Monthly Archives: February 2016

Writing When You Don’t Feel Like It

hard workAt some point, our passion becomes A JOB.

I mean, if we want to get good at it at all, we have to work at it. And when we work at it, it feels like a job.

I’m brainstorming and working on the ideas for a children’s book. And it might be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. Right now, it is work. Hard work. And at some point, we don’t feel like working hard.

The growing entitlement of our culture desires the results without the work. It isn’t everyone, but ask any teacher that has worked over the last twenty years and the cultural shift is real. But the facts of life aren’t shaken by a cultural shift. It still takes hard work to be good at something, even the things we are passionate about.

Whether working through “writer’s block” or editing or revising or pushing ourselves on a new project, it is hard work. It isn’t FUN. And so we don’t want to do it.

Learning the discipline of writing when we don’t feel like it, when the words don’t naturally flow, when the creative juices seem dry, is important. It takes hard work.

The secret is this – the more we push ourselves to work at something when we don’t “feel like it,” the more we see the reward in the end. That’s how you learn the discipline.

Because I can guarantee you this, no matter how awesome something is, no matter how passionate you are about it, no matter how much you love it, at some point we have to work at it when we don’t feel like it.


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Suggested Books on Writing (Part 2)

There really are some great books on writing. I’m only sharing ones that I have connected with and feel other writers would, as well. But the important thing to me is to do a little research. See what your library has on the subject. Even a Writing Fiction for Dummies is a good place to start. Just start reading about writing. Read great books, bad books, and just read about writing. Find a blog you like by a successful writer. Whatever. Get started. Maybe one of these.

writing 21st century fictionWriting 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass

This is one I got from the library and then bought a copy. I need to read it again. Maass does a great job going over what the market looks for, what kind of books are a part of the next wave of literature, ideas of genre, etc. Don’t misunderstand, it isn’t a book about a formula, it is a book about being creative and unique in today’s market and not rehashing what’s come before. It was inspirational and important, especially as I revised The Living Stone. Maass says to write what scares you, not what’s safe. And so it helped The Living Stone become what it needed to be.

hit litHit Lit by James Hall

James Hall is a lit professor who had a series of  classes where he and his students started researching the top selling books of all time (he details the criteria in the book) and tried to find some similar principles and aspects to each novel. From To Kill a Mockingbird to Hunt for Red October to The Firm and The Godfather and others, he found a series of aspects that were similar in each novel. What were those things? From plot to character to sex and religion, he explains the kinds of things that each of the bestselling books of the 20th Century had in common. And as different as each book is, they all had them in their own ways. Again, not as formulaic as it sounds. I read this after publishing The Living Stone and the book had all of them except one. But that’s okay. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had all but one, as well. The same one.

There you go. Are there any books on writing I haven’t shared that were important to you?


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Suggested Books on Writing (Part 1)

I promised some suggestions of books to read if you’re an author or you would like to write. I’m going to give two this week and two next week. These two are for authors who haven’t read anything relating to writing. And I know that sounds weird, but I know of many who have self-published or handed me their manuscripts to read and when I ask, they haven’t read anything to do with writing.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting these books as if I’m a super successful author that knows everything. I’m still learning like everyone. I read a newer book on writing last month and learned a couple new things. It takes practice to get to great writing. But we must practice writing well to get to great writing, and these books, in my opinion, pointed me in the right direction.

king on writingOn Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

Stephen King gets a bad rap among some authors, and I’m not totally sure why. I don’t always like how he brings a story to resolution (IT being the primary example of this), but most of the Dark Tower series is borderline genius, and Drawing of the Three is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I read everything he wrote up until a decade ago and still read a few of his new ones. Under the Dome and 11/22/63 are both great reads, however bad the TV shows were or will be.

On Writing is not a “how to write” book. It is a “how to be a writer” book. If you know anything about reality, then identity is the foundation of everything. And King literally gives his story on what living as an author has meant to him and his perspective on the craft. It is a writing “classic” now, and I’ve read it a couple times. Never disappoints. And by the way, you don’t have to have read anything he’s written to appreciate the book. It will inspire you.


card character viewpointCharacters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card.

Orson Scott Card is another of my favorite writers, mainly his Ender books. Anything in that world he created is a great book. Ender’s Game is a bonafide classic.

Unlike On Writing, this is a “how to write” book. And it covers two of the major parts of writing a novel that beginning authors struggle with – building a great character that is a real person and writing from a consistent and specific point of view within a scene.

Most published books I read (and again, from last weeks post, I read a ton) are told from third person limited or first person point of view. Most first manuscripts I read from authors are in a random type of third person omniscient. Characters and Viewpoint helps with some of the nuts and bolts to help keep voice, character, and perspective consistent in ways that draw readers in.


That’s it for this week. I’ll share two more next week.


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On Becoming a Reader

reading3When I decided to write a fantasy novel, I had read fantasy and I was familiar with the more popular series, but I was ignorant of the whole scope of the fantasy genre, which is huge, let me tell you. But the point is, I started doing research.

As a writer, what is research? First, I read books on fiction writing. I got all I could from the library. I did research on the internet and found suggestions for the top books on writing, and if the library didn’t have them, then I went on Amazon and got them. The ones from the library I really liked and wanted to keep, I went on Amazon and bought them, too.

Second, I started reading more and more fantasy. Game of Thrones wasn’t a huge TV show yet, so I read all of those before they became hugely popular. I read others, as well. Some I really enjoyed, others I didn’t as much. The goal with this research was to find authors and stories I enjoyed. With the books I didn’t care for, why did I not care for them? What was it about those stories or characters that didn’t connect with me? For those authors that I really liked, what was it about them that sucked me in?

Third, I read other books outside of the fantasy genre, books that were supposed to be good. Literary or sci fi or historical fiction, I read a wide gamut, from Water for Elephants to Star Wars pulp fiction. I also read a classic or two along the way.

The point is, before I wrote a word of The Living Stone, I read a lot. Over years. Like, a lot. And I went from reading simply for pleasure to reading with a purpose, reading critically. I still enjoyed what I was reading, but I was even more engaged as an author in what I was reading. I was intentional.

One of my next projects is writing a children’s book. But I’ve never written one. Guess what I’m doing – research. I’m reading books on how to write children’s books. I’m looking up lists on the internet of the best recent kids books. Then I get them from the library, and as an added bonus, I get to read them with my kids and see what they like and think about them, as well.

Full disclosure here – I am a voracious reader. I know very few people who consume books like I do. So to hold you to the same standard may not be fair. My wife is an incredibly intelligent person but does not read as fast as I do. It is not a sign of your ability or intelligence; some people read faster than others.

But if you want to be a writer, then you must read. A lot. I don’t know of any successful author that I’ve read about that DOESN’T stress the importance of being well read.

There are some great books that I’ve found and would recommend if you are getting started or are interested. That post will be next week 🙂


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