My Seven Years on Kill Zone

by James Scott Bell


Hard to believe it’s been seven years frolicking in the blog fields of Kill Zone.

Seven years of putting out a regular Sunday post on writing and the writing life. With time off for good behavior (i.e., our regular Christmas break), I’ve done about 350 posts.

My first post was on July 26, 2009. I was so pleased to have been invited to join the regular crew, which at that time was made up of Kathryn Lilley, Joe Moore, John Ramsey Miller, Michelle Gagnon, Clare Langley-Hawthorne, and a fellow named Gilstrap. Good times! And they’ve only continued.

It’s been so cool to watch our readership grow, attesting to the quality of our contributors, both present and emeriti. Writer’s Digest and several online sites have taken notice of this, handing us their highest recommendations. We also have a robust community in our regular readers, who consistently post superb insights in the comments.

So how on earth does somebody come up with 350 topics on writing without repeating himself?

I’ll tell you: It’s easy if you love what you write about, and I love the craft of fiction. It’s endlessly fascinating to me to dig in and analyze what writers do and how they do it. I can write about the same topic –– for example, scenes or dialogue –– because I’m always noticing new things that work. I get excited because I can apply what I learn to my own writing, and then share it with others.

I also enjoy, from time to time, taking a look at the publishing industry. I came aboard TKZ just as digital self-publishing was starting to boom. In January of 2010 I wrote my first post on this topic right after Amazon announced its 70% royalty for indie authors. Looking back, I modestly note that my analysis seems pretty right on, except in one regard –– how the traditional publishers would react. I saw a great opportunity for new partnerships with authors. But the industry dug in and in many cases tried to prevent their authors from self-publishing anything.

Then came what I called The Eisler Sanction in March of 2011. That’s when everybody began to recognize that self-publishing was here to stay and that Amazon was going to be the 800-pound gorilla.

I’ve also posted the occasional personal reflection. I think it’s important that those of us who’ve been around the block, so to speak, give newer writers the benefit of our experience. There isn’t a writing obstacle or mental hurdle a writer faces that we here at TKZ haven’t gone through ourselves.

For the record, the post that got me the most hits was The Ten Events of the Highly Successful Writer.

Seven years!

And you know what? I’m ready for another seven. I’ve got a dozen ideas already queued up. And if this blog lasts, and the creek don’t rise (not really an issue here in Southern California), I’ll be coming up with many more.

Thanks to my blogmates for their consistent professionalism over the years. And thanks to you, our loyal readers, for helping make TKZ one of the premiere spots for writers to hang out.

So what brought you to Kill Zone for the first time? Any reflections on the site you’d like to share?

36 thoughts on “My Seven Years on Kill Zone

  1. I don’t remember when I first discovered TKZ but it has been several years and I do remember that original line up that you mention.

    There are several things that make TKZ a great place: 1) Obviously the benefit to the always-learning writer, no matter their experience level, 2) the wide variety of posts, 3) the consistency of all the contributors in making TKZ a dependable site–we can count on TKZ like we know the sun will rise the next day, 3) The interesting way contributors use real life experience to apply to writing lessons, 4) TKZ is never so serious that they can’t have a little fun too, 5) the variety of perspectives and teaching styles.

    I credit TKZ for keeping me in the writing game. While I certainly have had my share of lulls in writing productivity, I believe a large part of the reason I stick with writing is TKZ is an encouragement in reminding me why I took up writing in the first place. To express myself. To say what needs to be said.

    And all the commenters should pat themselves on the back, too. Maybe I’m forgetting an instance, but I have always found commenters to be respectful of others, even if they’re not in agreement.

    So congrats on 7 years and thanks to all TKZ contributors and commenters for making TKZ so much fun that during the Christmas break, I come just to visit the posted Christmas wreath until posts re-start in January. 😎 😎 😎 You are all the tops!!!!

  2. For my money, TKZ does a far better job than any other writer’s site I’ve run across of consistently putting out solid, useful craft information. Week in, week out there are nuggets that any writer of any experience level can profitably use. In many instances, the ideas may be reminders of things we knew but have forgotten or slight variations on techniques that we never quite thought of. And because the posts cover so many viewpoints, a day never goes by without something of value.

    So Happy Birthday, Jim, and thanks.

    • I first came to the site through a link in one of JSB’s books, but it’s been fun to become acquainted with the personalities and approaches of all the bloggers. I agree with Stephen McDaniel. Solid, useful craft information is what sets this site apart. As a retired teacher I’m impressed by the capable and generous teaching found here. Thank you.

  3. I followed Larry brooks here. Spent a good deal of time on his web site then one day found a link to TKZ and a new obsession was born

  4. I got here by accident several years ago. TKZ has kept me going, upped my writting, and been one of my happy places. Sunday’s with Jimmy Bell? Well that helps the writing world roll around. 😀 Congrats! Looking forward to many more Sunday’s Mr. Bell.

  5. Actkually Jim, YOU brought me to KZ, First as a reader, and then your invitation to join the blogging team here, a role I value highly. Thanks for that, and for all you do for writers. You’re an amazing role model.

  6. Congratulations on your anniversary.

    I don’t remember how I found TKZ, but I’ve been reading it for years. This is one of the most useful blogs I’ve found and one of the only ones that survived my recent purging of blogs that just clogged my inbox.

    Thanks for all the great content.

    • Staci, I think I followed you here. So glad to have found this site and I agree with you about this being one of the most useful sites on writing.

  7. I love this blog. You and the other authors give good advice, and the topics are interesting. Congratulations on your seven years of writing for it. 🙂 — Suzanne

  8. This is one of the few writer sites I still subscribe to. Your posts contain valuable information, where so many other sites promote “their way or the highway” style of writing.

    Congrats on seven years and here’s to seven more!

  9. Jim, I actually came to International Thriller Writers through my cyber-friend, the late Dr. Michael Palmer, and it wasn’t long before I discovered The Kill Zone. It was a happy coincidence that I discovered you were one of the writers there, since our paths had crossed (long story…I’ll tell it another time) at a writers’ conference earlier. Still read the blog, and I’m ready to do so for another seven years as well. Thanks for all you do.

  10. Only recently started commenting, but I’ve read TKZ for a long time. I forget now which post first landed me here, there have been so many great ones! If I was only able to follow one writing blog, this would be it.

  11. Jim, Congratulations on the seven year anniversary!

    I learned of TKZ from author Jillian Kent. Thanks, Jillian. I’ve been following the posts for about three years, and I’ve been impressed with all the contributors. I’ve learned so much. Even though my day job keeps me too busy to comment, except on weekends, I read the posts every day (often late at night).

    I hesitate to mention names, because I know I will forget someone. But all of you have taught and inspired me. Thanks for all your teaching and your great examples in your own books (and even legal advice, Jim and Joe).

    Jim, when you began your post – “Hard to believe it’s been seven years…” – I thought, “Oh, no.” and raced to the end of the post to make certain you weren’t calling it quits. When I read, “…I’m ready for another seven,” I audibly expressed my relief.

    You said if the blog lasts and the creek don’t rise, you’ll still be writing posts over the next seven years. Well, we’ll be here reading them (as they say in our neck of the woods) God willing and the crick don’t rise.

    Thanks for all of your teaching!

  12. Thank goodness you’re signing up for seven more years. I was holding my breath thinking this was your swan song and my Sunday mornings would not be the same.

    I came via a recommendation from SJ Rozan when I took a novel writing workshop from her. It was the first writer’s blog I signed up for, and it’s been an invaluable source for craft lessons through the two years I’ve been following it. I even had a first-page critique a while ago.

    Thanks for all the contributors but especially today to you, Jim. I look forward to many more Sundays learning from you. In fact, your recent blog on character is downloaded and in my craft notebook.

  13. Thanks for all of your work and discipline in putting out very useful information. While not new to technical and professional writing, in my retirement years I am working on a novel.

    Having been in the medical profession for years, I have come to the conclusion that every woman who has had a baby is now an expert on the topic. The same goes with writers–so many who have published think they are experts on the craft. Your blog is different, in that it is more than your opinion, it is useful and is on target for what is needed in learning the craft.

  14. Jim,

    Thank you for seven years of sharing your writing insights, craft wisdom, and humor here at the TKZ. It’s made a big difference to so many of us! I came here because of you–I was a fan of “Plot & Structure” and “The Art of War for Writers”, and Mister Google pointed me to TKZ and your Sunday posts. And that led me to the other wonderful authors also sharing their wisdom and insights here.

  15. Thank you all for the lovely comments and reflections about our blog. My colleagues and I want you to know we are as appreciative of you as you are of us. I love what BK said in the first comment: Maybe I’m forgetting an instance, but I have always found commenters to be respectful of others, even if they’re not in agreement..

    That’s been our goal. To be a congenial and collegial community…though we do not mind respectful disagreements. (I remember a few instances of back-and-forth with Brother Gilstrap … I wish he’d drop in again!)

    Again, thanks to all.

  16. First, congratulations on this lucky number milestone, Jim. I was very relieved to read toward the bottom of the post that you plan to be around at least another seven years. For a bit there, I worried this was your “seven years and I’m out” post. Thank goodness I have much more of your skilled wisdom to look forward to as I’ve learned a ton from you in this blog and from your books. Thank you.

  17. Huge congratulations, Jim! And thank you and all contributors for all you do. I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed many various sites for writers, but with TheKillZone I stay for longest and will continue reading and following. I don’t exactly remember how I came to it. It must have been an article on a topic I’ve been interested in and which I googled probably. Or maybe through writer’s digest in the list of 101 best blog posts. Somehow I think it’s both. 🙂
    Here is to the next 7x7x7x7x7x7x7! 😀
    And thank you very much again!

  18. Happy seventh, Mr. B ~ time flies when you’re not paying attention ~ 🙂

    Don’t recall how I stumbled in, but all y’all’ve been welcoming (and forgiving), of my occasional two cents, patient with my ignorance, and inspiring and encouraging with your replies to my comments.

    Not only have have I learned good stuff, but I’ve discovered new writers (and rediscovered old ones).

    Thanks for what you do and how well you (all) do it~!


  19. Congratulations on the seven. I dropped by the first time after a one-day class from that Gilstrap fellow (John is great.) That was five years ago. There has been a lot of good l’arning and inspiratin’ since then. Glad you’re on board for another round.

  20. Thank you for posting this today, Jim. The seed that grew into The Kill Zone was planted in my brain long ago, around 2006, shortly after I signed a contract with Penguin Books. I asked my then-editor what tasks I should be doing as a writer (other than writing). She said, “Get a web site, and start a blog.” I remember researching writing blogs, and thinking, “Yikes, I can’t do this by myself.” I reached out to a fellow writer I’d never met in person, our own Joe Moore, and we assembled the first motley crew of writers who eventually became The Kill Zone. Through the years the blog has grown, evolved and adapted with the publishing times, with New faces, topics, and friends. But while other blogs have come and gone, while places like Twitter and Facebook have altered the social media landscape, and then inundated people with unsolicited ads, convos, etc., TKZ has remained our little noncommercial water cooler in cyberspace. This is a place where working writers simply hang out and talk about the craft. It’s an all volunteer effort, and sometimes we have to reboot our inner batteries and find new ways to keep things fresh and informative. Your presence on the blog for the last seven years contributed so much to TKZ, Jim, thank you for your continuing contributions. And as always, a huge shoutout to the folks who drop in to visit–we love it when you jump into the conversations here.

    • Wow. I would have been intimidated about starting a blog but look what that one piece of advice has generated! Cool!

      While I technically have a blog (ie. it exists in cyberspace) I’ve fallen away from it. I know many people have individual blogs but I think TKZ’s formula of having multiple authors rotate is the way to go, not only for variety, but to give each author a bit of a break.

      I only visit about 3 writing related blogs regularly, this one most regularly of all of them (I did the same blog purge another commenter mentioned) but only one of those blogs is the blog of an individual writer that I’m friends with. I definitely gravitate toward the group run blogs.

  21. To my fellow struggling, wannabe writers, read JSB’s, Plot and Structure, follow instructions given and cut years off your process of learning how to structure and plot your novel. For real.

  22. So glad your passion for fiction writing keeps going and going, like the Energizer bunny, Jim! We all benefit from your insightful, immediately useful, and highly entertaining weekly posts! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

  23. Love your enthusiasm, Jim. I don’t remember what first brought me to TKZ. But I’m thankful for whatever post it was that did. Happy Anniversary!

  24. I originally landed on TKZ from a link on another now-defunct blog. It was back in the days of the original cast, so to speak, so it must have been in the early days. I really don’t remember exactly when that was. I enjoy the format with different personalities. I miss Gilstrap and M Gagnon, and I enjoyed Jodie’s contributions, too. If it were just one person all the time I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it. So keep it up! And if some of the current contributors move on I hope they are replaced by others just as thoughtful.

  25. Happy birthday, Jim, and thank you for bringing me to TKZ. Seven years is a long time to survive in the blogosphere and still have fresh ideas. Your enthusiasm is catching.

  26. I shouldn’t have read the other comments first because my thoughts echo many others’ and I’m supposed to be able to be creative and original, right?

    Forgive me if I repeat.

    I felt a twinge of loss when this post arrived in my Inbox. Oh, no, he’s leaving TKZ. What will I do? And then a great sigh when you said you were good for at least seven more years.

    Congratulations, Jim. Your wealth of ideas and information add so much value to our writing journey. I can’t remember how I found TKZ or how long ago–at least four years ago, I think–but I rarely skip over a post, regardless of the topic and which of your contributors wrote it.

    Writing fiction is both craft and emotion, and this blog addresses the two. It’s generally a joyful experience to come here.

    Thank you.

  27. It was some guy named Gilstrap that brought me here. I was getting ready to take a class and receive a critique from him and did my homework. It was the pivot moment of my one step up, two steps back writing career and the reason I have a big-ass knife trophy on the cabinet behind me.

    Over the years, I’ve gone back to the beginning and read a lot of the older posts and always took away something positive. Like I tell my friends, if you write any sort of action/adventure, mystery, or thriller, ya gotta hang around the Kill Zone.

    Even when I wander off and go on a blog fast, I’m still never too far away. I, too, look forward to the next seven years and continuing to meet everyone. If any of y’all are going to be at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee in November please hunt me down. It’s a rollicking one-day conference hosted by the geniuses behind Crimespree Magazine. I mean the venue has an open bar, need I say more?

    And thanks to Professor Bell and his Sunday lessons. Combined with his books and presentations at conferences, I’m a better writer for it.

  28. Like the others I was relieved to see you’re signing on for another seven! I came here after hearing you at ACFW a few years ago. Thanks for passing on to us your knowledge. And that’s a thanks to all the writers here at the Killzone!

  29. I came here for the first time several years ago when Jim was a speaker at the Tallahassee Writers Association Conference (2011 maybe?). He gave out the url and there I was the next day, reading about writing. Love it.

    Thanks for sharing all of your collective expertise!

  30. TKZ never disappoints readers/writers. There is always great information on the writing craft presented in an interesting way.
    I find the site to be the best on assisting writers on all levels of accomplishment.

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