Is a Lack of Profanity in Fiction a Sign of Weak Writing?

Earlier today, I had an experience in one of my Creative Writing classes that I have chosen to share. It was in playwriting class, and it was my turn to be workshopped. While the majority of the class took no notice to the fact that my play had zero profanity in it (rude words yes, profanity no), one student felt it was odd that my play’s cast swore none of the time at all. To be honest, she even seemed bothered by it. So, I’ve chosen to use this experience as a means to talk about profanity in fiction.

Is it poor writing when your fiction has little to no profanity?

I don’t think so. I can only speak for myself, but the worst words I’ll use are “crap,” “heck,” and “darn.” That’s verbally, though. Occasionally, I’ll slip a real dirty one in there, but I’d be lying if I said that’s how I talk in real life. My mouth is as clean as a whistle. But that being said, I don’t think it’s a poor choice of diction to exclude certain words when you’re writing fiction or some other form of Creative Writing. I think often times, people rely far too much on profanity to get the point across.

The point is simple. If you choose to include characters that cuss, make sure every word out of their mouth counts. Too much of that stuff can reflect poorly on you as a writer. And please, don’t be so narrow-minded that you catch yourself thinking that a lack of profanity is weak writing. It’s frankly a stupid mindset, and there are plenty of writers out there (myself included) that don’t generally use language like that in their books. I won’t judge if you do it, but for Zeus’s sake, make sure every word counts.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017


A Few Things I Learned From Playwriting and Screenwriting

First of all, I know I said this post would come out yesterday, but life happened. But now that that’s out of the way, I want to discuss some things I’ve learned this semester in my creative writing program, specifically in a pair of playwriting and screenwriting classes. In one of my previous blogs, I said that my CW program hadn’t helped me as a fiction writer, and this was perfectly true, but I’d like to amend that thought and say it was mostly the fiction classes that hadn’t helped. Truth be told, if you want to be a better fiction writer, learning to write scripts is the way to go.

The reason for this is because screenwriting and playwriting dive far deeper into how stories are told. There is terminology at use in both fields (which are basically two sides of the same coin) that help the writer help to structure their character’s motivations. They are called superobjectives. These are basically what the characters are after, and every single character in your novel should have one. The bottom line is, what is their goal? In Star Wars, you can even argue that Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have opposite superobjectives. Darth Vader wants to turn his son to the Dark Side, while Luke wants to bring his father back to the Light. In a nutshell, what does your character want?

Something else I learned about is the MDQ: the “major dramatic question.” As my professor said, it is the major question (usually asked 10% through the story) that the story depends on to be driven forward. To go back to my Star Wars example, the MDQ could be “Will Luke turn his father from the Dark Side?” It is a question that can be asked in questions beginning in how, what, when where, why, who, and so on. But according to what my prof has said, it is best asked with a “will” question.

The bottom line is that, while fiction writers will not benefit much from a CW program if they’re focused on fiction, there are other types of classes out there that will teach writers the structure of a story in far more detail. That means that classes such as playwriting and screenwriting can actually make you a better writer of fiction, depending on which university you’re going to, of course.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Something I’ve Learned In College

It’s time for a confession. I’m not a fan of creative writing programs in college, unless you’re just looking for a piece of paper to help you make some extra green. The truth is, I haven’t exactly kept any of this a secret while I’ve been using this blog. However, I’ve discovered something useful when it comes to playwriting and screenwriting classes.

They help me outline fiction.

Some may not think this is possible but it is. Currently, I’m taking a playwriting class, and my professor has provided his students with an outline of how the play works and all that jazz. There are three parts to a play (a beginning, middle, and end), and between each part there is some kind of transition between them. This has helped me transition my stories from brief idea that can be summed up on three pages, to a 30-page outline using the beginning-middle-end format for each scene, to a script format to get all the dialogue down with brief description ideas, to a fully-written novel.

I think the evolution between brief idea to full novel speaks for itself. Needless to say, I’m incorporating this into my process, and am attempting to use it to plan a sequel for Kingslayer as well as planning an anthology for shorter fantasy fiction. This plan seems to be working out pretty well so far.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Update: Summer 2017

I know I haven’t been making my regular posts, but I assure you I’m not chillin’ with Tolkien, Poe, Twain, and other dead writers. I have, on the other hand, been very busy. I’ve been taking a senior-level playwriting class, after all. And before that, I was visiting my brother and his girlfriend out in the boonies of Angleton, Texas.

Several projects in a row have fallen apart–including the epistolary novel I spoke about on Twitter–but I did manage to get something else done. I managed to fully draft a piece of flash fiction, which will be published as bonus content in the back of Kingslayer with a simple update to my files (perks of self-publishing). This story actually stems from the failed prequel for my novel that never got finished, but I digress. I’m also going to be publishing an appendix in the back of the book to further explain some of the magical items in my created universe.

Something else I’ve been working on is a new cover for Kingslayer. The current one just isn’t working or getting the book noticed, so I figured a change is in order. It’ll be up soon.

Right now, novels just aren’t working for me. I’m starting to think that short fiction and flash fiction are where I need to focus my attention, until I can readjust my attention to novels again. That’s why I’m considering doing a collection of fantasy flash fiction (some of which will be from the world of Kingslayer, while others will be from entirely new worlds).

All in all, I wanted to update everyone on what I am doing so they can get a bigger picture for why I’ve been absent from the blog scene.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Finding a Writing Group

Many writers, including some published authors, are known for relying on a writing group to get feedback that is key to their revision process. But how does a writer go about finding one or starting one? Well, the truth is that this depends greatly on the resources available to you.

One of the most common places to find a writing group is a location that is somehow connected to the education system. In other words, schools (or rather, colleges) and libraries. A college writing program is the best place to find fellow writers aside from a library. And libraries tend to support literacy (obviously), so it’s pretty much common sense that a writing group may gather there once a month or so.

Personally, I’ve found that looking online doesn’t help at all. On the other hand, starting a writing group is something different entirely. You have to know other writers, and I’d advise you to find people who write similar stuff as you.

I once tried starting a writing group by posting an ad on Craigslist. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. One writer wanted to do manga, and I write exclusively fantasy. Also, the two writers that emailed me didn’t take their writing seriously at all. That brings up another point. If you are a serious writer, only be in a writing group with other serious writers.

Always remember that having a writing group helps, but only if the other writers are as serious as you are. Otherwise, it’s just another hobby.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Active vs. Passive Voice

Have you ever read a book, a paragraph, or even a sentence that you thought was far too wordy for its own good? The truth is, there are a lot of culprits when it comes to poor writing, but one of the more common ones is their overuse of passive voice. Passive voice is far less engaging, after all, than active, and no amount of excuses is going to change that.

Below are two versions of a sentence:

  1. A cake should have been made.
  2. I should have made a cake.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the second one is more engaging, but in some cases, it also takes fewer words to write in active voice. Here’s a couple more sentences:

  1. The car was stolen by Robert, using a fake key.
  2. Robert stole the car with a fake key.

As you can see, the second sentence takes two less words and five less syllables. This can go a long way when it comes to making your fiction flow better in the eyes of your readers. Something I’ve noticed is that there are two major culprits when it comes to passive voice: helping verbs and prepositions. Neither of those are bad to use, but pay attention to what you’re doing when you do. If your prose sounds better without them, don’t use them. And remember, the best way to tell if it sounds good is to read your work aloud.

Also remember that passive voice takes your reader away from the action. You want the subject of your sentence doing the action itself. Saying “The arrow was shot at Dave” is not as effective as “Josh shot Dave with the arrow.”

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017

Is a Creative Writing Degree Really Worth It?

Having been a writer for sixteen years, the art of Creative Writing is something that is second nature to me at this point. I work hard on a novel for six months or even a year or two, and sometimes it’s pretty exhausting. But it’s always worth it, because at the end of the day I get to hold that big, fat manuscript.

But one thing I’ve noticed is that–despite having taken several college classes in fiction writing–none of them have helped me become a better writer. That’s because fiction writing isn’t something you can actually teach. As Stephen King once said, to be a writer you need to read a lot and you need to write a lot. So the question is, is a Creative Writing degree really worth it?

The short answer is no, but only if you want to write books professionally like Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, or J.K. Rowling. Again, being a good writer comes from both writing and reading a lot, and no amount of sitting in class, hearing your professor blab at you is going to help you land a deal with HarperCollins.

What a Creative Writing degree can do, however, is get your foot in the door in the publishing industry. What a lot of schools do (like the University of Central Arkansas, my college) is they host writing festivals and conferences where local and regional authors come and talk about their work. Kelly Link, who has worked with Cassandra Claire and Holly Black, came to my university last semester, with a lot of useful advice.

Unfortunately, none of that will help if you can’t write worth a darn. The most useful thing a Creative Writing degree can do for you is to get you a job with a publisher or another writing-related job. The best thing you can do (if you want to land a deal with a decent publisher) is to work hard to be the best writer you can be, and study the work of those who have done it all before. That’s the best advice I can really give.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to reblog and follow. See you guys next time.

–N.L., 2017