General, The Writer's Life, Writing Encouragement

How to Write a Novel

You’re going to need an idea. It can be a clever plot. Something about uncontrollable magic or unpredictable mayhem or unconventional love. Or maybe your idea is a character. Someone who stands out. Someone who blends in. Someone who lives in a coffee house attic. Someone whose feet never touch the ground. Okay, now the hardest part: You must write a sentence. Any sentence will do (yes, even a sentence fragment) because you’ll probably change it a hundred times anyway. Here, I wrote some for you: The monkey never saw it coming. Halfway between the sky and the sidewalk, she realized she had forgotten how to fly. His favorite…

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About Me, Marketing, The Writer's Life

Chasing, Maybe

When I first started writing, I attempted to emulate my favorite authors (though Arthur C. Clarke and Ernest Hemingway would have struggled to find even the slightest resemblance). This is the way it goes for many writers. We begin our journey to uniqueness by trying to be someone else. Isn’t it the same way with musicians? [Cue “Smoke on the Water.”] It’s only after hundreds of thousands of words, most of which we prefer to forget, that we finally begin to find our one-of-a-kind writing voice.* And then what do we do? We use that compellingly unique voice to tell the stories we think will…

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About Me, My Favorite Things, My Thoughts, The Writer's Life, Writing Encouragement

The Fault in Our Stares

If Neil Gaiman walked into this coffee shop, I’d be starstruck. I’m not easily starstruck. As I slog through the latter part of middle age, I just don’t have the energy to drum up enthusiasm for the common celebrity. Confession: I haven’t read Entertainment Weekly in years. Last summer I visited the set of the new Zach Braff movie (coming to theaters near you this July – and depending on the edit, starring me in one scene as a blurry background extra) and was non-plussed by the famously tanned faces that wandered in and out of the virtual frame. My favorite part of…

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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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About Me, Meaningless Drivel, The Writer's Life

Enough

My hair is mostly gray. I’m not young enough to engage in Twitter conversations with YA authors. But not totally gray. I’m not old enough to be revered by them. I write by the seat of my pants. I’m not degreed enough to talk shop with the MFA crowd. I was raised in the church. But I’m no longer Christian enough for that culture, or the subculture of writers who are fighting to find their place in it. I was married for a quarter century. I’ve been alone for nearly a decade. I’m not married enough to join you and…

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Uncategorized

12 Ways to Fix the Boring Part

You have a brilliant opening paragraph. I mean Pulitzer Prize brilliant.* But somewhere around page [insert number here], the story begins to drag. I mean dead-body-up-a-steep-hill drag. Never fear, I’m here to help. (Not with the body-dragging. I have a bad back.) Step One: Get a 12-sided die. (Ask your table-gaming friend. If you casually refer to it as a d12 he’ll invite you to join him next Friday in his parents’ basement for a rousing game of Pokéthulhu. You’re welcome.) Step Two: Roll the 12-sided die. Note the number. Step Three: Choose the associated item from the Action List below…

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