Wednesday, August 18

How I Write: Week Ten – Writing Resources

image If you haven’t been able to tell from the past ten weeks, I love my list of resources. For the last year, I’ve been reading many craft books and collecting links that I could turn to as I refine my writing skills. Some of them have been incredibly helpful in building certain weakness while other have simply helped me to build my confidence and inspire me to overcome my fears. Here are the books and websites I recommend (some of which have been mentioned in earlier posts).
On Writing – Stephen King gives his thoughts on the writing life.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott has an incredible voice and gives some of the best advice on being a writer.
Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within – Although this books is written with poets in mind, it’s truly pertinent for all writers.
Page after Page – Filled with exercises and writing tidbits to keep you writing, this book is a quick inspiration read.
This Year You Write Your Novel – Walter Moseley gives his thoughts on getting your novel written within one year.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within – Writing is more than what we do, it’s a way of life. Natalie Goldberg will get you past those fears and into spiral-bound notebooks filled with words.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – According to Stephen Pressfield, resistance is the cause of writer’s block. His book defines it and then arms you with the tools to beat it.
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for those Who Want to Write Them – All writers must be readers and Francine Prose’s book instructs writers how to look at every component of a book from sentences to paragraphs to chapters.
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish -  A craft book that is interesting to read, filled with exercises and explanations on how to structure your book to be what readers are looking for.
Romance Divas – My online hangout. Romance Divas hosts author-led workshops on their free forum. It’s a great place to learn and connect with other authors.
Paperback Writer – I’ve linked to Lynn Viehl’s site in other posts. She is an incredible resource. Take time to look through  the archives for her thoughts on plotting, revising, etc.
Holly Lisle – Holly shares tons of information on her site and in her weekly newsletter. She also teaches two courses on revising and writing.
Nathan Bransford’s Blog – An agent that takes time to talk about topics from all things publishing related to developing your voice and plotting a novel.
Stephen Pressfield Online -  Like his book, The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield blogs about resistance and procrastination. Seeing a published and accomplished author’s struggles sheds light on the true business of creating.
Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.

Wednesday, August 11

How I Write: Week Nine – Am I Ready to Submit?

imageNope, I most certainly am not ready to submit. There are steps to be taken and courage to be built before my WIP sees its way into an editor’s hand. I do know what I need to do to get there though. Here’s my thoughts on getting into a submission mindset.
1. Revise, Revise, Revise.
This is where I’m at. I’m weeding out the passive voice, going deeper, and making sure that what was in my head is down on paper.
2. Getting Feedback.
Once I’ve put my WIP through its paces on my own and I’ve done all I can with these two eyes, it’s time to look for an outside opinion. This is a scary step. Sharing your WIP can be a very personal experience. Taking criticism can be difficult but I can promise you that 90 times out of 100, it won’t be nearly as bad as you expect, especially if you’re clear on your experience level and needs with the person you’ve asked for the read. Feedback is information you can use or discard. Take it as data and less as a judgment on your skill level. One way to get feedback is to enter contests. Many provide you with an opportunity to have your words read by writers, editors, and agents. You may not win but you’ll find out if you’re on the right track.
3. Synopsis and Query Letter Fun.
Synopsis writing is something of an art form. You need to distill your concept into a comprehensive, interesting three page summary. It needs to represent your story close enough to give the editor or agent a great picture of what your WIP in its entirety is about. The query letter is your opportunity to introduce your work and yourself.
4. Formatting
Research your publisher or agent’s guidelines and follow them meticulously. You wouldn’t want your work turned away because of something as simple as line spacing. Each publisher has their own set of wants or needs during the query process. Some will want a three page synopsis and query letter along with the first three chapters of your WIP while others may require the entire WIP.
As I enter the last stages of finishing this WIP and head towards submission, I know I’m making a large step in my writing career. It isn’t an end point, though. It’s another step, another move in the right direction. The day after I hit send or put it in the mail, it’s time to get back to the keyboard and on to the next story.
Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.
Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis: A Series of Ten Lectures – scroll down on this page you’ll find Lisa Gardner’s lecture series on how to write your query letter and synopsis.
How to Format Your Novel or Manuscript – A bit of information on the general standard of manuscript formatting from Tamera Lynn Kraft. Of course, the publisher or agent you’re targeting may have more specific guidelines.
Workshop: Writing the Novel Synopsis – Sheila Kelly’s workshop on synopsis writing.
Nathan Bransford’s Blog  - If you don’t already follow Nathan Bransford’s blog, you might want to subscribe right this moment. Also take a moment to scroll down to the left and read “The Essentials,” articles on writing, querying, and submitting.
Contest Chart for Writers – Stephie Smith compiled this wonderful chart of contests for writers.

Wednesday, August 4

How I Write: Weeks Seven and Eight – Revision

image This post was originally a two-part set of posts on Revision planned for July 28 and August 4. Between the last minute craziness of getting our family and stuff (lots of stuff) ready for the big move and then settling in here, I was not able to get it all done ahead of time. Please excuse my tardiness.

Here’s my take on revisions.

They frighten me. They excite me. They awe me. As you already know, I stick to the “fast draft, get the words down, and don’t look back” method of writing first drafts. It’s about feeling your way through the story, knowing your characters well, and sealing their motivation into an interesting story. Revisions are a place to tweak and fix, cement and sculpt your words into a coherent piece of work.

Everyone agrees that revisions should start with a breather or break for some set period of time. Take a week to let the words ferment. Give your mind a little time to gather distance. Revisions can be done completely on a computer screen, using tools like MS Word’s Track Changes, or by hand, with tools like red pens and purple highlighters.

Although I hate the thought of wasting paper, my preference is for a mix of the two. Going through my work looking for inconsistencies, weaving in plot points from notes taken during the writing process, and the obvious grammar and typo mistakes that stare out at me as I pass through on the computer screen. Then it’s time to print out a set number of pages, pull out the post-its and my favorite pens. Index cards can be used to keep track of scenes and important plot points that can later be used to write your synopsis.

Once you’re ready, or ready enough, it’s time to give your words a chance to see the world. Passing the work on to a critique group or partner can be intimidating and definitely takes courage. Take a deep breath, hit send, and remember that you’re still learning. Whether you’re just starting out or writing your next bestseller, remember writing is a craft and a process.

Click on the How I Wrote Logo above to find a listing of the other writers participating in this blog series.


The Rundown on Rewrites – Jeri Smith-Ready’s take on rewriting. She recommends a book I’ve mentioned before, Plot & Structure.

The Twelve Commandments of Effective Revision or The End is Just the Beginning – Prudy Taylor Board’s article on revisions

One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle – The ever helpful Holly Lisle’s shares how to revise your book in just one ‘go-through.’

On Writing: The Basic Line Editor – Kristy Colley describes the basics of line edits.