Who Says Outlining Stifles Creativity?

Last night I was writing a section in my WIP where, while riding in a carriage, the female characters engage in exposition as dialogue. Things are getting a little heated when the carriage stops – there is an obstruction in the road. Classic highwayman technique. The driver gets out to let the ladies know what’s happening when he gets shot with an arrow, turns, draws his sword and is slain by two more arrows.

As it turns out, it’s a character known to the ladies who does the killing. Evidently, according to this character, this is a plan to abduct or kill the occupants of the carriage. What no one knows yet, and probably won’t for several dozens of thousands of words, is that this character staged the entire false-attack event to get in the good graces of one of the ladies. There is no plot.

The best part about this? This isn’t in my very detailed outline. The journey in the carriage from point A to point B most assuredly is, but this bit with the arrows and blood and death and all just popped into my head as I was writing.

Just goes to show you that knowing where you started and where you’re going to end up doesn’t necessarily mean you know what’s around the next bend.

Be safe and be well.


NaNoWriMo Genre Selector

So your happy little fingers are about to embark on the wondrous challenge of NaNoWriMo (AKA National Novel Writing Month) and your happy little writer’s mind has this sweet idea that’s gonna launch you over the 50,000-word finish line in, like, a week.

Good for you.  Stay positive; you’ll need it.

So you log in and get to the “My Novel” screen and see this thing:

NaNoWriMo Genre Selection

NaNoWriMo Genre Selection


ARGH! The audacity of them to make you know, and publicly declare the Genre already!    What?  Really? You do?  Damn you. :/

Well for those of us who aren’t as sure as Ms Already-Know-My-Genre, here is some help in determining what your NaNoWriMo thingy’s genre is.  We will bastardize “The Old Man and the Sea” for this exercise.

Consider this: ANY of these can be “Thriller”, “Mystery”, “Humor” or “Romance” (depending on your writing style) or, thanks to Rule 34, “Erotic Fiction”. Also, “Old Man” is generic for “Impact Character”, Like Ben Kenobi to Luke Skywalker or Dumbledore to Harry Potter.

So here’s the formula — Titular Synopsis: Likely Genre (Possible Genre) – “Story that comes to mind”

Example — The Old Man and the Sea: Literary (Spiritual) – “The Old Man And the Sea” (the trope namer LOL)

Got it?  Here we go

The Old Man and the…

…Robot: Sci-Fi (Action, Horror, Inspirational) – “I, Robot”, “Bicentennial Man”, “A.I.”, “The Terminator”

…Moon (any planet): Sci-Fi (Action, Horror, Fantasy, Historical) – “Capricorn One”, “Apollo 13”, “Apollo 18”

…Creature: Horror (Sci-Fi) – “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”, “Herbert West – Re-animator”

…Elf/Dwarf/Dragon: Fantasy (YA) – LoTR and a billion others

…Young Apprentice: YA (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Historical) – Arthurian Legend, “Harry Potter” series

…Young Lady: YA (Literary, Chick Lit, Sci-Fi) – “Hunger Games”, “Lolita”

…Old Lady: Literary (Chick Lit) – “Driving Miss Daisy”, “The Notebook”

…Dead Body: This could go a thousand different ways – Hercule Poirot stories, or (if zombie) Horror

…End of the World: Again, could go in any direction, but “Distopian YA” and “Zombie Apocalypse” seem the fashion these days.

…Old Memories: Historical (Chick Lit, Literary, Sci-FI) – “Schindler’s List”, “The Notebook”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”


So…sot even CLOSE to complete/authoritarian/quotable.  Maybe not even close to accurate.

The point is to take one obstacle out of your way so you can focus on writing the thing.  Worry about classifying it later.

Today, finish whatever passes for novel prep in your world and get ready for a great time writing the first draft of your new novel.

I’ll see you in print in May, just in time for the ‘summer reads’ *wink*.

Be safe and be well.

For the love of SOMETHING

So you’re sitting there in front of your word processor/typewriter/laptop, you have the new document open and whiteness of the page blinds you while the little cursor thingy blinks at you as if to say “HA! I’m not moving! LOSER!”

Like the maintenance people in the building you work or live in, the cursor, while it’s doing its job, goes mostly unnoticed. You only seem to acknowledge its existence when it’s not doing what you pay it to do, which is clean the whiteness off the page with wonderful letter-shaped blackness which hopefully forms understandable words. So how are we to motivate the little sum-bitch and make it conform to your will?

Talk to its boss. If you didn’t realize it yet, that’s you, Shakespeare.

And just how are we to get this plot thingy out of our heads and onto the page, thus making the cursor do its funny dance? Several ways, one of which is the internal motivation of your characters. Why are they submitting themselves to the insanity to which you are about to subject them?

Yes, it’s OK to fling a supernatural monster into suburbia and watch the madness unfold (add zombies, that seems to work these days). But it often helps if the character’s motivation is clear in your head. Once you know why this schmuck has accepted his role as ‘Savior of the universe/continuum/residential block’, then you’ll be able to let that unfold in the natural course of storytelling so the reader can see it as well.

So what is that motivator?

My premise is that Love is the only motivating force that actually matters in any story, anywhere, anytime.

All you need is…


Now I’m not talking about a Kumbaya-laden, come-to-Jesus-moment where the slayer of aliens gets all mushy about a kitten and starts weeping for the fur-ball in the tree. Not that there’s anything wrong with this particular trope, but I’m going a bit further than that.

I’m talking about the main reason anyone ever does anything.


Even if its only “Love-Of-Self” (which is not the same as “self-love”). This is cherishing something SO MUCH (a person, an idea, a way of life, a kitty, whatever) that you (your character) will go out of your way to save/preserve/defend it, even at the cost of sacrificing something along the way(comfort/status/wealth/freedom/life).

Lest you think I’m getting all touchy-feely Sunshine-and-Rainbows, this concept also works, in the extremes, as twisted justification of atrocities. Think about it.

Even the anti-hero has a love of something so strong and uncontrollable he does the craziest, most life-threatening crap to protect/save/preserve this thing s/he loves so dearly. (Warning: “Shrek” Reference.) Sometimes that might only be a love of being left alone to live in peace in a swamp.

Yes, he might save the princess, escape the dragon, reluctantly fall in love with said princess, defeat the evil king, return the people to their rightful homes, slay the horde and seal the cosmic tear in the process, but it all started with “I LOVE MY LIFE – STOP EFFING IT UP!

What does your character love? This is what motivates her.

Now go motivate the HELL out of something.

Be safe and be well.

Wasted Time

So what constitutes wasted time?

Spending three self-guided hours introducing yourself to InDesign and utterly failing to produce anything usable?

Writing 3,000 words only to realize you need to rewrite a majority of it because you based it on the WRONG character’s actions? Jimmy was in Baltimore on Thursday, you dolt. *sigh*

Having a long, silent conversation with a character about something she’s about to do and you’re trying to talk her out of it? Yes, we all hear the voices, it’s natural.  Well… natural for a writer, anyway.

What about doing house- or yard-work?  Someone has to do the laundry…

If you think you’re not being productive in your writing because you are off doing IRL (In Real Life) things, you’re accurate, but not entirely correct.  Taking a break from your writing once in a while is sometimes more important that forcing your backside into the chair when you’re distracted by these pesky things like good oral hygiene, walking the dog or communicating with people that exist outside of your head and/or the printed page.

Make sure you take time to get up and stretch at least once per hour while you write.  If you’re really in the zone and prolifically pound prose nonstop for two hours once in a while, that’s OK too, but beware the arms, shoulders and back.  I have back issues so I’m forced to get up.

Do a Pomodoro session (this is my thing – Clockwork Tomato App for Android), set a stopwatch or the timer on the stove to remind yourself to get up and stretch.  And maybe click the button on the dishwasher or sweep up those coffee grounds.


Take time to feed the squirrels. Photo by M. Frank Parsons

Or go feed a squirrel.

Remember that time spent doing something you have to do, or something you enjoy doing that is not writing, is not necessarily wasted time.

Be safe and be well.

Write. Every. Day.


I know, I’m not supposed to talk to you about it.  Now if you’ll stop being a psychologically damaged android for just a moment, we can get something done, K?  K.

If you have 15 minutes to write, then use that fifteen minutes to write.

Like I’m doing now.  I have about zero minutes to get my crap together and get out of the house, but OH LOOK, I have time for a blog post. No its not art, but it IS writing.

If you are a writer who writes for the love of writing (someone who strives to make new words as often as possible because your soul requires it and/or you love to), then this should not be a problem.

If you are a writer who writes because they think its what all the cool kids are doing… well…  I have no idea WHAT the cool kids are doing.  Probably getting arrested for trying to live real-life GTA-5 or something.  I just know I need to write.

Why is fifteen minutes of writing OK?  Let’s ask Dean Wesley Smith:

If you type 250 words in 15 minutes, and considered your writing important enough to type for 15 minutes every day, you will finish 91,250 words in one year. Or about one longish novel.

Think about what that kind of consistency can do for you over the long haul (talking five plus years) if you quadruple that number and dedicate a whole hour to writing.

You’ll be a ‘prolific’ writer, and possibly have a nice little career going.  Or at least a big backlist, the copyright to which you/your estate (grand-kids) will own for 70 years after your death.

Be safe and be well.