Tag Archives: writing style

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (1 of 3)

I suck at social obligations.

Three Myers Briggs tests have found me to be an off-the-chart introvert, and my abilities as an empath once made me fear I was secretly from Deanna Troi’s home planet. It’s not a great combination. If I have to go somewhere, I soak up everything around me and it leaves me drained.

This doesn’t mean I can’t function around people. I’m practiced at faking normality. (Aren’t we all?) What it does mean is if I have to deal with people for very much or for very long, I can’t write.

The first time I heard the phrase Good Literary Citizen, my heart sank.

You see, I agree with the principals behind the idea, but I’m horribly suited to putting them in practice. Over the years, I’ve found three avenues that work for me, at least in limited quantities. I’ve found corollaries of these that have the capability to be my kryptonite. This post covers one set. (Read the second one. Read the third one.)

A Problem:

I’m from the US. Put me and a handful of other Americans in a room full of Brits and I’ll be the first one to start talking with a slightly British accent and I won’t even notice it. Yes, I have my own voice, but it’s as mutable as everything else about me. If I’m not careful, I write like the last person I read.

A Solution:

Read short things by different people, and read lots of them.

I’ve become a great fan of flash fiction. My genre is speculative, so I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction. Most days they send me a story of 1000 words or less. Some are brilliant. Occasionally one is sort of dumb. Every few days I read several of them at once. This keeps me current on themes and word choices floating around in my chosen genre, without any one author getting too deeply into my head.

Sometimes, DSF lets readers vote for stories they like. I do this to support authors who impress me. I also seek them out elsewhere and follow them or list their works as “want to read.” It’s my way of giving them a quick thumbs up before I move on to my own writing. (I also save their stories to reread and inspire me to write better.)

What to Avoid:

I avoid long novels by others, and I will not let myself get involved in a series. Not now. Not me. I can read all those great series out there when I retire from writing. I’m looking forward to it.

I also avoid authors with too distinctive of a voice. There’s nothing wrong with them; in fact some of them are great. They just aren’t for me right now. Again, someday …

As a result (1) I’m generally writing, (2) I generally sound like me, whatever that is, (3) I’m not completely out of touch with what is happening in my genre and (4) I’m doing at least something to support other authors.

I think it’s a win-win-not lose situation. Given my constraints, I’ll take it.

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Posted by on December 5, 2019 in being better, empathy, other authors, writing


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Bitchy Editor says this is it!

I’m obsessed with my new alter ego, who I’ve come to call Bitchy Editor. I’ve asked her to step forward out of my subconscious and oversee the re-issue of my six novels. So far she’s sunk her teeth into this first book with a blood-thirsty zeal.

She pushed for want she wanted from the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design, leaving me with a cover I love. Check it out.

Most of her efforts, though, have centered on giving the book itself what I thought was going to be a quick once over. You know, get rid of some of those lingering adverbs. Reduce the he saids, and make the he pondereds, he chuckleds and he exclaimeds go almost completely away.

She has been doing that, and found more than I expected, but that wasn’t enough. She’s decided to look at every sentence and demand to know what it is doing in my book. Does this matter? Who cares about this? Why is this in here?

But it shows my characters development. It’s so cute. I worked so hard on that paragraph. Bitchy Editor has little sympathy for any of that, and she wants me to stop starting so many sentences with but while I’m at it.

The result is I went from about 119,000 words down to 95,000 and it’s a better book. Maybe a little less charming here and there, but readers will never miss those cute detours I took.

I gave her a chance to do one last read after I cleaned up the blood from the first mess she made, just to check the continuity on what she cut, and she’s already loped off another 3000 words and she’s not even halfway through the book. Yikes. I had no idea she lived within me.

Of course, merely eliminating words does not make for a better book. (It does make for an easier to read bad book, but that isn’t my intention.) Eliminating the right words does, and damn if Bitchy Editor doesn’t seem to have a good feel for what needs to go. She’s also added some stuff, tweaking the plot slightly to make motivation more clear.

Why didn’t your original editor do this, you might ask? Well, he did much to improve the book, and he tried to do more. I ignored too many of his suggestion and he was a little too polite with me. Bitchy Editor has no such restraint.

The good news is I’m proud of this new product already, and excited to be releasing it sometime in mid-January. I’ll post more details here.

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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in One of One, writing


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How to write like a wolf

I wasn’t such a big fan of personality tests when I was younger, but once I joined the workforce I was required to take the Myers Briggs test and it changed my life. I discovered that in spite of a cheerful tendency to smile a lot and a skill for using words well, I was in fact not Miss Congeniality like everyone else thought. I was very much an introvert. Well, that suddenly explained a lot.



They say that a smart person understands others, but a wise person understands herself. The fact is, the more you understand yourself, the better you can make your approach to writing work well for you.

Recently a popular website came out with animals to represent all sixteen of the Myers Briggs types.They don’t all seem to fit perfectly, but they are sort of a fun way to look at it. You can check them out here. I happen to be a wolf, and now I try to write like one. What does that mean?



Clearly there is no right personality for an author, we come in all flavors. However, if you know you are an introvert like me, you can save time by not forcing yourself to make oodles of friends online, engaging in lots of chat about your writing. You know you always hated group projects in school, so you don’t need to turn your novel into one now. The effort to do so will just drain you.

However, if those exchanges fill you with energy, like my extroverted counterpart the dog, then you are a extrovert and would do well to benefit from this free flow of helpful ideas. Just consider getting your author friends to help you set and keep daily or weekly writing goals, lest the socializing fill your free time.



Are you a planner, or someone who prefers to take things as they come? I’m a solid planner here, so I don’t fight my need to work out exactly how I am going to write my books. As a start my fifth novel I have a pretty good idea of how fast I write and how long I want my book to be, and I literally put both word and chapter goals in my calendar to cover the six months or so during which the first draft will happen.

I once had a “wing it” style friend, more meerkat than wolf, tell me he could plan like that if he wanted to, but it would seem to him like working with a dull headache. How funny, I thought. To me it feels like working with a soft warm blanket around me. I do, however, wrestle with the unexpected. I fight my frustrations at life’s little emergencies while he struggles to make sure that his book moves along while he happily takes life as it comes. Both ways yield a novel in the end.



If you are someone who strongly favors their hunches as much as I do, you won’t want to chart out your plot that carefully. For all my planning about when and how much I am going to write, I use the loosest of outlines, with only a few key characters and a basic story line sketched out before I start. I trust my intuition to handle the rest, and it seems to do so just fine. Before I finish a book I know that several characters and plot developments will surprise me, and some of these surprises will become my favorite parts of the book.

Another author I know, more deer than wolf, defines every single occurrence in his stories in a detailed outline. He knows exactly what is going to happen before he starts writing the book. To me he seems highly suspicious of his intuition, but to him he is taking the time to give his story his very best effort. His plots are as imaginative and interesting  as any I’ve encountered, reminding me that there is no right way to be creative, only the way that works best for you.



The final Myers Briggs criteria has to do with whether your mind or your heart steers your actions. Before I began to write full length books, I guessed that the feelers had an advantage. I was surprised to discover how much thought goes into a complex plot, and into ultimately producing a book.  I fall near the middle here, only slightly more led by my heart, only slightly more wolf than octopus. In this arena I think that any author needs to find others to compliment their own tendencies. I rely on three highly analytic beta readers (including my officially-an-octopus daughter) to ferret out the plot holes that are most likely to show up in my most emotional scenes.

I happen to be a wolf, and now I try to write like one. You? You need to write like the honeybee, or lion or otter that you truly are.

(For more thoughts on being an INFJ, visit my y1 blog here.)


Posted by on November 7, 2013 in writing


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