Category: For Writers Page 1 of 17

Writing Ideas: What Story Should You Write?

One of the invisible questions that writers face is what story they should write.

The question is invisible because writers tend to come up with a lot of writing ideas, then fail to follow through on them. Which might make anyone feel pretty lazy! But laziness is rarely the real issue.

Most advice for writing focuses on how to a) overcome writer’s block, b) write better in general, or c) brainstorm story ideas.

Writer’s block happens when you’re stuck on a story, that is, after you’ve already started.

Advice on writing better (at least for beginners) tends to divide writers into two groups: plotters and pantsers. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants with little to no planning, that is, supposedly with zero writing ideas in mind. The plotters are supposed to plan everything out ahead of time, with their writing ideas already locked in stone.

Brainstorming ideas without knowing what you want to write leads to the 1001 writing ideas that vanish when you sit down at the page.

None of that covers it when you say, “I don’t know what I want to write…and everything sounds wrong today.”

Most of us have hesitated in front of a refrigerator, a grocery store shelf, or a restaurant menu, asking ourselves, “Okay, I know the point here is to eat…but what?!?”

Life is throwing the question of what to write in my face a lot lately:

  • I got let go from work and joked about writing a novel between jobs. It took me over a month to decide what novel to write.
  • I put together what I thought would be a quick test project on teaching people how to write short stories. Step 1: Pick two genres. Nobody has gotten past that first step.
  • I’ve had a lot of stories and story openings to write for some writing classes lately, and most of them have turned into things I didn’t want to finish.

I’m pretty sure a lot writers would say, “Just pick something and keep writing! All writing is good!”

But the truth is that lots of people have issues “just picking something” and/or following it through after they’ve picked it.

For example:

  • It takes willpower to make decisions. Many of us put creative work last on our list, after we’ve used up our willpower for the day.
  • Creative types often have ADD/Autism or similar, and may have biological problems making clear decisions quickly when it’s not an emergency.
  • Many people have gone through situations where they no longer value their own opinions and instead do what other people tell them.
  • A lot of people are perfectionists, and hate the thought of writing something that they might not write perfectly.
  • And many of the writers I know personally have said they’re stressed at the thought of “exposing” themselves by writing about things they actually want to write about (and not just erotica—anything).

If you’re struggling with “just picking something,” then the roots of that struggle might go pretty deep.

Maybe it’s not just you being lazy.

Maybe you’re tired and distracted and hurt and doubting your own abilities and point of view, which is a lot to get over.

Let’s not worry about resolving all that right now and instead break the process of coming up with useable writing ideas down into two parts: how to know what you want to write, and how to translate that into a fiction starting point.

(Please note this is just my perspective! It’s an informed one based on millions of fiction words written and having lots of writing friends and acquaintances around the world. The best approach, though, is to take in other informed perspectives and go with what resonates.)

How to know what you want to write

At the heart of knowing what you want to write is knowing what you want, period. That may not be easy for you. (If it were easy for you at the moment, would you really be reading this article? You shouldn’t be! Go write!)

There are three main ways to find out what you want:

  • Experiment and see what makes you feel good.
  • Research and see what options are available.
  • Ask for informed expert opinions (from people you trust).

In writing terms, these loosely translate to:

  • Write in a bunch of genres.
  • Read in a bunch of genres.
  • Ask readers what books they want to read, that they think you could write well.

Those are pretty good strategies, but they don’t help when you’re staring at a blank page. Also, that last option can get you stuck, when you get advice to write stories that aren’t right for you.

So let’s assume you don’t have the brain space for long-term thinking right now, and toss those aside.

Instead, let’s focus on the current moment: what are you passionate about right now?

  • What was the last thing that made you feel passionate? happy? sad? angry? frustrated? interested? opinionated?
  • What was the last creative work that you turned to, when you were so exhausted you just couldn’t deal with anything else? How did that make you feel?

Try to come up with one of each. If you can’t, you might be in a bad enough place that coming up with writing ideas is the least of your problems. Please take care of yourself and maybe come back to writing when you feel better!

Fiction, no matter how cheesy it is, isn’t just junk food for the soul. It helps you process emotions, and it helps you recover when you’re too tired to have emotions. If you start from a place of passion mixed with relief from exhaustion, you’re probably on the right track, for yourself and for your readers.

How to pick a genre

Now that you have an idea of some kind of emotion you want to deal with (either to process or to use to heal), it’s time to pick a genre.

In my opinion, the genre you really want to write is the right genre to start with. But, again, we’re talking about a situation where you’re not sure about what you actually want, so you’re probably not going to know that.

Here are some things I’d like you to consider:

  1. Just because you haven’t written a genre before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it now. Now, when you don’t know what you want, is the best time to test out a new genre.
  2. Just because it’s not going to be perfect doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it. Again, now, when you don’t know what you want, is the best time to practice and work out some bugs in your writing. Practice makes perfect—so do it now, when you’re not writing “That One Story You’ve Always Wanted to Write.”
  3. If you want to make everything easier down the line, don’t just pick one genre, but two.

Stories are driven by emotion and conflict. If you start with an intense passion or personal emotion, the story will be meaningful to you personally, and you’ll have a motivation to finish it. If you start with two genres in mind, you’ll have conflict throughout the story.

A lot of people will tell you to avoid cross-genre stories. (These are probably the people who tell you not to write prologues, too.)

Picking two genres isn’t the same as writing a cross-genre story. A cross-genre story is a story split about 50/50 between two genres. You will instead pick two genres and make one of them more important (80/20-ish), for example, a mystery with a romance in it, or a horror story with Western themes.

Here are some suggestions for sorting genres by emotion:

  • Romance = falling in love, relationship dynamics in general, identifying priorities
  • Mystery = disentangling complexities, examining injustice, intense love for a place, nostalgia
  • Science Fiction = pushing all the buttons!, excitement/renewed focus, exploring social issues/politics
  • Fantasy = immersive escape, coming of age, processing change/grieving, accepting responsibility
  • Horror = emotional reboot, processing change/grieving, identifying priorities
  • Fiction = a sense of connection, examining social issues/politics, establishing boundaries/selfhood
  • Literary = immersive escape, processing change/grieving, a sense of connection
  • Comedy = relief from grief, emotional reboot, examining injustice
  • Erotica = erotic relief, establishing boundaries/selfhood, relationship dynamics in general
  • Historical = immersive escape, niche interest, identifying priorities
  • Young Adult = coming of age, establishing boundaries/selfhood, relationship dynamics in general
  • Western = renewed focus, niche interest, examining injustice, relationship dynamics
  • Thriller/Adventure = excitement/renewed focus, establishing priorities, disentangling complexities
  • Suspense = excitement/renewed focus, disentangling complexities, relationship dynamics in general

You will see some crossovers! And these are just my observations. If you find yourself going, “But what about X emotion in that genre?!?” then add that to your list. I didn’t want to make the list longer and more confusing than it was. And this is hardly an exhaustive list of all possible genres; feel free to add more.

Some of these crossovers between genres are so well established that there’s a whole subgenre to address them. Romantic suspense is one example: the characters may fall in love, explore relationship dynamics, disentangle complexities, and have a lot of exciting danger to face, which renews focus in the reader.

Please note that stacking up genres can be pretty fun, but the more genres you pile on top of each other, the more you’ll have to focus on one or two emotions from each genre.

How to combine the two

Let’s say you don’t know what to write.

What was the last thing you were passionate about? What was the last creative work you turned to, when you just couldn’t even?

Take me, for example:

  • Passion = assessing a new restaurant (I’m a foodie).
  • Last thing I turned to = cute romance webcomics with underlying dark relationship dynamics.

For my next story, I’m going to keep in mind:

  • Romance genre.
  • Comedy genre.
  • Maybe a little horror genre.
  • Involving assessing a new restaurant.

Here are four brainstormed ideas for that:

  • A restaurant critic falls in love with a restaurant owner, but the restaurant is haunted by the previous restaurant critic.
  • Two friends with visit a new restaurant. The food is good, but someone dies after eating the same dish. One of the friends is a serial killer.
  • Two friends run a restaurant where they are cursed to get only bad reviews from critics (but everyone else loves it). They fall in love.
  • A witch on the run from a vindictive family member starts working at a café under an assumed name, where she has to pretend to be one of the cook’s sisters in order to conceal her identity.

To brainstorm ideas, start with the passion first (something about a restaurant, in this example). Then add one element from each of your genres. Be as cheesy or cool as possible. You don’t have to be original or deep. The details of your story can be original and deep! But on the writing idea level, stories are meant to tap something universal in people, which usually translates to something cheesy or cool.

What if I already have existing story ideas? Which one should I pick?

My advice here is…well, honestly, it’s “check your deadlines!!!!”

If you don’t have deadlines, though, then my advice is:

  • Check your deadlines again!!!!
  • Write the story you’ve always wanted to write, unless you’re still doing research (that’s a whole other topic).
  • Write the story that combines something you’re still passionate about with things you turn to, when you’re too tired or burnt out to go on.

Writers write essays (like this one!) to find out what they really think about a topic. Writers write fiction to address their own emotions, perspectives, and interests. If you can’t figure out what you want to write, then writing something that connects to your passions and helps you find comfort is not a bad place to start.

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers Cover Image

The Write Stuff Interviews: Advice for Writers

If you’re a writer, you know that there are a million books of advice for writers on the craft of fiction out there. (Books on the business of fiction are fewer but still plentiful.)

You also know that no one book has the answer you’re looking for. The answer is really the process of taking in other writers’ advice, processing it, and absorbing what works for you and rejecting what doesn’t. Getting multiple perspectives is essential.

I recently participated in a “Storybundle,” or limited-time-only collection of ebooks on a selected topic, that was focused on providing advice for writers on the craft and business of writing, both fiction and nonfiction. To help promote the bundle, I sent the other authors a short interview questionnaire, then created posts based on those interviews.

I really liked how the interviews turned out! Lots of great answers to my questions. After the event ended, I fixed the links to lead directly to their respective works.

Below is a list of the interviews I did for the Write Stuff Storybundle. If you’re looking for additional perspectives, each of these works (even mine) would be a great tool for helping you develop your awareness of the craft and business of writing.

The links below are for the interviews. Links to the works themselves can be found inside those posts. I wasn’t sure where to add my book and one other (they were both balanced between craft and business), so I called those “sanity check.” They both address how to assess your writing situation generally.

Business:

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (fiction & nonfiction)

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors, by Mark Leslie Lefebvre (fiction & nonfiction)

Craft:

Clean First Draft Writing, by Dean Wesley Smith (fiction)

Create a Character Clinic, by Holly Lisle (fiction)

Domesticate Your Badgers: Become a Better Writer Through Deliberate Practice, by Michael W. Lucas (fiction & nonfiction)

Free Your Inner Nonfiction Writer: Educate, Influence, and Entertain Your Readers, Joanna Rothman (nonfiction)

Sanity check:

Do…Quit Your Day Job: Adventures in Dumping Your 9-to-5 and Embracing Your Creative Future, by Christina F. York (fiction & nonfiction)

Writing Craft, Vol. 1: Are You Ready to Publish? & Other Burning Questions, by DeAnna Knippling (fiction)

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Are You Ready to Publish?: Interview with Author DeAnna Knippling

Writing Craft Are You Ready to Publish by DeAnna Knippling Cover Image

Are you ready to publish? Why is it so much harder to get published all of a sudden? What should you do if you get asked to do a freelance project on the side? How do you get any better when you already read all the “good” writing books?

What if you screw something up?

Sometimes when writers have writer’s block, it’s because they’re struggling with the questions surrounding their writing, not with the writing itself.

This book is about getting your head clear so you can learn your craft without side issues derailing you and your career.

Writing Craft: Are You Ready to Publish? & Other Burning Questions is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find my book at the updated link below:

Everyone else who gave me answers got to have an interview! So I’m gonna “interview” myself, too. >.>


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

My book is aimed toward intermediate writers, that is, people who feel like they’ve heard the information found in most books on the craft of writing, but who aren’t ready to call themselves masters of the craft yet.

If you know what the “rules” are and have started to break them, you’re probably an intermediate writer.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

I wrote this book to help clear writers’ heads so they can focus on their craft.

It’s really easy for writers to get spun up about something and avoid writing because it brings up uncomfortable situations and associations. This book goes through the main issues that I experienced or that multiple other people experienced or asked me about.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

Kris Rusch and Dean Smith are my main writing mentors. I go to their in-person classes whenever I can, and I’ve taken a ton of online classes of theirs, too. Good stuff.

I’m a huge fan of studying other people’s work, though, so any writer who writes well is subject to getting fangirled by yours truly as I go through their work <3

On the copywriting side, I’m a big Gary Halbert fan. Studying his material felt like learning from a master con artist, and I’m a fan of that.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

When you go from beginning writer to intermediate writer, there’s a big jump in how difficult it is.

It can seem almost like you’re being sabotaged, like other people are only succeeding because they know the right people.

That kind of thing does happen, but it’s mostly about editors (and Amazon algorithms!) trying to sell more copies.

Generally, writers either quit writing or move into an intermediate stage, then stay there a long time. Learning how to truly please readers takes a while. That means you’re likely to be competing against people who have been doing this longer than you, network better than you, and who have more skills at pleasing readers than you.

Keep at it! Study your craft, take your successes, and expect to get knocked on your butt every time you try to succeed at a bigger level.

Also, on my Patreon I post the draft versions of the subsequent Writing Craft books twice a month; I’m working through how to write opening sentences and sections at the moment. (The short version: prioritize elements that confirm the reader is reading the right genre.) If you’re struggling with craft and don’t mind my mad-scientist approach, check it out.


My bio:

DeAnna Knippling lives within easy driving distance of the soft white sands of the Florida Gulf, where she can be found on an old beach blanket reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, and geeky nonfiction on her waterproof e-reader. Join her at wonderlandpress.com, where she builds her mind-bending castles in the sky, or writing-craft.com where she investigates the foundations of the art and science of writing. Or check her out at Facebook, where she posts collections of stories that people wish would get written.

You can find me at:

This website!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanna.knippling

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dknippling

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Create a Character Clinic: Interview with Author Holly Lisle

Create a Character Clinic by Holly Lisle Cover Image

Struggling to create a character in your fiction? Feel like they aren’t quite as cuddly (or stabby) as you’d like?

Or do you know you have a great character, but you struggle to show the reader how great they are?

Holly Lisle is a long-term professional writer who also helps coach writers through difficult issues from writer’s block to revision. Here, she walks writers through several ways to develop their characters and bring them to life, instead of just fumbling around with lists of traits and appearances.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “But in my head they were interesting,” then give Create a Character Clinic a try!

Create a Character Clinic is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Holly’s classes at the updated link below:

I got to ask Holly a few questions for the StoryBundle!


Holly says:

At the point where I decided to go indie full-time (after many years as a commercially published author), I’d already written some online ebooks for writers who’d been asking me writing questions for years.

The first of those, Create A Character Clinic, answered many, MANY questions the fiction-writing part of my readership had been asking me. The book has had a number of updates to fix links and make the worksheets easier to get, as well as to add in some new techniques (and fix typos).

1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Create a Character Clinic is solely for fiction writers, and while I initially wrote it with beginners in mind, I’ve expanded bits of it as I’ve developed new techniques — it’s now a nice reference book for anyone who would like some new approaches to creating characters, and who would like to avoid some of the gawdawful mistakes writers from beginner through the occasional published pro make when building and writing fictional folk. 

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

Character Clinic eliminates the “character sheet” approach that starts with giving fictional folk height, weight, eye color, and other absolute non-essentials of character creation. 

Instead, my process presents the writer with questions in seven critical areas of character development, shows the writer how to get answers to these questions, then walks the writer through  bringing the character to life in ways that use those answers to create great story conflicts.

I also demonstrate how to use Maslow to build better conflicts, and how to SHOW your readers a character, rather than telling them.

[“Maslow” refers to Abraham Maslow, American psychologist, who established a famous “heirarchy of needs” model of psychological processes.–Ed.]

In the third section of the book, I demonstrate The Sins of Characterization, and How to Commit Them RIGHT (though one sin is only, always, EVER a sin, and should never appear in published, professional fiction). 

So to sum up, you’ll learn to imagine and write living, breathing folks who face real problems… and who don’t cheat getting through those problems to satisfying resolutions at the end.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

The folks whose books and stories and writing articles I read while teaching myself how to write fiction… Primarily:

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

I’m currently writing (under a pseudonym), a five-novel urban(ish) fantasy series set in a small town in Ohio — my home state, and one it took me forty years to get back to. The series includes aliens and monsters, inhuman allies, both bright and dark views of humankind and alienkind… a disturbing pet cat who’s more than he seems… and cookies that might just save the world.

I’m halfway through the first draft of book five, and will be publishing all five novels at a rate of one per month when they’re done.

Interested readers OR writers can get a free story or writing class and find out more here. I’m the face in the picture.

[She has a free flash fiction class available here, too!–Ed.]


Side note: Holly has some great examples of copywriting on her course website, too. She has over 20 classes to take…and she makes them very hard to resist!

Holly’s bio:

I’ve been writing with intent to publish since January 1st, 1985 when my New Year’s resolution was to write a novel before I turned twenty-five (ten months later, more or less).

I hit my resolution with a few days to spare, but the book, Hearts In Stitches, sucked.  I wrote a LOT after that, accumulating a big shoebox with well over a hundred rejection slips in it before anybody decided I was good enough to pay for fiction.

I actually started selling in 1991, and I broke in with with the fantasy novel Fire In The Mist (which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel), and with a couple of sonnets I sold to the SF magazine Aboriginal.

It was a long hard slog between intent and realization.

It’s been a rollercoaster ever since.

But I love telling stories.  In fiction, I’ve found the work I want to do for the rest of my life.

You can find more about me (and a ton of free articles I wrote about writing fiction) at https://hollylisle.com/articles/

I am not my work.  But my work is me.

You can find Holly at:

Her website: https://hollylisle.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hollylisle

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Domesticate Your Badgers: Interview with Author Michael W. Lucas

Domesticate Your Badgers by Michael W. Lucas Cover Image

Professional writers have to learn a lot of different techniques, many of which aren’t written down in books or taught in classes.

How do they learn those techniques, then? Read a bunch of good fiction and hope for the best?

Not exactly.

Michael W. Lucas writes both fiction and nonfiction, writing across multiple genres and always with a twisted, unique sense of humor. He takes “taking things to their logical extremes” to a new level.

If anyone has had to learn how to learn good techniques while still going completely off the rails with the content of their fiction, it’s him.

In Domesticate Your Badgers, Michael takes apart the process of learning good writing craft, approaching it from multiple directions to help you craft a plan to stop spinning your wheels and move forward as a writer.

And he’ll show you how to do it without pigeonholing you into concepts or plans that will restrict your creative imagination.

Domesticate Your Badgers is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Michael’s book at the updated link below:

I got to ask him a few questions for the StoryBundle!


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Domesticate Your Badgers is aimed at writers of all levels. I
deliberately wrote the book I wish someone had given me fifty years
ago, but it would have been helpful in college or even a few years
ago. If you want to become a better writer, and need to create a plan
that targets your personal weaknesses, this can help you. Fiction,
nonfiction, it doesn’t matter.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

DYB attacks two problems.

First, the world is full of writing advice. Some of it is actively
terrible. Some of it is good, but not for you. Some of it is great
advice for your field, but you needed it ten years ago–or, worse,
you must learn something else before you can take advantage of it.

Second, writing is an art like pottery or painting or music. Unlike
those fields, it’s very hard for a writer to judge their own work. A
student painter can look at their work and say “That looks like a
really nice apple. Too bad I wanted an armadillo.” They see their
problem and can try again. Musicians train their ears to hear
problems. Unlike those arts, the act of writing is completely detached
from the experience of reading. The student writer needs a unique
mindset to polish their craft.

Between these two problems, I’ve seen so many writers with a special
spark spend decades spinning their wheels. I should know–I was one of
them.

I wanted to help writers develop the way of thinking that lets them
recognize useful advice, practice those skills, and get useful
feedback that will improve their work.

Plus, the world needs more badgers.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

I’ve gone out of my way to study with anyone who would have me, but
I’ll drop a few names: Tim Powers, Joe Haldeman, Kris Rusch, Nancy
Kress, Dean Smith, and Samuel R Delany.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

If you’re reading about this bundle, you need to know about Alex
Kourvo’s Writing Slices blog. As far as I know, it’s the only blog
dedicated to reviewing books about writing. She’s saved me from
wasting a bunch of money on bogus books, but that’s probably countered
by how many titles I’ve purchased based on her recommendations.
https://writingslices.wordpress.com/

And I would say this even if she hadn’t given five stars to my Cash
Flow for Creators
.

[Side note, I know Alex, and she is amazing. At one point she dead-ass looked me in the eye and criticized something I wrote, totally expecting me to go off on her. She has that kind of integrity. She was right, too! I can’t remember what it was now, just the look on her face.–Ed.]


I really liked Cash Flow for Creators and recommend it!

Michael’s bio:

As Michael W Lucas I write books explaining exactly how computers were a mistake. As Michael Warren Lucas I write SF, thrillers, mysteries, the odd tidbit of romantic suspense, and a bunch of other stuff. To find out when I release a book, sign up for my topic-specific mailing list.

You can find Michael at:

His website: https://mwl.io/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agshekeloh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mwlauthor

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Do…Quit Your Day Job!: Interview with Author Christina F. York

Do...Quit Your Day Job by Christina York Cover Image

You want to quit your day job and start a creative career for yourself. You’ve run the numbers. You think it might be logical and doable. Maybe even profitable.

But.

You’ve been here before, where the logical and practical don’t coincide with actual reality. It feels like any day now, another shoe is going to drop.

What’s missing?

Christina F. York is one of the most practical, logical people I know, as well as one of the most widely written. It seems like she can pick up almost any genre and do it well, although she tends to spend her time most notably with mystery stories.

In her book, Do…Quit Your Day Job!, she writes a series of old-fashioned essays, the kind where the writer writes in order to clarify their thoughts about a subject and polish something so finely that it reflects a larger truth.*

Here, Chris writes about how she’s navigated her creative career. The bigger truth that these pieces reflect–well, in my opinion–is that a creative career has to have not just logic but emotional preparedness and resiliency in order to succeed. Spiritual resilency, too.

Here’s a quote:

I left school years ago, and though I am still a mother my children are grown and on their own.

The business we owned then died many years ago, before that marriage did.

Even the job I held for the last 21 years is now in the past.

So who am I now?

from the “Who are you” essay

These were the types of questions I didn’t answer in time to save my business when I got divorced. I can recognize that now. But reading parts of Chris’s book makes it hit home all over again.

Do…Quit Your Day Job! is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Chris’s essays at her Patreon link below:

I got to ask Chris a few questions for the StoryBundle!


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Do…Quit Your Day Job! is aimed at writers at all levels from beginner to seasoned professional. It’s for anyone contemplating leaving the “day job” world for the life of a full-time creative, whether as a retiree for whom writing is a fulfilling hobby, to the pro with a day gig looking to make the leap to full-time writing. 

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

I wish I could claim this book solves problems, but one thing I have found over the years is that every writer is different, their issues are different, and therefore their solutions are different. In Day Job I have tried, rather than offering hard-and-fast solutions, to provide a framework for approaching and weathering the change: what questions to ask yourself and your family, what your needs are and how will you use your unique skills to meet those needs. I have tried to provide real-world examples, including the mistakes I have made in my first two years of retirement, to help writers find the answers they need.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch of course. They have been my friends for decades, well before I started seriously writing, and have provided encouragement and swift kicks in the backside as each was needed. In addition I owe a huge debt to Denise Little. While not a writer herself, Denise is one of the wisest and most generous editors I have had the pleasure to work with. She taught me more than I could have imagined over the course of writing several books with her as my editor, and she guided me through the process of traditional publishing with patience and amazing kindness.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

Coming through the period of change that is documented in Day Job forced me to seriously examine how we approach a major life change, and the pitfalls and roadblocks we don’t see coming. There is one big lesson I took away from that experience:

Know that you are not alone, that others are facing the same challenges and there is someone out there who understands your situation and faces the same questions and challenges you do.

Trying to combine creativity and daily life is a huge challenge – one we need to acknowledge and examine – and there is no right answer. Your situation, your life, will always be a unique combination of you and your world, so don’t let anyone else dictate what is “best.”

I have a Patreon channel, Dispatches from the Tsunami Zone, which was the inspiration for Day Job and where I post every week about the creative life. I would love to have anyone who finds Day Job of value join the Patreon crew!

My choice is to build my full-time career with the release of the fifth book, Murder Buys a Lemon, in my Haunted Souvenir Shop cozy mystery series. This is the first book in the series to be released as an indie publication (books 1-4 were traditionally published). [Murder Buys a Lemon is currently exclusive to Chris’s Kickstarter supporters at the moment but will be released soon! You can sign up to find out more by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button here: www.yorkwriters.com/dispatches–Ed.]

I just joined the collective of writers at Mystery, Crime, and Mayhem Magazine, a crime-story quarterly, and I hope to finally launch the Spy Girls mystery series, as well as at least one more cozy series over the next year or so.


*She probably rolled her eyes when she read that, but it’s true. I think this one’s going after Johanna’s book. Fun fact, after Chris read Johanna’s interview she got, well, a bit jealous and rewrote her answer for question 4, too. I’m glad she did!

Chris’s bio:

Christina F. York, best-selling writer of mystery, romance, SF/F, and historical fiction, writes under her own name as well as mystery alter egos Christy Fifield and Christy Evans. York says she never met a genre she didn’t like to write, with the possible exception of horror. Even that changed when she was short-listed in the Year’s Best Horror a while back (she didn’t know it was a horror story, but the editor clearly did).

Evans wrote the popular Lady Plumber Mystery series, and Fifield writes the Haunted Gift Shop Mystery series.  Fifield is also launching a new Spy Girls novel series soon with Tsunami Ridge Publishing (www.TsunamiRidge.com).

Retired after more than 50 years as an accounting and finance professional, York no longer has to balance accounts and now spends her time balancing the other parts of her life: writing and other creative interests, family, friends, reading, and falling down Internet rabbit holes in pursuit of obscure knowledge.

Like so many others before her, she says she doesn’t know how she ever found enough hours to hold down a full-time day job.

You can find Chris at:

Her website: https://www.yorkwriters.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christina.york.37

Twitter: https://twitter.com/christinafyork

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

A Freelancer’s Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business: Interview with Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Freelancers Survival Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Kristine Kathryn Rusch Cover Image

Starting your own business as a freelancer isn’t easy…

…wait, what am I talking about? It’s not that hard. There are some hoops you really ought to jump through, but the real hurdles of going freelance involve a couple of mind-shifts. Your employer is no longer responsible to solve business-related problems for you or to put a chokepoint on what you can do.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been a professional freelance writer on both the traditional side and the indie side for quite some time. (Yes, being traditionally published is still freelancing!)

In A Freelancer’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business, she talks about starting a business, quitting your day job, and navigating the rocky shores of other writers, who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

I consider Kris a writing mentor of mine, specializing in writerly perspective adjustment. Get a real look at what it takes to go freelance and stay that way.

It’s the staying part that’s difficult. But maybe not as hard as you think!

A Freelancer’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Kris’s book at the updated link below:

I got to ask Kris a few questions for the StoryBundle!


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

My book is geared toward writers who are serious about having a long-term career. It’s probably better if new writers read this, but the book can help established writers tweak their systems.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

Most writers are not business-minded. That’s something anyone can learn. So this book gets them started on building a business, which is what a writing career is.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, Jack Williamson, Harlan Ellison

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

I have a book, Killer Advice, in another Storybundle. This bundle is space opera. So you can see what I write, and how I write it if you get both bundles.

[There were issues with my website, and this post didn’t go up when it should have! That StoryBundle is closed. You can find Killer Advice here instead.]


Kris’s bio:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in almost every genre. Generally, she uses her real name (Rusch) for most of her writing. Under that name, she publishes bestselling science fiction and fantasy (including the Fey series, the Retrieval Artist series and the Diving series), award-winning mysteries, acclaimed mainstream fiction, controversial nonfiction, and the occasional romance.

She also edits. Beginning with work at the innovative publishing company, Pulphouse, followed by her award-winning tenure at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she took fifteen years off before returning to editing with the original anthology series Fiction Riverpublished by WMG Publishing. She edits a wide variety of projects, including the Holiday Spectacular for WMG Publishing.

She lives and occasionally sleeps in Las Vegas.

You can find Kris at:

Her website: https://kriswrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KristineRusch

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kristinekathrynrusch

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors: Interview with Author Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors by Mark Leslie Lefebvre Cover Image

Want to avoid the publishing pitfalls that nearly ever author seems to be prey to, sooner or later?

The letter p is for the pitfalls of…

  • perfection
  • practice
  • productivity
  • proofreading
  • predators

And more!

Mark Leslie Lefevbre is an indie author and publisher himself, a great podcasters, amd has worked with a number of companies in the publishing world, like Kobo and Draft2Digital. He also has a very, erm, abundant sense of humor, and uses it to defuse tension around difficult topics.

When you’re facing a problem as a writer and you suspect you might not be up for “tough love”…maybe go with the funny, encouraging support of Mark’s advice instead. “Tough love” can be overrated.

Publishing Pitfalls for Authors is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Mark’s book at the updated link below:

I got to ask Mark a few questions for the StoryBundle!


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

All writers (traditionally published, self-published, beginners, and experienced). The pitfalls can happen to any writer at virtually any time.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

It helps them to be aware of potential traps, dangers, and habits that could get in the way of building long-term author career success.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

While there are too many experienced and wise mentors for me to mention, I also consider virtually any writer I meet to be a mentor of some sort. There isn’t a single writer, regardless of their experience, path, etc, that I can’t learn something from. I take Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch principal that “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

That it’s not too late. It’s never too late. Don’t fall prey to FOMO and the belief that you missed out on the “Kindle Gold Rush” or any of that. New opportunities and options for writers open up every single day. Go forth and conquor.


I love that quote 🙂

Mark’s bio:

Mark is a writer, an editor, a professional speaker, and a book nerd with a passion for craft beer.

You can find Mark at:

His website: http://markleslie.ca/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarkLeslie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markleslielefebvre

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Clean First Draft Writing: Interview with Author Dean Wesley Smith

Clean First Draft Writing by Dean Wesley Smith Cover Image

Clean first draft writing is not a myth!

Because I’m stubborn, I always have to circle around an idea and test it out a few times before I trust it.

So when Dean Wesley Smith, someone I consider an excellent writing mentor, told me to staaaaaaahp with all the editing and just let my subconscious take over on the writing, I took my sweet time trying it out.

I didn’t really want to. It’s intimidating.

Eventually, I got to the point where I tried it, mostly because I had too many ghostwriting projects to get done in too little time.

This method 100% works. Do I use it 100% of the time? No. I get insecure. But I use it as much as I can stomach it, 80% of the time. And I’ve been very prolific because of it, even counting [cough] that one book I rewrote like seven times and never finished.

That one book where I didn’t use the damn method.

So if you’re spinning your wheels on rewrites, give this a try. There are several techniques involved to help make it easier and more efficient. It’s not comfortable at first, but it’s a good path for repeat success as a writer.

Clean First Draft Writing is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, but you can still find Dean’s class at the updated link below:

I got to ask Dean a few questions for the StoryBundle!


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

The class is aimed at helping all fiction writers with getting past some myths and saving a lot of time in their writing by writing clean to start with instead of the myth of first, sloppy drafts. So any fiction writer will benefit.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

The problem the class helps solve is to allow fiction writers to write from their creative voice, keep the creative voice in control, and not write sloppy and cause their creative voice to quit and cause the writer more work later. Plus writing clean the first time through is a lot more fun because you get to more stories instead of wasting time churning over old ones.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

I was lucky with my writing mentors. I learned from (and was friends with) Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Harlan Ellison, Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm. All wrote clean drafts of their stories.


Clean writing is also a lot more fun because you eventually learn to just go with the flow and be entertained as you write!

Dean’s bio:

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith published far over two hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction books. He has over twenty-three million copies of his books in print.

You can find Dean at:

His website: https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/

His Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dean.w.smith.3

The Write Stuff Interviews Advice for Writers

Free Your Inner Nonfiction Writer: Interview with Author Johanna Rothman

Free Your Inner Nonfiction Writer by Johanna Rothman Cover Image

You’re an expert who wants to become a nonfiction writer, sharing your knowledge with a wider audience in a structured, easy-to-digest format.

But creating non-fiction books isn’t easy. (Even when you’re skilled at other types of writing!)

Johanna Rothman is a long-time management consultant and author friend of mine who excels at taking complex business concepts and turning them into clear writing. In this book, she tackles the issues that non-fiction writers commonly face when putting down words.

Yes, that includes having a horrifying case of imposter syndrome.

Free Your Inner Non-Fiction Writer is part of the Write Stuff Storybundle, ten works on the craft & business of writing fiction available for a limited time.

UPDATE! The Write Stuff Storybundle is over, and Free Your Inner Nonfiction Writer isn’t released for the public yet, but you can still find Johanna’s newsletter signup link at the updated link below (where she will announce the book when it goes live):

I got to ask her a few questions for the StoryBundle! In fact, this book arrives at an extremely timely moment for me personally, because I’m struggling to stay confident enough to work on my nonfiction books!


1. What type of writer is your book aimed toward? 

Nonfiction writers who want to write faster and better. Even experienced nonfiction writers don’t always realize they think and learn as they write. Or, they start to edit too early, shortcutting their thinking and learning time. Instead, nonfiction writers who want to write faster and easier will benefit from this book.

 2. What problem does your book solve for those writers?

Too often, nonfiction writers ask themselves this question: Someone has already written this. Why should I write my version? You should write your version, and that’s because you have a different take on the topic. In particular, you have different stories to tell. Not just story as example, but story as in how you can structure your piece. Or story as in your experiences of what occurred and what you learned. All of those stories help your ideal reader connect to the topic and learn what that reader might do—or avoid.

3. Who do you consider your writing mentors? 

My first writing teacher and a huge mentor was Gerald M. (Jerry) Weinberg. His book, The Fieldstone Method, freed me from the blank-page problem. Also, Dean Wesley Smith, who might not realize how well his advice applies to nonfiction writers, too. In addition, I’ve been teaching my nonfiction writing workshop since 2018. I have learned a *ton* from the writers I teach.

4. What else would you like readers to know about?

Reassess the writing rules your teachers gave you back in school. For example, many of us learned this rule: “You must always outline first.” That’s the same as saying: “You must always know all the requirements to start a project.” You don’t have to be a software person to know that’s crazy-making. We learn as we proceed. Another thing I want readers to know: the faster you write, the more you sound like you, and that’s why readers will read your work.


(See what I mean? Good stuff!)

Johanna’s bio:

People know me as the “Pragmatic Manager.” I help leaders and teams see simple and reasonable alternatives that might work in their context—often with a bit of humor. Equipped with that knowledge, they can decide how to adapt their work. 

My philosophy is that people want to do a good job. They don’t always know what they are supposed to do, nor how to do it.

I write an email newsletter, the Pragmatic Manager,  two blogs on jrothman.com, and a personal blog on createadaptablelife.com with its own newsletter. Please take a look and sign up for the newsletters. I’ve written articles for all kinds of places. I’ve keynoted on five continents. I’m not sure I want to go to Antarctica.

You can find Johanna at:

Her website: https://www.jrothman.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johannarothman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johanna.rothman

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