What I Learned About Writing From Watching TV

By Gail Z. Martin

I stopped following new shows on TV back in grad school because my crazy schedule meant I could never keep up with the latest episodes (yes, that was before DVR and Netflix). I spent the 90s watching a lot of TV but it was PBS Kids and Magic School Bus, with a few exceptions like Babylon 5 and a little bit of ST:NG (I missed Firefly the first time around).

So it’s only been relatively recently that I’ve gone back to catching up on shows on Netflix and video, and following some that are still running. (For a while, I was afraid to get hooked on a show still in production because as soon as I fell for it, it got cancelled. Lookin’ at you, Beauty and the Beast with Linda Hamilton!)

I can’t completely take off my author hat as I watch shows. I’m always […]

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Carol Berg: Blowing up the Dam

I would love to say my stories blossom fully formed, and the words always flow like water from a faucet, ready to fill the empty vessels of scenes and characters, ever easy to turn on and off. But, alas, not so. Sometimes, I just can’t get that word count to budge.

The world-at-large calls this condition Writers’ Block and expects that a writer who suffers this debilitating condition might be sitting around for an indeterminate time waiting for it to ease, like toughing out a bout of spring allergies. But a working writer can’t just say oops and blow off a day, a week or a month. Working writers have deadlines.

Does this occasional incapacity mean I’m a bad writer? No. My books are by no means perfect, but I am very happy with them.

Does it mean I have a bad process? No. My creative process works very well […]

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How Not to Write Like a Psychopath

So, I was reading the book WITHOUT CONSCIENCE while I was traveling to the London Book Fair last month because, as many of you may know, I have a strange fascination for psychopathy. (Not for the reasons you might think — wait, what do you think? The mind boggles.) But because the closest evidence I can find for the existence of the soul is that some people are so clearly born without one.

What on earth does any of this have to do with writing, you may ask. Well, strangely, I found myself flagging a couple of sections for this very blog: “How Not to Write Like a Psychopath.” One section in particular that caught my attention was when the author, Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. was quoting a psychopath asked to describe fear: “I notice that the teller shakes or becomes tongue-tied. One barfed over the money. She must […]

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Sacrificing Reality for Readability

There’s a probably-apocryphal story about the movie MARATHON MAN (wherein, Dustin Hoffman is tortured by having his teeth drilled, without anesthesia). Supposedly, Hoffman (a method actor) went to his dentist and submitted to similar dentistry, so that he could know what his character experienced. When he recounted that story on the movie’s set, Laurence Olivier said, “My dear boy, don’t you understand? We call it acting for a reason!”

I think of that story often, when I’m writing. The goal of my storytelling — whether I’m working in the secondary world of the Darkbeast novels or the contemporary world (with witches!) of the Jane Madison books or any other fictional setting — is to make my created world seem real to my readers. (Duh!) Sometimes, in order to make something ring true, to make it seem real, I have to tweak my depiction of reality, actually making my text *less* […]

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I’m doing a webinar for Writers Digest Books on June 9th at 1 pm on Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal, so, as you can imagine, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately on the subject of writing and on genre in particular. One special challenge you often have with speculative fiction is that at the same time you have to introduce your readers to new characters and situations, you’ve also got to create an entire world in their mind’s eye. This can lead to a lot of info dump at the beginning of novels.

I find that one of the best ways to head this off is to be sure to begin in the right place. If you start the novel too long before the main story so that you can provide set-up and context, you may lose the reader through the lack of immediacy. If you start too […]

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