Do You Wait Till Things Get #Interesting ?

I’m not big on Author Fan pages on Facebook, don’t have one myself (haven’t written anything worth a page. So far, anyway). But I ‘Liked’ Elizabeth Gilbert’s page at random and haven’t regretted it.

Writing about interesting things

When things get Interesting

Yesterday, I saw a post on her page I want to share with everyone (who hasn’t seen it yet, cos she has a gazillion followers):

Somebody asked me the other day if writing was easy for me.

When I hesitated with my answer, they asked, “I mean…has it gotten easier over time, as you’ve gotten better at it?”

And still I hesitated with my answer. Because the truth is, I’ve never asked my work to be “easy”; I just want it to be interesting.

(By which I mean — I want my writing to be interesting for ME. If, as a side effect, my work eventually becomes interesting to you, that’s awesome. But mostly, I am just trying to interest and educate and occupy and challenge and delight myself.)

Often writing is indeed quite difficult for me. But I’m not sure that’s the point, and I know it’s definitely not a problem, because all the really interesting things in life are difficult — love, wisdom, growth, compassion, learning, travel, loyalty, courage, endurance, transformation…

The post goes on, and if you’re on Facebook, I encourage you to go read it, whether you’re a writer or not.

In my writing and in life, I’ve often found that I have to keep going, even when (especially when) I reach a breaking point. Be it writing, swimming, household chores, hiking, research– the best part is after you climb that one seemingly insurmountable hill– the other side’s where that gorgeous sunrise is at, or that wonderful dizzy feeling of making your 10th lap (I learned swimming two years ago, so), or that shiny house or that nugget of information. In writing, especially, every time I’ve pushed harder to a more painful place, or to a higher word count, I have found something worth keeping.

Because stories come to me– I don’t make them up. On days when they don’t come, I wait and I work, till they do. So, as Ms. Gilbert says:

Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking — be careful not to quit too soon. Don’t quit the moment it stops being easy, OK? Because that moment? If you stay in it and then stubbornly push past your fear and resistance? That’s the moment where INTERESTING begins.

Do you stick at stuff till you reach ‘Interesting’ answers, levels, revelations? Any experience you want to talk about when you quit, or when you didn’t quit and came upon something worthwhile? Heard of Elizabeth Gilbert? What are your thoughts on her?

What is #Narrative #Nonfiction? #amwriting

Through the months of December and January, some fab writers have taken over Daily (w)rite and spoken about the art and craft of writing. Check out the posts by Suchen Christine Lim, Sarah Butler, Scott Bryson, Eeleen Lee and Suzy Vitello for some excellent discussions and tips on fiction writing.

Today, I welcome Trish Nicholson. She has a great blog, and her latest offering, Write Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author

is on my TBR pile. If you’re intrigued by Narrative Non-fiction, I urge you to check it out. Take it away, Trish!


Writing Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author

Writing Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author

What is Narrative Nonfiction?
I’ve noticed lately how often I write the phrase ‘applies equally to fiction and nonfiction’. Having had a book on story craft (Inside Stories for Writers and Readers) published last year, and now, a guide to writing and publishing a nonfiction book, the comparison is highlighted.

The fundamental difference, of course, is that nonfiction is not made up; it is based on verifiable facts, which provide its power to inform and influence as well as to entertain.

Because of this, the process requires careful research and planning – we cannot launch into a flight of fancy – but what of the writing craft, voice, structure, imagery?
We can’t invent, but that doesn’t mean we don’t use our imagination, and it is important that we do, because our brains have evolved to understand life around us as stories – narratives – with causes and effects creating and resolving conflicts, producing outcomes. Research into the psychology of reading confirms that our attitudes and behaviour can be changed by our emotional involvement in a story: it stimulates empathy. We understand and learn best through storytelling.

Significantly, this applies also to nonfiction that is written in a style to enlist a reader’s feelings, especially by the presence of ‘characters’ depicted in the narrative. In the US, the term ‘creative nonfiction’ describes the use of story techniques to factual situations, especially for essays and memoir, but the author is central to the composition: an event is explored through the personal experience of the writer. This may not be appropriate to all nonfiction subjects – e.g. for writing histories, biographies, text books, or documentaries with a wider focus. Here, the author may be the narrator, but his or her inner state is not the principal issue. So instead, I use the term ‘narrative nonfiction’.

Narrative nonfiction employs story craft, such as plotting to build tension, deep characterisation, and imaginative description, to present facts in a form that stimulates readers’ senses and engages them emotionally. Learning facts does not have to be a dry, mind-numbing experience. Today, publishers and readers expect to be enthralled, not bludgeoned, by information.

Although Write Your Nonfiction Book guides writers through the whole process – refining an idea, research, writing, editing, implementing publishing options, and marketing – the emphasis is on narrative style, and how to achieve reader-engagement for a wide range of nonfiction genres. And because technology allows writers from almost anywhere in the world to offer their books in the global market-place, I encourage these voices to be heard more widely by providing information that is, as far as possible, international.

Why not let the world hear your voice?


Trish Nicholson narrative non fiction

Trish Nicholson

About Trish Nicholson: Dr Trish Nicholson is a writer, photographer, social anthropologist, and author of short stories, and narrative nonfiction on ethnography, travel, popular science and writing craft. Her latest titles are, Inside Stories for Writers and Readers, and Write Your Nonfiction Book: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Author. You can connect with her on Twitter, @TrishaNicholson, and follow her blog at


       As a reader, what are  some of your favorite non fiction narratives and why?

           If you’re a nonfiction author, what tips would you give a beginner??

What Do Fish Think?

Fishy thoughts

Fish Thoughts

I love my aquariums, and they sometimes work into my fiction writing process.

I fixed new lights on one of my aquariums yesterday. Watching the fish glow under the LED, slow down and hover because this light makes shadows inside the aquarium, mimicking their natural environment, I began to wonder: what do fish think– what are the thoughts that blink up and light their tiny little minds? Do they think at all? What if we knew their thoughts?

And as any writer knows, ‘What if’s can sometimes lead to great stories.

I went back to look for instances of when my fish have inspired me, and found this old blog post— the writers amongst you might identify with it:

As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.


What do Fish think? Have you ever wondered what your pets think about, the cat, your dog, that hamster? Has your pet ever inspired you to create art or stories?

Dear Author, Are You Writing a Series?

Through the months of November and December, some fab writers would take over Daily (w)rite. I still have a few slots open for December, so I would welcome guest posts by writers who have something to say about the art, craft, and business of writing. Write me a mail at atozstories at gmail dot com to discuss this.

Today, I welcome Rick Gualtieri. He has a great blog, and his latest offering, , Sunset Strip is on my TBR pile (Just look at that gorgeous cover!). It is a 60k words of paranormal fantasy with attitude, and is now available Kindle, Nook, Kobo . If you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. Take it away, Rick!

Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill

Sunset Strip by Rick Gualtieri

Surviving a Series

 I’ve just released the fifth book in a horror/comedy series I’ve been writing.  I’m lucky in that it’s been well-received by readers and has developed a bit of a following.  There’re few better feelings for a writer than receiving a message asking when the next book will be coming out. At the same time, it’s not all wine and roses. It’s very possible to suffer from series burn-out. There’s also the ever-present fear of ‘jumping the shark’, where everything afterward doesn’t quite reach the highpoints that came before.  In short there’re plenty of challenges for series authors. In between writing mine and reading others, though, I’ve come up with some suggestions that hopefully you might find useful.

 –        Know where you’re going.  A series should have a destination in mind.  Even if it’s not an ultimate destination, there should be a culmination to story arcs in mind before starting anew.  Closure is good and gives readers a sense of satisfaction.  Without that sense of direction, your multi-book epic adventure could start to seem aimless. Treat your series like a singular story, except each book represents a chapter.  Make sure you have a coherent beginning, middle, and end when it’s all viewed as a whole.

        Change is good, as long as it’s not for the sake of change.  Mix things up, kill characters, introduce new ones, and have the survivors grow as a result – as long as it makes sense for the story.  The same thing over and over again is comfortable, but can rapidly become boring.  Just make sure when you change it, you know where you’re going with it.

        Don’t milk it.  While you wouldn’t be the first writer to throw a few extra books into a series to keep the old cash cow alive, remember that readers aren’t stupid.  If it’s filler, people will realize it. Go to that well too often and don’t be surprised when readers react to the announcement of the next chapter with apathy rather than excitement.  If your series is reaching its end, go for it and go big.  Don’t put off the inevitable just because you hope to squeeze people for a few more bucks.

        It’s okay to take a break.   You may get some grousing, but it’s perfectly okay to work on a different story in between series volumes.  You need to respect your readers, but that doesn’t mean they should dictate what must come next.   No ideas for a different world? Consider a side story for a sub character. This can be a great way to mix things up and keep them fresh for you, while at the same time expanding upon your universe.  My latest falls into that category.  It was a nice breath of fresh air to help me recharge my batteries, while still treading familiar ground.

Writing a series can be an awesome experience in extended world-building and storytelling.  But much like a long road trip, it’s easy to get lost. If you can avoid doing so, though, you may find it personally rewarding as well as potentially lucrative.


Rick Gualtieri

Rick Gualtieri

About Rick: Rick Gualtieri lives alone in a dark, evil place called New Jersey with only his wife, three kids, and countless pets to both keep him company and constantly plot against him. When he’s not busy monkey-clicking out words, he can typically be found jealously guarding his collection of vintage Transformers from all who would seek to defile them. Defilers beware!

———  As a reader, what are some of your favorite series, and why? If you’re an author, what’s your take on surviving a series?

On what I learned from an #Author and an #Agent

Two days ago, I finished a course by Curtis Brown Agency, UK a three-day bootcamp for aspiring novelists in Singapore.

The Singapore National Arts Council  flew down Anna Davis, an author of five novels and a Curtis Brown agent who runs Curtis Brown Creative; and  bestselling author Jake Arnott, known for books like The Long Firm and The House of Rumor, to conduct this workshop.

Curtis Brown Novel Workshop Singapore

After the Curtis Brown Boot Camp Singapore

Between them, they chose 15 candidates out of 60 applications, and I got lucky. When I caught glimpses of the work of my peers, I realized how lucky– the room brimmed over with talent. I learned as much from their questions and answers as I did from some of  Jake and Anna’s comments.

In the three-day workshop Jake and Anna covered everything from Characters and Dialogue to Rewriting the Novel– they helped reinforce a lot of of my attitudes on technique.

But what helped me most were the sessions on Story, Structure, and weirdly enough (because I’m not ready for an agent by a long shot), the Agent Query letters.

Jake gave us an interesting theory of what a story is : Story occurs when character and plot meet. Story is itself the driving force, the very DNA of prose fiction. We do not tell stories. They tell us.

This led me to think about my novel– its plot which seemed to be doing too much and leading the story by the nose.

While writing the query letter (Anna surprisingly thought mine worked, though I had spent less than  two days writing it!)  and the pitch, I kept wondering what my story was about.

Anna Davis and Jake Arnott

Curtis Brown Bootcamp by Jake Arnott and Anna Davis

The 20-minute in-person tutorials with Jake and Anna told me exactly why it can be crucial to get feedback from the real pros in this business– while I’ve been flapping along like a fledgling stork with my first draft and second, they swooped in immediately like ospreys on just what the story was. Kind and perceptive, both Jake and Anna merely asked me a lot of questions– never forcing their point of view, but helping me see my work in a way I hadn’t before.

As a result, I’m now considering sweeping changes in my work, which might mean yet another complete change of direction and rewrite. And though that means a lot of new work, and a lot of old work possibly binned, I’m thrilled.

No matter what direction I take with my novel, and irrespective of whether it ever sees light of day, I learned to ask the right questions when it comes to a novel. To me, that’s invaluable.


What workshops have you taken part in? Have you ever participated in a Curtis Brown Workshop? Has a workshop ever led to major changes in your work?

What can a #Wine #Writer tell you about #AmWriting ?

Today, I welcome Alicia Bien, comedy writer, performer and wine lover, to Daily (w)rite to dole out some writing advice, which she does in her humorous, chatty writing voice. Take it away, Alicia!

“I want to write a book about Mount Everest,” I said staring at the world’s highest peak on the television screen.
“Okay,” said my husband flipping through the TV channels.
“Or maybe I’ll write about midwifery in the Middle Ages.”
“Or the Big Bang Theory. Not the TV show but the actual theory.”
“… Okay?

My husband was subtle but I knew what his hesitant “okays” really meant: Don’t touch those subjects with a 10-foot pole. Which was not to say these potential book topics were uninteresting, unmarketable or unenlightened. Rather it was his just his way of saying that yours truly didn’t know enough about any of them to write anything new without doing a decade’s worth of monk-like, committed research. This advice was writer’s gold. In fact, during the process of writing my book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, several tips proved helpful.

Evolution of a Wine Drinker by Alicia Bien

Evolution of a Wine Drinker: Alicia Bien

1)  Write what you love. Growing up in a small town I broke several bones and experienced a nasty car accident that left me nervous to drive for months. Yes, I “knew” these subjects but I didn’t want to immerse myself in their worlds to write a book about any of them. Instead I needed to write about something that I was passionate about. I’ve been drinking vino since I took a college course on it and to this day I still get excited discussing, decanting and drinking wine.

2) Embrace Structure. Books are like houses, they have a foundation and a structure that holds them up. I chose an alphabetical structure where each chapter focused on one element of wine that referred to a letter of the alphabet. The book starts with “Drinking Alone”, moves onto “Cool Chicks and Bottles”, then ends with “Zinfandel”. Once I had this A-Z structure, it clarified the path and let me focus on the exciting part: the writing.

3) Use your voice. As a head writer for a sketch show in Hollywood I dig writing comedy and dialogue and wanted to use these elements paired with my own comedic voice to write about wine. In this manner I could add something new to the canon of wine writing. Or at least have fun while doing it.

These gold nuggets of advice successfully guided me while writing my wine book. And I’ll be using them again on my next project, which just might be a book about The Big Bang Theory–the TV show not the actual theory!
Alicia Bien’s book “Evolution of a Wine Drinker” is now available at She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and adopted cat. Visit the author online at her Blog and follow on at Twitter @aliciabien

Dear Writers, Share Some Advice…?

Stein on Writing

Stein on Writing

Found a great example of Show not Tell today– ‘an evolution from telling to showing’ as Sol Stein puts it:

He took a walk.

He walked four blocks.

He walked four blocks slowly.

He walked the four blocks as if it were the last mile.

He walked as if against an unseen wind, hoping someone would stop him.

I think I’m going to tape this example to my study wall.

Have you recently found some writing advice, a concrete example, or a writing book that was helpful?