Instead of sharing advice about what writers should be doing, author Janice Hardy explains how to apply the industry’s advice to your work, including tips on how to plan, write, edit and publish a novel. She also pulls back the curtain on how other successful authors and writers manage their creative processes.
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 August 4.
This week's Refresher Friday takes an updated look at writing character betrayals. The always fabulous Donald Maass wrote about reversals over at Writer Unboxed a while back, and there was one tip he gave that I actually had to disagree with a little. (I know, I was shocked too.) He was suggesting various ways you can shake things up in your novel, and one of them was:
What’s the worst betrayal this character could do? Do it.
But in 2011 (when I first wrote this), I’d been seeing the unexpected betrayal everywhere. It had gotten so bad it was verging on cliché. Instead if a betrayal surprising me, I was playing the “I wonder which one of these allies will turn on the hero in the third act?” game. I knew it was coming, and more times than not, it did. Read more »
Image is everything, right? Well, let’s be real. If your content is crap, image isn’t going to save you in the long run, but when you’re in a crowded exhibit hall with a hundred other vendors, and you need to stand out, what are you gonna do, wear a Hawaiian shirt and dye your hair purple?
Please don’t. That’s my shtick, and this hair color was expensive. I don’t want to have to go back to my natural brown just because every other nerd out there has purple hair. But you do have to look good. You have to have a solid presentation, and it needs to not only look as good as the people around you, but it usually has to look better. Because if you’re just keeping up, then you’re not really keeping up. So what can you do to look better than your neighbor in Artists Alley or the vendor room at a con? Read more »
The opening scene of a novel walks a fine line between piquing curiosity and confusing the reader. Opening scenes are under a lot of pressure—they need to pique reader interest, set the scene, introduce characters, and give just enough information to intrigue, but not overload or confuse. That’s a lot to ask of 250 words.
In our efforts to hook readers and not give everything away, it’s common for an opening scene to be less than forthcoming with information. We hold back details to sound mysterious, we hide clues we worry will reveal too much, we keep our narrative distance, and sometimes, we even bend over backward not to provide the exact details readers need to become hooked.
JH: Creating a fantasy world is half the fun of writing a fantasy novel. A lot goes into making a world feel real, and Andrew Wood visits the lecture hall today to share his process of building a fantasy world readers will lose themselves in.
Andrew Wood writes epic fantasy. He loves stories, whether they be books, movies, video games or comics, and is always on the hunt for more. He grew up on books like Redwall, the Wheel of Time and Harry Potter, and from stories like these his love of writing grew. Now he works full-time to tell the stories he has in my heart, and finally force them on to paper where they belong. His first novel, Storm of Fury, was recently published through Inkshares. You can find him on Patreon under his name, where he releases monthly horror, fantasy and sci-fi short stories.
When it is time to call it quits with your manuscript?Not every novel is going to work, no matter how much we might love the idea. Some ideas don't have enough conflict to maintain 400+ pages of story, others sound great until we get in there and start writing them, and some just need more skill or focus than we're able to give them at that time.
At some point in your writing life, you'll have a moment when you wonder if it's time to move on from a great idea to something else. You’ll doubt the novel is any good, and writing it probably isn’t any fun anymore. You might even be stuck, struggling with every word and unsure what to do with the mess you’ve created.
I’ve written seriously for twenty-five years, and I've had three manuscripts that made me want to throw in the towel—one I went back to and finished, one I'm still considering how I can make it work, and one I know I’m never going back to.
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.
By Joyce Sweeney Part of the How They Do It series
JH: I'm a big fan of all this story structure, and how useful they can be to the writing and storytelling process. Today, Joyce Sweeney visits the lecture hall to share her Plot Clock Structure.
Take it away Joyce...
I developed The Plot Clock over the course of many years and in concert with another writing teacher, Jamie Morris. Using four acts instead of the usual three, we found a way to really amp up the tension in students’ plots, add more ‘stuff’--meaning get the proper number of external events, twists and turns going-- and most of all, provide a ‘map’ for writers lost in that long, sagging, terrifying middle. Read more »
By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy Part of the Writer's Life Series
JH: A little sneak peak today of the re-vamped Indie Author column. Marcy discusses a problem all writers face at some point, not matter which career path they're on--stalled writing.
There comes a time in every writer’s career when they find themselves stuck. The words and ideas aren’t flowing like they used to. Production stalls out. Panic sets in.
If you’re a career writer like I am, that panic is compounded by the fact that writing pays your bills, and when you aren’t producing new books, your income drops. The best way to make a solid living in the new publishing landscape is to publish often.
For a year and a half, I produced a minimum of one book every other month. And it was easy for me. (Please don’t hate me for saying that.)
Then 2018 hit, and it stopped being easy. While I don’t believe in writer’s block, I do believe we can become stuck or we can stall out. Read more »
Just a heads up to everyone that the deadline for a great conference is coming up (July 15). Aside from the two workshops I'll be giving, there's an evening with James Scott Bell, and workshops with Donald Maass. So much writerly goodness in just a few days, so check it out.
Writing a novel can be a daunting process, but a little planning can go a long way to making that process easier. Even determining a few key turning points in the story can keep you focused, whether you prefer to outline every scene or pick a story direction and write toward it. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to create the critical elements of a novel’s plot, how to use goals, conflicts, and stakes to build a story and develop characters, and how to approach a novel in a way that will make it easier to write and be more marketable to agents, editors, and readers.
Revision Readiness: How to Revise
Revision is part of writing, but sometimes knowing where to start can be overwhelming. It can be even harder if you need to trim down a large manuscript or change a major storyline. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to approach your revision with a plan, focusing on macro, medium, and micro issues to tighten you novel on a layer by layer basis. You’ll also learn how to mentally approach revisions, and how to strengthen your story from the top down.
Lots of fun stuff coming up, and I hope to see some of you there!