Tag Archives: Chuck Wendig

bernice and chuck

Wordy South, Ep. 3: Bernice McFadden & Chuck Wendig

(NOTE: This is the corrected version of the podcast. The first post was missing a few words. Sorry!)

What “lunatic” thing did acclaimed novelist Bernice McFadden do until 2005? And why did she stop?

Find out in this interview with the two-time Hurston/Wright Award nominee and author of New York Times editor’s choice book “Gathering of Waters.” She has a ton of great insight to share with writers trying to complete their novel.

The next time you think about saying you could care less, be aware pen monkey Chuck Wendig may tap you on the shoulder, eyeball you up and down, and then shake his head, “No, you could care less. And you should.”

We play his speech from the 2012 Crossroads so you know why.

Shout-outs to a couple of talented writers in the Crossroads family.

YA novelist Lauren Morrill, who made Crossroads 2013 awesome and then released her second book–”Being Sloan Jacobs”–on January 7. You can get your copy here.

You can see what Lauren looked like in high school here:

Delilah S. Dawson, writer of paranormal romance and whatnot, just unleashed “Damsel and the Daggerman,” a new Blud series novella. And, on January 28, you can get your hands on “Wicked After Midnight,” which may or may not be about lonely mogwai who eat dinner too late and have to deal with their emotions as they’re transformed into gremlins.

Also, Susannah Breslin is awesome.

Find these folks on Twitter:

Bernice McFaddenChuck WendigLauren MorrillDelilah S. DawsonSusannah Breslin, Crossroads and Chris Horne

Web interviews and blogs:

Bernice McFadden – interview How to survive 74 rejections (BONUS: M.W. Gerard’s review of “Glorious”)

 Chuck Wendig - interview The Mutter Draft

Lauren Morrill – guest blog “Do you still love it?”

Delilah S. Dawson – reviewed “Creepy Carnivals & Steampunk”

person typing pipe

Three reasons to enter a writing contest

Take the next big step in your writing journey by joining the community at Crossroads 2013. Learn more here: CrossroadsWriters.splashthat.com

You’ve been dedicated. You’ve scribbled, drafted, edited, revised and polished. You’ve even given your work over to trusted friends for feedback. Now, you want to see your writing stand up on its own two and walk. Maybe run.

So, have you checked out writing contests?

Here are three good reasons to consider entering one:

  1. A deadline – Even the pros with scores of books under their belts suffer from either procrastinating to write or never finishing their revisions. Having a hard and fast deadline can be a good cure for either problem.
  2. Gut check – Most contests cost something up front — usually between $15-$35 — but that should serve as a mini-moment of truth. Is your writing ready for public consumption? And is this contest the right one for your work?
  3. Payoff – Yes, winning a contest has its benefits — publication, a little cash and an ego boost — but even if you don’t land the prize, you should be proud because you wrote; you polished; you gave it a shot. The only failures are when you aren’t trying.

If you’re looking for a writing contest to enter — be it for short stories, poetry, non-fiction and essays, etc — check these websites for some of the best:

  • GlimmerTrain.com - The good folks at Glimmer Train are among the biggest supporters of new, emerging writers. They only publish the unpublished and have  a nice variety of contest options. Good place to start.
  • Poets & Writers – This huge database includes grants and fellowships too, so if you’re on *that* level with your writing, it can be a big help. It’s fairly easy to search and sort.
  • NewPages.com – Clean and dead simple to figure out. This list is sortable by deadline with enough details to get you started and a link for more information.
  • TerribleMinds.com – Our buddy Chuck Wendig doesn’t pay winners but he doesn’t charge either. Instead, ol’ Cherk wants to push you to be productive and creative. Baby-step into contests with one of his Flash Fiction Challenges.
  • Writer’s Digest – They’ve recently added a Self-Published Book Award to their big annual Writing Competition and the slate of genre fiction contests. The prizes include cash and a bundle of other goodies.

So start with these, give it a spin. Tell us your writing contest story. Has it helped you? Did you run into a scam? Have you won a contest before? Do you think Crossroads should do one?

We always want to hear from you!

Amber J. Gardner

Amber J. Gardner: How I Got to Crossroads

Amber J. GardnerI decided to become a novelist shortly after my mom passed away in 2006 from cancer. My father had died (also cancer) when I was a year old, so I found myself without any immediate family and completely on my own by the age of 20. The latter was probably a good thing, the former not so much.

It was the first time I decided to take writing seriously, but didn’t actually make any progress till I finally completed the first draft of a novel in 2008 thanks to Chris Baty and NaNoWriMo.

Still, I wasn’t writing as much as I should’ve been due to perfectionism, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, etc.

Once I failed to graduate college, I was miserable. I hadn’t achieved any goals and I was still living in Puerto Rico, which is where I’ve lived since I was five-years-old and desperately wanted to leave since I was 13.

So after a Quarter-Life crisis, I decided I had enough. I was going to take my goals seriously. Moving to the U.S. was one of them, so after family on my father’s side found and contacted me (thank you Facebook!), I moved in with my aunt and uncle in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Meanwhile, I’d become an avid fan of Chuck Wendig and his blog Terribleminds.com for at least a year now. He was one of my writing idols because he was doing it. He was writing full time and doing it HIS way. I loved that. Thanks to his blog and his books, I was writing more than ever before. So when I heard he was speaking at the Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, just two hours away, I had to be there.

But I had no money and no job.

Luckily, Chuck was giving away several tickets randomly to whoever entered that week’s Flash Fiction Challenge on his blog and I managed to win one.

But I didn’t have a ride.

So I started emailing and searching online, looking for someone I could hitch a ride with. I remembered NaNoWriMo.org and the fact Chris Baty was keynote speaker at the conference. I logged on, hit the Atlanta region forum and long story short, secured a ride to the conference and made a new friend all at the same time.

God must have been smiling at me or maybe this was a sign from the Universe that writing was my calling, because it was like winning the writers conference jackpot.

Despite my ticket being the basic one-day package, I got invited to the NaNoWriMo meet-up with Chris Baty on Sunday and my friend let me stay in her hotel room for the night (she had gotten the Deluxe Package). I also got to go to the Saturday night reception after the conference. I was able to get over my nerves and have real conversations with full-time published authors and other great people, people doing what I’ve always wanted to do: Chuck Wendig, Adam Mansbach, Robert Venditti, Delilah S Dawson, and many others.

I had a blast and I’m so glad it all worked out in the end, despite not having any money. I kind of wish I had taken more photos to remember it all.

And now it’s over and I’m sitting at the table writing this.

So there you have it, my story.

With lots of love,

Amber J Gardner.




Chuck Wendig’s Talk at Crossroads 2012

So: I also run this blog called “terribleminds.” Is that the word for it? “Run?” I write it? I curate it? Whatever — let’s just go with, “I pull blobs of dubious writing wisdom that get caught in my brain filter and smear them on the Internet’s walls.”

This blog, which is nominally focused on writing, obviously draws a lot of writers of various experience levels — from the never-written to the never-published to the often-published.

The after-after party with Chris Horne, Chuck Wendig, Paul Barrett (photo by Paul Barrett)

And with writers — particularly those from the more inexperienced end of the spectrum — come questions. Questions of how to *do* this thing that we do. Some questions are very specific: how do I make my characters pop, how do I outline, how do I write a query letter?

But then there’s a category of question I like to think of as, “Questions From The Department Of The Overwhelmed, The Bewildered, The Insanely Frustrated.”  These are questions that are *gibbered* more than *asked* — if one were to ask such a question in person it would sound like, “Whuh? How do I… what do I? Wh… where do I begin? How do I start? Muh? Guh?” More a series of squeaks and whimpers that ultimately culminate in communicating a feeling of helplessness, confusion, and abject frustration.

Thing is, I understand this sense of helplessness.

We step up to the blank page — this snowy tract of tabula rasa that hasn’t earned even a single footprint across its virgin expanse — and the potential overwhelms us. Or, it has me, at least — once upon a time upon starting a new story I’d feel like I was standing drunk on the ledge of a skyscraper. Vertigo overwhelming as if even typing one letter would send me dropping down in that cavernous wordless abyss. And this sense of woozy dizzy gonna-fall-itis is compounded by the heavy burden we put upon our own shoulders — that burden of potential, of a story that has all our hopes and dreams shoved into it, a story that to earn its place in our lives must do more than merely exist, a story on which we hang our lives, our careers, our families, our futures, OH MY GOD I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS I CAN’T BREATHE THE PANIC. It’s enough to make you curl up on the bathroom floor and pee your pants.

These stories are like children, in that way — we want everything for them. We with our uttermost desire hope they’ll go out into the world and cure cancer and solve the down economy and grow up rich and happy and maybe be a lawyer, too, and a nuclear physicist, and don’t forget about that litter of hyper-successful darling children and grandchildren, too.

We see our stories like we see our children. We just want the best for them. We want them to be great. We want them to win awards and climb to the top of the bestseller mountain and maybe, just maybe they’ll change somebody’s life and in the process help earn us a big fat sack of cash which will allow us to buy a jet-boat or an oil drum full of 18-year-Scotch or hell, maybe a jet-boat that runs on 18-year-Scotch.

So: this frustration, this wordless soundless exhortation of terror and performance anxiety — I get it.

And to those who have it — and, in fact, to all writers everywhere — I offer a piece of what initially must sound like the most horrible advice in the world:

Care less.

That sounds foolish — we enter into this thing because we love it, because it’s a part of who we are and because it is an expression of our very being.

And yet, my answer remains the same: care less.

Because here’s what you have to understand:

You’re not curing cancer. You’re not disarming a ticking time-bomb. The lives of a hundred adorable schoolchildren do not hinge on the quality of the tale you’re telling.

There’s no real risk to writing except your time. (Well, and maybe your sanity, but let’s be honest — the fact that you chose writing as a profession suggests an already disintegrating mental health score.) In fact, you get as much time as you like. Writing is one of the few careers out there where you can take the time you need to finish the work — and, even then, you have an unlimited number of do-overs and take-backs to fix the story in post. You get your first draft and as many drafts as you need to make the story what you always hoped it would be.

You free yourself by caring less. By dumping the dueling goblins of Fear and Expectation out the back of a C-130 into the mouth of an open and active volcano.

It’s certainly helped me, this attitude. I come to the page knowing I can’t control the publisher, the audience, the sales figures… or the lack of sales figures. I can’t control what editors want, what trends are popular for the next 17 minutes, what the 800-lb gorilla known as “Amazon” is going to do. I can’t control whether Barnes & Noble hangs itself in the hallway closet or whether the Big Six publishers start putting clauses in their contracts about how, upon publication, I am to donate until them my least favorite body part. I can’t control any of that.

I can only control what’s right in front of me. At the start of the day it’s not about fine art. It’s about fingerpainting. It’s about gleefully making mistakes. It’s about letting failure be an instructional manual written in scar tissue. It’s about reducing pressure. It’s about obliterating expectations and unloading the burden. It’s about caring less.

Because when you care less — when it becomes as much play as work, when a bad day of writing doesn’t feel like the fucking apocalypse, when you realize you can jump off the cliff just to see what waits at the bottom — you work better. You work faster. You work in a way that puts you and your story first on the page.

To those who are saying that this *still* sounds like a bad idea, that it seems like instead the answer  would be to care more — after all, how can you possibly care enough? If this is a thing you want to do and a thing you love, well, why not give it all the caring you can possibly muster?

To that I answer: it’s because we can smother the things we love by caring too much. Sometimes you gotta let your kids play in mud. Sometimes you gotta let a dog be a dog. Sometimes you have to let your story just be a story.

So that, I maintain, is my answer to so many writing questions:

Care less.

And write more.


And have fun doing it.

chucks secret to writing

The Secret to Writing by Chuck Wendig

Novelist/blog guru/screenwriter/bearded gent Chuck Wendig knows the “secret to writing” and in this quick-hitting video, he shares it with you–TWICE! (Double your fun…)

Best yet, the secret is writing and doesn’t involve drinking unicorn blood (you have to watch the video).



Chuck Wendig: Mutter Draft

interview with a Terrible Mind, Chuck Wendig by Rachel Helie

Rachel: Thanks for taking time out to answer these questions. With the success of Blackbirds and your blog and…okay, it’s a mystery to me where you find time for it all to be honest! So let’s get to it!

Question 1: Many authors say that it is important to “write as one speaks.” I’m not suggesting that you walk around muttering the things you write (leave that to your fans!) but would you say that your work is representative of your internal monologue?

THE Chuck Wendig

Chuck: I do walk around muttering all the things I write. The first draft of every thing I do is called “the mutter draft.” I hire a small, unobtrusive person to follow me around and record it as I go.

Or not.

I don’t think my writing is really all that representative of an internal monologue – my internal monologues are probably pretty incomprehensible to any who would actually witness them in some psychic way. That said, I do think the work is representative of my voice, both internal and external. Edited, sharpened, tightened, but my voice just the same.

R: In your career as the freelance “penmonkey” you have made a living providing advice and inspiring fellow writers with your ability to do prolific work, all while meeting the challenges of family life. What are some things that you have found work in your juggling of career and domesticity?

The scary thing is: He knows another 500 too.

C: Technically, I don’t make a living doing the advice and inspiration thing – I sell some e-books (more now than I used to, which is good), but the actual “living” part of my work comes from all the other writing I do.

As for the juggling thing—well, first, I found it’s a terrible idea to actually try to juggle a toddler and any technological device. You’re bound to favor the toddler and that just means you break your keyboard or iPad or whatever. Turns out, “juggling” is metaphorical. Stupid metaphors.

Said-metaphorical-juggling is no easy feat and gives way to chaos very easily. The best thing I can tell people, and I hear this a lot from folks, is that you don’t just “have time.” Everybody says that phrase—“I don’t have time.” Well, everybody has the same hours in their day, it’s all about the partitioning of those hours. We devote hours to sleep and child raising and reading and eating and whatever.

You have to find a way to take time for the things you want to do. It won’t happen for you. One must be active! Reach! Grab! Steal the minutes and hours back from the mouth of the Time Beast. Even a little time reclaimed will let you do that thing you want to do. Maybe not at full-blast, but something is better than nothing.

R: Do fans and critics seem to have different expectations of your work, which is sometimes sordid, now that you are a family man and father? Do you feel that it alters your perspective and time investment in the work?

C: No, I haven’t found any altered expectations. The nice thing about having a daily blog is that I continue to urge my voice into the world daily, which not only practices my writing but also continues to assert who I am as a writer.

Having a kid has altered my perspective, though, sure. It’s given me new reason to do what I do. Both to put food in his mouth and to one day put books in his hands. And, best of all, ideas in his mind.

R: When you began your blog, Terrible Minds, did you have a very specific idea of what it was going to be or did it (and does it) undergo gradual evolution?

C: I once thought it would be a website for a community of writers—I used to run a BBS and ran a thing there called WAR, Writers Against Reality. I envisioned doing so again except… ennh, that seemed like a lot of work so I made the website for ME, ME, ME, instead. Moo hoo ha ha.

It has kind of evolved into a place for writers, though. Over the last 10+ years.

R: In Blackbirds your protagonist, Miriam, is an often callous, violent woman but still has pathos. What method do you utilize when researching your characters? What inspires you in their creation and how do you walk that tightrope, supporting characters who possess such deep personal flaws?

“Blackbirds” is Chuck Wendig’s newest… until its sequel, “Mockingbirds,” comes out in late August

C: I don’t really “research” my characters, exactly. I research situations, events, settings, ideas, but not so much characters. The characters are in my head and it’s mostly a case of letting them tumble around for a while, breaking off all the jagged bits and figuring out what lurks beneath their crusty exterior.

There exists this idea that characters must be “likable,” which is, to me, a bit batty. All the people in my life that are likable make excellent friends and family but would not necessarily make excellent characters in a book. We don’t need to like a character so much as we need to like being with them and watching them for 300+ pages. The best thing I can say is, don’t make them boring. Interesting characters will – wait for it, wait for it – always be interesting.

R: You have advocated the character driven plot (particularly in film). Would you recommend that characters drive the plot and that a writer should commit themselves to character development early in the process? How do you feel about building stories around thematic elements?

C: Characters do drive the plot. They must. Consider how things happen in real life, how humanity exists and suffers and thrives—it happens under the direction and duress of human beings. Of their choices and behaviors. We’re all making our own plot. External events happen but we react to them as who we are and it is our decision that shapes our own course. Why shouldn’t it be the same way in fiction? It also helps to ensure that a story is more inventive, original, unpredictable – plots tend to follow a pattern. Characters follow no such pattern. So put them in the driver seat, let them find the road.

And I do think theme lies at the heart of those characters and actions, though. The theme is a delicious throughline that connects us (the reader and writer) to the character within the story.

R: In your projects developing scripts for television and film you worked with a writing partner, Lance Weiler. How would you recommend starting a creative collaboration with a partner, ensuring that you are both represented fairly and to maximum efficiency while preserving the relationship over the long haul?

C: I have no idea. My collaboration with Lance has been one of a few I’ve tried and the only one that’s been successful—I think collaboration is difficult with the wrong people and easy with the right ones, so the key is to find the right people. With the right partners and teammates in place, it all just kinda… works.


For More Chuck Stuff:

Chuck’s page at CrossroadsWriters.org

Review of Chuck Wendig’s “Bad Blood”

Delilah S. Dawson Interview by Chuck Wendig