Category Archives: The Writing Experience

5 Resources for Authors

There are literally thousands–if not millions–of books, articles, videos, podcasts, and other various media to help author’s succeed. Some of it can be helpful, depending on the situation, and some of it is just plain garbage. Over the years, I’ve sifted through quite a bit of it and I’d like to share some of my favorites.


  1. First and foremost, “Writing Excuses” Podcast. I started listening near the end of season 5 because my all-time favorite author, Brandon Sanderson, is one of the authors involved in the podcast. The taglines: “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart.” AND “You’re out of excuses. Now go write.” I love that there are hundreds of different episodes about the numerous facets of being in the writing world. Listen online, or through the Podcast App.
  2. I used to be completely lost when it came to writing and publishing terminology. I’d sit at my computer and Google random writer-sounding words, not really sure what I needed to search for. But that ended when I found the Book Publishing Glossary. Although the content isn’t always enough to educate myself, it at least provides words that I can research to find more information on.
  3. I stumbled upon this next resource quite recently. “The Minimalist’s Guide to Becoming a Better Writer” is quite simplistic in it’s approach, but it is a fantastic reminder of what is at the core of being an author. Read. Write. Critique.
  4. I’ve definitely tried several of the items mentioned in this next article. “15 Ways to Boost Your Imagination And Creativity” lists various recommended activities to help generate new ideas. Journalling is a difficult thing for me to do, but I’m trying to be better at documenting all the plot lines that and “What If?” questions that stumble into my brain. I’ve definitely felt an rejuvenation in creative energy when I write in different locations. And I will definitely be taking the article’s suggestion of reading Fairy Tales seriously the next time my imagination well runs dry.
  5. Who doesn’t love TED Talks? I have yet to see one that didn’t inspire me. Full disclosure, though, I have yet to watch all the videos in this YouTube Playlist. But I plan on viewing them all in the coming months.


As always, I’m looking for more ideas for my blog. Feel free to leave a comment here or on my Facebook Author Page. Thanks for reading!




Today’s post was inspired by a dear friend from college. Although we haven’t always been able to spend a lot of time each other, we have always been able to learn and grow as writers. So, thank you, Parris, for giving me something to blog this evening:


“I’d love to know what your outlining process looks like. What are the first things you do when you have an idea that you want to turn into a story? Also, I know you have a series in the works. Do you plan the series out before you write the first book or do you create as you go, book by book?”   —Parris Sheets


Alright. Full disclaimer: I am not a master writer and my way is by no means the best. I’m still just experimenting with different methods for my creations. So my outlining techniques are absolutely not the only options out there.


Usually, when I first come up with a story idea, I write it down. Otherwise, I forget it. I always keep a dozen notebooks handy, just in case. A lot of what I originally write down never actually makes it into the actual story, but that’s okay; the important thing is to get all the thoughts out of my head so I can edit the notes later. I also use the notebook to start organizing the characters, setting, and parts of the main conflict.


When I have a good handle on the story–usually months or years later–I start to outline individual chapters on note cards. I started out trying to write out cards chronologically, but that just becomes a headache when I can’t think of something good that happens next. As ideas come to me, I jot down a couple thoughts and throw the card into a pile. I then organize them into a timeline when I have a substantial amount. What normally occurs, is that I have to go back through them and add some filler chapters to expand on the characters or introduce enough side conflicts in order to support the main arc plot lines.


This probably goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyways: the outline is NOT set in stone. As I’m writing the first draft, it’s fairly common that I am confused by my own notes or appalled by how awful and simple the chapter outlines are. So, yes, I regularly revise my outline note cards as I write.


Now I feel like I need to address something before I go on. NOT ALL WRITERS ARE OUTLINERS. There is a sect of authors who do what’s often referred to as “Discovery Writing.” Many wordsmiths hate the constriction of having their stories meticulously organized before they write. These writers feel that characters become “more real” and the plot feels “spontaneous” when they write as they go. All they have is a couple thoughts in their head and they let their fingers discover the story one word at a time.


I’ll admit that I’ve done both Outlining and Discovery Writing–most writers combine the two. Although I like to plan where a story will go, sometimes I love just starting the tale without preparation to see where it can go. I rely mostly on Discovery when a story is fresh in my mind and I need to start generating some ideas.


However, I get discouraged if I spend too much time Discovery Writing. I need to know where I’m heading. Otherwise, I get into a rut and the dreaded Writer’s Block sets in. (Note: I realize that many modern authors deny the existence of Writer’s Block; I’ll cover my thoughts on it in a future post.) So I normally abandon the Discovered story, but not before surgically adding pieces of it to the book I’ve finished Outlining.


Moving on to the next question Parris asks, I’d like to address how I’ve gone about planning a series. To refresh your memory, she asked: “Also, I know you have a series in the works. Do you plan the series out before you write the first book or do you create as you go, book by book?”


The series that she mentioned is The Rygom Narratives. I’m still deciding on a number, but there will likely be at least nine volumes by the time I end the Narratives. Only Book 1, “Iris,” has been completed. I have an abominably horrible first draft of “Alteration: Book 2” that I wrote in college years ago; but it is in desperate need of months and months of revision. I plan on releasing it by the end of 2017, though.


So to answer Parris’s question, yes, I had the series planned before I began writing–to a point. I had spent over three years “World Building” the culture and population of the Megacity Rygom. I was going to school full-time all those years, so it took quite a bit of time until I was confident enough in the story to actually START writing it.


I knew what would eventually happen to each of the main characters. I knew how they were secretly connected, or how different characters would meet if they had no elaborate past interactions. I knew the struggles and main conflicts they would go through as they pursued their version of happiness. I knew who would triumph and who would perish.


That doesn’t mean that I knew EVERYTHING! Like I mentioned earlier, strict planning can lead to stiff, uninteresting characters. I left room for a little discovering as I wrote out their individual journeys. And that definitely doesn’t mean that I have nine books of outlines all laid out. Most of it is still in my head, stewing in my subconscious as I grow as a writer. But I’m glad that I have a sense of direction to lead and nudge my characters as they each live their part of The Rygom Narratives.


On a similar thought, “Undoing Life” and “Reps and Royals” had originally meant to be stand-alone-novels. I had absolutely no intention of revisiting the tales of the twenty-fifth century time-travelers, nor returning to the quirky but dangerous planet of The World. However, I’ve gotten such good feedback on those stories from readers on how much they’d like to see more of those tales. I’m considering it–possibly. So it’s okay if you don’t have an entire series planned before you begin Book 1.


Well, Parris, I hope this answered your questions. To anyone else, reading this, I hope it gives you some ideas about writing your next book or clarifies the thoughts that go into planning a story.


If there is anything that you’re curious about, please leave a comment. I’m kinda floundering for blog post ideas, so I’d love input from my readers.


Tune in tomorrow for a Sample Chapter of my upcoming book, “Mended by Ashes.”



Ninety-Nine Cents

It’s been a crazy past couple months. I realized that I haven’t posted in almost two months.


So I just want to quickly update what’s going on in my writing world.


First and foremost, I’ve slashed the prices of all 3 of my Kindle books. Each is only $0.99 for the time being. So go get whichever books you haven’t gotten yet!


Next, I finished draft 2 of my next book. I’ve finally decided on a some-what decent tentative title: “Mended by Ashes.” It might change in the future, but that’s what I’m calling it now until a better title comes to mind. The goal is to–hopefully–publish sometime in January 2017.


November is National Novel Writing Month. Writers are encouraged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This will be my 4th year participating. I’m proud to say that I’ve met my goal every year so far. Now I’m doing something a little different this time. I’m going to be writing 3-4 novellas instead of 1 book.I’m a little nervous about not making my word count because I’m currently working 60-70 hours a week. But that’s okay. The point of NaNoWriMo is to get stories out of your head and into some kind of physical form. It will at least give me something to work with after I publish “Mended by Ashes.”


Thanks for reading. Have a great day!



Speculative Fiction Emporium

Recently, I’ve had the joy of connecting with some fantastic fellow writers. An author I follow on Twitter invited me to Like this Facebook page via his automatic message. I was hesitant since there are some strange groups out there. But I absolutely love it!


It’s called Speculative Fiction Emporium. What’s so great about it is they have a writing contest every week. Normally, the rule is to follow the prompt, write short story (usually 500 words max), and then vote on your favorite. I say normally because it’s still a fairly new feature and they are working out all the kinks. This week the prompt is longer and in-depth, so we get more time and words to write our story. The voting period is a day via a poll on the Facebook Page. The winner with the most votes gets featured on a blog that has over 5,000 followers.


This has been such an amazing experience. This is only my third submission, but I’m already feeling like a more-skilled writer. My plan is to take my stories and expand them into longer short stories to try and sell to sci-fi and fantasy magazines.


So if you’re in a writing rut, you should check out the Speculative Fiction Emporium!

Social Science Fiction

When asked what I write, I’ve always answered, “Science Fiction”—quite proudly. As time has gone by, I’ve realized that I really need to be more specific. People hear “Science Fiction” and they assume that I’m talking about Star Wars or Star Trek or some other space-filled adventure. (Sadly, there are poor souls in the world that don’t enjoy that type of thing so it automatically makes them uninterested in my stories.)


So I did some research into the types of Sci-Fi. In this day-and-age when everyone likes to have labels, there are quite a few sub-genres that have been established. After extensive Googling and self-reflection, I’ve determined that I write Social Science Fiction.


Well, that’s great and all, but no one seems to know what that really means. (By the way, thanks to Richard Holliday @rjpholliday on Twitter for asking what it means and inspiring this blog post.)


The most basic reply I can give it is usually set in futuristic societies, focusing more on the human condition instead of technology. For more information, you can consult Wikipedia. Essentially, it comes down to the writers spending more time focusing on the characters in their stories, as opposed to gadgets or the grand adventure aspects. I should note that not all Social SF take place in the future from our perspective; some past writers wrote about the future, but those time periods have come and gone (like George Orwell’s “1984”).


Some of my favorite examples are “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, “1984” by George Orwell, “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins, “The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer, “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift, “Utopia” by Thomas Moore, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglass Adams, the “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth, “Dune” by Frank Herbert, and “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. Others that I’ve heard are good are “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov, “The Maze Runner” series by James Dashner, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, and “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess. (For more examples, see the list on Goodreads.)


Now that I’ve inadvertently compared myself to some of the more brilliant literary minds on this century—yeah right, Amy—let’s talk about how my stories fit in this subgenre.


My first published story, “Undoing Life,” is about a man who finds a watch that lets him travel back in time. If I wrote Hard Science Fiction, I would have focused a lot more of the writing on how all the science of the watch works. But since I don’t want to do that kind of writing, I glossed over the details and spent most of the novella on the characters and how the interact in the situations I place them in. I cover the ethical and moral issues that come from the use of this technology, emphasizing how having such great power can effect a man’s world-view and change the core of who he is.


In “Iris: Book 1 of the Rygom Narratives,” I attempted to cover a number of anthropological aspects within the different character points of view. There are multiple young people who are trying to find their place in their Mega City, while not upsetting the status quo. There are political ramifications to the decisions most of the characters make, as well as dealing with identity, economy, stereotyping, and military conflicts.


As I wrote, “Reps and Royals”—which will be released March 6—I focused largely on the clashing of cultures. The planet called The World has a rich, but short history, full of adrenaline-junkie rulers who are always finding new ways to live life to the fullest. So when they are visited by two space travelers, conflicts ensue as they challenge the established sociology of the freshly colonized planet.


A common theme that I incorporate in all my works is relationships—romantic, familial, professional, and friendly. That’s the main fundamental of Social Science Fiction. How people view each other and interact is the biggest distinction between Social at the other types of Sci-Fi.


I hope this has helped you get a better idea of what Social Science Fiction is. If there is a title that I missed giving in the examples that you think is terrific, please mention it in the comments below. Thanks so much!