Tuesday, April 30

25 Tips For Writing Great Sex Scenes

25 Tips For Writing Great Sex Scenes

Folks, this is the best post on writing sex scenes I've ever read: 25 Humpalicious Steps for Writing Your First Sex Scene, By Delilah S. Dawson (Author Of Wicked As She Wants).

As you might imagine from the title--"Humpalicious" was a dead give away--this post comes from the incomparable blog of Chuck Wendig.

Here are my favorite bits of advice:

4. Write the scene in one sitting

Just as with sex, it doesn't improve if you stop in the middle to go grocery shopping.

5. Don't self-edit

Don't re-read what you've written, don't look back. Delilah writes:
Do not look back while you’re writing it or think about how wretched it [the scene] is. Of course it’s wretched. It’s the literary equivalent of virgin sex.

6. Keep the same point of view

[W]riting sex is far more fluid ... if you limit yourself to one character’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Not only does this help the reader keep track of pronouns and hands, but can you imagine having sex if you had to hear every single thought the other person was having?

7. Read how other writers have written sex scenes

Yesterday I wrote about how to improve one's prose. That exercise would work here. Find a book that contains sexy scenes you think are well done. Pick one of them and copy it out--or at least two pages of it. Then, try to write a few paragraphs in the same voice, using the same setting.

Do this with, say, three of the scenes and then move on to another book.

Conveniently, most romance novels have (at least) three sex scenes. Delilah writes:
Most romance novels have a kissing or make-out scene that surprises both characters early on; one very detailed “first sex” scene somewhere between halfway and three-quarters of the way through; and then at least one other, “Oh, okay, we’re good at this; let’s hump HARDER scene” closer to the end. Your mileage/sexytimes meter may vary. But keep writing until it’s done.
Identify the book's three core 'sexy scenes', write each of them out, then try and match the author's voice.

14. Have a sequel after the sex scene

Jim Butcher has written an excellent post on sequels. Sex scenes are action scenes, so they need to be followed by a sequel. Delilah writes:
Your story needs a lull, an afterglow, a reaction to the sex just as honest as people have in real life. It doesn’t have to be all cupcakes and rainbows—maybe he storms off, maybe she runs for the shower, maybe they tell Muppet jokes while he offers her a Clorox wipe. But what happens immediately following the sex can be just as important as the sex. It may seem like a small thing, but falling asleep in a lover’s arms (or not) for the first time can be a big deal. Especially if he’s the kind of guy who has a hook for a hand.

15. Sex complicates relationships

After sex, the characters will glance away, avoid eye contact, doubt themselves, doubt each other, maybe rethink their involvement. Chances are, one of them feels more secure than the other. At the very least, even if they’re both happy, something in your story must push them apart, or they would just spend three months in bed, humping like rabbits.

19. Get the details right

"Have a clear idea what the characters are wearing before they start to get undressed" and then remove it in a sexy fashion.

So, um, NOT like real life.

21. Make the sex count

Delilah writes:
[Your sex scene] should move the story forward and somehow affect the characters emotionally. Maybe the hero learns to open up, maybe the heroine decides she wants to be more aggressive in her real life, maybe they’re just having what they think is a last fling before a giant orc battle. But it has to mean something, or else it’s just porn.

22. Get a second opinion

You need this. It's next to impossible to be objective about your own work and when it comes to writing good sex its doubly important--triply important--to get objective feedback you can trust. Did they think the scene was sexy?

23. Let it go.

This is true for any story, after you've done your best, after you've edited, given it to beta-readers--whatever your process is--let it go.

Dean Wesley Smith has written a lot about this, especially lately. Do the work send it out, let it go, and turn to the next project.

#  #  #

By the way, at first I was convinced that Chuck Wendig and Delilah Dawson were one and the same person because their writing styles are similar but then I looked at Delilah's site, did a Google search (or two), and came across this picture of Chuck sitting beside Delilah. Here's the post: a kick in the inspiration bone: Crossroads Writers Conference.

Chuck Wendig & Delilah S. Dawson
Click to enlarge

Other articles you might like:

- 4 Ways To Get An Audience To Love Your Story
- How To Create A Press Kit
- Book Design: What NOT To Do

Photo link: "Dancing With The Storms" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

4 Ways To Get An Audience To Love Your Story

4 Ways To Get An Audience To Love Your Story

At first I was going to call this post, "How to establish character identification," but that sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Why do we want our readers to identify with our characters? For me it's because I want them to hang on every word the way kids around a campfire breathlessly listen to a well-told ghost story.

We establish that kind of dramatic tension by crafting characters readers care about.

Why do we keep turning the pages at 3 am when we've got an early meeting? Because we have to know what happened. Why do we care? Because we care what happens to the characters.

How To Establish Character Identification

1. Sympathy

As writers, we need to connect the reader's emotions to the story and one way to do this is to get them to sympathize with, to feel sorry for, a character.

How do we do this? Show your character experiencing a loss, a setback. An undeserved loss works especially well. For instance, a character might lose his job because of something that wasn't his fault. His wife might die in a car accident while she was shopping for his birthday present.

2. Empathy

When a reader feels empathy for a character she feels the emotions that character feels.

Here's the key. Over and over I've heard writers say: If you feel the emotion when you're writing the scene, the reader will feel it.

When writing these scenes:
- show don't tell
- use sensory detail from at least two senses.

3. Similarity of goals

Fundamentally, we all want the same sorts of things. I'm not talking about low level goals like cream for your coffee and no traffic on the way to work--though that would be awesome! I mean high level goals like the desire to be treated fairly and with respect.

If a character is denied one of these fundamental goals--some would call them fundamental rights--that's something a reader can identify with.

4. Inner conflict

Inner conflict occurs when a character has competing desires.

For instance, lets say that our hero is a upstanding lawman whose job is to catch the villain. Further, let's say you've done a glorious job illustrating how totally despicable the villain is.

Our hero is in love with Martha, someone who is as good as the villain is despicable. Or so he thinks. It turns out Martha is the villain. Perhaps the hero finds something, some clue, and everything falls together as he looks at it. Martha is in the room, she watches the play of emotions across our hero's face as everything comes together. The hero looks at Martha, the realization of her guilt in his eyes.

Or something. If that sort of scene is done right the play of conflicting desires will ooze with dramatic tension and the reader will be caught up in your fictional world/web.

Also, notice that not only does the hero achieve his goal--he discovers the identity of the villain--but we learn something about him. Is the hero the kind of person to let the villain go because he loves Martha? Or, like Sam Spade, will he refuse to "play the sap" for anybody? Either way, his character is revealed through his choice.

(Also see: How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character for a slightly different take on this issue.)

#  #  #

Yesterday I mentioned that I've been going through boxes of my old notes and found some great material, that's were this came from as well.

Question: How do you get readers to identify with your characters? 

Other articles you might like:

- 3 Steps To Better Prose
- Book Design: What NOT To Do
- Cliffhangers

Photo link: "Wet Lorikeet" by aussiegall under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, April 29

3 Steps To Better Prose

How To Improve Your Prose

How To Improve Your Prose In Three Months

A few years ago I attended a writing conference at which one of the lecturers made the following claim: If you follow these simple steps you'll markedly improve your prose writing in under three months.

At the time I thought it was too simple to work--just do these few steps every day and in 3 months (give or take) I'd be a better writer. Yeah. Right.

At the time I took the lecture I was skeptical, but now I'm not so sure. I think I might try this.

1. Go through your bookshelves and select a book that you think has terrific prose.

2. Select three pages of the book and copy them, word for word. 

This is only for your own edification so you can delete the pages after you're done. It is the act of typing/writing the words that is important.

Copying out the words will give you a feel for the writer's timing, their rhythm.

3. Write a few paragraphs that imitate the prose you've just copied.

For instance, if the text you chose to copy was a love scene, then you write a love scene. The setting you choose for your scene should be similar to the setting in the text you just copied.

Do this for three or four days picking 3 (or so) pages from different parts of the book. Then pick another book and do the same thing with that one.

After 3 or 4 months of this you will find it easier to write in your own voice and your prose will have improved.

#  #  #

The above is based on notes I took at a writing conference but unfortunately I didn't mark down the name of the conference or when I attended it, but it must have been some time ago. I hate not being able to give a reference but this information seemed too valuable not to share.

Question: Do you have any writing exercises you'd like to share?

Other articles you might like: 

- Book Design: What NOT To Do
- Cliffhangers
- New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words

Photo link: "Leap Day" by garlandcannon under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Book Design: What NOT To Do

Book Design: What NOT To Do

Jane Friedman recently asked book design guru Joel Friedlander to talk about the dos and don'ts of book design: How Much Attention Should You Pay to Book Design? A Q&A With Joel Friedlander.

The most common mistakes in interior book design:

1. Not using full justification for their text, so that both the right and left margin square up and create a rectangle on the page

2. Not hyphenating the text, resulting in gaps and spaces on the page

3. Putting the odd-numbered pages on the left, when they should always be on the right

4. Leaving running heads on display pages like part or chapter openers

5. Margins that are either too small to allow the reader to easily hold the book, or that don’t take the printing and binding of the book into account

6. Publishing a book with no copyright page

How much should an author expect to pay an interior book designer? 


Joel writes:
For novels and other lightly formatted books, you can expect to pay between $200 and $1,500 for interior design. At the low end you’re likely to get a “template” design. At the higher end, expect to receive several custom designs prepared expressly for your book. You’ll also want the designer to take responsibility for producing the reproduction files for your printer, and make sure there’s an allowance for “author’s alterations,” because I’ve never seen a book yet that went all the way from manuscript to press without at least some changes being made.
Joel mentions that for cover designs the range is between $200 and $3,500.

Professional design can make all the difference, when folks are browsing the cover is all they see. I know I've started reading many books because of their stunning covers.

You can read more of Joel Friedlander's design tips on his site The Book Designer.

Question: Do you have a cover design, or interior design, tip to share?

Other articles you might like:

- Cliffhangers
- New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words
- Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go

Photo credit: "paesaggio3" by francesco sgroi under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, April 28



Today I'd like to talk about Cliffhangers.

I've been reading Dean Wesley Smith's mini-series about ghost writing a 70,000 word novel in 10 days. (And he's doing it! It's day 9 and he has less than 8,000 words to go.)

One thing Dean has talked about are cliffhangers. He doesn't outline--he's not saying writers shouldn't, just that it's not his style--but he does try and end chapters on cliffhangers.

That got me wondering, What exactly is a cliffhanger and what different kinds are there?

What Is A Cliffhanger?

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma. (Cliffhanger, Wikipedia)
TVTropes.org (a great but addictive website) adds that the cliffhanger can involve "some or all of the main characters" (Cliffhangers).

Basically, a cliffhanger is when a character your audience cares about is put in jeopardy and left there. At least for a short time. Perhaps you put the cliffhanger at the end of a scene, or the end of a chapter, or the end of an act. You can put it in anywhere there some sort of a pause, break, in the action. Then you have the obligation to resolve the cliffhanger when the story resumes.

I read once that in the early days of European theater, playwrights started using cliffhangers before a scene change so audience members would return! A cliffhanger is another way of making folks care about what happens next, care enough to, hopefully, turn the page.

What Makes A Great Cliffhanger?

As TV Tropes notes, a great cliffhanger will have you on the edge of your seat screaming, "What happens next?!" But how do we, as writers, craft that?

The following advice comes from Martin Ralya, in his wonderful article Key to a Good Cliffhanger. Although Martin was thinking of paper and pencil gaming when he wrote this, storytelling is storytelling. Martin writes:
The key to a good cliffhanger is ending your session on a pause in the action, not right in the thick of it.

That may seem counterintuitive at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to implement. Let’s tackle this tip with a classic example: a big battle.
A climactic battle might break down into five segments:
  1. Opening skirmishes
  2. Major wave of enemy attacks
  3. Wave of attacks is repulsed
  4. More skirmishing
  5. Final showdown with the Big Bad
Assuming that the PCs [Player Characters] are heavily involved in segments 3 and 5 (the two most important parts of the battle), you should put your cliffhanger right before segment 5. (If you put it in 1, 2 or 4, that wouldn’t be a cliffhanger.)

Kinds Of Cliffhangers

There isn't just one kind of cliffhanger since there are many ways to put one's main characters in peril.

In her engaging article, Cliffhangers, Anne M. Leone writes:
My go-to resource on most plot-related things is the wonderfully organized and helpful Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Bell has created a list of nine different types of cliffhanger endings (or as he calls them, Read On Prompts):

Impending disaster
Dangerous emotions
Mysterious dialogue
Secret revealed
Major decision / vow
Announcement of a shattering event
Reversal / surprise
Question left in the air
Anne gives a lot of great examples of Cliffhangers from literature. Her article is definitely worth the read. TV Tropes mentions the Bolivian arm ending. This is probably a kind of impending disaster cliffhanger (the first one on James Bell's list), but I'll include it here anyway. If you have time, investigate some of the links in the quotation, lots of great information there.

Bolivian army ending

A Bolivian Army Ending occurs when the main characters face seemingly insurmountable odds which, for once, they fail to surmount, although their ultimate doom is sometimes left to the audience's imagination. The trope is named for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which ends with the two heroes surrounded by seemingly the entire Bolivian army (more likely just a company of riflemen) after escaping from the States. They could surrender, but instead they choose to come out all guns blazing. The film ends just as they do so, and we never see them die. ...

Nowadays, thanks to Conservation of Ninjutsu, there is a 99% chance that any character caught in a Bolivian Army Ending would survive if the incident took place earlier in the film. (Bolivian army ending)
A Conservation of Ninjutsu is a principle that states:
In any martial arts fight, there is only a finite amount of ninjutsu available to each side in a given encounter. As a result, one Ninja is a deadly threat, but an army of them are cannon fodder. (Conservation of Ninjutsu)
But there's more:
... the Bolivian Army Cliffhanger, can be used in TV shows and other serial media to raise the audience's tension over which characters survive to the next season or installment. See Uncertain Doom for scenarios in which a character's fate is left hanging in the middle of a work, season or installment rather than at the end.

Can be considered a variation of a Downer Ending, although it's ambiguous enough to give the viewer/reader some hope. When the camera cuts to a different scene unrelated to the battle right before the work ends, this overlaps with Charge Into Combat Cut.

Examples Of Cliffhangers

For examples of cliffhangers, see the bottom of TV Tropes post on Cliffhangers. Here is a link to some examples of cliffhangers in film.

I don't use cliffhangers enough in my own work, that's something I need to do more research on. I'm going to spend some time going over these examples and thinking about the different sorts, categories, of cliffhangers one could use.

Question: Do you use cliffhangers in your own work? What is your favorite cliffhanger in literature, TV, film or the theater?

Other articles you might like:

- New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words
- Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go
- Dean Wesley Smith, Harlan Ellison, The Internet, and Writing A Book In 10 Days

Photo link: "crisp way" by fRandi-Shooters under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, April 27

New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words

New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words

This is from Galleycat:
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is reportedly planning to remove Kindle books that have fewer than 2,500 words.

At the KBoards site for Kindle readers and writers, one author shared a letter from Amazon that explained: “Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.”

... A few of writers responded to the post saying they were selling books that were under 2,500 words at Amazon, including a speculative fiction author and a fantasy writer.
You can read the complete article here: Amazon Cracks Down on Kindle Books Under 2,500 Words.

Here is the letter that Amazon sent out:

During a quality assurance review of your KDP catalog we have found that the following book(s) are extremely short and may create a poor reading experience and do not meet our content quality expectations:

Name of Short

In the best interest of Kindle customers, we remove titles from sale that may create a poor customer experience. Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.

We ask that you fix the above book(s), as well as all of your catalog’s affected books, with additional content that is both unique and related to your book. Once you have ensured your book(s) would create a good customer experience, re-submit them for publishing within 5 business days. If your books have not been corrected by that time, they will be removed from sale in the Kindle Store. If the updates require more time, please unpublish your books.
(Amazon going after short shorts)
Question: What do you think? Should Amazon leave it up to authors to determine the minimum length of their stories or should there be a minimum length so readers don't pay, say, $2.99 for a 1000 word story?

Other articles you might like:

- Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go
- Dean Wesley Smith, Harlan Ellison, The Internet, and Writing A Book In 10 Days
- Prada Writing Contest: Winner receives 5,000 Euros

Photo credit: "Untitled" by Mark Wooten under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, April 26

Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go

Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go

Christopher Shultz, in his engagingly written and informative article, First Drafts in a Mobile Landscape: Five Word Processors for Tablets & Smartphones, walks us through the jungle of word processing apps.

What follows is Christopher's discussion of iA Writer, but he also discusses the merits and demerits of Notes, Texilus, Doc2 HD and Pages.

iA Writer

If you're intrigued by the no-frills, bare-bones writing experience Notes and similar apps offer, but require something with a little more finesse, check out iA Writer. When using an external Bluetooth keyboard, the interface becomes nothing more than a blank screen—naked, waiting for the scintillating touch of your words. It's pretty sexy. If you have to use the onscreen keyboard, iA Writer provides additional arrow and quotation mark keys along the top row for reduced flipping (normally, you have to hit that "?123" button in the corner to access those keys).

There's Dropbox integration, as well as the ability to link your iCloud account, thereby providing automatic syncing between devices. iA Writer is also universal, meaning you pay $0.99 once, and then you’re able to download it to any device you see fit. So if you're in a position where you can't work on your iPad—on the train, on the bus, or at a really boring work meeting, say—you can still chip away at your daily word count by using your iPhone or iPod Touch, and resume work on your iPad later.

Furthermore, Apple's handheld devices are also Bluetooth capable, so even if you don't own an iPad yet, or if your iPad is in the shop, you can still type like a champ. There's no iA Writer for Mac/PC at the moment, but saving your documents to Dropbox makes for pretty easy access, and since all files are saved in .txt format, you can pretty much open them in any text editor or word processor.

I’m totally in love with this app, particularly the iPhone version, as it gives me a clean, easy-on-the-eyes way of hammering out drafts while I'm out and about. One downside is the complete lack of font choice—you use the font they provide. It's a clean, Courier-like typeface, so it doesn't bother me, but those of you more attuned to Times New Roman or Baskerville may want to look elsewhere. That being said, for $0.99 you get a pretty powerful, intuitive, and convenient app. Can't really argue with that.

There appear to be several simple text editors for Android devices. Amoeba has the best user ratings on Amazon. It doesn't quite stack up to iA Writer in terms of features, but then again it's also free and offers more than one default font. There's also xWriter, a $2.99 app with pretty much the same features as Amoeba, and roughly the same positive ratings. Since I haven't tested either one, I couldn't make a recommendation either way. Try the free one, and if it doesn't work, take a chance with the three dollar app.

As far as Windows goes, I couldn't find a single text editor in their app store; Office seems to be the only option, at least for now.
To read more of Christopher's article, click here: First Drafts in a Mobile Landscape: Five Word Processors for Tablets & Smartphones.

What is your favorite word processing app for your mobile devises?

Other articles you might like:

- Dean Wesley Smith, Harlan Ellison, The Internet, and Writing A Book In 10 Days
- How To Create A Press Kit
- Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers

Photo credit: "fairy tale" by paul bica by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Dean Wesley Smith, Harlan Ellison, The Internet, and Writing A Book In 10 Days

Writing A Book In 10 Days

I've been reading Dean Wesley Smith's miniseries of blogs where he publishes a running log of his progress as he writes a 70,000 word book in 10 days.

One draft.

With no outline.

When I first blogged about what Dean was doing I wasn't sure whether I was reading between the lines correctly but he has confirmed, over and over again, that he has no idea where he is going with the story, not even a rough sketch.

For instance Susan asked:
... do you have an end in mind when you start writing? As in, you know you’ll be in San Francisco at the end of your trip, but you don’t know if you’ll take a plane or a camel?
Dean replied:
Suzan, No. Not a clue, no idea, don’t care where it ends up. I’m just writing to entertain myself, just as a reader is entertained by reading a book. Do you, as a reader, need the ending before you start reading? Of course not. Why is everyone so surprised I don’t need it either.

Wow, this is teaching me a lot about some myths I knew existed, just didn’t think were very deep. I was wrong. (grin) I have no idea why anyone would read a book if they already knew everything that was going to happen in the book just as I have clearly little understanding of why any writer writes a book they already know all the details about. I had to do that under contract a couple of times and those were the worst and hardest for me. (Ghost Novel: Day 2, Comments)
Did your jaw hit the floor? Mine did!

Harlan Ellison

I was thinking about Dean's mini-marathon this morning and it hit me. Dean is doing a Harlan Ellison.

In one of Dean's posts, he wrote:
... many of you know that over the decades he [Harlan Ellison] has tried to prove this point* (and many others) to people. He would go into a bookstore, have someone give him a title or idea, then on a manual typewriter, he would sit in the bookstore window and write a short story, taping the finished pages on the window for everyone to read. He never rewrote any of those stories. He fixed a typo or two, but that’s it. And many of those stories won major awards in both science fiction and mystery. All first draft, written fast, in a window while people watched every word.

I know, I was going to publish a three-volume set of these award-winning stories written in public back when I was doing Pulphouse Publishing, but alas, he was still writing them, a new one almost every other week at that point, and the book never got out before we shut down. He’s done enough since then to fill two more books at least.

Every writer is different. I would have a tough time doing what Harlan does, but alas, it does prove the point that rewriting does not necessarily make a story better. And when you win as many awards in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and mainstream fiction as Harlan has, you can argue with him. But trust me, if you are rewriting everything to death, that will never happen [emphasis mine]. (Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Rewriting)
* That one should only rewrite to editorial demand and, even then, only if you agreed with the demand.

That quotation was taken from a post Dean made in 2009. There he writes, "I would have a tough time doing what Harlan does" but I think that's essentially what Dean is doing, ghostwriting a book in 10 days while positing a running log of his efforts.

Instead of onlookers peering through the windows of a bookstore he has us, the denizens of the internet, and instead of a bookstore, he has his blog.

Same idea, different tools.

Heinlein's Rules of Writing

Dean Wesley Smith often refers to Robert A. Heinlein's rules of writing. And with good reason, countless writers have attributed their professional success to them. That said, I'm not suggesting  there are hard-and-fast rules to writing, rules everyone must follow. As with everything, take what works for you, leave the rest.

But perhaps Heinlein's final rule needs to be--not changed--expanded, clarified, for the independent/self-published author. Here are Heinlein's rules:

1. You must write.
2. Finish what you start.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put your story on the market.
5. You must keep your story on the market until it has sold.

In Heinlein's day putting one's work on the market meant sending it to editors or agents. Today those options are still available but we also have the opportunity to publish our work ourselves. In that light, here are some questions:

- What if the story never sells? Leave it up forever? Wouldn't that be a bit like displaying a black-eye that never healed?

- Should independent authors market their work? If yes, should we wait until we have a certain amount of work on the market--say, 10 books or anthologies--or should we start with the very first one?

I'm sure there are countless other questions. I don't have answers, although I do favor the idea of holding off on expensive or time-consuming marketing efforts until a writer has been able to put a significant amount of their work up for sale.

Of course, each of us is unique and so no set of rules, even rules as wonderful and wise as Heinlein's, fits us all.

Thanks for reading!

Other articles you might like:

- Prada Writing Contest: Winner receives 5,000 Euros
- Getting Story Ideas
- 6 Tips On How To Read Critically

Photo credit: "The Bird Watchers" by psyberartist under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, April 25

Prada Writing Contest: Winner receives 5,000 Euros

Prada Writing Contest: Winner receives 5,000 Euros

That's right Prada is holding a short story contest, and the prize for the lucky winner is 5,000 Euros (about $6,500 US dollars). Here are the details:


Stories must be "a minimum of 10 (ten) pages and a maximum of 20 (twenty) pages on A4 sized sheets, each page to contain approximately 400 words, written in Bodoni–DTC dim. 11 style."


The Short Story may be proposed in any language chosen by the Contender without any restriction.


PRADA and Feltrinelli will judge each Short Story according to the following factors: creativity, innovation, thoroughness, depth of inquiry, adherence to the theme of the Contest and quality of the Short Story.
Also, the judges will be looking for stories focusing on the "inquire of the reality and its perception, especially: Views of the world. Images, marks, idea." A more extensive writeup is here: Prada Journal.

Content guidelines:

Especially, the submitted Short Stories must not:

- be sexually explicit or suggestive, or derogatory of any ethnic, racial,
gender, religious, professional or age group or the disabled, be profane or pornographic;

- promote alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms/weapons (or the use of any of the foregoing), any activities that may appear unsafe or dangerous;

- contain any personal identification, such as license plate numbers,
personal names, e-mail addresses or street addresses;

- infringe any rights, including copyright, of any third party;

- contain materials embodying the names, or other indicia identifying any person, living or dead, without permission.


The Contest’s Winner (or Winners) will receive the amount of Euro 5.000 (five thousand) (each). 

How to enter:

Here is the link to the submission form: Prada Journal. If you click that link you'll be shown an email address: pradajournal (at) prada (dot) com. Good luck!

Thanks to Litreactor and Of Course It’s A Prada Short Story Contest, Dahling.

Other stories you might like:

- Getting Story Ideas
- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story
- How To Create A Press Kit

Photo credit: "Prada,hahaha" by Only Sequel under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Getting Story Ideas

Getting Story Ideas

I'm starting a new short story but have only a vague idea about what I want to do. Something involving either an antihero or an extremely flawed character, but the story itself hasn't knit together.

Sure, this is going to be a short story so I don't need to love the seed idea in the way I do for a novel. Short stories only inhabit me for a few days then they are completed, birthed, and given over to the world, but 80,000 word novels can sit with me for years. That's an idea I really have to identify with.

But, even so, I haven't been able to conjure up a new short story idea, one I love enough to devote 20 or so hours of my life to. 

So when I saw Melinda Leigh's article, Stumped for Story Ideas? it was as though I heard trumpets. Yes! I thought, this couldn't have been more for me if the author had put my name on it.

Newspaper Headlines

Melinda suggests looking at newspaper headlines when we're stumped for ideas. She writes,
I’m going to share my little secret. Some of my plot ideas come from news headlines. Here’s my trick:  I don’t click through to the article. Instead, I let my imagination fill in all the details.
Of course! We've all done this at one time or another, but it's something I neglected to try this time. So, let's do it.

The first place I looked was CNN but many of the headlines are about world affairs but I know that my story takes place in Vermont, in a small isolated town. (Actually, I didn't know that until I wrote it just now. Huh! Well, it's working!)

Here's something:

A rare gathering of presidents: Hail to the chiefs. All five living presidents are together today to launch George W. Bush's presidential library.

Also, on the same page is an advertisment for Anthorny Bourdain's new show,

Parts Unknown

Wouldn't that be a great title: Parts Unknown? Especially if it was about a serial killer with what used to be called wendigo psychosis?

And, no, I'm not making that up, you can read about it here: Wendigo. (Remind you of anyone? Hannibal Lector perhaps?)

Here's another headline, this time from The Guardian:

UK crime at lowest level for 30 years

I wonder how the level of crime is being reduced? I can think of a few delectable possibilities.

Old Scandals

To be honest, I wasn't inspired by the news headlines, so I tried searching for "scandals." Still the pickings were slim. Then I happened upon this:

Mindy McCready: Fifth Victim of 'Celeb Rehab' Curse

I have NO idea what the article is about. A coven of rogue witches? A rehab clinic that is 'disappearing' their clientele? Or perhaps a previously unknown disease?

Why You Should Never Borrow Justin Bieber's Car

Assassins? Unconventional security measures? Being transformed to look like Justin (he's handsome and rich, but being in the public eye constantly must have its drawbacks)?

Michael Phelps Hooks Up With Most Notorious Hollywood Waitress

It's the first time I've seen "most notorious" paired with "waitress." 

Still, I think Melinda's headlines were better:

“Crude Joke Costs Two People their Jobs”
“Fighter Apparently Tried to Fake Own Death”
“Shootout in Texas may be Linked to Colo. Deaths”
“Manhunt Begins in Coney Island Shootings”
“Congolese Warlord Arrives at War Crimes Court Jail”

I still don't know what my next short story is going to be about, but I've got some possibilities. I'll take it. (grin)

I know this is the most common question a writer gets asked, but where do you get your story ideas? A few times I've been inspired by dreams.

Other articles you might like:

- 6 Tips On How To Read Critically
- How To Create A Press Kit
- Chuck Wendig On Fairy Dross And Pegasus Dreams

Photo credit: "bloodgate fire" by lovingyourwork.com under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, April 24

6 Tips On How To Read Critically

In his fabulous article, 6 Tips on Reading to Train the Writer's Eye, Rob D. Young talks about how to train yourself to read critically. (also see: 8 Tips From Chuck Wendig On How To Read Like A Writer)

1. Approach with a pen

Don't be afraid to highlight the books you read. Mark the passages that stand out to you, that romance your writers eye.

2. Be critical

Remember: No writing is flawless. In writing, as in life, there are tradeoffs. Rob mentions the following:

- clarity for lyricism
- realism for emotional power
- directness for detail

Which tradoffs work for you? Which don't?

By reading critically you can find out what kind of writer you are. Rob writes:
[B]e honest with yourself about what you like and don't like—and take it to the crucial next step: Examine why it is you don't like it. Identify the specific passages, paragraphs, choices, and plot arcs that grated on you. When you do so, even a piece you hate can be a valuable learning experience.

3. What works for you?

We've talked about tradoffs but there are many other things to notice in a text.
For example, if you found that the writer balanced a variety of sub-plots in a way that worked well for you, sketch out a diagram on how much time was devoted to each sub-plot, how those plots were rotated, and any other factors you noted.
In reference to The Hunger Games Rob writes:
Each action is paired with a sensory detail, and all five core senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) are brought in by the end of paragraph 19. The suspense is developed gradually, with roughly half of the first 20 paragraphs implying the danger of District 12, the woods, or the world.

4. Talk about writing with others

It has been my experience that it is rare for two people to have the same reaction to a piece. Discovering what others thought were a text's strengths and weaknesses can be as enlightening as discovering one's own reactions.

Rob writes,
I find this strategy to be especially useful if I'm talking to someone who hates a book I liked or liked a book I hated; it's valuable to borrow their eyes to see the story from a different perspective.

5. Research how the book was received by the marketplace

Just as it is helpful to know the reactions of other readers, so it helps to know what people from different places, different cultures, different ages, and so on, think of a book. Sites like Goodreads and Amazon.com can help with this.

That said, Rob cautions that ...
... not all books will be reviewed with equal fairness. Established authors may be getting the majority of their reviews from a specific type of reader, giving you only a narrow window of insight. Don't approach the critical reception of a piece as being an absolute reflection of "how audiences respond," and remember that you don't have to write for the same audience.

6. Read the book again

I love reading old favorites just as I love re-watching past episodes of TV shows or movies.

By rereading a book you will be able to ...
... see how plot moves were foreshadowed, how early passages helped prepare for latter ones, and what specific tools were used to create the emotions, movements, and structure of the piece. Further, since you will no longer be vulnerable to suspense-based ploys, you can get a clearer vision of the writing's quality at the micro level.
Rob D. Young's article is worth the read. Here's the link again: 6 Tips on Reading to Train the Writer's Eye.

Other articles you might like:

- How To Create A Press Kit
- Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers
- How To Create A Villain Your Readers Will Love To Hate

Photo link: "Waiting For You" by ||-SAM Nasim-|| by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

How To Create A Press Kit

How To Create A Press Kit

When I posted the other day about how Mike Reeves-McMillan got honest book reviews he mentioned having put together a press kit.

Having a press kit seems like a great idea since it means you'll have all the important information about both yourself and your books in one place for anyone interested to browse through.

Also, having a press kit makes it easy for the author when she/he needs to send information about the book to someone months--or years--after the launch. There's no wondering which directory the information is in, no panicked searches (or perhaps that's just me!). You know where all the information is and it's easy for anyone to access.

So, what, exactly, should go into a press kit?

Building A Press Kit: Author Information

In her article, Book Marketing: Creating Your Author Press Kit, Tolulope Popoola discusses how to put together your own press kit.

1. Author biography

I hate writing these! But it is one of the first things people want to know. What's your background, what kind of books do you write, how did you become a writer?

Tolulope writes:
Your author bio should be about 200 words, and it should have things that make you sound interesting and professional. You should include your name, your place of birth or where you currently live, what you do (or used to do) for a living, what you’ve written, perhaps your education (if it’s relevant), quirky hobbies, or interesting travel experiences. Basically, anything that will make you stand out.
This would also be a good place to list any relevant awards, were any of your previous books best-sellers, and so on.

2. Contact information

How can folks get a hold of you? A website? Blog? Twitter? Facebook? Also, list your agent if you have one.

3. Press release

Steven Lewis advises writers to pay less attention to what your book is about than to what it can do for your readers. Also, consider what market, what demographic, would be most interested in your book.

4. Sample author Q&A

Writers, bloggers especially, are always hungry for more information, so give them some! Tolulope writes:
Make a list of interview questions (and responses) about you and your book. This can include questions about your background, your inspiration for writing this book, why you chose to self-publish, your own favorite writers, future projects, etc. This section is particularly helpful for the interviewer and bloggers who want to help you promote your work, as it’s useful and ready content for them.

Building A Press Kit: Book Information

Book sample

Provide up to three chapters. As for what format you should offer them in, Tolulope made a PDF available for download, but I would suggest making your sample chapters available in as many formats as possible.

If you're having trouble converting your book from one format to another, you could try Calibre. The program is free and it's awesome.

Cover image

Often if a person is writing about your book they'll want a picture, so it's a good idea to provide the cover image. I don't think you need to provide this in many different formats, a jpg should be enough.

Where the book can be found on the web

List wherever your book can be bought as well as other sites it is featured on, sites such as Goodreads.

Sample reviews

Provide excerpts from reviews along with a link to the full text on the web.

The books "one line"

This is one line that sums up the primary conflict in your novel. For instance, they used to write a one line description of a movie on the can a reel of film was stored in that described the movie.

Nathan Bransford has written excellent how-to articles about how to summarize your book in a sentence. (see: How to Write a One Sentence Pitch

Brief Book Summary

This is generally quite short, something under 200 words or so. For example, this is Nathan Bransford's brief book summary for Jacob Wonderbar.
Jacob Wonderbar has been the bane of every substitute teacher at Magellan Middle School ever since his dad moved away from home. He never would have survived without his best friend Dexter, even if he is a little timid, and his cute-but-tough friend Sarah Daisy, who is chronically overscheduled. But when the trio meets a mysterious man in silver one night they trade a corn dog for his sassy spaceship and blast off into the great unknown. That is, until they break the universe in a giant space kapow and a nefarious space buccaneer named Mick Cracken maroons Jacob and Dexter on a tiny planet that smells like burp breath. The friends have to work together to make it back to their little street where the houses look the same, even as Earth seems farther and farther away.

Longer Book summary

This can be as much as 5,000 words or so that summarizes what happens in each chapter of your book (in other words, a synopsis) or it can be a book summary like you did above, just a bit longer. If you're like me you started off with a longer description and had to whittle it down to the essentials so you already have it.

Some sites (Smashwords for example) allow you to post both long and short descriptions so it's handy to have both, just in case.

By the way, this article of Nathan Bransford's is, hands down, the most helpful article I've read on summarizing a novel: The One Sentence, One Paragraph, and Two Paragraph Pitch. Also, see his article on how to write a one sentence pitch.

Example of a press kit

Tolulope included a link in her article to Michael Hyatt's press kit.

That's it!

What advice would you give a new author interested in assembling a press kit?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Fairy Dross And Pegasus Dreams
- How To Write A Critique: The Sandwich Method
- How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel

Photo credit: "The Reporter" by CEBImagery (dot) com under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, April 23

Chuck Wendig On Fairy Dross And Pegasus Dreams

Chuck Wendig On Fairy Dross And Pegasus Dreams

Chuck Wendig has written another post about writing, the kind that makes me want to spring up from my computer chair, punch the air a few times and, in a voice crackly with disuse, declare, "I love being a writer."

Of course, results may differ.

Chuck's post came as a response to J. Robert Lennon who had objected to the oft given piece of advice to put ones butt in a chair and write.

Though Chuck Wendig admits that this "isn't a particularly stunning piece of writing advice in the sense that it fails to teach you how to write" he thinks it's true. He writes:
What I’m saying is, the creative process is alarmingly internal. A great deal of it goes on up in our — *taps forehead* — brain-gourds, stirring around in a great bubbly froth. It’s imaginary. It’s intellectual. It’s ephemeral, if we let it be. It’s fairy dross and pegasus dreams, man. The only way to take what is imaginary and make it a reality is to put your ass in the chair and write.
I found that inspiring.

I've been writing every day--well, at least 6 days a week--and putting my work out there and it can be brutal. Often when I'm writing it's like I have a voice (sometimes it feels more like a chorus) that tells me the best thing I could do for the world would be to put down the pen. Now!

But I ignore that voice and each time it gets easier to ignore.

Except when it doesn't.

But I still write.

So that's my long winded way of saying that Chuck's post was like a warm smelly hug from the strange uncle after a particularly terrible day at school. Very welcome and comforting yet slightly disturbing.

(BTW, I mean that in the best possible way. In case you haven't guessed, although I've never had the pleasure of meeting him, I admire Chuck Wendig as a writer.)

Anyhow, the following quotation is longer than I usually feel comfortable posting but it's so great I have to share it with you, or you can just go to Chuck's post and read the whole thing. (And you should!)

Ready? (Oh, and the following has swearing in it, so be warned.) This is the bit I'm going to print off and put on my wall, above my writing desk:
It’s work. It’s not always pleasant work. Sometimes it invokes a deep, almost psychic pain — an anxiety that blooms into an acid-spitting flower corrosive to confidence and craft. And yet, the words are the words. They only matter when they manifest. And you’re the magician that summons them into existence — their manifestation is on you and you alone. Nobody said it would be easy. Nobody’s saying you have to write thousands of words per day. You write what you can write. But that verb is still in place: write. Whether you write ten words or ten-thousand, they still involve you taking off your pants, setting your coffee onto its coaster, petting your spirit animal, then sitting your ass into the chair and squeezing words from your fingertips until you collapse, unable to do any more. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. Not now.

It only matters that it’s done.

Put your ass in the chair.

No, that doesn’t tell you how to write.

But it does tell you where it begins and where it ends: with you. You are a character with agency. You are a god in this world. Creativity is a worthless state of being without the verb that triggers it: to create. Creativity is the match. You still need to strike it and light the fire.

You can’t just always bully your way through a story, true. A great deal of writing remains in the head. And it comes with patience. And craft. And with your burgeoning intuition. Just the same, the end result of writing is the written word.

And the words only get written when you fucking write them. 
Want to read some of Chuck Wendig's work? Here's a link to some of his short fiction and here's a link to the first chapter of his upcoming book Unclean Spirits (May 7, 2013). By the way, the book can be pre-ordered over at Amazon for $6.66. Nothing ominous about that. Nope. ;)

Other articles you might like:

- How To Write A Critique: The Sandwich Method
- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story
- How To Create A Villain Your Readers Will Love To Hate

Photo link: "Good Morning Bengaluru [Explored]" by NJ.. under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

How To Write A Critique: The Sandwich Method

How To Write A Critique: The Sandwich Method

Today I read Jody Hedlund's excellent article, 5 Tips For Finding a Competent & Compatible Critique Partner. If you are looking for a someone to give you feedback on your stories, it is well worth the read.

As I read Jody's article I remembered a post by Nathan Brandsford from a few years ago on how he (NB was an agent at the time) evaluated a manuscript and whether it was necessary for him to like it. (It wasn't.)

I didn't find it--I'll pass along the link if I ever do, it was a great article--but I happened across this one by Rick Daley on how to write a critique.

Rick Daley: How To Write A Critique

Rick writes:
I recommend the sandwich approach, where you start with a positive point, give an honest opinion of what doesn’t work for you (may be multiple points), and then end with another positive point or words of encouragement. I’ve found that the sandwich approach helps put recipients at ease (especially if they are hungry). It makes people more receptive to constructive criticism and keeps them from getting overly defensive. If you are taking the time to provide the feedback, you should want the person to actually do something with it.
Excellent advice! I encourage you to read the rest of his article: Critiquing Critiques.

Other articles you might like:

- How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel
- Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers
- How To Create A Villain Your Readers Will Love To Hate

Photo credit: "Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts and Crafts - A Plumpish Proportion" by familymwr under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, April 22

How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel

How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel

I just came across this interview with Hugo and Nebula Award winner, Robert J. Sawyer.

How Robert Sawyer creates his characters

The characters almost always come out of the research I do. For instance, in Frameshift, Pierre Tardivel started out simply as a man at risk for a genetic disorder, but as I learned more about such things, his background, motivations, and thoughts grew more complex and subtle. I really do believe what Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche said: "If you want to get across an idea, wrap it up in a person."

Robert Sawyer's advice for aspiring science fiction authors:

As a business, science fiction is very similar to mystery. Both have healthy short-fiction marketplaces, dominated by Dell Magazines — the same people who publish Ellery Queen's and Hitchcock's also publish the top two science-fiction magazines, Analog and Asimov's. Both genres are series oriented: if you want to develop a character and write book after book about him, her — or it — you can. Both are convention-driven businesses: just as there are lots of mystery conventions, so, too, there are lots of science-fiction conventions. And both are research-driven genres. You can't write a really good mystery without doing lots of research; the same is true of science fiction. My advice for those wanting to break into science fiction is the same advice I'd give for those wanting to break into mystery: start with short fiction, then try to sell a novel. And, just as in mystery, I'd say the greenest pastures are in New York; don't be afraid to tackle the American market, and don't worry about your Canadian content — I've never had the slightest problem selling flagrantly Canadian work in the States.
Read the rest of Robert J. Sawyer's interview here: Fingerprints Interview of Robert Sawyer.

Credits: "From the December 1997 issue of Fingerprints, the newsletter of the Crime Writers of Canada. Interview conducted in November 1997 by Jim McBride."

Other articles you might like:

- Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers
- 5 Rules For Writing A Murder Mystery: Keeping the Murderer Secret Until The End
- How To See Through Your Character's Eyes

Photo credit: "I am Chicago" by kevin dooley under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers

Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers

Brain Pickings is one of my favorite blogs.

Not all the articles are about writing--though many are--but all the posts are valuable, often surprising, and always interesting.

Take, for instance, Maria Popova's lovely piece, Advice on Writing.

First, one's eye falls on a miscellany of advice. The quotation that caught my eye was from Stephen King, "Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open."

In other words, write the first draft for yourself, write the second with the knowledge it will be read by strangers, some of your friends and, possibly, your mother.

Maria also tells us that in 1928 essayist Walter Benjamin gave writers the following advice:

(The following are loose paraphrases. Very loose.)

2. Don't read what you've just written.

If you reread what you've written it is inevitable you'll hate it and want to rewrite it, to fiddle with it, pushing words around on paper, changing them. The only result will be that all impulsiveness, all life, will bleed out, leaving it with the uniqueness and interest of a cardboard box. 

Be bold. Be different.

Have a reason for every change, not just a vague feeling.

3. Seek out the right writing environment for you.

Sound matters. Some of us need complete silence, others prefer a babble of noise like what we get writing in our favorite coffee shop.

Others must have music. The rhythm of it can help us inhabit a scene--driving music for tense action, calmer, moodier songs for sequels, scenes where our characters pause and reflect on what they are doing and why they are doing it.

And many of us aren't any one way but prefer to flit between musical identities, between writing environments, preferring complete quiet one day while the next we curl up in a coffee shop and let the soft babbling murmur of our fellow patrons wash over us like an ocean swell.

4. The magic of habit.

If you write

a) in the same place using
b) the same materials (laptop or pen and paper, whatever you're used to)
c) at the same time

it will be that much easier to do it again and that much harder not to do it.

By doing the same things over and over you'll form a habit. Writing habits are wonderful things!

5. Write your ideas down.

If you have an idea for a story, a scene, a character, write it down.

If you hear a word you'd like to use, write it down.

If you see a dessert in the window one of your characters would love (or hate), take a picture. (Pinterest can be a great way of keeping track of research photos.) (see: Using Pinterest To Help Build Your Fictional Worlds)

If you hear a song one of your characters would love (or hate) record a snippet of it so you can find out, later, which song it is and put it with your other research. (see: How To Create And Maintain The Habit Of Writing)

7. Before you sit down to write decide how long you'll write for. 

Write to the end of the appointed time. If no idea comes to you, work on describing the items you have at hand: your keyboard, your mouse. Your cat.

Or do a writing exercise.

Don't stop writing before the appointed time.

Walter Benjamin's advice appeared in an essay entitled "Post No Bills" and was part of the book One-Way Street. The essays in this book have since been re-published in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings

#  #  #

What advice would you give to new writers?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Create A Villain Your Readers Will Love To Hate
- Joe Konrath Is Having A 99 Cent Sale
- Dean Wesley Smith Writes A Novel In 10 Days

Photo link: "White landscape" by lrargerich under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, April 21

How To Create A Villain Your Readers Will Love To Hate

How To Create A Villain Your Readers Will Love To Hate

Have you ever had the experience of suddenly seeing something everywhere after you begin studying it? Of having something 'on your mind'?

That's what's happening to me with antagonists/villains.

A few days ago Larry Brooks wrote an excellent article, The Flipside of Hero Empathy, about the importance of crafting an antagonist your readers love to hate, and how that generates narrative drive. I thought it was brilliant so I'm sharing it with you. It's all about the basics of the craft, but those are strangely easy to forget.


"Your reader needs to feel something for your hero."

We know this. We want our readers to care intensely about our protagonist and about whether he/she will achieve his/her goal.

Dramatic Tension

The antagonist is "the obstacle to the hero's question. Therefore a good antagonist will help build dramatic tension or what I call narrative drive.

The Antagonist

The antagonistic force tries to prevent the protagonist from acquiring his/her goal, often because the antagonist wants it, or something it would lead directly to.

Also, the antagonist is often very much like the protagonist but with one crucial difference. For instance, Luke and Darth Vader were both strong in The Force and both trained as Jedi Knights. One could say that they both wanted what was best but they had very different ideas about what that was.

Similarly, Dr. Belloq was Indiana Jones's antagonist in Raiders of the Lost Ark. They were both archaeologists, they were both passionate about finding and bringing back relics and they both liked Marion Ravenwood, Indiana's old flame. The big difference? People were more important to Indie than relics.

Empathy & Narrative Drive/Dramatic Tension

Larry Brooks holds that if readers have both a) empathy for your protagonist and b) a strong desire to see the antagonist get what's coming to him (/go down in flames) then your story will have oodles and oodles of narrative drive, that couldn't-put-it-down-if-they-tried quality which most of us would like our stories to have.

After all, if readers desperately not only want the hero to achieve his/her goal but want the antagonist to go down in flames then they will keep turning pages until that happens.

The Following

Larry Brooks writes:
I mention this killer (literally) television program [The Following] because it offers one of the most compelling, interesting and deliciously hateable villains, maybe ever.
I haven't watched this series yet, though it's on my to-do list.

Which antagonist(s) do you love to hate?

Other articles you might like:

- Joe Konrath Is Having A 99 Cent Sale
- Dean Wesley Smith Writes A Novel In 10 Days
- How To See Through Your Character's Eyes

Photo credit: "Snow" by Luis Hernandez - D2k6.es under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, April 20

Joe Konrath Is Having A 99 Cent Sale

Joe Konrath Is Having A 99 Cent Sale

Joe Konrath writes:
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to regain control over my legacy books was so I had say-so over the price. I felt that publishers price ebooks too high.
.  .  .  .
For the next three days, my Jack Daniels, Jack Kilborn, and sci-fi books will each be 99 cents (with the exception of AFRAID, which is free 4/19 - 4/23).
This sale ends at the stroke of midnight Sunday night (April 21, 2013).

For more information, click here: Joe Konrath's 99 Cent Sale.

Other links you might like:

- Dean Wesley Smith Writes A Novel In 10 Days
- 3 Ways To Create An Antihero Your Readers Identify With
- How To Write Episodic/Serialized Fiction

Photo credit: "Edge Of Space" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Dean Wesley Smith Writes A Novel In 10 Days

How Dean Wesley Smith Writes A Novel In 10 Days

Writing A Novel In 10 Days

That's right. Dean Wesley Smith is writing a novel in 10 days!

If you're boggled by that--and I was the first time I read it--Dean discusses what he calls "fast writing" here: Writing Fast.

In Writing Fast, Dean says he believes that "the quality of the final product has no relationship to the speed, method, or feeling of the writer while writing." Therefore whether he took a year to finish the book or only 10 days, the quality would be the same.

But not only is he going to write the novel in 10 days he is also going to only do one draft. He writes:
I hope to write the book (70,000 words) in 7 to 10 days and then turn it in to the publisher. One draft. (The Ghost Novel Writing Is On For Next Week)
To find out about Dean's views on Rewriting see Rewriting Part Two.

How One Professional Writer Prepares To Write A Novel

In his first log I noticed Dean talked a bit about how he gets organized to write a novel and that's something I've always wanted to hear more about from established writers.

Dean's writing computer is different from his internet computer

Dean has different computers for writing and internet related activities. His writing computer (he has discussed this in other posts) isnt' conneted to the internet so answering email, surfing the web, and so on, won't be a temptation.

I think this is a brilliant idea.

Chapter templates

Dean writes,
1:45 PM… Moved to my writing computer, set up files, set up a chapter template since I keep a different file for every chapter and combine them at the end, then typed in a title, typed in the main character’s name and started writing. 
That's interesting, using a different file for each chapter. I do something similar, but with the help of Scrivener. I've found that having each scene on its own makes structuring and organizing a novel easier.

For instance, sometimes I will write a scene two different ways in an attempt to discover which feels truer to the story and being able to label them "Act 2 Scene 3 Version 1" and "Act 2 Scene 3 Version 2" helps enormously.

Background Information

Dean writes:
5:05 PM… Moved over to my writing computer from my internet computer and decided that before I went too far I needed to start a glossary of terms, character dress, place names and such, so I set that up and put in it the little bits I had done in the first 500 words.
- glossary of terms
- character dress (perhaps character names as well plus tags and traits)
- place names

That's straightforward. 

No Outline

Perhaps I'm burying the lead, but I found it interesting that Dean didn't create an outline previous to sitting down to write.

At least, that's what it seems. He writes:
1:45 PM… Moved to my writing computer, set up files, set up a chapter template since I keep a different file for every chapter and combine them at the end, then typed in a title, typed in the main character’s name and started writing.  I have no idea where this book is going, but to start I paid attention to making up some setting through the character’s eyes and opinions. [Emphasis mine]
At this point at 4:26 in the morning, I’m at 7,625 words for the day. I could go a little farther but this is a ton better than I had hoped for the first day so I’m going to stop and go downstairs with my cat and veg out on some stupid television.

I still have no idea at all where this book is going. Just making it up as I go. But at the same time I’m feeling no worry at the moment either. I have a hunch that will come. (grin) [Emphasis mine]
I guess I'm a plotter rather than a pantser because I'm getting a nervous tick just thinking about sitting down to write a novel in 10 days without an outline!

I'm eagerly looking forward to following Dean's progress. It's not often--in fact, hardly ever--that one gets to look over an authors shoulder as they write. This will be interesting. I just wish I could read the book at the end!

Other articles you might like:

- How To See Through Your Character's Eyes
- 50 Shades Of Grey: The Most Profitable Books Of All Time?
- When Is A Story Ready To Publish?

Photo credit: "Its Always a Journey" by Zach Dischner under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.