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Let’s Hope Eleanor Roosevelt Was Right About Fiction

“The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.”   -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Like people-watching taken to extremes… That’s a little unnerving actually.

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The Stuff An Author’s Dreams & Nightmares Are Made Of

The greatest power and the greatest terror of being an artist is the amount of ourselves that we put into our art. As good as our imaginations are, they are powered by our dreams and our nightmares: experiences, hopes, wishes, fears, and more. Our lives. Our souls. We expose little bits of ourselves with each piece we create.

Yet at the same time, those fragments of truth are intricately mixed and woven through utter fabrications. For a reader to catch those revelations, they must sort and sift through every facet of the work. As readers, there’s a sneaky, superior thrill to that, a feeling that we are too smart to trick. The sort of feeling where you grin and chant, “I’m finding your secrets!” in a sing-song way. We want to think that we know it all.

But we don’t want to know that we know it all.

When a work of fiction is so close to reality that its personal nature is blatantly obvious, it becomes uncomfortable for the reader. We want the author to make the lies feel so real that it blurs the line between fiction and reality. When an author does that well, you have a great book.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop readers from thinking that they know it all.

To be perfectly frank, I’m not entirely sure which is more frightening as a writer: readers finding those secrets or readers being absolutely certain that some of the lies are truth. On the one hand, they’d have a microscope aimed directly at part of your soul. On the other hand, they would think they did, but what they saw would be a big fat lie (along with their impressions of you). Both ideas sound extremely uncomfortable to me, and I’m afraid that they seem equally likely to pop up in any artist’s future.

What do you think? Would it be worse for them to find one of your secrets? Or for them to believe that they did and continue to believe it no matter what you might say?

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What’s in a Name? (Besides Headaches, Heartaches, & Trouble)

Writing is hard. Writing regularly is harder. Doing both well is harder still. Despite all of that, naming what you’ve written can somehow be even worse.

Sure, it’ll depend on the day and the piece, but naming stories, poems, plays, or songs can be a serious headache. There’s so much pressure. The title has to capture the idea of the piece without being too obvious or gauche. At the same time, it needs to be catchy and marketable. And sometimes, it needs to give a hint at something that is implied in the story but never explicitly stated. It might even need to be easily varied for the next books in the series.

That’s a lot for a couple of words to do.

With that kind of pressure, no wonder authors tend to have what is called a “working title.” In other words, it’s  not the final name, but it’s what I’m going to call it for now so that I have a way to title the file and tell it from the other stuff. If you’re not sure where the story is going, that’s a good strategy because it leaves you open to adjust the story as needed (But if I change that, the title doesn’t work anymore! I love that title!).

If you’re planning to try to go through traditional publishers, having a working title is an even better idea. Almost every author I’ve heard talk about titles admitted that the original title was changed in the editing process. Can you imagine being in love with your title and having the editor tell you to change it if you want to get published?

That’s where artistic titles and marketing titles don’t always mesh well. See, the publisher is going to be more focused on the catchy, sellable side of the title – because the title is one of the first steps to hooking a reader. The entire book that you’ve put all your time, energy, and creativity into is relying on that tiny title to get the customer through the door.

No wonder naming your work is so hard.

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5 Great Reasons for Writers to Be Thankful in 2015

Yes, I’m going to be predictable and talk about being thankful on Thanksgiving. As a writer in 2015, however, there is plenty to be thankful for. Be glad I’m only going to talk about my top 5.

5 .  Novel Writing Classes

Let’s face it. Fiction as we know it is only around a hundred years old (and that’s pushing it). The fact that most colleges and universities offer writing classes for a medium that young is pretty awesome. The fact that most of those classes are taught by published authors is also a great pro for up-and-coming writers.

4 .  E-publishing

This is a total game-changer for the independent writer. Although there’s still some stigma to self-publishing, that’s fast disappearing as the market for e-books grows. Now, authors who don’t get picked up by big publishers have another option. And it’s an option that can easily make the book available to thousands (if not millions) of people around the world. That’s definitely something to be grateful for.

3 .  Free Blogs

Speaking of reaching people around the world, what do you think someone would’ve said 30 years ago if you told them you wanted to write an article and have it seen by people on 4 different continents in only seconds? (Here’s a hint: the options are “Yeah, right,” “Are you nuts?” and “What are you smoking?”) Today, it’s something we do on a weekly if not daily basis. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty cool. And it can be free. That’s even cooler.

2 .  Other Writers

We share writing tips. We share experiences. We share products. We even share each other’s work to expand our audiences. The writing community has grown exponentially, and there’s so much to be thankful for.

1 .  You

The more I post here, the more I appreciate the people who read what I post – especially those of you who take the time to click “like” or post a comment. Maybe, it’s corny, but it’s a huge thrill to know that someone is reading what I write. Thank you.

Thank You

Srsly