Category Archives: Publishing

How to Develop Your Best Novel Writing Ideas

Writing a novel is no small task. In fact, it’s a momentous task. Some writers spend years eking out a first draft, followed by years of revisions. And that’s before they even think about the grueling publishing process.

In other words, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your novel. So you better love it. No, wait — loving it is not enough. You have to be in love with it. You have to be obsessed with it. Committed to it.

It’s normal to lose interest when you’re on your tenth revision, but if you’re losing interest in your plot or characters while writing your first or second draft, the problem might not be you or your novel. The problem might be that you tried to commit to something you didn’t love. That’s never a good idea.

For many writers, the trick to sticking with a novel is actually quite simple: find an idea that grips you.

Get in Touch with Your Passions

Before you chase every crazy idea into the ground, stop and take a breath. Think about what moves you: books you couldn’t put down, movies you’ve watched dozens of times, TV shows you couldn’t stop talking about, and songs you played so many times, you’re sure they have bonded with your DNA.

By identifying your passions, you can figure out what makes you tick, and that’s a great start to your quest for novel writing ideas that you can really sink your teeth into.

All your past and present obsessions hold the clues to your future commitment to your own novel. Pay close attention to your preferences for genre, theme, setting, style, character archetypes and above all — emotional sensibility. Make lists of what you love about your favorite stories, and soon you’ll see the shape of your own novel start to emerge.

Generate and Gather Plenty of Novel Writing Ideas

Once you’ve made some general decisions about the novel you’re going to write, it’s time to start generating specific ideas.

Of course, the best novel writing ideas come out of nowhere. You’re on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor and suddenly that big magic bulb over your head lights up. Or maybe you have so many ideas, you don’t know where to start. It’s even possible that you’re aching to write a novel but are fresh out of ideas. Your mind feels like a gaping void.

Actually, story ideas are everywhere. The trick is to collect a variety of ideas, and let them stew while you decide which one is worth your effort. Here are some quick tips for generating ideas:

  • Hit the bookstore or library and jot down some of your favorite plot synopses. Then rework the details to transform these old plots into fresh ideas for new stories. Try combining different elements from your favorite stories. And use movie synopses too!
  • Load up on fiction writing prompts and develop each prompt into a short (one page) summary for a story.
  • Harvest some creative writing ideas from the news.
  • Grab a subplot from your favorite movie or TV show — a story line that wasn’t fully explored — and make it the central story problem.

Create a stash file for your ideas. It can be a folder on your computer or a box you fill with 3×5 index cards. You can also write all these ideas in a notebook. Just make sure you keep them together so you can easily go through them.

Let Your Novel Writing Ideas Marinate

Some ideas are so enticing, you can’t wait to get started. If you’re writing a poem or a piece of flash fiction, then have at it. If things don’t work out, you’ll lose a few hours or maybe a few weeks. But imagine investing months or years in a novel only to realize your heart’s not in it. Try to avoid doing that by letting ideas sit for a while before you dive into them.

The best ideas rise to the top. These are not necessarily the bestselling ideas or the most original ideas. They’re the ideas that are best for you. Those are the ones that will haunt you, keep you up at night, and provoke perpetual daydreams.

These are the ones worth experimenting with.

Experiment to See Which Novel Writing Ideas Can Fly

There’s a reason people test drive cars and lie around on the beds in mattress shops. When you make a big investment, you want to feel right about it. You can’t know how a car will drive until you actually drive it. And you can’t know how a bed will feel until you relax on it for a while. And you definitely can’t know what your relationship with your novel will be like until you experiment with it.

In truth, the experimental phase is when you start writing the novel — just like the test drive is when you start driving the car. But you haven’t committed yet. You’re still open to the idea that this is not for you. This might seem like I’m nitpicking over semantics, but you’ll find that discarding partially written novels wears on you after a while. If you play around with your story with the understanding that you’re experimenting, and if things don’t work out, you can always walk away without feeling guilty or like you gave up. Go back to your idea stash, and start tooling around with the next one.

How do you experiment with novel writing? I’m so glad you asked. There’s a lot you can do. Start by brainstorming. Sketch a few characters. Poke around and see what kind of research this novel might require. Draft a few scenes. Write an outline. If you keep going through these motions and can’t shake your excitement, then you are finally . . .

Writing Your Novel

At this point, you’ve already started writing your novel. But suddenly, you’re not just writing a novel. You’re deeply, passionately, obsessively writing your novel. If a couple of weeks go by and you haven’t had time to write, you miss your characters. When you get stuck on a scene, you simply work on some other part of the story because you’re so obsessed. You have to fight the urge to tell everyone about how the story is coming along. Your trusted buddy, whom you bounce ideas off of, is starting to think you’re taking it all too seriously. “Maybe you should watch some television a couple nights a week,” he says, looking concerned.

This is a story that’s captured your full attention. And that’s a good sign that it will capture the attention of readers. You are ready to commit.

Many (or most) of your novel writing ideas might end up in the trash or in a bottom drawer. But every one of them will be worth it when all of that idea generating, planning, and experimenting finally pays off. Every idea that doesn’t work will pave the path to the idea that will set you on fire.

So no matter what, no matter how many ideas come and go, no matter how many drafts you discard, never give up. Just keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Curiosity and Creativity for Writers

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing, which takes you on a tour through the world of creative writing while offering writing ideas and inspiration. This is from chapter thirty-one, “Curiosity and Creativity.” Let’s find out how fostering curiosity can increase your creativity. Enjoy!

Curiosity and Creativity

Even though inspiration abounds all around us, we writers sometimes get stumped. We search for essay topics, plot ideas, and interesting language for our poems. Unfortunately, our searches don’t always yield desirable results.

But by fostering curiosity, we can ensure a constant stream of creativity. Some of the best writing ideas come from asking simple questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Most writers are curious by nature. We look at the world around us and wonder at it. Who are these people? What are we all doing here? Where are we heading? Why do we do the things we do? How will we move forward?

Remember how curious you were as a child? Everything you encountered spawned a series of questions because you were trying to learn and understand the world around you. Bring that childlike curiosity back, and you’ll always have a full supply of inspiration.

It doesn’t matter what form your writing takes or what genre you’re writing in. By fostering curiosity, you can create a fountain of ideas.

Below are some questions you can use to get inspired. Mix them up, change them around, and come up with your own list of questions:

Who

  • Who is this about?
  • Who can help?
  • Who is standing in the way?
  • Who am I?

What

  • What is the goal?
  • What are the stakes?
  • What is the underlying message?
  • What if…?

Where

  • Where did it all begin?
  • Where have we been?
  • Where should we go?
  • Where does it end?

When

  • When did it start?
  • When did things change?
  • When will things improve?
  • When will it be too late?

Why

  • Why did they do it?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Why take a risk?
  • Why are we here?

How

  • How did this happen?
  • How does this make people feel?
  • How does this sound?
  • How will this get resolved?

If you can keep your curiosity on fire and continue coming up with new questions, you’ll find that you can write your way into answers and constantly discover new writing ideas along the way.

As you work through your writing projects, you can also use questions to help you overcome hurdles that are preventing you from crossing the finish line. Not sure how to move a plot forward? Start asking questions. Don’t know how to begin your next poem? Ask questions. Want to write a piece that is informative and entertaining? Ask away.

Throughout time, many great thinkers have used questions to prompt creative and critical thinking. Sometimes, one question will lead to the next, and you’ll end up with more ideas than you thought possible. As long as you keep your curiosity well oiled and let those questions flow, you’ll never be at a loss for inspiration.

Activity

Open one of your writing projects, and make a list of at least twenty questions that get to the heart of your project. Be sure to include a mix of who, what, where, when, why, and how.

As an alternative, try using any of the questions from this chapter as writing prompts. Simply place a question at the top of a page, and then start writing in response to the question.

Do you have any favorite techniques for developing new writing ideas? Are there any questions you ask to get through a project or to come up with new project ideas? What are you curious about? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

From Ready, Set, Write: Getting Ready to Write

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from my recently published book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing. This is from the book’s introduction. Enjoy!

A Writer’s Journey Begins

When I was a little girl, my mom used to sit, curled up on the couch, with a thick paperback novel in her hands and a big bag of M&Ms in her lap. I’m still trying to quit my candy habit! But books are forever.

My mom taught me to read by the time I turned four. The rhyming stories of Dr. Seuss were among my early favorites. Soon I was devouring Charlotte’s Web and Little House in the Big Woods. Later it was the Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time. I constantly checked out Where the Sidewalk Ends from my school library. Whenever I asked for new books, my mom would take me to the used paperback store and let me pick out a few. Whenever the Scholastic newsletter came, she let me order a few books from the catalog. And whenever I asked to go to the big public library, she drove me there.

When I was about thirteen years old, something changed. After years of reading other people’s words, I started putting my own words on the page.

They were poems or songs, inspired by the music that I loved and informed by the books I had read. I composed these pieces in my spiral-bound notebook, which was intended for schoolwork. I remember marveling at the words I’d written. I had created something—and I had done it with nothing more than a pen and paper and some words. I was elated. I wanted to write more.

Around the same time, one of my teachers required our class to keep journals. We wrote in our journals for a few minutes every day, and when the semester ended, I continued writing in mine throughout the summer and for years afterward.

I filled many notebooks throughout my teens and early twenties. I wrote about my thoughts and feelings. I explored ideas. I wrote poems and personal essays. I composed song lyrics. Later, I started to tinker with storytelling.

I sometimes hear people talk about what it means to be a “real writer.” Occasionally, someone will say that a “real writer” loves to write, needs to write, or gets paid to write.

I disagree.

I’m a real writer because I write. Sure, sometimes I love it, but not always. Other times, I need to do it, but not always. Sometimes I get paid to write, but that didn’t happen until many years after I’d started writing. There are times when writing is frustrating, exhausting, or just plain difficult. I’ve experienced writer’s block. I’ve struggled with doubt and dismay about my work. I’ve taken long, unplanned breaks from writing.

But I always come back.

Writing is part of who I am. It’s what I do.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer, too. At the very least, you’re an aspiring writer. That doesn’t mean you intend to get your name on a best-seller list (although you might). It doesn’t mean you plan to get paid for your writing (although you might). It doesn’t mean you will submit your work and get it published (although you might).

It just means you want to write.

And so you should.

About Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing

As the title implies, this book is a guide to creative writing. It isn’t a book that delves into grammar, spelling, or punctuation. It doesn’t tell you how to become a professional, published author. It does one thing and one thing only: shows you what you can write and how you can write it.

You’ll start by creating a space in which to write. Then you’ll explore various forms of writing that you can experiment with in your new writing space. You’ll answer some questions about writing. You’ll try some writing activities. You’ll learn techniques to help you stay motivated and inspired. Finally, you’ll put together your own writer’s tool kit.

You’ll find questions and activities to prompt a writing session at the end of each chapter. So get your notebook ready.

Get Ready to Write

The more you explore and experiment, the more fun you’ll have and the better your writing will become. Try different forms and genres. Use a variety of tools and techniques. Take risks, and don’t expect everything to come easily, but know that your efforts will be rewarded.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Practice

Everybody wants to know the secret to success, and writers are no exception.

We often talk about all the things one must do in order to become a successful writer. From studying grammar to working through multiple revisions, from sending out submissions to building a platform, writers must wear many hats if they hope to succeed.

However, most of those tasks are irrelevant (and success is impossible) if a writer hasn’t acquired the basic skills necessary for doing the work. There’s no reason to worry about submissions, readers, and marketing if your writing habits and skills aren’t up to the task of getting the project done. You might have a great premise for a story, but if you don’t know how to write a story—or if you don’t have the discipline to finish a story—you’ll never be able to bring that premise to life, at least not in a way that is effective or meaningful.

So it’s essential for young and new writers to develop beneficial writing practices to ensure not only that the writing gets done—but that it gets done well.

Essential Writing Practices

There are many writing practices that you can cultivate. Some will make you a better writer. Some will help you write more or write faster. It would be impossible to incorporate all of them into your writing habits, so you’ll need to choose which ones are best for you and your goals. However, some practices are more useful—and more essential—than others. Below are the writing practices that I have found to be most important for improving one’s writing and producing good work—the practices that are essential for all writers:

Regular Reading

I’m always surprised by aspiring writers who don’t read. I mean, if you don’t read, then why would you want to be a writer? Reading is, in many ways, even more important than writing. It lays the groundwork for everything you’ll write. You’ll learn a tremendous amount of the craft from reading, and if you don’t read, it will show in your work, which will never move past a beginner’s level.

Daily Writing

It should go without saying that if you want to be a writer, you need to do the writing. But many writers spend more time talking and thinking about writing than actually writing. Force yourself to do your writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Allow yourself to write badly, and accept that sometimes you’ll write garbage. Even a short, twenty-minute writing session each day will keep your skills sharp and your writing muscles strong.

Study the Craft

You can learn a lot by reading and practicing your writing, but you can’t learn everything. There are aspects of the craft that you’ll only learn through more formal study. That doesn’t mean you have to run off to a university and take college courses, although doing so will certainly help. You can learn the craft through local or online classes and workshops, by reading books and articles on the craft, and working with other writers (or an editor or writing coach). There is a lot to learn, and the sooner you start, the better.

Revise and Polish Your Work

As you make your way through the writing world, you’ll hear this advice over and over: Writing is rewriting, or writing is revising. A lot of people have the misconception that we writers sit down, place our fingers on the keyboard, and the words magically flow out perfectly. That’s not how it works. The first few sentences or paragraphs are often a mess. The first draft is garbage. But with each revision, everything gets better. That’s how you produce polished work.

Get Feedback

Getting feedback can be emotionally challenging to young and new writers, who have a tendency to take it personally. Harsh criticism, no matter how constructive, can be a bruise to the ego. But you are not your writing. The criticism is not about you; it’s about your work. And without feedback, it’s almost impossible to get an objective view of your skills and the work you’re producing. Separate yourself from your writing. Take the feedback seriously and be appreciative, because it will help you become a better writer. Apply it to your work.

More Useful Writing Practices

Each writer needs their own practice. Another writer’s daily practice of freewriting for an hour at dawn might not be your ideal writing practice. But as long as you’re willing to try new practices, you’ll find what works for you. Here are some suggestions for writing practices that might boost your skills and productivity:

  • Warm-ups: Many writers find that everything comes out awkward at the beginning of a writing session. A ten- to twenty-minute warm-up can get words flowing.
  • Look it up: When you come across a question, such as a question about grammar or the meaning of a word, look it up, especially if it will only take a few minutes.
  • Network with the writing community: Other writers will keep you motivated. You’ll learn from them. And they can offer support and advice.
  • Freewriting is a good way to warm up at the start of a writing session. It’s also a good daily writing practice during times when you’re not working on a particular project. And it’s a fantastic way to generate raw material that you can use in various projects.
  • Set goals and create a five-year plan, and then revisit your goals and plan annually.
  • Collect inspirational and motivational quotes about writing and post them around your writing desk, or jot them down in a notebook. Review a quote or two before every writing session, or when you don’t feel like doing the work.
  • Study poetry (or literary devices and techniques): These tools are the tricks of the trade, and they will take your writing to another level, from methods for structuring language to using devices like metaphors, this is an excellent way to enrich your work.
  • Finish a project before starting a new one: If you prefer (or need) to work on multiple projects simultaneously (I do), then always keep one project on the front burner until it’s complete. That’s your primary (or priority) project. See it through to completion.
  • Step away from drafts for a while before revising to clear your head so you can return to them with fresh eyes.

What Are Your Writing Practices?

What do you consider your most important writing practices? Are there any essential or beneficial writing practices you would add to these lists? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

7 Sure Signs You Picked the Wrong Freelance Writing Niche

Being vegan in a family of ​very ​carnivorous Texans makes for some extremely awkward holiday dinners.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

Most of my family is super supportive, and they respect my choice to avoid eating meat or any animal products.

But sometimes, I still have to hear the occasional uncomfortable comment at the dinner table.

​Honestly, these don’t bother me that much. It is what it is, and I’m toooootally down to share stuff like how I get enough protein (maybe it’ll change someone’s mind about their meat consumption)!

But a few years ago, I had an overly pushy family member do something that really bothered me:

“Here, have some of this turkey,” ​he said, even though he knew I don’t eat meat.

To which I replied something along the lines of “No, thanks.”

But he kept pushing. And pushing. And pushing.

wrong freelance writing niche

What I said: “No, thanks.” What I was thinking: “No, and for fuck’s sake, don’t ask me again.”

As if asking me one more mother-effing time was going to make me eat the damn turkey.

I kept saying no, and by some miracle, I managed to keep my cool, and he managed to shut the fuck up.

After all of that, do you think I ate the turkey?

The answer is no. I didn’t. 

No matter how much this guy tried to weirdly pressure me into it, eating that turkey is not something I EVER would have done. 

Because as a vegan, my mind is already 100% made up on how I feel about eating meat. 

It’s not for me.

​What does this have to do with YOU landing freelance writing clients and picking the right niche?

Quite a bit, actually.

Some of you are out there acting like my family member:

Trying to “force meat on a vegan.”

And it’s killing your business.

Let’s start today’s blog post with the #1 sign you picked the wrong niche and an explanation of what I mean:

7 Telltale Signs You Picked the Wrong Freelance Writing Niche

1. Selling to clients – even those with good-sized budgets – feels like trying to sell meat to a vegan.

Whew. As a vegan, I can tell you that this is NOT a good idea.

Read this and let it sink in, friends:

You cannot force a freelance writing client to value what you do.

And tbh, you don’t want those kinds of clients anyway because it’ll always feel difficult.

Example:

When I was doing lots of IT/Tech writing, I noticed that those clients wanted mainly:

  • Website copy
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers

…Because in their opinion, those things were going to drive the best business results for them.

Which was a problem for me, who wanted to write blog posts.

Now, could I have sat around and convinced these clients to publish blog posts?

Sure, probably.

But I didn’t.

Because clients who are a hard sell are not going to be your best clients.

First, you’ve got to convince them to value what you write.

Then, you’ve got to convince them to hire you.

THEN, you’ve got to convince them to pay you well… for something they don’t really even value.

Friends:

Don’t go for clients who are a hard sell.

Go for clients who already value the specific kind of content you create.

Again, don’t try to “sell meat to a vegan” – only sell meat to someone who eats meat.

2. You notice that most potential clients in your freelance writing niche are broke as shit.

wrong freelance writing niche

If this is approximately how much the shitty “clients” in your niche can afford to pay you… you’ve probably chosen the wrong freelance writing niche.

Here’s something that you might not have thought about before:

A niche could be either profitable OR not profitable depending on who you target.

Think about it…

You can write in the finance niche for some shitty blog that pays pennies per word…

And Sally Jo over there can write in the finance niche for a Fortune 500 company and make hundreds of dollars per post.

So before you write your niche off for good, ask yourself:

Is this really a freelance writing niche problem, or is it a target clientele problem?

Long story short:

Go for clients who have money to spend on content marketing, not broke fucks.

3. Your freelance writing niche is far too broad.

Sometimes, writers email me and say stuff like:

“I’ve chosen a niche and I’m marketing myself, but I’m not getting results!”

To which I reply:

“Hmmm! What’s your niche?”

And they say:

“B2B and B2C Content”

…Aaaaaand there’s the problem.

B2B and B2C means you basically write for anyone and everyone. It’s just a fancier way of saying, “I’m a generalist!”

Seriously, it’s kind of like creating a restaurant in the United States and saying “We serve American food and international cuisine.”

Okay sooo… you serve everything to everyone?

Pass.

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again:

The best, highest-paying clients want to work with writers who specialize.

So, narrow your niche to a reasonable point (like how I teach in my free class over 6,000 writers have taken).

Don’t just write “copy.”

Write blog posts for real estate agents. Case studies for software businesses.

You get the picture.

4.Potential clients in your niche don’t use the type of content you write best to drive business results.

A while back, I thought it would be cool to write blog posts (my favorite type of content to create) for video game companies.

But after doing some research, I realized:

Video game companies, at least the ones I was researching, weren’t driving business results with blog posts.

They were mostly getting the word out about their new games using Twitch partnerships, commercials, etc.

This goes back to the whole “don’t try to sell meat to a vegan” thing.

Don’t “sell meat to vegans.” Sell them vegetables… or, if they’re like me, sell them vegan ice cream.

You have to figure out HOW your client makes money for their business with content, and give them THAT kind of content.

5. You’re not enjoying any of your projects.

I started my freelance writing career in the IT/Tech writing niche.

And while I was able to make decent money doing it, each project felt about as enjoyable as walking around a theme park in a pair of soaked blue jeans.

It’s not that I was incapable of working on more technical projects like whitepapers – it’s just that I was bored to fucking tears each time I tried.

So I had to ask myself:

What do I actually ENJOY?

What would my ideal niche be, considering my natural abilities?

And BOOM.

Just like that, I knew what my new niche was going to be:

Blogging about marketing.

Marketing is something I’m incredibly passionate about and could talk about all damn day, AND blogging lends itself to more creative expression, which is great for someone like me.

Now, don’t get me wrong here.

I’m not saying you necessarily should jump for joy at each freelance writing project you take on.

BUT…

If you’re hating more projects than you’re enjoying, something is wrong.

6. You’re not using your natural abilities when you write.

Some people are great technical writers AND also enjoy talking with clients.

If that’s you, then guess what?

You’d probably really enjoy writing whitepapers, which are technical-ish documents that often require client interviews and phone calls.

But if you’re like me (you hate phone calls and enjoy more creative writing), whitepapers would drive you fucking mad.

Really be intentional about your freelance writing niche choice, and think about what you’re naturally best at.

Every writer out there has some kind of natural ability they can use to their advantage.

Maybe yours is that you are actually great at interviewing clients.

Or maybe you are great at explaining complex topics in an easy-to-understand way.

Or maybe you’re just really fucking funny and that shines through when you write.

Think about what makes you unique, and ask yourself how you can use that to specialize in a niche you’ll naturally rise to the top of.

7. You’ve tried as hard as you can to make the niche work using a PROVEN strategy, and it’s just not working.

This means you’ve already done things like:

And it means you’ve done these things consistently, with a solid niche marketing strategy driving every piece of your plan.

(AKA don’t come to me and say your pitches are not working when you don’t have a portfolio website or your website isn’t properly optimized for your niche!)

Truth is, you might be giving up way too soon on your niche.

I talked to a writer in the real estate niche once who complained that the niche was “not profitable.”

Turns out, they just didn’t have their marketing on point.

…Nothing to do with the niche being “not profitable.”

By Jorden

Source: creativerevolt.com

 

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How Novelists Can Say More with Less

Less is more. More impacting. More riveting. More intriguing. Throughout history, marriages have failed and wars have been won or lost over a mere word or two. Jesus said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” Simply stated, as was his style.

I often share with my clients something my eleventh-grade English teacher used to spout frequently: “Say what you mean. Don’t say what you don’t mean.”

The best way to say what you mean is to use only the words you need—the most appropriate words for your context—and discard the rest. Think of the pages of your novel as expensive real estate. Writers who want to write well should aim to be as picky about the words they string together as the foods they eat or the clothes they wear. Pickier.

Bogging Down Your Writing Is a Bad Thing

Your novel’s pacing will be greatly affected by word choice. If you bog down your sentences with unnecessary words, your scenes will drag. In addition, using boring, flat, or weak verbs and adjectives will make the reading dull, no matter how exciting your plot might be.

Take a look at this Before passage and see if you can spot some of the problems. Then read my revision and compare.

 Before:

Suddenly, lightning struck!!! It was so loud and noisy, Debby screamed and lost hand control of her drinking glass, spilling it and shattering it on the Italian stone coffee table. Somehow, the power was gone, a blackout took place, and Debby trembled as she fearfully listened to the thunder rolling in louder in waves than usual. She felt it was so loud, the house began to shake. As if being in the middle of an earthquake. She began to cry and instantly the danger passed and everything was calm.

Debby was still frozen, too afraid to move much. She slowly turned her head to the left and then to the right as she focused her attention on what was going on through the front room window. She heard the sound of a loud vehicle idling outside of her home and that sound grew louder. Approaching the window with caution, she slowly pulled the left curtain open. Her eyes widened as she saw an old run-down rusty car parked out in front of her house. It showed no headlights . . . just sitting and idling with an ominous sound coming from its tailpipe.

A cold draft suddenly made Debby tremble greatly as she began to see what was starting to materialize. Two red beams of light, very small, like tiny eyes, began to glow from within the car where the driver was sitting on the front seat. The glow grew brighter and then she realized suddenly that they were indeed eyes and they were gazing right at her!!! Debby started to gasp for breath and she felt her heart was suddenly stricken with intense pain as if there was a tight grip of a fist around it . . . tightening. As her pain grew, her body began to crouch forward, nearly ripping the curtain off its rod.

Was that exhausting to read? Try this.

 After:

Without warning, lightning struck. Debby screamed and dropped her glass, which shattered on the Italian stone coffee table. The lights flickered out, and she trembled as thunder shook the house as if an earthquake rolled under it. Then, the night quieted, except for the patter of heavy rain and the murmur of distant thunder.

Debby froze, trembling. She turned and peered through the front room window. A motor idled on the street. With barely a touch, she pulled the curtain aside. A badly damaged black-and-white patrol car sat parked in front of her house, headlights off, no red-and-blue flashing lights. An ominous sound came from its tailpipe.

A cold draft tickled Debby’s neck as she watched two red beams of light, like eyes, glow inside the dark car where a driver sat. The glow grew brighter and Debby gasped. They were eyes—and they were gazing right at her.

A stab of pain made Debby clutch her chest. With a cry, she buckled with her fist entangled in the curtain and fell to the floor, the fluttering cloth covering her face like a shroud of death.

The first thing you probably noticed is the word count dropped by about a third. Think about ditching adverbs and replacing weak verbs with stronger ones. Avoid excessive punctuation, such as multiple exclamation marks.

A great way to seek and destroy extraneous words and passages is to use Word’s Find and Replace. Search for it was, there were, ing, and ly. Often a word ending in ing will reveal a wordy phrase, and ly will catch adverbs (we’ll cover pesky adverbs in a later chapter).

Overall, take the time to consider each word you use and see if you can’t come up with a better word, maybe one more colorful or descriptive. A phrase like “It was interesting and I liked it” is not interesting, and readers won’t like it. Write in your unique style and genre, but do it well.

Think of rewriting as creating a reduction sauce. The more you can eliminate those words and phrases that are not rich in flavor, the less you will have in the end. Which is more. And more, in most cases, is better.

What words or phrases do you often use that are superfluous?

Source: livewritethrive.com

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M MacKinnon on How to Write Paranormal Fiction

Writing fiction with paranormal elements can be tricky, especially in a modern setting. You want your readers to suspend their disbelief and just go with the story. You don’t want them to roll their eyes because the concept of your paranormal world is too far-fetched. Today we’re talking with paranormal romance writer M MacKinnon to get her take on writing paranormal fiction.

How to Write Paranormal Fiction

Paranormal elements in a story should be necessary and seem natural within the confines of the setting and plot. The paranormal should fit in because it feels right and makes sense for the plot of the story, not because you’re trying to jump on a popular trend.

Paranormal fiction is a genre I fell in love with at a young age, so I was super excited to talk with this month’s interviewee to discuss how she developed her paranormal romance series, The Highland Spirits Series.

M MacKinnon is the author of The Comyn’s Curse, a paranormal romance set in Scotland. She began her writing career with Downton Abbey fanfiction. Eventually, she found The Write Practice and completed the first draft of her novel in our 100 Day Book course last year. The Comyn’s Curse is out in select bookstores and online merchants as of today.

You can get in touch with M MacKinnon via her website (where she offers a free short story for signing up for her email list), Facebook, or Twitter.

Now let’s dive into MacKinnon’s paranormal world!

Congratulations on the release of your first novel, The Comyn’s Curse! Tell me a little about the book and the series it opens.

I had no idea what paranormal romance is. After my first stay (a month) in Inverness, Scotland, I came home with a driving urge to write something about the magic of the Scottish Highlands. I did some research on legends and found the legend of the handless ghost who is said to haunt Rait Castle, near Nairn.

Something about the one paragraph synopsis (it was all I could find anywhere) called to me, and I became quite irate on behalf of the ghost. She had no name and in some tales wasn’t even a woman! So I decided to write her story, give her a name and a romance, and draw a parallel between the woman who had lived and died in 1442 and a fictional American girl from New Jersey, who is her descendant.

The book is my love affair with Scotland, its history and mysteries.

Part way through the plotting of The Comyn’s Curse, I knew that there would have to be more—the story just had to continue. So I decided to make it a trilogy and dedicate the next two novels to Aubrey’s two best friends who had supported her through her travails.

The second features her friend Kate, a police detective, and the third is about her friend Colleen, a nurse. Each will have a real legend from the past, each will involve the girls traveling to Scotland and finding love in the Highlands, and each will have a mystery and danger beyond the ghost story. The Piper’s Warning, Kate’s story, is in second-draft phase, and The Healer’s Legacy, Colleen’s tale, is plotted and about three chapters in.

I’m glad I made the decision, because I love my characters, including my ghosts, and I want to do right by them.

The novel takes place primarily in Scotland. I know you visited the country to do research. Can you talk about your research process a bit?

I really didn’t start my research until I came home, because the idea for the story didn’t come until then, but I was able to incorporate a lot of information gleaned as a tourist and quite a bit from the books I bought while there. I’m a huge history nut, and I tend to haunt bookstores. (See what I did there?)

My research on Rait, a ruined hall castle outside Nairn, came about first through a Facebook group called “Save Rait Castle”. When we went back last August for our second visit, I went first to the members of that group, who are passionate about the preservation of what’s left of the castle, and asked if anyone would be willing to guide my husband and me on a pilgrimage to the castle.

We met a wonderful Scottish gentleman named Victor Cameron, who has an acknowledgment in the book, got to know him, and spent an amazing day touring the castle I had written about for almost four months! A truly emotional experience. In fact, I stood in the doorway of the castle and cried.

If you couldn’t have visited, how would you have gone about researching?

I would have had to rely on the library and my bookstores, as well as social media sites like the one I found. I probably wouldn’t have written a book based in Scotland, though, if I hadn’t been there to experience its magic.

The Comyn’s Curse is a paranormal romance novel that has a backdrop containing real places and current events. How do you weave paranormal elements into a modern story? What techniques do you use to walk that fine line between a reader’s suspended disbelief and being too far-fetched?

Well, I knew I needed to have a modern romance in order to make the story click, and I wanted to make the life (or afterlife) of my ghost a bit more pleasant than history did, so I decided to create a parallel between the two main characters in the book, with Aubrey, my protagonist, unknowingly being the descendant of the Rait Castle ghost. The curse was created in order to give a reason for the ghost to be hanging around, with Aubrey being the solution she has sought for almost seven hundred years.

I had both my modern protagonist and her ultimate love interest come together in a purely normal way, but then find that each was descended from one of the lovers of the past. The paths of both couples intersected at key points in the book.

What made you decide to include paranormal elements in this story? Did you want to go in that direction from the start?

Yes, the story started with the real legend of the ghost with no hands. I couldn’t find any more than a paragraph on her, anywhere, but something about her fate called to me and I felt I had to give her a better life (or afterlife) than she had received in that one paragraph.

Even the castle is forgotten by many Scots who live very near it; they’d never heard of Rait Castle in the book store at the local Inverness mall! It just seemed wrong. I’ve righted history, and I think the ghost is very grateful.

Do you like to stay within paranormal canon, or make up your own ‘rules’ for your paranormal elements?

Well, funny you should ask! The first (and only!) time I pitched the book was to a young agent who told me that she didn’t think my book was paranormal romance at all, and she should know because she dealt primarily with that genre.

I was fairly devastated because I suddenly felt “genre-less,” but other authors told me to stick with my own thoughts on my own story, and fortunately I did. I was somewhat relieved to see in the Kirkus review that my work was a “pleasing cross-genre novel” that had “something for everyone.”  It explained a lot.

That’s tough to hear that from an agent. Did you think of cutting the paranormal elements to make it “fit” better in a genre?

No, I was never going to give up my ghost! I just felt that it was my fault that I hadn’t sold the concept in a pitch which lasted five minutes. The whole idea of trying to sell a book which includes history, romance, ghosts, and conspiracy in a few minutes was daunting, and frankly, I thought it was ridiculous.

What I did think about was how to find the genre in which the story fit best, and as I said to that agent, “well, it has ghosts, and romance, doesn’t it? How can that not be paranormal?”

She had no answer, which was fine with me.

Is there anything about writing the paranormal that was more difficult than sticking to reality?

No, since the paranormal part of the story was actually real history, that was the easiest part. Making it fit the modern era was a bit more difficult, but as soon as I met Aubrey, my protagonist, everything fell into place. It just seemed right.

You also have some espionage and mystery thrown in there. Can you talk about your plotting process?

I decided fairly early in the plotting that I would have not only the parallel stories of the past and present romances, but a mystery as well, because . . . well, I love mysteries. So I researched Brexit and invented a villain who was conspiring to undermine the new surge toward a second referendum for Scottish independence in the wake of Brexit.

I decided to structure the novel into “books” or parts, each beginning with a short piece from 1442, then two modern chapters, a modern “conspiracy” chapter from the POV [point of view] of the antagonist, and then two more modern chapters. The three stories parallel each other until the end, when they all come together in a climactic series of events.

What’s one thing you’ve struggled with in your writing and how did you overcome it?

I think the main struggles have been with the mechanics faced by beginning authors, such as head-hopping, show don’t tell, and over-use of proper English. (I was an English major, and the idea of not using semicolons when two independent clauses are put together was very difficult to overcome at first!)

I also tend to edit as I go, rather than just writing and then going back to it later, which can cause thesaurus headaches and insomnia as I lie there rewriting in the darkness, but I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. I suspect it’s just my style.

Any other advice you’d like to give aspiring writers out there?

Any chance you have to join a writer’s group like The Write Practice, any courses like 100 Day Book or NaNoWriMo, DO IT! Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have it in you, or that your story shouldn’t be told. Find a good editor and be accepting of his/her advice—there’s a reason they’re in that business.

My most fervent advice is to find other authors and share, critique and allow yourself to be critiqued. The more you help others with their writing, the more they’ll invest in yours, and everybody wins! I’ve made some amazing friends doing this, and I don’t think I’d be looking at the launch of my first novel in a three book series without them.

What’s next for you?

After the launch of The Comyn’s Curse, I’ll refine and submit The Piper’s Warning, probably this summer. While that is going on I’ll dive back in head first to The Healer’s Legacy.

I have a YA fantasy novel, Slither, which is five chapters in and waiting patiently on the shelf for this Scottish stuff to be finished (I haven’t the heart to tell those characters that it may never be finished), and I fully intend to get back to that at some point.

I do think that fantasy and paranormal romance are my forte, but I’ll be staying in that genre, but I love mystery and may someday write a thriller too. Who knows? It’s part of the joy of writing, isn’t it?

Your Turn to Write Paranormal Fiction

Not sure where to start writing paranormal fiction? Try taking an obscure legend or myth and turning it into the basis for your next story. Be sure to make the paranormal elements necessary to the story, so that without them, it couldn’t work as it does.

Who knows—your paranormal story might just send you traveling the world!

M MacKinnon would like to thank Meghan McKeever of New York Book Editors and DartFrog Books for their support in getting her work into readers’ hands. The Comyn’s Curse is available now on Kindle and in paperback. And stay tuned for the remaining books in the series!

How do you keep paranormal fiction elements “realistic” enough for your readers? Let me know in the comments!

By Sarah Gribble

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Assessing Yourself as a Writer: Does Your Writing Make the Grade?

By Joyce Sweeney

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: It’s not always clear to know what to focus on to improve our writing, but Joyce Sweeney has a formula to help writers grade their stories. Please give her a warm welcome.

Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her books have won many awards and honors. Joyce has recently switched to writing adult fiction and is represented by Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour agency.

Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years and offers online classes. In 2019, she, Jamie Morris and Tia Levings released Plotting Your Novel with The Plot Clock (Giantess Press). At this writing, 62 of Joyce’s students have successfully obtained traditional publishing contracts.

Joyce lives in Coral Springs with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro.

Take it away Joyce…

Joyce Sweeney

Back when I was studying poetry, I discovered a formula for poetry assessment that caught my imagination. I may have it wrong now, but the idea was that you should assess a poem on four things: idea, music, story and structure. As a fiction teacher, my brain immediately went into overdrive wondering how this might translate and I came up with my similar list: concept, voice, plot and structure.

Then, of course, I asked myself how I measured up in these categories and I discovered something magical. I knew I was born with an A in structure and I knew I had a D in plotting. That discovery alone was gold to me on a personal level and it led to an intensive attempt to ‘raise my grade’ in plotting. Moreover, I knew that my concepts were 50-50 (as were my book sales from project to project) and that my voice was pretty bad on the first draft, but I could always polish it to a good level. In other words, my report card as a fiction writer was: Structure A, Voice B, Concept C, Plot D. And I knew just where and how to do my homework from that day forward.

Since I never have a problem with seeing one case as a scientific study, I decided maybe we were ALL like that. Born with one ‘free ticket’ and one ‘horror category’ with the other grades falling in between. I started assessing the manuscripts I edited on this basis and I realized it’s true. Which means identifying where we fall in these categories and working to ‘bring up our low grades’ was very possibly the Key to Everything in being ‘ready’ for publication. I continued to develop this idea into a workshop and also one of my online classes which is actually Lesson One in the upcoming Fiction Writing Essentials. I think it’s kind of a life-changing thing. So here it is in a very abbreviated version.

Let’s start with voice.

For a definition, voice is the whole way a writer uses language. So let’s say that’s the gift you are born with. In fact, I think a lot of people who choose writing have a fabulous voice and that is the easiest thing for teachers and friends to notice. I’ve discovered that people who have a real way with language, that is to say a beautiful voice, can become very frustrated, because they get standing ovations in their critique groups, they dazzle the crowd, and everyone tells them “you’re there!” when maybe they have not mastered the other elements listed above.

To my horror, I find these are people who might give up too soon. They feel, “I can’t make my writing any better so if it’s not good enough, I’ll quit.” They don’t realize they are polishing the wrong thing. Oddly, people who struggle with voice often succeed, even though they get the most picked on in critique group. Fixing voice is a slow process and these people often feel ‘behind’ the others. But they also stick around a long time, determined to crack the code, and if they are strong in plot and structure, they make it to an editor who will help them out.

Some of my voice tips are: use a narrative voice that works with your natural voice. A lot of MG writers have a YA voice and vice versa. Read poetry. It gives you voice by osmosis. And of course, study the elements of voice.

Plot.

That’s my D. I used to write poems and short stories. You don’t need a lot of plot for that. When I started writing novels, I felt if a character had some kind of epiphany near the end of the book, my work was done. Amazingly enough, I was strong enough in other ways to get published, but my sales were very up and down till I mastered plotting. I studied it so much, I’m now known more for plot writing and plot teaching then anything else.

If you’re weak in plot, you often make it beyond the pitch to a request. They may read beginning pages and keep requesting, because your voice is good. But when they get to the end of the manuscript it’s a no-sale. Plotting is easy to learn and easy to teach. Of all these skills, it’s the most mathematical and logical, so once you get the hang of it (unlike concept!) you’re in business. If you’re strong in plot, you may find that your agent, your editor and some critics are still finding flaws in your books, but they always tell you you gave them a darn good ride. That’s what a plot is. A darn good ride. Studying movies and plays is one great way to work on your plot grade.

So, if plot is the ride, structure is the type of vehicle that takes the ride.

It’s the hardest of these concepts to explain, but concretely, it plays out in things like point of view, length of scenes, story beats and swings. It’s an inner knowing of what the reader wants and needs at every turn of the story and delivering it. It’s often learned more by experience or trial and error and especially from feedback by others, so deliberate study doesn’t always work. If you read to a critique group and they say they didn’t understand something, the event went by too fast. If they’re bored, you went too slow.

Working with structure is like tasting and adjusting a recipe. Often writers who study their craft diligently find structure to be the last battle, the thing they work with agents on in R&R’s. Structure is vital because it delivers the emotion of the story. Like those lucky voice people, I was good at structure so even my first novel, which is VERY flawed, was emotionally powerful and that got me published, possibly too soon. If you’re poor in the category of structure, you hear ‘show don’t tell’ a lot and you very likely have more distant points of view than you should. You are a person who can actually benefit from taking colored markers to a powerful novel to see what the author did and when.

Then there’s concept.

Concept means your story has a clear hook, people can easily grasp ‘what it’s about’, and there’s almost always a visceral reaction when you pitch. People hear your concept and immediately want to read, or feel like that’s the story they’ve been waiting for. Your concept has interesting elements or a great twist on something classic. If you’re great at concept you usually have more ideas than time to write them, you excel at pitching but then find yourself frustrated because after you submit, you get rejected. It just means something else in your execution needs work, but the industry is driven by concept, so if you work hard, you will probably do well.

Now I really want to reach those of you who struggle with concept. Because I think this can really sideline you. Some people work on the same book for years, decades even, improving every element of that same book, but not realizing they are pouring energy into something that will never work. I find this heartbreaking. I know, often your first idea is so close to your heart (and maybe your life story or the story of someone you deeply love) but it just may not be the very best idea for launching into a competitive market.

Since I work with writers over the course of many years, I can tell you, the most successful are always starting a new book. Think about it. When you’re published, you’ll have to do that almost every year. And if you write many books, you eventually learn a lot about what makes a good concept. You refine and adjust so that the things that resonate with your heart also resonate with the collective heart. And then you can sell.

Problems with concept can be, it’s been done too many times before and you haven’t innovated enough, not enough drama or excitement, it’s so close to you, you can’t work with it (like a book that’s a tribute to someone you love). I am here to tell you. I won’t give numbers, but I’ve had some really great sales on some books and some really, well disappointing sales on others. The quality of my writing didn’t vary that much. I just sometimes picked concepts that didn’t excite readers. And this is another area where I’ve really tried to learn. I don’t want to waste all that work and energy anymore. If I shoot an arrow, I want to know there’s a target for it. If you have issues with concept, you may have heard the same criticism about your story many times but you keep saying, oh, that’s them. Or you get those rejections that praise you but say ultimately, they just can’t sell that. Do yourself a tremendous favor and move on.

So right now, just for fun, jot down your own scorecard.

I firmly believe that most writers start out with a clear A, B, C and D. And hopefully as they study craft, some of these grades start to rise. I also believe if you can get to an A in all four you can sell a book. Period. So it’s really worthwhile to look at this honestly, and if you find a category that is holding you back…well now you know just which courses to take and which books to read. Finding these categories and working with them honestly made a huge difference to me as a writer, as an editor and as a teacher. I hope they’ll be just as beneficial to you too!

Source: blog.janicehardy.com

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The #1 Rule on How to Write Viral Content for Your Blog or Website

One of the things that surprised me the most when I started Positive Writer was that a lot of my content was going viral. I didn’t expect that to happen and, if I am being honest, I didn’t start writing articles with going-viral in mind. I created my blog to share my thoughts about writing and since I felt what I wanted to express wasn’t really being talked about at the time, I might as well give it a shot and see if anyone cared. They did, and how!

At first, when my posts started taking off, I thought it was just luck. And, to a degree it was, but after a while, I noticed a trend. I had stumbled on to one of the most important aspects of being a writer online – at least, a writer who writes stuff that gets not only noticed but also passionately shared.

Before we get into what the secret is and how you can do it too, let me tell you another little truth, you’re probably a much better writer than I was when I started out, and if we’re really being open and sincere about what it takes to get your work noticed, shared and, well, going viral, it has very little to do with being a “great writer.” If you don’t consider your writing skills to be as good as you want them to be, welcome to the club.

With that said, being a great writer doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the key to success online. Writers with something to say will always get noticed more than great writers just writing for the sake of writing.

The #1 rule to creating content online that goes viral is:

Write What People May Be Thinking But Aren’t Saying

You’ve heard the saying that “The first draft of anything is shit.” Right? Well, my first article on Positive Writer was an argument against this declaration. It was titled “The First Draft is Not Crap!” It was short and, what I considered, a simple post.

“The First Draft is Not Crap!” went on to become my first viral phenomenon. I’m still a bit stunned at how well received the post was and the life it took on for itself. I’d love to tell you, I knew it! But that was hardly the case.

Hemingway allegedly said the famous quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.” as claimed in a postmortem book, “With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba.”

Thousands, if not millions, of authors and aspiring authors (especially the aspiring ones), have repeated the quote with conviction, even going so far as to post it on vision boards and bathroom mirrors. However, I imagined many actually disagreed with it or felt it went too far. In fact, psychologically it IS a self-defeating statement, which has led more people to let-downs than to publishing contracts.

I’m not going to go into the debate about the quote itself in this article. I’ve already done that. We’re going to talk about how a topic, especially something people may be thinking about, but aren’t really talking about, can get people to react in some way, positive, or negative, in agreement or disagreement, thus sharing your articles.

The result to share and discuss the content is there because it’s different, it’s taboo, and at the same time, it’s meaningful and important.

How dare you contradict the great one! Hemingway was a master.

Or:

It’s about time someone said it! No one can prove Hemingway ever uttered those words.

And it’s not always so cut and dry, some may agree to a point, but not entirely, which opens up more debate, discussions, and ultimately, sharing of your content!

Now here’s the thing, I wasn’t merely trying to stir up the bees. Quite the contrary, I set out to help fellow writers with positive and motivational content. Part of that was to get writers to think more positively about their initial work and give it the credit it deserves. Calling your work crap isn’t exactly all that motivational. And, reverse psychology doesn’t usually work the way a lot of people think it does.

Studies have shown direct requests and suggestions work better than reverse suggestions, in fact, reverse suggestions often work as direct suggestions. So, if you’re one of those who is wired for direct and not “reverse psychology,” then guess what calling your work worthless means. Exactly, your efforts and your work are very likely F**k’d. If that’s you, now you know why you’re always stuck and borderline depressed. Stop that!

Since I hadn’t found any blogs out there expressing things the way I thought about them, I only had an inclination more people thought the way I did. It was a big risk and I figured there would be some push back because, frankly, a lot of the most common and repeated writing advice out there is capital BULLSHIT. I wanted to talk about that and provide other ways of thinking about said bull advice.

To create viral content you have to be willing to discuss topics your readers might not agree with and at the same time do your best to help them see your point of view.

To create viral content you have to be willing to discuss topics your readers might not agree with and at the same time do your best to help them see your point of view.

It’s not enough just to write about that which should not be said, there also has to be a point to it – or rather, a point you’re trying to make. If you’re successful at making your point, whether your readers agree or disagree, they will share your content, and if you’re lucky, it will go viral.

I noticed many new writers and bloggers like to rewrite old advice and popular content. Sure, they give a little of their own twist in the rewriting of it, but really, it’s the same we’ve all already read before. Great for a moment, but ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable. I made that mistake with the first few blogs I started. I hadn’t found my own voice yet, or really, I wasn’t brave enough to let it sing freely. With that said…

Pro-tip: Don’t write content with the sole purpose of pissing people off. Because, rest assured, if you try that you WILL succeed and it won’t be pretty. If you’ve got a point to make – be sure it’s something you believe in and you feel needs to be said.

Your content needs to be valuable. Make your words make a difference. Because they can.

If you leave this article having gained something that will help you in some way, then I feel I have succeeded. I don’t need you to agree with me or disagree with me – I just want to get you thinking, considering, and coming up with your own solutions with what may be a new or fresh perspective. To me that is valuable. To me, that is a win.

You’ve got something you want to say. I know you do. It might not be mainstream, it might be a little edgy, and I am quite sure, whatever it is, it’s pretty damn scary. That’s the type of stuff people care about. Viral content goes viral because people care about it. You would never share anything you don’t care about.

Writing articles to give your opinion is the primary reason to create a blog so that you can share those opinions with the world. However, – this is going to hurt – your opinion doesn’t count for much. And frankly, neither does mine.

It’s the thoughts, the discussions, and the sharing of views that we generate which matters the most. If I could get one person to rethink the draft she’s about to throw in the trash because she thought it was “shit.” Then I’ve done my job. And if that draft becomes a second draft, then a third draft, and eventually turns into a published book – oh my!

And THAT is why I wrote the article without ever considering it would eventually be viewed and read over 2 million times, or that thousands of people around the world would share it with each other.

I’ve written many other articles which have had a similar effect, some have been shared far more, and some much-much less, and some have caused even greater ripples in the blogosphere. But get this, you’re a better writer than you realize and you have things to say you know are important too, so what are you waiting for?

Say what others are thinking, but aren’t saying. The scarier this idea is to you, the more likely you’re on to something.

Go create some ripples. I dare you.

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

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Genre in Writing

This post from December 2016, has been re-edited and re-published in April, 2019.

Broad and Narrow Genres

Since the proliferation of Creative Writing courses in universities in the Anglo world, much has been written and said about “genre” in writing.

Creative Writing contrasts with Nonfiction Writing in the broader sense. The former is the sort of writing that novelists, short story writers and poets employ. Nonfiction includes traditional biographical works, academic texts, journalism, and books on a diverse range of subjects, such as food (recipes), self-help and memoir.

Within fiction, there is a breakdown into specific genres: science fiction, romance, historical fiction, mystery, horror, detective stories, action, fantasy and adventure.

Literary Fiction and Commercial Fiction

Literary fiction can be distinguished from commercial fiction, the latter referring to popular “genre” writing that publishers hope to sell to a wide readership. Literary fiction is best defined by contrast with commercial fiction. In the book trade, it is seen as having greater literary merit, focusing on depth of character and a concern with style.

Many writers today are writing for commercial reasons, to be published or self-published in books, eBooks, or online, as quickly as possible. Literary fiction attracts writers who are experimenting with form and interested in lyrical expression and often dark and emotive themes.

The term “creative writing” is more appropriate as an umbrella term for writing that employs fictional devices. This distinguishes it from academic writing, which endeavours to present factual or argumentative texts in an objective framework.  Journalistic writing, too, is based on the principal goal of providing factual information to the public, although there will be some overlap with fiction in its use of devices, such as dialogue and narration.

Creative Nonfiction

Non-Fiction includes traditional biographical works, academic texts, journalism, and books on a diverse range of subjects, such as food (recipes), self help and memoir.

Truman Capote’s nonfiction work In Cold Blood (1966 ) is looked on as the forerunner of this genre in modern times. It is also the ultimate true crime novel. Based on painstaking research and interviews, Capote used the story of the cold-blooded killing of a family in rural Kansas, and his investigation of the crime, as the plot for his novel. It is written brilliantly, employing all the techniques of the best fictional writing: strong characterisation, realistic sounding dialogue, vivid imagery, and narrative suspense, without wavering from the facts. Apart, perhaps from the ending, where he improvises a little; endings are often difficult for this type of factually based writing.

One of the first attempts at a creative nonfiction novel in Australia was Poppy by Drusilla Modjeska (Penguin 1990), in which the author recounts her mother’s life. It is well told but lacks the dramatic, page-turning aspect of plot-driven fiction. A past master at this subjective type of writing is Helen Garner, whose The First Stone is now a classic, as well as a cause of ongoing controversy for student discussion in Creative Writing Courses in Australian universities.

Memoir

Modern Memoir has taken on a slightly different aspect within this recent context. It refers to first person narration that focuses on a particular aspect or period of a person’s life.  Memoir “sticks to the facts” but employs creative devices, such as narrative drive, strong characterisation, vivid dialogue, and dramatised events.

The best memoirs focus on a universal issue or concern that the author illustrates via personal experience.

It differs from fiction, wherein connections are concealed behind invented characters, settings and names. Many writers are wary of “treading on the toes” of living relatives and friends when they recount true events. It is easier and less constricting to create, rather than to recount the facts.

Lee Gutkind, an American author, is looked on as the Godfather of Creative Nonfiction today. He is the editor of a Creative Non-fiction journal and the author of Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction.

Specific Genres

Of course, with fiction, there is a breakdown of genres within the broad genre: science fiction, romance, historical fiction, mystery, horror, detective stories, action, fantasy and adventure.

Here is a more exhaustive list of possible genres from Cathy Yardley’s blog: Rock Your Writing.

Action/Adventure — stories including epic journeys, lots of conflict, high stakes, some violence.
Erotica — stories of sexual exploration.
Fantasy — stories usually involving magic, other worlds, mythological/mystical figures.
Horror — stories that invoke fear.
Literary Fiction — stories with a focus on the quality of the prose over the narrative arc.
Mystery — stories that involve solving a crime, usually a murder.
Thriller/Suspense — stories of high tension that can involve either action or mystery.
Romance — stories about love/intimacy.
Sci-fi — stories usually involving technology, aliens, science-related alternative worlds.
Westerns — stories taking place in America’s “Old West,” often with focus on justice.
Women’s fiction — stories about women experiencing emotional growth.  Primary emotion:  hope.

By Anne Skyvington

Source: anneskyvington.com.au

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