From Fiction University: I'm currently taking a blogging/writing break during the month of September to deal with family health issues. There will be no new posts until October. But please feel free to read through the archives for posts you might have missed. Thank you for your patience during this difficult time.

Friday, September 03, 2021

I’m Taking a September Break

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy


Everyone, I have some news.  

Things are a bit tough in the Hardy House right now, so I’m taking a month off from work. The blog will be quiet until October, and I won’t be doing my normal social media links or newsletters. Guest posts and critique diagnostics are on hold, and rescheduled for next month, but don’t worry, it’ll all be back soon. I still love you guys, and still love writing the blog. I just need some time to handle some “big life stuff.”

My husband was recently (and utterly out of the blue) diagnosed with cancer, and as you can imagine, writing is the last thing on my mind at the moment. This has all happened so fast and our heads are still spinning trying to process it. He started a month-long treatment yesterday, and I won’t have any extra focus or energy for all the things I usually do. Luckily, I can hit the pause button and take this break.

When life-changing events happen, it’s common to feel helpless and out of control, and want to do something, so I’m donating the proceeds of all September book sales to the Leukemia Research Foundation. Coincidentally, September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, so I guess that’s good timing.

If you already have all my books, but still want to donate, here’s their website. And thanks for that. 

Thank you for understanding, and for all the support and kind words everyone has always given me. I’ve been writing this blog for thirteen years now, and many of you have been here from the start. I appreciate that more than you know.

See you all in October,
Janice

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Struggling with Writing Burnout? Try These Tricks

By Shanna Swendson, @ShannaSwendson


Part of The Writer’s Life Series 


JH: After years of difficult times for everyone, many writers are struggling with burnout. Shanna Swendson shares ways to deal with not wanting to write and how to handle it. 

Shanna Swendson earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas but decided it was more fun to make up the people she wrote about and became a novelist. She’s written a number of fantasy novels for teens and adults, including the Enchanted, Inc. series and the Rebel Mechanics series. She devotes her spare time to reading, knitting, and music. Her newest novel is the paranormal mystery Interview with a Dead Editor

Website | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

Take it away Shanna…

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

On the Road: Is Your Story Hurting Your Novel?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I'm over at Writers in the Storm today with 5 Ways Your Story Hurts Your Novel. Here's a sneak peek:

When your technical writing skills are at a professional level, but you're still not getting bites from agents, editors (or readers if you self-publish), it's time to look at the story itself.

One of the more frustrating aspects of being an author is the sheer unfairness of publishing. There’s a strange and unfathomable ratio between good writing and good storytelling that sends some manuscripts to the reject pile and others to the bestseller list.

And nobody knows what that ratio is—worse, it’s different for each person, and even each genre.

“Great writing” isn’t enough, and we’ve all read books that aren't well written but still sold millions of copies.

Now, I'm certainly NOT saying that good writing skill isn't something to worry about or work toward. Just that these “badly written best sellers” resonated with readers on such a deep level that they didn't care about the technical craft of the text. They didn't read them to marvel at the skills of the authors, they read them for the stories.

 Read the full article here.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Layered Method for Creating Consistent Characters

By Ann Harth, @Annharth 

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: A great character has more to them that just a few obvious traits. Ann Harth shares a layered approached to creating compelling characters readers will love.

Developing believable characters is one of the most important components of writing fiction. One technique for creating three-dimensional, consistent characters is to know them as well as you know yourself – even before you start writing.

If you struggle with creating characters, it may help to think of developing a character layer by layer. Here is one simple, 8-layer method for developing a realistic character.

Layer 1. Create a still image.


Start by creating a sketchy character file that includes only physical attributes. Have a clear picture of your character in mind:
  • Hair color, length and texture
  • Eye color, shape and size
  • Skin tone - fair, dark, clear, spotty, splotchy
  • Height and build

Saturday, August 21, 2021

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at Starting with Action in an Opening Scene

Critique by Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

WIP Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and we diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to WIP Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines. 

Submissions currently in the queue: Five

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through September 25.

This week’s questions:

I’d appreciate your opinion on whether this opening captures the reader’s attention without losing them wondering what’s happening, when and where. I’ve had some critiques mention that starting in the action has to ‘be earned’, so I’d be interested in your take on it. I’m trying to tell less and show more without leaving too much out.

Market/Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic

On to the diagnosis…

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Forbidden Formats: The Risks and Rewards of Uncommon Narrative Structures

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The How They Do It Series


JH: Not every story needs to be told in the Three Act Structure. Bonnie Randall shares three examples of narrative structures that defy convention
and still work.

Every fiction writer from veteran to novice knows there’s a collection of “don’ts” when writing.

Don’t use adverbs

Don’t use adjectives

Don’t use any tag other than ‘said’.

Don’ts abound in narrative structures, too, (how the story is delivered). Nevertheless, this summer I’ve read several bodies of fiction that used ‘Forbidden Formats’ with outstanding results. Let’s unpack a few and analyze why they worked—and how they can be utilized in your fiction.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

11 Reasons Why You Should Submit Your Short Stories to Anthologies

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Submitting a short story to an anthology has a lot of benefits. Rayne Hall shares 11 reasons why you should give one a try.

Getting short stories published in anthologies (collections of stories by multiple authors) can be a big stepping stone in your fiction writing career.

Here are the reasons why you should try:

1. As a Yardstick


If an anthology editor selects your story, it proves that your writing is good enough to be published. New writers can't judge the quality of their own writing, and friends and family aren't unbiased judges either. So if an independent editor chooses your piece over others, it confirms that your writing has reached an important threshold. Of course, some anthologies have higher standards and are more difficult to get into than others. While getting accepted by any anthology is great for a novice, seasoned writers will seek to get into one of the top anthologies of their genre.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Why Ask Why? Because Your Readers Will

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Making readers wonder is a good thing—unless they have no clue why your characters are acting as they do, or your world makes no sense.

It’s easy to think plotting is all about the what—after all, the plot is what happens to your characters. But while the what is important to how the story unfolds, the why is what’s driving that story to unfold in the first place. What without why is just action with any motivation.

A strong plot will combine both the what and the why.


A weak novel often has characters who are acting only because plot says they need to—there’s no plausible reason for them to behave that way. And worse, none of their actions have consequences that force them to act again so the whole GMC plot cycle can continue. Your scenes get stuck and you aren’t sure why, they feel flat and it’s hard not to skim, and you probably have a nagging feeling the scene isn’t doing enough. You know what happens, but not why.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at a Historical Fiction First Page

Critique by Maria D'Marco

WIP Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and we diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to WIP Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines. 

Submissions currently in the queue: Six

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through September 25.

This week’s question:

Does this opening scene work?

Market/Genre: Historical Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, August 13, 2021

A 9-Step Plotting Path to a Stronger Novel

By Ann Harth, @Annharth 

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: There are as many ways to plot as there are to write. Ann Harth shares a character-focused process that helps her visualize her novel's plot.

Ann Harth writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. Strong, interesting female characters creep into many of her books, and many arrive with a sense of humor. She taught writing for the Australian College of Journalism for eight years before taking the leap into freelance writing and structural editing work.

Ann has had a number of fiction and non-fiction children’s books published in Australia and the UK and over 130 short stories sold internationally. When not tapping the keys, Ann stuffs a notebook into her pack and searches for remote places to camp, hike or explore.

Take it away Ann...