Writing Advice

Every morning, I am full of fear

28 May 2016

From David Kadavy via Medium:

It’s 8:59am. I’m getting started later than usual. I spent a few more minutes in bed because I was scared.

Heck, I’m scared right now as I type this.

I’m not as scared as I was 5 minutes ago, when I was getting dressed. The fear was much worse then. I walked toward my keyboard, and I had to turn around.

There was a smudge on my glasses. There was no way I could do what I was about to do with this smudge on my glasses. I had to clean my glasses. My glasses had to be crystal clear.

I couldn’t delay any longer. As I lay my fingers on the home keys, the fear peaked.

. . . .

I’m scared because by the time I’m done typing this article, I hope it makes sense. If not, I have until about 9:59am before it goes out into the world, making sense or not.

I’m scared because after I hit Publish, I’ll spend some amount of time checking to see how many people read this article; and how many people ♥’d it. This will briefly have some effect on my sense of self-worth.

I’m scared because there’s a good chance someone will leave a comment that makes me feel hurt, or worth-less, or angry for, like, a few seconds.

Link to the rest at Medium

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What makes bad writing bad?

22 May 2016

From The Guardian:

Bad writing is mainly boring writing. It can be boring because it is too confused or too logical, or boring because it is hysterical or lethargic, or boring because nothing really happens. If I give you a 400 page manuscript of an unpublished novel – something that I consider to be badly written – you may read it to the end, but you will suffer as you do.

It’s possible that you’ve never had to read 80,000 words of bad writing. The friend of a friend’s novel. I have. On numerous occasions. If you ask around, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a really bad novel easily enough. I mean a novel by someone who has spent isolated years writing a book they are convinced is a great work of literature. And when you’re reading it you’ll know it’s bad, and you’ll know what bad truly is.

. . . .

Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

. . . .

Bad writers often want to rewrite a book by another writer that was written in a different time period, under completely different social conditions. Because it’s a good book, they see no reason why they can’t simply do the same kind of thing again. They don’t understand that even historical novels or science fiction novels are a response to a particular moment. And pretending that the world isn’t as it is – or that the world should still be as it once was – is disastrous for any serious fiction.

. . . .

Bad writers often believe they have very little left to learn, and that it is the literary world’s fault that they have not yet been recognised, published, lauded and laurelled. It is a very destructive thing to believe that you are very close to being a good writer, and that all you need to do is keep going as you are rather than completely reinvent what you are doing. Bad writers think: “I want to write this.” Good writers think: “This is being written.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Dear Novel: On Breaking Up with Your Manuscript

21 May 2016

From Nick Ripatrazone via The Millions:

Dear Novel,

It’s over. We both know it.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t been fun. We got together in the summer of 2012. You were a short story, a few thousand glorious words, but I wanted you to be more. Every fiction writer thinks they need to be in a long-term relationship.

I hated when people wanted to call you manuscript. You were better than that. You were always a novel. At least in my mind. You started as a single-worded file name, Harvest. I already had high hopes for you. I must have just watched Days of Heaven and listened to Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for the thousandth time. I finished your first draft a few days after Thanksgiving that year.

I should have listened to you more. You were happier as a story. I tried to make this more than it was. I even realized the truth when people asked my favorite question, “what is your novel about?” Halfway during my description of you, I would revise you. I sped up your first chapters. I used the word “revenge” several times when describing your plot. If I noticed their eyes drifting away, I said you were “intense.”

Link to the rest at The Millions

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

Publish Your First Draft

18 May 2016

From TPV regular Bill Peshel via Medium:

In the past few months I learned a very important lesson about the best way to revise your novel.


It’s a waste of time and energy. Not only don’t readers mind too much, they’ll still buy your books.

Grammar errors, spelling errors, sentences tangled like the earbud cords in your pocket: Not a problem.

Put it out. Rake in the bucks.

I had heard stories like this when I was doing research for my first book, “Writers Gone Wild.” One of my favorites concerned Harold Robbins, who made millions from warehouse-sized novels stuffed with hard-driven lusty businessmen and luscious amoral women. He titillated readers with scenes like in “The Carpetbaggers,” where a prostitute entertains a big Hollywood movie producer by shaving his body, giving him a long massage, a joint to relax him, and then has sex in a bathtub full of champagne, hot stuff for a book published in 1961!

Robbins lived high on his wealth. He bought houses in L.A. and Acapulco. He sailed the Mediterranean in his yacht. He threw sex parties and did drugs. He grew disenchanted, then hateful, of churning out potboilers, and would start writing only when he had spent his advance. By this time, he was writing a first draft only, leaving his editor to do the hard work of revision, if any were done.

Publisher Michael Korda recounts in his memoirs the time when he, as a young editor, met Robbins about a problem his found in his latest manuscript. Robbins had written half the book and shelved it when more money came in. By the time he returned to it, he had remembered the story but forgotten which character did what. Instead of reading the manuscript, he carried on writing.

. . . .

 First up is Michael Anderle, who has published at least five books since January — yes, that’s five months ago — and is well on his way to earning $50K within the year.

Anderle’s procedure, which he described in detail on The Author Biz podcast, is simple. Borrowing from the software industry the principal of “minimally viable product,” he wrote his first book, “Death Becomes Her,” in a few days and published it. In nine days, he wrote the 67,000-word sequel and published that. Writing and publishing his third book took 13 days. He worked without an editor, or even a second reader, because he didn’t know if the book would sell. As he said on the podcast: “I didn’t want to spend $500 on a book that didn’t sell.”

What’s surprising is that he receives 4- and 5-star reviews from readers saying the books are wretchedly written, but the story made them want to keep reading.

. . . .

 The books are wretchedly written, but fast-moving. The wretched prose, the mixed syntax, the bad grammar, and the typos would barely raise a sneer from the MFA-educated crowd. They’re used to a publishing industry that already embraces James Patterson and Dan Brown’s barely literate level of storytelling. The bar was already low; it’s just being slid through the wood chipper and scattered over the culture like salt at Carthage.

Link to the rest at Medium

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

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Ways Not to Write a Mystery Novel

16 May 2016

From author Jacqueline Diamond via Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Not again. Please, not again.

Struggling to conquer my fear, I reach out and click on the screen. No! I draw back in horror, the air suddenly heavy in my lungs.

Damn. Not another mystery novel that starts with the villain slashing up an innocent young woman.

For my 101st published novel, I returned to a genre in which I hadn’t written for more than a decade: the murder mystery. In preparation, I read or at least scanned the initial pages of numerous mysteries. Dozens were bypassed based on a few pages. Even those that made the cut to Buy Now sometimes proved disappointing.

We can’t always create unforgettable classics. But we can avoid mistakes that undermine our hard work and discourage readers.

I won’t dwell on problems common to all forms of fiction, such as head-hopping and multiple grammatical errors. Today’s subject is writing mysteries (not thrillers or romantic suspense, although some of the same cautions apply).

Let’s demystify it with a dozen ways not to write a mystery.

1. The blonde-dies-at-midnight opening

A nasty villain stalks and murders an innocent woman in the prologue. Maybe this still sells, but I’ve heard from a lot of readers that they’re sick of it. (I can NOT read these books anymore. I call this the Law and Order opening, because they use it in every one of those TV shows…Anne)

Of course, it’s fine to start with a crime. Just make it unusual in some way.

2. The hi-I’m-Sally-and-here’s-all-about-my-messed-up-life opening.

Cozy mystery readers do want to meet your engaging heroine as she ventures into a new town or career, but remember the old advice to show-don’t-tell.
Put the reader into a scene. Or, if you must start by addressing the reader directly, move into action within a page or so rather than dumping all the back story and introducing us to a long list of characters.

Now for clichés and other problems that can weaken the rest of the book.

3. Incompetent police.

How many times have you read a mystery in which the detectives fixate on the wrong suspect and ignore clues that amateurs spot almost immediately?
Today’s police are well trained in investigative techniques. Do thorough research—and don’t rely on TV shows. I recommend starting with Forensics for Dummies (2nd Edition) by D.P. Lyle, MD. It’s thorough yet readable.

. . . .

7. Ignoring the police after the initial crime scene investigation.

I’m referring to cozy mysteries, of course, since this wouldn’t happen in a police procedural. Even though they can’t discuss an ongoing investigation, the police shouldn’t be just sitting around waiting for an amateur to solve the case.

Dr. Darcy’s best friend, Keith, is a homicide detective. We hear about his activities both from witnesses he’s interviewed and when he occasionally lets information slip by accident. Also, my widowed hero’s sister-in-law, Tory, is a PI who fills Eric in about what steps the police would be taking.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

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

Why I write 1000 Words Every Day

15 May 2016

From Medium:

Morning pages are the primary tool of a creative recovery: From my perspective they are the bedrock of a creative life. Three pages of stream of consciousness writing done “before the day begins,” Morning pages serve to prioritize, clarify, and ground the day’s activities- Julia Cameron

. . . .

Writing 1000 words each morning is what Charles Duhigg would refer to as one of my keystone habits. It’s changed my life in countless ways, personally, professionally and financially.

. . . .

However, the primary reason I do this every morning is that it provides me with a sense of progress. Recently, I was listening to a seminar given by Brian Tracy, the same one that inspired the idea for my post about why nobody ever changed the world by checking email. One of the things he said was success comes from task completion.

By completing a task, instead of the dopamine shot we get from checking email or the number of likes, we actually experience an increase in endorphins. We experience visible progress, which is a precursor to flow. And we feel compelled to complete more tasks.

By writing 1000 words each morning, I not only end up creating flow. I carry that into everything else that I throughout the day. I end up in a peak state of mind, which is a priceless asset. As a result, I crave flow and deep work more than I crave the temporary dopamine hit that I get from checking email or Facebook. This leads to a much more productive day.

. . . .

When I start putting pen to paper in the morning, I’m working my way through a lot of incomplete thoughts and half-baked ideas. But this really in many ways is part of the purpose of having a daily writing practice. It creates clarity.

Link to the rest at Medium

The Gap

13 May 2016

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

To boost your creativity, procrastinate

11 May 2016

From Quartz:

Procrastination, it turns out, may not be such a bad thing after all.

The most effective way to tackle a new creative assignment is to put it off for a while, according to psychologist Maria Konnikova.

“You’re actually doing the smartest and most productive thing in the world if you waste time.”

. . . .

In a 2016 TED talk, Wharton Business School organizational psychologist and self-described “pre-crastinator” Adam Grant argued that moderate procrastination was a necessary habit for original thinkers. “Our first ideas, after all, are usually our most conventional,” he explained in a Jan. 17 New York Times editorial.

Grant described a study by former student Jihae Shin, which shows that people who played a video game before working came up with more original business ideas than those who immediately put their noses to the grindstone. Canadian psychology professor and host of theiProcrastinate podcast Timothy A Pychyl also encourages procrastination, though he cautions that not all delays enhance creativity. The bottom-line: Creative insight needs time to gestate.

Famous out-of-the-box thinkers like Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King were chronic procrastinators. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest creative minds in history, took 16 years to finish the Mona Lisa.

. . . .

The purpose of procrastinating, said Konnikova, is “to make sure to have perspective before you start working.”

Link to the rest at Quartz

‘They’: the singular pronoun that could solve sexism in English

9 May 2016

From The Guardian:

I got in trouble over a four-letter word the other day. None of the ones you are thinking of: it was “they” that caused a fracas that Jeremy Clarkson would have been proud of.

At the start of 2016, the good folks of the American Dialect Society got together to crown their Word of the Year. They (see what I’m doing here) have decided that the word could now be used as a singular pronoun, flexing the English language so a plural could denote a singular, genderless, individual.

. . . .

Growing up almost two centuries later, I was just supposed to understand that language excluded me because I was a girl: I was out, except when it came to naming hurricanes and referring to ships. I was once told as a kid that all hurricanes were female because women were so destructive; a barbed comment I never questioned because at the time I already sensed some things were easier if you were a boy.

. . . .

Winnie-the-Pooh author AA Milne once wrote: “If the English language had been properly organised … there would be a word which meant both ‘he’ and ‘she’, and I could write: ‘If John or May comes, heesh will want to play tennis,’ which would save a lot of trouble.” And this is an English problem; the “all languages are this way, it’s just the way of the world” argument is a convenient one, but not true. While the push to use “they” as a genderless pronoun is new for English, it is rather old hat in other languages: while English was picking and choosing its vocabulary from Latin and German, so many other languages – Turkish, Hungarian, Finnish, Persian – are entirely genderless. The Pipil language, a language indigenous to Central America, uses a genderless pronoun – “yaja” – to refer to “he or she”. Others have attempted to amend their language by borrowing from others – as Sweden did by introducing the gender-neutral “hen”, based on “hän”, meaning “he or she” in Finnish – with varying degrees of success. Not English.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Writer’s Block

7 May 2016

Writer's Block – A Supercut from Ben Watts on Vimeo.

Thanks to Antares for the tip.

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