Max your Writing Moxie

Do you want to be the best writer you can be?

If you want to write good stories, read good stories and pay attention.

That looks a little too simple, doesn’t it? It’s still the truest piece of advice I can give. There’s an old programmer’s motto: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Put another way, you are what you eat.

I used to think I knew what made a good story. I thought what I watched and read was great. It was not really great though – most of it was simplistic, with hackneyed plots and cardboard cutout characters and it didn’t challenge me at all. It caused my stories to be just as simplistic. Then I started reading and watching really high quality stuff, and found what I had missed. I discovered levels of artistry and complexity that took my breath away. Twists and turns of plot, well written stories, mysteries that were done right, and more. I began to see how my own stories were woefully simplistic. I saw ways of improving them, too. I now have a habit of seeking out the best stories I can find.

With all that said, what makes a good story? I didn’t know how to recognize one reliably, after all, I thought I WAS reading and watching good stuff! So here is a list of general characteristics that can point you toward better stories, whether you are looking for a book, an anime, a role playing game, a movie, or a TV show.

A good story…

…makes you think.

…will give you clues when it’s a mystery, but make them very subtle. It will make your mind work.

…uses good descriptions or dialogue to bring you in to the story.

…avoids stereotypes.

…isn’t always a “classic.” Some classics are woefully bad, but are classics because they are old.

…doesn’t talk down to the audience.

…shows how the characters grow and develop.

…lets the characters change and doesn’t leave them in the same place at the end as they were at the beginning.

…challenges you. A story you can sleep through is no story at all.

…gives motivations behind the character’s actions, beyond “because he wanted to.”

…makes you think.

Finding good stories can be easy or hard depending on what genre you are interested in. Ask for recommendations from people you admire, read reviews on sites like Goodreads, check out forum posts about potential TV shows. Pay attention to why people like things and how they talk about them. If a person writes well when describing why they like a story, then the quality of the story is likely to be higher.

When you find a great story, pay attention to why it’s great! Then think about how you could incorporate the same techniques into your own work. Eventually, you’ll absorb aspects of the great writing styles you love.


Read great stories.  Write great stories.  Build your moxie.

Avoiding Purple Prose


Many readers shut the book or turn off their eReader when they see too much prose that’s purple!  It’s really best to avoid it.  First, though, what’s purple prose?

Wikipedia has to say this about it:

In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.[1] Purple prose is characterized by the extensive use of adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors. When it is limited to certain passages, they may be termed purple patches or purple passages, standing out from the rest of the work.

Wikipedia further gives this amusing example:

“On occasion, one finds oneself immersed in the literary throes of a piece of prose where there is very little in the way of advancement of the plot or development of the characters, but the pages are still filled with words. Since the esteemed author has allowed their writing to take a turn for the dry and dull, they gallantly attempt to overcompensate for the lack of stimulation by indulging in elaborate turns of phrase.”[8]                 – Liz Bureman

The best way I’ve found to avoid this literary pitfall is this: write simply.  If you use good, vivid words, it will help you avoid using excess words to make your point.

It’s really worthwhile to go through a manuscript and look for places where you could have said something more simply, clearly, and effectively.  While it’s impossible avoid adjectives, trimming excessive ones can help your work.  Always strive to make one paragraph flow naturally into another, without anything to jolt your reader out of the story you are telling.

When using metaphor, simple is usually best.  Make sure your metaphors aren’t cliched.  A cliche not only kicks the reader out of the story, but it often makes them stop thinking about what you have said.  A great metaphor engages the senses simply, but in a way that makes the reader share the experience you are presenting.

To further avoid prose of a purplish color, break up your sentences.  Also, make sure your words are active, not passive.  Sometimes it helps you read your work aloud.  This lets us hear how the story is flowing, and find the faults more easily.  Many times I’ve read a finished story out loud, only to make half a dozen corrections as I go along.

As I have simplified my writing and gotten away from purple prose, I’ve seen it improve tremendously.  If you’re like me, you can too.

via Daily Prompt: Purple

The Art of Womanhood

This is a blog I would love to write or contribute to.

Currently, there is a truly amazing website called the Art of Manliness. I love it because you can find information on many different topics that are incredibly valuable in the world today and yet are neglected or nearly forgotten. You can find everything from how to do an old school wet shave with a straight razor, to basic car repair, understanding tools and materials, how to light a fire without matches, how to dress sharply, how to write a letter, and all kinds of old things you wished you’d learned from your grandpa. AOM is a window to a more civilized world full of manly men who know how to be strong, capable, and independent, but also kind and loving.

I want to do that for women.

I want to help create a repository of information that modern women can use. Old skills, new skills, tool use, self defense, health, beauty, grace, independence, and family skills. I know all of these things are available elsewhere – and I’d probably start by linking to existing content – but I want to make a place for people who want to know about all of this and at the same time carry forward an aura of grace and dignity and strength into the new era.

How about an article on being a gracious hostess? Or how to really carry on a conversation? How to pick out stationary and when to use it? Or how to talk to a mechanic without looking like a fool? I basically want to collect these things together in a package that’s classy, well organized, and appealing to women. It could be a sister site to Art of Manliness. Maybe we could even ally together.

There are so many skills and arts that are being lost even as we speak. I want to preserve them! What if a young woman wants to learn to roast a turkey, say, but her mom isn’t there to give her all the tips and tricks? What if a young woman needs relationship advice but doesn’t have someone she trusts to talk to? Or doesn’t know how to sew on a button? Or needs to jump start her car?

“Art of Womanhood” would solve all that!

How to publish a book without paying a cent

You can do it with all the equipment you are currently using at this very moment.

That’s right, just a computer, an internet connection, your brain, and your fingers. Let’s say you have a manuscript. It could be a novel, non fiction, book of poems, biography, cookbook, or whatever. If it’s polished and ready to see the light of day, you already have everything you need!

How can you do this without fancy software or paying publishing fees? Read on.

If you have your text ready, the first thing you will want to do is format it and make sure it includes all the bits you need. Author’s note, copyright, acknowledgements, etc etc. That’s not bad. Then you need to be able to convert it to PDF. One free software program can do all that and it’s called LibreOffice. It’s available for free, and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Just gGoogleit!

Many self publishing places want you to put your book in 6 by 9 inch format. That’s easy to do with Libre Office, you can set up the page size so it will automatically be in that size. And when you have your file exactly the way you want it, you can convert it to PDF through the “export to PDF” in the file menu. PDF format is good because it makes sure the book prints out exactly the way you have it set up.

But what about the cover? If you have some artistic or creative talent, you can do it in GIMP, another free program that works for Windows, Linux, or Mac. When you are done setting up the titling and everything, it will also export to PDF format.

Don’t want to draw your own cover? No problem, both of my favorite print on demand sites have a cover wizard that help you make a nice looking cover with very little work.

My favorite print on demand sites are CreateSpace and Lulu. Both support print on demand and ebook options. CreateSpace takes a bigger cut of the profits than Lulu does, but at the same time it gives you much wider distribution options. Both places will assign you an ISBN and let you keep all your own rights in case you should make it big. And neither charges anything for basic set up, they only make money if you sell a book. How much you need to charge to make a profit will depend on how many pages your book is.

My own novel, that I published last year, is 250 pages that are 6 by 9 inches in size. If I charge $14.99 for my book I make just over $5 in profit. That may not sound like much, but it’s a lot better than most authors get with traditional publishing. The Kindle edition makes me more, as I get about $4 per book if I charge $5.99. I like that anyway, because ebooks are great! If anyone would like to see my book, they can search “The Dice of Fate” in the CreateSpace or Kindle eStore.

So there you have it. I published my book and I didn’t pay a cent, and you can do it too.


Dice of Fate cover small

Writing Tackle

If you are reading this, you are have a high probability of being a writer or aspiring writer. So I think this subject is near and dear to many people here.

For artists or for writers, a small pocket sized notebook can be a real best friend. Author Robert Michael Pyle (known as “Butterfly Bob” to his friends) says that he is never without his “writing tackle.” He’s a real character. He’s an outdoorsman, scientist, folklorist, and grandfatherly eccentric. His writing tackle consists of a nice leather bound notebook, a refillable fountain pen, and an ink bottle. He carries them everywhere, so he’s always ready for when inspiration strikes. When I saw him at a book signing, there he was, filling his pen from the ink bottle.

What kind of “writing tackle” or “drawing tackle” would you like to carry? Is there a set of writing tools that would make you feel more creative, or possibly give you incentive to write more often? Would you use your smartphone? A tablet computer? A batterd spiral notebook? A nice hardback sketch diary? Backs of envelopes? Napkins and borrowed crayons? Do you think that inspiration might strike more often if you took notes more often? One thing is for certain, carrying a little notebook helps you remember whatever ideas you do have, so you don’t lose them.

I have different levels of “writing tackle” and “drawing tackle.” I try not to go anywhere without at least a pen and a few scraps of paper. I have a small lined notebook that fits in my pocket along with a writing pen or two. For drawing I have a tiny sketchbook, maybe the size of a stack of index cards, that I use along with three technical pens and a mechanical pencil. That’s pretty easy to pack. I also have a bigger sketchbook with a long rectangular tin that holds several woodless graphite pencils and a kneaded eraser. If I really want to go all out, I can take my wooden sketchbox easel… with an even bigger sketch book, and room for ALL my pencils and pens!

Whether you call it Writing tackle, your emergency creativity kit, or portable memory, be prepared!

Writing Tackle: Sealing Wax


Sometimes I have fun writing letters. At my best, I had a box full of interesting paper, stickers, cool pens, and even a bronze seal with a stick of sealing wax to use it with. I need to make another one of those, because they are fun!

Sealing wax is neat stuff. It’s more pliable than candle wax, which will just break. You light the little wax “candle” and drip a blob onto your paper, or whatever you want to seal shut. As the wax is still soft, then you stamp it with your seal, which can even be a signet ring. I really wish I’d done a better job making my signet ring in college, I may have to make a stamp from Sculpey clay to replace it.

Of course, seals were often used by kings and nobles in medieval times onward, and are still occasionally used on official documents. It’s a fun way to lend an aura of regality to a letter or note. You can get seals and sealing wax at stationery stores, in all different colors. Look for something that looks like a small square candle, like this: