Friday, December 31, 2021

Karen S. Wiesner: Brainstorming: The Cure for Writer's Block (Writer's Craft Article)

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Brainstorming: The Cure for Writer's Block

Is writer's block an actual thing, or just plain laziness? Or, do you sometimes get to the middle of a project and find the process isn't working as well as it was or should be anymore? Is that writer's block, and if it is, what can you do to get moving again? I think I've found the cure for whatever it is that blocks or stalls writers, makes them hem and haw and avoid sitting down to write, or sends their brain on the fritz at the sight of a blank page.

Brainstorming is what turns an average story into an extraordinary one. It’s the magical element every writer marvels about in the process of completing a book. In Sometimes the Magic Works, fantasy author Terry Brook says that dreaming (a term referring to the back-and-forth process of brainstorming in the mind) opens the door to creativity and allows the imagination to invent something wonderful. It happens when your mind drifts to take you to a place you’ve never been so you can come back and tell readers about it. Possibly this is where writers got such a bad rap with those who see us as drooling zombies who are daydreaming constantly. Little do they realize that, until a writer has brainstormed adequately, she won’t have a story to tell.

Something every author covets is the ability to sit down to a blank screen or page and begin to work immediately. The secret to doing that is brainstorming! When you brainstorm constantly and productively during both the outlining and writing processes, you’ll always be fully prepared to begin writing without agonizing over the starting sentences or paragraph.

Notice I specified that you should brainstorm productively if you want the writing process to go smoothly and quickly without hiccups. That’s where your scene-by-scene story outline comes in. While creating a blueprint of every scene in your book, you won’t face writer’s block when you sit down to write each day. The day or week before you begin writing, start brainstorming on that scene. I also start brainstorming on upcoming projects sometimes years in advance. If I run into trouble with any book, I can fall back on continuous brainstorming to figure out another "spark" to invigorate the plot and compel it forward again. In desperate times, I set a project aside to allow time to work out the issues on the backburner of my mind with creative and constant brainstorming.

Oh, did you see what I just did here? I took away any excuse an author has not to sit down and immediately start writing. Oops. Make writer's block a thing of the past. Make 2022 the year you beat it by brainstorming constantly.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of COHESIVE STORY BUILDING:

Do you have any tips for staving off writer's block? Leave a comment to tell me about it!

Happy writing!

Find out more about COHESIVE STORY BUILDING here:

** Exciting announcement:**

I've gotten the rights back to the last three writing reference titles that were originally published by Writer's Digest Books (and later sold at auction to Penguin Random). In 2022, they'll be released in a craft writing collection. Here are the details: 

3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

by award-winning author Karen S. Wiesner

covers the A to Z's of crafting the highest quality fiction including how to:

·       Brainstorm and work productively to ensure that each stage in the writing process from prewriting to polishing produces masterful results the first time around. 

·       Create an outline so complete it actually qualifies as the first draft of your book, allowing your first written draft to be final-draft quality. 

·       Develop realistically three-dimensional and cohesive characters, plots, settings, relationships, and scenes so life-like and memorable your readers will be diehard fans. 

·       Effectively prepare for a series in advance to prevent painted-in-a-corner scenarios in order to keep fans coming back eagerly for each and every installment. 

·       Learn innovative techniques to write a complex sequence of stories that require overarching series arcs and immense world- and character-building. 

·       Craft sizzling back cover, series, and high-concept blurbs for describing, promoting, and selling your books. 

·       Maximize your potential and momentum for becoming a career author indefinitely.

With step-by-step guidelines, instructions, and tips throughout that are flexible and clearly written, imparting a layman's ease of understanding and can-do motivation, this collection may be the only writing craft books you'll ever need. Each volume has a bonus companion booklet available presented in usable digital format or paperback that includes all the aids from the main book that you can use in your own writing--and extras!

The seven volumes and bonus companion booklets in this collection are:

1. First Draft Outline formerly published by Writer's Digest Books as First Draft in 30 Days {A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript}

Bonus Companion Booklet for First Draft Outline

2. Cohesive Story Building formerly published by Writer's Digest Books as From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}

Bonus Companion Booklet for Cohesive Story Building

3. Writing the Standalone Series formerly published by Writer's Digest Books as Writing the Fiction Series {The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas}

Bonus Companion Booklet for Writing the Standalone Series

4. Writing the Overarching Series {or How I Sent a Clumsy Girl into Outer Space}

Bonus Companion Booklet for Writing the Overarching Series

5. Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing formerly published by Writer's Digest Books as Bring Your Fiction to Life {Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity}

Bonus Companion Booklet for Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plots, and Relationships}

6. CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plots, and Relationships}

Bonus Companion Booklet for CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction

7. Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!

Bonus Companion Booklet for Writing Blurbs That Sizzle--And Sell!


More details about this at

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 145 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Games Cyborg Brains Play

Researchers at Cortical Labs have designed "cyborg brains," composed of living human brain cells atop a microelectrode array in a petri dish, informally labeled "mini-brains."

Brain Cells Play Pong

The mini-brains were exposed to a simplified version of the game Pong, with no opponent, in which signals from the cyborg brains' neurons hit the "paddle" to propel the "ball." Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs, remarks on how fast the biological brains learn the game in contrast to current AI technology. Kagan compares the mini-brains' virtual environment to the Matrix in the movie by that name.

The next step would be to produce organic neurons "integrated with traditional silicon computing" for even more efficient learning. The mini-brains offer an example of intelligence of a sort—they can learn—without consciousness. But suppose they became aware of their own existence, environment, and purpose? What if they aspired to more of a purpose in life than playing solitaire Pong? Of course, they're far from complex enough for that step, but it's fun to imagine. . . .

I'm reminded of a spin-off series from the SWORD ART ONLINE anime and manga, in which virtual human beings are seeded into a computer-simulated world and programmed to evolve a culture. Circumscribed by strict rules built into their environment, they develop a civilization with laws, morals, social classes, and all the components of a society. Furthermore, these experimental life-forms awaken to consciousness. They experience emotions, aspirations, pains, and pleasures as their world grows over many centuries in their time but only months on the scale of outside "reality." Shutting down the experiment would effectively mean annihilating an entire population of living people.

So far, though, the mini-brains described in the article linked above have no experiences other than endless games of Pong. At the end of the article, there's a link to a page about a scientist who tried, with mixed success, to teach rats to play the first-person shooter video game Doom. Will a future mode of entertainment consist of watching lab animals and virtual intelligences compete against each other in computer game tournaments?

Happy New Year! And, to repeat the annual wish of Col. Potter on MASH, "May she be a durn sight better than the last one."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Never Content

Two advertisements being played all too frequently on cable tv this season drive me into Bah Humbug mode.

One of them burbles about "the content we produce".

"The content we produce..." said no one who ever wrote a book, a recipe, a song, or painted a work of art, or wrote a thesis or a government bill (of the white paper kind), or even a legal brief.  When someone asks, "What are you working on?" at an authors group social, no one says, "Content!"

To this seething listener, even that which an advertisement writer writes is not "content". The proper name for what they write is "advertising copy", and for a really well-written explanation of what makes for good advertising copy, read what Studious Guy has to say about it.

Just to take up their collective "we" for a moment, if people who write adverts wrote "content", they would not have to pay for airtime. There are exceptions: the advertisements created for play during a particularly super, all-male sporting championship involving a so-called pigskin. 

By the way, according to Karyn Moyer of AgBlogs, "pigskin" is a polite euphemism for bladder.

In that case, those advertisements become news and entertainment, and are exploited by others for fun and profit.

"Content' is a created meaning of an old word, popularized since the advent of the internet by predators who exploit the work and works of others. 


"Content", depending on where you put the stress, is an adverb or verb for oppressed comfort with the status quo, or acceptance of ones lot, or is a noun.  
Examples in no particular order:
"I am content with my marriage/ the comfortable drudgery of my life/ the limitations that others impose on me"; 
"I content myself with the thought that I could not do better."  
Or,  " is the content of one's character, by which one should be judged adequate or wanting." 
And then, there is its derivative, "Contentment" (noun), "contented" (adjective).
The slop inside a tin/can of processed food is called contents (plural).  Not content (singular).

Other offerings from a dictionary or three:

Satisfy someone

Peaceful happiness (even an easy feeling)

State of satisfaction

Something contained

Acceptance  or assent

On the internet… something "available for download or reading by internet user."

With the exception of a game in which men play with bladders and their like, .... well, I take that back. One can probably find any advertisement on You Tube.

Legal blogger Brian Murphy who writes for Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC's fascinating Advertising Law blog, wrote recently about a dispute over content ownership in the case of Miller vs the French Pastry School LLC.

Before your eyes glaze over (pastry pun!!!), authors who seek out a web mistress or web master can extrapolate a valuable lesson.

The business model of The Butterbook  is that subscribers pay just under two hundred dollars a year for access to recipes and baking how-to videos.

They hired Miller in 2016 to "develop content" for their website. Ms. Miller spent two contented years creating indexes and the sorts of matter that web content producers assemble and put into attractive form for websites. She was paid, but they never wrote up a written agreement of who owned whatever might be considered copyrightable.

When Miller and Butterbook fell out, Butterbook demanded all product and an assignment of all rights.  Miller countered with her own offer, and registered copyrights of her work.

Original link:
Lexology link: 

For authors who hire website designers, or even who ask a friend to help them, there are differences between an exclusive license and a non-exclusive license. Some working arrangements might create an implied license, or even joint authorship questions.  Sort it out in writing while you both want to work with one another.

 A question about what is an implied license is currently bubbling with Instagram's new terms of service regarding embedded "content". If the person who uploads a photograph or text does not turn off  the public button, are they thus by their omission giving away their right (or anyone else's right) to claim copyright infringment?  More on that another time.

As for that second advertisement, one of the motor manufacturers appears to be touting the lethal potential of their car as a selling point. It's the ad copy writer's fault, of course.

Oh, well.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry
Space Snark




Friday, December 24, 2021


Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner


Based on CPR FOR DEAD OR LIFELESS FICTION {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships} by Karen S. Wiesner

This is the final of three posts focusing on how to spot dead or lifeless characters, plots, and relationships in your fiction

A lack of development and progress in character, plot, and relationship is something that can be seen throughout an entire book and sometimes the whole of a series. James Scott Bell advises asking yourself, "Who cares?" and "What's the purpose?" to ensure validity and clarification of the reason for each scene even existing. I'd add for clarification that characters, plots, and relationships all need to have a reason for existing. If readers are never engaged on even one count of core elements, what's the purpose of the book existing and, honestly, who cares if it gets read? If there isn't passion burning inside all three of the core elements, bursting out so the story has to be told, there is quite literally no point to starting, continuing or finishing. For anyone.

Development of all three elements is crucial and progression has to be evident from one scene to the next. If something is actually happening in a story with all three of the CPR elements, the reader will want to stick around to find out more--to find out everything, with a sense of avid anticipation and participation rather than frustration and disengagement, uncertainty, and dissatisfaction.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two current bestselling authors writing series focused on main characters in white collar fields. In both series, the stories are plot-leaden (as opposed to merely heavy). These authors are known for action-packed stories, and they deserve kudos for providing that every single time. However, in both cases, the series are almost completely character and relationship-development deficient. In either, beyond what the main character does for a living--with above-average intelligence--we learn almost nothing about him personally, about his current life beyond his work and the story quest, about his past and his future drive. All his internal conflicts and goals and motivations are plot-focused to the point where his own private needs and desires are rarely if ever considered or attended to. Relationships never feel well-grounded. They happen in the present--and they merely happen. We're given only sparse glimpses about what occurred between characters in the past and those glimpses are cold without strong, emotional connections, memories, or developments. Readers don't feel any encouragement about future developments with those relationships either. Personal attachments--temporary or otherwise--serve the plot. Period.

The sheer evidence of the insufficiency of character and relationship development lives in how neither author includes enough "downtimes" (a point in which the main character takes a rest from the action to reflect) within the extreme action sequences of the individual stories. The main character in both series is almost constantly running from or toward something. He doesn't sit down and ruminate on his life, let alone take that time to cultivate strong connections and emotional attachments with the people running around with him. As a result, the consequences are muted, lacking both tension and intrigue, and certain exhaustion (also for the reader?) may be the only end-game in sight.

Whenever I read these series which are admittedly enjoyable (though ultimately disappointing because of all the reasons I mentioned above), I'm forced to imagine the author holding a doll of his very popular series character and slam-driving that poor, defenseless thing through one breath-stealing action sequence after the other without a single break in the arduous trek each book goes through. Nothing personal breaks up these ruthless tasks the character is given back-to-back in every story.

But, not only are the creators forcing the characters through the motions, the authors aren't going beyond those motions themselves--and that's the biggest travesty of un-/underdevelopment of core elements. In both cases, the main character isn't dead but he's almost certainly lifeless. Unfortunately for demanding readers who want three-dimensional core elements, the intrigue here is with plots (and--in a stretch--settings, which is a component of character development) almost exclusively. I consider these particular characters little more than zombies. Yes, there is a semblance of life. The POV character is actually moving around, going through the motions, but he isn't actively living, breathing, or functioning beyond basic instinct in direct response to the plot, which he serves. With a little more effort, these authors could actually breathe life into all CPR elements of these series stories and make them wonderful and memorable beyond the exciting plots.

Fix this axiom in your mind: Character reveals plot and relationships, just as plot and relationships reveal character, and relationships reveal character and plot. This trinity is vital to the cohesiveness of your stories. They work together to unearth, connect, and layer a story. The strongest stories are the ones in which every part of the story--the characters’ role, physical descriptions, personalities, strengths and weaknesses, relationships, skills, conflicts, goals and motivation, and even settings--becomes cohesive and fits together organically. We’ve all read books in which the key aspects didn't quite merge naturally. Maybe we didn’t notice a specific issue, but we knew something was off, lacked logic, or didn’t quite fit with the rest of the story, and the imbalance frustrated us. There’s a chance you never finished reading those books. The ones that you absolutely cannot put down and that stay with you every minute of the time you’re reading them and for years afterward are the ones in which every aspect is so intricately connected that separating the threads of CPR development is difficult, even impossible.

While it should be easy to spot dead or lifeless conditions in our characters, plots and relationships, it's nowhere as simple as author would like it to be. In this three-part article, we've gone over some of the telltale scenarios that may reveal if any aspect of your CPR development is outright dead or simply lifeless, in whole or in part with the "alive" part potentially carting around the "lifeless" or "dead" elements. So often these scenarios are utilized as if they're legitimate methods in so-called CPR development--and they can't and shouldn't be. The scenarios in this article should help you pinpoint if any of your core elements are dead or lifeless.

Have you ever read a book with dead or lifeless relationships? Leave a comment to tell me about it!

Happy writing!

Find out more about CPR FOR DEAD OR LIFELESS FICTION here:

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: