Tag Archives: editing tips

How to write a book in 30 days: 8 key tips

Annual writing sprints like NaNoWriMo have many experienced and new authors alike testing their limits. Writing a book – a carefully, beautifully constructed book – does take time. Usually, much longer than 30 days. Yet trying this exercise is useful for building discipline, focus and just getting the first draft done. Here are 8 tips to help:

1: Set attainable goals

When someone asks ‘how do I write a book in x days?’ Writers’ reactions are sometimes discouraging. ‘Never write a book with a deadline as small as 30 days!’ Says one Quora user. Reasons you shouldn’t attempt to write a book in such a small time-frame include:

  • Being limited by time constraints could result in low quality writing
  • Producing a first draft may be possible within 30 days but you also need time to revise and edit
  • Burnout is possible if you don’t take sufficient breaks

These are all valid concerns. To work out it you can finish your novel in 30 days:

    1. Calculate how many words you write per minute: Use a free words-per-minute checker such as Typing Speed Test.
    2. Keeping in mind that you will also need to pause from time to time to think what happens next, halve your word count per minute. If you can type as fast as 60 wpm, take 30 as your base rate.
    3. Work out how many words you write per hour: If you can write 30 per minute, you can write approximately 1800 words per hour (assuming you don’t stop to edit or rest). Factor in resting time for a more conservative estimate (e.g. 1000 words).
    4. Work out how many hours you will have to write each day on average over the next 30. If you write 1000 words of draft per hour on a good day, an 80, 000 word novel should take 80 hours of writing to complete.
    5. Eighty hours of writing over 30 days would mean spending an average of 2.6 hours of writing per day. This is a lot when you have other commitments.
    6. Based on the amount of time you have available to write each day, adjust the length of your first draft until you have a word count you can achieve. You can always expand during subsequent drafts. Or write your first draft as a brief, novella version.

If this seems like an impossible task, give yourself more days. Or write some scenes in summary form. You can add connective tissue between plot events (such as scene transitions) later.

2: Set a realistic daily word count target

You might say to yourself ‘I can write for an hour each day, easily.’ The truth is that surprises, last minute obligations and life in general can hijack your writing time. For every hour of free time you have, bank on getting half an hour of that to write.

Start thinking about how you can make your word target attainable:

  • Cut down time taken up by other tasks: Make simpler, quicker meals, for example, and watch less TV – it’s only a temporary sacrifice)
  • Ask for help: Rally friends and family who are willing to help you chase your goal (for example, grandparents willing to babysit if you’re juggling telling your story with parenting)

Once you know exactly which hours you have free, block them out in a calendar. Use a colour that separates them clearly from other events and obligations. Draw an ‘X’ through each day once you’ve reached your word target. The satisfaction of this action (the sense of completion) will keep you motivated to continue.

3: Reserve time for each part of the writing process

The different parts of writing a novel require different types of problem-solving. Sketching characters, for example, is more imagination-dependent, while editing is a somewhat more rational (though still creative) process. [You can create full character profiles in preparation using the step-by-step prompts in Now Novel’s story dashboard.]

When seeing if you can learn how to write a book in 30 days, being structured is key. Divide each writing session into different tasks. Complete different sections of outlining or drafting simultaneously. This keeps the process varied and diminishes chances of getting stuck.

If, for example, you prefer writing dialogue to introducing scenes and settings, leave your favourite part of the storytelling process for the end of each session. This makes your favourite part a reward that you work towards every time you sit down to write.

Writing a book in 30 days - Infographic | Now Novel

4: Maintain a motivating reward scheme

Create a reward scheme for yourself to keep yourself motivated. Big gyms and insurance policies take this approach to keeping members active. Because they understand motivation, how reward-driven we are. Maximize your commitment to your story (and your word count targets) by:

  • Scheduling short breaks as micro rewards for reaching small targets such as completing scenes
  • Scheduling greater ‘bonus’ rewards for milestone achievements such as completing chapters

Rewards don’t have to be expensive, overly indulgent or distracting. Take a walk somewhere inspiring or beautiful, read a few pages from a favourite book or grab a coffee with a close friend. Make your rewards relaxing activities that will help you return to the track renewed and focused.

One crucial piece of advice on how to write a book in 30 days:

5: Make it a game to avoid unnecessary pressure

If you’ve ever watched competitive reality TV, you might have seen cases where the most competitive and committed participant cracked early under pressure. Placing too much pressure on yourself is a fast track to burnout.

Instead, treat writing a book in 30 days as an impossible goal that you’ll see whether you can reach, playfully. It’s crucial that this time is fun and varied. Some ways to make it a game:

  • Enlist a friend to join in the challenge: You can have your own NaNoWriMo any time of year
  • Create engaging prompts for yourself: Instead of saying ‘In this scene, the villain will discover a secret that sets him back’, tell yourself ‘Imagine a villain has just been informed of a development that ruins his plans. What does he discover? How does he react? Write 500 words’
  • Find an inspiring picture via Google images that captures the mood or tone you want a scene to create: Let images (or music) inspire you as you write

Try to write as freely as possible to maximize your speed:

Quote on writing - EB White | Now Novel

 6: How to write a book in 30 days: ‘Write drunk’

The quote ‘Write drunk; edit sober’ is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, though it’s not clear whether Hemingway actually said this. Regardless of who said it, the quote does say something true about writing. It’s not that you should write drunk literally. But you should give yourself the freedom to write with that same uncontrolled giddiness. Before you get to editing.

A big part of how to write a novel in 30 days is letting go of complete control. Let the sober editor in you control when the time comes for that. The writing part should involve as little critical interference as possible, if you want to draft fast.

Some ways to ‘write drunk’:

  1. Make the font colour of your word processor match the background. Only highlight and change the font colour back when you reach your target word count. This will prevent you from focusing too much on what you’ve just said as you can’t edit until you reach a point of pause.
  2. Give yourself licence to be bad. Write terribly. Use clichés at every turn. Do this with the understanding that once you have the full draft and you’ve met your targets, you can go through and fix whatever you like.
  3. Leap in anywhere: Just because your novel tells a linear story doesn’t mean you have to be linear in your approach. If you’ve written the start of a scene, skip to the ending if you have an idea where it will go. Put in simple notes for whatever you’ll add later.

On the subject of speeding up, use shorthand in places to keep up your momentum:

7: Cheat and use shorthand

If you’re trying to write a novel in 30 days, you’ll likely only have time to fill in essential details of character, setting and the most important events of a scene. To keep going at all costs:

  • Fill in names of characters, places and other nouns with generic words and agonize over the right choice later (e.g. ‘[Character Y: Add character name meaning stubborn/headstrong here]’)
  • Reduce connecting sequences to basic elements. Instead of describing in detail how the party escapes the collapsing building, write ‘[Party manages to escape collapsing building; minus characters X and Y’]
  • Keep filling in these blanks for moments when you are tired and you need a quick, small win

8: Remember that progress never counts as failure

What people don’t always tell you when you ask how to write a novel in 30 days is that the most important part of this challenge is committing to it and trying.

Determination and dedication will help you make progress. If, by the end of the 30 days, you don’t have a continuous, polished first draft, congratulate yourself for the progress you have made. You have a sturdy skeleton for a book you can turn into a better read.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo or simply trying to get through your draft, try to write an 800 word extract every day for a week in the note-keeping section on Now Novel. That’s 5600 words further if you succeed.

Source: nownovel.com

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Inspiration for Writers: Hunt It Down!

Not many writers lounge in an ivy-covered tower pouring out inspired words – that’s unrealistic. Many successful writers still keep a day job, most out of necessity, some out of choice. How inspired would you feel if you sat in an ivy-covered tower all day? Seasoned writers say that, since few books make much money, the key to earning a living as a writer is to write a lot of books. Not to wait for inspiration.

A real-world example: professional songwriters don’t sit on a large rock with their lute or flute, watching the sheep and waiting for inspiration. Songwriting is a joy, true, but for them, it’s also a job. Every major music publisher pays a team of contracted staff writers. Particularly in Nashville, country songwriters get a monthly salary to come to the office every day (to a literal office) and write their quota of songs.

Legendary songwriter Carole King described that sort of life, which she experienced in New York’s ‘Brill Building’ in the 1960s:

“Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You’d sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubbyhole composing a song exactly like yours.”

When inspiration flees

What if a staff songwriter doesn’t feel like writing? What if they feel like not writing? What do they do when circumstances conspire against inspiration?

That’s what happened to Albert Askew Beach (1924-1997). As I remember the story from Reader’s Digest Treasury of Beloved Songs, one night Mr. Beach was sitting at his piano trying to come up with new English lyrics for Charles Trenet’s song “Que reste-t-il de nos amours?” about the end of a love affair

Unfortunately, next door a love affair really was ending, judging from the noises coming from the neighboring apartment, as the soon-to-be-former couple angrily and loudly pronounced curses upon each other. In the 1950s, angry, loud love songs were not yet a thing and Beach wasn’t making much progress on his lyrics. (The angry neighbors probably didn’t much appreciate the romantic piano accompaniment either.)

Then Beach had an bright idea, out of necessity, his publisher’s quota, and his need for grocery money. What if he turned every curse he heard into a blessing? So when the neighbors shouted at each other, “Leave! I don’t care. I hope you freeze to death!” Beach wrote,

I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm

The resulting song, known as “I Wish You Love,” became a standard, a classic in its day.

Inspiration by twisting

If you need to turn an overworked idea into something fresh, like Albert Askew Beach, try twisting it and reversing it. For example, all romantic comedies have the same basic plot: ‘Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl.’ But what if the boy never manages to meet the girl? What if he tries to lose her but can’t? What if she is not a girl but a ghost? (“Your wife’s family lives in the old mansion on the hill? Why, that’s impossible. Nobody has lived there for a hundred years…”)

J.K. Rowling turned a twist into a hit. By the 1990s it was hard to imagine what could happen in a British boarding school that hadn’t already happened in the hundreds of novels set in one. Then she asked herself, “Okay, what if I set my novel in a British boarding school for wizards?” Try it: it might sell. (Spoiler: it did sell – 400 million copies including sequels – it was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but now that fresh idea has been taken so you need to come up with your own.)

Adding a twist lets you borrow inspiration without stealing it or plagiarizing. Neal Gaiman didn’t say, “Let’s pretend I’m Rudyard Kipling and rewrite The Jungle Book.” Instead, he wrote The Graveyard Book, adding a twist to the same 1894 premise (ghosts instead of animals), and won the Newbery Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award.

Inspiration through diversifying

James A. Michener became a successful novelist only later in life – he published his first book at age 40. He didn’t ascribe his success to any careful plan, but to a wide variety of seemingly random experiences, saying, “I have worked all my life, never very seriously and never with any long-term purpose.” While still in his teens, he hitchhiked and hopped freight trains from Canada almost to Florida (45 states), and eventually visited nearly every country in the world. (A change of scenery often brings inspiration, but no, you don’t need to visit every country in the world.) In his early life, Michener was a chestnut vendor, a private detective in an amusement park, a night watchman in a hotel, a graduate student in Scotland, a high school English teacher, a social studies editor, and a naval historian in the South Pacific. He won a Pulitzer Prize for writing South Pacific.

Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel, was first known as the creator of the line “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” then as the writer and illustrator of children’s books such as The Cat in the Hat. He was less known for the hundreds of hats he collected over 60 years, everything from an Italian colonel’s hat to a plastic Viking helmet. Whenever he needed a fresh perspective, he could put on a hat. The hat collection itself probably inspired his book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

Even small changes can give you inspiration. You can find inspiration tools online that suggest and combine words in new ways, even offering first lines, writing prompts, and story starters.

By Michael
Source: dailywritingtips.com

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Publishing Trends: Tropes Readers Adore Across 15 Fiction Genres

Whether you’re looking to write to market or are scouring manuscript submissions for your next acquisition, knowing what tropes appeal to readers can help inform your decision. We see different trends in different categories. And studying these trends, especially those that have been selling well recently, will help you learn what content can best engage your audience.

To help you get a sense of what’s currently engaging BookBub members, we’re showcasing two trending tropes across each of 15 different categories, along with examples of books that performed well for each trope. These trends and examples are based on our internal engagement data from the past few months as well as our editors’ research. Note that our readers’ tastes change over time, and these are the tropes that are currently trending!

Special thanks to BookBub’s editors for contributing their expertise and trope summaries below!

Crime Fiction Trends

Missing persons

When a person vanishes, they leave dozens of questions in their wake: not just how and why the incident occurred, but sometimes even whether the disappearance was a crime at all. And our readers are loving a good twist right now!

Crime Fiction Trends - Missing Persons

Cold cases

Our puzzle-loving readers enjoy books that reopen a cold case — a crime that’s lain dormant for years, sometimes decades — from a fresh angle, where someone finally finds the tools needed to crack it.

Crime Fiction - Cold Cases

Historical Romance Trends

Marriages of convenience

In historical romances, readers love when heroines must wed the hero for reasons beyond their control, or marry for anything but love — only to find themselves falling head over heels!

Historical Romance - Marriages of Convenience

Heroes with titles

Dukes might have been few and far between in actual 19th century England, but in historical romance they’re thick on the ground, and our readers have been loving them as heroes lately — along with earls and marquesses.

Historical Romance - Heroes with Titles

Middle Grade Trends

Fantasy

There’s nothing better than magic with a good dose of whimsy. Middle Grade fantasy often strikes a great balance between the quintessential magical elements our readers love and an inviting tone that appeals to all ages.

Middle Grade Trends - Fantasy

Mystery

Drawing from classic series like Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Children, contemporary middle grade mysteries combine sleuthing with charm for low-stakes puzzles that are fun, exciting, and stress-free.

Middle Grade Trends - Mystery

Teen & YA Trends

Contemporary about real world issues

We’ve seen our YA readers turning to books about real-world issues recently, like abuse, suicide, and mental illness, as they explore tough topics through emotional reads.

Teen & YA Trends - Contemporary about real world issues

Fairy tale retellings

There’s nothing more satisfying than a new twist on an old favorite. Fairy tale retellings deliver a wonderful mix of familiarity and surprise as they approach the classic happily ever after from a different angle.

Teen & YA Trends - Fairy tale retellings

Literary Fiction Trends

Small towns

Literary fiction often helps us reflect on how we as individuals belong in a community. Small towns — where everyone’s business is inescapable — are the perfect settings for exploring the divides between personal ambition, duty, and home.

Literary Fiction Trends - Small Towns

Family sagas

The best literary fiction also helps us understand our relationships with those closest to us. Family sagas allow us to see how characters’ most intimate ties change over time, often underlining the sentiment that you can never truly go home again.

Literary Fiction Trends - Family Sagas

Science Fiction Trends

Box sets

Science fiction stories span galaxies and centuries — and more often than not, several volumes in a series. Our sci-fi readers love good deals that let them visit and stay awhile in worlds beyond our own.

Science Fiction Trends - Box Sets

Artificial intelligence

Great science fiction paints a picture of the future that shines a light on the present. Artificial intelligence has been a particularly strong frame for exploring current questions of consciousness, labor, and identity.

Science Fiction Trends - Artificial intelligence

Fantasy Trends

Epic fantasy

Our epic fantasy readers like to be swept up in vivid secondary worlds and love tales with high stakes, magic, and intrigue.

Fantasy Trends - Epic Fantasy

Fairy tale retellings

Fairy tale retellings breathe new life into classic fairy tales and myths, offering either lush reweavings of established storylines or new takes on familiar tropes.

Fantasy Trends - Fairy tale retellings

Paranormal Romance Trends

Sci-fi content

Our paranormal romance readers enjoy sci-fi romance tropes, particularly a steamier plot featuring a sexy, alpha alien looking for a human mate.

Paranormal Romance Trends - Sci-Fi

Fated mates

In the supernatural world, sometimes destiny delivers one’s soulmate, igniting an unfathomable, intense connection. Fated mates is one of our paranormal romance readers’ favorite tropes right now.

Paranormal Romance Trends - Fated Mates

Erotic Romance Trends

Billionaires

Sure, you’re probably thinking about Christian Grey from Fifty Shades, but he’s not the only brooding billionaire out there. What woman doesn’t want a wealthy man who can offer her everything her heart desires?

Erotic Romance Trends - Billionaires

Ménage

Right now our erotic romance readers are loving ménage romance and all the tension and pleasure that comes from adding another person in the bedroom.

Erotic Romance Trends - Ménage

Action & Adventure Trends

Military fiction

In military fiction, protagonists will likely have a degree of experience in the combat and survival departments, so the book’s action sequences will reflect that expertise.

Action & Adventure Trends - Military fiction

Ancient secrets, codes, and hidden treasure

Given the gargantuan popularity of stories like National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code, it’s no surprise that our action and adventure readers are big fans of books featuring historical clues, hidden treasures, and puzzle elements.

Action & Adventure Trends - Ancient secrets, codes, and hidden treasure

Cozy Mysteries Trends

English village mysteries

Our US readers like to visit the pastoral countryside with English village mysteries — think cozy town centers and witty suspects who are questioned over afternoon tea. The inciting murder typically happens off the page and the amateur sleuth is able to tie things up neatly in the end.

Cozy Mysteries Trends - English village mysteries

Bookish mysteries

Bookish cozy mysteries have amateur sleuths with one foot in the world of books — often as bookstore owners, book club members, librarians, or authors — and evoke the charm of a reading ritual or the thrill of researching through dusty tomes.

Cozy Mysteries Trends - Bookish mysteries

LGBT Trends

Queer literary fiction

Queer literary fiction is often bittersweet, with plots involving difficult choices and self-reflection. It captures parts of the queer experience not always covered in romance or other genre fiction.

LGBT Trends - Queer literary fiction

Suspense

In our LGBT category, mystery and thriller plots are popular when they provide a backdrop for a relationship — the central action or investigation creates tension, forcing characters into close quarters and bringing attraction sizzling to the surface.

LGBT Trends - Suspense

Chick Lit Trends

Opposites attract & enemies-to-lovers

An unlikely couple slowly realizing they’re perfect for one another is a tale as old as time. This classic plotline is a perfect fit for those who want a taste of will-they-won’t-they tension.

Chick Lit Trends - Opposites attract & enemies-to-lovers

Food

Whether they’re set in bakeries or centered around an aspiring chef, books brimming with food conjure up warmth and coziness — and are sure to satisfy every appetite.

Chick lit trends - food

Historical Fiction Trends

World War II

The horror, drama, and emotion of World War II have been depicted in countless bestselling books, and it’s no surprise that the time period continues to enthrall BookBub readers.

Historical Fiction Trends - WWII

Early America

Looking at recent performances, we can see that BookBub readers love novels set in early America, which often illuminate the dangerous lure of the unknown, the desire for independence, and the promise of a fresh start.

Historical Fiction Trends - Early America

Thrillers Trends

Memory lapses

Lapses in memory bring an added layer of uncertainty to thrillers, forcing us to question whether we can trust the person at the center of the story (or how much they can trust themselves).

Thriller Trends - Memory Lapses

Children in peril

Thrillers featuring a child in peril have heightened stakes — the helplessness of the victim means greater urgency to defeat whatever’s threatening them. This is a popular trope across many thriller subgenres, from legal thrillers to psychological suspense!

Thriller Trends - Children in Peril

What category trends do you want us to talk about next? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Source: bookbub.com

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Writing Scary Stories & Horror for Kids: 4 Lessons from Goosebumps Author R.L. Stine

There is a fine line between scary and funny when it comes to clowns, ventriloquist dummies and other creepy ghouls, but author R.L. Stine heads straight for the dark side. For more than 25 years, Stine has been writing horror for kids around the world with his Goosebumps series, which has sold over 350 million copies in 32 languages.

From the age of nine, Stine knew he wanted to be a writer. Initially, he dreamed of writing humor—not horror—on the old typewriter he found in his attic. While attending Ohio State, he became editor for a humor magazine at the college for three years. When he moved to New York, he fulfilled his dream to write full-time by writing fake celebrity interviews for a fan magazine where he learned to write fast and use his imagination. Soon after he landed a job at Scholastic where he shifted gears to write for younger audiences. For sixteen years he worked as the editor for the kids’ humor magazine, Bananas.

 

 

Stine’s big genre change happened when a friend of his at Scholastic asked him if he ever thought about writing horror for young adults. He hadn’t. She suggested he write a book for this audience with the title Blind Date. Four months later, the book became a bestseller. More books followed, along with a new series, Fear Street. He found some success with this audience, but when it was suggested that he write horror for kids—younger kids, ages 7-12—Goosebumps was born.

The first few books in the series were published without much hype or marketing power behind them. Sales remained flat for 3–4 months before word of mouth kicked in. Stine called it the secret kids’ network. Kids started talking about the books with their friends, sales shot up, and the rest is history. He continues to write and publish for this series, putting out new books each year.

Here are some quotes from Stine along with thoughts and insights in writing horror for young readers as well as writing in general.

“When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me and try to put those feelings into books.” 

Stine grew up a fearful child. He draws on his memories of what scared him to create the stories for Goosebumps. Think back to your childhood. What scared you? Dig deep into the depths of your imagination to find those moments and remember the emotions and feelings associated with those situations and bring them into your writing. 

“My thinking is that these books are entertainment. I’m very careful to keep reality out of it. The real world is much scarier than these books. So, I don’t do divorce, even. I don’t do drugs. I don’t do child abuse. I don’t do all the really serious things that would interfere with the entertainment.”

Adults and kids read horror books for the adrenaline and emotional rush that comes from being scared. When writing for young readers, Stine’s one rule is that it can’t be too realistic. It’s important to him that his readers know his stories are fantasy and can’t really happen. If you are writing scary stories for children, spend time in your creative mind and develop situations and storylines where you take your reader to dark and frightening places, but nothing too close home. Because as Stine says, real life is scary enough. 

“It’s my job, too, to keep up with pop culture and what the kids are into because I don’t want to sound like an old man trying to write for kids. I spend a lot of my time spying on them.” 

Successful children’s authors understand that their young readers are smart. Kids want to read books where the author understands their world and the issues they face. Technology and social media along make life for young people today very different than it was for previous generations. As a writer it is up to you to keep up with current culture and write stories that resonate and connect with kids today. 

“If you do enough planning before you start to write, there’s no way you can have writer’s block.”

Stine is a prolific writer with hundreds of published books. He has a system that works for him and allows him to put out 4 to 6 new books each year. He is a plotter who creates a complete chapter-by-chapter outline of each book. When it comes time to write the book, he’s already done the important thinking and knows everything that is going to happen. This allows him to relax and enjoy the writing. As writers, we all have our own styles and systems and approaches to the writing process. To be successful and achieve the goals you have set out for yourself, it is essential that you find what works for you. If you consistently miss the mark or your productivity is not what you want it to be, then you should examine how you approach your writing life. Maybe it is time to switch from being a “Panster” to being more of a planner like Stine.

By Kerrie Flanagan
Source: writersdigest.com

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Creative Writing Courses. Would You, Should You, Could You?

Hanif Kureishi famously dismissed the teaching of writing, saying that writing a story is:

‘a difficult thing to do and it’s a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don’t think you can.’

(According to Philip Hensher, Kureishi teaches creative writing at Kingston University, ‘ineffectually‘)

We all learn to write. If you’re serious about something, generally you will want to learn how to do it well. I wonder why some writersfeel they need to look down on aspiring writers once they have been published and claim writing is some ‘mystical gift’. It’s not; it’s a skilled craft. It’s one you need to keep learning; you never reach a golden plateau.

Serious writers have always sought and will always seek teachers long before their work gets to an editor’s desk.

In defence of teaching creative writing, Kurt Vonnegut said:

‘A tough guy, I forget which one, is asked to speak to a creative writing class. He says: “What in hell are you doing here? Go home and glue your butts to a chair, and write and write until your heads fall off!” Or words to that effect.

‘My reply: “Listen, there were creative writing teachers long before there were creative writing courses, and they were called, and continue to be called, editors.”’

Ernest Hemingway apprenticed himself to Gertrude Stein; T.S. Eliot to Ezra Pound. Tennessee Williams and Flannery O’Connor took courses at the University of Iowa.  an McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anne Enright, Tracy Chevalier took classes at UEA. Kit de Waal studied creative writing at Oxford Brookes. The list is long. Few are the published authors of fiction who didn’t learn their craft.

A writing school formalizes the apprenticeship that, throughout history, has been valuable to artists. But digital technology and the internet means the school can come to the student, extending good schools to those who can’t up-sticks, quit jobs or travel long distances.

Of course, one of the perks of a school is association not just with students but with published writers, and usually, that’s what’s missing on a creative writing course. Ideally, you will want to find a course, or a school, where you can rub shoulders with published authors and of course get personal feedback from a writer whose work you like.

Most writers would prefer to be writing than doing anything else, but many good writers teach. They wouldn’t do so if it wasn’t exciting to watch writers become authors, to learn the skills and craft.

Grace Paley says she likes the company of her students; she says it mitigates against the solitude of writing. But there’s more to it than that.

‘The really good thing about dealing with novice writers is that it keeps you in the mind of a beginner. It is a way of staying honest and preventing complacency and hardness from setting in.’ EL Doctorow.

Wallace Stegner taught Larry McMurtry and Ken Kesey to write. Michael Cunningham teaches, as do Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, Tobias Wolff, Toni Morrisson, Jonathan Safran Froer, Maya Angelou, Junot Diaz, EL Doctorow.

If I could have chosen any writer as a teacher, it would have been Kurt Vonnegut. ‘Start as close to the end as possible’. ‘Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.’ ‘Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.’

Writers write and teach, and not for entirely altruistic purposes but because as EL Doctorow says; it helps. It helps you, as a novelist, see better sometimes what doesn’t work, and what does.

It’s a symbiotic relationship between teacher and student and although JM Coetzee used this phrase to describe a more illicit relationship between teacher and student, this is a quotation with which my writers are familiar as I have made the observation a few times when working with them:

‘The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons…’ JM Coetzee, Disgrace.

At The Novelry, I am not the only ‘teacher’. Within the community, our writers, some aspiring and some published, teach each other, and that makes it hugely enjoyable.

‘The very best thing you can be in life is a teacher, provided you are crazy in love with what you teach… .’ Kurt Vonnegut.

In Fay Weldon’s recent book of advice to would-be novelists, she pointed out in the first pages that writers need to up their game, as so many are benefiting from creative writing courses. (She, herself, teaches.)

Vonnegut said he wished he had attended a good creative writing course at the beginning of his writing career.

‘To have done so would have been good for me.’

He quoted an author who regretted not having taken a course when he was starting out as a novelist.

‘That would have saved him, he said, the several years he wasted trying to find out, all by himself, the best way to tell a story.’

What should you be looking for in a novel writing course?

You should be looking for a serious course with a community where publication is the acknowledge end-game to ensure you learn good habits and working skills. You should be looking for a real-life working method because it is necessary for all writers, not just those starting out, to keep a backstop day-job to enable you to be free to write what you want. An online writing course, created to offer what school’s offer – a good tutor, the company of working authors – can be just the thing if it gives you personal feedback and attention. You can associate with your peers and ideally better writers, on your own terms in your own time, and that’s my idea of heaven. Solitude, when you have time to write, and support round the clock.

But the clincher, the deciding factor, has to be wit.

Look for a course with nerve. Where determination is matched by good humour.

The Founder of the Writers’ Workshop in Iowa, Paul Engle, told Vonnegut that if they ever got a building, he’d have this motto above the door.

‘Don’t take it all so seriously.’

Enjoy your writing. Learn to enjoy laughing at your own jokes; for that’s what it’s about, day-in, day-out. Good times and bad. When you write, the bad times are at least ‘material.’

 


 

Look to tick these boxes:

 Award-winning published novelist author tutor
 One-to-one classes with the tutor
All materials online
 Personal support
 Writing group support
 Published novelists in group
 Writers online forum
 Events
 Retreats
 Submissions planning
Links with literary agents and publishers
☑ Published students
☑ Enrol anytime

How do the online creative writing courses compare?

Source: thenovelry.com

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All the King’s Editors—Jim Dempsey

Jim’s post is part of the “All the King’s Editorsseries, where an editor from the Writer Unboxed contributor team edits manuscript pages submitted by a member of the WU community.

Each participating editor approaches a submission in a unique way, and speaks only for him or herself.

Remember, editing is as much art as science, and your take on the passage may differ. If so, feel free to join in the discussion at the end, but above all, be kind.

If you’re interested in submitting a sample for consideration, click HERE for instructions.

 

This is a short piece, and doesn’t need much of an introduction since it’s a prologue.

A prologue should give a sense of the story and hook the readers. As an editor, I have to ask if the prologue achieves at least one of those goals. As a reader, I ask: why start the story here and not with chapter one? In other words: do we really need the prologue? Let’s see …

[1] I took my life today. [2]

It was not an easy decision to make. There were numberless countless pros and cons that I had to consider. There always are when it comes to suicide. In my case, the pros outweighed the cons for the simple reason of being unable to because I couldn’t take living anymore. I couldn’t take hearing about all the reasons why we need to live in the moment or why we should cherish life while we can. People might talk a good game, but they don’t mean one word of that the bullshit that comes out of their mouths. [3]

The cold, hard truth is: the powers that be don’t like having blood on their hands. So they package little white lies inside easy-to-remember slogans to make us feel good about ourselves and make them feel content in believing their hands are clean. We end up feeling so good that we don’t recognize the deception taking place nor do we call them out on it. Instead, we turn the other cheek when tragedy strikes, and we go about our lives, taking solace in the fact that we had nothing to do with what had transpired. [4]

I am no stranger to this behavior. I am well acquainted with it and have been for as long as I can remember.

Even then [5], as When I stood [6] in the darkness of my room, I thought about all the people who’d flitted in and out of my life. The self-absorbed monsters that took advantage of me for as long as they liked and cast me aside when they grew tired. If only they knew the pain they’d inflicted was nothing compared to then would pale in comparison to what was taking had taken place above their heads them. [7]

At that point, I’d say the only thing on their minds was the free beer they‘ve been were consuming. The fact that it was after ten on a school night didn’t stop the beautiful creatures from senior class coming out to play. If it’s a weekend and you’re alone with large quantities of liquor, you can bet on half the senior class showing up and taking over your house for as long as they want. Either that or for as long as your neighbors can stand listening to them act like the total idiots they are. [8]

I can’t help but think about what will go through their minds after they find my body. Will the sight of death force their eyes wide open? Will the burden of guilt prompt them to admit their misdeeds? Will they feel anything at all? Whether they do or don’t, it doesn’t matter. They’re better off without me depriving them of their so-called happiness.

I wish I could have said the same about the people who used to stare at me from the framed picture on my nightstand. They were, by all appearances, a family of four enjoying a summer day at Carolina Beach, hoping to look back with fondness on a moment forever frozen in time. They had no way of knowing a medical diagnosis would turn their perfect world upside down. They thought it would never happen to people like them.

Then some smug little shit who didn’t know the first thing about medicine took what they never dreamed of hearing, and summed it up in one sentence: “It appears Nathan has a pervasive developmental disorder.” [9] – and caused tTheir lives came to come crashing down around them. From then on, everyone blamed Nathan for the events that followed that little announcement. I don’t blame them for thinking he ruined everything. It’s what I do.

No, that’s wrong. It’s not what I do. It’s what I used to do. For some reason, I keep forgetting I’m dead. It must be the shock. [10]

NOTES

  1. The text was originally in italics, but I changed that. No need for another font in a prologue. The prologue should be similar in look and style to the rest of the novel.
  2. Excellent first line, and leaving it as a paragraph on its own adds more impact. It will be very difficult for readers not to move on to the next line.
  3. For me, this paragraph was a little too long for two reasons: i) it’s better to keep the opening flowing, especially after the precision of that first line, and ii) this didn’t sound like the voice of a young person, and the approximate age of the narrator in this case should be clear quickly (so we realize this is a young person who has taken his life). It can be tricky for an editor to tinker with first-person voice, as it’s like dialogue and the characters should be able to have their unique ways to talking, but the narration became more succinct later and, after I’d read the whole piece, the tone in this paragraph seemed out of place when I read it back again.
  4. I think we could lose these two paragraphs and keep the prologue focused on Nathan, on his specific feelings (more on that later). The mention of the powers that be and so on are too general, too broad, and makes him sound paranoid, so I would only keep this in if that paranoia is a big part of the story.
  5. It’s not clear when this “then” refers to. It could be back as long as the narrator can remember. A new paragraph helps to separate these two thoughts, and changing “even then as I stood” to “When I stood” makes that moment clearer.
  6. For a while, I thought about the verb “stood” here. I wondered if someone in this position would just stand there in the darkness of the room. Wouldn’t you sit? Lie on your bed? And then I thought: standing there would be pretty odd, weird even. But we’re not dealing with someone who cares about that, and I think imagining someone standing in the middle of a dark room doing nothing but thinking paints the perfect picture for this situation. It’s not a “normal” situation. It’s odd. It’s weird. That’s what’s so intriguing about this opening. And “stood” is perfect here.
  7. This sentence wasn’t so fluent. I had to read it a few times to understand it. For example, “above their heads” could have been metaphorical instead of literal, and having that double meaning could be great, but those kinds of tricks shouldn’t get in the way of clarity. And since he’s already dead, the “was taking place” needs to change to “had taken place,” and then the “at that point” in the next para is also clear.
  8. I think most people know or can imagine how teenage parties can get out of hand, so you don’t really need this, and it’s already clear that Nathan doesn’t fit in with this crowd, doesn’t see himself as one of the “beautiful people.” Again, it’s too much of a generalization while this should focus more on Nathan.
  9. Making this is a new sentence adds extra emphasis to this point and to the diagnosis from the smug little shit.
  10. I have my doubts about whether the author needs this last line or not. I think ending on “I keep forgetting I’m dead,” is a stronger ending, but maybe it’s too much. “It must be the shock” sounds a little glib; it lightens the mood, which could work too. I’d have to know the tone of the rest of the story to make a final decision, but maybe the WU community could weigh in with their thoughts too. Either way, it’s a great last para.

When I first read this sample, I thought immediately of “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold. And that has a prologue.

Here are the first two lines:

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

Note the third word: was. That past tense is almost lost as you contemplate Salmon as a name. And then that killer—pun intended—second sentence.

Our sample above has that great hook too. As I mentioned, you can’t help but continue to the next line.

The second paragraph of “The Lovely Bones” gives us more details of the narrator. We get her favorite quote, which she hopes will make her sound literary. She’s in the chem and chess club, is bad at cooking class, and her favorite teacher is Mr. Botte, the biology teacher. He is not her murderer, she says, and then tells she tells us who is and how he did it.

We get all that by page two. By telling us all this, she’s saying that this is not going to be a murder mystery, it’s something else. You have to read on to find out. And that’s when you learn this is a story about how this young girl’s family struggled after her death.

What do we know about the narrator of the sample above? That he’s young, has a “pervasive developmental disorder” (the author of the sample had included a note to say that the narrator was autistic), he’s an outsider, he has a least one sibling, and he feels he is to blame for his family’s troubles. And he’s now dead.

These are all important details, but I wonder if they couldn’t come out elsewhere in the story. They seem too general to me when what we really need here are details that no other character in this story could tell us. It would be great to get specific examples of how that autism diagnosis affected him and his family. Relate one representative scene where the family blamed him. Or describe the particular event that tipped him towards considering suicide. We don’t need a lot (a prologue should be short), but specifics would boost this prologue from good to great.

That’s what makes Sebold’s prologue great. She gives us the details of Susie’s short life and how she died from Susie’s perspective. We need more of Nathan’s perspective here, to know some things that only Nathan knows.

That’s not to say this should follow some formula or should copy  “The Lovely Bones.” This is a different type of prologue anyway. Sebold’s sets up the story that will follow, while the example above starts in media res, showing us a dramatic event—the suicide—from later in the story and, I’m assuming, chapter one will take the story back in time to show us how Nathan came to that point.

But it’s the details that makes Sebold’s prologue work so well.

And a prologue has to work well. Here’s why.

Many publishers see a prologue and are immediately turned off by it. Their reasoning is that you should start the story at the start of the story, and prologues tend to mainly be backstory (as appears to be the case here too).

When considering writing a prologue, you have to ask if you can’t fit in those backstory details elsewhere, without having to shoehorn them in, of course. You have to ask if the readers really need this information up front, before the story proper starts. Only then do you need a prologue.

Readers are wise to prologues too, and many people just skip them and go straight to chapter one where they know the story really starts.

In fact, one simple way to test if your prologue is really necessary is to rename it as chapter one. If the story still flows, then you don’t need a prologue.

Prologues have been debated long and endlessly in the literary world. We’d need to know more about how this story develops to say for sure if the prologue is necessary or not. The first and last paragraphs certainly hook the reader, and there’s some great writing in between too. I’d just like to know more specifics about Nathan, to get a more detailed look at his unique view of the world. Then I’d be convinced this prologue needs to stay.

What are your thoughts on prologues? Do we need them or are we better off without them? Have you ever skipped a prologue and gone straight to chapter one?

By Jim Dempsey
Source: writerunboxed.com

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Writing and Real Life: Juggling Your Time

I spent 20 years in the military — the U.S. Air Force. And during that time I learned a lot of things. One thing they stressed was time management. When Uncle Sam says a project needs to be done by a certain date, it better be! If you weren’t good at time management, it meant you stayed after duty hours to work on the project. If you had good skills, you went home when everyone else did. Somehow I managed to be in the latter group.

Now that I’m “retired,” I think I work harder than I did on active duty. I may not leave the property, which is 100 acres, but I stay busy from sun up to well past sundown. My morning starts by being nudged out of bed by several large dogs wanting to go potty and have breakfast. Yes, they eat first. Once I’m dressed, it’s grab my milk bucket and egg basket and hike 200 yards to the barn. There, the pig, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and barn dogs get fed in their appropriate order. The horses are turned out in their paddocks, the goats in theirs, and the ones needing milking get milked. I do the “morning shift” Monday through Saturday — unless we have enough eggs, and then I go to the local farmers market to set up and sell eggs and books. My hubby takes care of Sundays because that’s my “day off” in which I do all the housework and laundry. There is no sleeping in when you own a farm!

It takes me about two hours to get the barn chores done. After I get home, it’s processing milk, and if I have to make cheese that day, getting the milk in the pot. Breakfast happens sometime during that flurry of work. I get 30 minutes (maybe!) to eat while the milk cultures. Then it’s adding rennet, cutting and cooking the curds, prepping the cheese form, and getting it all put together in the press.

By now, it’s around 2-3 pm. Lunchtime. I grab something quick and sit down at my computer hoping for no malfunctions or disturbances that will keep me from putting words on screen. Of course there always are: dogs wanting to go outside, someone stopping by to purchase eggs, and phone calls from telemarketers (which I am extremely adept at hanging up on!). Some days I get 50 words written. I hate those days; they’re downright frustrating.

If it’s harvest time, there’s no writing, just long hours in the hayfields getting enough to last us through the winter months. You’d be amazed at how much time it takes to get 1,000 bales made and into the loft. The work is fast and furious because you never know when Mother Nature will decide to rain on your harvest.

More often, the evenings promise better quiet writing time. The dogs have full tummies and are usually napping, unless of course, a deer decides to come down and eat apples from the tree across the street. That means eight dogs-a-barking and me getting up to close the curtains so they can’t see. I return to my seat and try to pick up where I left off. If I’m lucky, I’ll manage several hundred words and also work on my language lesson. Trying to learn a foreign language for the sake of a single character in a book might seem absurd, but if you’re a stickler for authenticity like I am…

Bedtime is around 10 pm. By then, I’m brain-fried from trying to keep up with everything going on that day. I have a mental checklist running in my head to ensure everything needing to be done that day was accomplished. Did I remember to feed and water the baby chicks in the guest bedroom brooder? Oh, yes, I did that right after dinner dishes. Did I flip the cheese in the press? And did I remember to put the cheese drying in my office back in the fridge overnight?

When you live where you work, the days become one big blur. Is it Wednesday or is it Thursday? Um, nope, it’s Friday. Hey, wait, where’d the week go? Weekends and holidays are irrelevant. The animals need tending 365 days a year. There are no vacations and no days off. Most people don’t understand that.

Somehow, through all the chaos I still manage to do what I love most: writing. Sure enough as I’m sitting here writing this post, it’s pouring rain outside and one of the dogs is whining because she’s hungry. The hay crop will be waiting a little longer, but in time it’ll be ready. Until then, I relish every moment I get to put words on my screen.

Next time I’ll talk about techniques I use to get those words down.

By
Source: indiesunlimited.com

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Resolving My Cheater Shame: Listening to Books Instead of Reading Them

Today’s guest post is by author Kristen Tsetsi, who is a regular contributor to this site through the 5 On series.


When I told my husband, Ian, several weeks ago that I’d finished reading Andre Dubus III’s Townie, I corrected myself by hastily adding air quotes.

“I mean, finished listening to it,” I said, feeling like a poseur.

“Whatever,” he said. “Same thing.”

“You think?” The hope in my voice was embarrassing. I so wanted them to be the same, wanted to be authentically “well read.” Surely, though, the passive act of being read to by someone who’d decided for every listener where to inflect and what tone to apply to each line of dialogue wasn’t the same as determining those things for myself.

Author Betsy Robinson confirms the value disparity between reading and listening in her Publisher’s Weekly piece, “Look, Read, Listen.” In it, she cites the research of cognitive psychologist Sebastian Wren, who found that reading uses more of the brain than does listening. When listening, Wren claims, we don’t use our occipital cortex to visualize as we do when reading.

Cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham, “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” columnist for American Educator magazine and author of The Reading Mind, among others, notes another difference: “[Reading] requires decoding and [listening] doesn’t.”

“Reading” it would be, then, air quotes and all.

(But only with Ian. No one else had to know I was cheating to build my “read” list.)


I’ve been air-quoting “reading” since my first legitimate introduction to audiobooks this past winter. Before then, the only time I’d heard a book—well, part of a book—was in a hot car during a summer visit to Minnesota in the eighties. It had put thirteen-year-old me to sleep, and so it had also put me off audiobooks. But exactly thirty years later, Ian would get an Audible account to ease the pain of stop-and-go work commute traffic, and not long after that, on a drive to Litchfield, Connecticut to do some Christmas shopping, he’d convince me to listen to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.

I warned him that I might fall asleep.

I didn’t. I was captivated, fully immersed in the narrative flooding the car as we slipped into the snowy beauty of a winding country road.

After our Christmas shopping, Ian pulled into the garage, turned off the engine, and still had the rest of Hillbilly Elegy to listen to the next time he got behind the wheel.

I had no Hillbilly Elegy, and I suddenly very much wanted not only Hillbilly Elegy, but other books. I’d had so little time for reading for such a long time that listening to a story unfold had made me realize how desperately I’d been missing the electrifying magic of other people’s words.

Too, audiobooks had worked so well for Ian and his traffic problem that I thought they might kill the monotony of the twice daily dog walks I’d been taking for two years. Music wasn’t cutting it, anymore. As audible scenery went it held all the excitement of the dull evergreen shrubs Lenny and I passed on Hackmatack every afternoon.

I added the Audible app to my phone and chose my first book, watching with Christmas-morning impatience as the files downloaded, downloaded.

The first month of mobile “reading” was dedicated to some books Ian had already bought. Barry Eisler’s John Rain series filled my head for weeks, Eisler’s voice accompanying me as Lenny and I stepped through and over Hackmatack’s sidewalk snow.

Because Eisler reads his own novels (and with such skill that AudioFile Magazine has twice awarded him the Earphones Award), while I may have been denied the freedom of my own interpretations, I was at least hearing the words in the precise way the author intended. It was no different from being at a (very) long author event, really, which even literature professors would agree is an acceptable way to be read to.

When my Eisler stash was gone I considered other fiction, but I chose nonfiction, instead, believing listening to it would be not only educational, and therefore justified, but also every bit as harmless as listening to authors read their own work. After all, how many literary or tonal nuances could possibly grace the biography of Walter Cronkite? Or the history of human evolution, as chronicled in Sapiens?

My first exposure to a novel read by someone other than the author came only after I’d exhausted the list of available, and interesting (to me), nonfiction. In a “why not?” moment of reckless abandon, I downloaded Liane Moriarity’s The Husband’s Secret.

Reader Caroline Lee was utterly fantastic. By the time I finished, I was ready to listen to virtual stacks of novels not read by their authors, and one after another they engrossed and delighted. I was insatiable!

And then came a jarring confrontation with the other power of a voice.

The book’s synopsis promised a suspenseful page turner. I pressed “play” the moment I stepped outside with Lenny. As the woman read, I noticed that my pace slowed. Five minutes in, I was getting distracted by things to kick on the sidewalk—acorns, small rocks, a clump of dirt. Ten minutes in, I yawned, bored almost to the point of feeling anxious by the slow, spiritless voice in my ear buds. I pressed “pause,” switched apps, and listened to music.

There, then, was another critical difference between reading and listening: the wrong voice/tone/energy could murder an otherwise absorbing book.


I was thinking about the unfairness of it all—poor writers, losing readers for reasons other than the writing!—when author Ian Thomas Healy, in the course of my 5 On interview with him, suggested that I have my own novel adapted into an audiobook. He’d had a few of his adapted, he said, and he’d seen an increase in sales as a result.

“Reading” someone else’s work, pressing “pause” and returning a book if I didn’t like the voice or reading style, was one thing, but I certainly didn’t want anyone doing that with my book.

I also shared Betsy Robinson’s sentiments about the desired nature of the writer/reader relationship: “[W]hen I spend four years honing a novel, I’m not imagining some intermediating interpreter conveying it to a reader,” she writes in “Look, Read, Listen.”

When I ultimately decided to go ahead with the audiobook, it was because of the important words Healy had used: “increase in sales.” I swallowed any discomfort—discomfort that can pull like sickness when it’s a fear of your hard work being misrepresented—and began the process.

In the months since, the audiobook has been published and I’ve thought a lot about the artistic conversion from text to voice. While Willingham does say reading requires more decoding from the reader than does listening, he adds, however, that “…most of what you listen to is not that complicated. For most books, for most purposes, listening and reading are more or less the same thing.”

Decoding is more important for those learning to read, he explains. Those who have been reading for some time are generally already fluent at it.

Well, whew! That eliminated some of my own cheater guilt, but as it happens, listening to a novel is valuable even for those who don’t read text well. Educational website Reading Rockets lists among the benefits of listening to audiobooks that listeners gain access to work above their skill level, they’re given a model for interpretive reading, and they’re more likely to explore new genres.

For the seasoned reader of text, audiobooks also help develop critical listening skills, according to Reading Rockets. I can attest to this—it definitely takes concentration and a commitment to pay attention.

I was surprised as an audiobook listener to not miss what Robinson describes as the “full-sensory and gloriously autonomous experience of a direct hit from words on a page,” or even the hours of visualizing my occipital cortex wouldn’t be doing.

Instead, when “reading,” I delighted in the sound of the poetry of words where such poetry existed. There was also an unanticipated side effect: memorable scenes attached themselves to my exterior sensory experience. When Lenny walks and I huff up a steep path where, months ago, I was “reading” Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us, I’m transported to a Pyongang school cafeteria’s obedient students and nervous, secretive teachers. A love-lock fence section of Main Street plops me in the middle of a military school dorm room, where emotionally stunted and lovable cadet “Pig” lectures his paisans about what they’d better not say in the presence of his girlfriend’s picture in Pat Conroy’s Lords of Discipline. I can still hear John Rain/Eisler in my head, still taste a sip of whisky in a Tokyo bar, when I walk down Hackmatack, and an image of the snow covered trees on the narrow road to Litchfield watermarks my memory of Vance’s description of Appalachia.

The writer in me is now grateful for the audio option less for sales potential than for the ability to reach others who “desperately want to read, but no time, no time…” As much as I feared the influence of someone else’s voice, I—like every writer—had to accept that writing will always be interpreted, correctly or incorrectly, by the silent reader, the listening “reader,” the voice reader, or the literature professor who, more often than not, will just tell students how to interpret the work. Admittedly, I’m also comfortable with it because I was paired with Nila Brereton Hagood, an insightful voice reader. She incorporated personal interpretations that got me to laugh or made me mad, and in places I as the writer should have been immune to. She was also eager to collaborate, which meant there were two of us who wanted the story to be told right.

The book lover in me, though, is even more grateful for the audio option. In just eight months I’ve been able to “read” thirty-eight books I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ll still use air quotes around “reading,” but only for the sake of accuracy. My cheater shame has been edged out by the conviction that writers write in order to have their words experienced, and that readers and “readers” alike just want to experience them. Period.

“Comparing audio books to cheating,” Willingham writes, “is like meeting a friend at Disneyland and saying ‘you took a bus here? I drove myself, you big cheater.’ The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled.”

Source: janefriedman.com

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What Can Flash Fiction Do For Novel Writers?

Are you familiar with flash fiction? Have you dismissed it because you write novels or screenplays or something significantly longer? Well, don’t give up on it just yet. Writing and publishing flash fiction can help in ways you probably weren’t aware, as Gila Green is here to explain.

Book publishing is a tough, competitive business. Still, there’s no reason to make the road harder to travel. Enter flash fiction—an excellent way to break into both fiction and nonfiction book publishing.

Flash fiction pieces are very short stories that still include their own character development and plot. Other names for flash fiction include nano fiction, micro fiction, postcard fiction, and sudden fiction. Usually anything under 1,000 words is considered flash, but it can be as brief as fifty.

If your goal is to publish long, you may be thinking that writing short is a waste of time. I’d like to share five ways writing and submitting flash fiction can shorten the road to novel publication.

Practice Working with Editors

In publishing you absolutely cannot have enough contacts. When you publish flash fiction you will be dealing with an editor—at least one, and sometimes two. Occasionally, you’ll correspond with an acquisition editor who accepts your work and directs you to the editor of that specific genre, or that specific issue. No matter how short your pieces are, that experience working with editors is valuable. You will be that much more polished when communicating with a potential novel editor one day.

Contacts, Contacts, Contacts

If you get particularly lucky, there will be a well-established guest editor for that issue, and you’ll have that editor’s direct contact e-mail and a reason to communicate. This happened to me recently. Imagine my delight when my piece was accepted and I received a personal email from Alicia Elliott with her comments on my work.

You might ask yourself how connecting with editors on very short pieces can really make a difference to you. First, remember that most editors of literary magazines and anthologies are published writers. When your book is under consideration and you receive that all-too common email asking about your marketing plans, you can include that editor’s name as a potential contact.

Second, if you send that editor a polite and personal email, he or she might in future consider giving you a blurb for your novel or a recommendation for a writer’s retreat, advice, or news about industry events.

Examples of a light, personal touches you might include in such a message:

  • “It was a pleasure working with you and I hope we have a chance to work together again soon in future.”
  • “Please add me to your mailing list for future issues and events.”
  • You might also join the publication’s social media and interact in a positive way. I have continued to ‘like’ magazines that have published my work and to communicate with editors on LinkedIn, briefly sharing news. You can also expand your writer’s community this way, far beyond the editor who accepted your piece.

Another point to consider is that flash doesn’t stop at magazines; there are also flash anthologies. Some of those magazines and anthologies are linked to small presses like Akashic Books—a publisher who asks for themed flash fiction and then puts out themed story collections.

This means one short piece could land you as an author in an anthology from a respected press. Not only will that be on your bio, but all of the writers published with you will be pushing that anthology. That’s a lot more marketing partners than you’d have on your own, and it is great exposure for a future novel.

Versatility

Contrary to popular belief, flash isn’t always associated with fiction. Writing a memoir? There’s a micro-memoir online magazine waiting for your submission. There’s nonfiction flash essay and flash event writing, too. Erika Dreifus has put together a fantastic list here. The wonderful versatility of flash applies to genre as well, including crime flash, romance, horror, and most other categories.

Practical Experience

Finally, flash fiction is an excellent way to develop your skills as a writer. You have to make the reader fall in love with your story very quickly, and that takes ability and talent. It’s worth practicing and will improve your novel writing, making it that much more publishable.

Flash Writing as a Dress Rehearsal

I’ve met more than one novelist who told me her novel started with an admired flash piece that she decided to expand. Don’t be surprised if you end up ditching the novel you’re struggling with and stretching out your flash piece to full-manuscript size once you see the micro version of it up on a popular site. There’s nothing like applause to stir up some imagination and motivate you to write more.

In conclusion, no matter what novel genre you’re writing, flash fiction can help you break into publishing your longer works. The most prestigious magazines, including The New Yorker, are big flash fans. If the biggest names in literature are excited about it and publishing it, it’s worth a second look.

By BECCA PUGLISI
Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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55 American English Words Derived from Algonquian Languages

American English has been enriched by the widespread adoption of words based on vocabulary of Native American tribes, including the many tribes that spoke (and, in some cases, still speak) one of the Algonquian languages of what is now eastern North America. The following is a list of such terms, more or less commonly used, most of which refer to animals or plants or products derived from them.

apishamore (Algonquian): a buffalo-hide saddle blanket
babiche (Míkmaq): a leather or sinew thong or thread
caribou (Míkmaq): a species of large antlered mammal
caucus (Algonquian): a group of people who meet to discuss an issue or work together toward a goal; also a verb
chipmunk (Odawa): any of various small rodent species that are part of the squirrel family
chinquapin (Powhatan): a dwarf chestnut tree or its nut
cisco (Ojibwe): a whitefish
hackmatack (Algonquian): a type of larch tree, or its wood
hickory (Powhatan): a type of tree or its wood, or a cane or switch made of the wood
hominy (Powhatan): soaked and hulled corn kernels
husky (based on shortening of the Cree word from which Eskimo is derived): a type of dog; the adjective husky is unrelated
kinkajou (Algonquian): a Central and South American mammal
kinnikinnick (or killikinnick or killickinnick) (Unami Delaware): a mixture of dried leaves and bark smoked like tobacco, or the plant (also called bearberry) from which the materials are taken
mackinaw (Menomini): a heavy type of cloth used for coats and blankets, or a coat or blanket made of the cloth, or a type of trout
moccasin (Algonquian): a soft leather shoe or a regular shoe resembling a traditional moccasin, or, as “water moccasin,” a species of snake or a similar snake
moose (Eastern Abenaki): a species of large antlered mammal
mugwump (Eastern Abenaki): originally, a war leader, but in American slang, a kingpin, later a political independent, or someone neutral or undecided
muskellunge (Ojibwe): a pike (a type of fish)
muskeg (Cree): a bog or swamp
muskrat (Western Abenaki): an aquatic rodent
opossum (Powhatan): a marsupial (sometimes possum)
papoose (Narragansett): an infant
pecan (Illinois): a type of tree, or the wood or the nut harvested from it
pemmican (Cree): a food made of pounded meat and melted fat, and sometimes flour and molasses as well
persimmon (Powhatan): a type of tree, or the fruit harvested from it
pipsissewa (Abenaki): a type of herb with leaves used for tonic and diuretic purposes
pokeweed (Powhatan): a type of herb
pone (Powhatan): flat cornbread; also called cornpone, which is also slang meaning “countrified” or “down-home”)
powwow (Narragansett): a Native American medicine man, or, more commonly, a Native American ceremony, fair, or other gathering; also, slang for “meeting” or, less often, “party”
puccoon (Powhatan): a type of plant, or the pigment derived from it
pung (Algonquian): a box-shaped sleigh drawn by one horse
punkie (Munsee): an alternate name for a biting midge, a type of fly
quahog (Narragansett): a type of edible clam
Quonset hut (Algonquian): a trademark for a type of prefabricated structure with an arched corrugated-metal roof
raccoon (Powhatan): a type of mammal noted for its masklike facial markings, or the fur of the animal
sachem (Algonquian): a chief of a Native American tribe or confederation of tribes; also, a leader in the Tammany Hall political machine
sagamore (Eastern Abenaki): an Algonquian tribal chief
shoepac (Unami Delaware): a cold-weather laced boot
skunk (Massachusett): a type of mammal known for spraying a noxious odor in defense, or the fur of the animal; also, slang for “obnoxious person”
squash (Narragansett): any of various plants that produces fruit, also called squash, that is cultivated as a vegetable; the verb squash, and the name of the ball-and-racquet game, are unrelated
squaw (Massachusetts): a Native American woman or, by extension, a woman or a wife; the word is widely considered offensive
succotash (Narragansett): a dish of green corn and lima or shell beans
terrapin (Powhatan): one of various types of turtles
toboggan (Míkmaq): a wooden sled with the front end curved up and, by extension, a downward course or a sharp decline (the activity of using such a sled is called tobogganing); also, a slang term for a winter stocking cap with a pom-pom or a tassel
tomahawk (Powhatan): a light ax used as a throwing or hacking weapon; as verb, it means “use a tomahawk”
totem (Ojibwe): an object, usually an animal or plant, serving as a family or clan emblem, or, more often, a carved or painted representation, often in the form of a pole fashioned from a tree trunk and carved with figures representing one’s ancestors (also, a family or clan so represented); by extension, any emblem or symbol
tuckahoe (Powhatan): a type of plant with an edible root, or the edible part of a type of fungus
tullibee (Ojibwe): any one of several types of whitefish
wampum (Massachusett): beads of polished shells used as ceremonial gifts, money, or ornaments; also, slang for “money”
wanigan (Ojibwa): a tracked or wheeled shelter towed by a tractor or mounted on a boat or raft
wapiti Shawnee): another word for elk
wickiup (Fox): a hut or shelter made of a rough frame of vegetation
wigwam (Eastern Abenaki): a hut or shelter made of a rough frame of vegetation or hides
woodchuck (Algonquian): a type of marmot (a small mammal); also called a groundhog

Source: dailywritingtips.com

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