Archives for posts with tag: writing advice

An author friend of mine and I often compare our writing to cooking. After writing a draft, she likes to let her work “simmer”, while I refer to the process as “marinating”! As in cooking, the author must choose which ingredients to use, how much of each to incorporate, how long the dish needs to “bake”etc.

I could take the comparison even further and add that. like a chef, the author must choose exactly how spicy to make his or her stew and what spices are needed to achieve the desired effect. Possible ingredients might include dragons, hunky he-men, glamorous heroines, dastardly villains, cute kids, blood-thirsty vampires, sword fights, dorky geniuses, superheroes, ghouls or ghosts, wizards and elves, or spaceships and lightsabers!

Mix your chosen ingredients well, being sure to use proper grammar and punctuation. Pack into clear sentences that aren’t overly complicated. Form into neat paragraphs. Divide into chapters. Let marinate ( or simmer! ) until well-seasoned. Edit until done, then serve up to book-hungry readers! Voila!

Keep on “cooking”!


As I was asking, as a writer. what captivates you? I advocate writing about that, not attempting to cater to current fads.

For me, it was my love of space exploration, both real and fictional, and my observations of the human psyche. Combined with my love of cultural anthropolgy and Greek myths, this eventually morphed into my Tartarus Trilogy. The trilogy was a combination of all these things and more.

Once I had constructed my basic plot and peopled it with characters to be developed, I allowed my several passions to flow into place, putting meat onto the bare bones of the story.

I drew heavily on my art background, ( I majored in both Art and Art Education with minors in English and Art History ) thus allowing myself to imagine the alien spaces in my story, particularly the Great Hall of Ahn-eld and the Burial Vault of the Rulers.

I also drew on my love of languages, their development, similarities, and differences, to develop rudimentary Cytherean Basic, Erisian Standard, and both the Tartarian and the Ghendarian languages, which are sister-tongues. Other interests of mine that came in handy were costuming, jewelry-making, architecture and religion.

So hopefully, you get my drift. Forget about writing whatever happens to be currently popular. Instead, be true to yourself; embrace what you love; play to your strengths. You’ll be less likely to develop writer’s block, you’re more likely to persevere, and you’ll never get sick of reading your own work!

Best of luck in all your endeavors,


Is the above how you start writing a book? Not really a good idea! In order to write a good book, to stick with it for the long haul, and to successfully finish it, you need to be passionate about your subject matter. You can’t simply decide to write about whatever’s popular at the moment, be it vampires, werewolves, mysteries, zombies, or superheroes.

You need to write from your heart and soul, so if zombies don’t appeal to you, don’t write about them ( unless you plan on using zombies as a metaphor to explore what makes us fully human! )

What I’m trying to say is that you should be fully invested in whatever you’re writing about. If you aren’t fully invested, you’re going to discover one or more of these happening to you:

     1) You’re so bored that you quickly drop the book and never finish it.

     2) You get writer’s block and can’t think of a single useful thing you want to say.

     3) You write the entire book, but get so darn sick of it that you can’t bear to revise and edit it!

Time is precious; no one ever knows exactly how much of it they’ll get. So why waste your time trying to beat your way down a path you really don’t want to follow? Decide what you really, truly want to write about. What message do you want to send your readers? Or are you simply out to entertain them? ( You can do both at once, you know. )

What excites you, captivates you? What brings endless questions and ideas into your brain? Write about that! To be continued at a later date!

Keep on reading,


If I had actually succeeded in publishing the first novel I ever wrote ( at age eleven, many, many years ago! ), boy, would I be embarrassed now! At that tender age I had very little idea of how to structure a sentence, let alone a paragraph, or how to punctuate, use correct grammar and spelling. I had no idea of how to avoid cliches or come up with an original idea!

But I learned a lot from writing that early novel: how to develop a sympathetic character and a cohesive plot, how to divide a novel into chapters that made sense—unlike several books that I’ve read recently. Like any endeavor, practice in writing is necessary to improve.

What worries me is that nowadays so many young and inexperienced writers have actually managed to self-publish. That work is probably going to embarrass them royally sometime in the future. I know it feels great to complete your first novel; it feels even more wonderful to get it published. But believe me, it is not going to feel wonderful if readers ridicule all your hard work. It will be heart-breaking!

Though I never published at a young age— far from it!— I did receive some pretty harsh criticism from friends who read my early work, even some laughter. It was devastating. Their reactions discouraged me from writing fiction for quite some time.

The last thing I want to see is a promising young writer discouraged. So as excited as you are about your current project, please refrain from rushing to publish it. Let your writing have a chance to fully mature first. Look upon it as practice for your eventual best-sellers.

You may grumble a bit about this advice right now, but in future I think you’ll thank me.

Best wishes in all your writing endeavors!


When I first started writing, many long years ago, I had no one to guide me. I learned by trial and error. Now that the third book of my Tartarus Trilogy will be published in the coming year, I think I have at least some basis for offering helpful hints. Of course I can’t possibly cover everything you need to know in one blog, and if you’ll excuse me for using my first book as an example…

The writer must capture the reader’s attention and interest as soon as possible, hopefully on the very first page. If you don’t—well, there are a heck of a lot of other books out there! On the first page or two of Judgment on Tartarus the reader learns Rona Scott’s name, her nickname, that she’s in the Space Service, and her rank. Then we’re told where she is and why, where she’s going, and how she feels about it. The reader is given a bit of background detail, but not a lot. I try to build an atmosphere of excitement, movement, tension. You sense a change is imminent.

We immediately know the genre of the book: this is science fiction set in our future. We know Rona Scott is probably going to be the main character, and we get clues to what some of her future problems may be. For instance, we learn that she’s not a bigot. Some readers might begin to suspect that she’s going to have difficulty living up to her high ideals.

When the character of Gordy McCormick is introduced, the reader also begins to suspect that all is not peaches and cream aboard Astrella, the ship they’ve both been assigned to. His dire warnings foreshadow the difficulties they’re about to experience first-hand. And already we begin to hear terms like “the Ark Theory” and “The Hero of the Gorgonian Wars”. So within the first chapter, the main plot begins to unfold, and the reader gets a taste of the back history of some characters. You meet several of the major characters and are introduced to one of the two settings of the book, Astrella II. There are no long, drawn out passages, no long boring discussions to slow down the action. Things move forward quickly, whetting the reader’s appetite for more.

Chapter Two goes on to fill in more of the necessary details. With Rona, you become one of the crew of Astrella and look forward to her adventures. Using a combination of good writing, skillful plotting, and attention to just the right amount of detail, you have grabbed the reader, sucked him/her in, and will keep their attention right to the final page!

Good luck and keep on writing!