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Deciphering the Unwritten (Unpublished?) Word

Quarantine Update

posted Aug 1, 2020, 1:16 PM by Ben Kreucher

It's been a while since anything has happened. We feel like we've hit the pause button. But in reality, this has been a perfect opportunity to write, research, and edit my works in progress. The quiet that comes from being forced indoors has really allowed me freedom from distractions (well, aside from the usual streaming services).

I don't feel guilty for skipping an event with friends because we can't go anywhere. I feel like I can just write and research and edit without anyone expected me to leave the house...because no one is leaving their homes. It's awesome!
...At least for this author.

It's been interesting, that's for certain. Not everyone appreciates the stillness or the silence. Some people need to see others more than through the lens of a camera in an online meeting room. I get it. Fortunately, I have a few people who risk seeing me so I don't have to be totally devoid of humanity.

But, honestly, it's been a real delight to finally sit down and hammer out a few details that have been nagging at me, crush some rough drafts, and really tinker with plots to get things working,

Not that I wasn't working before. But now, now I have the time and space to just sit and linger on a project. Not because the world isn't eager for new stories but because I finally realize that what it took to write was an enthusiasm for writing I had lost somewhere in the daily grind.

But, it's back now. Thanks to the shutdown. And, if nothing else happens, that at least will be a blessing.

Celebrating a Life Filled with Love

posted Apr 5, 2020, 8:17 AM by Ben Kreucher   [ updated Apr 5, 2020, 8:37 AM ]

I've had plenty of remarkable role models in my life. Starting and ending with my parents. I've been blessed beyond measure with a fantastic family. Strong men and women who encourage, inspire, and love hard. Men and women you look up to and who lift you up to stand beside them.

Kind, patient women who would give you the food from their table, even their plate, and never bat an eyelash. From Mom, to Grandma and Busia, and to my aunts and cousins.

Respectful, courageous men who guide you along the path you want your life to take without steering you the way they think it should go. From Dad, to Grandpa and Dziadzia, and to my uncles and cousins.

But, today, the world seems a little less bright, having lost my godmother. Aunt Doris was a beacon of light with a quick laugh, a warm hug, and a soft heart. She gave as good as she got, but was always ready with a kind word and a listening ear. We all love her and miss her fiercely. The outpouring of love her husband, children, and granddaughter have received and continue to receive is only a small testament to the power of her life.

One life can impact so many. Nothing shows that to us more than Easter Sunday. But, often we can exemplify it through our own selfless love. 

We are defined by the people in our lives. I'm thankful to have Aunt Doris be one of those who helped shape me. For me, I can't talk about her without thinking about family and the bonds that we share. We Kreuchers are molded by the example Grandma and Grandpa set and passed down to their children. Lives inextricably intertwined through unbreakable bonds of love, respect, and compassion. Lives of great strength, quiet faith, and unyielding hope.

I learned from my family that love doesn't hold back. Love gives without expecting anything in return. Love isn't with you only when you're happy and times are easy, love stands beside you and lifts you up when you're broken. There have been many wonderful paragons of love in my life; men and women who live out 1 Corinthians 13.

Aunt Doris will always be one of those for me. One of the best.


In this moment, it's difficult to pick a favorite memory of Aunt Doris. But, if pressed, I'd have to say her smile. It easily made you feel welcomed and loved. You always knew where you stood with her, even when she berated you for being foolish or rude, you always knew she loved you and wanted the best for you; there was never any doubt. She wanted to help mold you into the best version of yourself. 

A kind, nurturing soul who embodied motherhood...well, to me, aunt-hood.

Forever in our hearts.

Editing: The Labor in the Love

posted Feb 5, 2020, 2:15 PM by Ben Kreucher

Recently, I've had the expression "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life" running through my head. Have you heard it? Something similar? I don't think it's 100% true. At least not for me.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing. It's one of the most fulfilling things I do. But I don't love every part of it. I enjoy writing, researching, creating new worlds and characters, even imagining how characters might react to everyday situations I encounter, but I don't like editing.

That doesn't mean I don't do it. I just need to force myself to sit and do the work. 

I can spend hours writing, researching minute details, or scouring through old ideas for fresh takes. But every minute spent editing feels like a chore. I'd almost rather stare at a blank screen with writer's block. Almost.

Even when I get great feedback and critiques from readers and fellow writers, I'll take a few days to process and then sit down to edit. I'll get a few pages or chapters in but then I'll pause and work on a story that's nudging my brain or write a scene for a character who's begging won't leave me alone.

I know that the only way my writing will improve is to polish it. So after letting the procrastinating happen--instead of fighting it, I allow it its moment--then I buckle down and work. Only through persistence and perspiration will I make good writing great, great writing excellent, and excellent writing a world that leaves a lasting impression.

Peering into a Character: Fig

posted Sep 28, 2019, 6:24 PM by Ben Kreucher   [ updated Sep 28, 2019, 6:24 PM ]

Sometimes people grow apart. Sometimes friends are placed in situations where one is putting in all the effort and one is just coasting. Friendship is hard. Two people come together to navigate the tricky waters of life for a time. 
That's the idea behind Fig's story in Erie Tales.

She and Frey start out as the best of friends, training at the academy for the wizard police. But when Allan sweeps her off her feet, she begins to understand that her friendship with Frey will never be the same.

As I delve into the character's journey, I need to answer a few questions. Does Fig want to remain Frey's friend? Can they? Do Fig and Allan both like Frey? Does Frey like Allan? Can Fig and Frey remain partners at the academy?

Of course, there are lots of other things to throw into the mix like school problems, magic, bullies, and solving mysteries and crimes. But the main arc of her story revolves around her friendship with Frey and how to date Allan. In the end, she might just have to choose one. 

You think it'd be obvious which one she'd choose. And you'd be right. ...Probably. (Hey, I'm not a mind reader.)

But that doesn't make the journey any less eventful or exciting to read.

Query Letters

posted Jul 14, 2019, 8:55 AM by Ben Kreucher

Query letters are a lot like first dates. They can be awkward or they can be great. It's a way to see if there's a spark, chemistry between an author and an agent. If a work has potential beyond the page, to spread and grow and become a phenomenon.

Knowing that and writing a great query is as hard as forming a great first date. Especially if you frame it as your last/only chance to find representation (or a spouse). It's a difficult task to pare down the hours, days, weeks, months, years it has taken to write your novel. It's harder still to condense the plot that takes the entirety of the manuscript into a short paragraph or a sentence. 

However, it's our job to capture that feeling of intensity that drives the book and imbue it into the query letter to engage the agent and get them excited to read our book. A daunting task indeed.

So, instead of looking at it as your only chance, perhaps frame it as an opportunity to make a great first impression. Not just with how well written you are but how excited you are for your novel. And, as the famous adage goes, "Show, don't tell". Allow your work to speak for itself in how you describe it. Capture it so it captivates.

At the end of the day, we all want to root for a good book. We all desire great books. Readers all looking for the next Harry Potter series. Authors want to be the next C.S. Lewis. Agents want to represent the next Neil Gaiman. So, go out there and write your book. Get people excited with your query letter, i.e. back cover blurb. And find your voice.

Don't try to be the next anyone. The world needs your voice. You just might outshine your wildest dreams.

Learn by Writing

posted Jun 4, 2019, 1:02 PM by Ben Kreucher

"The hardest part is writing a book" or so I've heard. And it's true that it takes time, discipline, and a lot of just tapping away at a keyboard to produce a novel length manuscript. That doesn't mean it's good or publishable. 

While I've stared at my manuscript for far too long it seems some days, I've come to realize that it's more true to say that "the hardest part is writing a good book". That not only takes the same time, discipline, and keyboard tapping that writing a book does, but it also takes patience while editing draft after draft, a keen eye for detail and grammar and spelling mistakes, and a healthy disregard for your own feelings toward a certain section or character as you tighten the prose, quicken the pace, and overall strengthen the story.

That's why, I think, many people will tell writers to just write. To write every idea for the manuscript on the page. Let them coalesce, breath, run free or wild. Because there's no need to hold back in a first draft. The story can meander, it can tangent and rabbit trail. It's when you edit that you need to trim and find the best story out of what you've written. The skeleton of the story to build upon. A framework that will hold up the rest of the story that you want to come alive and walk off the page into readers' hearts.

That's the hardest part. Sure, finding an agent and a publisher can be hard. So can promoting your book whether on Amazon or elsewhere. But the true challenge is grabbing a reader, getting them to hold on and never let go. Do that and you've conquered the highest mountain.

It all starts with that first word. That idea glimmering in the back of your mind keeping you awake at night. Just start tapping away. Don't worry what comes out. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare or Tolkien. It'll help you find your voice and your style. You'll learn about your characters, their journey, and their dreams. You'll discover the story you want to read and write that. But it might only appear after the first draft. Or the third.

So, don't just stare at a blank screen. Close your eyes if you have to. But, just let go and allow your ideas to flow and your characters to grow. 

You might be surprised by the results.

Editing Sometimes Ignores Feelings

posted Mar 25, 2019, 7:22 AM by Ben Kreucher

There's nothing like the feeling of holding your freshly printed manuscript in your hands. Usually. The first time I printed out a manuscript to line edit, I felt a sense of purpose and achievement. This most recent time, however, when I look down at the papers I just want to toss them into a fire. Not because they're bad. They might even be objectively better than that first manuscript I printed and gave to beta readers who later said they loved it. It might not be. But I don't believe that it's so much worse that it belongs buried in a drawer.

It's just easy to get caught up in the idea that there's always more work to do. Really, I just want to give this work one final polish before sending it out to give it its best chance at finding a home with an agent and publisher. Yet, there's still that feeling that this work belongs in the trash.

It's odd. I want to edit it and polish it, but I'm easily distracted from doing the work. Something always seems to come up: a spring training baseball game on TV, a new video game to play or a favorite old one, a movie to watch, a nap to take, etc. Instead of just buckling down and doing the work.

Or, when I do the work, I find myself relaxing early. For example, "Oh, it's only one o'clock and I've already read and edited X chapters. My goal was X. Guess I'm done." Instead of continuing to work until five and reading Y chapters, I'll stop after hitting X. Nothing inherently wrong with that. There is such a thing as mental fatigue, especially when editing. And I do prefer to have a sharp mind when combing through a manuscript, but the longer it takes to edit, the longer I'll have to wait to send it out and the longer it'll take to hear back. And, let's be honest, it's already a long process.

But, in the end, I'd rather not rush it. I'd rather send out the best version of the manuscript I can so it'll find the home it deserves. Yours. That's the ultimate goal.

Writing Hope

posted Feb 19, 2019, 6:01 AM by Ben Kreucher

There's a new literary movement beginning. Well, not new, just newly named. Hopepunk. It's a response to the current state of the world. And a direct opposite of the popular grimdark and dystopia. Though hopepunk can take place in any setting, it's defined by the protagonist's stubborn refusal to give up on hope.

It's basically Star Wars

Image result for rebellions are built on hope

Though not everyone is a fan. But I am. I like infusing stories and characters with hope with the will to keep going despite long odds and difficult circumstances because that's what life is: a struggle to keep moving forward despite the crushing weight of negative forces that want to keep you in despair.

We all need hope. We all need love. We all need faith. The more stories that build those themes up, the stronger we will become. We can resist the darkness together. Books, movies, TV shows, and games are just one small way to help bring hope into a sometimes dark world.

Good stories and good writing will always rise to the top. No matter the theme. Let's bring more together and brighten our world with our light.

So Far, So Great

posted Jan 27, 2019, 6:18 AM by Ben Kreucher

I like to let the new year marinate a bit before deciding whether or not to give up on it. I figure I might as well give it a chance. So far, 2019 has been pretty good. I've spent a lot of time going over critiques and feedback of my latest edit and taken time to let that advice and those thoughts and ideas bounce around and sink in. Also, I've gotten back into reading after a long few months of writing and editing.

Sometimes, I get a singular focus and seem intent and able to do one thing at a time. All my spare time goes into editing, for example. Other times, I can multitask, writing and reading (not at the same time) during my free time in a given day.

Often in the new year, we make resolutions that we break after a few months, this year, I just wanted to take some time to really evaluate my writing and style, polish my skills and manuscript, and gather new ideas and flesh out old ones. Not really a resolution, rather not a new one, more like a continuation of my writing process. Without growth, I'd stagnate and that's no fun to read about. Or smell.

So, I'm hopeful that 2019 will continue to be great and I'll gain wonderful experience, advice, and continue striving toward achieving my writing goals.

The Origin of an Idea--Erie Tales

posted Dec 2, 2018, 5:56 AM by Ben Kreucher

The current project I'm working on blossomed from an idea...like all stories do. The idea began as I thought about the subject of Chosen Ones. I knew I didn't want to write that story arc, not because it's been done well so many times, but because I wanted to explore a different angle of it. I wasn't sure that I wanted to subvert it, like the 5 books mentioned on the Tor/Forge blog

The basic premise I began with was "what if Harry Potter met Draco Malfoy first, instead of Ron Weasley". From their ideas blossomed and the subject of my focus changed. As the idea matured and generated new ideas and new story lines, I began to realize that what I was writing was actually a "what if Harry Potter's son joined Voldemort". Which, I suppose, some might say isn't too far off the plot of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

It just seemed interesting. You have this character who's grown up hearing about the deeds of their famous parent and living in the shadow of them. Maybe they want to live up to the hype or surpass that greatness. All they know is that they don't want to be overshadowed by their parent's legacy.

That's where Ted began. He fell into this trap of thinking how he'd become greater than his famous father who succeeded in fulfilling prophesy, defeating a relentless enemy, and saving the world by ending a centuries long war. Ted loves his father, but everywhere he goes, he hears about how "Merlin's heir is so great"; he begins to wonder if his whole life will be lived in the shadows of his father. When the opportunity to strike out on his own and forge his own legacy emerges, he jumps at it without fully considering the consequences until too late.

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