Writing Advice

The Hardest Thing About Writing a Book

25 February 2017

From Medium:

All my life I wanted to write a book. At first I wrote four books that agents and publishers all rejected.

I thought the hard part was getting a book accepted. Having someone like me.

But this wasn’t the hard part at all. Anyone who is persistent will get that part done.

These were the hard parts. So hard it’s probably cost me years of my life and definitely much happiness.

But I survived. And you can also. Awareness is the key.

A) SITTING

Writing is boring. It’s unnatural. It’s basically sitting and staring at a scream and typing into a keyboard.

Three activities that our ancient ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years never did. We did not evolve in order to write books.

. . . .

B) NO DISTRACTIONS

Because of the above, I always had to create an environment of zero distractions.

For my very first book, my family went to stay with my in-laws and I spent two weeks locked in my house and did nothing but write.

I turned off Internet, no TV, nothing. Just wrote. This was very hard. I’m too used to being distracted. It’s natural to be distracted.

Link to the rest at Medium

The 9 Mistakes Every Beginner Writer Makes

19 February 2017

From author Elizabeth Andre via Medium:

1. Not Writing.

. . . .

3. Not writing until they can set aside the perfect dedicated two or three hour time slot and commit to doing so every day.

. . . .

9. Not writing because they’re creating the perfect marketing plan for a book that doesn’t exist yet.

Link to the rest at Medium

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Andre’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Publishers are hiring ‘sensitivity readers’ to flag potentially offensive content

17 February 2017

From The Chicago Tribune:

Before a book is published and released to the public, it’s passed through the hands (and eyes) of many people: an author’s friends and family, an agent and, of course, an editor.

These days, though, a book may get an additional check from an unusual source: a sensitivity reader, a person who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as “dealing with terminal illness,” “racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families” or “transgender issues.”

. . . .

Sensitivity readers have emerged in a climate – fueled in part by social media – in which writers are under increased scrutiny for their portrayals of people from marginalized groups, especially when the author is not a part of that group.

Last year, for instance, J.K. Rowling was strongly criticized by Native American readers and scholars for her portrayal of Navajo traditions in the 2016 story “History of Magic in North America.” Young-adult author Keira Drake was forced to revise her fantasy novel “The Continent” after an online uproar over its portrayal of people of color and Native backgrounds. More recently, author Veronica Roth – of “Divergent” fame – came under fire for her new novel, “Carve the Mark.” In addition to being called racist, the book was criticized for its portrayal of chronic pain in its main character.

. . . .

Clayton, who is black, sees her role as a vital one. “Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they’re supposed to be escapist and fun,” she says. They’re not supposed to be a place where readers “encounter harmful versions” and stereotypes of people like them.

. . . .

“Even if authors mean well, even if the intention is good, it doesn’t change the impact,” Ireland said. “It’s nice to be that line of defense before it gets to readers, especially since the bulk of people who come to me write for children.” Fees for a sensitivity readers generally start at $250 per manuscript.

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune and thanks to Abel for the tip.

The 1000 Day MFA

13 February 2017

From Medium:

A while ago I wrote about what might be involved in a do-it-yourself MFA. Basically: lots of reading, lots of writing, some mentoring, and connection with other writers.

The best advice I’ve ever seen for how to become a solid writer comes from Ray Bradbury. His advice is a prescription for nightly reading, weekly writing, and watching a lot of movies.

. . . .

Bradbury suggests a short story, a poem, and an essay every night for 1000 nights. I have a feeling that he would hope that after close to three years of building this particular habit, you’d just keep going.

I’m going to expand on this advice, for the purpose of our 1000 Day MFA and say that if you harbor any dreams of writing a novel some day, you need to also read novels. Ideally, you’ll read a book a week. At the very least, read one novel a month.

. . . .

Train yourself to read like a writer. Pay attention to the craft behind the books you choose. Why do some books remain bestsellers for decades? Why do some fall off the face of the planet a few weeks after they’re released? What works for you in every book — and why? What doesn’t — and why?

. . . .

Bradbury’s advice is to write a short story a week for a year. I think it would be great to carry that on for the 1000 days.

If you’re working on a novel while you’re doing this project, write flash fiction. Write a 500 word short story every week, then spend your writing time on your novel. There is something magical about finishing something so regularly. I’m just learning that myself, as I take on this story-a-week challenge.

Link to the rest at Medium

Words can sound ’round’ or ‘sharp’ without us realizing it

10 February 2017

From PsyPost:

Our tendency to match specific sounds with specific shapes, even abstract shapes, is so fundamental that it guides perception before we are consciously aware of it, according to new research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The “bouba-kiki” effect, originally reported over 85 years ago and replicated many times since, shows that people consistently pair the soft-sounding nonsense word “bouba” with soft-looking, round shapes and they typically pair the sharp-sounding nonsense word “kiki” with spiky-looking, angular shapes. This effect seems to emerge across cultures and age groups, indicating that it may represent a universal mapping between different modes of perception.

. . . .

The new findings from three experiments show that the bouba-kiki effect operates on a deeper, more fundamental level than previously observed:

“This is the first report that congruence between a visual word form and the visual properties of a shape can influence behavior when neither the word nor the object has been seen,” says researcher Shao-Min (Sean) Hung of Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, first author on the research.

. . . .

In this experiment, the target image was always a nonsense word, bubu or kiki, inside of a shape. Sometimes the word (bubu) was congruent with the shape it was in (round) and sometimes it was incongruent with the shape (angular). The participants pressed a key whenever the target image became visible.

Timing data showed that the target image broke through to conscious awareness faster when it was congruent than when it was incongruent, indicating that participants perceived and processed the relationship between word and shape before they were consciously aware of the stimuli.

Link to the rest at PsyPost

Logic: The Lost Art in Being a Fiction Writer

6 February 2017

From author Dean Wesley Smith:

I have been going on now in numbers of posts about how we fiction writers sabotage ourselves. Fear without real cause is the normal reason.

But I have another deeper reason tonight.

Lack of logic.

In a few posts I used math to try to make sense of the silliness of a few myths. Math tends to be very logical.

Simply put, fiction writers, when it comes to the very basis of being a fiction writer, toss all logic out the window and listen to people who have never written or published a book.

This goes on from the very beginning of every writer’s career.  The one uniform trait in becoming a full-time fiction writer is that you must have the ability to unlearn all the crap. Unlearn all the illogical aspects of both the craft and the business.

. . . .

— Agents. If you wouldn’t give your gardner 15% ownership of your home for mowing your lawn every week, so why give an agent 15% of your property for doing even less work? Yet writers spend years and years chasing the opportunity to do just that.

. . . .

— Wanting to Be Taken Care Of. Writers think that some major corporation only thinking of the bottom line and buying all of the writer’s rights in their work will take care of them. Yeah, P.T. Barnum had a saying for those kinds of folks.

— Book Doctor/Story Editor. Writers think that someone who has never published a novel (and wouldn’t know how to construct a novel if their life depended on it) are worth paying thousands of dollars to get advice from. These book doctors or story editors took private lessons from P.T. Barnum.

— If You Don’t Write Much You Will Get Better. This one is so stupid I have trouble even trying to talk about it without laughing. And I really enjoy the fact that writers think if they don’t write much and do it REALLY SLOWLY they will get even better. (English teachers rejoice at even less homework to read.)

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

According to Research, Procrastinating Can Boost Your Creativity

28 January 2017

From Medium:

Procrastination has a bad reputation. It’s very familiar to all of us. More often than not, it leads to nothing but anxiety, disappointment, and shame.

Almost everyone thinks it’s entirely negative, but there are times when procrastination can work in your favour. You don’t have to be anxious, disappointed and stressed all the time when you put things off, especially when you are a creative professional or need time to think through your work and generate better ideas.

When you have urgent things to take care of, you are more likely to push other tasks down the list of things to do in the day or week. Procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things. You are not necessarily being lazy or careless if you want to complete your work sometime later.

. . . .

Active procrastinators who postpone work for later are mostly in control of their time, are better managers of their time and use it purposefully without worrying too much about missing deadlines. They deliberately delay tasks and feel challenged by approaching deadlines. They comfortable with fear. And a little bit of panic or threat is not an issue.

Active procrastinators will always deliver. They are better at planning but not so good at getting stuff done early when they have lots of time. They work better under pressure though. You could argue that, it’s their way of justifying putting things off.

This doesn’t apply to to passive procrastinators who easily get anxious and can’t master the courage to concentrate and get stuff done because they are constantly thinking of running out of time.

Link to the rest at Medium

A reminder that PG doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he posts to TPV.

He was going to wait to comment until later, but decided not to do so.

My Writer’s Idyll is Busy, Messy, Full Life

23 January 2017

From The Literary Hub:

A truism long held in the literary world is that the greatest gift you can give a writer is time: to daydream, to wander, to write. Every writer thinks about what their career might look like if only life’s ordinary restrictions were lifted. In my twenties, after finishing an MFA in fiction, I was lucky enough—for seven months at least—to find out. I won one of those contests you read about in the classifieds of Poets & Writers. The PEN/Northwest Wilderness Writing Residency. In exchange for an hour-a-day of routine caretaking, I got to live rent-free and alone on a 95-acre off-the-grid homestead along the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River in Oregon. There were no neighbors, just stands of Douglas fir and madrone, a logging road, a footpath to the river.

From my writing table, I had a postcard view. A pair of apple trees framed the gate of a garden, and beyond loomed a steep, forested ridge that turned from black to palest blue in the morning sun. I had a typewriter and its satisfying clack-clack-clack-ding. I had notebooks, pens, pencils. I had an idea for a novel and all the time in the world to write. The writing should have been easy.

In my first month at the homestead, however, nothing worked. My idea for a novel suddenly seemed dumb. I wrote and scratched out paragraph after paragraph. I threw my pencil across the room. 

. . . .

In life as I’d known it before traveling to backcountry Oregon my writing time had been a contrast to the distraction of family and friends and work, a kind of oasis of dreaming. In life before, I’d only needed a few hours of quiet here and there in order to listen to myself, sort out my ideas, get words down in the shape of a story. I savored my time apart and guarded it jealously against intrusion. In Oregon, that contrast fell away.

. . . .

And now that I’m a dad and a husband and hold down a full-time job (all things I’m utterly grateful for and humbled by), I don’t have as much time to write. I don’t have time for indulgences and mistakes. If I’m going to have a successful career as a writer, I have to make use of every spare minute and hour.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

A Question…

22 January 2017

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Yesterday, in the last chapter of the book I did about writing a novel in five days while traveling, I made a comment near the end that I found the exercise fun to be able to (just for a few days) feel like I belonged in the world of the pulp writers.

And I made a comment that I was born too late.

A reader wrote me privately with a good comment. Basically the reader reminded me that I should feel lucky to have the modern things we writers use such as computers, control of our own work instead of selling it to gatekeepers and so on.

The reader made a very good point. We do have it so easy, so much easier than the pulp writers did. I know that, I study the pulp writers and their lives.

Yet even with things being easier, it is unusual for a writer in 2017 to write a novel in five days. (And realize the novel I wrote would have been on the long side for the length that pulp writers wrote.)

And the idea of someone like me doing that every week for years and years is just alien in this modern world.

So I got to wondering why? And I tried to find some reasons.

— Not a shortage of markets.

Any story can be out and in reader’s hands in very short order. No gatekeepers anymore of any value. So that’s not why.

— No problem with the mechanics.

Manual typewriters were a problem in the pulp days. (Anyone remember how to change a ribbon or carbon paper?)

But now we have computers, large screens, laptops, voice writing, you name it. All are used to make writing easier. And it is a ton easier. Not even in the same difficulty universe.

From there I came up with a blank.

Mechanics and markets, the two major limiting factors other than the writer’s belief system. And both mechanics and markets are a ton easier in the modern world.

So why do writers in this modern world not just write novels every week, week-after-week?

That even “Why?” question…

I knew the answer. Writer’s belief systems. Modern writers don’t believe they can.

That belief has been trained out.

Writers of the modern world have been taught to think that writing at pulp speed is different, unusual, a fantastic feat, massive work, and on and on and on…

I then realized I had done it too. And until tonight I hadn’t caught myself on it.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith and thanks to Colleen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Isaac Asimov wrote almost 500 books in his lifetime—these are the six ways he did it

20 January 2017

From Quartz:

If there’s one word to describe Isaac Asimov, it’s “prolific.”

To match the number of novels, letters, essays, and other scribblings Asimov produced in his lifetime, you would have to write a full-length novel every two weeks for 25 years.

Why was Asimov able to have so many good ideas when the rest of us seem to only have one or two in a lifetime? To find out, I looked into Asimov’s autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life.

. . . .

Growing up, Asimov read everything:

All this incredibly miscellaneous reading, the result of lack of guidance, left its indelible mark. My interest was aroused in twenty different directions and all those interests remained. I have written books on mythology, on the Bible, on Shakespeare, on history, on science, and so on.

. . . .

It’s refreshing to know that, like myself, Asimov often got stuck:

Frequently, when I am at work on a science-fiction novel, I find myself heartily sick of it and unable to write another word.

Getting stuck is normal. It’s what happens next, our reaction, that separates the professional from the amateur.

Asimov didn’t let getting stuck stop him. Over the years, he developed a strategy:

I don’t stare at blank sheets of paper. I don’t spend days and nights cudgeling a head that is empty of ideas. Instead, I simply leave the novel and go on to any of the dozen other projects that are on tap. I write an editorial, or an essay, or a short story, or work on one of my nonfiction books. By the time I’ve grown tired of these things, my mind has been able to do its proper work and fill up again. I return to my novel and find myself able to write easily once more.

Link to the rest at Quartz

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