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Sinking Into The Bog

In my last post (“Inspired to Emulation—or Preparing to Jump“), I talked about The Rule of No Rules, and how reading other writers you admire will provide the best writing advice you will ever receive. Not long after the post went up, one of my favorite novelists, Adrian McKinty—who writes brilliantly about Northern Ireland during the Troubles from the perspective of a Catholic detective serving in the overwhelmingly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary—posted the following letter on Twitter. He composed it to an aspiring author who had asked his advice on this whole writing business. This is what Adrian wrote in response (the recipient’s name has been removed for the sake of privacy ):     I’m tempted to end this blog post here, because I couldn’t possibly say an Read More

to plot or not to plot…?

So much has been said and written about this topic, that it is almost fruitless to comment. All you need do is google the topic and you will find countless analyses of the benefits of one or another approach, or of each approach.  But beware, the writer’s subjective preference will often show, once you do this. For example, Kate Forsyth is probably on the side of plotting, as is James Patterson. And the genre chosen by the author to write in, will determine to a great extent, which approach s/he chooses. Fantasy writers and detective story writers will likely employ plotting as the favoured approach. However, not always. Kate Atkinson writes detective stories, but she is also great with character. She seems to bridge the gap between the two categories in a seamless way. http://www.kate Read More

Does Every Lead Character Need An Arc?

At a Bouchercon some years ago, Lee Child was part of a panel on characters in thrillers. An audience member asked him a question about character change. “Every character has to have an arc, right?” “Why?” Child said. “There doesn’t have to be character change. We don’t need no stinkin’ arcs.” Everybody in the room cracked up. Child went on to explain that he loves Dom Perignon champagne, and he wants it to taste the same each time. And so, too, he wants his Jack Reacher books to offer the same pleasurable experience every time out. Reacher doesn’t change. Reacher does his thing. It’s how he does it that provides the pleasure. Later on, Michael Connelly was interviewed in a packed room. He talked about his decision at the beginning of the series to have Harry Bosc Read More

‘How I fell in love with writing’ part 1

Let’s face it – our relationship with writing can be just like one with another human being. Most of the time you’re madly in love with each other, but there are also other occasions where you and writing go weeks without saying a word. Ultimately, it’s worth it – but like all relationships, you need to make time for each other. Recently we were having so much fun with the idea of writing being the love of your life, that we thought we’d ask what everyone likes to ask happy couples: “How did you first meet?” And so we put the call out to our wonderful community to let us know (in 100 words or fewer) the story of how your love affair with writing first began. We received hundreds of replies, and in the spirit of creative curiosity, over the coming weeks we’re going to p Read More

3 Questions Every Creative Person Must Ask

I’m starting to find that the same dilemmas come up again and again when I talk with a group about online media and marketing. These are dilemmas that I can’t solve. They boil down to three questions you have to ask yourself—and be able to answer honestly—to find a path that’s your own, not mine. 1. Are you creating primarily for yourself or primarily for an audience? Almost all of my advice is based on the assumption that you want to entertain, inform, or increase your audience. Not everyone is concerned with this, nor should they be. If you’re producing work for an audience, it means: playing by at least some rules of the industry caring what others think of your work interacting with your audience and being available to them doing things not for your art, but out of Read More

Writing Backstory Through Dialogue

Backstory is one of the trickier elements of writing. We have to take our readers back in time to let them know some of the past, but how do we do it without interrupting the flow of the story? Jerry Jenkins is here today to discuss one of the more organic methods for including character backstory without grinding the action to a halt. What are we to do now that the flashback has fallen into disfavor with today’s readers? Apparently they no longer have the patience for a sudden stop in the story so we can show how our character got where she is today. Used to be you could invent something to remind her of her childhood or her relationship with her father or the first time she fell in love. Then you’d have her daydream or zone out and remember everything about some poignant incident Read More

Making a Living as a Life Story Writer

A business card left at a coffee shop that garners a $50,000+ writing gig. Same card, different coffee shop, that results in a feature story in a local publication. No, it’s not the card that’s magic, but the profession it advertises: life story writer. Those were only two of the many strokes of good luck I’ve had since I started my career as a life story and family history writer nearly ten years ago. The genre, also known as personal history, serves a population of mostly older adults eager to preserve their stories without having to do the writing themselves. The books are intended for family and friends, not the wider public, so there’s no need for queries, book proposals, agents, or publishers—just a client willing to invest the time and money to record their cherished memo Read More

4 Ways to Create (And Maintain) a Writing Habit

When I wrote my first book in 2013, I was newly married and working a full-time job. While writing, that dream of every writer’s heart whispered to me every morning: What if this is what you could do to make a living? As I’d done for decades, I silenced that voice of hope with a quick and definitive, “Yeah, right. Nobody’s even going to read this thing.” However, I’d just read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Spurred to fight Resistance, I wrote my 50,000-word book in six months by waking at 5 a.m. every weekday and writing for an hour — whether or not I felt like I had anything worthwhile to say. I accomplished that by changing my mind-set. What I had once approached as a pastime turned into an obligation. Where once I’d wait (far too long) for inspiration to strik Read More

Why You Don’t Need To Put Everything In Your Book

One of the main reasons beginner writers don’t finish their books is because they try to put everything into the story. If you want to write a novel, you need to follow some basic rules. You need to limit the number of your characters. You need to give them story goals. You need to limit the number of settings. You need to include necessary dialogue and leave out unimportant conversations. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of overwhelming your readers. Readers who feel lost are likely to abandon your story and find another one where they feel more comfortable. Too Many Characters Readers read to live vicariously through a fictional character. You cannot expect them to fragment into 10 characters and empathise with everybody. We follow the rule that you should concentrate on the Read More

Keeping the Writing Love Alive

You are not alone. This week is Valentine's Day and, all over America, hearts and flowers are on many people's minds. Perhaps you are worrying about your secret (or not so secret) love: your writing love. Have you lost that loving feeling? Do you find excuses to avoid your manuscript? Cosmopolitan magazine is known for their articles on keeping love alive, right? So I looked up what they have to say. Crazy Cosmo offers advice like "Flash Him," "Do the dishes together," and "Outlaw Grunge Wear." This is not helpful, even if we're talking about a human. However, this gem made me smile: Share a Secret Code Pick a word that's likely to come up occasionally in conversation (heat, midnight, bedroom, whipped cream...) and agree that every time someone uses it, you have to touch—anything fr Read More

What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be this Year? (Let’s Find Out)

We’re already a whole month into the New Year, which can be a tricky time for people as we start to get busier and our carefully made resolutions start to drop off. Life gets in the way, and suddenly our good intentions become just that—intentions. Consider this your friendly reminder to remember what your goals are, Not only should you remind yourself what goals you’ve set, but you should also try to think about what kind of person you want to be. What kind of writer you want to be. If you decide who you want to become, then you can make sure that all of your actions line up with your aspirations. So what type of writer might you want to strive to be this year? (You can pick more than one and mix them up however you like!) A more productive writer A productive writer makes the most Read More

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Barista

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably. Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goal Read More

8 Great Writing Tips for Kids

I’m 33 now (which feels very old!) but I’ve loved writing since I was a kid myself. The very first story I remember writing was about a mouse, when I was five or six. I spent a lot of time writing stories throughout my childhood, and I had a go at my first novel when I was thirteen. Writing has always been one of my favourite things to do … and for the last ten years, it’s been what I’ve done for a living. When I was at school, a lot of the writing I did was as part of my school work. At school, your teachers are probably keen for you to know lots of things about writing – like where to put commas, and what nouns and verbs are, and so on. There are lots of great tips out there about how to get things like that right, and I’ll link to some of those for you in this post. I w Read More

Writing What You Don’t Know

New authors often hear the phrase, “Write what you know.” But what if you’re led to write a story you know nothing about? Oh, you know the characters, their goals and motivations, but what if there are elements within the story that you’re not only clueless about, they make you uncomfortable and you fear you won’t be able to do them justice? Almost three years ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table finishing up a five-book proposal. All I lacked was a blurb for the final story in the series. I knew a good bit about this brother but had no idea what his story would be about. So, I just started writing. The next think I knew, I had one heck of a blurb. A wonderful story full of conflict. There was just one problem. It involved childhood cancer, a subject I knew zero about, nor did Read More

10 Positive Quotes for 2019!

Welcome, readers! I hope you've been surviving the winter weather and working on those resolutions for 2019. It's a new year. A new week. A new start. And the possibilities are endless. Are you feeling encouraged? Excited? Energized? Empowered? If not, today's post is purposed to put you on the "write" path. I love quotes. For me they're thought provoking, wise and reflective, and pack a powerful punch succinctly. Wouldn't you agree? Like seasonings that enhance food, quotes can be used to make for a more pleasurable experience for those who "consume" our work. Use them to tie in the message of a story, emphasize a point, or as an introductory line for an article or interview. They're very multi-functional that way. :-) "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing Read More

Winning Plots in the Kids’ and Young Adult Genres

Some may think that writing for kids is easier than producing stories for their adult counterparts. But the truth is that writing a great story, regardless of genre and audience, is a challenge that will test your creative, linguistic, and plotting skills. This is why you need to take control of as many aspects of your writing as you possibly can, starting with plot. Here are 7 kinds of plots known to work well in the young adult genre and in children’s fiction. Try your hand at these plot types, and discover which works best for your story. The Wandering Plot This is the kind of story that develops without a clear destination or final goal for the protagonist, creating a path of action that can seem a bit convoluted and loose. Examples The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton The Dia Read More

A Writer’s Manifesto

Imagine sitting down at your desk to write on a day when you’re just not feeling it. You know you have to write this scene, or reach a certain word count, and it just feels like a grind. You light a candle, or sharpen your pencils, and begin to type, hoping to find that ‘flow’ eventually by dint of sheer will. Now imagine sitting down at that same desk with those same goals. You pick up a single sheet of paper and read it. Suddenly, you remember your purpose as a writer: why you wanted to do this, what you hope to achieve. You see the touchstones that shape and define your voice. You have a vision of your current project as one drop in the river that is your writing life, all of which is changing the world in a particular way. You remember what, at your best, you wanted that chang Read More

How to Reduce Marketing Anxiety and Confusion

Before considering new marketing tactics and platforms, authors should focus on understanding their goals and assessing their resources.   I’ll never forget a conversation I had years ago with a colleague who runs online courses for authors. He emphasized the necessity of teaching tactics: tangible, actionable steps that students can take toward their goals. If he focused too much on big-picture strategy or abstract theory, he said, he lost attention and course satisfaction. He was right. Few things are more powerful in teaching than sharing a step-by-step process that leads to observable results. For better or worse, however, I often err on the side of strategy—which means that students always ask me how to apply said strategy. They want to know what specific steps to take. All of us Read More

The Daily Mindset Practice That Will Help You Achieve Your Writing Goals

JH: Sometimes the things standing in the way of our writing dreams is our own doubts and fears. Jennifer Blanchard visits the lecture hall today to share tips on how to get our of our heads and back into our writing. Jennifer Blanchard is an author, screenwriter, Developmental Book Editor, and the founder of The Feel-Good Life Center. Grab her FREE Story Secrets audio series here and start writing better stories. Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Take it away Jennifer... I've always been a person who believes anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I proved that to be true over and over again in my life with the things I've accomplished and achieved. But even with my positive attitude and outlook, I used to have a negative side. And I had lots of negative, limiting beliefs th Read More

Observational Walking

Observational walking is one of my favourite ways to de-stress and free my mind so I can focus in on my creative writing without distracting thoughts. I also find it helps me if I am feeling a bit stuck, or just not sure how best to proceed with a story. I am lucky that I live in the west of Ireland in the countryside and near the sea, so there are plenty of peaceful walks. However, I have done this on city walks and in parks, so don’t let your surroundings stop you using this powerful tool. Observational walking is a form of meditation and is not complicated. You are simply walking at a pace where you can be aware of sounds and can carefully observe your surroundings. A SLOWER PACE The pace might be considerably slower than your usual walking pace, so if you do a daily exercise wal Read More