Speedy Writing Using Your Writing Amuse

Speedy Writing Using Your Writing Amuse

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If your muse is the spirit that gives you a perfect story to write, what is it that let’s you crank out a rough first draft quickly?

Is it a pulp fiction muse? No. Pulp fiction stops at the first draft. The rest of us turn our fast, unedited, mixed-quality first drafts into good material by revising.

Your amuse? Maybe.

Asocial is a lack of interest in being social.

Atheist is a lack of interest in theism. (Or at least it should be.)

Amuse is a lack of interest in your muse.

Are you trying to write and your muse isn’t helping? Better get help from your amuse. Your amuse doesn’t care about a perfect story. If it doesn’t know what happens next, it might write “something magical happens” and move on. When your amuse sees too many directions for the story, it may write a paragraph on several of those directions and then keep writing the story that follows. Your amuse doesn’t care how much mess is left behind for the second draft.

The amuse finds it funny to make a mess of things. It would rather make a mess than not move forward. The amuse is amusing.

Of course, the amuse is nothing new. I’m just putting a name on writing with your editor turned off. I once heard a story about a high school English teacher who rarely had a student that was able to finish writing a novel as their term paper. Forgive me if you’ve heard the original and I’ve changed it. It was a long time ago. What I remember well about the story was her experiment to get those term papers done. She changed the assignment. They no longer needed to write a novel. They needed to write a bad novel. The competition was to write the worst novel ever written.

Every student wrote a novel that year. They probably were some of the worst novels ever written, but they gotten written.
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On the Nine Self-Publishing Skillsets



I’ve learned a few things about self-publishing while writing Homicidal Tendencies, my first published book. I had to wear many hats to complete the process. Except for writing and editing, many writers recommend hiring other people for each task. I couldn’t afford that. I needed to learn it all myself. This slowed down the work on my first book. Now that I have those skills, I should be able to increase my writing speed for the entire process when I write the next one. I thought I’d share an overview of the process. Deeper articles on some of these steps will follow here later.

It took about three years to write and edit the book. I was studying more about writing and editing while I wrote it. I would learn something new and need to use that in the next revision. There are normally three revisions when writing a book. I had four because I did a developmental edit after the second revision.

If you’re open to learning new things, you can develop any skill. Most of those listed below are related to writing so you already have some skill in those. Formatting and publishing both have low learning curves if you’re good at researching. The only two that may present a big challenge are cover design and marketing. I’ll talk briefly about each of the nine skills.

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Crime Writing in America – Legal Issues

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Earlier, I posted the article Crime Writing in Canada with plans to quickly follow it with “Crime Writing in America”. Sorry for the hold up. I haven’t had good luck finding special legal issues for crime writing published in America.

America has more freedom than Canada because of the first amendment right to freedom of speech. I could find no laws against publishing “crime comics”, stories where the theme is crime, or the suggestion that all criminals be either dead or in prison by the end of the story. That makes stories published in America more realistic.

Publish in America and your main character can be a successful criminal in a story centered around crime with the main characters still alive and free at the end. Sure. You’re free to have all that in your novel, but would you want to? Would you buy a second novel from an author who wrote something like that?

Common sense is as good a censor as the law. We all like to see characters suffer for bad behavior and prosper for doing good. But enough about how lawless of a story you might want to write. What about the laws that apply everywhere, even with freedom of speech?

Hate Literature

Laws against hate literature are nearly universal. I think this is mainly a non-fiction issue. Nobody wants to waste their money on hate literature.

You may have a group in a work of fiction that hates another group because of race, gender, religion, or some other politically incorrect category. As long as they’re the antagonists and are going to get what’s coming to them in the end, that shouldn’t be a problem. If they’re the heroes of the story, you’re heading into trouble and your problems go deeper than just your story.

The remaining issues apply to every kind of writing. They’re all to do with people and corporations protecting their intellectual property and their image.


Plagiarism is copying someone else’s work word for word without giving them credit. It depends a lot on how much you copy. If every sentence was subject to copyright, you couldn’t say “It was a hot summer’s day” because somebody has written that in a story already. Probably hundreds of someones.

Plagiarism applies if you copy an entire article or story or substantial parts of one. But what if you wanted to use “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen” as the first line in a chapter as a way to suggest you’re writing about a dystopia like George Orwell’s “1984”? It’s not a substantial portion of the novel, but the line is so distinctive it may qualify as a trademark of sorts. That’s the next issue.

Trademark Infringement

If you decide to put a Starbucks Auto Repair in your novel, you’ll be committing trademark infringement. The name “Starbucks” is an established trademark and, if your book is successful enough for them to notice, you can be sued. But maybe your book will be a flop and everything will be okay.

Trademark Dilution

If your characters like to meet at a Starbucks instead of a Starbucks coffee house, you’ll be committing trademark dilution. I see this in a lot of published novels, so I’m guessing companies aren’t too worried about this issue. The reason trademark dilution is a problem is that the Starbucks corporation wouldn’t want Starbucks to become the generic name for all coffee houses. It doesn’t seem like that could happen, but Kleenex facial tissues would disagree.

When you have a runny nose, you need a facial tissue. Kleenex is one brand among many. At one time “Kleenex” was used in place of “facial tissue” no matter what the brand of facial tissue. That was brand dilution and Kleenex facial tissue had to sue writers who used their brand name as the generic name. Now nobody in a novel uses a Kleenex unless it’s a Kleenex facial tissue.

How do you decide what to use? You don’t want to always need to say “Starbucks coffee house” and “Kleenex facial tissue”. That can be clunky looking. You could make up your own brands or just use the generic names. There’s nothing wrong with characters stopping at a coffee house or wiping their eyes with a tissue. You can also get permission to use company names. I suspect that’s why we see characters stopping at Starbucks and other trademarked companies without the generic name following. Some trademarks are distinctive enough to be safe from dilution.


Anything negative you say about a product, company, or person can be libelous. This is a problem in non-fiction because the book is your opinion.

In fiction, it’s not a problem that a character says libelous things. It’s the opinion of a fictional character. It may be a problem if the narrator says libelous things, but the narrator isn’t necessarily the author. Narrators can be fictitious too.

Is that every American law on writing and publishing?

It might be. If it isn’t, at least it’s a start on things to look out for in your writing. I think most of us writing novels have little to worry about, but there are those few look-outs.

Article by Ivan Izo.

Don’t Forget the Subplots

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I tried to make a list of all the books I’d read once. It was over 2000 titles long when I realized there was a problem. There were some authors where I’d read dozens of their books and didn’t recognize a single summary when I looked them up. For other authors, I remembered every single book. What’s the difference between the two? That’s hard to say given I don’t remember one type, but I’ll make a guess.

There are some authors whose books you can read very fast because the story is simple. We follow one character or group pursuing a single goal. All the story complications have to do with that single goal. You can zip through the story quickly and forget it just as quick. Nothing wrong with that. Some authors build successful careers on that writing style. I’m not even suggesting you shouldn’t use that style.

There are other authors whose books you can’t read fast. The people in their stories have their own motivations and don’t cooperate with the central story. In other words, the novels have subplots. These are the 2000 plus books I remembered well. Sub-plots make a story unique and more realistic.

Nobody has a favorite book that has no sub-plots unless it’s a favorite book from childhood. Adult novels that are simple quick reads are too much like other books in their genre. They are forgettable.

As an example, I’d like to talk about the plots of a few favorite books. Recent research has found that knowing the plot of a story doesn’t ruin a story. Even knowing the ending won’t stop you from enjoying a book. Still, I will hold back the endings.

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Managing Action in Your Fiction

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When you deal with the big problems successfully, you have the resources you need to deal with the small problems. It works like this in both real life and fiction. The resolution of the main story problem, the engine of the story, should also wipe out the smaller problems.

How do you make sure the smaller problems are tied in to the bigger ones? You write the big problems first. The multiple draft process follows below. If you’re a seat-of-your-pants writer, you can write the prep docs in your imagination.


The synopsis starts with your big story problem, the idea you want to turn into a story. What starts the problem? How are you going to open the novel with action? Who are the important characters? What attempts will they make to solve the problem without success? How do they change at the halfway point from investigating the problem to being on top of it and actively working for a solution? How will you create major changes in the story at the one third and two third points? How do they resolve the problem at the end?
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Use Zen to Write More

Use Zen to Write More

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Zen Buddhist meditation teaches you to clear the clutter from your mind so that you can have focus and peace.

Zen practitioners will also clear the clutter from their home. I wouldn’t recommend that move for a writer. You need to have lots going on to be a good writer; lots of experience to draw from. A cluttered home isn’t a problem. Why?

Zen meditation teaches focus. It begins with ignoring all thoughts except a nonsense phrase or the viewing of a candle flame. When that succeeds, you forget the nonsense phrase or the flame as well. If you can ignore your thoughts, you can certainly ignore your environment. Physical clutter doesn’t matter.

There are books on how to meditate, but the steps are no longer than a blog article. Do an internet search for “how to meditate” and you will find many articles.

How will this help you write more? Drop the focus on nonsense phrases or flames and focus on what you are writing. Not everything you are writing, the one thing you are writing now.

Eckhard Tolle’s variation on meditation is to forget about both the past and future so you can enjoy the moment. You can’t change the past. The future may be different than you expect. By forgetting both, you remove most causes of anxiety and depression.

Another way to look at it is this. You can’t fix the past because it’s over and you can’t fix the future because the problems haven’t arrived yet. When you focus on only your most important problem in the present, you are free to give it your full attention.

Learn to use these methods to focus on what you are writing now and you will be free of most distractions. You will be using Zen to write more.

Article by Ivan Izo.

Keep It Stupid Simple – Counter-intuitive Character Behaviors

Keep It Stupid Simple – Counter-intuitive Character BehaviorsPhoto license

A character makes a quick run to the corner store and decides not to bother locking the door. One more speeding ticket and your character will lose their license but they keep on speeding. Cheating, crime, and the Darwin Effect are all good examples of character stupidity and irrationality. This is the stuff that makes characters real.

A character who always does the right thing doesn’t sound like a real person.

Real people don’t always make the right decisions. Even the most rational among us know what they should do but let their emotions dictate their action. You shouldn’t visit reddit.com because you have work to do, but you want to have a laugh. You should end a relationship with a cheating partner, but you’re still in love. You should ignore bad behavior from a casual friend, but you want revenge.

We also do the wrong thing because we’re distracted. We daydream. We focus on what’s most important instead of what’s most urgent. Opportunities get missed. The wrong opportunities are taken.

We do the wrong thing because we are lazy. Someone else will catch that problem. Maybe nobody will notice if it’s not done. Maybe a repetitive task can be done less often. Then, even less. Then, not at all. Now the character has become fetid bachelor frog.

An offshoot of laziness is stupidity. We are stupid about things we are too lazy to learn because we don’t really care about knowing them. If you’re not into computers, you don’t study how to keep your internet connection up. Instead, when it goes down, you call tech support and they tell you how to fix it. Characters will also be stupid about anything they have no interest in. If you give a character skills that don’t relate to their job or hobbies, where did they get the knowledge?

How about misunderstandings between characters? For example, the hotel clerk who regrets that the customers credit card didn’t work and the customer who thinks the clerk is being sarcastic and rude. People choose their interpretation of what’s going on. Some expect to be attacked socially. Some deliberately find fault, even if they need to make it up. Others expect they will get their way every time on certain things.

Even the most rational person will make the wrong choice if it supports what they believe. Career. Corporate loyalty. Religion. Politics. These are the enemies of rationality and they’re here to stay.

When your characters are in a role that’s important to them, it makes sense that they will have a level of expertise. When they step out of their comfort zone, make them simple and stupid.

This is just one more of the many ways you can make your characters stand out as real people and help to make them different from the other people in your novel.

If you’d like more ideas on developing unique characters, check out these other Writer on Fire articles:

Keep Your Characters in Character

38 Character Personality Types

13 Character Archetypes

17 Ways to Make Your Characters Sound Different

Do Your Characters Need to Get a Life?

Character Change – What Makes a Character Three Dimensional?

Character Change With Heart

Article by Ivan Izo.