Fine Wine and Writing

I’m no expert on wine, but of course you know that fine wine just gets better with age (kind of like me, as I like to remind everyone I know!)

Nobody orders the freshest wine or the latest vintage, because it takes time for great wine to develop; It didn’t start great.

It reminds me a little bit of when I began writing. I had a great time and I treasure those early projects, but I like to think I’ve only gotten better since then.


What are tips you would share with someone wanting to write a fictional story?

There is a craft to writing short fiction:
  1. Learn how to put a story together. Take a class, read a book, do whatever it takes to learn the craft of telling a short story.
  2. Pretend that the story really happened. It should seem real to the reader, so it should also seem real as it is written.
  3. Put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair, stare at your computer, and start writing. Don’t worry about whether your words are good or not, just get them written and don’t stop until you reach the end of the story.
  4. Now go back over those words and change them just enough to make the story flow. To make it interesting. To make the story seem real. Because the secret to writing good fiction is that it shouldn’t seem like fiction while it’s being read.

How can I write the opening of my novel without it seeming cliche?


Cliches are bad. Archetypes are good.

Both are the same thing. They are characters, subjects, places, or whatever you are writing about, that are familiar enough to your readers that they recognize them easily as people, things, places or whatever that they already know.

The difference between a cliche and an archetype is not what it is, but how good the description is. How well the writer did his/her job.

That’s it. That’s the difference. The only difference.

So —- don’t worry about whether you are creating a cliche or not. Just write the way you feel like writing. Do the best job possible. Check and recheck your writing. Think about your story.

Then forget it and let your readers decide whether what you wrote was a cliche or an archetype.

How do I get a first novel published?

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This question opens up a can of worms!

Writing is the easy part, getting published is waaaaay more difficult! But there are some steps to follow that will get you there.

1. But there are books and blogs and articles out there telling you what to do. I’m not sure how helpful they are but they are a good place to start. Read them.

2. Then, after reading them and internalizing whatever they have to say, you look at your own work again and think how best to get YOUR work published, which is quite different from the generic advice those books, etc, provide.

3. If you write for the Christian audience, look at Christian publishers and websites. If you write horror, type ‘horror’ into a search engine and see what comes up. And so on for your own kind of writing until you get a feel for what the literary scene is like for what YOU write, as opposed to what other authors write.

4. Then you do whatever looks right for your particular niche of the writing world. There are hundreds — maybe thousands — of e-publishers out there. If they don’t sell a whole lot of books, they do give you creds when you are pushing your own work somewhere else because someone, somewhere, liked your work enough to take it on as their own publishing project.

5. If that doesn’t work, self-publish. It’s free, easy and also gives you the right to call yourself a published author.

The only ‘don’t’ in this scenario is not to expect huge financial rewards. You might hit it big. It’s a whole lot more likely that you’ll sell — or give away — a few copies. But either way, it’ll be a start and where you go from that start will be up to you.

About rain — rainbows — writing — stories of wonder.

It’s raining today. Sort of raining, just enough to get everything wet and make me not want to go outside and stand in it because I’d get chilled and soaked, though the ground will still be thirsty when it ends because it’s not coming down hard.

Still, considering we’ve been in a ‘red flag’ event for a while — forest fires so likely that it’s scary — I love that it’s raining. Love it.

Perhaps one of the things I love most about rain is what comes afterwards. And that’s a rainbow. Once in a while the rainbow is double, making for double the wonder and double the beauty.

I always feel lucky when I see a rainbow, and if you’ve ever seen a double rainbow—two rainbows on top of one another— it’s an amazing sight.

But triple and even quadruple rainbows are possible. Okay, maybe they are found more often in scientist’s labs than out-of-doors after a rain, but they are still beautiful. Scientists in a lab used water droplets and a laser to create a 200th order rainbow. I can only imagine what that was like!

But I’ve tucked the idea and a gorgeous mental picture in the back of my mind because I fully intend to use it in a future story.

Imagine a world where seeing a rainbow is considered good luck and a double rainbow would bring double the good luck. Then imagine a character seeing a rainbow to the 200th order.

What a story that would make. Will make.

How can I get readers to relate to a non-human character in a story?


I suspect it’s the ONLY way to describe a character because, as humans, we don’t know how to describe anything other than ourselves and, fortunately for writers, that includes a huge range of characters from the most lofty, nicest characters imaginable to the worst scum of the universe.

Does writing exhaust or energize you? What are some common traps for aspiring writers?


Traps for new writers? They are all mental:

  • Thinking you’re not good enough, which is a trap because writing is a craft that, like every other craft, can be learned.
  • Thinking that your writing is good enough ‘as is’ and falling in love with your own work to the point that you’re not willing to change a single word. Or sentence. Or paragraph. I can’t count the number of times I’ve mentored a new writer whose work would have been wonderful — and more than up to publishing standards — IF they’d have been willing to rearrange or eliminate a few words. Okay, a LOT of words. Because new writers tend to use way more words than are necessary!
  • Thinking that you just write what you want to write and it will be published and read by interested readers. Wrong! Publishers — and readers — want to be able to find what they are looking for easily and that means looking in familiar categories for something that they will like. So if what you write falls easily into some genre — any genre — you’re good to go. If not, you’ll struggle to find readers.
  • I’m sure there are many more but those are the ones that come immediately to mind.

What’s the best way to approach writing the second draft of your novel?

 This is kind of a hard one. Everyone knows how to write a first draft. Just write it. But most novels published by major New York publishers go through 10 rewrites. Tenrewrites! That’s a lot of drafts.

But one way to get started on that dreaded second draft is to refer back to the outline, mental or otherwise, that you made before starting to actually write your novel.

Does what you actually wrote fit what you planned to write? Did you succeed in staying on task? Did you say what you wanted to say? And so on with whatever questions are right to ask about your own story.

If something strayed from your original intent, was what you said better than what you thought you’d say? If so, then redo that original plan and then make sure that your new, revised story fits your new, revised plan. Mark places that need changing so the story as a whole fits the new, revised plan.

If your original story is what turned out to be right after all, then does what you wrote stick to that plan? If not, then make notes of which parts need to be changed.

This isn’t an exercise in futility. It’s a way of making sure your story works and moves forward smoothly. And it doesn’t require changing a single word. Yet. (That will come later, on rewrite number 3, when you do the same thing with each chapter, and then each scene, and then each paragraph.)