Like most authors, I have more experience writing beginnings than I do endings, but perhaps not in the way one would expect. Some of this is an artifact of the linear way we have evolved to see time. It’s how many of us were taught to approach narrative. For many years I began every story with a scene, an inciting incident, a mood, a situation, and wrote until I figured ...Read MoreRead more
In ancient Rome, they marked the new year in March, a time which has always made far more sense to me than a dark, frigid day in January. March is when we get the first breath of spring, when winter’s grasp begins to ease, and we realize that we have survived another miserly winter season.
After a very dark COVID-19 winter surge, I have emerged bleary-eyed into a new year ...Read MoreRead more
This January marked the tenth anniversary of my first published novel, God’s War, back in the halcyon days of 2011.
It was a long road to publication.
I finished the book in early 2007, shopped it in late 2007, had it picked up, then cancelled in early 2009 after the crash of 2008. Another publisher eventually bought it for the second time, then that publisher was sold, and the ...Read MoreRead more
I grew up on a steady diet of feel-good fantasy novels: noble tales about good folks who could be counted on to do the right thing, and bad guys that could be counted on to do the worst thing. I knew who would prevail, and who would fall.
As a kid I found this predictability boring and formulaic after the first three or four novels. It would be decades before ...Read MoreRead more
I spent all summer building a pond in the backyard with my spouse. It was the perfect project to take my mind away from the world outside of the fence, a world I increasingly only experience virtually.
I could try and avoid the news, but the news is the world around me. The news is neighbors who have big parties. The news is the asshole at the grocery store who ...Read MoreRead more
I got fall-down drunk a week or so ago; literally falling on the stairs and knocking down a piece of art, and the next day, I had a panic attack so severe I had to take a break from work and have a lie down.
Clearly, I have been processing a lot of emotions – or not processing, which is why my body decided to express how I felt after ...Read MoreRead more
It’s perfectly fine if you’re doing okay right now.
The odds are against it, but it’s absolutely all right to answer ‘‘How are you?’’ with ‘‘I’m… okay?’’ Because at some point, each of us will complete the five or seven stages of grief that accompany slow-moving crises and pandemics and disasters like the one currently sweeping the globe, and we will carry on.
Humans are resilient creatures, to both our ...Read MoreRead more
I woke up this morning to find several thousand unexpected dollars in my bank account, which isn’t a problem writers usually have. My literary agency gives me a heads’ up when they make a deposit, but didn’t with this one, so it’s entirely possible this was a mistaken deposit. I’m sitting here dying to allocate the money to various bills, but waiting for a confirmation that the money is mine. ...Read MoreRead more
I’ve found that the insidious problem for me in scrolling through social media is that it feels like action. Ironically, it also creates – in me – a profound feeling of being out of control over events in the wider world, while generating a huge amount of anxiety and worry. But while surfacing atrocity after atrocity, treason after treason, may feel like action, we often find that our righteous need ...Read MoreRead more
I grew up thinking it wasn’t cool to care too much about things.
Caring about something too hard made you vulnerable. Weak. Care too much for a person, and they can hurt you emotionally. Care too much about a cause, and it will let you down. Care too much about a piece of media or an institution, and it opens you up to ridicule. The world was full of opportunities ...Read MoreRead more
One of the ironies of the writing craft is that the more novels many of us write, the more difficult it is to write a novel. This appears to be a contradiction, but I hear it again and again from other professional writers, and I encounter it in my own work. It’s as if, once you know how to write a book, it gets easier to see the flaws in ...Read MoreRead more
It’s taken some time for me to come to terms with the fact that I have developed fairly severe anxiety. When I say this out loud, of course, those in conversation with me often reply, “It’s 2019. Who doesn’t have anxiety?”
Anxiety is showing up sooner in children, too. My mom often points out that in her day, everyone was fearful of nuclear war, and the threat of climate change ...Read MoreRead more
We live in a hustle culture. Trying to manage a living with a singular regular job is increasingly difficult. To freelancers and other working class folks, this isn’t news. As the middle class shrinks, the working class grows, and so does the working class hustle.
There’s an expectation that we all have side hustles. How are we monetizing our hobbies, our passions? Do you pick up odd jobs? Have you ...Read MoreRead more
I recently finished the first draft of a long-overdue fantasy novel called The Broken Heavens, last in a trilogy. Instead of celebrating, however, I found myself filled with post-post weariness. Endings are bittersweet, and this one was especially so. While I began writing this series in earnest about ten years ago, the kernel of its idea – a world where the invaders were alternate versions of the protagonists – ...Read MoreRead more
I write messy, incoherent first drafts. It sucks. But most of the time I’m okay with it. It’s my process, and it’s why revision exists.
Drafts aren’t what readers see. After getting that first blush of the book on paper, I spend each subsequent iteration fleshing out worldbuilding details and refining dialogue and fixing structure. Few people want to read about a bunch of characters expositing about the plot over ...Read MoreRead more
This is the time of year when I’m astounded at how many of my peers have made the event rounds at various conventions and festivals this year and still had time to, you know, write books. And pay bills.
The vast majority of events in my career – and certainly every event early in my career – were and are self-funded. Even when I was invited as a participant to ...Read MoreRead more
There is a theory that storytelling is how we create our consciousness. This is why we can’t remember being infants. We only pick up the ability to remember events when we’re two or three years old – about the same time we figure out how to construct narrative. Once we can tell stories about the world and ourselves, we become truly conscious.
So if the stories we tell about ourselves ...Read MoreRead more
Welcome to the club. I’ve been writing and publishing novels for seven years now. I also have a robust Patreon following where I produce short fiction for members paying a monthly fee, and I am always hustling to re-sell projects, whether that’s short stories or foreign and film rights on novels. I still pick up the occasional freelance project and magazine column, because I still have a student loan and ...Read MoreRead more
I’m coming off a 16-hour editing day working on a novel called The Light Brigade, which comes out next year. The editing flurry was my fault – the book was three months late. Any later, and it was going to have to push to another publishing season.
Pushing a book out is a pain to everyone involved: the publishing machine is a capitalist enterprise like any other, and a ...Read MoreRead more
On winning the Oscar Award for best original screenplay, Jordan Peele admitted that he started his winning script for the film Get Out at least 20 times. Why 20? Because he just didn’t feel he could get the script to work, no matter how many times he tackled it.
Author N.K. Jemisin relates a similar struggle in the writing of her masterful novel, The Fifth Season. In her acceptance ...Read MoreRead more
You will fail more than you succeed. You will remember the failures more often than the successes.
The people who believe in you now will believe in you always. Get rid of everyone else.
Readers will love your work. They will think this means they love you. They will be wrong, but do not correct them. You will no longer be yourself when you’re among readers, but an amalgamation of ...Read MoreRead more
Fear often masks itself as procrastination.
I’ve been thinking about that statement more as I turn on my computer every morning and stare at my list of tasks for the day, the week, the month, the year. On top of my writing career, I have a full-time job in advertising, and that’s gotten tougher to balance year-over-year. Our time is finite. Jobs eat a lot of it. Once, I would ...Read MoreRead more
In 1692, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Port Royal, plunging over half the city into the sea and flooding what remained with a sizable tidal wave. Port Royal was infamous for its reputation as a rollicking pirate haven, and the disaster that descended upon it that day was largely tacked up to God’s vengeance. It’s always easier to blame God than poor planning or simple ignorance.
Same ...Read MoreRead more
I have spent an inordinate amount of time this year Being a Writer, and far less of it doing the writing part. Oh, the words get done. In fits and starts and large binge sessions, I squeeze out stories in a few days and large swaths of whatever novel is in progress over a week at a time.
But an increasing amount of my waking hours have been spent reviewing ...Read MoreRead more
I brought my dogs to a new dog park this weekend, one frequented by experienced dog owners who enjoyed socializing their dogs. The park I usually go to is less frequented, with fewer dogs, and the owners are all worried and anxious sorts. Their dogs tend to be unsocialized, which contributes to their own fear about their dog’s potential behavior, and then their anxiety gets to the dogs, too, making
We all want to learn how to write books faster. The pace of the news cycle today has heated up to such an extent that for those of us who aren’t in the 1% of writers, if we don’t come out with a book a year, it feels like the world has forgotten us amid the buzz of ever more intensifying world horror. I’m not immune to this pressure. Juggling ...Read MoreRead more
There are few things, for me, that are as equally depressing and energizing as reading a really great book. Great books are why I got into this business in the first place, which is why I’m often so shocked when I hear from other professional writers that they don’t read anymore. Try asking a panel of professional writers at your next convention to name five books they read this year. ...Read MoreRead more
The best writing career advice I ever received wasn’t ‘‘write every day’’ (because I certainly don’t), but, ‘‘Don’t quit your day job.’’
Clearly, not all of us have a choice in this matter, as steady day jobs continue to be eradicated and the ‘‘gig economy’’ becomes the norm. I’ve been laid off from at least half a dozen jobs in my adult life, and I’m not even 40. Many of ...Read MoreRead more
One of my favorite publishing stories is from an established short story writer who tweeted that a story of his had been rejected from a magazine. Within a few minutes of sharing that, the editor of the publication e-mailed them and apologized for the rejection. ‘‘Our new slush reader didn’t recognize your name,’’ the editor said, and promptly bought the story.
The myth of the meritocracy runs deep in publishing. ...Read MoreRead more
Like most people trying to stay above water in this tricky economy, I’ve been looking into ways to use my time more effectively. I have a bushel of novel and short story deadlines, a busy day job, and I’m feeling increasing pressure to sell more work now while the getting is good.
To get even this far, I’ve given up a lot of things. It’s been my policy to play ...Read MoreRead more