Archive for the ‘Writing Advice’ Category

15 questions to guide your novel

Sometimes you just gotta get methodical. Novels are big and unruly, but chaos does not need to reign. Here are 15 framing questions that can help you discover and define what you what to write. I’ll use one of my books to give examples.

Questions 1-4. The main “handles” readers will use to discover your book.

1. What genre? Some aspiring writers are surprisingly conflicted about what type of story to write. My only advice is to read in likely genres. Read a lot. Learn what stories you adore.

For my book, the answer to the genre question was Fantasy. But there are so many types of fantasy, and some form popular subgenres such as gaslamp, sword and sorcery, grimdark, folkloric. So we drill down. (For examples of types of fantasy, see my post Landscapes of Fantasy.)

2. What kind of fantasy? In the case of the book I had in mind, it was historical fantasy with psi-powers. Read More…

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Pitching your novel

How do you pitch a novel? And why lavish time on it? Is it just so that we won’t be caught flat-footed when someone asks what the story is about?

The Point of Pitching

While it’s true that an intriguing, quick blurb for a novel makes us look more professional–and saves us the embarrassment of stumbling through a confused rendition, a pitch also has a deep marketing purpose.

A  pitch positions your novel amid the world of books. It gives instant perspective on the story, pinpointing genre, tone, and unique features. Publishing today depends on branding and brevity. For better or worse, we’re in the world of entertainment and marketing with its thirst for audience definition. Read More…

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Writing a novel synopsis

The two-page synopsis is one of the toughest things I have to write. Yes, even harder than the chapter outline.

I mean, if I have 20 or so pages to convey my story in a detailed way, it’s kind of like writing a short story. The old line “Sorry this response is so long, but I didn’t have time to make it short,” carries a hidden truth. In many cases, long is easier than brief.

So, yes, I do think the two-page synopsis is murder. I like to start long and gradually pare down. (There are people who can pound out a synopsis in one sitting, but these people can never be my friends.) Read More…

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Pitching a Novel

How do you pitch a novel? And why lavish time on it? Is it just so that we won’t be caught flat-footed when someone asks what the story is about?

The Point of Pitching

A pitch is more than a conversational gambit. It’s true that an intriguing, quick blurb for a novel makes us look more professional–and saves us the embarrassment of stumbling through a painful and confused rendition. But a pitch also has a deep marketing purpose that goes beyond elevator encounters with editors.

A pitch for your novel positions your story amid the world of books. In that larger context, it gives instant perspective on the story, pinpointing genre, tone, and unique features. Read More…

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Writing on a Bad Hair Day

Here’s my next installment on author myths.

Myth #5  Writers depend on inspiration to get through the writing day.

This one comes from the idea that writers are artists. And artists, as we all know–or think we know–are so very sensitive and subject to crippling moods.

It’s a persistent idea that writers are subject to unbearable sensitivities. The idea goes like this: writers are obviously creative people, and their fragile artistic selves have to wait for inspiration. The creative process, after all, must be fueled by the muse. When she’s snubbing you, you’re toast.

Is it true? Well. I’ve been inspired at times and bored with my work at times, and I’d much prefer to have aOvercoming Writers Block big dose of inspiration. Truth to tell, sometimes I’d settle for even a tiny spark. But if nothin’s there, a journeyman writer can’t wait for the muse to make an appearance. Nor is it a time–even with a big deadline looming–to break out the whiskey and work through the night.

The reality is, I’ve never blown a deadline so badly that I had to work all night. (Don’t ask about the whiskey.) This is because, even in times when I’ve been bored with my work in progress, I’ve been writing anyway. This is true even when I’m thinking the story may be terminally ill, my writing chops aren’t up to the challenge, and I’m so not in the mood to write.

Bad Hair Days

The reality of the writing life is, you may not get a great idea every day, but you write anyway. You refuse the excuse of writer’s block. It’s just a mood, not a cardinal principal.

You write through the blahs, because sometimes inspiration comes only after you’ve been typing for awhile. If you don’t have a great opening sentence, start with an adequate one. If your opening line is totally lame, just get it on the page and fix it later.

I know. It’s hard to watch yourself write lines, paragraphs, pages that lack elegance, interest, and originality. But you soldier on. If you’ve been writing long enough you know that eventually you’ll find your sea legs. And here’s the thing: Sometimes it’s because you wrote the lame material that the good stuff comes. You were just warming up. Your brain was not in the mood to write, but once it saw that writing was inevitable, it said, Oh for crying out loud, ALL RIGHT.

And then, because you’ve seen it work over and over again, you tolerate bad writing because you know that rewriting will be loads of fun. OK, strike that last idea. I know only a very few, highly annoying, people who love to rewrite, but at least most of us know that it can all be fixed on the next pass.

So, do you write when you’re feeling down, beat up, or just plain blah? Yes, you do. Because you know that while inspiration is the spice of the writing life, it isn’t the most important thing.

The most important thing is to practice your craft and have faith that the deep, beautiful story is within your grasp . . . but only if you keep writing.

Myth #1. It’s All in Who You Know

Myth #2. The Glamour and Prestige

Myth #3. It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

 

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