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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 …

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. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor is one …

If you’re anything like me, you like to “learn by doing.” I’m a big reader, but I’m not big on technical manuals or marketing guides. So when I want to do something like create an online writing course, my tendency is to dive right in …

Not everyone can (or wants to) hire an editor. But what an editor can do is see your novel with fresh eyes. That’s harder for the writer, who’s gotten deep inside each character and scene, each sentence and paragraph. What do you need to do? …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

What a paradox: the freedom created by restrictions! When I teach fiction, I will do a five-minute timed writing early in the class to get everyone sweating and full of joie de vivre. Shit’s getting real! Is it artificial pressure? Yes. Does it work? Yes. …

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 …

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 …

A geek-fest on POV in Flannery O’Connor’s WISE BLOOD. I’ve read a lot of books and I plan to read a lot more, and what I want from each book is to feel interested in the characters. I don’t need to like them, or feel …

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 …

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 …

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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 …

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 …

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. …

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 …

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?

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 …

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, …

Here at A Writer’s Roadmap we believe that writing a book is one of the greatest ‘learn by doing’ pursuits you can engage in. Part of its greatness is that to really learn how to write a book, you must complete the project. You can’t …

Binge writing, that is. Especially for a first draft, or for tricky sections where the ideas are slippery, and the only way to grasp them is to write like a demon until your subconscious is persuaded to loosen its grip on your deepest stuff. “Though …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Are you looking for clarity around something important? Maybe it’s something you’re thinking of doing, or something you already did but now aren’t sure why you did it, or if it was the right thing to do. LOOK NO FURTHER, IT’S MANIFESTO TIME. An example …

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 …

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 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 …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard May 12, 2022 “The writer’s path lies, always, on the road of feeling.” Stephen Harrod BuhnerEnsouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer’s Life Everyone has a body made up of cells, organs, bones, vascular and neural systems, …

Here at A Writer’s Roadmap we are all about inhaling the stench of failure. Normalizing it, making it a valid part of our experience, and bringing it into the light. Forget the shiny carapace of success…let’s look at the crazy machinery underneath it. Because that’s …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard June 9, 2022 When you’re writing–a story, an essay, a book–it is easy to get partway in, then start second-guessing. Second-guessing can look like, “This is awful. I should write something else.” Or “My novel’s antagonist CAN’T be the patriarchy…maybe …

What are my book’s chances? The question writers need answered 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 …

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 …

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 …

People do MFAs in writing for various reasons. Personally, I was tired of writing bad novels all by myself in a candlelit room. I wanted to learn how to write a good one. But by the time I finished my MFA (which was 2 years), …

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, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard May 26, 2022 When I was a kid, a librarian drove a bus loaded with books to our neighborhood, which had no library. Every week, she parked the bus a couple of blocks down from our house. Built-in shelves lined the …

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 …

In my editorial experience, fiction writers go through more trouble nailing point of view (POV) for a piece of writing 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 …

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, …