Category Archives: Publishing

16 Out of 10 Tips Can’t be Wrong!

  1. The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and once they are up there, throw rocks at them.

Vladimir Nabokov

A story without challenges is just plain dull. Nobody wants to read that. Readers want an escape, and it’s your job to give them that.

  1. There is only one plot – things are not what they seem.

Jim Thompson

This kinda made my head explode (in a good way). My eyes were opened. I realized that we want – as readers – a roller coaster ride, twists, turns… and as a writer, we have to challenge ourselves to deliver them.

  1. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Anton Chekhov

If you have ever been in a critique group, you’ve heard this a thousand times. This is the essence of “show versus tell” and it’s the main thing lacking in your writing. This is what immerses a reader in your story.

  1. All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies.

Steve Almond

This is very liberating for a writer to realize. Once you get it, the doors are open to a lot of stuff – if you have the guts to write it. Willing accomplices. They want you to do it. That’s huge.

  1. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Kurt Vonnegut

It’s also been said as, he who tries to please everyone with a story pleases no one. Find your muse and write to her. Not every story is for every reader.

  1. Great writing isn’t safe.

Dan Alatorre

It’s not gratuitous to include myself on this list because I work with a lot of new writers and this is what they’re afraid of: someone I know might read this! Put that aside and write in a way that will grab the reader, about any topic. If it feels real enough and you put the emotion in, readers will laugh with your characters and cry with them, and thank you afterward. But it’s a lot of effort, and you really have to put your bare soul on the page. Go there.

  1. It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way ‘atcha write it.

Jack Kerouac

Your writing voice is yours, not a copy of someone else’s, and you must use it as a tool to deliver the goods. In that, style counts.

  1. The best stories don’t come from “good vs. evil,” but “good vs. good.”

Leo Tolstoy

For the bad guy’s point of view, he’s probably not the bad guy. Mind = blown. And understanding that, your writing just went to a new level.

  1. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

Robert Frost

Pour emotion onto the page. Have tears falling into the keyboard as you create the drama. You can, and when you do, your reader gets it because it reads true.

  1. Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once

Stephen King

What can I say? We all love/hate to be teased. We all love a good surprise midway through. We all love a good twist. We all… well, you get it.

(It’s okay to have a few more, for after the writing, for the editing, the publishing, the motivation to start, the evaluating afterward…)

  1. A good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.

Alfred Hitchcock

I love this quote, and not just because I messed it up while texting from a jacuzzi with a friend. If it’s seen as life, it’s relatable. But it’s not everything from life. That’d be boring. Just the good stuff. That’ll make a nice foundation for a good story.

  1. Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.

Napoleon Hill

Do not deprive the world of your story. Don’t polish it forever, because at some point it’s not better, it’s just different. Publish it and get on to your next one. You have more than one great story in you.

  1. If you wait for inspiration, you’re a waiter, not a writer.

Dan Poynter

That hurts to read, doesn’t it? Yeah, so don’t expect the Great American Novel to find you. It won’t. It will come as a result of a lot of hard work and days where you didn’t feel like writing but did anyway.

  1. If it’s funny enough, you can do anything.

Dan Alatorre

I have covered the most egregious topics imaginable by being funny when I did it. And as a rule, this totally works. Think court jester, speaking truth to power, but without the silly hat thing.

  1. If a book is well written, I always find it too short.

Jane Austen

I think everyone does. Don’t worry about the length of your story, worry about how engaging it is.

  1. And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

John Steinbeck

This gives you permission to have early works. Everyone will expect you to get better with each story you write, because you are constantly learning and improving. Your next book is you best one, and none will be perfect, so stop expecting that and stop denying the world of your stories.

SPECIAL THANKS TO DAN ALATORRE – AUTHOR! (for compiling this list)

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SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN!

I recently read a “writer’s advice” column telling authors to avoid political posts if they want to increase their book sales.

I disagree!

This is how whole populations are silenced.

Those of us who write, have a responsibility to speak up loud and clear for those whose voices are whispers.

If writers shy away from expressing their views, they are capitulating to those in power, who happily quash any questioning of their authority, action or inaction.

Throughout history, writers have been at the forefront of free speech. If we stay on the side-lines, in order to make a profit, we do a disservice to not just our own readers, but to our society in general.

 

Your thoughts?

NO CRUTCHES ALLOWED!

Your Secret Editing Weapon: Lose Your Crutch Words

I know the copy editor was just trying to be nice, but I burst out laughing at her carefully worded comment in my last manuscript. I had to imagine what she must have thought as she realized she needed to mention it.

What the flick?

“Please note ‘flickering’ throughout” she wrote. Then she put a smiley-face so I’d understand she wasn’t being critical, only supportive, and went on to say, “There seems to be a lot of flickering going on in your manuscript.”

Flickering I thought? Flickering? I was baffled. But when I did an edit-find for flicker, there it was. I mean, there it was. Again and again and again.

Monitors flickered. People’s eyes flickered. Birds flickered. Lights flickered. I can’t even remember all the things that flickered. Somehow I had gotten that word into my head, and apparently it seemed like a good one, and every day as I wrote my thousand words, I guess I figured I should use it. It never crossed my mind that I was repeating it. Like crazy.

Just don’t

Has your own version of “flicker” happened to you? Trust me, it has. When we’re in the midst of writing, when we’re in the zone and the words are flowing, our brains tend to default to words that are comfortable. How many times do you write “of course”? How many times do you write “right”? Right? How about “just”?

What would happen if you went through your manuscript looking for those words? How many do you think you would find? I promise you, you’ll be shocked at how many times you type “just.” You don’t even notice it. But it is just clogging your manuscript.

Oops, I said it again. And “even.” That’s another one.

Actually, crutch words make everyone the same

Whatever. Does more than one character say whatever? Does more than one character say “you’re kidding me?” Does more than one character say “I know, right?” ? Not only do we latch on to our personal crutch phrases, but we tend to assign them to every character. That’s a pitfall because it makes every character sound just the same.

I mean—the same. Not “just” the same.

Actually. Certainly. Supposedly. Allegedly. By the name of. As a result. Really. How many times do you use those?

More important: How many of them do you need?

Pick one of your words. Put it in edit-find. (You know how to do that, right?) Prepare to be amazed. And you might as well laugh, because now you have the power to fix it.

Next, see if your manuscript is—over qualified. How often do you use kind of, sort of, possibly, maybe, a little? What are you qualifying? What would happen to your manuscript if you cut those sentence softeners? Try it. Doesn’t it sound stronger to say it is something, rather than a little bit something?

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this

And check your choreography. How often do people tuck their hair behind their ear? Wave someone off? Flip a hand. Raise an eyebrow. Raise both eyebrows? How often do people nod? Or pause? Or pause, nodding?

Do people shrug? Do they grin? Do they shrug and grin? Think about it. In real life, people rarely do those things. Shrugging, maybe. Grinning? Not so much. And shrugging and grinning is as goofy as it gets.

It’s damn important, though, for a stronger manuscript

When you excise your crutch words, you’ll see your manuscript take on a new quality. In my current WIP, the copy editor noted the word “though.” I mean…though? But when I did my faithful edit-find, I found I’d used it 72 times. Seventy-two times! I thought: why didn’t I say although? Why didn’t I say but? Why didn’t I rearrange the sentence so the entire structure was different? When I took out all but about 15 of those “thoughs,” the sentence rhythm changed. The balance changed. After noticing my repetitions, I had to think harder about new ways to express the same thought—and the result was a stronger manuscript.

Oh, I forgot “very.” How many verys do you have? Mark Twain, the story goes, had a perfect solution. He suggested every time you want to use the word “very,” replace it with the word “damn.” Then your editor will take it out, and your sentence will read the way it should have in the first place.

So here’s today’s tip—go on a treasure hunt for your personal repetitions. And keep a list of them to remind you!

And then—get writing.

 

The “find” option can become your best friend when editing. Please feel free to share your most common crutch words in the Comments section of this post…it may help the rest of us kick those crutches to the curb!—L.C. Bennett Stern