Writing Tips From Fiction Authors

Tip1: “My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay your hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.” — Michael Moorcock

Tip 2: “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” — Zadie Smith

Tip 3: “Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.” — Michael Moorcock

Tip 4: “In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” — Rose Tremain

Tip 5: “Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” — Will Self

Tip 6: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” — Zadie Smith

Tip 7: “Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.” — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 8: “Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear).” — Diana Athill

Tip 9: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

Tip 10: “Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted ‘first readers.'” — Rose Tremain

Tip 11: “Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.” — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 12: “Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.” — Sarah Waters

Tip 13: “The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.” — Will Self

Tip 14: “Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!” — Joyce Carol Oates

Tip 15: “The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.” — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 16: “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.” — Elmore Leonard

Tip 17: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” — Neil Gaiman

Tip 18: “You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.” — Will Self

Tip 19: “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” — Neil Gaiman

Tip 20: “The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’” — Helen Simpson

How To Become a Better Writer

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There is so much writing advice out there from people who claim to be experts. As writers, it’s sometimes hard to wade through the information and decide what’s important and what’s not.  Despite the endless pool of writing advice offered by everyone under the sun, one fact remains. Your ultimate goal is to become a better writer.

I’m sure you’ve read and heard a lot of advice about writing. Some advice is useful. Some, not so much. Over the years, I’ve taken all the advice I’ve accumulated and compiled a list that encompasses the six main things that seem to be consistent no matter who is offering advice.

  1. Invest in some reference books. Get a dictionary, thesaurus, and a book on basic grammar. Have them handy and use them.
  2. Expand your vocabulary. I’m not talking fancy, flowery words here. This is more about using the vocabulary you already have and expanding it. For example, how many synonyms can you come up with for the noun plan? There’s program, itinerary, scheme, design, blueprint, agenda, and outline to name a fewStop and think about other words or word combinations and insert them into your writing.
  3. Read. Reading expands your vocabulary and helps you see how words can be arranged to communicate subtleties or express emotions. Read books in your genre and books outside your genre. Listen to the sound of language as you read. Read critically and look upon all you read as a writing lesson.
  4. Take writing classes.  There are a lot of creative writing courses and various writing workshops you can find online or through your local adult education extension programs. Find a few and work to improve your writing.
  5. Make time to write. Choose a time and place, and just write. You can’t improve your writing if you don’t write.
  6. Write for yourself. Write a story that scratches an itch inside you.  Don’t write to please the masses, write to please yourself. If you aren’t fully vested in the story, you won’t survive the criticism that comes with all published work.

10 Things to Consider When Writing a Novel

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Writing a book is incredibly hard. There is no magic formula or secret weapon you can use that will miraculously create a best-selling novel. Writing a book takes time. It requires initiative, discipline, and the ability to accept the fact that not everything you write is going to be beautiful.

“Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.” ―Ray Bradbury

But if you seriously want to write a book, nothing will stand in your way. Get out your pen, your laptop, or whatever writing tool you choose and start writing.

But before you do, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Start small. Give yourself short assignments you can easily complete, like a character sketch, drawing a map, or writing 500 words. Take one step at a time. “Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” -E.L. Doctorow.
  2.  First drafts. Your first draft is going to be awful. Deal with it. The whole point of a draft is to get your thoughts on paper. You can clean it up later. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” -Anne Lamott.
  3. Character. Characters can make or break a story. Know your characters, develop them, see them as they are. Dig into their heads and know what motivates them, what scares them, and what their weaknesses are. Make them believable, and make them come alive.
  4. Dialogue. Dialogue reveals more about your characters than pages of detailed description does. Each character should be easily identified by the way they talk. Reveal your character’s voice and let their personalities shine. Include actions and mannerisms.
  5. Plot. Characters drive the plot. Listen to your characters, and your plot will fall into place. Watch your characters move and stay with them. Things will happen to them; they will create their own tension and drama. Push them harder and load them up with problems they have to solve. Give them something to work for.
  6. Setting. Readers what to know about the character’s lives. Every piece of the setting offers a view into their lives. Setting helps the reader see beyond the surface. It reveals personality and values. Let your characters’ lives pour through the setting. Imagine the scene and add as much detail as possible.
  7. Breathe. Self-doubt will creep up on you, but you have to learn not to stress over small things. It’s ok if the story goes in a different direction than you planned. Let the characters take over and go with the flow.
  8. Prepare yourself for failure. Not only will you doubt yourself, others will doubt you too. Not everyone is going to like what you write. Stephen King said, “If you write, someone will try to make you feel lousy about it.” Don’t waste your time trying to please people.Image result for writing a book is incredibly hard
  9. Support. Seek help and support along the way. Fellow writers can give you pointers if you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask. Read books about writing, use reference materials, and take notes. Find a support system to cheer you on. Your spouse, your best friend, or members of your local writing group can be invaluable resources to keep you motivated and get you back on track.
  10. Voice. There are millions of stories out there, and you might be “worried that it’s all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you.” -Asha Dornfest. Find your voice, and tell your story your way.

What are you waiting for? Sit down and write. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank one.” -Jodi Picoult.

10 Things Every Writer Needs To Know

“Writing is hard work, not magic. It begins with deciding why you are writing and whom you are writing for. What is your intent? What do you want the reader to get out of it? What do you want to get out of it? It’s also about making a serious time commitment and getting the project done.”― Suze Orman

I’ve spent five of the last seven days in various training sessions, workshops, and conferences. Some were about writing, some were education related. A few covered both topics simultaneously. One such workshop was presented by Jeff Anderson, Middle Grade novelist and author of 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know.

Here’s a basic overview of the ten things he feels every writer needs to know.

  1. Motion. Writing is not magic. It’s hard work. But it can’t happen without motion. Put your pen to paper or tap your fingers at the keyboard.
  2. Models. Writers need models – mentors who offer a vision of what writing is and can be. Get inspired by writers you love and learn from them. Every encounter with text is a writing lesson. Learn to read like a writer.
  3. Focus. Writers are called upon to control their ideas – the writing is neither too large or too small. It’s just the right size. Writing must be clear and build upon the scope of the topic or genre.
  4. Detail. Details should be plentiful without being flowery or overdone. Choose well-selected details and use sensory images that explain without boring the reader to death.
  5.  Form. Writers arrange and rearrange words in surprising ways. This creates the perfect structure that makes your writing easy to follow. Everything you write reflects your purpose and your audience.
  6. Frames. Beginnings and endings frame our writing. Lead with enticing introductions that take the reader on a journey then put on the finishing touches that, in the end, leave the reader satisfied.
  7. Cohesion. Cohesion holds writing together. It brings unity to our writing and eases transitions from one point to another. The progression from point A to point B is effortless and clear.
  8. Energy. Good writing is all about style. It sizzles and gets straight to the point. The words move in rhythm and come alive. Every page flows, and the entire manuscript provides variety to the eyes and ears.
  9. Words. The words we choose to combine offer crisp language. They bring our thoughts to the page and allow the reader to visualize. Good writers use fresh metaphors and provide enough vivid nouns and verbs to carry the message clearly and cleanly.
  10. Clutter. Remove clutter from writing so the message shines through. Delete redundant words and phrases or any passages and paragraphs that don’t move the writing forward.

10-things-every-writer-needs-to-knowThat pretty much sums up Jeff’s take on writing. For more detailed information, get his book.

“Write as much as you can, as fast as you can, as well as you can.” ―Leif Fearn

Writing a Stellar Book Blurb

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I don’t know about you, but writing the novel is the easy part, compared to writing the book blurb. How do you take a 100+ page novel and condense it to fit on the back cover of a book? And how do you make it intriguing enough to get people to want to read it? Writing a book blurb has always been challenging for me, but I recently took several classes on this topic and learned a few things that you might find helpful.

The blurb on the back of your book is all about the journey.  Who is your protagonist? What is his or her goal? What problems are they up against? Readers want to discover this journey on their own.  Give them a glimpse inside your book that draws them into the character’s world.

There are three main elements to a good book blurb.

  1. The setup. This is the underlying theme of the book, the problem. For example, “She was kidnapped not once, but twice, and now someone wants her dead.”
  2. The capture. This is the backstory, the kickstart, the conflict. The capture tells the reader about the hurdles the character has to get over to meet their goal.
  3. The intrigue. Leave the reader with a question. Will the character succeed or fail?

When writing a book blurb, always remember to include the name of the protagonist, Image result for book blurbwhat the protagonist wants, and how the protagonist got in this situation. What is the connection between the protagonist and the antagonist? What are the main events that kickstart the story? What is the first main event that stops the protagonist from moving forward? Also, make sure the tone of the blurb matches the tone of the book. If the book is dark, emotional, mysterious, then the blurb needs to be too.

Be careful though, because a book blurb is not a synopsis or a summary of your book. Blurbs should be around 200 words and should focus on the struggle. A blurb is not a detailed description. A book blurb is also not an endorsement. Testimonials should not be included in your blurb. If you want to include them before or after the blurb, that’s fine, but they should not be present in the blurb itself.

For more information on this topic, visit the following sites:

Writing Blurbs for Novels

How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book

How to Write an Effective Book Blurb

How to Write a Fiction Book Blurb

A Simple Outline for Writing a Killer Book Blurb

7 Tips For Writing a Book Blurb

How to Write a Great Book Blurb

What’s the Difference Between a Book Blurb and a Synopsis?

How to Write a Killer Book Blurb

Ten Question Cheat Sheet for Writing a Compelling Book Blurb

Examples of Book Blurbs

A Few Craftperson’s Tools

As writers, our initial task is to get something down on paper, uncensored. If we want to make a piece “public”, or refine it for our own satisfaction, then the process of crafting begins. I often think of crafting as sculptors have described: setting the sculpture free from the marble. So it is with writing. […]

via A Few Craftsperson’s Tools — Wake Up Princess

Making Your Novel Great

Featured Image -- 6779I attended a seminar recently with author Sophie Jordan.  The session was entitled, How to Take a Good Book and Make it Great. She offered a lot of worthwhile information to consider when writing a novel, and I’m going to share some of those ideas with you. Hopefully you will find them helpful.

  1. The craft. Build your craft by reading and writing.  Write distinctly, read books on writing, and designate time for writing.
  2. The voice. Your voice evolves as you write. Own it and be conscientious of it.
  3. The market. Read everything you like and everything the world is talking about. Stay up to date on what’s hot in the market. Watch the latest movies, mini-series, and TV shows. Stay informed.
  4. The id. Write like no one’s reading. Write what’s deep within you. Fantasize, break away from the guidelines. Find that pleasure principle and entertain yourself.  Your audience will be there.
  5. The identifier. Make the reader identify with the hero/ heroine. Make the characters bad, but not too bad. Give them redeeming qualities to make them likeable. Bad choices make good stories, but the characters must have a reason for making those bad choices.
  6. The concept. Take a familiar concept and turn it on its head.  Think: If your book was a movie trailer, what three or four sentences would you get out of it?
  7. The beginning. Pull the reader in within the first ten pages. The beginning should be memorable and have high impact. Make the shit hit the fan right from the start.
  8.  The black moment. Make bad things happen.  Make the character’s goal seem impossible to achieve. Create that moment when all is lost, that moment when their is no chance they will ever meet their goal.
  9. The love scene. If your book has a love scene, make it uniquely personal between the characters.
  10. The dialogue. Dialogue must reflect the characters and build their relationships. It should expose them.
  11. The ending. Let the reader know what happened to these people. Give them that breath of fresh air.
  12. The packaging. What do people see when they look at your book? They will judge your book by the way it is packaged.