The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

Publisher: Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake guy")
Motto: "A Vision for Excellence"
Date: November 5, 2013
Issue: Volume 9, Number 11
Personal Site:
Circulation: 6750 writers, each of them creating a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
"Fiction Writing = Organization + Craft + Marketing"

What's in This Issue

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine! 
2) OrganizationEat Move Sleep
3) CraftYour Brain is Wired for Story
4) MarketingWhy You Need Peers
5) What's New At 
6) Randy Recommends . . .
7) Steal This E-zine! 
8) Reprint Rights

1) Welcome to the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine!

Those of you who have joined in the past month (504 of you signed up in October), welcome to my e-zine!
If you missed a back issue, remember that all previous issues are archived on my web site at:


2) Organization: Eat Move Sleep


If you’re human, then you aren’t just a mind. You have a body that houses your mind.


Your mind works better when you take care of the body containing it. 


Your writing will be better if you take care of your body.


I recently read the best-selling book, EAT MOVE SLEEP, by Tom Rath. When he was 16, Tom learned that he had a tumor in his left eye. The tumor got bigger and eventually took the vision in that eye.


That was bad, but the worse news was that Tom has a rare genetic disorder that keeps his body from suppressing tumors. Which means he’s fighting an uphill battle to stay healthy.


That has forced Tom to learn as much as possible about his health.


What he’s learned is that small choices matter. Lots of small choices. None of them seem to be a big deal. But they add up to a big deal. 


EAT MOVE SLEEP summarizes what he’s learned.


I’m a bit hesitant to review this book, because opinions on diet, fitness, and health vary wildly. What one person “knows” to be absolute truth, somebody else “knows” is absolute balderdash.


So let’s be clear here that in this article, I’m just summarizing what Tom says in his book. He’s done a bunch of research. He’s tried to put it all in simple terms. Some parts of his book are bound to be wrong. I expect that most of what he says is close to the truth. 


The basic idea of the book is that if you want to be healthier, you can help yourself massively by eating right. By sleeping right. And by moving more—not just more exercise, but more ordinary physical activity.


It’s a short book, made up of many snippets that you can read quickly. There are thirty chapters, each with three things you can do to live your life better. To feel better. To be more productive. To enjoy life more.


If you read one chapter every day and make just a few changes each day, in a month, those can add up to a massive improvement in your life.


Here are a few of the snippets you’ll find in EAT MOVE SLEEP.


Sitting Is Lethal


A recent study showed that every hour of TV you watch reduces your life expectancy as much as smoking two cigarettes—22 minutes. 


It’s not the TV that’s deadly, though. It’s the fact that almost everybody watches TV while sitting down. Inactivity kills you.


If you’re going to watch TV, do it while standing or exercising.


I spend a lot of time in front of a computer and I had heard about the hazards of sitting awhile back, long before I got Tom’s book. A few months ago, I got an attachment to let me easily switch my desk to a standing desk.


So now I split my time at the desk between sitting and standing. I’m standing right now as I write this. When I’m sitting, I set a timer to remind me to get up and do a little exercise every half hour. 


Tom recommends that for every twenty minutes of sitting, you get up and move around for two minutes. This helps keep your blood sugar at reasonable levels.


Coffee is Good for You


When I was a kid, I was taught that coffee is bad for you. Very bad. Horrible. All that caffeine, you know. So I’ve never drunk coffee in my life. 


But Tom says that coffee isn’t bad for you—as long as it’s just plain coffee. Black coffee is a net gain for your health. What’s bad for you is the sugar and cream that most people add to make it drinkable.


So go ahead and drink coffee. But drink it black.


The same goes for tea. Drink it straight, without the sugar.


I haven’t started drinking coffee yet. But I might.


Not All Calories Are Created Equal 


I’m not somebody who worries about calories, thanks to some lucky genes that keep me ridiculously slim. But I’ve always assumed that in the grand accounting scheme for weight gain or loss, calories were the final word. 


But Tom says that this is wrong. 


A calorie of refined carbs will fatten you up more than a calorie of protein or a calorie of vegetables or a calorie of nuts.


Refined carbs—bread, chips, rice, crackers, pasta—will spike your blood sugar and then get quickly converted into body fat. Refined carbs are cheap, convenient, and tasty. But they’ll put weight on you.


Fruits, nuts, vegetables, and protein are better for you if you’re playing the weight-loss game.


For various reasons, I don’t eat much of the worst kinds of refined carbs. But I do eat quite a lot of carbs, and apparently more than is good for me. So I’m taking steps to reduce them.



My working assumption is that readers of my e-zine are intelligent and can make their own decisions on health, diet, and fitness. It’s not my job to tell anyone how to live their life.


My job is to share information on how to be a better writer. Writing is a sedentary job, and that’s a hazard for all of us. I hear all the time from writer friends having physical problems because of their writing. So this is important stuff.


Some of you are already extremely well-informed on all this, and you don’t need Tom’s book to tell you what you already know. 


But others of you may be looking for a source of information that gets to the point, keeps things simple, and makes recommendations you can understand. For you, EAT MOVE SLEEP might be just the ticket.


You can learn more about EAT MOVE SLEEP on the Amazon page.


Or you can check the Barnes & Noble page.


May you live a long, healthy, and productive life. And write lots of great fiction for the rest of us to enjoy.




3) Craft: Your Brain is Wired for Story

I recently heard a talk by Lisa Cron about how humans are “wired for story.” It was a terrific talk, and midway through it, I hopped onto Amazon and bought Lisa’s book, WIRED FOR STORY.


Does it matter if humans are “wired for story?”


Sure it does. If you understand why humans desperately need story, you’ll be a better writer.


Story gives us a chemical buzz. Story lets us try out somebody else’s life without any risk. Story is our preferred way to learn things. 


I met Lisa after her talk and we got into one of those intense conversations that lasts an hour but feels like five minutes. We think alike on a lot of things, but she knows way more about the neuroscience of story than I do.


I’ve now finished reading WIRED FOR STORY, and I found plenty of gold there. Here are a few of the nuggets I learned, which you can apply to your fiction writing:


Your Brain Likes the Big Picture 


Imagine you’re driving down a busy street. Your eyes and ears are taking in enormous amounts of data each second. The layout of all the cars around you, their shifting patterns, the traffic lights. The sky, the sun, the weather. Cars honking, road noise, the idiot guy on the radio. Your speedometer, fuel gauge, temperature gauge. If it’s raining, millions of water drops are streaming at you, and your windshield wipers are flitting across your field of vision every second. A kid is riding his bike out into the street right in front of your car.


With no effort at all, your brain filters out all the unimportant stuff. 


You spot the kid and you jam on the brakes.


How did that happen?


Your brain is wired to care about the important stuff. The big picture. 


In real life, your brain takes in about 11 million bits of data per second and passes on to your conscious mind about 40 bits per second.


Some writers worry about how to paint a picture that their reader can see, complete with mountains of detail. Because that’s “real life.”




In your story, your reader is expecting that you have filtered out all the useless information. Your reader expects that anything she reads is important to the story.


Your job as an author is to highlight the kid on the bike. To filter out the other cars, the traffic lights, the weather, the road noise, the radio jerk, the dashboard. 


All those minor things will get a sentence or two, just to set the context. The kid gets half a page.


Story isn’t about the details. 


Story is about what matters.


Focus on what matters, and your story will feel more real than if you try to focus on “everything.” Which feels to the reader like focusing on “nothing.”


Your Brain Thinks Concretely, Not Abstractly 


Picture this scenario:


You’re in great danger and you have to fight your adversary or else face grave consequences.


Can you see that in your mind’s eye? 


Probably not. “Danger” could be anything—a mugger, a tornado, a submarine falling out of a third-floor window. 


“Danger” is abstract. You can’t picture “danger.” You can picture a mugger, because that’s concrete. So is a tornado. So is a submarine.


Likewise, “fight” is abstract. So is “adversary.” So is “grave consequences.”


I’ve asked your brain to do something it can’t possibly do—picture the abstract.


Your brain can only picture concrete things.


So let’s try again. Picture this scenario:


You’re in a wilderness area and you’re attacked by a wild beast. You have a weapon and you must use it to neutralize your enemy.


How was that? Could you visualize it?


You could, possibly, but only if you filled in a lot of gaps. 


Is that “wilderness” a desert, a jungle, or an arctic ice floe?


Is that “wild beast” a tiger, a T-rex, or a tarantula?


Is that “weapon” a stick, a machete, or an Uzi?


Does “neutralize” mean to cripple, to kill, or to scare away?


Again, the scenario I’ve asked you to visualize is abstract, when your brain wanted something concrete.


One more try. Picture this scenario:


You’re walking through a steaming Indian jungle at noon and a Bengal tiger comes charging toward you. You’ve got a loaded rifle, and you have half a second to kill the tiger.


Can you see that in your mind’s eye? 


Of course you can. Because everything is now concrete. The jungle. The tiger. The rifle. The ticking clock. The only way of salvation.


Your brain is wired to imagine concrete things. Your brain is not wired to imagine abstract things. 


When writing fiction, use concrete nouns and verbs. Leave the abstract stuff to your Philosophy 101 professor.


Your Brain Believes in Cause and Effect 


You are locked in a cage with Ricky Headmasher, the world heavyweight champion in mixed martial arts. The rules today are that they won’t open the cage until one of you is unconscious. Or both of you. 


Ricky starts falling, right after you land a lucky kick to his head, but not before he has punched you in the eye, which happened right after you lunged at him in a feint, after which he ducked and threw a wicked left at your head, which you then tried to twist away from but failed. The cage opens after Ricky hits the canvas and you stomp on his face, just before Ricky’s eyes roll back and his muscles turn to spaghetti.


A rousing bit of action, no?


What? No? Seriously? You didn’t quite follow that?


You probably could follow it if you tried hard enough. You’re smart enough to make a list of things that happened and then sort them to see which came first.


But you’d hate that. Your brain is wired to expect cause and effect. The cause comes first, then the effect. That effect then becomes the cause for some other effect. And so on.


Your brain is not wired to see a mishmash of effects and causes all out of order.


Your brain is not wired to see “Ricky starts falling just after you land a lucky kick to his head.” Because in that sentence, the effect is written first, and then the cause.


Your brain wants to see you land that kick and then see Ricky start his epic fall.


When you’re writing fiction, your reader expects to see causes and effects. In that order. Your reader hates to see effects that have no causes. Your reader is puzzled to see causes that don’t lead to effects.


Make your reader happy. Work with her brain the way it’s wired.



Focus your reader on the big picture. Show her concrete images. Show her cause and effect.


These are three ideas out of a dozen that you’ll find in WIRED FOR STORY, by Lisa Cron.


If you want to learn the rest, with a whole lot more detail, check out her book. 


You can get it on Amazon.


You can also get it on Barnes & Noble.




4) Marketing: Why You Need Peers


I’ve had a busy fall, going to three writing conferences over an eleven-week span. 


The most recent conference was the Ninc Conference, which met this year in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 


To go to this conference, you have to be a member of Ninc (Novelists, Inc.), which means you have to be a multi-published novelist with a certain level of success.


I went to the conference without any expectations of what I’d learn or who I’d meet. I figured that serendipity is my friend, and I turned out to be right. 


The conference was fantastic, and I came home with a bunch of new friends and new ideas. I taught a workshop on marketing, and I gather that I gave out a ton of new ideas to the writers who sat in on it.


Ninc is an organization of my peers—writers with roughly the same level of success as I have.


And it struck me that a writer who has no peers is an impoverished writer. 


No matter what level you’re writing at, you need other writers at about your same level, facing the same problems you’re facing.


You need people you can learn from. You need people you can teach. 


Gurus Are Not Enough 


It’s not enough to have gurus who are at a much higher level than you. Yes, those are great. I’m lucky to have several friends who are NY Times best-selling authors. I read certain major marketing experts and even know one of them moderately well. 


But gurus become gurus by being exceptionally skilled, which means they’re exceptionally busy, which means they just don’t have time for everybody who wants a piece of their time. 


And everybody wants a piece of a guru’s time. Go ahead and get in line, but it can be a long wait.


Disciples Are Not Enough 


It’s also not enough to have a circle of disciples. Yes, those are essential. When you teach what you know to beginners, you benefit more than they do because you have to make things simple. You have to understand what you’re teaching incredibly well or you just can’t teach it.


But you can’t learn much from your disciples. You can learn from yourself by simplifying the things you know. But you generally won’t learn anything new.


You Need Peers 


Unlike your gurus, your peers have plenty of time for you. And you have plenty of time for them. 


Unlike your disciples, your peers know things you don’t, and they’ll be happy to teach you.


Your peers are there to advise you, and to get advice from you.


Your peers are there to encourage you, and get encouragement from you.


Your peers are there to hug you, and get hugs from you. 


Who Are Your Peers? 


Take a minute right now and think about who your peers are. 


To help you get your gears turning, I’ll tell you about mine. 


I belong to two separate organizations, each of which has a few hundred multi-published authors. Each has an e-mail loop that gets a lot of daily traffic. Each has an annual conference or retreat where we can get together in person. I don’t know all of the people in either group (I don’t even know most of them). But I know some of them extremely well. They’re a huge pool of knowledge in every imaginable area.


I have a “mastermind” group of writers interested in marketing. This group has twelve people in it, and we all have major strengths and major weaknesses. We meet frequently online via Google Plus video chats and talk about specific issues in our marketing. At conferences, we often hang out at the bar and swap ideas. We sometimes do weekend retreats to do intensive mutual coaching.


I have a group of about ten close writer friends. We’re there for emotional support, more than for any professional reason. If something great happens or something horrible, they’re the ones who hear first. 


I have a critique group that meets in person once a month. We bring whatever we’re working on and get it critiqued. We chat some, but the main goal is to get a reality check on our writing.


Now back to you. If you’re brand new in writing, you may not have many peers. Don’t worry. You’ll find plenty over the course of your life. You’ll meet them at conferences or online or wherever.


Hang onto them. You’ll develop your skills together. You’ll suffer rejection together. You’ll celebrate getting published together. You’ll live your whole writing life together, with all its ups and downs. You’ll speak at some of their funerals. Some of them will speak at yours.


Your writing peers will be among the very most important people in your life. Value them. Be of value to them.


This is supposed to be a column about marketing. So what do peers have to do with marketing your work?


Nothing maybe. Or maybe everything. But it really doesn’t matter. Writing is only partly about the money. 


Your peers will help you write better. And if you write well, the money will follow, eventually.


But even if you never write well enough to make much money, your life will be infinitely better if you have peers.


Go get ‘em.




5) What's New At


Writing Schedule

I’m currently at work on my next novel, Triple Cross, which is something of a follow-on to the one I released in June, Double Vision. It's not a sequel, but it's in the same story world. In Triple Cross, a likable rogue of a con man falls in love with the wife of the Baptist minister he’s ripping off for nine million dollars. But the “minister” is actually an FBI agent running a sting, and the “wife” is actually an actress hired to be the perfect bait for our con man.


This may be the most complex storyline I’ve ever written. Everybody’s lying to everybody. The sting team members are lying to each other. The con man is lying to his partner. I’ve finished the major revisions and am now polishing it up. The trick for me is to keep track of the truth in the blizzard of lies. 

Teaching Schedule

I normally teach at four to six writing conferences per year. In 2014, it looks like I’ll be attending five conferences, and I think that’ll be my limit for the year.


Why don't I teach at more conferences? Because teaching is an incredibly demanding blood sport and it sucks a huge amount of energy out of my tiny brain. I prefer to put my absolute best into a few locations than to muddle through at many.


Here’s what my calendar shows me for 2014:

  • In February, I’ll be teaching six workshops at the Writing for the Soul conference in Colorado Springs. Details are here.
  • In April, I’ll be teaching at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference in central California. Details are here.
  • In August, I’ll be teaching at the Oregon Christian Writer’s conference in Portland. No details yet.
  • In September, I’ll be teaching at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in St. Louis. No details yet.
  • In October, I’ll be attending the Novelists, Inc. Conference in St. Pete, Florida. No details yet.


If you'd like me to teach at your conference in 2015 or beyond, email me to find out how outrageously expensive I am.


If you'd just like to hear me teach, I have a number of recordings and e-books that are outrageously cheap. Details on the products page of my web site.

6) Randy Recommends . . . 

I don't take paid ads for this e-zine. I do, however, recommend people I like.
I'm a huge fan of Margie Lawson's courses, both the ones she teaches in person and the ones she sells on her web site at
Margie is a psychologist who applies what she knows about human psychology to writing fiction. I believe her material is brilliant. Check her out on her web site!
I've also become a fan of Thomas Umstattd's terrific uncommon-sense thoughts on internet marketing. You can read Thomas's blog at:
Thomas and his crew at AuthorMedia are the folks who reworked my web site recently, and I'm extremely happy with the results.
Please be aware that in this section I ONLY recommend folks who have never asked me to do so. Tragically, this means that if you ask me to list you here, I will be forced to say no. 

7) Steal This E-zine!

This E-zine is free, and I personally guarantee it's worth at least 343 times the price. I invite you to "steal" it, but only if you do it nicely . . .
Distasteful legal babble: This E-zine is copyright Randall Ingermanson, 2013.
Extremely tasteful postscript: Yes, you’re allowed to e-mail this E-zine to any fiction writer friends of yours who might benefit from it. 
Of course you should not forward this e-mail to people who don't write fiction. They won't care about it.
At the moment, there is one place to subscribe:

8) Reprint Rights

Permission is granted to use any of the articles in this e-zine in your own e-zine or web site, as long as you include the following 2-paragraph blurb with it:
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 6,700 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

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