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Writing for Life


Fact or Fiction? How Novelists Can Blend Factual Research with Creative Storytelling

man studying ground

Today’s guest post is by author Jack Woodville London, whose new book A Novel Approach, just released:

Readers who have some passing knowledge of literature might be startled when in reading The Three Musketeers they encounter a passage in which D’Artagnan refers to Gulliver’s Travels. The dilemma is that The Three Musketeers is set more than a hundred years before Jonathan Swift wrote about Gulliver. Alexandre Dumas got it wrong.

On the other hand, no one came nearer to getting it right than Patrick O’Brian. His seafaring novels highlight practices of gammoning and warping the futtocks, details that tend to overshadow the writing that brought such terms our way. The Three Musketeers is undeniably a classic; The Wine Dark Sea is the subject of much (unfair) criticism for burying a good story in unnecessary historical details. Continue Reading…

12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction


Dialog: Compressed and Essential

kids talking through cans

Dialog is the element that brings stories alive. Imagine reading an entire novel void of dialog. Trying to sustain a whole novel—or even a few consecutive scenes—without any dialog would be difficult, for that would mean your story would have to be conveyed by narrative and internal thoughts alone. So our ninth essential pillar of novel construction is all about dialog.

Writing great dialog is challenging. Browne and King, in their terrific book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, tell how some editors considering a manuscript for publication look first at the dialog. One (unnamed) editor is quoted as saying, “If the dialog doesn’t doesn’t work, the manuscript gets bounced. If it’s good, I start reading.” Continue Reading…

Say What?


Eradicating Zombie Nouns


Zombies are big in movies and TV these days. But zombie nouns have been the bane of good writers for much longer. We know zombies as dead or inanimate objects come to life. Zombie nouns, also known as abstract nouns, suck the life out of good writing. It happens when parts of speech—most often verbs and adjectives—get turned into nouns. We call it nominalization.

It’s an easy enough process. You simply add a suffix like ion, ate, or ize to an adjective or verb and it becomes a noun.

  • The verb complete becomes the noun completion.
  • The verb study becomes the noun (gerund) studying.
  • The adjectives happy and sad become the nouns happiness and sadness.

Continue Reading…

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