Tag Archives: writing advice

How to Be an Anti-Muse

ARTIST’S NOTE: So it looks like I still have some venom I need to squeeze out of system before I can get back to our regularly scheduled program. I like giving writing advice, but sometimes when I look at the state of things in online artistic arenas I want to burn it all down. I realize I owe my readers a debt of sincerity, but if you allow me one more sarcastic tantrum I promise I’ll make it up to you soon.

The Subtle Art of Extinguishing Creative Sparks

Don’t you hate how some people hold onto their artistic ambitions long after they’ve gotten laid for the first time? I mean, come on. They should’ve set that guitar down the moment their backs hit the mattress. You put a sock on the doorknob, strum out a little Wonder Wall, and cast that shit aside. Mission accomplished. Am I right? If someone is still plucking that thing into his thirties there’s something wrong with him.

The same goes for people staggering into coffee houses calling themselves writers, sitting there scribbling into leather bound journals, looking as pensive as possible, hoping some college girl will ask, “What are you writing?” I mean talk about a long con, and the thing I don’t get is why these dumbs schmucks go back to scribbling once they’ve gotten a girl’s attention. It’s like they’re backtracking the wrong way across the finish line.

The worst is when you’re friends with one of these rhyme-scheming stanza stacking wordsmiths, walking around wielding a notepad like a weapon that could go off at the first recitation. You’re a captive audience to their cry for help, forced to give an impromptu theory session under the guise of feedback. The indulgence is exhausting.

You float the idea: What if you channeled all that creative energy into writing a cover letter or technical copy?

Despite all your interventions your friend doesn’t know when to put away childish things. Everyone’s got paintbrushes in their attic, film equipment in their closet, and drum kits in their basement, but he’s still clinging to his hobby like it defines him.

He’s still dreaming about inspiring people with his creations, despite all the grey coming into his hairline. It’s really starting to bum you out.

Well, don’t fret. I’ve developed some tactics to neg your artistic associate into submission. Continue reading How to Be an Anti-Muse

How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

So your writing is flowing too fast. The spark of inspiration has set your mind ablaze and your fingers hurt from typing. Stephen King says you should write 3,000 words a day and you’re lapping him: 6,000 words a day, 9,000 words a day. You’re so prolific your beta readers feel like you’re swamping them with homework and your inbox is teeming with acceptance letters. Even your coffee table is overflowing with magazines and collections you’ve been featured in. Everybody is buying what you’re selling. Hollywood has optioned so many of your stories that all your liquid assets are tied up in forthcoming films.

Your writer’s workshop has added nights to discuss your work. You to try pump the breaks, to give the other writers around you a chance to catch up, but you finish stories in line at Chipotle. You’re frequently asked; “Are you typing right now?” while you’re appearing on podcasts.

Worse still you’re burdened with an excess of self-satisfaction. People often tell you that you need to glower more. They say you’re one of those writers who is just too damn chipper. The sheer glee you get from walking up every morning is becoming a problem.

Don’t worry. I can help make you tolerable to your less accomplished peers. Just follow my advice for derailing your train of thought and you’ll be writing just as slow as them. Continue reading How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method

How to Write Blog Spam

So You Want to be a Writer in the Information Age

Everyone thinks they have a million-dollar novel in them, something they’ll option to the premium cable companies once they get it started, but you’ve transcended those theoretical thinkers and become a doer. You’ve put in your time at the coffee shop, gritted your teeth through bad dub-step, and put your magnum opus on paper. Now you’re thinking of shopping it around.

The problem is you’re just now reading articles that tell you you’ve done it all backwards. You put the cart before the horse. You were supposed to build a website first, develop a strong social media presence, and then get your novel published. You spent all your time honing your writing skills when you should’ve been practicing selling, so saith the social media gurus you’ve found and they speak with authority.

Build Thy Brand

These social media gurus, these masters of marketing, these grand clerics of the click-through insist writers build a brand before they do anything. A brand is an online presence that represents your unique perspective, beliefs, and voice, and by unique, of course, they mean nothing so emotionally vulnerable that someone might find it depressing, nothing so quirky that people without a sense of humor won’t get it, nothing so seedy it couldn’t be read in classroom, nothing with references your grand parents won’t catch, and nothing remotely political. Continue reading How to Write Blog Spam

Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

So you’ve finished a novel. You’ve birthed a semi-autobiographical baby and you want to show it off to the world. You’re going to self publish and you have some idea of how to reach an audience.

You follow other authors on social media. You see a lot of book banners in your newsfeed. You’re oblivious to most advertisements, but you know how effective a clever design can be.

You’ve clicked thumbnails for novels because they reminded you of the hand drawn collages that once dominated VHS tapes, back in the heyday of horror. Others that reminded you of the black light posters for bands your parents would never let you listen to, and others that looked like Banksy Graffiti, mutated corporate logos repurposed to stick it to the man.

You’ve judged books by their covers and read many a blurb just because of the art. You want a design that compels readers to do the same. Lucky for you you know a guy. Continue reading Why Artists need to Pay Their Collaborators

How Not to Hold an Author Event

Insight from a bookseller who has seen these things go very badly.

Congrats on Your Book

So you’ve written a novel, better yet you’ve found a modest publisher who can get it into stores. Sure it might not have priority placement on the front table, but it’s available to customers who think to order it.

Seems like life is on the upswing, but before you forget your humble roots you might want to do something to bring yourself back down to earth, something to let the air out of your ego before it gets too inflated. Why not host an author event? Why that’s just the kind of degrading experience you need to kick your heart in the balls, but how to prepare for one in a way that guarantees maximum humiliation?

I have just the strategy. Continue reading How Not to Hold an Author Event

Stephen King Did It! An Essay On Originality

Every writer will have the same disparaging experience at some point in their career. (Especially if they think their ideas are super original.) It’s an experience best summed up by an episode of South Park.

In this episode Butters, an adorable social misfit, schemes to wreak havoc on the world that shunned him. He dresses all in tinfoil, takes on the alter ego of Professor Chaos, and glares down on the quiet mountain town. General Disarray, Chaos’s faithful companion, arrives with a wagon full of sticks. Chaos flips his easel and unveils his plan to build a giant shade to blot out the sun.

Chaos points to his blueprint. “South Park will forever be cast in a great shadow. Soon, all the people will have to live like moles!”

General Disarray perks up. This is a great idea, especially since he seen Mr. Burns do it on The Simpsons. Dejected Professor Chaos decides to move on to his next plan. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of another show. Chaos crafts schemes throughout the episode and every time he thinks he’s finally found his master plan General Disarray shouts, “Simpson’s did it!” and the plan is abandoned. Continue reading Stephen King Did It! An Essay On Originality

When Writers Show Up to the Party in the Same Dress

In 1859 British Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace ventured to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. He was collecting specimens when he happened upon a strange ant, far from its nest, stuck to a leaf. Wallace could’ve been forgiven had he suspected the ant was covering in webbing, given the mossy substance between its legs, but Wallace must’ve done a double take, because he spotted something odd. There was a tall growth, covered with strange bulbs, protruding from the ants’ skull. Wallace realized this growth was a fungus, a fungus that would be dubbed Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (or cordyceps for short).

Wallace visited the Amazon and found two more specimens suffering from the same infection that plagued the Indonesian ant. He might have discovered a mass grave had he tracked down the rest of the colony.

Cordycep spores stick to ants, break through their exoskeletons, and mutate their physiology. This parasitic fungus compels the ant, against its own interests, to climb a plant and secure itself. The fungus liquefies the ant’s insides, erupts from its skull, and sprays its spores. Cordycep devastate entire colonies at a time.

In 2006 the BBC aired an episode of Planet Earth featuring a segment called Attack of the Killer Fungi. This segment introduced Wallace’s zombie fungus to mainstream audiences. Continue reading When Writers Show Up to the Party in the Same Dress

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