Because writing should be fun

“Two Necromancers, a Bureaucrat, and an Elf” Now Available on Amazon

My newest original story Two Necromancers, a Bureaucrat, and an Elf is now available on Amazon! It weighs in at 35,000 words and goes for $1.99. Most of my previous stories have been fairly serious (e.g., The Last Huntress), but this one is different.

If you’ve been looking forward to something humorous from me, then your wait is finally over. Two Necromancers, a Bureaucrat, and an Elf is a fantasy with plenty of humour, warmth, action, and a healthy dose of craziness (the kind you’ve come to expect from me).

You can get it here.

And here is the blurb:

Two necromancers, a bureaucrat, and an elf – it sounds like the start of a bad joke, only the joke is on Timmy.

Timothy Walter Bolton – better known as Timmy – has spent most of his life as a necromancer. When he isn’t terrorising his enemies, he’s plotting inside his castle, which is built on top of lightless chasms filled with nameless horrors and beings of a generally malevolent and megalomaniacal nature. But after one of his latest creations, a zombie hydra-dragon-bear, tries to eat him, he decides that maybe it’s time to find a new, less dangerous, career.

But that’s easier said than done. He’s a wanted criminal with no shortage of powerful (and crazy) enemies, and he has a bone or two to pick with the Everton Council of Mages.

Hope arrives in the form of a new law. War is coming to Everton, and the Council is desperate. In exchange for providing some help, Timmy might just earn that pardon he’s been looking for. Of course, just because it’s possible to earn a pardon doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.

To earn his pardon, Timmy is going to have to take down some of Everton’s most dangerous enemies and put together a quirky group of unconventional heroes, most of whom want nothing more than to mangle him and/or the Council in as vicious a way as possible. It’s a good thing that he’s got some help: an obnoxious ten-year-old apprentice who thinks that pink glasses are appropriate for a budding necromancer and a bumbling bureaucrat who may or may not make it through their first real fight without puking his guts up.


Still, Timmy’s never been one to back down from a challenge even if their first recruit is basically the elf version of the bogeyman.

If you want to know more, just keep on reading to see a longer preview: Read more…

Writing Tip of the Day #5 – The Consequences of Human Emotion

Without telepathy, it is impossible to truly know what someone else is thinking. We can each feel emotion, so we assume that everyone else can too. But how do we know what emotions someone else is feeling? We make judgements based on verbal and non-verbal cues.

Verbal cues are perhaps the quickest and easiest way to make a judgement, but they are not necessarily the most accurate. A verbal cue for sadness might be someone stating that they feel sad. But just because someone says they feel sad does not mean that they actually are sad. It is easy to lie, and some people are very good at lying.

Non-verbal are the other way we can judge a person’s emotions. In the case of sadness, there are a particular subset of facial expressions that are associated with sadness. Tears are also often related to sadness. But we can look at other parts of the body aside from the face. For instance, someone’s posture may change when they feel sad. They may slouch, and their shoulders may slump. Sadness is not simply a facial express – it is a whole pattern of behaviour.

In writing, emotions are amongst the trickiest things to accurately depict. It is possible to simply state how a character feels, but we can paint a much richer picture if we include both verbal and non-verbal cues to better convey their emotions. Indeed, some of the most poignant moments can occur when we deliberately contrast the verbal and non-verbal cues.

Consider the impression left when a novice soldier tells their superior that they are fine despite how badly their hands are shaking. Are they really fine? Or are they simply putting on a brave face?

Likewise, what conclusions can we draw when we read about someone who claims to be heartbroken but shows no outward signs of sorrow? Are they lying? Or are they simply holding it all in?

Emotions are an important part of character development, and it is rarely enough to simply state how people feel. Instead, it is often better to look at the consequences of human emotion. Show the reader the consequences of emotion and they will be able to draw their own conclusions about how the characters feel.

How To Hit People In The Face Really Hard

Punching power is one of those things that people talk about all the time in combat sports. Fans, in particular, are obsessed with fighters who possess the kind of firepower that leaves their opponent twitching on the ground. This is why a good, scrappy brawl often pulls in higher ratings than a highly technical bout.

But what are the secrets behind punching power?

The two most obvious places to begin are size and muscle mass. There is no denying that larger combatants tend to have more striking power than their smaller counter parts. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some middle weights who hit harder than some heavy weights, but the average heavy weight is going to be a much bigger puncher than the average middle weight.

But setting those two factors aside, how can we explain the differences in punching power between people of roughly the same size and muscle mass? There are a few places we can look.

A punch is basically a collision – you are hitting someone’s face with your hand. The amount of force that is transferred during that collision is a function of the mass of objects colliding and their acceleration. This means several things.

A punch that the opponent walks into is more powerful than one they are trying to get away from. The classic example of this is when someone walks into a big right hand rather than trying to flinch away from it. If you aren’t a particularly big puncher, you can help your cause by luring your opponent into the punch. In boxing, Ali was very good at this while Machida provides an example from MMA.

Do not allow your opponent to cramp your punches. A punch accelerates most rapidly (and attains most of its speed and leverage) when it is allowed to extend fully. An easy way to test this is to throw a normal punch at a punching bag before taking a step closer and trying to throw that same punch again. In the latter case, your fist will end up shoving the bag rather than striking it cleanly. If you allow your opponent to get too close, you will not be able to extend your punches properly, robbing them of much of their power. This is why you will often see fighters with shorter reach swarming those with longer reach – their aim is to get close enough to throw their shorter punches while smothering their opponent’s longer punches. This is also why at very close ranges it’s more common to see punches like hooks or uppercuts (which have shorter ranges than jabs and straights) or other strikes like knees or elbows (in MMA).

The punch that the opponent doesn’t see is the one most likely to hurt them. Any well-trained fighter will know how to respond to a punch. They can block a punch, parry it, slip it, roll with the impact, shift to take the hit on a stronger part of the body, and so on. Any one of these approaches reduces the damage they receive. But all of these responses rely on them actually noticing the punch and reacting to it. If the opponent does not see the punch, then they cannot react to it properly and will take full damage. The classic example of this is a fighter who gets lazy with their jab eating a counter right hand (usually an overhand right) over the top of the jab before getting knocked out. Seriously, watch some MMA knock out highlights and many of them will feature fighters getting knocked out by overhand rights after throwing out a lazy, pawing jab without tucking their chin in. Boxers are hardly immune to this either – I’ve seen quite a few technicians knocked out when they throw a pitter-patter jab against a savvy brawler with good instincts.

Counter punching is another way to potentially increase the force of your punches. Fighters are often at their most vulnerable when they are in the process of striking. Think about it. If the opponent wants to really hit you, then they are going to have to commit. A properly thrown punch usually requires planting the feet, a shift in weight, and a focus on where the punch will be directed. All of these things leave the opponent vulnerable. If they plant their feet and are shifting their weight, they will not be able to evade as easily – they may even move into your punch. And their mental focus on landing their own strike can make it easy for them to miss a counter strike coming in. Fighters are also often not mentally prepared to be hit back while in the middle of throwing their own attack.

But counter punching can be very difficult – it requires both speed and timing. Speed is required because you must be able to react to a particular set of circumstances (e.g., the opponent throwing a hook) in the correct manner. Timing is also required because you have to know when to throw your counter strike to do maximum damage.

Although boxing has had its share of fighters who had Howitzers for hands (e.g., Foreman and Shavers), the majority of its knock out artists rely on more than just brute force. They rely on leading their opponents onto their punches, on speed and timing, and on getting the most leverage out of their punches.

Here are a few examples:

In this video you can see quite possibly the most perfect left hook ever thrown. Sugar Roy Robinson catches Gene Fullmer leaning in to throw his big right hand and catches him with a blindingly fast short left hook that Fullmer never sees before he’s down on the ground. Sugar Ray’s punch not only had speed and placement behind it, he also caught Fullmer moving into the punch.

And in this video you can again see what happens a fighter is caught in the middle of a punch. Ricky Hatton throws a pawing left and gets caught by a tremendous left hand from Pacquiao that hits him right on the jaw. Not only was Hatton caught unawares by the punch but he was also leaning into it. Take a look at Pacquiao’s body placement as well. His feet are planted firmly, his entire body is pivoting into the punch, and his punch connects at the perfect distance – he has maximised his leverage.

And finally here. This is the great Ali putting Sonny Liston down with an “anchor punch”. Ali, though a great boxer, was never known for the kind of chilling power that some of his contemporaries had (Foreman comes to mind here along with the doozy of a left hook that Frazier possessed and Shavers’s bomb of a right hand). What makes this punch so effective is that he catches Liston missing and hits him while he is still moving forward but before he can take a defensive a stance again. Heck, Liston doesn’t even seem to see the punch, it comes out so quickly.

The Last Huntress Free Today On Amazon (Friday 4th July, Pacific Standard Time)

The Last Huntress will be available for free on Amazon today (4th July, Pacific Standard Time). Get it here. If you enjoy fantasy with a healthy dose of atmosphere and action, give it a try! Here’s the blurb:

Scarlett is the last of her line – a huntress sworn to kill all monsters.

Rose is a girl searching for the power to take back her homeland.

In the icy forests of the north, on the trail of the only werewolf to escape her, Scarlett will teach Rose what it means to be a huntress. There can be no room for softness in a huntress’s heart, no room for weakness. And a huntress must be willing to kill anything – and anyone – that poses a threat to the innocent.

If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can download a free Kindle app from Amazon from here.

You can find my original fiction here.

A History Of My Love Of Basketball

My father has loved basketball ever since he was a kid. During the 1980s, his two favourite teams were the Lakers and the Celtics. Magic Johnson is still his favourite Laker, and he still firmly believes that Larry Bird is the best small forward to ever play the game.

My earliest memories of basketball are the Jordan years. There was something special about him. It wasn’t just about the clutch shooting, the suffocating defence, or the ability to completely ignore the laws of physics for yet another impossible dunk or hand-changing lay up, it was about the way he uplifted an entire franchise. Like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird before him, Jordan put an entire city on his back and made them believers.

But basketball is a team sport. As great as Magic Johnson was, he didn’t win those championships alone. The Showtime Lakers won those championships, and they did it with phenomenal passing and an offence that you had to see to believe. There are very few things in the world as beautiful as watching the 1980s Laker burst out of their half with Magic Johnson handling the ball. I didn’t watch those games live (I’m too young), but I’ve watched tape of those games so many times. Likewise, Larry Bird’s Celtics were a team. Their team defence was renowned, and their three great big men (Bird, Parish, and McHale) were a front court that has arguably yet to be surpassed.

What stuck in my mind about Jordan’s Bulls was the absolute intensity with which they played. Jordan refused to lose, and he refused to let his teammates play at anything less than their best. There is an entire class of Hall of Famers who never won a ring because the Bulls were there to break the hearts year after year. The Bulls didn’t just beat teams – they demoralised them, leaving them burnt out, ruined shells of themselves. Just ask Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz.

After Jordan retired for the second time, I remember feeling lost. My favourite player had retired. But there were other players that I liked. I’d always been a big fan of David Robinson. Part of that was his nickname. Everyone called him “the Admiral” and that was what first got me interested since my father was a marine and my granduncle was a commodore.

David Robinson was very easy to cheer for. He was extremely athletic and skilled, but he was also articulate, well-mannered, and humble. He was exactly the kind of player that you wanted to do well. The only problem with David Robinson, however, was that he could never quite get over the hump and win a championship. Some people said he wasn’t nasty enough. Others said that he was a choker. I prefer to believe that the Spurs were one piece short of being good enough.

And then they got Tim Duncan.

My father always impressed upon me the importance of the fundamentals in basketball, and Tim Duncan was as fundamental as it got. He came into the league with all the moves that a big man could possibly want. He could bank the ball off the glass, nail shots off the elbow, and he was an absolute monster in the post. But his impact wasn’t just on the offensive end. He was – and remains – one of the best defenders in the NBA. His ability to read passes before they happen and anticipate the flow of an attack is exceptional. Lots of big men appear good defensively because of their athleticism. What has allowed Tim Duncan to remain an excellent rim protector and defensive player even after his knee troubles is his ability to couple his physical size and length with unmatched basketball IQ.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs to their first championship, and I almost cried along with David Robinson during the celebrations. Timmy would go on to lead the Spurs to three more championships (they won in 99, 2003, 2005, and 2007). Those early teams were characterised by two things: exceptional selflessness and stifling defence.

When Duncan arrived, Robinson could very easily have been offended and defensive. Instead, he saw the future of the Spurs in Timmy, and he set about teaching the younger man everything he knew. As good as Timmy is, I think he owes a lot to the Admiral. Robinson spent countless hours facing off against Tim and helping Tim hone his defence and his post moves. Robinson gave Timmy everything he had, and Timmy repaid him with championships.

But everyone gets old. Robinson slowed down and eventually retired, and for a few years Timmy had to carry the Spurs on his back. That 2003 championship run remains one of the most astonishing in the history of the NBA. Timmy had very little help that year, but he dragged the Spurs to their second championship while putting up some monster numbers.

But with the descent of Robinson came the rise of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Both arrived as relatively unknown overseas players, but both have made their mark. There are few point guards in the league who can finish at the rim and penetrate into the paint the way that Parker can. And even after all these years, I still have a hard time believing half the stuff that Ginobili does. I swear, I can go from wanting to stab Ginobili to wanting to throw him a parade in about thirty seconds.

But after the title in 2007, things took a turn for the worse. The Spurs continued to be good – they’ve never missed the playoffs during the Duncan era – but they were never quite able to get there. Dallas, Memphis, and Oklahoma all threatened to sweep aside the dynasty from San Antonio.

And then 2013 happened. Tim Duncan led the Spurs to yet another Finals appearance. They took a 3-2 lead against Miami and all seemed well until the last minute of Game 6 when everything fell apart.

I’ll admit that I was scared after the loss last year, scared because I know that chances like that don’t come around often, and every year that passes means that the Big Three are one year older. Tim Duncan is no longer a young man. Ginobili no longer has a full head of hair. 2013 felt almost like the ending of an era.

But the Spurs didn’t break. When a team loses like they did last year, they can either fall apart or come back stronger. The Spurs did the latter. This year, the Spurs unleashed what I consider to be the most beautiful offences that I’ve ever seen.

Every man in the Spurs offence this year knew what to do. The passes were swift, precise, and designed to carve open defences. The Spurs passed up on good shots to create great shots. They used ball movement and movement without the ball to leave defences wrong-footed and confused. If the Spurs of the late 1990s and early 2000s were a defensive juggernaut that relied too much on Tim Duncan to carry the offence, the Spurs of this year were a whirlwind of surgical passing and brilliant offensive execution.

This year’s Spurs also had a phenomenal bench. If you don’t believe me, look up how the Spurs’ bench stacked up to the benches of its opponents in the playoffs. It was a blood bath. If you still don’t believe me, watch the series against Portland, Oklahoma, and Miami where the Foreign Legion (San Antonio’s bench) left a trail of corpses in their wake. The Big Three can no longer carry the Spurs the way they used to, but they don’t have to. Not anymore.

What I love most about these Spurs is how they’ve taken players and made them better. Kawhi Leonard came to the Spurs a raw talent. They turned him into a Finals MVP. Danny Green was on his way out of the league, but at the Spurs he became a key 3 and D specialist. Boris Diaw was washed up only a few years ago, but he was instrumental in dismantling Oklahoma and Miami. Tiago Splitter has proven himself to be a superb defender with the Spurs, shutting down first Dirk Nowitzki and then Marcus Aldridge. And let’s not forget Patty Mills (go Patty!). The plucky, little Aussie came back this season fitter than ever before and Popovic rewarded him with more playing time and a bigger role. Mills responded beautifully, becoming a key component of the bench and showing the kind of shooting touch that let him top the 2012 Olympics in scoring. Even Marco Belinelli found a new home at the Spurs, becoming yet another contributor off the bench.

This year’s Spurs embody everything that I love about basketball. They play as a team and for each other. When someone does well, they all cheer for him. When someone is struggling, they all rush to help out. They are unselfish, moving the ball and always looking for an assist to set up an easy basket rather than trying to play hero ball. They are humble, never trash talking but instead preferring to let their play do the talking. They play defence, hustling for every ball, pressuring every single possession. They are a deep team, with every man contributing and knowing what he has to do.

In an era when the league seems more and more driven by individuals and superstars in search of glory, the Spurs are a throwback to the days when the team came first. They are a reminder that a great team is more than just the sum of its parts. A great team is like a great watch – every piece fits together perfectly and performs its own specific purpose perfectly, and the result is something beautiful.

Writing Tip of the Day #4 – Understand the Story You’re Telling

There are many different kinds of stories. Some stories focus very heavily on character development, and others focus more on developing a rich, immersive world. Of course, there’s no rule against a story doing multiple things, but most stories tend to focus on a few key areas.

The important thing is to understand what your story needs – not what it wants, but what it needs. A character-based drama might want a detailed, imaginative setting, but what it needs is deep, engaging characters. Likewise a mystery might want interesting and original characters, but what it needs is a well-paced plot and enough clues for the reader to keep interested.

Instead of worrying about what your story wants, focus first on what it needs. Once you’re sure that you can give your story everything that it needs, then you can worry about adding on all the things that it wants.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, you can find thosehere.

I also write original fiction, mostly fantasy, which you can find here.

Thoughts On Game Design #1 – Easy To Learn And Difficult To Master

“All the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master. They should reward the first quarter and the hundredth” (Nolan Bushnell, 1971).

The ideas contained in Bushnell’s quote are some of the most discussed in game development, but I’d like to go over them again. It never hurts to make sure that you understand the basics.

A game that is easy to learn is one that a player can pick up and understand relatively quickly and without a great deal of outside assistance. A great example of a game like this is Tetris. The rules of Tetris are very simple, and its controls are equally easy to grasp. You can give Tetris to a child and be confident that they’ll learn how to play it inside of a few minutes.

Another game that is easy to learn is Space Invaders. All that players have to remember is that they need to kill the aliens without being killed. The controls are extremely simple: they can move from side to side and shoot. Once again, you can give Space Invaders to almost anybody, and they will only need a few minutes to understand how it works.

But why does it matter if a game is easy to learn? The answer lies in the psychology of the player. Human beings only have so much time to invest in leisure. If a game doesn’t start to entertain fairly quickly, people will simply move on to another activity. People also like to feel like they are at least partially in control of what happens in a game. If players don’t understand what’s going on (i.e., why they are winning or losing), they will quickly become frustrated and quit. People hate feeling powerless. In contrast, people enjoy feeling powerful. The quicker someone learns how a game works, the quicker they can start feeling powerful.

There are several ways to make a game easy to learn:

  • Have simple rules. Games like Tetris, Pong, and Space Invaders have very simple rules, and this makes them very straightforward and easy to learn. In contrast most RPGs tend to have fairly complex rules, which can make them quite daunting to someone who has never played them before.
  • Take advantage of familiarity. Racing games and sports games can be easy to learn because they are activities that players are already familiar with. For example, most people who play soccer games already know the rules of soccer. The only things they have to learn are the controls. Likewise, most people who play racing games already know how racing works, all that remains is for them to learn the controls.
  • Follow the players’ intuition. During the heyday of the gaming arcade, gun games were very popular. These games were almost always easy to learn because the basic ideas behind the game (e.g., point the gun at the screen and shoot at the bad guys) were all things that seemed natural to the players.

As you can see, there are at least two axes along which a game can be made easier: rules and controls. Rules can be made easier when they are simple, obvious, or similar to the rules of other activities that are already familiar to the player (e.g., the rules of a sport). The controls of a game can be made simpler by matching them more closely to what feels natural for players (e.g., using a gun to aim at enemies on a screen is much easier to learn than learning to use a joystick and buttons).

One thing that not many people are aware of is that there exist versions of the original Street Fighter game that used two buttons (one for punch and one for kick), as opposed to the more familiar six (three different kinds of punch and three different kinds of kick). The trick was that how hard a player pressed the buttons determined what kind of punch or kick came out. As you can imagine, trying to control how hard you pressed a button in the middle of an exciting battle proved to be quite difficult. It is not a coincidence that all subsequent versions of Street Fighter have used the six button configuration – it makes the game much, much easier to learn since the player isn’t struggling with the controls the whole time.

If it’s good for games to be easy to learn, why do we want them to be difficult to master? The answer can be found, once again, in the psychology of the player. If something becomes too easy, it usually becomes quite boring (i.e., unenjoyable). People like winning, but they like it even more when winning actually means something. Think of how it feels to play chess against someone who is much, much worse than you. You might enjoy beating them the first few times, but after that it gets boring. There is no sense of achievement involved, no feeling that you’re doing something awesome – and people like feeling awesome.

A game that ceases to challenge players will become boring, and people do not play boring games for long. This applies to more than just video games. A skilled crossword player will naturally seek out harder crosswords. A gifted chess player will look for stronger opponents. Elite athletes hunger for elite competition.

Mastery involves achieving greater and greater proficiency at something. So how can we make games difficult to master?

  • Scale the game’s mechanics. The basic mechanics of Tetris never change. However, as the player reaches higher levels, blocks are dropped at an ever-faster rate. This forces the player to improve, and makes the game difficult to master. You can also increase the number of blocks ahead that a player can see, adding yet another thing to the game that the player must master (planning ahead).
  • Include non-essential mechanics that add depth. Street Fighter IV includes a host of mechanics that are not strictly necessary to win (e.g., special moves, Ultra Combos, Super Combos, focus attacks, focus attack dash cancelling, etc.). However, truly mastering the game involves learning all of these things, which is no small task. Indeed, it can take years to learn how all of these things apply to a single character.
  • Provide opportunities for players to separate themselves from each other. In Starcraft II, marines are an extremely powerful unit that is highly vulnerable to area-of-effect damage. In order to master Terran in Starcraft II, it is necessary to learn how to overcome this weakness (e.g., by spreading marines out to avoid area-of-effect attacks).
  • Reward knowledge and better decision-making. Magic: The Gathering is not the simplest game. But what separate masters from average players is not usually knowledge of the rules. Instead, it is understanding of how all of the various cards interact with each other that sets masters apart from average players. Masters learn how to use their cards to maximum effect, generating card advantage. They also learn how to use cards in combination and how to properly process what can be very complex decision trees. You can give an average player and a master the exact same set of cards, and barring extraordinary luck, the master should win much more often than the average player.

A game that is easy to learn rewards you from the moment you put in the first quarter (assume for a moment, that you’re back in the glory days of the arcade). A game that is difficult to master ensures that your hundredth quarter is worth it too.

Godzilla (2014) Review

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: I’m a huge, huge fan of giant monsters. Most of the time this means that I have to watch things in Japanese with English subtitles. Nobody – and I mean nobody – does giant, city-crushing monsters the way that the Japanese do.

But that isn’t to say that Hollywood can’t make good monster movies. Both Pacific Rim and Cloverfield were quite enjoyable although I do wish the shaky-cam in Cloverfiled wasn’t quite so shaky.

Way, way back in 1998, Hollywood made a Godzilla movie. It was pure, unmitigated garbage. Here are some of the lovely things we were treated to:

  • A Godzilla that looked like a giant iguana.
  • A Godzilla that seemed to change size from scene to scene.
  • A Godzilla so lame that it actually got hurt by normal missiles. Yes, you read that right. It got hurt by regular missiles. Japanese Godzilla laughs in the face of normal missiles.
  • A Godzilla without the iconic atomic breath.
  • A Godzilla that laid eggs that then engaged in scenes more reminiscent of Jurassic Park than a real Godzilla movie.

In fact, 1998 Godzilla was so lame that it was renamed Zilla and promptly slaughtered by the real Godzilla in the awesome Godzilla: Final Wars movie. The fact that Godzilla beats Zilla by throwing him into the Sydney Opera House and then blasting him with his atomic breath is simply icing on the cake.

Naturally, I was very worried when I heard that Hollywood would be taking another stab at Godzilla. Even the trailer, and it’s awesome skydiving scene, wasn’t enough to ease my concerns.

Last weekend, I finally got a chance to watch it. It was awesome. Spoilers ahead! Read more…

Writing Tip of the Day #3 – Find Your Time and Place

One of the easiest ways to improve your writing is to establish a routine. A routine helps for several reasons:

  • It ensures that you write regularly.
  • It ensures that you constantly work on improving.
  • It ensures that you are in the right state of mind when you’re writing.
  • It ensures that you don’t cut corners when you’re writing.

The two most important things about establishing a routine are to find the right time and the right place.

When you’re thinking about what time you should write, try a number of different times to see which time works best for you. More often than not, you’ll find that you’re more productive at certain times of the day or night. For example, when I was writing my thesis, I found out that I did my best work in the middle of the night. So I actually wrote most of my thesis during the middle of the night. Every person has their own cycles of productivity – take advantage of yours. Writing at the same time each day also makes it much, much easier to ensure that you spend time on your writing each and every day – and that is the best way to improve.

You’ll also find that it’s often easier to write in certain places. Ideally, you want to write somewhere without too many distraction, where you have control over your surroundings (e.g., lighting and music). The other reason to write in the same place if you can is so that you come into the right frame of mind. Think about going to work – once you’re at your desk at work, you know that it’s time to work. Likewise, if you have a place to write, then once you’re there, you know that it’s time to write.

Establishing a routine isn’t always easy. Our lives are filled with varying responsibilities, but having a routine can make a big difference to your writing. True, it can take weeks to find the right routine, but it’s a worthwhile investment because it can make things so much easier in the long run.

If you’re interested in more of my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction (mostly fantasy). You can find that here.

Writing Tip of the Day #2 – Find Your Own Style

We all have writers that we admire – writers whose turn of phrase and skill with words leaves us green with envy. And it can be very tempting to just try and copy them, but doing that would be doing us a disservice.

Every writer is unique because how we write is not only a product of our education but also our experiences. No two people have lived the same life, so no two people will write the exact same way. Trying to copy the style of another writer is asking for trouble since that style is a result of the life they’ve led. Unless you’ve lived the same life as them, it’s unlikely that their style will work as well for you as it does for them.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything. In fact, we can learn a lot by studying another writer’s style and trying to understand what makes it good. By identifying what makes a particular writer’s style good, we can try and incorporate those strengths into our own writing, as opposed to just copying them on a cosmetic level.

To find out what makes a writer’s style good, just ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Was there any aspect of their writing that really caught your attention (e.g., their dialogue, their storytelling, or their characters)?
  • Was there any aspect of their writing that sets them apart from other people who write in the same genre (e.g., a fantasy writer who incorporates a lot of humour or a science fiction writer who delves deeply into politics)?
  • Was there any aspect of their writing that developed over the course of their career (e.g., a writer might become better and better at writing fight scenes or dialogue)?

When you understand what makes the writer’s style good, then you can try and incorporate those things into your own writing. For example, if you’ve noticed that what drives a writer’s success is the snap and wittiness of their dialogue, then you might want to try and sharpen your own dialogue. Likewise, if you’ve noticed that a particular writer is praised for the deep, immersive nature of the fantasy they write, then you might want to try and flesh out richer backstories for your own fantasy stories.

Your goal shouldn’t just be to become as good as the writers you like – you should try and surpass them. Merely copying will never allow you to do that, but understanding their strengths and making them your own will.

If you’re interested in more of my thoughts on writing, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction (mostly fantasy). You can find that here.

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