Being an author starts with a simple fact: If you’re not making the time to write, no other advice can help you

March 23, 2022

Which is probably why so many of the writers I talk to seem preoccupied with time-management.

Many authors need to put blinders on, finding ways to simplify their experience and reduce the number of potential distractions. That might mean consistently keeping a single two-hour window sacred to ward off imagination derailment.

Ultimately, the literary exercise is about finding ways to defend something fragile—the quiet mood in which the imagination flourishes. You need to make sure you have a private self. Because the private self is where your writing comes from.

Beginnings Matter

Everyone knows that the opening page is crucial. It’s often an invitation, something that can make or break a reader’s interest in the rest of a book. Indeed, it is often he first line which must convince the reader. Stephen King has described spending “weeks and months and even years” working on first sentences, each one an incantation with the power to unlock the finished book.

And it’s true. Once I stumble on the first sentence, the rest of the novel is almost like taking dictation.

Follow the Headlights

For me it doesn’t help to be the kind of writer who plans meticulously. I find it much more productive to give myself some leeway in the early drafts. I throw out plans and assumptions, and make room to surprise myself.

I call this “following the headlights.” It’s like driving a car down a dark, unfamiliar road, simply describing the things that become visible with the light’s beam. If I capture the experience all along the way, the structure starts to take shape. What’s on the side of the road? What’s the weather? What are the sounds?

That’s how the story is revealed.

Dozens of writers have told me versions of the same thing. The writing they tend to think of as ‘good’ tends to happen when they get out of the way, let go a little bit, and surprise themselves.

Sound It Out

Of course, all this is easier said than done. In the absence of a concrete plan, how to know when you’re headed in the right direction? For many writers, the answer seems to lie in the sound of the words.

Plot can be overrated. What I strive for more is rhythm. It’s like taking dictation, when you’re really attuned to the rhythm of a character’s voice. Sound shows where the energy is, revealing which aspects of the story are important, which lines to follow. It can help with revision, too.

Many drafts in, when you can no longer see the work with fresh eyes, turn to your ears. Sound gives us clues about what is necessary and real. When you read your work aloud, which I always do, there are parts I might skip over, not really wanting to speak them. That’s your mind telling you those are the weak parts. It’s hard to find them otherwise.

It’s Supposed to be Difficult

One of the things that’s surprised me most is how much the process—even for best-selling and critically acclaimed writers—never seems to get any easier.

But good writers seem to be masters of deflecting existential despair, the malaise that takes hold in the middle of a taxing enterprise. It’s a promise to yourself to take things in stride, to remain cheerfully engaged no matter how difficult things get.

Find the Joy

Ultimately, good writers seem committed to finding the joy within their work, even if that means looking in the most unexpected places. I don’t write from despair. I write from difficulty. I write about people who may be in great pain, who are desperate and sometimes even miserable. But, despair, to me, means an absolute absence of hope.

It’s not just leaving room for hope and levity on the page. It’s about retaining one’s own capacity to find joy within the process, making sure the work’s difficulty never fully squeezes out delight.

The joy of being an author is the joy of feeling you can do anything. There are no rules. Ask your character, can you do this with confidence? Can you do it with style? Can you do it with joy?

Find the joy, and when you do, watch your stories improve.


Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see many of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.


You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Writing During the Holidays

November 21, 2021


Make a Goal for Yourself

Writing during the holidays can be difficult. Who has time to write when you could be stuffing your face with pie or relaxing watching a Christmas movie?

Making a goal for your writing can help with the slump you may find yourself in. Pick out a goal for yourself; whether it’s writing for a certain amount of time, or writing to a word count a day.

Also pick a time to begin writing each day that you’re relatively free, and be consistent. It helps to make your writing constant. Whatever your goal is, make it a priority and stick to it.

Get Cozy and Write

Sometimes writers don’t want to venture outside to find material for their writing. With the holidays and the warmth their home brings during that time, it’s hard to do anything but snuggle with a blanket and relax.

However, you can still celebrate and write at the same time. Everyone feels the holiday spirit in different ways. Whether it’s curling into that warm blanket, having hot chocolate, or listening to Christmas music, pick what works for you. Just make sure, whatever you choose, to remember your writing goals and write!

Use Inspiration from Daily Activities

There are times when ideas seem to take a vacation for the holidays. We sit around and wait for inspiration to come, yet can’t find anything to write about. However, there are endless amounts of activities to do. Baking treats, making snowmen, watching movies, going on a sleigh ride, or looking at holiday lights.

You can write about your experience with an activity, or make a list of the best seasonal things to do in your area.

Writing during the holidays can be difficult but, whatever piques your interest, find it and get to writing.

You may find the inspiration to write after all.


Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see many of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.


You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Unlikely Character Friendships Strengthen Story

September 10, 2021

There’s something about unlikely friendships that hook our attention. It’s a fascination that seems to be fairly universal, because you see it virtually everywhere. Why?

The tension that emerges from the combination of the unexpected certainly creates compelling interactions between characters, but I think there’s more going on than that.

Unlikely friendships are an embodiment of the way the world can delight and surprise us. There’s something inherently hopeful in unlikely friendships that speaks to our ability to connect.

In a narrative, these unlikely companionships can do some heavy lifting, both soothe and threaten their situations, and provide a relief from the darkness of the lives of the characters. But it does more than that. It can highlight the depth and complexity of the characters for the reader.

By forcing these characters to really see each other, the reader is forced to look beneath the surface, too. They are able to see the ways the characters are different, but also the ways they are the same. Through that juxtaposition you allow the characters to be vulnerable.

That’s the power of unexpected friendships: their ability to take the reader by surprise, and force them into the story.

To write convincing fiction you need to know your characters inside out. You don’t need to let the reader know every detail, but I believe you need to know it.

This requires a fair bit of honesty, compassion and research. Reach within yourself, find the emotional truth, then dig deeper. Let your characters see and respond to each other. You can’t create a believable friendship, if you don’t know who your characters are.

What is it they hide from each other? What is it they see in each other that no one else does? How do they show care or frustration to the other? What rubs them the wrong way? What threatens them? What makes them laugh? What does this friendship give them? When and how do they feel this? How do their interactions change them?

Show the reader these aspects and you allow the reader to see your characters in a new way. This can be used not just to drive the narrative and to deepen the reader’s understanding of the story, but also to add light and shade to the emotional tide of the narrative.

Writing about an unlikely friendship, like unlikely friendships themselves, really has no rules, but I think the key thing to keep in mind is its power lies in its ability to surprise and delight the reader.

Keep this in mind when you write, and see if you don’t surprise yourself, too.

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