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:

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Quest for Longevity

The cover story of the January 2023 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, a 35-page article titled "The Science of Living Longer and Better," explores several different approaches, both theoretical and practical, to the goal of extending the human lifespan. The genetically programmed maximum age for us seems to be around 120 years. However, very few people make it that far.

Numerous drugs enable mice to live as much as 60% longer than normal. Why don't they work on people? Why do certain animals such as naked mole rats and some bats live significantly longer, in proportion to their size, than we do? Why do Greenland sharks live at least 250 years, maybe longer? Altering a single gene in a certain species of roundworms doubles their lifespan while keeping them youthfully energetic, but we're more complicated than worms. Why do people in some societies tend to enjoy longer, healthier lives than the average? Environment? Diet? Exercise? Other lifestyle factors? Some scientists have tried promising drug therapies on themselves, with mixed results. Animal studies show life extension outcomes from severe restriction of calorie intake, but, again, such a regimen hasn't produced similar effects on human subjects. Anyway, personally, if I could lengthen my lifetime by a decade or two that way, I wouldn't bother; adding on years of semi-starvation would be no fun.

Stipulating the natural human upper age limit as about 120 years suggests that the Howard Families project in Robert Heinlein's METHUSELAH'S CHILDREN couldn't work the way the novel portrays it. By the date of the novel, the 22nd century, the typical Howard Families member lives to 150, retaining the appearance and vitality of a person in the prime of life. This situation exists before rejuvenation therapies are invented later in the story. Simply interbreeding bloodlines of naturally long-lived people couldn't extend their maximum ages past the 120-year limit if genes for such extension don't already exist. Moreover, real-life super-centenarians, however vigorous, still look their age, not so youthful they have to adopt new identities to avoid unwelcome attention. The only way the "Methuselahs" of Heinlein's novel could survive and remain young-looking to the age of 150 would be if Lazarus Long had already spread the mutated gene responsible for his apparent immortality through most of the Howard population. (Given the character of Lazarus as portrayed in the later book TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, that hypothesis seems not unlikely.) That explanation wouldn't work for the early generations such as Lazarus's own mother and her contemporaries, though. There's no plausible way mere selective breeding for a century or so could produce human beings who live over 100 years with the appearance of well-preserved middle age.

So if we want lifespans like Heinlein's characters, we'll have to develop futuristic technologies similar to those speculated about in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC article. Even so, surpassing the natural limit of 120 years would seem to require something radically beyond those techniques, maybe direct alteration of DNA—such as the hypothetical "cellular reprogramming" mentioned in the article.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Friday, January 06, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You to Believe, Part 2

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Four Myths Your Muse Desperately Wants You to Believe, Part 2

by Karen S. Wiesner

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

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

In Part 1 of this article, we talked about the first myth your muse desperately wants you to believe. Let's continue.

Myth Two:  If you try to master your muse, it’ll leave you forever.

Like most writers who write based on the whims of their muse, I used to believe if I tried to master my muse, he’d punish me by leaving me forever. But I had to make a choice:  I either mastered him and made him my assistant, risking the chance that he’d leave me forever, or I let my muse win, and I went into what had now become a career allowing him to direct me, if and when he deigned to. I took a gamble, and I decided it was worth losing my muse if I could be the one to make the decisions in my career. My gamble paid off—in spades.

So how did I become a master of my muse? With self-discipline. I made goals, and I stuck to them religiously. I also started using outlines for every project.

I had no opinions about outlines before I tried one, outside of simply believing I couldn’t learn to use one. I forced myself to try using an outline—my own version of an outline—for a novel I’d already written numerous drafts of. First I sketched out a couple chapters of the book, then I started writing the book once more. I completed the outline about midway through writing the first draft of the book. Not long after that, when I used an outline for a brand new project, I found myself brainstorming, productively and constantly. I was able to outline six to eight scenes of the book without writing a word of the actual novel.

With the outline complete well ahead of the novel, I was able to revise the outline instead of the novel. A wondrous thing happened in this process:  I could now see the entire novel from start to finish, in one condensed place—including all the workable parts and all the unworkable. All I had to do was fix the unworkable elements in the outline in order to strengthen the book.

Now when I write a novel, I always start with a complete outline, which I can revise as many times as I need to. Writing a book has almost become a simple process, requiring only one draft and a final edit and polish (for most projects). I save time, effort, and many, many intense rewrites. I can also write more “final draft” novels a year, rather than a half dozen that need another overhaul.

There’s a big difference between authors who are slaves to their muses and those who have mastered it. Authors who have mastered their muses have left behind many of their monomaniacal ways and have re-directed their energies in more productive ways of accomplishment on each project. Some projects capture them more than others, but quality work continues regardless. They don’t wait for a fickle muse to bless them with divine inspiration.

They set their course with determination and purpose, and they don’t detour from it. These writers not only plans ahead project by project, but frequently plans their careers by the year (or more!) with challenging yet attainable goals. They seem very satisfied, almost laid-back with themselves and their work because they tend to finish what they start, a couple pages or a chapter a day. Generally, they write in a linear fashion. Writer’s block and burn-out are rare since the muse has become an assistant rather than the supreme ruler. These authors are nostalgic when they remember those day-and-night writing sessions, but a part of them is also relieved that they no longer have to rely on the whim of something so unstable to accomplish anything. Authors with muse assistants love their work just as much—possibly more—than a muse-driven author. The author and muse have formed a cohesive team, each respecting the other and working harmoniously with the common goal of wanting to produce the best book they possibly can together.

Your first instinct after reading the vast differences between muse-driven and muse-assisted is probably that there is one wrong and one right way to creating a book. In fact, it’s not about that at all. The first year or more of committing yourself to becoming a writer will be one of the most definitive in the life of any author. This is where you learn the very foundations of being a writer, where you learn what you can do. Your goal during these formative years isn’t to be a productive writer or even a published one. Writing, re-writing and re-writing some more is how you grow.

All writers deserve to give themselves the time they need to refine and learn to love their craft in whatever way works for them—even if it’s crazy, to believe in themselves enough to take the next, crucial step.

There is a time to move beyond that wonderful stage, if you believe you’re talented and ambitious enough to succeed as an author. I think you’ll know when the time has arrived for you. You’ll have at least one near-perfect, complete manuscript that you believe in with all your heart. Quite possibly, you’ll have many more than that. You’ll also feel a strong urge for direction and discipline as you approach each project. That is the time to rein in your muse, to train it to assist you instead of control you, and to get down to the business of becoming a productive writer who sells that near-perfect manuscript of your heart.

It’s a very different world for me than when I first started writing. I no longer believe in superstitions. They never got me anywhere except face-down on the ground, cowering. There are so many writers who believe that the muse is a magical being who either blesses us or curses us. Imagine believing your muse is your assistant in the process of writing. Imagine a world where it’s no longer up to the power-hungry bard you possess whether you write, when you write, how much you write, or how you feel about any of it.

Now is the time to take control of your writing, if you’re willing to gamble (and possibly wrestle until one of you concedes defeat) with your muse.

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: