The Biggest Mistake Readers Make (and How Writers can Handle It)

I’ll just cut right to the chase here. The biggest mistake readers make is assuming the writer doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have to take creative license in order to make for a better story or get it to fit into our universe.

As I was writing today, I thought about something funny that happened when a reader assumed I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to exploding rounds from a shotgun. Jay Willison is one of my major consultants on firearms and ammunition. He knows his stuff and has the US Army experience to back him up. Usually what I do is I watch or read an article and then take it to him and ask about the points I don’t understand.

I had done a ton of research with his help, and could write with confidence that there are things such as incendiary rounds (Dragon’s Breath) and hollow-point slugs that can and do make flesh go boom. Yet the reader assumed I just made it up and didn’t bother to research firearms or ammo.

How I handled it: I explained to the reader that while there’s always room for improvement in writing, there is little room to explain every single detail about the ammunition my character was using as it makes for dry reading for most people. The majority of readers don’t really care about Doctor Cross using exotic ammunition or even if she’s using a 12-gauge or 20-gauge. The only readers who will care about it are the ones who are firearms enthusiasts; and that’s okay. I showed the reader a couple of videos about exotic ammo and we wound up having an interesting conversation about what makes the best testing dummy. (We concluded pig cadavers are probably the most reliable, but that’s open to debate.)

Lesson for readers: Don’t assume the writer didn’t do research. There are a variety of reasons for leaving out minutiae or taking creative license. Instead, do your research and see if there are things you didn’t know about.

Lesson for writers: Don’t get mad at a reader for calling you out. You can learn something sometimes. If you did your research, you can sit back and relax knowing you did your part and maybe you’ll have a chance to share with the reader.

Finally, remember it’s your universe. Curve the bullet if you want.

Happy New Year!


Your Audience: Who are they?

A friend of mine who writes stream-of-consciousness type stories asked me to write a little bit about my philosophy on writing for an audience.

I could probably devote an entire book to this subject, but to spare your mind and soul, I’ll keep it brief–and in a list so you won’t suffer.

  • I know who my audience is because I’m a member of that audience. I write horror and weird fiction. I am also a fan of that genre. That gives me an advantage when I write because I know what I like and I like to write it. I couldn’t write a romance novel if I tried (someone would get killed, inevitably and it would have a sad ending. Romance novels aren’t allowed to have anything but happy endings.). I am also not a fan of the romance genre, so that’s okay. In other words, don’t just write what you know, write what you love. You can’t always write what you know, anyway. A writer explores and expands their knowledge and experience in a variety of ways.
  • I write stories that scare and entertain me. Because I am a fan of the horror and weird fiction genres, I write things that scare me and make me laugh. I write to have a good time. If people love it, too, then great! If they don’t, well, okay, fair enough, but at least I had fun.
  • Because I’m a member of that audience, my stories entertain many people within that scope. Luckily, my fellow horror and weird fiction fans seem to enjoy my writing and are also having a good time reading my work. Because I understand my goals and myself as an audience member, some of the outer audience comes along for the ride. It’s rewarding.
  • My writing is for fun, and occasional profit. I do make the occasional buck or two off of Exit 1042, and that’s great. But mostly I just enjoy getting a story out, and if others love it, then the more, the merrier. It makes me happy to know I’ve entertained someone or made them think with something I’ve written.
  • My work is not for everyone. If you want to be a writer, you have to understand that you will have people who don’t like your work. They will also say really rude shit about you, too. But that’s okay. I know not everyone likes what I write, or even how I write it. I didn’t write it for them. I wrote it for me. I wrote it for myself and some of the people who will find it amusing or frightening … and that’s the key. If you write to please others, you’ll be miserable.

At this point in my life, this essentially sums up my philosophy on writing for an audience. I think that pandering is just about the worst thing an author or writer can do. So, write for yourself, and remember, not everyone is going to fall in love with your work. And that’s okay.

Now get to it.

Anne Hogue-Boucher is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. She eats potato chips at lunch every day and drinks Caffix every afternoon because caffeine is her mortal enemy. Follow her weirdness on Twitter and/or on Facebook.


The Abject Fear of Writing? 8 Quotes That Will Change How You See Writer’s Block

via The Abject Fear of Writing? 8 Quotes That Will Change How You See Writer’s Block.

I’m not usually one for those “motivational” posts, but I have to say, this set of graphics from Authors Publish is fantastic.

This is for people who say they “don’t have a muse.” I call bullshit. Just admit that you’re too tired, too lazy, too sick, or whatever the real excuse is. Because that’s all it is: an excuse.

If you’re blocked, think about why you’re really blocked. You could be afraid of failure, or you could be afraid of success. Kick your “muse” out the window, sit down, and write something. Write even when you don’t feel like it (or at least admit you don’t feel like it and stop blaming some outer force).

This Saturday, I will have to put my 17-year-old cat to sleep. I am extremely sad about this, even though I know and accept that it has to happen (without going into detail, it is clear to me that it’s time). I hate having to do it.

I could let that be my excuse, couldn’t I? I could say, “oh, my muse won’t let me write.” Fuck that noise. I am sad, I am grieving the loss about to come, and I am doing my best to give this sweet cat a huge party and send off every day, because she deserves it for 17 years of faithful companionship.

But I still get up, sit at my laptop, and work on my writing. I may take a few days off to grieve, but I will climb back into the saddle and ride again.

Even though I will likely take a break, I sure as hell won’t blame a “lack of muse.”

If I can do it, then so can you. I’m not anything special. I’m not Wonder Woman (it’s funnier when Bernard Black says that on Black Books).

Enjoy these quotes, and hopefully it’ll help you kick your muse to the curb and write.

Writing for Food – Writing for Fun

I once told a good friend of mine that I write to put food on the table.

That was true, but it’s not exactly the whole story.

There’s a difference between being a Freelance Writer, and being an Author. I wear both hats. Allow me to explain the functions of each one.

The Freelance Writer Hat
This is the practical baseball cap that I put on and wear when I’m writing for other people. It is the custom-tailored hat that is probably worn on a couple of edges, but it still looks okay. It serves its function.

There are deadlines, demanding clients, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) keywords and phrases, revisions, more revisions, ratings, tailor-made posts that don’t sound like anyone else, client’s clients and their sub-clients, and on and on ad nauseam. It’s the type of writing where if you don’t write, you don’t get to eat.

The Author Hat
I like this fit better, of course. This is my sexy, wide-brimmed hat that shields my eyes from the searing pain of the sun and lends an air of je ne sais quoi to my appearance. It’s the hat I wear when I write for pleasure. If it sells on the shelves, great! If it doesn’t, well, damn, but it won’t stop me from writing and enjoying myself.

There are some deadlines when working with a publisher, edits and revisions, more revisions, helping to market your work, and moving on to your next story. It’s the type of writing where you write, sometimes get paid for it, and hopefully just have a great time doing it.

Both hats are valuable, and they’ve taught me a great deal about the writing process. Not only are you creating art with words, you’re crafting them, too. You’re building a structure that will hopefully stand for a good long while. You might not build the Sphinx or The Great Wall of China, but hopefully you’ve built something that will house a few generations of readers.

I have also said that it is not necessary to have a muse in order to write. I still stand by it, that it’s 100% true if you’re dedicated to your craft. That doesn’t mean you’re not inspired or uninspired on some days, but I’ll write more about that later. I’ve been accused of having a Puritan streak for it (thanks, Frank!), but that’s not true, either. The Puritanical work ethic can play into it for some, but I prefer to think of it as a dedication to producing art. I am not a machine nor a beast of burden. I am my own muse.

I used to think that I needed a muse in order to produce a story. As such, I wound up not writing very often, just waiting for the “right idea” to come along. Then, I got into Freelance Writing to help pay my bills. There was no room for waiting with this. There were articles to write and deadlines to meet, but each article had to be original and unique, and not look like the generic crap that a bot can crank out in minutes. If you want to stand out in the world of freelance writing, you MUST produce work that has a twist to it. Infused with humor, excitement, and quality. Considering my consistent rating is five of five stars, I think I’ve got that part under control.

Doing it day in and day out gave me the idea that I could do the same thing with creative writing, if only I would sit down and write…anything. Start with a dream I had last night and see where it went. Take a character from one of my games and tailor them to become original. Use my imagination. BECOME MY OWN MUSE.

That isn’t to say there aren’t ideas, dreams, and other people who inspire me. There are plenty of people I admire and things people say that wend their way into my head and sometimes wind up in my manuscripts. But there isn’t an intangible thing out there that controls me and what I write. I draw inspiration from elsewhere, but I am the creator. If I had to depend on something or someone else, I’d never get any project finished. But I’ll write more about that next week. This week it’s all about author hats.

No matter which hat you choose, one or the other, or both, try to approach them in the same way, especially if you’re feeling uninspired, ill, or otherwise ‘just not in the mood.’ Put yourself in the mood. Think it’s impossible? I’m writing this very moment with a migraine. I created this piece and I’m pretty pleased with it. If I can do it under these circumstances, then you can, too.

Follow me on Twitter (@Spellvira) where you can read absurdities on an infrequent basis. You can also learn more and read excerpts of my work on my tumblr page.


Last week, I was unable to put up a blog post because I was unwell in the morning, and had to rest before going to see the wonderfully amazing and amazingly wonderful Eddie Izzard for his Force Majeure Tour. Without further ado, here is the post I wanted to write.

Yes, that title’s a take off on Bill Murray’s character from Scrooged, Frank Cross, when he yelled for the workers to stop with the goddamn hammering.

It’s fairly much expressive of the level of irritation I feel when certain television shows and films (that run in a series) start to pandering to audiences. Currently, it’s Hannibal (pandering to the Hanagram crowd) and Sherlock BBC (bringing back Moriarty) that have disappointed me by pandering to their fans rather than sticking to the quality material that have made them popular and beloved in the first place. Once a show begins doing that, it becomes sloppy. The writers stop feeling the magic that brought them there in the beginning. It shows. The series suffers, and the audience ultimately suffers except for the vocal handful who demanded dreck and nonsense from the writers.

This is not the same as listening to your editor. Your editor is there to help you make the best out of your work.

Of course, a big influence for television shows and films are the producers, who are the writers’ bread and butter. But that’s another post in and of itself.

So, dear fellow writer, why am I bothering with all this? Because I want to tell you to not give in to your fans if you have something in mind. If you do, your writing will suffer, and you’ll wind up with a work that leaves you utterly dissatisfied.

You are not a fan fiction writer when you’re writing an original work. You’re also not a fan fiction writer when you’re working on a reboot of an original work. There is nothing wrong with fan fic. I write it all the time. I love it. But when you write something, and you make it your own — whether it’s a reboot of a classic or an entirely original world, write it for you. Write it because you enjoy it, not because you have fans begging you to put James with Daria or so-and-so, but because you want to put James with Daria, or with Ken, or whomever you prefer. That’s just an example.

Admittedly, feedback from fans is invaluable at times. Sometimes, they have an insight into your characters that you’ve never considered. But it must be taken with a grain of salt.

It all comes down to this simple, seven-step program:

  1. If you enjoy what you’re writing, write it. Others will enjoy it, too.
  2. You will have detractors.
  3. You will have fans who want something from you.
  4. Continue to do what you want.
  5. You will continue to have detractors.
  6. You will continue to have fans who want something from you.
  7. Continue to do what you want.

I recall an interview with someone from Warner Brothers (I saw this when I was a little girl, so I can only vaguely recall who it was) discussing a number of changes that “the people” would want them to make regarding Bugs Bunny/Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes. His response was, essentially, that they ignored it and just kept doing what they wanted to do, and the shows/cartoons/etc. continued to be enormously popular.

Sometimes, you just have to keep doing what you think is best, producing what you want, and THAT is what will help you maintain your quality. THAT is what will keep you manufacturing your best writing.

Avoid pandering. You don’t need to turn your masterpiece work into something for others. Your contribution is what you make of it, and you don’t want your work to become weak and watered down just to please others (who will never be pleased anyway). Please your own inner reader, and the readers who can appreciate the quality of your work will, too.

If you want to keep up with my blog posts, follow me on Twitter already. I update about once a week for your reading and learning pleasure.