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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Aug 4, 2022

Mark interviews S.W. Millar about his new book - How to Write Brilliant Beginnings: Crafting Your Novel’s Opening Chapters Made Easy.

Prior to the main segment, Mark shares a brief personal update, comments from recent episodes, and a word about this episode's sponsor.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at

In their conversation, Mark and Shane talk about:

  • Shane's background as an urban fantasy writer and a certified Story Editor
  • Writing his first novel back in 2010, pulling it out of a drawer in 2015 and realizing how much it was lacking, and then engaging in a long period of study to better his craft and understanding of the business
  • Wanting to write the kind of books he needed when he was first starting out and wanting to learn
  • How reading Jim Butcher's Harry Desden files novels inspired Shane to want to write similar tales
  • Realizing that he wanted to train as a writer-friendly editor with Kristina Stanley from Fictionary
  • The importance of having a degree of distance when you are taking in feedback from editors or readers
  • Shane's preference for the type of fiction he prefers to edit: Urban fantasy, Thrillers, and Science-Fictio
  • How to Write Brilliant Beginnings, Shane's new book, and why it is such an important element to help with sales
  • The invisible/subtle question that you set up so that, in the reader's mind, they are compelled to keep reading to find the answer to it
  • Why it is equally compelling to end your chapters, particularly the first two or three chapters, which as much of a hook as possible
  • That "just one more principal"
  • The idea of a character "going about their current 'flawed' existence"
  • How everything a character sees and experiences is filtered through their wound and scar
  • Giving your main character something very unique to them as an identifier
  • The five top things that you should give your character for them to be three dimensional and compelling to readers
  • The value of opening the novel with some type of conflict or action beat
  • When ending chapters or cutting scenes, the element of cutting it off BEFORE the resolution that can compel the reader to keep reading
  • The way that old television programs, such as Batman that always cut to a commercial break with a hook that would make the audience want to keep watching to find out how it was resolved
  • That "know, like, and trust" thing which can be so important when engaging in social media
  • The importance of open-ended questions that can lead to engagement and detailed answers
  • Shane's books: How to Write Brilliant Beginnings, How to Plot Your Novel and How to Write Novels Fast
  • And more...

After the interview, Mark reflects on distance and objectivity as well as that end of chapter "cut to commercial" hook.

Links of Interest:


The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0