Creative Ops | Ep.6 | Parenting & Hobby Farming w/ Andrea Draft

My friend Andrea Draft joined us in-studio to talk about stay-at-home parenting during the pandemic, and how important it is to keep your sanity by finding something that brings you joy. In her case, it’s chickens and a plentiful veggie garden.


Listen for parenting tips, chicken knowledge, and gardening wisdom!  


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Behind “The Process”: FAQ from the Internet writing community

Answering questions on writing from the internet
Photo by Bruce Mars (Unsplash)

Hey everybody!

On my podcast, Creative Ops, I talk to…creative people. This takes all forms: art, hobbies, lifestyle, business, etc…. One of the recurring bits of advice I’ve gotten (and shared) is so simple, you’ll feel like an idiot for not thinking of it yourself. Join a community of like-minded people. This could be a real group that meets in-person. Or, since, ya know…everything, you could find online groups.

I found and joined a few such groups online for writers. As someone who has a formal education in writing and literature, it seems that I answer more questions than I ask in these groups. That’s not me saying I’m a better writer than the newbies, just that I’ve asked a lot of those questions before. But there’s a few questions that keep popping up, so I thought I’d go through some of the most asked questions I’ve seen online. The answers will be brief, but I’ll link you up to other posts if you want a deeper dive.

Here we go!

How do you start writing?

Where do writers’ get their ideas?

First of all, don’t ask a writer this question. At least, not in this way. Why? Read my post, You Should Never Ask a Writer…

Never one to take good advice (even my own), I set out to answer this question with Behind “The Process”: Where DO Ideas Come From? I’ll point you towards free-writing again. Ideas come, seemingly from nowhere, when you do this.

Here’s the kicker, at least for aspiring novelists. A single idea does not a story make. My novel (not available yet) started from one idea. But then I had a different idea I liked better. I didn’t scrap the first one. Not entirely. Instead, I incorporated it. And that is (besides a gross simplification) what makes a layered story–multiple ideas mixing together to make a beginning, middle, and end that work harmoniously. Don’t take if from me, listen to what the legends have to say. In Behind “The Process”: Where DO Ideas Come From?, I refer to a single interview with 4 of the best horror writers of all time.

I need to outline before I start, right?

No. Behind “The Process”: Plotting vs Writing goes into it further. Essentially, and this is my opinion, which you’re welcome to disagree with, plotting (or outlining) is something that can turn your story into a paint-by-numbers experience. There are terrific writers that outline every…single…thing that happens in their story. If it feels good, do it. It just doesn’t feel good to me. I like the exploration of figuring it out on the fly. You’ll rewrite and edit it, anyway. Don’t take your first pass too seriously. If it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong.

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An example of how I outline an ENTIRE chapter. (And I often break from the outline.) It’s more of a mental warm-up than anything.

How do you make characters believable?

Ever read a story where complete strangers bend over backward to help the main character (MC)? I don’t know about you, but I find it unrealistic–most of the time. The answer to realistic characters is quite simple, really. The short answer: at their core, most characters should be looking out for themselves, regardless the situation. Read more in Behind “The Process” Quickie: The Simplest Trick to Writing Believable Characters. (It’s short.)

How important is dialogue?

Elmore Leonard said (not a direct quote) that people skip pages with no dialogue, so he tried to have some on every page. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this: If you have the choice of furthering the action with narration or dialogue–use dialogue.

However, you don’t want to use the same tags over and over. Tags are he said, she cried, their voices echoed. Dialogue tags let the reader know whom is speaking. I’m actually quite proud of my post, Behind “The Process”: Proper Placement of Dialogue Tags. I go much deeper into how to use them, how to vary usage, and where to put them in the sentence for maximum impact.

And if you really want your dialogue to work, use this quick tip: Behind “The Process” Quickie: Dialogue Tip

I have my first draft. Now what?

Don’t show it off. Not yet. It’s a baby of an idea that can’t quite walk on its own legs. Here is the part where you have to start questioning yourself. No, not like, Am I a good writer?, but, Is this as good as it can be?

Writing is rewriting. I think King said that. At least that’s where I heard it. I’m sure that piece of wisdom has been around awhile. It’s absolutely true. You could take a shit idea and make it a fun read, if you tool around with it enough. Think of it like an old TV set with a bunny-ear antenna–keep making adjustments until you see what you want. You might get something out of Behind “The Process”: Rewriting.

How do I know when my story is ready for its first readers?

Hopefully you’ve followed (or customized) the earlier info. After you rewrote it to the point you just can’t wait for someone to read it…


Some people think it’s a chore, but I. Love. Editing. It’s fun. The hardest part is done. This is just cleanup.

How do you edit properly? Good question. Here’s the answer: Behind “The Process”: Just Kill Em Already (Editing). In short, be brutal. Take out every little thing that doesn’t absolutely, 100% need to be there. There’s a lot to be said for economy of words.

What’s the most overlooked writing tip?

This is easy. Absolute no-brainer. The post, Behind “The Process” Quickie: The most underrated writing tip of all time!, is so short I’m not giving you a teaser. Sorry.

I want to show my writing, but I’m too shy

OK. I realize that isn’t a question, but it deserves to be addressed. For every story you’ve seen on a bookshelf, there are millions that have never seen the light of day.

Behind “The Process”: Don’t Be Shy outlines a few things to keep in mind when getting ready to share something for the first time.

  1. You won’t write something that everyone loves, but you won’t write something that everyone hates either.
    • Not every every story is universally loved. Don’t be offended if someone says, It’s not for me.
  2. If you come across a reader who is mean about your work, they’re probably just an A-hole. Move on.
    • This rarely happens if you’re sharing with people you know. But if you put something online, remember that hurt-people hurt people. Don’t give time or attention to unconstructive feedback.
  3. Check your ego at the door when you ask for feedback.
    • Honest readers will always tell you where something could be improved, wasn’t clear, or whatever. And even the heavyweights still get and use feedback. Don’t be upset if someone doesn’t see it as a masterpiece, use their critiques to make it better!

Parting Advice

Study the craft. Read books about writing, written by people you admire. Get on YouTube and watch author interviews. I put this little thing together: Classic Author Interviews: Christopher Tallon’s All-Time Favorites.

Most importantly, keep writing as much as you can. Keep at your WIP (work in progress), write blogs, write for the fun of writing with no expectation once in awhile.

Keep writing. Keep having fun!

Nothin but love, y’all!


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Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five!

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Why EVERYONE Should Write By Hand

Writing by hand is the best, dare I say, ONLY way to write!
Photo by Kat Stokes

I wrote a post once in which I briefly describe–at least for my first draft–my preference for writing by hand over typing. Over and over again, “try writing by hand” is my go to advice for people. It’s kinda my cure-all.

I have writer’s block.

Try writing by hand.

I’m not sure how to end my story.

Write by hand, either making notes, or writing out that part of the story.

I don’t feel good.

Write about it. By hand.

What Makes Writing by Hand So Special?

An article from Mental Floss lists 4 reasons:

  1. It’s better for learning. One of the most effective ways to study and retain new information is to rewrite your notes by hand.
  2. It makes you a better writer.
  3. It will prevent you from being distracted.
  4. It keeps your brain sharp as you get older.

But this is just a starter list. The truth is, writing by hand engages the brain in a way that typing on a computer simply can’t.

Affects of Writing by Hand on the Brain

An article in Psychology Today tells us, “The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during handwriting, but not during typing.” In other words, reading activates the same part of your brain as writing–but not typing.

Also, when you type, your computer likely underlines things in blue and red, letting you know you should change them. Then you start thinking too much about mechanics, and your style fades.

This came from an article in Forbes: “According to a study performed at the Indiana University, the mere action of writing by hand unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way. And high-tech magnetic resonance imaging has indeed shown that low-tech writing by hand increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, much like meditation.” It went on to say, “Mindful writing rests the brain, potentially sparking creativity….”

But writing by hand is even more magical than I realized. (And I thought it was pretty damn awesome already.)

Writing by Hand Is Good for Your Mental Health

I was upset the other day. Like, having an imaginary argument out loud, letting out all the mean shit I was thinking. Then I decided to write about it, journal style. What I found was that by the third sentence, my thinking had become clear, the ridiculousness of how angry I was had become clear, and before I even finished the first paragraph, I wasn’t mad anymore. (But I had a good idea for a blog post…)

An article from the University of Rochester Medical School website says that journaling can help “manage anxiety, reduce stress, [and] cope with depression” by “helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns; tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them; [and] providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors.”

An article from Cambridge University says that writing, over time, may even improve immune function.

So what are you waiting for? Get writing! Not sure how? See if these help:

How to Start Journaling for Better Mental Health

Discover 8 Journaling Techniques for Better Mental Health

How To Start and Write a Journal

Eight Suggestions for New Journal Writers

That’s it. That’s all I got. Catch ya next time. Take care!


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Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five!

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Writing as Work

I’ve said before that I would love to make an enormous amount of money as a writer. Sounds pretty good, right? But someone challenged me, saying, “So are you writing to try to make money?”

The simple answer is: Yes and no.

Everybody needs work. Why can’t writing (or any other passion) be work?

Art is often thought of as “not a realistic job”. When kids in school say they want to be a painter, or an actor, or a writer, teachers, parents, even friends say, “That would be nice, but you have to have a real goal.”

Tell that to the person who designs beer labels. Makes the podcast you listen to. Records the music you work out to. The people who design websites are artists. The people who make video games are artists. The person who writes the catchy jingles on the radio is an artist.

Art isn’t a real job? Creativity isn’t as important as this degree or that certification or whatever? I’d argue, with the amount of people, and ease of access to a potential audience, that there could (and should) be waaaaaay more creative people exploring their passions and sharing with the public. And, if you have talent, why not as a means of living?

I’ve interviewed people on my podcast, Creative Ops (A Podcast for Creative People, by Creative People), who’ve told me they wanted to do this-and-that, but they opted for the “real” job, only later coming back around to the thing that really drives em crazy. (In a good way.)

I said I wanted to make money, not become famous.

I’d love to create income as a writer to the point where I didn’t have to think about getting any other job. Enough that my wife could work part-time. (She has already stated many times that she won’t ever stop working completely until she’s retirement age.) All of this wraps up to this, I suppose: I don’t write thinking, Ooooh, writing this kind of story would sell a lot of copies. No. I don’t really think about what I’m writing until I stumble onto an idea or character (or both) that intrigue me. Not for their commercial viability, but for what will be fun spending hundreds of hours writing, then even more editing and revising. If you try to write a novel with an idea that doesn’t really tickle you, you’re going to feel like you’re trapped in a loveless marriage, and you’ll probably bail on it. I’ve been there.

The writing part. I love my wife very much, and am happy to believe her when she says the same.

So what am I doing about making work of writing?

I’m starting to blog for money. I already blog for Threads Podcast: Life Unfiltered, which has been great! The focus is largely on mental health, and I’ve found the research I’ve done for the blog has been really good for me on a personal level. Hopefully it helps the folks who’ve been enjoying Threads.

I also have a new client who will remain nameless until I receive my first mouth burning bottle…

Talks will hopefully be underway for another client very soon. Then who knows.

So, in the meantime, I’m still trying to get my book out (to agents, a few small presses), giving myself a year of trying before I go the self-publishing route. And then blogging. On my own blog, I’ve got writing tips in a series called Behind “The Process”, some random stuff, and the first blog that someone ever linked to in an article was a blog I wrote about the 89-90 Pistons. And of course some stuff about my podcast.

If you or someone you know is looking for a blogger, content writer, or copy-editor (someone who reads and fixes mistakes)…HOLLA!



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Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five!

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Behind “The Process”: Proper Placement of Dialogue Tags


It’s been a minute. I truly hope everyone is doing well. The world’s been a crazy place since the last time I did a Behind “The Process” post, and while these posts don’t add much to the national conversation, maybe it’ll help you voice your own feelings, directly or indirectly, about what’s going on. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you don’t want your writing to look stiff. So here’s a few quick tips about dialogue tags to spice up your writing. (And if you like this one, I have another post about varying sentence structure to strengthen your writing.)

Another good way to spice that word stew is by changing where you put your dialogue tags. You know—she said, he said, and so on. One spoken sentence can look, and sound, different based on where the tag goes. I’ll show you what I’m talking about. Ready?

Photo by Paolo Nicolello

OK. Here’s something Evan, one of the characters in my book, said (minus a dialogue tag):

“It’s got the barricade still, but it’s locked. Someone toss me the keys!”

With this I could go a few different directions:

Evan said: “It’s got the barricade still, but it’s locked. Someone toss me the keys!”

“It’s got the barricade still!” Evan said. “But it’s locked. Someone toss me the keys!”

“It’s got the barricade still, but it’s locked.” Evan said. “Someone toss me the keys!”

“It’s got the barricade still, but it’s locked. Someone toss me the keys!” Evan said.

I ultimately went with:

“It’s got the barricade still!” Evan said. “But it’s locked. Someone toss me the keys!”

Why Did I put the Tag in the Middle?

This scene happened after some intense action. The kid were looking to interrogate one of the time travelers in the back of an old cop car they found at a used car dealer. I wanted the character to run back and immediately share the news that the car was set up the way they’d hoped, so “It’s got the barricade still!” Evan said, works the best here. It not only puts the most useful and awaited information first, but separates it from new/additional stuff. Evan said, or any tag, becomes a pivot point between we-wanted-this-or-that and OK-now-this-is-happening. If you want something someone says early to have a little bit more impact, set it apart from the rest of the sentence/paragraph with a cleverly placed tag in the middle.

When Do I Put Tags at the Beginning?

Fortunately for me (I didn’t look very long or hard for examples, haha) right after this question, I used a tag at the beginning for the next line of dialogue:

Roughly four seconds into his search, Dylan said: “None of the keys are labeled. How the hell is anyone supposed to find anything? Ugh. So stupid.”

I think, in general, a tag at the beginning goes best in places where the words spoken aren’t always expected. Or to introduce something. Or to give credit to someone when using their words, for example: A wise woman once told me, “Dialogue tags are way underrated, homie.” And really, you can put them at the beginning any time you want, so long as it makes it flow better. What’s flow? When you say it out loud and it just feels like you said it the most efficient and pleasing-sounding way possible. Mmm…

When Do Tags Go at the End?

Every. Other. Time. The end is kind of the default.

“Really?” he asked.

“Really,” she confirmed.

“No way,” he said.

“Yes way,” she said.

“This is the dumbest conversation ever,” he said.

You’re the dumbest conversation ever,” she said.

“Sick burn.”

Most tags will probably be at the end. You really can’t go wrong with simple he/she/they said at the end of a sentence. Keep it simple when you’re not sure, spice as needed.

Take care!


Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five!

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