The Indie Bookstore Renaissance

Today’s guest post is by Mark Gottlieb, literary agent at Trident Media Group.

Indie bookstores have always been paradises for book lovers, offering a browsing experience unmatched by many other retailers. Just mind your way around the outdoor book carts on the way in; smell the old yellowing pages; listen to the creak of wooden floors; the tallness of shelves that have a tendency to envelop … and you will know that these things cannot easily be recreated elsewhere or online.

Or you might even see near-exact replicas of Fred Armisen’s “Candace” and Carrie Brownstein’s “Toni” in a Portlandia sketch about two feminist bookstore owners in Portland and have to look twice!

Although, in the face of chain stores and online retailers, it has saddened many readers to know that independent bookstores have been struggling for a long time. We have gone from what might once have been many thousands of independent bookstores in the United States down to 2,321 independent bookstores, as reported by the American Bookseller’s Association.

Just the other day, Book Culture—an independent chain of four bookstores in New York City—announced that they would need a $500,000 cash infusion to keep their chain going. So this all begs the question: How could hope for an indie bookstore “renaissance” possibly be on the way? The answers might actually surprise you. Continue Reading…

Scene Mastery – An Essential Skill for Novelists

Scenes are the backbone and heart of novels. There are many types of scenes and many ways to write them. Genre is the biggest concern because in order to write the perfect scenes for your story, you need to know who you are writing to.

Too often writers sit down and pull a scene out of their heads. They don’t spend much time planning the purpose of the scene. This speaks to a bigger issue: lack of overall plotting. If you don’t understand novel structure and what the key turning points are, you will find it challenging to write the kinds of scenes needed.

Certain types of scenes are found in different sections of a novel. Setup scenes are focused on setting up character and premise. Scenes near the climax are about high stakes and high energy.

I’ve written a lot of blog posts and book chapters on scenes, and if you aren’t a scene master, be sure to dig into these (and other) resources. Continue Reading…

The Magical, Mystical Addiction of the English Language

Today’s guest post is by Dan Vale.

My family lived in Germany for five years, and when we first got there, we went to a German restaurant. We soon learned that we had a lot to learn. When my twelve-year-old son asked a German waitress where the bathrooms were, she gave him a cookie.

In spite of the difficulty of learning a foreign language, I am in awe of foreigners who are able to learn our difficult English language. Still, the complex and convoluted nature of our language is addicting and wonderful.

That is why we writers have become addicted to the English language. Isaac Asimov once said, “If my doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d just type faster.”

Although we are enthralled by words, we know that reading too many poorly chosen words to describe something is like eating too much of a mediocre meal. The US government regulations on the sale of cabbage, for example, consist of 26,911 words. The Gettysburg Address, however, consists of only 286 words. Thomas Jefferson appropriately said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Continue Reading…

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