Skip to content

Posts from the ‘WRITING: CRAFT’ Category

Wrong about what you know…

“Always write about what you know about”

That’s standard advice to writers, doled out like the wisdom of the ages to aspiring writers trying to write about the wilds of 1970 Irian Jaya, and the charm of the young nurse working there and the mechanics of the genetic illnesses in isolated tribal populations there… when the wilds of Poughkeepsie would be a bridge too far… and the nursing profession as alien as paleo-botany. As for genetics… they are almost sure it had something to do with genes. Or maybe jeans.

To the average mine of useless information (AKA professional writer) it shows, painfully.

Like most writing advice (actually, make that most advice) –it’s a crock… with a tiny gem of truth somewhere near the bottom. Read more

Planting rocks for fun and profit

One of the minor pleasures of writing is setting up your major characters to have not just rocks thrown at them, but a major rock slide. Metaphorically speaking.

And for maximum impact, you want the reader to say not “Where the hell did those rocks come from?” but, “Oh, of course that was going to happen, I should have seen it coming.”

For that, you need to keep the reader aware of these stresses and hot buttons that make your characters particularly likely to walk under that cliff, and the clues that tell them the cliff is dangerously unstable. It’s the difference between having your character knocked out by a random rock slide, and having him knocked out by a rock slide in a place clearly labeled Fallen Rock Zone. After he’s made his speech about how modern civil engineers never, ever make a road cut that leaves unstable masses above the road.

Okay, now to specifics.

Read more

The Villain’s Journey

Hi. This was pre-written. I’m off the ‘Net at the moment, so please be patient if it takes a while for comments to be released from moderation. One of the other Mad Geneii has to do it for me. Thanks!

So, everyone and their literature teacher talks about the hero’s journey, and Joseph Campbell, and nods to Karl Jung in passing and then reaches for the checklist.

What about the villain? Why does he or she do that? And how did she end up like that, anyway? She was such a sweet kid. Read more


I see a dark sail on the horizon
set under a black cloud that hides the sun.
bring me my broadsword and clear understanding.
bring me my cross of gold as a talisman.

Jethro Tull, Broadsword

It was a dark and stormy knight… ahem. My wife often watches TV (and as often as not reads and knits at the same time, leaving me in awe) while I cook in the evening. Now that’s around a corner, and I can’t – most of the time – hear the dialogue or see what is happening. This is good. Never watch a car chase while dealing with hot oil. Read more

Confusion is the enemy

I have finished a second book – it’s out to beta readers as I type, and waiting on the cover artist. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I’ll be getting ready to publish it!

In the interest of learning from my mistakes, I sent this one out to more beta readers, and asked most of them the same few questions – “Where did you get bored or confused? Where did you really enjoy it? Where did you skim or skip? What did I get wrong?”

Read more

Non-Traditional Ending

So there was a question posed on social media a while back. It was framed in a highly insulting manner, and I commented on it with a snarky tone, which I probably shouldn’t have, but it didn’t matter because she deleted my comment… along with those of people who were trying to be helpful, but they weren’t good enough for her to acknowledge, much less listen to. Above and beyond my irritation at snobs, the question betrayed a sad lack of knowledge about story framing. I’m not quoting, because I don’t feel like raising my irish again by searching for it, but this is what she wanted to know: traditional authors, how do you write an ending? How do you balance pacing and backstory? Read more

Noob Notes

It’s Tuesday afternoon, again (it’s not: I’m writing this to you from far in the distant past. Like, last Wednesday, or something. Maybe Thursday. Maybe both: hard to say) which means I ramble, and you all look askance at me.
It’s the little rituals that bring stability to life, y’know?
Today, our shared journey looks an awful lot like a blank page.

Read more