Tag Archives: writing advice

What to Do When You’ve Written Yourself Into Your Story: Vlog

It happens to the best of us. You set out to write a story with fiercely original characters, but then a life event compels you to write yourself into the plot. Maybe you just had to get something off of your chest, but now you’re story has a you sized problem… and it might just do something to the real you to deal with it.

Over Branding: A Video Reading

Budding authors are always told to build a brand, to gain a following, to get their names out there, but what happens when they go too far?

How to Get Out of Conversations about Trump by Pitching Your Fiction

How many times has this happened to you: your friends invite you to the bar and you arrive to find an interloper sitting in your chair?

This man, with his half goatee and camouflage cap, sticks out amongst the artistic misfits you usually hang out with. He slams the table, drawing the attention of the wait staff. He enunciates the words ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, like an alien who’s read about laugher and mistaken the onomatopoeia for the real thing.

Your friends look to you with pleading eyes, hostages too scared to signal for help.

The interloper flashes you a nasty sneer, a wolf signaling that this is his deer carcass. When it’s clear you’re joining the table he stands for introductions.

“I should warn you I come with a trigger-warning.”

He doesn’t shake your hand so much as he yanks it by the wrist. He says his name is Tanner.

You have to ask, “So how do you know everyone?”

Tanner doesn’t. He was eavesdropping, interjected himself into the conversation, and played musical chairs until he sandwiched himself between the women. Your friends were just too Minnesota nice to get rid of him.

He’s your problem now. Continue reading How to Get Out of Conversations about Trump by Pitching Your Fiction

When Keeping it Real Online Goes Wrong

If you’ve ever researched making a name for yourself online then you’ve probably been told to build a brand, to simplify your complex personhood into a nuanced little niche that’s easy to digest. If you found yourself having trouble attracting an audience you’ve been told you need to be more authentic, share more of yourself, and get more real.

A lot of writers take this to mean they should chronicle their failures while attempting to make it as an author. Master Yoda does say, “The greatest teacher failure is.” Why not leverage yours to endear yourself to your readers?

But what happens when you volunteer too much information? What happens when your blog becomes your therapy cushion? What happens when you tell everyone your career is fraught with long bouts of depression, nights spent quivering on the floor of your apartment, running the bathroom fan so none of your neighbors can tell that you’re sobbing?

At what point does your depression become your brand? Continue reading When Keeping it Real Online Goes Wrong

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 waking 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