Category: Writing

I write for a living, thus I have a lot of thoughts on the matter. Some might even be helpful to you if you’re a fellow wordsmith/penmonkey.

  • Writing a journal

    Writing a journal

    I’ve been writing a journal for a long time. It started with text files on my computer, an overpriced 386 tower in my teenage bedroom, the keyboard within reach from my bed. I wrote a lot back then, as I do now, and why bother getting out of bed, really? Ah, teenagers…

    I’ve never had a physical journal. The thought never even occurred to me. If I’m gonna put down these words, I figured I’d want them digital and not faded over time or forgotten somewhere. So it’s obviously extremely ironic that I’d lose my earlier journals to a smoking hard-drive. I wasn’t upset, it seemed fitting at the time.

    These days, when I write a journal, it gets synced to the cloud. That too will burn, or at least evaporate, one day, but for now it feels at least slightly more secure. I could add additional layers of protection, just manual exports that I’d store someplace semi-safe, a fail-safe, but up until now I haven’t bothered.

    You see, I write my journal for myself. No, I don’t want it to go up in smoke again, but if it did, I wouldn’t be upset. I’d just keep doing it. This is partly because I feel safe enough with the setup, obviously. It’s interesting to look back, and any modern journaling app (I use Day One, despite its obvious shortcomings and the subscription business model) will give you “on this day”-things, like a Timehop but not just photos and stuff you shared with everyone. If you put your innermost in your journal, that’s what you’ll get hit with every day.

    Sometimes that hurts. People pass away, feelings too, and you’ll get that, raw and possibly at the absolute worst time, but there you go. That’s life. I find it reinvigorating, that blast from the past. Even if it’s about a shattered marriage or a friend lost way too early, I’d rather remember it and feel again, than just have it lost to me. Which is easy to say now, writing this, because I’ve had days when I’ve wondered why the fuck I’m exposing myself to past sorrows again and again. But there you go, it’s for the better, I think.

    I write a journal to settle my thoughts. Just a couple of lines every day, which isn’t really every day but close enough. That’s what works best for me, the solution that gives back the most, somehow. I’ve tried doing weekly journals but I’m generally too disconnected to what I did this morning, so remembering how things went down six days ago is a challenge. Perhaps one worth taking head on, it’s a good exercise, but that’s not what I’m after when I’m writing in my journal.

    I want to face what I’ve done and what I’ve experienced. That’s the thing, I believe.

    What happened?

    How did I react?

    Who did I hurt, who did I help?

    What good did I do for the world today, and how does that balance out the bad?

    I’ve come to think a lot about things like that. Depending on who you are, and what position you’re in, you affect so many people. Your family, your friends, but also your co-workers, and anyone you interact with during your day. If you’re a dick at the coffee shop you could ruin somebody’s day. If you whine about someone not understanding something in the check-in at the airport, then you’re not exactly contributing to society, are you? Everything you do have consequences. Most of those consequences are irrelevant, some just appear so because you just don’t know better. So trying to be the best you possible isn’t such a pompous thing after all. At least that’s what I believe. Which doesn’t mean that I’m succeeding at living my life like that, but I can only try, and that’s true for you too.

    Thinking about my day, just processing it and putting it down in words, possibly a photo or three (I’m pretty into photography at times, as you might’ve noticed), helps me be a better person. Or rather, it helps me realize when I haven’t been, and perhaps do better next time. That’s the plan, at least.

    I’ve written things I’m not proud of, because I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve forced myself to accept things I really didn’t want to believe. I’ve lied to myself for days, because I didn’t want to accept the truth, but ultimately journaling has forced me to face situations head on, and go from there. Done right, this is both easy and hard.

    Or maybe you live your life better than I do. That’s always a possibility.

    I’m keeping two journals. The one I’m talking about above is private. You can’t see it, no one can. It’s for me, it’ll die with me. I don’t want anyone to find those words, ever. Some things should disappear, like conversations they’re ephemeral when no one remembers anymore. There’s beauty to that.

    The second journal is my lifehack to write more. You might’ve seen it, it’s public on this very site. It’s not as personal obviously, but I do want to be honest in there, much like everywhere else. This particular journal exists for two reasons, one coincidental, and one very much calculated.

    The blog is dead. Remember that nonsense? That said, yes, social media has ripped a big hole in the ecosystem that I stepped into back in the day, when sites like the Blog Herald (where I ended up the editor in the end) had something to write about. It was a thing, the blog and the tech behind it – no matter what publishing solution you preferred back in the day – really did help democratize online publishing. Your words might’ve been at the mercy of search engines, but that’s nothing compared to the Facebook algorithm or soap-boxing to deaf ears on Twitter.

    There’s a movement today, about reclaiming your online self. I’ve written about this so many times that it’s boring even me, but it is as important today as it ever was. Don’t be the product, be yourself. That sort of thing. So there’s some buzzing going on, some “we’re doing this now, look at us”, and some genuin reactions based on actual realizations. I don’t care what camp you’re in, if you’re doing your own thing, owning your online presence first and foremost, then I’m in your corner. Feed and syndicate, cross-post however you like, but own yourself. That’s all I’m saying.

    And just saying it is obviously not enough, hence the daily journal entries.

    That’s the coincidental reason. The calculated one is solving a problem my new life, post-agency sale, awarded me. I’ve been struggling with finding time to write, but more importantly, I’ve lacked the energy. That’s very unlike me, and it might hint at the fact that I’m getting older (perish the thought!), but there you have it.

    I used to be a pretty efficient writer. Days of 5,000 words were in no way flukes, I could have weeks and months where that just happened. Two weeks and the first draft is done, that sort of thing. If there’s an idea (there’s always and idea), and if there’s time (there’s always time, if you make the time), and finally, if there’s energy (ah, shit…), I’ll blast through just about anything.

    I’ve been lacking the energy. Life has sucked it out of me, literally.

    I hated it. Still do, because life is still a vampire firmly attached to my arterial vein.

    So my second reason for writing a journal is to kick said vampire in the nuts. Or uterus, I’m unclear of its gender, but there’s definitely a kick in there somewhere. Writing a journal every morning has proven to be an effective word lubricant. No, I don’t always manage to get any writing in, not at a daily basis, that’s step two and it’s tied to the time aspect – that I can manage – but I do want to write every day. That’s something I haven’t felt in a long time. I’ve got the energy to write again, and it’s all down to those journal entries, the blog posts of yore if you will. A writer’s lifehack, well-used in various ways by more people than I care to admit, because I’m just happy that it works for me.

    I’m writing again. Translating Ashen Sky to Swedish, mapping out novels, getting ready to edit manuscripts, thinking about new things with optimism.

    For me, that’s huge.

    I believe that keeping a journal is a good idea. You could focus it on a part of your life, maybe your progress in the gym (I’ve got one of those too) or your running, or it’s about your sex life, your relationships, your children, or everything else. I wouldn’t know, it could be literally everything, a diary of your dirty life and times. It matters less, as long as you’re honest when you do it, because that’s when you can learn something along the way.

    Write your journal in an app, on your computer or your phone, buy and overpriced notebook and write it there, scratch it into the prison wall, whatever you feel comfortable with. Put the words down and learn from them, now and a year from now, and possibly more. Who knows? I sure as hell don’t, and neither do you, until it happens.

    You can keep a journal for many reasons, but only one actually matters. You’re keeping a journal for you.

  • Believability


    There was an interesting discussion about realism in fantasy the other day (thread here). Lots of good points were made by my friends Tim and Gábor (whom you should follow, obviously).

    Personally, I think the term “realism” is flawed when used to describe fantasy. It’s not a matter of if something is real or not, it’s a fantasy, a story even, so realism, to me, is the wrong term.

    I like believability instead. How much do you believe that something is true to the world? It’s not how real it is, it’s how believable it is in both the story and the setting.

    Sticking to fantasy, imagine a traditional sword and sorcery setting, with swords and barbarians. Magic exists but it’s rare, sorcerers are uncommon and true ones even more so. A puppet-master magician controlling the king might be believable, magic gives an upper hand and opens doors to the practitioner that are closed to everyone else. However, two groups of magicians duking it out in the street, throwing fireballs and invoking the elements, that chafes with the rarity of magic. It’s not believable. It’s sure as hell isn’t realistic, no matter how you cut it, but that’s beside the point. With the story and setting as the backdrop, it’s not believable because that’s not how we’ve been told magic works in this particular world.

    Staying true to the reader, the story, and the world is what makes something as outrageous as magic believable. It’ll never be realistic, no, but believable in the context.

  • Author Chuck Wendig shares some business advice

    Chuck Wendig is a successful author with lots of experience. When he writes about the, err, writing business, you should listen. Or read, as it were. There’s just too much to quote on this one so I’ll just point you to the blog post, if you’re a fellow wordsmith. If you’re not, well, have a nice day, I guess?

  • Haunted Futures is available now

    Haunted Futures, cover by Gábor Csigas

    Today was the book birthday of Haunted Futures, an anthology about the future where I happen to have a story called “Futures Past”. There are several other writers in there, all more worthy than yours truly, so you should really check this one out.

    Just check out that awesome cover by Gábor Csigas. It’s just so darn great. There was a livestream hosted by editor Salomé Jones, and while I couldn’t be on it, I must say it was a mammoth undertaking. I have no idea where Salomé finds the strength to do these things but there you go. The video should appear here if it hasn’t already.

    Haunted Futures is available on Amazon, both in paperback and as an ebook, as well as on other places. Go grab it, it’s pretty darn great.

  • 90,000 words on an iPhone

    As you probably know, I write a lot on my iPhone, and have proposed smartphones to be great writing aids when working on a novel. I love to hear about other people’s experiences using mobile devices.

    Melody Joy Cary sent me this wonderful email about her novel writing using an iPhone, which is impressive to say the least: over 90,000 words and counting! She agreed to let me publish her letter, so here’s Melody:

    I’ve been writing a novel almost solely on my iPhone for nearly a year now, which includes several dry spells where life got crazy. At the beginning, I was averaging about 1000 words/day. I’m currently at over 90,000 words, all but one chapter written strictly on my phone. The chapter that went on my computer was narrated by a different character so I typed it to be able to more easily change the style.

    This is my first novel that’s made it past an idea and a couple pages, so it’s been an adventure and I definitely think I’ll continue writing novels on my phone after this one is completed. I don’t outline so I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to go… My goal was 100,000 words since it’s a fantasy novel, but there’s still a ways to go before the final battle…

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my own experience with writing a novel on an iPhone. I think it’s not only feasible but very doable. For me, it’s not always practical to pull out my computer when I want to write, and I know if I had tried to write this on my computer I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done so far.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with writing a novel on an iPhone. It’s encouraging to hear that an actual professional (compared to an amateur such as myself) is similarly experimenting with the same writing platform that I chose.

    Best of luck to Melody and her writing. I’m planning to follow up and see how she does.

    If you’re interested in writing more using your smartphone, check out the archives here. My latest post on the matter was a bit of a post mortem on the project that landed me on (the story is lurking behind a paywall, I’m afraid).

    How are you using your smartphone for writing? If you want to share, tweet to @tdh on Twitter.

  • The iPhone novel

    The iPhone novel

    One of the more read, and possibly most searched for, pieces on this site is the one where I declare that I’m writing a novel on my iPhone. Years later, this post still generates a decent amount of views, tweets, and emails from curious readers. In other words, this follow up is long overdue.

    First of all, I did indeed write a novel on my iPhone. I set a reasonable word count target per day, at a mere 300 words, to avoid getting too fatigued or end up straining my thumbs for longer sessions. Most days, I’d write more than 300 words, but rarely over 500, which means that the sessions were limited enough. Never once did I experience any discomfort from all that thumb-typing, which was reassuring.


  • On word counts

    On word counts

    I’m one of those obnoxious people who like to tweet my daily word counts when I’m writing. Not all the time, I forget, but when I’m really into it, I do. It’s a way to connect with other writers out there, often under the #amwriting hashtag. It’s not about letting other people know how great I am or anything like that.


  • Write in silence, fellow authors

    Delilah S. Dawson, being wise again, this time about authors and hawking books on social media:

    And that’s what a lot of social media by authors is starting to look like, to feel like: being smacked in the face, repeatedly, by hundreds of fish. Being pushed. Being assaulted and yelled at and chased. Being manipulated and prodded and possibly tricked.

    That’s not how you earn readers and friends. Literature is not a #teamfollowback sport.

  • Ashen Sky launches this Wednesday

    Ashen Sky launches this Wednesday

    I’m happy to announce that Ashen Sky, my post-apocalyptic novella in three parts, is launching this Wednesday (November 11, 2015). Ashen Sky is $2.99 (or your local equivalent), with your country’s VAT added. Don’t get me started on international VAT and the clusterfuck that is, that’s a topic for another time.

    Back to Ashen Sky! From the (purely fictional) digital book jacket:

    The gray sky looms over the broken remains of our world. Life is hard for Dirk, who’s stumbling through the wasteland. Demon grass is cutting him, and acid rain is burning his skin. Out here, far from his family, Dirk makes acquaintances that lead him upon a path he didn’t know he yearned for.

    Ashen Sky is a novella in three parts, set in a post-apocalyptic world where the low-ceilinged gray sky blocks out the sun and the stars.


  • Your NaNoWriMo toolbox

    Your NaNoWriMo toolbox

    November is closing in, and so is National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. With that in mind, I forbid you to read this post before your outline is done. Seriously, do you have your outline under control? Yes? Good, then you may read on. Otherwise, come on, October is rushing by, time really is limited, so get outlining already.

    Deal? Deal.

    Right. So, other than the outline, what do you need to complete NaNoWriMo? Not a lot, honestly. Like most writing, the only thing you need is what’s in your head, and some means of actually writing. That being said, it’s good to come prepared, so let’s take a look at something resembling a toolbox-cum-checklist for NaNoWriMo.


  • "I don't know how to market this"

    Author Kameron Hurley, in an essay for Uncanny Magazine:

    I found the “I don’t know how to market this” thing to be a mind-boggling excuse, because I’d written the book I wanted to read. And if I wanted to read it, surely there were other people out there who wanted to read it too. What I would slowly come to realize over the years is that the people like me, who like the types of books I write – the wild, weird, punching and magic and genderbending books – were not the types of people who publishers were used to selling to. They had an Ideal Consumer in mind, and that Ideal Consumer seemed to be scared of women outside of prescribed roles, queer people who aren’t just sidekicks, and any setting weirder than something from Tolkien. Clearly, you know, the world is FULL of people who actually DO love to read books about and including all of those people and things.

    This is a must-read for writers, and people interested in book publishing.

  • Chuck Wendig declares NaPloYoNoMo

    Chuck Wendig, who must be wise because he gets to write Star Wars books, agrees with me in that October is for outlining. From his meaty post, which you definitely should read if you intend to write a book, be it for NaNoWriMo or not:

    Outlining fucking sucks. I fucking hate it. Every time I do it I have to grit my teeth and swig whiskey and engage in a movie montage where I ragefully punch frozen beef and run through snow. And it takes me like, a day or two — three, tops — and then it’s done and suddenly I don’t fucking hate it anymore. It’s probably like building a house and starting with the basement. Building the basement has to be super shit-ass boring. It’s a basement. It’s just a cinderblock prison. It’s a horizontal dirt cave. The house itself above it — oh, that’s fancy. You get to think about where doorways are and which room will be the living room and the dining room and the SEX TARP room. You get to place windows and floors. But the basement: Ugh, fuck the basement. And yet, you need the basement. You need the foundation.

  • October is Outline Month

    October is Outline Month

    How time flies, it’s already a week into October. Where did summer go? Who stole the warm evening sun? Why is the lake freezing cold? And who is that naked man-beast screaming obscenities in my garden?

    Chances are he’s an aspiring writer, freaking out over November. Yes, that’s right, he’s chill about October, but November, that badass month of every bloody thing you have to get done before December rolls in, fat and giddy – yes, November, it scares the living shits out of him.


  • I'd give Lucha Libro a shot

    The Lucha Libro writing contest, in Peru, sounds like glorious fun:

    Peru’s Lucha Libro is kind of like that, without the violence. It’s literary “wrestling.” New writers don masks, and head onto a stage where they’re given three random words, a laptop hooked up to a gigantic screen, and five minutes to write a short story.

    At the end of a match, the losing writer has to take off his or her mask. The winner goes on to the next round, a week later. And the grand prize? It’s a book contract.

  • Ben Brooks on writing

    If you’re interested in writing advice, you should read Ben Brooks’s piece on the matter. He has, among a great many other things, this to say:

    I’m usually hit with most ideas when I am left to let my mind wander. Whether I am showering, or using the toilet, my mind can wander. One of my favorite ways for working out an idea is to talk it out while I drive alone. Do I look a bit mad doing that? Maybe, but it also works.

    My best ideas rarely come in direct response to one thing, but it’s also important to remember that every idea is in response to something. The idea for this post was in response to the email I get, and my wanting to easily help people who email with with questions about my writing.

    If you want even more pieces that are writing related, be sure to check out my own series, Thoughts on Writing.