Archive for the ‘Writing Advice’ Category

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…

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…

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

 

The Best Little Writing Conference in the West

What do Steven Barnes, Agent DongWon Song, and indie publishing guru Anthea Lawson Sharp  all have in common? A: They’ll all be in Wenatchee WA for Write on the River in 4 weeks!

Anthea Lawson Sharp on Indie Publishing

Join us on the sunny side of Washington State for a day-and-a-half conference on the beautiful campus of Wenatchee Valley College. The Write on the River Conference annually attracts approximately 120  writers to learn from the experts, this year including nationally recognized writing teachers like Steven Barnes and Wendy Call.

Yes, we’re small, and proud of it! Our events and programming give you a chance for personal feedback and interaction with twelve expert presenters. Plus it’s fun! Join us for Saturday workshops, a Sunday morning fiction seminar, and then spend Sunday afternoon touring the wine country, renting bikes on the loop route along the Columbia, or hiking the beautiful sage-filled hills!

Read More…

Worldbuilding with Tananarive Due

tanaphoto

Photo by Daniel Ebon

For our concluding interview in my Ways into Worldbuilding series, I am honored to welcome a distinguished voice in fantasy and science fiction, Tananarive Due.

Tananarive Due is an author, screenwriter and educator who is a leading voice in black speculative fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in best-of-the-year anthologies of science fiction and fantasy. She is the former Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Spelman College (2012-2014) and teaches Afrofuturism and creative writing at UCLA. Read More…