Posts Tagged With: writing a novel

The Simple Secret to Fixing Ugly Story Problems

how to write: retroactive continuity

When you’re in the middle of writing, don’t stop. Except for coffee.

It happens to every writer: you’re writing along when suddenly you need to go back and change some fact or detail.

Because if you don’t fix it, the story won’t make sense. Should you stop writing at that moment to go fix it?

Nope. That could kill your momentum.

Here’s a better idea. It’s called a retcon, and comic book writers have been using it for decades.

Retcon is short for “retroactive continuity” and it means that you’re stating a new fact that changes what’s come before.

In other words, you’re changing the past.

This is a term I first encountered in the massively entertaining and informative book Writing for Comics with Peter David. (Mr. David, by the way, has an impressive list of comic writing credits, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Supergirl, Hulk, Star Trek, and tons of others. He knows what he’s talking about.)

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How to Plan and Write A Novel

non-English typewriter

Think Microsoft Word is a pain to use? Try cranking out 100K on this sucker.

I’m often asked what my writing process looks like.

How do I write a book? It’s pretty simple, actually.

(Not easy. But simple.)

First, I start with the basics:

  • Who are the good guys?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • And, especially, why?
  • Who are the bad guys?
  • Where does this take place?

Then I boil all of that down into a strong core idea. For example: a bookish crystal shop owner has to save the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – who drive possessed muscle cars.

The idea has to work at the core level, it has to really grab me, before I start writing it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Then I figure out how to make the whole book work, beginning to end, in a short synopsis. Maybe one page. That takes time. And even once I have that figured out, I don’t start writing it yet.

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How to Make Writing Your Career: Word Cafe Interview with Yours Truly

Word Cafe author interview

Just for the record, the lace doilies were not my idea. Now you know.

Hey, this is cool. Join me over at Word Cafe for an interview where I reveal everything I know about:

• Building a full-time career around writing, as a novelist and a copywriter — and what a copywriter does, exactly.

• How my first book from a New York publisher actually started out as a short story — and how I grew it into a novel.

• The pros and cons of being a hybrid author (both traditionally published and self-published).

• What my fiction writing process looks like. (It’s both crazier and more straightforward than you might think).

• And, of course, my top piece of advice for writers.

Read the complete interview here. >

P.S. Also, I’m giving away a few autographed paperback books to my newsletter subscribers. Don’t miss out. Click here to subscribe to my author newsletter. >

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What an Editor Really Does — and Why You Need One

I first met Anita when she worked with my literary agent, Kristin Nelson. Anita is a freelance editor who helps writers bring out the very best in their novels. She was kind enough to share her editing insights, including why you should never let a rejection letter get you down, and why joining a critique group can not only improve your writing, but also save you money – and help you get published. Here’s Anita with all the insider info about editors. –L.

 

Anita, can you tell us what a developmental editor does, exactly?

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

Anita Mumm, founder of Mumm’s the Word Editing & Critique Services

The easiest way to describe a developmental editor’s work is that it focuses on the big picture: Does the plot work? Are the characters the kind of people readers want to spend an entire book with? Is the dialogue smooth or stilted? Is the voice appropriate to the genre and audience?

Developmental editing means making sure the foundation of the novel is sound, and that all of its parts come together in a meaningful whole.

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I Should Be Writing podcast with Yours Truly

Mur Lafferty's, "I Should Be Writing: The Podcast for Wannabe Fiction Writers."Attention writers: You’re missing out.

If you aren’t already listening to Mur Lafferty’s, “I Should Be Writing: The Podcast for Wannabe Fiction Writers,” you need to drop what you’re doing and go listen.

In every episode, Mur talks about the writing process, problems every writer faces, and how to solve them.

The unstoppable Mur was gracious enough to invite me on her show to blab on endlessly about writing, crystals, muscle cars, and the original idea behind It Happened One Doomsday.

Listen to the show here.

Honestly, I think the best part of the conversation happened after we stopped recording:

We talked about how so many creative people get discouraged because they don’t realize that their struggles are universal. I told Mur that what she’s doing with her podcast is incredibly important. And that’s so true.

By the way, since this podcast came out, I’ve gotten plenty of questions about the MONSTER acronym I use to create monsters in my stories.

It’s a handy tool for thinking your monsters completely through. Here it is:

MONSTER — 7 keys to terrifying creatures

MIND: How smart is it? What senses does it possess?

ORIGIN: Where does it come from? What is it called?

NEED: What motivates it? What is it after?

SKETCH: What does it look like? How big is it? What color is it? How does it move?

TAKE ON: How can the heroes fight it? What hurts it? What scares it?

EAT: What does it eat? How does it eat?

RELATIONSHIPS: Loner or a pack? Belong to someone? Obey someone/thing? Rule someone/thing?

If you find that helpful, there’s more.

Get access to all of my free writing tips when you subscribe to my author newsletter. Click here. >

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Top 3 Questions of Aspiring Writers

Thriller Author Interview

with Yours Truly

I’m always happy to answer questions from aspiring authors. This week, I got some tricky ones:

Q: How do you know when to end one chapter and start the next chapter?

A: You end a chapter as soon as the lead character either achieves their goal or fails.

The best place to end a chapter is immediately after you raise a new question in the reader’s mind. The desire to answer that question will make them turn the page. Continue reading

Categories: For Writers, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Uncategorized, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Outline a Novel (Even If You Hate Outlines)

how to outline a novel

Outlining a novel is kind of like building a wall — one brick at a time. Flying monkeys optional.

Getting overwhelmed at the prospect of starting (or finishing) your novel? Feeling the pressure of hundreds of blank pages staring at you, waiting to be filled?

No sweat. Planning out a story is like building a wall:

You just do it one block at a time.

Just like a towering brick wall is made up of individual bricks, your manuscript is made up of individual parts.

You just have to break it down into small, easy-to-handle chunks, and then build it up from there. Here’s how.

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Categories: For Writers, how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Need more time to write?

Feeling frazzled? Try just a few minutes of writing.

Feeling frazzled? Try just a few minutes of writing.

What’s the difference between an aspiring writer and a bestselling author?

Writing time.

Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason and hailed by some as the best-selling author of the 20th century, set before himself the goal of writing 66,000 words per week.

Yes, per week.  Continue reading

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Two kinds of writer’s block

See No Evil

Is it really writer’s block?

I get a lot of emails from writers who think they’re suffering from writer’s block.

But are they really blocked, or is there something else holding them back? The truth might surprise you.  Continue reading

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3 old-school secrets to writing more

Spending your writing time on Facebook? Here's a solution.

Spending your writing time on Facebook? Here’s a solution.

Think you don’t have time to write? Wrong. There are 24 hours in a day, so if you write for one measly hour, that’s a mere 4% of your day. (Or 6% of your waking hours, if you get a full eight hours of sleep. Lucky you.)

Want to squeeze in more writing time? Take a step back to a simpler time with these writing techniques from yesteryear.  Continue reading

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