How do you balance creative story telling with historical accuracy and how do you balance American exceptionalism against sounding like propaganda?

For the ‘propaganda’ part of the question, I can’t say it often enough. Use deep point of view, using the word ‘I’ if necessary for the first draft in order to get deep into the character’s mind. If you can do this, then sounding like propaganda isn’t a problem because you will be telling the story… and describing America… through that character’s eyes and if that character doesn’t think of what he/she is saying as propaganda, then neither will your readers.

The other point, balancing historical accuracy with storytelling is where the ‘choice’ truly comes in. If 10 writers are shown a scene and then asked to describe it accurately, you’ll get 10 different descriptions because they each see the scene differently. Same with history, which is a living, breathing and changing thing. Only the dates and who won or lost aren’t subject to interpretation. If you choose to change those things, then it’s a good idea to tell you reader in a ‘forward’ what you are doing so you won’t be inundated later by readers pointing out your inaccuracy.

Anyway, that’s the way it’s worked for me, though, to be honest, one of the reasons I love science fiction and fantasy is that I don’t have to worry about such things.


It’s called deep point of view. It means crawling inside your character and looking at the world through him/her.

The best way I know to do this is to use the word ‘I’ when you are writing because that forces you into your character’s mind. That’s called first person viewpoint, though what anything is called is irrelevant, the end result is all that matters. Using ‘I’ works especially well if you are writing a diary entry because diaries are written that way.

The thing you must remember, however, when using this point of view is that you can’t write anything into the diary that the character in your story wouldn’t actually know at that point. And if you try to make your character too all-knowing in order to get across some story point or other, it will come across as wrong to the reader.

So do it but don’t over-do it.


The short answer is, just do it.

The long answer is to first think whether you wish to sell what you write or at least have it published or not.

If publishing isn’t your goal, then just put the seat of your pants to the seat of a chair and write whatever comes to mind.

If you want to be published, then be aware that the market for short fiction that pays a professional rate is small, mostly science fiction and those stories are read by gamers so must appeal to the problem solver mentality. But there are a lot of other publications out there other than science fiction that publish short fiction for token payment and/or name recognition.

Once you’ve decided what genre you want to write in, read that genre and see what’s being published. Then take your favorite story— one you think you could have written— and take it apart. Then rewrite it your way. Or write another story if that’s what your mind is telling you to do.

Then submit it. If it’s been a while since you went to college, you’ll find the submission process has changed. It’s now mostly electronic, which is much easier and cheaper than printing out and mailing off all those pages.

Then sit and wait and, while you wait, write another story.

What would be the easiest and the best topic for the ITGS extended essay for an IB (International Baccalaureate)?

Been answering a bunch of questions on Quora and decided to copy those questions and answers here. Some are relevant to writing, some aren’t. Here’s today’s question (above, the title of this post) and answer (below):

Unfortunately there is no one answer to this question for several good reasons:

1. The topic should be about something you like because you’re going to spend a lot of time on it. Different people, different topics.

2. It should be a topic that is included in the IB studies curriculum because that topic will be familiar to those who will guide you through the process and, later, grade the essay.

3. It should relate to your future because the knowledge you’ll learn from the process will help you later in life and will be seen by your adviser as an appropriate topic for you.

4. It should be broad enough that you can write 4,000 words about it and specific enough that there could be more written if you wanted to broaden the scope of your essay.

Of these reasons, the first is the most important because if you like what you are writing about, that liking will show through in your writing and, not only will the whole process be easier, your emotional input will be clear to whomever is grading your essay and just might improve your grade. So it’s not so much about what topic is easiest, it’s about which is easiest and most enjoyable for you personally. So what’s your favorite topic? Your favorite subject? Your favorite anything that falls within the scope of the IB curriculum?

Hope this helps.


The huge storm that had us filling buckets of water and getting portable heaters for when we lost power didn’t live up to expectations. Thank goodness.

Though everywhere around us was hit hard, we just got a normal winter storm that left a few inches of ice-covered snow.

This is what the surrounding area looks like:nwff-twitter-and-blog-pic-temporary


Not too long ago I talked about writer’s block and how I had it though it’s not normally a problem with me.

That time with writer’s block taught me something. That sometimes there’s a reason your mind refuses to go further and your imagination stops working.

When I finally decided I couldn’t continue with the story as I’d outlined it and looked for another way around the block, everything became easy and the writing just flowed.

Maybe because the way I’d originally seen the story was wrong and the new, different way was the way it should have been all along.

So maybe when writer’s block strikes we should stop fretting and pay attention. Because maybe — just maybe — it’s trying to tell us something and we should listen.


I looked at the thermometer this morning and considered going into a song and dance routine. Because it was thirty-two degrees. It was up to freezing. This is important because two days ago it was minus thirty-four degrees. That’s cold. Very cold. So cold I didn’t attend church. Or go outside at all.

Two days was all it took to change from truly miserable cold (it was also windy, which makes going outside dangerous) to winter weather with beautiful white snow that’s perfect for making snow angels. Just two days.

Writing is like that. One day a writer can be in the depths of depression because inspiration won’t come and all that appears on the page is drivel.

But wait a while. Just wait an hour or so — or a day or two — and that can all change and that drivel can turn into inspiration. Or, put another way, minus thirty-four degrees can turn into a balmy and beautiful winter day.

So just wait. Inspiration will come.