Category Archives: Our Favorite Fiction

What are some of the books, movies, or TV that we the Fictorians love?

It’s almost like being in love. . .

Why do we write?

Well, I can’t answer that question for the world at large. I can, however, answer that for myself and the other writers I’ve asked that question. We write because we have to, and because we love it.

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of overlap between my day job as a lawyer, and my night and weekend job as a writer. As a lawyer I write nonfiction (although some detractors of the profession might claim what lawyer’s write can only loosely be labled nonfiction). The lawyers I know who are in the profession for the money, because someone thought they should be, or because they want the prestige of those three magic letters (“Esq.”) after their names are miserable people. They are burnt out; they fight for the sake of fighting.

The writers I know of who write because they thought it was easy, or easy money, or because they wanted the prestige of being an “author” are miserable. They are burnt out; they are depressed, and they give up. They are overly critical of others’ stories.

Now let’s look at the lawyers who aren’t burnt out, depressed or on the verge of quitting. While they may hate a particular part of the process, they love the overall system. I love being in court. I love researching and finding new ways to combine existing law to my client’s benefit. I love helping people. My practice reflects this. I don’t sleep or eat much the week before trial. I do my best work when I’m passionate about my client’s position. I’ve jumped up and down behind counsel’s table when arguing a point (my husband, who was observing that argument, had to fight laughing out loud as I bounced around).

The last statistic I heard was the average advance from a traditional publisher is about $8,000. E-publishers pay better (up to 50% of net sales), but they don’t generally pay advances. It takes the sale of many thousands of 99 Cent e-books to lift you above the poverty level, much less replace most people’s regular income. Self-publishing means you spend a lot of upfront money hoping you can recoup it and make a profit. Except for the precious few, writing will never be a “get rich quick” career.

So, why do we do it?


In the movie Shadowlands, Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays C.S. Lewis, tells a fellow Oxford Don that he (Lewis) can’t stop praying because the words pour out of him. He could have been speaking for any writer. The words pour out of us. Stories beat on our minds and distract us from other concerns.
I love filling the screen with words; creating new worlds; and that moment when a character is real enough to talk to (and fight with) me. When a story first takes hold of me, my hands shake, my heart races, I have trouble sleeping and I’m constantly thinking about my new world and characters. Sounds a lot like a first crush, huh?

That someone else likes reading what I write is amazing. That someone is willing to pay to read my stories is humbling.

This business is hard. We hear a lot of “no” before we hear “yes.” If you aren’t passionate about writing, you won’t write. It’s just that simple.
Find the story that makes your heart race, and get writing.

Sunday Reads: 15 April 2012

Welcome back to another instalment of our favourite reads.

Over on Live Simply, Simply Love, Tracy Ruckman explains what StumbleUpon is and how writers can use it.

At Slush Pile Tales, Lauren Ruth discusses author business cards.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch sums up the changing publishing industry.

CS Lakin talks about three things you must have in your first paragraph.

Over at Dreaming Awake, Rayne Hall discusses creating suspense.

At Omnivoracious, AJ Jacobs discusses why reading books can save your life.

Neil Gaiman provides an interesting insight into Stephen King.

At Writer Unboxed, Bob Proehl discusses the way a community got behind an independent bookstore to stop it from closing down.

Visit The Idea Bird for prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

And, finally, for a bit of cool: what it’s really like to fight with giant suits of computerised armor.

Sunday Reads: 8 April 2012

Welcome back! Another week gone and here’s another 10 of our favourite reads.


Considering writing in first person? James Scott Bell discusses some of the pitfalls in First Person Boring. talks about drawing the reader in by Eliminating the Frame.

Time to start those rewrites? Writer Unboxed has a great post about How to Think Like An Editor.

Tim Kane has a cooking-inspired post in Layering Flavors In Your Writing.

AC Wise made me stop and think hard about my current manuscript with Heroine Quest, or The Fairytale Problem.

And while we’re talking about heroines, Marcy Kennedy discusses How To Keep Strong Female Characters Likeable.

Terrible Minds highlights 25 Lies Writers Tell (And Start To Believe In).

Over at Rock Your Writing, they’re talking about How To Build a Writer’s Support Network.

Jane Friedman outlines 5 Principles for Using Facebook.

Jody Hedlund has 3 Ways To Find the Perfect Opening For Your Story.

And James V Smith Jr explains The Dos and Don’ts of Novel Endings.



I Read, Therefore I Am

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve found that one of the biggest drawbacks to being a professional writer is that all of the time I spend at the keyboard, or staring at the wall, or walking around in a seeming daze as I work out just how high up a tree I’m going to chase my character and how sharp the rocks that I throw at him are going to be-well, let’s just say that it really cuts into my reading time.  (How’s that for a first sentence?)  And that puts me on the horns of a dilemma, so to speak:  because I really really really want to write, and I also really really really want to read.

I’ve always been a reader, for as far back as I can remember.  Partly genetics-Mom was a pretty avid reader-and partly environment:  for a lot of reasons, I typically didn’t have many friends growing up, so I turned to books to fill the void.

I’ve said before that I came to a desire to write relatively late.  I was not someone who knew he was going to be a writer at age 8, or 12, or 18, or even 28.  But my reading prepared me for it nonetheless.  I estimate I’d read 2000-plus novels by age 21, and kept on at an increasing pace.  Somewhere along the way I soaked up a lot about writing, so that when I did finally begin writing, I had observed many examples of the craft, good and bad; all of which stood me in good stead.

When I finally did begin writing, I also began to read writers writing about writing.  It wasn’t too long before I ran into a comment that worried me:  an author stated that when he was writing a novel, he didn’t dare read anyone else’s fiction, because he didn’t want to run the risk of his work being affected by another author’s work and style.

I was new enough in the craft, and the author who made the comment was someone I liked well enough, that I accepted it as almost gospel.  I immediately tried to change my habits so that I only read non-fiction while I was writing.  And it didn’t work.  I don’t mind non-fiction-I occasionally go on non-fiction binges, in fact.  But I can’t live in non-fiction.  I can’t lose myself in a story in non-fiction.  So I kept sneaking away to some of my favorite authors and reading favorite chapters over again, feeling guilty, and all the while worried that I was somehow ruining my writing by doing so.  (Truth is, I wasn’t good enough to sell yet so it didn’t matter, but my mind didn’t know that.)

Then some time later, I read an interview with another author I liked who was asked if he read other fiction while he was writing novels.  His response was words to the effect of, “Sure!  Doesn’t everyone?”

Great relief!  My guilt evaporated, and I started enjoying fiction again while I was writing.  And the take-away I got from that experience was that there is no One True Way when it comes to writing methods and styles and practices.  Whatever works for me is what will work for me, and it may or may not work for you.  What matters is that we find what works for each one of us, and that we write.  To quote Kipling:

There are nine and sixty ways
Of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!

So I still read lots of fiction.  Not as much as I used to, though, because the writing really does take away a lot of the time I used to devote to reading.  And sometimes when I’m reading I do still feel a little guilty, but it’s usually because I know I should be pounding the keys to finish my current project.

I’ve concluded that the reading provides the loam from which my stories sprout.  Or maybe a better metaphor is the reading is what the muse uses to charge up the batteries of my writing engine.  If I don’t read, I don’t write.

Pardon me; I just bought the latest novel by Elizabeth Moon.  I need to go charge up my batteries some more.