For Writers on Craft

Below are quick links to my blog posts for authors on the craft of writing:

Careful what you read while you write: At the beginning of this year, I was ready to write the last 60,000 words of a novel. Me, my laptop, and my research were tucked away in a tropical paradise, but the words I was writing, they were reading like they’d been spewed out of a meat grinder. I decided to take the day off and finish the book I was reading instead. A few pages in, I realized I had no interest in finishing the book in question. The prose was uninspired, as was I. Continue reading here.

How to beta your book for emotional responses of readers: Test screening is to film what beta reading is to authors. In film, studies are being done on technology that can gauge a test screen audience’s neuro and biometric responses. Suffice it to say, when this technology proves viable, I will not be able to afford it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want a way to know which parts of my books make people laugh, cry, or want to throw their e-reader against the wall. Continue reading here.

How to vary your syntactic use of metaphor: I noticed recently that Sylvia Plath, in her novel The Bell Jar, favored verbs as delivery vehicles for metaphor. Don’t get me wrong; the woman could work a metaphor along the syntactic spectrum, but the verbs really stuck out for me, and it occurred to me that in my own work, which contains a fair amount of metaphorical language, I hadn’t yet mastered Plath’s skill with verbal metaphors. Hence, this post in which I workshop one metaphorical image using different parts of speech and different phrase types. Continue reading here.

Authors, read for what irks you: I was speaking with one of my critique partners today, and we got into this big discussion about how we dislike when characters have a misunderstanding that could have been avoided if one of them just asked the other the obvious question that everyone watching the show was thinking. Continue reading here.

3 techniques to reduce dialogue tags and cues in group scenes: With groups of more than two speakers, scenes can become cluttered with dialogue tags and cues, which can make a passage more stilted than it needs to be. But, with one sentence, you can signal an immediate reduction in the parties to the conversation, even if they’re still technically in the scene. Continue reading here.

9 factors to consider when trialing critique partners: When on the lookout for critique partners, a genre match is important and you should have at least one, but it isn’t always the most important factor. Take a look at these nine criteria, and the next time you’re scouting for a new CP, you may want to consider placing additional emphasis on the eight that come after genre. Continue reading here.

On balancing and weighting writing advice: You’re stuck on a question about how to use a writing device, and off to the Internet/library/bookstore you go. Perhaps you stop after article number one, thinking certainly this must be the definitive answer, because this publishing professional has game to spare. She may well, but still your search should continue. Why? Because writing advice needs to be balanced and weighted. Continue reading here.

2 foreshadowing techniques to reduce new information overload: Reading a book is like jumping on an exercise bike for the brain. The reason is because every sentence is a piece of information the reader needs to process. Here are two foreshadowing techniques to ease readers into new information (including but not limited to new characters, sub-themes, and subplots.) Continue reading here.

Why your ego needs an author community: Family and friends are great, but they don’t understand author milestones, nor do they understand what it takes to achieve them. And when we fall, they don’t have the first clue about how to help us up. They may start to come around, but it can take years. This is why, authors, we need to stock our author communities. Because when it comes to being an author, family and friends a cheerleading section do not make. Continue reading here.

15 tips for interviewing experts for your novel: Interviewing has played a large role in my career as a journalist and marketer, and now, as an author. Sure, I still get all flustered when I’m reaching for a big interview, but for the most part, these fifteen tips and techniques work for me. Continue reading here.

On Plotting: intentional versus unintentional creative thinking time: An old creative writing teacher gave the class some advice I’ll never forget. When it comes to story ideas, it’s best to ride around on the bus with it. In other words, take time to process and decide if it’s the best story and/or story direction. In my mind, there are two types of riding-around-on-the-bus-with-it. Continue reading here.

Is your next story research light or intensive? I like to put things on spectrums. When it comes to considering how research intensive a story will be, the spectrum might look something like this. Continue reading here.

DIY Budget Writing Retreat: I’ve done the research for you, and here are your DIY budget writing retreat options. Continue reading here.

How to think laterally about editor feedback: In my opinion, the editor is always right… about the existence of a problem. Or at least usually. I let feedback ping around in my head for a day or three, and more often than not, it will land in one of the following seven categories. Continue reading here.

How to freshen up cliched expressions: I often read blogs where writers are told to avoid overused expressions like the plague. That would mean that all idiomatic and figurative language are off the table. The arguments are that triteness weakens prose and that readers gloss over anything overused. In my humble opinion, there are ways to update cliches so that they have resonance, and more often than not, end up having a humorous effect. Continue reading here.

Fixing implausibility issues in your fiction: My first editor, back before I switched genres, gave me some advice about believability issues in my manuscript that I’ll never forget. Continue reading here.

How to think like your future book buyers: Marketers train their brains to think like their targeted consumers. Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to get in the mindset of your future book buyers. These prompts are geared toward the craft of writing as well as the marketing side of things. Continue reading here.

5 ways to find inspiration for the next great villain: The five methods I describe for brainstorming villains are most applicable if your manuscript or screenplay contains at least an element of the thriller, suspense, or horror genres. To read more, click here.

5 ways to temper the preachy in your plot: We all have issues we care about, and anyone who tells you novels shouldn’t have agendas hasn’t read any lately. But how do we as authors plot issues into our manuscripts without coming off as preachy and one-sided? To find out five ways to prevent “preachy” from showing up in your future book reviews, click here.

My list of blog hops for authors: The benefits of blog hops are many. Sometimes called link-up parties, hops are a great way to meet other writers/bloggers and build your author community; gain traffic and engagement on your site; and I’ve even seen them used as a tool in virtual book tours. To read my list of ongoing, everyone-is-welcome blog hops for authors, click here.

How to polish your manuscript and query an editor: The Internet is flush with editors. So I should be able to email my favourite genre matches, and they’ll jump at the chance to work with me, right? Not necessarily. Logic dictates that editors can only take on so many projects at a time. Editor Andi Cumbo explains how to put your best foot forward. Continue reading here.

Developing your reading list, a strategy for authors: With so many options and only so many reading hours in the day, how do we as authors narrow to the most practical reading list? The logical side of my brain needed a way to sort the options, and the result is my list of the eight categories of books (and articles) we should be thinking about when determining our reading list. Continue reading here.

Writing at the intersection of originality and what sells: For those of us at the beginning of our fiction empire journey, should we be striving for novel novels or aiming instead for something at the intersection of originality and what’s already selling? Continue reading here.

Announcing new monthly blog hop for authors: The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful. Continue reading here.

2017 list of Twitter chats for writers (latest new chat added Sep 2018): Here’s my list of 31 active Twitter chats. Search the list for which ones you might be interested in checking out, add a reminder to your calendar, and join in the discussions. Continue reading here.

Literary Agent Elizabeth Copps offers advice on what comes after NaNoWriMo: Elizabeth Copps offers advice on when manuscripts are ready for agent eyes, industry standards for novel length and how to make sure your query letter is up to snuff. Continue reading here.

5 successful authors discuss daily word count goals: I asked five successful authors to discuss their year-round strategy and was surprised by the differences and flexibility in approaches. See for yourself… Continue reading here.

Hey Authors: Are you a Word Hoarder? You should be: What if you could tap into the expanded vocabulary of authors you admire, with the end goal of using those words in your own writing? It’s easier than you think. Just start a Word Hoard. Continue reading here.

My top five writing anxieties: In ascending order of mind-numbing horribleness, here are my plotting and daily word count anxieties. Continue reading here.