You’ve heard it before. I’ve said it. Every author you’ve ever heard repeats it as if it was a mantra to the writing gods. “Keep Writing.” It really is the best advice you could take. We all know this, but how many people sit down and write every day for as long as they planned the night before? Planning is easy, doing is hard. (Great example: This blog post is due in three days. I’ve been meaning to write it for weeks now.) The mantra is true, but you need to look beyond that. Don’t just say you’re going to write, determine why you’re going to write. What is your motivation to finish that manuscript?

At Superstars, author James A. Owen did a panel on “Drawing out the Dragons.” It was a story of his motivations and how they fueled his career through a world that was decisively against him. The talk was powerful and left the room roaring with energy. I could feel it pulse with the story he told, and in turn, it latched onto my own dreams and motivators and brought them to the front of my mind. I was ready to write and take over the world! I would be the next household name! James said he believed in us, and I believed.

Since the talk, the blaze has died down to the quiet flame that is always burning in my chest. When I sit down, I let that heat flow again and use it to power my writing. When I don’t feel like writing, I have to think back toward these moments that brought on the blaze, and remind myself why I’m doing it. I think of the friends I have that believe in me. I think of friends and family reading my stories. I think of fame and fortune! (I do write fantasy, so it’s pretty easy to imagine this.)

So, keep writing. When you don’t want to write, think back to why you started writing in the first place and what motivates you. Let this ignite your spirit and push you to write, because in the end, no matter how many times someone tells you to keep writing, it’s up to you to actually do so.

The Great Spring Migration

The spring migration is late this year but I only learned that because someone died.

A close friend’s death pulled me from my concrete world, forcing me to travel across endless prairie, to see spring repaint winter’s stark world with the tender greens waving away the north wind’s last cold breaths. And in my journey to mourn, I see the spring migration – gathering energy to fly to thawing northern nesting grounds by fervently feeding on the last crop’s stubble, not one stray seed left behind. A friend had died and with her, part of my heart died yet here was nature, hopeful, fervent, telling me the cycle must continue, that despite all that happens, life stops for no one.

This journey takes me back to the farmstead home where I grew up – right in the middle of the great spring migration. Flocks of Greater and Lesser Canada geese, cranes and Snow geese formed feathery swarms. Circling gracefully down to water, then like arrows shot into the sky they circle yet again searching for perfect feeding fields.

The choruses of honks and krooos carried by cool spring winds are a music once familiar, now alien, to my ears. These choruses are the excitement of spring, the energy of rebirth and creativity and somehow, through my tears of grieving, I am stilled to peace.

A walk across stubble fields, still too wet for seeding, floods me with memories, once known in my youth but now seem otherworldly. Who was that person who remembers where the trees once grew, where cattle grazed in pastures, where weeds were pulled from garden rows at a nickel a pail? Who is this person who now deigns to wear sandals through straw stubble, ankles scratched – a child of the city now – alien worlds converging, lifetimes past and present merging.

Walking along a windrow, a prairie chicken is spooked from the grass. My partner is now lost in his memories of times hunting before pesticides and farming diminished this delicacy. As we share the past I realize that few words can bring to life the images, the memories, the smells, the aching muscles, the laughter accompanying sliding down haystacks in winter … time has made the once familiar foreign. The migration darkens the sky above us as birds swarm debating if this field will yield enough scattered grain. I feel the noisy migration sweep my old ghosts away for their focus is on today – it is all that matters and all that ever will matter.

At 4 a.m., the winds change and I know, lying in the dark, protected from the diamond sky and sun’s first yawning, that it is time – that this is the last night of honking and krooing wakefulness and that silence will ensue. I leap from my bed to watch the geese and cranes, their last grazing of grain speckled stubble fields completed, rise to the skies, circling, a choir in flight, summoning all to follow, their v-shaped lines flapping arrows aimed at northern nesting grounds.

Then, the earth gasps at the timeless glory of the final migration before relaxing with a sigh. But, the silence I expect never comes.

Instead, I hear the almost quiet – the earth’s soft belches and burps of spring moving to summer. Frogs croaking bass melody day and night, the percussion of duck calls, crows cawing oblivious to the frog’s melody, the crescendo and decrescendo of wind whispering then whistling through budding trees – the new, softer melodies of insects crawling over warming ground, farmers preparing the land for seeding, hoes working gardens. The south wind, carrying the frenzied migration northward now blends these spring choruses to new compositions.

Ah yes, the rhythm, the balance of the earth, timeless beyond man – these things I now ponder. And I also wonder about the worlds I create as I now sit in my walled home, in my city of concrete and asphalt and unearthly noise. Do my characters wander through worlds which gasp, belch and burp? Are they aware of the subtle things which affect their lives? Am I aware of these things? Maybe. Maybe not. But I now know that sometimes we and our characters need to take the time to breathe – to feel the change, to feel the sorrow and the timelessness of life.

Sunday Reads: 13 May 2012


10 reads worth your time:


Liza Palmer has 5 Tips For Starting and Finishing Your Novel.

Janice Hardy has Four Tips On Adding A New Twist To An Old Plot.

Carly Watters talks about How Writers Build Successful Online Communities.

Rachelle Gardner has advice for a writer’s family in This Post Is For The Ones You Love.

Jonathan Gotschall explores Why Fiction Is Good For You.

Jason Boog recounts an Ohio State University study on how Fictional Characters Can Influence Real Life Actions.

Looking for a place to connect with both readers and writers? Check out the World Literary Cafe.

And for another place to connect with readers, check out Book Blogs.

Deadman’s Tome has a horror writing contest open until the end of June.

Finally, for images and inspiration, check out Retronaut.


Missed any Fictorians articles this week?

Guest post by Dean Wesley Smith – Stop Being In A Hurry

Frank Morin – Burst Writing – Case Study

Colette Vernon – Brandon Sanderson’s Rules of Writing & Other Notes




Brandon Sanderson’s Rules of Writing & other notes

I recently returned from the 2012 Superstars Writing Seminar. The seminar in 2010 went well and I loved it, but to my surprise, I enjoyed this year’s seminar even more. They have this thing down to a well-oiled machine. Brandon Sanderson gave one of the first presentations, talking about his Ten Rules of Writing Success. He asked me to qualify this list by saying, these are his current rules, but they change regularly.

1) Start thinking like a business person.

2) There is no substitution for practice. (Write!)

3) Network (i.e. the seminar)

4) Be proactive.


5) Work harder.

6) The result is what matters.

7) Don’t waste time with writer’s block.

8) Sometimes you have to be willing to suck until you get good. (He may have worded that better.)

9)Yes, luck happens, but you have to put yourself in the situations that let it happen

10)Just write. Do it.

I find it interesting that one word of advice is repeated, directly and indirectly, within this list multiple times–write! Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. I could go into detail on the list, but I think it speaks for itself and Brandon did it way better than I would like to even attempt.

But I will give a short summary of the seminar. We discussed the publishing process–indie and traditional, self-promotion, getting noticed, negotiating, slushpiles, contracts, copyright basics, agents, professionalism, inspiration, ergonomics of your work space, audience analysis, pitches and queries, YA market, IP rules and possibilities, productivity, balance, and so much more I can’t list them all. James A. Owen, author of Here There Be Dragons and a multitude of other amazing works, finished his presentation by earning a standing ovation. We were so inspired, we couldn’t stay in our seats.

Speakers included: Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Eric Flint, James A. Owen, Dean Wesley Smith, and our very own Moses Siregar III contributed on the self-publishing panel.

Between almost every presentation, we had ten to fifteen minute breaks where we talked with each other, the presenting authors, and had some time to move around. Whoever designed the structure, did a perfect job. I’m not trying to sell this to anyone, there’s no benefit to me, but when I attend a writing forum of any kind I like to make a report so other interested people can know about it. If I sound like a commercial, it’s just because I was so sincerely amazed. I not only learned a lot and made great writing contacts, but I made lifelong friends.

Next year will probably be in Colorado, though I don’t think that’s set in stone. I suggest we all start saving our pennies and write it into our 2013 calendar. It’s the best writing business workshop anywhere.

Oh, and my next post will be an assessment of the 2012 Phoenix Comicon. What are some of the writing resources you’ve found valuable?