Editing, Self-editing Tips, Writing tips

How to Write Good Dialogue (Part Two)

My ancient (by Internet standards) post on “How to Write Good Dialogue” is inarguably the most popular of my bloggish renderings, based on search data anyway. (You probably preferred this one because you don’t like to follow the crowd. You’re the anti-hipster of hipsters.) It seemed prudent, then, to follow that up with another post on dialogue. [Checks date on previous post.] Yeah, I’m a little slow when it comes to prudence. Anyway, here you go. Wait…you read the other post, right? Well click here (or above where it’s also linked because I’m a linking fool) first. Then come back to this page for more…

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Editing, Self-editing Tips, The Writer's Life, Writing Encouragement, Writing tips

(How To) Listen to Everything

The best advice about how to be a better writer can be summed up in six words: Read a lot. Write a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that to writers. (Not because it’s a secret. I just didn’t keep track.) If you’re not doing both of those things, any other advice you might unearth as you wander this vast Internet wasteland won’t do you much good. There are no shortcuts to “getting there” as a writer. By “there” I mean a place where your writing is distinct enough that readers want to read all your books,…

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Editing, Self-editing Tips, The Writer's Life, Writing tips

Make Something Happen

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard I love this quote. Not just because it indirectly gives purpose to the existence of content editors. (Mostly because of that.) But also because it’s impossibly clever and initially appears to be cleverly impossible. I mean, how do you do that? Some readers tend to skip long descriptive sections. So you should leave those out, right? Not necessarily. There’s nothing wrong with good descriptive writing. If your voice happens to be descriptive, some readers are going to go skipping. You can’t stop them. Other readers become…

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The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life, Writing tips

Two Paths

The path to writing well and the path to publication are two different paths. I’ll explain in a second. But before I begin, let’s dispense with the “good writing is subjective” conversation. Can we just work from the assumption that everyone in the room understands that my definition of “writing well” and yours differ at least in small ways, and perhaps also in big ways? We can? Cool. Four Truths About the Path to Writing Well 1. Writing well takes time. Period. There are no shortcuts to writing well. 2. Each person’s journey to writing well is unique. A select…

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Editing, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writing tips

Listen Carefully, Your Manuscript Stinks

Your manuscript doesn’t speak English. (Or American. Or Australian. Or Esperanto. Or whatever you call your native tongue.) It speaks Manuscript. This is why all the threats you sling at it in your native tongue go unheeded. (Well, that, and the fact that it doesn’t like being threatened. It can read your tone even if it doesn’t understand your words.) And while yelling at your manuscript may help release existential angst (Cue “Shout” by Tears for Fears), increased volume still doesn’t result in increased comprehension. When you’re having a novel crisis, it could be simply because your novel is truly…

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The Writer's Life, Writing tips

The Shiver

It goes by many names. The Tingle. The Aha. The Wow. I call it The Shiver. It’s that moment when you know you’ve written something good; something worthy of sharing. The words themselves aren’t anything special. They’re common words, words you’ve used before. But this time it’s different. The words…they…you have no words to describe it. They. Just. Work. For half a second you wonder if you actually wrote them. Are there writing elves? No, it was you. Surely not the you who labors over every sentence and struggles to put a thousand words on the page. Could it be…

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The Writer's Life, Writing tips

When Real Life Gets in the Way of Good Writing

You’ve heard it said, “write what you know.” In the past, I’ve suggested a variation of that, “write who you are.” However you say it, I think we can all agree that fiction resonates best when it comes from a place of truth – a place we understand because we’ve lived it in some measure. But our real life experiences aren’t always a boon to our writing. Sometimes they get in the way. Here’s how: “But That’s How It Really Happened” – I hear this a lot from writers. They offer it in response to my editorial notes explaining why a…

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