Category : The Writing Craft

  • August 8, 2014

    What to Do With Your One and Only Story (A Guest Post)

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    All of us have a story. But not all of us have a story that is ready to be published.

    If there’s no trembling in your fingertips, if there’s no hesitation, it may be that you want your story out there for the wrong reasons. It’s valid to want to be seen and heard, but if you’re going into publishing to have those needs met, you will be sorely disappointed.

    Though many writers may begin that way, the best memoirs cling to the sanctity of the story free of the undue demands of an author’s ego.

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    Sanctity is found in the calling. You need to ask yourself: Why am I writing this book? Is it to fulfill a childhood dream? Is it to pass down my story to future generations? Or is it because I feel God has asked me to share my story with the world?

    The publishing journey is agonizing and hard and, for most, the rewards are few. There are some who strike it big and this may, in fact, be you—but be sure your motives are pure before heading into the arduous journey of exposing not only your own wounds, but your family’s as well.

    I was standing outside by the woodshed one day, my boys playing around me, crying because my family was reading through the second draft of my memoir and they had a lot of changes they wanted me to make, and some hurts they wanted to express.

    It’s a healing path, this writing about your life, but it’s a hard one. You will have stones thrown and even if you’re one of the few that makes it big, the journey will be painstaking and lonely.

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    So, what to do with your one and only story?

    All of our stories matter. But, here’s the thing: Some stories need to be passed on to future generations. Some stories need to be preserved via tape

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  • July 25, 2014

    On Writer's Block (a guest post)

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    There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

    There! I’ve gone and said it.

    Writer’s block is a condition belonging to those who can afford to indulge in it. Me? I’ve got deadlines. If the muses aren’t feeling up to snuff, so be it.  I’m still going to be sitting in that chair banging out words every day. If the muse isn’t cooperating, the words aren’t going to be fabulous, and they will have to be rewritten, or maybe even tossed in the trash can, but by gum those keys are clacking along in spite of any lack of enthusiasm. I tell myself, just write, even a measly paragraph can get the ideas started again. Or if I’m completely stymied, I’ll write something else. I’m always working on two books at once so I can alternate if needed. So what do some writers far more accomplished than I say about writer’s block?

    Philip Pullman said, “Writer’s block… a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?”

    I think the best piece of wisdom on this subject comes from Barbara Kingsolver who advises, “I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”

    So what about you? How do you push past a lack of inspiration in your work or home life?

    ========================

    Dana Mentink is a romance and suspense writer, living in California with a fire fighter husband, two girls — Yogi and Boo Boo — and a

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  • July 18, 2014

    Point of View (a guest blog)

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    In the past few months, I have done developmental edits, line edits, or rewrites on over twenty novels, and assessed at least a dozen more for marketability. I’m now partially blind in one eye, and I occasionally twitch for no reason, but it’s been time well spent, working with some amazing storytellers.

    If you are in the midst of writing your own novel, you might find it interesting that the most common editorial issue I encounter is the inconsistent use of point of view. I know it can be hard to maintain in longer manuscripts, which I view as a normal writing stumble — and job security. But I think sometimes newer authors are making pov mistakes repeatedly because they are not considering the flow of action and thought from the reader’s perspective, how illogical shifts can be disorienting.

    “I tucked the gun in my pocket, walked in the office and shut the door, leaving Jim in the hallway. I noticed the raincoat on the floor beside the desk. Jim opened the secretary’s closet, moving old jackets and sweaters aside as he searched for the raincoat.”

    This first person voice cannot see through walls or read minds (at least not in this story), so how does he know Jim is digging through the closet? He might know he TOLD Jim to dig through the closet, but Jim could just as easily have been distracted by a donut sitting on top of the waste basket. Of course, this also holds true if perspective shift happens in a third person narrative.

    “Todd tucked the gun in his pocket, walked in to the office and shut the door, leaving Jim in the hallway. Jim opened the secretary’s closet, moving old jackets and sweaters aside as he searched for the one piece of evidence that might save his life.”

    Yes, there is such a thing as distant, omniscient third person point of view where

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  • May 30, 2014

    Editing: It Takes a Village (A guest blog)

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    I recently had someone say to me, “My novel needs an edit — but I don’t have the strength to listen to someone bash it.”

    Ack! An editor’s job is to help authors readjust, smooth and polish but never to be condescending. The edits are meant to help. And the majority of today’s successful writers use editors and rely on their feedback, grateful for another pair of eyes, an outside viewpoint. It’s important to take your ego, put it in a little box, and forget about it for awhile — especially if you are self-publishing or querying with a manuscript.

    Easier said than done, I know. I understand the insecurities that come to light in this situation. I’ve birthed a few of my own book babies. I’ve suffered the angst of waiting for an editor to tell me if my kid is worthless drivel or not. But I early on came to the realization I am not always a clean writer . . . my babies can be messy. I know what I meant to say and that’s how my brain reads it. I’m a terrible self-editor in the long-form. I can spot a homonym or a typo or a repetitive phrase a mile away in anyone’s work but my own.

    And, of course, there are the bigger developmental issues to consider. A handful of authors are able to craft a perfectly developed story, from plot to theme to character arc. But in a 360-page document, is it likely there are no sentences that can be worded more succinctly or a scene tweaked for more impact? No subplot that loses the thread? A character with weak motivation?

    A book is a living creature, always capable of change . . . growth. It is never finished. Now, I do believe at some point an author must put down her pen and exclaim, “Welp, I’m done.” We’d go crazy if we were

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  • March 28, 2014

    What's the best writing advice you've ever received?

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    So it’s spring break for most people. You might be heading out of town, or driving to the beach, or trying to find a place to relax and dive into that new book you bought. I’m going the same thing — well… I live at the beach, so I’m not heading there, but I am trying to ditch the crowds find some quiet so I can read today. I have a long list of projects I want to get caught up on, so instead of doing emails and taking phone calls, I’m going to try and get away and just read for a while.

    And that, of course, means I don’t think I’ll take the time to create a new blog post. Instead, I’ll let you YOU create it. One simple question: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

    It might be something about craft, or a trick you learned, something about writing quickly or leaving writer’s block behind. It could be advice on creating characters, or raising the stakes, or leaving people with a memorable lesson. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ve no doubt heard (or read) some great bit of wisdom that you took to heart and you noticed it changed your work. Share it with us. Just click on the “comment” bar below and offer the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received. You’re welcome to give us context, and tell who said it and what the circumstances were, if you want to — but don’t feel you HAVE to. You’re welcome to just offer one sentence with the advice you’ve got.

    I do this once each year or so, and I have gleaned some wonderful tips from people over the years. Would love to hear what you have to share with your fellow writers. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

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  • March 20, 2014

    Thursdays with Amanda: Respecting Your Art

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    Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    An old college friend was telling me a story about a potential client he was talking with. This friend of mine does freelance editing and proofing (he proofed my book, The Extroverted Writer), and so he is regularly courting new clients, trying to meet their expectations while also sharing with them the reality of the business.

    This particular client of my friend’s was one of those type A, demanding, bull-headed types. You know who I’m talking about…a real-life Miranda Priestly or Bart Bass. Shrewd. Demanding. With no concept or concern for how much work it takes to produce a quality result.

    The client had a 58,000-word manuscript that he wanted proofread, but the real kicker was that he wanted the project done in two days. When my friend pushed back and told him that, with a full-time job and other responsibilities on top of his freelancing gig, there was no way he could get it done and done well in that timeframe, the guy refused to accept such an answer. Said something about how it HAD to be ready for publication and how there was NO ROOM FOR AN EXTENSION.

    My friend politely turned the project down.

    I used to edit and proofread for a publishing company. They’d hand me a fiction manuscript, give me a week’s worth of time, and then a month later a check for a whopping $150 would hit my account. I had gotten the job after hearing that they needed someone to edit and proof for under $200 a pop. I had

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  • January 27, 2014

    The Amazingly Easy Short Cut Guide To Becoming A Great Writer (Tongue-In-Cheek Advice for The Lazy)

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    BY GUEST AUTHOR KATHARINE GRUBB

    Some are born great writers, some aspire to being a great writer and some have writerly
    greatness thrust upon them. Then, sometimes, neither of those three options apply to us and we have to bushwhack our own path to greatness.

    Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot of work?

    I’d like to suggest that our writerly ambitions can be accomplished with little or no effort. In fact, I have a list of ten things you can do (or not do) to accomplish this goal. (If accomplishing goals is your thing.) I would have come up with eleven, but I got tired.

    1. Don’t Write. Your day is busy enough. In fact, spend your down time doing things like hurling birds into piles of thieving pigs. Tell yourself that this is brain work! Your writing future is dependent on whether or not you see Downton Abbey! Every time you have a nagging thought that tells, you that maybe you should do Nanowrimo or something like that, just watch an episode of Hoarders until the feeling goes away. Smugness, with lack of physical activity, can be just as comforting as that pesky sense of accomplishment that comes with dedication and commitment. Trust me.

    2. Don’t read. This is obvious. Since really there aren’t any new plots, there isn’t any point in reading at all. If you need to know something, don’t go any deeper than a search on Wikipedia. If you want a story to entertain you, you’ve got Netflix, right? Besides fiction is made up stories, which are basically lies. Just don’t bother. In fact, if you are reading this blog, stop right now and turn on Pandora, the Shakira station.

    3. Hang Out With Stupid People. This should be easy. If you want to avoid greatness, then spend a lot of time with those who are content to stay where they

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  • January 13, 2014

    A Fabulous Beast is Born

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     A GUEST POST BY NOVELIST GINGER GARRETT

     

    One of my earliest memories is of sitting in a darkened cinema and wailing, “But I don’t want to see his head explode, Mommy!” My parents loved scary movies and didn’t want to pay a sitter. I was doomed.

    Nightmarish creatures haunted my childhood dreams. In an effort to tame the monsters, I invited them to tea parties. I’d lower the blinds in my room, close the curtains and lock the door. Then, pretending it was midnight, (so both Dracula and the Wolfman could make it) I’d host elaborate festivities.
    I grew to love my monsters. After all, it was the monsters in the movies that made people pull together and rise above their petty agendas. (Bloodlust is a powerful organizational tool.) It was monsters that made us human.

    So while I was mentoring middle schoolers and waiting for a new book idea, I read a book on the psychology of fear and monsters. I was surprised to learn that scholars consider Aristotle to be the father of Monsterology. (Or, as my PhD scientist friend, Jodi, says, “Cryptozoology.” Then she rolls her eyes and changes the subject.)

    But Aristotle was also considered to be a major influence on Christian theology. Why was such a brilliant man mixed up with monsters? Unfortunately, Aristotle’s monster hunting days were cut short…he died under mysterious conditions. Then all his books were destroyed. (The writings we have of Aristotle today are mostly his lecture notes.) What happened to him? What secrets about monsters did he take to his grave? I clipped a picture from the book of an ancient, legendary monster and slipped it into a box for safekeeping.

    Unsure what to do with this mystery, I got on with life. I like to read fitness magazines, especially if I’m avoiding exercise. One day I read about a respected triathlete, who is disabled. She described picking off

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  • January 7, 2014

    A Workshop on Getting Published

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    BY CHIP MACGREGOR

     

    A new writing conference is fast approaching — and you’re invited.

    On Saturday, February 15, I will be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University. It’s a one-day event, with a rather intensive agenda:

    • I’ll speak on “developing a book proposal that sells,” and the focus will be on giving practical, hands-on help to writers who want to create a proposal that will get noticed.
    • I’ll also be speaking on “creating your long-term publishing strategy,” with an emphasis on traditional publishing, niche publishing, self-publishing, and alternative strategies for writers to make a living.
    • Michelle Borquez, bestselling author and entrepreneur, will explore “building a platform around your concept.”
    • There will be a Q&A time, and everybody there will have a face to face meeting with me sometime during the day.
    • Finally, Michelle and I will be talking about the secret to success in contemporary publishing.

    I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. I’ve largely taken time away from conferences the past couple years, but I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. And you’re invited. Again, every participant gets face time with me, where we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means our space is limited to just 30 people.

    Here’s the thing . . . there are a hundred conferences you can go to in order to get some basic information on writing. But if you really want to join a small group and find out how to create a book that will sell, make some money, and gain entry into the world of publishing by talking to some experienced people in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us. I don’t do many conferences anymore (and rarely do a writing conference), so I’m excited to be asked to be part of this one.

    The event is going to be in the Dallas area, at a church in White

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  • November 22, 2013

    FINDING YOUR VOICE

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    GUEST WRITER  ANE MULLIGAN

    President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she’s worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). A three-time Genesis finalist, Ane is a published playwright and columnist. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs, and has just returned from the ACFW conference.

    Finding Your Voice

    Fiction writers are told to find their voice. Well, what is it, and for that matter, how do you find it?

    I mastered the mechanics of good writing by learning and following the guidelines or … stay with me here … the rules. It’s kind of like staying between the lines in a coloring book before taking on a blank sheet of art paper. Then, I began to understand when and how to break those rules to turn my manuscript into a symphony of words.

    About that same time, I started a new series, and when I sent my critique partners the first chapter, they told me I’d found my voice. Cool. I didn’t know I’d lost it. I mean, I didn’t have laryngitis or even a sore throat.

    Okay, I’m being silly and probably not very funny, so you can stop rolling your eyes. In truth, I’d been working on voice. I read Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice. I highly recommend it if you’re still looking for yours.

    In Edgerton’s book, he said go back and look at letters you’d written when you were young or at least before you began to write. There was your voice.

    As I thought about that, I remembered how our friends always

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