2017: The Year of Craft

In 2016, I published 22 ebooks (might have a couple more before the end of the year).  That’s an astounding number, and I want it to be higher next year.  The only way to make money as a writer is produce a lot of writing (as opposed to writing one book and have it become a best seller.  A best seller has a shelf-life of probably a month).

But I also don’t do well with typical goals that most writers set.  Like writing X words a day.  Or writing X books in a year.  The last time I set a specific goal like it, none of it happened.

So it’s a different goal: The Year of Craft.

I’m still working out that means in how I will be doing things in the new year.  Then I’m a pantser, and it’s discover things as I go along!

Things I’m not doing this year

  • Submitting to anthology deadlines. Okay, I’ll probably still submit to a few of them, but I get pummeled at work by deadlines every month and I just don’t need that on the writing side.
  • I will not take workshops to for learning how to fix a writing problem.  The whole writing culture is about “Your story is born broken, you have to fix it,” and for pantsers, they’re told even worse.  I’ve treated craft I’ve struggled with as something to be conquered, sometimes with a battering ram.  That’s going to stop.  It has to. It’s  very frustrating for me when I write and ruins the fun.

Things I’m doing this year

  • Taking four workshops.  I’ve got four workshops planned out:
    • Advanced Character Dialog: I’m actually taking this because I’m really good at characterization and I’ve largely ignored any skills because of that.
    • POV:  This is another advanced class, because I want to play with the POV.
    • Cliffhangers: I want some better understanding about how to end my chapters in an exciting way.  Sometimes writers think that it’s bad to do a cliffhanger because they think it means “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” at the end of every chapter–not as something to make the reader turn the page.
    • The last one’s open.  Might be Pacing or B Story.  Haven’t made up my mind.  Could also be a new workshop that shows up that piques my interest.
  • Studying best selling writers.  I’ve been typing Michael Connelly’s first three chapters of The Reversal and learning a lot.  Typing the scenes is like an artist painting a Monet.  It’s amazing.  I see things that I didn’t when I was reading.  It’s also a relatively low cost, and enjoyable, method of learning.
  • I’m branching out into other genres, like Mystery, and experimenting with series.  I never thought I could do a series until I wrote Crying Planet.  Before I got to the end of it, I wrote a short story with the same characters, which placed Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.  Then I got an idea for the next book (which is either called Cursed Planet or Lonely Planet).
  • I’m going to try writing in groupings of something.  Like I did a mystery story set in Morro Bay, so I’m going to try writing other stories set in Morro Bay.

Finally, Crying Planet is coming in January, my first science fiction novel.  And it’s a series!  I never thought I would be able to do a science fiction story, let alone any kind of series.  I’m just waiting on it to come back from the copy editor.

A shuttle departs from a spaceship on the cover for The Crying Planet


Overwhelmed by too many options

All I’ve been seeing this Christmas are commercials screaming “Fear of Better Options” (FOB), pointing at stores that offer too few options–obviously to get you to buy at their store.

Then there’s my trip to the drugstore.  Yesterday I cut my finger on a grater (carrots are dangerous), and I ran out of bandages.  So it was off to the local drugstore to buy a box of bandages.

Do you know how hard it is to buy something simple like a bandage?

It used to be that when I bought bandages, the choices were the fat-sized ones, the narrow ones, the tiny ones, and the odd-sized ones.  Now I have to choose between flexible, waterproof, anti-bacteria.  Then, under each of those categories, there are even more choices to make.

Can’t a bandage just be a bandage?

Men From the Horizon

Tall ship sailing against the sunrise - cover for Men from the Horizon

Men visit Rewa’s island with monstrous automatons and promises–and the ability to help her walk normally again. They just want to farm the sugar cane fields for Rewa and her people. If one farmer agrees, everyone will agree. The decision hangs on what Rewa does. And no matter what her decision Rewa makes, it will cost her.

Available from your favorite booksellers or $1.99.  Amazon and Smashwords.

Silent Night by Chewbacca

This is pretty cute.  Just make sure you stay until the end for an appearance of Santa Claus, Star Wars-style.

Christmas Lights for Soldiers

This is Lee Greenwood’s iconic song God Bless The USA done to Christmas lights.  It was kind of like a Desert Storm theme song–when I returned home, I heard it everywhere on the radio.  The radio stations would play it on the anniversary of the start of the war, until the second Iraq war started.

About halfway through the video, it has each of the services’ songs, and then switches back to Lee Greenwood.  Amazing work on the lights.

What Makes a Best Selling Writer?

I’ve been studying Michael Connelly’s The Reversal the last week.  I have a paper version of the book, and I’m typing it to see how he is a page turner.  The typing of just the first chapter yield other things, so I will have to look back through to figure out what exactly he did.

One thing I picked up: If a character is interrupted, I don’t need to say, “George interrupted,” because it’s obvious from context.  Always a lot of things to learn.

The Washington Post has a big article on best selling writers today.  It does mention productivity being important (and without putting it down!), but the discussion on the writing side missed the mark a little.  It reminded me on when I was on message boards and writers were periodically trying to figure out why a book became a best seller.  The writers would often come up with a really superficial reason.  Here, they talk about the characters and the story, but skims along that superficial reason.   These writers are masters of their craft–not just story and characters, but grabbing the reader and keeping them in the story.

Why does this book attract readers and another doesn’t?  It’s not just the story and the characters.  It’s how the writer does it.

Writing without an Outline like Minesweeper

I ran across this video that compares Writing without an outline to being like Minesweeper.  Or, I suppose, since I like submarines, those early days of submarining where danger was potentially all around them.

I’m glad to see some real topics coming out of about this at last instead of “You’re doing it wrong, and your story will be broken.  Come away from the Dark Side.”


Snow, Power Outages, and Pantsing

We’ve had some very typical weather for Washington, though most of it is waaaaayyy early.  We don’t get frigid weather until January or February.

It was in single digits on Thursday.  Saturday started the day with freezing rain.  The ground was pretty slick.  Maryland had a 67 car accident on the freeway (no, that is not a typo!), and we had a 23 car one in Virginia.  People drive like it’s normal day, and we have major accidents.

Then the freezing rain turned to snow, and it warmed up a bit.  Was kind of nice on Sunday until 1:00 when a very cold wind blew in.  My power went out about 10 times between 1:00 and 5:00.  I want to write, and I have to get off so I don’t fry the computer!

I’m about 27K into the story, which translates as 10K.  Yes, I’ve written about 15K that is going bye-bye.  It takes me a while to write my way through the story. Some of my process is kind of like throwing paint at the wall to see what sticks.

My learning point on this is working on a B-story.  I thought it would be X when I started and even have a scene for it.  But as I wrote, a new character introduced herself into the story, and she’s very clearly the B-story.  So I’m thinking on some additional scenes early on for her.

But also as I got further into the story and events unfolded, some in quite unexpected ways, I realized that my opening chapter isn’t the right thing.  It served its purpose–get me started. But I had to learn more about what else was going to happen in the story so I could figure out how to open the story.

Being a pantser always means being open to change as the story evolves.

The Soldier’s Christmas Poem

I’ve always found there’s something magical about Christmas.  It’s a time where hope comes out and reminds us that things can be better if we make the effort.  This is The Soldier’s Christmas Poem about Santa visiting the house of a soldier.


As I write this, we’re in single digits outside.  That’s early for Washington DC.  We usually hit that in January or February.  Snow–evil word that it is–is possible tonight and Saturday.  Brr!


Star Trek Christmas Song

A hilarious rendition of “Make It Snow,” Captain Picard style–not that I’m wishing for that evil four letter word.