More than just Volocio out here…

Advice on Book Writing

On Writer’s Block…..

A while back, I went to a reading of Neil Gaimen’s newest book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  It was my first reading of an author.  Got my copy of American Gods signed (hurrah!) and got to hear him answer questions from the audience.

One of the questions concerned writer’s block.  How does he work passed it?

First he talked about his time as a journalist.  He spoke of having deadlines.  He was not allowed to have writer’s block.  I went through the same thing when I was a ghost writer on a tea blog.   In the end you had to just write through it.

Gaimen also talked about that there were days that he had to force himself to write and every word that came from his fingertips felt like shit while on his good days the words felt like gold.  And yet when he went back and read everything it was really all the same.

If you find yourself stuck, just keep writing.  Stephen King called it “shoveling shit.” It certainly is but it will be the only way to get through.  The more you write the easier it will become.  You may have to find another outlet in the meantime if you really just can’t write your particular project.  I always keep a journal and I currently have this blog as well as my traveling one for my impending move to Germany (yay news!).  But even if I am not writing Book of Tas’und’eash then I am still writing something else.  Each time the words flow more easily and thus I will keep writing.

What do you do when you find yourself with writer’s block?


On Small Writing Groups….

Hello world,

This has been a long time coming post.  I have spent the last several weeks in Germany (for both work and play) and with the holidays crashing over us, it has been constantly keeping me away from posting.  So here I am wanting to talk about a very VERY useful tool while writing:

Writing Groups.

A few years ago when I still lived in Bloomington, IN I was part of a writing group with a few other writer friends.  We would get together once a week to discuss the sample we chose for that time.  It was great! I really missed that.  It took me time before I finally got around to finding a group (or two) here in Chicago.  I will say that it has reminded me of the benefit of having more than just one pair of eyes looking at my work.

I really enjoyed working with a group of people to look over some of my work.  When looking for a group, it’s important to find people who are kind and supportive.  Fortunately, most people looking for such groups are such people.  The people I have met ask the necessary questions about my work, they are supportive of my ideas but still give great suggestions that are worth considering.  When writing, it’s always a great idea to have someone outside of your own head to look at what you have done.  This will help you see outside of the box.  This does not necessarily mean that you have to sacrifice your own stories or overall idea because someone may not see or agree with your overal vision.  But the right group of people can really help.  They may see something in your story that you may not have noticed before.  They may ask questions about your world that will make you delve deeper and discover more than your anticipated.

And being part of such a group can enable you to be that sort of help and support to fellow writers.  You too can ask questions and be as supportive as they are to you.

Whne you find the right grou, the process will be symbiotic: you help them and they help you.  I think being around sch creative is better than any creative writing class I have taken.  These people don’t necessarily have to be writers of your own genre.  In fact, it may be better that they write different.  They may not be restricted to the confines of your genre.  Again, this means thinking outside the box.

That being said – if being in a creative writing class does help you then great! Keep going.  But I still supplement it with a writing group.

What about the rest of you?  Have you found writing groups to also be helpful? Let me know your thoughts.

On Reading…

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

-Stephen King

I’m alive!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been knee deep in writing and reading.  I have finished book 1!  I felt like I was sprinting to the end of the book.  I don’t even want to look at it for a while so I am working on book 2 which has been a great and fun change of pace.  I plan on working on it for a while and then I will go back to book 1 with fresh eyes.

Anyway, concerning my quote above.  When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been reading.  A lot.  Reading as many books as you can get your hands on is just as important as practicing your writing skills.

“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”

Tyrion Lannister

I certainly have been using my whetstone 😛 This last year, I had been taking public transportation through the Windy City in order to get to work.  It’s about 45 minutes each way and I always carry a book with me.  As a result, I have been devouring book after book.  I think that every book helps in your writing.  It’s just as important as writing a blog to practice your style.

Sorry if this post reads a bit disjointed.  I am multitasking.  I wanted to at least reach out to wordpress and let everyone know that I am still alive and kicking.

And now I leave you with a question: what books do you like to read? How does reading help you in your writing?

On Reality…

Hey all, sorry it’s been awhile. Work has been crazy…hell…life has been crazy. I am still writing a lot but I noticed that I had not checked in with you guys for a hot minute.

I am still working on the first draft of this current project. Every time I think I got the overall story down, more ideas come flooding into my head. *sigh* I will get there. I should have a good couple day break coming up in the holidays. I will be heading back to Indiana to visit with family and friends. I also need to catch up on studying German.

But that’s really what this writing passion is about: learning to balance between duty and what you love. What you need to do versus what you want to do. Obviously I would love to write more but there’s that pesky job that cuts into at least 8 hours of the day (not to mention the 45 minute commute each way) along with everything else that needs to be done (cooking, cleaning, dog stuff, German stuff, hitting the gym) that at the end you are so frazzled that when you try to sit down and write, you find that you can’t.

What do you guys do to ensure you reach your own personal writing quota of the day?

I will try to write more often. Until then…


On Writing with a Foreign Language…

So my current project takes place in South America…in the beginning.  I have a group of characters who speak Spanish.  The question here is how do I portray that? Do I write in English and just say it’s in Spanish?  Do I write some bits in Spanish and then immediately translate? Or do I go the David Mitchell route from Cloud Atlas and just write certain excerpts in only Spanish and let the readers hope for the best?

I think I’m trying a little bit of everything.  Mainly the dialogue is in English; however, I have managed to put in a little phrases here and there (being half-Peruvian, I use what I grew up with).  I feel that it makes it a little more real by adding this little dash of flavor.  Examples?

I have a character who has a line that goes something like this:

Oye huevon! Que haces aqui? Why are you not at the church yet?”

I don’t translate it.  If you’re familiar enough with Peruvian Spanish, you’ll get the ‘huevon’ bit.  If not, it doesn’t effect the story.  It is simply a name that one character is calling another in jest.  “Que haces aqui?” What are you doing here?  I don’t translate that either since but you see what I did there? What are you doing here and Why are you not at the church yet are asking the same questions.

In essence, I added a little dash of culture but what is important is still in English.  Don’t get me wrong, I do write some dialogue where it has to be translated.  But if you do this, use it sparingly.  So far, it is one of the few places in this project where such a practice is used:

“Parca,” the old man whispered. Reaper.


“¿Me puedes ayudar?” Can you help me?

Cesar nodded. “Por supuesto, señor.” Of course, sir.

What other ways of utilizing a foreign language do you use?  Granted, not all of us are Tolkien’s here who can develop a complete language for books (although, like Tolkien, I did study linguistics….I just wasn’t a professor).  Do any of you try to use your own language when writing?


On Pacing…

One of the problems I am finding with this current project is the pacing. Whether it’s the flow of the words or the flow of the plot. Right now I am suffering from the latter which in turn is affecting the former.   I wrote the ‘skeleton draft’ in one shot.  By ‘skeleton’ I meant it is simply all of the main points I want told.  Now I’m going back and beefing bits up; however, it all feels so scattered.  You have to find the tools to see your story on a bigger scale.  I will briefly write a few things that have helped me with both of these issues.

When it comes to the flow of words I use one simple trick: I take what I have written and read it out loud.  You read slower when you verbalize versus reading it in your head.  This also helps with when writing dialogue: does it feel natural in your mouth when you say the words?  This may not work for everyone, it definitely helps me.

When it comes to the flow in plot I found index cards to be essential.  But I will take this one step further.  I found an awesome computer program that allows for index cards but these cards are digitally connected.  The program is called Scrivener.  I found it while checking out author Veronica Roth’s blog.  Here’s an image of what I’m working on:

As you can see, I have index cards discussing plot points I’m hitting for a particular “chapter.”  But if you see on the left hand side the title of the index cards have been blurred.  It’s there that the actual written portion is.  I can change the order of these “index cards” and it moves the written portions for me 😀  But this way I am able to see my work as a whole.  It’s almost God-like, having this bird’s eye view of the entire story.

I highly recommend Scrivener.  They at least give you a thirty day free trial and if you like it you only have to whip up about $40.  Here is the link to the site:


On Writers not Being Your Bitch…

I found myself reminded of an article the author Neil Gaiman wrote.  I said in a previous post that I love George R. R. Martin’s work but I will have to wait years before the next book comes out.  I know a lot of people are griping about how GRRM livejournal is filled mostly with posts about the New York Giants and not about the upcoming The Winds of Winter.  I would write more but frankly Gaiman is more eloquent and more than covers it:

George R. R. Martin is Not Your Bitch