Behold! National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us. As you get ready to write or revise your magnum opus, your friends at Caffeinated Press—presently embroiled in final line editing, so it’s top of mind—offer a few construction suggestions for you
NaNo is coming. Are you ready?
Manuscript queries get rejected for all sorts of reasons, but “goodness of fit” and “commercial viability” present an obstacle that a good line edit or peer review is unlikely to overcome.
As you walk away with practical advice for preparing your manuscript, you’ll feel full — of accomplishment, of excitement to edit, of coffee and snacks.
Writing only sometimes features rapid-fire composing then revising, but it always requires getting the story right in your heart so that it fills your head and then flows from your fingers toward the paper — even if it’s through one type hammer at a time.
Although you simply cannot distill creative writing into a proscriptive algorithm — people start in different places, and they learn in different ways — a review of the literature suggests that there’s perhaps too little scaffolding offered to new writers.
Too many authors, especially those early in their writing career, tend to use sarcasm as the default inner voice of a character.
These little maxims are the “big ideas” I share with early-career authors eager for advice about the craft of writing.
Never underestimate the power of base moral conflict to drive tension and keep a plot advancing.
Writing the Great American Novel isn’t much different from studying a martial art or learning to scuba dive or qualifying for the Boston Marathon: You need a wee bit o’ talent, of course, but success follows from mastery, which follows from putting in the time to advance from novice to expert.
While it may be true that certain writing rules apply broadly, or even universally, the application of those rules can vary widely as a function of genre and story length.
One of the worst things an author can do is shop queries on the open market for material that hasn’t been substantially revised in light of feedback from competent beta readers.
I don’t think there’s a “One Weird Trick” approach to building a writer’s toolkit that will work for everyone. The ways I’ve written in the past don’t work for me today, and today’s method may not work for me a year from now. What’s important is that your infrastructure blend into the background; you should use it, without being aware that it’s there. And when it doesn’t work, change it up.
Although publisher/agent guidelines vary in the specifics, most novel queries require a cover letter, one to three sample chapters and a synopsis. Synopses, however, tend to bedevil early-career writers. They’re presented, usually, as an afterthought, or as some sort of back-of-the-cover tease — and therefore, the synopsis becomes the silent killer of what otherwise could have been a perfect pitch.
Like it or not, although writing as an activity is inherently solitary, writing for publication is an astonishingly social cultural phenomenon that requires much networking and relationship building.
Even though it might be embarrassing, an occasional trip down memory lane is useful. And it’s worth remembering, too, that your first or second novel will almost surely end up in the back of your file cabinet. That’s OK. It’s healthy. Your goal shouldn’t be to write and then to publish, but rather to write until you’re ready to publish.
Dive deeply into author one-page bios, glossy headshots, writers’ blogs, social media marketing and book synopses.
Writers’ conferences open several valuable opportunities to authors — the chance to learn from peers, to buy books, to network with other writers, to stumble upon new potential markets, etc. But before you sign up for every conference in a 150-mile radius, consider your goals and the conference’s agenda. Even a free conference might not be worth what you paid to attend it.
We believe best practices depend less on how a document looks on the screen, and more how it’s internally structured for interoperability among the different programs that contribute to a robust editorial process flow.
Many authors rely on Word or Writer and they do just fine. But those programs weren’t designed for long-form creative writing in mind. Word and Writer are ubiquitous; people tend to have these programs and they already know how to use them, so they use them. And no one begrudges them that. But wouldn’t it be great to use the right tool for the job? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make use of programs designed for long-form writing and optimized for use with publishing software, or to add plugins to Word to make it more useful for long-form writing?
A self-directed writer’s retreat, even if lasts just one marathon day, can help you get your bearings for the year to come and to re-acquaint you with your portfolio.
Join Caffeinated Press for a three-hour focused seminar intended to give you practical advice for taking your manuscript from the “Yay, I’m done!” moment to the “Yay, I’ve got a publisher!” party.
As we see more and more poems submitted to markets like The 3288 Review, it’s worth offering a few tips from a publisher’s perspective about the best ways to get your poetry in front of a larger audience.
Be consistent and don’t get fancy; there’s plenty of time for beautification when you’re meeting with the designers before the book hits the printer.
Some people do NaNo for fun. Others, however, think that maybe this time, this novel is the one that will make its way to publishers or agents.
Going through edits for The 3288 Review and Brewed Awakenings 2, I’ve come across several trends common to several writers. Study these errors to improve your technical proficiency as a writer.
You can buy a real, physical cabin in the woods. But if your head’s not in the right place, it still won’t be enough.
What happens if the horror writer takes their usual writing time to write a humorous anecdote instead? What if the humor writer turns to poetry? The poet to an essay? A technical, non-fiction writer to horror? It may not result in a best seller, but what does it mean?
The main value to a writer — even a fiction writer of short genre stories — of following a stylebook is consistency.
With a slush pile that, all told, now approaches a half-million words, we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate submissions from more than 80 different authors, in genres ranging from single short poems to overly long novels
I had heard of them, but it wasn’t until recently — running through the Brewed Awakenings anthology slush pile — that I encountered a few in the wild. Writing experts caution us against such beasts, although the retrograde savages inhabiting
We don’t enjoy squashing dreams any more than you enjoy getting your dreams squashed. But careful guidelines adherence, good cover letters and the use of beta readers will go a long way to getting your manuscript from No to Yes.
No two writers have the same technique. Nor should they. What works for Author Bob isn’t going to necessarily work for Author Jane, because we’re all wired differently ‘twixt the earholes.
The more that authors seed their stories with oh-so-common plot contrivances, relying on twists instead of depth to drive the plot, the less top-shelf readers will pay attention. And also, for that matter, the less that publishers will be persuaded to license a manuscript.
The single biggest challenge with contemporary fiction, assuming the prose is otherwise clean, is verbosity — using “plenty of words” when a few choice alternatives would suffice, or relying on strings of prepositional phrases or subordinate clauses in lieu of a single rarer word or a shorter phrase.
We authors can do better than two-dimensional, plastic-banana characters in our stories.
Scene-setting isn’t easy. There’s no magical paint-by-numbers approach for getting it right. When done well, a perfectly described scene can make a story; when done poorly, the story collapses.
The world benefits when authors tell their stories. But the stories that move us the most are informed by a deep understanding of the trends and ideas that undergird them. This understanding comes from reading or otherwise experiencing each individual plank on the scaffold of our story.
Balancing diction and tone and rhythm to generate a character’s authentic voice makes for tough work for any author. But perhaps even more important than a character’s voice is the structural framework into which that narration sits.
One of the most common structural reasons a person’s manuscript may receive the cold shoulder from an agent or publisher follows from the apparently random admixture of narrative points of view within a story.
Many writers struggle with finding time for perfecting their craft. It isn’t just about writing and producing a story, it’s also about editing, research, character development, scene structure, making the perfect cup of coffee or tea, reading, finding inspiration… Wow.
Before you submit your work for a peer critique, give yourself a robust self-edit. Look for common punctuation or grammar challenges that often burden less experienced authors.
To crack an agent or editor for the first time, you have to come in with prose that’s pristine and elegant. When readers encounter poor-punctuation pandemics, homonym homicides, usage abusage or train-wreck transitions, they shut down.