the action then there’s no need to say how it was done. When you start using too many adverbs you get into telling the reader instead of showing the reader.
He ran quickly. The adverb, quickly, is lazy and simply restating what was already said. If the character is running, we already know he’s moving quickly. Instead, you should show how quickly. His legs pumped like the pistons of a racecar as he ran. Sometimes an adverb will be helpful. He lovingly whispered, “Take your clothes off.” This gives us an understanding how he did it. If you substitute the word “menacingly” for “lovingly” you get a completely different scene. There’s a reason a picture is worth a thousands words. It takes more words to show instead of tell, but it will be well worth it.

D. T. Nova

Never is such a strong word. It is good advice to avoid adverbs with vague verbs when a more specific verb would be understood, but that doesn’t mean that averbs are never the best choice.

Cyrus Keith

Never say never. But limit, limit, LIMIT!!! -Ly adverbs can often be a trap leading to lazy, sluggish writing. Why us “walk quickly” when “march” or “pace” not only save space but portray an attitude as well? I try to not use them, but occasionally a need arises where to not use one only leads to verbal acrobatics that scream, “HEY, everybody! He’s trying not to use an -ly adverb here!” But let’s just look at an absurd example.

Mark walked quickly to the dresser. He quickly took the gun and raised it. He pointed it at Steve. “Stop,” he said loudly.

Compare that to
“Mark charged for the dresser. The gun seemed to leap into his hand. Pointing it at Steve, he roared, “Stop!”

H. Anthe Davis

Why do we have adverbs if we’re not allowed to use them?  Use whatever kinds of words you want, however much you want.  Maybe some people will judge you for them, but writing is an artistic pursuit.  Absolutely listen to constructive criticism, but if you can’t abide by the changes suggested, just shrug them off.  There is no roadmap to the perfect story, no bullet-pointed outline that can make something automatically good or bad.  You’re the writer.  Do what feels right to you.

Paul B. Spence

Since it is impossible, I disagree. Everything in moderation is a much better approach.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I totally disagree. See what I did there? Every word in our language has a place, and the same goes for parts of speech. Now, there are plenty of occasions where the adverb/verb combination can be replaced with a more concise verb, but that doesn’t mean that’s the rule all the time.

Jay Dee Archer

I disagree. Adverbs can be incredibly useful when used correctly. As you can see, I already used some adverbs. There are times when adverbs are the most appropriate words to use. Rules like this are heard many times, but you shouldn’t say never. Of course, there are many times when you can use a better verb than a simple verb and modifying adverb. But not always. This would be better advice: It doesn’t matter what part of language it is, use it when appropriate, but don’t avoid it completely.

How about you?

How do you feel about this rule? Is it necessary to avoid anything in writing? Let us know in the comments section below.

Big A to Z Challenge Idea

The idea came to me. Actually, a couple people said I should do science posts. I’m going to do that. But more than just blog posts. I’m going to use this for some YouTube ideas, too.

You see, I’m going to be doing some posts listing ten facts about various scientific topics (A will be Astronomy, C will be Curiosity, D will be Dinosaurs, and so on). But it won’t just be doing lists. I’ll be doing a video for each post, as well. I’m going to incorporate images in the video, which means I need to make sure I know how to use the new video editor well. And since this will be 26 videos in one month, I’m going to try getting started on it soon. I’d like to make the videos and have them ready to be edited and uploaded on my science channel when the time comes.

Interested? Any suggestions for science topics for any letters? Let me know.

Joining the A to Z April Challenge

April means the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge! Last year, I didn’t participate, as I was in the process of moving and settling in during the month of April, so I was very busy. However, I did the challenge in 2015.

When I did the challenge before, I wrote 26 short stories related to Ariadne, and it turned into a kind of story. You can read all 26 parts here. You’ll even learn a little bit about the main character of my debute novel, Solona Knight.

So, what am I going to do for this year’s challenge? I’m not sure. They haven’t announced the theme yet, but we don’t have to follow the theme. We can do our own. I won’t be doing the same thing I did two years ago. I may do something about science, or I might do something about writing. Or I may do flash fiction based on words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. I don’t know yet.

So, I’d like to ask you. Do you have any suggestions for what I could write about? Also, are you participating? Let me know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 115 – Common Mistakes by New Authors

Everyone goes through that awkward toddler stage of writing. There are mistakes. Lots of them. And frankly, the writing sounds weird, clunky, and just plain awful. The mistakes are extremely common, though. It’s not that difficult to avoid them.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 115: What are some common mistakes for aspiring authors?

Eric Wood

Since I consider myself to be an aspiring author as I’ve only been published via my blog posts, I would love to know some mistakes to avoid. Based on what I’ve learned from the writing I’ve done thus though, I would say one common mistake that is made is telling instead of showing. It’s quick and easy to tell me what happened. However, it’s much more meaningful if you show what happened. Give the reader details. Another mistake is editing. I know it’s one I struggle with time to time. I don’t do it enough. It’s annoying to read a book with spelling mistakes, tense inconsistencies, etc…  It takes tons of editing and revision to get to a final copy of a book.

C E Aylett

He-he… Where do I start? Well, let’s see…

– believing the first draft is where all the hard work goes! But that’s because there’s so much to learn to begin with, so it’s not just about writing the story. It’s also about learning technique, about effective structure, and pacing is so ‘out’ there to be almost obscure. It’s all very overwhelming to begin with.

-Expecting that what plops out on the page the first (or even 2nd) time is the way the story should be and is not in need of change, aside from tidying up some errant commas and smoothing out a little bit of grammar.

– Not seeking out vigorous critique partnerships. There is a belief out there that the way to learn how to write well is solely through the act of writing and reading. And yet, for all the books people have read and writing they’ve all done throughout their lives, the majority of people will have their manuscripts rejected. This just goes to prove that reading and writing alone do not work as effective instruction. If you don’t understand the why of fiction (why does this work and this doesn’t) then you won’t understand the how of fiction (how to improve, create desired effects, etc). I’m of the belief the key to good fiction is not only to read and write, but to learn about and practice techniques, plus — crucially — critique fiction too. That last one in particular. It develops your skills as an editor and I’m always flabbergasted as to how many writers I encounter who don’t participate in vigorous critique, not just of their own work but in giving it to others’ too. Many people are too scared of what readers will say, but I go on the premise that everyone will think my work is shit, or at the very least it won’t be to the tastes of the majority, so it can only go upwards from there, surely?

– Being apologetic — if you write stories, even if they are flawed, you are a writer. Own it and don’t feel guilty or undeserving of it.

– Writing stories as a reason to rant about politics, religion, or any other highly emotive subject involving society and/or its ills. Ranting is rarely attractive, unless it’s funny and a part of someone’s ‘brand’ (think Victor Meldrew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46flaThCYhE).

– Not swatting up on the publishing industry/book marketing early on. This is probably because when we first start writing our inner critic/lack of confidence says our writing is purely for our own pleasure and we’ll never be good enough (or sometimes arrogant enough) to assume we’ll ever be published. However, I think it is prudent for writers to learn about how publishing works as early as possible because, for those of us who find ourselves hitched up to this passion, talent, instinct, or whatever you want to call it, in writing, there will come a day when we will want to step over that threshold between bedroom writer and professional and give publishing a serious whirl (be that self-publishing or trad). Once you feel your MS is as perfect as you can make it, you want to to be as industry savvy as possible so that if you get any offers of representation you’ll be well-prepared or, if you decide to self-publish, you will have a plan. Which brings me onto the next point…

-Lastly, self-publishing a novel and believing that marketing it is all about bombarding social media with free links. This doesn’t convert into sales for a new author with minimal online presence. Someone more established, yes. They can send out freebies to their fan base in order to seed the market, but when no one knows you and you’re yet to prove your massive talent, it’s just white noise to the majority. Tempt potential readers with intriguing morsels of book blurb that will work as (honest and interesting) click bait, get a decent front cover, make links to your book and it’s sales outlets available wherever you socialise online (without mentioning every five minutes that your book is for sale), socialise with people in your niche. Blog about your book. Written a book with a bear in it? Socialise in wildlife forums. Spy novel? Socialise where people have an interest in things like the cold war period, or wartime espionage (Bletchly and the enigma box, etc.). I know a historical fantasy author whose books bazookaed in the self-pubbing charts because of her membership in a historical society who happened to also have as members some other best-selling authors in her niche. They got to know her and her books then publicly rated her series and — boom! — she was away. DON’T socialise with writers as a means to find readers! Not saying writers don’t read, but they are there for the same reason, and that’s not to find books. Here’s a great free class from Leah Berry for more ideas.

Most importantly, bear in mind it takes time to accumulate a fan base. Get on with the next book. Write short stories and get them published in reputable publications, and put some on your website. Short stories are your best marketing tool — people get a taste of your work and that might lead to a book sale if they are hungry for more. Plus, short fiction markets are popping up all over the place. That’s where you’ll find audiences.

Anyway, bet you wish you’d never asked now! Hope I haven’t hogged your page space too much…:S

D. T. Nova

Thinking that writing the first draft is the bulk of the work.

Overuse of near-synonyms that aren’t common parts of their vocabulary (the thesaurus, like so many other things, should be used only in moderation), and overwriting in general.

Linda G. Hill

Aspiring authors have much to learn – we all go through it, and really, there’s no easy way to get around all there is to know before we publish. It’s a matter of experience. If I were to pick a single thing, it would have to be the one that causes me the most worry on behalf of the author, and that is the belief that a raw, or even a self-edited manuscript is readable. Even editors who are writers have editors. At the very, very least, as few as six and as many as twenty beta readers — ones who are unbiased — should read a manuscript before it goes off into the world. Sure, it may sell. But if it’s not the best work it can possibly be, the author risks ruining his or her reputation.

Jean Davis

There are so many mistakes to make. Let’s see. Not finding a critique group or qualified beta readers before submitting or publishing. Your best friend reading your novel doesn’t count. Getting so fixated on what your trying to say or do with the story that there’s no plot. Rewriting the first chapter twenty times before ever starting the second one.

Elizabeth Rhodes

The biggest trap, in my opinion, is the same one in which I fell. I got too excited about finishing Jasper and released it too soon with minimal outside input. Looking back at it now it definitely could’ve used more polish before it could be considered ready.

Gregory S. Close

Editing!  If you’re going to spend money on your first effort, your first priority should be a good editor.  Covers and presentation can be improved upon in a later edition with minimal effort.  Editing is vital to ensuring that the work itself is seen positively, and gives you a fighting chance to be recognized and successful (and have the nice-to-have problem of wondering if you should upgrade your interior/exterior etc).

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’ve spent a bit of time on Critique Circle in the past, and one of the most common “mistakes” that I saw there was that many aspiring authors simply haven’t taken the time and put in the effort to really learn how the English language works. I hate to discourage anyone from continuing to write, but it was always frustrating to read a piece from an aspiring author that was so riddled with spelling and grammatical errors that you could hardly discern what they were trying to say. That’s not to say that these people couldn’t become wonderful writers, but if you can’t write a single proper sentence, you should probably work on that before trying to string several thousand of them together into a coherent narrative.

The other big mistake that I’ve seen most often is simply being too proud and too arrogant, or else too hard on yourself. Every aspiring author seems to either think that they are beyond criticism – that they can do no wrong – or that everything they write is drivel that no one will ever want to read. There needs to be a happy medium of tentative confidence. You have to be able to deal with criticism, but you also have to have the ability to stand your ground and recognize when you’ve actually done genuinely good work.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. I have met people that wanted to write books, but didn’t like to read. If you don’t read genre fiction, don’t try to write it. That said, I think the most common mistake is giving up. Not believing in yourself. If you have a story that needs to be told, then tell it. You can do it. Aspiring authors always talk about what holds them back, life, family, jobs, etc. Guess what, we all have these problems too. Just set aside some time, and don’t think about anything except your story. Then type it out. And finish it!

Cyrus Keith

Today seems to be a day for lists, I do believe.

1.) Excessive adverbs. Adverbs in and of themselves are not evil. But they can be a crutch for lazy writing that has no energy. We walk slowly when we could meander, stroll, or wander, we run quickly when we could dash, sprint, or rush. We walk unsteadily when we could blunder, stumble, stagger, or limp. Each one of these more active verbs has a different and energetic meaning. I allow myself three adverbs per 10,000 words.

2.) Excessive speech tags. There are countless creative ways of letting us know who is talking without using “He said” or “she exclaimed.” I won’t go into a lesson here about that. But it’s worth looking into.

3.) Assuming everyone who reads your work is going to “get it.” This includes everything from writing as though your reader can see your world, to assuming that the first editor who receives your manuscript is going to tearfully write you the biggest advance check in history. Write like you want to communicate. And still expect your message to bounce off a few thick skulls. And if it does, remember, it’s not a rejection of YOU.

Jay Dee Archer

There are so many mistakes. As an author who has not published yet, I can probably mention some of my own mistakes.

First, my earlier dialogue sounded more like written language. The problem that many people have is they write the dialogue, but don’t say it out loud. You need to read it out loud to see if it sounds natural.

Second, spending too much time editing while writing. Just write the damn thing, then edit. That’s one of the biggest problems people have. They never finish their first draft because they’re so caught up in trying to make it perfect. The constant editing can kill a story. Just write it, then make the changes. But don’t do it right away. Leave it for a few weeks, then come back to it from a fresh point of view.

And my final mistake is infodumps, especially character descriptions. My earlier writing had characters described fully right from the start. Don’t do that! It’s dull. Put descriptions in a little at a time, and it’s great to do it from the perspective of the point of view character.

How about you?

What mistakes do you think aspiring authors tend to make? Let us know in the comments section.

Authors Answer 108 – Bad Advice for Writers

A month ago, we talked about the best advice we’ve received as writers or authors. But what about the opposite? We don’t always receive great advice. Some of it is best to ignore. Some people just don’t know how to give advice that’s useful. Advice should be constructive, not destructive.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 108: What was the worst or least helpful piece of advice you’ve received about your writing?

Elizabeth Rhodes

Any kind of advice that hinges on “this is a rule of writing stories and should never be broken” is one I almost always write off. Writing rules are like rules of the English language: there are always exceptions, and these exceptions have been made by some of our favorite authors. Now, I don’t think I’m on the same level as George R. R. Martin, for instance, but I’d like to get there and saying “never ever ever write prologues because them’s the rules” does nothing to help that. Perhaps the focus should be on “this prologue isn’t working, let’s figure out why.”

Cyrus Keith

The most useless critique I ever got was a person who told me my work was riddled with spelling and grammar errors, “but don’t give up. You’ll be a great writer someday.” This was AFTER my first novel had already won the EPIC Award for Best Thriller. The worst actual advice anyone offered was, “Give up. You’re not a writer.”

Gregory S. Close

The most useless piece of advice I ever received was from a professional literary reviewer from Writer’s Digest, who informed me that I shouldn’t call the prologue of my novel a “prelude,” because that wasn’t the proper terminology.  Although the same reviewer did have other (helpful) feedback, this one stuck in my craw as particularly inane and useless.  It’s a fantasy novel that involves bards and music as major story components – it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to substitute musical terms for prologue and epilogue – prelude and postlude – but apparently, this person did not make the connection, or did not agree.

Linda G. Hill

Apart from being told which direction my stories should go and what should happen next (I hate that!! It’s not only not helpful, it makes me think too much. My stories go where my characters take them… I have very little say!), I think the worst thing anyone has ever told me is that I should turn off the comments on my blog because people don’t really read what I write anyway. Subsequently, I got rid of her and kept my 3,600 followers, many of whom have become good friends.

C E Aylett

I don’t know about advice, as such, but someone did say to me reasonably recently that a story I wrote was beautifully written yet it was the most depressing thing she’d ever read. I still don’t know whether to be chuffed or choked about that…

Oh, no, I do remember the worst advice I’ve ever had, actually. Someone read a short story and went through each paragraph for grammatical errors by — literally — quoting from some ‘rules’ of writing text book. They wrote ‘the xxx book of excellent writing says “etc., etc.” ’ I was like, er, dude, this is a work of fiction, which means style and dramatic effects take precedence, and I haven’t done a copy edit on it yet, anyway. S/he didn’t mention one word about the characters, pacing, or anything. That just isn’t useful to me, I’m afraid. And if nothing else, that s/he mentioned each time I used single punctuation marks was ‘an error’ nullified any authority s/he might have had. I don’t care what country you come from — if you are a writer you should have some awareness that there are different punctuation/grammar/spelling rules in English dependant on nationality, even if you don’t know exactly what they are.

Other than that, I’ve always had sterling advice from my crit partners, for good or ill.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. I received so much bad advice… I would have to say the worst is that say you have to write every day, or have an outline of the complete plot. I write when I write, and I finish a 150,000-word book a year, so…

D. T. Nova

Probably extreme statements that, if followed literally, go too far in the opposite direction from other potential writing mistakes. For example, “never use adverbs”.

There’s nothing helpful to me about “keep descriptions minimal unless you’re writing science fiction or fantasy” because I haven’t attempted to write anything substantial outside of those genres.

Eric Wood

I’ve now spent days thinking of all the advice others have given me about my writing. While some was criticism, it was still constructive. My wife tells me I need to proofread better. She’s right. I was told one of my stories too closely resembled an already famous one. They were right. I haven’t really been given advice on how to write or what to write so I don’t have anything to answer for this one.

H. Anthe Davis

I think all advice and commentary is useful in some way, even if that way is ‘yeeeeah not gonna do that’, but it’s hard to pinpoint anything specific since I’ve left so much standard wisdom in the dust by now.  I haven’t read a book on writing in probably 6-8 years, and good riddance — I have my style, and if readers/reviewers/whomever don’t like it, they don’t have to read further.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It’s not really specific advice, but I’ve had plenty of people tell me that they can’t relate to my main characters and that I should change him/her in numerous ways. It kinda infuriates me because logic would dictate that not everyone is going to be able to relate to a particular character and changing them for one thing is just going to ruin them for someone else.

Jean Davis

I’m grateful that I really had to think about this. My critique partners have always been helpful, sometimes brutally so, but helpful, nevertheless. The worst advice I’ve encountered was bad simply because it was so vague that it was not useful or so misguided that I outright discarded everything they said because they really had no idea what they were talking about, like wrong ways to format dialogue or structure sentences.

Beth Aman

I’m honestly not sure.  I think my brain is pretty good at detecting bad advice, so I just ignore it and forget about it.  Also, bad advice is often surrounded by grammar errors and awkwardly-phrased sentences, so it tends to be easy to spot.

Jay Dee Archer

I’ve received a lot of great advice. Much of it is related to things like writing descriptions, passive, showing versus telling, and more. However, my worst advice is more general. It’s one of extremes. It starts with the words “never use.” That’s a red flag for me. I cannot take that advice, because there are always cases where it is useful and the best thing to do. We do not have to always cut out every adverb or adjective. Yes, I’ve been told to never use adjectives. I’m not sure how I can describe the size, colour, or shape of something without an adjective and not make it too wordy.

How about you?

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received about writing? If you don’t write, then make this more general. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received about anything? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 104 – Best Advice for Authors

Welcome to a very special Authors Answer! This is our 104th edition, which means it’s the end of our second year. And just like last year, we have some guest authors giving their answer to this very important question. I’d like to thank authors Mark Lawrence, Michael J. Sullivan, Django Wexler, and Andrew Rowe for agreeing to participate. They were very gracious when I asked them to participate. And thank you to Jacqueline Carey for her response. Unfortunately, she has her hands full at the moment, so was unable to participate. I love authors who take the time to respond when they can!

This week’s topic is an important one. Authors sometimes need a bit of help, so we’re talking about the best advice we have received in our quest for being published.

Celebrating our 2nd anniversary!

Question 104 – What is the most important piece of writing advice anyone has given you?

Mark Lawrence

It’s been a very long time since someone has given me writing advice. I did seek some out more recently when I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” but all I remember from that were the excellent anecdotes and being urged to never use adverbs in dialogue tags. And whilst that is advice I agree with, it is also advice that JK Rowling wholly ignored whilst selling hundreds of millions of books.

I guess I would have to go back to the creative writing course I took at night school in my 30s to find actual advice that was given to me. The most useful piece handed out to me in those sessions concerned the use of pinpoint detail. Readers’ imaginations are straining at the leash to do the heavy lifting for a writer. So descriptions need not be exhaustive and laboured. You just need the right seeds and the reader will grow the rest. Just the odd detail here and there can bring a scene to life. A scattering of points, dots the reader will join. Don’t describe the whole garden. Describe the rusty catch on the gate, the smell of the heaped cuttings, the rustle of dead flowers in the autumn wind. Move on.

Michael J. Sullivan

When I was starting out I didn’t know any authors, so I can’t say I had any personal advice from one. But there were writers who I followed online, and I was inspired by many of them. Joe Konrath said, “There’s a word for a writer who never gives up: published.”  I think that kind of persistence was instrumental to my own success. There are so many options in today’s publishing environment that when one path doesn’t work, an author should try another. And above all, keep writing, improving, and perfecting their craft. If the first book isn’t a success, maybe the second will be.  The only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying.

Django Wexler

It’s more career advice than writing advice, honestly, but while I was in college a writing teacher told me: “Never write a sequel to a book you haven’t sold yet.”

I totally forget the context, since we didn’t usually talk about writing careers in class.  On one level, it’s solid career advice.  If for whatever reason your first book turns out to be unsellable, then if you write a sequel you’re just stuck with two unsellable books.  That’s not really *writing* advice, though, and some people might say the business of being an author is a different thing entirely.

*But*, as I’ve thought about it in later years, I actually think there’s another piece to this.  It encouraged me to think of myself as a *writer*, rather than *a person who writes a particular story*.  In the decade or so since then, I’ve met many, many writers, some successful and some less so.  One thing many (not all, there are exceptions to everything!) of the successful ones had in common was that they could start a project, *finish* that project, and then *move on*, so they had a string of completed pieces under their belts rather than a single, endlessly-tinkered-with magnum opus.  This is obviously better career-wise, since you get more shots, but I think it has a lot to recommend it craft-wise as well.  You learn things from finishing a story that can be hard to incorporate into that story, but only taken into account when you start up the *next* piece.  Completing a work and calling it done has its own reward and its own lessons.

Is it true for everyone?  Of course not, no writing advice is.  (Process is personal, as I am quick to remind anyone.)  But it came at a good time for me.  I was high on fantasy epics like THE WHEEL OF TIME, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN, and at one point I was plotting out a grandiose ten-book scheme covering the creation of the universe to the end of days.  I ended up writing some more modest single-book projects, and I’m very glad I did, because my skill has (I hope) improved quite a bit since then.  The book I finally sold was my eighth or ninth overall; it’s hard to imagine it would have done as well as Book 8 of a series.

Andrew Rowe

If you love writing, don’t let anything discourage you from doing more of it.

If your beta readers don’t like your work, keep writing. Polish, improve, repeat.

If you query literary agents and they aren’t interested? Keep writing. Look at other agents. Look at other publishing options – self-publishing is getting more viable every year.

If you publish and your first book isn’t a hit? Keep writing. Focus on doing better next time. It might not even be your writing that’s the issue; sometimes it’s just bad timing or marketing.

This doesn’t mean to ignore constructive criticism; it’s great to get feedback that helps you improve. But never let the idea that you’re not perfect slow you down – no writer is going to appeal to every audience. Even the absolute top authors out there, the Tolkiens and the Martins of the world, have vast numbers of people who don’t enjoy their work.

Never let self-doubt keep you from doing what you love.

Cyrus Keith

I can’t quote her exactly. But after my thirty-oddth rejection from a publisher, I wanted to quit, to give up on my dream of being a published author. When I said this to my best friend, she shouted at me (paraphrased for family-friendly fare), “Don’t you freaking DARE quit!!!”

So I’ll pass that on to anyone else who questions their role as a writer, who sees an end to their work, who is balancing the option of burying their dream among the dust of a mundane, safe routine: Don’t you freaking DARE quit. Don’t strangle that dream out of your soul and kill it. You’re a writer. You sweat blood to make people come to life on a page, to tell your story, to drag readers by the eyeballs into your world and make them live with you until the last word on the last page, and close the book with a wistful sigh.

Don’t. You. Freaking DARE. Quit.

Elizabeth Rhodes

“Keep writing.”

I can’t give anyone credit for this because you hear it from just about everyone. It’s the only advice one really can give for getting words on the page and making them into stories of quality.

D. T. Nova

This applies to more than just writing, but “It’s never too late”.

Paul B. Spence

Read. I think the most important thing that any author can do is read. Not just in the genre they are writing in, although that is necessary, but also other genres, just to get a feel for how the craft of writing is done. I have elements of thrillers and horror in my science fiction. I also spend a lot of time reading science journals. Keeping up with the latest advances.

Gregory S. Close

Probably “write the crap first and polish the turd later.”  Agonizing over what you’re going to write is ultimately a waste of time.  Get something on the page and then FIX it later.  Getting the thoughts going and words flowing is the only way to from start to finish.

Eric Wood

The most important piece of advice I received is show not tell. I could tell you a character is shy or I could you show you. Showing you allows you to discover it on your own. Discovering it on your own pulls you into the story a bit further because you are getting to know the character as you would a friend.

C E Aylett

That writing fiction is about contrast at every level. Contrast breeds tension.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’ve been given my fair share of writing advice over the years, but I think the most important piece is the one that I have consistently failed to follow, and that is this: Just Write. Write as much and as often as you can. Write anything and everything. Just write, write, write. Everything else can come afterward. You can figure out the editing, revisions, publishing, and everything else as it comes, but first you have to write. If you don’t actually put pen to paper and write, the game is over before it even began.

Beth Aman

I have a distinct memory of a particular critique from CC that allowed me to finally understand “Show, Don’t Tell.”  I felt like my eyes had been opened to a whole new world.  But here’s one of my favorite pieces of advice to give to new writers (I don’t remember who originally said it): Remember that the rough draft of a novel is just shoveling sand into a sandbox so later you can build sandcastles.

Jean Davis

You’ll never publish anything if you don’t finish it and then submit it. This, as someone who had fussed over a single novel for twenty-some years, rather hit home in a big way. That novel, my third to be published (because I eventually followed this advice), will be out in the Spring of 2017.

H. Anthe Davis

Just keep doing it.  Writing isn’t so much about inspiration as it is about work, and anything you practice at enough, you’ll get better at.  There is no guarantee that you’ll get published, but if you only daydream about your stories and never write them, nothing can ever happen.

Jay Dee Archer

I think a common answer would be to just write, and keep writing. Never stop. However, I’d like to take this a bit further. One thing I’ve been told that I completely agree with is to write what you would like to read. If there’s a story idea that you keep thinking, “I wish someone wrote a book about this,” then write it! It’s your idea, so create that story. And if you like it, there’s a very good chance that there are other people who will like it. Don’t just sit there, either. Once you have that idea, flesh it out and write it. It may not be the best written book, but just get it written, then worry about editing later on to make it that book that you want to read.

How about you?

If you’re an author or aspiring author, what is the best piece of advice you’ve received? Let us know in the comments section below.

Why Can’t I Read Every Book I Want?

If you look on Goodreads, and check out my to read list, you’ll notice that I have 923 books listed. At the pace I’ve been reading, it’ll take me forty-six years to read all of them. But for many of them, they’re only the first books of series I want to read. That means the number of books is easily three to four times as big. My life won’t be that long.

I’ve noticed some people, including authors, can read up to 300 books a year. I’d really like to know how they do that! How many hours do they read every day? How do they find the time to do that?

I know I’ve been slacking off in my reading recently. I really should just try go somewhere in the house where I can be by myself and read. But that’s difficult to do. I could easily read an hour or two a day. I remember when I was in university, I read four or five hours a day for a while. I burned through the books quickly. But this was during summer when I had no classes, and all I was doing was working. I’d like to get through my books quickly. I want to read at least fifty books a year.

How many books do you read a year? How many hours do you read every day? Let me know in the comments below.

I Have a Content ID Claim on My YouTube Video

This is a first. One of my YouTube videos has a copyright claim on it through Content ID. This is not a copyright strike against my account, but it does notify me that someone has claimed that there is copyrighted material on a video of mine. As a result, that video is blocked in Germany. I made a video talking about it. Please excuse the wet hair.

The video in question is one of my A Taste of Japan videos that shows a couple yosakoi dance performances, and one of the songs has been Content IDed.

My question is this: has this ever happened to you? And what did you do? What do you think I should do?

I have several options:

  1. Do nothing. The video will continue to be blocked in Germany.
  2. Delete the video. No one can watch it.
  3. Mute the section that has been Content IDed.
  4. Replace the Content IDed section with YouTube-provided music.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Expanding Your Blog Network and Readers

Ever have one of those moments when you’re thinking, “Why the hell didn’t I think of that before?” And it turns out that idea is incredibly simple and obvious? I did as I read this post by Jason of HarsH ReaLiTy.

In this post, he talks about refreshing your network and keeping in touch with your followers, especially the ones who leave comments on your blog. Simply go to your comments sections and click on the names of the commenters, visit and read their blogs. And most importantly, leave a comment. They will appreciate it and are more likely to return to your blog.

But then it hit me. Why not take it a step further? The people who comment on your followers’ blogs probably have similar blogs. Visit those blogs and follow them if you like what you see. Make sure to leave comments! Not only will you maintain your network and keep in touch with your readers, but you’ll grow your network. You’ll gain new readers.

And seriously, go to HarsH ReaLiTy and follow that blog. Jason gives some of the best blogging advice. He’s helped many people improve their blogs and blogging habits, including mine.

Can you guess what I’m doing tonight?

What Happens at a Writer’s Group?

I’ve never been a member of a local writer’s group, and I have no idea if there are any around here. I haven’t looked into it. So, basically, I don’t know what really goes on at one. I have a vague idea. Writers meet, discuss their writing, maybe get advice. But do they share their work? What exactly do they do?

Are you a member of a local writer’s group? If you are, then what do you do at a meeting? What kind of places do you meet? Are there any relatively well-known authors? What are the benefits of joining a writer’s group?

Please let me know in the comments below. I’m wondering if I should join one after we get to Canada.