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A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard February 3, 2022 Have you ever played solitaire and hedged your bets, keeping a card in your hand until you see a definite progression with the ones you’ve already laid down? My experience is that at least half the time, …

What are my book’s chances? Recently, one of the novice writers I worked with (we did chapter-by-chapter editorial coaching through an entire draft of his novel) asked me to rate his chances of getting the book accepted by an agent or publisher, on a scale …

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain Tidbits from Quiet: Open plan offices reduce productivity and impair memory. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated and insecure. Online collaborations can be very successful, but that doesn’t mean work …

There is nothing so precious and productive as a good writing group. Why? It gives a writer: Accountability — people are waiting to read your stuff, so you write it Support — getting published ain’t easy, but we’re in it together Skill-building — not just in …

As a book editor, I often see writers use too many words–more words than are needed to create the moment or make the point. Every piece of writing needs white space. This gives the reader a chance to pause and let the ideas resonate. Wordiness …

John Cleese, who writes, acts and does comedy, says that creativity is not an ability or a talent. It is unrelated to IQ. It is simply an ability to play. It all starts with spending time in what he calls ‘open’ mode, where you enjoy …

In the writer’s quest to understand ourselves (and thereby avoid extinction), reading about how to improve your mood and your productivity, thus increasing the odds that you’ll get things done (even better, done well) can be useful. This book is one in a long line …

The Humanity Project was published by Plume (a Penguin imprint) in 2014. The Sky is Falling was published by Thomas Allen in 2010. Could it be a coincidence that their book covers are so similar? Do garden gnomes in the grass mean something in the …

Books written during the pandemic are appearing on library shelves. It seems almost inconceivable that it could happen so quickly. It’s only 2022! And these are traditionally published books, ones that have had to make their way through many steps following that first draft. I …

These are five dangerous words for someone who wants to write a book (or story, essay, blog post, etc.). They’re right up there with “if I have time.” “I’ll work on my story today…if I feel like it.” These words are especially dangerous if you’re …

Writing’s biggest challenge? Writing any book-length work is a deep dive into complete freedom. You have utter freedom because the blank page holds limitless possibility. Aside from genre requirements (thrillers need good pacing and high stakes, romances need a Happily Ever After—or a Happily For …

In my editorial experience, writers go through more trouble nailing point of view (POV) for a piece of fiction than almost any other topic I’ve come across. The only real test of POV is whether it works. By “works,” I mean whether it is basically …

Sometimes I think about how I should start the book I’m working on. Right now I have about 23,000 words written, so when I say “start,” I’m not talking about the process. The process of writing a book is separate from the book’s starting point, …

The Power of Voice If you’ve ever submitted anything for publishing, you already know that a ‘meh’ piece of work is unlikely to get into print. Literary mags get far more submissions than they can fit into a few issues a year. Agents and publishers …

Writing is a “learn by doing” thing, and the only way to learn how to write a book is to write one. This is problematic for many reasons, the main one being that writing a book is confusing, difficult, and almost always optional. Several years …

In an hour Manifestos are an excellent tool for getting clarity about your life, or about a particular aspect of your life…like writing. Writing a manifesto reminds you a) your experience is valid, and b) if you don’t know where you stand on something that …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard January 6, 2022 The Idea Itself The first step in any writing project is to create a container. The “container” consists of: Your Inspiration—the idea itself Your Why—why you, why now, why this book Your Ideal Reader—who you see enjoying the …

Sometimes projects get a little scary. This happened to me on the third draft of a novel called LIQUID WORLD, when it started to take on a feral quality. I was worried that if I came at the revision from the wrong angle, the novel …

While you write the first couple of drafts of any long document, the following questions are always present: • Is it worth writing? • Can I write it? • Can I write it well enough that someone will love reading it?

If you write historical fiction, taking apart the novel of a master of the form can be illuminating. For example, how does Peter Carey convey historical information in his novel, Parrot and Olivier in America. (The novel is reviewed by Thomas Mallon in the NY …

That crucible of invention known as the 3-Day Novel Contest takes place every Labor Day weekend. Billed as “The World’s Most Notorious Writing Contest,” it originated back in the dawn of time, aka the late 1970s. Read the story of its birth here. My 3-Day …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard March 3, 2022 “Writing is like driving at night. You can see only as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  E.L. Doctorow, in interview,Vogue magazine (Nov. 1984) Good metaphors like Doctorow’s express a truth, and …

There’s a meme on that social media platform old people use (Facebook), which goes like this: Start by doing 1 push up. Start by drinking 1 cup of water. Start by paying toward 1 debt. Start by reading 1 page. Start by making 1 sale. …

The cover of this little self-help book, first published in 1936, says {A formula for success that really works!} Or, “What would you do if you knew it was impossible to fail?” The premise is that we fail (or don’t reach our potential) because we’re always …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard March 17, 2022 “…Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.” Agatha ChristieAn Autobiography Ain’t that the truth? Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. She also lived an interesting life. …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard February 17, 2022 “What continual rejection did…was drive me back into the basics of who I was” Pat Barker Pat Barker worked hard on two novels she described to Valerie Stivers of The Paris Review as “sensitive middle-class-lady novels, the kind of …

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A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard January 6, 2022 Let your stuff go! Turns out I’m a hoarder. Not of material goods (ahem, unless we mean certain books), but of my own writing.  Fourteen projects, to be exact. Two novels (one a 76,000 word novel about which …

When live readings come back, will you be ready? A few years ago I was at a nonfiction reading where the writer at the podium kept asking what time it was and leafing through his book, muttering “OK…OK…OK.” He panicked halfway through his time slot, …

Have you been querying for a while and not getting any results? If you’re new to the business of book publishing, you might not be aware that literary agents (and acquisitions editors at publishing houses) are facing an unprecedented tsunami of writing. Along with that, the …

Want a good way to start your book? Sometimes, seeing a book’s opening unfiltered through the act of choosing it (reading the blurb, seeing the cover and the author’s name) reveals its essence more directly. The following quotes are openings from four books. Two are …

And How to Find It The edit is where your novel goes from good to great―where you learn your own foibles and develop your skills. It is where serious writers are made, and great works born. Martin Stewart As a developmental editor by day (and …

If what you’re writing isn’t the quality you wanted or hoped for, it’s easy to think, “I’m not good at this.” I don’t have the talent I don’t know how My stuff is boring This sucks. What’s on Netflix right now? There’s always something on …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard March 31, 2022 Writing a book? Here are 4 no-fail shortcuts to a good first draft: 1. Make it true. Fiction or nonfiction, capture the truth as you understand it.  2. Make it clear. You’re talking to someone when you …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard April 14, 2022 “If you wait until you got time to write a novel, or time to write a story, or time to read the hundred thousands of books you should have already read – if you wait for the …

Sometimes you come across a book about writing that contains exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. Here is a closer look at five excellent books that will deepen your understanding of the craft of fiction. From quick reads (the Hugo book) to …