The Word Doctor Is In


So, I’m hanging out my shingle, here —

Need advice on writerly concerns? The writer life? The business side? Most important of all, the craft of it? Feel free to ask me, and I’ll pick some questions and over time answer them here at the blog in their own posts. (And I suppose you don’t need to keep your questions writing-focused. You wanna ask me about parenting or profanity or whiskey or whatever, hey, feel free. You want to solicit my fool-headed advice on things, I AM HAPPY TO PLY MY PRETEND EXPERTISE.)

What this means is, if you don’t want your question answered publicly: do not ask it.

You can drop the question in the comments section below.

Or, if you’d prefer straight-up anonymity:

Use this function at my Tumblr and ask there.

GET THEE TO THE ASKERY.


135 responses to “The Word Doctor Is In”

  1. Hi Chuck – I’d love to hear a bit about your process for juggling works (if you do juggle?)

    By ‘juggle’ I mean, if you’re on draft 1 with project A – where is project B at, and is there a project C too? Or is there no juggling at all? (Apologies if this has been dealt with on the blog before!)

  2. I got one. The artists that did your ATLANTA BURNS, HEARTLAND SERIES and BLACKBIRDS (new and old covers), do they freelance? I’d love to hire them when I can swing the cost. I am assuming they wouldn’t be cheap (which is what I want), but if they only do publisher gigs it wouldn’t do me much good to save up for them. Personally, I am in love with all of their work. I could go to 99Designs, and I will if need be, but I’d rather just hire the best who can give me the cover my stories deserve.

    Thanks in advance, Chuck!

  3. What’s your opinion on “side projects?” You often give to advice to to write every day, but does it have to be on the same project? I’m working on a novel now, people are beta-reading it for me, I’m cutting and editing and doing serious writer things to it. So it’s my main project. But some days I just don’t want to work on it and I start fooling around with stories that are just for me, silly things that won’t get published and that I don’t put any effort and polish in, just for the fun of it. Plus, I’ve got a million ideas tugging at my attention that demand to be written down and distract me from the main project too.

    So, writing every day: stick to a main project and be diligent? Or is there time for some goofing around?

  4. My question is about choosing point of view for the story, genre in particular. Is there a better point of view for thrillers? Should memoirs always be first person, for example? How do you choose which position to take? Why? And, have you ever started a story from a certain view and then changed mid stream? Can you recommend any resources for this?

  5. should i give up coz really i already have? what to do about writer’s block that is so evil it’s lasted 15 years made me almost hate the written word because it hurt me so badly, and decide that writing is soooo not worth it.

    also, how to market a self published book in a way that doesn’t take effort or cost money. 😛

    • I can answer your second one: Not marketing a self-published book. The only way to do it without effort and without money is to not do it at all. Good luck on your un-marketing 😛

  6. Editing. So back in November I finished the first draft of my current work in progress, and I felt great. I took a month off to get distance, and then came back to it in the new year. It’s now nearing the end of March and I haven’t even made it to the end of the chapter in edits. That’s not to say I’m not editing, but it seems to be taking absolutely ages.

    What kind of pacing do you experience in your work? Does it change from first draft, to editing drafts, to polishing? Is there a time frame you force yourself to work to? And do you have any tips that might make editing a little easier. This is only the second time I’ve finished a novel, and the first novel seems to be taking similar levels of editing time – snail’s pace at best.

    • Kind of related to Princess’s question- what are your thoughts on self-editing? Most of us can’t afford professional editing when we are starting out. Any tips on how to do a good self-edit. Any books or other resources you recommend?

    • I’d like to hear more about your process as well, Chuck. Do you tend to fly through a first draft, knowing it will need a decent amount of editing, or do you tend to edit as you go, so that the next draft doesn’t require so much work?

      (I’m in the same place as Princess of Dragons. It just took me a month to revise a chapter. That pace is not sustainable if I ever want to complete anything.)

  7. My favourite Wendigism is about storytelling making the words, and editing making the words less shitty. Good advice, thanks. How do you minimise your own shittyness 😀 so that you’re not using up precious lives in the editing process? Is there a habit or style you’ve developed (I’ve read of some people who develop their story line-by-line but they seem to write a lot about writing and don’t seem to have many published works) or do you just hit the sentences with a machete when you’re editing?

  8. I’d like to know how to handle family members and ‘friends’ who consider writing to be a mere hobby. They don’t consider writing to be a real career. Thanks.

    • Oh, I know that feeling so well! I’m sure Chuck’s answer will be much more wise than mine, but from my own experience the answer is… you have to acquire the ability to Not Give A Shit. No wait, that sounds harsh, let me rephrase that…

      See here’s the thing. If this is how they feel, you will NEVER change their minds. EVER. Well maybe – if you can somehow morph into the literary love-child of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and make a million squillion quid on your next novel and become more famous than Jesus… mmm yeah, that might work. Possibly. But no guarantees.

      Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: when I told my mother that a musical I’d written all the lyrics for had been performed in Washington and got some good reviews, her response was “Oh well, your sister’s just had one of her medical essays published, and she’ll get an actual medical degree for that, isn’t that wonderful?” I gave her the CD of the soundtrack for the musical as well – and last time I visited it was tucked away at the back of her ornaments shelf…. still in its cellophane wrapper. Some ten-plus years later. She’s not a harsh, cruel mother who hates me… she just has zero interest in my writing. Not even motivated to FAKE interest in it, and probably doesn’t even feel an obligation to try. Doesn’t make her a bad person – that’s just the way it is.

      I’m telling you this not to be mean to you, but to tell you what I wish someone had told me back then, when all that happened. The best and kindest thing you can do for yourself is to wean yourself off the idea of changing their minds or winning them over with your success (whether current or future.) Do it for you and for the people who WILL appreciate your work. You’re going to have to be like that ‘Hear No Evil’ monkey when it comes to being around those who don’t accept your need to be a writer, and not only refuse to hear their criticisms but resist the urge to seek their acceptance too. Don’t do it. Get yourself to a place where you can carry on without it – you don’t need it anyway. You can still love them and be friends with them, but keep your writer-self safe and separate from them.

      (Hope I haven’t hijacked anything, Chuck – wasn’t my intention, and i apologise if I have. I just felt the need to say something.)

      • Wow, that’s a hell of a tale. Not tale like I don’t believe you, I do. But she still hasn’t opened it 10 years later? Man. Your a far more understanding person than I. Belated congrats on your musical

        • The way I look at it, at least she hasn’t used it as a drinks coaster. Yet. Maybe I should buy her a spare set, just in case… 😉

          And a couple of other people I’ve spoken to who’ve also met my mum have expressed opinions that she may be somewhere on the Aspergers/autism scale, just undiagnosed. I’ve also had some fertility problems in the past, and when I told her one time that a doctor had told me I may never be able to have kids, she responded by patting my arm and saying “Oh that’s alright dear – I’ve got Beth and George!” (They’re my sister’s children.) I can (sort of) laugh about that and the musical thing now, because it’s just ‘so mum’ – but it has made me wonder…

          And thanks for the congrats. I have to remind myself I even did that sometimes – otherwise I’d spend way too much time beating myself up for not having finished a novel already. 🙂

    • Ask them what their favorite TV show or movie is, and then ask them how exactly they think things like that are created. Suggest: thin air, sentient robots, typewriter monkeys, or actual people who write as a career. 😉

    • I don’t talk to very many people about my writing. I have a few trusted friends that are beta readers for me and who cheer me on. I don’t have any family who gives on whit about my writing and I do have a couple who are downright discouraging. My favorite Chuck quote is something like this (can’t remember exactly how he put it). “I reach down into my purse and after digging around I realize I have no more fucks to give.”

      You can’t care what they think and you can’t let them in to be harmful. My dad read one of my novels and never said a word. Not ONE word. He was very sick and dying and I asked him one day if he had read my book. He said “Yeah I read it. It was too much of a book for women though. I read the whole thing but you talked too much about clothes.” The clothes is integral to the plot and yes it is for women. I know it’s not a shit book. Everyone who has read it has gushed about it. I’ve had lots of interest from agents but no bites yet, still lots of interest. I have a publisher considering a contract for it now but she wanted some revisions before she offers. So the book obviously has some merit. But he could not say one damn nice thing about it. Not event that he was proud of me for writing a book.

      He has now passed away, but even if he was still alive, I wouldn’t make an issue of it. He is who he is. I got over being angry for the type of person he was a long time ago. I am very careful about who I let into my inner circles and my writing inner circle is very small.

  9. What a generous offer, Chuck! Your time and wisdom is appreciated in advance.

    One thing I’d REALLY love a little enlightenment on: are there any techniques/mindsets/mind-altering substances (except of course I didn’t actually say the last one out loud) that help a writer to turn off their pesky Editing Head when what they’re TRYING to do is structural work on their second draft? I’m at that stage now, and it’s slowly turning me into this split-personality lunatic.

    Draft One helped me to nail where the major alterations needed to be, in terms of what needed to be cut, what needed to be added in and what just needed to be moved forward or backward in story-time. And to do all that I still need to make use of the creative and pushing-the-boundaries mindset I had for draft one. But on the other hand, because I have that structure all nice and outlined now, I’m doing that within the confines of that outline… I’m trying to rewrite, but my brain keeps interpreting it as editing and it’s slowing the whole process down as a result.

    Whenever I’m writing the ‘new’ stuff my wordcount slows to pitiful – less than a quarter of what I managed when I was blasting through the draft one stage, even though it is, to all intents and purposes, new material for the existing story. I know this is because I’m being much more critical of what I’m trying to write before I even write it; I’m working to a proper outline now and it’s draft two so it’s gotta be better than draft one… says my Editing Head. Is that the wrong mentality to get this done? And if so, are they ways to get out of that mentality or at least anaesthetise it a bit (chocolate doesn’t seem to work as well as I’d hoped.)

    Your sensei knowledge would be much appreciated. 🙂

  10. What do you do when you’re stuck? Do you have any suggestions to help figure out an important plot point that *just* won’t come? It’s keeping me from moving ahead with other parts of the book. (insert meme of tearing out hair here) Thank you…

    • I’m going to second this as I’ve been stuck for several very frustrating weeks. Potential storylines have been mapped out, and I explored two of the most promising ones only to come to a dead end with each. Yes, I learned some important things in the process. But all of these false starts mid-storyline have me nervous to move forward once more, and it feels like my momentum has ground to a halt.

      • I know what you mean. It’s like I’m going around in a circle and coming back to the same roadblock.

        I feel like Scott Schwartz in “A Christmas Story,” my typing fingers metaphorically glued to one spot on the flagpole that is writing. “STHTUCK! STHTUUUUCK!”

  11. What’s your favorite whiskey? Also a writing question, how do you narrow the focus/theme for an anthology? Trying to do one on marginalized voices in gaming and am stuck at that step.

  12. Hi Chuck,
    Thanks for the opportunity to pick your brain. Do you use beta readers or critique partners? How important are they to a successful novel? And the $64 million dollar question, where do you find betas and partners, especially if the author is too shy to share in public places, like any of the forums for these services out there?
    Thanks,
    Melinda

  13. I know there is probably a wide range, but roughly how much does professional cover art cost? I like most of your covers, and I’ve always been a huge fan of the covers of Adam Christopher’s novels.

  14. Okay… this might not be your forte, but I’ll put it out there.

    I’m writing my autobiography… it’s an ongoing project as my memory is haboured and affected by anticonvulsant medications (it truly screws with my brain). I’ve had problems writing it. When I’ve had somebody read it (namely my Mum), she’s told me it’s wrong… the way things happen. However, when other members of my family read it, they’re pissed with me for getting the whole event backwards from their viewpoint.

    But it’s not from their viewpoint – it’s mine.

    Am I right in writing what I see of family affairs and events and just putting it out there – damned how people react? Or should I be careful what my family think of me and how I find the world around me… as it should be?

    NB: I have asked Hugh Lunn (another author I’ve met) this very same thing, and he told me to keep on writing… I’m just getting a second opinion from you.

    • I’m not Chuck Wendig, nor do I play him on TV, but there’s a simple solution to your problem.

      Don’t write an autobiography. Write a memoir. As Gore Vidal said, “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”

      • A memoir!!! Sounds great! I might see how this goes. 😀

        Thanks Paul, I’ll have a look at my work so far and see what I can do with it. 😀

    • Use a pen name and write it as fiction? I’m doing the same in some ways. My real story is boring compared to most novels, but it’s therapeutic to write it down as a journal. As I go or on second swipe I add as many twists as I want. Heck, I’m debating whether or not my protagonist — based on me — might attempt murder and that’s as far from the truth as can be… but also very therapeutic. 😉

      • I’ve tried a pen name, but my family and friends have sussed out my style and knew it was me straight off. So pen names are out of the question.

        And writing my life as a piece of fiction, well, I tried that already and didn’t get far… it just didn’t work out. I write fiction already, I want to write something real, something where I can say, ‘This is the real me, no the shit I write.’… and people will take it seriously.

        I know that sounds terrible, but I want it to be from the serious side of my mind.

    • I think you are the only person who can determine the answer to this question. If you were to publish this story, would it destroy relationships in your family? Is it worth that to you and do you care? If it’s going to be hurtful to people in your family, but they’re a bunch of asses and you don’t give a shit, then go for it. If they have been awful in the past, but redeemed themselves now, then maybe those relationships are more important at this point.

      • I have family who treat me nice one day and like shit the next…. they think I don’t remember how they have treated me, but I do. And really and I find it shitty they are like this. Sometimes I feel as though I can’t trust anyone but my Mum and my brother… and rest of them are weirdos. So, what I write and who I write about, and how it affects them (and yeah, it shocks them that I see them as bastards a lot of the times), well, I don’t really care.

        I tried to help out a cousin of mine when she was stressing out on FB last year or so. I’m 8 years her senior and have been where she was. So, I thought I had some good advice…. she told me to get fucked and unfriended me. She still thinks I’m an idiot who doesnt’ have a clue about life’s stresses because I’m not in debt like she is. I have chosen not to be in debt, that’s all, and I’ve chosen to live my life differently to her; and she still doesn’t like me.

        So, how I depict my family is hard… some days I like them, while most days I don’t. This is a difficult situation… and I think a memoir is probably the best way to go – as Paul Baxter suggested.

  15. Hi Chuck,

    I’m sure you’ve answered this plenty of times before, but please patiently fill this newcomer in kindly. I have multiple questions, the first being: how does one go about choosing the right online publisher or brick-and-mortar publishing house when one is ready to start mass printing and selling one’s book(s)? Even more importantly, what are the steps involved in getting one’s material together to, I guess, “sell” a publisher/publishing house into investing in your work and seeing it put on multiple shelves in multiple locations? To be honest, I’m not a fan of ebooks; they don’t have the same wonderful effect as their hard copy counterparts. And I too am curious, secondly, as to who you go to for covers such as yours, and is that type of quality really expensive? I mean, I suppose, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter too much considering it’s part of your own investment and trust in what you do career-wise. Still, realistically speaking, I can’t afford “really expensive” right now, so what are your suggestions for alternatives? I know it’s possible for me to do my own artwork, which would be cool, so, final question, what are the steps I will need to take in order to make that work?

    Thank youso much for taking the time to do this Chuck, I really appreciate it. 🙂

    Best,

    Zele

    • I hear you. Our bodies can get as stressed as our brains when we write, and we feel it. Try a chiropractor, and get a massage whenever you can afford it. Groupon has great deals on local professionals who offer massages.

    • There’s so many possible answers to that question. I had neck pain and, after seeing several different doctors, it turned out to be cancer. I would never recommend a chiropractor. Physical therapist, definitely.

    • I have a recliner next to my desk. I do most of my writing on my laptop while in the recliner, reclined to the first position so the feet are up and the back is slightly back but not too far back. It’s heaven–10/10 would play again.

      • I seriously don’t understand why office workstations aren’t designed like what you describe. So many people get neck and back pain from the current status quo.

    • I find alcohol and Vicodin are highly effective.(Just kidding) I use a heating pad, set on low, while I’m writing, as opposed to when the pain is already there. It usually works, unless I really overdo it.

    • Humans are like sharks: we die if we stop moving. It just takes us longer.

      Use an app like BreakTime that will ding every 6 minutes. Stop when it dings and roll your neck and flex your fingers/wrists for 15 seconds. Then get back to work. 15 seconds won’t break your train of thought, just give you a chance to consider your next sentence 🙂

    • I have used Yoga as a form of keeping the neck pain at bay. Also invest in a very good mattress, bed and pillow… then go to the chiropractor and you’ll be feeling better within yourself. 🙂

      I’ve done this over the last 2 years and it’s helped me greatly. I hope this helps you.

  16. How do you translate your outline into the actual story? For example, I’ll write an outline with the beginning, middle, end, pinch points, plot points, theme, character arcs, conflicts, etc, but the story seems to halt at page 1.

    Is there any advice besides: Just write it and fix it later? Do you have people check your outline?

    Thanks in advance!

  17. I am always interested in how to combat fear. There are parts of writing that make me anxious. So a round up of links to posts on fear would be really helpful. I’ve read some of what you say about fear, but I’d love a compiled post. Fear is my biggest struggle.

  18. What is your view on using pen names?

    I am seriously leaning towards using a pen name because I don’t want people to be prejudiced about the stories I tell because of my background, day career (yup, I intend to juggle careers between my writing and day profession), and gender.

    • Oh yeah, I was wondering about this. The novel I am currently working on in draft-2 stage is full of Wendig-like sweary-ness, and I was thinking of using a pen-name to separate that from my career, at least until/unless I can become a full-time writer (that’s a big if, but hey, I’m an optimist).

    • Good question. I want to use a pen name because my real name is one that people don’t take seriously. My real name is “cutesy” and a cheerleader type name. As an author I am nowhere near cutesy. My last name is hard to spell and I would rather use an easy to spell last name so when people search for me they find me.

  19. What year did you decide to go full-time writer/freelance? Besides the obvious no-pants advantages, did you find that there were real business/writing related advantages to being a full-time writer (more time for projects, an overall perception among industry folks that you were “serious” leading to more gigs, etc.) and were there days you regretted it, like the days you had to live on ramen and writers’ tears alone?

  20. Do you believe in talent Chuck? Hahahaha, just kidding. I read your blog. I know you don’t. Now for the serious question: How do you know when to stop editing? I get the feeling I overwork my stories (especially books) and eventually start ruining them.

    • I second this! I do exactly the same thing. A teacher once told me that my writing was fresh and exciting until I edited it. She used that same word, “overworked.” But it is so hard to know when to stop.

      • I hear you Rachel. I wonder what Chuck has to say about it… I’ll gladly read your stuff if you like. Maybe as a detached reader one can be like: This rocks, don’t touch it!

  21. Have you ever had the experience of reading your own writing and cringing with embarrassment? Is that a thing you can move past?

    I know nobody has to see the first draft and you can fix it but I horrify myself. It makes me wonder if I’m just deluding myself. I have what I think is a great idea and always have a great time writing it but then when I read it I am mortified and disappointed. I don’t even want to deal with it. I just save it on my computer and never look at the mess again.

    Does this mean I am a talentless loser and should quit wasting my time?

    • This has happened to me. I once cried from reading my first sentence after a long period of setting it aside. The disgust with my own words turned to anger which eventually lead to the determination to re-write the damn thing so as not to have it be a complete waste of time. I am now happy with that book and just published it. Don’t quit. Rewrite.

  22. I’ve never attempted to publish my writing before. (Besides being hired to write feature stories.) I don’t know how or where to start. (short stories, 500-2,000 words).

  23. Hello, Sensei –

    Finished drafts x2 – check. Beta Readers – check. Now…where to find a reputable editor? Online searches leave me scepticle; checking the ads in writerly magazines provide the same uncertainty. I don’t mind the fee schedules, I just want assurance the job will be done well. My books are “adult” with some sex and violence. I don’t want to send the work to anyone who may be offended. I would like to be a polished as possible before agent searches and submissions.

    Any recommendations/paths/advice?

  24. What in the eleventy-billion hells is a chapter? I’ve read metric shite-tonnes of advice on writing _scenes_, sometimes even scene/sequels, but ‘scene’ implies that multiple scenes are collected into ‘chapters’… right? So what does a chapter do for structure? Are the scenes supposed to have some through-line in common? A resolved story arc? Is it just a quantity thing; 3 scenes per chapter, give or take a scene? Should I just throw darts at my manuscript, placing a chapter break wherever a dart falls? Or is the difference between a scene and a chapter just semantic? Are they effectively synonymous?

    I feel like a clueless twit for having to ask this, but I can’t find an answer to this anywhere.

  25. Another question: How much of a difference does a professional literary editor make? If I’ve got d a friend who is basically a legal document-editor for the army, she can spot any typo or incorrect wording from a mile away. If I have beta-readers who are also writers, is a professional fiction-editor still a must-have?

  26. Talk to me about spine. Just finished Goldman’s ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE and had an aha moment when he was getting his short screenplay adaptation of his own short story savaged by a bunch of industry professionals. I have heard about all the oversimplifications I can stand, and only now, out of peripheral vision as it were, seem to get any closer to spine.

  27. I asked myself a technical question just this morning. Dumb move. Ask a pro! I want to use a quote from another (living) author. What’s the best method of approach to get approval? I’ve shaved a quill and have crows blood ink ready, but hoping an email to the right place will work.

  28. What’s your opinion on prologues? I have some back-story for my novel, which I was originally going to reveal gradually via back-flashes to the protagonist’s childhood. Then I thought maybe I could hook the reader with a prologue that features the event from a someone else’s point of view. But I read a few blogs and discovered that a lot of readers skip prologues, so I’d have to have a good hook in the first chapter as well.

    So do I gradually reveal the back-story throughout the novel, have a prologue, or use the first chapter as a prologue like J.K. Rowling did with the first Harry Potter book?

    Also, how long should a prologue be if I were to write one?

    • Man, I’m glad you asked this. I’m struggling with pretty much the same problem. I’ve written a prologue for my current WIP, which I really like, it’s got hook, I think it covers a lot of back-story without being boring, but after reading varying opinions on the use of prologues, I’m undecided on whether to use it, or scatter the info across various chapters.

      • The timing of Sensei’s post was rather impeccable… this only became an issue for me in the last few days. I started writing the prologue late last week. 1300 words into it, I started wondering what the length should be. My Google search for the answer lead me to a blog that only raised more questions.

        • This might be a little lengthy, but in reply to those wondering about prologues. A prologue is designed (to put it in my own terms as a parachute to soften the landing for fantasy type novels).
          Below is my Prologue for my fantasy novel, i think it works cos im not sure how in hell im meant to get this into chapters without resorting to exposition.

          Opening page from the core Vimarian educational text

          Life.

          Existence.

          Dreams.

          One follows the other as surely as water follows its path to the sea, time links all three but its meaning in each is different.

          Time in life is a finite span, predetermined by fate.
          Time in existence is measured by the time in life and the time in the Dreamworld.
          Time in dreams is unlimited and cannot be measured, as dreams have no limit or end.

          Such is the way the Dreamworld works, Vaarken culture divides the Dreamworld into two sections, the recreational and the divine. On the other side of the coin the Fluridian’s consider dreams as a detached world that is separate to the physical; where ideas on either side change the other, but that they cannot move across the divide that separates the two.

          The Deadland that divides the two nations is the divide. One cannot cross into the other land and survive, but ideas can float over the divide and change both nations. And the notion that crossed the divide and changed everything…The Onyx Box.

          The world is simple. Two nations, one continent, one ocean. The volcano divides the landscape and provides the defence that both nations seek, but also provides each with the weapons of war.

          The volcano has, will and always will be. It is the stabilising effect in a simple world, despite the fluxes in Vaarken and Fluridian societies due to the whims of their leaders, the volcano reigns. Its black lava flow is split in half and each nation has access to its blood. Through fortune and luck the Fluridian’s have a greater share of the blood, but like the halves of the day luck is a two way thing; and the Vaarken’s have their luck in a box. The lava may be cold and dead but the wonder lies in the cold clean silver run off, that floats over the surface and vanishes just before the Eternal Ocean. Quicksilver is pure and sacred.

        • I just checked, mine is 640. That said, word count is something I try not to obsess on too much, it distracts me from more important aspects, I think.

  29. What’s your advice for self-promotion, especially for those of us who struggle with putting ourselves out there and saying “Look at MEEEE!” I’ve written five books in my urban fantasy series with the first one indie published, I have a pro editor and a pro cover, the people who’ve read the first one so far have liked it, but I have trouble reaching enough people to gain that critical mass of fans to grow sustained sales. I know that even trade-published authors need to do a lot of their own promotions unless they’re big names, and I’d bet that a lot of authors have the same problem I do since the skills needed to write are often not the same as the skills needed to sell. Any tips? Thanks!

    • I too have this question. Just starting to promote my self-published work and well, facing the same issues. I’m not the type to call attention to myself. And yet, I have to if I want my book to sell.

    • To caveat off Mary’s question, I see others post their fiction on their blogs and it makes me wonder what your thoughts are on posting written material such as chapters of a novel you’re writing?

  30. I want to start a blog but I don’t want to write about writing. I want to write a lifestyle blog. I’d love to multitask and somehow use it to promote myself as a fiction writer, too, but I wonder if that’s just crazy talk. If you are a fiction writer and you want to blog, do you have to write about writing for the blog to also be an effective marketing tool?

  31. I’m struggling to develop my antagonist- to make him more human, more believable, more than a mustache-twirling cartoon (he actually does have a mustache, but it’s historically appropriate and quite stylish). Do you have advice on fleshing out the bad guy?

  32. Hey Chuck,
    Do you find you’ve tried a few approaches to one story but they just aren’t clicking? I’m on my third or fourth try with this one idea and dammit, it is frustrating because it’s not what I want. Thoughts?
    thanks!
    Drew Bittner from Facebook

    • I’m not Chuck, but I went through this last November with my NaNo project. Try leaving it alone for a while. Work on another project in the mean time and kind of let this one run like a sub routine in the back of your mind. I think Delilah Dawson said this in a guest post here, I think, but kind of treat it like a crappy boyfriend/girlfriend. You chase after this person consistently, but they keep taking you for granted. Ignoring your phone calls, blowing you off on dates and such. So you ignore them. At first, nothing happens. But after a while, they get curious and want to know, ‘hey, what’s going on with Drew?’ So they come back around, paying you attention again.

      Of course, the best way to deal with a crappy boyfriend/girlfriend is to dump them, but the analogy works here.

      With my NaNo project, I slaved over it from about July until mid December, including writing just over 50 000 words of utter crap. I was really disappointed because this story was so close to my heart and I thought that my inability to nail down the basic plot meant I was a failure as a writer. So, I decided to let it sit for a bit. I’m working on something else now. Kind of like letting bread rise. If you keep poking at it, keep lifting the towel to see what’s going on, it’ll fall.

      About a month ago, I ‘checked on’ my NaNo idea. Just kind of ran through it in my mind. The premise changed yet again, but there were several issues that resolved themselves, solutions I hadn’t seen before because I was too anxious. It’s still not ‘ready’ and I’ve put it back to process some more, and that’s ok. Because it’s in much better shape now, and I believe that if I’d kept obsessing over it, I would have given up from sheer frustration.

      Try distancing yourself for a several weeks. Truly work on something else, so you won’t be tempted to keep poking at it. See what happens.

  33. Hi Chuck – I find it difficult to elaborate in my writing. I write sparingly, which would be great if I were writing a crime novel, but I’m trying to write middle grade and YA scifi/fantasy books. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to other writers, but I’ve never had the “writing too much!” problem, which feels like what most writers deal with. When I’m done with a draft I feel like it probably needs another 20,000 words and that maybe I don’t know the story and characters as well as I should. Any advice? Thank you!

  34. What do you place more importance in: story or writing abitlity?

    In other words, would you rather be able to write awesome stories with terrible prose, or boring stories with fantastic prose?

    Does the same go for what you would rather read?

  35. I’m writing the second draft of my YA novel. I like the characters and conflicts I developed in the first draft, but I’m completely rewriting it to make the plot (and the story overall) stronger. Some scenes do cross over and occur in both drafts, and (sometimes) when I go back and reread the scene in draft #1, I actually really enjoy the writing. I can’t decide if I should just copy+paste the text into the second draft and make small edits to make it fit in the new context, or if I should challenge myself to completely rewrite it. When I’ve copy+pasted, I feel like I’m cheating and not doing what I set out to do (completely rewrite my novel); when I’ve rewritten the scenes, I keep doubting myself and comparing it back to what I wrote the first time (like I can’t be “that good” again). Have you faced this?

    Also, I write *a lot* of dialogue. I love writing dialogue and I feel like I’m telling my story well, but do you think it is possible to have “too much”? How do you decide if a scene will be dialogue-heavy or not?

    Both of these questions are based in doubt about my writing. Logically, I know they are small problems that don’t really affect my novel as a whole, but they are pulling my focus away from my writing and making me obsess over my doubts. If you have any tips on combating that, I’d appreciate it. Thank you so much!

    • I’d like to hear how you work on your second draft. As 52Letters describes above, I’ve heard some authors describe how they completely rewrite their 1st draft on purpose, forcing themselves to see how the story flows. Others seem to copy/paste and reorganize by chopping the 1st draft into bits, only rewriting sections. What method do you use and why do you think it works best for you?

      So many excellent questions here. I’m looking forward to how you answer them.

  36. I recently did some searching about on the Google machine for advice on revising. Found some great articles, but none of them had the level of profanity-laden, bullshit-eschewing prose I’ve come to expect from my writing advice. Lay some of that on us if it pleases you.

  37. Parenting question: How do you deal with constant whining in a 4 year old? You know, I understand things get overwhelming and, really, that’s the best they can do as far as coping right now. I understand, I do. It’s just that I’d rather listen to nails on a chalkboard at this point in time. And I feel really crappy for saying that. Is there a balance, between letting them feel safe to express their feelings, but still teaching them that’s not the answer to everything? Especially if it’s not because they’re hungry, tired, stopped up, etc. Thanks!

    • This is going to sound like a difficult solution, because it is. You must try to establish a behavioral pattern in which whining doesn’t work for them, doesn’t achieve the results they are looking for. The tough part, you must teach them an alternate behavior to replace the whining with, something more acceptable to you, that does work, does achieve what they want and meets their needs. It must be something they are reasonably capable of learning at their developmental stage. I know this isn’t easy, but I hope it helps just the same

  38. Thank you so much for opening up for questions from the peanut gallery.

    First, what say you about outlining? How do you approach planning? And how do you then translate an outline into a story?

    Second, what are your thoughts on critique groups? I know several authors swear by them but, personally, have not had a great deal of success with them.

    Thanks again. I love your blog and books!

  39. Have you ever gone back to a project you weren’t fully engaged with time and time again just to shelve it? If so, was it a project you worked on just to keep you in the habit of writing?

  40. Hey chuck, I’m done writing my first ever novel. That first ever part was because I’m completely new to this. I just wanted to know what should be the first thing I do? I’m currently editing/proofreading my book. In the mean time I’m looking for a good literary agent. Am I on the right track? I’ve been at it for almost two months without any progress on the agent part :/

  41. At what point would you recommend that Writer McWriteypants sets up a banking account in which to deposit ALL THE WRITING MONIES and pay writing-related expenses? After a first pro short story sale? Novel sale? Certain monetary amount earned in a calendar year? Other/none?

    Related: Do you recommend Writer that McWriteypants creates an LLC/other business entity? Again, when?

    • To clarify–I mean set up a bank account devoted to the writing income and expenses vs. the account from which the writer pays living expenses.

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