Category: Writing Advice

Happy New Year – Coming back from burnout

Hi.  Long time no write.
When Stuart asked us all to write a blog about the New Year and share advice, the only thing I could think of was ‘why would anyone care what I had to say, it’s not as if I’ve written in the last year.  Between Uni, my adult children, my own illness, and all of the other stuff I’m doing, and honestly, I don’t think horror readers would care about what I’m doing with infosec’.  And then I realized, you just might, because one of the things I did this year, finally found my way back from burnout.

Burnout city, population….variable?

The last few years are probably the sort of years many can relate to though, possibly not all in one burst.  In the last three years, since my last fiction book was published, I’ve had to close parts of my company, discovered that my mental health is anything but straightforward, and actually, probably the weirdest combination known to man (aspie+a form of issues with language processing that goes the other way from normal (fussiness about definition to the point of pedantry, CPTSD and bipolar disorder.  I’m just a bundle of fun 🙂 ), and I’ve been doing therapy to train me out of my automatic reactions to upset and worry/fear/panic which has taken up a lot of my time.  I also got involved in the information security (Cyber-sec) community and started a degree.  And while I’ve always been involved in Nanowrimo, this year was actually really quite nice, because by November, the stories were whispering again!  Admittedly, the stories had to, we ended up with so much more going on in our world (the word three kidneys and my son feature quite prominently, to be honest), so my time is spent, most of the time, in waiting rooms, and I’m learning my way around an Android tablet, and actually, finding joy in my writing.

And that’s what hit me the hardest.  For so long, I’ve worked very hard to ‘work’ at my writing.  It’s been a chore and often ends up being something I avoid. I commit to stuff, and then end up being overwhelmed, and then get into a loop, and I finally learned this year how to avoid that.

My three tips for the New Year

So, with that in mind, here are my three tips for the New Year, and new decade.

  1. Self-care is not a bad word, and neither is no: I’m not very good at saying no, and I’m even worse at knowing when to stop, and it’s a very common thing in creatives.  So…while you’re slogging it at everything else, remember it’s ok to say no, and make time for yourself.
  2. Write every day – edit when you’re happy – this might seem a bit of a weird one, but I’m pretty sure that if I just write and not worry about it, I’ll find it far easier to edit when I feel less pressure over it.  I’m not saying ignore deadlines – far from it. But I am saying that editing isn’t something I always need to be in the mindset for and honestly, that’s ok.
  3. Read, read, read.  My Goodreads listing, which doesn’t include most audiobooks I listened to, has me at 120+ books. I’m really delighted with that because reading was hard this year.  And so, I’m upping my goal.  I’m doing 150 next year.  I’ll be reviewing some on Netgalley (and maybe bringing horror ones over here), and working on other books as time permits.

Did I say threePhoenix Kai?  Well, here’s a bonus.  If you’re really looking to give yourself a kick in the pants, shoot for the moon.  Make a big pledge, and make it in front of as many people as possible. So.  Gulp.  Here’s mine.
I’m going to write a million words, I’m going to publish at least 12 books and 8 novellas.  I’m doing some boxed sets and anthologies and entering as many short story projects as catch my attention.  I’m taking this year, and beginning this decade and I’m hoping to do it and do my degree, but if I don’t, that’s ok.  I’m going for it, but it’s a lofty goal, so though I’m sharing it loudly, if I miss, I’ll have things to talk about.

What are your plans for the new year, and are you coming off burnout, or trying to avoid it (I’ll write about that later in the year).  Whatever it is, good luck, and I hope you keep visiting the site for markets, advice, and information.


Patrick Freivald “On Writing Action Scenes”


Have you ever read an action scene that makes you want to take a nap? Ever read one that blows your socks off?

Compared to the written word, action in movies is easy—tight and long shots, frenetic shaky-cam and long close-ups on agonized (or ecstatic) faces, manipulation of time through slow-mo or fast-mo…an action scene flashes from detail to detail in order to maximize the emotional impact of every….

Oh, wait, that’s not so different. In movies and in written stories you want to “show not tell” the action, and it doesn’t much matter whether the scene is on a screen or projected directly into the brain via the written word.

If you study the action sequences of thriller writers such as Larry Correia, Jonathan Maberry, Dean Koontz, and Lee Child, you’ll find the same elements used in film. I had the great fortune of working with Joe McKinney on a graphic novella for Dark Discoveries Magazine, and he did me the unintentional but enormous favor of asking the same question over and over again: what’s the emotional impact? You don’t have to describe the impact, and during action it’s usually better if you don’t—but if it happens on the page, it has to matter to the characters in one way or another.

Action scenes have to matter. They have to flow, from one vignette to another, from long sentences to short, from jagged, repeated rhythms to drawn-out, languorous blood-spatter. Cut. Slice. Vary your sentence length. Make grammar and punctuation serve the effect you’re trying to achieve, and break the rules with enthusiasm if you need to.

Use short paragraphs.

Draw out important details with rolling sentences almost out of place in the visceral action. But don’t obsess so much on one little detail at the expense of moving things along; the slo-mo shots in The Matrix worked, but those utterly forgettable action movies that show the same kung-fu move from five different angles and three different speeds are, well, they’re downright forgettable.

Watch your pacing, especially when it comes to dialogue in the middle of an action sequence.

“Bob, what are you doing?”

“Oh, you know. Just smothering the action in its sleep by sidetracking into this monologue, which I really shouldn’t have time for what with all the shooting going on. But you know, sometimes you just have to get a message out to the reader, or show some characterization, and if the opportunity presents itself, then—” BLAM. Flop.

Sorry, Bob. We’ve got good stuff to read.


Patrick_Author_PhotoBy day, Patrick Freivald is an author, high school teacher (physics, robotics, American Sign Language), and beekeeper. He lives in Western New York with his beautiful wife, two birds, three dogs, too many cats, and several million stinging insects. A member of the HWA and ITW, he’s always had a soft spot for slavering monsters of all kinds.

He is the three-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author of Twice Shy, Special Dead, Blood List (with his twin brother Phil), Jade Sky, and Black Tide, as well as the novella Love Bites, a growing legion of short stories, and the Jade Sky graphic novella (with Joe McKinney) for Dark Discoveries magazine. There will be more.