Sunday, February 05, 2023

To Be, Or Not....

Today, my topic is indentity and copyright, rather than Hamlet's existential dilemma.

What happens when two creators (authors, photographers, painters) have the same name? In the case of a father and son, a tag might be added, as in the case of Pieter Brueghel The Elder, and Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Suppose two artists are not related, but have almost the same name, and one is far more talented in the eyes of the art world and also --perhaps-- rejoices in an unimpeachable reputation. An owner of a work by the obscure painter might wish very much that the signed work he has is a valuable early work by the famous author of the same name. (I hesitate to use "namesake" because that usually implies that the one was intentionally named in honor of the other.)

The famous artist denies that he was ever an ex-con and the creator of the painting in question, and the owner of the one time incarceree's landscape has the gall to sue the famous artist for not being the artist.
Legal blogger Zach Dai of the Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton LLP Art Law blog explains the fascinating and outrageous case (my characterization) and its sequel.

See also 
In another case discussed in the legal blogosphere last week, legal blogger John C. Greiner of the law firm Graydon Head and Ritchey LLP discusses an object lesson in who owns the copyright in a newsworthy photograph of oneself, taken on ones own iphone... but when someone else pushes the button.

If you are going to a celebrity party, try to be... prepared. Take a sheaf of waivers in your purse! Or stick with the selfie stick.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 




Friday, February 03, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: The Ins and Outs of Outlining. Part 2

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Ins and Outs of Outlining. Part 2

Based on FIRST DRAFT OUTLINE (formerly titled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS)

This is the second of three posts dealing with outlining.

In Part 1 of this article, we talked in-depth about how a complete outline that you write before your first draft of any story will contain everything your book will, only in a much more condensed snapshot. A “first draft” outline is equivalent to the first draft of a manuscript because it has everything your manuscript will. Writing your book based on an outline this complete might almost make you feel like you’re cheating, because the writing process should be simplicity itself. The clearer a writer’s vision of the story before the actual writing, the more fleshed out, cohesive, and solid the story will be once it makes it to an actual first draft.

My book First Draft Outline (formerly titled First Draft in 30 Days) goes in-depth about outlining and goal setting. The follow-up title, Cohesive Story Building, focuses on writing in stages and story building with multiple layers that mean strength and cohesion for your book. If you write one draft and revise that, you only have two layers. That's why just jumping into the story without an outline doesn't produce the same results or complexity. With the kind of layering I talk about in Cohesive Story Building, a story is three-dimensional, strong, realistic and richly textured. When these two writing reference manuals are used together, your writing process can become a well-oiled machine focused on productivity, high-quality, and unending momentum. These references contain the secrets of how I became so prolific. Between these two books, I cover every single stage of writing a book in-depth and step-by-step, so each aspect is detailed from start to finish.

In the ideal writing situation, a book goes through eleven stages (though the last two are optional, which I’ll explain later). These are the layers that build texturally complex stories and characters and they include:

Stage 1: Brainstorming

Stage 2: Researching

Stage 3: Outlining

Stage 4: Setting aside the project

Stage 5: Writing the first draft

Stage 6: Setting aside

Stage 7: Revising

Stage 8: Setting aside (and, while sitting, critique partners are going over it)

Stage 9: (after I get it back from critique partners) Editing and polishing

Stage 10: Setting aside

Stage 11: Final read-through

You’ll notice that three of the stages are about “setting the story aside”. I believe a book is best if you give it time to breathe between the stages. Letting your projects sit for a couple of weeks—or even months—in-between stages will provide you with a completely fresh perspective. All writers get too close to their stories. Distance gives you objectivity and the ability to read your own work so you can progress further with it.

Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers always reach a point where their motivation runs out, and they may simply want to get away from the story as fast as they can. Who wants to write a book you’ve just spent weeks or even months outlining? Who would want to revise a book you’ve spent weeks or months writing? With every single book, I get to rock bottom and I’m convinced that if I ever see the manuscript again, I’ll tear it to shreds. Setting it aside between the various stages the project goes through really gives me back my motivation for it. I’m always amazed at how much better I can face the project again when I haven’t seen it for a couple weeks or even months. I fall in love with it again. The next stage in the process becomes easier, too, and that helps my writing to be much better. When working in stages, each step is a layer that’s added to the book, a layer that makes it stronger, richer, and more cohesive--and realistically three-dimensional.

One final reason for working in stages is that I’m able to start brainstorming on upcoming projects sometimes years in advance. When it’s time to work on that project, I have a ton of ideas and the motivation to get them down and that carries me through the outlining. Because I’ve always got multiple books going at one time—each one in a different stage of the process—I’m constantly brainstorming on these projects in the back of my mind. That’s so crucial to the overall strength of your stories and for the momentum of your career. Working in stages is the absolute height of productivity. I can't imagine how to do it any other way and still continue to write solid novels and meet all my deadlines.

When I started out, I was a seat of the pants writer all the way and I wrote about 12 drafts of every single book to get a single one that was decent. So I had to figure out how to do this more productively, especially after I got published. I think my books teach the most effective ways of getting from A to Z in writing and also planning a successful career in writing.

I'm a strong believer in never doing more work than you need to. In the beginning, you might need to fill out endless worksheets and checklists because that's the best way to learn how to develop your story. But you should only ever do what you feel benefits you and your story. The point of all writing methods is to find out how you work best—take what you can, discard the rest. Creating an outline in whatever form that gives you the strongest guide for writing you novel is a crucial layer in developing every single story. If you want to see an example of how I write in stages throughout every given year, check out my Works in Progress page here:

In the last part of this article, I'll provide tips for creating a useful outline that translates into cohesive story building and career momentum.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of First Draft Outline and Cohesive Story Building

Volumes 1 and 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Visit her here:

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Vampires Rule

I recently read a novel with an unusual slant on a world ruled by vampires, DAY BOY, by Trent Jamieson. It takes place in a rather dreary post-apocalyptic world. The narrator is a teenage "day boy," a vampire's mortal servant. These vampires suffer from the movie-invented disability of helplessness during the sunlit hours, so they can't get along without human helpers. One thing I admire about this novel is the realistic treatment of predator-prey ratios. The narrator's small town harbors only about five "Masters" (vampires). While they don't normally kill their donors, they still exercise caution about expanding their own numbers.

It's listed on Goodreads here, with reviews, including mine:

Day Boy

Books and films about vampire-dominated worlds too often portray societies overrun by the bloodthirsty undead, with ordinary humans as a small, hunted remnant. There's no way that model would be sustainable unless the vampires can survive on animal blood and/or a reliable supply of bagged blood. For the latter, they would still need human victims to "donate" unless a synthetic substitute has been invented, as in the Sookie Stackhouse series and its TV adaptation, TRUE BLOOD. And even with the artificial blood supply, in that series the undead remain a minority.

S. M. Stirling's Shadowspawn trilogy, beginning with A TAINT IN THE BLOOD, features a subspecies of Homo sapiens who combine the traits of vampires, werebeasts, and sorcerers, with the power to warp reality in their close vicinity as well as control human minds. They aspire to restore the prehistoric Empire of Shadow, when they openly treated the human majority as livestock and slaves. The vampire-shapeshifter species is a tiny minority of the total population, though, as apex predators should be. For instance, in the present the principal antagonist reigns over her own private village where she's the only resident Shadowspawn. Its human residents are well treated, a few supplying her with blood in regular rotation, while most serve her in other capacities or just keep the town running. The blood donors ("lucies") have to endure only one downside to their pampered lifestyle, their mistress's cheerfully sadistic personality.

A 1991 anthology, UNDER THE FANG, collects a variety of original stories on the theme of vampire-dominated societies, including a collaboration between Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Suzy McKee Charnas in which Yarbro's Count Saint-Germain and Charnas's Professor Weyland meet in unpleasant circumstances. You can find copies of the book here:

Under the Fang

Considering that vampires are typically envisioned as solitary predators, it seems likely that if they did take over the world, they wouldn't bother with the day-to-day business of ruling. They would probably control human officials who'd do the actual work, while the structures of society would function much as usual, aside from the obligation of catering to the needs of the vampire lords. As Stirling's evil Shadowspawn princess asks in A TAINT IN THE BLOOD, "Do I LOOK like a bureaucrat?"

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Two wrongs don't make a right.

That is my opinion. It has also been called an idiom,  a proverb, occasionally a rebuttal of defence/defense for lack of candour, or for violent retaliation, and more.

As a copyright enthusiast, I believe that when a songwriter writes a song, the lyrics of that song are protected by copyright and the rights to publish and copy and exploit that work (the song lyrics) belong exclusively to the songwriter and to anyone to whom he or she or they assign(s) the copyright.

They do not belong to someone who copies the lyrics verbatim, even if --perhaps-- a word or two of the transcription is misheard or misspelled. That is not, in my opinion, transformative. 

So that is "Wrong One". "Wrong Two" is currently being litigated. May fan-transcribed lyrics be copied and pasted onto another site, whether or not the TOS of the site hosting the fan-transcribed lyrics forbid "scraping"?

I would say, "Pot meet Kettle".

Excellent legal blogger Pramod Chintalpoodi of the Chip Law Group discusses a most interesting case that may come before the Supreme Court, to wit:

"Does the Copyright Act’s preemption clause allow a business to invoke traditional state-law contract remedies to enforce a promise not to copy and use its content?"

The lower courts focused on the strength and force of browsewrap. They neglected to parse the meaning of "its" (in the content of "its content"). I await SCOTUS question time with bated breath. Not "baited". Never "baited".

Matters may be more complicated if the lyrics in question predate 1972, and I am not a lawyer, but even so, the "law" seems to relate to "sound recordings" (the sound track) and not to the rights to the poetry.

TOSS is my play on words for Terms Of Service, btw. I hope the case is granted certiorari.

Talking of copyright infringment and scraping, and of intelligence, Intellectual Property legal blogger Jeremy Goldman of the law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC poses a fundamental --and quite topical-- question about the rights under copyright laws of creators, namely:

"... do content creators have the right to authorize or block AI systems from collecting and using their content as training data?"

As Mr. Goldman says,  "In the United States, copyright subsists in original works of authorship fixed in tangible media of expression."

It is a meaty piece, and I may return to chew on AI another time.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday   

Friday, January 27, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: The Ins and Outs of Outlining, Part 1

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Ins and Outs of Outlining, Part 1

Based on FIRST DRAFT OUTLINE (formerly titled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS)

This is the first of three posts dealing with outlining. 

Some authors swear by outlines. Others say it stifles creativity. Those who are against outlining have strong opinions about them: They're a wasted effort. They can do the same thing by just jumping right into a story without a blueprint of some kind. They'll get more done if they skip this step. The exact opposite is the case, as I'll explain in this article. My writing reference, First Draft Outline (formerly titled First Draft in 30 Days), details creating an outline step-by-step and this can (and should) be done for all works of fiction, any size, whether a full-length novel or flash fiction. I use an outline for every single fiction project I undertake. There's no way I could consistently create solid books the way I do without one.

My feeling about outlines is simple: Why make the process of writing a book as hard as you possibly can by churning out hundreds of pages to get what probably won't be a workable first draft of a story and will require endless revisions, when, with the right preparation, you can create an outline so complete, it actually qualifies as the first draft of your book and includes every single scene of your book--meaning you can sit down and start writing immediately every day? With an outline like the one I talk about in my writing reference titles, you can see your entire novel from start to finish in one condensed place--including all the workable parts and all the unworkable ones.

Creating an outline like this puts the hard work of writing where it belongs—at the beginning a project. If you work out the kinks in the story in the outline, you ensure that the writing and revising are the easy parts. Revise your outline until you've got a completely solid story. In general, a regular full-length novel is around 400 manuscript pages. A “first draft” outline usually ends up being approximately a quarter of the size of the completed book. Revising 100 pages of an outline will certainly be much easier than revising 400 manuscript pages! Which would you rather revise? Because it’s an outline, it doesn’t even need to be your best writing. Most authors don’t and won’t spend endless time revising the words and sentence structure or whatever, in an outline, since they’re the only ones who’ll see it. That makes for a lot less obsession over every word and sentence, and puts the revision where it should be in the logical order of writing a book—at the end.

With your first-draft outline, you’ve made the revision process much easier for yourself. You can revise the outline as much as you need to in order to fine-tune your story, and you’ve virtually eliminated the need to overhaul (or scrap) the manuscript itself later.

Many authors fear that using an outline will kill their enthusiasm for writing the book or that their creativity will be hampered or caged with one. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve never felt stifled by an outline. The outline frees me to explore every aspect of a book—without risk. Use your outline to explore any angle you want. If it’s logical, keep it. If it’s not, delete it. You’ll only lose a little time, and your story will be stronger for it. If you realize halfway through or even all the way through outlining a book that some of your ideas aren’t working, it’s just a matter of deleting the stuff that doesn't work and starting again in a new direction. This is a change that probably won’t take longer than a few days to make in the much shorter outline (instead of the months or even years it might take to identify and correct a full draft of a book created without an outline). Exploring new angles while outlining allows you to avoid spending countless hours laboring and only then finding out these ideas don’t work.

Your completed outline will contain everything your book will, only in a much more condensed snapshot. A “first draft” outline is equivalent to the first draft of a manuscript because it has everything your manuscript will. It may or may not be something you can show an editor yet, but it truly will be all there. The hard work is over. Writing your book based on an outline this complete might almost make you feel guilty, like you’re cheating, because the writing process should be simplicity itself. The clearer a writer’s vision of the story before the actual writing, the more fleshed out, cohesive, and solid the story will be once it makes it to an actual first draft.

For those who use the argument that outlining kills your enthusiasm for writing a story, I want to challenge you to try this method anyway—a couple of times if you’re willing—then ask yourself this question: How do you feel after you finish a first draft that you know will require a blood-shedding amount of time and effort to revise? You feel exhausted and sick of the story, don’t you?

Let’s say you have to revise that same book a second time because the first time wasn’t good enough. Now how do you feel? Like you never want to set eyes on the story again, right? Imagine if you have to do this more than twice—say, three or four times to get a publishable manuscript. Imagine yourself rewriting and polishing this story all throughout this process, in a way that truly feels like you might never be finished.

You really do have to experience this to understand it but, when I write a book based on a “first draft” outline, pure magic happens because I watch the skeleton—the framework of the book contained in my outline—putting on flesh, becoming a walking, talking, breathing story. If anything, it’s more exciting this way—and a whole lot easier! I almost never have to rewrite the story. Revision after a first draft amounts to fine-tuning something that’s already working well. Try it a few times yourself.

My book First Draft Outline goes in-depth about outlining and goal setting. The follow-up title, Cohesive Story Building, focuses on writing in stages and story building with multiple layers that mean strength and cohesion for your book. If you write one draft and revise that, you only have two layers. That's why just jumping into the story without an outline doesn't produce the same results or complexity.

In Part 2 of this three-part article, we'll talk about how your outline jumpstarts the process of cohesive story building.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of First Draft Outline and Cohesive Story Building

Volumes 1 and 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Clones as Organ Donors

I've recently read an excellent novel called NEVER LET ME GO, by Kazuo Ishiguro, author of THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. (I've seen the film adaptation of the latter, but I don't plan to watch the movie of NEVER LET ME GO. The story just strikes me as too depressing to view as a dramatization, without being filtered through the narrator's voice as in the book—and I generally LIKE sad stories.) NEVER LET ME GO traces the youth and coming-of-age of children cloned for the sole purpose of serving as organ donors. Kathy, the narrator, and her friends have always known, on some level, what their purpose and inevitable destiny are, but their vague awareness becomes more explicit as they grow to adulthood. The reader learns about their world along with them, through extended reminiscences by Kathy, who as a young adult serves as a "carer" for other donors until she eventually has to assume the latter function herself. She knows once she progresses from carer to donor, she will probably live through three or at most four donations before she "completes," i.e., dies. The clones don't serve as donors for the specific individuals whose DNA they share (whose identities, of course, they never know) but as general organ banks. The characters we follow grow up in a sort of orphanage / boarding school, where they live a fairly good life; they later learn that theirs is one of the best group homes, whereas others treat their inmates worse. We never learn details about the other homes, the background of the cloning project, or the science underlying it. Nor do we find out how the public was induced to accept this radical development. The novel seems to take place in an alternate mid-twentieth-century. This version of England has pre-cellphone, pre-internet technology, yet judging from the apparent ages of older donors mentioned in passing, reliable human cloning has existed for well over twenty years.

The novel focuses on the relationships among the characters, their gradual discovery of the full truth about their own status, and the ethics of treating human beings as manufactured products. Therefore, it doesn't delve into the scientific dimensions of the cloning process. Toward the end of the book, a retired guardian (as their teachers are called) mentions controversies over whether the donors have souls. Nobody brings up the obvious fact that a clone is simply an identical twin conceived at a different time, who grows like any other person and is as human, with as much of a soul (if souls exist) as anybody else. Another unanswered question raised in the story is why the characters can't have babies. There's no biological reason for clones to be infertile. Are they genetically manipulated to be that way? Surgically sterilized in childhood?

Wouldn't it be more efficient for donors to provide spare parts specifically for the people from whom they're cloned? No risk of organ rejection that way. Some of Heinlein's imagined futures include clones produced to supply organs for their originals. In these books, it's clear the cloned bodies never come alive, are never persons at all but only inert shells. One such body is used in THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST to fake the death of Lazarus Long's mother. In principle, an individual could achieve immortality by having his or her brain transplanted into a cloned body when the birth body wears out.

For most purposes, though, why grow a whole body at all? Surely it would be easier to develop cloning technology that could generate particular organs as needed. You could get a new heart, liver, kidney, or whatever with your own DNA and with none of the ethical issues involved in mass-producing live, conscious people to serve as spare-part factories.

So, although NEVER LET ME GO raises fascinating issues, and its characters' plight is deeply moving, it doesn't seem to me a likely portrayal of a realistic scenario.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, January 22, 2023


Lollygagging means "messing around" in more ways than one. Delete the frozen, fruity sweet treat portion of the word, and one comes to the meat --if you will pardon the mixed metaphor--of today's topic which is inspired by the legal blogs and a select few news outlets.

The left-leaning, and sometimes laudable Electronic Freedom Foundation blogged this week about freedom of expression around the world. It is horrifying reading for those who like to opine online.
The fourth item on the excellent EFF list is further expounded on by a British daily newspaper, "The Guardian".

It would seem that a certain amount of guarded circumlocution is in order these jolly days, if one wishes to discuss other people's books, or ones own adverse reactions to this that or the other.

One hears that well-known e-commerce site that is named after an enormous quantity of imperilled trees and that got its start selling a by-product of dead trees is alleged to indulge (circumlocution) in some very creepy-crawly behavior.

"We apologize but Amazon has noticed some unusual reviewing activity on this account. As a result, all reviews submitted by this account have been removed and this account will no longer be able to contribute reviews and other content on Amazon."

If true, that is pretty chilling. Not only may one not contribute reviews, but one is cut off from posting other content... would that mean "seller accounts"? "author accounts"?

Some allege that the enterprise in question trawls through any "user's" Facebook, Goodreads, and possibly other social media accounts to see if an author or reviewer has ever liked or been liked, or friended or been friended by the author/seller/reviewer. If the bots find a connection, be it ever so slight the review is made to disappear.

egal bloggers for the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, discuss the legal difficulties that beset a number of social media influencers after they spoke freely (or perhaps they were compensated) about some stocks.  

Seven of the eight were successful traders, the eighth was a podcaster who had the misfortune to interview the seven as guests and is accused of giving them a forum to spread their "misinformation".

Apparently they might have insufficiently disclosed the nature, scope, and amount of compensation that they might or might not have received for their speech.

Disclaimer, just in case. This alien romances blog does not accept any payment or other compensation for our time and efforts. The parent of our host once offered to pay us for hosting advertisements and we did not take them up on the opportunity.

Legal blogger Benjamin E. Marks of the law firm Weil Gotshal and Manges LLP posted a splendid article on the Lexology platform about free speech and media freedom.

He explains what are so-called protected forms of expression, what is protected false speech (which is interesting given the gagging of anecdotal speech on inconvenient topics), when even "hate speech" is theoretically protected, but when commercial speech veers over the line and is not protected.

There is much, much more in this particularly excellent article, and anyone who intends to blog, or publish longer material should read it.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 


Friday, January 20, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You to Believe, Part 4

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You to Believe, Part 4

by Karen S. Wiesner

Based on FIRST DRAFT OUTLINE (formerly titled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS)

This is the final of four posts dealing with how writers can get their muses to work with rather than against them.

In Part 3 of this article, we talked about the third myth your muse desperately wants you to believe. Let's continue.

Myth Four:  Outlines and setting goals stifle a writer’s creativity.

I went online and conducted an informal poll with authors about the use of outlines in order to see an interesting slice of the writing life. I asked participating writers if they use outlines to write novels. The majority of the 76 authors who responded to this poll were published. Thirty-eight percent of them said they always use an outline, 38 percent said they sometimes use an outline, 28 percent said they never use an outline, and one percent said they’d like to use one.

Then I asked authors how many drafts they write to get to a final, polished, salable novel. Forty-seven writers voted, 98 percent of whom were published. Forty-seven percent of the authors said they had to write four or more drafts of each book, 15 percent had to write three drafts, 30 percent had to do two drafts, and only eight percent need a single draft.

These poll results, while obviously not conclusive, nevertheless astounded me. Thirty-eight percent of published and unpublished authors said they do use outlines in some form; 28 percent said they never use outlines. In contrast, 47 percent of mostly published authors said they have to write four or more drafts to get a final, polished, salable novel! Only eight percent of them do one draft to get the same results. Based on the many interviews I’ve read in writing magazines with published authors, I believe my informal polls do show a fairly accurate picture of writers these days. It seems that even the household-name authors follow a spiritual journey of manuscript writing rather than an organized system or solid road-map. How can this be?

I think we can all agree that the publishing market these days is in a major state of chaos. Even more thwarting is if those authors can only write one book a year. In this current state of publishers folding, changing hands, and concentrating mainly on their prolific, best-selling authors, it’s absolutely essential that writers learn how to finish quality novels and to do it fast enough to keep the momentum of their careers rolling steadily. Published authors who want to compete in a totally chaotic market need to learn to write fewer drafts because they can sell a proposal “on spec,” which generally translates into selling more in less time.

I’m not suggesting in any way that authors should crank out inferior novels simply to sell. Too many writers already do that. I’m suggesting that the best time to learn to create a fantastic novel fast, to learn to “write tight”, is during a writer’s unpublished years. As soon as you finish your first novel and submit it to a publisher or publishers, start a second because you never know how much time you have once "the call" comes. For the published writer, the ideal way to keep rolling along is to write at least one or two projects ahead of your contracts. (If you’re unpublished and still in the formative stage of being a writer, don’t let this scare or intimidate you—let the creative process take you where it will.)

I would venture a guess that the authors who are selling like hotcakes and making the New York Times Bestseller List are using outlines in some form, they’re writing more than one novel a year, and they have specific goals that encompass years in advance.

There is no wrong way to write a book. I’ll be the first to state that emphatically. I’ve talked to hundreds of authors, published and unpublished, and all of them have their own, unique ways of working. There’s no wrong way, but there are very ineffective ways of writing, especially after you’re published.

John Berendt says, “Don’t make an outline; make a laundry list. The very idea of an outline suggests rigidity; items on a laundry list can be shifted around. Don’t lock the structure in too early. A piece of writing should evolve as it’s being written.” Never mind the fact that I don’t have a clue what a “laundry list” is (something like a grocery list?). The point is, I hear the same thing from almost every writer I talk to, whether or not they’re published:  Writers like outlines about as much as a homeowner likes termites. The word can actually make some writers cringe and do a full-body shudder. The idea of an outline doesn’t inspire them, sounds like too much work, seems too confining, absolutely unappealing, necessitates the ability to see far ahead in a novel, I can’t possibly work that way! 

Now I can hear the questions arising in a tumult:  Is it possible for an outline to be flexible? To take into account my individuality as a writer? Can I continue to be creative using an outline? Can I use an outline for writing any fiction genre? Can using an outline reduce the number of re-writes I have to do? Can it really take me less time to complete a project from start to finish using an outline?

Many authors are seeking something to give them direction and embrace their individual way of working without robbing them of the joy of creating. They want something that will streamline the process in order to make them more productive, so they’re not digging up endless, empty holes. They want something that will help them work more productively before they ever start writing a word of an actual book, and do it in a way that won’t rob them of the joy of their craft. They aren’t aware that a full outline can achieve all this because someone has, however sincerely, led them to believe a writer’s job has to be an ethereal, intuitive journey, which means they have to stay firmly under their muses’ controlling thumb.

An outline can be flexible, can be so complete it may actually qualify as the first draft of a novel. An outline can also make it possible that writers, in fact, do less work, not only reducing the number of drafts they have to do per project, but possibly even reducing it to a single draft. More books finished a year and quite likely more sales to publishers. The clearer a writer’s vision of the story before the actual writing, the more fleshed out the story will be once it makes it to paper.

We’ve already established that countless writers believe outlines are rigid, unmalleable creatures which hinder them in the quest of true and righteous creativity. But there is another way of looking at them. Instead of viewing an outline as an inflexible, unchangeable hindrance, imagine it as a snapshot of a novel. A snapshot that captures everything the novel will contain on a much smaller scale. A snapshot that can be “airbrushed” and rearranged until it’s smooth, strong, and breathtakingly exciting. Now, in the same vein, imagine revising 50 to a 100 pages instead of 250 to 400 pages. That, you must admit, my fellow writer, is an ideal place to begin.

Remember, anytime you as a writer gain control over an aspect of your writing, your muse is reined in, and—if you’re determined enough to succeed—eventually your muse will have to accept the task of being your assistant rather than being your master. Someday your muse will even realize it enjoys its role as an assistant and will rise to meet every challenge just as eagerly as you do because you’re a team who respects each other and the two of you have mutual goals. Just as children thrive under gentle yet firm direction from their parents or caretakers, so, too, will your muse.

Are you willing to take the risk of battling with your muse, author? Do you believe the benefits of taking that risk could be well worth it in the end if it meant becoming a productive writer with an assistant (your muse) to die for? Would you be willing to take the risk if it meant you could start a project and complete it, easily and quickly, without wasting time in possibly fruitless searches, meandering aimlessly as you wait for divine inspiration?

If you’re willing to take a leap of faith and commit yourself for the long haul, using an outline that tracks your novel from start to finish can be the very thing you need.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of First Draft Outline

Volume 1 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection 

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Fates of Social Networks

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column explores the breakdown of social networking sites, which he seems to believe is the inevitable culmination of their life cycles:

Social Quitting

He focuses on Facebook and Twitter. Are they doomed to go the way of their predecessors such as MySpace? They've had a longer run, but he thinks they, too, are in the process of changing from "permanent to ephemeral."

Personally, I don't expect Facebook to fade away anytime soon like previous services that imploded "into ghost towns, then punchlines, then forgotten ruins." I can't speak about Twitter, since I've never joined it and, given the current turmoil surrounding it, I don't plan to, even though lots of authors make productive use of it. Mainly, I can't imagine myself conjuring up cogent, entertaining tweets several times a day, which seems to be the criterion for using Twitter effectively. I had a MySpace account during the height of its popularity. The site struck me as a visually exhausting mess, dominated by flashy ads and hard to comprehend or navigate. Also, if anybody I knew used it, I never managed to connect with them. I joined Facebook because it became the only reliable way to keep track of many of our contemporary and younger relatives. (People who ignore e-mails will often answer Facebook messages.) Later, numerous organizations and businesses I wanted to keep up with established dedicated Facebook pages.

Doctorow analyzes these "network effects," summarized as, "A system has ‘network effects’ if it gets more valuable as more people use it." Facebook's attraction of more and more customers has a snowballing effect; people want to go where other people they know are. When the volume of users reaches critical mass, the "switching cost" becomes prohibitively high for most customers. Leaving the service becomes more trouble than it's worth. As long as the benefits of the service outweigh disadvantages such as becoming the object of targeted advertising, most people who've grown used to the advantages will stick around. But, as Doctorow explains the current situation, social media platforms shift more of their value—the "surplus," in economics terminology—to advertisers rather than users. Later, they tend to get greedy and make things difficult for advertisers, too. Then the "inverse network effects" kick in: The greater number of customers and advertisers that quit the network, the less value exists for those who stay, so even more leave.

Although Doctorow doesn't use the term, his explanation reminds me of the "sunk cost" principle. If we've already poured a lot of time, money, or energy into something, we're reluctant to give up on it. We continue to invest in it because otherwise our previous efforts would seem "wasted."

In my opinion, although based on my own probably limited experiences and interests, Doctorow exaggerates as far as Facebook is concerned. I have no intent of abandoning it in the foreseeable future. Our relatives and real-world friends who use the service haven't begun to disappear. (In fact, one who stopped several years ago has come back.) Local businesses still post updates there. Our church has an active page we rely on. My various writing-related groups continue to thrive. As for the advertising, it doesn't bother me. How hard is it to scroll down to the next post? Besides, some ads alert me to products such as new books that might actually interest me. The occasionally outright spooky knowledge of my habits and interests many websites display (how does the weather page know what I recently searched for on Amazon?) has a definite downside in terms of privacy concerns. However, it also offers advantages by way of customizing and streamlining the user's internet experience. And how can I legitimately complain about Facebook advertising when I use the site to promote my own books?

In short, there must be enough people and organizations among my contacts who are as change-averse as I am, to maintain the site's value for me. And I can't believe I'm alone in that position.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, January 15, 2023

In The Thick

There is a big difference between being "in the thick of it" and "in the weeds"....unless one is doing ones American taxes, and that's what I am talking about.

Late last year, I wrote about a professional author's responsibility to send out 1099-NEC forms to non-employees, and to send a cover form, the 1096, with the red copy to the IRS. Before 2021, the forms were 1099-MISCs. Now, the 1099-MISC is to declare any sum at all paid to a lawyer (for help with ones business).

Forms 1096 with forms 1099-NEC have to be filed by January 31st. It looks like the 1099-MISCs might have an extra month, but why procrastinate and add to ones mailing expenses? I assume that one is not e-filing.

I checked the Author's Guild site, and there is a video advising authors when to create an LLC (limited liability company) or S Corp.

Assuming that those reading the alien romances blog are either writing-business owners who sell their works wherever they can, including on social media or e-commerce sites, or are avid readers who may sell on physical copies of their book collections (in hard copy form, of course per the first sale doctrine) I should like to point to Ryan Stegenga, legal blogger for the Gordon Law Group who published a crash course this last week for anyone selling "stuff" on Facebook, Etsy, or Ebay.

He also presents a helpful (and ad-free) video on YouTube
For those who prefer text, the advice is here: 

As a copyright enthusiast, I should like to point out that the first sale doctrine does not apply to e-books. E-books may not be copied and copies sold on, since copyright does not permit anyone other than the author and his/her/their publishers or licensees to create a copy of works.

EBay has a long history of allowing private pirates to sell in-copyright novels as ebooks, repeatedly selling the same e-book over and over again, but that is a topic for another day.

Back to the taxes. It appears that Facebook and EBay will send you 1099-MISCs or 1099-Ks for you to report on your own tax return (the latter only if you sell quite a massive amount.) They will report this activity with the 1096 to the IRS, so if your tax return does not match what is sent in by the platform about you, you might face questions.

If you ever wondered about the recent uproar about every transaction over $600 suddenly being reportable, (it has been postponed), online commerce on Facebook, Etsy, and EBay was part of the discussion.

Happy filing!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You to Believe, Part 3

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You to Believe, Part 3

by Karen S. Wiesner

Based on FIRST DRAFT OUTLINE (formerly titled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS)

This is the third of four posts dealing with how writers can get their muses to work with rather than against them.

In Part 2 of this article, we talked about the second myth your muse desperately wants you to believe. Let's continue.

Myth Three:  You have to dig for plots blindly.

The writing process has been compared to many things since the beginning of time:  A series of epiphanies exploding all around you. A spiritual journey. Currently, the most popular analogy is that stories are discovered by digging around in the creative dirt, and then you as the writer are supposed to unearth whatever it is you think you’ve found. How many authors believe this fossil-in-the-ground philosophy? Countless. Let me tell you, my friend, that’s exactly what your Master Muse wants you—its loyal, cowering slave—to believe.

The single biggest flaw in this digging-blindly-for-plot theory of writing (and similar analogies) is that it doesn’t take into account that the writer may start digging for his story a hundred miles in the wrong direction! If you haven’t done all the necessary preparation to begin work, you have no idea whether or not there really is a story beneath the soil you’re unearthing. You may dig endlessly and never find it…or you may find it quite a ways down the pike from where you started, and nothing that has come before has any or much consequence and worth.

How many authors believe outlines are a last resort? Sadly, too many to count. So many writers attribute far too much of a project to some magical, cataclysmic explosion which somehow takes you from the first page of a novel to the last, with little or no premeditation involved. I don’t discount the magical element—because it is there in some degree, but I simply can’t buy into the spiritual intuition way of writing. How can a brand-new, never-written-much-or-anything-before writer have this kind of intuition?

With an outline and clear-cut goals, you know there is a story down there, you know where to start digging, and you know exactly how far to go down. Everything you plot from start to finish is good and worthwhile.

Now I’m sure archaeology has changed radically in the last five or ten years, becoming what archaeologists believe is more of a science than treasure hunting. Do you think archaeologists feel less like archaeologists because of these changes? I doubt it. In fact, they probably feel more like worthwhile scientists because they spend more time uncovering what they’re after than in seemingly endless searches for it. Likewise, writers who use an outline spend more time writing a story than searching for one.

In the next part of this article, we'll talk about another myth your muse desperately wants you to believe.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of First Draft Outline

Volume 1 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here: