Posts by CN James

New Year, New Writing Exercises

  My fingers are buzzing with anticipation. Now that the holidays are over, I can get back to uninterrupted writing (relatively speaking). And every year, every week, every day, my goal is to get just a little bit better than I was before. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s just finger exercises. So to help keep myself from meaninglessly wearing out my fingers, I’ve come up with a few new self-study exercises that I thought I’d share. Mimic—Take a close look at a story you enjoy and use it as a template. (It’s kind of like fan fiction, but the
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How to Write an Engaging Book-Jacket Blurb

It’s the moment of decision. There are so many wonderful, fascinating things you feel a reader should know about your story, but what do you include? What will make them want to part with their money? How many times have you put a book down, or scrolled onto the next one just because the description was ho-hum? Don’t let that happen to your book. Anyone who has published, either traditionally or independently will tell you: you have to have a great hook or no one is going to read your book. So um—no pressure, huh?  So how can you help
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8 Tips for Polishing Your Fiction

I always enjoy working on draft 2. Sure, draft 1 can be full of surprises, discovery and moments of brilliance (or least if feels like brilliance at the time) but it can also be quite a taxing task. Draft 2 is more like the second time you make a new recipe: you’ve worked out what works and what doesn’t and can’t wait to try it again, this time with fewer mistakes. That’s not to say that drafts 3 to 3,000 won’t have their moments of difficulty, but they exist to continuously refine what drafts 1 and 2 have established. Now,
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Cultivating Creativity

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick did everything he could to force himself to be more creative. He read about it, studied it, and put everything he learned into practice. To him, being a great writer meant being more creative and cleverer than everyone else. Sadly, he often took things too far, trying all sorts of substances to the point of paranoia and hallucinations. Most authors don’t need to see visions to be creative, and most of us get into writing because we have a creative itch that must be scratched. But even though many of us think of ourselves
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Bringing My Writing to a Boyle

  Bringing My Writing to a Boyle I love literature that bends, distorts, twists, or otherwise rips reality apart. But ultimately, I just love great writing. And even though what I write normally has some kind of paranormal or science fiction element to it, one of my biggest, if not the biggest influence on my writing is TC Boyle. Since I play and record music, my desk is cluttered with speakers, a mixer, and a digital audio workstation. But despite the lack of space, I have two books that I always find room for: a pocket dictionary, and a collection
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George Orwell: The Gateway Drug

George Orwell: The Gateway Drug In high school, none of my English classes required me to read 1984. We did read Animal Farm my senior year and I secretly loved it, but never once did I consider picking up anything that wasn’t assigned unless it was about rock n’ roll or some Star Was adventure. The truth of the matter was that I loved English class, but the thought to read this stuff outside of class never once crossed my mind. And I made it all the way to the end of my undergraduate degree before this changed. I think
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Inspired By Who

Inspired by Who When I was somewhere around eight years old, I was introduced to The Doctor. My parents were having their carpets cleaned, so my sister and I were ushered over to a neighbor’s house for a few hours. They were good friends of my parents, and over summer vacation we would visit with them daily, but very rarely were we ever allowed inside their house. Most of the time we met under the shade of an old pine tree that marked the border between yards. I was a bit nervous. Usually when the neighbors were around, so were
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Are Independent Authors the New Publishing Paradigm?

In music and movies, it’s always hipper to be indie. It means you have met success without a corporate blessing. It’s the spirit of individualism made manifest. Being indie allows us the freedom to explore, to push boundaries, to not have to worry about whether or not we are addressing a wide enough, all-encompassing audience.  Being indie means that in order to succeed you have to be original, innovative, cutting edge, and at times, controversial. And finally, that same reputation is moving into the world of publishing. Sadly, this new reputation is still too new to cause massive sales, but
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Why Sci Fi? (Part 2)

In my last post, I established the cultural value of sci-fi. However, just because it has cultural value, does that mean it has literary value? In order to evaluate whether or not sci-fi/fantasy belongs in the larger category of literary fiction, we first need to define some terms. What makes literary fiction, well, literary? And what makes sci-fi/fantasy, sci-fi/fantasy? Literary fiction, I feel, is best described as a thought provoking work of art in book form. They are narratives that transcend time, genre, and resonate with ideas. At its best, literary fiction should be a learning experience, a spiritual experience,
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Why Sci Fi? (Part 1)

As a genre, science fiction and its relatives (from horror, to fantasy, to dystopias) are by in large dismissed by the literary community. To me, to dismiss sci-fi and fantasy is to dismiss George Orwell (1984), Margaret Atwood (Handmaid’s Tale), Mary Shelly (Frankenstein), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), and Beowulf, to name a few.  Recently, Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Michael Chabon wrote of his frustrations early in his writing career when his sci-fi flavored stories were dismissed and ridiculed.  On the surface, the literary community makes some good points. The otherworldly impossibilities are often times nothing more than imaginative
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