Writing Is A Bad Habit: Our Hallowed Past a.k.a. Classics! Do You Read Them?

Writers read.

That sentiment and its many wordier variations form one of the guidelines most would espouse to be a truly great author.  I personally would agree.  There is much to be gained by being well-read, most specifically in the genre that you are writing in.  I would also argue that there is a strong case to be made, from time to time, to actively seek out and read various ‘classics’, despite their age or lack of relation to what you may be currently writing.

While I can sympathize with the argument that the ‘classics’ might be outdated, irrelevant to the ‘new’ ideas you are pursuing in your work.  I would counter that argument in several ways.  First, the most obvious, is that the literary classics form the historical record of our career.  Just as a study of history can add context and understanding to the modern course of nations and people, a study of classical literature can give a writer insights and context to modern writing and, most importantly, their own works.

Don’t forget the fact that the foundations, the tropes, the plot elements, and so many of the fundamental pieces of the writer’s craft come from the past.  The author’s craft is creating fabulous new stories out of well-worn building blocks.  That old saying, There’s no such thing as a new story., is essentially true.  We change how we tell our tales and certainly are boundlessly creative in the details, but the rest lies heavily on the foundation of the past.  To better understand and refine the creative elements of your own story, it pays to be well-versed in that foundational history.

Of course, there’s the purely selfish benefit that many of the classics are classics for a reason.  They have stood the test of time and made their influence on our craft because of their quality and resonance, making them as enjoyable to read now as when they were first put to paper (or tablet or hide or … you get the idea!).  There’s nothing better than to curl up with a proven book to read, right?

So don’t turn your nose up at something that is deemed a ‘classic’.  Yes, it might be out of touch or challenging on some level, but it likely has both lessons to teach about your craft and wonders to help entertain you.  Don’t be afraid to plumb those dusty depths!

As always, if you have something to add to the conversation, feel free to mention it in the comments below.  Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Writing is a Bad Habit: Reviewing and Sharing Are Bad Habits! a.k.a. The Title is Sarcastic!

A quick bit of an article before I dig into Chapter 21 of The Twelfth Labor but I think this is an important topic to not only talk about, but continually reiterate!  Let’s talk about one of the most important forms of support an independent author can receive: word-of-mouth support.

Look, the fact of the matter is that there are tens of thousands of indie books out there.  The e-book market especially is flooded with them.  The saying goes that ‘everyone has a story in them’ and, now, everyone can get that story published and internationally distributed!  Every indie book, good or bad, classic-to-be-discovered or affront to literature, is lost in that sea and who’s to say if any will ever be discovered.

That’s where the readers have to step in.  If you read indie books and find one you truly enjoy, it really should be your duty as a responsible reader to rate it, review it, and share it with others who may be interested in it.  Many people still attach a prejudice to the very idea of indie books, instantly connecting them to a lower quality than ‘professionally published books’.  That critical ‘word-of-mouth’ endorsement can break through that prejudice.  While someone may hold that bias, they will almost always listen to their friends’ opinions over it.  Once their foot is in the door, the book itself will then carry the day.

The truth is that all the social media wizardry in the world (though not pointless, it has a place in this grassroots network) won’t get you that many readers without something to hold up to show them that there is a reason to take a chance, to leave that indie bias behind.

It comes down to this:

  1. If you read indie books, rate them.  Review them, even if it’s a simple paragraph.  Share them.
  2. If you are an indie author, encourage your readers to do number 1 above.  Don’t just tell them to rate YOUR book.  Try to encourage them to break the trend of inactivity for everything they read.
  3. If you already do all of the above, well, kick back, crack open a cold drink, and enjoy the boons of responsible action!

Good luck and good writing … and good reading!

Book News: Beta readers. I need ’em and you want to be one! Right?

No writer can work in an echo chamber or in a ‘yes’ factory.  So, to that end, I have always tried to work with a core of beta readers and editors: people who like the project but are more than willing to tell me ‘that, that is stupid’ or ‘what the heck’ or many more colorful exclamations when I make a major misstep.  I am eternally indebted to each and every one of them.

However, several of my top beta readers are out of action for the near future.  Major personal obligations or familial emergencies have taken up their time and, despite any objections from them, I have given them my full support to ignore the reading and just take care of business.  Their problems and futures are far more important than a few books.

So, long story still kind of long, I have a need for beta readers.  I need people who aren’t afraid to be critical to help turn my last two books (for the short term) into masterpieces and, heck, I’m not afraid to publish new editions of old works if the input is sound enough.  I need people who want to stick their arms elbow-deep into the creative process and turn good material into the best of end results.

Oh, you get free books!  All three books of whichever series you wish to beta read … or both, if you want to read both.  Also, obviously, you’ll get the last two books before their release and get every update along the way.

Interested?  Send me an e-mail at and let’s talk.

Finding Perspective: First person vs. third person

Stories have been told since the dawn of human civilization and the impact of those stories have often hinged on the perspective used to tell those stories.  By perspective, I mean what form of point-of-view (PoV) is taken in the piece.  Each PoV brings its own unique advantages and disadvantages.  As I often say, I don’t put myself forth as an expert but I still think sharing my views on some of the common PoVs from which we write might be helpful to others and, at the least, perhaps engender a discussion of their use.  The three PoVs I’ve personally used the most are the first person, the third person limited, and the third person omniscient, and each are very distinct, even the two third person variants.

First up, the first person (clever, I know)!  This is certainly the most intimate of storytelling styles because it is told from the viewpoint of the narrator.  It allows the reader to truly get inside of the head of the PoV character, to gain deep insights into their actions, motivations, and perceptions.  This can be great for getting your readers to strongly identify with the main character of your story and the world they live in, as well as retain a sense of mystery in a new situation.  The information is filtered to the reader as it comes to the narrator, allowing a mystery to be preserved for longer.

The problems with the first person PoV mainly center around authorial mistakes.  It is easy to run into a repetitious writing style in the first person, especially sentences in the form of ‘I <verb> …’.  Tense mistakes can be common, especially if the writer attempts a first person present piece.  Let’s not even talk about the potential continuity errors that can be rife in a present tense piece.  Because we are trapped behind one character’s eyes at a time, other issues can crop up.  As with the ‘I <verb’ problem, it’s easy to run into excessive ‘telling’ as every character’s thought can become potential story fodder.  Finally, the tightened perspective can make world building harder, as major events could occur outside of the character’s perspective.

The third person PoVs, limited and omniscient, share a common base.  They are told from a perspective outside the narrator.  This can allow for a greater ease in telling a tale and setting a scene, as the writer isn’t limited to the perceptions of one singular character.  He can describe the entire scene, expand upon foreshadowing, cut away to sideline scenes more easily, and so on.  Of course, at the same time, we are deprived of the intense intimacy the first person PoV can give us.  The author is forced to work harder to make us like and identify with the characters as we are not directly in their head.  Past these commonalities, the two flavors of third person vary considerably.

The third person limited form is told in the third person, but there are limitations placed on the reader’s insights, most often in limiting the insights on character thought and motivation.  Most often, the writer handles this by establishing (and often shifting through a piece) a viewpoint character.  Though this character is handled in the third person, the writer chronicles much of their thoughts, feelings, and internal conflicts as if it were a first person piece.  This allows the writer to take back some of the advantages of the first person format (easier characterization, some limits on information flow to preserve mystery and surprises) while retaining the third person format’s strengths in description and flexibility.

The primary flaw of this is the obvious jack-of-all-trades style of it.  It gives up part of the immense flexibility of omniscient pieces but doesn’t gain the full intimacy of the first person form.  Also, if the author’s work has many PoV characters to switch between, it is of vital importance that he keeps a close watch on continuity to prevent lapses when bouncing from viewpoint to viewpoint.  Despite these problems, third person limited is one of the most commonly used viewpoints I have seen, mainly because of it’s ease of use and overall strength in storytelling.

Our final topic for today is the third person omniscient PoV.  It works just like it says on the box, combining the third person storytelling style with a narrator of infinite knowledge.  At any point, the author can speak of the thoughts and perceptions of any character without shifting point of view or worrying about continuity errors.  At it’s simplest, many old style fairy tales and children’s stories work from this perspective, as well as many myths.  Historical works and stories on a grand scale can also benefit from this technique.  All of these kinds of works often work in an epic scale or tackle immense subjects where there is a need to be able to recount events in large brushstrokes, yet still able to focus on personal subjects when needed.

The problem with taking this omniscient style is simple.  The risk of reader detachment is far greater.  Much like some people find reading a history book boring, you can have that same issue with this writing style.  The lack of a PoV character can lessen reader investment and, if the plot is also complicated, make the story harder for them to navigate.  You never want your reader so lacking in emotional investment that he doesn’t care if he reads on or not.

There are undoubtedly other writing PoVs to work with.  Do you use one of these, or something different?  I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.  If you’re just a reader, what kind of PoVs do you see in the books you read?  Which do you like and why?  Discuss in the comments!

Fun vs. Meaning: Does writing have to be deep?

I write action-adventure, sports, and superhero yarns.  Those genres certainly would seem to represent a stronghold of fun and a refugee from deeper meaning.  I can imagine in some people’s minds there’s an inverse relationship between fun books and educational books.  If something is supposed to be ‘insightful’ or ‘meaningful’ or ‘instructive’, it’s really not allowed to be ‘entertaining’ or ‘engrossing’ or ‘delightful’, is it?   I mean, we have laws for that, right?

I think most of us that write or most of us that truly enjoy reading would find objection to that notion.  The simple fact of the matter is that most any piece that is written from the author’s heart bears an imprint of some kind of deeper meaning.  Sure, it may not be the point of the piece and it may not even be intended, but that meaning is still there.

Sure, that meaning isn’t always the most though-provoking and it may not even be properly explored by the story, especially when such themes are unintentional.  It still does not mean we cannot learn something from everything we read, even the really bad books.  Even the process of writing a piece can be eye-opening to the author as they discover things about themselves they never knew before.

The next time you pick up a favorite popcorn novel, stop to think about what other meanings are behind the entertainment.  The next time you finish a short story or a chapter or a poem, contemplate what meaning you have left behind in it.  You never know what you may find.

Want to be a beta reader? Here’s your chance!

Ever want to help a writer out as well as getting free copies of their books?

Here’s your chance!

If you have read some of my work and like it, you may have a shot at being a beta reader.  What that entails is that you get the rough draft of my ongoing novels during the writing process, in whatever format or amount you wish, and provide direct input and criticism as the writing process continues.  For your time and energy, you get not only early access to the completed novels, but free electronic copies of the finished edited products.

If you’re interested, drop me a line at my e-mail address:

Thank you