“I Got Sucked In”

I got sucked inThat’s what we want people to say. That’s the reaction we want readers to have – “I got sucked in.” It’s the sort of answer you give when people ask why you look so tired (AKA why you spent the night reading instead of sleeping like a sane adult). 

We want that! We want the reader to get so caught up that he or she (or both) cannot stand to put the book down long enough to go to the bathroom or fix dinner. Let alone get some shuteye. We want the story to consume their lives until they each finally reach the last page and close it.

What kind of @#%holes are we?

Seriously, though, we want to take over people’s lives if only for a short time. That makes us a kind of puppetmaster (or puppetmaster wannabes). A kind of puppetmaster who can control your mind through a book.

We want to be Tom Riddle without magic (or the evil… most of us, anyway).

But how? How can you have that much control with only words on a page? With no direct contact with the reader whatsoever? I got sucked into a book last night, and I’ve never met, talked to, or otherwise interacted with the author. So how do you do it?

How Do You Get Readers to Say,
“I Got Sucked In”?

Well, other than having some sort of contest where they have to record themselves saying that and send it to you for a chance at a prize (not quite what I meant), you have to make the story into a kind of emotional vacuum cleaner.

*snicker* Sorry.

You can think of it as a magnet instead (it’s a better image), but either way, there has to be something in the story that not only grabs the reader’s mental and emotional attention in but also holds it.

Something like

  • a hook (by definition, the first way you get the reader’s attention)
  • characters readers can relate to (Do you keep reading if you can’t relate to the characters? I’ll be honest, if I think all the characters are self-centered idiots, I’m not reading the book.)
  • an interesting setting (Oooh. This is new and different. I wanna draw it and write fan fiction in it!)
  • an unpredictable plotline (Where is this going? I mean, I’m guessing the good guys are going to win, but how?)
  • believable actions (OMG! That is so Character Name! That is exactly what she would do!)

Or any combination thereof. Right? If you have a good hook, relatable characters, and believable actions, can you get by without an unusual setting or an extra-unpredictable plotline? Absolutely.

Oh, sure, it depends on the genre and the reader, but you can totally draw readers in with great characters and a predictable plot. It’s not going to draw as wide a variety of readers as great characters and an unpredictable plot, but it’s definitely doable.

So… wait. Doesn’t that mean that good writing will always draw in readers?

Umm, yeah. I guess it does. If you have a good hook, an intriguing plot, relatable characters, believable actions, and an interesting setting, do you really think that readers interested in that genre are going to set it down? Have you ever set down a book that had all of that? I haven’t, especially not in a genre I like to read. So if you focus on writing a good book, readers are definitely going to get sucked in!

There are just 2 major problems: 1. writing that good of a book (time, practice, effort, etc.) and 2. getting your book into the hands of the right readers.

But that’s a problem for another day. For today, commit to writing your story as best as you can and becoming the ultimate puppetmaster! Er… author. *cough*

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Meet Jeanette Watts in Our Third Author Q&A

Welcome to Em T. Wytte’s Third Author Q&A, featuring the fabulous Jeanette Watts! I say fabulous because anyone who can manage to work, sew, run 5 dance groups, and write multiple books is pretty amazing.

But as Levar Burton would say, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

An Interview with Author Jeanette Watts

Meet Jeanette Watts in Our Third Author Q&A


 1. What was your first finished book?

Wealth and Privilege

2. How many books did you start or work on before finishing that book?

I wrote countless fan fiction books when I was a kid – I don’t think there WAS such a thing as fan fiction in those days! But my friends and I loved Star Wars, and I had my own characters, and told stories to my friends in installments.

3. If it wasn’t the first book you worked on, what made this book different? What made you finish this one?

Love. I love these characters! Thomas is a decent man surrounded by flawed and selfish people. He’s flawed, but lovable. And he loves Regina the way I think every woman wants to be loved: wholeheartedly.

4. What was the biggest challenge you encountered when finishing your first book?

Finding an agent! I spent five years looking for an agent, before my friends finally convinced me to publish straight to Kindle. I should have listened to them a year earlier than I did. Agents are crazy. They ask you to rewrite your book to their specifications, and then they don’t like your book anymore…

5. If you’ve written books since then, was writing them easier/harder? How was the experience different?

I’d heard that “the first book is the hardest.” It’s true. Somehow, once you’ve completely written one, something changes in your brain, and you know HOW to complete other books. My first book took 10 years to write. When my readers insisted I write a sequel, it took maybe two years.

6. Have you published your book? If yes, what medium(s) did you publish it in and why?

I started on Kindle, and then I had people clamoring for a hard copy. I published through CreateSpace, and Smashwords, and now I have people asking when the audiobook is coming out. Demand is a good thing.

7. Who did your cover art? What was that experience like?

The words “cover art” always make me laugh. When I published on Kindle, I had followed the instructions, proudly hit the button, and it said “congratulations, your book is on Kindle! Now upload your cover art.” I stared blankly at the screen and said, “Oh. Yeah, I guess I should have seen that coming…” I am a Vintage dancer, all I had to do was sort through 3 years of vacation photos and I had several options I could use. My husband is a marvelous graphic artist, he chose a photo, tinkered with it, and I’ve had people tell me I obviously spent a fortune on my cover art.

The story doesn’t end there… once I published hard copies, I uploaded my novel, proudly uploaded my cover art saying “Ha! I’ve got this.” Then I was asked to upload the BACK cover art. I slapped myself on the forehead and said, “Wow. I REALLY should have seen that one coming.” I told my husband I need a back cover, without missing a beat he told me I needed a photo of a woman’s gloved hand on the chest of a man in a tailcoat. Which is exactly what’s on the back cover of my book…

8. How are you marketing your book(s)?

In the most haphazard manner possible. I love getting to book fairs as much as possible, and I should really do more of them! I’ve done virtual book tours, book signings at independent bookstores, done podcast interviews, and bought various packages through AmericaStar.

9. What is your next step?

Finishing my next book, so that I can get on with writing the one after that! Just one more round of proofreading, and Jane Austen Lied to Me is ready to be released. I took a mental vacation from historic fiction and wrote a contemporary satire. I thought that would be “easier,” not having to do all the historical research. I was wrong.

10. What is your favorite part of writing?

Writing just feels good. Getting the words out of my head, and onto paper (well, computer screen…). Having the characters blossom under your fingertips. You start with an idea, and it grows into something more powerful than you. Your characters take on a life of their own, and even when you have a preconceived notion of where things are going to go, when you’ve done it right, the characters stop doing what they’re told – they tell YOU what is going to happen, what they are going to do.

11. What is your biggest struggle with writing?

Keeping all the distractions away! I am also a dance instructor, and I have started five dance groups at the same time I’ve been writing, publishing, and promoting books. The writing will get set aside for a cancan dancer who needs a new costume. Or a dancer who needs some emotional support because of family drama, and instead of an evening of writing, I’m out being a girlfriend and there’s alcohol or chocolate involved. Then I step on the scale, groan, and I have to spend more time in the gym or out on a bicycle, working off the extra calories from the night out.

12. What do you consider your weakest writing skill and what have you done to strengthen it or make up for it?

Well, I have a weakness for ambiguous endings… I got in trouble with that with my readers. So Brains and Beauty has a more traditional, wrap-up-all-the-loose-threads-they-lived-happily-ever-after ending. I don’t like it as well, but it made people happy, and they forgave me for the first one. Except of course the people who thought the first one was perfect the way it was, and now they’re disappointed in me! So I think the moral of the story is, “Never forget that you can’t make everyone happy.”

13. Do you now or have you ever done writing prompts? Did they help?

Nope, and nope. I’m having trouble keeping up with my brain, which has all these stories in there, and I don’t write fast enough to suit it. I don’t need a prompt to give me something to write about. I would just like to be able to catch up to everything I want to write!

14. Have you take any writing classes? Which ones? What was your biggest take-away?

I am an English major, so I had quite a few writing classes. Two professors left an indelible impression on me, and my writing. One used to hand out writing assignments, and then he’d say, “Just be brilliant!” And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t. He told me “if you treat people like idiots, they will perform like idiots. If you treat them like geniuses, they will perform like geniuses.” I have lived by his philosophy ever since. The second professor taught me how to ignore that evil censor monkey that sits in our brains, forcing us to rewrite every sentence as soon as we’ve written it. His technique was to spit out the words, all of them, and then go back later and edit. It’s always easier to edit words that are already on the page than it is to find the right words in the first place.

15. What is your writing background?

As I mentioned, one of my bachelor’s degrees is in English. I double-majored with Cinema-Television; I thought I wanted to write soap operas for a living when I grew up. Never got to the soap operas, but I’ve worked in marketing departments and for marketing firms, I’ve written television commercials, screenplays, one-act stage plays for a festival with a wild west theme, a textbook on waltzing, and skits for a local history museum.

16. Have you ever written in a writing circle? What did you think?

I tried that once. You were supposed to pay $20 a visit, and bring ONE page in for everyone to critique. Besides being expensive when we’re talking about a 400 page book, people were “critiquing” minutiae, because you can’t get much character development in one page.

Since then, I’ve developed a large stable of proofreader/editors. I give out rough drafts of the entire manuscript when I think it’s “done” enough, and then I get 10-12 insightful read-throughs who give me wonderful feedback!

17. When and where do you write?

I love to write in pretty places. I have gotten so much done in hotel lobbies while my husband was at a conference. Friends of mine have a cabin in Canada that is the BEST place to hide and write, with Lake Erie in front of me. One time I took a few days before a dance weekend and hid out in a cabin in the Allegheny National Forest. Creek burbling away to my right, a giant hill covered in trees to my left. Found a really, really good winery on that trip when I stopped to take a break for a while…

18. Who are your favorite authors?

Margaret Mitchell and Louisa May Alcott

19. What is the #1 advice you would give to people who want to be writers?

Just do it. Stop making excuses. You are going to have to make it a priority – but think about it. What’s more important, getting the laundry done, or getting some writing done?


What do you think? Did you learn something?

Personally, I’ve gotta say that I am loving the author Q&A series so far – seeing the overlap in our feelings toward writing, learning about our differences and their causes, and, best of all, getting to know so many creative people better!

The authors’ candor and humor are what make these interviews both fascinating and useful. So a big thanks to Jeanette for being this month’s author!

Want to be the August author? Fill out the author Q&A form!

Breaking Hyperbole as Writing Inspiration

breaking hyperbole as writing inspirationBreaking hyperbole as writing inspiration is one of the mainstays of creative writing. Especially genres like fantasy and science fiction. And since this tactic is so common, I’m guessing it’s not going to be a totally unfamiliar idea for most writers. That’s why this article isn’t meant to be a treasure trove of new ideas.

Although that would be cool. 

My goal instead is to make you more conscious of how you’ve used hyperbole as a worldbuilding or inspiration technique. Analyzing the techniques we use helps us be more deliberate in our methods – it lets us consciously choose to use them (or not) based on our goals and what we want to achieve.

How to Break Hyperbole for Writing Inspiration

All You Need Is Hyperbole and a Literal Mind 

Like most figurative language, hyperbole (when used correctly) works because the reader knows not to take it literally. It’s great for making people aware of details (without blatantly pointing them out), adding humor, and writing dialogue for characterization. 

Here’s an example:

Milly: Oh, I used to dance and flirt the night away. But that was a thousand years ago!

When the character says this, we don’t assume that she’s over a thousand years old. Instead, we understand that the situation happened a long time ago and that the character either likes using sayings or exaggerations (or doesn’t want say specifically how long ago it was).

In short, a hyperbole gives us an impression of the truth without being the actual truth.

But what if the character were speaking literally? What if it actually has been a thousand years since she danced and flirted the night away? It’s possible in fantasy stories, right? Possibly even science fiction.

Well, in that case, there is no exaggeration, which means there is no hyperbole. It’s not even figurative language at that point. Instead, the statement is the literal truth.

So when you take hyperbole literally, it’s not hyperbole anymore.

That’s why I called this activity breaking hyperbole. If hyperbole were the goal, you wouldn’t want to do this. For this exercise, however, hyperbole is a means to an end – not what you were aiming for.

Exaggerate Reality to Create Fantasy

Many of my writing prompts involve using elements of real life in the story (people watching, the library inspired writing prompt, Food as a Writing Prompt, etc.). And, oddly enough, when writing for them, you may have also used this one (What?)

As I said before, breaking hyperbole is a common part of the creative process. In other words, it’s a way of transforming reality into something new for your world or your story. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick something from real life.
  2. Write a hyperbole about it.
  3. Take the hyperbole literally.
  4. Expand that literal interpretation to create something new.

Lizards could inspire dragons, speed trains could inspire instantaneous travel by train, and a lush garden could inspire a flower world. Or 50 other things. Whatever style or genre you write in can find inspiration by exaggerating reality to form new truths – even romance exaggerates reality for the sake of the story (and we all know to never let the truth get in the way of a good story).

It’s pretty obvious that most writers do this in one way or another. Now that I’ve made you think about it (theoretically), though, you can choose to use it deliberately on days when you’re at a loss for ideas. If nothing else, may it get your creative engine started and lead you in new directions.

Happy writing! Have fun breaking hyperbole – or storming the castle, whatever!

20 Reasons to Read Books

Not that most of us need more reasons to read books. 🙂 But if you ever run into one of those “why do you read?” conversations, these might be fun to throw in.

Why You Should Read:
20 Reasons

Ready for the count-down? Here goes!

20. Easy-to-use (No manual required)

Open. Read. It’s that simple.

19. Great pause, fast-forward, and rewind features.

Flip a page. Flip it back. Insert a book mark. Or remember a page number. You don’t even need batteries or a plug!

18. Decent resale value

Sure, it depends on the book. Some of them keep only 10-30% of their resale value, but there are a lot of types of entertainment that have no resale whatsoever.

Of course, you could also keep them and re-read them. Because why get rid of something you like?

17. Great effects – waaaay better than CGI

It’s called imagination. You can make it as intricate or vague as you like. Some people focus on emotion and feelings. Other people love to picture intricate images and design the worlds in their minds. Or you do both as you feel like it.

16. No hidden fees

You pay one charge up front. That’s it – tax included. You don’t get charged extra if you don’t read at a certain speed, if you read it more than once, or if you don’t finish it. One charge – that’s all. There’s not even any interest.

15. No commercial breaks – no upgrade required

That’s right. The only thing that’s going to pause your reading enjoyment is you. Or other people. If you have other people around you – you can always lock them out. Turn off your phone. That sort of thing.

It’s up to you.

14. Single-player and multi-player modes

You can read it by yourself. You can read it and then discuss it in a book club. You can read it to someone. You can have it read to you. You can take turns reading sections. You can even listen to a stranger read it.

So many options.

13. No license renewal

If you’re over 20, you lived through the transition from buying software and getting a cd with the installation information that works forever on as many computers as you want to buying software and having to pay a yearly license fee or new fees for additional users. Well, not for books! Once you buy one, it’s yours!

12. Millions of different models to choose from

And that’s probably an understatement. A major understatement. There are so many different genres of both fiction and nonfiction as well as thousands of different authors with different publications.

Oh, and lest I forget, you don’t have to choose between them. You can read as many or as few as you like.

11. Low budget

What other fun activity can you do repeatedly for under $10? Ok. Don’t answer that. But as far as hobbies go, reading is relatively cheap.

10. Teaches empathy

Reading stories gives you new perspectives into other people’s problems, which in turn leads to empathy. Something that can help you do better in interpersonal relationships whether they’re business relationships or closer than that.

9. Helps with school work

Learn more vocabulary. Improve reading comprehension skills. Increase your understanding of plot and other literary devices. The list goes on and on.

8. Increases IQ

Want to read more about why? Read the lifehack article. For the short version, enlarging vocabulary and improving empathy helps.

7. Available for free

Remember what I said about it being cheap? Well, if you’re willing to take a trip to the library, it’s not only cheap – it’s free! Support your local libraries! And check out neighborhood lending libraries and Project Gutenberg!

6. Broadens experiences

How else can you be an astronaut, a pirate, a court lady, a space-ship captain, and a soldier in the War of 1812? In the same week?

Not to mention black, white, heterosexual, homosexual, male, female, religious, atheistic, shy, outgoing, nerdy, social, racist, broad-minded, and so on. No matter what the demographic or point of view, there are books that can expose you to them and give you a wider understanding of the world and its people.

5. Fun when you’re sober

I know, right? Who knew that was even possible?

Readers. That’s who. Oh, you can read buzzed or drunk if you like, but as you know, cognizance goes down as alcohol intake goes up. So the less alcohol you have, the more likely you are to enjoy the book! Who’d’ve thunk?

4. Great way to meet people

I know I mentioned book clubs (great way to meet new people, especially when you like having a cue for breaking the ice); however, reading books in public? Great icebreaker.

Well, unless you’re trying to read. Then, people asking you what you’re reading can actually be a bit aggravating. In fact, I’d recommend that you only read in public when reading is not the actual goal. Ooh, or unless you do it on your phone or kindle. Then, people don’t know.

3. Portable

I love paper books. On the other hand, having both paper and electronic books have made reading more portable than ever. Want to take a paperback with you to work? Why not? Want to take 10 books with you for your two 14 hour flights (14 there and 14 back) but don’t have room in your carryon? Download them on your phone. Then, you don’t even have to hide the cover.

I’ve even read while getting medical treatments and while donating blood and plasma. You can read just about anywhere, and it is amazing.

2. It’s sexy

Reading is sexy. It’s brainal. Or maybe it’s brainal foreplay. I don’t know – I get confused.

The point is that people who read tend to be interested in other people who read. That hints that you might have something in common. Plus, they’re usually turned-on by brains. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s a case of like pulling to like.

Oh, and speaking of like – if you read similar books? That’ll definitely get the other person’s attention.

 1. Teaches you to write

What else would I make number 1?

As much as reading is a great enjoyable experience, it’s also one of the top ways to learn to write. Like William Faulkner said, learn by example and then go out and make what you learned your own.

Go. Find time to read and then make time to write.

Jennifer Rainey: Author Q&A Number 2

Welcome to author Q&A number 2! This month’s author is Jennifer Rainey. I’ve known her for quite a while – well, “known” may be a little strong.

As musicians in different bands, we have crossed paths a number of times over the years (In fact, I remember when her first book was published). That said, we were both generally working when we saw each other, so we don’t know each other that well. I did, however, know that she’s been writing and publishing for quite a while, so she’s one of the first people I thought to invite to do an author Q&A.

An Author Q&A with Jennifer Rainey

Before we get to the author Q&A, let me say that reading her answers was a real treat – 1. because I learned more about someone I honestly should know better, and 2. because they’re interesting to read for any author!

IMHO, of course. But I think you’ll agree.

To start, they’re detailed and have a lot of valuable information for other writers , which is one of the main goals of the Q&A (so yay!). Even beyond that, though, they have a tone and style that pulls you in and makes you curious to read more.

Read for yourself and see what you think!

jennifer rainey author q & a number 2


1. What was your first finished book?

These Hellish Happenings (though it’s out of print)–Thoroughly Modern Monsters is my earliest work in print.

2. How many books did you start or work on before finishing that book?

Only a handful! I started pretty young. I wrote the first draft of These Hellish Happenings at 18 and published it independently at 21.

3. If it wasn’t the first book you worked on, what made this book different? What made you finish this one?

I am all about characters. I love to see what makes them tick, and I was so very fond of the cast of characters in These Hellish Happenings. They are really what drove me to finish it.

4. What was the biggest challenge you encountered when finishing your first book?

Sticking to a writing schedule!! I didn’t have any discipline. That’s something that I’ve really had to develop over the years.

5. If you’ve written books since then, was writing them easier/harder? How was the experience different?

WAY easier! It gets easier every time. For example, where These Hellish Happenings took three years from start to finish, my latest book, The Last Temptations of Iago Wick, was 13 months from start to finish. Just like anything else, writing and publishing take practice, and you’ll see yourself improve with each book.

6. Have you published your book? If yes, what medium(s) did you publish it in and why?

I publish independently because I love having that control. Everything is in my control: cover, title, sales channels. Having that freedom is really valuable to me.

I publish exclusively through Amazon because I really value the promotional options you have with them. And I think both electronic and physical books have their merits AND their fans. Ebooks are great and convenient and you can take a ton of them with you, but there’s something really great about that physical book, too. I think it’s important to appeal to both audiences there.

7. Who did your cover art? What was that experience like?

Jennifer Rainey Q & AMe! I have some background in graphic design–I’m a marketer in my day job–so that’s a place where I’ve always been able to save some money. Corel Paint Shop Pro is my go-to program. I can’t recommend it enough as an inexpensive alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

8. How are you marketing your book(s)?

Free and bargain book mailing lists, Twitter, Facebook, networking with other folks in the paranormal fantasy genres, talking to anyone who will listen–and writing more books! We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

9. What is your next step?

I just published The Last Temptations of Iago Wick in February. That’s the first in The Lovelace & Wick Series, which is a paranormal/steampunk series based in 19th century Massachusetts. I’m working on a novella for publication this summer–Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen. Also, I’m hard at work on Binding Dante Lovelace, the second book in the series.

10. What is your favorite part of writing?

When it CLICKS. It’s worth it for when those characters really come to life and the story finally comes together. It’s worth it for that final product. You truly want to rip your hair out during the writing and editing process, but it’s so worth it in the end.

11. What is your biggest struggle with writing?

I STILL struggle with making time to write sometimes. After a long day at work, you don’t always want to edit or write, but you just have to make yourself do it.

12. What do you consider your weakest writing skill and what have you done to strengthen it or make up for it?

I like things like dialogue and allegories and pretty descriptions of setting more than plot sometimes. I’ve really had to step up my plot game! I’ve started asking myself in a scene, “This is a little flat–what would TOTALLY turn it on its ear?” Then, I do that and see how it goes. Definitely ramps up the action and keeps that plot interesting!

13. Do you now or have you ever done writing prompts? Did they help?

I don’t often. They just make me want to get back to my main WIP!

14. Have you take any writing classes? Which ones? What was your biggest take-away?

I haven’t. I took a lot of English lit in college (I majored in it), but no creative writing.

15. What is your writing background? (Do you have a degree in writing, worked in writing jobs, etc.)

I majored in English at Ohio State, but I’ve been writing and telling stories my whole life. I wrote in high school, in college, and I’ve always read A LOT. Now, I’m in bank marketing and that frequently involves writing (ad copy, newsletters, etc.). I am almost always writing in one way or another!

16. Have you ever written in a writing circle? What did you think? (Why do you or why don’t you?)

A few in college. They’re both great and dangerous. Don’t listen TOO much to the opinions of others. Take away what you will, but don’t let others shape the way you write more than is helpful–especially if they are not fans of your genre.

17. Who are your favorite authors?

Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Jonathan L. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Shakespeare… the list goes on.

18. What is the #1 advice you would give to people who want to be writers?

WRITE. If you want to write, do it. Don’t let anything get in the way. So many people WANT to write, but they don’t because they let other things get in the way. If you want to do it, do it. Make the time.

19. When and where do you write?

I mostly write in the morning. I get up at about 5:00 AM every day! Frequently, I’m either at my desk in my bedroom or sitting on the couch in my living room, but I also love visiting the library (support your public library!).


Now, that’s dedication! I used to manage 5 AM or earlier, but I’m afraid it is not in the cards for me at the moment. So props to Jennifer for doing it every day!

Come to mention it, let’s have a round of applause and a big thanks to Jennifer Rainey for filling out the author Q&A form! Weren’t her answers fun? I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

If anyone has anything they’d like to add to her answers or any questions, comment away. I look forward to hearing from you!

The 5 Worst Excuses for Not Writing

You heard me. The 5 worst excuses for not writing. And if you know my opinion of writer’s block, you may be wondering what qualifies as “worst.” (They’re all bad, right?) Well, let’s just say these are the laziest and most self-defeating that I can think of (right now).

5 Lame Excuses for Not Writing
(You heard me.)

 1. It’s Sunny.

5 worst excuses for not writing it's sunny

Writing called on account of sunshine. Said no one ever.

Really, people, a pretty day is not a reason to avoid writing. It’s not. You are using the sunshine as an excuse for being lazy and playing outside instead of working.

Oh, and if you doubt me, here are some obvious flaws to this “reason” for not working.

  • The sun will still be there after you spend an hour writing. You’re not going to spend the whole day outside even if you do go out to play. Make goofing off outside a reward.
  • Umm… the sun does set at some point. Work at 8 or 9 pm (whenever the sun sets where you are). Play in the sun and then write. Or get up at 6 and write before the sun comes up to tempt you.
  • Or, my personal favorite, take your writing outside. Enjoy the sunshine and write at the same time. [mic drop]

Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. Lame excuse.

2. I’m tired.

5 worst excuses for not writing I'm tired

Nap time!

You will always be tired. 10 times out of 9, you are going to be tired (Shut up, math people.). If you don’t write when you’re tired, you will never write. End of story.

(Which you’ll never get to because you’ll never start the story. Just saying.)

3. I need to edit first.

5 worst excuses for not writing I need to edit firstNo. No, you don’t.

Write. Finish the book. Then, go back and edit. Or set limits on how much editing you are allowed to do in a span of time – otherwise, you’ll never finish the first draft. You’ll just keep re-writing the first few chapters.

2. I don’t know what to write.

5 worst excuses for not writing I don't know what to write idk

*flat stare* Who does? Write anyway. Sure, the first few paragraphs may be crap, but after a little while, you’ll get fired up and get into a groove. You can always scrap or edit parts of it later.

Besides, if you’re writing a novel, you should have some idea of the storyline already – even if you’re not a meticulous plotter. So… start on a scene and see where it goes? Worse case, you’ll find out where it doesn’t need to go. And you’ll learn something about your characters in the process (assuming you’re paying attention).

 1. There’s no point.

5 worst excuses for not writing there's no point impossibleIt’ll never get published. No one will ever read it. I can’t write anything good.
| : Infinite variations of self-deprecating and self-defeating statements : |

*inarticulate scream of rage and frustration*

*cough* Sorry. I’ll try to contain myself, but this one drives me absolutely crazy. Before I get to the rant, however, let me say that it is not directed at anyone struggling with depression or self-esteem issues who seriously believes those statements. To those people, I will say only that I hope you learn to question and challenge those statements and that even when those feelings are overwhelming, I hope you still write.

For those who say this as a whiny prompt for attention and never actually had any real aspirations to write, I would just like to say, *thbbbt*.

First of all, it’s almost always the exact opposite of the truth. You have no chance of getting published? Really? A poorly written fanfic of a poorly written book got published and bought. So… what? Can you not write in sentences? Great! Your work will be the next abstract innovation in stuffy literary circles.

Second of all, don’t say you’ve always want to do something when it’s not true.

Yes, some people have always wanted to write a book. And if you ask those people about that book they’ve always wanted to write, they will tell you all about the plot and the characters – all the ideas they’ve ever had since they first thought of it. If someone shrugs and says, “I don’t know. Something fantasy maybe. Or a thriller,” then, no, they didn’t always want to write a book. They just think wanting to write a book will make them sound more cool or intellectual or whatever.

Cause, yeah, book writing – it’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Sorry, no. People like that get on my nerves because while they’re saying “There’s no point,” because they think it sounds right, by saying it in conversation, they give this excuse more weight. Like thinking that you have no talent or that your story is unpublishable is a legit reason not to write. And hearing it from other people like it’s a real road block makes potential writers more likely not only to use it but also to believe it.

And that would be a shame.

Don’t use any of these “worst” excuses for not writing. In fact, don’t use any excuses for not writing. Write. Make it happen however you can. I believe in you.

3 New Year’s Resolutions That Aren’t Going to Be Easy

new year's resolutions that aren't going to be easy to keep 2017

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Writing (not 5)

All other 2016 disappointments aside (and I’m sure you can think of a few), it wasn’t the best year for me in a writing sense. In 2015, I got a lot more writing done, and I was better about meeting my deadlines. Granted, they were self-imposed deadlines, but without that level of discipline, forward progress is halting or, at best, slower than it could be. Which brings me to 3 New Year’s resolutions that aren’t going to be easy to keep.

Keeping These Three New Year’s Writing Resolutions Ain’t Gonna Be Easy

I’m not usually into New Year’s resolutions. I’m more of a daily, weekly, or monthly resolution kind of person. Periodically throughout the year, I evaluate what’s been working and what hasn’t, and I go from there.

This year is a little different because I’ve noticed some problems on a larger scale – things that need to change to make those periodic adjustments possible. For my writing, anyway.

 1. Set up and maintain a dedicated writing space.

In 2015, I had a home office set up. It was really nice – bright, airy, and decorated to encourage creativity (Oh, those were the days). In 2016, that room got converted to storage space, and I tried to use a smaller, less-separated writing space (which was all supposed to be temporary, blah, blah, blah). As you may have guessed, that didn’t work out so well.

What they say about dedicating specific spaces to specific purposes is true: it helps manipulate your brain to encourage habits (good or bad). Like how they say you shouldn’t work in bed because your brain will be ready to work when you try to go to sleep. Similarly, if too many things are going on in a room at once, it’s easy to get distracted by other tasks, especially ones that take less energy or are more fun.

Long story short, if I’m serious about getting writing done, I need to have that office back. I need a dedicated writing space, a space committed to that work. It’s going to take some serious planning and elbow grease, but it’s doable. Once it’s set up, the biggest trick will be to keep it that way.

 2. Write ahead.

I did a really good job of this in 2015. Not so much in 2016. It’d be easy to blame the problem on travel and outside commitments, but the truth is that there were a lot of factors, including not having a dedicated writing space or a regular work schedule.

I can fix the first problem (see New Year’s resolution #1). The second part, now that’s gonna be more difficult.

See, there’s a growing possibility that my work schedule is going to become much more intense and, as a result, much more complicated. If I’m going to keep the writing going at all, let-alone meet my self-imposed deadlines, I need to not only write every day but also write ahead. Without fail.

I’m going to do my best to keep this one. Otherwise, I know that both twytte and Words & Deeds will suffer for it. I’ve floundered enough with updating both this year. I don’t want to do that again.

 3. Get enough sleep.

Doesn’t seem like a writing resolution? Well, that’s where you’re wrong. If you push too long and let all your projects (& social activities) keep you from regular, healthy sleep, you are going to crash at some point. Usually when it’s least convenient. And that’s after the loss of sleep wreaks havoc on your writing (see “Good Grammar & Tired Brains Don’t Mix“).

If I have to lose sleep every night or even most nights to get everything done, then something needs adjusted. Period. I have to get more organized, I have to cut back hours of something, I have to let something go – whatever it is, something needs to change.

And there you have it: 3 New Year’s resolutions that aren’t going to be easy to keep.

At first glance, they seem simple, right? I mean, really, don’t they seem pretty straightforward and manageable? Arrange my stuff to make room for an office, write ahead, and get enough sleep. That’s doable with a little effort and time management, right? Right? (…sob…)

So… wish me luck?

True Alchemists Do Not Change Lead into Gold Unless They’re Using Old Pencils

true alchemists don't change william h gass quote

I love the fact that the printing press set in the background is made out of lead.

I want to be a true alchemist when I grow up. Not that I’ll ever grow up, but there’s something inspiring about thinking of writing as alchemy (especially if you like FullMetal Alchemist). Not only because of the transformation aspect – although having the scientific knowledge and/or mystical ability to change lead into gold is appealing, especially applied to writing. Thinking that my writing skills can “change the world into words” is pretty heady (true or not).

But that’s still not the main reason I like this analogy. No, the best part of this metaphor (IMHO) is the fact that alchemy was all about exploration. Back in its heyday, true alchemists spent their time trying to accomplish the impossible. If one attempt or combination didn’t work, they tried something else.

In a way, alchemy was mankind’s way of reconciling spiritual beliefs with science. And while we may laugh at alchemists’ efforts to make the philosopher’s stone or change lead into gold, those explorations led to the development of scientific theory and helped direct science as we know it today (strange thought, wot?).

Now, take a moment and think about that idea in terms of the writing analogy.

Isn’t exploration a major part of writing growth? And don’t we have to constantly have to reconcile the rules and logic of writing (science) with the emotion of it (spiritual)? I think so. I think that makes this analogy a very deep and thoughtful description of what gives writing such power and also what makes it so difficult.

We transform things, yes. We try to capture the world in words. But we also play a very delicate balancing act (or sometimes a vicious war) between the art and the science of writing.

We explore. Through trial and error we find new stories and new ways to tell them. We are true alchemists just as William Glass said. We try to accomplish the impossible, and success has all the magic of alchemy.

5 Major Problems for Writers (or Any Artist)

Writers have a lot of problems (let’s face it). These are the most common – so common that they’re stumbling blocks for artists of any kind. Musicians, painters, sculptors, jewelry-makers, etc.. I have seen all of them struggle with these issues (Heck, I’ve fought them personally in different art forms!). That’s why I consider these 5 major problems for writers.

5 Major Problems for Writers:

 1. Accepting “Good Enough”

There are two ways this hits people: stalling out and not knowing when to stop.

Stalling Out

Some people stall out by telling themselves they’re not good enough. So they never start. Occasionally, they talk about trying to write a book or take up painting again, but they never do. If you really, honestly want to write the book or start painting, kick this idea out the door.

Start writing! Start painting! Start whatever – you’ll never actually become “good enough” until you do.

Here’s another example of stalling out, one that’s far too common with writers: the person who keeps working on the same project forever but never finishes.

At your 10-year high school reunion, Jim says he’s writing a novel. At your 20-year reunion, he’s still writing a novel – the same one. Same for your 30-year, your 40-year, and so on. He’s only a  few chapters in, but every time he reads them, he finds mistakes he has to fix. So he rewrites the same chapters. Over and over again. Because it has to be perfect!

Your first novel is not going to be perfect. Your 54th novel is not going to be perfect. Accept that now, and move on. Don’t rewrite the same few chapters for the rest of your life: move forward. Finish the novel.

Not Knowing When to Stop

Another perfection-driven problem. This is the writer who has a finished manuscript but keeps editing and editing. Re-writing and tweaking but never finishing.

I’ve seen artists with fabulous stuff keep picking and poking at it instead of stopping. Sometimes, they keep toying with it so long that they ruin the whole thing. Don’t do that. Learn when to stop.

 2. Taking Criticism Well

It’s not easy. Oh, no. Especially since some people don’t know how to critique constructively. Not that that stops people from tell you what they think. And in today’s society, neither does politeness.

Even with an editor or someone you’ve asked to look at the book, it can be hard not to be a diva. It’s your book. How could they possibly know better than you? (They can. Whether or not they always will, I don’t know, but they definitely can.)

Worst case scenario, try for a polite expression, say “I’ll think about that,” and then get out of the room before you explode. Rant for a while at home and then do what you said you would – think about it. It might be total crap or not. It’s hard to tell until you calm down.

Or you can forget that option and tell them exactly what you think in that moment. Not the best move career-wise, but you won’t be the first writer to do it.

 3. Responding to Compliments

For some people, this is harder than taking criticism well.

Audience: This is crap.

Artist: Yeah, I know. I messed this up, and I didn’t get to fix this. Oh, and this part is awful! I’m so sorry. Here. Have one for free!

*sigh*

Give those same people a compliment, and they’ll list the same flaws. Like you must’ve missed them, and they’re being dishonest with you if you let them think your work is actually good. If you’ve ever had someone react that way to you, you know exactly how awkward it is. Sometimes, you can even get drawn into an argument, trying to convince the artist that you really, honestly like the piece. Until, finally, you get PO’d and walk off (You callin’ me a liar?).

Humility is all well and good, but there are limits. When someone gives you a sincere compliment, smile and say, “Thank you.” Whether you believe them or not.

 4. Dealing with Society’s Attitude

No one likes dealing with a ‘tude. And society has a big, ever-changing one when it comes to art. Especially as a career. No. I take it back. Society has at least two big, not-changing-fast-enough attitudes when it comes to art as business: it’s not smart and that’s free, right?

It’s Not Smart

Smart – A.K.A. safe. This often falls under the ok-in-theory-but-not-for-my-child category. Lots of people claim to support art, but when they find out you’re trying to make it your career, they give you doubting looks.

Are you sure? That’s risky, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you rather be an accountant or something?

Yeah, no. You would think that with all the companies closing and letting people go (from “safe” jobs) a few years ago, people would’ve softened on this a bit. Not so you notice.

I don’t know about “smart” or “safe,” but I’ll grant that making a living in the arts isn’t easy. You can’t be lazy, and you have to really want it. On the other hand, if you really want it, holding yourself back from it to do that “smart” job can be even harder.

You can hold onto that when the doubters pester you.

That’s Free, Right?

Um… no.

If you want to be a professional writer (or other type of artist), you might want to practice that word. No. No no no no no no. No.

(You can ignore the “I’m Jane” part, but the rest is good.)

Repeat after me: No, it isn’t free. This is what I do for a living.

It’s ok to take it in trade (a few hours writing for an equal amount of accounting or lawyering or whatever), but, no, it is not free. It’s ok to give a family discount (if you want to, and you’re still breaking even). It’s even ok to give the occasional present.  But be really careful not to set a precedent of doing work for free. It’s really hard to change once you do.

As Captain Malcolm Reynolds would say, “I do the job. And then I get paid.”

 5. Putting a Price on Your Work

It’s hard to put a price on your work. It’s exceptionally hard to put a fair price on your work. Especially when society is constantly trying to get it for free, and you’re constantly telling yourself how bad it is. (See how the problems work together against you?)

Why are artists more worried about overpricing their work than they are about underpricing it? I don’t know! They don’t include their time. They don’t include overhead costs (websites, credit card rates, business cards, booth fees, etc.).

I know that just because you’re good at writing, that doesn’t mean you’re good at the business side of it (believe me, I get it). So. Find someone who is good at the business side of it. Get advice. Have them represent you. Take classes. Google it.

But if you want to make a living at your art, you’re going to have to get a handle on pricing. One way or another.

Watcha gonna do?

Well? Are you gonna let these problems kick your butt, or are you gonna tell them to kiss it?

Sometimes, Poems Just Happen

There are times when you spend hours, days, or more working on a poem. A poem that you tweak and re-write and struggle with. Then, there are the other times – when poems just happen. When it’s like you’re walking through a field, trip on something, and unbury it only to find that it’s something wonderful and new. And somehow it didn’t exist until you tripped on it (wrap your mind around that one!).

There Comes a Time in Every Life” was one of those poems. I was driving home, and suddenly, it was there in my head. Line after line. No hesitation, no fumbling. It just appeared. Like I waved a magic wand. One minute, I was thinking about a hard situation and people’s reactions to it, and the next, I could practically see the poem take shape in my head.

Em T. Wytte Poem There comes a time in every life when the choices all are hard when the options all are dim and dark the chances all are slim to none when the house holds the cards there comes a time in every life when something has to give but even once it bends or breaks you somehow have to live

Originally posted on my creative writing blog, twytte.

Of course, I spent the rest of the drive home chanting it in my head over and over again because when poems just happen they tend to happen in the most inconvenient places. Places where giving them the right amount of attention or even writing them down is hard. Or impossible. Here are a few places where I’ve run into this issue.

  • In the shower
  • On horseback
  • On a treadmill
  • During a presentation in class
  • Driving on the freeway

It hasn’t happened on a date yet, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. With “There Comes a Time in Every Life,” it was the freeway – a fast-paced one with a lot of curves, ramps, and reckless drivers. Sad to say, even knowing how dangerous and stupid it would be, I was tempted to pull over long enough to write it down. I also considered getting off a few exits early to find a convenient parking lot.

This is where voice recognition software might’ve come in handy (very handy). But I, of course, didn’t have one. I decided to drive straight home and do my best to keep it in my head until I got there. Apparently, my brain didn’t think that was enough of a challenge. When I got about halfway home, still chanting the poem to avoid possibly forgetting any of it, my brain decided to “discover” another poem.

Did I mention that when poems just happen, they often come in multiples? Or in multiple stanzas?

It’s like when ideas attack. You never know for sure how big and ruthless they are going to be about holding you hostage. You could have a few lines to think about and miss 5  minutes of class. You could have a novel to think about and miss most of class. All in all, I guess I got lucky. I only had 9 lines to remember (well, 13, if you count the other poem, too).

And out of both poems that appeared, there was only 1 word choice that I went back and forth on, and it was in this poem. Can you guess which one? (Hint: It was a conjunction conundrum.)