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Writers, What Are You Missing?

Here’s the truth about missing things. Sometimes we have no clue what we’re missing. Something’s just not right. We feel a bit perplexed because we know something’s off but we have no idea how to identify what it is.

I’m talking about our writing, in particular. Though, we might feel this same way in other endeavors—building a piece of furniture, painting a picture, composing a song, decorating our living room.

Have you ever had that niggling feeling that you just haven’t nailed it?

This is a very common feeling among writers. There’s nothing less helpful that giving a friend a chapter you’ve written and he tells you it’s pretty good. But you can tell by the tone of his voice (or email) or the look on his face that he wasn’t all that moved by what he read.

And it only confirms your sneaky suspicion—you already knew, in your soul, that the writing wasn’t spot-on. Continue Reading…

World-Building through Your Characters’ Eyes

Today’s guest post is by Holly West.

World-building is a writing term most often heard in discussions of fantasy and sci-fi novels—genres that require writers are create complex realms, often with rules different from our own. But in fact, all books need a certain amount of world-building, even if it’s just conveying the layout of a school, the interior of a restaurant, or the clues of a murder scene.

And it can be tricky to figure out how much world-building you need to include, especially in those oh-so-important opening pages.

There’s so much that needs to be accomplished there. Writers have to grab the reader’s attention, introduce the character, set the stage, and jump into the action . . . and they have to do all of these things very quickly. It’s a tough challenge.

But, it’s doable. Continue Reading…

How You Can Avoid Making Structural Mistakes in Your Novel

I’ve spent more than three decades writing novels. And at first I had no clue what I was doing.

Like many people, I think it would be a cinch to write a novel. I read voraciously, so why wouldn’t I just intuitively know how to construct a novel?

This is what a whole lot of people think. But perhaps you know the truth by now: writing a terrific novel is complex, like building a house. You have to have the “big picture” in mind the while time you are plotting and writing. And that’s like spinning a dozen plates at one time.

It’s doable, but it does take practice.

So after spending three decades dropping a lot of plates, I spent a ton of time tearing the novel-writing process apart. During those years I attended plenty of writing conferences and retreats and workshops. I read lots of books on the craft, and when the Internet became part of daily life, I started reading blog posts and listening to podcasts and doing all I could to get novel construction under my belt. Continue Reading…

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