Tag Archives: writers

6 Ways to Stay Motivated to Write

Whew–that was a great NANOWRIMO, wasn’t it?  And now you’re all done writing for a while–time to relax and get caught up on Game of Thrones. . .well, not if you plan to make writing more than a once-a-year binge.  As with diet and exercise, and pretty much all things you want to stick with and get better at, regular practice with writing will make you a better writer. It will give you more material to offer to a wider variety of readers (whether through traditional publishing, indie publishing, or your personal site).  I’ve found that, the more I stay in the zone, the more I want to be there, and the faster I can get back when I have to leave to say. . . go to the day job, feed the pets, or make another PB&J for my next session.

  1.  The easiest thing to do is to maintain a habit. If you’ve been doing NANO, even if you didn’t complete the full 50K, you have established a habit of writing on a regular basis.  Keep doing it!!
  2.  Pick a chunk of time that works for you.  If you’re not already in the habit, find a space to make it easy.  perhaps this is first thing in the morning, when you are fresh.  Get up early and give yourself that half hour to write.  Commit to it!
  3.  Or. . .pick a word count you know you can meet.  250 words a day. That’s only a page–you can do that, easy!  And if you do it every day, you’ll have a book by the end of the year.  But some days, you’ll write more.  Don’t let yourself slack off.
  4.   Find a partner and agree to keep each other focused. Report in on a regular basis via whatever means works best for you. Also check out the #1K1H challenges on Twitter, where writers around the world look for some online buddies to write a thousand words in an hour.  #1K1H at the top of the hour–go!
  5.  Focus on the fun parts.  Sometimes you get to a part of the book that frustrates or disappoints you. Instead of letting that be an excuse to go play video games, think about the next part that will excite you.  Let that cool scene or thrilling twist be the carrot you’re working toward as you write through the tough sections.
  6.  Stuff happens.  You get sick, you lose power, you miss a few days of writing for one reason or another.  Don’t let a day or two, or even a week or a month signal the end of your commitment.  Even if you feel bad about the time you were *not* writing, the only way to get back to it is to sit down with the empty page.  Avoidance doesn’t make it any better.  Take a deep breath and get moving.  Half an hour.  250 words.  You can do this. You know you want to.

5 Mistakes New Writers Don’t Know They’re Making

Hey–it’s NANOWRIMO!  For those of you taking part in the annual National Novel Writers’ Month, you should already be at least 1667 words into your new project. And you probably shouldn’t be browsing the blogs.  But if, like me, you are close to your word goal for the day, and you’re kind of hung up on how to write the next scene, then feel free to browse away.  Otherwise–get back to work.


I read a lot of manuscripts by new authors, either because they seek me out for blurbs, agent advice, or marketing ideas, or through events like the WorldCon Writers’ Workshop.  I see the same kinds of mistakes over and over, so I’d like to give you a run-down on five of them.

  1.  They don’t know where to begin.  This usually means they start weeks, months, even years before anything actually happens in the story.  Begin as close as possible to the moment when all hell breaks loose.  That’s when it gets exciting–when the character is about to encounter the conflict.

2.  They include too much back-story up front.  This can be a subset of mistake #1, by starting in the pre-history of the story, but often it manifests as the author trying to squeeze all kinds of character commentary or inner monologue in the first few pages.  Let the reader get to know the characters first by seeing them in action, then when they want to know more, give it to them.

3.  They write in summary rather than in scenes.  Scenes include action taking place surrounded by details that bring the reader into a particular moment in space and time.  All five senses, forward momentum, dialog and revelation.  Let the reader be a witness to the scene, not merely an accessory after the fact.

4.  They write scenes that don’t add to the work.  These scenes are often transitional:  scenes where someone has to go somewhere, or wait for something, or listen to a version of something that already happened.  This is what summary is for–when we need to know something happened, but we don’t need any details or investment in the process.  Unless something happens on that long ride through the forest, you can just say, “Four days later, they arrived at the castle.”

5.  They lose track of characters in dialog.  The dialog consists entirely of the quotations, without any sense of characters being present in a place.  Instead, use your dialog tags judiciously to show how characters react to what’s being said, and reveal themselves through small actions, expressions, and interactions with the scene around them.

Hope this helps as you dive into or revise your project–happy writing!

Vectors: What’s Your Dream Convention?

Most authors go to conventions. We love some, others, not so much. So what’s our dream convention?

Ken Liu

KenLiuHiResI’m going to go a bit geeky here and say that my dream convention would be one that never ends — it might have in-person sessions, but the rest of it would go on permanently in the ether. I’m particularly enamored of Vannevar Bush’s vision in _As We May Think_ in which he imagines “a mesh of associative trails” created by readers and writers running through texts, the entire literary community engaged in a permanent conversation that involves crawling through each other’s brains. (People sometimes claim that Vannevar Bush “envisioned” the web — sorry, Bush’s vision is much, much cooler than wikis and hyperlinks.) I don’t think we’ll fully get there until we achieve the Singularity.

Beth Cato

BethCato-steampunk-headshotWhen I was a teenager, I subscribed to Writer’s Digest. I used to get their mailings for the Maui Writers’ Conference and daydream about how that amazing would be. I still haven’t made it to Hawaii, but I have a very different idea of what I want from a con.

I say that, because I had the time of my life at World Con in San Antonio last year. Friends galore! The Riverwalk! Meeting my favorite authors! The night parties–the glorious cheese! I’m envious of everyone going to London this year–not simply the con, but LONDON. A place I’ve always wanted to go. A place with even more amazing cheese. Sigh.

I am attending World Fantasy Con in D.C. this November. I have high hopes that it will be an amazing experience–I’m even bringing along my husband and son. Maybe I’ll become hooked on both World Con and World Fantasy. Maybe I should win the lottery…

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence SchoenYou have to understand that I started going to conventions more than forty years ago. And honestly, I didn’t realize I’d been attending cons that long until I sat down to respond to this question. Damn.

My tastes have changed over the years, as has my status, and likewise my needs. Which actually makes this an easy question to answer.

My dream convention is the Worldcon, for so many reasons. Typically I get to travel to a venue I’ve never (or seldom) visited before: Denver, Montreal, Toronto, Yokohama, London, just to name a few. Nowhere else can I meet up with so many friends that I have come to know from reading their books or from online correspondence.

I spend my days, sitting on panel after panel with some of the authors who shaped my own career. I can’t properly describe how much I enjoy engaging in discussion and debate with colleagues, both old and new, as we vie to entertain and inform an audience, even as we amuse ourselves. It’s also a chance to learn from those who have gone much further than me, and to mentor those who are coming up fast.

And if my wife has any say in the matter, each night is an adventure as we schedule small dinner parties with people I may not see again for years. She does her research, makes the reservations, and puts together groups of six or eight and then we venture out to explore each city’s fine dining in marvelous company.

After each dinner, if I’m not already worn out (and as the Worldcon runs five days, it’s a certainty that I’ll be dead before the last night) there are parties to flitter from, people to mingle with, witty bon mots to dispense and receive, deals and opportunities you didn’t even know existed to capture and run away with (my last GoH gig started as a casual invitation at a party at the Reno Worldcon). By the end of the night, the day feels very much like a dream, and a few hours of sleep later it starts all over again.

Other conventions have their charms, but the combination and sheer exhausting magnitude of the Worldcon makes it my ideal convention. Each is different, each is wonderful, each leaves me with a tired smile on my face.

Michael R. Underwood

Michael R. UnderwoodTo be honest, WisCon is pretty close to my dream convention, as is. The concom does an incredible job the three years I went. They bring in great speakers, foster a strong moderating culture, and cultivate interdisciplinary programming that ranges from scholarly papers to writing technique through many strands of diverse fandom, all in a lovely hotel at the heart of a beautiful city (Madison, WI).

If I was designing a convention with an infinite budget, I’d take lessons from WisCon, WorldCon, BaltiCon, ConFusion, and most every con I’ve been to and try to take it even further.

Mike’s priorities for a perfect convention:

1) Strong moderating culture – Moderators would be cultivated and valued, making sure that every panel was as high-quality as possible.

2) Good local food options – I’d choose a site with accessible and delicious food options within a short walk of the convention.

3) A fabulous BarCon bar – So much of the action of many conventions happens at the bar, that finding a site with a good one is all but essential.

Fran Wilde

Fran2014I’ve been very lucky to enjoy some amazing conventions so far, and I’m looking forward to LonCon this year and my first World Fantasy Con in the fall.

As I experience more conventions, I love seeing how they differ based on region and focus – and how I can learn so much from all of them.

FarthingParty was one of the most amazing single-track conventions I’ve attended, and I’d like to see more of those too — including 4th Street.

That said, I would also love to someday go to Dragoncon, because I’ve heard so much about it, and to a ComicCon.

And I agree with Mike about those priorities. Places where people can talk and eat comfortably are hugely important, as are panels that allow for a great exchange of ideas.

What’s your ideal Con?