Posts Tagged With: writing

6 Secrets of Successful Critique Groups

Critique groups: don't get bitten!

Are you hearing the Jaws theme in your head? I am. And now you are, too. :)

Critique groups: best thing ever for writers? Or soul-crushing pits of despair?

Here are my 6 secrets for spotting a top-notch critique group — or assembling your own.

Connect with other writers and get the feedback you need to finish your book, publish it, and write the next one.

Everything you need to know from Yours Truly is right here on author Patricia Stoltey’s blog:

Click here: http://patriciastolteybooks.com/2016/01/6-secrets-of-successful-critique-groups-by-laurence-macnaughton/

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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.

Continue reading

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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Where does Neil Gaiman get his ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

Need inspiration? Think small. The monster in my next book was inspired by an electron microscope.

Every writer gets asked about ideas. Where do they come from? How do you find them? What inspires you?

Uber-cool author Neil Gaiman suggests that you should ask yourself questions and start filling in the blanks:

– What if ___ ?
– If only ___ .
– I wonder what/why ___ .
– Wouldn’t it be interesting if ___ .

A classroom full of seven-year-olds once asked him, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Here’s what he told them:

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

Finding ideas in weird places …

I often find ideas in images. Last night, I realized that my new novel needs a super-creepy H. P. Lovecraft-ish creature. You know, something with flailing tentacles and far too many eyeballs.

But where could I find something like that, and still be fresh and original?

Try an electron microscope. I’ve found that its images often have a creepy, otherworldly look to them. So I browsed through an archive of super-magnified pictures of bugs (not something I recommend doing just before bedtime).

Eventually, I hit paydirt. An image of a wolf spider’s foot. Unlikely, maybe — but freaky!

So where do you get your ideas?

(Source: http://www.neilgaiman.com)

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Kill Your Laptop: Extreme Ways to Finish Your Novel

I get a lot of emails from writers who think they’re suffering from writer’s block. But are they? See if this sounds familiar to you:

“I keep going back to fix things.”

“Sometimes, I hate the words I just wrote.”

“When I watch what I’m typing, I write much cleaner sentences with less typos, but I feel like I’m never going to finish my novel.”

Ring any bells? Continue reading

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

Don’t Make This Legal Mistake in Your Novel

Q: Is it legal to write a novel based on a true story, and use the real names of the people involved?

A: Yes, but it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. Since I’m not a lawyer, none of this is legal advice of any kind, FYI. But here’s what you’re up against:

Writing about a living person who is not a public figure may put you at risk of libel allegations. For that reason, journalists have to keep painstaking notes so that they can prove everything they put in print.

For example, I can write “Joe Lefty is a one-armed man” if I can back that up with a photo of Mr. Lefty sans limb. But if I want to write “Joe Lefty is a one-armed hit-man,” then I’d better have proof that he was convicted in some kind of murder-for-hire scheme, or I could be hearing from Lefty’s lawyers: Dewey, Cheetam & Howe.

On the other hand (sorry), you might have more leeway if Lefty is a public figure, like a politician, since the court might consider him to have given up a right to total privacy.  Still, you need to be careful. Writing about a real living person is fraught with legal issues, so if you’re serious about it, check with a lawyer first.

But wait. Before you give up completely, remember that you’re a fiction writer. A novel is a fictitious work, meaning that you can write whatever you want, as long as you don’t present it as fact. Even if your story is a thinly-veiled version of the truth, you can still change the names, insist that it’s a work of fiction, and get away with… well, I don’t know about murder, but you can get away with a lot.

Hope that helps. Have fun writing!

Do you have a question about writing a novel? Ask it here.

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

The #1 Writing Secret Every Writer Should Know

Q: Hi! I’m currently writing a book, and I want to get it published, but I’m in high school and that makes things a lot harder. Could you please explain the basic process of how it would get published?

A: I’m so glad you enjoy writing! I started writing short stories when I was 16, and I wasn’t sure of the next step: send it to an editor, try to find a publisher, or what? For me, reading Writer’s Digest magazine every month made a big difference, so I’d recommend starting there. Also, here are some great books about writing that you can find at your library or bookstore (or in the sidebar at left):

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

(That last one is about writing movie screenplays, but much of what he says about storytelling applies to novels as well.)

When it comes to getting published, writers have more options now than ever before: ebooks, print-on-demand and traditional publishers. The world of publishing is complicated, but basically you have two paths:

1) The traditional route. This means finding a reputable literary agent who loves your work and can sell it to a publisher. My agent’s blog has a ton of good advice: http://pubrants.blogspot.com

2) Self-publish an ebook. This means doing all of the work yourself: the cover art, the editing, the promotion, and all of that. For some people, it works out great (just search online for Amanda Hocking), but probably 99% of self-published authors sell very few ebooks, if any.

But don’t worry about that yet. Long before you think about getting published, focus on the number-one writing secret every writer needs to know:

Before you do anything else, you need to finish writing your book.

You’ll learn so much just by doing it that by the time you get to the last page, you’ll be a much better writer than when you started. I know this from experience, and so does every author who ever finished a book. Writing your first book is an education in itself.

Don’t be tempted to go back and “fix” your old chapters as you go. Keep pushing ahead. Write one page after another until you reach “The End”. That’s an accomplishment you can really be proud of.

And above all, have fun writing!

Do you have a question about writing a novel? Ask it here.

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

How to Write Foreign Languages in Your Novel

Let’s face it, foreign words are cool. They can make your characters sound smarter, make exotic settings feel more authentic and even increase the dramatic tension in a scene. But before you start sprinkling a certain je ne sais quoi into your prose, take these steps to make sure your reader doesn’t get lost in translation. Here’s how to handle a foreign language in your novel:

Option 1: Write it in English.
By far the easiest way to handle a foreign language is just to keep everything in English, like this:

“I will never leave you,” he whispered in French.

Of course, this only works if your point-of-view character actually speaks French and can understand what’s being said. If not, things get a little more complicated.
(More on that in a moment.)

Option 2: Use English, with a sprinkling of foreign words.

“Give me the gun, mi sobrino,” his uncle said. “Very slow, now.”

This is tricky, because many of your readers won’t know what the word or phrase means. (“Mi sobrino” means “my nephew.” Now you know.) If you can cut the foreign word out of the sentence without hurting anything, you’re probably okay. But if the meaning of the foreign word is key to understanding the sentence, rework it. Your reader wants to live the story, not go searching in Google Translate.

Bonus tip: If English isn’t the speaker’s first language, you can mess up the dialogue’s grammar just a tad. But be careful, because the more you mangle the English, and the more foreign words you include, the more you risk losing your reader. Use a deft touch, and tone it down in the rewrite.

Option 3: Use narrative summary.
Narrative summary is a pretty heavy-handed form of author intrusion that sounds something like this:

The men argued in Russian, pointing fingers at each other and shaking their fists.

It gets the point across quickly, but the danger here is that you’re breaking from the on-screen action to take the reader aside and tell them what’s happening. (Ever hear the rule about “show, don’t tell”? This is telling.) But sometimes this is the most economical way to keep the story going, especially if your character doesn’t speak the language. What you lose in style you’ll gain in pace.

Option 4: Write it all in one long block of foreign language.

Don’t do this. Ever. Under any circumstances. I can’t emphasize this enough, mi amigo. If your reader runs into a solid block of indecipherable words, you’re toast. At the very least, your reader will be jolted out of the story long enough to skim past the wall of foreign text. But it might be so annoying that the reader just closes your book and never comes back. Let’s avoid that, shall we?

Quick recap: Foreign Language in Fiction
  

  • If your point-of-view character can understand the language, just write it in English. At the end, add ‘she said in Russian.’ Or whatever.
  • If you want to drop in the occasional foreign word, make sure the meaning of the dialogue is still crystal clear.
  • If the viewpoint character doesn’t understand the language, the easiest way to keep the story moving is to work around it with a narrative summary: She fired off an angry retort in German.

Try writing your scene a few different ways and see which method works best for your story. Remember, learning how to write a novel is a lifelong process, so look at this as a chance to learn a new skill. And who knows, you might pick up a few words too, verstehen?

Do you have a writing question? Need a writing coach to help you solve a problem with your novel? Just ask! And if you try this idea and like it, let me know!

Categories: For Writers, how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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