Writing

What’s the Story on Backstory?

I’m taking a blogging break this week. Hope you enjoy this post from my archives. One of the biggest challenges for novelists—new and seasoned alike—is avoiding too much backstory in the opening of the book. A lot of people ask me questions about backstory, and often argue with me about it. So I wanted to…
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Story vs. Craft

I’m taking a blogging break this week. Hope you enjoy this post from my archives. As I go through queries and partials, I’m often thinking about the two elements of a good novel: craft and story. Craft refers to all the mechanics of fiction: plot, characterization, dialogue, pacing, flow, scene-crafting, dramatic structure, point-of-view, etc. Story…
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Write Your Truth

I’m taking a blogging break this week. Hope you enjoy this post from my archives. “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to…
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A Few Good Quotes for Writers

“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”~Kurt Vonnegut “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. Perfectionism will…
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Vlogging, Anyone?

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Wilkov Society loves moving pictures. Movies and television have been around for a long time, but then along came the Internet—and YouTube is right up there with Google and Facebook as the most visited websites in the world. Vlogging, or video blogging, is a great way for you as an author to…
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What the Fiction Editor Looks For – Part 2

Yesterday we focused on the characters in your novel. Here are a few more things editors look for when reading your novel, this time, about the story itself. The premise needs to be strong enough (as well as interesting enough) to support the entire book. Every book needs suspense…the page-turning factor…a burning story question that the…
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What the Fiction Editor Looks For

Part 1 For the next couple of days I’m going to point out some of the things an editor looks for when reading a manuscript. When you get a content edit (or “developmental edit”) on your novel, you may find these kinds of things pointed out for improvement. Today I’m going to focus on your novel’s characters.…
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Why Can’t I Find Your Email Addy?

I do not understand why so many writers have websites and/or blogs, but do not have their email address or a “contact me” link easily visible. It’s a frequent source of frustration for me. Why would you even bother putting yourself out there without giving people a way to contact you? There are two circumstances in…
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Action is Character

Advice from Hollywood, part 3 In real life, it’s not what a person says that shows us who they are. It’s what they do. The content of a person’s character is revealed in action and behavior. Who a person says they are, or thinks they are, doesn’t necessarily reflect their true character. In screenwriting, the…
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A Must-Read for Writers

(See below for how to win a copy.) A decade ago, I read Betsy Lerner’s book The Forest for the Trees and it quickly rose to the top of my “best books ever” list. I read it a few times over the years, then lent it out so many times I lost track of my…
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What is Writer’s Voice?

(Re-post) Several people have asked me about “voice” lately. I’ll barely be able to scratch the surface because it’s a big topic, but let’s get started. What do we mean when we say we’re looking for “new voices”? What do editors mean when they say it’s the writer’s voice that captures them—or doesn’t? Let’s start…
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Ode to the Book Cover

Last week I had a little epiphany that made me just the teensiest bit less enthusiastic about e-books as the primary delivery method for books in the future. I’d been reading The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin on my Kindle. Then Joyce did a guest post for me and in the course of…
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Keeping Track of Details

If you’ve been writing books for long, you may have come across the challenge of keeping the details straight so that you can be consistent throughout the book. If the hero has blue eyes in chapter 1, he shouldn’t have green eyes in chapter 14. If your characters live on 5th Street in one chapter,…
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How to Become a Better Writer:

11 Completely Non-Writing-Related Ideas 1. Be creative any way you can. Cook new recipes. Paint a picture. Design a garden. Compose a song. Build something with Legos. Organize the garage. 2. Pay attention. Observe the mannerisms of people around you. Listen to how they speak. Marvel at the way they’re dressed. Notice their shoes and…
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