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Learn How to Write and Finish a Novel

According to Kurt Vonnegut, “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one's soul to grow.” If this is true, then nothing makes for more mature souls than writing a novel, a form that particularly requires perseverance and patience. Though there are no hard and fast rules for how to get from the first draft to bookstore shelf, these guideposts on how to write a novel will help you find your way.   01. Give Some Thought to Plot.   Writing a novel can be a messy undertaking. The editing process will go easier if you devote time to plot in the beginning. For some writers, this means an outline; others work with index cards, putting a different scene on each one. Still, others only have a conflict and a general idea of where they plan to end Read More

Elements of Suspense: The Cliffhanger

Once upon a time writers actually left their characters hanging from cliffs. In the early days of movies, when theaters ran serialized episodes of a story, a cliffhanger ending was a good way to ensure viewers would make the effort to come back next week. The same was true for serialized novels run in newspapers and magazines. Writers intentionally left characters hanging (not necessarily from a cliff) to entice readers to purchase the next installment. Today’s readers and moviegoers may roll their eyes at Pauline hanging by her fingertips from a cliff, but the cliffhanger technique is still very much in use. If we change the definition of cliffhanger from: a situation of imminent disaster usually occurring at the end of an episode of a serialized film to the broader concept of: a mome Read More

How to Talk About Policing In Crime Fiction

A few weeks back, I was drinking with some buddies at a writers’ convention when I felt a tap on the shoulder. “I want to introduce you to a fan,” someone said. Like any dignified author at this stage of my career, I whipped around so fast that the Brooklyn Lager bottle nearly flew out of my hand. A man in his sixties stood before me with his hand out—square-jawed, clear-eyed and firm of grip, in a well-tailored suit. He looked like exactly the kind of well-respected man who smiles and says “I don’t read novels” when I meet him in other circumstances. Exactly the kind of reader I’ve been trying to win over for most of my career. A prosecutor, I was told. Even better! Someone who had been in the trenches and would appreciate the nuances and shades of gray I tried to bring Read More

Un-dead Darlings

Please welcome guest Barbara Linn Probst to WU today! Barbara is a writer, teacher, researcher, and clinician living on a historic dirt road in New York’s Hudson Valley. She holds a PhD in clinical social work and is a dedicated amateur pianist. She is also the author of When the Labels Don’t Fit–a groundbreaking book on nurturing out-of-the-box children. To learn more about Barbara and her work, please visit her website: http://www.barbaralinnprobst.com/ Un-dead Darlings Kill those darlings. We all know the cliché (actually, it was Faulkner, not Stephen King, who coined the phrase) and, accepting its wisdom, do our best to kill those beloveds no matter how much it hurts. Sentences, paragraphs, whole scenes – deleted, leaving a cleaner and stronger narrative. Deleted from the Read More

Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Zombie Apocalypse

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post every day except Sundays during the month of April on a thematic topic. This year, my second year with A to Z, I’ll cover writing genres. Definition Zombie Apocalypse: in which the widespread rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization Tips The literary subtext of a zombie apocalypse is usually that civilization is inherently fragile in the face of truly unprecedented threats and that most individuals cannot be relied upon to support the greater good if the personal cost becomes too high. For a zombie event to be apocalyptic, it needs to involve a large number of undead, shambling around, or, if you’re into the more modern zombies, running. Being undead must be spreading throughout the population o Read More

LATE-LIFE FICTION NEVER GETS OLD

“The sooner growing older is stripped of reflexive dread, the better equipped we are to benefit from the countless ways in which it can enrich us.” ―  Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism Time to Tell the Stories Don’t tell me I am too old for that. I know how it feels, perhaps you do too……to be 60, 70, or even 80, reminding yourself that you can no longer do what you once could, wondering if you should even try. It is instinctive, I suppose, the need to push back against those perceived limitations. Accepting that ‘age-based’ prognosis feels so much like giving up, as though my forty-year-old mind is surrendering to my eighty-year-old body. After all, I arrived at retirement years ago knowing there were still things to do, feelings to experie Read More

How Story Affects Us

Continuing in our four post series on the foundation for harnessing your readers’ psychology, today we’re exploring how story affects us. We’ve already explored where story is (essentially, everywhere), and why we love it so much (because it serves a very useful function!), and now we’re going to discover exactly how deeply it’s been wired into our grey matter. Genes are the building blocks of our DNA. They mutate and blend, creating an myriad of possibilities for survival of the fittest to select from. Each gene is a blueprint for a particular characteristic, and if that particular characteristic helps us survive, it receives a tick of evolutionary approval and is spread throughout the population. Evolution thought opposable thumbs were pretty cool, language was pretty useful, Read More

How to Overcome the Smothering Fear of Marketing Your Writing

If there’s three words which have always brought discomfort to me as a writer, they would be ‘marketing’, ‘promotion; and ‘hustle’. They are major parts of the work of being a writer I really don’t enjoy. I know I’m not alone in that struggle either. Many of us struggle with promoting ourselves and our work, “getting attention,” as it were. But if we want to get our work out to a wider audience, the reality is we’re going to have to market and promote our work, we’re going to have to hustle. The big conflict I always had was how to market and promote my work authentically – to promote my work, maybe even ask people for money, but to do it with integrity, honesty, and decency. To market without being deceitful or manipulative. But it is possible. I discovered th Read More

Are You Riding the Horse, Or Is the Horse Riding You?

Are you in control of your life? Or do you let life control you? You may have expected a blog on writing craft from me. But this time, I decided to use my psychological expertise to help you take charge of your writing life. Many people let the negatives control their lives. They take their black cloud of doom with them everywhere. You know those writers. Shh… No names. The horse is riding them—and they don’t even try to climb back on and ride that horse. They think that due to negative circumstances, they can’t reach their goals, can’t have writing success. Others realize they are in charge of their lives, in spite of the negatives. They ride the horse—take the reins, control where they are going. I’m awed by Helen Keller. How many of us could face severe adversity wit Read More

Why Writers Need Confidence—5 Ways to Boost Yours

I attended a week-long writing workshop once that nearly destroyed my confidence as a writer. Though workshops can be very helpful, it depends on the teacher, and this particular one didn’t know how to guide and motivate writers. There are many times in a writer’s career when something happens to zap our confidence, and that’s not good, because self-confidence may be the one thing that separates successful writers from those who never reach their goals. The question then becomes: How do you get that confidence back, or find it in the first place? What Kind of Confidence Do Writers Need? First, it’s important to know what kind of confidence we’re talking about here. This isn’t about inflating your ego, bragging, or believing you’re special. In fact, these types of beliefs— Read More

Do characters work personalities shape a story?

How important is a character's work situation when it comes to shaping an overall impression of a character. Looking at four basic work situations where the job is an ordinary job in that it can be recognized as a normal occupation. Piloting a space ship would be considered a normal job, as it's just another kind of vehicle that can be driven. Growing a garden in burnt out soil after a war, everything is knocked back to basics, where getting mixed results would be considered normal. 1) The job is performed in an ordinary way under normal circumstances yielding normal results. This probably wouldn't create an impression about the character. 2) The job is a situation dealing with ordinary or unusual situations yielding hapless results. Might make the character appear less than desirable. 3 Read More

Staying Relevant As An Author

For many writers, the day comes when you think, hey, this is more than a hobby. More time goes by and you decide, you know what? This writing thing is serious business. You put yourself on some kind of schedule and you decide you’re gonna be disciplined if it kills you. You might get close to all out catatonia as you balance work, family and your writing regimen, but you stay the course and begin to release books. Without a promotion drive, those books will sputter and sales fizzle. Exposure is critical when you’re unknown and trying to build a readership. The internet provides unlimited research material that helps us to decide what to do and how to find the best deals. Say you need book covers? Fiverr has a host of cover artists that provide service starting at – you guessed Read More

Story in the Human Psyche

After my brief hiatus (life got busy and I got overwhelmed), I’m back and excited to bring you a series of posts that will be part of a book I’m writing. Harness Your Reader’s Psychology is going to all about understanding what draws readers to your story, what fires their psychology, and how we can harness that. The first part of the book will focus on why readers read. Four chapters will explore where story can be found, why we’re so drawn to it, how story impacts us, and what it is readers are really looking for. So this week, we’re going to discover exactly how pervasive story is. Most writers can tell you that story lives in other places outside of books. We understand that everyone does story in one form or another, even those that don’t read. I devour books, my husband Read More

How to Get Past Excuses and Finish Your Writing!

Do you struggle with finishing? Believe me, I’ve been there. Perseverance has never really been my thing. I was the one in school that could easily write papers, finish assignments, and obtain excellent grades with very little effort. But as soon as something difficult came along, I would give up. Any iota of resistance would stop me in my tracks. Sound familiar? In 2008, I decided to write a book. I was fairly young and had absolutely no clue what I was doing, but I managed to eke out a completed manuscript. It took me about a year to figure out what I wanted to write about and get past the first page, then another year to complete the first draft. It was hard, but fun-hard, and I loved it. Then the editing began. And it was just plain hard-hard. I didn’t want to do it. I wa Read More

Your Book Isn’t for Everyone

Think for a moment about your work in progress. How should your book be marketed? What kind of reader do you want to attract? Who is your book for? Why, it’s for everyone! you exclaim. After all, who wouldn’t want to read your fabulous plot, compelling characters, and engaging writing voice? Perhaps a few doltish persons on the fringe, but anyone with good sense and a love of good story would like your book. Sorry, but nope. Some people won’t want to read your book. In fact, some people might hate your book. And that’s a worthwhile reality to consider when we writers send our manuscripts into contests, open ourselves to outside critique, and read through reviews. Sometimes you’ll get feedback that you can simply shrug off with, “My book wasn’t for them.” It isn’t per Read More

The 3 Secrets to Addictive Fiction

In today’s unbelievably competitive industry, how can you make your fiction the best? Addict your reader. Make reading your stories and novels an addictive experience. The reader who is addicted to your writing will plunge into your fiction and then fight to stay there forever. But how can you addict your reader to your stories? Use the secrets that all great authors have used throughout the ages to give the reader exactly what they want. There are literally thousands of these secrets, but in my work as an independent editor I have prioritized them and categorized them into the simplest possible arrangement—three basic categories. I teach fiction through its three aspects: 1. character 2. plot 3. prose However, beyond than that, I teach the secrets to making these three aspects Read More

The Winning Edge That Moves Any Writer to Center Stage

Are you a writer who yearns for a shot at the big time? Do you dream of being in the spotlight – adored by a crowd of raving fans? Are you looking for that one magic bullet that will make these dreams come true? Friend, you’ve come to the right place. But My Dream Seems So Out of Reach It’s not an impossible dream. After all, aren’t others doing what you want to do? So how did they start doing it? Does fortune favor the few and overlook the rest of us? A friend gave me Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for Christmas. Since I’m a writer, I got lots of books for Christmas. A few weeks ago, I started reading it and this quote leaped off the page, grabbed my attention, and wouldn’t let go. All too often, it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to center stag Read More

How to Write Mythology for Fantasy and Science Fiction

Most writers probably don’t appreciate enough how much of an impact mythology has on our modern-day storytelling. No matter what genre you write in, mythology has played some role in shaping it, even if you don’t realise it. It stems all the way back to ancient times before written language was even invented when myths formed the first stories told around campfires. Each of the basic story types listed in Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots can trace their origin back to ancient myths somehow. Homer’s Odyssey is a literal ‘voyage and return’ story. Most of the Arthurian legends center on a knight going out on a quest then returning to Camelot for their reward. In a sense, we are still adapting and building upon the stories invented by our ancestors. But mythology does Read More

How to Write When You Work Full Time

I love that today’s theme comes from a newsletter subscriber who responded when I asked for ideas to address on the podcast or in articles. So this is a real writer with a real struggle—a reality for many writers. This person wants to know: How to write when you work full time? That’s a tough one. It’s hard to have any kind of hobby or side hustle when you work full-time. When you put in the hours at work and come home exhausted, how can you possibly devote your depleted brain and energy to a creative project? Don’t Ignore the Ache I stayed home to raise our four children and we chose to home educate, so while I didn’t work full-time in a traditional sense, I had my hands full most hours of the day. Writing was extremely challenging during those years. My dream was to have Read More

How to Write in a Conversational Style That Will Connect with Your Readers

The other day, I was checking my email when I came across a suspicious looking message. It began with the line, “Dear Sir/Madam”. The first paragraph read, Please pardon me if I intrude into your privacy, and may I humbly solicit your confidence in this transaction. I came to know about you in my private search for a reliable and reputable foreigner to handle this confidential transaction. Wow, that writing sounds like something straight out of a Dickens novel. I quickly clicked delete, suspecting that this was a phishing scam. You’ve probably received emails like this too. And maybe you’ve also chuckled at their standoffish, overly formal tone. It seems to be a trademark of these types of spam emails. However, not too long ago, no one would have laughed at that style of writing Read More