Shannon Bolithoe : A Writing Life

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Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King

Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King

by James Smythe

“Stephen King is an All-Time Great, arguably one of the most popular novelists the world has ever seen. And there’s a good chance that he’s inspired more people to start writing than any other living writer. So, as the Guardian and King’s UK publisher Hodder launch a short story competition – to be judged by the master himself – here are the ten most important lessons to learn from his work…”

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No, All Romance Novels Are Not the Same

No, All Romance Novels Are Not the Same

By Jenny Trout

“If you’ve heard the term “bodice-ripper” lately, ten to one it’s because some clueless journalist has writing a story about romance novels. This week, the stories have been about Laura Harner and her plagiarism of Becky McGraw and Opal Carew. The story has gone somewhat viral in the news media, showing up not only at The Washington Post, but at The Guardian, Jezebel, and the Daily Mail. Despite the seriousness of the allegations, commenters on several of the sites appear to agree with Moyer’s blanket assessment of all romance novels. Detractors come up with the same tired excuses to hate the genre time and again. It’s criticized for being formulaic; in his Washington Post article, Moyer goes on to accuse romance novels of having a “fill in the blanks quality.” Let’s examine this allegation, shall we?…”

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How Do You Go About Writing a Novel?

By Toni Kennedy

I’ve been reading advice from some successful authors on how they wrote their novels. Here are a few ideas I’ve gained from them that I plan to use in my own writing. Do you have any advice you would like to add?

  • Start with a central organizing idea. This premise should be like the blurb on a New York Times Bestsellers List. It’s short and concise, not meant to be all encompassing, but rather a pithy sentence of the biggest theme in the story.
  • Where to find a premise?
    • Newspapers offer a wealth of ideas. Think about what is at stake for the people involved personally and professionally?
    • Start with an image e.g. a woman falling from a rooftop in 1920, a man in a muddy raincoat sitting at his daughter’s grave. Then ask questions: “What’s the man doing here? Why today? Why in the rain? What made that woman fall? Was she pushed? Did she jump?” Try answering the questions, weaving the story around the image.
    • Look for a sentence in another book and weave a story around it.
    • One premise per book suffices, although subplots can be useful and sometimes subplots end up becoming the main story in another book.
  • Use your own voice – combine everything you know and think and mix it together to develop your unique voice. Later you can take out all the extraneous things that don’t move your plot forward.
  • Description and action must flow seamlessly together.
    • Have a scene, then a segue, then another scene.
    • Show movement – it’s a journey.
    • There must be escalating peril or tension. Move forward, get knocked back, regroup, then go forward again.
    • Each scene should have a purpose. Ask how this scene advances the story.
    • Use subplots to keep the pace in check so the story doesn’t careen out of control.
  • Educate a little; entertain a lot–not the other way around. Don’t put too much superfluous description into the scene and setting unless there is a purpose for it. Every description should move the story forward.
  • Writers must know why the character is doing what he/she’s doing at every point in the story. The character’s personality must be established enough to make every behavior believable, without too much minutiae to bog down the action.
  • First, get the story down; you have permission to write a crappy first draft. Trying too hard to perfect each sentence as you go can wreck the flow and creative process. Save the tinkering for the rewriting. This often takes as long as or longer than the first draft.
  • During revisions, read the manuscript aloud to hear the rhythm of the words and find the rough spots
  • Fall out of love with your own words. Recognize that there’s a down side to leaving something unneeded in the story, even if it’s brilliantly written.
  • Do solid research. Readers notice details, especially incorrect ones which can ruin the credibility of the author. Use the Internet, read, and talk to people.

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How to Win NaNo Using Totally Doable Daily and Weekly Writing Goals – Helping Writers Become Authors

Here’s how to create super-productive writing goals for NaNoWriMo and beyond. The best part? They’re surprising painless.

Sourced through from:

See on Scoop.itA Writing Life

By K.M. Weiland

“What’s the one and only key to winning National Novel Writing Month? For that matter, what’s the key to writing a novel to its finish and being a successful writer, day in and day out, for the rest of your life? If you cheated by peeking at the title, then you’re probably already guessing “writing goals.”

Well, you’re wrong.

Okay, only partly wrong—because the title isn’t lying. We are going to talk about the importance of writing goals and how you can implement them into your daily and weekly writing schedules. But before we can talk about writing goals, we first have to talk about your math skills.

If you’re now groaning, then know I feel your pain, since high school Algebra and I were pretty much mortal enemies. We’re writers, man. We don’t need no stinkin’ math! Except that we totally do. Why? Because successful goals are totally about numbers.

Today, we’re going to find out what it takes to set successful writing goals that will carry you through NaNo—and beyond. (And I promise that if I can do the math, so can you.)…”

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Crafting a Compelling Novel Concept | Jane Friedman

Larry Brooks discusses how to create a concept for your novel that will compel readers (and agents and publishers) to read more.

Sourced through from:

See on Scoop.itA Writing Life

“A weak concept can be strengthened and saved. Almost always, the source of weakness and dysfunction within a story dwells in the nature of the concept itself; i.e., the degree, or complete lack, of something compelling within the concept. It’s hard to turn a boring concept into a compelling premise, and yet, this is the golden ring of revision. We need to do precisely that, usually by adding a conceptual layer rather than by looking to the premise to fix the problem. This means that recognition of weakness as the first step in the repair process, because that recognition allows you to jettison the weakness and replace it with something better.”

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Tips for NaNoWriMo, Part 4

A Journey of Words

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbThis is a continuation of the list I posted last week. Today’s tips are more specific to the words and reaching the word count. This will (probably) be the last post I made about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, or how to make it through the month. It will not be my last post this year about NaNo, though. Oh no…not even close.

So without further ado, the rest of my suggestions for how to survive (and thrive in) NaNoWriMo:

1. Do not edit.
I used to think this was an understood “rule” of NaNo, but last year, I found out how wrong I was. Not only do some people not follow this guideline, some don’t even know about it.

This works on multiple levels. If your plot starts to go awry and you don’t want to follow it (which is sometimes the thing to do), don’t delete…

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In It to WIN It—Preparing for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month)

By Kristin Lamb

“Anyway, whoever chose November as National Novel Writing Month was seriously brilliant, because Halloween is like Mardi Gras for writers. If you are smart, use trick-or-treating to your advantage…”

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Write Now: Writing A Bestseller

By Paul Bishop

“I recently had lunch with a very successful writer friend, who has been delighted to find his last four books landing high on the New York Times bestseller list. His success is well deserved. He works extremely hard every day, and he never hesitates to help out writers and others. He even picked up the tab for our lunch.

Our conversation roamed from past mutual projects, to mutual friends, to ongoing publishing activities. Here my friend paused before giving credit to another bestselling writer for teaching him a number of the traits common to the genre of fast moving thrillers on the bestseller list. He then listed those things in quick succession …”

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Changing Habits: Using NaNoWriMo for Inspiration

By Toni Kennedy

I suspect I appear hard-working, efficient, even productive. Every morning I’m at my desk, sitting at my computer, doing what looks like writing. Often, it is. I’m writing e-mails. I’m writing letters. Don’t get me wrong; I meet deadlines and I accomplish things. I have a lengthy list of publications. I do talks, presentations, and workshops but most of the time I feel like a slacker. Because, while I may be working, I’m often not doing the work I think I’m supposed to be doing, which is creative writing.

This is entirely internal. But my productivity, or what looks like productivity, feels at times like a bunch of rationalizations. Of course I do my work. If you don’t make it to meetings, or do the departmental tasks you’ve been assigned, you face the cold shoulders of peers who have to pull your weight. If there are real deadlines you don’t let those slip.

But to me, those tasks are like vacuuming when you know you have to clean the toilet. They’re still unpleasant, but they’re the lesser evils, the road less arduous. You’re still accomplishing something–just not the thing, the big thing, that’s always hanging over your head. The thing, in fact, you might not even be willing to talk about.

The truth is that I tackle the things I think I can handle, do them, get a vague sense of accomplishment, and then go back to feeling crappy about what I’m not doing. I have a hunch I’m not alone in that.

It’s not as if the things I’m accomplishing aren’t worthy and important. They’re fine. They’re good. But they’re not what I think I’m supposed to be doing. The problem is, often I don’t want to write. Or, like Dorothy Parker, I don’t like to write; I like to have written.

Having recognized, named, and admitted my problem; I’ve tried to think about how to deal with it. There’s always going to be something else to work on–or not. I know enough writers to know that all of them have ways in which they trick themselves into getting the work done. One of the most common is the daily word quota. I’ve long resisted such quotas. I like to tell myself that I work in spurts; if I’m not writing for a while, it’s because my mental field needs to lie fallow for a while. When I’m ready, the words will come. My problem is getting started. I like to put things off. Until the holidays. Until I’ve finished reading that book. Until I take the dog for a walk. Until, until, until.

Now I’ve decided it’s time for a change and I intend to use NaNoWriMo as the catalyst. I’ve made rules for myself. Some are common and obvious. I have decided on a quota of writing 1,000 plus words a day. Only after I meet that goal will I go back and revise. The only reading I will allow myself will be my book project; no fiction until bedtime. If getting the words down means sacrificing going shopping, there will be no new clothes. I have given myself a real deadline and know exactly what I want to produce in that time. I hope this will be a manageable amount and not crazy-ambitious.

I hope my new rules will work and that I will write a lot of words. Many of them may turn out to be unusable. But I hope that the writing will make me to do the thinking, which is getting me closer to the book. That will feel like real productivity.


The Process of Copyediting Fiction

The Process of Copyediting Fiction

By Janell E. Robisch

“I want to take you through the process of copyediting fiction. In the traditional life of a manuscript, this is one of the last types of editing that it will go through. The structure, plot, and characterization of the story at this point should have been finalized. This happens during writing and developmental editing. If there are few problems with overall consistency, your manuscript at this stage might go straight to copyediting instead of to substantive editing.

When I am copyediting fiction, my main goals are to ensure that all errors in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, word use, and style have been corrected. I also check for awkward phrasing and make or suggest edits to correct this. During this time, I also make sure that I don’t make changes that will alter your voice as the author. If I am in doubt, I will query you either directly in the manuscript file or in an email. During this stage, I will also do a little bit of basic formatting. How much depends on where the manuscript is going next. For example, if your agent or the publisher requires a certain format, I will help you ensure that the manuscript meets those requirements. Mostly, I want to make sure that your formatting (capitalization, boldface, etc.) is consistent…”

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Ten Eleven Ideas for Revising a Novel

Ten Eleven Ideas for Revising a Novel

By Claire Fuller

“A couple of months ago I wrote a post about how get the first draft of a novel completed, and now I’m writing about how I and some other writers go about revising that draft. I’m talking about working on the big changes – those whopping great plot holes or characters that disappear half-way through; polishing and tweaking will have to wait for a third post. And please do comment below with any other ideas…”

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My Turn: 15 easy steps to writing your very own novel by Max Wirestone

” There’s one question that authors get asked more than anything. It has nothing to do with plotting or characters or genre. The question is, simply, “How?” How did you get published?

Some authors, particularly the grizzled and prickly, bristle at this question, perhaps because they have gotten tired of answering it. But me? I’m fresh off the unpublished boat, and I’m happy to field this one. Just follow along in these fifteen easy steps…”

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The Novel?

By Terence Clarke Director of Publishing, Astor & Lenox

“In the September 24, 2015 issue of the New York Review of Books, Jed Perl writes about the current state of an art form that has been declared dead or dying many times. That would be painting.

He quotes painter David Salle: “The web’s frenetic sprawl is opposite to the type of focus required to make a painting.” The seemingly overwhelming influences of contemporary technology, branding and advertising, streaming devices, electronic games, the cloud and so on represent a collective threat to the time-honored traditions and deep emotional expression of oil painting…”