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Tuesday, July 16

4 Writing Pitfalls to Avoid at All Costs

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Even though every writer has their own process, we still all face the same problems from time to time. Laurence MacNaughton is back this month with tips on avoiding the pitfalls no writer wants to stumble into.

Has your writing fallen into a black hole? Has your pacing dropped to a crawl, or your suspense become a snore? Do you just feel stuck? You might be sabotaging your own writing without even knowing it. But don't panic. Here's how to avoid the four most perilous pitfalls of writing.

Pitfall #1: Your plot is going nowhere.

If your story is bogging down, it's probably because you (the author) need to spend more time visualizing the specific outcome your main character wants.

Think about your main character for a minute. This person should desperately want to either: A) achieve something positive; or B) avoid something negative. Maybe both.

What does your main character want, exactly?

Monday, July 15

What Matters More? Story Execution or the Idea?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The age-old quandary--is a well-written novel novel better than a great idea?

Idea or execution. Two directions many writers struggle with. Should they write the technically perfect book and not worry about the idea, or find the perfect story and not worry about the writing?

The realty is that each takes precedence at different points of a writer's career. Sometimes you'll want to worry about the technical aspects of writing, and later, the storytelling is what matters more. By the end of your path, both become vital for success.

But you don't have to hit that end goal first, and focusing on the wrong aspect at the wrong time can even hurt you. I've seen plenty of first-time writers worry so much over finding the perfect idea that it keeps them from writing at all. I've also seen many long-term writers who were so sure of their ideas that they didn't bother to edit after a first draft.

Both types of writers struggled much more than than needed to.

For those of you heading down the writing path and wondering which matters more--idea or execution--consider where you are on your journey before you decide where to put your creative energy.

Saturday, July 13

Real Life Diagnostics: Is There Enough Tension and Interest to Keep You Reading?

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

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: Two

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through July 27.

This week’s questions:

1. What are your expectations from these opening lines?

2. In your view, what promise is made to the reader?

3. Is there enough tension to keep you reading?

4. What is your overall impression?

Market/Genre: General Fiction

Note: This is a revised snippet: Here’s the original if you’d like to see what the author did

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, July 12

Whose Head is it Anyway? Understanding Omniscient Point of View

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes an updated look at writing the omniscient point of view.

One of the more challenging point of views to write is the omniscient point of view. You'd think it would be easiest, since it's "someone outside the story telling the story," and the author fits that description, but an omniscient narrator makes it easier to fall into a common writing issues, such as infodumping and telling.

For those unfamiliar with the term, third person omniscient point of view is when somewhere other than a character in the book is telling the story. This outside narrator knows things the characters don't, can make comments about what's happening (or about to happen) or see inside the heads of other characters.

That's the key to omniscient point of view: it conveys things the characters don't or can't know.

Seems easy enough, right?

The trouble is, a detached third person limited can sound a lot like third person omniscient, especially if it's not changing characters. So much so, that sometimes it's hard to know the difference.

Thursday, July 11

Developing an Audiobook: An Indie Author’s Perspective

By Ray Flynt

Part of The Indie Author Series

JH: Audiobooks are hugely popular, but not every author knows how to create one for their novels. Ray Flynt is back in the lecture hall today to walk us through the process of creating an audiobook. 

In its purest form, writing a novel is storytelling. The world’s first books undoubtedly had their genesis in timeless stories once told around campfires. We also know that children learn to read and develop their own love of books by being read to, whether from those first Golden Books or hearing about the adventures of Harry Potter.

Thanks to (an Amazon company) Indie Authors can see their stories come to life as an audiobook. It makes sense to have your books available in as many formats as possible to appeal to a broad audience. I’m always puzzled when I see Indie Authors say, “I only have my novel available as an eBook, since a print version would be too expensive.” It’s my contention that if you’re willing to spend time and a modest amount of money, you can easily develop a trade paperback. In this article, I’ll provide my perspective on adding an audiobook format to your available mix.

Wednesday, July 10

The Overwritten Novel: Identify & Fix Purple Prose in Your Novel

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Going too far in our writing happens, and a good sentence or even scene can turn into an overwritten mess. 

The term purple prose has been around as long as I've been writing, and chances are you've heard it to. You'll also hear folks say "the prose is too flowery" or it feels "overwritten." People know it when they see it, but how do you spot it in your own work? And more importantly--how do you fix it?

If you're unfamiliar with the term, purple or flowery prose is so filled with adjectives and adverbs, similes and metaphors, that it screams "hey look! I'm fancy writing" and distracts you from the actual story. You often need a thesaurus just to read it.

Overwritten text is trying too hard, either trying hard to sound "written" or trying to explain too much. For example, one sentence that uses fifteen words when three is enough. Or explaining every single step in a task that doesn't need it. If you ever thought to yourself, "Yeah, I get it, he was angry, move on" then you probably read an overwritten passage.

(Here's more on Avoid Overwriting – Subtle is More Sophisticated)

Tuesday, July 9

Plotting Made Easy: Do You Need the Three-Act Structure?

By Alex Limberg, @RidethePen

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Not every writer writes the same way, and not every story follows the same path. Please help me welcome Alex Limberg to the lecture hall today to share some thoughts on why and when you might want to ignore the three act structure.

Alex is blogging on ‘Ride the Pen’ to help you boost your fiction writing. His blog dissects famous authors (works, not bodies). Create an intriguing story structure with his checklist 44 Key Questions” to test your story (free download) or check out his fun and detailed creative writing prompts. Shakespeare is jealous. Alex has worked as a copywriter and lived in Vienna, Los Angeles, Madrid and Hamburg.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Take it away Alex...

Monday, July 8

Plotting for the Thrill: Making the Most of the Worst That Can Happen

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to your protagonist is the worst thing for the story, too.

"What's the worst thing that can happen? Do it," is good advice when plotting a novel. It adds conflict, escalates the stakes, and raises the tension.

The downside, though, is that sometimes letting our readers know what "the worst thing" is, is actually bad for the story.

I ran into this problem when I was drafting my fourth novelThe "worst thing" was something pretty darn terrible, so when my protagonist found out about it, she naturally tried to stop it (as protagonists are wont to do).

Unfortunately, this happened well before the third act and climax of the novel, so "the worst thing" was out there in the story and readers would know what it was. Knowing it would spoil a lot of the tension because the stakes could no longer escalate.

I had a choice to make--tell the reader and risk killing my tension or keep it a secret and risk not raising the stakes enough.

If you're facing this dilemma n your current project, here are some things to consider:

Sunday, July 7

Writing Prompt: The Chain Story: That's Not Right.

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Last month I took a survey to see which Sunday post you guys preferred--tips or prompts. Most asked for tips, but enough of you also liked the prompts I decided that the first Sunday of every month would be for prompts.

This month’s prompt is a chain story! I’ll give you the first line, and someone else comments and builds off that line. Next commenter will build off that line, and so on.

In the event of two commenters posting at the same time and sending the story in different directions, just pick the line you like best, or try to incorporate both if you can.

There was definitely something wrong with him.

Let the fun begin.

Saturday, July 6

Real Life Diagnostics: Does the Dialogue in This Scene Work?

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

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: Three

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through July 27.

This week’s question:

Does this scene with dialogue work?

Market/Genre: Contemporary Romance

On to the diagnosis…