Guest Blogger: Like Hemingway, but the exact opposite!

Every writer as heard the advice of the great Hemingway: Write drunk; Edit sober. For me, though, I find I do it the other way. I write sober, and edit drunk.

Case in point, my twitter session last Monday.

Ashley is the artist who draws the web comic based on my Uncommon Animal stories. She was highly amused at my grousing and lamenting over editing.

This is nothing new for my writer friends. I’ve long been considered a bit of an oddity. I love drafting, but I hate revising.  I’ve said for a while that I’m not a writer, I’m a story-teller.


You can actually *see* her accent.

So when it comes time for me to do the nitpicky, word choice, polishing my prose work… I tend to hit the booze.

lots of booze

It helps me to let go of my story, and it relaxes me. I’m able to think around the problem, instead of being frustrated by it.  And every story needs this, as much as I dislike it. Nobody’s first drafts are perfect. At best, they are merely good. Regardless, they need to picked over and improved.


And even I know that my story is better for the editing. That doesn’t make the work any easier, or more enjoyable.

So if a little booze eases the process, then that’s what I’ll do.


They seriously do a LOT of drinking on Game of Thrones.


Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of Pennsylvania. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids and cats as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters.

She has a newsletter now, too!

All the Pretty Pictures

By E.D. Vaughn

I’ve lived the ‘enough is enough already’ for far too long. It’s one of those things that never seems to goes away once it knocks on the door. I totally want to wrap it up with concertina wire and leave it elsewhere, but the neighbors might complain.

For days like this, were I’d rather bang my head on the wall, I find I need to escape.  Even if it’s only for a few hours. Mostly I head out on the Jeep-Jeep with the top down and the Hobbit riding shotgun.
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We head out to trail hike or sporting for miles in four-wheel drive.  Looking pretty much like the picture. The ride there lets the wind whip around me, and hopefully blows all the blah of previous days away. It’s highly recommended! 🙂

(And this photo reminds me to get a few shots the next time I’m out.  Note to self:  remember phone and camera!)

Then there are days I can’t make it out to the wilderness for one reason or another. As I sit on the computer in an attempt to be creative and write, I realize I spend more time doing other things than actually writing. Huh, that got me thinking.

Is distraction really a bad thing?


I don’t think it is. I’ve been able to research … a lot. What sounds good to the main character to prepare for dinner and have that awkward conversation? What clothes work for a specific time or style? What to do with the curly, messy hair of that feisty main character? What’s that road off Main Street? Answer to most of this… look on Pinterest or Google/Bing/whatever search engine one might like. You’ll find the answers and probably more.

How should part A work with part B, C, or D? Is there an E or F? That might be another search somewhere else.


How is this not helpful??

(Most photos used in this Blog are from Pinterest, so thank you all who post!) Actually this site is where I came across one of my favorite photographers. (And if any of you have been on my Facebook page, it’s plastered everywhere.) Kill way too much time lost in abs, which helps in those steamy parts of the story.

Chains… mmmmm, gives me a few ideas.

Now what was I saying? Oh yes, since I’m an organized freak, I try to make sure all my photographs are labeled so I can find what I need quickly. Granted I have way too many folders, but that’s ok. I’m able to go back and pull things up when editing to refresh my mind.  Or I dive into a folder to find that specific something that is missing.  Sometimes I have the pictures along side my document to keep a feeling going on some of the early drafts. (I’m a photographer so pictures are a medium for me, and surround my life.)

*Sigh* Yep, just looked up/over and lost train of thought.

While trying to remember, I can make my publisher happy and post some cover art to the most amazing Romance anthology EVER.

cover 4 couple 3          Summer Cover Sun Rays

Not that I’m bias or anything, or try to work it into conversations daily.

Book three is coming soon!!!!

Alright, now that those pretty pictures are posted, I can try to find my trail of thoughts.  Seems to be way harder lately than should be… Distraction and Pictures!

A writing site I lurk around (Scribophile) has been the best blessing for my writing.  There are many groups within that help bounce ideas around, or give encouraging words.  It’s very user friendly too.  One, if not many of the groups, use photos for prompts. A fun exercise to get the creative juices flowing! *Cough* *Cough* IDEA!!!  It’s amazing how one picture can have so many interpretations. I’m constantly blown away reading the various posts while I resist the urge to go back and delete mine.

The gist to all this rambling is to not feel bad about research (of all kinds). Pictures, besides being nice to look at (glances above, yep, pretty!!) can be helpful. So go out there are look stuff up! Do the research and don’t feel bad about it.

AND, may your stories be better for it.


Reblogged from SBK Burns Sci-fi Romance blog


In one of my creative writing read-and-critique classes, a first-timer asked me, “If I’m going to write anything of any length, where do I start?” I thanked him, because I’ve been struggling to find some way in which to help my fellow authors to express themselves in a more comfortable and fluid way.

Where do ideas come from?

Personally, I live a life immersed in scientific philosophy (my own cosmology). What that means is, from the time I was very young, I loved to play in the dirt, and with insects and to climb trees and to examine the clouds. That turned into a group of ideas that were nurtured as I attended classes in biology and physics and eventually publishing a paper about an expanding two-dimensional universe.

(Lots of my ramblings about the world (both human and scientific) and my awe at it can be read on my website The Union of ( that mixes the physical with the spiritual.)

So, since the language in any topic of choice is so different and really inaccessible to the layperson, how can we simplify it and integrate it into our stories?

We can boil all of the above intro into three questions that I’ll attempt to answer in this post:

  1. How do I start writing?
  2. What do I write about? What topics seemed important to me both in growing up and now?
  3. Once I find a topic that impassions me, how can I edit what I write so that it speaks to my audience of readers?

Okay, so, I’m sitting at my desk, ready to type on the keyboard. What should I type?

All I can say is “should” can’t be any part of it. Don’t be like that monkey who randomly, after an infinite amount of time, types Shakespeare. But do type.

Type anything. And this may shock—type garbage. Garbage, you say. You have the most noble of goals as a writer. How can I ask you to type garbage? How can you allow yourself?

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Because writing is a layered process, first you need a raw material—no mater how raw—down on the page before you can mold it into something worth reading (you can tell I’ve spent some time as a sculptor). Without creating something, it is impossible to edit. And editing may be the most creative part of the writing process.

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Okay, so, the first requirement to be a good writer (someone who keeps writing and getting ideas, and doesn’t get writer’s block) is to stop judging yourself as a writer or judging any garbage you put down on the page.

How do I find a topic that’s important to me that I’m passionate about?

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Explore. All scientists, with all their mathematics, still have to explore the environment. To know yourself, look at the subjects that are easy for you to write about—the writing you’ve already accomplished. If you can’t find appealing ideas within that, look for topics online and write your opinions about them. Are you practical or logical where others are not? Are you caring and idealistic wanting to see a better world? There are online tests of personality asking questions that you can expound on to find out more about yourself.

I like to write about a once-published science experiment I performed in college. I like to think about how it could apply to the real world of people to make their lives better. Maybe you have some unique way you like to do things that, if you could share them, might improve the lives of others.

How do I begin editing in order to clarify my message to others?

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Personally, I attend four writing groups. Perhaps that was a bit too much to take on with still trying to sit down at a computer—type, edit, indie publish, and promote. The groups are as follows: two read-and-critique groups per week, three critique partners, and a local RWA workshop once a month.

Writing can be lonely unless one forces oneself to be social. So that’s why I interact with so many people each month. And here’s the second challenge to bravery as a writer: not only must the writer survive their own critical lathe, they must survive that of all the others. The best way to do that, even if the critique is upsetting, is to do something I have a problem with—keeping our mouths closed and respectfully taking it. The more we practice being gentle with ourselves in writing those first words, the easier it will be to take criticism from others and be polite while learning from it.

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The more you listen to others and make changes you feel necessary, the more you internalize them as an audience. It’s also important to have people whose work you can edit. The more you edit and share your knowledge with others, the more comfortable you’ll be in critiquing your own work.

You might say the above paragraph sounds a little too optimistic, when you don’t even know, while editing your work, which criticism to take seriously. I take them all seriously, but some more than others. How do I prioritize the importance of my critiquer’s comments? I examine whether the changes they suggest might clarify my meaning. If they do, I keep them. If they don’t, I ignore them. But, usually, I can always find ways of making my writing clearer.

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So, I’ll leave you with this:

  1. Just write and don’t expect it to be great at first.
  2. Be brave by taking criticism in a positive light, both yours and other’s.
  3. Learn by doing. You will learn from yourself and others naturally without school-like cramming the rules into your head.
  4. It’s all about the reader, to bring entertainment and joy into his/her life, so write as clearly and honestly as you can.

Continue reading

Who Invented Sex? reblogged from A Novel Approach by DL Hungerford

This simple question was thrown out in a joking manner by my husband. My silly answer was that amoebas probably thought about it and wished they had the equipment to do it. So I decided that would be a fun topic to cover in this blog. There’s a multi-part documentary called The History of Sex from 1999, but I want to look beyond humans. I doubt we primates invented the act, or are the only creatures who do it just for fun sometimes. Continue reading

Biography Conundrum

About two weeks ago I made the decision to put in an application to participate in an event called the Blue Pencil Café at the local Word on the Street Festival. It’s an opportunity for unpublished authors to have their work reviewed by a professional and ask questions. I figured it would be a good learning opportunity and a chance to get a feel for the local book scene.

The application guidelines were brief:

  1. A three page, double-spaced excerpt of my writing.

         No problem! I know the perfect thing!

     2.  My contact information

          Ppptf! That’s easy! Go me!

     3.  A short biography outlining your writing experience

          My wha-? A biography? About my writing? Umm…

Continue reading

The Writer’s Frenemy by E.M. Youman

Writing has taught me a lot about who I am and what I will put up with and won’t stand for.

About three years ago I was sitting at my job ready to scream. Not that it’s a bad job or anything. My boss is actually very nice. But I was feeling rather sucky about my ability to meet certain goals. At the back of my mind, I kept thinking, I don’t want to do this. I stopped sending out e-mails and opened up notepad and started writing. At the time I didn’t know that I wanted to write a story, it was just a need. My body was signaling to me I needed to focus on something else. It could have been anything, but I take it as a sign that I chose to write. Continue reading

Writing is a Green-Eyed Monster When Faced Against My Life by Kate DeHart

Last night my husband spent the night at the ER for pain that ended up being kidney stones. Ouch! What does this have to do with writing you ask? Bear with me, because this might be a windy explanation.

Many years ago, I was a young girl that liked stories. Somewhere on that journey, I got the message, my imagination was a waste of time. Spending time living in other worlds wasn’t  worthy, and at some point my passion for exploring my interests got snuffed out. So I got on with all the things a normal teenager does. Dragging myself to school, reading what I was told to, and other high-schooly things. Continue reading

Motivation-Reaction Units: The ‘Gunshot Moment’.

A few months ago, I discovered Motivation-Reaction Units (MRUs) and they have now become one of my favourite tools for editing. They are helpful in analysing a scene at sentence level; perhaps something feels missing, jars, or just doesn’t flow.

For those of you who come out in a cold sweat when faced with writing terminology, yur eyes are probably glazing over by now, but I urge you to stick with it. The term was coined by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. Not the catchiest of names, in my opinion, as it doesn’t do exactly what it says on the tin.

Motivation, in this instance, refers to an external event, which can include dialogue, and the reaction is how the character responds to it. Essentially, it’s cause and effect, ensuring that action is followed by reaction, and the character responses occur in an order the reader can identify with.

As an example, I’ll attempt a scene with a gunshot as the external event. The character may respond by diving for cover, shouting instructions and drawing his gun.

‘Stay down,’ he shouted, after a shot rang out across the street.

Here, the response is given before the event has happened, and for a micro second, the reader will pause as the brain sub-consciously reverses the order. Thus, the forward movement of the story has been lost.

A shot rang out across the street. ‘Stay down,’ he shouted.

For me, this flows better as it mirrors the natural order of events. But at a moment of high tension, your body will be processing other feelings and reactions before you can even begin to formulate words.

Dwight Swain breaks down these responses into three separate components that, he says, must be written in order. They are: Feelings, action and speech.

Some commentators on writing techniques, however, suggest a variation on the above to include:

Visceral – an instinctive feeling or emotion you have no control over that happens almost instantly.

Reflex Action – an action that happens without conscious thought.

Thought – the character’s rational thought after the event.

Action – the rational action he takes.

Speech – what he says.

So, here’s the gun shot scene again, incorporating all five reactions, but out of sequence.

A gunshot rang out across the street. ‘Stay down,’ he shouted. He pulled out his gun, and pushed his wife to the ground, his heart thumping. He scanned the rooftops. Where were the shots coming from?

Okay, so now we are more grounded in the moment. It’s better, but something still feels off. This is because humans respond to events in a certain order. Our bodies react instinctively before the rational brain has a chance to fully engage, and readers sub-consciously relate to this order.

So, consider the example one more time in correct, chronological order.

A gunshot rang out across street. His heart thumped and he pushed his wife to the ground. Where were the shots coming from? He scanned the rooftops and pulled out his gun. ‘Stay down,’ he said.

To my mind, this flows better. The uncontrolled visceral response comes first,followed by the reflex action of pushing his wife, then thought. Scanning the rooftops and pulling out his gun are actions that take place once his rational mind is back in control, and finally he talks.

As with any rule, there are always exceptions, and often, writers don’t use all five responses. The important thing is to write them in the correct order. The tricky part for me, is deciding when and how many of the responses to use. So when I edit, I look for what I now call ‘gunshot moments’; events or dialogue that are unexpected or cause a sudden change in emotion, and that’s the point where I aim for a full motivation-reaction unit.

For anyone interested in learning more, Randy Ingermanson (AKA The Snowflake Guy), has a great article about MRUs here.

Welcome to Nikki’s World by Nikki Belaire

I have an entire world in my mind where I can happily spend hours living. It’s like mental Pinterest or scrapbooking – imagining my characters’ appearance, plotting the twists and turns of their lives, tweaking their dialogue. I don’t need sleep or food or human interaction when I’m busy breaking hearts and making babies. Continue reading

Plotting…What’s that?

Always thought planning a novel looked like this?

planning photo

I did too.

I’ve always been a pantser, starting with a character, a line of dialogue or a scene and continuing from there, and dreaded the thought of plotting. The trouble with pantsing, I’ve found, is that when I’m near the end I have no idea how the sucker should end because I have so many threads I could pull on.

tangled photo

Oh dear, what a mess.

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Time for something different. Having pantsed two novels, and spent hours editing and plotting out afterwards, (and seen many people publish and write a ton more than me in the meantime) I decided to have a go at plotting my next project, a series of romances set in Montana. Who doesn’t love cowboys?

cowboys photo

I knew if I wanted to actually achieve this, I needed to think about structure.

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For me, structure sounds as exciting as that picture above looks, so I set about discovering what plotting actually is, whilst being terrified that it would stifle all creativity (a common fear for pantsers). What I did discover opened up a whole new world.

I didn’t have to plot out my entire novel!

I didn’t have to know what happened when, to whom, and why.

I could start with a character, as I always do.

And then I found something else that helped:

Annie Neugebauer

On her page she has downloadable worksheets designed to stimulate the beginnings of a plot. These focus on character and ask questions such as:

What happens to the protagonist to put her unavoidably in the path of the antagonist?

What stands in the way of your protagonist’s goals? What will happen to her if she fails?

And more, besides. Obvious questions, you’re thinking. Well, yes … and no. Sometimes we do this naturally, but then we get to a certain point and our brains need to take over from our subconscious.

For me, these worksheets are great. I can take my character and use these questions to think about motives and problems, which I had never really done before, it had all grown organically. I’m not saying I’m going to plan it all out using these, what I’m going to do is keep these questions in mind. I’m also using Storyweaver to help, but don’t want to get too bogged down in that at the moment.

Of course, the biggest question we must keep in mind as we write: Who cares? So what?

Got any tips for Planning a Novel you’d care to share?