Tag Archives: writing advice

03 Jan

Jamie Todd Rubin on 7 Lessons Learned from 300 Days of Writing |

Jamie Rubin has things he learned from 300 days of writing. The most I chained together was last year’s 150, so I’m hoping to be able to get where he was:

“A few days ago, I passed another writing milestone for 2013. I’d written 300 out of the last 302 days. As of this morning, I’ve written 303 out of the last 305 days, and 160 consecutive days. Writing those first 5 or 10 days feels good. When I passed 50 days, I was sort of surprised. At 100 days, I felt like I’d run a marathon. At 200 days, I felt surprisingly calm. When I passed 300 days I had a strange mixture of emotions: incredulity at the notion that I’d written almost every day of the year. (I didn’t start until late February so the first two months were a wash); but also, a surprising sense of confidence. I’ve thought about this over the last few days and have put together a list of lessons I’ve learned over the last 300 days of writing every day.”

(Via 7 Lessons Learned from 300 Days of Writing | Jamie Todd Rubin.)

The last lesson, that small, steady habits of writing build up to large results over time, I’ve internalized for a long time, which is why I track my writing in a spreadsheet very closely. It helps keep the writing habit going.

14 Oct

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer is just amazing (and not just because I’m quoted in it)

A while back, Jeff Vandermeer wrote Booklife, a book about writing that I recommend to a lot of people. Not too long ago while I was speaking about conflict and characters to students at the Shared Worlds writing camp Jeff helped found, he pulled me aside and asked me if he could quote my words about conflict in a book about writing and creativity he was working on. I said sure.

Jeff also asked if I could talk about revisions via email, so I talked a bit about the work I did on my second novel Ragamuffin.

Since then, I’ve been hearing updates from Jeff and Ann about the project. The amazing illustrations he was having done to illustrate theories about creating books, and it has sounded amazing. Last week I got a copy of the book, a thanks for my having contributed.

And let me say, it’s an amazing book. I’ve barely had any time to read it, but this is going up there with a handful of books I find really illuminating about the creative process. I’m really psyched that Jeff quoted me in this project.

For the curious, here are my words about revising Ragamuffin, illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss:

05 Buckell 01

Wonderbook goes on sale tomorrow:


I’m a very visual person. I would have loved to have had this when I was starting out. I love having it around right now, and I’m betting I will pick up a number of new techniques and thoughts. Because there’s always so much more we can learn.

20 Sep

Any man who keeps working is not a failure – Ray Bradbury

Snagged via Cory Doctorow’s tumblr:

“‘If you write a hundred short stories and they’re all bad, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You fail only if you stop writing. I’ve written about 2,000 short stories; I’ve only published about 300 and I feel I’m still learning. Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.’


(Via Cory Doctorow: If you write a hundred short stories and they’re….)

08 Aug

This sentence has five words. Here are five more…

via Heather Shaw and Juliet Ulman, a fantastic micro lesson on sentence/paragraph structure:

“‘This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.’”

(Via Quote by Gary Provost: This sentence has five words. Here are five mor….)

05 Jun

Kameron Hurley talks about talent and hard work

Interesting blog post by Kameron (who is on fire when it comes to long form blog content that’s thinky):

“We’ve all met those folks who just breezed through math class like it was breathing, or sat at a piano and figured it out easily and could play in a few weeks what took somebody else a few years. But looking at the bestseller lists in this business, and my peers and colleagues, what I actually see is a lot of hard work. Millions upon millions of words of hard work and discipline. Is it easier for some writers to write amazing stuff or complete a book than it is for me? Absolutely. But you know what that means? It means I just have to work harder to be as good, or as fast, or put together a better sentence. And instead of seeing that as a roadblock or some discouraging shit, I see it as a huge challenge.”

(Via Unpacking the “Real Writers Have Talent” Myth | Kameron Hurley.)

22 Apr

Rejection and Reinvention

A while back I wrote a Facebook comment to someone getting frustrated and giving up on a story after 5 or so rejections. I thought that a shame, as many of my stories have gotten far more than that. Rejection is part and parcel of the game, so I wrote a heartfelt plea for them to reconsider their perception of rejection. The SFWA.com editor noticed it and asked me to reshape the plea as an essay, so they could run it on the website. I did so. Here’s a snippet, the link takes you to the whole essay.

“Don’t lose faith after 5-6 rejections. Or even more.My own record is 24 rejections before selling a single story, and I consider myself to have gotten off lightly.

I sort of view it like a combination lock. A tumbler, where all of the elements have to line up to create a sale. The story has to be right, the editor has to be right, and the time has to be right. I’m thinking of this because I recently sold a short story that had been rejected 18 times before. It has been going out for 13 years, making the rounds steadily for all this time. It’s one of three stories that I haven’t trunked b/c I still like them. It still has a spark of something that keeps my belief in it alive.”

(Via Rejection and Reinvention.)

27 Mar

Suck more, have more fun

Chuck Wendig has the right of it here. One of the hard lessons learned from the loss of being shiny and new, as well as my health issues, were that I had to figure out why I was writing, and how to be happy about it when one of my major goals that made me happy (make a living solely from it and back out of freelancing) was taken away due to health (I’m most of the way back, but it no longer really defines the mission).

Chuck has a lot of wisdom:


You ever get the opportunity to play with an artistic medium in which you have no experience? Photography? Fingerpaints? Erotic botany? When you do that, there exists this level of freedom where you’re like, ‘I have no stake in this, I’m just going to spackle some paint on my fingers and — I don’t know, fuck it, I’m going to draw a turkey on a jet-ski.’ And then you’re there dicking around and fingerpainting like a boss and suddenly you realize: this is fun. And it sucks, but yet, there’s something real in there. Something of value. (‘I WILL BE A CHAMPION FINGERPAINTER.’) It’s a cool moment where by creating art with no limits or no pressure and with jizz-buckets of fun you still managed to do something interesting.”

(Via 25 Ways To Be A Happy Writer (Or, At Least, Happier) « terribleminds: chuck wendig.)

22 Mar

Hugh Howey’s advice to aspiring authors

Hugh Howey is one of the people that should be paid attention to, as well as Amanda Hocking. Smart and attentive, they realize that this all very complicated and that just imitating them doesn’t guarantee exact results. But they have some solid advice about how to approach things. Hugh is damn smart:

“I’ll start by knocking the ego right out of the lungs of this thing and say that what works for one author may not work for another. I’ll also say that this is a massive topic and could easily lead to me writing a book. Not that I will. For both of these reasons, this blog post is going to ramble and often contradict itself. Such is my nature and the nature of the topic.

First off: If you want to become a writer in order to be rich and famous like me, that’s a bad idea. It isn’t why I started writing, and it isn’t why you should start writing. You should write because you love it. But I imagine you’ll want an audience (what artist doesn’t?) And so my advice is geared toward helping authors get to the end of their manuscript, polish it to perfection, and then gain the widest readership possible. This is the best you can hope for. I think it’s possible for every writer who gives it their all.”


I’m not the story. I’ve been hammering this point over and over, and people are finally starting to listen. The outliers are not the self-publishing story. It’s the midlisters.

(Via My Advice to Aspiring Authors | Hugh Howey.)

21 Mar


Last night I spent two hours in my office with a pad and paper thinking about some fictional ideas, noodling around with legos as I did so.

Best investment of the week.

Process isn’t all about quantifiable words, things achieved, easy to measure goals. Creativity is also about play, it’s easy to ditch the play and creativity on the way to making this a full time job. My reading about creativity, work, neurophysiology over the last year has convinced me to spend more time doing this.

Surprisingly, it has paid off in higher amounts of measured productivity.