Reader Mail: Writing Resources

A reader writes:
I've been reading the exhortations of John C. Wright, Sarah Hoyt, you, and others for some time about the creation of better art; the coining of the term "Superversive" on L. Jagi Lamplighter's blog felt like a much-needed call to rise up from prison.  Indeed, Daddy Warpig's "The Future is Ours" exhortation the other week on Geek Gab, finally roused me like a soldier at Agincourt to consider writing something myself.  The worst that happens is that a few "trunk stories" embarrass no one but me and my guardian angel.  So I've started keeping a notebook of ideas and have, in a very amateur way, started trying to write a scene or two.
My question is this: what resources might you suggest to help learn the craft of writing?  I have heard many a time that Step One is to WRITE--a lot, without excuses--and I accept that and I'll do that.  But I also have heard that the art of pacing and plotting, of making a story INTERESTING, is a real craft that needs to be learned.  Without wasting money on "writing workshops" of dubious value taught by academics of dubious moral quality, to what resources might one turn?

Rebuilding the culture is a monumental task toward which I try to make my own small contribution. If you've got the time and inclination, we can use you!

For writing resources, I recommend On Writing by Stephen King. His personal politics and moral philosophy may be questionable, but his advice on honing the author's craft is honest, direct, and immediately applicable.He takes the old tradpub paradigm for granted, but adjusting his career advice for indie is quite simple.

I also recommend listening to the Writing Excuses podcast up through Season 5. Brandon and Dan provide a wealth of sound, actionable advice for genre novelists, while Howard's experience is more geared toward comics but is still often relevant. The show's usefulness noticeably diminishes in Season 6 when they add a fourth host but don't expand the original fifteen minute time limit to allow everyone to fully develop an idea.

The same reader also had useful feedback on the Soul Cycle [WARNING: mild spoilers].
I found each Soul Cycle novel better than the last, in part because I had a clearer idea about what was happening.  One major part of your tales is the gradual revelation of the cosmology and the world in which our characters move, and you deliberately reveal those details slowly to keep us on the edge of our seats.  That almost made me drop the series a couple of times, honestly--there was just so much going on, so many little details to keep track of, that by the end of Nethereal I was feeling lost.  Often I found my memory overtaxed; a name would be dropped in chapter 3, say, in an unclear context, and when it was repeated in chapter 24 and the characters knew what it meant, I would have been lost without the Kindle app's search feature!  But now that Souldancer and Secret Kings has revealed more--now that we see this cosmos as an artificial Gnostic cosmos, created by a being from a world like ours as an experiment, with other beings like Astlin coming in and out with Divine help--I am rereading Nethereal and finding it much more enjoyable.
Thanks to all of my awesome readers for reading my books and telling me what they'd like to see more of. You truly make writing a dream job!

Perhaps the most frequent compliment I get regarding the Soul Cycle is the reader consensus that the series keeps improving with each book. One vital lesson I learned that's driving that improvement is the principle of choosing clarity over cleverness.

That said, I fully stand by Nethereal. If I thought the book's gradual, organic dispensing of information was a critical flaw, I wouldn't leave it up for sale as it is. None of the Soul Cycle books are meant to be skimmed on the bus ride to work or while lying in bed trying to fall asleep. They require attentive reading but richly reward it, as the overwhelming majority of positive Amazon reviews attest. But as the reader above indicates, my skill at doling out information in the right amounts and at the right times is markedly improving.

I invite you to judge for yourself. And I'm making it easy by offering the whole award-winning Soul Cycle for less than nine bucks--for just one more day. Get the series that readers say is succeeding where Star Wars failed!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier



  1. Thanks for posting these resources. I immediately listened to the Writing Excuses podcast after seeing your recommendation and it's awesome. There is some really helpful and specific advice on there. This will be the new thing I listen to on my commute.

    1. Glad you're finding Writing Excuses helpful. Brandon and Dan in particular were major influences on my early career. WE is how I first heard about Larry Correia, for example ;)