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Tuesday, April 24

Putting the Ink in Imagination

By Patricia Caliskan, @Caliskaniverse_

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: "Where do you get your ideas?" is the number-one questions authors get, and the answers vary widely. Please help me welcome Patricia Caliskan to the podium today to share some idea-generating thoughts.

Patricia Caliskan began her writing career as an entertainment journalist, before joining Trinity Mirror Newsgroup. She likes a nice, flouncy scarf, a good pair of boots, and laughter. Lots of laughter. Otherwise life feels far too grown-up for her liking.

Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Take it away Patricia...

Monday, April 23

Where Does Your Novel's Conflict Come From?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I’ve read a lot of manuscripts since I started this site, and one of the more common reasons I see in stories that aren’t working is the lack of a strong conflict.

Without conflict there is no story. No matter what the story is, you can boil it down to “protagonist wants something and someone or something is standing in the way of that.” The novel is about getting past that person or thing to resolve the conflict and earn the protagonist their goal.

As simple as that sounds, it’s not always so clear when you’re looking at your story idea or even your first (or later) draft. Ideas are often more concept than plot, a great premise without a solid story yet, and the conflict at the core of that idea is fuzzy. Your instinct tells you it’s there, but critique partners or even agents just aren’t seeing it.

In most cases, the conflict isn’t strong enough yet, or it’s not clear what the actual conflict (and problem) is.

Sunday, April 22

Writing Prompt: The Re-Write: A Love Story Opening That Needs a Lot of Love

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is designed to help you practice your revision skills without the risk of messing up your manuscript. Edit the bad writing, strengthen and clarify the goals, conflict, and stakes, develop the setting, establish the character, etc. You know the drill.

You have to keep the bones of the piece, but how you get those ideas across is up to you. Add whatever details strike you, as long as you can still identify this scene as the scene I started—so no completely rewriting it from scratch. The goal is to make this monstrosity better.

Edit this opening page into something worth reading:

I knew it would end like this. I knew it would stop and cease and drag me to a terrible, awful end that would look exactly like the scene playing out before me. Which sucked.

“Why are you doing this to me,” I asked tearfully, my eyes stinging from the waterfall of tears pouring from them.

The man who had been my everything looked back and said, “I told you I was going to leave you if you didn’t quit your job as an ER nurse and stopped working the graveyard shift.”

I gasped and pressed perfectly manicured nails against matching red lips. “But Maurice, you know how much I need to be needed. Saving lives in the ER fulfills my very soul. I can’t quit.”

“Not even for me?” Maurice asked.

That was the question, wasn’t it? I thought to myself. When he had first walked into my life I thought he’d been the perfect man. So tall, so strong, and his clothes had reflected that sense of style. But he had been the most confident man I had ever met, and sometimes it felt like he didn’t need me, not the way the patients who came into the ER on the worst days of their lives did.

Who did I want? I wondered. My patients or the man I thought I loved?
For fun, let’s try to keep this as a one-page opener, so try not to go over 300 words.

Saturday, April 21

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This Scene Show a Strong Bond Between the Couple?

Critique By Maria D'Marco

Real Life 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 Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines.

Submissions currently in the queue: One

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through April 28.

This week’s questions:

1. Does this scene successfully convey a playful, sexual connection without actually describing the act?

2. Does this scene show a strong bond between the couple?

3. The beach is a strong theme throughout the novel. Is it used effectively here?

4. Would you read on?

Market/Genre: Adult fiction (Please note: This snippet contains a non-graphic sex scene)

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, April 20

Join Me for the Power of Writing Interview Series 2

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Becoming a writer isn’t an easy path! There are many challenges that new writers face on their quest to say "I am a writer" --challenges which, like those on any other quest, have to be overcome if we wish to find the treasure at the end.

Some of these common challenges include: Wondering what you should be writing about; finding the time and the inspiration to write; overcoming the fear of not being good enough, of what might come up; not writing consistently; procrastinating; getting easily distracted; struggling with keep a writer’s journal that inspires and guide your writing life (because you know you should be doing that but you just…don’t!)

Thursday, April 19

Easy Ways to Sell Signed Copies of Your Novel Online

By J. Kathleen Cheney, @jkcheney

Part of the Indie Authors Series

I’ve been in this author game for a while, and it still surprises me when someone wants a signed copy of one of my books.

Signings, both at conventions and at bookstores, are often fraught things, with no one showing up at one signing when the next week twenty people stand at your table. For some of us writers, those public appearances are quite stressful. And while there are those among us who are even brave enough to rent a table at a convention and sell from there, I haven’t had the nerve to join those ranks yet. (Jaimie Engle talks about selling at an event here.)

As it is, I’m doing only a few appearances a year, so I can’t get very many signed copies out there anyway. And what about that nice person who can’t get to your signing?

Wednesday, April 18

5 Ways to Structure (and Plot) Your Novel

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Writing is a creative process with a lot of variables, but basic story structure is consistent and reliable. Hit these points at roughly these times and you will finish a complete story arc and novel.

Note I said “complete” and not “good.” We all know there’s so much more to writing than putting the right pieces in the right places, but solid story structure is the first step to creating a solid story. Plenty of well-written novels with good ideas have stumbled and failed because they had flawed structure, and that hurt the overall story.

Think about a movie you’ve seen that should have been great, but wasn’t, because:
  • It felt unevenly paced
  • It didn’t take advantage of the cool things it setup
  • It felt like it was missing important moments
  • It was predictable

Tuesday, April 17

10 Best Packing Tips For Authors

By Gail Carriger, @gailcarriger

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Whether you're published (yet) or not, odds are you'll attend a writing event at some point in your writing journey. For those requiring overnight stays, some special packing just might be in order. Gail Carriger returns to the lecture hall today, to share her tips on packing well for a writers' event.

Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance (and the sexy San Andreas Shifter series as G.L. Carriger). Her steampunk books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Supernatural Society, and Delightfully Deadly series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr

Take it away Gail...

Monday, April 16

The Easiest Way to Get More Writing Done

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I’m always looking for ways to be more productive (and organized, which for me, is a lot harder), so I’ll try just about anything that sounds interesting. But what has worked better than anything else I’ve ever done, is something anyone can do.

Turn off my email when I sit down to write.

Turning off my wifi is even better.

When I have no distractions, I get more writing done. But when email is sitting there with its little Inbox (13) staring at me from the bottom of my screen, it’s hard not to click over “just to check.” Especially when I hit a point in my scene where I’m not sure what the next sentence is. Instead of focusing and getting past it, I’m wasting time looking at an email I don’t need to worry about right now.

Sunday, April 15

Writing Prompt: The Story Starter: A Difficult Situation

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a story starter, so take the element provided and turn it into a story of any length you choose. If you’re stuck on size, I suggest aiming for 1000-2000 words.

Your protagonist just learned someone they trust betrayed them. While they’re trying to process it, that person calls needing their help.

Fill this situation out with whatever details you want, as long as you use this core problem.