Friday, April 19, 2019

The Task of Writers to Awaken the Fresh View of Life--Like Traveling to a New Place

I remember pitching one of my novels to agents at a writing conference.  They'd read a few chapters ahead of time, a nice perk at that particular conference, and one of the best compliments I got as I listened to the feedback was:  "This is very fresh."

I asked more about what that meant.  From the response, I gathered that agents look for writers who present a fresh view of life.  Akin to the wonder we might have, traveling to a new place, readers also want to view life differently because of your memoir, novel, or nonfiction book.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Building Your Book Structure around Key Questions

Your writing exercise this week is a simple but powerful one that I teach in my storyboarding classes.  Ask yourself this:  What's the primary question of each chapter in your book? 

Then ask:  How do those questions transition, one to the next, creating a flow that easily carries your reader through the story?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Why We Procrastinate as Writers--A New Perspective

One reason I take classes or go to writing conferences or join a writing group is to set artificial deadlines for myself. I know, after years and many books, that although I'm fairly disciplined with my writing, I need external accountability to get a big project done.  No matter that I set goals, and often meet them, writing a book is a long commitment that is easily sidetracked. 

Like most of you, I can procrastinate like nobody's business when I want to.  With me, it shows up as either cleaning or food. I don't usually go in for internet or Netflix comas, but let me loose with a bag of chips, and watch out. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Root-Cause Analysis--the "Why" Question for Your Characters

Maggie, one of my past students, sent me a fun email this week.  She has been using a great technique for getting deeper into her characters.  I wanted to share it this week, while I'm teaching on retreat, so you could try it.  

Friday, March 22, 2019

Reading as a Writer--Why Reading Other Authors' Books Helps You Learn Your Craft

This weekend, I'm traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to join fifteen emerging (and already published) book writers for my week-long retreat. I've asked each to bring along two books in the same genre as the book they're working on. 

Sometimes this raises questions--"I want to work on my writing, not read other people's."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Creating Believable Characters on the Page--Tips for Fiction and Memoir Book Writers

I've been struggling with my antagonist. That might sound like a normal situation--antagonists create conflict--but my challenge is less about what he does than how believable he is on the page.

One editor told me:  "He's too much like the other nasty guy."  Another said, "It's just Bad and Badder."  My agent said, "The antagonists need to be as believable as the protagonist."

Friday, March 8, 2019

How Does Your Book End? Here Are Some Great Ideas

Thanks to Rita who sent the link for this week's writing exercise.  Scan these best endings and pick your favorite.  Why do you love those and what might it tell you about how you want your own book to end?


Do you prefer a lyrical ending, rich with image?  A factual wrap up?  An ending that hovers or one that really concludes?


If you assume an ending answers a question or quest posed at the start of the book, what might that question or quest be for these ending lines?

Friday, March 1, 2019

Finding Your Writing Community-Soothing the Solitude of the Writing Life

Writing a book--writing anything--is by necessity a solitary practice.  We are by ourselves with our words at first, generating them in a conversation between laptop and hands on keyboard, or pen and notepad.  It's not a bad thing.  I actually love the process of being in the worlds of my books, and I crave the solitude to immerse myself.  

But every now and then, it helps to have community.  Community is essential for feedback, when you get to the point of needing it, but it's also very helpful for support.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Interior Monologue Pros and Cons--How Do You Integrate Thoughts, Feelings, and Talking to Yourself?

Here's a great definition of interior monologue:  "a conversation a character is having with themselves, internally."  Read more here.  Some writers call it internal dialogue.  Or thought tags.  But whatever you call it, it's happening inside.  

As an editor, I have strong opinions about interior monologue. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Warning: Writer's Message Ahead! The Dangers of Platforms in Fiction and Memoir

One of my students is writing his first novel, a work of historical fiction that he has researched carefully.  He became interested in the real subject of this story many years ago and has been on a fast track ever since, learning how to create a strong and engaging tale while staying as true as possible to the facts behind it. 

When he attended my writing retreat last February in Tucson, we discussed ways to integrate the facts of the era and politics into his story.  So much good material, so many great bits to bring in, but how much is right for the story--and what's just for him, in his own fascination with it?