New Story on WattPad!

Announcing a new story on WattPad–Rings of Saturn! Join Evie as she travels back in time in a race against the clock to try to save an entire city of people. This story updates on Fridays. Get started reading it today.

Writing Life

Where I Write

This guy looks about how stressed I’d be trying to write a short story or novel in public.

Where writers choose to work on their craft matters. I was in a Starbucks today, meeting someone to sell some crafting equipment. (I decided to stop crafting anything but stories and poems because everything else is just a distraction.) As I stood there, I observed people sitting and working on laptops and tablets. Most of them had headphones on. Most were tucked into some dark corner, ignoring everyone around them so they could concentrate. One guy was spread out over half the counter and glared at me when I sat down, like my mere presence was disruptive to his workspace.

I wondered why these people bothered to come to the coffee shop to work at all. Maybe their homes are noisy. Well, Starbucks was noisy–and with some construction going on outside, I hope their headphones were noise-cancelling. Maybe their homes are too distracting. But the comings and goings of a busy coffee shop would distract me.

There’ve been so many times people have suggested I go and work at a coffee shop, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not based on concern that I’ll seem pretentious–I don’t think I am pretentious and even if I seemed that way to others, it wouldn’t really affect me. It’s based on the fact that I don’t think I’d be as productive.

When I’m writing, especially fiction or poetry, any real-world distraction is detrimental to my focus, to my work. I’m usually searching my brain for the exact right word or playing out a scene in my head. The only place I can efficiently do this is closed up in my small bedroom. I go full-screen on my computer and ignore everything else if I really need to concentrate. For me, writing in public spaces is like inviting the public into my imagination while I try to sort out a story in there. It just doesn’t work for me.


Where do you write? If you’re not a writer, where do you work? If you work in an office, where would you prefer to work? Why?


Next Steps—Teaching the SAT

Today I gave an audition lesson at the Princeton Review. It had to be non-academic, so I went with self-defense basics, and I had to use board work, so I drew a stick figure and we discussed targets. The lesson was only five minutes, but it went well–I got into the next stage of the hiring process, which is training. I did receive some constructive criticism, which is great–it was good that I asked questions in the beginning of the lesson, but the critique pointed out where I could have asked the “students” questions throughout the lesson. This will be something to be mindful of during the training.

I’ll be doing some online training and two full days of in-person training. I’m not worried about the intensity of these days because I’m used to residency now, which is a whole week of intense days. Even before that, I did a geology field school program for a month–four weeks of intense learning days. I do wish these training sessions for the Princeton Review were in Connecticut instead of New York, but that’s okay–I’ll read on the train!


Under the Golden Cross

“Didn’t you kill any Turks today?”

Joseph looked down at his tunic, white with a red cross. The other man, large and looming, wore a dark splatter across his. A badge. “I carry the golden cross. I’m no killer.”

At dawn, Joe rode into battle. Pulled from his horse, he dropped the cross and plunged his knife into his attacker’s neck. Red sprayed across Joe’s tunic, dripped onto the cross in golden sand.

This piece of historical micro-fiction takes place during the Crusades, a topic I’ve always been interested in writing about–but I need to do much more research before even imagining writing a novel set against the backdrop of those wars.


Indirect Dialogue


I’ve been playing around with indirect dialogue lately, and I think I’m in love. To be honest, I hardly ever used this in the past, but now that I am using it, I notice a few things:

  • My stories are smoother
  • I can spend time showing where it counts
  • I don’t feel like I’m writing a play

Using indirect dialogue is like coming up from being under water and taking a breath. But before I get into discussing how it helped me achieve these three differences, there’s one thing you absolutely have to know:

What is indirect dialogue?

If you already know the answer, great! You’ll want to read this anyway because I’m going to refer to the examples later. If you don’t, no worries–I’ll get you up to speed.

I’m sure you’re used to seeing direct dialogue in a book or story. Direct dialogue might read like this:

“Mom, I want to go see a movie with my friends,” she said.

“What time does it get out?” Mom asked.


“That’s past your curfew.”

“Please? All my friends are going and I just aced that math test.”

“Oh, alright.”

Direct dialogue happens on the page like your reader is in the room (or whatever setting you’ve selected).

Indirect dialogue is reported after the fact, with just enough information to inform the reader of what they need to know, like this:

Mom agreed I could stay out later than curfew to see the movie with my friends because I aced my math test.

Do you see the difference? Great! Let’s move on to how incorporating indirect dialogue helped me improve my fiction.

Smoother Stories

In the example above, the direct dialogue takes up six lines. The indirect dialogue only takes up two lines. This helps my fiction move at the pace I want instead of being forced to plod along in dialogue that only serves one purpose.

That’s the key to writing dialogue–writing it directly requires that it perform multiple functions. Not only does it need to inform (and hopefully engage) the reader, but it should reveal something about the characters: personalities, motivations, fears, etc.

Indirect dialogue doesn’t have to do all of that. It just has to inform the reader. If you have a bit of dialogue that exists only to offer the reader info they need, consider making it indirect.

Also, the story flows better visually. Large swaths of dialogue were just weighing my work down. Now I try to combine indirect and direct dialogue so that I can get in and out of quotes quickly, and back to the story.

Space to Show–Where I Need It

I’ve written about showing vs. telling before. Showing takes up more space than telling, and it slows the pace of a story.

Sometimes, that’s what you want–to slow things down. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you want to slow the story, but not with dialogue.

Using indirect dialogue instead of always relying on direct dialogue means you have the space to show where it counts. Remember: Showing doesn’t need to happen throughout the story. It needs to happen where it’s important.

My Novel Is Not a Play

Plays are wonderful. I love watching them performed on stage, I love reading them, I love acting them out on the loft in my house when no one’s around. But my novel is not a play.

I don’t want it to feel like a play when I’m writing it. If I’m including play written scenes like Kathryn Davis does in her eloquent and wonderful book, Versailles, then that’s one thing–but if I’m not, it shouldn’t write like a play and it shouldn’t read like a play.

There’s more to a play than dialogue of course, and I completely admire playwrights. I think it must be difficult to convey everything that’s going on in dialogue and stage direction and no freedom to break into exposition.


What’s your favorite passage that includes indirect dialogue? If you write, do you like to use it? Why? If you don’t like to use it, how come? Discuss in comments!

Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt: Historical Micro-Fiction


I love historical fiction, and micro-fiction is fun to write. So today’s writing prompt is to write a work of historical micro-fiction. You can pick any historical time period, any place, any event. But here’s the tricky part: Don’t exceed 75 words. Have fun!


Persephone Acquiesced

So swift is summer season laid to rest

As August heat browns the fronds of deer fern

On cue, soft green to crimson colors crest


Golden moon risen low, a signal of harvest

That which begun, now taken in return

So swift is summer season laid to rest


Light faded, Persephone acquiesced

Her absence, Demeter’s ancient tears spurn

On cue, soft green to crimson colors crest


Frost, the unwelcome early-morning guest

Contrasting oak leaves’ hue of deep auburn

So swift is summer season laid to rest


Final descent thus ends the mortal quest

From lively pursuits, nature does adjourn

On cue, soft green to crimson colors crest


For then the season’s duties are addressed

Though beneath ivory coat we may yearn

So swift is summer season laid to rest

On cue, soft green to crimson colors crest

This poem is a villanelle, which utilizes a prescribed rhyme scheme, as well as refrain repetition. It also imposes a structure. This was a difficult, yet fun one to write. I wrote it a few years ago and workshopped it with the Shoreline Cluster of Poets.