Top Four Writing Influences

Roger Zelazny–Multiple Hugo and Nebula (and just about every other major genre award) winner. One of the greatest wordsmiths of all time in my opinion, and he did it without ever sounding pretentious!

Harlan Ellison—Literary giant and curmudgeon with a heart of gold. For being Harlan and for his ability to infuse stories with his unforgettable voice.

Robert A. Heinlein–Science Fiction Grand Master. I’m especially partial to his early “juvenile” books.

Walt Disney–Creative genius and a sterling example of how to market, brand, and build an empire out of one’s intellectual properties.

So…who’s influenced your writing?

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Easy & Not-So-Easy Parts of Writing

My writing process occurs in FIVE discrete chunks

…some, I find easy

…some, not-so-easy.

1. Idea development. It’s rare that I get an idea fully formed. I usually get an idea that’s not quite right, or only part of a larger set of ideas needed for a novel-length work. I collect notes and let those partial ideas percolate in my head for weeks, months, or years. This part of the process is neither easy nor hard for me. I’ve learned to relax, and know it takes time, work, and patience. (When I first started writing I would worry that all my ideas were cliché or boring. The truth is many good ideas are cliché and boring to begin with, and that it takes work and time to mature them).

2. Outlining. After I get a critical mass of ideas I outline the plot, and design characters, world build, and herd it all together into a pitch document. Yes–even before I write a word, I work on how to pitch the project (see last entry). I want to know the basic trajectory of the plot, the theme, and where it’ll fit into the market before write anything. I very much enjoy this part of the process (although occasionally plotting an extra long project like Mortal Coils can stretch me a bit).

3. Drafting. After I have all the pieces in place I start writing. When in “production” phase I shoot for a 1,000 words a day. Not a crazy amount, but I really try to get those 1,000 words every day. Inertia is key! This is the hardest part of the process for me. Getting started, managing the fear of writing…just getting my fingers to move over the keyboard sometimes—it can be easy some days, some days, an ordeal.

4. Editing. I take the rough draft and word-smith, add detail, and compress irrelevancy. I’m a craftsman at heart, not an artist, because I love the sanding, polishing, final fit and finish of this part.

5. Pitching. I go back and polish the pitch, making sure all my supporting materials are as professional as possible. The final polish of the pitch is important, because your agent uses it to sell to editors; editors, in turn, use it to sell your idea up the editorial chain of command at their publishing house, and to their art and sales and marketing staff to gather support. I like this part. Having worked at Microsoft Game Studios for a decade, I’ve learned how to craft and present my intellectual properties.

I’m not going to explain too much about how to craft a pitch document. It’d take a semester-long class to do this topic justice.

NOTE: When I say something takes “weeks, months, or years,” understand that I have many projects in different stages at the same time. I’m never idle or blocked by one phase of one project. Don’t fall into that trap!

What part of the writing process do you enjoy? What’s your least favorite part?

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Top Writing Links

Writer LinksAlthough there are hundreds (millions?) of  “writing” websites, I thought I’d share a few of my most often used bookmarks.

Under “WORDS”

The three top entries are:
Urban Dictionary NOTE: NSFW and rated R+ !
The Phrontisery For obscure words and vocabulary.


Wikipedia  (duh)
…With several individual wiki entries marked to follow up on.
Atlas of the Universe Here, bookmarked specifically to the stars within 50 light years for HALO research, but the entire site is wickedly useful!


The Writer’s Almanac For daily inspiration.
Publisher’s Weekly Daily publishing news.
Publishing In the 21st Century Commentary on the state of the publishing industry by my very own uber agent, Richard Curtis.
The blog of Nathan Bransford, Literary agent, because like Richard Curtis he seems to have a finger on the pulse of the publishing industry.

So…what writing links do you use?

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