Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Writing Process

Finding The Best Writing Advice

Finding good writing advice can be an extremely frustrating process.

Writing Advice

Image Courtesy of Robbie Ribeiro ~

You may be excited by the promise of articles and books on writing, only to become disheartened  when you apply the advice and your writing doesn’t improve.

If I could offer only one piece of advice, it would be that you need to improve from the Inside Out…

When you’ve changed your Self and your inner motivation to write, your writing will improve.

You may still have to revise like a maniac, but even your revision efforts will improve.

I’ve tagged over 300 posts, nearly a third of everything I’ve written here, as posts to help folks write…

Do, please, check the Subject Index Links in the left side-bar :-)

I did bit of scanning and came up with three posts to get you started:

“Writerisms and other Sins”

Bad Advice for Writers = Most Advice for Writers

An Online Writing Group that Looks Like It Could Work . . .

And, I’ll add the Topic Headings from an article on the site Now Novel151 must visit writing websites:

Structure and Plot


Researching Agents and Writing Queries and Synopses

Publishing and Business

Editor and Agent Blogs


Creativity, Inspiration and Writing Prompts

Workshops and Forums

General Writing Advice

Grammar and Language

Romance, Women’s Fiction and Chicklit

Literary Fiction

Crime, Mystery and Thrillers

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Children’s and YA



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Why Do Authors Do What They Do? ~ A Living Example . . .

Unless you’re a writer/author (and, you can be an author without publishing) you may not know about all the weird and wonderful decisions we make during the process of turning ourselves inside-out onto the page

This is a special Friday Behind The Scenes post about the short novel Notes from An Alien which is still for sale and still free :-)

If you’re a person who can’t stand spoilers of any kind (some of these Friday posts have Hard spoilers {plot reveals} and some have Soft “spoilers” {background info}) I recommend you grab a free copy and spend a weekend (or, less) reading it.

This post has some very Soft “spoilers”

There are two reasons I make that recommendation:

— you’ll get more out of these Behind The Scenes posts and learn more about the writing process

— you’ll be able to ask Any questions you like about the book in Any of these Friday posts, in the Comments or by sending me an email

And, there’s a certain reader of this blog who happens to have read Notes from an Alien and happens to have written a review and happens to have already asked a number of questions in these Friday posts and just happens to be my Best Friend :-)

Her name is Jane Watson and I recommend you read her latest novel, Hindustan Contessa

Jane has given me a number of additional questions about my book so let’s get on with answering them:

* How did you prepare to write this book? ( you may have already touched upon this as a general explanation of your writing practice but perhaps you’d like to go into more detail regarding this book?)

I want to start my answer, Jane, with two quotes from my favorite secular writer, C. J. Cherryh:

“Where do you get your ideas? You inhale them, breath by breath, and stale air is just not good for creativity.”

“Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency–and don’t complain about the heat.”

The first quote covers the 20+ years of experience I suffered through to arrive at an awareness that I needed to write this particular book—mostly, time dealing with religion and spirituality and doing massive experiments to see what works

The second quote deals with the roughly two years from a clear conception of what Notes From An Alien should Do and the finished manuscript.

Notes deals with three Worlds’ journey to enduring Peace and the 20+ years of inhaling the ideas for the book taught me that the primary barrier to Peace is what Fundamentalists might call Sin, what sincere followers of organized religion might call Straying from The Path, and what New Agers might call Accumulating Bad Karma

So, I couldn’t ignore the Dealing with the Devil that “modern” culture shoves down our throats and there was ample evidence of many large Constituencies; therefore, I had to conceive a plan for the book that translated Earth Concerns into my Aliens’ Concerns—plotting and outlining

* Did the writing develop organically in a freeform manner or did you plan it?

Actually, Jane, both—I had a scene by scene outline but, by chapter four, the poor plan was bleeding liberally from the many small cuts made but a growing surge of organic writing

* You’ve spoken about some of the symbols and metaphors used in the book. Tell us a little about your choice of Point Of View and Voice.

Well, Voice just “happened” but came from the 20+ and 2 years of experiment and planning.

Point of View does tend to vary in the book—usually third person omniscient but sometimes third person limited and, for the most documentary segments, what I call third person formal. There’s also a bit of first person in some of the more dreamy scenes.

Again, though, the shifts in View just “happened”—driven by all the Inhaling of experience and the fevered planning

* I feel that some of the book has a very lyrical descriptive nature and some has a more pared back expository nature. Why do you, the author, think this dichotomy of style evolved? Does it serve a planned purpose or did the subject matter just lend itself to this?

Once again, Jane, the difference between lyrical and expository “got planned” in my unconscious during all the preparation then “just happened” during the frenzy of writing

* You cover a great many years in the book in a short space. Why did you not let it run out into a longer more epic work? Did brevity serve a purpose?

I didn’t realize the purpose of the brevity until the book was finished.

I just wrote what my Muse urged me to write

Then, after a few reviews, my previous knowledge that the book was, definitely, niche and would only appeal to a fraction of the ocean of readers became expanded from the awareness that the brevity or condensed nature of the book could facilitate a possible increase in readership.

It’s one thing to read a niche book, it’s quite another to have to slog through a long one

After Notes from An Alien was finished, I, the guy who’s somewhat like other folks, wanted it to be longer and more complex.

But, I, the guy who was the author, knew it was just as it needed to be

Of course, there was the aborted plan to write a collection of short stories that paralleled the novel but the post A Writer Discovers How To Say “No!” To Himself . . . explains how I dumped that project and began the series we are now experiencing, Behind The Scenes . . . :-)

Thank you, Jane, for posing those questions!


Anyone else want to ask any other questions in the Comments?
Read more Behind the Scenes posts…
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GRAB A FREE COPY of Notes from An Alien

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Author Interview ~ Jane Watson – Part Two

Jane Watson visited this blog back in November of 2011, gave us a great interview, and made us want to read her first novel, Hindustan Contessa.

Today, I’m proud to welcome Jane back for an interview that gets deeper into her writer’s mind and sheds light on the Process of Writing


Jane, what are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel about literary theft—at least that’s what I tell myself it’s about,  but often, as I write, it does seem to me that the story I am making can often develop into something else.  I believe in a process of gradual linking of relevant parts of a story until the real story takes shape. OK, this is arduous, but what I’m trying to do in this process is to find the real story I want to tell, the authentic one if you like, which I may be doing my best to cover up.

It’s my experience that many writers have a wonderful story that they could tell but they go out of their way NOT to tell that story. I believe this is because we are often fearful of recognising our own true authentic self that the story contains; i.e., we are fearful of accessing our own Inner Worlds.

I’m telling this story of literary theft because I actually went through the experience of having an idea of mine—an image, specifically, in a photograph—used by someone else. There is no copyright of ideas but it was a betrayal of trust. In releasing this story, I am hoping that I’m accessing my inner fears and thoughts about this experience.

In my two readings of  Hindustan Contessa, I realized you go deeply into the different states of mind of your characters. What about the different states of mind you visit when you’re preparing to write and during the actual writing?

Interesting question. I do not think my grasp of words has changed much since I was about thirteen, (and, I suspect this is the same for most people) but I truly believe the *way* I think about those words has changed dramatically. Many people believe that writing is about getting down the right words I disagree. For me it’s about getting the right thinking going, specifically about accessing the Inner Worlds I mentioned before. To go into those worlds the writer has to be fearless and determined; but, above all, at peace with oneself in that moment. I believe anything a writer can do to help them leave the real world behind and make that peaceful meditative journey is beneficial—listen to music, meditate, drink tea, you name it… :-)

Please, Jane, tell us more about your conception of the Inner Worlds of the writer?

Well, I believe the most important task facing a writer is to access those worlds.  In his book, The Craft Of The Novel, the writer Colin Wilson says: “A story or a novel is a writer’s attempt to create a clear self-image” He also says “Socrates argues that each human soul already contains the knowledge of all things.” In other words, a writer, when they attempt to access those Inner Worlds, is also attempting to access their own true self and to explore that. This is probably why some writing teachers say: write about the thing that you would most like *not to reveal *—because in that process you will probably have to look inside in a deep and meaningful way :-)

Jane, your novel certainly used symbols in highly creative ways. Would you share your view of symbolism in your writing and, especially, in your preparations for writing?

To me writing, the telling of a story or narrative, is held together not by “plot” but by a network of images and metaphors. These provide the underlying emotional and organic structure of my ideal work. I suppose this is a rather architectural approach to story. My preparation for writing often involves pages and pages of mind maps of connected  images and lists of events with their corresponding symbols and images.

What’s your process of revision like?

Read it, throw some out, read it, throw some out Read it again, put some back, read it again, put some back You get the idea, lol. But seriously, for me, revision is about finding where the story connects with the underlying symbolism. I look for areas where I’ve been too general in my description, to improve it, and areas where I have no underlying image or symbolic connections. I do a lot of restructuring—juxtaposition of various parts of the text are critical. The work is like a collage in motion and it’s the connections in the collage I’m trying to create. E.M.Forster himself once said: ‘Only connect

Care to share some of your current feelings about publishing?

Probably unprintable But, I truly believe that if many of the famous names in the history of writing were trying to get published today [by traditional publishers] they would be ignored. Nowadays, the process of putting out a work of art, which may be a novel,  seems to have become less and less nurturing and more and more commercial and yet creative projects often have to go through a lengthy process before they are ready to be born—I think there’s a contradiction there. Initially, novels are not commercial products, they are creations, which are then merchandised. However, nowadays, I feel the first stage is often not encouraged because the conveyor belt is waiting for the product ;-)

You give us much to ponder………

Jane, thanks, so much, for coming back and sharing your hard-won writer’s wisdom—looking forward to your next book :-)

Synopsis of Hindustan Contessa

An Australian couple, Milan and Tillie, travel to India. Kidnapped by robbers and incarcerated in a cave, Tillie tells their story. Captured by her sexual jealousy and suspicions of Milan, Tillie nevertheless endeavours to help him come to terms with his own childhood spent with grandparents who held him hostage while his parents travelled overseas. Family intrigue and crises of identity follow the couple as they travel across India. Against the colourful backdrop of India and Venice, this novel tells a story of loss and rediscovered identity amidst magic, obsessions, goddesses and misconceptions in a land where reality and illusion seem to merge. Not just a tale of India but a story of people who try to exist in the global melting pot and for everyone who lives on the edge.

Jane’s Novel at Amazon US
At Amazon UK
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

Preparing To Write A Book . . .

I published a novel in May of 2011.

I’m preparing to write a companion book—a collection of 19 short stories that happen in the same universe and time-frame as the novel.

It may be of interest how I prepare to write.

In fact, it may be important to let you know I consider all the Preparation to be “writing”, too.

Putting the words on the screen or page is merely the final phase of the whole Process of Writing.

Is this different from how you may experience Writing? If so, let us know your thoughts and feelings in the Comments :-)

So, the way I Prepare

For the novel, it was 23 years of study—psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, politics, and a few other topics.

Of course, during those years I didn’t know I was preparing a novel—looking back is what proves it

Then, 11 years of trying out various formats and plot structures—actually, 11 years of life crises (part of the Preparation) with a few intensive attempts to get the Form of the novel shaped

I also utilized my relationships on Book Island in the virtual world Second Life to get some broad concepts from folks—their responses to the over-all Theme of the book.

The putting-words-down part took  about six months.

Then, of course, the attending to revisions sparked by the editor and a few early readers.

Part of preparing to put the words down for the second book is all the additional reading—this time not as wide-ranging as for the novel since my mind has already narrowed down the areas of life that need attention.

Some of the reading has been purely Massaging my Mind—fiction and non-fiction that I’ve intuitively felt would loosen-up the flow from unconscious to conscious

My next task is to re-read the novel Hindustan Contessa by Jane Watson. I’ll be writing my thoughts, feelings, and opinions as I read; sending those to Jane; and, discussing them with her. This task is important to me as a writer—really getting into the larger considerations of the writing process with another person

The next phase is to deeply contemplate the 30+ pages of notes I’ve been compiling for months.

Since the second book is a reshaping of the same themes as the novel, getting to know what I actually wrote in the novel is one of the things I’m doing to prepare—yes, a writer can write things and still need to discover what they actually said :-)

So, then, re-reading the Novel and beginning the final Notes for the short stories

As I’m writing I’ll be sending each story to my Beta Readers—folks who read the novel and want to give feedback on the stories.

Finally, I’ll be sending the stories to two editors

Part of the reason for many Beta Readers and two editors is that me and one of those editors missed 12 typos in the novel :-)

So, that’s a peek into the Process I call Writing.

And, if you’re a writer, what’s your Process?
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