Friday, October 12, 2018

Online Classes and How They Help with Feedback

I haven't always been a fan of online learning--for many years, I liked the face-to-face best, especially when it came to feedback on my writing.  But in the past ten years I've grown very fond of online classes and how they actually enhance writers' ability to give and receive feedback.  I regularly take them for motivation, accountability, and the helpful responses I get for my work-in-progress.

I think there's a great use for them, in the journey of a book, and that's often in the generative and early revision stages.  I don't find as much help when I'm closer to final revision, because seeing only parts of a manuscript is less helpful then.

Friday, October 5, 2018

To Storyboard or Not to Storyboard: How This Cool Planning Tool Compares to Outlines, Charts, and Maps

I'm working on my third novel, my fifteenth book, and I'm approaching it as many writers do:  from nowhere!  It's an exploratory process, and I don't really know what the book will be about.  I have a good idea, a handful of characters I already love (and hate), and a kind of plot.  But I do have my storyboard, and that's gotten me a lot further along than I would be without it.

You've probably heard of the plotter versus pantser continuum in writing.  Plotters like to know where they are going, in every degree, before they begin.  Pantsers are the opposite--they feel their way along, following the nudges and ideas that come as they generate writing.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I don't think I would've gotten thirteen books published, fourteen written, without some planning.  But I also know I gained a tremendous amount by letting the muse direct some of my steps as I went forward.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Residencies and Retreats--How They Help You Start and Finish Your Book

As summer winds down, at least in this part of the U.S., I'm starting a new book.  Although I’m sad to say goodbye to the warm weather, our annual hibernation here in New England always brings me more time for writing and a chance to retreat.  

I love to retreat, either at home or for a planned get-away.  It's hard to imagine such dedicated time, but retreats can happen in small increments, and with planning, you can gift yourself with one during the next months.

Editor Beth Wright on How She Helps Indie Authors Win Awards

A few weeks ago, a former student, memoir-writer Mary Knutson, sent me an exciting email: "I can now put 'award winner' in my bio!" 

On publication of her indie release, Mary's editor had suggested four book awards to consider and the first announced its winners August 2.  As Mary scrolled down to see who had been chosen, there was her book!  She'd entered in three categories and won a Gold Winner Award in the Inspirational Human Relations category for the 2018 Human Relations Indie Book Awards.  She also won Silver Awards in the two other categories.  "So now I have three beautiful certificates to frame," she told me.

Friday, September 14, 2018

What's the Primary Environment of Your Book--Physically, Emotionally, Intellectually, Spiritually?

A new author wrote me this week.  She'd read my writing-craft book, Your Book Starts Here, and it helped her realize which book project she needed to focus on first:  a self-help/memoir hybrid.  But she was confused by my chapter on finding the primary environment of your story.  How did this apply to her book?

Every book has an environment that it lives in.  I think of it like a lab where the experiment lives in a beaker or container.  Everything happens within that container. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Beta Readers--Who Are They, How Do They Help Your Book, How to Find Them

Linda is closing in on the finish line with her memoir and sent a great question this week:  "I'd like to hear what you have to say about beta readers, particularly if it's a good idea to find complete strangers or folks I've already worked with (such as from online classes).  Who makes good beta readers?"

I first heard the term "beta readers" at a writing conference many years ago.  Just like beta testers for software, beta readers are an important part of the book writing process before you "release" your product into the world, either through indie or traditional (agented or small press) publishing.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Four Stages of Writing Practice--Where We Are Strong and Where We Can Fall Down


I was asked to teach a workshop on the stages of creative practice.  I spent weeks thinking about my own writing practice, and what I've witnessed in students, clients, and colleagues over twenty some years of teaching.  Are there stages of anyone's practice, and what did this mean?  Scouring the internet didn't help.  Many writers discussed their practice--how they approach their writing each day--but few had distinct steps.  Some had rituals.  Some knew how to begin or end.  But what about the murky middle, when you're in the midst of writing and things aren't going well?  

I took it as a laboratory experiment.  I began making notes about what happened when I sat down to write.  Where did I move from one kind of activity, internal or external, into another?  

Friday, August 24, 2018

Readers Don't Care Who Publishes Your Book--Really!

One of my private amusements is the serendipity surrounding how well my different books sell, or not.  And how that really doesn't align with who published it.  A writing friend was bemoaning this with me, feeling bad about her small press status versus a Big Five publisher.  But her book has sold well, very well.  While other writers I know, published by a top echelon press, sell fewer copies. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

How Much Research Is Really Enough? Building Worlds, Bringing Back Worlds

A writer from Minneapolis recently sent me a good question about research.  He wondered how much and what kind of research a writer should do when writing historical novels.  I've gotten the same question from writers working on fantasy or sci-fi novels.  When is enough, enough?  When do you stop researching and start writing?  Or vice versa?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Wounding Event--The Backstory That Drives Your Narrator

A short post this week:  I'm just returning from teaching at a writing retreat and wanted to share this article in Fiction Writers Review by Michelle Hoover, on the wounding event, a pivotal moment of backstory that drives much of the internal quest of your narrator.  If you have trouble accessing the link, go to www.fictionwritersreview.com and search for "wounding event."