Hard Lessons | The Writing Site of R K Athey

Avoid Hooptedoodle

Here’s a nice article from the New York Times on things to avoid when writing.


Quick summary:

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ”said” . . .
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  6. Never use the words ”suddenly” or ”all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
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The Nearest Stars

I enjoy sites like Space.com. Fluffy but fun with enough stuff to hold my attention. It has things like this that inspire story ideas.

Infographic: The nearest stars, their distances in light-years, spectral types and known planets.

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

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10 Tips for Promoting Your Book

I ran across this article and thought it worth sharing.


The synopsis is –

  1. Quality cover
  2. Book competitions
  3. Distribute bookmarks
  4. Use Amazon to its fullest extent – including author bio
  5. Get free book reviews
  6. Coffee mugs!
  7. Do a book trailer (short video)
  8. Social Media
  9. Quality Editing
  10. Posters for events

The post comes from Writers’ Village. It’s worth investigating.

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20 Writing Tips from Stephen King

The Master Himself at Work

Check out the entire article at Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that arenot the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

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Jim Butcher Videos

I found videos from the Space City Con featuring Jim Butcher discussing writing. This was, by far, the most informative session I’ve ever attended.

Part 1

Part 2

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The Long, Dark Tea Time of the Soul

It’s been over 30 days since I’ve written anything. Sadly, it isn’t because I don’t have things I can work on. It’s because I don’t have the will to plough into any of the three novels I have waiting on a second or third draft. Not sure when this drought will end but I hope it’s soon. The words want to be free.

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A Profitable Little War

World of Grey CoverSarge is a character in my latest novella, World of Grey. He starts out a determined hero on Terratech Colony 34 but devolves into a heartless mercenary. Throughout the Hellhounds series I hope to bring the reader into a character most would consider cold-blooded and vengeful. My hope is that you discover the hero within the layers of pain and sacrifice.

Here’s a quote from this year’s NaNoWriMo effort. I realize it’s as likely as any passage to fall to editor red but I like it since it gives the reader a glimpse into the prequel to World of Grey and Voice of Treason.

Somewhere in Terracorp office an accountant calculated that profits from a small conflict would raise revenue enough to cover the loss in productivity. A vice president of colonial affairs would realize a small bounce in his quarterly bottom line which, in turn, would raise his yearly bonus. Thus hundreds of fellow colonist died so a VP could afford that new, luxury ground car.

For the record, the accountant and VP are dead now. They’ll never find the bodies.

So the residents of Terra 34 were left to fight it out. There was an Earth general named Sherman that said war is cruelty. The crueler it is the sooner it’s over. Lucky me, someone on the other side read a history book.


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World of Grey Mobile App



One of my beta readers developed a cool little mobile application for a school project. Derek asked me rough out a plot then paid for some cool artwork from Tone Rodriguez. He hasn’t received the grade for the project but I’m betting it’s an A. You can find the current beta version of his at the following URL.


Here’s the intro to his game.

Its Your Choice Adventure

Welcome to the World of Grey: The Beginning.

World of Grey: The Beginning, WoG, is a simple SciFi text adventure based in the gritty World of Grey, created by R. Keith Athey. You choose your path thru the story like the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books of the 1980s. The shortest and most successful path follows the most likely choices the protagonist “Sarge” would make. Your reward for navigating the adventure successfully is a prequel experience that is a lead-in to the eBook World of Grey. Also, you’ll discover the full eBook that inspired this adventure at the end.

Take a moment and get to know the story characters and your team-mates. Tap the Meet the Crew button to see sketches of the main characters as imagined by comic artist Tone Rodriguez.

Or, just tap “Begin Adventure” to just jump in.

Once you’ve navigated the story, you will have the opportunity to start over with a clean slate and make other choices. If you are interested, you can also go straight to Smashwords where the complete eBook World of Grey resides and buy it for yourself.

Have fun!

Tone Rodriguez provided the artwork. He’s is a remarkable artist most famously known for his work on The Simpsons, Futurama, and my favorite, The Snake Plisken Chronicles. Tone spent an hour and a half working on these sketches and inked them as well.

Your truly wrote World of Grey. It is available on most eBook distributors (see sidebar).

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World of Grey Reviews

World of Grey CoverIf you support Indie authors, please remember to leave a review of their work on your eBook distributor. It means a lot when a reader takes the time to leave their thoughts. These reviews for World of Grey made my week.

From Amazon:

Strong voice, fun characters and a nicely frantic plot unite in this punchy science-fiction novella. Sarge and his squad are mercenaries’ mercenaries, the kind of people you send in when you really don’t care who in the area lives or dies, so long as the job gets done. This time, the assignment is to go fetch an archaeological discovery. He’s expecting things to go to hell, and they do — but having got there, they keep going. It’s great fun, with plenty of charm, nicely differentiated characters, lots of twists and turns, and a dash of Lovecraftian goodness.

And another

An intriguing and energizing blend of comfortably nostalgiac and excitingly fresh elements gives this novella a unique and very satisfying feel. If I had to choose just one word to describe the experience it provides, that word would be “FUN”. The author is a master at crafting well-drawn characters and wittily engaging dialogue, and along the way treats us to a skillful build and release of tension. R.K. Athey steadily ratchets up the intensity as Sarge, a main character we can’t help but fall in love with, finds himself in one page-turning predicament after another. The rollicking sci-fi adventure builds to a rousing climax and deeply satisfying finale, leaving the reader eagerly hoping that this masterfully crafted thrill ride of a story is only the first of many to come. This riveting, incredibly entertaining work is, in the words of good ol’ Sarge, a thing of beauty. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

From iTunes

I definitely liked Athey’s first series, “New Moon Murders” and this new story was no exception to his wonderful writing trend. Keep’em coming!!!

From Smashwords

I’ll keep this short. This is a high action combat focused science fiction adventure that rocked! Loved every page and wanted more.

Thanks to everyone that took a few minutes to write a review. You folks are awesome.

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Stephen King on Short Story Writing

Another video I stumbled upon. Stephen is a master of the craft and it’s always a pleasure to hear him speak.

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