Thursday, July 31, 2008

Good Advice If You're Looking for an Agent--from Chuck Sambuchino and Victoria Strauss

Is your book ready for an agent? There are some great web sites out there, to help you find the right person--and to educate you on all the pitfalls.

A favorite is by Victoria Strauss. Click here to visit her website.

Another great site is the Guide to Literary Agents--click here.

Or Chuck Sambuchino's WritersNet's agent directory lets you search by your genre and topic. Click here.

What other great sites have you found?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Writing Exercise of the Week--with Thanks to Carolyn See

Write a thank-you postcard (just a few lines) to five people whose books you really loved. Tell them how they changed your life. You can mail it to the publisher's address or google the author to see if you can get a real address for them.

I did this when I was eleven, for a book called The House of Thirty Cats by Mary Calhoun. I loved cats (and still do). I was astonished when I got a hand-written letter back! That book--and its author--changed my life.

As an adult, I've often found this little exercise frees me up to write better. Maybe it's because I am less concerned with competition when I feel grateful? Or I acknowledge that there's plenty of success out there for all of us?

Thanks to Carolyn See for this exercise. Her book Making a Literary Life is fun and very informative.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing Exercise of the Week

Imagine a year from today. Write about your book, in the present tense, using as much detail as possible, with as much loving attention as you can muster.

What would you like to have happen with your book, by then? What dreams could you imagine being fulfilled?
How clearly can you imagine it?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do You Have Book-Writer's Block?

Do you relate to this question, from reader Eleni Turner? "Please write about writer's block--I'm currently suffering from lack of inspiration on the storyline I'm most serious about. I know exactly what I want to write, but when I try, it becomes either too boring or too rambly."

What's your best technique for handling writer's block?
Is it real? (Some writers poo-poo the idea, but those of us who have experienced it might say otherwise.)
What makes writer's block visit you--and what makes it finally leave?

Post your ideas, tips, and suggestions below.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jane Levin's New Poetry Chapbook

Jane Levin's new poetry chapbook, Legacy, has just been published. Jane was a student in my writing classes and began publishing her poetry with great success.

This is her first book. Congratulations, Jane! I've reviewed her book in The Alsop Review. To read this article (and some great poetry), click here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Writing Exercise of the Week

Begin a dialogue on paper with an aspect of your book that you dislike or don't "get" or can't move forward with. A reticent character? A chapter that won't come together? Something you just can't write, no matter how hard you try?

Ask it why it is in your book--and your life. Write down whatever comes as an answer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Writing When You're Traveling--How Do Book-Writers Do It?

So far it's been a summer of intense travel, living out of a suitcase, and trying to write in internet cafes, sending book chapters-in-progress to myself by email.

Each trip, I try not to leave behind these books I'm writing. A colleague once said, if you stop writing for three days you have to start over again. I get that. Losing the flow of my characters' voices, losing the ideas of how to structure a section of my book just so. Does this happen to you? Or can you "hold" the book for longer in your head without showing up on the page?

How does travel affect your creative life? How do you keep going with your book-writing when you're on the go?

Post a comment by clicking below--let us know!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Get Those Ducks Moving! A Poem-Writing Exercise of the Week for Book Writers

Step 1: Create one sentence for each of four plot points in your book (peak moments, external movement, change).
Step 2: Create one sentence for each of four different character’s shifts (internal change in the character, realization moment).
Step 3: Create one sentence for each of four different setting details (with something from the five senses associated with each).
Step 4: Create one sentence for each of four objects or memories associated with the book.
Step 5: Find one musical detail in the book (sound or rhythm).

Take all the above musings and write a four-stanza poem about your book. Use one plot point, one character shift, one object or memory in each stanza. Then try to get something rhythmic or musical in each stanza.

Thanks to Stuart Dybek's interview in Novel Voices (edited by Jennifer Levasseur and Kevin Rabalais) for the inspiration for this exercise. My book-writing class loved it!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fabulous Writing Books to Help You Write a Book

Vivian Gornick talks about “the situation and the story”—the two elements of good prose. What happens and why it happens. Because of her simplicity in describing this complex idea, The Situation and the Story became one of the truly influential writing books in my life.

Carol Bly’s The Passionate, Accurate Writer taught me about writing of consequence and how to stay unembittered while working with difficult material. Kenneth Atchity’s innovative book-gathering ideas in A Writer’s Time transformed the last five manuscripts I completed and published.

For years, I whole-heartedly recommended these three books to my writing buddies, coaching clients, and students. I know there are many very good writing books available—and shelves of them line my office—but only a few, such as these, have really taught me how to grow as a writer.

A friend’s discovery recently added another transformative writing book to my small collection. From Where You Dream, by Robert Owen Butler (Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2005) is a series of lectures to his graduate fiction students, transcribed and edited by Janet Burroway (of Writing Fiction fame).

Although geared toward fiction writers, From Where You Dream answered my question on how to bring out the deeper meaning of any piece of writing, especially when writing a book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Exercise of the Week for Book Writers

Here are some questions to think about, as you work on your writing and your book this week:

What kind of reader do you see in your mind's eye or heart, as you write: Women over fifty? Boys under fifteen? Guys who love fishing?

Is your language, tone, and style going to engage this particular reader?

Is the pace of your narrative (how fast it moves) going to make them want to read more? Or will it make them stop reading?

Most book writers think all they have to do it is write. Why consider these questions at all? These days, if you’re thinking of being published (or if you want your book to be read by more than four or five of your close friends or family), you have to make people want to turn the page.

You have to consider the reader.
The agent will.
The publisher will.

This week, spend a little time making notes about your reader. Really think about how best to serve them, while keeping your own vision about your book.