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Posts in category Guest Posts

Guest Author: Writing for the New Generation of Readers by JG Faherty

From 2006 – 2010, I wrote for the site Fiction Scribe on the 451 network (neither are now operating). This post is from that time. Because of that, some comments may be dated.

Carnival of Fear by JG FahertyThe theme for this blog is supposed to be ‘advice for aspiring writers.’ I thought about whether I should do the short answer or the long one.

I’ll do both.

Short answer: Run! Run fast and run far. Get a job – a real job. One that will keep your stress level low and your family fed and housed.

Long answer: People think that writing is easy. And it is. What could be easier than sitting down and typing your thoughts? All it takes is a basic command of the English language and the ability to type. Yes, writing is easy.

Getting published is one of the hardest things in the world to do!

Getting published requires more than just having some basic English skills. It means having above-average language skills. Knowing the difference between you’re and your, or its and it’s. Knowing you can’t depend on spell check. Knowing how to build sentences, then craft those sentences together into interesting paragraphs, and then place those paragraphs in an order that makes sense when read.

It means having more than just a 1-sentence idea. A writer has to create believable characters and situations, has to be able to get the reader to suspend disbelief when the hero is chasing a vampire or ghost. And then there is dialog. People don’t all speak exactly the same, so the characters in a book need to have their own ‘voices.’ A book must also contain description. You can’t just say the character took a walk in the park. You have to make the reader feel as if he or she is in that park, smelling the flowers, tasting the ice cream cone, feeling the breeze on their skin. And don’t forget sub-plots: is the main character going through a divorce in addition to chasing the monster? Is he or she suffering from an illness? Falling in love with the wrong person? About to lose a job? Books are like a house of cards, or a puzzle – fitting different pieces together in the hopes of creating something that is not only interesting, but makes sense.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve beaten the odds and finished a book that meets all the basic requirements: well-written, with a good plot and believable characters. Does that mean your job is done? Heck no! Now you’ve got to find someone to publish it. “But JG,” I hear you say, “Can’t I just publish it myself on Amazon or pay to have it printed?” Sure – if you want to get lumped in with a bazillion other people, 99.9% of whom can’t do what you did – write well. Thanks to self-publishing, the internet is littered with books written by people who don’t have a fifth-grade grasp of English. So, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to get a real book publisher to publish you. And by real I mean a company that actually gives you cash in order to publish your book. Unless you’re just interested in writing for fun, you should get paid for your hours and hours of hard work.

So, finding a publisher. Easier said than done. The book publishers who actually pay their writers get hundreds – if not thousands – of submissions from writer EVERY MONTH. A first-time writer has as much chance of getting noticed as a brown rock at the bottom of a river. So you submit. And submit. And submit. And you keep doing it until someone finally notices your genius. Sometimes it happens with the first book. Sometimes you have to writer 3 or 4 or more before one of them catches an editor or agent’s eye. In my case, I wrote 3 additional novels and countless short stories while waiting for my first novel to get picked up by a publisher. Five years, from the time I wrote it to the time I sold it. After that, things picked up a bit. But my case isn’t unusual. I know writers who’ve sold their first novel in less than a year, and some who waited 10 years before getting that first big break.

So, what’s the point of all this gloomy news? Being a writer is easy. Being a published writer is really, really hard. You need a thick skin to deal with the rejections. You need to continually hone your skills and do whatever you can to be the best you can be. You need to work hard not only at your writing but also your submitting. And you need a lot of patience. On top of that, a dose of good luck is also a necessity.

Is it worth it? Well, I won’t deny there’ve been times when I just wanted to say the hell with it and focus on my photography and music hobbies. I’ve felt rejected and dejected. I’ve wanted to toss the computer out the window and shout to the world, I give up! I suck!

But then magic happens. You get that acceptance letter, the one that says we love your book and we want to give you money so we can publish it. And they do. And then readers send you emails saying how much they like it. And you not only feel vindicated, you feel ecstatic. It’s a rush that lasts for months, and gives you the confidence to write the next book. And the next. It’s like hitting a homerun every day, or a hole in one every time you play golf.

Writers, like athletes, movie stars, rock stars, artists, etc., are a bit narcissistic. We want to entertain people, we want to make people laugh and cry and hide in fear. And we want to hear people say they love our books. When that happens, there’s nothing better.

So, if all of this sounds like something you’re up for, then sit down and start writing. Because if there’s one piece of advice every writer will give you, it’s this: Write, write, write. And then write some more. It’s the only way you’ll get good enough to get published.


JG Faherty has a varied background that includes working as a laboratory manager, accident scene photographer, zoo keeper, research scientist, and resume writer. Growing up in the haunted Hudson Valley region of New York, some of his favorite playgrounds were abandoned houses and Revolutionary War cemeteries. His hobbies include urban exploring, photography, exotic animal rehabilitation, and playing the guitar. In addition to Cemetery Club, 2012 will see two other books published, The Cold Spot and He Waits. His past novels include Carnival of Fear and Ghosts of Coronado Bay. You can find out more by visiting,, or

Guest Author: What You Keep Doing by B.A. Chepaitis

From 2006 – 2010, I wrote for the site Fiction Scribe on the 451 network (neither are now operating). This post is from that time. Because of that, some comments may be dated.

The Fear PrincipleWhen I was 8 years old, I asked my mother how I’d know what work I should do when I grew up.   She said, “You’ll know what to do because you’ll keep doing it.”

I was hoping for something more specific at the time, but now I see she couldn’t have chosen better words, because if there’s any advice a writer needs, it’s to be persistent.  Persist in learning your craft, persist in following your obsession, persist in seeking publication.  Persist, persist, persist.

I started sending out stories and poems when I was fourteen, and I was rejected throughout my adolescence.  Later, I got a psychology degree, but kept writing. Then I got married and had a baby, got divorced and worked free-lance in PR, and kept writing.  Eventually, I figured out that writing was what I kept doing.

I didn’t do it for the fame or money, because there was none. Pure and simple, writing owned me, and determined every decision I made.  It was the only realm where I was willing not only to give myself fully to the bliss of the task, but also to slog away at the awful bits, like taking criticism, and organizing lists of agents, and rejection.

In my mid-thirties, with five unpublished novels behind me, I started writing what would become the ‘Fear’ series – futuristic, paranormal stories featuring Jaguar Addams, a telepath who rehabs criminals by making them face their fears.  I wrote them fast and furiously, completely owned by this character, this world, these plots. And every single story was rejected.  Repeatedly.

I knew why.  At around 40 pages each, they were just too long.  Clearly, they all wanted to grow up to be novels.  But writing novels meant throwing myself deeper into the pit, and all the while my inner critic – and my mother – were scolding me that this was a waste of time and shouldn’t I be taking care of my family, cleaning my house, getting a real job?

I had a choice to make – keep doing what I did, or walk away.

I kept writing.

Soon after, I met an editor who published the first three.  Now I’m celebrating publication of the fifth in the series, The Green Memory of Fear, and the sixth will come out  later this year, so I’m thinking that was the right decision.  But like all tasks worth doing – marriage, raising children, building houses, changing the world –  I had to allow it to own me without knowing the outcome. I had to consent to both the bliss and the slog.

My brother, a musician, once advised an aspiring singer, “Don’t do it unless you have to.”

I’d say the same to writers, but then I’d add, if you have to, commit fully.  Learn your craft thoroughly. Keep writing until you get it right.

Most of all, write to serve the story, rather than expecting it to serve you.


Barbara Chepaitis is author of eight published novels and two nonfiction books.  Her most recent novel is The Green Memory of Fear, fifth book in the ‘fear’ series featuring Jaguar Addams.  She is also director of the fiction writing program at Western College of Colorado’s Master’s program in creative writing.


Guest Author: The Writing Routine by James R. Bottino

From 2006 – 2010, I wrote for the site Fiction Scribe on the 451 network (neither are now operating). This post is from that time. Because of that, some comments may be dated.

The Canker Death by James BottinoLike most authors, I have a day-job, so I have to find a way to work-in time for writing.  The first place I found time was by ditching the TV.  That’s not entirely true, I still have a boob tube that I use to watch a movie or two every weekend, but I don’t watch it at all most days of the week.  This simple exercise provided me with large blocks of open time.

Next, I made use of this extra time by establishing a routine for writing.  I tried writing after coming home from work, but, since my day-job is very mentally demanding, I found that I was too drained to be particularly creative.  Through trial and error, I found that mornings worked best for me.  Being a night-owl by nature, waking up early wasn’t easy for me, but I made it work.

After deciding to kill two birds with one stone, I started a routine alternating writing with exercise.  Three days a week I wake up at 4:00am and exercise for around an hour and a half before going to work, and on a different three days of the week I wake up at 4:00am and write until I have to start getting ready for work.  I normally get between an hour and two hours of uninterrupted writing in during the writing sessions.

The challenge is when the writing days are non-consecutive because in that case I’m spending a good deal of time reading my notes, remembering where I was going and getting my mind into the flow and mood of what is happening in the story.  Some of the writing days are spent re-reading, planning and writing notes.  Some are used for writing back-story that never appears in the finished story, but which I need to have in order to make things feel real and consistent – to find the motivations behind why things are the way they are in the actual story.

And, of course, the most fun days are those when I know I have my mental ducks in a row and I can just write.  I usually stick to what I’ve planned, but, sometimes, I get into a zone and come up with stuff I never imagined I was going to write.

One unexpected thing that I found during this routine of alternating exercise with writing is that I end up testing out ideas, solving conundrums and creating new avenues or even universes on the days I am not writing.  I know there is a good deal of research to show that exercise helps with thinking, but I had no idea when I started just how integral the off-days were going to be for the work of creating a story.

Let me put it this way, if my latest novel made me a millionaire tomorrow, I would not change my exercise/writing regimen.  Without a doubt, creating a routine for writing was the single most important step in making writing an integral part of my life.


About James Bottino

James R. Bottino’s life-long interests mix esoteric and disparate fields of study. By day, his foremost influences have been the study of literature and the art of writing. Following these pursuits led him to read anything he could in these areas and to complete every under-graduate and graduate course available to him in the field of creative writing. Following this line, he taught high school English throughout the 1990’s, focusing on the teaching of writing.

By night, when no one was looking, he studied computer systems / networks, computer languages, and operating systems, learning anything he could in these areas, first as a hobby, and, finally, as a career. This mixture of literature and technology served as the inspiration for the The Canker Death’s protagonist, Petor.

James currently lives in a suburb of Chicago, with his wife, daughter, two Australian cattle dogs and far, far too many books and abstruse computers.

You can visit his website at


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