Writers: Advice To Clean Out Writers Block

8 08 2023

Just discovered Big Think, which has lots of encouraging advice.

For example, here’s the editor of The Onion being interviewed about his process. How does he approach a blank page first thing in the morning:

One way around that is this beautiful exercise called “morning pages.” You set an alarm clock for 30 minutes, and you just type or write. Don’t stop to correct anything. Don’t stop to make it good. Just plow ahead. Write about anything while trying not to repeat yourself. This primes the pump and gets the gunk out. 

It’s fun, and there’s no harm in it. Nobody is ever going to see these morning pages. You can delete them as soon as you finish, or if you find some gold, you can save it somewhere. But after two or three days of doing that, good luck stopping me from sitting down and writing a rough draft.

– Scott Dikkers, The Onion

“‘The Onion’ founder explains his strategy for sparking creativity”

New FIVE STAR Review For “The Flesh Sutra”

3 08 2023

At Amazon, Miriam declares:

There’s never a predictable move in this fever-dream of paranormal horror. The Flesh Sutra’s pair of lovers are not afraid to sacrifice their humanity on the altar of their love. Alecsi’s monstrosity is a living, suppurating embodiment of his cruel and selfish actions. Karma awaits them both in the form of vengeful demons and humans. Will they learn to renounce the dark path they’ve set out on? The story pulled me forward from twist to twist.


See for yourself FREE with Kindle Unlimited, $2.99 for Kindle, or $9.99 for paperback!

Amazon.com: The Flesh Sutra eBook : Burke, Tim W.: Kindle Store

Some Inspirational Viewing!

1 08 2023

World Building Advice From Stephen Morgan

27 07 2023

Worldbuilding for Science Fiction and Fantasy Resources
Compiled by Stephen Morgan
Jason Sanford’s Patreon (FREE!) Genre Grapevine alone will keep you informed and up-to-date
on the sci-fi/fantasy side of publishing: https://www.patreon.com/jasonsanford
The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas: critical race theory applied to sci-fi/fantasy
Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff: political psychology in modern society
Disfigured by Amanda Leduc: disability representation in sci-fi/fantasy fiction
Soft vs Hard Sci-fi:
Using sci-fi/fantasy to analyze the real world:
Common sci-fi/fantasy terms: https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/SFTerms.html
Question 1: Is this a good-hearted, mean-spirited, or apathetic world?
Question 2: How do your characters think about money/trade?
Question 3: Do characters expect a fair shake from the justice system?
Question 4: Do your characters perceive class and racial differences?
Question 5: How do you make the presence/absence of differences
Question 5: relatable?
Question 6: What guides your character’s morality?
Question 7: What is the status quo?
Question 8: Does your character feel at home in the world?

One Night, A Beam Of Light Strikes A Mountain Highway

Stickers and Shirts of My Cover Art

26 07 2023

Dig these cool kids wearing gnarly art! Available in 20 colors and sizes S to 3XL!

Books and Merch – My Store | timwburke

Or stickers for as low as 10 for $1.35 each.

My CREATIVE PROCESS Based on Experience & Received Guidance

20 07 2023

Growing up, I went from drawing to practicing martial arts, to writing humor, to producing video, to performing comedy, to writing speculative fiction. For the sake of discussion, I use writing but this advice can be easily applied to any avocation.

Step One: WRITERS BLOCK – You are not adrift. You have your ideals and direction. You know what you like. Something hasn’t made you say “wow” lately. Lacking that “wow”, doubt creeps into your heart.

Step Two: SEEK – Fill yourself with music, graphic arts, literature, performance, look for what people haven’t found. Someone mentions a book you haven’t heard of; seek out the book. Look into those artists you enjoy and find out what they enjoy. Don’t force yourself to like something; if a discovery grates on you, set it aside. One happy discovery will lead to others. In all things, follow what you enjoy. Repeat as needed.


WOW – Something seizes your attention. It invokes a strong, arresting emotion. Go down the rabbit hole pursuing that something. Gather information about the something. Gather together a bunch of somethings and switch between researching and daydreaming about each something.

These next activities may happen in any sequence.

CONNECT – Interrogate the something. “Why do you mean so much to me? What do you mean to me?” It may answer: “This something causes harm to the world and must be stopped” or “This is wonderful and must be shared” or anything else. Ask: “Why is this so?” Reduce the something to the emotion it inspires in you and ask yourself “What experiences in my life remind me of this emotion?” No experience is too small; note smells, sounds, music, time of day, movies, books, feelings, people, era, location, more.

EXTRAPOLATE – Is there a visual artist you love? How would you describe their work in your writing? How about a sound? A smell? (Is there such thing as “a ridiculous stench”?) Can you use those descriptions? Extrapolation happens naturally in that creative bliss state. That said, an awareness of what you enjoy will bring you more tools to your conscious effort.

RANDOMIZE – Remove elements. Add elements. Change POV. Encourage Whim in your life. I’ve gotten into Sigil Magick to open my brain up and allow myself to think outside of expectations. Some writers go to the I Ching for plot twists, or Tarot, or gaming manuals, or opening books at random. You may be inclined to wait for inspiration; what is that but your subconscious rolling the dice? Whatever you discover and like, go with it.

BE USELESS – Do not expect reciprocity in anything. Your best, favorite effort may be utterly disdained. Something you dash off without a thought may be widely acclaimed. Do not create to an imagined audience. Create for so much for yourself, you feel really awkward showing it to anyone else. If you feel awkward, you are on the right track.

STEAL – If you are writing, what existing story (print, movie, TV, whatevs) resembles this glop of Something? This glop will remind you of some well-known story, and that’s okay. What aspects of that story can you use? (Only lately have I allowed myself to do this. I believe if I had allowed myself to write fan-fic decades ago, I would be farther along in my creative journey. Que sera!)

EXPOUND – Has your something sprouted an idea, character, or setting? Try the MICE quotient. Or my crude method, Put the character in the worst possible setting, or the setting gains the worst possible character, or the idea pits the setting against the character.

END – That’s right. END the story. Come up with an ending FIRST so you know what you are writing toward.

SPLORP – At this point you may have some dialogue or scene leaping into your heart and you can’t wait to write it. Don’t wait! Write the fun bits first! After you’ve written the fun bits, find the gaps in the plot and write a couple of sentences describing what needs to happen. Finish the SPLORP draft before going back and fixing anything. When you fix stuff, that will be your “first draft”.

FEEL – Whatever you feel as you write, the reader will feel it too. Did an idea appear that you love? The reader will be surprised too. We want to be nice to our characters, sure. But their pain will dismay the reader and heighten emotional impact. Be twice as hard on your characters, and the reader will feel it.

SCREAM – The story has a strong open and a satisfying end. Now you have to get the opening to grab onto and shake hands with the ending. You will need to tweak the ending or merge characters or do other aggravating, unexpected changes to make the story work as a whole. This is where authors scream. So scream and fulfill this proud artistic tradition.

MIND THE GAPS – Go back to your plot gaps? Do you need these filled in? Can you convey their information through dialogue or description?

JAZZ HANDS – Now that everyone is so fixated on Three-Beat, Save-The-Cat structure, I’ve started playing with expectations. In “Saints Of Flesh” when something bad happens, another bad thing happens. Or the third climax will resolve, but OOPS! Here’s the *actual* climax! I’m eager to write something where the huge event happens on the second climax, then comes a veer into an unexpected, barely-related, even-worse problem. Screwing with the audience is fun! (Trademark)

Now that you’ve done all that, finish your draft by doing these:

STEW – This work is not what you expected, is it? It’s surprised you pleasantly in some parts, but falls short in others. Set the first draft aside. SEEK and BE USELESS with this work until after you have worked on another project. Then you will approach this work with a fresh perspective.

SENSUALIZE – I hate being cliche. I want what I create to be the first time anyone has ever encountered such a thing. Imagine each moment. If that moment was a painting or a movie, what would that moment look like? What sounds would heighten the scene? Add three senses per page. Punch up smells, kinesis, and textures. Make sure all dialogue has attribution or description. This can be paralyzing because how can you innovate a new description of a cloud? Even this ferocity has its boundaries.


Each Audience Is A Different Animal. What worked for one will not work for another. Same presentation, same content, same tone that the audience loved before, may be loathed by the next, only to be liked by the one after that. Trends come and go. Works are evaluated, then reassessed. No matter what, keep your work. If you like it, then it just needs to find its audience.

A shooting star streaks over a sleeping mountain town.

Final Book Trailer for “Saints Of Flesh” (w/captions)

18 07 2023

Cover Art For “Flesh” Sequel AND I Need Your Help With Its Book Trailer

14 07 2023

Releasing this September! The horror comes to the present day!

I made a book trailer.

PLEASE GIVE ADVICE! Did this confuse you? Did it grab you? Did you understand I was reading for a character, or should I caption “read by the author” early on?

Check in soon and see my new Merch page. You’ll be able to buy books, t-shirts, posters, and new designs!

Great Art Insights From Examining AI

11 07 2023

To write and still have your reader relate to it, that’s a challenge. You start with vignetted characters and setting which a reader “knows”, say a dragon-brimming fantasy quasi-Europe or maybe a 1980s American suburb. Then an element is introduced. Or an existing element of the setting is slowly altered. The characters adapt realistically to the alteration. Either the alteration heightens or the characters’ reactions cause greater change. Okey-doke.

Here is a Twitter feed which critiques AI illustration, but in that critique provides a great overview of the creative process. Inisights like this are one of the few reasons I bother with Twitter anymore.

So many great questions spring from this sequence! Had the AI adjusted tone or content, would we have been frightened by those choices? Does the act of vignetting lay the groundwork of the uncanny? (If so, then *any scene* has the potential for becoming Weird.) How many different ways could one lay out these images to tell a story?

Do the limitations of language describing the moment of an experience, create a form of distress? “Distress” may be a poor word choice; I mean to describe the character being in a state of “alteration” as described above, whether it’s Horror, Weird, Comedy, Hallmark Romance, or whatever.

Would the act of using language cause distress in the writer, and could that be conveyed? That brings to mind any meta where “creator” becomes a “character”.

I really like this sequence of images. This poor AI is doing what it’s supposed to, but it’s frightening, yet the AI seemingly lacks the ability to realize the reaction. That brings to mind that Meryl Streep movie about the society dame who gave concerts where she sang, but was so bad at singing her invites became sought-after for their camp value.

Anyway, lots in here to unpack I think.

How To Write A Scene

6 07 2023

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