A Conversation about Writer’s Block

Thank you to D.A. Kori Prier, author of Colorado Drift for writing this blog. In a conversation between two writers who are discussing Writer’s Block, one writer realizes how they have to change. One writer is a “plotter” (someone who outlines and organizes their manuscript before/during the writing process) and the other writer is a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of their pants). Both paths work, but sometimes, you need to change your process for a certain manuscript in order to get past a block.

 

Wow, so you’re a writer huh?

Yep.

I’m writing too, but I’m in a funk.

Yeah, why’s that?

I’m stuck. I’ve got Writer’s Block. So, you ever get blocked?

Nope.

Really, how do you keep from losing your train of thought?

I prepare.

What do you mean? How do you prepare?

Well, first I do a shovel full of research on my topic.

So, you research everything?

Not quite everything, but most of the story’s plot.

Then what do you do?

Well, I organize the research into an order that formulates into my plot.

Really?

Yep. Then I write an outline of the story with all the parts (research and ideas) flowing through my diagram. This way, I know where my story is going and what I have to write next. I can always adjust the outline if something doesn’t fit or if I come up with a brilliant idea.

And this works for you?

Yep.

Would it work for me, too?

Yep, but you have to be disciplined and do the research, organize your thoughts, and outline your plot.

It sounds like a lot of work.

It is, but it keeps my creative processes juiced and always flowing. Besides, how long have you had your Writer’s Block?

A couple of weeks now.

Well, in two weeks you could have done most or all of your research and developed an outline.

I see your point. I think I need to start doing a better job than just writing from the top of my head.

Good for you.

 

We all get stuck once in a while. Here are a few things you can try to help yourself get out of Writer’s Block.

  1. Get away from your story. Find a hobby and relax. Avoid thinking about your manuscript. As your body relaxes, your brain will, too, and it will naturally figure out the problem you are having with the plot—if that’s the reason you’re stuck and getting Writer’s Block.
  2. Set up a writing routine and do it every day, 6 days a week. Structure will help form positive habits that lead to positive creativity.
  3. Work on your research. A new idea could strike. Changing your process techniques could help the flow of ideas.
  4. Talk your problem out with a writing buddy or an editor. They may be helpful in getting you to the root of the problem.
  5. Go on vacation. Take a few days and do something you’ve never done before or go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Get away from the stresses of everyday life for a few days. This could help your creative process because you’ll be experiencing different emotions through your new experiences.
  6. Laugh. Spend some time with someone who makes you laugh. Laughter will help release tension.
  7. Pamper yourself: see a massage therapist, get a manicure or hair cut, or go to a spa. While you’re focused on yourself, your body will naturally relax and you’ll be able to figure out the problem.

 

New Release - Colorado Drift by D.A. Kori Prier

 

D.A. Kori Prier was born and grew up in the two-mile high town of Leadville, Colorado. Now retired, he lives in Northern California with his wife, Snuz. Colorado Drift is the first book of a new series. Mr. Prier’s extensive knowledge of the mountainous geography lends credibility to the story and makes the adventure feel real and possible. Kori and Snuz enjoy traveling with their three four-legged girls: Becca, Tessa, and Bella.

 

Colorado Drift takes the reader on a snowy, modernistic science fiction adventure inside a Rocky Mountain avalanche.

 

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends who may find it useful. Thank you!

 

 

Thanksgiving Day: An Excerpt from News from Lake Boobbegone

Sometimes we need to look back at where we’ve been to move forward in life and in our hearts. Here’s an excerpt from Carolyn Redman’s News from Lake Boobbegone: A Breast Cancer Memoir from the Heart which became a #1 New Release in April 2017.

November 27, 2014,
Thanksgiving Day

 

So, these are the top ten things I’ve had to let go of this year: (1) my left breast, (2) 15 lymph nodes, (3) all of my hair, (4) my immune system, (5) my idea of beauty, (6) the illusion of control, (7) cocktails, (8) a plethora of tears, (9) a few extra pounds, and (10) wondering why me.

My last radiation treatment, or as I liked to euphemistically call it, “light therapy,” took place on November 10th. But even weeks after the treatment ended, radiation had left me looking and feeling like I’d been microwaved on high for far too long. Next to the mother of all sunburns, the emotional fatigue of daily treatments was probably the worst of it. I had been living “cancerously” for nearly a year now, and it had taken all of my resolve. Unlike chemo, I had to face radiation therapy on my own. No one could go with me, hold my hand, or sit by my side and distract me from these treatments. I had to dig deep and find even more strength I wasn’t sure I could muster.

The “mean wells,” my term for people who say dumb stuff unintentionally, keep reminding me how great things will be once I get back to normal. I don’t see how that is even remotely possible. I am missing a body part, have been infused with drugs potent enough to damage my heart and make my hair fall out, have been microwaved on high for 30 consecutive days, and as an added bonus have been chemically catapulted into menopause. And those are just the physical ramifications. Mix in equal parts anxiety, fear, and sadness, and the cancer train I’ve been on misses all the normal stops. What a disappointment and missed opportunity it would be if, after all of this, I turned out to be the exact same person I was before I was diagnosed.

I can’t quite go as far as to say that I am grateful I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but I can say that I am grateful for all of the realizations that have resulted because of it. I was given the opportunity to tap into a reservoir of courage I didn’t even know existed. I witnessed people at their best as they surrounded me with their clinical, surgical, and scientific expertise, genuine concern, humor, compassion, energy, and love. The word friendship took on a whole new meaning with each chemo sitter who took time out of her busy life to sit with me for hours on end. And I found out that my marriage was indeed for better or worse.

This Thanksgiving would be like no other because I finally understood the importance and power of gratitude. I had gained far more than I had lost this year and for that I was extremely grateful.

 

News from Lake Boobbegone by Carolyn Redman, copyright (C) 2017 by Carolyn Redman.

 

The Force Behind Writing Groups by Bruce Kirkpatrick

A few tips from Bruce Kirkpatrick on being a member of a writer’s group.

I’m a member of four groups and each works differently. Here’s what I’ve learned about writer’s groups and if you are a writer, why you may want be a part of one.

Both new and seasoned writers are often members of writer’s groups. No hard and fast rules exist about how they work, but a few tips to get the most out of them might help.

Groups can meet in person or online. They can require that members trade “chapters” or work beforehand—or not. They can read aloud or simply offer critique in the written form. They can be full of published authors or those just getting started.

 

  1. If you attend a meeting, it forces you to write. No better way to get to work than to have somebody ready to read it.  One of the groups I’m involved with has over 270 members, but only 10 to 15 come to meetings regularly and read. Those are the more serious writers.
  2. It forces you to edit. Nobody wants to read work that is weak. By the time I read something in front of the group, I’ve edited it at least several times. That makes for better writing.
  3. It forces you, in many cases, to read your work out loud. That’s a key to better structure, phrasing, and dialogue. If your group doesn’t read aloud, you can always incorporate that into your editing practice.
  4. Groups force you to toughen up. Most groups offer sound criticism, delivered in a positive manner. One of my groups start the critique with what we liked, then move to how the writing could be better. It can always be better. You need to hear that, continually.
  5. They force you to meet and work with other writers. Writing can be a lonely passion but there is enlightenment in numbers. You’ll pick up great tips, habits, and skills working with like individuals. You may even use the group to connect you to others in the profession that can push your career forward. It’s a great place to network.
  6. Writing groups will force you to be a better writer. If you stay connected, and keep writing, your work will improve. You may not be the next Hemingway, but it’s a start.

 

That said, in my experience, writing groups have little knowledge about getting published. They are all about the writing. My groups don’t include many published authors, so the how-to-write-for-publication is a glaring hole. Most writers will do better reading the books about writing—Stein, Gorkin, Browne & King, George—than trusting inexperienced writers.

But you have to start someplace and a writing group will force you to write, edit, and receive feedback. If you’re a beginning writer or want to write for your own pleasure, it’s a good place to start.

 

Bruce Kirkpatrick is the author of Hard Left and Lumberjack Jesus. He is currently working on several different writing projects. To learn more about Bruce and his books, you can visit: http://www.bkirkpatrick.com/about/

 

At Written Dreams, we believe writers who take part of writer’s groups can be very successful. We will often suggest joining the local chapters to new writers because we believe in the benefits. Here in Green Bay, WI, we’re lucky to have a few groups that meet locally. If you’re looking for a writer’s group in your area, here’s a few associations you can start your search with, depending on the genre you write in: RWA-Romance Writers of America, HWA-Horror Writers of America, SFWA-Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America, CWG-The Children’s Writer’s Guild, NAMW-National Association of Memoir Writers, and many more!

Reviewing Your First Draft: WD’s Manuscript Separation Process

It’s easy to get excited after you’ve written your first draft. We know you want to show it to the world. But don’t! Please don’t. Here’s an easy process to remember to make your manuscript the best it can be—before showing even one word to your closest friend, or gasp,  to an editor. We believe this process is time well spent. Read on to learn more about our Manuscript Separation process.
1) If you haven’t started writing your first book and your reading this blog, that’s okay. a) Do as much research as you need to start writing Manuscript 1. b) Begin writing 200-1000 words a day, 6 days a week until you reach the desired story length. (90,000 words is the length of a typical fiction book.)
2) Writing the first draft can be frustrating. Enjoy the process. No matter if it takes you 30 days or 30 months, this is the first draft of Manuscript 1. Ever. Make it whatever you want it to be. Take your time and add as much of the story as you can during this process.
Note: If you get stuck or have writer’s block, no worries.  Relax and unwind. Do some more research on your topic, or get inspired by attending a local writer’s group meeting. Writers are helpful, unselfish people and most want to see their peers succeed.
2) You’ve finished writing your first draft. Congratulations! Now, here’s the most important step in your manuscript process. Put it aside and don’t touch it for 3 months—that’s 90 days of not looking at one word, not even the title. I know, I know. It’s finished, and you want to tweak every last word. Why? Because you can. Revising it now at this stage of the process would be a crucial mistake and could be hazardous to the manuscript. Wait 3 months before reviewing this first draft. Waiting can be tough, but this is very important. Plan a vacation, start a new hobby, outline a new story. Do anything but read Manuscript 1.
Note: If you do think of an idea to add to the manuscript during your time away, write it down in a journal with the date on it (or the day in the process, like Day 25 of 90) so you don’t forget the inspirational idea that could fix that plot hole or character flaw.
3) Day 91: You’re ready to review your manuscript. You’ve been a good writer and haven’t peeked. That’s wonderful! Now, check that journal for any notes to refresh your memory and start reading.
Note: More revisions are typically made on Chapter One than any other chapter. Don’t have a favorite. Spend equal amounts of time on every chapter. I know some are more needy than others and require more attention. Just be aware that you’re not spending all of your time with just one chapter. Remember to add details for characters, like oh I don’t know, them wearing clothing and having skin color, eye color, hair color, etc., so your characters are not running around invisible and naked. LOL! 🙂
4) You’ve finished the second draft. Writer, what are you going to do next? No, (shaking head) not send it to an editor. Wrong answer. Go to Disney World? Maybe. The one thing you need to do: put Draft 2 aside for 2 short months. 60 days, that’s all. You can do it!
Note: During your off time of Manuscript 1, you could begin research on Manuscript 2.
5) Day 61: Review draft day. As you go through the manuscript this time, you’ll see plot holes or character flaws more easily. During this review, you’ll probably spend more time on specific scenes in the story, making sure the story arc is what it needs to be and making the characters live and breathe. When you’ve fixed those plot holes, you’re ready for the next step.
Note: Getting distance away from Manuscript 1 is very important and allows for you to have “Fresh Eyes” on your manuscript. Some writers say they don’t even remember writing some of the things in their manuscript while reviewing.
6) Next step. Put Draft 3 away for 1 month before reviewing it. Easy peasy. The time will go quickly.
Note: During this month off from Manuscript 1, write 5 diary entries your main character would write. If, after you write these entries you discover more about your character’s flaws and characteristics, be sure to write them down in your journal and include them when you begin your next review.
7) Day 31: Review Day of Draft 4.  Take your time with this review, be critical and watch for minor typos and grammatical errors that may have popped up during the revision process. Add any details about your character that you may have missed before, but don’t spend a lot of time on changing scenes/character revisions. This review is meant to be more of a proof, than a rewrite. A rewrite at this point shouldn’t be needed. After this review you should have a clean manuscript.
Note: If you’re fully satisfied with your manuscript at this point, that’s great! If not, take another month away from it and do more revisions. If you’re really stuck, do one of two things: a) join a writer’s critique group and ask for suggestions, or b) set up a time to talk with one of us at Written Dreams and we can put you in contact with a professional to help you.
8) Submission time? Your manuscript has been fully revised, it’s typo free and full of fun details about your characters and the adventure they embark upon. You’re excited and ready to submit to an editor, but first, should you have someone else read it? That depends. If this is truly your first manuscript and you know other writers, you could ask a few willing beta readers. Many pros do this, and it’s not a bad idea at all.
Note: If you do send your manuscript to beta readers keep in mind that you may end up doing more revisions. Remember to take time away from Manuscript 1 after any revision process, a minimum of 30 days after revising any scenes.
8) Submission time: sending Manuscript 1 to an editor. Request their submission guidelines and format your manuscript in their suggested format. Then, off it goes!
Note: You will worry. We know. Remember that editors read manuscripts for a living and that Manuscript 1 isn’t the only one they have on their schedule. After you send your manuscript out, write down the date sent, and then start a new project. Check in with the editor after 6-9 weeks have passed to check on the status of your manuscript.
Good luck! We hope this article helped you. This a suggestion for a process that we’ve seen work for many authors. Ultimately, you need to decide what process works best for you. If you have any questions, you may contact us through our contact page on our website. Check out our store at writtendreams.com/store for some great reads by other authors!

Staying Motivated During Summer Months

  1. Make a list of all the writing tasks you’d like to accomplish this summer starting with today and ending with August 30th (or whatever 3 month period works for you). What are all the things you’d like to accomplish during that three month period.
  2. Keep your goals posted somewhere you can see them to keep you on task. Don’t ignore them.
  3. Are you planning to go to any conferences or retreats?
  4. Make a sign for the door of the room that you write in the most to help family understand you’re working seriously on your writing during that time. It can be as simple as saying: Do not disturb. Working. Make it clear to your family that at certain times of the day you will be coming out to eat meals with them and catch up on the things that need your attention, but for the most part, you will be focused on your writing.
  5. Use the buddy system: find a writer friend that has similar goals who you can check in once in a while with on your own progress. Talking will help keep you both motivated.
  6. Stay positive. Don’t let things distract you from your goals. Believe in yourself. We believe in you! You should, too!

E. Tip of the Week: Writing Challenge

I’m teaching a session of writing classes to a group of local writers. Some of the participants have been writing for years, and others are just beginning to take the craft seriously. My challenge to them last week was to double their word count from what they wrote two weeks ago.

Some writers wrote less than 1000 words two weeks ago, some wrote more. One woman wrote 4000 words in less than two weeks, so her challenge is to double it and write more than 8000 words by next Thursday.

Writing challenges can be a great way to get out the excess words that are built inside of us just waiting to come out. Usually not all the words will be used in a final product, but the adrenalin rush from writing so many words in such a short time span can be exhilarating!

My own personal challenge is to write 1000 words a week, or 1000 words on Sunday, my day off from editing. Some days I can write the 1000 words in 30 minutes or so, other days I have to really work at it. But whatever the challenge is, it’s a great feeling to reach my desired goal.

What are some of your own personal writing goals? Are you making them? Is it time to double up your word count and challenge yourself?

Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with the Edgar and Stoker Nominated Author, Billie Sue Mosiman

I first discovered Billie Sue and her writing in the mid 90s about a year before she edited the anthology, Never Shake a Family Tree. It is with great pleasure to have her as our guest today. Please help me welcome her to The Editing Essentials!

Billie Sue Mosiman is an Edgar and Stoker Nominated author of  more than 50 e-books. She published 13 novels with New York major publishers and recently published BANISHED, her latest novel. She’s the author of at least 150 published short stories that were in various magazines and anthologies. Her latest stories will be in BETTER WEIRD edited by Paul F. Olson from Cemetery Dance, a tribute anthology to David Silva, a story in the anthology ALLEGORIES OF THE TAROT edited by Annetta Ribken, and another story in William Cook’s FRESH FEAR. She’s an active member of HWA and International Thriller Writers. She’s working on a new novel of suspense titled THE GREY MATTER. You can visit her at: The Peculiar Life of a Writer http://www.peculiarwriter.blogspot.com, or at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/billie.s.mosiman or on Twitter: @billiemosiman or at Billie Sue’s Amazon Page.

WD: Does your family support your writing career, and if so, have they always?

BM: Yes, my husband has always supported me in my career. Before I sold a novel, all my other women friends had a job and I was at home, writing. I’m sure they thought I was being lazy because didn’t everyone work? My husband continued supporting the family and believing in me until I got my first contract. My daughters were raised with a writer so they understood what I was doing (I probably lectured them enough about how important Mama’s work was!). They tried hard not to interrupt me when I was at the typewriter and the computer.

WD: Does anybody in your family write because of your influence on them?

BM: No. My daughters are creative in various ways, but they haven’t been writing.

WD: What inspired you to begin writing?

BM: I can’t imagine. Since I wanted to be a writer from the time I was thirteen, I can’t say what inspired me. I think it was because I was raised around Southern storytellers who sat around telling one another tales, but it could also be because, or in addition to, my love of reading books.

WD: What author or authors influenced your own style?

 

BM: There were several. John D. MacDonald, Jim Thompson, Phillip K. Dick, Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, and a whole raft of mystery and suspense popular writers during the 70s and 80s.

WD: What is your own process for getting a manuscript complete? Any habits? How do you stay focused?

BM: I believe in dedication and discipline. I was under contract from year to year so I had novels to turn in and expected of me. I would write every day five days a week and take weekends off to devote to my family. That kind of schedule became a routine. I stay focused by reading over what I’ve written the day before and falling into the page, falling into the story so that I can see it in my head and can write the next scene or chapter.

WD: What are your thoughts on how the industry is radically changing to benefit the author? How do you see the industry changing for the better or worse?

BM: With digital books it’s changed almost completely. Writers in my early years of course sent their paper manuscripts in manuscript boxes to New York publishing houses or agents. Today writers can simply upload them to a digital online bookstore. I think the industry has changed for the better in giving the author more control and it’s changed for the worse in making people believe their work is ready to be “published” digitally when it isn’t, or when as writers they really have some way to go to be professional writers. I expect it will all shake out eventually, but the transition might be rocky.

WD: If you could give one tip to a new writer, what would it be?

BM: Write like it means something to you, like storytelling is your life’s goal and you want to tell the best stories anyone ever told. Try to write in a humane way, with heart, and hope to touch people. Write with nerve, take risks, try to do what hasn’t been done or do what has been done better. Lastly, get an editor. Your prose probably isn’t as polished as you think it is.

 

Thank you, Billie Sue, for being with us today! If you’d like to leave a comment or question for Billie Sue, we will be happy to pass it on to her.

E. Tip of the Week: Character Count

Characters are the life of every story so it’s important to treat them with respect and pay close attention to the details. However, it’s easy to get carried away and forget about  some of the “don’ts” that come along with character building.

  • If your reader needs to keep a notebook by their bedside every time a new character is introduced in your book, you’ve got too many characters.
  • If you are having trouble keeping your characters straight in your own head, it’s time to limit the number of characters in the story.
  • If your characters are screaming to have their own story, and not be a supporting role, it might be time to start an outline on a new story.
  • If you have multiple characters whose names all start with the same letter like “s” or “m” consider changing two of the characters names to start with a different letter so the reader can keep the characters straight in their head. Or, decide if you really need those other characters.
  • If you have a character just so the main character isn’t talking to themselves out loud, is that “friend” really necessary.

There are many more character “do’s” and “don’ts” but these are just a few I thought worth mentioning now. What are some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” you’ve learned over the years?

Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with Tricia Zoeller, Author of First Born

Today, we’re excited to have Tricia Zoeller as our guestblogger. I first met Tricia through another author we worked with, M.E. May. and we became fast friends. Tricia is a very talented writer and I’m looking forward to seeing many, many novels written by her. Please welcome Tricia to The Editing Essentials.

Tricia Zoeller lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband, Lou, her little yappy dog, Lola Belle, and her big orange mutant cat, George. Her two stepsons, Joseph and Robert, make stopovers as well, making sure to keep life an adventure. Writing has always been a part of her life—like breathing and chocolate. Tricia loves to hear from her readers. You can catch up with her here:  http://www.triciazoeller.com/ , https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tricia-Zoeller-Author/439025286173082?ref=hl  , http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17670526-first-born

WD: What inspired you to begin writing?

TZ: I’ve always written. I’ve always been a reader. My father worked for his school paper and influenced me as I was growing up to take an interest in writing. He traveled frequently for his job and would read a mystery (quite often Agatha Christie) on his overseas flights and give the book to me when he returned.

In high school, I wrote for the school paper and in college, I pursued a degree in journalism from Indiana University in Bloomington. However, after graduation I never worked as a writer. Instead, I obtained my masters degree and worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for over a decade.  I liked that it combined my love of language, science, and helping people. I never stopped writing poems, novellas, etc. When health problems caused me to stop working as a therapist, I turned to writing as an outlet.

WD: Does your family support your writing?

TZ: My husband has a love/hate relationship with my writing. Sometimes, I get a bit obsessed or distracted. Also, I’m a thinker; he’s a doer. If he had his way, I would have published this book over a year ago. He also is not a fiction reader. So when I talk about shapeshifters or vampires or changelings, he will sometimes get a confused look on his face. But he never asked questions when I took over the one spare bedroom and made it into my writing studio complete with fantasy art for inspiration. I’ve also overheard him talking about my characters to people and realized that he really has been listening.

WD: Which authors do you enjoy reading?

TZ: I have focused on fantasy and paranormal over the last several years. One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s collection of shorts, Just After Sunset. I also enjoy reading Nalini Singh, J. K. Rowling, Robin Hobb, Jana Oliver, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Suzanne Johnson, and Anya Bast.

WD: How did Lily come to be? Is she based off of personal situations?

TZ: Lily came to me in her shapeshifter form after I read Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. I had an idea of creating a different kind of shifter. Even though I took a humorous approach to my character’s shape, there is a serious story behind it. Lily’s struggles with her shapeshifting directly relate to my struggles with Lupus. May is Lupus Awareness Month and it is almost exactly fifteen years to this day that I started cytoxan treatments for kidney disease.

I had read so many books where “bam” a character goes through a transformation, they suddenly can do anything, and they own it. I tried to take a more realistic approach to how it really feels to have your body out of control and the ups and downs of each day something new happening just when you feel like you’ve mastered the situation.

WD: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you to create Lily?

TZ: I may have based Lily after my friend Cheryl’s creature (no spoilers). Lily’s heritage stems from my experiences with eastern medicine. I did Korean yoga, sought Chinese healing sessions, acupuncture, etc. This influenced not only the creation of Lily, but another character in my book.

WD: Atlanta is your setting for the Lily Moore series. What made you decide on that backdrop?

TZ: I’ve lived in Atlanta off and on for over fifteen years. I know Atlanta and I love its greenery. It suits a shifter. You can drive 15 miles in any direction in Atlanta and find a wildlife management area, mountain, lake or river. In fact, the Chattahoochee River plays a big part in book 2.

WD: During the writing process, what is the toughest part for you to write—beginning, middle, or end or characters, setting, plot, action scenes and why?

TZ: The middle is definitely the hardest for me. I always know my beginning, end and the title. I also know my main character immediately. I have an idea of the middle, but organizing it can give me fits. First Born was the hardest because I insisted on having all these characters with plots and subplots. I actually used a flipchart, timeline and crime board at one point to hash out the details.

WD: Is there anything or anyone that specifically helped you during those more trying times in the writing process?

It takes a village. I attended many of the Georgia Writers Association workshops and took online writing courses through the Romance Writers of America Mystery/Suspense Chapter called Coffin, Kiss of Death. These got me back in the right mindset. I also visited crime scene writing forums via yahoo groups.

My friends and fellow writers provided me with a great network. Written Dreams helped me with the editing process—a painful but necessary step. My critique partners and beta readers have listened time and time again and prodded me along in this very rough last stretch.

To beginning authors, I say keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t give up! Listen to constructive criticism, but act only on those snippets that ring true for you. Know you will make mistakes, but learn from them and move on. Carve out a routine for yourself and write every day.

Thank you Tricia for being our guest today! If you’d like to leave a comment or question for Tricia, we’ll be sure to pass it on to her. Thank you!

Thoughts on Writing from Best-selling Author, John Marco

Today, we’re very excited to have John Marco as our guestblogger. I first worked with John when he wrote a story, “The Hundredth Kill” for one of my anthologies I edited with Marty Greenberg. I was so touched by that story, I had to read his novels. His stories are so filled with emotion, depth and character, for me, it’s a joy to read his stories every time. Please help us welcome John to The Editing Essentials!

John Marco is the author of eightbooks, including the bestselling Tyrants and Kings trilogy and the books of the Bronze Knight, Lukien.  His latest novel, THE FOREVER KNIGHT, has just been published by DAW Books and is a Barnes and Noble and Kirkus top pick for April.  To find out more about John and his work, please visit his website at www.johnmarco.com.

WD: What inspired you to begin writing? A certain book, teacher, family member?
JM: I’m one of those people who think that writers are born rather than made, which might be why it’s difficult for me to pinpoint a particular instant of inspiration.  Writers often say that they’ve “always” wanted to be a writer, but for me it’s actually true.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be one.  There wasn’t a particular person that I met or book that I read.  It was just something that I found absolutely fascinating from the beginning—the ability to create stories and put them down on paper.  Of course none of us come out fully formed as writers.  There’s always more to learn and the striving to get better.  But for me, the desire was always there.  When I stop to think about it, that seems rather strange, as if I literally was born with it, but I bet all the writers out there will understand what I mean.
WD: Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre instead of another genre? Or, did the genre choose you?
JM: In this case, I think the genre chose me.  There was never any question in my mind that I’d write fantasy.  Fantasy and science fiction were what inspired me as a kid.  I loved the old paperbacks and magazines—just seeing the artwork on their covers made me long to create those kinds of stories myself.  I still get wistful when I see one of those old, yellowing paperbacks, or when I hear someone mention Omni magazine.  And fantasy in particular is such a big pallet!  It’s limitless.
WD: What is your favorite thing to write? Writing dialogue, action scenes, character background, etc.?
JM: I had to think on this for a moment, because I do enjoy working on character backgrounds, and although writing action scenes is difficult I enjoy them, too.  But I’d have to say dialogue.  I’ve always struggled with dialogue, and it’s something I’m constantly working on improving because I absolutely love great dialogue.  I know it when I see it, or maybe I should say when I hear it, because it has a meter to it that draws the reader in and carries them along.  When it’s really well done it’s revealing in ways that makes normal exposition dull.
WD: How much of your own life experiences get into your stories?
JM: I’m not sure.  Really, I’m not trying to dodge the question.  I honestly don’t know.  People used to think I had military experience because some of my books were called “military fantasy,” but I’ve never been in the service and have only fired a gun once in my life.  I’ve never been in war or been overseas to see great ancient architecture or even ridden a horse, yet all these things figure heavily into my writing.  I’ve lived a really provincial life, because that’s how I like it.  On the other hand, I pile a lot of emotional stuff into my stories, and that’s got to come from somewhere.  None of it is autobiographical, but they’re all subjects that I care about or move me on some level.  I’ve always been more interested in why people do the things they do more than in what they actually did.
WD: Does your family support your writing career, and if so, have they always?
JM: My family has always supported my writing career.  I have a wonderful wife that lets me hide out at my desk for hours at a time, a young son that proudly tells his friends that his dad’s a writer, and other family members who are always out there spreading the word and trying to get people to try my books.  It’s hard for me to imagine being a writer without that kind of support.  I love writing, but it’s a ton of work and I can get pretty moody when I’m deep into a project.
WD: Tell us about your new release. What was the process with The Forever Knight? How long did it take to write? What types of things happened in your real life during the process of writing it that may have slowed it down?
JM: First, I’d like to say that The Forever Knight is kind of a soft “reboot” of a previous trilogy that I wrote that started with The Eyes of God over ten years ago.  A number of people have asked me if they can start by reading this new book, or if they first have to go back and read the three others; I always say that they can just jump right in to this new book because it is very different from the ones before it.  It’s much shorter, for one thing. It concentrates on a single character, and it’s much less epic in scope.  All those things were by design.  It’s really a more intimate tale about a knight who is haunted by his own immortality and how he tries to come to terms with it.  In fact, I often refer to it as “a bloody tale of revenge and immortality.”  To me, that sums up the theme of the book nicely.
Writing the book actually didn’t take me very long once I made up my mind to focus on it.  I had the outline done and started writing it, and then wound up taking a break from it while I took a job outside of writing.  When I got back to it, I knew I had to really make the time to write, something I wasn’t used to doing after having the luxury of writing full-time for so long.  I used to have a tiny place in upstate NY, and I remember going up there and working on it.  That was fantastic, the kind of thing I used to picture being a writer was like.  No distractions, nothing but my computer and microwave dinners.  Once I made up my mind to get it done, it really flowed.
WD: How do you deal with writer’s block? Are there places you go—in your mind, or in real life—that help you get back on track with the scene you are writing?
JM: Writer’s block?  No way.  No time for that.  I’m sorry to sound flippant, but I could give myself a thousand excuses for not getting my work done.  That’s what writer’s block sounds like to me—just another in a long list of excuses.  Writer’s block is really a problem of having nothing to say.  And if that’s the case, it means I haven’t done my work in scoping out the story.  Having an idea isn’t enough—you need a story.  So I take my time and outline, and determine what I want to say ahead of time, and then I get to it.  If I reach a difficult section (which I do often), I force myself to power through it.  Maybe I’ll go for a long drive and talk to myself and let it play out in my mind, but I don’t let it fester.  I try to look at it like a job.  Yes, it’s art, but you also have to get the damn thing done.
WD: What do you enjoy about the writing process? What do you dislike?
JM: I need to pull a Sarah Palin on you and answer this question in my own way, if you don’t mind.  There was a period of about two years where I wasn’t writing at all, because I went back to work at a job that I hated, and I wasn’t sure where things were going with my books.  Candidly, it was a difficult time for me.  Eventually a good friend coaxed me back into writing, and since then I’ve seen the whole thing through new eyes.  I not only realized how much I missed writing, but how much I love it.  Yes, it’s a cruel mistress and all that, but I’ve honestly come to appreciate all of it in a deeper way.  If I had to identify the part of it that I don’t enjoy, I’d have to say the publishing process itself.  It’s long and fraught.  But when it comes to actually writing, I’m much more willing to embrace its challenges now.  I’m learning to love the hard parts.
WD: If you could write any of your stories over again, which would it be?
JM: Oh, I’m so glad you asked me this question, because I’ve never had the chance to say this in public, but I would really like the chance to rework my first book, The Jackal of Nar.  I recently heard an interview with Frank Langella in which he said that he almost never watches any of his older movies, because he always sees things he could have done better in them.  That’s how I feel about Jackal.  Now, I should say that a lot of people have told me that that’s their favorite book of mine. I’m grateful to hear that, but I know I’ve gotten better as a writer and there’s things I wish I could go back and change.  But I guess that’s just the nature of the business.
WD: Which non-fiction books on the craft of writing have helped you become a better writer?
JM: I’ve read a lot of these kinds of books over the years, and I’ve found useful stuff in all of them, but the only one that sticks in my mind is a book called Writing and Selling Science Fiction that came out in 1976.  I took that book out of the library when I was ten or twelve years old, and I never gave it back!  I know, shame on me.  Really, it’s silly that I kept it, but I loved it.  I read it over and over again and I still keep it with me when I write.  Each chapter of it is written by a different author and covers a different subject, like creating characters, writing dialogue, and so on.  Even though it’s old, it’s full of good, timeless advice.  Maybe copies of it can be found on Ebay.  It’s worth seeking out.

Thanks so much, John, for being here and sharing your tips on writing. We wish you the best with the release of The Forever Knight. If you’d like to post a question or comment for John, we’ll be sure to pass it on. Thank you!