Blog Archives

#WriteTip Dream Writing: Divisional Spirituals; A Short Story

Frankie Av

I know a lot of writers who use writing exercises to help them practice. While I believe it is a great way to keep up word counts and a useful exercise all round, I never could get into it. Someone gives you a prompt then you go away and write about that prompt. The problem for me is that I either find the prompts boring or unimaginative. The writing exercises I enjoy are based on my dreams and nightmares. I have such crazy dreams that I have a lifetime supply of prompts to write about. Dream writing doesn’t have to be perfect or long winded, it’s simply an exploration of the wildest part of my imagination. This is my latest, written yesterday after an unusual dream the night before. It was very vivid and I remember most of it. The feelings I experienced during the dream stayed with me all day. It all seemed really important, very special and urgent.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my exploration of my crazy dream!

December 15th, 2151.

In the mid 2050’s scientists finally proved the existence of the soul. They don’t exist in some vague place in your heart or chest as once believed. The soul actually exists in the head, within the brain itself. When the proof was first published it sparked outrage throughout the world and was met with great cynicism. For many years science has been used to negate such fanciful imaginings, disproving God and the bible while destroying archaic beliefs and notions. Yet there they were, telling the world that the soul exists.

People began to wonder that if the soul exists, surely God must do also? In time a new religion was created; Soulism. The greatest teaching of the Soulist Churches was that God existed, and in order to get your soul into his loving embrace, you had to find Him. In a way, it was their way of forcing more pliable scientists to prove God existed once and for all. Not that they did. But what these scientists did prove, was that not every soul is equal. They discovered that some souls were fifty percent smaller than others. They went further and discovered that each of these half-souls, were actually part of another, and so Divisional Spirituals were discovered.  

Divisional Spirituals, or Divuals for short, are created when one soul is split between two bodies. These half-souls can never be complete until the death of the bodies each inhabit. Only then can the two halves become one again. Divuals are not soul-mates, that is something completely different. They are not two souls which were always meant to be together, they are souls torn apart during the universal recycling of spirit and matter–another thing discovered by the scientists. Souls are recycled and reused endlessly. This discovery led some to believe this proved the past-life phenomenon; when a person believes they have lived before. Anyway, no one knows the reason for soul destruction, or even why both halves end up inhabiting two separate corporeal bodies–often hundreds of miles apart. Some have hypothesised that Divuals are created when part of the soul leaves the dead body while the other half tries to remain behind. Perhaps this half has some sentimental notion attached to the old vessel, or perhaps it just can’t shake itself free and so the soul gets torn in two. It is further hypothesized that the fact matched Divuals can differ in age means that the two halves of the soul are recycled differently. Perhaps one half reaches the stage of rebirth many years before the other due to damage caused by the initial tearing. Perhaps the half which gets out first is simply recycled quicker, no one actually knows. The one thing the world does know, is that compatible Divuals die at the same time, presumably so the two halves of the one soul can combine again.

I was eight when I first found out about Divisional Spirituals and what it meant to be and live as one. My mother told me she was one. I remember at the time I didn’t understand what she meant. I thought she was telling me she had a twin sister somewhere. She often spoke about how death would make her soul whole, something else I never understood until I was older. I used to worry that she would die just so she could find her twin sister and leave me behind. But she didn’t. Well, she did die, but not until I was an adult of many years.

I remember thinking she was crazy. Especially when I started to read about the phenomenon myself. I didn’t look into Divuals and the proof of souls discovery until I was in my early teens. I thought it was a load of bullshit. I thought that some group of scientists had either been smoking something strong at the time of the discovery, or else they were playing a very big joke on humanity. But I changed my mind when I learned that I myself am a Divual.

When I was seventeen, my mum took me to the local Soulist church. The leaders of the Soulist church main goal was to reunite Divuals. When I was told I was a Divual, I thought of my mum and wondered if it meant I also had a sister out there who I would one day meet. The leader told me that if I ever did meet my other Divual half, they would trigger the Combination ceremony and join us. I have to admit this made me kinda scared. I mean, sure, it would be nice to meet my other half, but to join with them? What exactly did that mean? Marry them? Be physically joined somehow? It wasn’t until a few years later I discovered exactly what the Combination ceremony actually entailed. I stopped looking for my other half after that.

It is said that around a third of the human population are Divuals. One thing a Divual knows is just how lonely life is. This isn’t something which I can explain to any normal person with a full intact soul. There is no real way to explain it. But it’s as if there is a huge gaping hole deep inside me, filled with cold and lonesomeness. It’s like a pit of despair trapped inside you which continually sucks away your essence until you are nothing but a pathetic depressed individual. There’s just something missing, and without this thing you can barely function. But, you learn to live with it.  So yeah, there are a lot of really sad people in the world.

Once a year, on the anniversary of the discovery of the soul, there is a worldwide celebration. Soulist Day is on the first weekend of August every year and Soulism conventions are held around the world. It is a day in which Divuals come together to acknowledge their partial soul and perhaps heal it if they meet their other half. Combination ceremonies are held during these conventions, which is one reason why I rarely go to them. But, I went to this year’s Soulism convention a few months ago, and I was unlucky enough to meet my other half.

The conventions are a little like sci-fi conventions of old. People of the same mindset with the same interests gather together to enjoy their uniqueness. There are huge stalls with anything from summoning charms to soul talismans said to combine half-souls without the need of a combination ceremony. Now, these things are merely trinkets, they are just curious items with no such powers, but I like them. They come in all kinds of shapes, colours and designs, and I’ve collected them for years. I find them pretty, but not at all useful.

I was standing at a talisman stall when a small boy approached me. He had blond hair and large blue eyes. He was smiling as he tugged my sleeve. I looked around to see if his parents were anywhere, but he seemed to be alone. I asked him if he was lost, and he replied; “Not anymore.” I realised then, as I looked into his unusually wise and bright eyes, that I was looking at my other half, the Divual with the other half of my soul.

His parents appeared a few minutes later. His mother eyed me suspiciously as they dragged the young boy away. I guess they didn’t realise that their son’s other half could be an old woman. I suppose I would be suspicious too, you can’t be too careful these days, especially with kids and strangers. But when that little boy disappeared into the crowd, the loneliness I had felt for years seemed to double with every reluctant footstep he took. I was sure I’d never meet him again. That the chances of our one soul ever being reunited was so slim as to be none. When that little boy’s mum pulled him away, it felt as if that cold hole inside me had grown. Almost as if my own half-soul shrank small with grief.

I didn’t go after them. I mean, how could I ever make a normal soul understand what the problem was, or how it felt to live with only half a soul? It’s inconceivable, unbelievable. Even a person with a huge imagination can’t even begin to understand what it is to live as a Divual. How could I even start to explain to a young boy’s mother that me–a seventy-eight year old woman–was her nine year old son’s perfect match? It would sound seedy, creepy, it would sound so very wrong. It would probably earn me a trip to the hospital with a broken jaw and a police escort to jail once I was treated. And how could I ever expect that mother to allow her precious son to go through a Combination ceremony, for him to die at my side just so his little half-soul could join with its other half? No, I wouldn’t and couldn’t ask nor want such a thing.

I paid for the talisman I had gripped in my hand and left the convention with the understanding that my soul would forever be a simple half, never able to reach its full potential while never fully existing in this life. He was so young, and I was much to close to death for our half-souls to be joined in this life. My half-soul would be recycled without its other half, and so it would continue to exist until such times as both halves came free at the same time, in another life. 

As I walked outside the building and through the car park, I heard someone shouting. When I looked back, I saw the mother of the boy running after me. I was scared, so sure she knew what I was and that she wanted to make sure I never went near her son again. So I turned away and kept on walking. She caught up to me a few seconds later, stopped me going any further by grabbing hold of my arm. She didn’t seem angry, in fact, when I looked at her, she smiled sadly. She said it was customary for Divuals to exchange a gift with their other half. That her son wished to gift something in recognition of his half-soul.

I saw her son run up behind her, those bright eyes shining as he made his way towards us. He handed me a little stuffed brown teddy bear with a black hat on its head. There was a small piece of paper folded up and tucked inside a bow around its neck. He smiled at me then he and his mother went to walk away. I stopped them, gave the boy the talisman I just bought and thanked him. I watched them leave, wanted so very much to join them and enjoy some time with my other half. Because, when we were so close, I felt almost whole, almost complete. As if the dark pit inside of me disappeared.

When I got home, I placed the little bear on my shelf in the living room. Pride of place on the somewhat empty and dusty wood. I took the little piece of paper out and unfolded it, only to find two pieces of paper. The first one was from the boy. He had written it himself, that was clear. He’d tried to make the writing neat and tidy, large rounded letters which were joined in parts, broken in others. It said, “One day soon our soul will be one. I’m glad I met you.”

I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Then I read the second note. The mother had written this one, the handwriting was careful and clear. It said; “Terminal illness will force the day sooner than I can bear. He has some time left, but I’m not ready to let him go. We know who you are. We will come for you when it is time.”

It felt as though my heart shattered into a million pieces. Tears soaked my face as I cried piteously while rereading the two notes over and over. They knew who I was, had found me before I had even looked for them. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to see me, knowing what I ultimately represented in her young son’s life.

It’s not often a person knows the day in which they will die. It’s not even often that a person knows how they will die. But I do. And it will be at the side of my other half; the tragically young and most beautiful Divual I’ve ever known.

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi  MALEVOLENCE


#WriteTip – Sam’s Writing Process, Part 1: Planning

Sam av

This is a continuation in a series of posts I’ll be doing about my own writing process. If you’re just coming into the conversation, please read this first. I don’t want anyone to feel daunted by my process. As NaNoWriMo forums are fond of describing, there are Planners and Pantsers. By that, they mean there are writers who prefer to write with a plan, and there are writers who prefer to wing it and fly by the seat of their pants.

I am a planner.

If you’re a pantser, planning can be intimidating. That’s why I would prefer if you read my previous #WriteTip post, which seeks to convince you that your own style is superior to mine because it is your style and you’ll get to know it best. I present my own methodology for two reasons:

  1. People sometimes ask about it, and
  2. It might help someone else find their way.

Planners, in General

There are multiple ways a writer can go about planning their work. The first thing you need, obviously, is a kick-ass idea. From there, there are multiple tasks you can do, such as:

  • Drawing maps or sketches of characters, settings, clothes, creatures, etc.
  • Filling out character sheets that add detail and personality to your characters
  • Build a world, like making a character sheet for your setting
  • Browse the internet for images, people, maps, etc. that inspire you relative to this story
  • Outlining/plot mapping
  • Talking with a friend

Any and all ideas are fine. I even change up my method from story to story, but there are similar elements no matter which story I write, so I’ll go into them here.

How I Start: Index!

The very first thing I do is whip up a Google Sheet (Microsoft Excel for Google Drive). I make a skeleton outline for chapter number, chapter name, and chapter description. Sometimes, if I am feeling especially plantastic, I’ll also put a ‘last edit’ date, a timeline marker, estimated percent completion, a section for other notes, and whose perspective I am following if I am writing more than one.

I can do this in Scrivener as well, but I’m still rocking this part of my process old school. In Scrivener, you can make a new page for each chapter, and each chapter has an ‘index card.’ It essentially works the same way, I just don’t love it. I have always been a fan of spreadsheets. They’re simple, easy to use, easy to organize, and easy to modify.

For the chapter description, I just keep it really simple. What am I hoping to accomplish in the chapter? For THE BLOOD OF NERYS (whose master document this is), Chapter one says:

The opening scene is Wex dying of the disease. Berge brings in an ONEG and they bleed him for a transfusion. Wex lives. The donor, who was already close to death, goes into shock and dies, prompting Berge to need to go out and get a new one.

Now see…in the book, ONEGs are called “Primes.” I didn’t want to use modern terminology because I hate that in alternative worlds, so I renamed all of the blood types. For my brain to wrap around it, though, I used the terminology I know best.

From this point, I CAN plan out my entire story. However, that’s not what I do next. I only do the skeleton first…I’m too excited not to plan, but not clear enough on what goes in this document. The next thing I have to do is know my plot.

Plot Scaffold!

I then make a very rough outline of the plot. I use a technique I previously described called The Seven Point Story Structure. Basically, it’s just a physical representation of your beginning, middle, end, and the major events that happen along the way to move the story between them. Very, very simple. Piece of cake really. And it looks like actual, in-depth planning, which feels awesome.

That’s my whole book. A 7-point skeleton and an empty index of chapters. Want to guess what comes next?

Plotting Chapters

I also affectionately refer to this as plot mapping. Frankie likes to use her tables and storyboards. This is basically the same thing but I don’t like to put all the time in to make it pretty. I just slap the words down and go.

I go back to my spreadsheet and I start filling it in. In my mind, I move through the plot quickly as if I am writing the book in less than an hour. My brain sounds a lot like this:

Example story: THE BLOOD OF NERYS

First, Berge carries Wex miles while he’s bleeding all over, dying. Then, he drops Wex on the lab floor, which pisses off Zanje (who’s his hot boss). They get in an argument about why the hell he dropped a dying man in her immaculate laboratory. Wex doesn’t die, but Berge has to go off to regather some supplies, leaving Wex with Zanje. Wex asks for his dog. Zanje hates animals because she thinks they’re dirty. Wex drags his own ass out of bed to go get his dog…

That bit spans about three chapters.

Each section in the outline spreadsheet will get 1-5 sentences maximum with what the chapter is about. It’s just a tiny little bookmark reminder of “Hey, this is what you were going to write here.”

I usually shoot for about 20-40 chapters. My chapters tend to be 1500-5000 words, so that gives me a 30,000-200,000 word range. I would usually aim for about 90,000, which is a moderately sized novel. I don’t limit how long a story will be, but I might try to separate the tale into several books if it grows too big. But word count isn’t a concern yet, so I won’t care until later.

So at this point, I have a plot map, and outline, and a rough sketch of the trajectory of my story.


At this stage in planning, my characters aren’t much. I know their role and their general personality. I don’t really know them as people yet. To give you an idea, at this point in THE BLOOD OF NERYS, I had this:

  • Wex is similar to my roommate. He talks a lot, loves machines and gadgets, is socially awkward, and has a dog. He starts the book by almost dying, and is saved by Berge. He is employed by Berge and Zanje. Generally thinks that what they’re doing is excusable because more lives are saved than lost. His job is to deliver products.
  • Berge is based on my husband. He’s a nihilistic self-serving scumbag who values nothing he can’t enjoy right now. He works for Zanje because he’s good at it and he occasionally is allowed to sleep with her. He has a pet blind weasel named Ashes who is the only living creature he cares about at all. His job is to acquire blood.
  • Zanje is based on me. She’s a sophisticated, cold-hearted, merciless bitch who wants to watch the world burn. She’s also a religious zealot who disdains humanity. She cares about no one at all except for herself. She has a shifty secret agenda that not even Berge knows about. She’s a brilliant mage and blood scientist, and she is the boss. She also has all the money and all the resources, so she’s definitely the boss.
  • Nerys is unbreakable and pure. She is placed in a horrible situation that she adapts to, turning what most would see as a death sentence into an opportunity to leave a positive impact on society. Her capture is the catalyst for the events of the book.

At this point, I was impatiently waiting for NaNoWriMo to begin and I wanted to write, so I learned a new trick. I wrote a mini-fic for each character. For Wex, I wrote a scene between him and his dad. For Berge, I wrote this tiny fragment of his past when he was just starting to run errands for Zanje. For Zanje, I wrote an inner monologue of how disgusting humankind is to her and how much she hates everybody. They were only 2000-4000 words each, but in doing so I got a good feel for the characters before I put them through the novel. Of course, these tiny ficlets are not included in the novel. They were just practice for me.

I also need a details page for my characters. In the details page I flesh out the following:

  • Height, weight, build
  • Hair/eye color, hairstyle if applicable
  • Typical dress
  • Family connections, friend connections, lover(s)
  • Their ‘role’ in the story (ie, major antagonist, voice of reason, comic relief, antihero)
  • Brief history/background of the before-plot time
  • Personality quirks such as rudeness, being quiet/shy, compulsive liar, paranoia
  • Tics, like chewing a lip or biting nails, fidgeting
  • Likes/dislikes, hobbies
  • Aspirations, goals
  • Fears
  • Secrets they may be keeping (and who from)
  • Lies they may be telling (and to whom)
  • Misconceptions they believe, communication errors, mistakes
  • Motivation: what is their major reason for existing?
  • Thoughts/feelings regarding specific, major plot points like character death or political shift
  • Alignment (ie, Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil)
  • Bloodline/culture/ethnicity, if it applies
  • Species, if it applies

There are plenty of resources for character creation scattered all across the Internet. One thing I will say…you can never have a character that you know too much about. The more real a character becomes, the easier they are to write. You can fling them at any situation and know exactly how they will react.

For example:


  • Wex: “Let him be. He’s not hurting anybody.”
  • Berge: *STOMPS*
  • Zanje: *ignores completely*

Additional Planning Tools

Depending on the length and scope of the story I am working on, I might need to be even more prepared and organized. To give you an example, one of the largest fan fiction projects I ever took on was meant to be more than 500,000 words when it was complete. For that story, my cowriter and I had:

  • A map
  • A timeline
  • An outline of war progression and position
  • A character tab
  • A chapter index
  • An index of ‘plot threads,’ which were plot arcs that would carry throughout the novel, and how long they would last.
  • a soundtrack to get inspired
  • fan art to get inspired
  • Several pages of ‘real-time’ conversation between our two characters to cut pieces from for certain scenes

And that’s it!

Planning usually takes me no more than a day or two. I get really excited and just pour it all out. However, I do tweak the plan and add to it as the story becomes clear. The plan changes, sometimes, too. The characters might evolve differently than I intended, or I might come up with something I like better than what I had originally.

The general idea of having a plan is just so I have a better idea of what I expect of the story as a whole without charging forward blindly.

(Actually, I used to be a total pantser. I HATED outlines. The problem with that method is you write yourself up against a wall with no plan to get out. It can be fun…you might solve the problem in new and interesting ways. However, I’ve ultimately rejected that method because it isn’t very productive. I don’t finish anything.)

I also use the plan as a means of tracking details I might otherwise forget. I write down the names of towns and villages I make up on the fly, or all of the tiny nobody characters that walk in and walk out again. I never used to do that…I got frustrated one too many times trying to remember those names, and now I avoid that.

Let me know if you have any questions, or if this was helpful at all. Anything I can do to help, I am absolutely at your service. Who knows…maybe it will end up as another blog post!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!

#WriteTip: Writing Your Way

Sam av

Hey guys!

I want to introduce you to my writing process, but I first want to protect your own ego and sensibilities before we talk about the insanity that ping-pongs around in my brain.

One of my favorite things to do involving writing is to encourage others to step up and give it a try. There are oodles of people that want to write, enjoy writing, but think they have no talent. We tend to be our own worst enemies, plaguing ourselves with so much self-doubt and perceived judgment from external sources. Writing is difficult and deeply personal. It is because of this that our natural inclination is to put up as many barriers between our the spark of an idea and a finished manuscript. We’ll start by thinking our idea is stupid, throw excuses up along the way, look at the words and think the words are terrible, etc., then delete it and try to forget this ever happened.

It will end with a rejection. Either you will reject it or the publishing cogs will.

What I love about this blog is that we can be honest with each other. I am going to talk about all of the things that I love and all of the tiny fragments that contribute to my brainscape. My hope is that you’ll derive something from the mess I’ve presented that will aid you in your own journey, no matter where you’re at along that path.

So here’s the pep talk.

You’re going to have thousands of ideas, and most of them are going to start out bad. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing…you should think about them as long as they are entertaining to you.

You’re going to create even more characters than ideas. Every character should be real. Whether or not they are good or bad makes no difference. You will, along the way, figure out that some characters need to be deleted, added, gender-swapped, changed in age or ethnicity, changed relationships, etc. to make the story right.

You will have instincts that tell you things. You will have to learn when to trust your instincts and when to understand that they’re just being jerks that are getting in your way. “That character wouldn’t say that” is an example of an instinct you should trust. “This whole story sucks” would be something to ignore.

You will start and abandon more stories than you start and complete. Some ideas will never leave your brain. Some will grow to 50,000 words before you throw them out. Some might be 200,000 words and edited 400 times before you realize it just isn’t working. It’s life. This happens to people and their relationships, too, so it should feel familiar to some degree. All of the stress, fighting, attempts to ‘make it work,’ etc. will feel the same, too. Being good at life means knowing when to fight and when to quit. Writing is the same.

A lot of killer, badass plots are already in existence. You should both actively ignore them and vigorously pursue them. Don’t rewrite blockbuster masterpieces. That has been done. But there’s no shame in deriving some inspiration from them, ESPECIALLY if you’re just starting out.

You can and should write anything and everything that feels right at the time. No law exists that says you have to share it with anyone or attempt to get it published. Writing is a discipline and an art. You need practice. If you’re dying to write a smutty scene but don’t want anyone to read it, write it anyway and hide it away. If you write a scene and decide it’s terrible, scrap it and save it.

Never delete anything. As I’ve mentioned, you don’t have to share it or try to publish it, but you should save it. Some day, you’ll find it again and reread it. You’ll either think “Wow, I’m actually pretty good!” or “Wow, I was a terrible writer back then!” Either way, saved scraps are great for boosting confidence later. You’ll definitely be able to see how you’ve progressed since you wrote it.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone except for yourself. You are a collection of millions of personality fragments that color the words you write. You are both better and worse than an existing writer. You are wittier and more boring than an existing writer. You are darker and cheesier than another writer. Unless you are THE best or THE worst writer out there, you are doing just fine. Shittier novels than the words you put down have made millions of dollars and become films. Greater novels than anything you could ever write if you tried for fifty years have never been bestsellers.

No one is doing it right. And, no one is doing it wrong. Writing is this strange art form where you blurt everything and then fix it where you messed it up. Whatever you have to do in between the spark of the idea and the completion of the manuscript is the proper way to do this. If that means sitting down one day and just writing until it’s done, do that. If it means writing 150 words a day that you spend all day making perfect, fine. If you’d rather plan it out from start to finish, make character sheets for every single secondary character first, do that. If you have an idea and want to stew about it for a year before you attempt it, do that. If you want to write it a scene at a time and skip from the beginning to the end and then to the middle, the end, and the beginning again, do that. If you want to write three beginnings for the same story and continue all of them until one emerges victorious, do that. If you just want to write short stories, or poems, or 300,000 word epics…do that.

There are degree-holding masters of the written word. They are, however, a slim minority of people who write words. And yes, they are EXCELLENT writers and should not be diminished for the accomplishments that they’ve achieved. But you don’t need a degree to write. And you don’t need a master author telling you the right way to go about a story. There are grammar rules…and strong, strong suggestions…that you don’t necessarily have to follow.

As a writer, all you need is a reader, and sometimes you don’t even need that. Think of it like a network of millions of conversations between a writer and an audience. Some people are whispering in the corner while someone else is on stage giving a speech. There is value in all conversation, no matter how small. Your 2000 word short story might change someone’s life. You might be responsible for the one sentence that resonates with a person who needed exactly that at that moment in time.

Be free of all the bullshit.

When I was first starting out on my own path, attempting to write something to publish, I drove myself crazy with the ‘requirements.’ I read dozens of articles about the words and phrases and tropes to avoid. I gobbled up articles about how to be a writer. I lost my love for the craft for a long time beating myself up about my work.

And yes, I got rejected.

But you know the thing about rejections? Great writers also get rejected because the books that are accepted are the books agents know can sell. Agents are experts in the trends and the market, and they shouldn’t be diminished either.

Except, I know I don’t love to read what’s on the market. I like a niche category of dark books that shatter the mold and push the boundaries on what is acceptable. Risky books that sell to smaller audiences because they aren’t palatable to the masses.

But I’ve had all of this fan fiction published for years, and although it’s a crude art form that borrows ideas, it reminds me constantly of what’s important. While I keep working on originals, my existing stories are just there…and people are still reading them. And occasionally, I get lovely reviews that remind me of what’s important. Like this one I got two weeks ago:

I’ve been binge reading this today, and I must say this is indeed my favorite fucking chapter of any fanfic ever. Well fucking done.

There are people that like what I write. As long as there’s even one, I’m happy. I like to write and they want me to keep going.

Don’t be like me.

Don’t be like any other writer out there. Be like you because you’re the best at that. The story that you envision is not a story that anyone else can write. If you don’t tell it, no one will, and someone out there needs to hear it.

In the near future, I’ll start talking about the way I approach my stories. Pay attention and listen if you think it will be helpful, but don’t think for one second that just because I do it one way that it’s the only way I think will work. It’s the only way that works for me. 

You’re a writer. Write however you want.

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).


#WriteTip: The Mythical ‘Time to Write’

Sam av

#SamWIP on Monday, July 25

For starters, I want to apologize for completely forgetting about my #SamWIP on Monday. I think I got home at like…10 p.m.. Monday is the only day that I absolutely compose the post on the day of, to ensure I capture the full picture of a complete week. Several of these other posts I can compose and schedule ahead of time, as they refer to static incidences. Nonetheless, I do want to provide you with a full update of what I have been up to, but I think it will now have to wait until next Monday. Thank you for your patience!

#WriteTip: The Mythical ‘Time to Write’

I want to start this by being frank: ‘time to write’ simply does not exist. Stop looking for it. Stop waiting for it. Stop scheduling it and praying you are ready to write when it gets here.

I think this is the number one complaint I hear from any writer, even some of my more disciplined writing friends. You know who I don’t hear it from, though? People who regularly publish books. Veteran authors will still complain about the words eluding them, but I don’t often hear them bitch about not finding time to hone their craft. They have a stubbornness, one that separates them from people who “want to write a book someday…”

There is no time to write. Most of us are busy adults. We have friends, holidays, birthdays, kids, grandkids, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, jobs, other hobbies, families, commute times, movies to watch, TV shows to binge watch, trips to take…Do you remember your last video game release? Your last new book release from your favorite author? When that last movie came out and you dropped everything and went? The time has to be made. It has to edge out all of the other supposedly important things in your life that are getting in the way. That extra time does not otherwise exist. There won’t ever be time for you to do that thing you have always wanted to do.

You just have to do it anyway.

There are no exceptions. Only excuses. Writers who have a story they love that simply must be written will find the time. Some days it will be pleasant. The stars will align, the sun will beam through the window and make your words look like God wrote them, the dogs and the kids will be silent and phone will never ring. Some days it will be miserable. You will stare at the page for hours and hate every single word that you write. But you have to put your butt in the chair and stare.

I once heard a story about a man who writes novels on his commute to work each morning. He only has fifteen minutes each way, but he puts down a handful of words at each trip, and eventually it adds up to a book. Parents with young children can write books. Nurses with busy schedules and long hours can write books. I can write books. You can write books.

It won’t be easy at first. This takes practice, discipline, training. Maybe start with a small exercise. Pick 10 new vocabulary words and write a sentence for each after you get home from work. Try some writing prompts. Set an alarm on your phone at the same time every day. Don’t make plans for that time. Scribble it on a post-it at work when the idea hits. Take a lunch break and free write. Swap out your news time with writing time. Get out if bed when that idea strikes (this, you will never regret). Stay up late. Get up early. Get in the habit of doing this every day. It will get easier.

And when it gets easier, your writing will improve, and it will accumulate. You’ll have a book in no time. And, if you keep at it, maybe someday it will be a good one.

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).