Monday, July 22, 2013

Psst... I've got a secret!


Brain Filler: 50 Freakout GIFs - Image 1

More to Come!

Guest Blog Post: Writing and Rule Breaking

By Josh David Bellin

The best writing breaks rules.

Name a great book. Rule-breakers all.

Slaughterhouse-Five. Moby-Dick. Ulysses. To the Lighthouse. Beloved. On the Road. All of them, rule-breakers.

But okay, maybe I’m talking about classics of literary fiction, and I should be talking about popular fiction. Most of us aspire to write the latter, not the former. Isn’t popular fiction more rule-bound than literary fiction?

Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean it’s so rule-bound as to be rule-hobbled.

There are thousands of writing “rules” floating around out there, and there are just as many aspiring writers being, I fear, misled by them. Whenever I encounter one of those rules on some agent or other authority’s blog--whether the rule be, “never start your novel with a character waking up” or “never have a character describe herself in a mirror” or “never delay the inciting incident to chapter two” or “never insert a scene with a dancing pink hippo into your novel”--I find hosts of grateful comments from aspiring writers: “Thank you so much, Divine Agent! You have shown me the error of my ways and likely saved me from a lifetime of public humiliation! I will certainly never insert a scene with a dancing pink hippo into my novel ever again!”

But you know, maybe your novel needs a scene with a dancing pink hippo. Maybe your novel needs to begin with a dancing pink hippo waking up, looking at itself in a mirror, and then having a philosophical conversation with the ghost of Albert Einstein, thereby delaying the inciting incident until the second chapter. Maybe those are the particular rules your novel needs to break.

There is no rule in writing so ironclad that it can’t be broken for the right reasons. Just as it’s ridiculous to insist that all novels begin with dancing pink hippos, so is it ridiculous to insist that no novel can begin that way.

What’s the test? How do you know which rules to break?

The test is the story itself. Each story creates its own needs, its own form, its own rules. It’s the writer’s job to know her or his story well enough to know which rules to obey, which to bend, which to ignore. If you don’t know that, then really, what do you know?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return to writing my big dancing-pink-hippo scene. Trust me. It’s killer.

Josh has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though admittedly, the first few were very, very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. SURVIVAL COLONY NINE is his first book, but the sequel's already in the works!

He loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He claims to be the world's worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar.  He also like to draw, and will be putting up some of his artwork on his website as soon as he can. 

Oh, yeah, and he like monsters.  Really scary monsters.

You can find out more about Josh David Bellin and SURVIVAL COLONY NINE at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How an Agent Changed My Life

Last week, I had the pleasure to cross something off my bucket list. Did I broker world peace? Cure cancer? Figure out the value to humanity of the slug? No, but any of those would be cool. Alas, all I did was SIGN WITH A LITERARY AGENT!!!

Yes, it’s true, and trust me, there is a blog post in the works describing how I got my agent. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about how finding my agent, Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency, has already changed my life.

1. Free time is now a precious commodity. In order to enjoy more of it, I am decluttering the house and hiring a cleaning service. Let’s be honest, I don’t like cleaning in the first place, but having someone come in every week will certainly give me reason to do the small pick-ups in between!

2. I have realized that it is possible to be so tired from late nights of revision that food becomes an option.

3. I have been weaned off Facebook games. Good-bye Candy Crush.

4. I really don’t have much interest in watching TV, well, except for The Foster’s on ABCFamily. (Shameless plug for Dan Richter.)  I’ve even stopped watching Big Brother. The true test will come in the Fall when the new season starts.

5. I can no longer say I’m bored. There is always something to do and most of the time, I want to do it. (I’m talking about revisions. What’s that? No. I’m not insane.)

6. I was forced to seek out alternative sources of carry-out. The natives threatened to revolt. Apparently there is a such thing as too much pizza.

7. I’m earning Starbuck’s Rewards faster than even before.

So that’s it. Seven ways that signing with an agent has changed my life. Okay, it’s only been five days, so I can only hope that my life changes in other ways. Until then, BE PASSIONATE about what you love. Someday it might change your life!