All-Purpose Writing Thread!


I’ve had a couple of bookbubs. My last one resulted in about 1K sales. The first one got me something like 600 but the drop off after the bookbub, with the book back up to full price, more than paid for the ad.

Bookbub is becoming very hard to get approved for. So many publishers are using the service now the bookbub guys seem to cater to them more and more.



That looks great Gordon! Hope you gain readers. What’s the title a reference to? (Probably something obvious).


Thank you Tim! My 1st one got turned down, but I’ll keep trying.

I appreciate your support in this group, btw. I wouldn’t even know about BB if I hadn’t started to lurk on the Kindle forum and listen to the podcasts you suggested I check out. It’s THE go to marketing strategy. But I’ve also heard what you’re saying about BB embracing mainstream publishing, too.


Pretty sure it’s a reference to the LOAD command:


Arrendek is correct.

[quote=“tylertoo, post:882, topic:65387”]
That looks great Gordon! Hope you gain readers.[/quote]

Thanks! The ‘screenshot of the day’ is really just a device to make myself post something each day. I’ll put up some other types of pieces too. And it’s not meant to be exclusively retro; just where my head is at these days. :P


Another sale to announce. My mythical SF flash story Down Stepped Proud Galatea With a Sigh (based on the mysteriously deleted final stanza of the poem Pygmalion to Galatea by Robert Graves) will be coming out in the first issue of the new magazine Spirits’ Tincture at the end of August. Got paid the princely sum of $10, but hey, someone might possibly read it when it’s published :)


A sale is a sale!


That’s awesome, Miramon!


Congrats on your continued success.


I wish I knew of this final deleted stanza (he says, looking at his Collected Poems of Robert Graves that he received as a gift over 30 years ago and never read), but now that you bring it up I’d like to read your story. Congrats! If a link becomes available, please post!



The stanza may perhaps be in editions published after Graves’ death, and you can look it up on wikipedia too. No idea at this point how or why I tripped over it. I thought the main part of the poem was rather dull, but the last stanza had some fun lines and was also interestingly ambiguous about what they might mean. Maybe Graves deleted it because it was too good compared to the rest of the poem :)

Anyway I will certainly link the story when it comes out in a month or so.


Flashbacks! Do you use them?

I have always taken for granted that flashbacks were a fundamental part of stories, but this afternoon I spoke with a colleague (who has been published numerous times, reviewed in the local paper, and has completed an MFA) and he told me he tries to never use flashbacks. He said the guy who ran the writing program he attended considered it a failed project if the story contained a flashback. His teacher called flashbacks, “dropping the ball” as in, “I stopped reading here (points to flashback), where you dropped the ball.”

Hahaha, I never heard of this before, so I wanted to ask other writers, to see if it’s something most writers strive for, or if this has just been a blind for me, after all these years.

Me? I do it all the time. I didn’t even realize it was considered bad form, if it truly is. I’m not particularly well read, but I’ve read enough. I know I’ve seen a lot of flashbacks. I have been out of school for a while now, so it’s hard to remember if the classics have flashbacks. Maybe it’s only for mainstream books? I read mostly memoir or nonfiction, so it’s hard for me to say. The more I think about it, the more I realize flashbacks are probably from the movies. If I write fiction, I tend to think of my story in movie terms, even if I don’t write it as a script. By that I mean, I just see the story playing out in my head and sometimes it has flashbacks.

I guess this came up for me because I submitted a chapter from my current project to a workshop group. It was a chapter where the whole thing was a flashback. It started with a little label that read, “Two hours earlier.” Inside this chapter, I did a few more flashbacks to the main character’s childhood, some other stuff. My first comment from one of the peeps in my group was something like, “Flashback in a flashback, huh?”

I had to think about it for a few minutes to grasp what I was being told. It’s true, lol.

Today the colleague I mentioned earlier asked me if I had ever had a flashback in a flashback in real life. I think he was just being silly, but I’m sure I have. My mind goes all over the place. To me, it seems like a very familiar way of looking at the world. He said flashbacks caused issues with causality in stories. I don’t really get that concept. I like them because sometimes you want to be crafty about when the reader gets certain information about a character.

So, enough from me. Flahsbacks? How do you use them in your writing?

Do you avoid them?

Do you have tips for making them work?



Thoroughly amateur opinion here (so take it with the requisite grains of salt): I think that flashbacks are often the tool of lazy writers, standing in for proper characterization, foreshadowing, and dialogue in order to hammer home some necessary background detail, character trait, or “prophecy” (and not just the cheesy fantasy sort).

Rather than restricting the characters to the arc of time encompassed by the story proper–and laying out everything the reader needs to know about them with more “sophisticated” tools–the lazy writer might instead just opt to craft some scene from whole cloth that will justify a character’s behavior, a situation the plot has wound its way into, or similar.

For instance, take about 50-70% of the flashbacks in the TV show The Arrow. Here, we flash back to when the titular Arrow, Oliver Queen, was “trapped on a hellish island for five years” and witness him–in rough chronological order along those five years as the series has progressed–learning some valuable life skill, problem-solving technique, or combat art that is immediately and exclusively relevant to the plot at hand. And until we reach the 90% mark in the episode and “finish” the flashback scenes, Oliver won’t use that skill/technique/art, even though he desperately needs to. . . and more often than not, these things never come up again.

Rather than having a character who’s displayed a trait–say, the ability to resist poisons as needed–organically through the series, the show just waits until Oliver’s forced to fight a poisoner-foe, and we as viewers are helpfully transported back to a point theoretically exactly five years previous where he learns that skill, and when we flash-forward again, he’s remembered! Voila, poisoner-villain defeated, and skill lost forevermore.

Now, all that said, I don’t think that flashbacks are automatically and immediately bad, depending on how you define the term, really. A story that takes place at multiple time-scales–Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series comes to mind–can be a totally legitimate and interesting thing. Playing with time and place can be a great way to make use of an unreliable narrator, or to achieve some desired literary effect, or to maintain a mystery/withhold a clue.

Hell, in a series like iZombie, flashbacks are more or less the meat-and-potatoes of the storytelling, as the zombified mortuary worker absorbs the memories of the dead in order to solve crimes. The flashing back is a core character trait, and the entirety of some plots will hinge on the clever use of flashbacks–especially as sources of incomplete, misleading, or otherwise frustrating material.

Indeed, a flashback to something as ambiguous and open-to-interpretation as the story’s “present” can be very effective, especially when compared to the all-too-convenient “just what we needed to know” variety of flashback. It can serve to heighten tension or cast new light on already-confused situations, both of which could be really interesting and thoroughly not-hacky.

And now I’ve written far too much about flashbacks. You know, that reminds me of when <cue Family guy flashback gag>


The problem with flashbacks is they get in the way of forward momentum. I’m reading because I’m hooked on the story, so I want to see the story advance. A flashback grinds the story to a halt while we wait for the flashback to finish.

This is how I feel about genre fiction, at least. For literary stuff and non-fiction, I’d feel differently about flashbacks. I really just read genre fiction now. My brain is tired.

I will also throw this in: I hate dream sequences. In real life I get bored when someone wants to tell me about their “weird” or “hilarious” dream. So to in fiction do I find them annoying. I always skim the prose that’s depicting a character’s dream.


What are your feelings on lengthy, multi-paragraphs in-universe poems and historical ruminations at the opening of each chapter on a fantasy novel?

Go on, tell us how you really feel. We won’t let Brandon Sanderson read what you say.


Samuel Delany observed that flashbacks and other discontinuous time effects in narratives are generally abused by beginning writers. I tend to agree. It’s often the case that a flashback indicates that the story didn’t start in the right place. But of course there are also plenty of situations in which they are appropriate, too. It’s just that I think they should be used carefully and deliberately instead of casually to wedge in some exposition or backstory you couldn’t find time for otherwise…

Re dream sequences, I was annoyed that fictional dreams so rarely give any of the chaotic and discontinuous feel of real dreams, so I wrote an etude that was supposed to convey that kind of feel… and then I sold it to the New Haven Review, so later this year if you like you can read a dream story with none of this dull humdrum waking logic at all…


Sure, but do you guys write flashbacks in your stories or do you intentionally try to avoid them?

Any piece of craft can be used poorly, especially by new writers, so it’s not that I don’t agree with what you guys are saying. I’m just more interested in whether you use them. If you have, what do you find them useful for?

Miramon, did you have a flashback in any of the stories you recently sold?


I was prepared to jump in on the side of flashbacks, but now I’m not sure that I can: thinking back to the last four or five things I’ve finished, I’ve neither written flashbacks nor intentionally tried to avoid them. I’ve simply never run into an occasion which seems (to me) to call for it. Looking at my notes for my next few projects, I don’t think any of them are going to require flashbacks either.


I do try to avoid them, but I don’t make a religion out of it. I think I have no flashbacks in my sold and published stories, but then they are all shorts, which obviously don’t offer as much opportunity for flashbacks as novels and other longer forms.


I’ve seen flashbacks in Dickens, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Chaucer, Nabokov, Virgil, Marilynne Robinson, off the top of my head, and they all worked fine.

Use 'em if you need 'em, don’t if you don’t, IMO.