Focus on Writing a Great Book

Focus on Writing a Great Book It seems in the last few years, dialogue about all-things-publishing has been focused on platform, marketing, increasing output, distribution platforms, technology, and self-publishing. (This blog is no exception.) But as I noted in this post at Author Media , I think it’s important to call our attention back to the work.    It may be easier to get published these days because of self-pub and the proliferation of indie publishing options. But it’s not any easier to write a good book.    In fact, it may be even harder to write a good book than it was in days past, because both you and your reader have more distractions. You’re tempted by the Internet, your ability to concentrate for long periods of time has been compromised, and deep focus is more...
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5 Habits of Motivated Novelists

5 Habits of Motivated Novelists Last year at this time, I introduced RescueTime, an online productivity tool that helps people make the most of their time while on the computer. Once again this year, RescueTime is teaming up with writers participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and offering a free month-long membership in RescueTime, complete with their premium productivity tools. See my post today at Books & Such for how to get signed up with RescueTime and NaNoWriMo for November. RescueTime… tracks your online activity and generates reports to help you manage your time and increase productivity lets you block out distracting websites for pre-set periods of writing time sends reminders and alerts to help you stay on track You do NOT have to be participating in NaNoWriMo to get this deal...
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One Simple Secret for Success as a Writer

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Chad-Allen-150x150.jpg Guest Blogger: Chad R. Allen (@ChadRAllen) “Sometimes it feels like nobody’s listening,” my writer friend groaned. Can you relate? Have you ever poured your heart and soul into an article or proposal only to hear the cruel sound of silence? It’s frustrating. So we just keep slogging away, right? Well, yes, but there is a way of thinking about your writing that just might make all the difference in the world. To illustrate, let me tell you about my inventor friends Al and Andy. Al and Andy invented a device they call the “Nothin’ But Net Free Throw Trainer.” The purpose of this invention is to help basketball players become better free throw shooters, and it works. Nationally known coaches now use the device. The product is simple. It’s a four-inch piece of...
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Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work?

Who Should Read Your Unpublished Work? One of the most common pieces of advice writers are given is: Get outside feedback. Published or not, writers typically show their work to beta readers, critique partners, friends, family members or anyone who will read it, to get feedback before submitting to an editor, agent or publisher. I’m one of those who frequently gives this advice. But here is a caveat: All readers are not created equal. Getting feedback from the wrong readers can be more than simply unhelpful — it can steer you in the wrong direction. Worse, you may not even realize the input you’re receiving is bad. I can’t tell you how many times authors have lamented about the contradictory, unhelpful or confusing feedback they’re getting from readers, only to unpack it and realize they’re...
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9 Ways to Outwit Writer’s Block

9 Ways to Outwit Writer’s Block *Or get out of a rut 1. Read a chapter of your WIP aloud to someone other than your cat. Invite feedback, if you’re brave. But mostly, just listen as you read. Do the words flow easily, roll nicely off the tongue? Do you stumble anywhere? Anything sound awkward? How’s the dialogue? Option: Record yourself reading it aloud, then listen to the recording. 2. Write a short story featuring one of your characters, something taking place outside the scope of your book. What did you learn about that character? 3. Go out for some people-watching. Listen closely to conversations of those around you, observe details of body language and facial expressions. Keep a notebook or Word file of your observations. 4. Imagine your main characters in dramatic situations and see what they would do....
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Keeping Track of Details

If you’ve been writing books for long, you may have come across the challenge of keeping the details straight so that you can be consistent throughout the book. If the hero has blue eyes in chapter 1, he shouldn’t have green eyes in chapter 14. If your characters live on 5th Street in one chapter, they shouldn’t later live on Fifth Street. But how do you keep track of these things without having to simply rely on your memory? You could create an Editorial Style Sheet. This is what editors do when they line-edit and/or copyedit your book. It’s ultimately their responsibility to see that everything is as correct and consistent as possible throughout your book, so as they’re editing, they write down details; names of people, places, businesses and all proper nouns; strange...
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How to Become a Better Writer:

11 Completely Non-Writing-Related Ideas 1. Be creative any way you can. Cook new recipes. Paint a picture. Design a garden. Compose a song. Build something with Legos. Organize the garage. 2. Pay attention. Observe the mannerisms of people around you. Listen to how they speak. Marvel at the way they’re dressed. Notice their shoes and their posture and the look in their eye. 3. Be an armchair shrink. Analyze people’s behavior. Ask yourself how their actions reveal their character. Wonder about their motivations. Scrutinize the dynamics of relationships. Drive your spouse and kids crazy. 4. Live life with passion. Do the things on your bucket list. Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Climb a mountain. Jump out of a plane. Serve soup at a shelter. Dine in a restaurant alone. 5....
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Writing Wisdom from Dave Cullen

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S9354T7lcrI/AAAAAAAADw8/CwGQgDEBg_o/s200/columbine.bmp Several weeks ago I was hanging out with Dave Cullen, author of Columbine (and client of one of my favorite people, agent Betsy Lerner). As I’ve written several times on this blog, I thought Dave’s book was a spectacular achievement, not just because of the story itself but because of the skill with which he wrote it. His book is a terrific example for both fiction and non-fiction writers. Dave shared a few of his secrets of success as a writer, and I wanted to pass them along to you. Hope you enjoy these—I did. Capturing your ideas: Dave says that first thing in the morning—before you even stand up—you have to jot down those ideas that are floating around your head when you wake up. Literally don’t get out of bed. Keep a journal by your bed and write before your...
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Tighten Up Your Manuscript!

There comes a time in every writer’s life when an editor requires them to reduce their word count. Ack! Not my precious words! Even if an editor hasn’t asked you to do this, most writers would benefit from tightening up their manuscripts before submission. (I, for one, would appreciate it. ) But how do you do this? Never fear. Most writers can significantly shorten their manuscript simply by eliminating extraneous adverbs, adjectives, gerunds, and passive verbs, i.e. things you don’t need anyway. If you cut 10 words per page in a 350-page manuscript, you’ve already shortened it by 3,500 (unnecessary) words. So how do we do this? Here’s a checklist of things to consider cutting: → Adverbs, especially those with “ly” endings. Ask yourself if they’re necessary. →...
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Write Another Book!

Yesterday I talked about the importance of working on your writing as opposed to spending time on social networking. This is crucial if you’re an unpublished fiction writer. It seems I’ve been having this conversation with so many people lately… both authors and editors. It’s come up several times in my conversations with editors at ICRS the last few days. Last week I had lunch with two writers, one published and the other not yet, but close. The most impressive thing about these two women is that they’ve each written more than a dozen books. Because of that, I think they both have strong writing careers ahead of them. I work with a lot of first-time authors, because that’s part of what I love to do. But something I’m learning is that we may be...
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Guest Blogger: Karen Witemeyer

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/Sbp33VK0KsI/AAAAAAAACy0/KFCXGe_l2Cg/s200/karen+witemeyer+small+for+web.jpg Persevering Through RoadblocksAs I began my publication journey, I expected the road to be arduous. So I prepared. I put my craft muscles through years of intense training and stretched myself in critique groups and contests. Then in 2007, I had a completed novel, my first, and I took it to the ACFW conference. I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman worked beside me who shared my first name. That’s fun, I thought. However, as time ticked on, I picked up clues to her identity from others in the room. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. Only the Lord could have orchestrated such a meeting. I resisted throwing my pitch at her or asking her to look at my one sheet. I didn’t even mention that I...
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Guest Blogger: John UpChurch

The Second Draft: Killing Your BabiesSince I’m a full-time editor, writers sometimes look at me as the person out to kill everything good about their writing. Am I? Quite possibly—if you think your first draft was somehow given to you verbatim from God. I reviewed a novel manuscript recently for a distant relative (probably a mistake), and after reading only a few pages, I could tell this was a first draft in need of serious work. After I politely informed the writer of my thoughts and braced for impact, he took his writing to have it self-published as it was. I’m certainly not against self-publishing, but in this case, it was a cop-out because he did not have the passion to fix the initial mistakes. He thought the first draft was “perfect.” How about you? If you’re willing to...
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Q4U: A Fiction Author’s Job Description

I got this question in a blog comment a couple of weeks ago: Would you write a job description for FICTION AUTHOR? Please include the qualifications (required or optional) and the job duties (required or optional.) I ask because I’m in a bit of turmoil about my suitability for the totality of this job. I love to write and I think I write well. However, the marketing aspect scares me a bit. Does this disqualify me from the job as an author? So, readers, how about it? Write a job description for a fiction author. I’ll make a post out of the best ones (on some future undetermined date). Make sure you write your description before reading those of other commenters! Have a great weekend… Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group...
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Q4U: Writing Advice

Before we get to today’s Q4U, I just want to say thanks once again to all of my faithful blog readers. You’re awesome! I spent the week trying to answer reader questions and as usual, YOU addressed them better than I ever could. That’s the great thing about this little community we’ve got here. I never have to worry that I didn’t adequately cover a topic in a post because I know you’ll all chime in with your wisdom. So, thanks! *** Most of us spend a good portion of our time learning about writing. We read books about writing, attend writers’ conferences, take workshops, participate in critique groups. And of course, we read Randy Ingermanson’s blog which contains some of the best teaching about writing on the web these days. Along those...
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