How to Make Your Book Blurb and Trippy Art About Dragon Intimacy How to Make a Shart Tantalizing?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
How to Make Your Book Blurb and Trippy Art About Dragon Intimacy How to Make a Shart Tantalizing?

I’ve decided it’s time for a new series of podcast now that we whacked character lies down to a mush of sobs.

There are all different ways to write these blurbs and make them tantalizing to readers, but there are set steps. We’re going to focus on the first one here.

First let’s explain what a book blurb is, right? It’s just the description of your novel that goes on the sell page on Amazon or other places. It’s short. It’s sexy. It’s enticing. You use it on social media, on Amazon.

It is the ad for your book that is everywhere your book is available to be sold and some other places too.


Oh, this baby is about 150 to 200 words.


Shayla Raquel has a great post from last year where she writes,

“Similar to what a writer would do for a query letter, a hook is meant to entice the reader to bite. It takes several tries to get the hook just right, but once you’ve got it figured out, the reader won’t be able to resist. When writing your hook, consider the following:

  • Who is the main character(s)?
  • What do they most deeply desire?
  • What stands in the way?
  • What is the setting or context for the story?”

She then gives some great and quick examples of this:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

The Martian, Andy Weir

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

The Reedsy blog uses this one as an example. It’s Uncanny Times by Laura Anne Gilman.

Huntsmen, according to the Church, were damned, their blood unclean and unholy. Yet for Rosemary and Aaron Harker, the Church was less important than being ready to stand against the uncanny, as not being prepared could lead to being dead. 

But Blurbmedic has a really lovely infographic and guidelines, which is probably why it’s Blurbmedic.

It creates a template that’s really amazing at showing how the blurb is a teaser and also organizes the story, connecting emotion and tension to make a blurb interesting.

Hooks can be opened or closed.

And that site says that the open hook is the “statements or questions that make a reader ask more questions. The reader will have to read the book to find out.”

Carrie is dying.
The moment she opened that door, her life had turned poopy.

You’re like, “Wait, what? Why is Carrie dying? What door? Why did she open it? what happened?”

The closed hook makes you ask questions and find answers.

Carrie is dying.

First, she opened the door that let in the zombie. Then the zombie bit her, but this kind of zombie doesn’t want to eat brains. It also eats poopy.

The point here, according to Blurbmedic, is to get the reader to be afraid of missing out on knowing what happens. The hook will build up the tension and make everyone intrigued.

It’s a really big first step.


A great exercise for this is to use the Killogator logline formula created by Graeme Shillin.

He says to write:

  • “SETTING: When and where your story takes place.
  • PROTAGONIST: Who your main character (hero or heroine) is.
  • PROBLEM: The issue or event that causes your Protagonist to take action.
  • ANTAGONIST: Who or what tries to stop your Protagonist.
  • CONFLICT: The major obstacle, difficulty, or dilemma your protagonist faces.
  • GOAL: What your Protagonist hopes to win, achieve, find, or defeat.”

You put it in here, also created by Graeme. Cool, right?

“In a (SETTING) a (PROTAGONIST) has a (PROBLEM) caused by (an ANTAGONIST) and (faces CONFLICT) as they try to (achieve a GOAL).”


In real life, you don’t want the question of defecation location to be open ended.


Emerald City Seeks Fiction

Emerald City seeks fiction for our upcoming issues. We are a quarterly online fiction magazine that publishes traditional short stories, flash fiction, and hybrid works. We believe fiction is a necessary part of life; captivating storytelling transports us to other worlds while allowing us to make more sense of our own. We’re less interested in what genre something is or its literary status than we are in how much it moves us. Whether traditional, experimental, or something else fun, we publish well-crafted stories that make us reevaluate ourselves and our place in the world.



The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Would You Quit If Your Employer Made You Exercise? Plus, a Mile-Long Cloud of Flying Ants

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Would You Quit If Your Employer Made You Exercise? Plus, a Mile-Long Cloud of Flying Ants

There’s a company in Sweden who is now run by a super fitness guy. He’s all in on the exercise. And when he took the company over, some people in the company quit. They were not all in, right? It was just an hour at 9 a.m. on Friday, but they were like hell to the now.

And it’s funny because in school and for a lot of us in college, exercise or sport was something that we had to do. It was play, right? We moved our body and cooperated (sometimes) and had fun.


Exercise is a good idea. Sparty even loves it despite his massive girth and arthritic hips.



The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!


We’re talking about hooks here.

So, last week I talked about hooking your readers. And I promised that I’d keep talking about it.

I am keeping that promise.

Hooking your reader might make you think of pirates and nasty horror movies, but it really just means keeping your readers actually reading your book. I’ve broken it down to two sections of two hints a piece and one section with just one lonely hook.

Let’s get started!



We like stories where we can quickly identify with the main character, or at least a character, pretty early on.

Think about all the BuzzFeed quizzes that ask, “Which Succession Character Are You?” “Which Buffy Character Are You?” “Who Are You In The Wire?” “What Disney Princess Are You?”

It goes on and on.

We humans like to identify with characters who are in the stories we read or the videos we watch. It’s like a nice pat on the back that says we aren’t alone, and it creates community.


  1. Start with dialogue on the first line. It’s hard to care about the person speaking if you haven’t met them yet.

“Wow,” he said. “That is really it.”

Huh, the reader said.

2. Tell us stuff we don’t need to know.

So, in 1870 or something like that I had this great great aunt who allegedly stepped on a nail or something, not that it matters. Although, maybe it mattered to her, but yeah. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Neither does the reader.

3. Introduce 18 characters in the first paragraphs. It’s hard to remember who is who and who is important.

As Belinda walked inside the Timberland RV Campground in Trenton, Maine, she waved hello to Lincoln, son-in-law of the owner, a retired man with a name like Jack or something, and then she waved to Debbie, Lincoln’s wife, who was riding on a golf cart with Charlene. Peggy was perched on the back with a blonde child whose name I think is Jackie…Or maybe Sam?

Enough said, right?

4. And finally don’t describe things just for the sake of describing them.

Timberland RV Campground descended into a slight hill, managing to split itself across two town lines. It was Trenton in the front and Ellsworth in the back and the back was where there were no trees surrounding the sites, just pull-in places for the giant RVs and motorhomes and campers and busses. I have no idea which is which. I’d never been in a campground before, but they had hook-ups at some of the sites for water and sewer, or just one, and electricity. There were metal fire rings and some people had fancied up their sites with flowers and decks and lobster buoys because … Maine.

So, those were the no-nos, right? Here’s the second tip.


If possible, make your situation not quite so run-of-the-mill. You have a love story. It’s set in Paris. Okay, great. Can it be set in a tattoo parlor in Paris? Or maybe a desk shop?

Readers like both the familiar and the unexpected, so take something typical like a love story and add in a little weirdness – a love story between a human and an aquatic being. That can keep them reading.



Nobody wants to read a story where the main character is always angry or always happy or always passionate or always mellow. There are ups and downs to people’s emotions in real life (WHAT? ATTACK ON TITAN ISN’T REAL LIFE?). There should be ups and downs in your character’s emotions, too.

Some writing coaches/teachers/whatever-word-you’d-like-to-use advocate changing emotions in every scene in big ways. I think this works sometimes and sometimes it sort of lulls the reader into expecting those shifts and therefore that makes those shifts less authentic.

Authentic emotion = good

Changing emotion = good

Forced emotion = bad


Not knowing what is going to happen is a big deal when someone is reading the story. Make them wonder what might happen.

One method to do this is to not tell them everything right off. Give some elements of what is happening, but not all.

So, in the NEED series, I have the main character see a man in the woods at the side of the road and also pointing at her plane as it takes off. The reader thinks, “Wait. Who the heck is that man?”

In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, introduces the Boy Who Lived, but what did he live through and how? The reader wonders and reads to find out…



The reader needs to care about the character. We want Mr. Potter and Ron and Hermione to survive because those kids are lovable, but we also are worried that survival might not be an option. The stakes are high and those magical bad guys are powerful. These babies aren’t superheroes. Death is possible. Near death happens all the time. We obsess that the trio might not survive.

That’s a hook.

That high stakes conflict coupled with imperfect heroes who tyr so hard? That’s the key.

And there you go. Maybe some more next week, okay?

I hope your writing is happy and you are well!

Writing is About Facing Out and Facing In

Novelists Are Public Writers, Too, Plus exercise and place to submit May 2023

Raymond Peter Clark has a new writing book out, Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing, and Katherine Gammon has a piece about it in Poyntor.

There are a couple excerpts in there that I’ve fallen a bit in love with and I wanted to share it with you.

This book is for what they are calling public-facing writers, which seems to be a distinction that doesn’t include novelists, which I find pretty interesting.

Novelists are also public facing writers. All writing except diaries or personal journaling is. That’s because the act of writing is the act of communicating.

You are always communicating to someone else. That someone else is not your pinky toe. That someone else is the reader.

Anyway, she writes of Clark’s advice:

Repeat your key points, but in different forms

“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them,” is an old adage in writing. Clark spruces it up with advice to vary the forms of repetition: The same information in a quote, a graph and an anecdote, for example, can reduce the feeling of redundancy.

Interpret what you see into themes and make connections

Part of the job of a public writer is not just to report but to interpret: What are the emerging contained in the news event or situation? How can we help readers make sense of the world? To do so, Clark says writers should continue to learn from multiple schools of thought — science, anthropology, political science, economics, literature and more — in order to find meaning in the news, and also to explore the deeper reasons why something is happening.

It’s fun to think of these bits of advice. Often novelists are told NOT to repeat information by their agents and editors, so we too have to mask the ways that we are actually repeating something to the reader. We show them that our character is insecure, let’s say, in how they react to situations. Then we show how they grow.

But as novelists, we also have to not just lay out the facts of the story, we have to interpret those bits and images and dialogues and moments of cause and effect to make an entire world that our reader makes sense of. There’s a real push and pull that happens in this communication.

A piece of writing — any kind of piece of writing — is a contract between us and the reader. There is a moment when you hit PUBLISH on an article or a moment where your book is picked up by a reader and all your control? It’s gone.

That’s kind of beautiful (though occasionally scary) because it’s a leap of faith and trust in ourselves as writers and our readers to get it, to have explained it well, to have created it well on the page and then for the reader to create it in their own brains and hearts.

That’s pretty damn beautiful.

That’s not an AI thing. That’s a human thing. That connection. And it’s important.


This comes from Joy Harjo’s MasterClass, which is a really lovely, energizing class.


Ploughshares — Emerging Writer’s Contest


May 15, 2023

Entry Fee:


Cash Prize:


E-mail address:


Three prizes of $2,000 each and publication in Ploughshares are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. Each winner also receives a consultation with the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management. Writers who have not published a book or a chapbook with a print run of over 300 copies are eligible. Using only the online submission system, submit three to five pages of poetry or up to 6,000 words of fiction or nonfiction with a $24 entry fee, which includes a subscription to Ploughshares (there is no entry fee for current subscribers), between March 1 and May 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Ploughshares, Emerging Writer’s Contest, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 824–3757. Ellen Duffer, Managing Editor.



How To Think About Chapter Transitions?

How Do You Begin and End a Chapter?

Thanks for hanging out here for a moment with me. And good luck with your story!

The Power of Silence In Writing

And how to put it on the page


It often surrounds us.

But sometimes it is just completely and utterly gone.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a moment of high trauma (personal or public). It’s the moment when something big happens, something so big that time feels like it slows down or stops completely. Your brain switches into another gear and you’re straining looking for clues, trying to figure out where the danger is coming from, what it is, and how to survive it. I’ve had people describe these moments when they’ve had a gun pointed at them in the parking lot of a motel, when a man has raised a fist in a dining room, when they’ve realized a loved one having a heart attack in their aunt’s living room, when they were at recess in fourth grade and a bully was heading over to give them a wedgie.

For me, one of the times I experienced this was at the Boston Marathon when the bombs went off, and I was trying to understand what was going on. Even though I was on my cell phone, the world whooshed out for a moment. My personal world was silent even in the chaos. Then the sounds of cops on radios and the cacophony of panicked voices and runners feet hard against the asphalt streets rushed back in.

As writers, we explain these moments and try to encapsulate them and sometimes? Well, sometimes we try too hard and write and write and write giant redundant paragraphs that instead of immersing our readers in the silence and shock and stress or a moment and instead overwhelm with noise.

Here’s the thing: There is a great power in silence in our world and on the page.

Silence appears on the page in a couple of places.

  • It’s in the white space. The white space is just the places on the page where there are no words.
  • It’s in the words you actually choose and how you structure them.

What do I mean by that? When we choose words on the page, those words make associations in our minds and in the readers. So, we want to pick the words sometimes that play into the silence sometimes. This is a really great device for scenes of heightened emotion and suspense.

For word choice, she cackled isn’t the same as she laughed.  Those are loud things though. For a more silent experience, she whispered isn’t the same as she said.

And for structure? You have a lot to play with.

Here is a quick example.


I heard the dog growl and then I heard a scream and wondered what might be happening, what might have caused that growl and scream.

Too much writing there, right? A lot of padding. A lot of distancing words (heard, wondered) that lessen the impact and the immediacy of the moment. Here it is with a bit more silence.


The dog growled. And then, someone’s scream shattered the air. Who was that? No. What was that?  

Add in white space to make it more tense:

The dog growled.

And then, someone’s scream shattered the air.

Who was that?


What was that?  

Add in specifics to make it even more tense:

Hackles raised, the dog growled by the mailbox, which leaned toward the darkness of the Mud Creek Road.

And then, a shrill, cackling scream shattered the humid air.

Who was that?


What was that?  

You can see all the differences in there, right?

Like any tool, you don’t want to overuse it, but you want to know about it, know that it’s there (just like you’d like to know if there was a mass of zombie gerbils trundling down the street toward your home). Sound and silence are really important tools on the page. Just like a guitarist wants to know about an entire string on her instrument and a pick and what happens to sound when you use a bridge or what happens when you tap out a beat on the guitar’s side, you want to know about all the tools you can use as a writer. 

Silence is a tool, and it’s an important one. Sound is too.

How DO you actually manage your time?

It’s about lists and hacks

There’s a book by Chet Holmes called The Ultimate Sales Machine, that I used on my post Saturday to springboard into a discussion about time management and productivity.

I’m going to be continuing that thread a bit today for our round-up. This sort of information (about my life and about trying to make it better) doesn’t usually show up here on my blog. It’s usually on my substack, LIVING HAPPY. It’d be awesome if you go check it out. There’s usually not really any overlap.


Holmes’ second tip on time management is to make lists. And the key, he says, is that you want to keep your list to the top six things you want to get down that day — maybe list them out every day on a sheet of paper. I do this the day before because I get anxious if I don’t have a clear idea of my next day.

Over on the Muse, Lily Herman suggests,

“If you’re new to making a to-do list, start small (only four or five action items per day) and use a simple tool or app to write down your tasks (like MacBook’s reminders app or just a traditional paper list). For everything else, I like to keep a separate tab on my MacBook reminders app for tasks that need to be done at a later date (aptly called “Later To-Do”), so that I am only focusing on what’s most important on any given day or week. I would highly recommend doing something similar, regardless of whether you have a paper list or a digital one.”

Full disclosure: I currently have a really long workday because Shaun can’t work full time right now because Xane’s type of autism requires them to be at home and dial in for about 90-minutes worth of classes. It also means they have a lot of needs. This means that I have to make up a majority of the income. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had a six item or a four item to-do list in the past few years. So, if you’re into big to-do lists and don’t think they are intimidating, go for it. I do.


The next thing that Holmes suggests is something else I’ve started doing this year, which is figuring out how much time each task will take.

So, you just go through those six items and put how much time you’ll spend on it.

Here’s my Saturday example:

  • Work on Brooklyn’s story 60 pages– 2 hours
  • Work on Ross’ story 50 pages — 1 hour
  • Get Loving the Strange Up — 30 minutes
  • Write Living Happy Extra — 1 hour?
  • Emails — 30 minutes
  • Marc notes to him — 1 hour
  • Write Iceland revise 1 chapter plus 500 words — 1 hour
  • Revise Magic — 30 minutes
  • Write On the Agenda — 30 minutes
  • Write Round Up — 30 minutes

I tend to try to overestimate my time and then if something takes 20 minutes instead of 30, I have a happy, little party inside my head. It’s always good to have a happy, little party in your head.

Sometimes, you can’t control the amount of time things take. Like if I’m reporting on a Town Council meeting and it ends up running from 6 to 11 instead of 6 to 9 like I was hoping. That’s okay. Life is like that.

Planning out your time is super helpful to get your goals done. I mean, if you look at my list, a lot of those items aren’t going to be completed on Saturday because they are working on big novels (my own and other people’s). But because I dedicate time to it each day, it happens.

Holmes says you should you should keep your productive tasks to six hours. I fail at this. However, the science is starting to agree.

Forbes article by Julia Chang writes,

“Past research has also made the case that productivity isn’t harmed by working fewer hours. A 2016 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of its member countries found that productivity actually went up when people worked fewer hours. And a 2014 study out of Stanford University found little correlation between the number of hours worked and productivity, even finding that results start slipping after people worked 50 hours.”

And an article by Steve Glaveski for the Harvard Business Review writes,

“Many of today’s organizations sabotage flow by setting counter-productive expectations on availability, responsiveness, and meeting attendance, with research by Adobe finding that employees spend an average of six hours per day on email. Another study found that the average employee checks email 74 times a day, while people touch their smartphones 2,617 times a day. Employees are in a constant state of distraction and hyper-responsiveness.

Jason Fried, co-founder of Basecamp and author of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, said on my podcast, Future Squared, that for creative jobs such as programming and writing, people need time to truly think about the work that they’re doing. “If you asked them when the last time they had a chance to really think at work was, most people would tell you they haven’t had a chance to think in quite a long time, which is really unfortunate.”

“The typical employee day is characterized by:

Hour-long meetings, by default, to discuss matters that can usually be handled virtually in one’s own time

Unplanned interruptions, helped in no small part by open-plan offices, instant messaging platforms, and the “ding” of desktop and smartphone notifications

Unnecessary consensus-seeking for reversible, non-consequential decisions

The relentless pursuit of “inbox zero,” a badge of honor in most workplaces, but a symbol of proficiency at putting other people’s goals ahead of one’s own

Traveling, often long-distance, to meet people face-to-face, when a phone call would suffice

Switching between tasks constantly, and suffering the dreaded cognitive switching penalty as a result, leaving one feeling exhausted with little to show for it

Wasting time on a specific task long after most of the value has been delivered

Rudimentary and administrative tasks

“People waste a lot of time at work,” according to Grant. “I’d be willing to bet that in most jobs, people would get more done in six focused hours than eight unfocused hours.”

Okay, back to time management.


There are a ton of templates on the internet where you can plan your day out either digitally or via a piece of paper. I’m a scrap paper sort of person usually.

Yes, I am messy.

It helps me not feel overwhelmed if I can see that I have the time to do the tasks that I need to do.

Canva has some free daily plans that you can customize. And there are apps too. Here’s a list.

I hope that helps!


How Do You Actually Manage Your Time

90 Day Goals Can Change Your Life

The Power and Magic of Weirdness


Ideas aren’t the sexy gods we think they are. Gasp!

The sexy place is the actual writing.

Almost every time that I go to a school visit and am asked questions or when I’m interviewed by newspapers, I get asked two things:

  1. Where do you get so much energy?
  2. Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t actually think of myself as having a ton of energy. Like right now, it’s 7:06 a.m. and I’ve been up since 5. I went to bed around 11. I’m a bit tired actually, and no, I don’t have any coffee or even tea in my system yet. I know! I know! You’re probably thinking what half of the people ask me in public events:

  1. How are you so weird/quirky? Does your mind really work like that?

Just kidding—sort of.

This post isn’t actually about productivity or weirdness. It’s about ideas.

Chuck Wendig recently had a post about AI where he wrote about how so many of us think that ideas are the holy grail of writing and all creativity. People are always asking:

  • Where do you get your ideas?
  • How do you know an idea is a good one?
  • How do you not lose your ideas?

Ideas are cheap. They are the extras that die on the street while the superheroes battle above them. Ideas are often barely differentiated in the scene—just a mass of them crumpled by falling cars and buildings and laser blasts.

That’s the thing.

Writing and art isn’t necessarily about the ideas. Writing and art are about the craft that sculpts that idea into a story or an art piece or a song that connects to other humans on an emotional level.

Wendig writes on his blog,

“But again, the idea is a seed, that’s it. Ideas are certainly useful, but only so far. A good idea will not be saved by poor execution, but a bad idea can be saved by excellent execution. Even simple, pedestrian ideas can be made sublime in the hands of a powerful craftsman or artist. Not every idea needs to be revolutionary. Every idea needn’t be that original — I don’t mean to suggest the plagiarism is the way to go, I only mean in the general sense, it’s very difficult (and potentially impossible) to think of a truly original story idea that hasn’t in some form been told before. The originality in a narrative comes from you, the author, the artist. The originality comes out in the execution.”

That’s the magic of being a human and not being AI when you create art. The process is where the art becomes alive, where the story becomes real, where the unexpected (rather than the program) creates spark and light and joy and beauty.

AI can’t do that. At least not yet.


Part of that is about flow.

A long time ago—back in the 1980s—this guy Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was studying happiness. He gave people pagers. Remember this was in the 1980s. Then he and his research assistants would send the people messages at random times and ask how they were doing, feeling, what they were doing, etc. It sounds a bit like when your mom texts you, honestly.

And he discovered flow. People were happy when they were super engaged in the task they were doing. People weren’t happy when they were doing nothing. They were happy when they were involved in something. Playing soccer. Playing music. Creating art. Solving a problem.

Minds were blown.

When people were in the ‘flow,’ they forgot about time, space, all the other detritus in their lives. They were focused on the now, on what they were doing. What they were doing might be writing, sports, hanging out with other humans, art, and so on… But for them the involvement was so intense that they became engaged and absorbed into it and were happy.

That might happen if you’re a reader and into reading a great book.

That might happen if you’re a painter and created something spectacular on the canvas.

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” – (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).


Lincoln Michel writes on his blog,

“The unnecessary is most necessary part of art. Art is exactly the place to let your eye linger on what fascinates it. Art isn’t an SEO optimized app or a rubric for overworked teachers to grade five-paragraph essays. Art is exactly the space—perhaps the last space left—where we can indulge, explore, and expand ourselves. If we can’t be weird, extraneous, over-the-top, discursive, and hedonistic in our art, where can we be?”

So, as a writer, flow and process, the actual act of writing your story is far more important and interesting that the original idea. What it is that happens in our minds that makes those little epiphanies, the moments where we are swept up in the flow—in the act of creating—and our prefrontal cortexes are firing on all cylinders and heading into warp drive. That’s what’s interesting.

Ideas happen everywhere. Looking at other art. Reading a book. Living a life. But process and art and writing? That is where you turn the idea into something else—something that breathes in a way that AI can’t do yet or even in a way that other people can’t do yet because it requires putting in the work so that you can get those gorgeous, beautiful, holy-poop moments.

And those moments? They’re pretty addictive.

As Wendig writes, “It’s just idea, small-i. You’re not done when you have an idea. You’ve barely even begun. The wonder is in what comes after. The wonder is in the work.”

And that’s what I wish more people talked about, not idea generators or where the ideas come from initially, but how they are shaped and formed to create a story that carries people along to somewhere new and magical, to somewhere that they might create a new and magical story from ideas that were germinated in yours. How cool is that?


More about the 8 traits for flow.

Wendig’s piece about AI and the Fetishization of Ideas

Finding Flow

Counter Craft

Let’s set the mood, part two: getting atmosphere in your story


Last week, we talked a bit about creating mood or atmosphere in your story, and this week, I’m going to share some cool ideas from other humans.

What? I do not know everything? Gasp!!!!

boy wearing gray vest and pink dress shirt holding book
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Sadly, I do not. For instance today I wrote that Acadia National Park has a million visitors. It has four million. Did I know this? Yes. Did I write it? No.

Did someone tell me immediately?


Thanks to that person for letting me fix my mistake.

dog biting Thank You mail paper
Photo by Howie R on Unsplash

The thing is I am really human and that means I try to juggle a lot of things and sometimes I make errors. I try to tell myself that this is okay. That in a billion years (or 100) nobody will remember me or my errors. Usually that works. But not today.

But all of this just means:

1.     I don’t trust myself today.

2.     You get to read curated advice from cooler people instead. That’s a win!

Here, this first is from MasterClass. It’s kind of beautiful and pretty concise like art that you get off Ballard Designs.

white pillar candle on white table
Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

3 Tips for Creating Mood for Your Story via MasterClass (these three tips are all a direct quote):

  1. Use a holistic approach to mood. Since mood is made up of a combination of setting, tone, word choice, and theme, it’s important that you as a writer think about all four while you work. If you try to use only one of these tools, you’re severely limiting your ability to create a believable and pervasive mood for your story. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for at least three of these tools to establish your mood.
  2. Brainstorm mood words. If you’re drawing a blank when it comes to how to create a particular mood, it can help to brainstorm a list of mood words. For instance, if you know you want your story to have a creepy mood, then try making a list of different words that feel creepy to you, like these: gloomy, creak, tiptoe, moonlight, skittering, shadow, rattling. Once you’ve got a good list, pick a few of your favorites and include them in the scene.
  3. Subvert expectations. While it’s easy to go with the “expected” mood for your stories (for instance, that a story about a wedding will have a lighthearted, celebratory mood), remember that it’s not always the best choice. When you push yourself to subvert readers’ expectations, you can come up with creative and exciting combinations—for example, a wedding story with a foreboding mood, or a ghost story with a funny mood. Innovating with mood can help you create memorable, lasting writing.”

Let’s dive a tiny bit deeper into that first tip. Do I trust myself enough for that? Um, not really. Here goes anyway.

Setting is where the story is located or “set.” Set = setting, so clever a language English is.

Tone isn’t about the reader. Mood is. Tone is about the narrator and the attitude they are putting down about the events.

Word choice is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the words that you the author put on the page. Short words can make things staccato. Long words can make things mellifluous. Swear words can make things tense, emphatic or even humorous.

Theme. That’s what the story is about and what it’s trying to convey. A story that true love exists and that it will save the world and all the cavorting hamsters within it? That’s going to be part of the mood and atmosphere of the story.

So, when MasterClass is talking about how these elements work (in tip #1), the MasterClass staff authors of that blog post is just saying to weave it all together and make it create that atmosphere.


Eight types of drunkards and law-breaking Santa clauses a scene in the UK

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Eight types of drunkards and law-breaking Santa clauses a scene in the UK

Since it’s the time of holidays for many religions, we thought it would be a great time to talk about the ancient types of drunk-foolery from the 1500s and how they still exist today.

And, a random story about a sleigh-riding Santa.

There’s a great post on Medium from back in November by Jack Shepherd one of Buzzfeed’s former directors. I know nothing about Jack Shepherd but he has a post “These Are the 8 Types of Drunk, According to the 16th Century” and since NYE is coming up, I wanted to have a podcast about it.

All of Shepherd’s list comes from Thomas Nashe wrote a pamphlet called “Pierce Penniless: His Supplication to the Devil.” Nashe was on this Earth in the late 1500s and he was a silly man.


Don’t wait to be drunk to tell people you love them. Embrace who you are without the intoxicating liquors, human.

Judging you.

Links We Reference:


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Cause and Effect in Novel Writing

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Cause and Effect in Novel Writing

Last week, I took a little break because of the holiday in the U.S., but this week, we’re talking about cause and effect in fiction novels.

Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James has a big section about this:

He suggests asking yourself these questions to fine-tune your story.

  • “Do realizations or insights occur after the event that caused them (as would naturally happen), or do I have things in the wrong order?
  • “Does this scene move from cause to effect? If not, why not? Can I tweak the story to show the natural flow of events rather than stop after they’ve happened to explain why they did?
  • “Does context dictate that I reverse the order to effect to cause? Rendering the story this way will force readers to ask, “Why?” Do I want them to do so at this moment in the book? Would lack of clarity about the character’s intention help readers engage with the story at this point? If it won’t, how can I recast it?
  • “What will I do to ensure that each ball rolls naturally away from the one that just hit it, both in action sequences and in dialogue?”

And for a quicker fix, he suggests:

“Analyze every scene, as well as every paragraph, to weed out cause-and-effect problems. Pinpoint the connections between events. Does each action have an appropriate consequence? Does the emotional resonance of a scene fit in congruently from the actions within that scene?”

Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out my substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the other tips and submission opportunties and exercises are there.


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