Hard Writing Lessons 3

good editorI’m moving some older posts over from my original LiveJournal blog to this one, and ran across a long list of Hard Writing Lessons from 2007! Apparently I’d just turned over a manuscript to some beta readers and came back from the experience slapping my forehead. They found all kinds of problems. I don’t remember what they were, but I remember my profound sense of shame.

I THINK it was probably a novel that’s no longer in circulation, because 2007 pre-dates The Desert of Souls. Anyway, here’s a long note from younger Howard that still reads like good advice. I was pretty disappointed in myself when I wrote it! Clearly I hadn’t learned that other lesson yet, which is to be kind to yourself.

I’ve included a little bit of the preamble:

… I realize that all writers have different strengths and weaknesses, so a lot of this may not apply to you. It’s a list I wrote for me, and the issues I’m dealing with in my novel-in-progress at this time. I’ll post it here in the hope someone else can find my hard lessons instructive. I hope that I have the wisdom to do so myself!  Read More




The Coming of Conan Re-Read: “The Devil in Iron”

comingofconanBill Ward and I are finishing our read through of the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Coming of Conan. This week we’re discussing “The Devil in Iron.” We hope you’ll join in!

Bill: One thing that struck me as fresh with “The Devil In Iron,” a story that reprises many familiar elements from the last handful of Conan stories, is that an antagonist’s plan to kill Conan is what sets the plot in motion. We haven’t seen that in a story since “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Scarlet Citadel,” two King Conan yarns where his importance to the larger Hyborian world is undeniable.

Howard: I ended up liking this one more than I was afraid I was, because I’d recalled that it was sort of a fix-up of elements we’d seen before. I do wish we saw more of Conan being a Kozak and having Kozak adventures, but, alas, we only hear about it and see his outfit.  Read More




Hard Writing Lessons 2

Pen&Ink InteriorIf it bores you, it’s probably going to bore your readers.

While this is absolutely true in my experience, I’ve only recently developed a good strategy to fight this particular problem. (And no, I don’t usually hear that my books are stuffed full of boring scenes — I’ve just cut them, painfully, after lavishing attention on them.)

The trick is knowing when you’re having trouble because you just don’t feel like writing and when you’re having trouble because you’re bored with the scene. Unfortunately, when I was just beginning to develop the discipline to write I sometimes had to force myself to work even when I didn’t feel like it. Read More




Hard Writing Lessons 1

hulk computerThis being the first full week of National Novel Writing Month, I thought I’d start posting some of my hard learned writing lessons. One of these years I hope to join in, but once again I’m actually wrapping one up (last year I was feverishly revising one, and I think that was the case for the two years prior).

Regular visitors to the site, or any who’ve heard me speak in public, know that I like to repeat the lesson I found hardest to learn: know what every character wants before you start writing the scene. I still remind myself of that before I ever get to work. Read More




The Coming of Conan Re-Read: “The Vale of Lost Women”

comingofconanBill Ward and I are reading our way through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection The Coming of Conan. This week we’re discussing “The Vale of Lost Women.” We hope you’ll join in!

Howard: In the essay that concludes the book, “Hyborian Genesis,” Robert E. Howard scholar Patrice Louinet gives the probable background of this tale, recounting how Howard had grown more and more interested in tales of the American Southwest. Apparently at about the time he wrote this he’d begun to exchange tales with writer August Derleth, and recounted to him the story of the abduction of Cythia Ana Parker by the Commanche. Louinet speculates that this story was the inspiration behind “Vale.”

Last week I wrote that “Vale” was a rejected Conan story, but in actuality there’s no record that it was ever submitted. It might be that REH himself understood it wasn’t up to snuff and never bothered to turn it over for consideration. Read More


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