January 2018 - Ryan M. Williams

Archive Monthly Archives: January 2018

Apple drizzled with honey

5 Ways to Draw Readers Into Your Story or Novel

Sensory details draw readers into your story or novel. This post looks at examples of openings using each sense.

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Stranger Than Fiction: Learning Story Through Practice

I like the movie Stranger Than Fiction. I've watched it many times. It's fun, even though it shows an image of a writer as an eccentric, chain-smoking, and depressed person subject to the demands of a publisher, working in a spacious suite with marble floors. A literary author. It's an odd view of a writer, but one that reflects many of the stereotypes around writers.

“Sitting in the rain won't write books.”

Despite this, I really enjoy the characters in this story. Harold pulls me into the story. That's something that I want to do in my own work.

Learning From Story

What do you do when you enjoy a story, be it a movie or a book? Do you ask why? What did the story's writer do to pull you into the story? How did they do it? Especially when you come back to a story more than once.

We pick up story everywhere. Our whole lives we here, read, and watch stories. Our subconscious picks up on story. It filters through and comes out when we write. With focused attention, we can study works we enjoy to pick up techniques. Dean Wesley Smith covers this in his lectures on Practice.

My Plan

In coming at this reboot of my writing career, learning is key. I've spent many years writing and I continue to learn. After finishing my MLIS degree I realize that I need to focus much more on learning my craft as a fiction writer. I always want to get better. I want my writing to improve. This year is a year of reflection, planning, and rebirth.

I'm looking forward to it.

I'm writing a story each week and I plan to practice as I write those stories. So far I'm hitting each week this year (I started back in December). I create a card on my Trello board for each story which includes the deadline, target word count, and I've added a field for the technique I plan to practice.

Trello card with custom fields

This gives me an easy reminder each time I look at the card. I've added the word count and the topic using the custom fields power-up. I'll update the word count when I finish the story. And a title. When I finish the story, it goes out to a market following Heinlein's Business Rules.

How Do You Practice Writing?

What about you? What do you do to learn and improve your craft? Are there resources you recommend? Techniques that work for you?


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Laptop with Scrivener

Don’t Use Your Computer For Your Writing

Don't use your computer for writing. Instead, use a dedicated offline computer to boost your productivity and creativity.

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Why you should let your computer read your novel

Self-editing a novel or story presents challenges for many writers. It is very easy to read past mistakes, especially when you are very familiar with your work. Listening to your work read aloud can help.

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Kindle notes

Using a Kindle Paperwhite to Review Your Novel

Have you written a novel? Or a story? When you've finished the writing, what happens next?

A Rest Period

I like a rest period. I might go ahead and write something else. I need a break. I've spent many hours working on the novel and now I need to get away from it. How long? It depends on my plans. I took a 4-year break from my current project!

Let me explain. I finished my novel Stowaway to Eternity on January 18th, 2014. I moved on to writing Past Dark, the 4th book in my Moreau Society series. I finished that book March 26th, 2014. I turned my attention to other stories, and then another novel…time sort of got away from me. Then I decided to go back to school for my MLIS degree and my writing took a backseat to my library career.

You don't need to wait years. I wouldn't recommend it. Include the break in your overall timeline for the project. If you're moving on to writing another book, be sure that your plan includes time to review the book you just finished! You need time to get the book ready for publication. Otherwise, it'll do what mine has been doing and sit in a virtual drawer!

Approach Your Book As a Reader

The rest period helps you approach your book as a reader. You want to read for enjoyment. Don't look for mistakes—move past those for this review. You're trying to get a sense of the book (or story) as a reader. Picture someone reading the book for the first time—and loving it! Cultivate a positive mindset.

Sending your book to a Kindle e-reader like the Paperwhite helps you achieve this because you are reading it in a format that your audience will use when reading the book. It makes it feel more real. The analog version of this approach would be getting a paperback print-on-demand copy to read rather than printing manuscript pages. It's quicker and easier to read on a Kindle.

Why a Kindle? Why not another e-reader? No reason. If you prefer to use another device, that's fine. The instructions assume a Kindle but you could use something else. Just make sure that it is a format that you use when reading for enjoyment. You want that mindset. If you don't read on an e-reader this probably isn't for you.

3 Ways to Transfer Your Book to the Kindle

  1. Send to Kindle desktop app. The Send to Kindle PC or Mac applications make it very easy to send documents to your Kindle device or app. After installing the software you can right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) a document to send it to your Kindle. Alternatively, you can print documents to your Kindle or drag and drop files.
  2. Email to Kindle. Your Kindle comes with an email address you can use to send books to your device. The address only accepts emails from approved addresses, so you need to set that up with the email address you plan to use. Then attach your novel and send!
  3. Transfer via USB. Lack a wireless connection? Transfer your novel via a USB connection. Before you do, convert it to a .mobi format using Calibre or other tools.

I typically use the first option. It's simple and works well. A quick right-click, fill in the title and author and then click send. Easy!

I've also used the email option to email novels to my wife so she can do her own review of the book.

Reviewing Your Novel

Okay, you've transferred your book. Read for enjoyment. Read the book as you would any other. Suspend your critical voice. It will get its chance! Right now you want to read and appreciate what you've created. It may have been quite a while since you read parts of the book, depending on how long you took to write it. This is your chance to absorb the whole experience of the book as a reader.

After you finish the book (not while you read), sit down and write a review of the book. That's right, I want you to write a product review. It might only be a hundred words, shorter is better than going on too long. Imagine again that you are a reader who has finished the book. Maybe you're posting the review on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog. Did you like it? Overall, how well did it work? How does your reader feel about the book? This is a gut check. Keep in mind that you may be more critical than a reader. Writers tend to be hard on their own work.

The Second Pass on the Kindle

After you've completed your first review, you can go back in and do a more critical read on the Kindle. This time, make use of the highlights and notes features. Press and drag to highlight passages with your finger. Tap the Notes option to add notes to the selection. I keep this short and to the point, capturing key details. Typos and minor corrections just get a highlight.

Amazon's notebook page (http://read.amazon.com/notebook) provides access to notes and highlights in your books, but not your personal documents. I don't bother with exporting the notes or highlights.

Kindle with notes showing


  • Open my novel on the computer.
  • Go to the first highlight or note on the Kindle.
    • Tap on the menu dots in the upper right corner.
    • Tap on notes.
  • Search for the phrase on the computer to jump to that point.
  • Make whatever edit or correction is needed.
  • Go to the next note and repeat.

If you're interested in managing your notes, Clippings.io can help. The Chrome extension costs $1.99/month. Instead, I use the Kindle as an extra screen.

Here's what I do:

When I'm all done with that pass I delete the book from the Kindle. I don't need it any longer. This process could be repeated if you want by sending your book at any point to the Kindle to reread and review. Instead, I like to listen to my book. I'll cover that in my next post.

Editing Tips?

How do you approach editing your work? What works for you? Let me know in the comments!


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laptop showing stats

Writing, Business or Hobby?

Are you an entrepreneur or a hobbyist? Do you know? Let's look at some characteristics of both approaches.

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4 Techniques to Fit Writing Into Your Day

When did you last feel like you had all the time in the world to write? How long since you had a day free from distractions and demands on your time? Here are 4 techniques to fit writing into your busy day.

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Full Focus Planner

What Would You Give For More Focus in 2018?

You'll gain focus by killing your darlings. It isn't only self-indulgent writing that needs to go. You're a busy creative with many other demands on your time. You can't afford to chase every new idea—no matter how cute!

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Space scene

Nuke the Entire Site From Orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.


True words. Over the past few days, my sites came under attack from hackers. The code infested everything. No sooner would I strip it out and try to secure one site, I would discover it somewhere else. I decided to take Ripley's suggestion to heart. My sites might not be a multi-million dollar installation, but it's hard to do something like that after having spent so much time working on the sites. No doubt there were less radical methods that could have been used. I do have backups. I could restore posts. Only, I'm not going to. At least not right now.

Massive Reboot

I planned to launch my Massive Reboot of my writing and illustration career in 2018 after finishing my MLIS degree program. I'm currently working on my plans. This month is going to be a month of reflection and planning. Right now I only have two goals to focus on this month.

  1. Write a short story each week.
  2. Read.

That's it at the moment. I've ordered Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner and look forward to using it in my planning efforts. I first heard about it through Amy Porterfield's excellent podcast. I'm not adding more goals until I have a plan worked out for the reboot. I work as a full-time librarian and need to take that into account as well. For the moment that also means that I'm not going to work on restoring my other sites or the content that was on this site. I will work on the site deliberately, with a plan. I hope you'll check back as I work through this process!

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