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? 

Monday, February 4, 2019

How to End Your Book--What Not to Wrap Up

As a journalist for several decades, I was taught well by my editors how to wrap up an article, interview, or column.  Leave the reader with resolution but come to a definite conclusion. 

When I began writing books, I learned a different approach, which is especially common in memoir and fiction these days:  create an ending that hovers.  

In other words, the basic plot is wrapped up satisfactorily, but the inner story, or character's trajectory, is left with unanswered questions.  You may feel this is bad for your reader, but here's an article that might change your mind.  It's our writing exercise this week:  to read, consider, and examine your own endings to see if they reflect this idea.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Avoiding the Midbook Slump: Three Techniques to Keep Readers Reading

Marie, a blog reader, has been working on her storyboard and organizing her chapters, using the three act system that is so helpful for sorting out what belongs and what doesn't in early drafts and revisions.   She's concerned about the middle of her book, though.  
"Act I is comprised of chapters with progressive complications for my protagonist," she writes.  But in the beginning of Act II, Marie's protagonist begins recovering from her problems.  "These chapters are turning out to be much more tied up in a bow but I want to keep the reader interested until my protagonist gets smacked with a big problem at the climax of Act II.  How do I let my protagonist recover from problems at the beginning of Act II yet keep the reader wondering/questioning/guessing?"

Friday, January 25, 2019

Establishing Yourself before Your Book Is Published: Submitting, Platform, and More

Book journeys are divided into very distinct experiences:  the creation of the book and the selling of the manuscript.  Many writers struggle more with one than the other.  I worked with a private client who was aces in marketing; she already had a website for her book before she'd finished editing it.  Another had a background in graphic design and was all about the book's beautiful appearance--we mostly worked together on the writing, which came harder to him.  You may cringe at the thought of promoting yourself (selling your manuscript involves selling yourself too!) or you may be all over it.  

Friday, January 18, 2019

Location in Your Story: The Importance of the Inner and Outer "Container"

Realtors know that location is everything in buying or selling property.  Try to sell a house that's near a busy highway or high tension wires, and you'll learn this.  In story, location is also really important--I wouldn't say it's everything to a story, but it's as vital as good characters and strong plot.

Unfortunately, it's the aspect of writing that many writers tack on or ignore altogether.  

One of my students, Margaret, was working on her memoir about growing up in post-World-War-II Mississippi. The storyboard worked well: plot points were good and you could track the dilemma of her story. So Margaret confidently took a few pages to her writing group for review.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Revision Checklist: When You're Ready to Revise, What to Focus on First

If you have any love for the refining and shaping process of making a book, revision can be much anticipated.  I'm not talking about the early tweaking of individual chapters, which can result in rewriting your opening chapter 1 so many times, you get sick of the book and never write chapter 2.  (I've seen this so many times, and it's a sad thing.) Real revision, in my mind, is not that level of line editing but a whole-book reshaping, a re-visioning of the book's purpose, and an attempt to get out of the writer's chair and into the reader's.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Fantasies of the Writing Lifestyle: How to Get Real about What to Expect

A colleague sent me two fascinating articles recently about the reasonable and unreasonable expectations we writers have of the writing life.

The first is a funny-sad yet informative article by writers Rosalie Knecht from Lit Hub (link here) about the colorful fantasy some have of the writing life.