Archives for September 2015

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Recommended Reading: Evan Pickering’s “The Single Greatest Strength of Any Writer”

I guess today is a day to talk about the task of writing – what it is and what you need to succeed. I came across this great article by Evan Pickering, “The Single Greatest Strength of Any Writer.” It’s a good read. Yes, I usually nitpick at any “the one thing you need to be a _____,” but this isn’t one of those. No, this is a bit opinion, a bit first-hand account, and a lot of truth.

Here’s a quick excerpt to whet your appetite.

A willingness to be wrong. And with that, the thirst for growth.


There is nothing more definitive on whether a writer will be successful than this. If you write a story, are so confident in it, flat out refusing to believe it could need moderate to serious rewriting, you just have no hope. None. Even great authors have to hack apart their work, get their hands bloody.

All the cliches about first drafts being shit aren’t just lip service. You need to write. And rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. And edit. And edit. And edit.

If you can’t enjoy that, if you can’t get excited about that process of improving your writing and your writing skills, than the process of creating a good to great story is going to be exhausting, emotionally paralyzing.

Click here to read the whole article.

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To All Writers

Each art has a special integration to everyday life.

Each art has a special integration to everyday life.

Cut to this length (as it usually is), this powerful quote stands on its own as a kind of toast to writers of all kinds. I first chose it because I like that message and because I thought it was an interesting way to introduce the idea of different forms of writing. Once I found the original interview, however, I discovered that the rest of the statement is a powerful message, too. Continuing where the quote above left off, Maya Angelou said,

“So the writer has to take the most used, most familiar objects – nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs – ball them together and make them bounce, turn them a certain way and make people get into a romantic mood; and another way, into a bellicose mood. I’m most happy to be a writer.”

I love this description of writing – it captures the challenge of using the familiar to pull people through an adventure of emotions. At the same time, the ending gives it almost an excited air that makes me think that she looked forward to that challenge. That, to me, is the biggest difference between a writer and someone who writes.

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A Quick Author Page Tutorial from Ana Spoke

This is an excerpt of a “Look who’s got a proper author page!” by Ana Spoke. In these paragraphs, she discusses setting up an author page on Amazon and Goodreads as well as linking them to her regular blog. She provides a first-hand overview and some links that will give you the details, so it’s a pretty good resource to mark to save you time later (you know, when you’re actually ready to do it).

Now, for some quick how-tos:

Amazon’s page was easy, although you have to register separately with Author Central. For Amazon’s own guide, have a look at All About Author Central. Easy-peasy. There was, however just one little drama to report.

I wanted to link this blog to the page, but it turned out you can’t just use your URL – you need to use your RSS feed. Confused? I sure was. Thank God, it only took a few minutes to find this WordPress guide on RSS links. Don’t stress if the blog posts don’t appear on your page right away – once I’ve published a new post, they all came through.

Goodreads was just a bit more complicated. You can’t just sign up as an author – you have to sign up for a “regular” account first. If you are a first-time author, you will likely have a heart attack when you search for your book and find that it is not in the 300-million-plus database. Take a breath – you can add it, but ONLY AFTER waiting for about a day. You can, of course, send a crazed email to helpdesk, and they will do it for you after politely explaining the whole waiting a day thing. You will also have to apply to be upgraded to an author account and wait again for approval. Or send the crazed email, whatevs.

So there you go. I mean, go – get your Goodreads page started. Trust me, when the time comes, you won’t be willing to wait a whole day.

She has also added onto the amazon part with this article: “Author (NOT SO) Central update.”

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Don’t Count on Word Count Too Much

Word count can have a big impact on your work and how it can be sold. Besides defining whether your piece is a short story, novella, or novel, the number of words will most likely dictate where you can publish the story and how much you will be paid for it. If you’re writing for a specific publisher or pay tier, you may have a goal word count in mind as you write.

One of my current projects has an 80,000 word minimum, so I find myself paying a lot of attention to my word count. I pay more attention as I get closer to the minimum, and in a way, it’s a positive habit because it’s a way of keeping track of my plot within that restriction. If my book ends at around 80,000-85,000 words, then I shouldn’t be getting close to the climax at 40,000 words. At the same time, I shouldn’t be too far from it at 70,000 words.

On the other hand, I’ve learned not to put too much stock into word count when the book is still in process. Although I try not to rewrite each day, I know that I’ll end up making changes as I go. It’s part of my process. It’s also part of the nature of brains.

For example, a few weeks ago, I had an idea that changed a few scenes that I’d already written. Now, I may or may not be able to use those scenes. That means that although my current word count is 59,790 words, I know that I could be down to 50,161 words or so if I end up trashing those scenes completely. (That probably won’t happen. I’ll need to make some tweaks, but otherwise, I expect most of what I’ve written to be usable. That said, it’s possible.)

Preplanning can help prevent a situation like this, but there’s only so much you can anticipate. When you get a new idea that’s a game changer, you have to deal with it. This idea strengthens the tension, conflict, and characterization of the book, so it’s better for the book if I put it in. That means accepting that some changes will need to be made, and some work that I’ve already done may have to go.

That’s why I don’t rely too much on word count. The word count of any book isn’t set in stone until the book is published (or even after for some). It’s fine as a guideline, but if you get too excited about it, it could be very disappointing and discouraging when the numbers fluctuate.