Ignore your novel

I’ve heard it said that an author should walk away from their novel and let it rest.  The advice goes something like this: ‘Did you just finish your draft? Good. Walk away and don’t touch it.’

Ahem. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do that. I go from first draft into second immediately. No rest for this gal.

Is it a mistake?

Catharine Bramkamp claims it is in this great post. “…growing and nurturing the space between the first draft and the second draft is the most important thing you can do for your work.”

Linda S. Clare recommends the exact same thing in this post. “ I recommend letting it rest a month or more.”

They’re not alone. Here are a few others: CG Blake; Kay Kenyon. The idea is that, after a break, you’ll hit your work with fresh eyes.

That manuscript, you’ve just slaved over for months, is compared to bread dough.images-18

Apparently, it needs time to rise to its potential.

FD_1It’s certainly food for thought. 🙂


Don’t take your writing too seriously

I may be wrong but I think writers are pretty hard self-critics. I think that’s how we get that dreaded ‘Writer’s Block’. I’m not a psychologist or therapist but I read this great post by BELLA MAHAYA CARTER on ‘Why writing isn’t selfish navel-gazing’ and thought she might be onto something. Maybe we need to stop taking our writing so seriously.

Ms. Carter teaches and her students put down their writing. As she says,

The only thing “off” about my student that night was her judgments of herself, and of her writing. I see this a lot. I’ve threatened to put a jar on the coffee table in my living room into which my students must toss a quarter for every apology, excuse, or self-deprecating remark made prior to reading what they’ve written.”

I read her post (a really good one) and wondered, do I take my writing too seriously? There are times when the fun, the magic of writing is simply gone.

Writers, resist the temptation to judge yourself and your work. Think of your writing as sandbox time. Dig. Play. Get dirty. Make friends. Explore the shapes of things. See what you can build. But don’t take yourself too seriously. The more important your writing feels, the better it serves you to think of it as a game. A diversion. Something you do for yourself first. Enjoy it.”

I think, following her advice, I’ll try to enjoy my writing more. Maybe add a silly curl to my hero’s hair or give the heroine the hiccups…during a kiss. Ha! Something that will lighten my mood and make sure that I remember to have fun with writing.

After all, if I want serious, I’ve got my Day Job.


(credit: epicfunnystuff.zxq.net)

(credit: epicfunnystuff.zxq.net)

Character flaws–a great gift

I loved this post by Monica M. Clark. I always loved it when characters aren’t just evil for the sake of being evil and aren’t just perfect because they’re the hero and heroine. In fact, flat characters like that tend to turn me away from a book. When I write, I always hope to make my characters both flawed and gifted, whether they’re the heroine or the villain.

Personally, I don’t know if I would call the thing that shapes your protagonist or antagonist a “flaw” per se.  I think it’s more of a trait,” Ms. Clark says. And that’s a great way to put it, isn’t it? Maybe my villain keeps the hero away from the heroine because he’s prejudiced against him but, at the same time, he’s caring about her, he’s trying to protect her. That same ‘flaw’ might be a redeeming quality if he cares about the heroine enough to save her life, say.

Here’s how she explains it. “…a character’s “flaw” is the source of both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. So, if the flaw is “fear of failure,” then the strength is that he is careful, prepared, and a strategist, while the weakness is that he is also relentless.”

Love it. Love how one strength is also a weakness and vice versa. Love it. I think, if I manage to study my characters this way, it’ll make them richer and more enjoyable.

What a great post. Loved it! A big thanks to Ms. Clark for writing it!


A concept story

I always thought to write a story, I needed good characters and a good setting. Turns out, you need a concept.

So, what’s that? Check out this post by Dorian Scott Cole where he explains what a concept is. Or skip it and read the blurb I copied from it. (Please note he not only does a much better job, he also goes on to give examples and explanations of each word in bold.)

“Typically a character wants something, which brings him into conflict with a second character. After a series of conflicts, which are handicapped by a subplot, and after a plot twist, the final battle erupts, and character one finally resolves the conflict. A fully developed concept should have all of the bold words in place.”

In other words, if you want your story to rock, you need conflict in the form of a concept not a premise. Hm…what’s the difference?

Larry Brooks explains the difference between a concept and a premise in this post on his award-winning blog.

And Dorian Scott Cole also adds his own explanation, “”Premise” is a common term used to describe what a screenplay is about. It is very similar to concept. You can develop a concept with a question, “if you do this, something is going to happen.” You may have to develop characters and write some of the story before you know what will happen and can write the concept. The premise, on the other hand, can be stated as an if…. then…. statement. If this happens, then this will happen. Your screenplay will always have one or more premises that can be drawn from it, and people may quarrel with your premise.”

Does that help at all? Hm. Here is another try from Writersdigest.com and one more from Nathan Bransford.

Concepts. I gotta get me some of those.

Writing lessons

I’ve written my entire life but it wasn’t until I self-published and started doing it with a purpose that the lessons came.

I’ve learned that keeping a blog will help me write.

I’ve learned that bloggers are some of the kindest people.

I’ve learned that self-publishing is both hard and awesome at once.

I’ve learned that what I write online is both public and permanent.

And I’ve learned that writing a book is a labour of love.

I read this great blog: Zenhabits.net and found this post on ‘What I’ve learned as a writer‘ by Leo Babauta. An amazing, uplifting post.

I particularly liked his Number 8; procrastination is your friend. And his number 12; jealousy is idiotic. If you’re looking for something positive and Yoda-like, check it out.

How about you? What have you learned from writing?

Take that advice and shove it

Writing advice is a great blessing…if only it wasn’t so contradictory. The more I read advice from the Greats, the more confused I become. Check out this assembly of quotes: http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/writing-advice-from-famous-authors

Did you see the one from F. Scott Fitzgerald? “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”

Then, right after, comes Neil Gaiman with: “Laugh at your own jokes.”


Then, G.K. Chesterton warns us against taking advice at all: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then doing the exact opposite.”

But, is this true? Does advice in writing always contradict itself? Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here are a few takes from those in the know.

Ygor H. Speranza wrote this really good post warning authors against twisting themselves into a pretzel trying to follow all that contradictory advice out there. https://medium.com/thoughts-on-creativity/68827ff87151

Kate DiCamillo wrote these ones on how to survive all that contradictory advice. Part 1, Part 2Part 3 and Part 4

Nathan Bransford wrote about conflicting query advice in this post: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/09/how-to-deal-with-contradictory-query.html.

I do think Nathan Bransford sums it up pretty well. Writing is an art, not a science. In math, 4 + 4 will always give us 8, but in writing there’s no such thing as a magical formula for success…or is there? What do you think?

P. S. Just in case you think this entire rant is baseless and love writing advice, here are Cassandra Clare’s amazing self-help tips! 🙂  http://www.cassandraclare.com/writing-advice/

The best writing advice I ever got

When I first started thinking about getting published, I went online and researched everything that had to do with writing. I went on every site and read every post out there. From query letters to publishing tips, I read them all.

The problem with all that advice was that most of it was of the ‘don’t do this’ type. Don’t start a query letter with a rhetorical question. Don’t use the passive voice. Don’t repeat your tags in dialogue. Don’t. Don’t. At the end of all those warnings, I ended up terrified that I would mess it up. Terrified people are not very creative.

I entered a writing contest and got people to look at my work–professional people, people in the industry. I was hoping for insight and tips. They gave me both. The problem was that, at times, their advice was contradictory. One judge asked me to cut out a scene while another judge loved it. One person loved the start of the book another thought it was the irrelevant to the story.

While there’s no denying that those who are successful know more than I do and I should listen to them, there is a time when I should listen and a time when I should not. The best advice I ever got was from another judge who said: follow your gut. If it feels good to you, keep it in the story; if it doesn’t cut it. You’ll know.

It’s the best advice I ever got because it was positive (it tells me what to do, not what not to do), and it also gave me confidence. By saying: ‘trust your gut’ and ‘You’ll know’, the judge implied that I do know something about writing. One of my worst defects is self-doubt. And I do know what should and shouldn’t go into my book. If I listen to my gut, I know.

How about you? What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

Editing resources: Nathan Bransford

I’m deep inside the World of Editing. I’m reading, re-reading and hacking away at Amy’s Courage. It’s not easy. Like most writers, I hate editing. But it’s a necessity. It must be done.

What helps me is to break it down in to little pieces that are manageable and to believe I can do it. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. I don’t have to get it perfect right now, I just want progress.

It also helps if I have resources. And one of the best I’ve seen is Nathan Bransford. The guy is genius. He’s actually written a book on how to write a novel.

Here are some examples of Nathan’s amazing resources for editing:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/06/revision-checklist.html This is a revision check list to beat all checklists. If you can get through it, your novel will shine brighter than the sun. Awesome resource.

Do you have enough conflict? http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/03/on-conflict.html. This is a biggie for me. I like to ramble (oops). Rambling is all fine and dandy with a friend, but it kills a story. A book needs conflict to keep it going. It’s like air. No conflict, death happens and quickly.

And this one is HUGE for me because once I develop my characters, they have backgrounds, histories, tone of voices and even favourite drinks! They’re so complete, they sometimes take over and drive the story where they want it to go and not where it needs to go. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/02/do-you-own-your-characters-or-do-your.html

What about you? Do you have some editing advice? Resources? I’d love to hear about them!