Bill's blog. Writing, guitars, gratuitous Simpsons references, you'll find i​t all here. Almost certainly a waste of time for both you and the author. On the internet, that's actually a plus.

New column at Writer Unboxed: The Hack's Guide to Killing Your Darlings

photo by  Henry Söderlund

My new column is up at Writer Unboxed, and I unpack the classic writing advice, "Kill your darlings." Read your work until you find a spot where your writing really jumps out at you. Does it inspire and spark joy? Welp, that’s a darling, and it's time to murder that sucker.

You may be tempted to say that I’m deliberately misunderstanding the meaning of “Kill your darlings” just to be a contrarian jerk. Buddy, the spirit of the law was the first darling I killed.

The Hack’s Guide to Killing Your Darlings

New column at Writer Unboxed: The Hack's Guide to Writing an Outline

photo by    Rex Dingler

photo by Rex Dingler

My new column at Writer Unboxed is up today. It’s called “The Hack's Guide to Writing an Outline,” and features great advice like this:

Some people think of an outline as an instruction manual for writing your book. I like to think of an outline as the literary equivalent of the people in your life who enable your writing career while you take them for granted and give them very little in return.

Read the whole thing here.

Here's a link to a bunch of my columns that I did not mention on my blog for no good reason

It’s been a busy summer, and nothing has paid the price of my full calendar more than this very website. I’ve published several of my “Hacks for Hacks” columns at Writer Unboxed since my last blog update, and rather than feel guilty about it for one second longer, I’m gonna go ahead and link to them here.

Check them out and enjoy!

New column: The Definitive Packing List for Authors

Photo by  Lisa Iaboni

Photo by Lisa Iaboni

Are you a writer going on a trip? I've got a list of what you need to pack. Read my column, The Definitive Packing List for Authors, at Writer Unboxed dot com. Here are a couple items:

  • Your preferred e-reading device. You can fit an entire library into your pocket. By keeping the book you’re currently reading on your Kindle, you can save room for the hardback editions of UlyssesInfinite Jest, and a bunch of other classics you want people to think you’re reading.
  • A notebook and pens. I recommend buying a new notebook specifically for this trip. It will make it feel more like a special occasion. Make sure to get something that will look good in the Smithsonian when they create the exhibit on how you wrote your masterpiece on this trip. The main thing is that you set lofty goals for your trip to keep yourself motivated, and that you feel like a failure if you don’t meet them.
  • Your laptop. Duh, you’ll need it for writing. The fact that 60% of that writing will be updates to your various social media accounts should not deter you.

Read my new column, "Beyond the Coffee Shop: Great Places to Write Away From Home"

Photo by  Frank Denardo

Photo by Frank Denardo

New column today! Read it! It's called, "Beyond the Coffee Shop: Great Places to Write Away From Home" Here's an excerpt:

Room 19 at the Park Plaza Motel in South Sioux City, Nebraska: The TV doesn’t work, so you won’t have distractions. There’s no room service, so you won’t be tempted to eat loads of junk food. The place isn’t on the map, isn’t in the phone book, isn’t supposed to even exist anymore, so you won’t get any interruptions. You can’t remember how you got here, so that means you must’ve been really absorbed in your work. There’s a nameless dread in the pit of your stomach, which you hope means you’re on the verge of a breakthrough in your story.
There’s a knock at the door, which spells out your True Name in Morse code.
That means it’s time.

New Writer Unboxed column: Top 8 excuses for when you’re about to blow a deadline

My new column is up today for all you procrastinators who have to turn something in Monday: Top 8 excuses for when you’re about to blow a deadline. Look for great gems like these:

photo by Dan4th Nicholas

photo by Dan4th Nicholas

Food poisoning (20 points): Alcohol is a food, kinda, so you’re not even really lying.

There’s an alligator sitting right next to your car, in which you left your laptop (30 points): This excuse is only valid only in Louisiana and Mississippi. In Florida, you’d be expected to wrestle it.

The flu (50 points): Illness-related excuses worked better in the typewriter-and-snail-mail era, when clients feared you might send them an envelope full of germs. Give this excuse a modern spin by using the face-with-thermometer emoji when you text your client the news.

Go read the whole thing here.

New column at Writer Unboxed: The Hack's Guide to Writing a Perfect First Chapter

photo by  Jacob Haddon

photo by Jacob Haddon

Go check out my new column at Writer Unboxed. It's called "The Hack's Guide to Writing a Perfect First Chapter," and it's full of the insider tips and practical advice you've come to expect from the Hacks for Hacks brand. 

  • Raise the stakes. I mean for you, personally. I wasn’t kidding when I said this chapter could earn you fame and fortune, or sabotage your whole career. Now, check your heart rate. Place a postage stamp on the back of your neck. If it absorbed enough flop sweat that you can stick it to an SASE, your mind is ready to start writing. It’s not desperation, it’s INSPIRATION!
  • Introductions. It’s time for your readers to meet your characters. Where do they work? What are they wearing? What’s their favorite food? What are their crippling insecurities? What do they want? This information is all just preamble to the burning question all readers have: Are they now, or have they ever been, a member of the Communist party.

Find me at Illogicon this weekend!


It's time again for one of my favorite cons of the year, Illogicon in Cary, NC. I'll be paneling with some smart people, and doing a reading on Saturday night. Come say hello! Mention that you saw this blog post and I'll give you a high-five.

Here's my schedule:

Friday, 4pm

  • Do You Even Geek Sports and Fitness? – Reynolds
    Apps, gamification, heart rate computer bands, zombie runs… There are more ways than ever to improve the health of our physical meat sacks in the nerdiest of ways!
    Panelists: James Maxey (M), Calvin Powers, Matthew Penick, Mur Lafferty, Bill Ferris, Ian Malone

Friday, 9pm

  • Box of Office Bombs – Smith
    Sci-fi, comic, or fantasy movies aren’t niche and they’re getting some mega-budgets. Why do so many under perform?
    Panelists: Jason Gilbert (M), Bill Ferris, Michael G. Williams, Samantha Bryant, Jay Requard, Ian Malone

Saturday, 12pm

  • Anti-World Building – Smith
    When what you don’t say says more than what you do. Sometimes too much detail in your world-building can be immersion breaking
    Panelists: Holly Walrath (M), Alyssa Wong, Jason Gilbert, Bill Ferris, Clay Griffth, Susan Griffith

Saturday, 7pm


New column: Passive Aggressive Christmas Gifts for Writers 

photo by cedwardmoran on Flickr

photo by cedwardmoran on Flickr

My new column is up at Writer Unboxed, just in time for your holiday shopping: Passive Aggressive Christmas Gifts for Writers. Here's an excerpt:

  • For an unpublished writer: A new display shelf where they can put all their publications. Let the shame of an empty shelf motivate them to succeed! When this shelf inevitably becomes cluttered with junk mail and their kids’ homework, clear it off for them and say, “Got to leave space for all those best-sellers and cult classics!” Cost: $50
  • For your insecure friend: Breath mints, especially if they don’t need them. Cost: $2
  • For your hipster friend who still writes with a typewriter:A truly hideous paperweight for all their typed pages. Every time they feel the joy of completing another page, they’ll have to look at the ceramic monstrosity you gave them, thus slowing their momentum the tiniest little bit. Be careful, though—if it’s too ugly, your hipster friend will think it’s cool. Cost: $20

Go read the whole thing before the stores close!

Passive Aggressive Christmas Gifts for Writers