If you’ve ever tried to write a novel, this picture may speak to you!
Every few years I post my top 10 writing tips here. Why do I keep changing this list? It might be because my list is influenced by the latest unpublished manuscripts that I’ve critiqued for conferences. Does this imply that writers are making different mistakes than previously? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just changed my mind!
Kay’s top ten, sure-fire, writing tips:
1. Work harder on an original premise: The Napoleonic wars with air power from dragons; a murdered girl relates her story from heaven; an alien universe that tunnels through our own. Respect your ideas, but deepen them. Read More…
Think of all the things a piece of fiction must have. Who can ever get it all right? For example, we’re told to excel at plot, character, setting, point of view, dialogue, conflict, tension, pacing, and style. If it’s science fiction, add cool science ideas and scope. The list is long and demanding.
The good news is that a novel doesn’t have to have everything right.
Remember Randall Jarrell’s wonderful line: “A novel is a narrative of a certain length with something wrong with it.” So here’s Kay’s Rule of Imperfection: You don’t need to do everything supremely well. Optimize what you can and forgive yourself for the rest.
Because the pursuit of perfection leads to many an unfinished novel.*
So where does this leave us in our writing process, our current novel? For starters, we can look at our strengths and capitalize on them. Read More…
I’m giving two live online workshops this fall! I’ve found that webinars are fun and can get us re-engaged with our writing. (To hear about all my online teaching–and other cool stuff–you can join my newsletter.)
PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRITERS CONFERENCE
Six Slippery Sins: Good advice that goes astray
Often what we think we know just isn’t true. “Common knowledge” about fiction can deaden our stories, including time-honored advice like start fast and get to the point in dialogue. We’ll take a fresh look at “vivid” descriptions, and how “showing” sadness can end up distancing a reader by “telling.” For writers at all levels, this class examines the deeper truths suggested by, or obscured by, fiction maxims.
Saturday, September 26 (Time to be announced.)
Click HERE to register for the PNWA Conference, one day or several.
(More class details to be posted soon on the PNWA website.)
WRITE ON THE SOUND CONFERENCE
Move Along, Folks: Pacing the novel
One agent who gets 10,000 pitches a month says that 95% of rejected manuscripts are paced too slowly. We can fix this! This pacing workshop is for beginning and intermediate-level novelists and exposes classic pacing mistakes, large and small. We’ll identify the dramatic underpinnings that give horsepower to a story’s unfolding and their use in structure and scene. We’ll also come away with on-the-page tools that can keep the wind in your story’s sails.
Saturday, October 3, 4:15 – 3:30
Click HERE to register for the Write on the Sound Conference, one day or several.
Feedback on your fiction is, on the surface of it, a sensible thing. You’re writing for readers, and people reading your draft and giving opinions is bound to be helpful, right?
Sometimes we end up feeling undermined or, conversely, falsely assured. Feedback can be useful at times, but for reasons that are often invisible to writers, may fail to help us. In pursuit of the deeper truth about feedback, here are some observations.
Motivation and self confidence
- We writers are in an insecure vocation. Connecting with readers can seem unfairly difficult, even random. In such an environment we may turn to others for feedback. But we may not be ready to handle criticism, and this can weaken our intention, especially if we are already lacking in writerly confidence.
- If you’re really ready to hear honest opinions, then it might be a good idea to get feedback. Personally, I tend to avoid feedback (except under strict conditions), because I find myself susceptible to doubt and confused by too much input.
- I know I’m being a bit contrary, but give it some thought. At a deeper level, you know why you want feedback, and you may well be right about whatever decision you come to. But: Sharer beware.