Saturday, June 28, 2014

A sense of place

It's almost the eve of our summer vacation, which this year is a trip to France and Belgium, including bucket-list items like staying on Mont-Saint-Michel. Not familiar? It's this place:

Yeah. This place. Swoon. 

And it got me thinking about all the ways that *place* matters in fiction. It was at a Dean Wesley Smith workshop where I first learned that "setting is the opinion of a character." Meaning, the setting that your characters are in can be reflected through the way they think about the place. Not just objective facts, but the subjective reality of each character's thoughts and opinions about where they are. 

This lesson was really driven home to me in a class I took with Mary Robinette Kowal (awesome classes, Dean's too, highly recommend if you can swing it. Both offer online classes.) Mary had us do one exercise of just free-write describing the room we were in. No rules, just writing. THEN after that free-write period was over, she had us go back and free-write the description of the room *from the perspective of a firefighter.* Different room, entirely. No more about the color and subtle lighting or the contents of the bookshelves. Instead it was points of entry/exit, flash points of flammables (all those books!) It was a fascinating exercise and one I encourage you to do. It may be the standard fare of creative writing classes in college, but I never took a creative writing class in college, I came to writing later in life. I needed the lesson! 

So places in fiction matter quite a lot. And the way our characters think about them is a great way for us to introduce aspects of character to the reader. I often make it hard for myself. Much of my books are set in space, mostly aboard spaceships and space stations. I can't easily weave in natural details of the foothills when I'm talking about a spaceship the size of a school bus. But again, the setting is the opinion of the character. Here's a bit from my novel CONVERGENCE, which is coming out in paperback this summer! 

Anya watched each person slip through the membrane, their bodies disappearing through the opaque barrier bit by bit, first a foot, a leg, one arm, a torso, last the trailing arm and wisps of hair. They membrane swallowed each person whole, like the belly of a jellyfish. Anya stifled a shudder. It would be her turn soon enough. 
Her parents went next. "Bowden, Madeline. Bowden, Zach," the door hushed. 
Swallowing, Anya prepared to go through. She eyed the membrane warily, wondering if it was all just a ruse and if she was going to find herself swallowed whole by some gigantic space-beast. She hoped the digestive enzymes would kill her quickly. She sighed and stepped up as the last of her dad's brown hair disappeared. 
Hopefully one of the things conveyed by this bit of description is Anya's overall wariness about the space station (the membrane is between the transport ship she arrived on and the space station proper.) Earlier paragraphs included much teen pouty-ness about being dragged off-planet to live on a space station. Poor kid, you feel for her already, don't you? :)

How have you woven a sense of place into your fiction? How do you find the characters illuminating aspects of their character by showing how they feel about their setting?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The History of Food - again.

This week's post is a repeat. I don't have time to write a new post, because tomorrow my friend and I and her two daughters are leaving for a week and a half long camping road trip. We start in San Diego and go straight to Monterey, and then will pretty much be driving the coast all the way up to Redwoods National Park near the Oregon border - with a stop for my brother's wedding in San Francisco this weekend.

Yes, we are insane. But I'm completely excited, especially since my sister and her daughter are joining us after San Francisco. It's Girl Power Camping 2014!  (Subtitle: how much does Sabrina really like small children? Let's test by putting her in a car with them for many, many hours on end!)

Just kidding - I've known these kids their whole lives. I'm really, really looking forward to it.

So while I go freak out about how much I have to do before I leave, please enjoy this post from November 2011.


I have a new favorite website.

I was mining through the fabulous list of articles over at the SFWA website, and I came across this website regarding the history of food.

The main feature of a site is a timeline with the most basic origins of food and recipes, with articles giving the details of each. Who knew, for example, that mozzarella sticks have been around since the 14th Century? Or that chocolate covered potato chips pre-date chocolate covered pretzels? Or that it took humanity until the 16th century to figure out that you could use eggs as a raising agent (such as meringue)?

The very first thing on the timeline is water, which cracks me up. This addition of water seems to hint that there was some point in human history in which water was not consumed. But I suppose that the creators of the site just wanted another excuse to link to the articles on food at the Cambridge site.

The good folks of Cambridge have written a large number of articles for a book called The Cambridge World History of Food. I'm sure that all of them are extremely fascinating, if they weren't clogged with the worst use of jargon I've encountered in a long time (and I read a lot of scientific journal articles). For example, the following passage on rice"The origin of rice was long shrouded by disparate postulates because of the pantropical but disjunct distribution of zzzzzzzzzzzz"

That, of course, being the point where my eyes glazed over. The article on water is even worse:

"Even earlier ideas of water as one of the four (or five) elements will mislead us, for in many such schemes elements were less fundamental substances than dynamic principles (e.g., in the case of water, the dynamic tendency is to wet things, cool them, and dissolve them) or generic labels for regular combinations of qualities. In one strand of Aristotelianism, for example, water can be understood as matter possessing the qualities of being cold and wet…."

Uh, right. As my lawyer friend commented, "This article can be understood as possessing the qualities of being obvious and stupid." That’s right, folks, this passage makes even her brain hurt.

But I digress. I was particularly fascinated by some examples, like the fact that ketchup has its origins in Asia. My lawyer friend tells me that I should spell it as "catsup," because "ketchup" is a trademarked brand that has fallen into general usage, and I told her to stop reading over my shoulder. Anyway, ketchup at its origins could really be made with any vegetables, and apparently, it was at one time a close race between tomato and eggplant ketchup. I, for one, am relieved.

Seriously though, there's a lot of really great information there. It is in no way a complete or thorough guide to food history, but it's a good starting point, and as all good websites will be, lots and lots of fun. It's certainly inspired me to look more into the topic.Or to try my own vegetable ketchup recipe. Brussel sprouts, your day has come at last.

Let us close with another passage from the Cambridge water chapter:
"It is probably right to see this linkage of macrocosm and microcosm as something more than analogical; such linkages would remain a part of popular understanding even after the rise of a mechanistic cosmology in the seventeenth century."

For the rest of this holiday season, may both your microcosm and macrocosm continue to be so much more than analogical.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How I Outlined Funny Tragic Shadowed Magic By Accident.

It took me eight years to write my first four novels. In that time I had three kids, so I guess that makes sense.

 My fourth novel Funny Tragic Crazy Magic was the best novel I knew how to write at the time, and I published it. It did really well, especially for a first novel. It spent eight weeks in the top 10,000 on Amazon, the lowest it got was 3,450 something. And it's still selling, that's the exciting thing.

The number one feedback I heard from everyone who read it,  was my favorite question-- Are you going to write a sequel?

When I wrote it, I was very satisfied with the ending, and felt it was a stand alone book. However, publishing has taught me a lot, and the number one thing, is that if the reader isn't satisfied, then you can't be either.

So I looked into it, and they were so right. HOLY COW, THERE IS SO MUCH STORY THERE. I even started writing the sequel, got a few thousand words into it, but I knew it was the wrong path. It was stressful too, I guess. I didn't know how to write a sequel. I didn't want people to be disappointed, and I wanted a sequel I could be proud of, that FTCM deserved.

And I had different stories pounding on my head.

In the year and three months since publishing FTCM, I've written four novels. Granted I three of those novels were Prophecy Breakers, (whazup ladies!) so I didn't do it alone. But I've learned a lot in that time. I've learned from Sabrina and Melanie. I've learned from Waxling. I've learned from my amazing betas, and mostly I've learned from my  AWESOME readers. I love that feedback the very best. I love seeing what they want, what they need from the story. And I've studied, practiced, and written about 250,000 words all on my own. Kinda crazy when you add them all up. I've been working really hard this year.

About a week ago I was on Pintrest (obviously working hard) and one pin I pinned almost a year ago had a comment by a reader I've never met.  (Hi Madison!)

 Well, that comment got me thinking... just one more time. Since the last time I approached FTCM's sequel, I've written a sequel (with help). But I know more now. So now, Sheena, what are we going to do for the sequel?

Yes, I talk to myself in third person.

Anyway, an idea fell out.

Not just an idea, the right idea. I knew it the second I thought it. This was the idea I was waiting for.

Photo: Plotting the sequel to Funny Tragic Crazy Magic.  Yes the handwritten way on a credit card application envelope.

I tried to catch it on the closest piece of paper I could find (a junk mail envelope). My husband took a picture with his phone and then posted it on my author page, and people got excited. (I don't know why, it is not a flattering photo) I had more page views for that goofy picture than I've had in months, and a couple of my amazing readers started sending me private messages, responding, encouraging me.

The next day I was scrolling facebook (again being really productive) and one of my writer friends posted this link, a simple novel outline-9 questions for 25 chapters.

I could do nine questions. I could do simple outline. I know the idea, so I could totally do this.  I got out my envelope and opened a file, and started answering the questions and filled out my simple outline. It helped that I had figured out my 8-character-archetypes on that envelope, and that I knew my hero, and my hero's goal, and set up the whole story idea around those goals. It was easy, took maybe ten minutes to answer those questions and figure out all the chapter headings. Simple.

 At the bottom of that article, there was another link to an article,Quick Overview of The Heros Journey, and it said that this simple outline works really well with the Hero's Journey. SO... simple. Quick. Easy.  I could do that. I clicked the link, and made a few simple adjustments and amplifications of my simple outline so it fit within that Journey. This took another ten minutes, but it was fun and simple.

There was another link on the side of that blog about the snowflake method, but it wasn't super helpful to me, so I googled it, found this snowflake-method link, and before I knew it, (okay, so it took three days and several hours of work), I'd filled out the first eight steps of the snowflake method, until I knew the story backwards and forwards. I could fix story structure before I wrote. CRAZY CONCEPT for me, and I knew all the characters, and why they did everything they are about to do. I had a list of necessary scenes, and chapters. Before I knew I had done it, I wrote 10,000 words of a detailed outline.

So that's kinda crazy.

And my betas, my beautiful amazing betas haven't finished reading Pyromancy yet, so I can't really work on the next one, and Waxling is tricky because of story structure problems that an outline would have fixed, and I have stressful things coming up and needed to escape, so I kinda sorta started writing Funny Tragic Shadowed Magic. I'm five chapters in, and it's the right beginning. It's going to be awesome.

It's weird though writing from an outline. It's weird knowing all the details, and the twists and turns of the story that are coming up. But it's given me so much more confidence in the details of the story. I know these people already, and I know that their story line will make sense, so I get to sit behind their heads and play there. It's cool, because since I know all the settings, all the characters, I don't have to use my mental energy to create them at the time, so I find I can write more in a sitting, and really enjoy the language, and the voice of the character.

Outlining is actually fun. Who knew? I'm loving being able to creating twists and turns without risk of failure. I can throw out any plot twist or do any twisted thing my broken brain can come up with and see where it leads. I know no one will ever read that outline, so I don't have to work on the language, don't have to work on making it sound pretty, or think about the weight of an audience on my shoulders while I make the major decisions, and it makes writing easier. There is no block, because I know what comes next. If I'm in the mood to write an action scene, or an angsty scene, or a kissing scene, I know right were they go, and I can just write what I want, and know where the characters are in their journey.

Which will be SO helpful to battle against the obsession that is the world of Prophecy Breakers. Once the betas get Pyromancy back to us, I can jump back in and play, and know exactly where to go next when I come back to it. All this work in one paper, so I won't forget it.

So this is what I've learned this week. I'm putting the pants away. Perhaps for good.

And one more thing...a sequel is coming. I'm working on it as we speak.

Thank you, Madison, for commenting. You never know the power of one kind word.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A few awesome links...

I don't know about you, but whenever I sit down at the computer to educate myself on marketing strategies for self-published authors, I end up just watching cat videos. And I don't even particularly LIKE cat videos. (Except this one...I LOVE this one.)

But this is important, people! We could be the best writers since Shakespeare and no one will ever find out if we suck at marketing. So my plan for this week was to carefully research great marketing strategies to share with you. 

But... as previously stated, my attention span for marketing articles is pretty short, but I did make it through this one about indie published books into bookstores. I REALLY want to give this a try. Read it. See what you think.


Much more interesting to me is this article a friend sent to me about the uproar over adults reading YA books. Its premise is that adults in the 20s and 30s were raised to believe they could conquer the world and then the world kicked them in the teeth. The economy tanked, finding even a crappy job is difficult and they've been kind of forced into this land of perpetual childhood. Of course (says the writer) they identify more with YA themes of finding themselves. 

I'm interested to know if you agree. It doesn't really fit MY life. Why do I read YA when I'm over 40?  I'm definitely not in a state of perpetual childhood. Sabrina says to love what you love and don't feel guilty about it, and she's absolutely right, and I don't feel guilty about it. What I feel is curious. Why do most adult books leave me cold? 

For example, someone said, "Hey adults! If you loved Harry Potter, you should try The Magicians." So I did. And it was awful, and dark, and pretentious, and I stopped midway through when I realized it really wasn't going to get better.  

If you are a lover of YA books, have you read any great books for adults lately? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's the Best Soundtrack for your Writing?

I'm not talking about what music would play best behind the movie version of your story. I'm talking about what you listen to while you write. Of course everyone will have different tastes and different answers, but I'd like to present a few styles you may not have considered.

First off, I'll say that I usually prefer music without lyrics. It does me no good to occupy the language portion of my brain while I'm trying to generate words. If the music is in a foreign language, like the Amadou and Mariam I'm listening to right now, that's usually okay because my brain doesn't even try to translate.

One exception to my 'no lyrics' rule is that if I'm really tired and need a boost I'll put on something I can dance to – literally. I dance for a song or two, get my blood pumping and then sit down to write. And no, I can't dance for squat, but I do it anyway. It's fun, and will sometimes keep you working that little bit longer when you've already had a rough day at work and are trying to churn out a few hundred more words before turning in.

Movie and video game soundtracks make excellent writing music. It's best if you can find a soundtrack that suits the mood of the scene you're working on. Sometimes a soundtrack's mood will swing wildly because of a character turn or a quirky scene. Consider making a playlist and editing out anything that might bounce you out of the creative writing mood you're trying to set. Video game soundtracks are less likely to have such a big swing because the play of most games is fairly consistent. If the game has a dramatic story, the swings of emotion usually happen in the cut scenes, not in the main soundtrack.

Classical music is a close cousin to movie soundtracks. It's not my personal favorite, but I know some people swear by it.

One of my favorite types of music for writing is drumming and percussion. No flutes or high pitched singing for me, please. Just pure drumming. Drum circle with strong djembe influence is some of my favorite. There are drumming styles from all over the world to choose from. This type of music, usually with the volume fairly low, provides a nice motivational rhythm that keeps me moving forward. If you want specific recommendations here, feel free to ask in the comments.

If I need something that feels modern and upbeat, I often turn to Afro-pop. It falls in the same vein as US rock and blues without those annoying English lyrics that block my brain. Again, there's a whole planet's worth of pop to choose from. You need to find what suits you best.

Of course, that's the biggest answer of all. You have to do what's right for you. If blasting speed metal at top volume gets your creative juices flowing, by all means go for it. But I think it's worth it to try different things to see how you, and your writing, respond. If you have a used music store in your neighborhood, by all means, check out their cheap bin or the international section. If you're lucky enough to live in a city with an Amoeba Music, you're golden.

Whatever music you choose - Rock On and Happy Writing!

Note: On June 30th and July 1st, I'm going to be at Vandenberg Air Force Base to cover the launch of NASA¹s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). I will be tweeting everything live. If you're interested, you can follow me on Twitter @TrinaMPhillips.

Second Note: The advanced writer's workshop I'm attending, Taos Toolbox, runs from July 6th -19th. I'll tweet interesting tidbits from there as often as I can, depending on the workload.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Snow White and the Assassin's Guild - now available on Kobo and Nook!

Just a quick post (family in town, it's like a three ring circus WITH the carnival around here!) to mention that my short story Snow White and the Assassin's Guild is now available for sale on Kobo and on Nook!

I had a blast writing this story. Good for ages 10 and up (some death and mayhem.) It's 99c on all markets.

Here's the linky love:

Buy it on Kobo

Buy it on Nook

And if you DO read it, could you please do a review and/or rating? Here's the kindle link, too. As a short story, it's not going to be available in print until I do a collection, sorry! But ebook short stories are PERFECT to read on cell phones and the like. :) Enjoy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Love what you love

Hi, my name is Sabrina, and I have a problem. You see, I have a bad habit of clicking on links that I'm well aware that will make me angry. Like the following!
Against YA: Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.

So never mind the title's inherent contradictory nature (read whatever, unless it's something I as the writer deem to be inappropriate!). I mean, I've read dozens of articles about how children's literature is supposedly inferior. And I know how wrong it is, even without reading all the multiple well thought-out rebukes to the specific linked article above.

No, aside from that, I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about shame in regards to what we love.

It's not the first time I've talked about shame or guilt in regards to loving genre fiction. In any case, I should be long accustomed to strangers telling me that what I like isn't good enough, that what makes me happy is somehow inferior or inadequate. But it's difficult to ditch habits, and to stop worrying about what other people think.

But I'm working on it. Because really, shame is a terrible reason not to enjoy something that you love. Think about it: once you decide to classify something you love as inadequate or shameful, it doesn't decrease your love for that thing. Instead, you're often left with two states of mind: guilty enjoyment, or full-on guilt. And as I've said before, what use is it to let others determine what makes you happy? Happiness is such a rare, precious thing. So don't be afraid to do whatever it is that makes you happy, even if every other person you know tells you that the thing is somehow inferior. Because you're not doing it for them. You're doing it to make you happy.

Not anyone else.

And never let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Progress Report.

We're about to send Pyromancy to the betas, and there's been an odd week here, where Melanie and I are done but we're waiting for Sabrina to give it a once over before we send it, so there's a vacancy of WIPs, for me.

 In some ways it's nice. I've read a bunch of amazing books, including Code Name Verity, which broke my brain and my heart at the same time. (I've since forced three separate women I know and love to READ this book.) But the absence has made me bring out Waxling again.

I've blogged about Waxling before. A few of you beautiful readers were even my betas for it.

I'll tell the rest of you what the betas came back with. It's a good story with major structural problems. And it took me a couple of months away to really digest the beta's comments, and figure out all the solutions.

So now, I'm applying the solutions and I'm happy with it. Sort of. The main problem, is that story tells two love stories, and it's a short book, and simply put-- that's too much love story into one book. One love story needs to be the star, so I've decided to back seat one of the love stories, which sounds dirtier than it is.

 Ha. I'm sorry, Mom. Anyway.

I'm getting to the point in the story where I have to delete stuff that I love, and I just don't want to and you can't make me.

 I keep thinking maybe I can just lose this paragraph, or chapter, or sentence, and the story will be just fine. I agree with my own thoughts, which is you know...helpful, and my mind and my outline all make sense, and I go to the text and highlight, and I just can't press delete. I created a separate file, so I can save it to put it in a later chapter, but I go to the file, highlight the words, press control c, and then can't do it.

They say you should kill your darlings. They say you shouldn't be so attached to any sentence or word that it hurts to cut them, or that you do whatever you can to serve the story and get the story out there, but I say, please don't make me cut this chapter. Please don't make me lose this line that I love, even if it makes the story better without it.

So it just sits there, in a file, waiting for me to be brave enough to break it.

Now the story has more structural problems than ever before. It's half way fixed, and half way broken. I love it and want everyone to read it, and it's broken and no one can read it until it's finished. I know how to finish it, but it means breaking my heart to do it, and no thank you. Let's watch cat videos instead.

So it's there. This story that I could finish and publish if I was just brave enough to lose a paragraph I love, or smart enough to find a reason to keep it.

I'm too close to the story now. It's too personal. It feels like taking my name off of it.

Writing is really hard work. It breaks your heart sometimes.

I'll take a breath.

 Kiss me, Hardy. Kiss me quick.

I just clicked delete.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Screwing Up Alexandria

Yesterday Screwing Up Alexandria was released! This is the third book in the Screwing Up Time series. I think Screwing Up Time might have been the first book I ever bought when I got my own kindle, and it is still one of my favorites. I had the opportunity to beta read Screwing Up Alexandria, and absolutely loved it!


Image of C. M. KellerShe is awesome. Of course, I only know her through the internet, but someday she'll come to Maine to do a book signing, and we'll go out to dinner and talk like we've known each other forever. She's super interesting and smart as a whip. I'm so glad to know her.

And here's what it says about her on amazon: 
C. M. Keller is an award-winning novelist and the author of SCREWING UP TIME, SCREWING UP BABYLON, SCREWING UP ALEXANDRIA, and the short story "Screwing Up Mongolia." She loves old movies and poison rings. In her spare time, she searches for that elusive unicorn horn. Currently, she's hard at work on her next YA novel, the fourth book in Mark and Miranda's story. You can visit her author blog at


I love YA books with a male protaganist, but they can be hard to find. That, combined with the awesome historical settings and the exciting action would earn 5 stars from me. But you throw in a fun time-travelling romance, and I'm totally hooked. Screwing Up Alexandria would be a great book to read all by itself. But Screwing Up Time is only .99 at amazon right now, so I recommend the whole series! 

Mark Montgomery's life is easy until he meets Miranda, "with her I-just-escaped-from-a-Renaissance-Fair clothing. Only, she hasn't. She has come from Bodiam Castle in the Middle Ages and demands a secret ingredient and a book of recipes for traveling through the treacherous colors of time. Although Mark has never even heard of either before, he must find them, or Miranda will die. To save her, Mark must break into a psych hospital to visit his grandfather who once tried to kill him, pass through the colors of time, take on a medieval alchemist, prevent Miranda's marriage to a two-timing baron, and keep it all hidden from his parents." 

Babylon, one of the most powerful and notorious empires ever, is the last place Mark wants to go. But when he discovers his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given to the king as a concubine, he travels through the colors of time to rescue her. It won’t be easy, not when the Hanging Gardens are a trap, his life is the prize in a game, and time is a prison. It will take all Mark’s cunning, the help of his friends, and a crazed chimp to free Miranda. When he does, time itself begins to unravel, and a life must be sacrificed or no one will survive.

And my personal favorite...
When Mark comes home from Babylon with a coded tablet, he never dreams someone would be willing to kill to get it. But they are. So Mark and Miranda kidnap an ancient cryptographer named Nin and take her to the Library of Alexandria to decipher it. 

The search for the truth of the tablet takes all of them to the most dangerous time on earth. And when Nin ends up on an altar surrounded by blood-thirsty crowds, only Mark can save her. But he’s blind.


* While much of this novel takes place in Alexandria, Mark and Miranda also travel to the future and to ancient Uruk. I didn’t know much about Uruk when I started the book, but it’s a fascinating place and is known as “the Venice of the ancient world.”

*Often people ask how you keep a story fresh when you're writing a long series. I think that's a great question because it is one of the biggest challenges. But writing time travel is great because it gives me opportunities to explore new cultures and new people. In book one, Mark explored the Middle Ages and got to meet Miranda. In book two, he and Miranda went to Babylon and met Niri. In book three, Mark explores Alexandria, Uruk, and the future while meeting Nin and a whole host of secondary characters including a zoo keeper (until I started researching, I didn’t know that the library at Alexandria had a zoo) and a Jack Sparrow lookalike.

*People ask why I chose Alexandria as a setting. I’ve always been fascinated by the amazing library at Alexandria, where they tried to collect all knowledge of the ancient world. Can you imagine walking the halls? Reading the scrolls? Talking to the researchers? (I love libraries!)

*Was this book harder to write than the others? In some ways it was the easiest because after being in the characters' heads for so long,  I really know them and their voices. But even more, in my personal life, my family was going through a lot of scary health crises and sometimes it was bliss to be able to escape all my stresses and go to Alexandria, Uruk, and even the future with Mark and Miranda. And there's nothing like shooting a Taser at an evil character for some serious stress release.

*Yesterday, a writing friend emailed me and said, "Do you know Screwing Up Alexandria is number one in sales in one of its Amazon categories?" I didn't. That was so cool. I can't wait to see what today brings.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writer, What Are You Scared Of?

This next scene is going to be hard. I don't know if this is coming out right. I don't think anyone is going to like this story. People are going to hate me if I write this. I can't be this mean to my characters. What if I screw it up? I don't know how to do X effectively.

Any of these fears sound familiar? Feel free to add your own.

When fear strikes, the page remains blank. I think most writers have been there. Sometimes we'll say we're stuck when really, we're just afraid to write the next scene. Next time you're stuck, look closely at the root of the problem and see if fear is lurking down deep somewhere. I'll tell you something. When we let fear stop us, we are being fools.

Think about it. Say you forge ahead and you write something absolutely awful. Not the awful invented by the doubts in your head but truly lousy writing. What harm has been done? You don't have to show it to anyone. And if writing something bad is part of your process and moves you forward to the point where you write something good, then the bad writing was a good thing.

More than once I've started a story and failed to get the right tone. I can't move forward when this happens. I have to get the initial attitude right before I continue. So I write another opening, and another. Usually by the second or third try I'll get it right. But if I sit with only a blank page and it stays blank because I'm afraid, I'll never get it right. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket, and you can't edit if you don't write.

My next bit of advice is easier said than done. Write Fearlessly! Every day the media is filled with things they tell us to be afraid of. Don't eat this, don't buy that, be scared of this obscure danger. We've been raised in and are consistently subjected to a culture of fear. It's all balderdash! And of all things, you have complete control over your writing. You decide what to write and when it's ready to share with the world. Even your deepest, darkest secrets on the page can't hurt you unless you let them. Your only concern should be bringing forth the truth of your story. Some people will like it, some won't. So be it. That's the truth of everything in this world. Fear has no place in your writing heart. Banish it whenever it rears its ugly head.

Be stronger than the fear. And if it beats you once, kick its ass the next time. Rinse and repeat until you are the awesome writer you strive to be.

In fact, I think I'm going to make a sign, Fear is a Stupid Pooty-head, and post it right above my monitor. ;-)