Monday, August 18, 2014

A Simple Introduction to Plot Structure

It's Monday, so, as promised, I'll try to get my posts back on schedule. I've been busy moving back permanently to Pittsburgh, so that's why I took a short break from writing advice posts (these take a long time to put together, as many of you probably know).

Let's get to it, shall we?

You are walking down the street when all of a sudden BAM!! It hits you: Inspiration. You rush home, keeping the idea fresh in your head, throw open the door, grab the nearest piece of paper and a pen, and jot down your great idea. Breathing a sigh of relief you sit back and look at your genius. There's your character, the setting, and.....what? You reread the page. What's going on? It was so good, but now you realize nothing has happened at all. Something is missing.

One word: plot.

Your characters don't have anything to keep them occupied. They are standing there looking at each other saying: "Okay....what's the point?"

How do you form a plot? What are the necessary elements? Why don't people want to read about the life of your characters, and be done with it?

There's no true point to the story. Readers don't want to watch your character live and die, unless that character is an awesome action hero who spends his days cleaning up the world of evil and fighting awesome battles. Even then, that might become dull.

There has to be a point to the story, and people want to know what that is as soon as possible. The opening paragraphs (which I'll talk about in a later post) need to hook your reader and tell them why they are reading the book. Why should they care about your character's story? Why should they take interest in your novel?

A true plot is essential. The first few scenes should establish the main goal of your hero. Follow these six basic points:

  • What does he want?
  • Why does he want it?
  • Who or what stands in his way?
  • How will he reach his goal?
  • What will happen if he reaches his goal?
  • What will happen if he doesn't?

If you keep saying that word
It stops sounding like a real word.
In the opening scenes, try to at least explain points #1 and #2. Maybe you can fit some of the other points in there, but the first two are crucial. They tell us which direction the story will go in.

The reader wants to know the destination. Once they know What and Why, they have a reason to continue the story, just like your main character will have a reason to move toward the goal. They have something to root for. They can take a journey with the character and experience the same pitfalls and high moments the character has. Show readers "Point B," and the satisfaction of the journey will come with the rest of the novel. Once you tell the reader where they're going, they'll follow all the instructions -- the subplots, romance, and journeys -- without hesitation. When they reach the goal, they'll decide if it was worth working for.

It's okay if you get a few pages written before you make up your mind as to what the main characters want. But make sure you do it fast, or your readers will keep asking: "What is the point of this?" and you'll lose them before the meat of the story starts. Make sure the goal is something interesting. It doesn't have to be obtainable, it doesn't even have to be real, per se. Maybe the hero seeks a rumored magical sword that can save the kingdom, but, as he finds out, it isn't real at all.

Then what's the point of the journey? The journey should change the character. The hero seeking the sword should discover the strength and courage inside him that will allow him to defeat the enemy threatening the kingdom.

Throw in a villain. Make him hurt the hero. Make him force the hero to make a choice he doesn't want to. Bend the boundaries. Snap his values. Cause pain. Make readers feel it in their hearts.

That's the true meaning of plot. Put your characters through heaven and hell. Have their worst nightmares claw at them and their brightest fantasies elate their spirits. Do it for the sake of change. Keep that change realistic. A man doesn't simply become a knight because he finds a magic sword. He learns a new set of strengths and values and morals, grows more intelligent, and devises a plan that will lead him to victory. Things happen to him that change his perspective in life. That is the point of plot. Don't leave your character the same as he started.

Make the reader care that the character changed. Do we feel sympathy? Is he stronger or weaker? Has he lost friends and loved ones? What did the journey do mentally or emotionally to the character? What was the price he paid to obtain his goal - or not?

That's what plot is all about -- a series of events, leading toward the established goal, that create a complex character built up from his/her experiences on the way to that goal. Whether s/he reaches that goal, or not, is completely up to the writer.

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While you're at it, check out my New Adult Science-fiction novel, Embassy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

So as you've all probably heard, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been going around. Well, as it should inevitably happen, the challenge came to me. So here's my video!

Also, for every view this video gets on this blog over the next week, ending August 24, 2014 at 11:59 EST, I will donate $0.10 to the ALS Fund. So share this video. The more views, the more money I donate! So go on and hit SHARE! Or post a link to Facebook or wherever else you can think of.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Regular Posts to Resume Monday

Sorry I've been gone for the past week, everybody. I've been busy moving into my new apartment and moving my sister into college (funny enough, she ended up going to school right down the street from me in Pittsburgh!)

I'll get back to my usual scheduled posts at the beginning of next week, and I'll keep them going as long as I can before school gets in the way. Then I'll drop to 2-3 posts a week.

Thank you for your patience. I've received a lot of emails and comments thanking me for the posts and blog, so I hope to keep this up as long as I can.

In the meantime, Embassy's grand print release will be October 10, 2014! Excited for that, and getting all the arrangements made for the release party. If you're in Pittsburgh then, you should come! Details coming in the next few weeks.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

EMBASSY: A Refreshing Journey

This is a new ARC review Embassy received on Amazon yesterday. It's really in-depth, so I got permission to post it here.

Embassy will be available in print on October 10, 2014.

Review by Melissa J. Troutman
Author of Trust and Deception.


Embassy is not a science fiction adventure novel. Rather, it is a science fiction journey novel, perhaps the first of its kind I have ever read. I started it expecting aliens, laser gunfights, and spaceship battles. You know, like Stars Wars, or the new Star Trek, or the rest of science fiction that’s out there.

It took me until 80% through the book to realize there would be no aliens, no gunfights, no battles. Instead, Embassy follows the quieter, internal journey of a young man named Arman Lance and his dreams of finding the only person who will make him happy after his father’s death.

I enjoyed Embassy. I was hooked from the beginning, wanting to see if Arman would make it into Undil’s Embassy Program. Subsequent intrigue kept me in the story, such as whether he would find Ladia, what would happen to Belvun and its spreading desert, and if Arman would be happy again.

These hooks were well placed, because Arman as a character didn’t grab me. He starts the book quiet, antisocial, and too focused on his one goal of finding Ladia. Not much to like. Yet he was real: coping with the unexpected loss of his father, burdened to provide for his mother and sisters, driven to find the girl he loved, and anxious to get away from home. A typical young man. I haven’t read many books told from the male perspective, but I thought Arman’s character and voice were accurate to real life. Points for that.

The universe was also accurate. My thanks to the author for portraying the zero gravity between planet and spaceship, for mentioning the gravity simulators on the ship, and for having his characters throw up after their first space journeys. (Gross, I know, but realistic.) Points for that.

Even the science fiction part of the universe was realistic. I’m leery of reading sci-fi and fantasy because I tend to get lost in other people’s imaginations. S. Alex Martin, however, did an excellent job building his world. Though I didn’t fully grasp everything the first read through—I never do—I was struck by how neat his planets, politics, and technology were. He obviously thought through his world-building, and it shows. Points for that.

I didn’t find the writing itself to be anything stellar. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When a book is written in first person, the narrative is the voice of the main character. If Arman were a writer, I would expect flowery prose and stunning descriptions and breathtaking turns of phrase. Maybe. :) Since he is not a writer, however, the simpler writing style is fine. It suits his character. (Note: I thought the present tense to be handled well. I don’t usually like reading present tense, but Embassy’s style read comfortably.)

Final notes: the turn of events both surprised and pleased me. As a reader, I enjoy surprises. Points for the satisfying ending and the unexpected way there. Also, I found Embassy’s storyline refreshingly unique: the main character doesn’t have to save the world, nor does his athletic female friend have to call upon her skills to “kick butt.” Embassy was like a breath of fresh air in that respect. I give points for that too. And it was a clean read. I think there was only one d-word in the whole book.

One part at the end did disappoint me, though. Arman sleeps with his girlfriend, and that bothered me. I had hoped for a book without that kind of thing. But in this regard, Embassy is just like the rest of the YA fiction out there. Points removed for that.

Overall, Embassy is the unique journey of a young man who is teachable and respectful, who comes to admire his old coworker and appreciate his young friend, who starts quiet and unhappy but ends quiet and appreciative. This book shows great character transformation. It also reminds readers that seclusion damages rather than helps, and that there is healing in reaching out and opening up.

Yes, I enjoyed reading Embassy. Yes, I would recommend it to the right friends. And yes, I would read S. Alex Martin’s next book.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Part No One Knows

I wrote this story back in June but only shared it with a couple people. However, in light of Robin Williams' death, I thought it would be something good to share with everyone just to pass on a positive, hopeful message for anyone dealing with depression or bipolar disorders. While this isn't a true story, it's based on my own battle with depression, which is approaching two years. Please pass this message on, and if you know anyone struggling with depression, please, please let them know you're there for them.

Let’s start near the end, when the knife was pressed against your arm. Not many people know about this part. It’s that moment of hesitation when a wave of second thoughts floods your head, and you think, if only for a second, that you might not do it. “I have to,” you’ll tell yourself, the first tears forming. And just when you think you’re about to do it, you don’t. Then you feel angry, and blame yourself for taking so long. “Just do it!” you’ll scream through your teeth. But nobody will hear you, because the words never actually leave your mouth. The door is closed, but you’re afraid someone will hear and check on you. If your sister found you with that knife pressed against the tender side of your arm, drawing a rift in your skin, she would never look at you the same way. She’d scream, and the whole house would hear. And then what would you do? You can’t do it in front of her.
You can’t.
In the morning, your mother will come upstairs to say goodbye before she leaves for work. She’ll be expecting the same groggy “mmph” because you’re barely half-awake, like you do every morning. But when she finds you tomorrow, you’ll be laying on the stained carpet. She’ll scream, but you won’t hear. She’ll drop to her knees and grab your body and shout, but you’ll only hang limp. Your sister will run into the room, scared, and then she’ll see your pale, bloodless face. Maybe your eyes will be open. That will make it worse.
You squeeze your eyes shut and press the blade harder against your arm. The serrated edge pricks your skin. If you don’t do this, there will be a red line traced across your arm for at least a few days. Someone is bound to see it. When they do, their eyes will flick up at yours, but only for a moment. They’ll look away again. You’ll pull your arms to your chest, but the damage has been done. They won’t tell anyone though. Your secret is safe.
“But what’s the point?!” Even the words in your head seem to shake with anger. The world is dark. Your eyelids twitch and a sliver of light shines through. Then you squeeze it shut again. Darkness is your friend. It’s only a matter of time before darkness is all you’ll see, so you might as well get used to it now.
You curl your fingers harder around the handle. In your darkness, you begin to feel the blade. People always said metal feels cool against the skin, but it’s not. It’s warm. You peek out one eye. There’s no blood. The warmth is an illusion. Your mind is tricking you into thinking you’ve done it, but you haven’t. You relax your grip, relieve some of the pressure. The warmth goes away. The knife feels cold. Its edge doesn’t tug your skin, but it feels sharper than before.
Fear overtakes you. You open both eyes, and tears drip down your nose. Your stomach twists. You let go, hear the soft thud on your carpet, and back away. You hit the wall on the other side of your bedroom and slide down it until you’re sitting with your knees pulled to your chest. The knife is pointed away from you. The line on your arm flushes red. You sit there and you cry.
In the morning, your mother comes upstairs to say goodbye before she leaves for work. She’s expecting the same groggy “mmph” like you do every morning. She tells you to have a good day, and she loves you. She pauses when you don’t say anything. Maybe you’re asleep. So she walks closer and rubs your hair and kisses your forehead.
You open your eyes. Hers are right there. “I love you,” you say. She smiles and tells you to have a good day again, and to make sure you get your sister to school on time. When you hear the front door shut, you get up and take the knife out of your drawer. You go downstairs, walk onto your back porch, and drop the knife in the trash can. Later, your mother will notice she’s missing a knife. She’ll wonder about it for a few minutes, then again tomorrow. But she’ll forget it by the end of the week, around the same time the red line on your arm fades.

This time next year, she’ll have a new knife. Ten years from now, she’ll dance with you at your wedding. Then she’ll have grandkids to spoil. You’ll pretend to not notice her sneaking them extra dessert, and you’ll pretend to wonder why they’re so tired the morning after she babysits for you. Her grandkids will giggle, and you will smile with a quick wink. And every night, you’ll tuck them into bed, kiss their foreheads, and whisper a bedtime story. You’ll go back downstairs and sit on the couch and hold the person who is allowed to love you forever, because you chose to love yourself.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Date a Guy Who Writes

This post was inspired by the post on Tumblr: Date a Girl Who Writes.
Somebody asked me to write a guy's version, so I gave it a shot.

by S. Alex Martin

Date a guy who writes. A guy who writes is a guy who is trying to create a life. And in trying to create that life, he is trying to understand the lives of other people.

You will see him sitting in a crowded place. Leaning against a wall. Walking with his eyes pointed at the sky. A guy who writes is trying to feel the world around him, and he will do whatever it takes to put himself into that world.

If he sees you walking toward the same coffee shop as him, he’ll quicken his pace just enough to beat you to the door. He will hold it open with a quiet smile, and his eyes will linger on yours. This is his way of connecting. He doesn’t know many ways to say “hello,” and he believes the best ways are small actions.

When he sits at his table, he’ll fold his hands under his chin. His eyes will move as people pass him. He listens to every conversation, memorizes what everyone is wearing. This is what he does every day. He’s a master of observation, and if he observes you, he’ll never forget you.

A guy who writes will take you on a date in a park. He loves to be outside, and he loves being outside with someone he hopes will matter to him one day. As you walk, he’ll listen to every word you say. He’ll laugh nervously. Inside, he’s hoping he doesn’t screw anything up. And when you finally sit down, neither of you will talk for a minute. Then he’ll tell you a story. It could be anything, but it’s a story worth listening to. He has lots of stories to tell, but never has anyone to tell them to.

A guy who writes will watch you as you talk. He’ll watch what you do with your legs. He’ll notice how you shift your arms. He pays special attention to your face, watching how the words you say affect you. He’ll also listen to your voice as it mixes with other sounds. If you’re in a park, he’ll notice how your words blur into the wind. If you’re in a coffee shop, he’ll learn to distinguish your voice from a dozen others.

Every time he sees you, he will smile. Even if he’s had a bad day, he’ll smile.

Watch the sunset with him. Notice how his eyes gaze at the sky, absorbing all those colors. He’ll look at you. He won’t say this, but he’s watching how the light dances in your eyes, warms your face, and gleams in your hair. He’ll tell you he watches every sunset like it’s the first sunset he’s ever seen. He loves how the whole world stops to watch it, if even for just a second.

He has a favorite book, and he’ll share it with you. He’ll tell you the book that made him start reading, and the book that inspired him to start writing. Chances are, he’s been reading since he was a little kid, and writing since he was a teenager. But because of that, he doesn’t have many friends. If he calls you a friend, it means he will always be there when you need him, and expects the same of you.

A guy who writes will write from his heart. He’ll surprise you with poems. He’ll describe the way your hair flutters in the wind. He’ll describe what you were wearing when he first met you. He’ll write a story about an adventure he had with you. He wants to show you how unforgettable you are. He wants to show you how you changed his life.

After you read his poem, he’ll take your hand in his and hold it for a while. You’ll smile at him, and you won’t have any words to say. But he’s okay with that. He loves your smile. He loves seeing how he affects you.

Sometimes he’ll seem distant. He’ll sit and stare at nothing for a while before saying anything to you. Let him. He needs time to organize his thoughts. He doesn’t want you to think he’s angry. He’s not. It’s just that sometimes, no matter how much he smiles, he doesn’t feel as happy as he should. When he’s like this, touch his arm. Let him know you’re there. He won’t flinch. A chill will run up his spine. Then he’ll take your hand in his, and you’ll sit there together, listening, watching, and living.

When a guy who writes falls in love with you, it’s because he wants to understand why you’re falling in love with him.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is it Necessary to Sexualize Characters in YA Fiction?

Over the last couple days I've seen some comments on Tumblr and elsewhere around the writing world regarding character descriptions. One comment that sticks out in my mind says something along the lines of, "Why do we have to be told if characters are hot or ugly?"

I don't remember the specific details of this person's comment (I've tried finding them again, but with no success), but they went on to say stuff like, "Authors feel the need to say nerdy girls aren't as attractive as popular girls," and "the bad boys are always hot, but the good guys are always geeky and gross." At the end of their comment, they said, "I wish we weren't told how attractive characters are, but just describe what they look like and we'll decide from there."

Let's be honest. Not all authors are guilty of this...but there's something to be said about popular books, particularly books that appeal to teen girls -- and women in general. This could also explain why there are nearly twice as many girls who read than boys.

Think about the last book you read? Chances are, if the main character was a female, there's plenty of description about how hot a guy she meets is, or how sexy Brad-the-football-captain is. You know, descriptions about his arms, chest, legs, and even face. If they hold hands or touch at any point, the FMC probably talks about how firm, yet gentle his grip is.

I'm right, aren't I?

Now let's think about male narrators. (Male narrators? That's an outrage! We need strong female main characters!) Moving my experience reading books like An Abundance of Katherines, 13 Reasons Why, It's Kind of a Funny Story, and a few others, we're told how cute this one girl is, how hot this other girl is, how big this girl's breasts are, how plump this girls lips are...the list goes on and on.

Point is: both genders are guilty of sexualization.

I bet you haven't seen WordArt since the 5th grade.

Let's think about the comments I mentioned above. Why is there a tendency for describe what makes a character attractive? Simple: it should make the character appeal to readers. But think about it: unless you're writing 50 Shades of Gray, is it really necessary to know how hot or ugly a character is? Does it have to be explicitly said, "He's soooo hot, and his muscular biceps are soooo dreamy." (As you can tell, I don't write erotica). Going further, is it necessary to say, "She has the perkiest boobs I've ever seen."

You can argue that these kinds of descriptions are necessary to characterize the main character, that these kinds of thoughts go through people's heads all the time. You'd be right. These thoughts do go through people's heads.

Stay with me.

When it comes to YA fiction, there's a fine line between what's okay, and what's not okay. But in order to determine those, we have to draw a distinct line between contemporary YA fiction and genre YA fiction. I'm defining genre YA fiction as fantasy, science-fiction, paranormal, magical realism, etc etc.

Contemporary YA Fiction
Ex. The Fault in Our Stars, 13 Reasons Why, If I Stay, Fangirl, It's Kind of a Funny Story, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park

I think it's easy to say contemporary YA has the longest leash when it comes to sexually explicit material and descriptions. These are stories about realistic teenagers living teenager lives, doing teenager things and thinking teenager thoughts. Thus, we're going to see a lot of description about how hot girls are, how muscular guys are, how sensitive guys are, how soft a girl's breasts are...

You get my point.

This genre of YA...this style of writing can get away with that. It's gritty. It's realistic. The readers can immediately relate to the characters because they act like normal teenagers. Perhaps you've even been to the town the character lives in, like the same books, adore the same celebrities. That's the point of contemporary YA: to show you're not alone, and to explore issues revolving around what being a teenager is like.

In my opinion, the sexualization presented in contemporary YA books is okay and normal. Don't go overboard, but if a teenager can think it, it will show up.

Genre YA Fiction
Ex. Divergent, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Eragon, City of Bones, The Maze Runner, Twilight, Matched, Delirium

This is where the line gets drawn. We have to define what is and isn't appropriate for books in these genres. It's a dangerous line that authors must cross carefully.

When it comes to genre fiction, readers aren't coming into the book expecting to read a girl's love life in Small Town, USA. We want an adventure. We want action. We want run-down cities and exotic planets. We want cool guns and serums and magic and death and zombies and monsters and vampires (well, we're getting bored of that).

The point is, we want to escape into a world we can only imagine that will eventually look good on the big screen.

Inevitably, there's a romance brewing in these books. And inevitably, we get to see one character's intimate thoughts about another character. The author, however, has to be careful. Remember, most of us didn't come here for the gushy-gushy makeout session. Most of us are strictly focused on the plot, and we're analyzing how everything that affects the plot.

So when the girl meets the hot guy, we don't want to be bombarded with physical descriptions about the attractiveness of said guy -- usually. It's okay to toss them in there. But remember: in genre fiction, plot is essential.

I recently read a book where the main character -- a girl -- met a literal beast of a man, and all she talked about from there-on-out was how golden his skin was and how wavy his hair was and how warm his chest was, and how big...well...use your imagination.


Now, maybe it's just because I'm a guy and I don't care about how hot that dream-guy was. But when those physical descriptions started taking over, I started losing interest. Descriptions about how hot this dude was were on every. Other. Page. It took me out of the story, and I ended up glossing through the rest.

Let's return to the original comment at the top of this post: "I wish we weren't told how attractive characters are, but just describe what they look like and we'll decide from there."

I, for one, agree with this statement -- but really only for genre fiction. Contemporary can go do whatever it wants. But whether I'm reading a dystopian novel, a paranormal novel, or a speculative fiction novel, I don't care how hot that girl is or how muscular that guy is, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.

We want to read about the world and events and figure out how the characters will overcome the problems. So create that world, ignite those problems, and develop those characters. Don't give us cardboard cut-outs. Give us human beings (or whatever species your characters are).

Here's a tip: tell us what the characters look like. Hair color, height, if they wear glasses, if they stutter. But don't go to Build-a-Hunk™ and start explaining how hot and sexual this character is. We, as readers, don't want to see your late-night bedroom fantasies.

It's creepy.

Yes, even creepier than Bronies.
So should authors keep it simple? Should genre YA fiction be limited more toward unique traits and features, rather than a fictional Hot-or-Not? Let me know what you think in the comments. Personally, it's okay to toss in a pinch of spice, but don't make it too hot.

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While you're at it, check out my New Adult Science-fiction novel, Embassy.

Books in a Series

Pretty much sums it up

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

10 Motivating Things Writers Should Do


And I mean anybody. Don't let anyone get you down, not your parents, not your friends, not your teachers or that stranger on the internet who probably sits around eating cheetos on a greasy keyboard and can't spell to save his life.

No, writing is about YOU and your life and desires and story. If you have something to say, say it. Never stop. That is the most important thing I have learned. NEVER STOP.


On January 1, 2013, I made a New Year's Resolution: write a book by January 14, only two weeks later.

I had personal reasons.

The point is, I met my goal. I finished when I said I would because I knew I could. I had a completed 151,000-word first draft and I couldn't ask for anything else. The feeling was amazing. I was that much closer to being done. Then I set a new goal, to finish editing the second draft by April 1st.

So I took a break, collected myself, and then got back to work. I edited and edited and edited EVERY SINGLE DAY until I was done. I know most people don't have the kind of time I do, but again, the point is to MEET THE GOAL. I actually beat my goal. I finished on March 28th.
My manuscript was reduced to 122,000 words.

Set goals. Meet goals. You will feel WONDERFUL. Completing goals is such a rewarding experience.


I'm not trying to pat myself on the back. I'm saying blog what you learn, just as you should actively use what you learn. I write from experience. I want to help people, and that is part of what keeps me motivated. If I don't learn, I can't offer advice.


I happened upon a Facebook page called Go Teen Writers while doing a lazy Google search one day way back in January 2013. Let me tell you something: the people there are fantastic. Everyone helps each other. You'll see comment threads with 20...30...40 comments just to talk about one specific part of writing. And everyone has become, more-or-less, friends. We'll talk about random things, like Harry Potter and what our favorite fantasy land is, and you'll see us posting pictures of our writing spaces and makeshift book covers.

Go Teen Writers is great. Jill and Stephanie do an awesome job, and are always in touch when you want to talk to them. Thank you so much for being awesome!


What is writing, really? Writing is taking pictures in your head and describing what you, as the author, see. Writing is putting together jumbles of words and creating people and worlds that live inside you.

But words don't always have to be the only way to get those visuals out. Draw. Paint. Photoshop. Whatever you have to do, bring your world to life so other people can see it. Make a cover for your book, even if you don't end up using it. I made my cover in February, and two months later it's the cover of my proof copy and everyone who sees it gives me great feedback.

This is your story. Draw a picture and show us what you see before someone else decides to see it for you.

Eddie Utherwise (click for link)
Copypright 2011 Thomas Taylor


What's the difference between "revision" and "editing?"

Okay, revision is taking your story and working with the plot, adjusting scenes, changing pace, crafting the story from the first draft...or the second draft...or however many drafts it takes to tell the story how you want it to be told. I've still got lots of work to do tweaking things here and there and making Embassy juuuust right.

Editing is stuff like grammar, punctuation, spelling, finding that missing word...your basic proofreading stuff. Pay attention, and have several pairs of eyes look at your work. Seriously, once you get past the fear of people hating what you write, you'll find that comments and suggestions are the best way of editing and revising a story, and I mean THE BEST way.

If you want to publish a book, that means you want hundreds or thousands of people to see it. So start small and get a general opinion. You'll thank yourself later. And people in writing groups love to help as long as you help them.


Me? I go for long bike rides alongside Pittsburgh's three rivers. The wind and trees and ducks and geese and sights and people and the Pittsburgh skyline are wonderful. Biking, or going for walks, or sitting in the middle of Market Square lets me empty my mind and just feel at ease. I don't have to think about writing. I don't have to feel stress. I can just be.

Everyone needs a break. Do yourself a favor and do something you love besides writing. Inspiration will come from the simplest places when you aren't even looking, and stick with you when you leave.


Unless, of course that's what you and your friends do. But my friends and I will play soccer, or Mario Kart, or Frisbee, or walk Downtown, or grab some coffee or a bite to eat, or watch baseball. Doing this helps you because you can experience society and interaction and guess what? That will help you write better books!


"But I don't have time to read if I'm writing and hanging out with friends!"

Ahem. Excuse me? I think it was Stephen King who said: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." Why do you want to write? So other people can read what you wrote, and to express yourself.

Study what works. Don't look at one book, look at many. See the various forms, line structures, elements, character interactions, dialogue sequences...everything. Adapt and create your form.

Published books are published for a reason. Successful books are read for a reason. Blockbuster books are known by millions for a reason. That author wrote something that worked.


Yes, this is similar to #1 and is last for reason. I want to leave you thinking: What can I do, and what could I have done? The world of writing is probably the hardest job out there. Success is NEVER guaranteed. Publication is NEVER guaranteed. Writing the next blockbuster NYT Best Seller is NEVER guaranteed. But none of that will ever happen if you don't try.

Get out there and be shameless. If you are writing, make sure people know. I tell everyone I can. Random strangers I meet at the airport, people walking Downtown, my professors, friends, friends of friends....the point is to not care. You'll write better if you know people will read it. If you hide it away all the time and don't let anyone see it, no one is going to care, EVER. It's nerve-racking, telling people you wrote a book. But once they see you've actually written one, they WILL be astounded. I speak from personal experience.

And remember, if you write because you want to, and tell people about it, you'll have readers. If you have readers, they'll help you by offering suggestions and comments. If they're helping you, you're becoming a better writer. If you're becoming a better writer, people will CONTINUE to read what you write.

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Also be sure to check out my Get it Write Tonight ebooks, Characters and Edit! That! Book!
While you're at it, check out my New Adult Science-fiction novel, Embassy.

International Space Station Flyover TONIGHT

I'm a huge astronomy buff (hence the ultra-realistic sci-fi setting of my book Embassy), so astronomy and space-related posts will pop up on this blog every now and then along with my writing advice and book posts.

Tonight at 9:10 p.m. EST (approximately 20 from now), the International space station will be flying over North America. It will be visible for 6 minutes, approaching from the Southwest and heading toward East-Northeast.

If you live in North America, keep an eye out for it! It'll be the brightest thing in the sky and moving VERY fast.

Here's a fast fact for ya: there are currently only 6 people in space right now.
Seems surprisingly low, huh?