Creating Lasting Changes for Your Writing Career

How I know The Write Approach is a podcast that can create both immediate and lasting changes for your writing career — that’s what it has done for me.

Here are two examples of authors who have talked about their own writing practices, which led to me implementing their ideas.

Crossover Characters with Kevin Tumlinson

In Ep. 6, Kevin Tumlinson talked about crossing over characters from one series to another to drive readers across different properties and increase sales.

I did this in Casual Business with Fairies for a character from The Zauberi Chronicles. I thought it would be a quick cameo, but the character ended up sticking around and making real contributions to the story.

Driving Reader Interest with David Ellis

In Ep. 5, David Ellis talked about keeping reader interest/engagement at the forefront of the way he structures his books. He does this in part with shorter chapters, which he learned from co-writing with James Patterson.

I’m now doing this in my novels. Most of the chapters in Casual Business with Fairies ranged from 1200-1500 words. I’m three chapters into my fifth novel and am using the same chapter-length approach.

You can find episodes of The Write Approach on your favorite podcast app, at our website (https://writeapproachpod.com/), or on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@thewriteapproach).

Casual Business with Fairies: The Novel I Didn’t Expect to Write

I never know where the inspiration for stories is going to come from. My debut novel, Vulcan Rising (link), arose out of a really strange dream and a couple of peculiar interactions with my five year old. One of my short stories, “The Murder Tree” (link) opened with a line that I derived from an off-hand remark made by the host of a podcast I was listening to.

But this story had a different path. In the Spring of 2022, I was involved in a conversation with several other parents about the tooth fairy and how everyone handles it. The group is rather eclectic, and the responses were diverse. During the discussion, one of parents made a statement about why they don’t participate in the tooth fairy myth: “We don’t do casual business with fairies.”

Casual Business with Fairies Coming May 2, 2023 Not all fairytales end with happily ever after

That sentence lodged itself in my brain, and out of it, this novel was born. But this is not the novel I intended to write.

After I wrote Forging Bonds (link), which completed the first trilogy of The Zauberi Chronicles series, I had planned to switch tracks. There was a horror story I wanted to write, but after outlining it and writing a chapter or two, I found it difficult to engage with. This may be hard to believe, but it was just too grim of a story. The really disconcerting part is that the story is based on a nightmare I woke up from one night.

When the horror story didn’t work out, I started outlining a murder mystery novel … also based on a dream I had. But for whatever reason, the muse wasn’t having it.

Next, I had in mind that I would finish one of the novels I had abandoned before starting Vulcan Rising. But Casual Business with Fairies (link) latched onto me like a spider monkey. Even though I had only the vaguest of ideas for a premise, I began to write. Five thousand words into the story, I still had no idea what it would become, but I kept the faith that I would figure it out. I had been in a similar position with my second novel, Seeking Sanctuary, and I would work my way out of it again.

Casual Business with Fairies surprised me at every turn. Each time I thought I had the story and characters figured out, things went a different direction. It was both exhilarating and frustrating. But in the end, I think it became the book that it was meant to be. Most of all, I hope it’s a story that you enjoy.

Books I Read in 2022

Here’s a broadly-applicable statement — 2022 was a mixed bag. It’s true of the books I read too. Going back to 2003 when I first started keeping up with this, I’ve used a 4-star rating system that is entirely subjective. Here’s a list of the books I read in 2022 and the rating I assigned to each.

Fiction

  • Brandon Sanderson, Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archives), 3 stars
  • Stephen King, Billy Summers, 3.5 stars
  • Gillian Flynn, Dark Places, 3 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, Edgedancer, 3 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law (Mistborn), 3.5 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, Shadows of Self (Mistborn), 3.5 stars
  • Bonnie Kistler, The Cage, 3 stars
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn), 3.5 stars
  • Stephen King, The Outsider, 3 stars
  • Peter Straub, If You Could See Me Now, 2.5 stars
  • Stephen King, Elevation, 3.5 stars
  • Stephen King, The Wind Through the Key Hole (The Dark Tower), 3.5 stars
  • Michael Crichton, Dragon Teeth, 3.5 stars
  • Brian Panowich, Like Lions, 3.5 stars
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility, 3.5 stars
  • James S. A. Corey, Leviathon Wakes (The Expanse), 4 stars
  • Michael Crichton, Next, 3 stars
  • John Scalzi, The Kaiju Preservation Society, 3.5 stars
  • James S. A. Corey, Caliban’s War (The Expanse), 4 stars
  • Martha Wells, All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries), 4 stars
  • Martha Wells, Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries), 4 stars
  • Martha Wells, Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries), 3.5 stars

Non-Fiction

  • James Scott Bell, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, 3 stars
  • Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights, 3 stars
  • Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers, 3 stars
  • Dean Wesley Smith, How to Write a Novel in Half a Month, 2.5 stars
  • Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven, 3.5 stars
  • Jennifer Hilt, Horror Trope Thesaurus, 3 stars

Books I Wrote

I also published three books in 2022. I’d be remiss not to include those in the list as well. I certainly read them (several times) before they entered the world. I will refrain from rating them though. That’s a bridge too far, even for me.

  • J. W. Judge, Seeking Sanctuary (The Zauberi Chronicles, Book 2) (link)
  • J. W. Judge, Forging Bonds (The Zauberi Chronicles, Book 3) (link)
  • J. W. Judge, Write Your Novel One Day at a Time: How to Write a Novel While Having a Career, a Family, and a Life (link)

New Year, New Novel

With Casual Business with Fairies set for pre-order and having sent advance copies out to beta readers, it’s time to start on a new project. My fifth novel is going to be a murder-mystery thriller set on a deserted island where a small group of people ends up following a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico. Think of it as Cast Away meets Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. As with so many other stories I’ve written, this one too is inspired by a dream that I had.

Winding down the Year, Revving Up to Finish a Novel

With November in the books, it’s time to look back at how the month treated me. I penned 14,625 words in Novel No. 4. That put me at 142,336 words for the year and within 8 chapters of finishing my work in progress. So unless the wheels really come off the tracks, I fully expect to hit 150,000 words and finish the first draft of Novel No. 4 by the end of 2022. I’ll admit to being pretty pumped about that.

I also published a new book in November: Write Your Novel One Day at a Time: How to Write a Novel While Having a Career, a Family, and a Life. Here’s its first review:

In other news, November was an exciting month on The Write Approach. We added 5 new podcast episodes to the library. We doubled our downloads on podcast apps and tripled our views on YouTube. Much thanks to all our listeners and guests! Go check out our newest episodes.

Mid-November Writing Update

11/19. I woke of this morning and realized that while I’m at the beginning of Act 3 of Novel No. 4, the only part of the rest of the book that I had any idea about was the climax. I didn’t know how we were going to get there. So I spent the first first hour of my day plotting out the rest of the novel. And I really like how the pieces have come together.

With that part done, I’m hopeful that I can type out the rest of the story over the next six weeks and finish it before the end of the year. That has been my goal for a while, but once things at work got so chaotic in August and September, I was uncertain whether I’d be able to do that. So now, I guess we’ll see.

For the November update: I’ve written more than 9,000 words this month, which is more than I wrote that I wrote in all of August and just shy of my total for September. As of this morning my word count total for the year is 136,766. If I do finish, Novel No. 4 in 2022, that may put me over 150,000 words for the year. It will be a close call.

Learning from Other Writers

Learning from other authors matters. Here are three specific examples of how other writers have had a direct impact on my fourth novel.

1) I’ve given my chapters names (in addition to numbers) because of advice from Lisa M. Lilly Author about drawing readers in from the Table of Contents.

2) I’ve crossed over a character from another series because of my conversation with Kevin Tumlinson on The Write Approach podcast (Ep. 6).

3) And I’ve focused on keeping my chapters shorter — most are between 1200-1500 words — as a result of my conversation with David Ellis about pacing and keeping reader interest. (The Write Approach, Ep. 5).

Big Day Today!

Lots of things going on today, so let’s just start at the top.

New Book!

My new book, Write Your Novel One Day at a Time, released today. I hope it lands in the hands of a lot of would-be writers because I think it’s a great tool. Here’s a synopsis:

You’ve always had the ideas for your novel. Now, you can do the work of writing it.

Write Your Novel One Day at a Time will help develop the processes to do the creative work of writing your novel. I will show you the power of consistency by giving you a look at my daily word counts and journal entries through the six-month endeavor of writing my third novel while working my day-job as a commercial litigator and raising a young family.

You can pick it up wherever you like to buy your books online.

New Podcast Episode!

Episode 9 of The Write Approach is out today. Barbara Hinske and I pick up from a prior episode in talking about providing description through dialogue and character actions, rather than having big blocks of text that people want to skim.

Writing Update!

With October behind us, here’s what it looked like for me. I wrote 12,432 words, which brought me to 127,711 for the year.

I’ve written about 43,000 words of Casual Business with Fairies. For most of the book, it’s been trending shorter than the first three novels, but there’s SO MUCH that still needs to happen. Act 3 may end up accounting for more than a quarter of the book that it usually occupies. It’s a peculiar position to be in to have written 2/3 of a novel and still have so much up in the air.

Something You Need to Know (Flash Fiction)

As has so frequently been the case with my creative writing, a dream has inspired a new story. The opening of this flash fiction story occurred in a dream, but I woke up in the middle of it, so I had to guess at how this would have played out. Hope you enjoy.

There's Something You Need to Know (Flash Fiction)

As we walked out of the restaurant, Amber said, “I guess since we’re dating now, there’s something you need to know.”

Goose pimples prickled my skin. That sounds ominous. “Okay.”

She stopped on the sidewalk, and I stopped alongside her. “I like to go to the club and drink every night.”

Not exactly healthy, but not as bad as she’d made it sound. “Mm-hmm.”

“Except I can’t afford to buy my own drinks, so … you know.”

I either couldn’t follow that train or didn’t want to. “I don’t know.”

“Guys buy me drinks.”

“Why would they do that? I mean I know why, but what prompts them?” The charm and the coy smile and the mini-dress were all the ‘why’ anybody needed. I knew that. But still you didn’t buy drinks for every hot girl at the club. That’s a good way to go broke. Or maybe you did? I don’t know. I’d never been. And it’s not how we’d met.

“I … uh … chat with them.”

Everything was coming apart. Dinner had been so nice. But if this were the dessert course, it was a plate of bile. “To be clear, the nights that we’re not together, you’ll be at the club flirting with guys so they’ll buy you drinks?”

“It’s not a big deal. I get to drink some expensive cocktails. And they get to go home a little later and wonder why they didn’t close the deal.” She left a little space for the rebuttal to breathe before dropping the other shoe. “Some of them get a little handsy sometimes, but that’s about it.”

“Nice. So you’re flirting and getting felt up.”

“Hey, how ‘bout you get off my—” she laughed sharply and covered her mouth as a family with several small children walked by.

Red splotches peeked out from under the collar of my shirt. It was the telltale sign that I was getting angry. A giveaway since youth. “Don’t you think you should have told me this before now?”

“No, I don’t. It wasn’t your business until now. And frankly, I’m not real sure it’s your business now.”

This wasn’t going to work. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who’d read it that way. Amber pulled her phone out of her clutch.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting an Uber.”

“Come on. I’ll take you back to your place.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m not going back to my place.”

It took a minute for the inference to sink in. I was being dense.

“Ah.”

She flicked her eyes up from her phone to me just to see how salty that little word was.

“I can wait with you until your ride gets here,” I offered.

“Umm, hard pass. That’d be super awkward.”

The anger must have been wearing off. I tried but failed to swallow a laugh at how obviously true that was. Inappropriate laughter was a default mechanism in stressful situations. It hand landed me in hot water countless times.

My face must have been a jumble of messy expressions. The laugh broke the tension like a spell. One side of her mouth curled up in a smile.

I turned to walk to my truck. There wasn’t anything left to say. Crap. Yes, there was. I pivoted to face her again. She was scrolling on her phone. “Umm. What about chem lab?”

She looked up, her eyes a little wider than before. Neither of us considered how that would go if this didn’t work out. She shook her head. “We’ll figure it out. But not right now.”

“Fair enough.”