S.G. Browne

16 Dos and Don’ts for Aspiring Writers

This blog post is inspired by my friend and fellow writer, Steve Hockensmith, who posted a list of 50 Dos and Don’ts for Wannabee Writers. I’m not quite as ambitious as Steve, so my list is a little shorter. And it’s not nearly as amusing. But I hope it’s just as helpful.

DO write every day. Ideally at the same time. Preferably without distraction. Half an hour. An hour. Fifteen minutes. Whatever works with your schedule. Just pick a time and develop a habit and stick with it.

DON’T worry about your word count, especially when you first start out. If you don’t write much of anything and just sit there and stare at your computer, it’s okay. The practice is what matters. Eventually the words will come.

DO some writing exercises if you can’t think of anything to write. Pick a scene and write the same scene from different points of view: first person, second person, third person limited, third person omniscient. Or pick a scene and write it in different tenses. Anything to help stimulate your mind and challenge you to write something you might not be comfortable doing.

DON’T pay attention to how much other people are writing. It doesn’t matter if all of your writer friends on Twitter are pumping out 2000, 3000, or 4000 words a day. Just focus on what you can control and don’t compare yourself to others. After all, it’s about quality, not quantity.

DO carry a journal with you in your purse or backpack. Yes, that’s right. I said a journal. An actual book of blank pages that you write in using something that’s called a pen. It helps you to keep in touch with the physical process of writing. And it’s easier to write an idea down in a notebook than waiting to fire up your laptop.

DON’T check your Facebook profile or your Twitter account or your e-mail during your dedicated writing time. Staying disconnected from the Internet will allow you to stay connected to your writing.

DO read as much as you can. Novels, short stories, magazines. Read humor, romance, horror, mystery, suspense, non-fiction, memoir, poetry. Don’t get stuck reading the same thing over and over, even if it’s what you’re writing. A well-rounded reader is a well-rounded writer.

DON’T expect that you can learn how to write by reading a bunch of books on how to write. The best way to learn how to write is to write.

DO pay attention to song lyrics and movies and appreciate why you like them. It’s all writing, even if it’s in a different form. A writer can find inspiration in all sorts of places that aren’t the printed word.

DON’T pay attention to what other people say you should be writing.

DO write something that speaks to you. Something that makes you laugh or cry or get chills down your spine. Something that resonates with you. Because if it doesn’t resonate with you, chances are it’s not going to resonate with anyone else.

DON’T try to get it absolutely perfect the first time. That’s what rewrites are for. If you spend all of your time rewriting your first chapter, you’ll never get the second chapter written. Or the third.

DO get feedback from a writers group or a couple of trusted friends or colleagues. Family members are okay, too, but only if they’re going to give you an honest critique. Criticism is only helpful if it’s constructive.

DON’T try to please everyone who gives you feedback. Writing is subjective and everyone is going to have their own reaction to what you’ve written. Use what suggestions help to improve the story you want to tell and throw the rest of them out.

DO realize that once you send your novel out into the world, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to everyone who reads it and not everyone is going to like it. Accept that fact and deal with it and learn how to not take anything personally.

DON’T forget that you’re supposed to be writing every day.

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Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 6:10 am

Swallowed by the Cracks E-Book

Swallowed by the Cracks, the collection of short stories by Lee Thomas, Gary McMahon, Michael Marshall Smith, and myself, is now available for your Kindle or your Nook:

Kindle Version

Nook Version

In short, Swallowed by the Cracks is a collection of horror stories and dark tales that contains four stories from each of the four authors. My stories include two supernatural horror tales (“Lower Slaughter” and “The Lord of Words”) that are pre-Breathers and two more (“Dream Girls” and “Dr. Lullaby”) that are more along the lines of the dark comedy and social satire you’ll find in Fated and Breathers.

However, if you prefer the old-fashioned paper version of the collection, you can order it from Dark Arts Books or from any of the following outlets:

Amazon.com
Bad Moon Books
Borderlands Books
The Horror Mall
Jeff N Joy’s
Realms of Fantasy Books
Ziesing Books

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

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Filed under: Fiction — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 9:58 am

The Writing Life: Research This

I recently watched half a dozen episodes of the reality television series Jersey Shore in the name of research. Since I don’t watch much TV, and rarely, if ever, watch reality TV, I felt it was imperative to get some insight into the dynamic for the short story I’m writing about the Seven Deadly Sins living together in a reality TV type environment.

I have to admit, while the first three episodes of Jersey Shore were for research, the last three episodes were because I couldn’t look away. Fortunately, I haven’t given into the temptation to do more research by watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

When it comes to research, I tend to be more of an armchair researcher rather than going out into the field, using the world at my proverbial fingertips to help add details to my writing. These details, I feel, help to enhance the mythologies and universes I create and ground them in a sense of reality.

While writing Breathers, for instance, I added a good deal of information as to what happens to the human body when it decomposes and what cadavers are used for when donated to medical science. Most of this information I found in STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Had it not been for that book, I wouldn’t have known that a cadaver head is about the same size and weight as a roaster chicken or that when maggots feast on subcutaneous fat it sounds like Rice Krispies.

In addition to the various aspects of human decomposition that helped to give Breathers it’s somewhat dark tone, I also researched wine, recipes, reality television, granaries, the SPCA, the Sistine Chapel, Social Security numbers, and how to apply makeup. All of this was accomplished by using the Internet, though I did visit the Soquel Cemetery to add atmosphere to those scenes. And all of the headstones I mention truly exist there.

As for Fated, the time I spent in Manhattan definitely helped to add some details to the scenes that took place there, details I otherwise would have missed. Like being able to hear the traffic on the Hudson River Parkway while sitting on the promenade beneath the cherry blossom trees. Or that there were cherry blossom trees to sit under. However, I never set foot in Scandal’s in Queens to get a lap dance or had a drink at Iggy’s on the Upper East Side.

Since Fate has been around since the dawn of man, I wanted to include his personal relationship with humans over the millennia.  So I did a fair amount of research on world history, using details about Henry VIII, the sinking of the Titanic, Neolithic man, the Renaissance, the Hindenburg, Moses, the birth of the Roman Empire, and the Black Death, among others. This helped to add a realistic element to my supernatural universe.

I also researched the ingredients of crystal methamphetamine, celebrity deaths in Los Angeles, shopping malls, world population, the Greek Gods, New York City real estate, strip Scrabble, BDSM, the Daytona Beach Dog Track, and the fact that in the state of Minnesota it’s illegal to have sex with a bird.

Oh the things you can learn on the Internet.

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Filed under: Breathers,Fated,The Writing Life — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 10:55 am

Long Island Book Signing

Next weekend, June 16-19, I’ll be attending the Horror Writer’s Association Bram Stoker Weekend at the Long Island Marriott Hotel in Long Island, New York. Although the majority of the weekend programming is open only to those who have registered for the convention, there will be a mass book signing the evening of Thursday, June 16th, that is open to the public.

Held in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott, the Book Signing Meet and Greet will run from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. There’s no guarantee that everyone at the convention will be signing or have books for sale, but here’s a list of convention attendees. There will be a special area for Guests of Honor, which include Peter Straub, David Morrell, Gillian Flynn, Douglas Clegg, and Dacre Stoker (the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker).

While I will be in attendance signing books, unfortunately I won’t have any copies of Breathers or Fated for sale and I can’t guarantee that anyone in the dealer’s room will have copies available. However, please feel free to bring along your copy for a signature or just stop by to say “hey.” This will be my only appearance while I’m in New York.

Hope to see you next Thursday!

Long Island Marriott Hotel
101 James Doolittle Boulevard
Uniondale, NY
(516) 794-3800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (516) 794-3800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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Filed under: Breathers,Conventions,Fated — S.G. Browne @ 8:42 am

Reader Survey: Fated Discussion Questions

A couple of book clubs who are getting ready to read Fated have asked me if there are any discussion questions for the novel or if any other reading groups have posted questions online. To my knowledge, there’s nothing of the sort. And since it seems a bit self-indulgent to come up with a set of questions of my own, I decided to take a survey in order to compile a list of questions that other book clubs might use.

My plan is to compile a list of 12-15 questions and post them on my blog. Questions can deal with thematic elements, characters, author intent, specific scenes, plot, conflict, motivations, social commentary, or whatever else comes to mind. Those are just examples. You’re in charge.

So if you’ve read Fated and would like to submit a discussion question, please feel free to play along. And if you have more than one question in mind, multiple entries are fine. However, if I end up with a surplus of questions, I’ll narrow it down to a reasonable number.

And just to clarify, these aren’t questions that would be asked of me, necessarily, but questions readers would ask of themselves and of each other about the book while discussing it in a book club.

Survey says!

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Filed under: Fated,Reader Surveys — S.G. Browne @ 8:12 am