Tag Archives: writing advice

Writer Resolutions for 2017

New Year, new Drew.

The following are my resolutions for my writing going into 2017.

Finish What I start

I need to take my stories all the way from conception to the query letter. I’m good at writing first drafts then moving on to the next bright shinny thing. Part of the problem is I’ve gotten addicted to the instant gratification of publishing short fiction online.

My novels and novellas have suffered for that. I need to remind myself that everything I post here is in service to the novel I’m cheating on. 

And speaking of query letters. I need to…

Sell What I Write

I’ve sold some of my short stories, but I drop most of them into the gaping maw of Beelzeblog, the master of metrics, the prince of platforms, the ruler of reach. He demands a sacrifice a week. At night, I hear him growling from my laptop.

“Feed me.”

I can never satiate Beelzeblog’s hunger for fresh content, but maybe I shouldn’t. It’s hard to sell something once you’ve given it away. I need to hold more material back.

I’ll keep sharing stories, but I need to use some to expose my work to new readers, pad my bibliography, and earn money. Continue reading Writer Resolutions for 2017

Christmas Blog Update

Another blast from Christmas past

A post shared by Drew Chial (@drewchial) on

Over the last few months I’ve been editing a novel We the Damned, a novella The Devil You Don’t Know, and a novelette (name TBD, actually I could use your help naming it).  I’ve decided that material is too long to share here. So I’m pursuing all avenues to get those stories out there: digital, print, independent publishing, traditional publishing, and carrier pigeon.

However, I will share excerpts and concept art for all three projects here. I’m also planning to get back into a regular blogging schedule (I swear on a stack of cat calendars).

2016 has been a trying year for everyone. I’ve found myself a lot less compelled to interact with people online. It seems like everywhere you go there’s a minefield of napalm covered eggshells to tiptoe on. I’ve wanted to share more of my personal thoughts on the US election, without raving like a madman at a bus stop shouting at street signs, but it is challenging. Hopefully I can relegate my thoughts to artistic allegories, like my last story (shameless plug, go read it now, then tell your friends and have them tell their parents about, go go go).

I have a lot of other blog ideas in the pipeline too:

  • An article about what to do when you realize your story is exactly like another one you’ve never head of. I’m thinking of calling it Showing Up to the Party in The Same Dress.
  • A long overdue spoof of Joel Osteen, televangelist, positivity Puritan, and self help superstar. If you’ve ever seen one of his book covers then you know I could have a lot of fun Photoshopping myself into similar posses with less than motivational titles of my own.
  • I have an article called What Storytelling and Algebra Have in Common for you writers who are currently discovering the “joy” of editing.
  • I have an article on the role of coincidences in writing (here’s a hint: they work at the beginning of your story, but not at the end)
  • I have an article on writing accessible prose. I compare flowery writing to bands who get carried away experimenting (i.e. musical masturbation).
  • I have an article on how to use screenwriting tricks to make your novel harder to put down.

And many many more. So stayed tuned. I’ll be back with you soon.

How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

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Nearly 500,000 people participate in NaNoWriMo every year. Many are first time novelists who have decided to take the plunge, which means a lot of people are about to realize just how many hours there are in a day.

Here are some ideas to help you churn out a story as fast as possible.

Fortify Your Writing Space

The first thing you’ll to want to do is make sure that your bunker is stocked with nonperishable food items, water purification pellets, and enough Neosporin to cover a month’s worth of paper cuts. This way you can avoid the marauders that will be plundering your home in the wake of the election. Oh and once you’re several stories underground make sure your short wave radio is nowhere near the room where you’ll be writing. All those panic wrought police officers will break your concentration.

Now if you’re one of the poor souls stuck aboveground you’ll need a playlist to drown out all the screams.

I work to dark atmospheric soundtracks. This year I’ve been writing to the scores for Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, and Before the Flood (pretty much anything by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will get you in the right mood to write horror).

Scores for TV shows are perfect for writing because the composer has left space for dialogue, there’s room to hear yourself think, they’re usually slower than film scores, and there’s no lyrics to steal your attention. Continue reading How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft

Become the Supervisor of Your Own Fiction Factory

Anyone can be an author. It doesn’t matter your age, academic background, or nationality, you have what it takes to write the great American novel.

Forget what you’ve heard. You don’t need to be born to successful writers with roots in New York or Los Angeles, you don’t need a knack for grammar, talent, or luch. You just need to learn the tricks of trade from a master of the craft.

Barkley Carver, pilot, and credited author of 15 books to debut on the New York Times bestsellers list, reveals his winning formula for franchise fiction (for the first time under his current pen name). In this online class, he guides you through every aspect of writing a serviceable novel, from finding cold cases to base your mysteries on to getting New York’s Department of Health to grant you access to the divorce records so you can see which publishers are on the rebound. Continue reading Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft

How Branding Can Help and Hinder Your Writing

Branding Defined with Artists in Mind

When you hear the word “branding” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

I see a portfolio pounding professional power-walking around a boardroom table. Over their shoulder is a screen with a venn diagram. It features an infographic, a polar chart, and a pie chart overlapping each other. The speaker jabbers in jargon, traces hieroglyphic stats with a laser pen, and high fives their colleges right across the cheeks.

“It is mission-critical for our business to leverage strategic bleeding edge synergizing techniques to push the envelope outside the box if we hope to achieve vertical growth.”

At least that’s what I imagine when I hear the word branding. As a fiction writer, I figured branding was a word marketers used to inflate the importance of advertising, but it turns out it’s relevant to what I’m doing.

Put simply, branding is the thing that lets customers know what to expect from businesses, products, and even entertainment.

Put even simpler: branding = expectations

Just like in the corporate world, fiction brands let audiences know what to expect, and just like in the corporate world, a handful of brands have a monopoly.

This is why iconic characters enjoy so many reinventions, fiction franchises outlive their originators, and big name authors can pass work to ghost writers. People don’t want to waste hard earned money on bad entertainment. Brands appear to eliminate that risk.

If you want a steamy romance about an untamable Harley driver with borderline disorder just look for the lathered abs on the cover. If you like psychological thrillers about scandalous women, find a book with the word “girl” in the title. If you want a mystery about women who went missing while running, find a book with a foggy forest on the front.  Continue reading How Branding Can Help and Hinder Your Writing

Blog In Case of Emergencies

I’ve blogged at least once a week for three years running. I’ve written enough essays on the craft writing fiction to fill a book and enough short stories to fill another one (gee, that gives me an idea).

This week I started an article on how novelists should write with film adaptations in mind. Not to say that every hardcover is destined for the big screen, but that fiction writers could learn a lot from another medium. My angle was that narrative writers should use screenwriting tricks to keep their manuscripts from getting too long.

I got about 500 words in before I realized this was ground I’ve covered before. I was coasting on sayings I use all the time. The last thing I wanted to do was recycle a bunch old of content. I’ve followed too many blogs where each entry gets bogged down by lazy self-plagiarism (yes, that’s a thing).

So I decided to get back on the short fiction train.

I got about 1,800 words into a short story (tentatively titled Newsreelmancer) and I realized I was at the halfway point. Newsreelmancer is my first foray into science fiction in some time and it’s taking a lot longer for the story to resinate with me.

Writing can feel as empty as corporate jargon or as engaging as telepathy. The difference is that feeling of authenticity. In the spirit of finishing what I start I want to keep chipping away at this story for another week, until I find that certain something that makes it feel genuine.

That said, I don’t have any writing advice or short fiction for you this week.

This placeholder post is an I-owe-you slip for one blog entry or short story to be redeemed later. I promise it will be something that comes from a real place, resonates with deeper meaning, and is longer than the length of a comment.

P.S. One piece of advice I have for any aspiring blogger is to have a backlog of evergreen content piled up just in case something like this happens.

P.S.S. Admittedly this is not my finest work, but it does technically count as a blog entry, meaning my three year streak continues unbroken.

How to Swap the Light Bulbs of Inspiration

Robert A. Heinlein’s second rule of is writing: You must finish what you start.

Neil Gaiman would add: Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

This article is about doing whatever you have to do, even when the spark from your first light bulb moment has gone dim.

What I do When My Inspiration is Incomplete

Ding. A light bulb appears over my head. It’s faint and it’s flickering, but I get the sense it’s one of many lamps leading down a larger path.

Most of my stories come to me like this.

Ding.

“What if depression acted like a movie producer invading the set of a man’s life and it gave him all these ‘notes’ that ruined his day?”

Ding.

“What if the corporation that runs reality starts putting features, like gravity, behind a paywall?”

Ding.

“What if a guy has a different personality disorder for every day of the week?”

These blinking bulbs line the entrance of a conceivable composition. These lamps rarely cast enough light to show a story’s structure. I can’t see the exit from the entrance, but I have a vague sense where the front door is leading. I see movement in the windows, but only catch silhouettes of the characters.

A lot of writers need to see the floor plan before venturing into the building. I’ve found if I keep pacing the block looking for the brightest concept I never go inside. I’m the kind that goes in blind and screws the bulbs in along the way in.

Those first few dings of inspiration might lead me to believe I’m walking into a plot driven mystery, but with a little more light I realize it’s an intimate character study. My skill for lighting depends on my ability to adjust my expectations of the building I’m working on.  Continue reading How to Swap the Light Bulbs of Inspiration

How to Save Your Twitter Profile from the Algorithm

On February 5, Buzzfeed reported that Twitter was doing away with their chronological timeline in favor of an algorithmic one. Users would no longer see tweets as they were posted in real time, but rather in an order the algorithm thought users wanted to see them. Buzzfeed theorized that this would help manage spam links and adjust Twitter’s signal to noise ratio, but users remained skeptical.

Many users feared, myself included, that Twitter was downgrading everyone in order to sell priority placement tweets to power users, just as Facebook had done with status updates on its Fan Pages. Social media services were shifting stanchions onto their free dance floors, relabeling the spaces as their VIP sections. Twitter appeared to be doing the same; gutting the democracy of the service to benefit a monopoly held by power users, celebrities, and advertisers.

We feared that the algorithm would put an end to Hashtag Revolutions like the Arab Spring or Ferguson Protests, and that breaking news would get buried by Kardashian selfies. Twitter has been championed as the voice of the people. An algorithm would elevate posts based on predictions. It wouldn’t know the value of movements without a point a reference. Continue reading How to Save Your Twitter Profile from the Algorithm

How to Keep Your Writing from Reading like a Bogus Essay Answer

In his book On Bullshit Harry G. Frankfurt wrote, “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.”

Something magical happens when people are called upon to give information they don’t have: rather than admit the limits of their knowledge they give it the old college try. We all know what decisive conclusions sound like. We need not know what we’re talking about to draw them. So we riff to buy ourselves time until we stumble upon a point.

This article is going to explore this phenomenon, identify how it shows up in fiction writing, and what can be done to fix it so that would-be authors can seem like they actually know what they’re doing. Continue reading How to Keep Your Writing from Reading like a Bogus Essay Answer

When Symbolism Goes Wrong

There’s a scene in 2013’s Man of Steel where Clark Kent goes to church seeking guidance from a priest. Aliens combatants, from Kent’s home planet Krypton, are broadcasting a message to draw him out of hiding. He’s torn between stepping forward or remaining in the shadows. The priest stands over Kent, from the aisle, as the Kyrptonian confesses from the pew.

Normally in a scene with two characters speaking the cameras are positioned over the shoulders of the characters to show their point of view. First we see a camera tilted upward to show Kent’s view of the priest (who eventually sits on a railing, but is still looking downward). We should then see a reverse shot from the priest’s perspective looking down on Kent. Instead we see a shot that’s tilted upward, as if the priest was looking at Kent from the floor.

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Super Jesus
Okay, that’s a little on the nose

Why did director Zack Snyder choose to frame the shot this way? My theory is that he meant to emphasize the stained glass depiction of Christ over Kent’s shoulder, kneeling in prayer, just as Kent is. As far as symbolic references go this one isn’t that subtle.

This weeks article is all about when it’s a good idea to link your story to icons with  deeper meanings, and when they can hurt your story by feeling unearned. I’m going to focus on Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice because they’re filled with examples of heavy handed symbolism.

(Spoilers for Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice follow).

Full Disclosure: I don’t hate either film. There’s a lot to like in both, but this isn’t a review of either movie. It’s an examination of visual shorthand.  Continue reading When Symbolism Goes Wrong