http://katelansing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/writers-block_Joanne.pngThere’s something to be said for determination, especially in the face of never-ending work and the fear of eventual failure. We writers are notorious for ending up with one or two stories that are true labors of love – stories that logic dictates we would have left off long ago, but we refuse to. We spend years tweaking plot, characters, format, structure, chapters, sentences, even syllables, sacrificing sleep and food, family time and hobbies in the pursuit of the written story we see in our heads. It is often a bitter, self-mutilating journey.

I’m not knocking it. I’m in the middle of it myself. Xoe has been my main work in progress since I was eleven. While you might not be able to set aside your heart’s story though, you as a working writer have to be disciplined enough to know when a story is workable and when it is not. As tempting as it can be, you cannot let every story be one that hangs on for years and years, especially if you’re freelancing for even a fraction of your income. Continue Reading »

Photo Prompt

I came across this image on one of my hard drives several weeks ago while I was reorganizing and was struck by the bleakness of it and the wealth of emotion that would have led up to this moment. I have no idea who the artist is, so if you do please let me know and I’ll add the appropriate credit.

What brought these two to this point? Who is the one with the gun – a member of the winning side finishing the job, or the losing side, taking vengeance? And why is the other one just standing there, his hands in his pockets, allowing himself to be shot? What kinds of things has he seen, has he done, to have so little regard for his own life?



At some point when writing fantasy you’re going to encounter a world that needs its own language. Giving a name to a tongue is easy enough, as is differentiating when characters are speaking what and distinguishing dialects. But likely at some point you’re going to want to insert at least a handful of words somewhere. I’ve found often I want to add familial relationship tags to the end of sentences in my made up languages, so the first several words I develop are usually mother, father, brother and sister.

There are tricks to creating a language, and you don’t have to go as in-depth as Tolkien did when creating Elvish to still have a world enriched by multiple tongues. You also don’t have to be a linguistics student. Consider these:


  • Don’t use random letters

Please just don’t. Your language needs to make at least a little sense, and literally have some rhyme and reason to it. Continue Reading »

Layers of Motivation

All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction. – Steve Almond


What is a story without motivation? Motivation to achieve some end, to save a loved one, to survive the storms that ravage the world without and the rocky landscape within. In every story, no matter how simplistic or complex, each character has to have his or her own motivation. Really multiple motivations would be better; multiple, ever-changing motivations. After all, you don’t go to work just because you like it, right?

Understanding all the parts of what pushes your characters in their direction is vitally important because different reasons will push and pull your character in different directions. Here are the three essential questions to ask when developing every character’s motivation:

Who wants what?

What’s at stake?

Why does it matter?

Continue Reading »

Cliffhanger-memeI’ve always thought that a well laid out cliffhanger was the mark of a talented writer, and someone who had a decent handle on what she wanted to do with a story as a whole. I know I love to hate them, but it’s usually in a way that makes me want the next piece of the puzzle. I’ve employed cliffies in my own stories, much to some readers’ enthusiastic and frustrated delight – just like I’m sure you have as well.

While doing research for this article, I was surprised to find quite a few pages advising writers, especially newbies, to stay away from cliffies. The reasons for this were varied, all the way from editors don’t like non-stand alone books to newcomers just can’t begin to master it. One person who posted to a thread made a passionate argument that she pays good money to have the writer tell her a story and that includes an actual ending. Continue Reading »


“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” ― Steven Pressfield


How true is that? We writers are gluttons for punishment because not only do we willingly submit ourselves to an unbelievable amount of negatives, but we do it over and over again. If we’re truly dedicated, we’re doing it on a regular basis but if we’re still trying to run away from the written word it happens less often. But it does still happen. And it packs a punch. You know what’s worse than dealing with self-doubt, despair and humiliation? Doing it when you’re out of practice. And yet here we are – here I am – again.

20140201_194114I would like to say I have totally valid reasons, and as it happens, I do. But I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that if something is important to you, you will make the time, not excuses. Good mentality to try and live by, that. Hard, but good. So what are my reasons? Well, try this adorable young kitty for starters. She and her four brothers and sister all like to get in my workspace for various things, like all cats. I could also say that I’ve been sick, which I have been. The all-day nausea I dealt with for almost my entire pregnancy was awful. But I’d take it back in a heartbeat if it meant a do-over. Because you know what my most valid reason is for not writing? My baby died. Continue Reading »


You know you’re a writer at heart when your subconscious response to death is to immortalize your lost loved one in a story. Especially when you haven’t written substantially or consistently for more than seven months.

It’s during these times of great strife and grief that you realize – writing isn’t just the passion to put something entertaining on paper, though that’s rewarding too. It isn’t just a need to express yourself, though that’s usually what it is when everything is okay. Writing is a coping mechanism. Writing is how we deal with things that would otherwise crush us.

Several months ago, one of my old writing professors committed suicide. His loss is nothing compared to the one I’m struggling with now. At his memorial service though I reconnected with an old friend, and we talked about how neither of us really knew he was struggling so much.

“Well, there was one big indication,” she said to me. “He was a writer. We don’t come to writing because we’re happy.”

I didn’t understand how right she was until now.


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