Saturday, May 21, 2016


Q: Dan...what made you become a writer?

A: My love of books. I've always loved reading. Books are so awesome! I have been on so many great adventures and have received so much enjoyment out of reading other people's stories that it just seemed like way too much fun to not try writing my own stories. I found out that writing was even more fun than reading, which is saying a lot for me.

Q: What is your typical writing day like?

A: I usually write while commuting to or from work using speech to text on my iPhone. I have a very easy commute with little traffic on the freeway. It's a great time to think and it's a great time to write. Writing with speech to text takes a while to get used to but I think my dialogue is better for it. If I happen to find some free time in the evening I'll get some words in then. Anytime my wife goes out with friends, or if I find some time for myself, I get some writing done. I usually do my first drafts in an app called Simplenote because it autosaves to the cloud. I can use the app on my phone or write in my browser on my laptop. It's great to pick up where I left off on another device and know it's been saved automatically. 

Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?

A: I am an outliner. If I know where the story is going in the first draft, my next draft requires less revision. I usually write down any ideas I have about the story. My subconscious works on it for a while and then the first scene comes. It often comes out all at once; even if I don't end up using it later it informs me about who the characters are. Then I write down the main plot points. I start with the 3 act structure following these headings: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, Martyr. 

In act 1 my character is an Orphan, either figuratively or literally. Once his world has changed and I'm in act 2, he's a Wanderer. Once he's passed the midpoint of the story and has gone from reacting to the problem to actively fighting against it, he's a Warrior. In act 3 he's
 come to a place where he is willing to be a Martyr to accomplish his goal. This gives me a rough shape to the character's story. Then I use the 7 point system for the structure (search on YouTube: "Dan Wells, Story Structure"). It uses: Hook, First Plot Point, Pinch Point 1, Mid-Point, Pinch Point 2, Second Plot Point, and Resolution. I also use Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet. Knowing these story points and where they go really helps me further flesh out my story. 

Once I have these story points down I decide on how long I want my book to be and how long I want the chapters to be. Then on a piece of paper I write down a line or two for each chapter using the story points. When I'm done I move this to a digital file. Granted it's only a sentence or two for each chapter but seeing the whole story on one piece of paper gives me the confidence to move forward. Sometimes filling out this page takes several sessions over the course of a few days. It's kind of like putting a puzzle together. I put each story point (or beat) in the chapter they go in because they all go at a certain point in the story. Then from there I fill in a few lines for the remaining chapters. Once every chapter is done, I usually write a paragraph or two for each chapter. I use this as a reference while I write. I often do a few of these paragraphs before writing them as full chapters. They're only a paragraph or two so I'm still able to discover a lot about my story while writing, but I always know where I'm going.

Outlining and learning story structure has helped me go from stories that meander and don't have a good flow, to stories that, at least I think, are worth publishing. The story may change and grow as I write, but I just keep fleshing out the next chapter in a paragraph or two before I write it. I'm not chained to the outline
but man, does it help me write better stories! [Note: A sample chapter outline page is included below.]

Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?

A: Short answer: as many as it takes. I've only written 3 novels and a novella, so I'm still learning. It seems after a first draft I need one revision to make the story work better and fix the plot elements. Then another revision to make sure each chapter makes sense. Then another revision to clean up the prose as best I can before giving it to beta readers. Then another revision after beta readers have given me feedback. Then I'll read it again with all the changes and make notes as I find things to fix. I'd say I need 3-5 revisions because I'm still learning a lot about writing a great story, but I'm hoping that number will go down as I get more novels under my belt. Using the outlining methods I described above seems to help me skip the first revision where I make huge sweeping changes to fix the plot.

Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?

A: When editing your manuscript read it in a different format than the way you wrote it. Some people print it off, others read it in a different program. I am used to reading e-books in my Kindle app on my phone so I make my book into a Kindle file and read it on my phone. In the Kindle app you can highlight things and make comments. I have found these tools to work perfectly for marking things that need to be fixed. I make a note and then just keep reading. Once I've built up a bunch of comments I go back into my manuscript and make those edits. But reading your book in a way that looks different from the program you wrote it in helps your brain see mistakes that it might otherwise overlook. Another great tip is to read your work out loud. It's pretty easy to have Siri read an e-book to me on my iPhone, so that's what I do. It helps me hear all kinds of mistakes my eyes might have skipped. 

Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?

A: In sixth grade my teacher used to have us do timed writes. At the beginning of the year she had us write for 5 minutes. It felt like forever. She just said "Write about whatever. Just write." By the end of the year she had us writing for 20 minutes. When she said stop it felt like we had just started. Now when I sit down to write, the words just flow. I'm forever grateful for that teacher. Do your own writing sprints. Start with 5 minutes. Write about whatever. Just get used to writing. Once that feels like nothing, do 7 or 10 minutes. Work your way up to 20 minutes. If you do this you will build the habit of sitting down and writing and the words will flow. Now I can just sit down and start writing immediately. The other best tip I ever heard was to turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft and keep writing until you finish your story. A lot of writers have been rewriting the first chapter of their novel for years trying to get it perfect. You might end up cutting the first chapter once you're done with the book. Don't worry if everything you write seems like it's crap. Even the pros feel that way sometimes. Keep going and finish your story. You can always go back and edit it as many times as you need to make it perfect later, but you need to finish your stories.

Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?

A: I used to. But now that I outline and know where I'm going, I don't. That said there are times when I'm outlining and can't figure out a part of the story. I just keep thinking about it and trying to figure out what would work best. I keep thinking about the problem of what should happen next throughout my day. Eventually my subconscious figures it out and at a random point in time it comes to me and I write it down and continue outlining. 

Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?

A: Science fiction and fantasy are my favorite genres to read so that's what I usually write. I occasionally write thrillers and literary fiction too but have only done those in short story form. I've really enjoyed the few thrillers that I have read but I mostly stick to science fiction and fantasy. I just go with whatever genre my story ideas fit in. I'm not one of those authors who only writes in one genre. Maybe I will someday if I find success with a series or something, but I'm still learning what my preferred genre is. More than likely I'll just keep writing in all the genres my story ideas suggest. 

Q: Do you utilize beta readers?

A: Yes, and I wish I would have early on! I tried making a manuscript the best it could be on my own and then handing it to an editor, only for the editor to point out big things that beta readers could have caught that needed fixing. It's great getting different perspectives from different readers. 

Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?

A: The last scene. I felt like it was a very emotional and satisfying scene. I had a lot of fun coming up with imagery that the main character recalls as he's remembering his dangerous journey. It's sad but I think it leaves the reader in a good place. It's probably the scene I am most proud of in any of my published books to date. 

Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?

A: I would have to say the fact that he's brave and resourceful. Also that he literally has a little magic up his sleeve. He's also the only one who knows of the great danger facing his family and the only one who can warn them of it. He's no one special but he is an everyman who has to conquer some pretty extraordinary circumstances, and I like stories about people like that. In my humble opinion, the hero shouldn't always be the chosen one or a prince. In my story he's just a village merchant on a quest to save his family and fulfill the dying wish of a loved one. I'd like to think he becomes a man along the way.

Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?

A: Write the next book. The best marketing is to have more books available. It also doesn't hurt to try and get the word out about your book by being a guest blogger. (Thanks, Jim!) Getting on podcasts is great too. I've found a lot of authors by hearing them being interviewed on podcasts.

Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?

A: I try really hard to learn from them. If I can't I try to ignore them. I'm not saying it's easy. I will get a review that praises my story for a certain reason, and then another review on that same story that leaves a negative review for the same reason others loved the story. You can't please everyone. Maybe if you get tons of negative reviews that mention the same issue, it's a clue that you might need to revise something in your story; but you will always get negative reviews no matter how good your story is. Some authors say they never read any of their reviews. I find reviews encouraging, so I read mine. 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: Being in control. I can't imagine finishing a story and not being able to pick the title, the cover, make the interior design decisions, or choose the release date. I'm sure many authors would want nothing to do with formatting or choosing the right font for their cover but I love every aspect of making a book. It would be so frustrating to wait months or a year for your book to come out once it's ready to go; or to have a cover or title you don't like put on the story you spent so much time on. I also love making covers and I have come to love doing the interior design. I'm lucky I'm a digital artist for my day job, so working in Photoshop is something I've been doing professionally for years.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: Not having a free professional editor. Not having distribution in physical book stores, even though that seems to have become much less important these days.

Q: What is your current writing project? What's it called?

A: A children's chapter book. I'm calling it The Case of the Missing Snowman (A Barnabas Thackeray Mystery). It's going to be about 10,000 words long and have fun black-and-white illustrations inside that I'm really excited to draw. If things go well it will be the first in a series. I'm a quarter of the way through the first draft as I write this. This year my oldest son started to love reading. This made me want to write a book he would love. I hope he likes it. Him and everyone else! 

Q: What are three of your favorite novels?

A: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Wool by Hugh Howey

Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?

A: Stephen King. I would talk to him about characters and ask him how he makes them so real. I think his characterizations are some of the best out there.

Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?

A: Finish your stories. Don't worry if you feel like you're writing crap. Just keep writing. Turn off your internal editor and just keep writing until you finish your story. Even though we all thought we would—none of us will write The Great American Novel on our first attempt. Most authors don't even write a novel worth publishing until they have already written several terrible novels. Do some research and you'll find that most authors' "debut" novels are really like their fifth or sixth novel and they have a whole trunkful of awful novels they'll never show anyone. It takes a lot of writing to learn how to do it well, so get to writing! The best way to get better at writing is to write a ton. Get inspired, get your butt in the chair, and get your fingers on the keyboard. Or, as in my case, get your voice dictating so your smart phone can turn your words into text.

Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

A: Honestly I don't have a favorite inspirational quote so I looked one up. But I really like this one: "Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." — Louis L'Amour

A page from one of Dan's chapter outlines 


No witches, no warlocks, no vampires. Just a sexy, rollicking story about a guy trying to hit it big in Hollywood.

"A great summer read!"
"A sexy Hollywood tale!"
"It's WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN for the 21st century!"

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Guest Blog by B.M Griffin

Writing helps relieve me from everyday stress. I step into other lives, sometimes in a different world altogether. It allows me to create something from nothing. A bad day can be channeled into a fight scene. It works for blowing off steam. I’ve always written for myself and only recently I’ve been sharing it with others. Sometimes it can be difficult to continue to write, excruciating even. Especially when my imaginary friends don’t want to talk to me. When that happens, I have a snowman stress ball I throw around a lot. Off the walls, in the air, on the ground. It drives my animals crazy and anyone else that happens to be in the house with me at the time. While I’m doing this, I try tapping into the characters I’m writing about at that time. You know, get into their heads.

I could be better with my writer's block if I could be more consistent with writing.  Finding the time can be difficult. I work full time. I also have a wife, two kids, two dogs, and two cats. We live in a small town in Montana, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Life can be crazy in a small town, particularly if you have kids. I sit on the board for our local youth soccer program as well as the board for our local friends of the library. I help run my daughter’s 4-H club and sit as a member on our county’s 4-H council. Finding time to write can be extremely difficult some weeks. When I do get a chance to write, I do my best writing in the morning and my creativity usually runs out around noon. Sometimes I get creative streaks at night too. In the middle of the day I tend to sit in front of the monitor and stare at it or surf the Net (bad idea on that one) as I'm trying to write.

Like many indie authors, writing full time without having a day job would be quite an achievement and a goal I’ve set. It would be nice at that point. I'd take my kids overseas and let them see different cultures. Possibly start a travel blog or something along those lines. With writing, I can travel and write at the same time. Another dream of mine would be the ability to wake up one morning and say “Let’s go to Europe today!” I think it would be amazing to have that much freedom. Plus I could visit castles, which would be cool considering I’m mainly a fantasy writer.

However, I tend to mix genres when I write. I don’t stay within the bounds of one genre; it could get boring that way. A perfect example, my current novel The Books of Azric: The Beginning, is a blend of medieval fantasy, steampunk, and western, with portals. To be honest, I didn’t know about steampunk until I explained my book contained steam machinery in it. Elves cruising around in steam carriages. I just thought it would be cool. My friend explained it as a steampunk crossover. Researching steampunk blew my mind. As far as "western" goes, this book doesn’t involve guns or anything like that, but there are many other things that make it feel western: a high noon showdown with swords, throwing knives like a cowboy would use two six shooters, sheriffs and bounty hunters. It may not be the normal western novel but the western theme can be found.

The Books of Azric started off being about a bounty hunter, Colt, and his apprentice, Zane. Then they met other characters. The next thing I knew my story changed from what I planned. My characters wanted to tell a different story in a different way. I intended on the content to be more like Lord of the Rings, but Lord Roderick (one of my favorites to write) told me Game of Thrones would be more to his liking. My characters bully me into what they want. They choose their own path and suffer the consequences. I do have other stories out, one called “The Siege,” a short story about sharing the rule between Human, Elf and Dwarf. One of my favorites, yet to be published anywhere but on my blog, “Gleeson the Defender,” is a bloody tale but a fun read.

I have received great reviews from peers, readers, and my beta readers on everything I’ve done. My most important initial feedback comes from beta readers. They read it before anyone else and help me find holes in the plot that I might have missed. My wife found a huge plot hole at one point. Devastating! I spent months writing this and anger took hold. I just wanted to delete it from my computer. I’m glad I didn’t. I fixed it in three sentences. The fix and the catch made me happy. I would never publish without beta readers. The unimaginable importance of beta readers can’t be matched.

To all those that want to write but don’t think they have what it takes, my advice is to pick up a pencil and paper, open up a word doc, or anything else you use to write on, and just write. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just can’t be forced. Let it flow and let your characters do the talking.


No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Guest Blog by Rachael Eyre

Books were always an important part of our household. It's what every first-time visitor said as they gazed around our living room: “What a lot of books.” Nothing was taboo, you helped yourself to whatever looked interesting. My sister and I belonged to our local library as soon as we could walk; both my mum and grandma were gifted storytellers. Perhaps it isn't surprising I started to write stories of my own.

The catalyst was an assignment at school. How “Write a story” translated into “Write a twenty-eight page illustrated haunted house story,” we will never know, but that's what happened. This simple piece of homework unlocked something deep within me. I was hooked. After that I took a folder wherever I went, scribbling down ideas and sketching characters. I announced at eleven, apropos of nothing, that one day I would be a famous author. My mum was mortified!

The trouble was I didn't have any staying power. Star Wars fan fiction aside, everything I wrote petered out after ten pages. I wrote dozens of radio plays and musicals but they were intended for an audience of one—i.e., me. I kept diaries, but obviously they were top secret. At fifteen I finally completed a manuscript and mailed it off to a nearby publishing house. I was crushed by the inevitable rejection and didn't write for a year.

My salvation came when I was selecting universities. I was planning to study English Literature, my best subject, but the words "English Language with Creative Writing" in the Lancaster University brochure galvanized me into action. This was it! I was going to learn how to be a writer!

Many universities offer creative writing courses now, but it was a novelty back in 2003. I sent them a chapter of my work in progress, fingers crossed. In hindsight, it was utterly feeble, a mass of teenage clich├ęs, but I didn't know any better. Somehow they saw past this juvenilia and offered me a place. The class proved a steep learning curve. I had to overcome my crippling shyness and horror of public speaking to actually read my work aloud—awkward when it was full of gay relationships and skullduggery. I joined the campus writing group, where I met my partner. To this day, she is my best collaborator and critic. 

I graduated a more confident, competent writer. The perfect subject eluded me, however—it was another two years before I began to write about a closeted Victorian governess and her charge.  That novel, The Governess, was published with Kindle Direct Publishing in 2012. My partner persuaded me to enter it in the 2013 Polari First Book Prize competition. I shrieked with joy when it ended up on the longlist.

By then I had developed a taste for sustained writing. My second book, The Revenge of Rose Grubb, couldn't have been more different. It was an urban fantasy revenge tragedy—or, as I once described it, “Hamlet for girls.” Since it was still on the niche side, I thought it would be best to indie publish this one too. My research had shown that many publishers were reluctant to pick up mixed genres or LGBT subject matter.

My latest novel, Love and Robotics, is yet another departure. Published earlier this year, it's the story of Josh, an artificial, or advanced, robot, and Alfred, the grizzled explorer he falls in love with. It was my first attempt at writing science fiction and romance. It's also the proud result of four years, countless beers and possibly the weirdest search history on record. I became fascinated by robot ethics and the questions they prompt: can a robot ever truly love a human? What if unscrupulous humans take advantage of or maltreat robots? If whole areas of employment become roboticised, what happens to the human workers who are made redundant? If robots become sentient, aren't they entitled to rights? I try to answer all these questions and more.

I wouldn't say I had anything that resembled a method. I write when I feel inspired, not at any other time. Reading is vital—how else will you know what works? I try to keep fresh by writing blogs, reviews, and short stories as well as novels; my current project is a novella about a love triangle, set in 1911. I love social media but can't deny that it's an enormous temptation! Before you know it, you've spent hours ping-ponging your views of this celebrity or that politician rather than do any meaningful work.

My goals as an indie writer are far from concrete. As success is so rare in any part of the industry, I'm content to keep on writing and publishing at regular intervals. If it takes off, fantastic, but it’s better to keep your feet on the ground and polish your craft. It's an exciting, intellectually and emotionally fulfilling hobby—and what could be better than that?


No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about a guy trying to live the Hollywood dream...